March 9th, 2005 Taylor Clark, Kelly Clarke | Special Section Stories
 

1977

     
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THE BIG MAN! Bill Walton was the '77 Blazers' pivot.

Blazermania!

BY TAYLOR CLARK

Long before the days of crawl-space drug busts, pit-bull fights, racial epithets, spitballs, hot-boxed Humvees and domestic-violence arrests, the Trail Blazers once actually made Portland proud.

It's hard to imagine, but there was a time, back in the mid-1970s, when it seemed like the whole state was rooting for the team.

It all started with a guy named Harry Glickman, who in the late '60s lobbied ceaselessly to bring an NBA franchise to what would be the league's smallest market. The results weren't staggering. In the squad's first six seasons, from 1970 to 1976, the Blazers never broke above a .500 record.

That all changed when a 6-foot-11 redheaded vegetarian center named Bill Walton was finally healthy enough to play a full season.

And what a season it was. Under the leadership of the bushy-eyebrowed and brainy coach Dr. Jack Ramsay, the Blazers played the finest team game in basketball. After finishing third in the Western Conference in the 1976-77 season, with a near-flawless record at Memorial Coliseum, the upstart Blazers started picking off NBA legends.

First there were the victories over Chicago and Denver. Then, the four-game sweep over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Los Angeles Lakers. And finally, a scrappy battle with the Philadelphia 76ers led by Julius Erving-a.k.a. Dr. J.

Throughout the Blazers' improbable run, the hooting, screaming Rip City fans were crucial to the team's success. In fact, starting April 8, 1977, the franchise enjoyed an astounding 18-year streak of home-game sellouts. (The run of 814 straight packed games held until 1995.)

They called it "Blazermania."

And from the outset of the Philadelphia series, Blazer basketball consumed Portland completely-even after the thrashings in the first two games, the demoralizing dunks from Dr. J and jumpers from World B. Free, and the vicious fistfight with Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins.

But when Portland played cohesively, it won decisively. Led by Walton and Maurice Lucas-another vegetarian who practiced transcendental meditation-a team mostly made up of what the NBA euphemistically calls "role players" dismantled the Sixers. Rebounding and fast-breaking, Portland swept the next four games to take the series and the NBA title. It was June 5, 1977.

Pandemonium struck. Champagne corks popped. The night exploded with celebration. The next day, 100,000 stark-raving Blazermaniacs thronged West Broadway for a victory parade.

(With the pulse of Portland practically pounding in its ears, WW's next issue featured a tiny story on Page 4 about the historic win. WW also warned readers not to get carried away and approve a costly extension of Memorial Coliseum, and-in a moment of blinding insight-noted that "the Rose Festival Court, which has long been the dominant local news event in Portland during the first weeks of June, was pushed right off the front pages.")

The city's love affair with the franchise endured for two decades more, as Rose City demigod Clyde Drexler glided the Blazers to two NBA Finals appearances in 1990 and 1992, respectively. Generations of Oregonians grew up clutching their Kevin Duckworth basketball cards and dreaming of sitting in the front row of the Rose Garden for the surely just-around-the-corner next finals win.

It's hard to say when "Blazermania" stopped describing Portland's ardor for the team, and started describing some bizarre mental disorder that afflicts the players. Maybe it was the drug stings, the leadership of evil maven Bob Whitsitt, or the record lows in attendance last year. But when the once-great Blazers failed to make the playoffs for the first time in what seemed like an eternity last season and the franchise had to start persuading fans to come to games, it was certain.

Blazermania was dead.

FOR ART'S SAKE

BY KELLY CLARKE

It was a sad day for bohemia when the Anne Hughes Gallery closed its doors. Hughes' effort to bring people and art together in the style of European salons proved a commercial failure but an artistic triumph: Gertrude Stein birthday parties, Portland's first showing of artist Judy Chicago, and evenings with artists like Henk Pander and Mel Katz. She continued her fusion of art and literature during the reign of her Coffee Room at Powell's Books and at the Anne Hughes Kitchen Table cafe. Later her Kitchen Table morphed into an events-only space dedicated to hosting arts-minded soirees. With her communal Sunday-night French dinners with local chef Robert Reynolds in full swing and a Friday-night salon in the works, Hughes is still reaching new heights in her own brand of, ahem, culinary artistry.


* Not a happy new year for Anthony Paul Lucarelli. Local FBI agents seize a $2 million stash of heroin from his Southeast Portland home. "This is the largest [confiscation] in the memory of anybody in the bureau," says narcotics Sgt. John Luciano.

* Multnomah County District Attorney Harl Haas is arrested in Sacramento, Calif., on drunk-driving charges. He won't take a blood-alcohol test, is fined $315 and has his license suspended for six months. Haas later says he and assistant Mary Lou Calvin made the trip to the Golden State capital on the county dime to learn more about the city's victim-assistance program. Problem is, the program didn't start until two months after Haas' visit. He later becomes a judge.

* Wait a minute-it's stopped raining! Oregon suffers its worst drought in 100 years; rainfall measures only 5 to 30 percent of normal across the state. Parched Portlanders suffer again in August, when the thermometer hits 102 degrees.

* The Oregon Legislature proposes safety-net legislation to protect schools whose operating levies fail at the polls. Voters reject the plan in a special May election.

* Pacific Power & Light Co. president John Lansing resigns in March after the IRS discovers he commandeered a company jet for personal travel. He is rehired in December at his old salary, however, to head the utility's new PR subsidiary, which employs only Lansing and his secretary. He is fired again in June 1978 after public outcry.

* Mayor Goldschmidt declares June 25 Gay Pride Day. Hundreds of supporters gather outside City Hall, while opponents stage a protest in Laurelhurst Park, sponsored by the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. One spokesman asks why Goldschmidt doesn't declare a special day for adulterers and wife-swappers.

* The first Artquake erupts downtown, spewing hot Brazilian jazz, puppet shows, commedia dell'arte and other free performances across the city.

* State legislator Gretchen Kafoury proposes that state government refuse to pay for employees' hotel, airfare and meals when they travel on business to states that haven't ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.

* To protest apartheid, the Portland City Council denounces the sale and advertising of South African Krugerrands. Mayor Goldschmidt tells the council that he wishes similar action had been taken "when my fellow Jews were being murdered in Nazi Germany."

* Blitz-Weinhard begins commercial production of an innovative specialty beer, Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve. The first establishments to carry the new brew are Jake's Famous Crawfish and the Goose Hollow Inn.


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