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The '80s: Innovation, Tragedies, Memories

This first aired Nov. 13, 2008

"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good."

To some, that line from Michael Douglas' character in "Wall Street" typified the 1980s.

To others, the '80s were, as Early Show news anchor Russ Mitchell put it Thursday in the latest installment of the series "Five Days, Five Decades," the "Ronald Reagan era."

The decade certainly had its share of society-changing innovation, as the likes of home computers and MTV emerged, and tragedy, such as the start of the spread of AIDS, the assassination of John Lennon, and the Challenger disaster.

The '80s had George H. W. Bush uttering his famous, "Read my lips -- no new taxes" and Lloyd Bentsen with his "you're no Jack Kennedy" debate put-down of Dan Quayle, not to mention Geraldine Ferraro on a national ticket, and Michael Dukakis wearing the helmet ion the tank, which Mitchell says he knew was a mistake as soon as he saw it.

Madonna and Michel Jackson were among the dominant names on the music scene. Shoulder pads and leg warmers became fashionable.

The '80s, says Early Show weather anchor and features reporter Dave Price, were a time of "bad music, bad hair, bad styles."

Co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez says she remembers "the huge outpouring of grief" after the John Lennon assassination.

"I remember," says co-anchor Harry Smith, "as a young newsman, when the AIDS crisis, when it became clear it was an epidemic. And I remember doing stories and talking to young men who were dying and the sort of feeling of helplessness about it. It was devastating."

"I remember," says co-anchor Julie Chen, the morning of the Challenger disaster "and how the people on the ground didn't know like we did watching on television from home that something had gone terribly wrong."

"I remember when John Hinckley tried to assassinate President Reagan," Rodriguez says. "I remember the image so vividly because it was captured camera."

Tylenol tampering.

Nancy Reagan's "Just say no to drugs" campaign.

Manual Noriega. Oliver North. Iran-Contra.

"Tiananmen Square in 1989," reflected Smith, "and the idea that these kids could actually fight for what they felt was, you know, their right. Very powerful stuff."

"I loved "Dallas," says Chen. "Everyone had their theory who shot J.R."

"MTV went on the air in the '80s," Price points out, "and then, as this thing really took off, bands didn't release a record unless they did a video, because that was the new way."

"Michael Jackson in the '80S," Mitchell noted. "1982, 'Thriller,' which I think today is still the biggest-selling album of all time. When I think of the '80s, I think culturally of things like that. Yeah, I have good memories of the '80s."

Another lasting memory? To Chen -- Rubik's cube!

And who can forget -- Cabbage Patch Kids?!

The Early Show took detailed looks back at the fashions of the day, the DeLorean luxury sports car, and '80s TV commercials. We at length with "Dynasty" star Joan Collins (who also took a turn doing the weather!), had a workout session with Richard Simmons, and were treated to performances of noteworthy hits of the day: "Two of Hearts," Bertie Higgins "Key Largo," and Katrina, formerly of Katrina and the Waves "Walkin' On Sunshine."

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