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1990s

"Storm of the Century" Immobilizes Eastern U.S. (March 12-13, 1993)

Snowtotals-13mar93 On Feb. 26, 1993 New York, and the nation, was shaken by the terrorist bombing in a parking garage at the World Trade Center.  Two weeks later Mother Nature was preparing her own assault as a monster storm swept up the East Coast.  I didn't pay much attention to news of the impending storm until the night before it hit, a Friday.  After work I had gone out with friends to Splash, a sprawling new gay bar in Chelsea.  Once home I turned on the Weather Channel to hear about the approaching "white hurricane".  (And the first day of Spring was just one week away).

 

The storm's full fury hit New York Saturday morning (March 13) and continued thru mid-afternoon.  (This photo, near my apartment in Greenwich Village, was taken at around noontime.)  However, after ten inches of snow had fallen a changeover to sleet and rain began in late afternoon, keeping the accumulation down.  I was outside when the changeover began and the sleet pellets really stung because they were being propelled horizontally by winds gusting between 40-60 mph.  The noise the sleet created as it lashed against the windows in my apartment was deafening.  I was concerned that my floor to ceiling living room window might blow in so I pulled down the blind.  

 

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Sheridan Square, Greenwich Village

 

 

Happily, I suffered no window damage, but after the storm subsided (at around midnight) that's when my problems started.  Hearing a dripping sound, I looked up and saw that the ceiling in one corner of my living room was cracking and buckling.  It turned out that the snow on the roof (I lived on the top floor) had piled up high enough to cover a drain pipe, so melting snow had nowhere to go and collected in one spot.  I was thankful to be home so I could move my sofa and TV out of harm's way.  However, I couldn't get in touch with my building super so I had to make due with a collection of pots and pans to collect the dripping water.  However, the steady "ping" of the dripping made sleep nearly impossible. 

 

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The next morning I got up early and found the super shoveling snow.  He was unable to go up on the roof and clear the blockage because snow was drifted against the door so he brought up two large trash bins to my apartment to collect the water which poured out when he poked a few holes in my ceiling.

 

Compared to other parts of the Eastern US New York was spared paralyzing amounts of snow (a nearby street in my neighborhood is pictured).  Elsewhere, however, there were record accumulations not only in the Northeast (Pittsburgh had 26", Syracuse 36") but in the South as well, e.g., Atlanta had 9"; Birmingham 13"; Chattanooga 23".  Even Mobile, Alabama on the Gulf Coast, reported three inches of snow!  The Weather Channel would later rank the storm, which affected nearly half of the US population and left more than 250 dead, as one of the top five weather events of the entire 20th century. 

 

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Waverly Place (March 14, 1993)

 

If you'd like to read about other New York City snowstorms I've written a post on my weather blog, New York Weather Archive, that recaps the snowstorms we've experienced since 1970.  To go to it please double click here.  And on this blog I've written posts on four other famous NYC snowstorms:  

The Lindsay Snowstorm (Feb. 1969)

Blizzard of '96 Brings New York & Mid-Atlantic to a Halt (Jan. 1996)

New York's Biggest Snowfall of All Time (Feb. 2006)

April Blizzard Stops New York, Puts Spring on Hold (April 1982)

 

Finally, snowstorm lovers may find the book Northeast Snowstorms by The Weather Channel's winter storm expert Paul Kocin of great interest.

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World Trade Center Attacked for First Time (February 26, 1993)

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It was lunchtime on a gray and unseasonably cold Friday with a touch of snow in the air.  Our winter intern, Sherida, and I were heading to a business lunch with an account executive from the Fox TV network at Pietrasanta, a nearby restaurant at the corner of 9th Ave./46th St.  As we walked the four blocks from our office at Worldwide Plaza (we worked at ad agency NWAyer) we noticed a plume of smoke rising in the distance from lower Manhattan.  There was also a lot of noise from the blaring horns and sirens of fire trucks racing down the street.

 

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After we returned from lunch I heard the news about a truck bomb exploding in the underground parking garage of the North tower of the World Trade Center and realized that was where the smoke was coming from.  It was chilling to hear speculation that the goal of the bomb was to collapse the North tower and have it fall into the South tower.  Unfortunately, as bad as this attack was (six died, more than 1,000 were injured), it was just a prelude to the horror of the attacks on 9-11.

 

 

 

 

 

 


President Clinton & OJ Simpson Share Center Stage (February 4, 1997)

1995_stateoftheunion_address The verdict in the civil suit brought against OJ Simpson for the wrongful deaths of his wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman coincided with President Clinton's State of the Union Address on the night of February 4, 1997 (the first of his second term).  Word that a verdict had been reached came shortly before 7PM but the reading of it was delayed for more than three hours until all interested parties arrived at the courthouse in Santa Monica. 

 

It was Tuesday night and I was preparing dinner after doing a weight workout at the gym.  Since both events were of high news value NBC resorted to a split screen to show both unfolding.  And although it seemed somewhat disrespectful to the President, truth be told, the verdict was largely the reason I switched on the TV.  Finally, at the conclusion of the President's address the verdict came in.  Reporters inside the courthouse signaled to the crowd gathered outside that the verdict was - guilty!  On one side of the split screen President Clinton was shown shaking hands while and on the other side a defeated Simpson was show leaving the courthouse followed by the triumphant Goldman and Brown families.  I let out a cheer.

 

Fred_Goldman_PeopleMag For me, this verdict took some of the sting out of the contentious not guilty verdict reached in the criminal trial in 1995.  Shortly afterward I called my friend Marina down in Baltimore to share the news.  She had passed the Maryland bar six months earlier so I asked her to explain why this type of suit could be filed after a verdict had already been rendered in the criminal case, in other words a do-over.  (I still don't understand the legal reasoning.)  Thus ended a tragic case that had been part of the nation's zeitgeist for nearly three years.  (However, it wasn't the last we'd hear from OJ.)

   


The First Gulf War Begins (January 16, 1991)

1st_GulfWar_USAToday The evening the war began, Jan. 16, 1991, found me sitting at a "welcome" table in a meeting room at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center in Greenwich Village where the gay professionals group Out Professionals was holding its monthly meething.  I was treasurer and collecting the meeting fee when a member approached the desk at around 7:30 and excitedly tried telling me something.  However, because he had a pronounced stutter it took him a while to get out what he wanted to say - that the U.S. bombardment of Baghdad had begun.  (The guessing game as to when this would occur had been the week's #1 topic of conversation ever since Congress voted the previous weekend to give President Bush authority to go to war.)

 

 

 

Operation_desert_storm The following evening, a Thursday, found me at HMV Records on the Upper West Side where I had gone after leaving a work-related function at Tavern on the Green (both establishments are now out of business).  Instead of playing music over its speakers a radio broadcast was reporting the chilling news that Iraqi missles were being fired into Israel.  At this very early stage of the war I was feeling a bit uneasy, wondering what Saddam Hussein might have up his sleeve for our troops or here on U.S. soil (he had promised the "mother of all battles").  This feeling of unease was in stark contrast to the party-hearty lyrics of a very popular song playing on the airwaves at the time - Everybody Dance by C & C Music Company.  To this day whenever I hear the song memories of the war come to mind.

 

(One of George Clooney's earliest films, 1999's Three Kings, was inspired by the first Gulf War.  Other war related films include Jarhead, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jamie Foxx, Courage Under Fire and Towelhead.)


Blizzard of '96 Brings New York & Mid-Atlantic to a Halt (January 7-8, 1996)

93990003 I first heard word of the impending blizzard on Saturday evening while I was out in New Jersey visiting my brother and his family for a late holiday get-together.  I was enthralled by the blizzard warning scrolling down the screen of The Weather Channel because I'd never before experienced a full-fledged blizzard.  On Sunday, Jan. 7 the snow started falling at around noon and by late afternoon it was coming down fast and furious.  That night I walked around my Greenwich Village neighborhood in the teeth of the storm (with howling winds gusting to 40-50 mph) snapping photos that were enhanced by the visual effect the flash had on the snowflakes. 

