Day 362: 25 Years Gone

originally published December 27, 2012

Yesterday I got to wondering what 2012 institution would remain relevant a quarter century from now. Today, perhaps because I’m finally crashing from my tryptophan and candy-cane high, I’m feeling a little morbid. We lost the Twinkie this year, as well as Sara Lee, Chumbawumba, and Fear Factor (again). In twenty-five years, will anyone remember and mourn these institutions?

Alright, in all fairness, nobody is going to remember that Fear Factor came back to life for a few months this year, nor will they have any idea that Chumbawumba lasted another 15 years after that one hit. So what about 1987? What institutions passed on that year, and do we still remember them?

Anyone who has a penchant for Swinging London grooviness or who sat through The Italian Job (the first one) should be very familiar with the Austin Motor Company. But did you know that by the 1980’s they were making cars that looked like this?

(from funky to fugly)

That’s the Austin Metro, which competed with the Vauxhall Chevette and the Ford Fiesta to become one of the most popular English cars in the looks-like-a-clunky-shoe class of automobiles during the 80’s.

Austin had long-since been melded into the publicly-owned British Leyland company, and it became nestled along with Rover and MG as part of their extensive line of vehicles. The low-budget part of the line. By 1987, Austin was written out of the picture.

In 1981, Muse Software came out with Castle Wolfenstein, a game about trying to escape a German castle during World War II. It was a huge hit among Apple II, Commodore 64 and DOS-based computer owners, as was its sequel. Alas, by 1987 things were not looking good for Muse.

The company had shrunk from 40 employees down to six by 1985. They looked for a way to crawl back into relevance, but according to programmer Silas Warner, a long-term illness by a single employee prevented Muse from developing the sales program that might have saved the company. They folded in 1987, and five years later Apogee Software released Wolfenstein 3D in tribute to Muse’s biggest game. Wolfenstein 3D became known as the great-grand-daddy of all first-person shooter games.

So in the end, Muse Software was, at its finest, a great muse.

Forty-six acres of park was created in North Dartmouth back in 1894. By the 1920’s it had evolved into an amusement park known as Lincoln Park (no relation to any rap-rock groups of any kind). One of the park’s icons was the giant wooden roller coaster pictured above, known as The Comet. By 1987, The Comet was in trouble.

One year earlier, a man died on the coaster when he tried to step from one car to another mid-ride. Then on September 29, 1987, the brakes locked up near the end of the ride, causing the coaster cars to jackknife and injuring four people. These incidents, coupled with a ball-crushing tax debt, caused the park to close down in December.

From what I can tell, North Dartmouth subsequently became the most depressing town in Massachusetts. The wooden Comet sat like the skeleton of fun for twenty-five years. Twenty-five freaking years, reminding locals that joy used to exist on these premises. They finally tore the thing down this past July to make way for condos, which is somehow more depressing.

Not a lot of television stations folded in 1987, but people will remember this one. Founded in 1974 by enterprising God-sploiters Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, the PTL Television Network became one of the best known ways for people to give shit-tons of their money to other people in the belief that God really wanted these other people to be wealthy.

It worked. Jim and Tammy Faye lived like king and makeup-caked queen. God was pleased. Then, church secretary Jessica Hahn went and spoiled the whole thing in March of 1987 by accusing Jim of having raped her in a hotel room. She also pulled back the curtains on a number of the financial indiscretions that Jim and Tammy Faye had inflicted on their followers.

I could fill the rest of this kilograph with a lengthy, semi-coherent rant about how these people were sub-human scuz-crusties, but that’s not why I’m here. Jim is still paying the IRS back and Tammy Faye is hopefully reaping the reward she deserves in the afterlife for having scammed thousands of faithful Christians out of millions of dollars.

Some fine bands disbanded in 1987. I’m going out on a limb here, but I don’t think this was one of them. The Seattle-based glam-metal band Sleaze was on its way out in ’87. With their final incarnation they briefly changed their name to Alice ‘N Chains. According to vocalist Layne Staley, this name was selected because the group dressed in drag and played speed metal. They went with ‘N’ in the middle because they didn’t want to drive away their female audience by sporting a name that clearly was all about female bondage.

The group broke up anyway, and Staley hooked up with another group of Seattle musicians who were ballsy enough to take on the bondage name. Alice In Chains – who actually were a pretty damn fine band – became one of the foremost groups of the grunge movement a few years later. Bondage sells, I guess.

Funny, I distinctly remember having existed in 1987, but I have no memory of this. For thirteen episodes, Colombia Pictures Television decided it would be a good idea to unleash The New Monkees on the world. This is the theme song. See if you can guess why the show flopped.

This was one of the tracks from the one studio album that oozed onto record shelves from this be-mulleted quartet. It’s called “Boy Inside The Man.” I’m not entirely sure who would voluntarily listen to a song like this.

A lot of TV shows rode into the cathode-ray sunset in ’87, including Hill Street Blues, Gimme A Break, Silver Spoons, The *A* Team, Fraggle Rock, and the original Transformers cartoon. But I felt I had to mention this mess. From what I can tell, none of the four members of the New Monkees went on to any greater fame, and this show will probably never see a DVD release. Everyone associated with this fiasco was most likely banished to a remote Arctic island for their crimes against culture. Everyone except producer Victor Fresco, who redeemed himself by inventing Andy Richter Controls The Universe and Better Off Ted.

So take a moment and mourn the Twinkie if you must, but keep in mind that it may return, and when I write this same article 25 years from now (which I probably won’t), it may not even get a mention.

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