President Reagan Survives Assassination Attempt by John Hinckley (March 30, 1981)

President_reagan_shot It was a gray, showery Monday afternoon and I was in a meeting in a conference room at my office, ad agency Scali McCabe Sloves, where I was a media planner on the Volvo auto account.  This was my first job out of college and I was coming up on my 2-year anniversary.  The last person to enter the room before the meeting started reported that President Reagan had been shot, but she had no further details. 


President_reagan_recovering I don't recall anyone acting overly concerned - I suppose we were a room full of Democrats.  And I wasn't alarmed over this news, perhaps because it seemed too shocking to comprehend something as bad as this happening so early in his presidency - and I thought back to the two attempts made on Gerald Ford's life which he survived (but no bullets hit him).  Also, I was still in disbelief that Reagan had been elected president, so I rationalized that if he didn't pull through Vice President George Bush would be more suitable.  But Reagan lived - the first president to survive after being struck by a bullet.




The biggest impact for me was that the Academy Awards were delayed one day out ofr respect fo the former actor.  (Up until 1999 the Oscars were handed out on a Monday night.) 


Dan_rather Reagan's shooting would be Dan Rather's first big news event since replacing Walter Cronkite as anchorman of the CBS Evening News three weeks earlier.  And at the end of the week my life became upended when my loft space in Tribeca was burglarized.  By coincidence, my friend Marina's apartment on the Upper East Side had been burglarized almost one year to the date of my burglary.  (Back then it seemed your first burglary was a right of passage when you lived in Manhattan.) 


I've written six other blog posts about U.S. presidents:

The Sudden Death of FDR

President Kennedy Assassinated

Nixon Resigns the Presidency

Carter Elected Over Ford

Gore vs. Bush: Too Close to Call

Barack Obama Elected President

Terror Unleashed by Poison Gas Attack in Tokyo (March 20, 1995)

Tokyo_terrotistsTokyo_sarin_attackI was starting a new job on March 20, 1995 at ad agency Foote Cone & Belding where I was hired as media research director of its New York office.  When my clock radio went off that Monday morning is when I first heard the news about the gas attacks on Tokyo's metro system during the morning rush hour.  Members of a Japanese religious cult known as "Supreme Truth" carried out the attacks by puncturing small packages containing a liquid form of the lethal gas, sarin.  They did this on three train lines; once leaked, the liquid turned into a vapor which felled thousands of passengers and killed twelve.   


Of course, this was especially chilling for the millions of us who used New York's subway system to commute to work every day. 




OklahomacityOne month later homegrown terrorism visited our own shores when a truck bomb laden with explosives tore apart the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing168.  Unlike the Japanese terrorists, one of those charged in the U.S. attack, Timothy McVeigh, was executed.


Now_and_again_tv_showThen five years later an episode of a new show on CBS, Now and Again, brought to mind the Tokyo attacks.  A villain known as the Eggman (played by Chinese actor Kim Chan) cracked open eggs filled with noxious gas on a New York subway.  All of the passengers died, but in a somewhat more gruesome fashion than those who died in Tokyo.   



Final Episode of "Mary Tyler Moore Show" Airs (March 19, 1977)


Before HBO, the rise of cable or the invention of the VCR/DVR, Saturday was a vibrant night of programming for the Big 3 TV networks, not an afterthought, or a repository for repeats, as it is today.  In the 1970s it was a night of classic sitcoms on CBS, and in the '80s NBC and ABC had hit shows like Golden Girls; Hunter; Love Boat; and Fantasy IslandThe Mary Tyler Moore Show was one of the crown jewels of CBS's Saturday night schedule.  Besides Mary's character, the show's other beloved characters included Mr. Grant; Ted; Murray; Sue Ann; Rhoda; Phyllis and Georgette.  The sitcom's last episode aired on March 19, 1977.  (It was curious that such a big episode was scheduled in between the February and May ratings "sweeps".)


MaryTylerMooreShow_Final_Episdoe Although I'd been a regular viewer of the show during its first five seasons, once I was away at college I rarely had the opportunity to watch it - but tonight was an exception.  I was in my sophomore year at Penn State, where I was attending a branch campus in Beaver County, about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.  It was largely a commuter campus with one dormitory, which I lived in.  (I transferred to main campus in my junior year.)  The dorm often emptied out on weekends and this weekend, when Mary ended her seven-year run, was no different.  However, I stayed on campus and watched the episode alone in my dorm room on my roommate's little black and white set while I sat on my bed doing school work.



