1981 Annual History Facts

1981 Annual History Facts

  • Battle of the Sexes: Sandra Day O’Connor was appointed to serve on the US Supreme Court as the first female.
  • The Top Song was Physical by Olivia Newton-John
  • The Big Movies included Raiders of the Lost Ark, On Golden Pond, and Superman II
  • Price of a postage stamp in 1981: 18 cents*
    *20 cents effective November 20, 1981
    Rubick’s Cube: $3.99
  • The World Population was ~ 5,304,000,000
  • The longest professional baseball game lasted 33 innings- 8 hours and 25 minutes, in 1981 between The Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings, from the Triple-A International League. Pawtucket won 3-2.
  • And… The Chicken Dance was written by Werner Thomas in Switzerland, in the 1950s. It reached the dance floors in America in 1980.

World Series Champions

Los Angeles Dodgers

Superbowl XV Champions

Oakland Raiders

National Basketball Association Champions

Boston Celtics

NHL Stanley Cup Champions

New York Islanders

US Open Golf

David Graham

US Open Tennis (Men Ladies)

John McEnroe/Tracy Austin

Wimbledon (Men/Women)

John McEnroe/Chris Evert

NCAA Football Champions


NCAA Basketball Champions


Bowl Games

Orange Bowl: January 1, 1981 – Oklahoma over Florida State
Rose Bowl: January 1, 1981 – Michigan over Washington
Sugar Bowl: January 1, 1981 – Georgia over Notre Dame

Kentucky Derby

Pleasant Colony

Westminster Kennel Best in Show Dog

Dhandy’s Favorite Woodcheck

Time Magazine’s Man of the Year

Lech Walesa

Miss America

Susan Powell (Elk City, OK)

Miss USA

Kim Seelbrede (Ohio)

Fashion Icons and Movie Stars

Kim Alexis, Carol Alt, Loni Anderson, Barbara Bach, Catherine Bach, Kim Basinger, Valerie Bertinelli, Jacqueline Bisset, Christie Brinkley, Charo, Joan Collins, Lydia Cornell, Bo Derek, Janice Dickinson, Linda Evans, Morgan Fairchild, Farrah Fawcett, Carrie Fisher, Jane Fonda, Karen Graham, Erin Gray, Shelley Hack, Debbie Harry, Goldie Hawn, Marilu Henner, Lauren Hutton, Kathy Ireland, Grace Jones, Nastassja Kinski, Audrey Landers, Jessica Lange, Heather Locklear, Olivia Newton-John, Stevie Nicks, Dolly Parton, Markie Post, Princess Diana, Victoria Principal, Tanya Roberts, Diana Ross, Brooke Shields, Jacquelyn Smith, Suzanne Somers, Donna Summer, Heather Thomas, Cheryl Tiegs, Charlene Tilton

“The Quotes”

“You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by his way of eating jellybeans. “
– President Ronald Reagan

“Betcha can’t eat just one.”
-Lay’s Potato Chips

“No wire hangers, ever!”
– Faye Dunaway, in Mommie Dearest

“Listen to me, mister. You’re my knight in shining armor. Don’t you forget it. You’re going to get back on that horse, and I’m going to be right behind you, holding on tight, and away we’re gonna go, go, go!”
– Katharine Hepburn, in On Golden Pond.

“We bring good things to life.”
-General Electric (GE)

“Be all that you can be.”
– United States Army ad

Bob Marley’s final words to his son Ziggy were, “Money can’t buy life.”

When President Ronald Reagan was admitted to a hospital in 1981 after being shot by John Hinckley Jr., he joked, “Please tell me you’re all Republicans.” To which a surgeon who was a liberal democrat himself replied, “We’re all Republicans today.”

1981 Pop Culture History

Code of the Secret Service was a movie that lead actor Ronald Reagan called “the worst picture I ever made.” The film inspired a man named Jerry Sparr to join the Secret Service, who 1981 saved President Ronald Reagan from an assassination attempt.

The rolling boulder scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark was stolen from a 1955 Uncle Scrooge comic.

In 1931, when future President Ronald Reagan played on the football team for Eureka College, he took in two rival team black players in his home, because they were denied admission into a hotel when they were going to play against Eureka. He remained friends with one of the men until they died in 1981

1981’s Frogger has the most ways to die in any arcade game. The frog may be killed in nine ways as he crosses streets and rivers on his way home, including alligators, cars, snakes, and water.

Cranky Kong is the original Donkey Kong from the 1981 arcade game, and the current modern Donkey Kong was meant to be his son, Donkey Kong Jr.

The Go-Go’s were the first and to date only, all-female band that wrote their songs and played their instruments to have an album reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart with their 1981 debut album Beauty and a Beat. (so far)

George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers went on their 50/50 tour, where they played in all 50 states in just 50 days

PBS painter Bob Ross served as a Master Sergeant in the USAF, one of many positions he said required him to be “tough” and “mean.” After leaving in 1981, he said he had promised himself that he would never scream again if he ever left the military.

