My dad has my family's home movies from the
80's...all of them. Currently, they're stuffed in his house, deep
within the dark, trash-crammed basement. My dad brought the
meaning of "packrat" to levels unheard of, among other
weird habits. I've been telling him for years, every time I see
him, that my family wants to see those tapes again. Every time I
got the same response: "I'll see if I have time to
look...the basement is so full I can't get in."
"Well, start clearing a path. Clear a little each day," I told him. In one ear and out the other. Finally, I told him if he wasn't going to do it, I was. I didn't care how much smelly trash I had to wade through, I was going to charge down there and RIP those things out of his basement, do or die.
Finally came the day I set up to do it. I came
to Dad's house carrying a lantern, several pairs of gloves, and a
large box to hold found treasure in....and asked him where in the
basement our videos were. He said he couldn't remember exactly
where, but that they were definately with the other videos. This
did not narrow it down, for the following good reason.....
My dad bought his first VCR in 1980, He sat down, started taping.....and didn't stop until the mid-90's. Seriously; he taped it all. He taped the entire 80's--archiving everything he saw was more important to him than anything else (that's why Mom left him). It was certainly my dad's most bizarre trait, and now he has thousands of tapes down there. Yes, my dad IS kind of crazy (doctors agree), but he's my dad and I love 'im.
In recent years, though, I've been thinking about that collection, and come to realize maybe it wasn't such a bad idea after all. I wouldn't take it to the extent he did, but that guy now owns an archive to kill for in this day and age. Upon the release of the VCR, taping anything you could for the next decade was now possible, but very few were nutty enough to try. You could do it now easily with one torrent site and a T-1 connection, but the 1980's were the most difficult to save. My dad actually did it, and he's got the entire dang 80's. My word, he's sitting on a gold mine.
So, as I dug through that basement, getting dirty and hefting up an endless sea of 50-pound boxes one at a time, I had extra motivation. It wasn't just about the home movies anymore, but whatever else I could find.
And egad, I wasn't expecting it to be so meticulously organized. My dad used a different brand name to tape each genre....RCA labels held old TV shows, Maxell had entertainment news programs, Panasonic had movies...and he didn't even try to save money by recording at the EP speed; it's all 2-hours for maximum clarity. I'd be frightened if I wasn't so overjoyed.
I found enough to supply this section of the site with material for the next year or so, and now I'd say I'm about even with that X-E guy as far as archives go. And I'm going to start at the beginning. One of the earliest tapes I could find was one of Reagan's inauguration--January 20, 1981. He recorded the whole thing, as well as what happened after, and what happened before.
The night before, a TV special appeared on ABC covering an "inaugural gala" for the president-elect. I haven't seen this done for any president during my lifetime, but of course Reagan was an actor first. A bunch of singers and performers put on a night performance for him, a sort of "presidential bachelor party" before he was shackled to the Oval Office. It was a BIG ROCKIN' BLAST!! ....Okay, it wasn't. The hippies still hadn't taken control of the country yet, so the all-star cast was absolute squaresville.
MEL TILLIS! THE OSMONDS! SOME BLONDE LADY! Whenever you think "party," these are the first names to come to mind.
|Charlton Heston stopped by to give a speech for ten minutes. "THE GLORY OF THIS COUNTRY...IS IN THE MAJESTIC EAGLE FLOW OVER THE VAST VALLEYS...OR IN THE WARMTH OF A WOMAN'S CARESS...MMM....YES." Real quote.|
|Classic late-night TV show host Johnny Carson emceed the event, but he couldn't save it for anybody under 30 (or not born yet). Even the commercials lacked the hilarity usually found in the advertising of old tapes.|
I did find out the answer to one
mystery, though. Have you ever seen a program that flashes back
to old footage from the 70's and thought to yourself that the
film looks that bad because it turned that way through age? It's
not true--many commercials during the Inaugural Gala looked
exactly like that; recorded on blurry, scratchy film and
showcasing off-key mono sound. It was quite the alien sight.
Considering the fact that video tape was already invented and
that it was doing a better job of capturing footage, they could
have at LEAST bought a blank tape from the local pharmacy store
and filmed their ads a little better....sheesh.
Speaking of ads, my dad also has 1981's Super Bowl XV recorded. You know why I'm writing about Reagan instead of that? Because he CUT OUT ALL THE ADS! He was pretty vigilant about that on a lot of his old tapes--I guess he figured no one would ever want the ads there. I used to be guilty of doing the same thing, and now I regret it. When I travel back in time, I want the full experience.
The evening would have been a total washout if not for Rich Little.
I didn't know who that was until I started watching Dad's old tapes....he has a lot of Rich Little appearances recorded. The guy seems to have vanished after 1984, but in the early 80's he was the country's most well-known impressionist, mocking just about anybody famous for a laugh.
