Where are they now? - Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy

On March 30, 1981 Ronald Reagan was leaving the Washington Hilton hotel in D.C. when a deranged man in the crowd outside the hotel opened fire on his entourage at it approached the Presidential limousine. Upon hearing the first shots Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy did the unthinkable - or at least what would be unthinkable to the vast majority of human beings - he turned to face the fire spreading his body wide to use as a shield between the gunman and Reagan. No sooner had he turned than he took a bullet in the gut and fell to the ground wounded as the President's limo sped away. It was an unmitigated act of valor. An extraordinary expression of the professionalism and dedication of the people assigned to the Presidential Protection detail.

So where is Timothy McCarthy now?

After spending several hours in surgery following the shooting to remove the round from his abdomen, McCarthy made a full recovery. In 1993 he retired from the Secret Service after running the Chicago office for several years. Since 1994 he has been Police chief of Orland Park Illinois.

(left) March 30, 1981: Agent McCarthy after taking a bullet protecting the President and (right) in a recent photo.

Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective at MOMA - 1980

The modern "blockbuster" art show has come and largely gone over the last 30 years. Sure there are occasional exceptions like the recent Leonardo show in London but for the most part the day when a new year meant at least one new retrospective by some titan of art are dead and gone, killed off by insurance companies.

But lets wind the clock back to the happier days of 1980 when the art blockbuster - as an entire generation of art lovers came to understand the term - was born. The event which gave birth to the new cultural phenomenon was the Museum of Modern Art's Picasso retrospective. This massive, thrilling, disturbing, enlightening and exuberant show took over MOMA from May 22 until September 16 of that year and was as much an eye opener for museums around the world as it was for lovers of modern art. Hundreds of thousands of patrons moved through MOMA's turnstiles and were rewarded with a comprehensive overview of one of the most widely known yet little understood artists who ever lived. The exhibition took over the entire museum, an unprecedented occurrence but a necessary one as nearly a thousand works were included in the show. Day after day lines stretched down West 53rd Street . Inside awaited room after room of paintings that changed the course of visual history.

From "Les Demoiselles D'Avignon" to "Still Life with Chair Caning" to "The Three Musicians" to the to the mindblowing graphic work of the 1930s "Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective" prepared the ground and set the bar for blockbusters that followed and made the 1980s a golden age for art lovers.

Picasso - "Minotauromachy" 1935 - etching

Richard Pryor on fire: literally

Richard Pryor emerged from the 70s one of the biggest stars in the world. He seemingly had it all: money, fame and beautiful lovers. None of it though was apparently enough and like a lot of stars with money and time on their hands Pryor got into drugs. Most notably freebasing cocaine.

On June 9, 1980, in one of the decade's more bizarre celebrity-related events, Pryor was discovered running through the streets of Northridge California on fire. He was eventually caught and taken to the hospital by police where it is said he suffered burns on more than half his body. Initially nobody knew what to make of the incident but it wasn't too long before the facts began to emerge and paint a picture of a man who, in a fit of freebase-induced psychosis, had poured flaming 151 rum over himself then fled into the streets in panic.

Pryor spent six weeks recovering at the Grossman Burn Center and when finally well enough to resume his career didn't shy away from the incident. On the contrary in typical Richard Pryor fashion he faced it head on making frequent reference to it first in his standup routine and later in the movie "Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling" a fictionalized account of the incident and its aftermath.

The Challenger Disaster - Post Script

New footage has just surfaced of the Challenger disaster. The short Super-8 film was taken by Jeffrey Ault from his viewing spot at the Kennedy Space Center 10 miles from the launch pad. The film gives the best view I've ever seen of a launch as you get a feel for just how fast the shuttle is going as it roars into space. The footage was licensed by the Huffington Post and you can read their entire accompanying piece here.

Terene Trent D'arby - "Sign Your Name" - 1987

Terence Trent D'arby (or Sananda Francesco Maitreya as he is now legally called) burst onto the music scene with his 1987 album "Introducing the Hard Line According to Terence Trent D'arby". The album was a massive his and spawned two hit singles: "Wishing Well" and the track here "Sign Your Name". For my money this is one of the best R&B tracks of the decade.

Former UN chief Kurt Waldheim... a Nazi?

Kurt Waldheim (second from left) during WWII.
The UN, formed out of the dust-clouds of World War II when the Nazis murderous rampage through Europe shook the world to its core, held itself to a higher ideal of universal dialogue and peaceful co-existence; two concepts the Nazis didn't exactly hold in high esteem. Austrian diplomat Kurt Waldheim served as Secretary General of the United Nations from 1972 to 1981.

When Waldheim was running for President of Austria in 1985 a popular Austrian paper began to raise questions about his role during the war. He had admitted to being in the German army but said he had no choice and spent the war "confined to a desk". But in the wake of the paper's initial article others began to dig into Waldheim's past and allegations surfaced that he had not, in fact, been hiding in the hinterlands behind a desk during the war but was, allegedly, a member of the SS and had, again allegedly, participated in the reprisals against partisans in Greece. Waldheim called the allegations "pure lies" though he did later admit that he was aware that most of the Jewish community in the town near where he was stationed in Greece were being rounded up and sent to Auschwitz, something he'd previously denied any knowledge of.

In the end the controversy surrounding Waldheim seemed to degenerate into a series of allegations and counter-allegations none of which went anywhere substantive but which nonetheless served to permanently sully Waldheim's reputation in the eyes of millions around the world. He died in 2007 and though he was given a state funeral no sitting heads of state were invited. A telling sign of just how far he'd fallen.

Tears for Fears - "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" - 1985

They just don't make 'em like this anymore. Melodic, ironic, lean and mean it's one of my favorite driving songs.

The Trade -1988

Wayne Gretzky was a secular saint in his home country of Canada. Canadians revered him as the undisputed master of their national game. Kids spent countless hours on their backyard rinks attempting to make those blind passes and hit the puck out of the air into the goal like their hero. It was assumed by everyone (including Gretzky) that he'd stay in Edmonton with the Oilers for the length of his career. But hockey teams aren't run by players, they're run by owners and in this case the Oilers were being run by an owner, Peter Pocklington, who had become hard up for cash after a series of business deals had gone bad.

So what's a cash-strapped owner to do? Well, if you're Pocklington you eye the secular saint on your hockey team's roster and shop him around to the see what kind of offers you get. In this case he got one from the Los Angeles Kings that he couldn't refuse (a slew of draft picks and, most importantly, $15 million in cash).

And so it came to be that on August 9, 1988 after weeks of back door negotiation Pocklington called a press conference and confirmed that Wayne Gretzky - The Great One, the NHL's MVP for the past 8 consecutive years, the man who had delivered 4 Stanley Cup Championships to Edmonton - was being shipped off to southern California. There were attempts made in Parliament to find a way to block "The Trade" (as it became known). Pocklington was burned in effigy. Oiler fans were outraged with some labeling Gretzky a traitor and others too broken up to speak. But it was all for naught. Gretzky was gone and nothing was going to bring him back. It was as if Elvis had moved to London. The closest parallel that could be drawn in sports was the trade that sent Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees seven decades earlier.

Hockey in Canada would never really be the same after his departure, nor would hockey in the US. Because while the Kings never won a Stanley Cup with Gretzky (they did make it to the finals once) his presence in LA created a bandwagon of biblical proportions, one that not only transformed Kings games from sedate exercises conducted in a half empty arena into star studded sellouts but that ultimately led to the league expanding into markets it had never considered viable before. The San Jose Sharks, Phoenix Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks can all be said to owe their existence either directly or indirectly to the effects of The Trade.

Here's an short piece chronicling the Gretzky effect on the LA sports scene.

The Challenger Disaster - 1986

Conditions at Kennedy Space Center in Florida were anything but ideal for a Space Shuttle launch on the morning of January 28, 1986. The temperature was 31 degrees farenheit, far colder than for any previous shuttle launch. Engineers at Morton Thiokold (manufacturer of the Shuttle's solid rocket boosters, or SRBs) warned against launching in such cold temperatures. They feared there was a distinct possibility that the O-rings on the SRBs might not seal correctly in such temperatures. Engineers at Rockwell International (primary contractor for the Shuttle program) also expressed grave concerns over the temperature. Primarily over the possibility that ice, which had accumulated all over the Shuttle and adjacent launch pad, would break free during launch and damage the critical heat absorbing tiles on the Shuttle's underbelly. Both sets of engineers advised against launching.

Their bosses however, feeling the pressure to launch after a week of delays and in the full glare of the public spotlight due to the presence of the first "teacher in space" (Christa McAuliffe) among the crew, overroad their engineers and gave STS-51L the green light.

They should have listened.

Just 73 seconds after lift off the Thiokold engineer's worst nightmares were realized as super-heated gas leaking through a failed O-ring on the right hand SRB burned through the external fuel tank causing a cascading series of events that led to the breakup of the Shuttle Challenger 48,000 feet over the Atlantic. Contrary to popular belief at the time the Shuttle was not torn apart by the explosion of gases in the external fuel tank but instead by aerodynamic forces exerted on the orbiter when it veered off its intended trajectory due to thrust anomolies coming from the right SRB (which had broken loose) and the external fuel tank. The last words heard from Pilot Michael Smith just milliseconds before the orbitor was torn apart were an ominous "Uh oh."

In a grissly discovery made some weeks later it was learned that several members of the crew had apparently survived the orbiter's breakup and activated their emergency oxygen supplies. Indeed Pilot Michael Smith - in a valiant but hopeless attempt to gain control of the situation - had been working the control panel, activating switches in an apparent attempt to restore electicity after the breakup. Because of these discoveries many experts now believe that at least some of the crew members survived the entire 2 minute 45 second free fall to the ocean's surface and that it was that impact with the water - at 207 mph - that was the likely cause of death, not the explosion or orbiter's initial breakup.

In the aftermath of the Challenger disaster the Shuttle program was grounded for 31 months while changes to the decision making culture at NASA as well as new, more robust safety procedures were implemented.

The crew of STS-51L were: Dick Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Greg Jarvis, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka and Christa McAuliffe.

Where are they now? - Bunty Bailey - the girl in "Take on Me"

Aha's single "Take on Me" is one of the great pop songs of the 80s (or any decade for that matter). The video that accompanied the song was also groundbreaking in its fusion of animation and live action footage and won numerous awards. Key to the success of the video was the young actress who played the girl drawn into the comic book world of the singer. Her name was/is Therese "Bunty" Bailey and she was Aha lead singer Morten Harket's girlfriend at the time the video was shot.

So what ever happened to Bunty Bailey?

After "Take on Me" Bailey went on to star in Aha's follow-up video "The Sun Always Shines On TV" and then had a short career in motion pictures. After a 16 year hiatus she returned to the silver screen in the 2008 low-budget comedy "Defunct". These days Bailey is a dance teacher who describes herself as "happily married" and is the mother of two teenage children.

(left) Bunty Bailey in Aha's 1985 video "Take on Me" and (right) in a recent photo
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