Images 1992 The year wasn't all bad: Americans picked a president and an Elvis stamp

December 31, 1992|By Dan Rodricks | Dan Rodricks,Staff Writer

And so here we are, poised for a new year, and as it hurts to be poised -- especially if you haven't been doing your aerobics -- we won't keep you much longer.

Be thankful if you got through 1992 with your spirits intact. It's been another year of dreadful news around the globe.

From the homicidal streets of America's cities, including Baltimore, to the devastation of Hurricane Andrew to the stark tragedies of Somalia and what used to be Yugoslavia, 1992 was another fertile year for misery.

The U.S. economy was stagnant -- though handgun and Mace sales were up -- and the national mood was sober. Conspicuous consumption was out, coupon-clipping in. The person who declared "I've fallen and I can't get up" the national motto of the l990s was on to something.

But, you know all that. Enough, for now.

It's New Year's Eve, and none but a mope can look back on 1992 without finding reasons to grin. The year we're about to wipe from the Big Chalkboard of Life was busy, boisterous and, as President Bush (or was it Dana Carvey?) said, "weird . . . just weird."

It was a year of decision: America had to choose a new president. America had to choose an Elvis stamp. Youth won, in both cases.

Read it and weep! Cat takes White House! Bill Blows Sax! Barney makes comeback! Wayne and Garth excellent at box office! Chuck and Di in Splitsville! You spell potato, Quayle spells

potatoe! Dream Team Dazzles! Florida boy divorces mom! Bank robbers take getaway car to car wash!

That really happened -- in California. Two men who had robbed at least 16 banks in the San Francisco Bay area were finally tripped up when one guy went to rob the American Savings Bank in Sacramento, while the other went off to get the getaway car washed. The palookas were arrested during buffing.

Wait. There's more.

In February, an intellectually-challenged man called Pocomoke City police to tell them he was robbed during a drug deal. A 4-foot-long python came for Thanksgiving dinner at a South Baltimore rowhouse.

A fellow, determined to make "America's Funniest Home Videos," dressed up as a cave man and tried to sit on Santa's lap at Golden Ring Mall. Duckpin bowlers tried to make theirs the official state sport of Maryland.

A cynical college boy from New Jersey published a "how to" book for cheating on exams; sales were reportedly brisk among Maryland students. Marion Barry, out of prison, was elected to the D.C. City Council. Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden warned county workers about layoffs -- four days before Christmas!

And just when you think you've made a full accounting of 1992, someone taps you on the shoulder to remind you of H. Ross Perot and Admiral Stockdale, Woody and Soon Yi, Murphy Brown and baby Avery, the opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Light Rail, the installation of the Checkout Channel in supermarkets, Madonna, sex, Bob Packwood, sex, Gennifer Flowers, sex.

Last January, Gennifer was all dressed for the part of femme fatale, despite a bad root job on her hair. For $175,000, she told The Star about an alleged 12-year affair with Bill Clinton.

Super Bowl Sunday, late, after the boring game, Bill and Hillary went on national television to diffuse the attack. Hillary made a crack about Tammy Wynette. Tammy and fans didn't like it. It was hard to say which hurt Clinton more -- Gennifer's charges or Hillary's line about the songstress who gave us "Stand By Your Man."

But Slick Willie became the Comeback Kid. He finished second in the New Hampshire Democratic primary and called it a victory. Pat Buchanan did the same on the Republican side, though he finished 16 points behind Bush. The sting of Buchanan's .44-caliber Magnum tongue became legend: "[Bush] grew up in a little town near Amarillo called Kennebunkport. He can tie and rope a lobster with the best of them."

Pit Bull Pat gave it to the vice president, too: "Dan Quayle said I'm not qualified to be president? How would he know?"

Dan took a lot of licks -- again. Championing "family values," he went after a TV character named Murphy Brown, an unwed mother. Quayle's criticism did more for the show's ratings than it did for his.

Then there was the episode with that sixth-grader, William Figueroa, who spelled the word potato incorrectly on Quayle's instruction. But Indiana's most famous former National Guardsman took it with smiles. "Bill Clinton knows less about national security than I do about spelling," he said.

Buchanan went further: "Bill Clinton's foreign policy experience is pretty much confined to having had breakfast once at the International House of Pancakes."

Now, of course, we know more: His foreign policy didn't matter as much as his economic policy and, in addition to IHOP, the president-elect chows down at restaurants everywhere. French fries, pizza, doughnuts, burgers, pirogis, fried chicken -- the next president is a fast-food maven in baggy jogging shorts.

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