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FEATURES: Intro | the Mt. Hood freeway | city hall of fame | architexture | rhymin' rogues | some of our favorite Portlanders | 25 years of statistics | what ever happened to...| Nike's marketing muscle | The Oregonian's big oh's

1989: from sawmill to silicon forest | Gus Van Sant: Cowboy Director | The Gentrification Blues |
Don't Have a Cow, Man


A month after telling his brother he had uncovered an "organized criminal element" within the prison system, Michael Francke, head of the Oregon Department of Corrections, is stabbed through the heart in a parking lot outside his office. Ultimately, a low-level meth dealer named Frank Gable is convicted of the murder; conspiracy buffs still think it was a cover-up.

Developer Joseph Weston offers $50,000 of his own money to relocate Portlandia to Tom McCall Waterfront Park. "It should be somewhere where people can look at it without worrying about getting hit by a Tri-Met bus," says Weston. The City Council politely rejects his offer.

Despite the wailing of local merchants, the City Council rechristens Union Avenue Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The first choice, Front Avenue, was blocked by overwhelming opposition from business leaders. Dissenters, led by Walter Huss, later try, but fail, to change the name back.

Old Town grocery Sav-Mor Grub is destroyed by two huge explosions, triggering state and federal arson investigations and a decade of rumors. Ten years later, court documents indicate the ring-leader was Starry Night nightclub owner Larry Hurwitz, who said drug dealing outside the grocery was hurting his business.

Domino's Pizza's "Avoid the Noid" campaign, animated by Will Vinton Studios, drives a Georgia man named Kenneth Noid to hold two pizza employees hostage for five hours. Noid believed the ads were aimed at him.

Los Angeles investors relocate the White Stag sportswear company to California, placing one of Portland's best-loved landmarks in jeopardy until Old Town philanthropist Bill Naito steps up to pay the sign's electric bills.

Dawn of the modern era: With a hiss of steam and a flirtatious gurgle, Starbucks serves its first Portland latte at Pioneer Courthouse Square. By 1999, the Seattle coffee empire will have completely enslaved Stumptown, boasting no fewer than 55 outlets.

Pressure group ACT-UP steps up action to highlight the ongoing AIDS crisis: Members hand out free condoms at Lincoln High School, occupy the Portland office of the FDA and are thrown out at The Oregonian for trying to give condoms to publisher Fred Stickel, who refuses to run ads promoting the prophylactics.

A 28-year-old techno-entrepreneur named Jim Deibele starts one of the area's first commercial dial-up e-mail services on a single PC in a back room of his Beaverton bookstore. Within 10 years, Deibele's company--Teleport Inc.--will boast 43,000 subscribers and almost 60 employees.

WW reports on the hot new trend: fax machines.

After a botched attempt to abduct a 6-year-old boy from the men's room of a Camas, Wash., movie theater, Vancouver millworker Westley Allan Dodd, 28, confesses to the murder of three young boys. Dubbed "the ultimate all-star homicidal maniac" by a detective, Dodd is hanged at the Walla Walla State Penitentiary in 1993.



  "We played a game you couldn't win...to the utmost," admits Bob (Matt Dillon), the bleary-eyed junkie at the center of Gus Van Sant's breakthrough indie-film hit, Drugstore Cowboy. Bob and his dysfunctional, surrogate family of grimy addicts (Heather Graham, Kelly Lynch and James Le Gros) spend their days raiding Portland drug stores (Van Sant shot most of the film on location). Never before had a film captured both the extreme euphoria and the deep disillusionment of dependency as authentically as Drugstore Cowboy. Until this gritty character study launched his career in 1989, Van Sant was a nobody
outside of Portland, a cinematic outsider. He, too, was playing a game many thought he couldn't win: making movies outside of the studio system. His unabashedly gay debut, Mala Noche (1985), suggested the promise of a visionary, an independent filmmaker unafraid to probe seedy worlds and tragic characters. There was no camp in Van Sant's heartfelt sensibility, only soiled beauty, brash humor and the filmmaker's genuine love for his misfit characters. In the '90s, Van Sant would move from the lost highways of My Own Private Idaho to a coy Psycho remake to an Oscar nomination for Best Director for Good Will Hunting. Many say Van Sant has finally found the success he deserved; in our minds, however, he achieved this in 1989. Drugstore Cowboy remains his most personal, fully realized work--and the greatest film ever made in Portland.