MTV began on August 1st. The first video, all vidNerds know, was ‘Video Killed The Radio Star‘ by the Buggles. The second was Pat Benatar’s ‘You Better Run.’

Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female US Supreme Court Justice.

After the 1928 classic The Passion of Joan of Arc was panned by the French government that commissioned it and a fire destroyed the negative, the movie’s original cut was thought to be lost forever. That was until a copy was found in a closet in an Oslo mental institution in 1981.

“Bulimia” was the new word du jour.

In 1968, The Beatles formed Apple Corps Ltd (informally known as Apple). In 1981, a suit was settled with Apple Computer with the payment of $80,000 to Apple Corps. As a condition of the settlement, Apple Computer agreed to stay out of the music business.

President Ronald Reagan started a program of giving “government surplus” cheese to the poor and unemployed Rust Bowl families. The cheese had been stockpiled to keep dairy prices up.

The practice of presidents returning a salute from military members started in 1981 by Ronald Reagan.

An LP titled The Wit & Wisdom of Ronald Reagan was released in the UK, the joke being that the record was completely silent on both sides. It sold over 30,000 copies.

Only 9 US military officers have held the 5-star rank. It was created during WW2 because US officers often commanded allied officers of higher rank. A 5-star officer cannot retire and remains on active duty for life. It was retired in 1981 on the death of General Omar Bradley.

“Weird” Al Yankovic received a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture at California Polytechnic State University, in 1981. He also served as valedictorian of his high school at age 16.

The Smurfs, created in 1958, the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series brought them into American pop culture. Although many fans think Smurfette was the only female Smurf, there were several more, including Nanny Smurf and Sassette Smurf. There was no Smurfina.

Due to the limitations of arcade hardware in 1981, Mario was clothed in red overalls and a blue shirt to contrast his arms, body, and background. The cap was added to avoid drawing his hairstyle, forehead, and eyebrows. The large nose and mustache avoided the need to draw a mouth and expressions

Prince Charles married Lady Diana on July 29, 1981. It was on TV and in all the newspapers.

Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Wall, got a “B” in her architecture class for her design from her professor, who also submitted a design for the wall, losing to his student.

Cost of a Superbowl ad in 1981: $275,000

The cost of a gigabyte of data storage was $300,000.

RIP, Scandals, Sad and Odd News

Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke made up a story about an 8-year-old heroin addict named Jimmy. He didn’t exist, but her pleas that he could have existed didn’t stop her from getting in trouble.

Although similar stories were told over a century before, the 1981 publication of Jan Harold Brunvand’s book, The Vanishing Hitchhiker, brought the ‘Vanishing Hitchhiker’ urban myth into mainstream Popular Culture.

Harvard professor Roger Fisher proposed implanting nuclear launch codes in a volunteer so that the President would have to kill an innocent person before firing. The Pentagon rejected the idea, fearing the President would not go through with it even if necessary.

Ronald Reagan fired 11,345 air traffic controllers after they refused to end their strike and subsequently banned them from federal service for life.

A couple sued AC/DC in 1981 for $250,000 because their telephone number is in the song Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, resulting in hundreds of prank calls. The song’s 36-24-36 digits were followed by a “hey!”, which, to his clients, sounded like an “8”.

The song Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant is about the 1981 Brixton Riot in London.

Konrad Kujau sold the fraudulent Hitler Diaries to a West German news magazine for $3.2 million 1981.

When a then-unknown Prince opened up for the Rolling Stones on the first of two nights in LA in 1981, the crowd threw beer cans at him and booed him off the stage within the first 20 minutes of his set. He came on the stage wearing nothing but bikini briefs and a trench coat.

The Stanley Cup Champions 1963 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1972 Boston Bruins, and 1981 New York Islanders have their engravings misspelled as Leaes, BQSTQN and Ilanders, respectively. There are also several player name errors.

The small Spanish town of Huéscar declared war on Denmark in 1809. They forget they were at war for the next 172 years and only signed a peace treaty when a local historian rediscovered the declaration of war in 1981.

Jack Henry Abbott was a felon/murderer/bank robber who wrote In the Belly of the Beast while in prison. Norman Mailer and others vouched for him… he was released and stabbed an employee at a restaurant who told him he could not use the employee’s restroom. Back in prison, he killed himself in 2002.

Atari’s first world tournament in 1981 didn’t go so well, with initial winning checks bouncing, low participation, and contestants having to use their quarters for games

Actress Drowning Death: Actress Natalie Wood died, apparently falling overboard after a day/night sailing with hubby Robert Wagner and mutual friend Christopher Walken.

