Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 24, 1981

Five years ago, in anticipation of my 25-year college reunion at Georgetown University, I wrote a blog post called "May 29, 1981," which began like this:

May 29, 1981 -- the Sunday before Memorial Day, hazy in the morning in the Nation's Capital and unseasonably hot (with temperatures eventually reaching the 90s). It was Bob Hope's 78th birthday, it would have been John F. Kennedy's 64th, and it was the anniversary of Wisconsin's 1848 admission as a state in the Union and Rhode Island's ratification of the Constitution.

A Chorus Line was in its seventh year of a record-breaking Broadway run, but Cats (which would eventually overtake that record) had opened in London but not yet in New York. "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes was the Number 1 song hit. Jonny Lang was precisely four months old and Britney Spears would come along nearly six months later.

The Falklands War was a year away, John Belushi was still alive, and virtually no one had ever telephoned a friend to ask, "Where are you now?"

May 29, 1981, was also a day of significance for me. It was the day I was graduated from Georgetown University.
At the reunion a week or so later, I received a handful of compliments from classmates about the post, and gratitude that I had done the research to supplement their own memories.

Nobody noticed that the premise was wrong.

That is, I had the wrong date. May 29 was not the "Sunday before Memorial Day," because Memorial Day that year was on May 25. Our graduation, as a glance at my diploma on the wall would have told me, was on May 24, 1981.

I've waited five years to correct the record.

Sunday, May 24, 1981, was the birthday of documentary film maker Nic Hill (Truth in Numbers? Everything, According to Wikipedia and Ray Charles America) and of Czech model and actress Markéta Jánská (Swingtown). It was the day that the "Toastmaster General of the United States," George Jessel, passed away.

That weekend saw the opening of several new movies: Outland, with Sean Connery and Peter Boyle; Death Hunt, with Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson; The Legend of the Lone Ranger, with Klinton Spilsbury, Michael Horse and Christopher Lloyd; The Four Seasons, with Alan Alda, Carol Burnett, Sandy Dennis, and Len Cariou; and Bustin' Loose, with Richard Pryor and Cicely Tyson.  (Of those, the only one I remember seeing is The Four Seasons.  Maybe I thought it was a documentary about Vivaldi, or a concert film with Frankie Valli.)

The night before, Jill St. John and Jim Stafford guest starred on Fantasy Island, in an episode called "Paquito's Birthday."  Sunday evening's TV shows included the perennial 60 Minutes, as well as Archie Bunker's Place, One Day at a Time, Alice, and The Jeffersons (all on CBS); NBC offered Disney's Wonderful World, CHiPs, and The Big Event, while ABC had its Sunday night movie.  Fox did not yet exist, and cable was not nearly pervasive in American homes as it would be just a few years later.

The New York Times best-seller lists published that day had Noble House, by James Clavell, at the top of the fiction list, followed by Gorky Park, by Martin Cruz Smith, in second place.  The number one non-fiction best-seller was The Lord God Made Them All, but James Herriot, with George Gilder's influential Wealth and Poverty at number five.  (Number six was a biography of Maria Callas by Arianna Stassinopoulos.  You may know her as the founder of The Huffington Post under her married name.)

In the music world, the number one U.S. single, according to Billboard, was "Bette Davis Eyes," by Kim Carnes; according to Cashbox, it was "Being With You," by Smokey Robinson.  In Canada, the top hit was "Angel in the Morning," by Juice Newton.  In continental Europe, the number one single was "Making Your Mind Up," by Eurovision winner Bucks Fizz.  In the UK, however, the chart-topping single was "Stand and Deliver," by Adam and the Ants, and in Ireland, it was "You Drive Me Crazy," by Shakin' Stevens.

Not that many of us at graduation on the Hilltop were paying close attention to these statistics.  We had more monumental things on our mind.

Let me note that my original 2006 post, despite the wrong date, is still worth reading, if for nothing else than for the excerpts from Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick's commencement address.

At least I had the date for my high school graduation right, when I posted memories on the occasion of its thirtieth anniversary a year later than my misdirected college reunion reminiscence.

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