Tuesday, September 23, 2008

40 Years Ago

(An occasional reminiscence on the events of 1968)

This month, Yale junior Garry Trudeau began to draw a comics series about the football team, called 'bull tales'; they would run in the Yale Daily News, starring BD and Mike Doonesbury.

On the cover of GQ, September 1968: Omar Sharif, wearing a plaid wool jacket.

On September 7 at the Miss America pageant, Atlantic City: Despite the legend, no bra burning took place. several dozen women's liberation protesters from New York City joined with women from around the country to stage a show on the boardwalk. From Jo Freeman, who was there:

Women’s liberation took advantage of this to stage several guerilla theater actions. A live sheep was crowned Miss America. Objects of female oppression – high heeled shoes, girdles, bras, curlers, tweezers – were tossed into a Freedom Trash Can. A proposal to burn the can’s contents was scuttled when the police said that a fire would pose a risk to the wooden boardwalk. Women sang songs that parodied the contest and the idea of selling women’s bodies: ‘Ain’t she sweet; making profits off her meat.’ A tall, Miss America puppet was auctioned off.

That weekend, Led Zeppelin performed for the first time at a club in Europe; at their first show, they were billed as The Yardbirds (the Yardbirds had disbanded two months earlier, and guitarist Jimmy Page subsequently formed this new group).

On September 16, Dr. Orlando Bosch, an anti-Castro terrorist, drove his Cadillac to Dodge Island, the Port of Miami, where he and his accomplices fired a 57-millimeter bazooka, hitting the Polish freighter Polanica. Years later a Cuban news report would accuse Bosch and cronies of being responsible for several dozen bombings or attempted bombings against countries that traded with Cuba, that year.

On September 18 presidential candidate Richard Nixon appeared on Laugh-In, sticking his head through the well-known wall of opening doors and saying “Sock it to ME?”

Protesters against the government continued in Mexico, increasing as the international focus was on the Olympics, to be held in Mexico City in October. President Díaz Ordaz ordered the army to occupy the National Autonomous University campus on the 18th. Students were beaten and arrested indiscriminately and fighting continued around the city including at Polytechnic, occupied five days later.

60 minutes debuted on CBS September 24, the first weekly news magazine on television. It was on a Tuesday.
Funny Girl starring Barbra Streisand, opened in theaters. Streisand had been a hit on Broadway in 1964 with this musical about the life of Fanny Brice.

On Sept. 26, President Johnson appointed Washington Post editor J. Russell Wiggins to be UN ambassador, after George W. Ball resigned to join the Humphrey campaign. Russ Wiggins would be sworn in on Oct. 4, leaving Ben Bradlee as the top editor of the Post 3 months early. Graham and Bradlee offered the managing editor job to Eugene Patterson, recent editor of the Atlanta Constitution. Howard Simons, passed over for the managing editor job, would get it three years later when Patterson left the Post, disgruntled. About this time Steve Isaacs was named metropolitan editor and Richard Harwood, national editor.

September 29: “Piece of My Heart,” the lone Top Forty hit by Big Brother and the Holding Company, enters the charts. It would reach #12.

On September 30, the first Boeing 747 rolled out of the Everett, WA, factory.

On that day, the 900th US plane was shot down over Hanoi. 538 Americans were killed in action that month, highest of the year.

Sometime around this time the Post library staffer who had casualty duty went on vacation. I got to fill in, and call the Pentagon a few Fridays for 'body counts'. Many things made the war personal to me, despite not having a loved one in it. This one was deeply felt, talking to the enlisted man who read the numbers in a dull voice over the phone. Just numbers.

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