Actor Injury Death: William Holden was drunk, fell, and cut his head open. He didn’t realize how injured he was, didn’t call for help, and died from what should have been a fairly easy stitching.

Pop Star Automobile Death: Harry Chapin

A man named Roger Fischer had an idea for a volunteer to have ICBM launch codes put in their chest cavity. In an emergency, the volunteer would carry a knife to be killed with. It was meant to force the personal killing of one man to start the impersonal killing of millions.

Firsts and the Biggest Christmas Gifts

Woman’s World began publication

Computer Gaming World Magazine (1981-2006)

Shape began publication

Elle began publication

Health began publication

The Habits

Still working on last year’s fad, The Rubik’s Cube, Donkey Kong, Frogger (arcade), playing withHe-Man and the Masters of the Universe action figures
Reading Noble House by James Clavell
Reading Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

1981/82 Biggest Television Shows

(according to Nielsen TV Research)
1. Dallas (CBS)
2. 60 Minutes (CBS)
3. The Jeffersons (CBS)
4. Three’s Company (ABC)
5. Alice (CBS)
6. The Dukes of Hazzard (CBS)
7. Too Close For Comfort (ABC)
8. ABC Monday Night Movie (ABC)
9. M*A*S*H (CBS)
10. One Day at a Time (CBS)

Popular Music Artists

The Biggest Pop Artists of 1981 include
Air Supply, Barbra Streisand, Blondie, Chaka Kahn, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Diana Ross, Earth, Wind & Fire, Eddie Rabbit, Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King, Foreignor, The Gap Band, George Benson, Grover Washington Jr., John Lennon, Journey, Kenny Rogers, Kim Carnes, Kool & the Gang, Lakeside, Lionel Richie, Luther Vandross, Neil Diamond, Olivia Newton-John, Phil Collins, The Police, Prince, Ray Parker Jr & Raydio, REO Speedwagon, Rick James, Rick Springfield, Roger, Shalamar, Sheena Easton, Smokey Robinson, Styx, Sugarhill Gang, Teddy Pendergrass

(Data is compiled from charts, including Billboard’s Pop, Rock, Airplay, R&B/Dance, and Singles Charts. The Hot 100 is the primary chart used for this list.)

Number One Hits of 1981

December 27, 1980 – January 30, 1981: John Lennon – (Just Like) Starting Over

January 31, 1981 – February 6, 1981: Blondie – The Tide Is High

February 7, 1981 – February 20, 1981: Kool & the Gang – Celebration

February 21, 1981 – February 27, 1981: Dolly Parton – 9 to 5

February 28, 1981 – March 20, 1981: Eddie Rabbitt – I Love a Rainy Night

March 21, 1981 – March 27, 1981: REO Speedwagon – Keep On Loving You

March 28, 1981 – April 10, 1981: Blondie – Rapture

April 11, 1981 – May 1, 1981: Daryl Hall and John Oates – Kiss on My List

May 2, 1981 – May 15, 1981: Sheena Easton – Morning Train (Nine to Five)

May 16, 1981 – June 19, 1981: Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes

June 20, 1981 – July 24, 1981: Stars on 45 – Medley: Intro Venus / Sugar Sugar / No Reply / I’ll Be Back / Drive My Car / Do You Want to Know a Secret / We Can Work It Out / I Should Have Known Better / Nowhere Man / You’re Going to Lose That Girl / Stars on 45

July 25, 1981 – July 31, 1981: Air Supply – The One That You Love

August 1, 1981 – August 14, 1981: Rick Springfield – Jessie’s Girl

August 15, 1981 – October 16, 1981: Diana Ross and Lionel Richie – Endless Love

October 17, 1981 – November 6, 1981: Christopher Cross – Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)

November 7, 1981 – November 20, 1981: Daryl Hall and John Oates – Private Eyes

November 21, 1981 – January 29, 1982: Olivia Newton-John – Physical

Popular Movies

(according to boxofficemojo)
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
2. On Golden Pond
3. Superman II
4. Arthur
5. Stripes
6. The Cannonball Run
7. Chariots Of Fire
8. For Your Eyes Only
9. The Four Seasons
10. Time Bandits
*In 1981, 8 of the top 10 grossing movies were original stories; in 2011, none of the top 10 were original stories.

Absence of Malice, An American Werewolf in London, Arthur, Bustin Loose, The Cannonball Run, Chariots of Fire, Clash of the Titans, Endless Love, The Evil Dead, Excalibur, For Your Eyes Only, The Four Seasons, The Fox and the Hound, The Great Muppet Caper, History of the World Part I, Mad Max II: The Road Warrior, Mommie Dearest, Neighbors, On Golden Pond, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Reds, Scanners, Sharkey’s Machine, Stripes, Superman II, Taps, Tarzan, the Ape Man, Time Bandits

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