The list of "baffling things that happened in the 1980s which I was completely unaware of at the time" has grown by one: Andy Warhol was commissioned by Roger Schlaifer to make portraits of Cabbage Patch dolls in 1985.
Schlaifer, an Atlanta licensing executive, acquired the rights to the dolls, changed their name to Cabbage Patch Kids, and wrote the whole adoption backstory with his wife Suzanne Nance in 1982. They were one of the biggest "must-have Christmas toy" frenzies of our generation.
Schlaifer sold the rights back to the doll's inventors around 1987-8, who turned them over to Hasbro. Which was right around the time, ten months after Warhol's death, that the Schlaifers' firm, Schlaifer Nance & Co. signed an exclusive licensing deal with the artist's estate. The deal quickly devolved into a tangle of litigation, though, when SNC discovered Warhol's estate did not control the copyright to many of the artist's images. [Actually, lawyers for the estate and the licensor found that, because they didn't follow the copyright policies of the time, many of Warhol's works are in the public domain. This bears some serious looking-into.]
Cabbage Patch Kid silkscreen, 1985, at Jonathan O'Hara Gallery [artnet.com]
Mitterand-Cramer has a pencil sketch of a Cabbage Patch Kid [mitterand-cramer.com]
DECEMBER 1987: FIRST LICENSING DEAL WITH THE WARHOL FOUNDATION IS ANNOUNCED. [warholstars.org]