 

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Not surprisingly, my office was closed on Monday (some co-workers from New Jersey were out for two to three days).  The snow stopped falling early in the afternoon and again I went out with my camera.  The texture and deepness of the snow brought to mind walks on the beach.  At one point I trudged over to the West Side Highway and found no rush hour traffic whatsoever.  Instead, a phalanx of garbage trucks put into service as snowplows was the only activity there and on most city streets. 

 

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The storm was especially paralyzing in Philadelphia and NJ where two to three feet of snow fell.  It was such an expansive storm that 1-foot accumulations extended all the way westward into Kentucky and Ohio.  Here in New York 20.2" fell, with three and four-foot drifts topping cars and taxis parked on the streets.  There was no mail delivery for two days and no trash pick-up for eight.  Staten Island reported 29", Newark had 28" and La Guardia Airport picked up 24".  Manhattan's normally congested sidewalks were made even more crowded by walls of plowed and shoveled snow (in addition to bags of uncollected trash and discarded Christmas trees) that confined pedestrians to narrow pathways.  Persistent cold weather kept the snow around for a number of weeks.

 

   

 

At the time this was the deepest snowfall in my lifetime, topping the 17.6" that fell in a big February 1983 snowstorm.  (However, some of the snows of my childhood back in Pittsburgh, especially the 15" that fell in January 1966 and 14" in January 1964, seemed deeper because I was a few feet shorter than my adult height of 6'1".)  This blizzard contributed mightily to the winter of 1995-96 becoming New York City's snowiest winter ever.  75.6"was measured in Central Park, close to fifty inches more than a typical winter.

 

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If you'd like to read about other New York City snowstorms I've written a post on my weather blog, NYC Weather Archive, that recaps the snowstorms we've experienced since 1970.  To go to it, double click here.  And to read about other New York snowstorms I've written about on this blog please see the links below:

 

March 1993 "Storm of the Century" Immobilizes Eastern US

New York's Biggest Snowstorm of All Time (Feb. 2006)

The Lindsay Snowstorm (Feb. 1969)

April Blizzard Stops New York, Puts Spring on Hold (April 1982)


Milli Vanilli Fraud Rocks the Pop Music Industry (November 15, 1990)

Milli_vanilli In mid-November 1990 I was away on a business trip in Los Angeles visiting my company's office there for the first time (ad agency NWAyer).  That evening, a Thursday, I was in my hotel room (the newly renovated Biltmore) getting ready to drive into West Hollywood for a bite to eat when I heard a breaking story on the evening news about Grammy-winning vocal duo Milli Vanilli (Best New Artist of 1990).  It was revealed that they hadn't done their own singing when recording or performing!

 

Milli_vanilli_albumcover Despite this deception I couldn't understand why a class-action lawsuit was filed to obtain refunds for those who purchased MV's CD/record Girl You Know It's True (which sold nearly 10 million units and produced five top-5 singles).  After all, the wildly popular songs were unchanged, with the same great hooks and beats, so if fans previously liked hits such as Girl I'm Gonna Miss You why would they no longer enjoy them now?  Of course, MV had to give back their Grammy.  And unlike Vanessa Williams, whose career took off after a scandal (nude photos) forced her to step down as Miss America in 1984, the fledgling careers of Rob and Fab were largely over (and, sadly, Rob committed suicide in 1998).

 

The fascinating clip below shows them accepting their People's Choice, American Music and Grammy Awards. 

 

  

 

 

 


Anita Hill Testifies Against Clarence Thomas (October 11, 1991)


Anitahill Oct. 11, 1991 was a Friday and that afternoon I was sitting in my office at ad agency NWAyer when I heard on the radio news of the rather contentious confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.  Anita Hill, a former colleague of Thomas', had made allegations about lewd comments and sexual harassment she had been subjected to when they worked together (he was her manager at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.)  Curious, I walked down the hall to the office of the director of national broadcast buying to watch some of the live testimony on his TV. 

 

I was taken aback by Hill's frank testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, e.g., Thomas' comment about a pubic hair being on a can of Coke on his desk during a meeting with her (perhaps the most ignominious brand mentions of all time?).  Never before had words such as these, or for that matter, "penis" and "oral sex" been talked about so openly in a public forum.  (This was seven years before the references to the semen stain on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress.)  The riveting "he said/she said" testimony continued throughout the afternoon and into the evening (when Thomas got his chance at rebuttal).  In addition to watching some of it at the office I continued watching the coverage at home before and after I went to the gym and then after traveling out to New Jersey to spend the night at my boyfriend's apartment.

 

 

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Four days later Thomas was approved in a very close vote in the Senate.  In fact, the 52-48 vote was the closest confirmation vote of the 20th century.  (By comparison, Elena Kagan was confirmed this summer by a 63-37 vote, Sonia Sotomayor by 68-31 and Chief Justice John Roberts by 78-22.)  The book The Prince & the Pauper: The Case Aganst Clarence Thomas provides an essay that offers background into Thomas, an analysis of his confirmation as well the political process that resulted in his selection. 

 

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In 2018 this unpleasant skewering of Hill was brought to mind when another Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, was accused by Christine Blasey Ford of attempting to rape her in 1982 when they were teenagers in Maryland.

 

 

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The Crash of USAir Flight 427 in Pittsburgh (September 8, 1994)

Usair_flight427_debris_field It was a particularly pleasant evening in Western Pennsylvania when USAir Flight 427 from Chicago crashed minutes before it was to land at Pittsburgh's new airport (it opened two years earlier).  All 132 passengers and crew on board were killed, making it the deadliest U.S. plane crash in seven years.  It was also the first air disaster to occur in Pittsburgh.  I heard the news shortly after I arrived home from work from my job at New York ad agency NWAyer.

 

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Although every deadly plane crash is distressing, what made this one particularly troubling for me was the fact that Pittsburgh is my hometown.  (I tried to reach my mother that night but the phone lines were tied up for well over an hour.)  The field where Flight 427 crashed was in Hopewell Township, where my godparents lived.  I'd flown USAir numerous times to visit my parents - and I'd be flying there a few weeks later to visit my mother.  (She lives in the town of McKees Rocks, 20 mies south of the airport.)  What was also sobering was the fact that Flight 471 crashed in good weather with no warning of trouble.  It would be five years before the FAA determined the exact cause of the crash.  And although I try not to, it's difficult for me not to think about that every time I fly to Pittsburgh in good weather.  

 

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Mark McGwire Smashes Roger Maris' Record With Tainted Home Run (September 8, 1998)

HR62 It was Tuesday evening, September 8, 1998, and I turned on the game between the Cubs and Cardinals in hopes of seeing Mark McGwire break Roger Maris' record for most home runs in a season. Since his home run chase had been so widely followed the game aired on a broadcast network, Fox, which was highly unusual for a regular season game in primetime.  After he failed to do so in his first at-bat I decided to go to the gym. 

 

 

Mark_mcgwire_with_son Although my gym (Crunch Fitness) had TV monitors I missed seeing McGwire launch his historic 62nd home run because I was in the middle of doing a set of pulldowns, so my back was to the screens.  When I turned to look after completing my set I saw McGwire rounding the bases and then watched some of the celebration including congratulations from his young son and fellow home run chaser Sammy Sosa of the Cubs.  It was a sweet moment. (The YouTube video of the HR is no longer available.) 

