Category Archives: News

Quote of the Day: Larry Walters

“It was something I had to do. I had this dream for twenty years, and if I hadn’t done it, I think I would have ended up in the funny farm.”Larry Walters, the man that flew 15,000 feet above LA in a lawn chair carried by weather balloons in 1982, to the press after he landed

 

 

October 17 – The Great Quake of ’89

Here is my annual post about the earthquake that I experienced in the Bay Area on this day in 1989. Many of you may remember this as the World Series earthquake, as it happened just before a World Series Game between the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants. A lot of you may have seen this post already, but I know there are a lot of new people too, so I’ll repost this.

summaryOctober 17, 1989 at 5:04 pm was a time that I will never forget. With no exaggeration, I thought that was going to be the last day of my life. That was the day of the Great Quake of ’89, or as it is formally known as – the Loma Prieta earthquake. Or if I mention it these days, I say that is the earthquake that happened during the World Series, and then it rings a bell to people who lived outside of California’s Bay Area.

Today is the 29th anniversary of the earthquake. It was on a Tuesday that year. At the time, I was working at the Oakland Naval Hospital as a cook. My hours were 4:30am-6:30pm. I was looking forward to watching game 3 of the World Series after work. It was a huge deal in that area as both teams were local – the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s.

Then at 5:04, as I was walking through the kitchen getting ready to clean up, it sounded like there was a train quietly rumbling towards us. The sound was getting louder and louder, and then I could feel the building start to shake. Then the hospital started shaking more and more violently. It was starting to shake so much, that I had to hold myself up against a big metal table. There was a row of ovens (empty) behind me, and their doors were falling open. Then it felt like the whole ground was going to crumble apart under my feet, and the whole hospital was going to collapse on top of us. It was dinner time, so there were quite a few people in the cafeteria, and several people screamed. After what felt like an eternity, the shaking slowed to a stop. The earthquake lasted around 15 seconds, but I could swear that it was really 15 minutes. When everything became still, there were actually some people who actually cheered. I don’t know if they were cheering because we were all still in one piece, or if they were just sick and cheered as if it was an amusement park ride. Not too long after, there was an aftershock that was even worse than some earthquakes. A lot of people freaked out and screamed again. But that only lasted for a split second. I remember that there were still aftershocks occurring a few weeks after the earthquake

We put on whatever radios we could find, and we found out that a part of the Bay Bridge collapsed, and that the Cypress Freeway had collapsed. Then we got news that we may be getting a lot of patients brought to our hospital. All the corpsmen and doctors and nurses had to be called in. While we were waiting for them to come in, some of us cooks got a quick training on how to carry a stretcher so we could bring patients in from an ambulance. We waited outside and listened to the news come in about all of the damage. Only one ambulance came in while I was waiting, and I didn’t have to carry the person in. Things could have been much worse. The highways that had collapsed normally would have been bumper to bumper with cars and trucks. But since it was near game time for the World Series, there were a lot of people who were either at the game at Candlestick Park, or they had left work early, or they were staying late to have parties at work. 63 people died, and 3,757 were injured.
I left work around 12:30 am and got home around 1:00 am. This was at a time when people did not really have cell phones, and my family was on the East Coast. So, it was 4:00 am on the East when I got home, and I was debating whether I should call my family at that hour. I decided that I better, and it was a good decision. My mother answered the phone on the first ring!

This was a day that I will never forget as long as I live.

Here is the beginning of the televised portion of the World Series:

Here is a news clip of the Cypress Freeway collapse:

And here is the Bay Bridge:

People were trapped in the rubble of the Cypress Freeway, and there were rescue efforts for days. On October 21, 4 days after the quake, a survivor was found. His name was Buck Helms. “Lucky Buck”, as the media dubbed him, was freed from the wreckage, having spent 90 hours trapped in his crushed car under the rubble. Unfortunately, he died 29 days later from respiratory failure at the age of 57.

It took years for the area to rebuild. And to this day, there is still some rebuilding going on in the area from this disaster.

Episode 8: Year in Review – 1980

year-in-review-cover

This podcast episode should be more upbeat than the last episode. But, it doesn’t start that way. We recorded this podcast the same night we recorded the Alan Thicke/George Michael/Carrie Fisher tribute. Immediately after we finished recording the tribute, we got the news that Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher’s mother, had just died. But, I think we recovered nicely. Since 2016 was such a crappy year for most of us, Robert and I decided to go back to happier times, and take a look back at the year 1980. We count down the top 10 songs from that year. And in between, we take a look at the top movies, television shows, toys, and news items.
So, if you want to escape for a little while, sit back, relax, and Return to 1980.



Opening

– R.I.P. Debbie Reynolds

Play This, Not That

John Waite
Instead of This (“Missing You”)

Play That (“Change”)

Remember That Song

Last Song: “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour –
Neon lights, a Nobel Prize / When a mirror speaks, the reflection lies / You don’t have to follow me / Only you can set me free

Great job Kurt Torster!!!

’80s Trivia

Question: What colors were on the original Rubik’s cube?

Main Topic – 1980

10. “The Rose” by Bette Midler

9. “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” by Billy Joel

Top 10 movies of 1980
10. The Blues Brothers
9. The Blue Lagoon
8. Smokey and the Bandit II
7. Coal Miner’s Daughter
6. Private Benjamin
5. Any Which Way You Can
4. Airplane! Paramount
3. Stir Crazy
2. 9 to 5
1. The Empire Strikes Back

 

8. “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc.
7. “Coming Up” by Paul McCartney

Top 10 Television Shows
10 Little House on the Prairie
8. Three’s Company
House Calls
7. Alice
6. The Jeffersons
5. The Love Boat
4. M*A*S*H
3. 60 Minutes
2. The Dukes of Hazzard
1. Dallas

Long Distance Dedication from Realweegiemidge at https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/

6. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen
5. “Do That To Me One More Time” by Captain and Tennille

Popular Toys in 1980
2XL – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnAhaZ5vlg8
Big Trak – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6V-tuOf3dE
Tuneyville Choo Choo – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvKbokD99Do
Candi Color ‘n’ Curl – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYDSuxRSlwA
The Empire Strikes Back collection – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8Z9b_UN9ds

Long Distance Dedication II from Rob ‘The Snyderman’ Snyder

4. “Rock With You” by Michael Jackson
3. “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John

Books released
William Golding, Rites of Passage
John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

Sports
Super Bowl
Pittsburgh d. La Rams (31-19)

World Series
Philadelphia Phillies d. Kansas City (4-2)

NBA Championship
LA Lakers d. Philadelphia 76ers (4-2)

Stanley Cup
NY Islanders d. Philadelphia (4-2)

Wimbledon
Women: Evonne Cawley d. C. Evert Lloyd (6-1 7-6)
Men: Bjorn Borg d. J. McEnroe (1-6 7-5 6-3 6-7 8-6)

Events of 1980
Miracle on Ice – (February 22) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYscemhnf88
Mount St. Helens (May 18)
Release of Pac-Man arcade game
CNN becomes the first 24hrs News Station
U.S. Boycotts Moscow Summer Olympics
Ronald Reagan elected president (11/4)
Who Shot JR?
John Lennon killed by Mark David Chapman (12/8)

2. “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd
1. “Call Me” by Blondie


Come find us at:
https://returntothe80s.wordpress.com/
Find Return to the ’80s on Facebook
Twitter – @returntothe80s
Email: returnto80s@gmail.com

This Week – 1990/1991 Theme/Gulf War Deployment

We are going to do something a little different this week. It was this week in 1990 that I was shipped out to the Gulf War. On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. From that moment, there were rumors that we would be going to war. At the time, I was stationed at Oakland Naval Hospital. But, as with a lot of the people stationed there, I was also affiliated with the USNS Mercy. The Mercy is a hospital ship that had only been fully activated during a crises or a humanitarian mission. There were only a handful of full time Navy personnel on the ship, as well as several merchant marines. So, from the time Iraq invaded Kuwait, we were all on pins and needles wondering if we would go to war and be shipped out.

