Friday, May 29, 2015

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: California Nights (1967)
Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.
1) Lesley Gore premiered this song on an episode of Batman. She played Pussycat, the protegee of Catwoman. (That explains her outfit in the video.) How many of Batman's nemeses can you name? Lots. The Joker was my favorite. But there's The Riddler, The Penguin, the aforementioned Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, Egghead, King Tut, The Black Widow, Shame ...

  2) At least five actors have played The Caped Crusader already (Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale) and Ben Affleck will play him in 2016's Batman vs. Superman. Who is your favorite Batman? (If any Batmen were inadvertently omitted, Sam apologizes.) In my world, there will only ever be one.
3) Unlike most superheroes, Batman doesn't have any superpowers. This Saturday, you're more fortunate. We're bestowing any superpower on you that you want. Which would you like? I'd like to magically, effortlessly glide everywhere and slide up banisters. Part Mary Poppins, part Peggy from Mad Men.

4) Though she's singing of warm California nights, Lesley Gore was a New Yorker, born in Brooklyn and, in February of this year, dying in Manhattan. Which coast have you spent more time on, the West Coast or the East Coast? I prefer the East Coast, especially Boston and Philly, but lately I've spent more time in Los Angeles because my oldest friend moved there.
5) Not many people know that while she was making records, Lesley was also a student at Sarah Lawrence and graduated with her BA in 1968. What's something we would be surprised to know about you? I don't change unless absolutely forced to. I still have AOL. I've never changed cell phone providers. In the 1980s, the Columbia Record Club had to literally bribe me to switch from vinyl to CDs. I bet you can guess how I stand on e-books.

6) In 1967, when this song was popular, the best selling new
camera in the United States was the new Polaroid Swinger. Think about the most recent photo you took. Did you use a camera, a tablet, or a phone? My little Kodak Easy Share M350 camera.
7) The big fashion trend of 1967 was bright tights, in shades like Hot Pink, Shock Orange and Grass Green. Tell us about something you wore when it was trendy but now you look back and think, "Oh, God, that was awful!" In the 1980s, I spiked my then-red hair with purple mousse. I am only grateful that no photos have surfaced.
8) In 1967, drivers complained about "gas wars." The price  was unpredictable and would rise and fall, day by day, as much as 30¢ per gallon. How much does it cost you to fill up your tank today? No car

9) Random question: Are there dishes in your kitchen sink right now? Now and always.

Mom was wrong

My mother never understood my passion for hanging on to newspapers and magazines. Unless they contained a real-time story about a momentous news event, she said, "toss it." I always resisted. I liked looking back a year or two. Especially at the ads. There's the Yardley cologne I was saving for! There's the poncho I wanted so badly!

This post is inspired by a specific issue of LIFE. June 20, 1969, to be exact. I found it while we were staying at a cottage in small-town Wisconsin in August of that year. Previous tenants had left it behind.

I was in love with Joe Namath that summer. I hated the awful resort town that summer and every other summer I was dragged up there. And so I killed a great deal of time gazing at this magazine. When our week was over, I tried to bring it home. My mom saw it in the car and told me to throw it away or put it back. She didn't care which, but she certainly didn't want my bedroom cluttered with yet another old magazine! (Also, my mother didn't approve of Joe Willie. No, not one bit.)

How I wished I'd kept it! For the issue has become rather famous. See if you can zero in on what makes this issue one of note.


