1986 Fun Facts, Trivia and History

1986 Fun Facts, Trivia and History

Quick Facts from 1986:

  • World Changing Event: Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Explosion killed more than 7,000 people in the USSR.
  • The Top Song was That’s What Friends Are For by Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder
  • The Movies to Watch include Top Gun, Pretty in Pink, Little Shop of Horrors, Crocodile Dundee, Stand By Me and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • The Most Famous Person in America was probably Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee)
  • Notable books include: Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and It by Stephen King, and Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor
  • Price of a Cabbage Patch Kid in 1986: $29.97
    AA Batteries, four pack: $3.38
  • The Funny Guy was Robin Williams
  • 12 members of a Florida jury got stuck in the courthouse (Otis) elevator for 20 minutes. The jurors were hearing a case against the Otis elevator company. Otis lost, paying $135,000.
  • The Disaster: On January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the death of all seven members of the crew. Because teacher Christa McAuliffe was on the crew, millions of young students watched the accident happen.

Top Ten Baby Names of 1986:

Jessica, Ashley, Amanda, Jennifer, Sarah, Michael, Chris, Topher, Matthew, Joshua, David

Fashion Icons and Sex Symbols:

Christie Brinkley, Elle Macpherson

Leading Men and Hollywood Hunks:

Tom Cruise, Michael Hutchence, Mickey Rourke, Paul Newman

“The Quotes”

“With heart, faith, and steel. In the end, there can only be one.”
– Sean Connery, in Highlander

“I feel the need… the need for speed!”
– Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards in Top Gun

“Pork. The other white meat.”
– National Pork Board

“Yeah… That’s The Ticket.”
– Jon Lovitz as Tommy Flanagan (‘Fla-Nay-Gan’)

“I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.”
– Vick’s commercial

Time Magazine’s Man of the Year:

Corazon Aquino

Miss America:

Susan Akin (Meridian, MS)

Miss USA:

Christy Fichtner (Texas)

The Little Recognized Invention:

Jim Moylan invented the gas tank indicator arrow (the little triangle on your gas gauge indicating which side your gas tank is on) in 1986 and was introduced in select Ford models in 1989. He chose not to patent it, and other manufacturers soon copied his idea in their vehicles.

The Hero:

Neerja Bhanot (September  7, 1963September 5, 1986) was the Senior Flight attendant on the infamous Pan Am Flight 73 on September 5, 1986. The plane was scheduled to fly from Mumbai to the United States. Before takeoff, four hijackers boarded the plane at Karachi airport in Pakistan and held 380 passengers and 13 crew members hostage at gunpoint during a 17-hour standoff. When the hijackers demanded the passports of the Americans on board to take those passengers as collateral for a trade, Bhanot hid the passports under seat cushions, flushed them down the toilet, and threw them down the trash shoot.

The hijackers were unable to distinguish the American passengers from non-American passengers. The situation escalated as the hijackers began shooting and detonating explosives. Bhanot deployed the emergency escape doors and began frantically guiding passengers out of the plane. One of the last to remain, a hijacker grabbed her by her ponytail and shot her point-blank while she was shielding three American children from gunfire. She died two days before her 22nd birthday. She saved the majority of the passengers and the flight crew.

The Tragedies:

Space Shuttle Challenger blew up 73 seconds after take-off, killing all seven crew members. Thousands of school-age children watched the flight live because teacher Christa McAuliffe was a crew member.

During one of the strangest natural disasters in history, Lake Nyos suffocated over 1,700 people in one night with CO2.

The Scandals:

The term “Going postal” originated from a  mass shooting committed by a US Postal Service employee, Patrick Sherrill, in an act of workplace rage. Fourteen people were killed in the rampage.

Iran-Contra: Several members of the Reagan Administration helped sell arms to Iran, a known enemy of the United States, and used the proceeds to fund the Contras, an anti-communist guerrilla organization in Nicaragua.

The USSR’s Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant reactor # 4 had a mishap, giving radiation poisoning to an estimated 500,000 to 6,000,000 people. The remaining three reactors operated until 1991, 1996 and 2000 respectively. The USSR created and distributed a forged letter that “exposed” the US government’s “conspiracy” to overstate the seriousness of Chernobyl meltdown.

Cleveland, Ohio’s Balloonfest released 1.5 million balloons in the air to break a Guinness World Record. Guinness never recognized the event.

Tonight Show host Johnny Carson’s good friend and occasional guest Tonight Show host, Joan Rivers, started a late-night talk show on FOX. He never spoke to her again.

Bobby Ewing came out of the shower alive. The prior season of Dallas had been a dream.

12 members of a Florida jury got stuck in the courthouse elevator for 20 minutes. The jurors were hearing a case against the Otis elevator company.

Pop Culture Facts & History:

Andy Warhol’s final work before his death was the cover of Aretha Franklin’s 1986 album Aretha.

‘The Wave’ was first brought to worldwide attention during the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.

Initially released in 1979 and worldwide in 1986, the word “Walkman” entered the Oxford English Dictionary.

Teacher Pleasant Rowland created the first ‘American Girl’ dolls. Mattel bought the product line in 1998.

Burning Man started in the Black Rock Desert of northwest Nevada in 1986 with 35 attendees and free admission.

The phrase “Be afraid. Be very afraid” was first spoken (in Pop Culture) by Geena Davis in the 1986 film The Fly.

James Cameron got the approval to make Aliens by writing the word ‘Alien’ on a board, then adding an ‘s’ and turning it into a dollar sign.

Pixar started as a computer division of Lucasfilm in 1979. Then, George Lucas sold the company to Steve Jobs and renamed it “Pixar” in 1986. Both Lucasfilm and Pixar are the sister companies and part of The Walt Disney Company.

Hosted by Geraldo Rivera, The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults was the most-watched live television special of 1986, with an audience of 30 million. The vault was hidden under the Lexington Hotel in Chicago, where the Prohibition-era gangster Capone ran his criminal operations until his arrest in 1931.

A Food Packing Plant owner in California came up with the baby carrot as a way of not wasting misshapen carrots.
They became an instant hit.

Camcorders started to become a regular household item.

While working as a marine biology teacher in 1986, Stephen Hillenburg was asked to create an educational comic about anthropomorphized sea life. He later adapted the characters within it, such as “Bob the Sponge,” into one of the most popular and longest-running children’s series of all time. #spongebob

Aerosmith and Run DMC mixed rock and hip hop with Walk This Way.

Two unknown men attacked CBS broadcaster Dan Rather in 1986 in New York while repeating, “Kenneth, what is the frequency?” R.E.M. turned the phrase into the song What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? and it was the first song to debut at number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart.

Peter Gabriel’s stop-motion music video for Sledgehammer raised the bar for video production.

Harrods, a small restaurant in the town of Otorohanga, New Zealand, was threatened with a lawsuit by the famous department store of the same name. In response, the town changed its name to Harrodsville and renamed all its businesses ‘Harrods.’

Orson Welles gave his voice in the 1986 animated adaptation of The Transformers. This was his last role before his death.

Mets fan Mike Sergio parachuted onto the Shea Stadium field during the 1986 World Series. Although jailed for 21 days and given 500 hours of community service,  he refused to reveal the pilot’s name. #notarat

In 1986, Danny Heep became the first player in a World Series to be a designated hitter (DH) with the initials “D.H.”

Top Gun, starring Tom Cruise, increased Navy recruitment by 500%.

Five-year-old Levan Merritt fell into the gorilla enclosure and lost consciousness. Jambo, a gorilla,  stood guard over the boy, even petting him, while the boy was unconscious, placing himself between the boy and other gorillas in what ethologists analyze as a protective gesture.

The cost of a Superbowl ad in 1986: $550,000.

American History:

During the Civil War, Scott County of Tennessee broke away from the rest of the state to join the Union and technically did not rejoin the state until 1986.

King County, the largest county in Washington state, was named after slave owner (and former US Vice President) William Rufus King. In 1986, the county council voted to retroactively change the namesake without changing names – King County is now officially named in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Disappointment:

Finding out that last year’s Dallas TV show’s entire season was just Bobby Ewing’s (Patrick Duffy) dream

The Habits:

Participating with ‘Hands Across America’ on Sunday, May 25, 1986. Over six million people participated and at 3:00 EST, radio stations across America played the song Hands Across America.

