Category Archives: This week …

**Repost** “The Wedding of the Century”

These days, there have been a lot of remakes and sequels from the ’80s. The Karate Kid, The A-Team, Tron, and Wall Street. So why not “The Wedding of the Century”? Sure, I think there’s some kind of wedding tomorrow, that is bringing back memories from 30(!) years ago. But, for us, the REAL “Wedding of the Century” occurred on July 29, 1981 Lady Diana Frances Spencer married Charles, Prince of Wales at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Make no mistake, if it was not for Diana, this would have just been a footnote in England’s history.

Instead, the wedding was watched by 750 million people worldwide. There were 3,500 people in the congregation at St. Paul’s Cathedral. There were 2 million spectators lined along the route of Diana’s procession from Clarence House, with 4,000 police and 2,200 military officers to manage the crowds.

Diana arrived at St. Paul’s Cathedral in a glass coach, escorted by five mounted military police officers. The carriage was too small to comfortably hold Diana’s father and Diana in her dress and train.

After the ceremony, the couple went to Buckingham palace for a small dinner for 120. Appearing on a balcony, Diana and Charles pleased the crowd by kissing.

However, the “fairy-tale” couple grew apart – especially under the scrutiny of the tabloids. Diana and Charles announced a separation in 1992, though they continued to carry out their royal duties. In August 1996, the couple officially divorced. In exchange for a generous settlement, and the right to retain her apartments at Kensington Palace and her title of “princess,” Diana agreed to relinquish the title of “Her Royal Highness” and any future claims to the British throne.

But, the popularity of Diana still soared, and she was considered “a queen in people’s hearts.” Then, tragically, on August 31, 1997, she was killed with her companion Dodi Fayed in a car accident in Paris. Tests conducted by French police indicated that the driver, who also died in the crash, was intoxicated and likely caused the accident while trying to escape the paparazzi photographers who consistently tailed Diana during any public outing.

To this day, people from all over the world believe, as well as Dodi Fayed’s father, believe that Queen Elizabeth was involved with Diana’s death in some way.

On April 9, 2005, Prince Charles wed his longtime mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, in a private civil ceremony. After the civil ceremony, which the queen did not attend, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams blessed the union on behalf of the Church of England in a separate blessing ceremony. An estimated 750 guests attended the event (a long way from 3,500!), which was held at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor and was attended by both of Charles parents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

Though Camilla technically became the Princess of Wales with the marriage, she has announced her preference for the title Duchess of Cornwall, in deference to the beloved late princess. Should Charles become king, she will become Queen Camilla, though she has already announced her intention to use the title Princess Consort, most likely in response to public opinion polls showing resistance to the idea of a “Queen Camilla.”

MIRACLE!! *Repost*

“Eleven seconds, you’ve got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

That was Al Michaels making one of the most famous calls in the history of sports for the greatest upset victory in the history of sports 31 years ago today, as the United States defeated the Soviet Union in the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.

The Soviet Union team was considered to be the best hockey team in the world. They had won every gold medal in hockey since 1956 with the exception of one year. That one year was in 1960 which the United States won. Ironically, Herb Brooks, the 1980 U.S. Hockey coach, was the last player cut from that 1960 team. Brooks sat at home with his father as that team won the gold. That night, his father said to him that it “looks like Coach Riley cut the right guy”. Herb Brooks was already a self-driven person, but this served as further motivation.

Today the Olympic hockey teams are allowed to be professional players, but in 1980, the Olympians needed to be amateurs. Although the Soviets were classed as amateurs, they were given fake jobs provided by their government which allowed them to play professionally in a well-developed league with world class training facilities. They had some of the best players in the world on their team.

Meanwhile, Herb Brooks conducted tryouts in the summer of 1979. 9 players from the University of Minnesota (of which Herb Brooks was the coach) made the team as well as 4 players from rival college team Boston University. Since most of the players were rivals, they did not get along at first. But Brooks gave them a common enemy – himself – to make them get along and play as a team. Anybody who has gone through boot camp/basic training in the military can understand this pshychology. He was very hard on the players, and showed no mercy. It obviously worked.

During exhibition play leading up to the Olympics, the Soviet team went 5-3-1 against NHL teams. A year earlier, the Soviet team beat the NHL All-Stars 6-0. The last exhibition game before the Olympics, the Soviets destroyed the U.S. Olympic team 10-3. This may have been a blessing in disguise as it may have contributed to the Soviets underestimating the U.S. team 2 weeks later.

In the first game of the tournament, the U.S. tied a favored Sweden team 2-2. The U.S. actually tied Sweden with 27 seconds left in the game when they pulled goalie Jim Craig for an extra attacker. The tie was followed by a great 7-3 win over Czechoslovakia, which was considered to be the second best team after the Soviets. They then went on to win three more games in a row – Norway 5-1, Romania 7-2, and West Germany 4-2 to go 4-0-1 and advance to the medal round along with Sweden.

In the other bracket, the Soviets ran through their competition: Japan 16-0, the Netherlands 17-4, Poland 8-1, Finland 4-2, and Canada 6-4. They advanced to the medal round along with Finland.

The game between the U.S. and Soviets was scheduled for 5:00 PM on February 22. The U.S. tried to get it scheduled for 8:00 PM for American television. But, the Soviets refused as this would have been a 4:00 AM start for Russian viewers. ABC decided to broadcast the game on tape delay for prime time.

Before the game, Herb Brooks prepared the following statement for his players readit to them:
“You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours.”

The Soviets scored first when Vladimir Krutov deflected a slap shot by Aleksei Kasatonov past Jim Craig. Then Buzz Schneider scored for the U.S. to tie the game. But, the Soviets jumped back in front with a goal by Sergei Makarov. Then goalie Jim Craig had the game of his life. He stopped many Soviet shots before the U.S. had another shot on goal. Towards the end of the first period, Dave Christian fired a slap shot on goal from 100 feet away. The Soviet goalie saved the shot but misplayed the rebound, which bounced out about 20 feet in front of him. The Russian defensemen, Pervukhin and Bilyaletdinov, quit playing and watched the clock tick off the last few seconds. Tretiak started to move out of goal. Mark Johnson sliced between the two defensemen, found the loose puck and fired it past a diving
Tretiak to tie the score with one second left in the period. The Soviet team played the final second of the period with just three players on the ice, as the rest of the team had gone to their locker room for the first intermission. The first period ended with the game tied 2-2.

The Soviet coach, Viktor Tikhonov, replaced Tretiak with backup goaltender Vladimir Myshkin to begin the second period, which shocked players on both teams. Tikhonov later called the decision “the biggest mistake of my career”. The Soviets dominated the period, and outshot the U.S. 12-2, but were only able to score once – on a power play. The Soviets led at the end of the second period 3-2.

In the third period, the U.S. tied the game just as a power play was ending. Later, Mark Pavelich passed to US captain Mike Eruzione, who was left undefended in the high slot. Eruzione, who had just come into the game, fired a shot past Myshkin, who was screened by Pervukhin. This goal gave the US a 4 3 lead, its first of the game, with exactly 10 minutes left.

With time winding down, the Soviets attacked relentlessly. There was even a shot that went off the goal post. As the minutes wound down, Brooks kept repeating “Play your game. Play your game.” Instead of playing defensively, the U.S. continued to play offense, and even took a few more shots on goal. With 33 seconds left, Jim Craig kicked away a slap shot Then another shot was put on goal with 20 seconds left. There was a mad scramble for the puck, and the U.S. was finally able to clear it with 7 seconds left.

As his team ran all over the ice in celebration, Herb Brooks sprinted back to the locker room, locked himself inside a toilet stall, and cried.

The Miracle Continues

In 1980, the medal round was a round-robin, not a single elimination tournament like it is today. Under Olympic rules at the time, the group game with Sweden was counted along with the medal round games versus the Soviet Union and Finland so it was mathematically possible for the US to finish anywhere from 1st to 4th.

The U.S. team needed to win their game against Finland in order to win the gold. They were trailing Finland 2-1 in the third period. They came back and won the game 4-2, which gave them the gold medal.

