This Week in Boomer History: ‘Thriller’ … Iran-Contra

Notable events from our shared experience

Atari releases Pong, the first commercially successful video game, on Nov. 29, 1972. Crude by today’s standards, the virtual table tennis game launches an industry — one with annual revenue forecast to pass $100 billion in 2018.


After takeoff of Northwest Orient Flight 305 from Portland, Ore., to Seattle on Nov. 24, 1971, a man claiming to have a bomb demands a $200,000 ransom and four parachutes. The plane picks up the loot in Seattle, and somewhere over southwestern Washington, D.B. Cooper jumps from the plane into the stormy night, never to be heard from again.

>> ‘The Boomer List’: Faces of a Game-Changing Generation

On Nov. 25, 1986, President Ronald Reagan says he has just been informed of an elaborate scheme that comes to be known as the Iran-Contra Affair. With Israel as an intermediary, the U.S. has illegally sold weapons to Iran, hoping that Iran would aid in the release of seven U.S. hostages from Lebanon. Profits from the sales helped fund guerrilla warfare by contras against the ruling Sandinistas in Nicaragua, funding explicitly forbidden by Congress. Fourteen people are indicted, but pardons, immunity, the government’s withholding of classified documents, overturned convictions and probation keep all but one out of prison.

With roaring motorcycle engine and crash sound effects, “Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-Las unseats “Baby Love” by the Supremes as No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on Nov. 28, 1964. Earlier in the year, the group’s first release, “Remember (Walking in the Sand),” reached No. 5.

Former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White assassinates Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk, the city’s first openly gay supervisor, on Nov. 27, 1978. White is convicted of manslaughter, serves five years in prison and kills himself in 1985.

In the first live, televised murder, Jack Ruby shoots Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy, in the basement of Dallas police department headquarters on Nov. 24, 1963.

Michael Jackson releases his second solo album, Thriller, on Nov. 30, 1982. The release rides the new wave of music video promotion — the “Thriller,” “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” videos are all here — to become the best-selling album in history.

Michael Jackson, Thriller Music Video

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Images — Pong: animated gif via Bavatuesdays; Michael Jackson: Photos 12/Alamy

Music – Test Drive: Zapac via ccMixter

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