IT TAKES a very special year to help you forget a very special year. Therefore, it won't take diddly to help anyone forget 1978.
"Ninetten seventy what?"
See, you're forgetting it already.
Every year has its cliches, but 1978 was a cliche. It was a test-tube clone of an instant replay live-on-tape. It borrowed a little from everybody else and contributed nothing of its own but "nanno, nanno" and "Push-push, in the bush."
What can you say about a year in which "Grease" was "the word"?
It was a good year for giving up on everything.
People spoke of "meaningful relationships" with "very special people." They cloned the word "parenting" to mean being a parent, but haven't yet come to talk of infanting, childing or just kidding. There was an insufferable excess of Perriering, or drinking of Perrier, and white wining, or drinking of white wine. We complained about property tax, asked strangers to put out their cigarettes no matter how much they seemed to be enjoying them, watched synthetic Elvises and artificial Beatleses, and listened passively to the beep-beep-a-deep of the computerized checkout machines in the supermarket.
The computerized checkout machines never worked right, of course. Nothing worked in 1978.
Every year deserves its own cliches, it's true, but mass media and their capability-their vengeance-for creating overnight sensations and quickie trends have also given us the curse of the instant cliche. Cliches-that's what it's all about.
"What it's all about is what cliches are all about.
And so it seemed you couldn't turn around in 1978 without running into:
"Opium," valium, Studio 54, cocaine, buzzwords, tax revolt, Howard Jarvis, Richard Dreyfuss, Barry Manilow, Debby Boone, Or midnight screenings of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
1978 was Rodeo Drive, life in the fast lane, ting your head straight. "If it feels good, do it," or better still, "go for it" (it was a big year for "it") even if it means being "bummed out," "zonked out," "smoothed out," "mellowed out" or good old "freaked out."
Youth gangs in the Bronx were big. Arson in the Bronx was big. Street crime in the Bronx was big. Cliches in the Bronx were very, very big. TV documentary producers were tripping over each other to get in there.
Women took blue-collar lovers. Men discovered The Older Woman. There was no wisdom like Street Wisdom and there was much much talk of "caring" especially from gigantic corporations who mysteriously cared more about us than they did about profits. That's what they said, anyway.
Big favor of 1978: "I have something I want to share with you."
To sue or not to sue-that was the question. The answer was usually, to sue. Doctors sued patients. Marlon Brando sued Warner Bros Women sued men they'd been living with. Men sued women they'd been living with. And everybody and his brother sued Alex Haley.
Big excuse of 1978: "I've had a lot on my mind lately."
Prices inflated, costs escalated, women on "t&a" TV shows "jiggled." College kids became nostalgic for the boredom of the past, finding it preferable to the boredom of the present, and paid endless repeated visit to the 50s and 60s at Toga Parties inspired by "National Lampoon's Animal House." People sought death without guilt, sex without guilt, and even guilt without guilt. They played racquetball till their sweat bands were drippy and they trampled hill and dale in mad orgies of mob jogging.
And we all sat around reading books about running and waiting for "Apocalypse Now."
Apocalypse? Not yet.
Maybe next year.
1978 was such a very special year that people actually became lonely for 1968. The tenth anniversary of 1968 was celebrated with television programs, magazine articles and solemn newspaper columns. Perhaps we longed for the reassuring roar of the riot squad-a sign that something is actually happening in the land. In 1979 there will no doubt be anniversary celebrations commemorating that wonderful year 1929-imagine, the 50th anniversary of the stockmarket crash! Lube up your tear ducts and prepare to wax wistful.
There will be other great cliches of "79, of course. In Atlanta, videodiscs are already selling like hot cakes-in fact, they even look a little like hot cakes-and in California, they're cranking out "Pardon Patty" bumper stickers by the gross.
When did 1978 reach rock bottom? It was on April 3, when Time, a weekly "newsmagazine," featured as its cover story the mopey spectre of the year, John Travolts himself, in a story headlined "Travolta Fever," something for which even the government could,'t invent a vaccine, At the Eye of this saturnine hurricane, Time put it all together in a few very special and very unique paragraphs that unwittingly captue the poor excuse for angst that is 1978.
Remember, somebody got paid for writing this, and a national magazine that passes itself off as serious printed it as its cover story:
"(Check it out! Man walks down that street so fine. Strides easy. Long, looking right. Left then. Then ahead, then left . . . snap! . . . again, follows that tlittle sister in the tight pants a ways, then back on the beam. Arms arccould be some old trainman, swinging in imaginary lantern in the hight. Smiling. "Stepping so smart. Rolls, almost. Swings his butt like he's shifting gears in a swivel chair, Weight stays, sways, in his hips, Shoulders, straight, shift with the strut. High and light.
