BootLeg Betty

31 Things That Defined the Summer of 1989

31 Things That Defined the Summer of 1989
UPDATED 07/13/2014


Despite what Public Enemy may have said, 1989 wasn’t just “another summer”. Though history is rarely that neat, the final summer of the ’80s saw the slow fade of many of the decade’s icons, as well as the launch of some of the ’90s’ most enduring pop-culture institutions.

In terms of cultural legacy, the summer of ’89 might not be able to compete with its predecessor of two decades prior – Woodstock and Bryan Adams will do that – but 25 years later, we’re still feeling its impact.

Whether you remember it or not, relive the summer of acid wash, hair-metal and Do the Right Thing below.

1. The film of the summer was the original Tim Burton Batman, featuring Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader and Jack Nicholson’s scenery-chewing turn as the Joker. The film, which came out June 23, was the highest-grossing movie of 1989, and with its army of toys and tie-ins, ushered in our current era of comic-book blockbusters.

2. Family classic Honey, I Shrunk the Kids came out the same day, and became the fifth-highest-grossing movie of the year. We’d never look at our backyards the same way again.

3. Rick Moranis pulled a Pharrell in 1989, following up Honey with a supporting turn in Ron Howard’s Parenthood, one of the only films in history to be turned into two NBC dramedies.

4. But while you’d never confuse Parenthood with a first-date movie, another summer film provided the beginning to one of the most notable marriages of our time: Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, released June 30, was the entertainment for Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date.

5. If the complex nature of racial tensions in America wasn’t your thing, When Harry Met Sally…, a more traditional romance, came out July 14. Of course, that movie contained its own awkward scenes.

6. A different kind of passion was on display in Dead Poets Society, released June 2 – a passion for learning.

7. At the box office, then as now, sequels reigned supreme. Some, like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, were quite good. Others, like Lethal Weapon 2, were OK. A few, like Ghostbusters II were positively dreadful. But, like it or not, all three made absolutely insane amounts of money.

To the kids of 1989, the summer belonged to five guys from Boston, the totally-dreamy New Kids on the Block, who specialized in hangin’ tough.

8. Deciding the song of the summer, though, was still in the hands of the grown-ups. The winner turned out to be Richard Marx’s smooth block of adult-contemporary sheen, “Right Here Waiting,” which hit no. 1 on the Hot 100 for three weeks in August.

9. Other Hot 100 chart-toppers include “Forever Your Girl” by Paula Abdul, which peaked for two weeks in May…

10. …As well as Bette Midler’s “Wind Between My Wings,” which rode the long tail of Beaches-mania to the top spot in June.

11. Hair-metal was at its peak, with Mötley Crüe’s Dr. Feelgood, released August 28, serving as singer Vince Neil’s swan song with the group.

12. But the genre that would own the next decade was already making its presence felt. On July 25, the Beastie Boys dropped Paul’s Boutique, one of the most enduring hip-hop albums of the ’80s.

13. On the touring front, George Michael finally wrapped up his year-plus Faith Tour with a concert in Barcelona on July 6, 1989.

14. Meanwhile, the Rolling Stones kicked off their Steel Wheels Tour August 3. It went on to become the third-highest-grossing tour of the decade.

15. The May ’89 finale season was the end of an era, as a quartet of classic ’80s television shows ended their runs. Dynasty was the first to relinquish its spot on the broadcast throne, airing its final episode on May 10.

16. May 14 saw the finales of both Moonlighting and Family Ties.

17. And Miami Vice rolled up its sleeves for good on May 21.

18. But while they were wrapping up, The Seinfeld Chronicles premiered as a summer burn-off show July 5, 1989. It soon got a new name, made its way to the fall schedule, yadda yadda yadda, you’ve probably heard of it.

19. Saturday mornings would be changed forever when Good Morning, Miss Bliss was reborn as Saved by the Bell on August 20. The rebooted series kicked off with a dance-themed episode that eerily foretold Mario Lopez’s stint on Dancing with the Stars.

20. At the end of the summer, comedian Andrew Dice Clay ignited yet another controversial segment at the MTV VMAs, with a set of nursery rhymes so filthy they earned the Brooklyn comedian a lifetime ban from the cable network.

21. When it came to fashion, denim was in. Preferably baggy and definitely acid-washed.

22. McDonald’s was in the middle of another one of its ill-fated attempts at producing a successful fast-food pizza.

23. Gamers had a serious choice to make when Sega introduced the Genesis on August 24. Was it worth shelling out for a whole new console?

24. Or maybe go smaller with Nintendo’s Game Boy, released July 31?

Current Events
25. The summer kicked off with the opening of Disney World’s MGM Studios Theme Park, complete with memorable attractions like the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and The Great Movie Ride. (The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, arguably the park’s best ride, didn’t open until 1994.)

26. The sports landscape saw two long careers come to a close in two very different ways. In basketball, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retired after two decades in the NBA. The six-time champion ended his run as the league’s all-time scoring leader.

27. In baseball, meanwhile, Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose was banned from baseball for life on August 24, amid allegations that he bet on games.

28. The world also said goodbye to Saturday Night Live legend Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer May 20.

29. Months later, another actress, just entering her career, had her life cut short. Rebecca Schaeffer was only 21 when she was murdered by an obsessed fan. In response, Congress passed new privacy laws that prevented government agencies from giving out a person’s address without their consent.

30. In happier news, Prince William turned seven on June 21, an occasion he celebrated by riding a horse.

31. But all these headlines paled in comparison to the news coming from China, as the Communist government brutally cracked down on protesters demonstrating in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

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