The long-overdue death of the miserable lunatic Charles Manson will probably prod some old journalists to write desultory thumb-suckers about “the dark side of the Sixties.” The official history - written by the victors, the Boomers - casts the Sixties as an idealistic time of Love and Freedom, when winsome college girls put flowers in the barrels of rifles to stop the War Machine, Man.

All eras have their mad men. What varies are the reactions - whether the mad men are condemned for reasons unrelated to their crime, for example. A madman who is incidentally Irish blows up a school, and it’s all about the Irish peril. That sort of thing. What was uniquely awful about the 60s counterculture was the way it celebrated madness as authenticity, and no one was more authentic than Manson.

A reminder of his status as a role model:


In December 1969, Weatherman convened a “War Council” at a black-owned concert hall in a Flint, Michigan ghetto. At that event . . . Bernadette Dohrn gave her most memorable and notorious speech to her followers. Holding her fingers in what became the Weatherman “fork salute,” she said of the bloody murders recently committed by the Manson Family (in which the pregnant actress Sharon Tate and a Folgers Coffee heiress and several other inhabitants of a Benedict Canyon mansion had been brutally stabbed to death): “Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach! Wild!”

There’s a depravity in those remarks that’s absolutely Mansonesque, reveling in the horror and cruelty, delighting in the death of “pigs” who were utterly deserving of their deaths, because they were bourgeois.

Dig it! Wild!

She was, of course, rehabilitated in the eyes of liberal society, and rewarded with college jobs and positions at various foundations. Don’t think anyone called her up for a quote about Manson’s death, and asked if still admired him. She’d probably say no. She’d probably reflect on her youthful enthusiasms and smile a little:

My, the things one said.

The Sixties weren’t responsible for Manson, but they were responsible for realigning the moral guardrails so a person like Dorhn, and her husband Tom “I don’t regret setting off bombs” Hayden, could be saluted once the era burned itself out, and held up as moral avatars who’d learned to work within the system. The system that let them skate. The system that gave them jobs. The system they hated, and wanted to destroy.

It does make today’s panics seem petty, or at least less baleful. The worst thing in the world is now Charlie Rose walking out of the shower in front of a female assistant, no doubt thinking to himself Dig it! Wild! In one sense it’s pathetic; in another sense it’s pathetic and horrible, as these stories show what women have to endure. (I still remember Peg Lynch telling me how she fended off a dinner invite from JFK, saying “everyone knew he was a grabby hands.”) What’s remarkable about all these tales are two constants: A) the men who gosh gee don’t remember doing that because they did it all the time and gave it no thought, it being the Way of the World, and B) the sad, clueless, exhibitionism of these guys. As if Sudden Boss Johnson is what everyone’s been waiting to see this morning.

The last few years have felt as if we’re draining a suppurating wound.




That was not the most spectacular Monday, in case you’ve tuned in for a pulse-pounding play-by-play. No, it will not thrill you a little. It will not chill you a little. You will not have to get a grip on your nerves, if you can.

I don’t know why I was quoting the opening of the Mysterious Traveler, one of those anthology shows that had a Unnamed Ominous-Talking Man introducing the plots. He sat down next to you on the train and told you a story. It might thrill you a little, he would say, which is certainly lowballing your expectations. As for chilling you in a small way, yes, it might do that, too, but probably not.

At the end of the show he started another tale, only to stop and say “oh, but this is your stop.” The general effect was someone who just bored strangers with his peculiar narratives, and couldn’t take a hint.

Many of the shows had these narrators; Suspense, for a while, had THE MAN IN BLACK, a helpful detail for radio, and he was played by Joseph Kearns, familiar to people in my demographic as Mr. Wilson on Dennis the Menace. The show ran in reruns. I never liked it as a child, although I was intrigued by the portrayal of Dennis as a disembodied spirit of a fireman, turning into a tornado:



Somehow that made him the brother of Tom Terrific. I can’t tell you what an impression that made on me as a very young child, watching it on Captain Kangaroo, eating my oatmeal in a blue bowl that had a bunny on the bottom and the words All Gone.

I wonder what happened to that bowl. It must have been broken; there’s no way my Mom would have thrown it out. I wouldn’t throw out a childhood bowl Daughter liked. I still have, somewhere in a bag in the basement in the box of bygone things, a Hello Kitty spoon.

Anyway, it goes back to something I’ve mentioned here over the years - the way the faces and voices and my parents’ generation carried over to mine, and we had no context. It seems like they belonged to two eras - old wartime radio on one side of the divide, TV and Disney movies on the other, the one that belonged to Us Kids. But adults at the time didn’t see it like that, of course; they were used to these faces and voices populating the products of the entertainment industry, just like grown-ups today are used to the guy from Cheers being a voice in Pixar movies.

God help us if he gets accused of groping; they'll have to recut every Pixar movie.


Man, that's just typical of you, kitchen. Typical.

This book assembles the types of metal kitchens you could get, now that Hitler was dead. Example #2:


I get the impression - vague, but it's there - that these things were made by Youngstown.

Modern for years to come! Until you want something three people can stand in.





It's 1965.

I think I’d love it more if it didn’t look like tree bark:



If you’re wondering if double chocolate is even possible, and whether it brings up the issue of Triple Chocolate down the road - it means there’s a ribbon of chocolate “fudge” in the chocolate ice cream. Which is chocolate flavored viscous fluid, as opposed to the “fudge” of a brownie.


You’d think they could keep the house home just on body heat:



That’s Gene Carolan. The 1999 obit says he was survived by seven sons.



A cheerful bunch:



The farm still appears to be in family hands - and you can see his house from here.


Banquet did the fixin’! An’ took off some letters what might think they had fancy east-coast airs.



Did anyone ever eat a beef pie and think “this must have been expensive”?


In 1965 there’s still unapologetic femininity in the ads, but that’ll be gone in a few years. By 1967 it’ll all be “you’ve come a long way baby” empowerment hear-me-roar postures, but for now, it’s still Betty Draper land.




Looks like Frankenstein’s monster, all cleaned up:



Why the puppies? To position the smoke between the manly-man Marlboros and the other brands that had the usual blather about flavor and satisfaction. This one said you were a particular kind of person: A guy’s guy, sure, but one the gals liked because you didn’t require your dog to be in useful hunting size.

He’s been rendered incapable lighting his cigarette because he has his hands full. Did she give him the puppies? How long was he standing there with a cigarette in his mouth and an arm full of puppies before she came along?

Can’t he wait to put down the puppies before he has a smoke?

Well, she has black-rimmed glasses, so that’s a start:


Finally: half of an ad. If you know your American vernacular architecture, you know exactly what brand that was.

Back in the days when gas stations spelled freedom and the future . . . but when didn’t they?

That'll do; see you around.



blog comments powered by Disqus