(Pictured: gymnast Mary Lou Retton at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.)
August 3, 1984, was a Friday. The lead story on all three network newscasts tonight is about the economy. Despite rising unemployment numbers, the stock market rose again today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 31.47 to close at 1166.08. The S&P 500 has gained more than eight percent in the last three trading days. Bert Lance, who resigned from his position in the Carter Administration under a cloud of scandal and was later acquitted of bank fraud, has stepped down as an advisor to Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign. Mondale had tried to name Lance chairman of the Democratic National Committee before the party’s convention last month; that nomination was withdrawn after complaints from fellow Democrats.
The Summer Olympics continue in Los Angeles. Scoring a perfect 10 on her vault, Mary Lou Retton wins gold in women’s all-around gymnastics, one of six golds Team USA wins on this day. Swimmer Tracy Caulkins wins two, an individual gold in the 200 meter individual medley and a team gold in the 4-by-100 medley relay. Future Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte is born. In the majors, the Detroit Tigers are cruising in the American League East despite dropping a 9-6 decision to Kansas City; they lead the Toronto Blue Jays by 10-and-a-half games. The American League West is much tighter. The Minnesota Twins and California Angels opened a critical four-game series last night. The Angels took over first place by a half-game after a 14-2 laugher, but tonight the Twins regain the lead with a 4-2 win. The National League East is equally tight; the New York Mets pull to within a half-game of the Chicago Cubs with a 4-1 win over Pittsburgh while the Cubs lose 6-5 to Montreal. In the NL West, the San Diego Padres maintain a seven-and-a-half game lead over Atlanta despite losing to Nolan Ryan and the Houston Astros 6-2.
ABC devotes primetime to the Summer Olympics and nearly triples the ratings of its competitors. CBS counterprograms with its usual Friday-night lineup of The Dukes of Hazzard, Dallas, and Falcon Crest. NBC presents a repeat episode of the martial-arts adventure The Master starring Lee Van Cleef and Timothy Van Patten, as well as the first network broadcast of The Private Eyes, a 1980 theatrical movie starring Tim Conway and Don Knotts as Scotland Yard sleuths solving a mystery in a spooky mansion. In theaters, moviegoers can choose from last week’s top-grossing picture, Purple Rain, along with Ghostbusters, Gremlins, the re-release of Disney’s The Jungle Book, The Karate Kid, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. New releases this weekend include Grandview U.S.A., The Philadelphia Experiment, and Joy of Sex, based (very loosely) on the how-to book by Dr. Alex Comfort.
Metallica plays New York City. Stevie Ray Vaughan plays Tampa; he’ll move on to Jacksonville tomorrow night and Columbia, South Carolina, on Sunday. Elvis Costello plays Sunrise, Florida, and the Pretenders play New Haven, Connecticut. The Beach Boys play the Great America theme park in Santa Clara, California, performing 22 songs in less than an hour. On the American Top 40 show to be broadcast around the country this weekend, “When Doves Cry” by Prince and “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. hold at #1 and #2. Also in the Top Five: “State of Shock” by the Jacksons, “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen, and “What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Tina Turner. Lionel Richie’s “Stuck on You” makes the biggest move of the week, up seven spots to #15. Richie’s “Hello” is one of two Long Distance Dedications on the show, along with “Looks Like We Made It” by Barry Manilow. There are four new songs among the 40 this week: “All of You” by Julio Iglesias and Diana Ross, Jermaine Jackson’s “Dynamite,” “Leave a Tender Moment Alone” by Billy Joel, and Night Ranger’s “When You Close Your Eyes.”
Perspective From the Present: The August 1984 gains in the stock market are widely recognized now as the start of a bull market that wouldn’t end until the Black Monday crash of October 1987. Three months before the presidential election, no one seriously believed that Walter Mondale would oust Ronald Reagan from office, and unforced errors like the continued promotion of the disgraced Bert Lance didn’t help his chances. The Soviet boycott of the Summer Olympics, which was a major story all summer, was forgotten in the blitz of American gold medals, and the games became a two-week patriotic celebration. From our one-bedroom basement apartment in small-town Illinois, we cheered Mary Lou Retton and the other Olympians, and we spent the weekend watching them.