Sorry, the ‘80s will be here to stay for a while

By Sean Noble

Boy, am I disappointed.

It was my understanding that the 1980s were over. That was one of the major things I was going to be thankful for next week at this time when I’m at home for the holiday, stuffing myself with stuffing.

I was happy that the decade of the Yuppie, Izod sweaters, Cabbage Patch Dolls and corporate greed was supposed to be finished, and a new era begun. At least that’s what Newsweek magazine told me last year to expect.

Had you heard that bit of information too? It was in the cover article of the magazine a few months ago (pardon me for slacking off on the homework and missing the date).

The whole premise of the Newsweek article was that certain periods of time encompassing a “central thought” or “mind pattern” could be grouped in decades. Such classification seems to have become a fad among some contemporary historians—but maybe that’s a thing of the ’80s.

Anyway, you know the kind of classification I’m talking about. A “decade,” in this sense of the word, doesn’t necessarily refer to a clearly delineated, ten-year block of time. There are the classic pictures of the last three decades to look at for examples.

For instance, the 1950s. I believe Newsweek termed this period the era of “optimism,” and it included nuclear bomb shelters, ‘57 Chevys, baby-boomers reaching adolescence and the advent of rock music. According to common thought, this age ended with the assassination of President Kennedy Nov. 25, 1963.

Then there were the ’60s. Vietnam, LSD, the Beatles (from “Love Me Do” to “I am the Walrus”) and the “Batman” TV series. Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal and subsequent August, 1974, resignation were supposedly the events that closed the “swinging ‘60s.”

The ’70s were really groovy—the first decade I clearly recall thoroughly. Polyester leisure suits, Disco Duck, the long-awaited end of Vietnam and “Sanford and Son” were some of the gems of that period. And bell-bottomed pants. Yuck.

Jan. 20, 1981 was the dawning of the 1980s, with the inauguration of Ronald Reagan and simultaneous release of the Iranian hostages. And I’ve already alluded to the cultural highlights of our most recent decade.

Pretty clean cuts, huh? The Newsweek writers seemed to have their act together in marking off those blocks of time, and I didn’t have any problems with their logic until I got to their conclusion that the ‘80s are over.

The magazine writers said America was turning from our “out-and-about,” getting-in-shape, flag-waving/”Born in the U.S.A.” society to a nation of couch potatoes, permanently planted in front of the VCR. That was their reasoning for declaring the decade dead.

I see many signs that point to a continuation of the brainless pursuits of the ’80s. J. Danforth Quayle, gentleman golfer and patron saint of the idiot political aspirant, is now the No. 2 man-elect in the country. Tiffany and Debbie Gibson still aren’t completely out of the music scene. And if this ain’t selfishly-‘80ish, I don’t know what is:

Professional hunter Kobus Prinsloo of Sun City, South Africa, will lead foreign thrill-seekers on an expedition to bag the “Big Five” (a lion, a leopard, a buffalo, an elephant and a rhinoceros) for a scant $50,000. If this amount isn’t scary enough, listen to the number of Americans who have forked out that much so far this year—52!

No, the ’80s and all their egocentrism are here to stay for a while. And all I’ll have to be thankful for next Thursday is that I got a week’s vacation from writing a column.

But when the ‘90s do come, here’s what you might expect: Mario Cuomo in the White House. VCRs in automobiles. Andrew Greeley in the Vatican, a chicken in every garage and a car in every pot.

And maybe, just maybe, Dan Quayle will be only a caddy. One can only hope.