They say we live in amoral times, but February 1983 seemed to be far worse if you were in the jury for the case of Giovanni Vigliotto.
The defendant had committed bigamy to the tune of marrying 135 women, for which a judge in Phoenix Arizona sentenced him to 34 years (or one year short of a jade wedding anniversary, as some brave husbands might observe).
Vigliotti clearly had great romantic powers, but the itinerant flea market trader who sold the goods of the women he duped on his stall was actually called… Fred Jipp. One suspects he may not have been so successful thus monikered.
His dislike of divorce earned him a mention in the Guinness book of records. His success is great news for ugly men: as one journalist observed, “he looked more like a violinist in a symphony orchestra than a world-class gigolo”.
Speaking of world records, this was the month that saw the final airing of MASH, the American TV series adapted from the original 1970 feature film. Ostensibly a comedy about an army medical unit staged in South Korea, the show straddled various genres including drama and documentary, given that the script was often drawn from the real-life experiences of army medics.
Perhaps that’s why it had such a broad audience – that last episode screened this month drew a staggering 125 million viewers, making it the most-watched programme of all time. Creator Larry Galbert fought to have the show broadcast with no laugh track. “Just like the Korean war itself,” he observed.
If laughter-free climate stories are your bag, look no further than the disturbingly resonant reports that were coming from down under. The Ash Wednesday fires around Victoria and South Australia were a series of 180 separate outbreaks, all being fanned by winds at up to 68mph. It was a deadly combination, taking the lives of 75 people and some 340,000 sheep.
Back in the USA, 13 people were killed in what would turn out to be the biggest massacre in the nation’s history at the time. The assassins were three members of a secret Chinese gambling den in Seattle; the killings were carried out in a bid to cover the robbers’ tracks – the gambling den was virtually impossible to get into and the attackers only managed the feat because they were known to their victims.
More positive news for humanity came with the introduction of the safety belt which was made mandatory in the UK for front seat occupants this month, and Volvo had done much to pioneer these lifesavers (below). Despite the retrospectively unfortunate association of the law with a certain J Savile, it has proved to be remarkably successful, although as the Institute of Advanced Motorists has pointed out, there is still a certain amount of slackness in the law.
“Latest figures show 95 per cent of drivers and 96 per cent of front seat passengers wear a seat belt; 89 per cent of rear seat passengers use one, yet every year, not wearing a seatbelt is still a contributory factor in more than 220 deaths and serious injuries,” says the IAM.
And the research shows the higher number of idiots out there who don’t think the belt might be a useful driving aid are mostly younger motorists, while in the back seat, things get worse:
“In the back of the car, 41% of 18-29 year olds know someone who doesn’t wear a seatbelt compared to 25% of 45+ year olds, whilst in the front of the car, 36% of 16-29 year olds know someone compared to 11% of 55+ year olds.”
So we’ve clicked well with the law, but there are clearly many clunkers still out there.