  

Looking back at it now, with all we know about the charges that McGuire, Sosa (as well as A-Rod, Big Papi and Manny Ramirez among others) were taking performance enhancing substances, this milestone leaves a bitter taste.  A supposed moment of triumph instead somewhat resembles the foolishness of President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" moment five years later a few months after the U.S. incursion into Iraq began. 

 

Bonds_cheaties Three years later, on October 5, 2001, I also missed seeing Barry Bonds break McGwire’s record.  I happened to switch to ESPN close to 11PM (the game was being played in San Francisco) just as Bonds was rounding the bases in the 1st inning.  However, compared to McGwire's pursuit of the record, I had less interest in following it this time around since I was hardly a fan of Bonds.  Also, since it came just a few weeks after 9/11 it seemed somewhat trivial.  

 

 

Barrybonds_756_76017794_18 And six years later when Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s all-time record for career home runs (Aug. 7, 2007) I was vacationing out at Fire Island and read the news about it online.  I was happy Bonds' joyless pursuit was finally behind us and delighted that once the media attention ended he more or less disappeared from public view. (Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO and the Steroids Scandal does a good job of revealing the underlying reasons behind the Bonds controversy.)  

 

Hank_aaron Happily, I did see Hank Aaron hit the home run that moved him ahead of Babe Ruth (April 8, 1974).  I was a junior in high school and had taken a time-out from studying for the SATs to watch the game.  After Aaron eclipsed Ruth's record with HR #714 in the bottom of the 4th inning I resumed studying.  It seems fitting that this is the milestone I witnessed since his achievement appears to have been the only legitimate one of the three players since he wasn’t hopped up on performance enhancing drugs.  (For more on Aaron's pursuit you may find the book Hank Aaron & the Home Run That Changed America of interest.)

  

 


 

 


Remembering the Tragic, Shocking Death of Princess Diana (August 31, 1997)

Princess diana in pinkIt was the Saturday night of Labor Day weekend 1997 and I was out at my summer share in Fire Island Pines, which is situated a few miles south of Long Island.  As my housemates and I were finishing dinner we became playful - as a group of eight gay men can easily do after a marvelous dinner and a few glasses of wine. For whatever reason we were inspired to try on some campy hats, feather boas and wigs that just were on the "wig wall" (just having a gay old time - literally!).  Eventually we got around to clearing the table and loading the dishwasher and then decided to go out to Sip'n Twirl, a dance bar in the harbor.  

 

It was well past midnight when we finally got our asses in gear and left the house for the 10-minute walk to the club.  We were making our way along the rickety boardwalk called Fire Island Boulevard when an acquaintance of one of our housemates walked by and said rather dismissively, "Oh, I guess you're going down to join the rest of the queens sobbing over Diana".  We didn't know what he was referring to (our house didn't have a TV) so he told us of the recent news bulletin reporting on Princess Diana's death in Paris in a high speed auto accident. 

 

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Stunned, we returned home instead of continuing to the bar.  Since we didn't have a TV in the house it was actually somewhat of a relief because we weren't immersed in the news coverage that dominated the rest of the weekend. 

 

 

The following Saturday was Diana's funeral.  It aired beginning at around 4AM here in the U.S.  Once again I was out at FIP, but this time I had an opportunity to watch it at the house of a fellow from Cherry Grove who I had just begun dating.  However, I just wasn't in the mood to watch something so dispiriting.  Instead I borrowed a tape from a friend at work who taped it on his VCR and I watched it in fits and starts over the course of the following week.  A memory that sticks with me was seeing the hearse bearing Diana's casket with its windshield wipers slowly moving back & forth in order to clear flowers/bouquets being thrown at the vehicle by the millions lining the streets.  (Mother Teresa died the week leading to Diana's funeral but her death was somewhat overlooked.)  

 


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The 2006 movie The Queen is about the British public's backlash when Queen Elizabeth failed to join her subjects in publicly mourning and commemorating Diana's death. (British actress Helen Mirren won an Oscar for her portrayal of the queen.)