Hi there: If you haven't seen the below post about THE SITCOM ROOM, please scroll down. Thanks.Here's another installment from my upcoming memoir on growing up in the fabulous-for-some 60s. It seemed a timely entry.
I’ve always been fascinated by the National Conventions. I am hardly what you’d call a wonk but (a) these political bacchanals were great theater, and (b) there was nothing else on; even ABC pre-empted programming.
At one time there was great drama at these back-slap-fests. You didn’t know who the presidential candidates were going to be until after the conventions, not three months before. Today the only suspense is can you stay awake? But back then it was rollicking good fun – thousands of goofballs in straw hats and bolo ties waving campaign signs and hoping to get the West Virginia delegates into the sack.
For years later it would not be as amusing, but that’s getting ahead of myself.
Each of the three major networks provided their own coverage. Most households had a decided preference for one over the others. We were a CBS family. Uncle Walter Cronkite conveyed trust, reassurance, and objectivity. There was no CBS News “with an attitude”, no “Cronkite Factor”. Just a middle-aged rumpled reporter who looked more like your family doctor than Chad who cleans your pool.
NBC countered with the equally credible “Huntley-Brinkley Report”. Chet Huntley was the stern father with the voice of God. You always expected him to take you out to the back of the barn if you talked during his newscast. David Brinkley was the nerd who made good. Together they developed a large following, rivaling CBS’.
No one watched ABC. When the crown jewel of your primetime schedule is THE PATTY DUKE SHOW, it’s hard to take the news division seriously.
The Democratic Convention was in Atlantic City. Senator Robert Kennedy introduced a short film on his late brother and received a 22-minute standing ovation. Hubert Humphrey was named VP candidate and got the kind of reception reserved for comics on open mic night.
Quick aside: I missed LBJ’s acceptance speech. I was in the Corbin theater watching A HARD DAY’S NIGHT. That was a 90-minute standing ovation, along with continuous shrieking, screaming, and swooning. The crazed girl next to me kept crying out “Paul! Paul! Paul!!” “That’s a screen!” I yelled, finally. “It’s a movie! Paul’s not there! He can’t hear you!” The Beatles were live in Los Angeles on August 23rd. I did not attend the concert. Tickets were expensive ($4.00 apiece!), impossible to get, and mom wasn’t too keen on driving by the Hollywood Bowl and picking me up out front.
The Republicans convened in the aptly named Cow Palace in San Francisco, choosing Barry “what’s the point of having nukes if you don’t use ‘em?” Goldwater as their nominee, and right-wing Bill Miller as his running mate. Ironically, Miller’s daughter is Stephanie Miller, the left-wing talk show host. On the scale of rebellious children, that ranks above the minister's daughter who becomes a whore.
Highlight of that convention was when NBC reporter, John Chancellor was ejected from the main floor. Wearing bulky headphones and an aerial sticking out of the top of his head, he was led away by security thugs on national television. His sign-off was classic: "This is John Chancellor, somewhere in custody."