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Few pop stars of the late 1960s were more visible than Mark Lindsay, the lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders, which shot to fame as the house band on ABC's musical-variety show Where the Action Is. Five afternoons a week, the Raiders played covers and Top 40 singles -- "Just Like Me," "Kicks," "Good Thing"... -- and engaged in antics inspired by the Beatles' movies A Hard Day's Night and Help. The Fab Four connection was no coincidence. Action's producer Dick Clark marketed the Raiders as America's response to the "British invasion". With their Revolutionary War get-up and Lindsay's trademark ponytail, the Raiders certainly looked the part.
Lindsay's good looks inspired much breathless prose in 16, Tiger Beat, and other teen mags. The writer of a typical piece contrasted the "smiling, happy, dashing, gallant, laughing, care-free and outgoing" facade Lindsay maintained publicly with the off-screen "torment and confusion of a young man searching for his name and meaning in a very nameless world of labels."
The 1968 Democratic National Convention, which took place in Chicago, was one of the most contentious events in American political history. The months leading up to the convention had seen an incumbent president decline to run for reelection, two major assassinations, rioting in more than 100 cities, and increasing dissent about U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. When antiwar activists announced plans to protest at the convention, Chicago's "law and order" mayor, Richard J. Daley, warned them not to come -- and met the ones who did with a display of force that shocked the millions of Americans watching the spectacle on television. As many historians have since reflected, what took place outside the convention hall played as significant a role in determining outcome of the 1968 Presidential election as the political maneuverings inside it.
Throughout the convention, about 12,000 Chicago police officers, reinforced by several thousand Illinois National Guardsmen, an equal number of U.S. Army soldiers, and 1,000 Secret Service agents, kept the protesters (who at most numbered 10,000) away from the hall, which was surrounded by a barbed wire fence. The government commission that later investigated the daily clashes assigned blame to both sides, though it pointedly described the skirmishes of Aug. 25 and 26 as a "police riot." Things were no calmer on Aug. 28, the day convention delegates voted down a plank for the Democratic Party platform opposing the conduct of the Vietnam War. The protesters headed for the hall but ended up in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, the headquarters of both the delegates and the media. Television cameras captured the confrontation between the protesters and police, and about 18 minutes of footage was broadcast unedited. Many shots showed officers clubbing seemingly defenseless protesters, news gatherers, and onlookers.
Roger DeKoven was a character actor whose career on Broadway and in radio and television spanned seven decades. Among his high-profile credits were the widely praised Against the Storm, a thinking-housewives' daytime radio drama that debuted in 1939, and the original 1964 Broadway production of Funny Girl, in which he played the great showman Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. to Barbra Streisand's Fanny Brice.
As did many New York actors of his generation, DeKoven supplemented his income from stage work with appearances first in radio and later on TV. In Against the Storm, he played lead character Jason McKinley Allen, a sensitive college professor. The 15-minute serial had its share of soap-operatic situations, but its scripts also reflected on the issues of the day. After the Second World War broke out but before the United States became involved, for instance, an entire episode was devoted to the professor's ruminations on the futility of armed conflict. Against the Storm won a 1941 Peabody Award for Outstanding Entertainment in Drama -- the first, and for years only, daytime show to earn the honor. Procter & Gamble canceled the show a few months later, though it was revived two more times.
In Rosemary's Baby (1967), Ira Levin's gothic novel set in Manhattan during the mid-1960s, a young woman named Rosemary and her husband, Guy, move into a historic apartment building unaware that a coven of witches operates within its confines. After Guy's stalled acting career suddenly takes off and Rosemary becomes pregnant, she begins to suspect that their seemingly benign neighbors -- an elderly couple -- have convinced Guy to make a pact with Satan to achieve success. Rosemary believes that Guy's deal involves her unborn baby (she's right but can't prove it), and she becomes increasingly paranoid as people in her life die and her health deteriorates.
Acclaimed horror novelist Stephen King once praised Levin as "the Swiss watchmaker of the suspense novel" for his tight plotting, but Levin's prime achievement is how palpable he makes Rosemary's growing despair with each failing attempt to overcome her predicament. The author adds tension by rarely revealing to the reader any more than Rosemary knows herself, and heightens the overall sense of imbalance by weaving her seemingly fantastical notions with everyday details of 1960s New York: a transit strike, Vidal Sassoon haircuts, Rudi Gernreich fashions, the mayoral race between Congressman John Lindsay and William F. Buckley Jr., and Pope Paul VI's appearance at Yankee Stadium. With the book's focus on Rosemary's fight for control over both her body and her unborn baby, Levin also touches on the sexual politics of the day.
The Last Picture Show, a 1966 semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel by Larry McMurtry, follows the lives and sexual mishaps of three early-1950s teenagers as they complete high school and prepare for adulthood. The story unfolds in the fictional West Texas town of Thalia, a stand-in for the real-life Archer City, which the author once described as "a mess" he'd hate violently if he didn't love it so much. By turns touching and ribald (in Greek mythology, Thalia is the muse of comedy), the book is a meditation on endings: of love, adolescence, innocence, the cowboy ethos, and the golden age of movies and movie houses.
As the novel begins, two of the three teens, Sonny and Duane, are roommates, co-captains of the perennially bad high school football team, and co-owners of an old Chevy pickup they share for dating purposes. Duane's major preoccupation is sex, in particular with the third protagonist, his rich and narcissistic girlfriend, Jacy, a tease of epic proportions. Sonny, meanwhile, begins an affair with Ruth, the wife of the emotionally stifled high-school football coach, who's neglected her for so long she compares herself to a refrigerator that's never been defrosted.
The Graduate, a landmark satirical movie that premiered in 1967, concerns Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), a recent college graduate who loses his virginity to his father's business partner's wife (Anne Bancroft) then falls in love with the couple's daughter (Katharine Ross). Directed by Mike Nichols and with pitch-perfect dialogue by Buck Henry, the film struck a chord with youthful audiences, who related both to Ben's disillusionment with his parents' materialism and his inability to conceive of an alternative. Many reviews praised The Graduate for its sophisticated blend of irreverence and poignancy, and more than a few critics declared it a turning point in American cinema.
Bancroft played the role of Mrs. Robinson with such obvious glee that the character's predatory behavior received more attention than the interior melancholy that prompted it. Reactions varied depending on the reviewer and the publication -- Playboy magazine, for instance, applauded Mrs. Robinson for doing Ben the favor of seducing him, and the movie itself for providing the "funniest moments of anguish ever filmed to commemorate the decline and fall of a boy's burdensome virginity."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the preeminent U.S. civil rights leader of 1950s and 1960s, was shot dead on Apr. 4, 1968, as he stood on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The assassination, immortalized in Life magazine photographs and contemporary TV news reports, occurred the day after King had delivered a speech in which he described seeing the "Promised Land" of racial equality. Perhaps prompted by the bomb threat that had delayed his arrival in Memphis, Dr. King had also reflected that "I may not get there with you."
Dr. King was in Memphis to support African-American sanitation workers on strike over wages, working conditions, and unequal treatment. Though King had received the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize for embracing nonviolence, by 1968 he had become, according to several biographers, dispirited by personal and political setbacks. Dissatisfied with the pace of progress toward equality, some in the civil rights movement were questioning his nonviolent strategy and recent initiatives on behalf of the poor of all races. (Violence had marred a March demonstration in Memphis that King had participated in, and he'd returned to Memphis hoping to lead a nonviolent encore.) Outside the movement, King had alienated some former supporters by his opposition to the Vietnam War, and the FBI had been monitoring his activities for years.
The psychedelic discotheque the Electric Circus opened on Jun. 28, 1967, in NYC's East Village with a charity benefit that saw the downtown art crowd, the midtown fashion set, and uptown socialites mixing it up with barefoot hippies and stray bystanders who'd somehow gained entry. With textured walls at all angles, a high-powered sound system, and light and projected-image shows, the pleasure palace was designed to delight -- and disorient -- its patrons, and draw them into a kaleidoscopic experience that included go-go dancers, jugglers, face painters, karate and trapeze artists, and even astrologers. "We want people to get integrated with the action," co-founder Jerry Brandt told a reporter from Life magazine, who wrote that labeling the proceedings as "audience participation" would be a "flagrant understatement." During the club's first year, the action included performances by the Grateful Dead, the Chambers Brothers, and house band Sly and the Family Stone.
With funding from the American Coffee Foundation and an amped-up typeface that aptly illustrated the club's name, the Electric Circus was all about "buzz." Snappy ads and posters promised patrons they could be anything they wanted to be, which may explain why the reporter for Life extolled the Electric Circus as a safe place to experience psychedelia without having to get high, while the Village Voice compared the scene to the Roman Empire "in that middle period when decline was becoming decay." (During the club's cameo as the fictitious Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel in the 1968 film Coogan's Bluff, the unremitting glare of Clint Eastwood, playing a fish-out-of-water Arizona sheriff, makes it clear his character sides with the Voice's opinion.)
On Jan. 31, 1968, Viet Cong fighters attacked South Vietnam's capital Saigon as well as over 100 of the country's cities, hamlets, and military installations. The offensive violated a ceasefire previously announced by the Viet Cong's North Vietnamese allies to celebrate Têt Nguyen Dan, the Lunar New Year. This unprovoked attack came as a surprise to both U.S. military and the South Vietnamese regime. (By some estimates, half the troops were on leave.) For several hours, Viet Cong raiders occupied parts of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. Televised images of battles in the capital and nearby cities contradicted optimistic assessments made by U.S. military leaders about the progress of the Vietnam War.
On Dec. 3, 1967, Dr. Christiaan Barnard, a cardiothoracic surgeon in Cape Town, South Africa, performed the first human-to-human heart transplant. Though his patient died 18 days later, Barnard's achievement was the medical equivalent of discovering the North Pole: The surgeon went into the operating room an unknown but emerged an international celebrity. With movie-star looks and a disarmingly outspoken manner, Barnard soon became an effective advocate for heart transplantation -- a controversial procedure for moral, medical, and legal reasons. Some district attorneys in the United States, for instance, had threatened to charge surgeons, who remove a heart before its donor is legally dead, with murder.
Following Barnard's success, other surgical teams, including one in the United States just three days later, began performing the procedure. There were complications, however. As Barnard and other surgeons had learned from more than a decade of experimentation, the transplant itself wasn't the procedure's trickiest part, but rather making sure that the patient's body didn't reject the new heart. Barnard claimed that his superior methods of preventing rejection resulted in better outcomes for his patients: his second patient lived 19 months, another early patient lived for more than a decade, and a third more than two decades. Rejection remained a negative factor, however, and by the early 1970s, the procedure was falling out of favor.