At the time, the players ascended a podium to receive their medals and then lined up on the ice for the playing of the national anthem, as the podium was only meant to accommodate one person. Only the team captains remained on the podium for the duration. After the completion of the anthem, Eruzione motioned for his teammates to join him on the podium. Today, the podiums are large enough to accommodate all of the players.

The victory bolstered many American citizens’ feelings of national pride, which had been severely strained during the 1970s. President Jimmy Carter had just announced that the United States was going to boycott the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the country was faced with a major recession and the Iran hostage crisis. So, America was in desperate need of something to celebrate. The match against the Soviets popularized the “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chant, which has been used by American supporters at many international sports competitions since 1980.

December 8, 1980 – The Death of John Lennon

Monday, December 8, 1980, the legendary Beatle, John Lennon was murdered. The announcement came from Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football (the New England Patriots vs. the Miami Dolphins):

John Lennon was shot by Mark David Chapman at Lennon’s home, The Dakota, in New York City. He had just returned from Record Plant Studio with his wife, Yoko Ono. Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, where it was stated that nobody could have lived for more than a few minutes after sustaining such injuries. Shortly after local news stations reported Lennon’s death, crowds gathered at Roosevelt Hospital and in front of The Dakota. He was cremated on 10 December 1980, at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York; the ashes were given to Ono, who chose not to hold a funeral for him.

On the morning of December 8, photographer Annie Leibovitz went to Ono and Lennon’s apartment to do a photo shoot for Rolling Stone. She had promised Lennon a photo with Ono would make the cover. After the photo shoot, Lennon gave what would be his last interview to San Francisco DJ Dave Sholin for a music show on the RKO Radio Network. At 5:00 pm, Lennon and Ono left their apartment to mix the track “Walking on Thin Ice”, an Ono song featuring Lennon on lead guitar, at Record Plant Studio.

As Lennon and Ono walked to their limousine, they were approached by several people seeking autographs, among them, Mark David Chapman. Chapman silently handed Lennon a copy of Double Fantasy, and Lennon autographed it.

John and Yoko then went back to the studio until 10:50 pm. Then John wanted to be home in time to say goodnight to five-year-old son Sean before he went to sleep. As he entered the Dakota, Chapman was waiting for him, and shot him in the back. Lennon was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Chapman pleaded guilty to Lennon’s murder in June 1981, against the advice of his lawyers, who wanted to file an insanity plea. He received a life sentence but under the terms of his guilty plea became eligible for parole in 2000, after serving 20 years. Chapman has been denied parole at hearings every two years since 2000 and remains in prison.

Lennon continues to be mourned throughout the world and has many memorials and tributes, such as New York City’s Strawberry Fields, a memorial garden area in Central Park across the street from the Dakota building. Ono later donated $1 million for its maintenance. It has become a gathering place for tributes on Lennon’s birthday and on the anniversary of his death, as well as at other times of mourning, such as after the September 11 attacks and following George Harrison’s death on November 29, 2001.

I remember listening to my parents’ Beatles albums non-stop for a while after John Lennon’s death. I could not get enough of the Help! album as well as Rubber Soul. I have been a Beatles fan ever since then. The Beatles have had a major influence on most artists, even through today. The Beatles were boy band predecessors for New Kids on the Block, all the way to the Jonas Brothers (I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing). They had a major influence on Alternative/New Wave rock (especially with the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), and also had a major influence on Hard Rock/Heavy Metal (The White Album). And they were all great singer/songwriters.

Rolling Stone magazine is marking the anniversary of John’s death by releasing Lennon’s final interview. It was conducted just three days before his death.

During the interview, Lennon slammed critics saying they want “dead heroes” like James Dean and Sid Vicious. Lennon said he was not interested in being anyone’s “dead hero.”

Well John did have a sense of humor, so I wonder what he would think.
It is a shame that a peaceful man died in such a violent way. And it is also sad for all of us because he had so much more to contribute.
But the music he did write and perform will live forever.