Pg... 4 Column: How Many Huts? How Many Tents? By Barry Farrell

Pg... 9 “18 Reviews: Book: "Men in Groups," by Lionel Tiger, Reviewed by Robert Ardrey

Pg... 9A 18 Reviews: Movie: "True Grit" with John Wayne, Reviewed by Richard Schickel

Pg... 22A Letters to the Editors

Pg... 22B Broadway Joe's Friends: Regular Customers at Bachelors III, Namath's New York Bar, Included Three Cosa Nostra Men and Two Thieves. By Sandy Smith

Pg... 34 Newsfronts: Red Summit in the Place of the Czars

Pg... 36 Editorials: An End to Capital Punishment

Pg... 36 Editorials: A First Step at Midway

Pg... 40 Our Happy Moon Journey: The Apollo 10 Crew Describes how it was. "Well, Now that We're Here, what Do We Do?" By Tom Stafford, John Young and Gene Cernan

Pg... 46 Movies: One Film Turns Life Upside Down for the New Star Named Ali. Photographed by Art Kane

Pg... 52 Two Cops on a Tough Beat: A Hard Patrolman and His Patient Partner Work the Menacing Streets of Haight Ashbury. By L. H. Whittemore. Photographed by John Oldenkamp

Pg... 64 Close Up: Mark Van Doren at 75: a Complex Poet Who Talks Calmly in a Troubled Time. By Melvin Maddocks

Pg... 65 Ideas in Houses: Part 39: At Home on a Private Plaza

Pg... 68 The Class of '69

Pg... 69 With Eloquent Defiance, Top Students Carry Their Protest Right Through Commencement

Pg... 74 Miscellany


Did you spot it? It's the pair of stories that begin on page 68 about the graduating Class of 1969. Speaking for Wellesley, wearing wire-rimmed glasses and very groovy striped slacks, is 22-year-old Hillary Rodham. She hasn't yet been to Yale Law School. She hasn't yet met Bill.  

The way I poured over that magazine, I must have seen this article that summer when I was 11. What did I think of her? I remember thinking "the star named Ali" (MacGraw) was pretty, despite the tooth thing. What were my impressions of Hillary? Did I admire her talk of protest as a way to "question great institutions?" Or did I dismiss her as plain? I truly don't recall.

But this is why, if I didn't absolutely have to, I would never throw anything away.

To Sir, With Love

President Kennedy died on my sixth birthday. That's a tender age, and having my Big Day marred by a national tragedy left its mark. In trying to restore order to my little universe and understand the pervasive agony* all around me, I began reading obsessively the man. And have never stopped.

John F. Kennedy taught me much about life. The biggest lesson is that the way a life looks on the outside isn't necessarily how it feels from the inside. Though he was insulated by wealth, young Jack was plagued by severe, painful medical problems that kept him in the hospital or home convalescing. He missed years of school and had to drop out of Yale because of his fragile health. (And this was as the second son in a family that valued achievement above all else.) His parents had a troubled marriage, and that resulted in a complicated, unsatisfactory relationship with his mother that may have colored his attitude toward women throughout his life. (I've read just as much about his wife, so I'm not unaware of his own failings as a husband.)

So whenever I'm tempted to compare my life to someone else's, whenever I feel envy nipping at my heart, I remember how the world looked at JFK and thought he had it all, while in his heart he always felt rather lonely and isolated.

But look what he accomplished! Cum laude graduate of Harvard, decorated war hero, Pulitzer Prize winner, and the youngest man ever elected to the Presidency. The first Irish Catholic, at a time when people still remembered signs in store windows that said, "Irish need not apply."

Yes, he lucked out being born to one of the country's wealthiest family. But the wit, the intellect, the elegant turn of phrase, the fascinating combination of empathy and detachment he brought to every situation ... those money didn't buy. 

He taught me that if you have imagination, you can visualize your own destiny and if you don't cut yourself too much slack, you can achieve your goals. 

He remains the single biggest influence on my politics. He wrote this before I was born, and it still sums up my view of what my country can be if we listen to our better selves.

If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal", then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal.”

That's how I'm honoring him, with gratitude, on his birthday.

*Adults, please hear me. I remember the trauma of 11/22/63 so clearly, remember the riots and assassinations of 1968 so clearly, and I worry about other children when major news events happen. Like children in Boston after the bombing, or St. Louis and Baltimore after the riots. Talk to the kids in your life. They feel the impact without necessarily understanding it, and that can make a painful period even scarier.