1978

1978 at a glance:

I was twenty-two and twenty-three years old in 1978.

1978 felt like the end of something great. Older ties to earlier music and styles and fashion were rapidly disappearing.Being a full-time art student was odd. School was odd, people were odd, life was odder yet--especially when it was in downtown Portland. Still, it was an incredible growing period. I was learning all about things I hadn't a clue about before. The world of graphic design was so different then. We were called "commercial artists" That was the phrase; commercial artist. I met with a professional "commercial artist" who'd had over 35 years in business. She filled me in on everything to expect, how it would work, and the way things got done. She was incredible! I remember her telling me "In the movies and on TV, us artists are always portrayed as homosexuals, or psychotics." It's funny, but most 70's movies and TV showed us as being just that. It was around 1978 that I remember a major innovation and technical advance in the world of "commercial art": color Xeroxing! At last, color copies could be made for the low price of only $3.99 per copy.



The Boss Comes to Town.

bruce springsteen

December, 1978, The Portland Memorial Coliseum. Sold out show. Crowds milling in the parking lots desperately seeking tickets at any price. Why? Simple:

A man is lost, struggling to find the meaning to his life in a meaningless wasteland of the roughest city streets.
A beautiful Latina hypnotizes a young man into calling her down from the streets, begging her to come to him on a night as hot, lonely, and desperate as ever.
A backstreet drag race is scheduled at night at the trestle. Everyone will be there. It might be the last one to ever happen again.
Young lovers get away, hide from the world, living in dark dreams, and the moments they share are more desperate and timeless than anything written by Shakespeare.

This was why the crowds sought tickets. These tales and others are the very fabric that sewed us together back in the 70's, when our wild days were all that held us together. Not one of us hadn't experienced, or felt the pain Springsteen describes in his works. And not one of us had ever re-lived it with such intensity as Bruce tells in his lyrics. He knew us all. He was one of us--not one of them.

Welcome to the world of Bruce Springsteen. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band made a profound change in my life for many years to follow. Though Bruce was mega-popular many years earlier, my true appreciation came of him when he came to town. Bruce didn't play heavy, or hard rock which I was into, but rather his own brand of "blue color rock and roll. His December '78 concert was one bonafide ass-kicker and never before had so I seen so much energy expended from one lightning individual. Bruce had a quality more akin to Elvis Presley that I'd ever seen before. The set was long, sweaty, and featured so many of his best tunes that I wouldn't know where to begin. However, my favorites at least got covered: "Badlands", "Darkness on the Edge of Town," "The Promised Land," "Streets of Fire," "Backstreets," and "Rosalita Come Out Tonight."

There are VERY few performers who can do to an audience what Bruce Springsteen does. He was real, not phony. He cares about the people, and he sings about us--not them. Bruce's songs come from the working class level. Instead of love songs, he gave stories about his girlfriend, cars, streets of the neighborhood, family tales, loss, and any other important issue that matters most, and cuts straight to the heart of the individual.

I could go on forever about The Boss; I could rant, rave, carry on with a tirade of history and unforgettable moments, but I think we all know the history behind one of the greatest legends of rock and roll to ever emerge. The man became a folk-rock hero, more powerful than Dylan, more profound than Kesey. The man didn't take, he gave. The man changed the face of the world forever.



The Airbrush King

airbrush

I was in art school and wanted to be the airbrush king. I worked and worked at it until I got to be pretty darned good. I airbrushed everything, but mostly tried doing my own science fiction and fantasy work. I tried airbrush women's makeup with a high degree of success, T-shirts and even acryllics. I got to where I could take my airbrush apart, clean it, then re-assemble almost with my eyes closed. The airbrush artist's biggest enemy: bent needle tip. I found out quickly that even the slightest almost microscopic bend in the tip of the needle could be disastrous. I used a masking known as "Frisket paper" and hated it. I did turn out some great fantasy works though.



FM-No Static At All

fm albumThe movie "FM" was pretty popular in '78. I never saw it, but I had the album which opened the doors to other musical styles which I had flatly refused to listen to before. Tame acts like Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffet, Steely Dan and Billy Joel sparked my interest a bit. The Jimmy Buffet song "Livingston Saturday Night" was a lot of fun. I first became acquainted with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers with this album. The summer of '78 was hot, and it was fun listening to this collection of stuff that I normally never paid attention to. I really liked The Doobie Brothers song "It Keeps You Running".


Paraquat Spraying

Meanwhile, the world kept spinning ever-so-strangely. The government began experimenting with spraying a substance called "Paraquat" onto Mexican marijuana fields in an attempt to battle the ongoing drug problem. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraquat)

"During the late 1970s, a controversial program sponsored by the US government sprayed paraquat on marijuana fields in Mexico. Since much of this marijuana was subsequently smoked by Americans, the US government's "Paraquat Pot" program stirred much debate. Perhaps in an attempt to deter people from using marijuana, representatives of the program warned that spraying rendered the crop unsafe to smoke."

The end result provided a local population constantly in fear every time they toked. The "Paraquat" scare didn't last long as I recall, maybe six months or more, but during its reign, it was one of the most effective government-attempt-at-prohibition methods of all. I, of course, had friends who laughed it off, but I think we were all concerned for a short time. As with any scary event that comes to us through the media, once the news, popularity, and rumors die down, so does the fear. Around this same period, the quality of most of the weed that was circulating the neighborhood had changed considerably. It was by far more potent, almost to an hallucinogenic effect, and developed a reputation as being "paranoid weed," or "acid dope.'" The ten-dollar lid had become a thing of the past. "Halfies" (a half a baggie, or lid) were out, and "eighths", or "ounces" were in. The price of each had nearly tripled. Paying thirty dollars for an eight bag of marijuana was typical. The amount consumed was not so typical, as usually just one bong hit could put the average toker in a trance.



A bad year for serial killers.

serial killersThe Hillside Strangler was roaming Los Angeles. "The Son of Sam" killer David Berkowitz was sentenced to 365 years in prison. Ted Bundy was arrested in Pensacola, Florida, and John Wayne Gacy the murderer of 33 boys, was also arrested. The Hillside Strangler had racked up his 10th victim in the Los Angeles area. Such being the case of the "Zodiac Killer" who terrorized California in the late 60's, and remained active for years to come was never caught. However, the prime suspect, Arthur Lee Allen, died of kidney failure in 1992, but was never linked conclusively to the murders.

Not a serial killer, but colorful all the same, Roman Polanski plead guilty to having sex with a 13 year old girl, and skipped to France.

One of the most horrendous events in history happened in 1978 with what became known as The Jonestown Massacre." Cult leader Jim Jones led 918 people--270 of which were children--into a mass-suicide.



Scared Straight

scared straight tv programAn impressive program made its debut on national prime time television sets. Utilizing a barrage of uncensored F words, and boasting real murders, rapes, and drug dealings, the internationally acclaimed documentary Scared Straight premiered in 1978. The program was a one-time documentary that was to be an uncensored in-your-face assault of what happens when a group of juvenile offenders are taken into a maximum security prison for some face time with future neighbors. The show was mind-blower at the time, and as it turned out, very effective. The program is still effective; nobody seemed interested in stopping the inmates from brow-beating, and getting nearly physical with the kids. Suddenly, everything the kids expected went south, and the ones who'd tried to look so tough were frightened, some in tears, and by the show's end, were interviewed on the effectiveness of their "visit."



Total Eclipse of the Sun

Day turned to night for a few minutes one afternoon in October of 1978. It was the first full solar eclipse I'd ever seen. More fascinating, yet even then, were the "apocalypse mongers" that expecting the daylight to never return again. But the daylight did return in only a matter of minutes, or perhaps even one minute. During this time, it was a marvel, something to experience that was awesome and defied any natural phenomenon I could have ever witnessed. I remember that there were clouds in the sky, and though we couldn't look directly into the sun, the photos that were taken showed what looked like a "black sun" with a soft white ring around it.


Take me to 1979...


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