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1987: A Year in Review

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Join us as we revisit the movers and shakers, news, movies, and history of 1987.

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In 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate in what was then West Berlin and said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" On the silver screen, Gordon Gekko intoned "Greed is good!" in director Oliver Stone's over-the-top flick Wall Street.

When it comes to history versus popular culture, bet on twaddle. Never mind the collapse of communism, the reunification of Germany or the freedom needed to ignite an economic boom in Eastern Europe, more kids probably know Gekko's words today than Reagan's.

But what the heck, "Walk Like an Egyptian" by the Bangles was the top tune in 1987 and Barbie turned 28, prompting The New York Times to let loose with a thumb-sucker headlined, "Barbie: Doll, Icon, or Sexist Symbol?"

However, there was a little real news that year. In January, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 2,000 for the first time, tacking on 8.30 points to close at 2,002.25. But the bull stumbled on October 19, 1987 – "Black Monday" – when the Dow plunged 508.32 points, or about 22.6%, and closed at 1,738.40. The decline almost doubled the 12.8% loss in the 1929 crash. (See: "Black Monday: What Happened?")

There were some good movies released 20 years ago, including Broadcast News, Dirty Dancing, Full Metal Jacket, Raising Arizona, The Untouchables, Robocop and Hope and Glory, a childhood memoir of the Battle of Britain during World War II. There was also that boiled rabbit in Fatal Attraction.

Sightings of "Bigfoot" – that's Sasquatch, Yeti or the Abominable Snowman to those east of the Mississippi – continued in the Pacific Northwest. The big furry fella made it to Hollywood in Harry and the Hendersons, starring John Lithgow.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that Rotary clubs must admit women. This startling revelation from the black-robed priesthood made the covers of the national news magazines and a few Double-X types actually joined the club, undercutting the argument advanced by feminists of impending nirvana if only babes ruled the world.

Oliver North told Congress that Big Wigs had approved his Iran-Contra deal, but onto important stuff: The Jersey Jints (check your Rand-McNally Road Atlas, Bubba) stomped the Denver Broncos 39-20 to win the Super Bowl. In baseball, the Minnesota Twins defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. If anyone cares, the Edmonton Oilers beat the Philadelphia Flyers to cop the Stanley Cup and the Los Angeles Lakers knocked off the Boston Celtics to grab the NBA crown.

Aretha Franklin was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Beastie Boys were the first act to be censored on "American Bandstand." FYI, their song "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right to Party" was No. 98 on the charts in 1987. "La Bamba" by Los Lobos came in at No. 11.

In February 1987, Sonny Bono, Cher's insignificant other, announced his candidacy for the mayor of Palm Springs, Calif. He served from 1988 to 1992 and was later elected to Congress, suggesting that the sun has addled folks' brains in California. Death ends career: He slammed into a tree while skiing near South Lake Tahoe in 1998.

Talk about déjà vu all over again: In January 1987, Terry Waite, a special envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Lebanon, was kidnapped by terrorists in Beirut. He was released in November 1991.

In February 1987, the Unabomber struck twice in Salt Lake City. He sent bombs to several universities and airlines from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, killing three and wounding 23. The environmental whacko pleaded guilty in 1998 in Sacramento, Calif. and was sentenced to life in prison.

Does anyone remember American Motors, or care to? In March 1987, Chrysler acquired the maker of the Rambler and the Pacer in one of the most brilliant strategic moves in the history of capitalism.

If you have a fondness for hypocrisy, televangelist Jim Bakker resigned in March after admitting that he was an accomplished practitioner of the horizontal mambo with church secretary Jessica Hahn.

In April, the U.S. Department of Justice declared former U.N. Secretary General and Austrian President Kurt Waldheim an "undesirable alien" after it was discovered that he had covered up his Nazi past. Waldheim had served as a lieutenant in intelligence and was attached to units that had executed thousands of partisans in the Balkans and had deported thousands of Greek Jews to death camps from 1942 to 1944. Undesirable, eh? That spanked him.

On the upside (as they say on Wall Street), lightweight presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Gary Hart dropped out of the running for the Democratic presidential nomination in May after reporters dug up details of his extra-marital affair with 29-year-old model and aspiring actress Donna Rice aboard the aptly named yacht "Monkey Business." Imagine – a politician that goes for attractive women and doesn't' claim a "wide stance" when visiting the crapper at the Minneapolis airport.

But politicians weren't a complete waste in 1987. In June, the Brits elected Maggie Thatcher prime minister for the third time.

Sad news for birdwatchers: The Dusky Seaside Sparrow became extinct in June.

At home, "Bork" became a verb meaning "to viciously attack a candidate or appointee with unfounded allegations" when hearings on the nomination of Solicitor General Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court began in July. Bork wasn't confirmed amid charges that his views would return the nation to back alley abortions etc.

However, in July the United Nations confirmed Jerry Lee Lewis' observation that there's a "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On" as the world's population hit five billion.

The DJIA closed above 2,500 for the first time on July 17th.

In August, the Federal Communications Commission rescinded the Fairness Doctrine, derided as the "Blandness Commandment" or worse in the broadcast industry. This led to Rush Limbaugh and the conservative talk radio industry. The liberal counterpoint, "Air America," later flopped. If you can't beat 'em, snuff 'em: Democrats in Congress now talk about re-instating the Fairness Doctrine.

In August, Rudolf Hess was found dead in Spandau Prison in West Berlin, an apparent suicide. He had served as Hitler's deputy and edited Mein Kampf. Hess flew to England in May 1941 in a screwy attempt to make peace. He was imprisoned until his death at 93.

In December, NASA named four companies that received contracts to build Space Station Freedom: Boeing (BA) Aerospace, General Electric's (GE) Astro-Space Division, McDonnell Douglas and Rockwell's Rocketdyne division.

Construction of the Chunnel linking England and France began in December, forcing many to ask: Is it wise to mix brie and warm beer?

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Hustler Magazine vs. Falwell. The court later ruled 8-0 that the First Amendment bars awarding damages to public figures for intentionally inflected emotional distress unless the person can show the statements were false and made with reckless disregard for the truth. The high court said Hustler's parody of Falwell didn't meet this standard.

The year ended on an uneven note. In December, President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in Washington.

A few weeks later, Prozac was first sold in the United States. The drug to treat depression generated solid revenue for manufacturer Eli Lilly (LLY) and later spawned a book by Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America.


For those interested in further reading about the 1987 stock market crash, please see the following: Black Monday: What Happened?, Why Did the Crash of '87 Occur?, and What Happened in 1987, Could It Happen Again?

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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