Mtm_cat_logo This funny episode (everyone at TV station WJM was fired except for Ted Baxter) ended with the touching group huddle pictured above.  It posted a Nielsen household rating of 25.5.  Although it wasn't a blockbuster rating like that delivered by the finales of M*A*S*H (60.2 HH rating); Cheers (45.5); or Seinfeld (41.3), it was a solid bump from its 20.5 season average.  Hats off to Mary! (Pun intended.)




(Oddly, the final season of Mary Tyler Moore, as of March 2013, had yet to be released on DVD).  However, if you'd like to purchase any of the first six seasons click here.)


Hitler Seizes Czechoslovakia (March 15, 1939)

Map_of_czechoslovakia My grandmother, Margaret Cerovski (nee Revay), arrived in the U.S. from Czechoslovakia in September 1920 (she celebrated her 21st birthday while crossing the Atlantic).  After being processed at Ellis Island she continued on to Pittsburgh where her brother Michael lived (their 11 brothers and sisters remained back in the "old country"). 



Hacha-hitler  After she and my grandfather (from the Croatian region of Yugoslavia) became citizens in the 1930's Grandma thought about visiting her family because her mother was in declining health.  She also wanted to take my mother and uncle, who were teenagers, with her.  However, Czechoslovakia was being slowly partitioned by Nazi Germany and Slovakia, the eastern region of the country my grandmother was from, was agitating for its independence.  For these reasons my grandfather wouldn't allow Grandma to take Mom and Uncle George.  And then today in 1939 Czechoslovakia's beleaguered president (pictured with Hitler) signed over the country to Hitler and the thought of Grandma even visiting by herself ended.  WWII would begin six months later.


Czechoslovakia_plaque Although she never visited her homeland Grandma kept in touch with her brothers and sisters.  She was the middle child but managed to outlive all of her siblings and died in 1999 just six months shy of her 100th birthday.


(I've also written about the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovkia: Soviet Army Crushes Prague Spring.)  


"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.  


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. 




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. 


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.




Revered Anchorman Walter Cronkite Retires from "CBS Evening News" (March 6, 1981)



March 6, 1981 was a Friday and the streets of Manhattan were a sloppy mess following a snowstorm the day before that dumped nearly nine inches of wet snow (the biggest snowfall of a relatively snowless winter).  But the day's big story was the evening broadcast of the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite's last as its revered anchorman. I caught the last five minutes of this newscast after getting in from work (ad agency Scali McCabe Sloves).


Cronkite's retirement sticks with me largely because his final week on the air coincided with a big life event for me.  After living in Bayonne, New Jersey for two years I had moved into Manhattan earlier in the week.  Truth be told, it was an impulsive decision made after my brother got married at the beginning of February.  We both lived in Bayonne, so when he moved to another town I figured it was a good time to move into the "big city".  I put an ad in the Village Voice and ended up in a peculiar living situation with a family in their TriBeCa loft at 60 Lispenard St., a dreary alley-like street out of a Dickens novel, just south of Canal St.  It was me and the Sears family: artist-husband David, his Harvard educated stay-at-home wife Linda (a real chatterbox), their curly red-haired baby Jonah ... and a vicious white cat named Mouse.  




I lived there for just three months when the landlord pressured us to move because he wanted to convert the building to commercial-use only. (He was probably the one behind our loft being burglarized a month after I moved in.)  Happily, I found a much better situation up in the West Village in a 2-bedroom apartment with another family of sorts - Gary and Jason and their doberman, Sabrina.  The Sears family moved as well, but Mouse was left behind after he jumped across the air shaft and sat on the windowsill of the neighboring building - and that's where he stayed. 


After retiring Cronkite kept a low-keyed presence in the news arena but narrated the occasional documentary and served as a pundit regarding his views on the changing news media. (He memorably had a number of unflattering things to say about his replacement, Dan Rather, in a CNN interview and an article in The New Yorker, shortly before Rather's retirement in 2005).  Naturally, he penned a best-selling book, A Reporter's Life, in which he revisited some of the key historical moments that he was a part of as a reporter.  Cronkite lived to be 92 and died in the summer of 2009.




And that's the way it was ... on March 6, 1981.


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



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.


Time magazine - first wtc bombing


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.







The Untimely Death of Andy Warhol (February 22, 1987)

Andywarhol Warhol soup cansFebruary 22, 1987 was an unusually social Sunday for me.  I spent the early part of the afternoon at a brunch in the West Village at the apartment of my friend Marc, a fellow I dated briefly the previous year.  (We met when he walked up behind me at Uncle Charlie's bar and snapped the back of my suspenders).  After brunch a group of us went to a mid-afternoon tea dance at a club in Chelsea called Tracks.  From there I taxied down to SoHo to attend a 5th anniversary celebration for GMHC (Gay Men's Health Crisis) held at the Puck Building.  That was followed by dinner at Taste of Tokyo and then a brief visit to the club Palladium on 14th St.