On August 9, I went into work as I normally did. However, anybody who had the day off, also had to come in. We had a meeting, and were told that we were going to war. Not everybody was going to be transferred to the Mercy though. So, they went through the list, and of course, I was selected. I was not in a relationship, and most of my family was across the country. So, I had no problem going. There were other people not selected, but wanted to go. So, they would ask around and see if anybody would switch. There were some takers. But, I wasn’t going to switch with anybody. We were also told that we could tell family members that we were leaving, but we weren’t allowed to say where we were going. We would be moving on to the ship on August 12, and we were leaving on August 14.

When I got back to my apartment that night, I called my parents to tell them the news. My mother answered the phone, and she already knew where I was going. It was all over the news that our ship was being activated. And, to top off this news, my mother, who was home by herself, had just received another phone call a few minutes before I called. My grandmother (my father’s mother) died after a long battle with Alzheimers. My grandparents had lived in Colorado, so I had only seen them a few times in my life. But, we did talk on the phone every Sunday. My world had turned upside down. But,
what else is there to do, but carry on?

When I got to my ship, we worked around 20 hours a day for the two days, loading our ship with supplies. My job was to work in the food storeroom, so I got all the food loaded up.

Since I feel like I’m rambling on, I’m not going to go over everything I did during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. But, we all know what the final outcome was. Our ship headed backin the middle of March 1991. We pulled back into our home port in the middle of April.

So, I wrote all that just to say that this week, all of the Remember That Song and Movie Quote articles will be music and films from 1990 to 1991. The dark days of grunge had not arrived yet, so we still had a late ’80s feel about it.

I hope you enjoy this week’s selections.

Return to the ’80s Turns 5 Years Old

I began this decade by creating a blog about the greatest decade ever. Time flies! In those humble beginnings, this site had an average of 4 views a day in the first month. The following month, there was an average of a whopping 2 views a day. But, slowly I have been able to reach more and more people. Today, there are 131 people subscribed to this page. There are over 1,500 Twitter followers, and just last week, the Return to the ’80s Facebook page passed 1,500 Likes!

In the Beginning

In the beginning of THE decade – 1980 – I developed a love for writing. I always had an active imagination, but did not have an outlet for it. When I was 9 or 10 years old, I found that writing could be very fun if it didn’t have anything to do with any kind of schoolwork. I had a spiral notebook, which I was probably supposed to use for school. Instead of doing homework, I wrote my first story…a 23 page masterpiece called “The Killer”. It was a story about an evil man named Robby who fell off a roller coaster, which then ran over his fingers, cutting them off. Then he landed on a set of knives just right, so they replaced his fingers. He then went on a killing rampage. Remember, I said this was in 1980. This was 4 years before A Nightmare On Elm Street came out. Coincidentally, I lost that notebook about 2 years after I began writing. Hmmmm. Was it stolen, or did my mother (who had a penchant for throwing things out) see it lying around and toss it? If I was 9 or 10 today, and wrote that story, I would probably be on some kind of government watch list, and placed in mandatory psychotherapy. Come to think of it, maybe my mother threw my notebook out in order to get rid of any possible evidence that could eventually be used against me in a court of law. Anyway, I would go on to write many more (not so gruesome) stories, often using my friends and me as the characters in each story.

Unfortunately, by the time I reached junior high, I stopped writing stories, and I don’t know why. I suppose I lost that spark of creativity. But, I must have retained my skills, because when I returned to college after spending time in the Navy, I was constantly getting awesome grades on any paper I had to write.
So far, there are two things I have learned:

1. Never let go of your creativity and imagination.
2. Whoever wrote A Nightmare On Elm Street is very likely a garbage picker (or dumpster diver – whichever term you prefer). Hmmm, maybe there is a Robby vs. Freddy fan fiction story in my future.

It’s Bloggin’ Time

Many years after graduating from college, the urge to write began to awaken in me again. I had been totally clueless as to how much I was suppressing my creativity. It turns out that working as a computer programmer, tied to a desk all day every day, is against my nature. Who knew? I suppose the fact that I always hated math and science (although I do love Science Fiction) should have raised a red flag. Now, that I had the urge to write again, it was pretty easy to find an outlet. I had heard of these things called blogs. But, all I knew about them was that they were used to share tips and recipes.

Then in 2009, I saw this movie called Julie and Julia. It starred the legendary Meryl Streep as Julia Child in her early years, and Amy Adams as Julie Powell, a New York woman who aspired to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s cookbook in 365 days. She tracked her progress in a blog that became very popular. I found out that Julie wasn’t just posting recipes in her blog. She wrote about her experience and challenges each day. So this planted a seed in my brain. I could write about anything. And in this day and age, people from all over the world could see what I write! Now, I just had to figure out what I wanted to write about.

Return to the ’80s is Born to Be My Baby

return2.jpg While trying to decide what I wanted to write about, I thought of the old adage, “Write what you know.” My passion has always been with the ’80s. Even in the ’90s, people would come up to me and talk about ’80s music. But, I did not want to tie myself to only music. I loved television and movies in the ’80s as well. So, there we have it! I would write about anything ’80s! Now, I just needed a vehicle to blog with. After a lot of research, it came down to Blogspot and WordPress. WordPress seemed to get a lot better reviews, so I joined the WordPress family.

(WordPress) Family Ties

Once I got my blog established, I started looking for other blogs that were out there. I found several blogs that interested me, so I subscribed to them. And sometimes those bloggers would subscribe to mine! These other bloggers were talented, inspiring, and very supportive. My audience was slowly building. After several months, I finally created a Facebook page. This was followed by setting up a Twitter account. The audience was building up a little more. Then craziness ensued on December 17, 2010.

If you are not familiar with writing blogs, there is something us bloggers can be obsessed with – especially in the early days. It is called Statistics. We check out our statistics often. Sometimes daily. Sometimes twice a day. Sometimes every 5 minutes. Well on that fateful day of December 17, 2010, I noticed that my site was being viewed very often. I got more hits in an hour than I would normally get in a week. I got more hits in one day than I would get in a full month! And this went on for a whole weekend. I found out that my page was “Freshly Pressed.” WordPress had put my article, “And Now a Word From Our Sponsor” – ’80s Christmas Commercials, on the front page of wordpress.com for the weekend. Unfortunately, that article somehow got deleted. I don’t know how or when that happened, but I suppose it doesn’t matter. My readership skyrocketed that weekend, and I found a lot more blogs to subscribe to. I am so grateful for my WordPress family of bloggers!

One Thing Leads to Another

From that point on, Return to the ’80s has been slowly and steadily building a bigger audience. And then this past year has been very exciting for this blog. It all started last April when I was nominated for the Liebster Award by RobbinsRealm. It was through this fun award that I met several more bloggers.

Then in June, I was contacted by a site called Found Item Clothing. We became guest bloggers on each others’ site. They wrote an article for us called Worst Applications of 3D in 80s Movies, and I wrote one on their site, Summer Movie Music: Your ’80s Summer Soundtrack.
Next, on the heels of that, I was actually contacted by Highlights Magazine after writing an article about them. That was kind of surreal for me, being unexpectedly contacted by a magazine that I grew up reading. This led to a follow-up article, I Was a Highlights Kid.

Next, I took part in a 1984 Blog-a-Thon sponsored by Forgotten Films. I wrote an article reviewing Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. It was through that this blog-a-thon that I made many more blogger friends.

The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

31djndtxrmlThings are going to continue to get better for Return to the ’80s. If you checked out the site yesterday, you saw that I have started a new series called Return to the ’80s Movies, where I will review and write about ’80s movies that I either have never seen, or have not seen since the ’80s.

Also, I am obsessed with listening to podcasts. I will share my thoughts on all of my favorites. And I am going to be working with at least one podcast on another new Return to the ’80s series, which I will try to get posted over the next week.

I have also just recently finished reading a few ’80s related books. I will share my thoughts on those with you, and maybe try to interview the authors.

In addition to those new types of articles, we will continue to post everybody’s favorite: “Remember That Song.” The quote of the day is also fun for me, so that will also continue. And, I will also continue with the Top 40 Countdown. That one seems to be a favorite as well.

Thank You For Being a Friend

Finally, I also would like to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to visit my site. Every “Like”, “Share”, “Favorite”, and especially “Comments” mean the world to me. Speaking of which, a very special thank you goes out to my superstar commenters/friends, Jim whowas also my first guest blogger with ONE-HIT WONDERS? NOT LEVEL 42!, Ren, Robert, and Kickin’ It Old School.

In closing, and if you scanned and skipped all the way down to the end of this long article (welcome back), I know these days can be tough and depressing for many of us. Some icons and role models have fallen from grace and have been despicable and disgusting (Bill Cosby), we have lost some of our favorite people way too soon recently (Whitney, Harold Ramis, Robin Williams), and a lot of pop culture these days has forgotten how to have fun.

So, it can be nice to look back fondly to the ’80s. It seemed a lot simpler, and not so dark. I know it is fun for me to look back and write about it, and I hope I am making it fun for all of you.

We have just begun a new year. Even though, we have moved another year away from the ’80s, you can always come back here and Return to the ’80s.

Remembering Michael Jackson *Repost*

This was originally written one year after Michael Jackson died. This was only 6 months into my blogging career. So, many of you may not have seen this yet. Now, let’s remember “The King of Pop” and ’80s icon, Michael Jackson 5 years after his death.

The assassination of John F. Kennedy. 9/11. The death of Michael Jackson. These are all events that people remember exactly where they were when they heard the news. On this 5 years ago, I got the news that Farrah Fawcett had died. Not too long after that, I got an email alert that Michael Jackson had been hospitalized. Then from work, I went to get my hair cut. While waiting, somebody came in asked if we had heard that Michael Jackson died. Then we were inundated with the news on TV and radio. There were people gathering all over the world to mourn the loss of the pop star. Jackson had 9 of the top 10 (if not the entire top 10) selling albums on iTunes.

Controversies

It wasn’t too long before his death that Michael Jackson was shunned by most of the entertainment industry. After all, he was looking less and less like a human being, and more like an alien:

In 1993, a 13-year-old boy accused Michael Jackson of sexual molestation. On January 25, 1994, Michael Jackson settled the civil lawsuit paying an undisclosed amount to his accuser. It was believed to be millions of dollars. People didn’t know if Jackson was a child molester, or if somebody was just looking for a big payday.

Then in Germany in 2002, in front of hundreds of fans and photographers, Jackson introduced his son Blanket (Prince Michael II) by dangling the baby out of the 3rd story balcony of the Adlon Hotel.

British journalist Martin Bashir interviewed Michael Jackson over a span of eight months, from May 2002 to January 2003, filiming the documentary Living with Michael Jackson. The documentary aired in 2003, and stirred up major controversy. Jackson revealed to Bashir that not only does he invite disadvantaged children to his Neverland ranch, he lets them stay in his bed while he sleeps on the floor. Bashir questioned Jackson why he invites children into his room. Jackson defended himself stating that such activity is natural when the children are of close friends or family, and that “many children,” including the Culkin family children (including Macaulay and Kieran) have slept in the same bed as him. Jackson strongly denied that there was any sexual motivation for this.
Not surprisingly, in 2005, Michael Jackson went to trial for child molestation. On June 13th Jackson was found not guilty of all charges against him.
After the trial Michael Jackson left the country, and lived in Bahrain.

Comeback

In March 2009, Jackson held a press conference at London’s O2 arena and announced a series of comeback concerts titled “This Is It.”

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Sadly, Jackson died just before the first concert. But in October 2009, the documentary Michael Jackson’s This Is It was released. It showed rehearsals for all of the songs he was to perform, and it showed a little bit of his process in preparing the routines. It became the highest grossing documentary or concert movie of all time, with the earnings of more than $260 million worldwide.
I saw the documentary in the theater, and sadly, this would have been a great concert.
But Michael Jackson’s lifestyle got the best of him. Nobody tried to set him straight, or if they did, he did not listen.

Charity

While Michael Jackson is known for his controversies and his music, he was also an incredible philanthropist. The Millennium-Issue of the “Guinness Book Of Records” names Michael as the “Pop Star who supports the most charity organizations”.

Michael Jackson wrote “We Are The World” with Lionel Richie in 1985 and performed it as part of an all-star single to raise money for Africa in 1985.

In 1984, Jackson equiped a 19-bed-unit at Mount Senai New York Medical Center. This center is part of the T.J. Martell-Foundation for leukemia and cancer research.

He donated the proceeds from the sales of The Man In The Mirror to Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, a camp for children who suffer from cancer.

Jackson donated tickets to shows in is 1989 Bad Tour to underprivileged children. The proceeds from one of his shows in Los Angeles were donated to Childhelp USA, the biggest charity-organization against child-abuse. Childhelp of Southern California then established the “Michael Jackson International Institute for Research On Child Abuse”.

In 1992, he established the Heal The World Foundation, whose work has included airlifting 6 tons of supplies to Sarajevo, instituting drug and alcohol abuse education and donating millions of dollars to less fortunate children.

My Top 5 Michael Jackson Songs/Videos

I will end this on what Michael Jackson is and should be known for – his music and groundbreaking videos. Here are my top 5 videos:

5. Black or White

I love the guitar riff in this song. This was also kind of ironic because at the time people were questioning whether Michael knoew if he was Black or White. The end of the video was groundbreaking at the time with the shape-shifting between the people singing:

4. Smooth Criminal

This is a very cool song, and the choreography is great. The end of the video features the Anti-gravity lean.

3. You Are Not Alone

This is my favorite Michael Jackson ballad. It is a nice simple song, and he puts a lot of feeling into it.

2. Beat It

At the time that this came out, I was more into rock than pop. I listened to Van Halen, AC/DC, and Ozzy. But when this song came out, it made Michael Jackson seem cool to me. After all, it can’t be do bad with Eddie Van Halen performing the guitar solo.
But, of course the song got overplayed. Then I preferred Weird Al Yankovic’s parody, “Eat It”. However, I’m digging this song again.

Thriller

This is often regarded as the best music video of all time. And who could argue? This was a big event for MTV. It was released on December 2, 1983, and it was a “must see” event. It did not disappoint. It was directed by John Landis (The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London, Trading Places), and co-starred Ola Ray.
The choreography with all of the zombies was great. Oh, by the way, the song is pretty good too. How can you go wrong when Vincent Price narrates?


So what are your thoughts? Should Michael Jackson be getting praised and honored as much as he is? Do you have a list of favorite Michael Jackson songs or videos? Any memories you’d like to share? Has anybody seen him in concert?

Also, if you’d like, you can add to the discussion on the Facebook page.

Daily Trivia: 12/17/12

Question: What video game in Russia became a phenomenon with its release for the Nintendo Game Boy in 1989?


Last Question: What was the full name of the 18-month-old baby whose rescue received national media attention in 1987 after falling down a well?

Answer: Jessica McClure

“Baby Jessica” became famous after falling into a well in Midland, Texas. It took rescue workers 58 hours to free her.

CNN, which was a fledgling cable news outlet, was on the scene with around-the-clock coverage of the rescue effort. This massive media saturation of the ordeal prompted then-President Ronald Reagan to state that “everybody in America became godmothers and godfathers of Jessica while this was going on.”

The next child America needs to rescue from disaster (if it’s not too late already) – Honey Boo Boo!

Daily Trivia: 12/14/12

Question: What was the full name of the 18-month-old baby whose rescue received national media attention in 1987 after falling down a well?


Last Question: In A Christmas Story, according to Ralph, what was getting Randy ready for school like preparing for?

