1980s fun

An introduction to the 1980s

Dynamic could be one way to summarize the era of the 1980s. Bank failures, bailouts, bad real estate loans and deregulation, along with Reaganomics and the Iran-Contra Affair, marked it as a time of consistent change and uncertainty. This same decade saw one of the best stock market gains, followed swiftly by a significant crash—all in conjunction with mass consumerism and the birth of the yuppie.

While the economic and political climate evolved, the pop culture of the 1980s had its share of flair. Thanks to the advance of New Wave music, the Rubik’s Cube, Ray-Bans, acid wash jeans, the Swatch watch and big hair bands, the trends of the time are unforgettable. This pop culture explosion also launched iconic trendsetters onto the scene in film, television and music. The celebrity Brat Pack appeared in coming-of-age films like The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire, and the concept of music videos was propelled to new levels with the introduction of MTV in 1981. Famous names and faces—including Molly Ringwald, Sean Penn, Demi Moore, Michael Jackson, Prince, Bon Jovi, Beastie Boys, Motley Crue and Run-D.M.C. (to name just a few)—owe it all to Excessive Eighties dynamics.

Skim the sections below to read some fun facts on Arizona, BCBSAZ, pop culture and the cost of living in the 1980s!

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Arizona fun facts and national milestones

Event after event, and milestone after milestone, dotted the 1980s. From the Summer and Winter Olympics to space shuttle liftoffs and tragedy, the significance of this era had a lasting impact for decades to come. Here’s a look at just a few of the most memorable milestones of the eighties.

  • Ronald Reagan serves two terms, or eight years, as the United States president. Only 69 days after taking office, Reagan is shot by an attempted assassin but makes a full recovery.  
  • In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor is named the first female Supreme Court Justice. Prior to O’Connor’s appointment to the court, she was an elected official and judge in Arizona, serving as the first female Majority Leader in the U.S. as the Republican leader in the Arizona Senate.
  • Astronaut Sally Ride becomes the first American woman to travel into space in 1983.
  • That same year, America West Airlines—founded in Phoenix—takes flight with three planes and 277 employees.
  • Throughout the eighties, high-tech businesses were established across the Phoenix metropolitan area, led by Intel, Honeywell and Allied-Signal.
  • The United States hosts the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York; four years later, the Summer Games are held in Los Angeles.
  • Arizona’s famed Goldwater’s department stores are acquired by the Robinson’s chain.
  • In 1986, a tax-reform act repeals key tax shelters, resulting in a real estate slump. During this same period, the country saw the demise of about one-third of the nation's savings and loan institutions.
  • The 1980s savings and loan scandal brings attention to Valley-based tycoon (and Phoenician Resort founder) Charles Keating, along with Arizona’s John McCain and five other senators. McCain was later cleared by the Senate Ethics committee.
  • The NASA space shuttle Challenger explodes Jan. 28, 1986—just 73 seconds after liftoff. The seven crew members, including Christa McAuliffe, who would have been the first teacher in space, perish in the explosion. 
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1980s Rich Boals

BCBSAZ fun facts

The healthcare industry, just like much of the nation, saw sweeping changes with the introduction and popularity of the PPO plan. During its 50th anniversary year in 1989, BCBSAZ also saw the start of a new headquarters building, while now President and CEO Rich Boals was promoted within the organization. For more details on these milestones, keep reading below.

  • BCBSAZ introduces PPO plans. In addition to HMO coverage, a Preferred Care PPO option and a vision benefits option are added.
  • By the end of the decade (and BCBSAZ’s 50th year), enrollment for the new PPO plans reaches a high of 420,000.
  • In October 1981, BCBSAZ breaks ground on a new office complex on Las Palmaritas Drive in Phoenix, in an effort to consolidate operations to one location. This location is still the company’s central headquarters.
  • In January 1984, an up-and-comer named Rich Boals is promoted to Vice President of Finance from Director of Accounting. 

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1980s Halloween

Pop culture fun facts

The 1980s was a prolific era for movies, music and television, along with fashion and entertainment. The sounds and imagery of the times are undeniably recognizable today and cherished by eighties fanatics around the world. While there are far too many pop culture phenomena to list, below are some that are sure to jog your memory.

  • John Lennon is tragically shot outside his New York City apartment in December 1980.
  • In 1981, IBM introduces the first personal home computer, which retails for $1,565.
  • Pac-Man grabs the attention of arcade gamers, generating $2.5 billion in quarters by the 1990s.
  • After its introduction in 1980, the Rubik’s Cube sells an estimated 350 million puzzles around the world.
  • Jane Fonda releases the first of her 23 workout videos in 1982.
  • E.T. phones home from box offices everywhere, while other popular eighties movies include Sixteen Candles, Valley Girl, Footloose, The Goonies, Back to the Future and Ghostbusters.
  • Madonna’s 1983 “Holiday” is her first entry into the Hot 100, while Michael Jackson is making a name for himself with hits like “Beat it” and “Thriller.”
  • Big hair—and we do mean BIG—reigns supreme, thanks to Bon Jovi, Journey, AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses.
  • Small-screen hits abound: MacGyver, Hill Street Blues, Magnum, P.I., The A-Team, The Cosby Show and Miami Vice (which, for good or bad, revolutionizes men’s fashion). The decade signs off with the first episode of The Simpsons in December 1989.

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1980s Walk of Dimes

1980s: what did it cost?

Arizona sure saw a significant population growth in the 1980s. Prices of the times were fairly stable, as the federal government aimed to stop inflation. The term “yuppie” (young urban professional) was coined, and these decidedly upwardly mobile executives were inspired by moguls like Donald Trump, preppy fashions and luxury goods. Learn more about the cost of goods during the 1980s.

  • First, a look at population growth: Arizona’s population increased nearly 35 percent, from 2,718,215 in 1980 to 3,665,228 in 1990.
  • A first-class stamp cost 15 cents.
  • Gasoline prices ranged between $1.20 and $1.40 a gallon.
  • A gallon of milk cost roughly $2.15.
  • The Hyundai Excel debuted in the U.S. at a price of $4,995.
  • Trendy Swatch watches sold from $19.99 to $37.50.
  • Prime interest rates climbed to 21.5 percent in 1980. 
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