I didn't get home until late and when I sat down to watch the 11:00 news I was shocked to learn of Andy Warhol's death.  He died from complications after having simple gallbladder surgery.  He was just 58.  (Somewhat overlooked was the death on the same day of talk show host David Susskind.)  A contributing factor to his death was the fact that he put off the surgery for so long, which took a toll on his overall health (he was deathly afraid of hospitals.)


Andy warhol death - newspaper headline


I felt somewhat of a connection to Warhol because, like me, he grew up in Pittsburgh and was of Slovakian parentage (my maternal grandmother was born in Slovakia).  Seven years after his death, while I was in Pittsburgh to attend my father's funeral, I visited the newly opened Warhol Museum with my brother, his fiance and my two young nephews.  It was ironic that the museum (at the time the only one in the US devoted to one artist) was here because Warhol apparently was ashamed of his Pittsburgh roots.  And in present-day Pittsburgh, a number of Warhol's silk screen creations can be found in one of the concourses at the city's airport.


Warhol museum
Entrance to the Warhol Museum


Warhol at pittsburgh airport
Works of Warhol at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport


(Many books are available about Warhol's life and his body of work.  One in particular that got a lot of press when it was published in the early '90's was The Andy Warhol Diaries.)





New York's Biggest Snowfall of All Time (February 11-12, 2006)

Please note that since writing this post back in 2013, this storm has been supplanted as New York's biggest snowstorm by the blizzard of Jan. 23, 2016.

Despite a cold start, the winter of 2005-06 had turned into a relatively mild one.  In fact, during a seven-week period beginning just after Christmas temperatures averaged nearly ten degrees above average - and January was the third mildest on record.  So it was somewhat of a shock when a major snowstorm came calling. 


The first flakes began falling Saturday evening just as I was leaving a movie on the Lower East Side (Steven Soderbergh's indie film Bubble).  By midnight about three inches had fallen.  The snow continued until mid-afternoon Sunday, but the bulk of it fell in a 6-hour period between 5-11AM when an incredible 18 inches fell (a ski resort-like snowfall rate of three inches/hour).  The storm's total was 26.9", breaking the old record from Dec. 26-27, 1947 by one-half inch.  In a rarity, New York was in the "bulls-eye" of the storm's heaviest accumulation, so no other locality received nearly this much.  At around noon on Sunday I ventured out with my camera and spent an hour or so in Washington Square Park snapping photos.





Interestingly, although the blizzards of January 1996 and the post-Christmas blizzard of 2010 dumped seven inches less than this 2006 storm, the City seemed more crippled by them.  And to me this record snow seemed no deeper than those storms.  It could very well be that the accumulation in my Greenwich Village neighborhood, about three miles south of Central Park, was less.   This record-breaking accumulation would be the only snowfall of February.  It ended up accounting for two-thirds of the winter's total snowfall. 








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


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

1993 "Storm of the Century" Immobilizes Eastern U.S.

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

The Lindsay Snowstorm (Feb. 1969)







Christo's "The Gates" Offers New Yorkers a Winter Respite (February 12, 2005)


TheGates_Rob2Renowned environmental artist Christo's widely publicized outdoor installation known as "The Gates" was unveiled in Central Park on Feb. 12, 2005 (a Saturday).  At my friend Tom's suggestion we hopped on the #1 subway at noon and went up to the park to experience it for ourselves (that's me in the photo).  I didn't quite know what to make of this "art", and didn't find it particularly aesthetically pleasing.  The "gates" were made from a canvas-like fabric which was a safron/orange color, giving the gates somewhat of a harsh, industrial look (but ING Bank was probably delighted to have its corporate colors on display without paying for a sponsorship).  Nonetheless, there was a sense of wonderment to this ambitious undertaking and its 7,500 fabric gates covering twenty-three miles of the park.  Tom and I each got one of the small square fabric samples handed out as keepsakes.



Because the sky was overcast the colors really popped.  This was great for picture taking and it's likely that most everyone living in Manhattan has a stash of photos snapped or video clips posted on You Tube at this out-of-the-ordinary exhibit.  After spending nearly 90 minutes wandering park trails, a chill eventually settled into our bones and we took our leave and went to lunch.  We were two of the estimated one million visitors who had come to gaze at "The Gates" in its opening weekend.  Later on during the installation's second, and final, week it took on a softer look after two significant snowfalls blanketed the park.  All in all, it was a unique and pleasant diversion in the dead of winter.