Celebrate Good Times – Come On!

1981, year of my heart: 700 MILLION people tuned in to watch Princes Charles marry the Queen diwedof puffy sleeves, Lady Diana; President Ronald Reagan nominates the first woman, Sandra Day O’Connor, to the Supreme Court of the United States; MTV, the first 24 hour music video channel, is launched with Video Killed The Radio Star by The Buggles; the Boeing 767 makes its first flight; the Dodgers won the World Series over the Yankees after a shortened baseball season due to striking players; Simon & Garfunkel perform their Concert in Central Park to half a million fans; the Edmonton Eskimos win their record 4th consecutive Grey Cup by the skin of their teeth; Donkey Kong makes its delaurawedbut; Eli Manning, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, Justin Timerberlake, Pitbull, Beyonce, Roger Federer and Georges St-Pierre are born; the first DeLorean rolls off the production line; the Raiders became the first
wild card playoff team to win a Super Bowl after defeating the Eagles; Walter Cronkite signed off the air; the first heart-lung transplant is performed at Stanford’s Medical Center; the original Model 5150 IBM PC with a 4.77 MHz Intel 8088 processor was released in the U.S. at a base price of $1,565; the Islanders took home the Stanley Cup; Luke and Laura got married on General Hospital. It was a banner year.

On the radio

1981 sounded super cool, of course. Disco was reluctantly loosening its grip on the mainstream, making way for radio hits like:

Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl

The Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up

davidbQueen ft David Bowie’s Under Pressure

Rick James’ Superfreak

Air Supply’s The One That You Love

Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’

Kool & The Gang’s Celebration

Kim Carnes’ Bette Davis Eyes


Dynasty, Hill Street Blues, The Smurfs, and Entertainment Tonight made their debuts.

The Incredible Hulk was suddenly cancelled. Charlie’s Angels, The Waltons, and Eight is Enough also ended their series.

selleckChuck Woolery hosted his last episode of Wheel of Fortune after a salary dispute, and Pat Sajak took over.

Tom Baker made his final appearance as the Fourth Doctor on Doctor Who, and Peter Davison stepped in as the Fifth.

MASH, The Jeffersons, Dallas, The Dukes of Hazard, Taxi, Diff’rent Strokes, Laverne & Shirley, WKRP in Cincinnati, The Facts of Life, and Magnum P.I were the finest in television.

At the movies:

Oscar winners Jennifer Hudson and Natalie Portman were born in 1981, along with Chris Evans, Amy Schumer,ย Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Elijah Wood, Jessica Alba, Hayden Christensen, Josh Gad, and Tim Hilddleston.

indyIndiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark debuted in 1981 and was the highest-grossing movie that year. Other popular films included:


Chariots of Fire

For Your Eyes Only

The Cannonball Run

Superman II

Blow Out

My Dinner with Andre

Natalie Wood drowned in a boating accident. We also lost Beulah Bondi (actress, It’s A Wonderful Life), William Holden (actor, Sunset Boulevard), William Wyler (director, Ben-Hur) and Paddy Chayefsky (screenwriter, Network).

The Oscars in 1981 looked like this:

Chariots-Of-Fire-2Best Picture: Chariots of Fire

Best Director: Warren Beaty for Reds

Best Actor: Henry Fonda for On Golden Pond

Best Actress: Katharine Hepburn, also for On Golden Pond

Several actors made their film debuts in 1981, including:

Ben Affleck – appeared in a local independent called The Dark End of the Street at the age of 7, directed by a family friend. He meet 10 year old Matt Damon later this year.

jason-alexanderin-the-burningJason Alexander & Holly Hunter – both appear in The Burning, a slasher film written by Bob Weinstein. This low-budget horror flick is about a summer camp caretaker, horribly disfigured from a prank-gone-wrong and newly released from the hospital with severe deformities, who seeks revenge on those he holds responsible, starting with the kids at a nearby summer camp. The film is notable for being Miramax’s first.

MCDHACO EC001Kim Basinger – she makes her first appearance in a forgotten drama called Hard Country where she had a starring role as a young woman longing to escape small-town Texas to pursue her dreams, but held back by a factory-working boyfriend.

Tom Cruise – Brook Shields and Martin Hewitt star as star-crossed teenaged lovers torn apart when bad advice from his buddy Tom Cruise (age: 19) lands Martin in jail. Watch Endless Loveย carefully and you’ll spy some other soon-to-be-famous faces. You might also know the Oscar nominated song of the same name, performed by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross. Tom Cruise would have a larger supporting role this year, in Taps.

atapsSean Penn – speaking of which – Sean Penn makes his acting debut in Taps alongside him. Taps stars Timothy Hutton as a cadet in military school who is aided by fellow student cadets Sean Penn and Tom Cruise in taking over the school in order to save it.