In closing, here is an editorial piece by Yoko Ono that was published today in the New York Times:

John Lennon

I don’t remember how I heard that John Lennon had been shot. Thirty years ago, on a warm December night in Manhattan, it was suddenly in the air, on the street — with only a brief, grim gap between news of the shooting at the Dakota, on 72nd Street and news of his death at Roosevelt Hospital. I called my brother in California and then sat in the stairwell of a building at 27th and Third, numb and grieving, like everyone else.

It was a new kind of death — not a political assassination like the ones that claimed the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King Jr.; not the self-immolation that took down Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison. Lennon survived the ’60s and ’70s, and by 1980 he was living in New York City as normally, as modestly, as he and his wife, Yoko Ono, could. Then a deranged young man, Mark David Chapman, found a secular scripture in J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” and shot Lennon in hopes of becoming Holden Caulfield.

Every day I’m at The Times, I pass a photo of the Beatles taken at a press conference during one of their early visits to New York. In the picture, Lennon’s hands are folded behind him, and he stands, with the other Beatles, in a corona from the press lights. Invariably, it reminds me of the famous portrait Annie Leibovitz shot the morning of the day Lennon was killed — the one where he is lying naked, fetal, clinging to Yoko Ono, the ridge of his back so terribly exposed.

We remember what we remember of Lennon, and of that night. When I was young, he was the only adult that mattered outside my family — the Beatle of Beatles. I loved his wit; his irony; his “Help!”; his urgent, reedy voice; his unceasing transformations. Like everyone else who loved him, I can’t help grieving, even now, for all the transformations we lost 30 years ago when John Lennon was only 40.

July 23, 1984: Vanessa Williams resigns as Miss America

The following is from the History Channel:

On this day in 1984, 21-year-old Vanessa Williams gives up her Miss America title, the first resignation in the pageant’s history, after Penthouse magazine announces plans to publish nude photos of the beauty queen in its September issue. Williams originally made history on September 17, 1983, when she became the first black woman to win the Miss America crown. Miss New Jersey, Suzette Charles, the first runner-up and also an African American, assumed Williams’ tiara for the two months that remained of her reign.

Vanessa Lynn Williams was born March 18, 1963, in Millwood, New York, to music teacher parents. She attended Syracuse University and studied musical theater. In 1982, while working a summer job as a receptionist at a modeling agency in Mt. Kisco, New York, photographer Thomas Chiapel took the nude pictures of Williams, telling her they’d be shot in silhouette and that she wouldn’t be recognizable. After Williams became Miss America, the photographer sold the pictures to Penthouse without her knowledge. Williams later dropped lawsuits against the magazine and photographer after it was learned that she had signed a model release form at the time the photos were taken.

The Miss America pageant, which prides itself on projecting a wholesome, positive image of women, began in 1921 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as a stunt developed by local businessmen to extend the summer tourist season. In 1945, the Miss America Organization handed out its first scholarship. Today, it provides over $45 million each year in cash and tuition assistance to contestants on the national, state and local levels. In 1954, the competition was broadcast live for the first time. Beginning in the 1980s, contestants were required to have a social platform, such as drunk-driving prevention or AIDS awareness, and Miss America winners now travel an estimated 20,000 miles a month for speaking engagements and public appearances. In 2006, following a decline in TV ratings, the pageant moved from Atlantic City for the first time in its history and took place in Las Vegas, where a new Miss America was crowned in January instead of September.

Vanessa Williams rebounded from the Miss America scandal and went on to a successful entertainment career as an actress and recording artist, performing on Broadway as well as in movies and television and releasing a number of popular albums.

I don’t know about anybody else, but Vanessa Williams is the only Miss America that I can remember. It reminds me of the line from the Styx hit “Miss America”:

In your cage at the human zoo, they all stop to look at you
Next year, what will you do when you have been forgotten

But despite the scandal, Williams went on to a successful career. In 1988, she had success with the album and the song “The Right Stuff”:

As far as her music goes, her biggest success came in 1992 with the number 1 smash hit, “Save the Best for Last”:

I had actually bought that one on cassette single. Remember those? And more recently Williams had success on the hit show Ugly Betty, which just finished its last season.

