The Girl in the Park is based on the story of “The Preppie Murder,” which took place in 1986. I decided not to set the book in the 80s, because I thought that would be ancient history to most readers. And frankly, the 80s were not a decade I loved. Big hair, shoulder pads, Ron and Nancy…it was the era when greed was good. We were all little Material Girls and Boys, watching Dallas (the first one) and Dynasty. And if others were struggling with things like AIDS or homelessness, well, don’t worry, be happy. (Yep, that was an actual hit song for those of you lucky enough not to remember it.)
Writing The Girl in the Park took me back to that time, so I decided to look up the actual events of 1986. It was the year when…
Ronald Reagan was president.
The New York Mets won the World Series.
Nintendo video games hit America.
The space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all seven astronauts.
More than 1.5 million black South Africans strike in protest of apartheid.
In Europe, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals dumps 1000 tons of toxic chemicals into the Rhine, killing millions of fish and contaminating water supplies.
Insider trading scandals rock Wall Street. Ivan Boesky pleads guilty to being tipped off about upcoming mergers. (Imagine! We actually prosecuted people on Wall Street!)
More than 60,000 U.S. farms are sold or foreclosed.
Cary Grant dies. (See what I mean? This decade sucked.)
“That’s What Friends Are For” is a hit song for reasons I can’t explain. Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” video is in constant play on MTV. Some of us are still obsessing about Bruce Springsteen’s album cover for Born in the USA.
Madonna and Sean Penn are married—although not for long.
Whitney Houston is young, gorgeous, and insanely talented. Which is how I like to remember her.
Big movies are Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, Top Gun, and Pretty in Pink. For those who like dark and serious, there’s Blue Velvet and Platoon.
I felt fairly meh about every single one of those movies. But I loved Sid and Nancy. The 80s did give us Gary Oldman.
What do you remember about the 80s? If the answer is, “Nothing, I wasn’t born yet!” what do you think about them? Do they seem like a lot more fun than now? Or…strangely similar? All I can say is, Be glad you missed the spandex. It wasn’t pretty.