By the late '80s, Northwest Portland--once considered a virtual slum--had become one of the city's most fashionable neighborhoods. But someone had to make room for all those yuppies. Gentrification, pro- or anti-, became the battle cry. At the center of the debate: developer Phil Morford, who infuriated his neighbors by demolishing dilapidated old Victorian houses (often home to low-income tenants) and building row houses in their stead. In May, police arrested 23 neighborhood activists at a protest to save three houses Morford had scheduled for demolition. Four months later, the opposition took an uglier turn when eight row houses under construction on Northwest Overton Street went up in flames. Total damage: $250,000. Investigators said the cause was arson, but no one was ever charged with the crime. A decade later, row houses--seldom charming but usually affordable--have become a familiar feature of Portland's older neighborhoods.



  After almost a decade drawing the rabbit-infested Life in Hell cartoon strip, Lincoln High alum Matt Groening hit the big time with The Simpsons. Previously broadcast in brief segments on The Tracey Ullman Show, the satirical cartoon aired as a 30-minute Christmas special on Fox TV. A month later, The Simpsons (whose parental characters Homer and Marge are named after Groening's own father and mother) began its regular run and in its first season became the network's highest-rated series. Wildly popular with kids, the program also managed to reach a wide adult audience with its cheerful cynicism and giddy range of references from Tennessee Williams to Gilbert and Sullivan.



Big lumber swung its ax for what in many ways was the last time in June, when the entire Oregon congressional delegation came together in Salem with industry leaders for an unprecedented meeting, the first-ever "timber summit."

They were running scared.

Organized by Sens. Mark Hatfield of Oregon and Brock Adams of Washington, the summit was a desperate attempt to wrestle the agenda of federal forest management away from the courts.

Prior to the Salem summit, there had been little cooperation between the states or, for that matter, little coordination between elected officials and industry. It had become obvious, however, that environmentalists were clear-cutting the political landscape, using the northern spotted owl as their tool. In March 1989, federal Judge William Dwyer issued a preliminary injunction in Seattle, blocking all timber sales in the accursed bird's habitat.

The summit dominated the media spotlight, but for all its effect the politicians might have gathered to play croquet. Their subsequent attempts to persuade the federal Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to side with industry failed. Since that event, judges rather than politicians have made the key decisions about timber, and they've largely ruled in favor of the environmental lobby.

The number of trees still standing tells the story. Timber harvests on federal lands fell 86 percent between 1988 and 1996, and Oregon's total timber harvest last year dipped to its lowest level since 1926.

Dick Reiten, who served as Oregon's director of economic development from 1986 to 1988, says the recession earlier in the decade burned into everyone's brain the idea that Oregon must shed its dependence on timber. That realization caused a shift in thinking--cutting down trees was an extractive industry, depleting resources, exporting raw logs and ruining the landscape. The new plan was to court companies that would plow money into the state instead of stripping its resources.

At the same time Gov. Neil Goldschmidt convened the timber summit in Salem, his staff was prowling the world for companies who wanted to come to a clean, green Oregon where the trees grew tall and the water flowed clear.

"I probably went to Japan six or eight times," says Reiten, now CEO of Northwest Natural Gas. "We were saying to ourselves, let's get the cleanest industry we can--high tech. They make huge investments and they don't go away."

Goldschmidt's team trumpeted Oregon's quality of life--the state, they said, was a less-crowded, cheaper version of California. All the marketing paid off. During the Goldschmidt administration, Fujitsu Microelectronics, Oki Semiconductor and Epson Portland, among others, established plants in Washington County.

Today, Portland-based wood-product companies such as Willamette Industries and Louisiana-Pacific continue to be among the largest companies locally, but in the past decade, nearly all growth in employment and tax revenue has come from the high-tech, service and tourism industries--the clean, relatively green businesses that have led to Oregon's boom.


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