June 4, 1989: Tiananmen Square massacre takes place

The following article from the History Channel:

Chinese troops storm through Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing, killing and arresting thousands of pro-democracy protesters. The brutal Chinese government assault on the protesters shocked the West and brought denunciations and sanctions from the United States.

In May 1989, nearly a million Chinese, mostly young students, crowded into central Beijing to protest for greater democracy and call for the resignations of Chinese Communist Party leaders deemed too repressive. For nearly three weeks, the protesters kept up daily vigils, and marched and chanted. Western reporters captured much of the drama for television and newspaper audiences in the United States and Europe. On June 4, 1989, however, Chinese troops and security police stormed through Tiananmen Square, firing indiscriminately into the crowds of protesters. Turmoil ensued, as tens of thousands of the young students tried to escape the rampaging Chinese forces. Other protesters fought back, stoning the attacking troops and overturning and setting fire to military vehicles. Reporters and Western diplomats on the scene estimated that at least 300, and perhaps thousands, of the protesters had been killed and as many as 10,000 were arrested.

The savagery of the Chinese government’s attack shocked both its allies and Cold War enemies. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared that he was saddened by the events in China. He said he hoped that the government would adopt his own domestic reform program and begin to democratize the Chinese political system. In the United States, editorialists and members of Congress denounced the Tiananmen Square massacre and pressed for President George Bush to punish the Chinese government. A little more than three weeks later, the U.S. Congress voted to impose economic sanctions against the People’s Republic of China in response to the brutal violation of human rights.

Pac-Man fever began 30 years ago this week

Pac-Man, the most successful coin-operated video game in history, was released in Japan on May 22,1980. Pac-Man is an icon of ’80s pop culture. Not only did it boost the popularity of video games, it generated spin-off games, merchandise, a television show, and even a cereal!

When Pac-Man was released, the most popular arcade video games were space shooters, such as Space Invaders and Asteroids.

Pac-Man is one of the longest running video game franchises from the golden age of video arcade games, and one of only three video games that are on display at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., (along with Pong and Dragon’s Lair).

The original Japanese name was Puckman, which evolved from the Japanese word paku, meaning ‘chomp.’ But in America, arcade operators were worried that vandals would alter the letter P. Eventually, ‘Pac’ was suggested as an alternate name.

To play the game, you would insert your quarter, then use the joystick to move Pac-Man through a maze and eat dots, and avoid the four ghosts – Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde. Near the corners of the maze are four larger, flashing dots known as power pellets that provide Pac-Man with the temporary ability to eat the monsters. The monsters turn deep blue, reverse direction, and usually move more slowly. When a monster is eaten, its eyes remain and return to the monster box where it is regenerated in its normal color. Blue monsters flash white before they become dangerous again How many of you would become greedy and try to get all the ghosts? But then just when you try to get one of the last ghosts, they would flash white, and they would get you before you could get them.

In addition to dots and power pellets, bonus items, usually referred to as fruits (though not all items are fruit) appear near the center of the maze. These items score extra bonus points when eaten. The items change and bonus values increase throughout the game. Also, a series of intermissions play after certain levels toward the beginning of the game, showing a humorous set of interactions (the first being after level 2) between Pac-Man and Blinky.

In 1982, Pac-Man was released for Atari. For people how had Intellivision instead of Atari, you had to settle for Lock & Chase.

Pac-Man spawned numerous sequels, the most significant of which is Ms. Pac-Man, released in the United States in 1981. The game features several changes from the original Pac-Man, including faster gameplay, more mazes, new intermissions, and moving bonus items. Some consider Ms. Pac-Man to be superior to the original, and even the best in the entire series.

In 1982, Milton Bradley released a board game based on Pac-Man.

An animated TV series was produced by Hanna–Barbera and aired on ABC from 1982 to 1984:

The song “Pac-Man Fever,” by Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia, reached No. 9 on the Billboard pop chart in early 1982:

And you know you’ve made it when “Weird Al” Yankovic does a parody song about you. Here is “Weird Al”‘s Pac-Man song, done to the music of The Beatles’ “Taxman”:

If it wasn’t for Pac-Man (the game, not those songs!), there may never have been a Mario, Lara Croft, or Call of Duty video games.

