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By Stefan Kanfer

The Voodoo That They Did So Well: The Wizards Who Invented the New York Stage.

Soundings

Stefan Kanfer
The Post Office Stamps Out the 1980s
A new series of stamps commemorating the 1980s celebrates the trivial.
Spring 2000

“A merica's Space Program and the Postal Service have a lot in common," observes U.S. Post Office executive Vicki Brennan.

The occasion for her comment: the issuance of 15 commemorative stamps celebrating the 1980s—the fruits of a nationwide poll. If what Brennan says is true, though, the astronauts would be well advised to watch out for leaky suits and faulty O-rings should they ever get into orbit.

For among the subjects the Postal Service considered worthy of immortality were: Video Games, Figure Skating, Compact Discs, Cable TV, Cabbage Patch Kids, "E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial," and that contradiction in terms, Hip Hop Culture. A perfunctory nod went to the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but more than half of the 15 stamps celebrated entertainment. Quite a comedown from the days when U.S. postage stamps displayed such subjects as Thomas Edison, the ratification of the Constitution, and the opening of the Panama Canal.

Moreover, in times gone by, philatelists could look on their tiny perforated rectangles as works of art, meticulously engraved and subtly tinted, worth examining with a magnifying glass year after year. The current products are as blatant and unattractive as a four-color laxative ad in a subway car. (This, of course, should come as no surprise to anyone who has examined the New Money: the Treasury Department's latest $20 bill displays a picture of Andrew Jackson that suggests Henry Fonda on a bad wig day.)

For the record, the 1980s saw a lot more than the stuff displayed in Entertainment Weekly. Just for starters, there was the Return of the Iran Hostages; the U.S. victory in the Cold War, signaled by the collapse of the U.S.S.R.; the development of the "miracle drug" Interferon that would alleviate the suffering of millions; the restructuring of the American economy, causing the Dow to top 1,800 for the first time; the production of the first ceramic superconductor; and the appointment of the first African-American (Colin Powell) as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. When it comes time to celebrate the first decade of the new millennium, how about a commemorative acknowledging the federal government's new Help Stamp Out History Project?

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