Here he is on the Muppet Show imitating Miss Piggy and freaking Kermit out. Not the best introduction for you, but certainly the most interesting.
|Tonight, Rich was invited to deliver performances from all currently-living presidents of the United States. And did he ever!|
|"HEL-LO, THIS-IS WAL-TER CRON-KIIITE AND WEL-COME TO 'CHEAT THE PRESS'! TO-DAY, FORMER PRESIDENTS FORD AND NIXON, PRESIDENT JIMMY CART-ER, AND PRESIDENT-ELECT RONALD REA-GAN WILL MEET TO DISCUSS THE FUTURE OF THE COUN-TRY...EACH VOICE WILL HAVE TWO MIN-UTES...."|
|Rich's Jimmy Carter was perfectly
spaced-out and brutal. "Hah! Ah'd like to welcome
you all heah!"
Cronkite: "What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment over these last four years?"
Carter: *silence for 20 seconds*
Carter: "Well, ah kept peace in the world! I kept thah Arabs in Egypt, thah Cubans in Miami, and mah brother Billy outta jail!"
|The next president to appear shouldn't
be too hard to figure out. I don't know if the real Ford
still finds falling-down jokes funny, but he was in the
audience and he was amused that night.
All the ex-presidents were there to witness
their parodies, save Carter. Carter was still in the
White House, spending the last hours of his presidency on
a stressed, sweaty all-nighter.
|Good ol' Nixon....I always enjoy a
Nixon parody. No president can come closer to
"living embodiment of evil" than he.
"IIII HAVE OBSERVED THE PROBLEMS FACING
THIS COUNTRY...THE GAS SHORTAGE, THE UNEMPLOYMENT...AND I
HAVE COME TO ONNNE CONCLUSION....
Cronkite: "And now, the moment you've all
been waiting for....I would like to introduce to you
all....President-Elect Ronald Wilson Reagan!!"
It wasn't the real thing, it was another Little parody.....
Actual Reagan loved this--he was loudly roaring, slapping his knees, the whole deal. I've never seen a man so old act so full of life. Bush Jr. is in his 50's and Reagan could have probably outdanced him THEN.
Cronkite: "Mis-ter Reagan,
du-ring your cam-paign you prom-ised to re-duce government
spen-ding, bal-ance the bud-get, and in-crease fun-ding for
pro-grams. How do you plan to ac-complish this?"
Little Reagan: "Well, see, it'll be simple....we're gonna keep two sets of books."
"I also have plans to convert the Sun itself into a massive anti-Soviet death ray! Now, you may be wondering if that's a dangerous undertaking, but you needn't worry....we're gonna go at night!"
Sounds about right. My favorite Reagan moment, out of all I've heard, is the time he was about to give his weekly radio address and joked into the microphone, "I'd like to announce that I'm initiating nuclear war with Russia immediately! The bombs will hit their target in ten minutes! Heh, heh." before realizing the mike was on. I suppose it's funnier to those who are too young to remember.
Reagan was sworn into the office without a hitch the following morning. As for Carter, he couldn't wait a minute longer and had to leave for his plane. Guess when Iran released the hostages? THREE MINUTES after the oath was taken. Instead of Carter's term ending on the high note he had worked for, Reagan's would begin on it. It was later confirmed that, yeah, the Iranian scalawags did it on purpose.
But Reagan was a fair man, and he called Carter up before his plane landed to take him home...and said "Jimmy, this was all your work, you take the victory. You fly to New York instead and greet those hostages as they arrive." Which he did. My dad recorded the whole thing, as well as every other major event of 1981.
Boy, does 1981 seem savage. There
were no less than THREE assassinations--even the Pope was shot.
Who in blazes would shoot the Pope?? Of course, in the
"lighter side" of things, there was also the
extravagant wedding of Charles and Di, which I just wince every
time I see a clip of. Everyone knows how that ends....they split,
she dies, no one cares about him anymore. That tape has lost its
There was one telling comment from a newshost after the wedding: "We've just witnessed something we will not be seeing for a very, very long time." Not anytime soon. In 1981 England really went all-out to show off its Royal Family and make the event the biggest, loudest fairy-tale spectacle it possibly could. There were hundreds of band players, ten gazillion children ringing large bells, confetti, fireworks, nothing was spared. When Charles married Camilla, there was probably an Elvis impersonator involved.
|And Gnasher was there, playing the accordion.|
CLICK THIS ACTUAL STATEMENT FROM ONE OF MY DAD'S TAPES TO RETURN TO THE MAIN PAGE:
"The record industry is in crisis!
Sales of records have reached record lows. Industry officials
mainly credit this to today's teenagers, who prefer to rent
records and then transfer them to tape!"
--Entertainment Tonight, January 13, 1983