May 12, 1980: The Empire Strikes Back is released

30 years ago today, The Empire Strikes Back, one of the greatest sequels of all time was released as part of one of the greatest movie franchises of all time. It was the darkest movie of the original trilogy, but it is usually listed as the most popular of the Star Wars films among fans. The movie started 3 years after the destruction of the Death Star. Darth Vader was obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker, and tracked him along with the Rebel Alliance on the planet ice planet Hoth. While patrolling near the base, Luke is attacked and captured by an ice creature called a Wampa. The you see Luke use the force to free himself. He then saw a vision of his friend and mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi who told Luke to go to the Dagobah system to train to become a jedi under a Jedi Master called Yoda.

He is rescued by Han Solo, and it isn’t long before a great battle on Hoth begins. The rebels escaped from the evil empire, and Luke and R2-D2 go their separate ways from Han, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO.

We are introduced to one of the most popular characters of the franchise – Yoda. He was a green puppet who was voiced by Frank Oz.
While Yoda was training Luke, Darth Vader was looking for Luke’s friends to capture them and draw out Luke.

He blackmails another new popular character in Cloud City – Lando Calrissian, Han’s best friend, played by the smooth Billy Dee Williams – and is able to capture Han, Leia and Chewie.

Luke senses that his friends are in danger and leaves his training early, so that he can rescue them. As he is leaving, Obi-Wan and Yoda are talking, and Obi-Wan said, “That boy is our last hope.” And then Yoda replied with the bombshell – “No. There is another.”

Han is frozen in carbonite, so that Darth Vader could confirm that the freezing process worked before he tried it on Luke. Han survived, and was taken to gangster Jabba the Hutt by another new Star Wars character – Boba Fett, who is a fan favorite.

Luke and Darth Vader battle it out in a light saber duel. Vader cornered Luke, chopped off Luke’s hand, and then dropped another series bombshell by telling Luke that he was Luke’s father. And that he wanted Luke to join him to destroy the Emperor, and rule the galaxy as father and son. Rather than surrender, Luke jumped down the pit that he was standing over, and was eventually rescued by Leia, Lando, and Chewbacca. The movie ended with Lando and Chewie leaving to go find Han Solo.

Even though the movie was dark, with Han being captured, Luke getting his hand cut off, and C-3PO being shot into pieces (then being put back together), this is considered by many to be the best Star Wars movie.

At the time, people were wondering who Yoda was talking about when he said there was another. People were guessing that Princess Leia was Luke’s sister, but nobody knew for sure at the time. And nobody was certain if Darth Vader was really Luke’s father, or if he was just saying that to trick him.

We had to wait three long years for The Return of the Jedi, to come out. And then we finally found out that Luke and Leia were brother and sister (and forever scar you when you see them kiss in The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars. And we also found out that Darth Vader wasn’t lying, and was actually Luke and Leia’s father.

UPDATE: 5/24/10 – Check out The Empire Strikes Back Commentary
from the ForceCast

May 20, 1993: Cheers finale airs

Cheers, one of the highest rated sitcoms throughout the ’80s, aired its final episode this day in 1993. The show started in 1982, and lasted 11 seasons. It was almost canceled after the first season due to low ratings. But the show went on to become a top 10 hit in 8 of its 11 seasons. It was part of NBC’s “Must See TV” Thursday night lineup. The show was set in a Boston bar (influenced by the Bull & Finch Pub in Boston) owned by retired baseball player, Sam “Mayday” Malone, played by Ted Danson. There was a great cast of characters that backed him up:

Coach – Coach Ernie Pantusso was played by Nicholas Colasanto. Coach was the bartender and former coach of Sam Malone. Coach was a bit slow and forgetful, but lovable. Who can forget “Albania, Albania. You border on the Adriatic”:

After Nicholas died in real life, he was replaced by:
Woody – Woody Boyd was played by Woody Harrelson. In the first episode of the fourth season, Woody Boyd comes to Cheers in search of Coach, explaining that they were pen pals (exchanging pens rather than letters). Sam is forced to explain that Coach died some months ago. Boyd replaces Coach, who had sponsored him in a correspondence course in bartending. He had a lot of the same character traits as Coach.

Diane Chambers – Played by Shelley Long. In the first epeisode, her fiancé leaves her waiting at the bar while he goes back to recover his wedding ring from his ex-wife. When he never returns, she realizes she’s been jilted and takes a job waitressing at Cheers to try to rebuild her life. Diane was a pretentious snob, and was the exact opposite of Sam. But, as they say, opposites attract:

After she left the show, she was replaced by:

Rebecca Howe – Played by Kirstie Alley. Rebecca Howe entered Cheers as the manager assigned by the bar’s new corporate owner. She started off as a tough, no-nonsense corporate type. As the series went on, she became more neurotic and clumsy. Rebecca constantly throws herself at the feet of rich men, first Evan Drake and then Robin Colcord, but she eventually sleeps with Sam when the two of them decide to conceive a child together. In the penultimate episode, Rebecca meets a plumber named Don Santry (played by Tom Berenger), whom she marries in the series finale.

Carla Tortelli – Played by Rhea Perlman. Carla grew up in the Federal Hill section of Providence, RI. Her father’s name was “Benito” and her mother’s maiden name was “Mussolini”. By the time the show ended, she was the mother of eight children: Anthony, Serafina, Gino, Anne Marie, Lucinda (all fathered by Nick Tortelli), Ludlow (with Dr. Bennett Ludlow), and twins Elvis and Jesse (fathered by Eddie Lebec). Carla was known for being both feisty and also highly superstitious.

Cliff Clavin – Played by John Ratzenberger. Cliff was a know-it-all mailman. He annoyed everybody by acting as if he knew everything about everything.

Norm! Peterson – Played by George Wendt. He was a regular customer with his own seat at the bar. He was also best friends with Cliff. He also had a wife Vera, who was never seen by the audience. This is the closest we came (at the 4:40 mark):

Everytime Norm walked into the bar, everybody shouted “Norm!” Then whoever was bartending would ask Norm a question, and he would come up with a funny remark. Here are some quotes:

“How’s a beer sound, Norm?”
“I dunno. I usually finish them before they get a word in.”

“What’s shaking, Norm?”
“All four cheeks and a couple of chins.”

“What would you say to a nice beer, Normie?”
“Going Down?”

What would you say to a beer, Normie?”
“Daddy wuvs you.”

“What’d you like, Normie?”
“A reason to live. Give me another beer.”

“What’ll you have, Normie?”
“Well, I’m in a gambling mood Sammy. I’ll take a glass of whatever comes out of that tap.”
“Looks like beer, Norm.”
“Call me Mister Lucky.”

(Coming in from the rain)
“Evening everybody.”
Everybody: “Norm!”
“Still pouring, Norm?”
“That’s funny, I was about to ask you the same thing.”

“Whaddya say, Norm?”
“Well, I never met a beer I didn’t drink.”

“Hey Norm, how’s the world been treating you?”
“Like a baby treats a diaper.”

“Can I pour you a beer, Mr. Peterson?”
“A little early isn’t it, Woody?”
“For a beer?”
“No, for stupid questions

The theme song is #1 on my list of top sitcom theme songs.

NBC dedicated a whole night to the final episode of Cheers, following the one-hour season finale of Seinfeld (which was its lead-in). The show began with a “pregame” show hosted by Bob Costas, followed by the final 98-minute episode itself. NBC affiliates then aired tributes to Cheers during their local newscasts, and the night concluded with a special Tonight Show broadcast live from the Bull & Finch Pub.

In the last scene of the show, after telling a late arriving customer that the bar was closed, Sam walks to the back of the bar. On his way, he pauses to straighten a framed photograph of Geronimo. This picture belonged to Nicholas Colasanto and was hung in the bar after his death in his honor.

