December 31, 2015
As we look forward to a new year, I thought it would be interesting to look back fifty years to 1966. There just might be something to include in a life or family history.
- Finished with the Fifties. 1966 was the last year for many of our favorite television shows, particularly those that started in the 1950s. These included: The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952); The Donna Reed Show (1958); Perry Mason (1957); and, Rawhide (1959). The Dick Van Dyke Show, although it first aired in 1961, was finished, too.
- Justice is swift. Anyone who watches a lot of cop shows on television knows their Miranda rights derived from the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment: the right to remain silent and the right to consult with an attorney. The Supreme Court established the principle in June 1966 when it overturned the conviction of Ernesto Miranda, who had confessed to abducting and raping a young woman. Miranda was retried and convicted four months later.
- Viva Las Vegas. Just like an orgy in the glory days of ancient Rome, the opening party for Caesars Palace on August 5, 1966 cost $1 million and lasted three days. Over 1,800 invited guests consumed two tons of filet mignon, devoured 300 pounds of crabmeat, and quaffed 50,000 glasses of champagne. Attractive mini toga-attired waitresses greeted the attendees. “Welcome to Caesars,” they cooed. “I am your slave.” The public had never seen anything like Caesars, and they loved it. Caesars Palace is celebrating by throwing a year-long 50th birthday party.
- Short and sweet. Mary Quant, clothing designer and shop owner, made her skirts shorter and shorter through the Sixties. In 1966 when the hem reached the upper thigh, she named the trendy item” the miniskirt,” and it became the fashion of choice for young women everywhere. No doubt young men liked it, too.
- Mind-blowing. California was the first state to ban the manufacture and sale of LSD, and other states soon did the same. It became illegal throughout the country in 1968, and all scientific research on the drug was shut down.
- Float like a butterfly. Amidst growing anti-Vietnam protests throughout the country, heavyweight champion Mohammed Ali declared himself a conscientious objector. The following year he refused to be inducted into the armed forces, a federal offense, declaring, “No Viet Cong ever called me Nigger.” Found guilty of draft evasion, all fifty states denied him a boxing license and the Federal government stripped him of his passport. In 1971, the Supreme Court overturned his conviction, as the Appeals Board had given no reason to deny him an exemption as a conscientious objector.
- Sting like a bee. Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton created the Black Panthers as self-defense against police violence and the killing of blacks. Inspired by Malcolm X, who had been assassinated the year before, they adopted his slogan, “Freedom by any means necessary.” Focusing on militancy, the organization itself became associated with violence.
- Seems so far away. The Beatles had an interesting year. Protestors greeted them when they performed in Tokyo. When they declined a party invitation to the Presidential Palace in the Philippines, they unintentionally snubbed Imelda Marcos, the first lady, leaving them without police protection from angry crowds. In August, the group again toured the U.S., playing their last concert in San Francisco. Manager Brian Epstein had to walk back John Lennon’s statement that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, explaining that it was taken out of context, and Capitol Records pasted a more conventional cover for their album Yesterday and Today over a photograph depicting the band as butchers surrounded by decapitated baby dolls and pieces of meat. Still, their album Revolver is considered the best of the year, as calculated from its rankings in over 21,000 greatest album charts, and the band began recording its critically acclaimed Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. On a personal note, each grew a moustache while on hiatus pursuing individual interests. John Lennon also began wearing granny glasses, and he met Yoko Ono at a London gallery. (It’s not known whether the two events are related.)
- Hey, hey. It was a year of musical firsts. Janis Joplin gave her first live concert in San Francisco. Grace Slick first performed live with the Jefferson Airplane. Bob Dylan went electric. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention recorded Freak Out!, the group’s debut album, and the Monkees’ television show premiered.
- ‘Tis the season. On Christmas Eve, a New York television station aired a three-hour film of burning logs in a fireplace. Receiving surprisingly good ratings, “The Yule Log” became an annual tradition until 1989, although you can now watch it streaming on Netflix.
A lot happens in a year. Here’s wishing you a 2016 filled with many memorable and happy events.
© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved