ABC aired the chilling, and controversial, movie The Day After on the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 1983. It depicted a conflict between the U.S. and Soviet Union that escalated into nuclear war, and the consequences suffered by a family living in Lawrence, Kansas after a nuclear bomb was dropped nearby. I watched it with my ex-boyfriend Rick at his apartment. (We had broken up a few months earlier but would reconcile and move back in together a week before Christmas.) I have to admit it was weird watching a movie depicting Armageddon just as the holiday season was getting underway.
The movie (starring Jason Robards) had a grim storyline with no happy, or even hopeful, ending. It was even more sobering because of real-life tensions that had been building between the U.S. and Soviet Union during the first Reagan administration. Despite the fact that it was expected to attract a huge audience, the movie aired with limited commercials (and none after the missles were launched) as very few advertisers were willing to air in it. This apprehension prevented ABC from charging high rates for advertising time; therefore, the few advertisers who took advantage got extremely good deals. One ad I remember seeing was for Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn. I thought the juxtaposition of a nuclear blast and corn popping was amusing in a black humor sort of way.
By the standards of today the special effects are quite cheesy and have a slap-dash look to them, but even today the five minutes showing the attack are sobering. As expected, the movie delivered a huge 46 household rating/62 share, making it the highest rated TV movie of all time and 3rd highest rated program of the year (behind the final episode of M*A*S*H and the Super Bowl). Soon afterwards a parade of TV movies with "socially relevant" storylines would follow, including Something About Amelia (incest); The Burning Bed (wife beating); and An Early Frost (AIDS).
Upon the movie's conclusion a special episode of Nightline aired to discuss the movie with a studio audience. I had seen enough and didn't need to immerse myself further in the grim subject so I walked home in the rain to my apartment in Manhattan's East 20s. After what I had watched tonight I was looking forward to spending time with my family back in Pittsburgh for the Thanksgiving holiday.
October 25 was a Saturday evening and I had gone to the commitment ceremony for two lesbian friends, Helena and Diana, who lived on Manhattan's Upper East Side. After the ceremony our party of fifteen hopped into taxis and went down to the Chinese restaurant Marvelous Mandarin in the East Village. The entire night we followed Game 6 of the World Series between the Red Sox and Mets. (By coincidence I had gone to the Mets' last game of the regular season with Helena and Diana.) After dinner the gang was going to continue celebrating this happy occasion and go to a dance club, but I had a touch of a cold and was low on energy and decided to go home instead.
When I left the restaurant shortly after midnight the Mets, who had come back twice to tie the game, had once again fallen behind. It was now the bottom of the 10th inning, Boston was ahead 5-3 and there were two outs and the bases were empty. I reconciled myself to the reality that the World Series was over and the Red Sox had finally broken their "curse". Of course it was a disappointment, especially since the Mets had a 108-54 record during the regular season. However, a few minutes after I began walking across town to my apartment in the West Village the streets exploded as if it was New Year's Eve. Curious, I popped my head into a nearby bar and heard the unbelievable news that the Mets had come back to win the game after an easy ground ball hit by Mookie Wilson went through the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner!
The Mets went on to win Game 7 two days later, making them World Series champions, but after Game 6's amazing finish it was almost anti-climatic. It was somewhat similar to the 1975 Series in which the Red Sox's Carlton Fisk's memorable home run in Game 6 is remembered more than the fact that Boston lost the Series the next day.
For the five years leading up to today Wall St. had been in the midst of a bull market. However, after reaching its all-time high at the end of the summer the market began heading south. Then on the afternoon of October 19, a Monday, a number of friends called me at work to report that Wall St. was experiencing a meltdown. Stock prices had plunged and the market was forced to close early because the huge volume of selling was just too great for the trading floor to handle.
At the closing bell the Dow had plummeted 508 points, a decline of nearly 23% (this was on top of 235 points lost the previous week.) This percent decline was nearly twice that of October 28, 1929 on the eve of the Great Depression.
I was 30 years old at the time and had been kicking myself for not investing during this bull market (I didn't open my first mutual fund until the following year). However, on the upside, since I didn't have much at stake I wasn't shaken like many of my older colleagues were. My boyfriend at the time was very concerned as he was chief counsel at EF Hutton, a brokerage that had been under investigation for various financial improprieties. Today's market collapse quickened its demise and in less than two months it merged with Shearson Lehman/American Express. (Happily, he kept his job.)
From work I went home and tuned to the CBS Evening News to try to grasp the enormity of it all. Wondering how much further might this collapse go was cause for anxiety as Tuesday dawned. Trading that day was characterized by wild swings, so much that the market closed for a brief time at mid-day in hopes of regaining its bearings. Thankfully, the market rebounded in the afternoon and half of Monday's losses were regained in the next few trading days. This rebound was in stark contrast to the Black Mondays of 1929 and 2008 which presaged the beginning of grim economic times. By contrast, this turned out to be merely a market "correction".
Although the number of points lost on this day in 1987 was 270 fewer than the 777-point plunge in late September 2008, the percent change was much greater because it was off a much smaller base (back then the Dow was only in the 2,000's compared to 11,000+ in 2008). By comparison, '08's one-day decline was a drop of "only" 7%. (A behind-the-scenes account of what transpired on October 19-20, written by a former reporter for the Wall St. Journal, is provided in the book Black Monday: The Stock Market Catastrophe of Oct. 19, 1987).
Somewhat lost during that week in 1987's financial turmoil was the acrimonious confirmation hearings for President Bush's choice for the Supreme Court, Robert Bork. At the end of the week the U.S. Senate would vote down his nomination by a 58-42 vote.
A few weeks ago I wrote about ten hurricanes and the memories I associated with each of them. In this post I've chosen to write of memories I connect with ten post-season baseball games over the past 45 years (not including the 1986 World Series, which I've written about in a previous post).
1969 World Series
Game 5/Mets vs. Baltimore (Oct. 16)
I was home from school (7th Grade) with a cold so I was able to watch the entire game. I wasn't rooting for the Mets because, despite winning 100 games in the regular season, in my eyes their rise was a fluke. (I felt the same when expansion teams like Florida, Arizona and Tampa Bay played in the World Series.) And I certainly didn't think they'd be able to prevail over the mighty Orioles (who had won 109 games), but not only did the Mets do it - but in just five games.
1971 World Series
Game 7/Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore (Oct. 17)
It was a Sunday afternoon when the Pirates won a 2-1 nail-biter over the Orioles to win the World Series. My mother and I waited for the game to end before we drove my grandmother home, honking the car horn the entire way. (My dad, never a big Pirates fan watched the day's football games on our other TV.) We also put a big "Bucs Fever" sign in the living room window. Since I was too young to celebrate the Pirates' 1960 World Series victory over the Yankees this one was very sweet. The '71 Series was the first to have a game played at night, a novelty that eventually became the norm by the mid-1980s.
1972 National League Playoffs
Game 5/Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati (Oct. 11)
The game was still being played when I headed out to my weekly Junior Achievement meeting in downtown Pittsburgh, so I brought my transistor radio with me to listen to the closing innings. As the bus I was riding approached the City on the Ft. Pitt Bridge I heard the Reds score the winning run in the bottom of the 9th inning on a wild pitch to advance to the World Series. A similar crushing loss in the bottom of the 9th happened to the Pirates 20 years later when they lost Game 7 of the NL Championship Series to Atlanta. (Then they went 21 years before their next winning season.)
1973 National League Playoffs
Game 3/Mets vs. Cincinnati (Oct. 8)
I had just come home from school and turned on the game. As I was changing clothes Pete Rose and Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson got into a scuffle after Rose slid hard into Harrelson at 2nd base. However, the Mets got the last laugh by advancing to the World Series. Like 1969, I wasn't a Mets fan, especially since they barely had a winning record (82-79) and had passed my Pirates in the final week of the season to win the NL East. Two big news events occurred during that post-season: 1) VP Spiro Agnew resigned due to tax problems and 2) Egypt attacked Israel on the eve of Yom Kippur during the weekend the World Series began.
1975 World Series
Game 6/Cincinnati vs. Boston (Oct. 21)
I was in my freshman year at Penn State and watched the game in a friend's dorm room when it went into extra innings, so I saw the Red Sox' Carlton Fisk hit his famous game-winning home run in the bottom of the 12th inning. This game was such a good one that almost forgotten is the fact that Cincinnati won the next day to win the World Series.
1978 AL Tie-Breaker
Yankees vs. Red Sox (Oct. 2)
The Yankees had stormed back in August and September to tie the Red Sox for the AL East crown and played a one-game tie-breaker. I watched the first seven innings in my dorm's TV room. I left for dinner after seeing the Yankees' Bucky Dent(pictured with Reggie Jackson) hit his memorable 3-run homer over the Green Monster at Fenway to erase Boston's 2-0 lead. The Yankees won the game and went to the World Series - which they won over the Dodgers for the second year in a row.
1979 World Series
Game 7/Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore (Oct. 17)
The "We Are Family" Pirates defeated the Orioles in a carbon copy of their 1971 World Series championship over them, i.e. after falling behind 3 games to 1, they swept the next three games. But it was a bittersweet victory for me because I was living in northern New Jersey and there was no celebrating crowd. I called my brother who lived down the street and then my parents back in Pittsburgh to share the good news.
1989 World Series
Game 3/Oakland vs San Francisco (Oct. 17)
This World Series is forever known for the earthquake that struck minutes before Game 3 was about to start - and captured on live TV. I had turned on the game about five minutes after the quake hit. Since the Series involved two teams from the Bay Area it was delayed for 10 days.
2003 NL Championship Series
Game 6/Marlins vs. Cubs/Oct. 14
As was my usual habit I went to the gym late after taking a nap (around 9:30). The game was on one of the TV monitors above the treadmills and Stairmasters, and when I left it appeared the game was in hand with the Cubs leading 3-0 in the top of the 8th inning. If they won they'd advance to the World Series and get a chance to break their 95-year streak without a World Series championship. However, between the time I left and got back to my apartment, about 10 minutes, the game had turned around completely and the Marlins had taken an 8-3 lead! It turned out that an overzealous fan (the infamous Steve Bartman) had leaned over and deflected a fly ball that the Cubs outfielder was about to catch. After that the floodgates opened. (This was was somewhat similar to what happened in the 1996 AL League Championship between the Orioles and Yankees when 12-year old Jeffrey Maier reached out to grab a fly ball hit by Derek Jeter that was about to be caught. It was called a home run and the Yankees won the game because of it.)
2009 World Series
Philadelphia vs. Yankees
A novel experience was having someone to watch the games with as my boyfriend David was also a baseball fan. However, we had different ways of enjoying the games. For instance, David was more a student of pitching while I liked high-scoring games. Furthermore, he found it peculiar that I often commented about the appearance of each player as they came to bat (which I thought was normal, especially for a gay man). Lastly, I found it nerve wracking to sit through an entire game, especially if the Yankees had a lead, while David enjoyed watching the entire nine innings. However, one thing we had in common was rooting for the Yankees, who beat the Phillies in six games.
11979 World Series, 1969 World Series, 1971 World Series, 1973 World Series, 1975 World Series, 1989 World Series, 2003 NL Championship Series, Bucky Dent, Carlton Fisk, Jeffery Maier, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Steve Bartman, World Series
At one point earlier in the week Hurricane Gloria was a formidable category 4 storm with winds approaching 145 mph. However, by the time it made its way up to the Mid-Atlantic region (after making an initial landfall in North Carolina) it had weakened somewhat, but was still a worry since hurricanes make so few landfalls in the New York metro area. And although a hurricane warning had been issued for Manhattan at 4 PM on Thursday, it didn't keep me from attending a cocktail party that evening hosted by Travel & Leisure magazine to promote its jungle safari-themed November issue. The event was held at The Safari Club, a few blocks north of Bloomingdale's.
