Hollywood in 1984

1984 was a very interesting year in human history, with many events of history packed into just 365 days. Indian Prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated. That same year in India, army troops were sent on June 6th into the Sikh rebel-held Golden Temple compound in Amritsar. Typhoon Ike struck the  Philippines leaving over 3,000 dead. 10 million people were facing starvation in a widespread famine that hit Ethiopia because of a major drought, (what we now call megadroughts), the Olympic games were being held in Los Angeles, and the ColecoVision Console came out for $129.99.

Tetris came out that year and became the most addictive video game of all time. Apple came out with the very first Mac computer under Steve Jobs. Brunei Gained Independence from Great Britain, the Winter Olympic Games were held in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, and an IRA Bomb goes off in Grand Hotel Brighton during the Conservative Conference. English pound notes were taken out of circulation. Papa Johns pizza was born, as was MAC cosmetics.  Michael Jackson starred in a Pepsi commercial with a young Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton from The Fresh Prince).

Ronald Reagan was president of the United States. The UK and China agreed Hong Kong would revert to China’s control in 1997 (not going over so well these days).  Blockbuster films came out that would have multiple sequels and last forever in our pop culture, including Ghost-busters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ) which was my favorite movie as a kid),  Gremlins, Terminator, Romancing the Stone, and The Karate Kid all came out that year. Phil Collins was huge, Billy Joel broke out with his piano pounding videos, Tina Turner, David Bowie, UB40 popularized pop reggae music, Bruce Springsteen sang his famous “Born in the USA”, and Billy Ocean was playing on MTV.

1984 was the first year MTV held the annual MTV video music awards ( VMA’s as they are referred to now). Duran Duran released the “Reflex”. I remember as a kid the video for “Hungry Like a Wolf”, it was such a great song and the video was so cool. They didn’t need millions of dollars to make a decent music video back then, just a nice imagination and clean editing. To this day I still love all those songs and blast the radio every time 80’s songs come on. It was such a magical time and music was actually good. Justin Bieber wasn’t even born yet, so the pop music garbage that permeates the airwaves now wasn’t even created back then. Kenny Rogers was singing some country but not roasting any chickens. On TV NIghtrider was kicking ass. Cheers also came out in 1984, as did Magnum, P.I., Dynasty, Entertainment Tonight, Jeapardy!, and the A-Team with MR T.

Such iconic characters, music, TV shows, and movies, all of which have carried on in one form or another to this day. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ comic book was published. In terms of flight, Joe Kittinger became the first person to cross the Atlantic in a hot air balloon. Virgin Atlantic Airways was born, and Beverly Lynn Burns broke a glass ceiling for women pilots when she became the first female pilot in the world to captain a Boeing 747. In Hollywood in 1984 a little chicken shop opened up on Sunset and Normandie called Zankou Chicken. Right away people from all over town came to have it’s chicken, shawerma, and falafel. At the time we didn’t have kabobs, tabouleh, or even Chicken tarns.

The menu was smaller, just like the place itself. With such humble beginnings Zankou was born into the plethora of the culture of the United States. How did my father and grandfather do it? How did they bring the name over and make it so successful when most businesses that transferred over from Lebanon did not do so well. How were they able to not only survive but thrive, making a one store outlet into 4 branches? More specifically, how was my mom able to survive and thrive even after everything we went through in 2003?

I remember in the 80’s, when we were kids, I would play at an arcade machine just beside our store on Sunset and Normandie. My grandfather Vartkes, my dad’s dad, loved us very much. I don’t think he had a close relationship at all with my father, so whatever was lacking there for whatever reason for so many years, he used me and my brothers to kind of make up for I guess. He would give me rolls of quarters and I would play this game by a Japanese manufacturer called Taito called “Elevator Action”. I would play that game for hours and easily burn through $20 in quarters in under an hour.  It was in a cheesy donut shop right next to us, adjacent to our store, in a spot that’s now being used by a liquor store on Sunset and Normandie.

In those days, my grandfather would physically chase out vagrants and drunkards that would come in and out from Sunset Boulevard. Many years later it’s now filled with hipsters and cleaned up, but not very much. Even in new Hollywood we have the $300 million hotels and apartment buildings but we also still have a huge homeless problem in the area. Not that much has changed.

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