"Street's all his, past doubt. And more, if he wants. Could be he might step off that concrete. Just start flying away.
"It's all there, in the walk that John Travolta takes through the opening credits of 'Saturday Night Fever' . . . "
Had enough? Here's the bottom line. There's only one more year of the '70s left. Oh, but herehs still another bottom line: The means there's only on more chance for the decade to get worse.
And now you have come to they very bottom line itself.
Ten movies you can't quite remember whether you saw or not:
"Grey Lady Down."
"The Big Fix"
"Comes a Horseman"
"Slow Dancing in the Big City"
Here are the 10 worst TV shows of 1978, and that's saying something:
"The $1.98 Beauty Pageant"
"The Cheap Show"
"Sneak Previews" (PBS)
"The General Electric All-Star 100th Anniversary Special" (ABC)
"Hollywood's Diamond Jubilee" (CBS)
"America Alive!" (NBC)
"American Girls" (CBS)
"(Ruby and Oswald" (CBS)
"Gift of the Magi" with Debby Boone (ABC)
Books we somehow never finished reading:
"The Tao of Physics," by Fritijof Capra
"Chesapeake," by James A. Michener
"Jackie Oh!" by Kitty Kelly
"The Gulag Archipelago: II" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
"War and Remembrance" by Herman Wouk
"Perjury" by Allen Weinstein
"The Uses of Power" by H.R. Haldeman
"RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon" by Richard M, Nixon
"Running and Being" by Dr. George Sheehan
"The Complete Book of Running" by James Fixx
"The Complete Runner" by the editors of runner's World Magazine
Albums we somehow never finished listening to:
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" soundtrack
"Devo-Are We Not Men?" by Devo
"Cruisin' "by Bob Dylan
"Never Mind the Bollocks-Here's the Sex Pistols" by the Sex Pistols
"Barry Manilow's Greatest hits" by Barry Manilow
"I Want to Live" by John Denver
"If You Want Blood" at AC-DC
"Cheryl Ladd" by Cheryl Ladd and
"Debby Boone" by Debby Boone CAPTION: A very special year-clockwise, from top left: Picture 1, John Travolta and "Saturday Night Fever"; Picture 2, Barry Manilow; Picture 3, Richard Dreyfuss; Picture 4, and Debby Boone; Illustration 1, no-smoking; Picture 5, Howard Jarvis; Illustration 2, jogging; Illustration 3, "Grease," the word, and kids in togas. Over-the-hill in 1978: Picture 6, Washington Redskins; Picture 7, Rudolf Nureyev; Picture 8, Frank Zappa; Picture 9, Liza Minnelli; Picture 10, Peter Frampton; Picture 11, and Debby Boone;
And CBS, Goldie Hawn, Jerry Brown, Playboy, killer bees, Robert Stigwood, Allan Carr, Henry Winkler, Beverly Sills, Ronald McDonald, Jim Bellows, Rupert Murdoch, Tatum O'Neal, Ryan O'Neal, Tip O'neil, Joe Namath, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers . . . ; Not as much fun as they used to be: Picture 12, Farrah Fawcett-Majors; Picture 13, Eldridge Cleaver; Picture 14, Mason Reese; Picture 15, Jerry Lewis; Picture 16, Roone Arledge; Picture 17, Debby Boone; And Ford Pintos, Kool-Aid, Preparation-H, Mark Lane, Steve Allen, San Francisco, Bella Abzug, John Ehrlichman, The wallendas, Nicaragua, and Sex Not fun at all: Picture 18, Jimmy Carter, Amy Carter, Miss Lillian Carter, Billy Carter, Karl Malden . . . ; Picture 19, and Debby Boone; It's such a cliche to try and spot next year's movers and shakers. Who cares? We bololy go where angels fear to tread. Here are our predictions for NEXT YEAR'S HAS-BEENS: Picture 20, Bruce Jenner; Picture 21, Gerald Ford; Illustration; Taiwan; Picture 22, Benji; 1, "Battlestar Galactica"; Picture 23, and Debby Boone; And Billy Joel, Geraldo Rivera, Us magazine, Esquire, the Ear, "Starsky and Hutch," Jeanne Mandel, Meat Loaf, Stephen Bishop, Elvis Costello, Dolly Parton, Dolly Parton, Bruce Springsteen, Quinn Cummings, Ardeshir Zahedi, The Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, King Ut, John Travolta, Joey Travolta . . . ; More of NEXT YEAR'S HAS-BEENS: Picture 24, Chevy Chase; Picture 25, Dennis Kucinich