The 1980s Lifestyles and Social Trends: Headline Makers

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The 1980s Lifestyles and Social Trends: Headline Makers

Christie Brinkley
Terry Cole-Whittaker
Bill Cosby
Jerry Falwell
Shelby Steele
Martha Stewart
Ted Turner
Vanessa Williams

Christie Brinkley (1953–) Supermodel Christie Brinkley embodied not only the all-American look of the 1980s but also the fantasy life of many women in the decade. According to many, Brinkley had it all: a successful career, a marriage to pop musician Billy Joel, and a healthy child. By the end of the decade, Brinkley's wide smile and blue eyes had appeared on more than two hundred magazine covers. Her classic good looks appealed to many men while her successful ability to juggle family and career appealed to many women across the country.

Terry Cole-Whittaker (1939–) Terry Cole-Whittaker was a popular minister in the early 1980s. Based in San Diego, "Reverend Terry," as she was known to her followers, broadcast her message each Sunday on a syndicated television program that reached millions. Stressing that "You can have it all—now!," she encouraged her listeners week after week to seek prosperity, power, and abundance. Blending New Age spirituality, science of mind, and pop and motivational psychology, Cole-Whittaker provided her followers with newsletters and instructional tapes. In 1985, for reasons not entirely clear, she ended her ministry.

Bill Cosby (1937–) Actor and comedian Bill Cosby became one of the most popular television personalities of the 1980s with the success of The Cosby Show. The situation comedy portrayed an intelligent, affluent, nonstereotypical African American family as no television show had done before. For Cosby, the show was a response to the increasingly violent shows television offered. Although The Cosby Show received some criticism for ignoring issues facing the African American community, the show earned some of the highest ratings on television from its debut in the 1984 season.

Jerry Falwell (1933–) Jerry Falwell was largely responsible for the union of fundamentalist religion and national politics in the 1980s. A fundamentalist preacher, Falwell was the founder and spokesman for the conservative religious organization known as the Moral Majority. With chapters in all fifty states, the Moral Majority tried to increase the presence of religion in all aspects of American life, cultural as well as political. The success of the organization, however, was limited, as the majority of Americans decided, as voters, that they did not want matters of public policy to be decided by religious leaders.

Shelby Steele (1946–) Shelby Steele, a professor of English at San Jose State University in California, became an outspoken opponent of racial preferences and affirmative action in the late 1980s. In magazine articles and in many interviews, Steele downplayed the significance of racism. He insisted that African Americans needed to return to a sense of self-reliance promoted by the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Black leaders and liberals often dismissed his views, implying he had sold out to those who did not have the best interest of blacks at heart.

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Martha Stewart (1941–) Martha Stewart emerged during the 1980s as America's foremost authority on entertaining and decorating, catering to the country's growing taste for the good life. In her books and television appearances, Stewart created impossibly perfect desserts and decorations, often from everyday materials. She made it seem as though anyone could do the same, and many believed her. By the mid-1980s, her company was making $1 million a year. In 1987, Stewart entered into a business relationship with K-Mart, which began marketing her products such as linens and dishes.

Ted Turner (1938–) Ted Turner became one of the pioneers of the blossoming cable-television industry in the 1980s. At the end of the previous decade, Turner's innovative superstation WTBS was one of the best-known cable networks in America, reaching three million viewers in addition to cable subscribers in six southern states. In June 1980, he launched Cable News Network (CNN), a twenty-four-hour, all-news channel. It soon transformed broadcast journalism. By 1989, four networks of the Turner Broadcasting System—WTBS, CNN, CNN Headline News, TNT—were in millions of homes in the United States and abroad. Turner had become a billionaire.

Vanessa Williams (1963–) Vanessa Williams made headlines in the 1980s for two "firsts" in American history: She was the first African American to be crowned Miss America and the first Miss America to resign her crown. Miss America officials forced Williams to resign the crown two months before her year-long reign ended in 1984 because of the publication in a men's magazine of nude photographs taken of Williams when she was nineteen. The public sympathized with Williams, and she emerged in the late 1980s as a successful pop singer and actress in television shows and theater productions.

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The 1980s Lifestyles and Social Trends: Headline Makers

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The 1980s Lifestyles and Social Trends: Headline Makers