January 15, 2016
The scene changed in the Seventies. Did you? Why not write about it?
- Go your own way. The Beatles broke up in 1970, and Elvis passed away in 1977. After two years in New York City, Filmore East closed, but CBGB, the place to hear punk rock, opened in 1973 in New York City’s East Village. Yes, the Ramones played there. In their first public gig, wearing jeans, motorcycle jackets, and Converse high-tops, serving up attitude and angst, they inspired a new movement. Celebrity party-goers crowded Studio 54 in Midtown and danced to disco music. Wearing white, John Travolta lit up the dance floor in Saturday Night Fever. I love the nightlife.
- Put up a parking lot. Or a skyscraper. Under eminent domain, hundreds of commercial and industrial tenants, property owners, and small businesses were forced to relocate to make way for the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. When opened in April 1973, the “Twin Towers” at 1 and 2 World Trade Center stood 1,368 feet and 1,362 feet, respectively, making them the tallest buildings in the world. A month later, the Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower, in Chicago took away the title. The 110-story building stands at 1,454 feet. Although no longer the record holder, the Tower has the highest roof deck and longest elevator ride.
- Someone had to do it. When Babe Ruth, “The Sultan of Swat,” retired from baseball in 1935, he had hit 714 home runs throughout his 22 seasons as a professional baseball player. In 1973, Hank Aaron, also known as “Hammer,” was getting close to breaking Ruth’s record, but finished the season one home run short. As the nation watched with growing anticipation, he hit number 715 on April 8, 1974, nor was he done. He hit number 755 in 1976 before retiring at the end of the season. His record held until 2007 when Barry Bonds came along.
- Lessons learned. To honor the earth and promote peace, the first annual Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970. Despite our good intentions, the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1979 sprung a leak, releasing radioactive gases into the atmosphere. The partial meltdown occurred twelve days after the release of the movie The China Syndrome that depicted a news crew covering a similar situation.
- Got gas? When oil-producing, Arab states proclaimed an embargo in 1973, long lines of consumers waiting their turn at the pump were an everyday occurrence. By late February the following year, twenty percent of gasoline stations were out of gas. To address the crisis, the federal government introduced odd/even rationing, based on license plate numbers and imposed a national maximum speed limit of 55 mph. Year-round daylight savings time was implemented, forcing some children to travel to school before sunrise. The Advertising Council started a campaign with the tagline: Don’t Be Fuelish.
- Is it a bird? Is it plane? Yes, the Concorde is a plane, but one that had a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound. Cutting travel time in half, it began flying jet setters between London or Paris to New York and back in 1976, As you can imagine, the flight was expensive, and the aircraft guzzled fuel. Still, it had a certain cachet among its rock stars and royalty clientele.
- Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen. Farrah Fawcett from Charlie’s Angels had big, blond hair. The Mohawk was punk. The Afro was both political and fashionable. The shag was a dance and a hairstyle. And Hair, the movie, was released in 1979.
- Making news. Throughout the decade, there was a strong, if divisive, push to include the Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution. It didn’t happen, but women made news for a variety of achievements. Gloria Steinem co-founded Ms. magazine. Billy Jean King won the “Battle of the Sexes” against Bobby Riggs. And Barbara Walters, teamed with Harry Reasoner, was the first female co-anchor on the evening news. Time magazine was so impressed with the advancements taking place that they gave their 1975 “Man of the Year” award to American women.
- Live from New York. We can’t forget Saturday Night Live, not with all the anniversary specials they put on every decade or so. It premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975.
- A long time ago in a galaxy far, far way. While the last item on this list could be, and probably should be, about the Iranian Hostage Crisis, which began November 4, 1979, I decided to give myself up to the dark side and mention George Lucas’s Star Wars. First released in 1977, sequels and prequels have followed. The Force Awakens, the latest in the franchise, is still in theaters everywhere.
If you’re not ready to write your life or family history, go to the movies. And if you want to join forces with Luke Skywalker or Hans Solo, wear a costume.
© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved
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
December 1, 2015
How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?
— Dr. Seuss
September 24, 2015
Millennials, born between 1981 and 2000, have never known a world without computers. They get all of their information and do most of their socializing on the Internet. I find that amazing.
Political, social, and cultural events are part of what makes us who we are. We’re often closer to those our own age, give or take a few years, than we are to our parents. We have more in common with those who experienced the same things growing up that we did – the same music, the same movies, the same technology — or lack of technology. We visit the same malls and shop at the same stores as our friends.
I remember my two-year old nephew, who’s a Millennial, loading a movie he wanted to watch into the VCR. He didn’t have to ask Mom or Dad. He just did it. This was in 1990, about ten years before DVDs became popular and no one had ever heard of streaming. Watching him I thought: well, so much for learning delayed gratification. Yep, that’s something Millennials have never learned.
Millennials are different from previous generations. And that’s neither good nor bad. We all have our faults and foibles, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all get along.
Last month in the August 23 issue of Parade, actor Chris Elliott, a baby boomer, and his daughter, actress Abby Elliott, acknowledge the generation gap. In the article they discuss how they stay close. It helps that they are in the same business, show business, and they have each other’s back. They also believe that the family that laughs together stays together. In other words, it helps to have a sense of humor.