Kathleen Turner – she stars with William Hurt as a cheating wife in this “erotic thriller” directed by the writer of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back. It launched her career, established her as one of the sexiest stars in film history, and identified her as frankly sexual and…rather robust.

James Cameron – he got to sit behind the director’s chair for the first time, and his stunning debut: Piranha II: The Spawning, a shameless low-budget horror sequel. He was originally hired cameronas the special effects director, but took over when the the original director, Drake Miller, was fired. But Cameron isn’t comfortable with this credit. He claims “I was replaced after 2 and a half weeks by the Italian producer. He just fired me and took over, which is what he wanted to do when he hired me. It wasn’t until much later that I even figured out what had happened. But when I saw what they were cutting together, it was horrible. And then the producer wouldn’t take my name off the picture because [contractually] they couldn’t deliver it with an Italian name. So they left me on, no matter what I did. In actual fact, I did some directing on the film, but I don’t feel it was my first movie.” Good thing James, since critics called it one of the world’s worst movies, belonging on “anyone’s list of all-time horror turkeys”, the piranhas resembling “haddock with dentures.” Cameron, however, maintains it’s “the best flying piranha film ever made.” So there.

So this is why 1981 will always be quite precious to my little heart. And it just so happens that on this day, back in 1981, one of the funnest Assholes I know, and one of my best friends in the world, was born. Happy Birthday.

Do you have any particular memories to share from 1981?

38 thoughts on “Celebrate Good Times – Come On!

  1. Birgit

    Oh the year that was-I was 17 & in high school, hating every minute of it. Of course I watched all those shows except maybe Dukes of Hazard. Love WKRP and MASH. The Jeffersons were great and could never be on TV now nor All in the Family. I remember that Magnum PI was considered one of the few solid hits for that year. I did see On Golden Pond and years later Reds which is one of my brother’s favourite films..not mine. I still have to see Chariots of Fire. Ahh the old times

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Matt

    Thanks, Jay! I love this post and really had no idea until now that so much was going on that year. That still of Jason Alexander cracks me up.
    My favourite songs that year were Jessie’s Girl (thanks to Boogie Nights) and Betty Davis Eyes (which I believe was the number 1 song the week I was born).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ninvoid99

    Wait a minute, I turned a year old that December. Why people think the Luke and Laura thing on General Hospital was such a big deal considering that Luke raped Laura before that?


  4. Wendell

    Very cool post. I turned 10 that year and remember just about everything you mentioned here. Great stroll down memory lane. Except for that thing about the Yankees losing the World Series, of course. You could’ve left that out.


  5. Liz A.

    1981… I remember it kind of vaguely. I believe my grandfather died. (It was either ’81 or ’82.) That was probably the year I learned I was going to need glasses. Oh, and I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to Raiders of the Lost Ark. (I was dragged kicking and screaming to a lot of now classic films. I had no taste.) I was in 4th and 5th grades.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. fragglerocking

        Fraid so Jay, the house, the car, Higgins, TC, Rick, the tash, Hawaii, sunshine, for an 18 yr old emptying bedpans and clearing up vomit in Luton, this was escapism of the highest order. I make no apology, Magnum PI let me be in another (better & quipier) world. ๐Ÿ˜Š


  6. Scott

    In 1981, I was fifteen. I don’t remember anything particular that year–but I do remember it being a mostly-good year for me. Rick James’ “Superfreak” was the song played when I first danced with a girl–at a fraternity party at Auburn University. She was considerably older than I, and seemed kind of wild–just what I needed!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. kmSalvatore

    Well Jay…. Now that the Cobb webs have been disturbed๐Ÿ˜‚…. U have brought back a few fond memories for me. ….
    I knew it had to be some ones birthday:) and I hope you all had a great time celelbrating it.!!
    Now I’m going to relax, as we have just gotten back from the Adirondacks and I’m exhausted , and hopefully the cobwebs will find their rightful places back where they belong;)!


    1. Jay Post author

      We didn’t celebrate as much as we should have – it was also Thanksgiving here, and we were working right through. We do have plans for a birthday mulligan soon!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. reocochran

      Happy Birthday, dear Matt! **โ™คโ—‡โ™งโ—โ˜†ยคโ™ก**

      I liked 1981 since my son, Jamie, whose friends in HS called him Moose. He turned same age as Matt on 9/24. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  8. ruth

    Oh my, what a fun walk down memory lane! Lots of my faves were released in 1981… For Your Eyes Only, Superman II and of course Indiana Jones! What a banner year indeed.


  9. Christopher

    I’ve occasionally said that if you love the ’80’s then you weren’t there, but thank you for the reminder that there was some good that came out of that decade.
    Now I want to pull out my black and white checkerboard shoes. I know technically those didn’t break out until 1982 when Sean Penn wore them to Ridgemont High but I was just moving into double digits. A lot of the ’80’s runs together for me.



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