1st Appearances & 1986’s Most Popular Christmas Gifts, Toys and Presents:

Real Ghostbusters action figures, My Pet Monster, Panini Football stickers, Outburst, Balderdash

Popular and Best-selling Books From 1986:

A Perfect Spy by John le Carre
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson
The Bourne Supremacy by Robert Ludlum
Hollywood Husbands by Jackie Collins
I’ll Take Manhattan by Judith Krantz
It by Stephen King
Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor
Last of the Breed by Louis L’Amour
Lie Down with Lions by Ken Follett
The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy
Wanderlust by Danielle Steel
Whirlwind by James Clavell

Broadway Show:

Me and My Girl (Musical) Opened on August 10, 1986, and closed on December 31, 1989

East End Show:

The Phantom of the Opera (Musical) Opened on October 9, 1986

Best Film Oscar Winner:

Out of Africa (presented in 1986)

The Big Movies: (according to boxofficemojo)

1. Top Gun
2. Crocodile Dundee
3. Platoon
4. The Karate Kid Part II
5. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
6. Back To School
7. Aliens
8. The Golden Child
9. Ruthless People
10. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

1986 Most Popular TV Shows:

1. The Cosby Show (NBC)
2. Family Ties (NBC)
3. Cheers (NBC)
4. Murder She Wrote (NBC)
5. The Golden Girls (NBC)
6. 60 Minutes (CBS)
7. Night Court (NBC)
8. Growing Pains (ABC)
9. Moonlighting (ABC)
10. Who’s the Boss? ( ABC)

1986 Billboard Number One Songs

December 21, 1985January 17, 1986:
Say You, Say Me – Lionel Richie

January 18February 14:
That’s What Friends Are For – Dionne Warwick featuring Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder

February 15February 28:
How Will I Know – Whitney Houston

March 1March 14:
Kyrie – Mr. Mister

March 15March 21:
Sara – Starship

March 22 – March 28:
These Dreams – Heart

March 29April 18:
Rock Me Amadeus – Falco

April 19May 2:
Kiss – Prince

May 3May 9:
Addicted to Love – Robert Palmer

May 10May 16:
West End Girls – Pet Shop Boys

May 17 – June 6:
Greatest Love of All – Whitney Houston

June 7June 13:
Live to TellMadonna

June 14July 4:
On My Own – Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald

July 5July 11:
There’ll Be Sad Songs (to Make You Cry) – Billy Ocean

July 12July 18:
Holding Back the Years – Simply Red

July 19July 25:
Invisible Touch – Genesis

July 26August 1:
Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel

August 2August 15:
The Glory of Love – Peter Cetera

August 16August 29:
Papa Don’t Preach – Madonna

August 30 – September 5:
Higher Love – Steve Winwood

September 6September 12:
Venus – Bananarama

September 13September 19:
Take My Breath Away – Berlin

September 20October 10:
Stuck with You – Huey Lewis & the News

October 11October 24:
When I Think of You – Janet Jackson

October 25November 7:
True Colors – Cyndi Lauper

November 8November 21:
Amanda – Boston

November 22November 28:
Human – Human League

November 29December 5:
You Give Love a Bad Name – Bon Jovi

December 6December 12:
The Next Time I Fall – Peter Cetera featuring Amy Grant

December 13December 19:
The Way It Is – Bruce Hornsby & the Range

December 20, 1986 – January 16, 1987:
Walk Like an Egyptian – The Bangles


World Series Champions: New York Mets
Superbowl XX Champions: Chicago Bears
NBA Champions: Boston Celtics
Stanley Cup Champs: Montreal Canadians
U.S. Open Golf Ray Floyd
U.S. Tennis: (Men/Ladies) Ivan Lendl/Martina Navratilova
Wimbledon (Men/Women): Boris Becker/Marina Navratilova
NCAA Football Champions: Penn State
NCAA Basketball Champions: Louisville
Kentucky Derby: Ferdinand
World Cup (Soccer): Argentina

More 1986 Facts and History Resources:

Most Popular Baby Names (BabyCenter.com)
Popular and Notable Books (popculture.us)
Broadway Shows that Opened in 1986X
1986 Calendar, courtesy of Time and Date.com
Everything 80s Podcast 1986
Fact Monster
1980s, Infoplease.com World History
Millennial Generation (1981-1996)
1986 in Movies (according to IMDB)
1986 Top Movies (according to BoxOfficeMojo)
Retrowaste Vintage Culture
80s Facts About the 80s(Mental Floss)
80s and 90s Classic NES Games (1985-1994)
1980s Slang
1980s Timeline (Security and Exchange Commission)
Wikipedia 1986