May 18, 1980: Mount St. Helens Erupts

Iceland has their volcano Eyjafjallajökull, which wreaked havoc recently. But we had our own natural disaster 30 years ago today when Mount St. Helens in Washington erupted, causing a massive avalanche and killing 57 people. Ash from the volcanic eruption fell as far away as Minnesota. Seismic activity at Mount St. Helens, which is 96 miles south of Seattle, began on March 16. A 4.2-magnitude tremor was recorded four days later and then, on March 23-24, there were 174 different recorded tremors. The first eruption occurred on March 27, when a 250-foot wide vent opened up on top of the mountain. Ash was blasted 10,000 feet in the air, some of which came down nearly 300 miles away in Spokane. The ash caused static electricity and lightning bolts.

Throughout April, scientists watched a bulge on the north side of Mount St. Helens grow larger and larger. Finally, on May 18 at 8:32 a.m., a sudden 5.1-magnitude earthquake and eruption rocked the mountain. The north side of the peak rippled and blasted out ash at 650 miles per hour. A cloud of ash, rocks, gas and glacial ice roared down the side of the mountain at 100 mph. Fourteen miles of the Toutle River were buried up to 150 feet deep in the debris. Magma, at 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit, flowed for miles.

Millions of trees were scorched and burned by the hot air alone. When the glacier atop the mountain melted, a massive mudslide wiped out homes and dammed up rivers throughout the area. The plume of ash belched out for nine hours; easterly winds carried it across the state and as far away as Minneapolis, Minnesota. The falling ash clogged carburetors and thousands of motorists were stranded. Fifty-seven people died overall from suffocation, burns and other assorted injuries. Twenty-seven bodies, including that of the stubborn Harry Truman, were never found. Mount St. Helens went from 9,600 feet high to only 8,300 feet high in a matter of seconds.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan and the U.S. Congress established the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, a 110,000 acres area around the mountain and within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Following the 1980 eruption, the area was left to gradually return to its natural state. In 1987, the U.S. Forest Service reopened the mountain to climbing. It remained open until 2004 when renewed activity caused the closure of the area around the mountain.

The Monitor Ridge trail, which previously let up to 100 permitted hikers per day climb to the summit, was closed. However, on July 21, 2006, the mountain was again opened to climbers.

Check out the web cam of Mount St. Helens.

May 13, 1981: Pope John Paul II is Shot

29 years ago today, Pope John Paul II. The following is from the History Channel:

Pope John Paul II is shot and wounded at St. Peter’s Square in Rome, Italy. Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca, an escaped fugitive already convicted of a previous murder, fired several shots at the religious leader, two of which wounded nearby tourists. Agca was immediately captured.

Agca claimed that he had planned to go to England to kill the king but couldn’t because it turned out there was only a queen and “Turks don’t shoot women.” He also claimed to have Palestinian connections, although the PLO quickly denied any involvement. Detectives believed that his confession had been coached in order to throw investigators offtrack.

When his trial began on July 20, 1981, Agca tried an unlikely legal gambit: He maintained that Italy did not have the right to prosecute him since the crime occurred at the Vatican. Although he threatened to go on a hunger strike if his trial wasn’t shifted to a Vatican court, his request was denied and he was found guilty two days later. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Many people argued that the very unusual and short trial must have been an effort to cover up evidence of a conspiracy. In fact, Italian authorities had their own suspicions but did not want to disclose them in a highly publicized trial. Instead, they conducted a relatively quiet investigation into the connection between Agca and Bulgaria’s KGB-connected intelligence agency.

The motive behind an alleged Soviet-inspired assassination must be viewed in the context of the Cold War in 1981. Pope John Paul II was Polish-born and openly supportive of the democratic movement in that country. His visit to Poland in 1979 worried the Kremlin, which saw its hold on Eastern Europe in danger.

Although the exact extent of the conspiracy remains unknown today, Agca reportedly met with Bulgarian spies Sergei Antonov, Zhelio Vassilev, Todor Aivazov, and Bekir Celenk in Rome about assassinating Lech Walesa, the Polish labor union leader. However, this plan was abandoned when Agca was offered $1.25 million to kill the pope.