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1978 History, Trivia and Fun Facts

<< - 1977

1978 History Snapshot

  • Science: The Navstar Global Positioning System (GPS) was launched. President Clinton granted nonmilitary users access to the unscrambled GPS signal in 2000.
  • The Top Song was Night Fever by The Bee Gees
  • The Big Movies included Grease, National Lampoon's Animal House and Jaws 2
  • The peak year for vinyl sales was 1978. #disco
  • Pentax K2, SLR Camera: $300.00
    Bing Cherries: 69 cents/pound
    Minimum Wage in 1978: $2.65
  • The World Population was ~ 4,223,000,000
  • The first Star Wars action figures were released in 1978.
  • And... he legendary dance floor scene in "Saturday Night Fever" used Boz Scaggs Lowdown, but Columbia Records refused to grant clearance for the song. The studio rushed to replace the music with the Bee Gees' Stayin' Alive.

World Series Champions

New York Yankees

Superbowl XII Champions

Dallas Cowboys

National Basketball Association Champions

Washington Bullets

NHL Stanley Cup Champions

Montreal Canadiens

US Open Golf

Andy North

US Open Tennis (Men Ladies)

Jimmy Connors/Christine Marie Evert

Wimbledon (Men/Women)

Bjorn Borg/Martina Navratilova

FIFA World Cup Soccer

Alabama & USC

NCAA Football Champions


NCAA Basketball Champions


Bowl Games

Orange Bowl: January 2, 1978 - Arkansas over Oklahoma
Rose Bowl: January 2, 1978 - Washington over Michigan
Sugar Bowl : January 2, 1978 - Alabama over Ohio State

Kentucky Derby


Westminster Kennel Best in Show Dog

Cede Higgins

Time Magazine's Man of the Year

Deng Xiaoping

Miss America

Susan Perkins (Columbus, OH)

Miss USA

Judi Anderson (Hawaii)

Fashion Icons and Movie Stars

Kim Alexis, Loni Anderson, Barbara Bach, Adrienne Barbeau, Kim Basinger, Candice Bergen, Jacqueline Bisset, Christie Brinkley, Carol Burnett, Valerie Bertinelli, Dyan Cannon, Gia Carangi, Lynda Carter, Angie Dickinson, Janice Dickinson, Farrah Fawcett, Carrie Fisher, Karen Graham, Shelley Hack, Debbie Harry, Kate Jackson,. Marilu Henner, Lauren Hutton, Iman, Maria João, Cheryl Ladd, Audrey Landers, Olivia Newton-John, Stevie Nicks, Dolly Parton, Bernadette Peters, Suzanne Pleshette, Victoria Principal, Diana Ross, Jane Seymour, Brooke Shields, Jacquelyn Smith, Suzanne Somers, Donna Summer, Cheryl Tiegs, Lindsay Wagner, Mary Woronov

"The Quotes"

"My advice to you is to start drinking heavily"
- John Belushi in National Lampoon's Animal House

"Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life son"
- John Vernon in National Lampoon's Animal House

"Za Plane! Za Plane Boss!"
-Tattoo (Hervé Villechaize)

"Nanoo Nanoo!"
Robin Williams as Mork (from Ork)

"Toga! Toga! Toga"
"Food Fight"
- John Belushi as John "Bluto" Blutarsky, in National Lampoon's Animal House

"We're From France"
-The Coneheads, on Saturday Night Live

"Here’s to good friends."
- Lowenbrau beer

When songwriter Allee Willis heard Earth, Wind & Fire's lyrics for her song September, she was initially put off by meaningless 'ba-dee-ya's in the chorus. She later said she learned her greatest lesson from it, which was to "never let the lyric get in the way of the groove".

Pilot Fredrick Valentich and his plane disappeared during a UFO encounter. His last communication was "Melbourne that strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again... (two seconds open microphone)... it is hovering and it's not an aircraft..."

Terry Kath from the band Chigaco's last words were "Don't worry about it ... look, the clip is not even in it" - just before putting a pistol to his temple and pulling the trigger.

"The opera ain't over until the fat lady sings".
- NBA coach Dick Motta NBA coach Dick Motta

1978 Pop Culture History

Prior to 1978, the National Weather Service only used female names for hurricanes because they were viewed by the all male staff as most appropriate for the unpredictable and dangerous storms.

During a 1978 Monday Night Football game, to fill dead air, Howard Cosell commented on a delicious new snack he was eating, thus stadium nachos went mainstream.

It wasn't until 1978 that turning right on a red light was allowed throughout the US.

A study titled "Where Are They Now?" in 1978 followed up on 515 people who were prevented from attempting suicide using the Golden Gate Bridge from 1937 to 1971. About 90% were either alive or had died of natural causes, concluding "suicidal behavior is crisis-oriented" rather than inexorable.

In Yukon, Canada a bulldozer uncovered buried reels of nitrate film during excavation of a landfill. About 500 old films dating from 1910 to 1921 have been uncovered. This treasure trove includes long lost newsreels of World War 1, and many long lost silent movies.

Before the casting of Christopher Reeve as Superman in the 1978 film, Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, James Caan, Christopher Walken, Nick Nolte, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Jenner were all potentials for the part.

Superman was supposed to go public domain in 2014, but a bill was passed that made everything copyrighted before 1978 have 95 years of copyright protection.

Ben and Jerry opened their first ice cream parlor in Burlington, Vermont.

Jimmy Carter signed the bill that made homebrewing legal in 1978. (It took effect in 1979)

Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler made it to the top of Mount Everest, the first to do so without supplementary oxygen.

At a 1977 Aerosmith concert in Philadelphia, a fan threw an M-80 at the band, which exploded and prematurely ended the concert. When Aerosmith returned to Philadelphia in 1978, a fan threw a beer bottle at the stage, which shattered and prematurely ended the concert.

The first Test Tube Baby, Louis Brown was born.

The 1978 arcade game "Space Invaders" was so popular upon its release that by mid-1981, Space Invaders machines had grossed more than four billion quarters.

Neiman Marcus sold an all-chocolate version of Monopoly. The entire set was edible.

The French had their own version of the internet called Mintel. It was created in 1978 and you could online shop, send mail, check stocks and buy tickets. In 2009 there were still 10 million monthly connects and it was shut down for good in 2012.

Milton Bradley made a board game that tried to teach kids not to get fat, called 'Fat Chance'.

The Maryland state legislature considered a bill that would have made it illegal to play the song "Short People" on the radio. It didn't pass.

Home Depot was founded in Atlanta, Georgia.

Glenn Burke was the first MLB player to come out as gay to teammates and team owners during his professional career and the first to publicly acknowledge it. Burke said "By 1978 I think everybody knew" and he was "sure his teammates didn't care."

Aveda shampoo was invented by Horst Rechelbacher.

In 1978, while only making $25,000 a year, Hilary Clinton invested $1,000 in Cattle futures. 10 months later when she closed her account, it was worth $99,541, a 10,000% return on her initial investment.

Until 1978 a tennis player was allowed to use absolutely any object as a racket.

Over 500 silent-era films from the early 20th century were discovered preserved in the permafrost in the subarctic town of Dawson City, Yukon.

Tim Burton's first job out of college was working on Ralph Baksi's 1978 Lord of the Rings film.

Midnight Cowboy is the only X-rated movie, to date, that has won an Oscar.

Cost of a Superbowl ad in 1978: $162,000

Actor Marlon Brando was paid $3.7 million and a percentage of the profits for twelve shooting days playing Jor-El, Superman's father, in the superhero flick Superman. For ten minutes of screen time, Brando earned $14 million. For his role, Marlon Brando proposed that his character (Jor-El) only appear as a suitcase or a green bagel with Brando's voice.

RIP, Scandals, Sad and Odd News

The FBI set up "Abdul Enterprises, Ltd." and posed as Middle Eastern businessmen. They videotaped talks with government officials, where they offered money in return for political favors to a fictional middle eastern businessman. 11 US government officials were out of a job after this bribery and conspiracy scandal.

There has been some debate about 3M's Post-it notes. The product was used in a marketing campaign in 1978 as 'Post N Peel' , and sold nationally in 1980 as 'Post-it Notes.' New products are in 'test mode' all the time. We say 1980.

Sir Dingle Foot, British MP, died in 1978 after choking on a bone in a chicken sandwich. Also, someone was actually named Dingle Foot.

12 year-old Brooke Shields starred in R-rated Pretty Baby.

In 1978 California passed Prop 13 which declared property tax levels permanently at 1975 values, and could only increase each year at a max of 2% inflation. Property values could only be reassessed upon ownership change, in essence, allowing owners to always pay at 1975 valuations, even today.

A US Navy ship, the USS Stein (FF-1065) was attacked by an unknown species of giant squid. Nearly all of the cuts found on the sonar dome contained remnants of sharp, curved claws found on suction cups of squid tentacles. The claws were much larger than those of any squid that had been discovered at that time.

Martha Moxley, a 15-year-old girl, was beaten to death, with the primary suspects in the murder being Kennedy cousins Thomas and Michael Skakel. Although Michael Skakel was overheard in 1978 stating, "I'm going to get away with murder. I'm a Kennedy", it was not until 2002 that he was convicted.

The Twinkie Defense appeared. Dan White killed Harvey Milk and George Moscone. The jury agreed that he had diminished mental capacity from eating too many twinkies.

The Canadian Museum of Nature fabricated a heist story to cover up the fact that they'd misplaced their Goodwill Moon Rock. The story was only given to one person- Jaymie Matthews, who'd delivered it 4 years earlier. He later found it in 2000 in a giant warehouse for museum exhibits.

Charlie Chaplin's body was stolen and held for ransom. His widow refused to pay ransom demands of £400,000 because "Charlie would have thought it ridiculous." The body was found 11 weeks later.

A Bulgarian Dissident Writer named Georgi Markov was waiting at a bus stop in London when he felt what he thought was a bug bite. Three days later he died, having been shot in the leg with a sophisticated umbrella-gun loaded with a bullet containing ricin poison.

Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols alluded to the sordid conduct by Jimmy Savile in a 1978 BBC Radio 1 interview.

Don't drink the Kool-Aid! Jim Jones got 909 of his cult followers to commit suicide (including many children) by drinking poisoned Kool-Aid in his Jonestown commune.

Janet Parker, a British photographer, was the last person to die of smallpox. She died in 1978, many months after the disease was eradicated in the wild. She contracted the deadly disease when a researcher at the laboratory where Parker worked accidentally released some virus into the building.

Soviet Geologists found the LyKovs, a family of six, surviving in the middle of Siberia who hadn't seen another human since 1936.

Kurt Gödel, a mathematician, logician, and philosopher often compared to Aristotle, who was so afraid of being poisoned the he would only eat food his wife cooked. When his wife had to be hospitalized for 6 months, he refused to eat and died of starvation in 1978.

The Unabomber sent his first bomb to Professor Buckley Crist at Northwestern University. Result: slight injury to officer Terry Markman.

Rock Star Death: Keith Moon (accidental overdose of perscription medication)

A computer "testing malfunction" caused the United State's Defense System to go from an "at ease" DEFCON 1 to a "fire up the missiles" DEFCON 5.

The expression "Drinking the Kool-Aid" is a reference to a 1978 mass suicide in which over 900 members of the Peoples Temple, a religious cult led by Jim Jones, drank a cyanide-laced beverage together. The drink in question was actually Flavor Aid, not Kool-Aid.

Firsts and the Biggest Christmas Gifts

APF-M1000 Game Console, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Simon, Coleco released the Telstar Gemini, the Telstar Colortron, and the Telstar Marksman

Country Living began publication

Omni Magazine (1978-1998)

Food & Wine began publication

The Habits

Playing Simon
Toga Parties
Watching Grease, and singing along.
Reading Chesapeake by James A. Michener

1978/79 Biggest Television Shows

(according to Nielsen TV Research)
1. Laverne & Shirley (ABC)
2. Three's Company (ABC)
3. Mork & Mindy (ABC)
4. Happy Days (ABC)
5. Angie (ABC)
6. 60 Minutes (CBS)
7. M*A*S*H (CBS)
8. The Ropers (ABC)
9. All In The Family (CBS)
10. Taxi (ABC)

Popular Music Artists

The Biggest Pop Artists of 1978 include
Abba, Andy Gibb, Anne Murray, Ashford & Simpson, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, The Bee Gees, Billy Joel, Chic, The Commodores, Con Funk Shun, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Debby Boone, Dolly Parton, Donna Summer, The Eagles, Earth, Wind & Fire, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), The Emotions, Evelyn 'Champagne' King, Fleetwood Mac, Foreignor, George Benson, George Duke, Geey Rafferty, Heatwave, Jefferson Starship, John Travolta, Johnny Mathis, KC & the Sunshine Band, Kiss, Leo Sayer, Linda Ronstadt, LTD (Love, Togetherness and Devotion), Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr, Olivia Newton-John, Parliament/ Funkadelic, Paul Davis, Paul McCartney & Wings, Player, Quincy Jones, Roberta Flack, Rod Stewart, The Rolling Stones, Rose Royce, Rufus featuring Chaka Kahn, Shaun Cassidy, Smokey Robinson, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Teddy Pendergast

(Data is complied from various charts including: Billboard's Pop, Rock, Airplay, R&B/Dance and Singles Charts. The Hot 100 is the primary chart used for this list.)

Number One Hits of 1978

December 24, 1977 - January 13, 1978: Bee Gees - How Deep Is Your Love

January 14, 1978 - February 3, 1978: Player - Baby Come Back

February 4, 1978 - March 3, 1978: Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive

March 4, 1978 - March 17, 1978: Andy Gibb - (Love Is) Thicker Than Water

March 18, 1978 - May 12, 1978: Bee Gees - Night Fever

May 13, 1978 - May 19, 1978: Yvonne Elliman - If I Can't Have You

May 20, 1978 - June 2, 1978: Wings - With a Little Luck

June 3, 1978 - June 9, 1978: Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams - Too Much, Too Little, Too Late

June 10, 1978 - June 16, 1978: John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John - You're the One That I Want

June 17, 1978 - August 4, 1978: Andy Gibb - Shadow Dancing

August 5, 1978 - August 11, 1978: The Rolling Stones - Miss You

August 12, 1978 - August 25, 1978: Commodores - Three Times a Lady

August 26, 1978 - September 8, 1978: Frankie Valli - Grease

September 9, 1978 - September 29, 1978: A Taste of Honey - Boogie Oogie Oogie

September 30, 1978 - October 27, 1978: Exile - Kiss You All Over

October 28, 1978 - November 3, 1978: Nick Gilder - Hot Child in the City

November 4, 1978 - November 10, 1978: Anne Murray - You Needed Me

November 11, 1978 - December 1, 1978: Donna Summer - MacArthur Park

December 2, 1978 - December 8, 1978: Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond - You Don't Bring Me Flowers

December 9, 1978 - January 5, 1979: Chic - Le Freak

Popular Movies

An Unmarried Woman, Animal House, The Buddy Holly Story, Coming Home, Dawn of the Dead, Days of Heaven, The Deer Hunter, Grease, Halloween, Heaven Can Wait, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Jaws 2, La Cage aux Folles, The Last Waltz, Midnight Express, Superman: The Movie, Up in Smoke, Watership Down

More Pop Culture History Resources

Popular Music in 1978
# 1 Hits of 1978
Pop Culture News

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