For whatever reason, I wasn't feeling alarm over Gloria so when I arrived home I was surprised to hear on the news that the World Trade Center would be closed the next day as well as New York City schools. Furthermore, residents of high-rise buildings were advised to tape their windows to keep glass from showering sidewalks below if they were blown in. I didn't worry about that since I lived in a basement/garden apartment, but I had concerns about potential flooding.
To get in the spirit I went to the supermarket and bought candles (not that there were any above-ground power lines in Manhattan to be blown down). It was the first time I experienced panic-shopping and hoarding. Since a hurricane was a novelty in these parts few of us knew what to expect as we turned in for the night.
On Friday morning (Sept. 27) I got a call from my boss at 8:00 telling me that the office (ad agency Young & Rubicam) was closed because of the storm. However, not everyone got word and after coming in they were stranded when rail and subway tunnels were closed due to flooding. I ventured out to pick up the paper and breakfast but I mostly wanted to experience the storm. As I walked along Bleecker St. in the West Village I saw awnings tested mightily by the rain-blown gales and a few trash cans blowing down the street.
Manhattan was spared hurricane-force winds as the storm stayed to our east. Gloria's "eye" moved over the Nassau/Suffolk county line (50 miles east of Manhattan), with Suffolk Co. bearing the brunt of the storm. My friend Nina was impacted because she lived in a beachfront condo in Long Beach. Another friend, Marina, had just moved to Southampton in Suffolk Co. and her yard suffered extensive tree damage and power was out for more than a week. And out on Fire Island, Calvin Klein's oceanfront home in the community of the Pines lost part of its roof which landed in the swimming pool of the property behind it.
More than three inches of rain fell in Central Park that morning but skies cleared rapidly early in the afternoon. (This was much needed rain as New York was in the midst of a serious drought.) I went out for a jog to survey the damage, which was minimal. All I came across was a small tree blown down in the plaza of the World Trade Center. The storm was a quick mover so it spared us from more wind damage or flooding. I was relieved that disruptions were minimal because I had a date that night.
Nielsen inaugurated its national peoplemeter service on Aug. 31, 1987 while I was away on vacation in London. I read about this advance in audience measurement in the international edition of USA Today. Of course, since TV research was the focus of my job I had been well aware of this change for many months. This change in measurement was a change that ad agencies had sought for a while since the previous method collected demographic data using an inferior paper and pencil method that relied on a person's memory. The Big 3 networks, however, were resistant because the peoplemeter would likely result in lower ratings for them and higher ratings for cable networks.
This trip to the UK was my first abroad, a trip I won as grand prize winner of the United Way drawing the previous Christmas at my previous employer, ad agency Young & Rubicam. And although I had changed jobs since winning it, Y&R graciously honored my prize. It was a week-long trip for two, including business class travel on TWA and hotel accommodations in the tony Knightsbridge section of London (near Harrod's).
But enough about my good fortune. The peoplemeter was a big advance in how TV advertising was bought since it provided ratings for the people who were viewing shows rather than just their household. It also provided this information much more quickly. What made this change even more interesting was the fact that big, bad Nielsen briefly had a competitor in the U.S., a British company called AGB Research. AGB had introduced the peoplemeter to our shores earlier in the year.
The agency I worked at, the now defunct NWAyer, purchased both services, so our TV analyses compared the ratings of both (although Nielsen was what all national TV buys were made on). However, AGB went out of business in the spring of 1988 since it was unable to get enough companies to buy its service, especially once Nielsen developed similar technology. Alas, in the years to come this fate would befall other research companies that attempted to compete against the Nielsen Company. (25 years later a competitor called Rentrak would prove more tenacious.)
Finally, two pop culture references from that week in 1987 bring to mind Nielsen's new peoplemeter. The day before leaving for London I went with friends to see the movie Dirty Dancing, which had opened that weekend. And while in London Rick Astley's record Never Gonna Give You Up was a smash hit and I bought the single at the Tower Records store in Piccadilly. It became an equally big hit in the US shortly after I returned.