Offering advice to her elders, Abby points out that “LOL” does not mean “Lots of Love.” (For those who don’t know, it means: “Laughing our Loud.”) From her perspective, writing “RIP LOL” in sympathy would not be appropriate.
While I reserve the right to interpret “LOL” any way I want, I won’t be putting it on a condolence card anytime soon.
© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved
August 13, 2015
1965 – what an upside down, topsy-turvy year it was, and I’m not referring to the headlines, of which there were plenty. I’m talking about music.
According to Billboard magazine’s Top 100 songs of the year Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ Wooly Bully led the list, despite never reaching the top spot on a weekly Hot 100. What a novelty.
Elvis was still around, his “Crying in the Chapel: was number 9 on the charts, while the Searchers’ “Love Potion Number Nine” was number 70. The Beach Boys were kicking up sand with “Help Me, Rhonda” at number 11, beating out country’s “King of the Road” by Roger Miller.
The sounds of Motown were also ringing in our ears. The Four Tops clocked in at number 2 with “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” and again at number 83 with “It’s the Same Old Song.” The Temptations made the top ten songs of the year at number 10 with “My Girl.”
But what about the Beatles? They had a good year, too. George Harrison had his tonsils removed, and John Lennon passed his driving test. Together with Paul and Ringo they became the first rock group to win Best New Artist at the seventh annual Grammy Awards, as well as being named Best Performance by a Vocal Group for “A Hard Day’s Night.” Yet the Song of the Year went to Jerry Herman’s “Hello Dolly!” as recorded by Louis Armstrong, and the bossa nova beat prevailed for Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto who took home Album of the Year. Think “The Girl from Ipanema” with vocals by Astrud Gilberto.
The Beatles’ “Help!” was number 7; “Ticket to Ride” was number 31; “Eight Days a Week” was number 55.
There are so many other groups we associate with the sixties. The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was number 3 on Billboard’s end-of-year hit list. British beat bands to make the charts included Herman’s Hermits with five songs, the Kinks, the Dave Clark Five, Freddie and the Dreamers, and Jerry and the Pacemakers. British soloists included Petula Clark and Tom Jones.
The Righteous Brothers, the Supremes, and Jay and the Americans comprised some of the popular U.S. born and bred talent. Sonny and Cher first achieved fame in 1965 with “I Got You Babe,” ending the year at number 16, and “Baby Don’t Go” at 72. And then there was Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan went electric fifty years ago, alienating his fans at the Newport Folk Festival by performing on an electric guitar and playing loud. His album “Bringing It All Back Home” was both electric and acoustic. The Byrds covered his “Mr. Tambourine Man, adding sounds, ending the year at number 25. Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” was number 41 for the year.
Who were you listening to back then? Keep searchin’: the Billboard Top 100 Songs of 1965 can be found here. Who are you listening to now?
© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved
August 3, 2015
July 26, 2015
There are stories all around us.
Just this morning I opened my San Diego Union-Tribune to the front page of the Sports section, and there was a picture of Roseanne Barr. She wore an extra large men’s white pullover. Her hair was cropped short, and her mouth was open. So, what else is new? Well, the photo wasn’t. It was taken twenty-five years ago when Barr sang the national anthem during a Reds-Padres double-header in Cincinnati.
Do you remember what is considered the worst performance ever? Barr didn’t just sing off-key, she screeched. She put her fingers in her ears to block out the crowd: they were booing. When she finished singing, if you can call it that, she grabbed her crotch in imitation of a ball player. When she walked away from the microphone, she made an obscene gesture and spit.
Pundits called her rendition the “Barr-Mangled Banner.” Fans were outraged. Patriots were offended. Players were embarrassed. How could this have happened? Well, the backstory is interesting.
Producer Tom Werner and a group of investors had purchased the Padres the month before. Werner, co-founder of the Carsey-Werner Company and responsible for many hits, such as Mork & Mindy, Bosom Buddies, 3rd Rock from the Sun, was executive producer of Roseanne, then the most watched television show in the country. Either wanting to promote his program or endear himself to its star, who was notoriously difficult, he suggested Barr’s appearance to his colleagues.
There was some pushback. The Padres’ vice president of public relations first worried whether Barr could sing. “Don’t worry about it,” he was told. He suggested that she sing ”Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” figuring no harm, no foul balls. Nope, Roseanne wanted to sing the national anthem, and what Roseanne wanted….
After the fiasco Roseanne was asked if she had any regrets about her performance. As befits a comedic queen, she’s quoted as responding, “Do I regret that the next day all of my projects were canceled and I had to have LAPD stand on my roof and protect me and my kids for two years?” On and on she went. Not quite as amusing, especially to Werner, was the drop from twenty-one million to less than seventeen million viewers the following season of Roseanne.
Barr, wanting a second chance, took singing lessons. Years later she showed how it should be done by performing the national anthem at a girls softball game near her home in Hawaii. It was recorded for her Lifetime reality show Roseanne’s Nuts.
It just goes to show it’s never too late to make amends.
© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved