“I Was Alive and I Waited for This”: Coming of Age at the End of History

By Michael Grasso

I was born in 1975, at the demographic nadir of the 1970s birth trough in America and before the mini Baby Boom of the early ’80s. My birth cohort is small; my grade school classes were the smallest they’d be for the next 30-some odd years. So, as a late Gen-Xer, my oldest pop culture memories are of the late 1970s. I was a kid in the 1980s. But I came of age at the end of history…

Sorry No Gas: Photos from Documerica, 1972 – 1975

At the dawning of the 1970s, Americans were more aware than ever of the great damage more than a century of unrestricted industry had done to their country. With the passing of Richard Nixon’s Reorganization Plan Number 3 by Congress in 1970, the U.S. government welcomed the Environmental Protection Agency to the roster of federal agencies. The EPA was meant to consolidate federal efforts to protect America’s air, water, and soil, and to give environmental protection efforts a fiercer executive independence…

The Yorkshire Ripper Tape Recording, 1979

By the summer of 1979, the inhabitants of the north of England were living in a state of barely suppressed terror: for the previous four years, a serial killer dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper had been attacking and murdering women in an area centering around the industrial city of Bradford in West Yorkshire…

Children of the Beast: The 1980s ‘Satanic Panic’

Of course it had to be the 1980s. We humans are prone to our periodic outbreaks of mass insanity—and there were no lack of those over the 20th century—but perhaps only the 1980s could have brought together the most garish fringes of popular culture and a repressed but growing fear of the horrors lurking beneath the increasingly preppy surface of Western society…

“Look It Up, Check It Out”: REX 84 and the History of an American Conspiracy

By Michael Grasso

On July 5, 1987, the day after Independence Day, a year and two days after President Reagan’s centennial rededication of the Statue of Liberty, and at the height of the Iran-Contra hearings, a monumental story appeared in the Miami Herald. Penned by investigative reporter Alfonso Chardy, the piece claimed to expose the workings of a “secret government” in place during the first six-and-a-half years of the Reagan Presidency…