memories of the ’80s – David Copperfield

For viewers who appreciate the sleight of hand and the skills of the illusionist, the 1980s belonged to magician David Copperfield.

Using magic as a way to gain confidence (and attract girls) as a pre-teen, by the time Copperfield was 16 he was teaching magic at New York University while also sneaking into Broadway shows, fascinated by productions with Bob Fosse and Stephen Sondheim.

At age 18 he got his first lead in The Magic Man in Chicago where he changed his name from David Kotkin to David Copperfield. The next year he became a full-time magician, named the headliner entertainer at the Pagoda Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii.

In 1977, ABC TV aired his first television special – The Magic of ABC. Consequently through the 1980s he was regularly doing tv specials for CBS TV.

In 1981, Copperfield decided to do big scale illusions, his first the disappearance of a seven ton Lear jet and followed by his notorious disappearance of the Statue of Liberty in 1983 in front of a live audience and filmed.

In 1984 Copperfield levitated above the Grand Canyon, while in 1986 he walked through the Great Wall of China and escaped from Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco in 1987.

As a performer, magician and illusionist, Copperfield made the world of magic something more than a sideshow attraction in the 1980s.

memories of the ’80s – Cats

The early 1980s were all about felines, thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber and T.S. Eliot with the debut of the musical play Cats on London’s West End.

Based on the book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, Lloyd Webber and producer Cameron Mackintosh brought the story to the stage in 1981, with the tribe of cats called Jellicles, who are choosing which cat will come back in a new life.

With director Trevor Nunn and choregrapher Gillian Lynne, Lloyd Webber debuted the production at the New London Theatre in May 1981, using the original poems as text and creating songs based on the poetry, due to the restrictions of the Eliot estate on the use of the book’s text.

Dance became a key element of the play, with the set reflecting a junk yard and the songs an eclectic collection of pop, jazz, classical, rock and electronic musical styles.

Judi Dench was one of the principal actors in the West End production but due to an injury was replaced with Elaine Page. Major characters of the play included Alonzo, Grizabella, Griddlebone, Mister Mistoffelees, Jemima, Old Deuteronomy and Skimbleshanks.

Cats is the fourth longest running show in London’s West End, and debuting in 1982 on Broadway in New York City, it has become the third longest running show in Broadway history.

With several revivals and a film to its credit, Lloyd Webber’s creation although not conventional has become one of the favourite musicals of the latter 20th century for its inventiveness and dance sequences.




memories of the ’80s – Brideshead Revisited

An Evelyn Waugh novel was transformed into a series in the early 1980s and became the mini-series of the Fall season: Brideshead Revisited.

Based on the 1945 novel, the 11 part series was based on the unique friendship of Charles Ryder, played by Jeremy Irons and Sebastian Flyte, played by Anthony Andrews.

The series was initially conceived as a six part drama, and Michael Lindsay-Hogg was hired as director in 1979 to start photography and film on the island of Gozo, Malta which was to be the location for the story’s sequences in Morocco, Mexico and South America.

But a four month strike at ITV delayed production and when the strike was over, Lindsay-Hogg couldn’t work on the production and director Charles Sturridge took over, and negotiated to keep many of the main actors involved including Jeremy Irons and Laurence Olivier.

Irons ended up shooting this series and the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman at the same time, doing double duty as both productions were affected by delays.

The story follows the friendship of Ryder and Flyte before and during World War 1, and the scandals, mistresses, secrets, gay relationships, and financial stresses that affect Flyte’s lofty family, the Marchmains.

Ryder is Flyte’s saviour, trying to keep him alive and keep his lifestyle a secret, while still being loyal to Flyte’s mother and sister who are devout Catholics and to the father, who lives with his mistress in Italy, yet trying to maintain their own secret lives. The series ends at the end of WWI, with the numerous consequences of financial ruin, secrets and lies.

After almost a year of filming the series debuted in October 1981 on ITV, CBC in Canada and PBS in the United States and soon became the Sunday night obseession.

Nominated for multiple BAFTA, Emmy and Golden Globe Awards, the series won seven BAFTAs, including best actor for Anthony Andrews, was nominated for nine Emmys with a supporting actor win for Laurence Olivier as Lord Marchmain and three Golden Globe nominations with a win for Andrews for best actor in a mini series.

The series once again cemented the fascination with historical family dramas by television viewers.


memories of the ’80s – Escape from New York

EscapefromNYposter.jpgAfter being a Walt Disney player in the 1970s, the 1980s transformed Kurt Russell into an action start with the film Escape from New York.

Produced, written and directed by John Carpenter, the film was set in 1997 Manhattan, where this island city had been turned into a maximum security prison, after the crazy increase of crime in the USA.

Meanwhile the world has dissolved into WWIII but the war is soon coming to an end, with possilibity of a ceasefire and treaty between Russia, China and the USA.

The President of the United States of America played by Donald Pleasance, who on his way to negotiations in Aircraft One, crashes into Manhattan and needs to be rescued.

Enter Snake Plissken aka Kurt Russell, an ex-soldier and convicted bank robber, who takes on the challenge of trying to rescue the President in 22 hours, dealing with gang leader Brain Hellman (Harry Dean Stanton) and with help from Slag (Ox Baker) and girlfriend Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau).

Plissken battles, tracks, and fights his way through Manhattan, to save the President and the save the world.

Carpenter wrote the screenplay in the aftermath of the American Watergate scandal but no film company wanted to make his science fiction thriller. But by the beginning of the decade, and the success of his film Halloween, Avco-Embassy Pictures signed Carpenter for a two picture deal.

The first film was supposed to be The Fog, but with an unsuccessfully completed script, Carpenter went ahead with this film, and chose Russell, trying to shed his Disney image as the lead character.

Filmed in East St. Louis, the cast and crew always filmed at night, and wanted the extremes of feudal England/urban jungle versus the technical of the computer/neon police state.

Released in July 1981, the film was made for US $6 million and became a box office hit and a hit with critics who liked the escape thriller. The film grossed over US$25 million in box office release, a blockbuster of the summer.

And for Kurt Russell, transformed him into an action star.


memories of the ’80s – The Stroke by Billy Squier

In the early 1980s, rock musician Billy Squier landed his number one hit despite its racy connotations – The Stroke.

Growing up in Boston in the 1960s and 1970s, Squier hung out at nightclubs, eventually joining Magic Terry and the Universe and The Sidewinders.

In the mid 1970s, he formed the band Piper, but left soon after, to focus on his solo career. Squier released his first solo album in 1980 titled The Tale of the Tape. The album featured the singles You Should be High and Big Beat, the latter a popular song sampled by hip hop artists in the late ’80s/early ’90s.

Squier’s second album, Don’t Say No, for Capitol Records, was released in May 1981, and its lead single was The Stroke, and the first song by Squier to make the Billboard charts.

The distinctive drum and guitar opening of the song, along with Squier’s lyrics, made this song a popular choice for rock radio stations across North America and Europe.

Produced by Reinhold Mack, who had produced Queen’s The Game, the album and single put Squier on the charts in several countries, including the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Austria and the US, where it went to 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number three on the Billboard Rock Singles list.

Even though Squier continued to produce albums and music, his consequent albums never led him back to the charts, but as a song for teenagers of the time period, it was a welcome addition to everyone’s playlist.


memories of the ’80s – Jane Fonda’s Workout Book

Jane Fonda Workout BookIn the early 1980s, actress Jane Fonda took us through our paces with her first book – Jane Fonda’s Workout Book.

Unlike diet books that had been published, Fonda focused on sharing her philosophy for exercise, diet and how to deal with daily stress – showing us how she kept in shape.

An avid ballet fan, Fonda was injured while making the film The China Syndrome and turned to Leni Cazden to help her keep in shape. This became the backbone of the Jane Fonda Workout Book.

Published in 1981 by Simon & Schuster, Jane Fonda’s Workout Book easily hit the bestseller lists, drawing from her celebrity as an actress as well as from her new approach to focusing on mental as well as physical changes.

A New York Times bestseller, this book was on the list for six months at number one, and stayed on the list until 1983 in the top five bestselling specialty books.

I remember a friend of my Mum’s who was dedicated to Jane’s prescription of wellness, diet and exercise, happily sporting the aerobics style of the 1980s.

As a result of its publishing success, Fonda created a workout video, Jane Fonda Workout – which thanks to the boom in VCR sales, sold a million copies in the first two years of release. Consequently, Fonda created 23 more videos, five more workout books, numerous audio books and has in the 21st century created new workout products, as well as continuing to act.

memories of the ’80s – Heavy Metal

Fans of the music genre got to see their dreams transformed into a big screen fantasy with the animated film Heavy Metal.

Produced by Ivan Reitman and Heavy Metal Magazine publisher Leonard Mogel, the film is an anthology of several science fiction and fantasy stories, adapted for the screen by Len Blum and Daniel Goldberg.

Several animation companies worked together to create the film, which focused on the similar themes seen in the magazine: violence, sex, nudity and a fixation on a the little guy going up against the forces of evil and darkness.

Created in Canada, the production group used several Canadian actors to voice characters including John Candy, Eugene Levy, Harold Ramis, Jackie Burroughs and Marilyn Lightstone.

Eight linked stories made up the anthology – Soft Landing, Grimaldi, Harry Canyon, Den, Captain Sternn, B-17, So Beautiful and So Dangerous and Taarna.

Released in August 1981, the film was dismissed by critics as being an oddity, but the animation style and soundtrack were praised for its inventiveness and for its classic inclusions from artists such as Sammy Hagar, Nazareth, Black Sabbath, Stevie Nicks and Blue Oyster Cult.

With a budget of just over US$9 million, the film may not have been favoured with positive reviews, but fans came out in support, racking up $20 million at the box office.

Now considered a cult classic, Heavy Metal was re-released in consequent years and as its been released in different formats – VHS, Laser disc, Blu-ray – the fans are still buying it.