A. War
B. Cave exploration
C. Extended deep-sea diving
D. Coal mining

Answer: C. Extended deep-sea diving

“You can put your arms down when you get to school!”

Daily Trivia – 3/12/12

Question: What HBO show featured a mystic oracle known as Madame Trash Heap?


Last Question: What 13-year old sued his Kokomo, Indiana school after he was expelled for being HIV-positive?

Answer: Ryan White

Ryan White was the poster child for HIV/AIDS in the ’80s. When he was three days old, White was diagnosed with severe Hemophilia A, a hereditary blood disorder which causes even minor injuries to result in severe bleeding. In order for him to be treated, he received weekly blood transfusions.

At the time, AIDS was poorly understood at the time, to say the very least. It was only associated with the male gay community, because it was first diagnosed among gay men. But, in December 1984, during a partial-lung removal procedure, Ryan White was diagnosed with AIDS. It was discovered that one of the blood transfusions that he had received was infected with the virus.

After the diagnosis, White was too ill to return to school, but by early 1985 had begun to feel better. His mother asked if he could return to school, but was told by school officials that he should not. The school faced enormous pressure from parents and faculty to bar White from the school. There was little-to-no information about AIDS at the time, so people thought that they could get the disease just by casual contact or breathing the same air. Scientists knew it spread via blood and was not transmittable by any kind of casual contact, but ignorance prevailed, and people were scared to be around somebody that had AIDS.

The White family filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban. On November 25, an Indiana Department of Education officer ruled that the school must follow the Indiana Board of Health guidelines and that White must be allowed to attend school. Sadly, when White was permitted to return to school for one day in February 1986, 151 of 360 students stayed home. If that wasn’t bad enough, he also worked as a paperboy, and many of the people on his route canceled their subscriptions, believing that HIV could be transmitted through newsprint.

There were many threats of violence, and White was discriminated against in the Kokomo school. When a bullet was fired through the Whites’ living room window, the family decided to leave Kokomo. After finishing the school year, his family moved to Cicero, Indiana, where White enrolled at Hamilton Heights High School. On August 31, 1987, a “very nervous” White was greeted by school principal Tony Cook, school system superintendent Bob G. Carnal, and a handful of students who had been educated about AIDS and were unafraid to shake White’s hand.

The publicity of White’s trial catapulted him into the national spotlight, amidst a growing wave of AIDS coverage in the news media. Between 1985 and 1987, the number of news stories about AIDS in the American media doubled. White made several television and fundraising appearances. Many celebrities appeared with White, including John Cougar Mellencamp, Elton John and Michael Jackson, as well as President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan. Slowly, but surely, the world was becoming more educated about AIDS, with Ryan White playing large part in that.

By early 1990, White’s health was deteriorating rapidly. In his final public appearance, he hosted an after-Oscars party with former president Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan in California. Although his health was deteriorating, White spoke to the Reagans about his date to the prom and his hopes of attending college.

“We owe it to Ryan to make sure that the fear and ignorance that chased him from his home and his school will be eliminated. We owe it to Ryan to open our hearts and our minds to those with AIDS. We owe it to Ryan to be compassionate, caring and tolerant toward those with AIDS, their families and friends. It’s the disease that’s frightening, not the people who have it.”
—Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, April 11, 1990

On March 29, 1990, several months before his high school class graduated and before his senior prom, White entered Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis with a respiratory infection. As his condition deteriorated he was placed on a ventilator and sedated. He was visited by Elton John and the hospital was deluged with calls from well-wishers. White died on April 8, 1990.

In 1992, White’s mother founded the national nonprofit Ryan White Foundation. Elton John was inspired to create the Elton John AIDS Foundation. White also became the inspiration for a handful of popular songs. Elton John donated proceeds from “The Last Song,” which appears on his album The One, to a Ryan White fund at Riley Hospital. Michael Jackson dedicated the song “Gone Too Soon” from his Dem>Dangerous album to White, as did Tiffany with the song “Here in My Heart” on her New Inside album.