December 1987

1987 –it was some trashy year. Every time we tried to take a scandal seriously, some bimbo raised in her tousled head –it was like Charlie’s fallen Angels. We wanted to trace every last dollar to its contra destination: instead we found out about Ollie North buying panty hose. We wanted to know where all those PTL donations went; instead we got Jim Bakker giving “gay looks” and opening his bathrobe. We wanted to know about New York’s big-city corruption; instead we got motor-mouth from the ex-wife of the sometime lover of the former Miss America. By the time we got to Gary Hart’s monkey business, we’d lost our capacity to be shocked. Instead, we took our seats at the new American passion play. Act One, excoriation (by Ted Koppel). Act Two, forgiveness (by self). Act Three, absolution (by Barbara Walters). The world was upside-down. Gotti walked, Vanessa talked, and Gorby made nice. Rambo was a wimpo, pit bulls bit the dust, and it was a bad year for the Marines. Even death refused to be decent: Casey told tales from the grave. Warhol checked in but he didn’t check out. Primo Levi refused to survive anymore. So, in his way, did Rudolf Hess. And through it all, AIDS kept stealing away the best and the brightest. So where’s the silver lining? Right here, in our annual harmonic convergence, the 1987 Hall of Fame.

Mother Hale, houseparent. Photographed in Harlem September 1987 by Mary Ellen Mark.