Previous posts I've written about Hurricanes Agnes, Gloria and Sandy have generated some of this blog's highest readership. And although I have memories of other hurricanes, they aren't rich enough to turn them into full-blown posts. Instead, I've written a few sentences about ten of them and put them all in this one post.
BELLE (Aug. 9, 1976)
I experienced this hurricane but didn't realize it until nearly 40 years later when I was doing research for my weather blog (New York City Weather Archive). On this day in 1976 my older brother and I drove from Pittsburgh to northern New Jersey for a vacation (which included my first time in the Atlantic Ocean, at Belmar, and my first visit to NYC), and when we got onto the NJ Turnpike we were met by sheets of heavy rain. This was before The Weather Channel, so we were completely oblivious to the fact that hurricane Belle was bearing down on Long Island at the time (it made landfall there shortly after midnight). It wasn't a strong hurricane, but memorable nonetheless.
ALICIA (Aug. 18, 1983)
This category 3 hurricane struck Galveston and Houston the day before I left for vacation in Provincetown. I was supposed to go with my boyfriend Rick but we had hit a rough patch (just a few months after moving in together) so I went there alone. I overslept by two hours and barely made my flight (on the now defunct People's Express).
GILBERT (Sept. 14-16, 1988)
Hurricane Gilbert was the most intense hurricane to ever enter the Gulf of Mexico and it devastated Jamaica and Cancun, but spared Texas (after earlier dire predictions). It coincided with my first time on jury duty. I was picked for a burglary case (that occurred on the Upper Eastside) and we ended up being sequestered for one night. Fortunately, I shared the motel room (near the Lincoln Tunnel) with a friend of my roommate. During the same week my boss resigned. (By the way, we, the jury, found the defendant guilty.)
HUGO (Sept. 22, 1989)
I stayed up into the wee hours on a Thursday night watching coverage on The Weather Channel as Hugo made landfall in Charleston, South Carolina. It was the strongest hurricane (category 4) to strike the Southeast in 35 years. The NYC area was under a tropical storm watch with 5-10" of rain predicted, but after Hugo made landfall he changed course and we weren't impacted (which was a relief since four inches of rain had fallen a few days earlier). A cousin in Charlotte, NC got married that weekend and had to contend with no power and downed trees after Hugo roared through. Also on this day Irving Berlin died at the age of 101 (he wasn't a hurricane casualty).
BOB(Aug. 19, 1991)
Like Hurricane Gloria six years earlier, Bob stayed to our east, but we still got a good deal of rain which was mostly over by noon on that Monday. My roommate Todd was on vacation out in Montauk and went without power for a few days. And my friend Tom was vacationing in Provincetown and had to contend with some inconveniences as well. He recalls a number of drag queens walking around town with signs that said "I got blown by Bob". I was relieved the storm was a quick mover because I had tickets for the Broadway show Grand Hotel that evening. (Yes, that's The Weather Channel's one and only Jim Cantore - when he still had hair!)
ANDREW (Aug. 24, 1992)
It may be hard to believe, but nothing memorable was going on in my life at the time. Ironically, the National Hurricane Center in Miami was largely destroyed by Andrew as was the ad agency that had the Burger King account. It was amazing how few were killed by this incredibly powerful storm (at one point there were rumors that hundreds of migrant farm workers had died).
OPAL (Oct. 4, 1995)
As Opal approached the Florida panhandle it strengthened just before landfall and became the second most damaging hurricane to strike Florida (after Andrew). However, this story was almost completely lost to the coverage of the not-gulty verdict in the OJ Simpson trial the day before. And the pope arrived for his second visit to the New York area.
EDOUARD (Aug. 31 - Sept 1, 1996)
For a brief time Edouard caused concern in NYC and on Long Island. It was Labor Day weekend and I was out at Fire Island (it was my first summer in the Pines) when word spread on Saturday that Edouard might strike and evacuations might begin that night. Fortunately, the storm took a turn to the northeast and no evacuations were needed. One other memory from that weekend - while cleaning the table after Sunday dinner a housemate's guest asked me if anyone had ever mentioned that I looked like "Smithers" from The Simpsons.
FLOYD (Sept. 16, 1999)
Powerful Floyd's approach resulted in the evacuation of 2.6 million residents between Florida and North Carolina. After striking North Carolina earlier in the morning he quickly moved towards NYC. Downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it reached us, Floyd was still a huge rainmaker - five inches fell, the greatest one-day total in more than 20 years (even greater amounts flooded Philadelphia and Newark). For a while many subway lines were shut down for much of the afternoon because of track flooding and some downed trees. My office at ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding closed at 1:00 (Macy's too) but I stayed until 5:45. When I got home I intended to go to the gym but it was so windy and rainy that I turned back after walking one block.
KATRINA (Aug. 29, 2005)
I was visiting my mother in Pittsburgh for the weekend when Katrina made its initial landfall in south Florida and then struck Louisiana and Mississippi on the day I returned to NYC (Sunday). At one point on Sunday it was a category 5 with winds of 175 mph - incredible. At first some meteorologists on The Weather Channel talked of how New Orleans had "dodged a bullet" when Katrina veered east and instead struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast head-on.
However, after the storm moved on the levees surrounding the city broke - and the rest is history. The number of deaths was shocking (more than 1,800), especially since stronger hurricanes such as Andrew and Hugo caused fewer than 100 fatalities. It took months before the final tally was determined. It was also, by far, the most damaging natural disaster in U.S. history ($100 billion+).
IKE (Sept. 13, 2008)
I watched TWC's coverage during the wee hours of Saturday morning as it struck Galveston and Houston (25 years after Alicia). One of its reporters, Mike Bettes, got knocked around by the high winds even though he was in a somewhat protected hotel entranceway. Later that night I watched SNL's 1st episode of the new season and it opened with Tina Fey's portrayal of Sarah Palin. Two days later the financial markets were rocked by Lehman Bros. filing Chapter 11, followed on the same day by word that Merrill Lynch had been purchased by Bank of America to avoid Lehman's fate.
My memories of the Royal Wedding are linked to a personal career milestone. On the late July morning in 1981 when Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer's nuptials were held (it was a Wednesday) I had my fourth, and final, interview at ad agency Young & Rubicam for a position as a senior media planner on the Eastern Airlines account.
I had been at my first job with Scali McCabe Sloves for a little more than two years and was ripe for a move (four of my colleagues had left in the previous few months.) And while Scali was a great place to start, its reputation was largely due to its creative product. Going to Y&R would be like getting an Ivy League education in the discipline of media planning, so I jumped at the chance to interview there. For this last interview I wore a new suit from Saks that I bought earlier in the month (a 3-piece blue pinstripe for $185). While getting dressed I watched some of the TV coverage of the wedding and saw Diana as she glided down the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral after the ceremony (which took place at 6:15 AM EST).
Later that morning I got the call with a job offer from Polly Langbort, the doyenne of Y&R Media Planning, and I eagerly accepted. I started my new job on August 11. My energetic new boss, David Verklin, was a rising star with the company. At the time he was still in the relatively humble position of media supervisor but a number of years later his career took off after being hired as media director at San Francisco agency Hal Riney & Partners where he directed the media strategy behind the high-profile launch of GM's new Saturn line.
Alas, six weeks after I started my new job Eastern took its account of 17 years to Campbell-Ewald in Detroit where Eastern chairman Frank Borman's old Navy buddy was CEO. (Borman is best known for being Commander of Apollo 8 which was the first mission to orbit the Moon in December 1968). Fortunately, Y&R had recently won enough new business so my job was secure (I was reassigned to work on the Chee.tos and J&J Band-Aid accounts). And speaking of airlines, another big news story at this time was the strike by 11,000 air traffic controllers who President Reagan fired and replaced a week later. And while on the subject of strikes, Major League Baseball players went on strike in mid-June and stayed out until July 31. This resulted in a split season and a complicated post season.
Of course, we all know that once Diana's and Charles' wedding day was behind them the world's most transfixing soap opera began. The following video clip from the end of the wedding ceremony is amusing because of the dour look on the Queen's face - as if she already knew how the next 10 years would unfold.
1981 strike by air traffic controllers, David Verklin, Eastern Airlines, events of 1981, Frank Borman, President Reagan fires striking air traffic controllers, Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Royal Wedding, wedding of Charles & Diana, Y&R, Young & Rubicam
A 10-day heat wave was about to end when Diana Ross gave her much publicized free concert in New York's Central Park on the evening of July 21, 1983 (the high temperature hit 95° that afternoon). And as hundreds of thousands of her fans streamed into the park severe thunderstorms were bearing down on the City. I wasn't part of these throngs since I was never one for huge NYC crowds, especially those attracted by a free event. Instead, after work I walked to Saks on Fifth Avenue to buy an outfit for my newborn nephew, Corry, who had been born the week before - making me an uncle for the first time.
After making my purchase (white terry cloth pajamas with blue polka dots) I hurriedly walked to West 34th St. to catch the 'F' train downtown to my apartment on West 15th St., hoping to get there before conditions got too bad. I almost made it. The image that stays with me was the creepy color of the sky as I walked along 34th St. With the rain pouring down the ominous clouds turned from a Wizard of Oz gray to a sickly mustard-yellow and moss-green, colors I'd never seen before - except in a J. Crew catalog. It was a true tempest and I wouldn't have been surprised if a funnel cloud had formed. (More than two inches of rain poured down between 6:30-9:00.)
Despite the turbulent conditions "Miss Ross" valiantly continued with her show (which began at 6:00) as she was pelted by rain and buffeted by strong winds. At one point she referred to the torrential downpour as a "love shower" before the concert was stopped after 45 minutes because of danger posed by lightning. And that's when things got even uglier. As the soaked crowd of 400,000 began streaming out of the park some concertgoers were set upon by marauding gangs. The press referred to it as "wilding". (It was a crazy, raucous time in New York back then.)
Happily, the concert was rescheduled for the next day, a Friday, and the weather couldn't have been more beautiful. And I took the train out to Roselle, NJ and held my little week-old nephew for the first time.
News of aviation disasters often produces a visceral reaction since such crashes usually result in a large number of fatalities. Additionally, since most of us have been on board a plane we can empathize with the doomed passengers. Two of the nation's most high-profile air disasters occurred in mid-July in 1989 and 1996.
TWA Flight 800 was bound for Paris on the evening of July 17, 1996 when it exploded off the south shore of Long Island shortly after take-off from Kennedy Airport. Some eyewitnesses reported seeing a streak of light shoot up to the plane, perhaps a missile. My mother called to tell me the news shortly before I sat down to watch the 11:00 news. I remember that at one point NBC News anchor Brian Williams resorted to showing the crash location by holding up a paper map since there had been no time to create a whiz-bang graphic. That summer was the first in which I had a weekend share out in Fire Island Pines and a seat cushion was found washed up on the beach that weekend. For the rest of the summer whenever any flotsam appeared in the water (the plane came down just 15 miles east of the community) we'd wonder if it was debris from the plane.
An air disaster captured on video occurred the afternoon of July 19, 1989 when United Flight 232 bound from Denver to Chicago lost its hydraulic system an hour into the flight and was forced to make an emergency landing in Sioux City, Iowa. Although 111 passengers died there were also 185 survivors. Besides the high number of survivors what also made this accident stand out was the fact that news crews were waiting for the plane when it crash landed. (For more than an hour it was known the flight was in distress.) The dramatic footage of the plane breaking apart with pieces of it going up in flames and then somersaulting into a cornfield adjacent to the runway was shown over and over on TV that night. I didn't see the news coverage until late because I was at a carefree summer networking event, but once I was home I was glued to the TV set as I counted the cash from the evening's event. It was horrifying, but mesmerizing as well, to watch because it was something rarely captured on video.
On the same day as United 232's crash landing another story out of LA was receiving a lot of coverage as 21-year old actress Rebecca Schaeffer, co-star of the sitcom My Sister Sam, was murdered the day before by a stalker who shot her at point-blank range when she answered the door of her West Hollywood apartment.