Monday, November 09, 2009

Dressing like Captain Kirk

Here's another taste of my growing up in the 60s in LA book. Some friends have said, "Why are you posting this? No one will buy a book if they can read it for free?" Well, I'm not sure anyone will buy this book anyway, but what I'm sharing are just small snippets. There's another 90%. Or at least there will be when I finish writing it. Anyway...

January 1967

Historians claim 1967 was a year of growing polarization. The Hippies vs. the Establishment. Hawks vs. Doves. Long hair vs. short hair. But every year was a year of polarization. Those merely joined the list of: Jocks vs. Me. Scholars vs. Me. Musicians vs. Me. Goyim vs. Me. Guys Who Could Get Girlfriends vs. Me.

My wardrobe was starting to change. I wore jeans (when I wasn’t at school or at work so four hours a week). I recall having a gold velour long sleeve shirt for some ungodly reason. Did I want to look like Captain Kirk? Add to the list: Me vs. Me.

The very first Superbowl took place in Los Angeles in January. It didn’t have a Roman Numeral because no one was certain there’d be a Superbowl II. Both CBS and NBC carried it.

Except it was blacked out in L.A. The 100,000 seat Coliseum wasn’t close to selling out. The Superbowl is a major event today but back then it was more of a novelty. The established NFL was far superior to the upstart AFL. It was like when John Ratzenberger was invited to compete in DANCING WITH THE STARS. The mighty Vince Lombardi led Green Bay Packers easily defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.

But people in Southern California were pissed that access to the telecast was blocked. There were articles in the paper showing how you could string wire hangers together and create antennas strong enough to receive the signal from San Diego. There were probably more deaths that year in Los Angeles from idiots falling off of roofs than car accidents.

I did get to see the game. We visited my grandfather who was in the Veteran’s Hospital in West Los Angeles and somehow they were provided a feed. So me, my little brother, and fifty of the scariest old men you’ve ever seen in ratty blue bathrobes on crutches toting portable oxygen tanks sat in the dayroom and watched one black-and-white TV. I’m proud to say I attended the first ever Superbowl Party.

I can also say I was the first person at Taft (or anywhere where white people lived in the Valley) to discover Wolfman Jack. One night I was tuning around my radio looking for distant signals and came upon this eerie station from Mexico. The music was all hard R&B and Blues and the disc jockey had this macabre otherworldly voice drenched in echo. He called himself the Wolfman and was broadcasting on the “Big X” – XERB. His only sponsor was something called “Mr. Satisfy”, a bottle of pills you could send away to Tijuana for that was guaranteed to give you guys “staying power” in the sack. This was quite a contrast to Dippity-Do hair gel being hawked on KHJ. What I loved most about the Wolfman was how subversive he was, how utterly non mainstream. A few years later he’s starring in George Lucas movies, trading Muddy Waters songs for Bobby Vee oldies on a syndicated radio show, hosting network dance parties, and emceeing shows at Knott’s Berry Farm.

Add to our list: The deeply committed vs. the sell-outs.

At least in the early part of 1967 the deeply committed were still holding strong though.

For the moment.

Boomers may deny it but who’re we kidding? At some point within the next few years the huge majority of us succumbed in some way or another to our own personal “Knott’s Berry Farm”.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hate to nitpick, but...

Green Bay won 35-10.

KEN LEVINE said...

You're right. I don't know where the hell I got that score but you're right. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Did you know they syndicate old Wolfman Jack tapes? I was driving home one night and heard him come on the radio, and I kept thinking, "Wait a minute... he's dead, I'm sure of it." It's disconcerting.

Patrick said...

Hank Stram was a great coach. But he was pretty much the entire brain of the AFL -- what a character though. Love the image of the first Super Bowl party. Great chapter, or half chapter. I will still buy the book when it is released, even though I'm getting pieces of it here. Thanks for sharing

YEKIMI said...

Of course Wolfman Jack sold out. He was working at a Mexican radio station and they were probably paying him in Burritos & Chihuahua puppies.

Wayne in Maine said...

Ken, Did you ever get to work with Wolfman? I know he was there at the end of TENQ and KHJ

Anonymous said...

Patrick forgets (or ignores) Sid Gillman.

Bill White said...

Don't worry Ken. I will buy your book.

Mary Stella said...

When I got out of college I worked for a radio station in Asbury Park that eventually signed on for Wolfman Jack's syndicated program. I wrote all the breaks and things that he recorded with our call letters. My boss was a huge Wolfman Jack fan. When the Halloween show arrived, the package contained a shot of Wolfman posed in a Dracula-style cape with a real wolf on a scary looking set.

Someone, and I'm not saying who, pranked the boss by "autographing" the photo to him from Jack and putting it back in the package. The boss was so proud of his personalized photo that the someone, felt guilty. Then we considered that we brought joy to the boss every Halloween when he brought out the picture again.

Mike Bell said...

As a matter of fact, Wolfman was paying himself. He earned a 100% return on every bottle of Mr. Satisfy he sold, because he had bought the entire supply to sell on his show at a greatly inflated price. The same with the baby chicks etc. he sold on XERF. Wolfman made a very comfortable living for awhile shillin' crap over the X stations.

blogward said...

I had you pegged more as Spock.

Paul Duca said...

A bit off topic but it ties together two subjects of interest to you, Ken...it seems January Jones has a role in PIRATE RADIO.

And from that film:
"NEWS FLASH...a nice young man has lost his virginity"

(when do we get THAT chapter of the book?)

Jim said...

Hope this isn't going straight from blog to book without a copy-editing step.

"Super Bowl" - two words.

Anonymous said...

Who knew infomercials started on Wolfman Jack's show? I guess he was just ahead of his time.

Sammy Glick said...

Here's my Friday question. Who is Syd Field and what prompted him to write screenplay instructional books? Do you know of anyone who read the book and went on to write a successful screenplay? What did would be screenwriters do before Syd published his book(s)?

Anonymous said...

The first Super Bowl was actually called the AFL NFL Championship Game.

Edward Copeland said...

I was surprised to see John Ratzenberger hanging out on Capitol Hill last week speaking out with the Tea Party brigade. It's one thing to be conservative or Republican, but I was surprised to see he had gone off the deep end with that gang.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I spent the most of July of 1967 on a troop ship headed for Nam. Wanna trade?

Baylink said...

I dunno why, but I always thought he was XETRA. Maybe it was just that I thought the 5-letter call was cool, et cetera...

flater: What the Balloon Boy's Dad blows up the balloon with.

Patrick said...

To Cap'n Bob Napier: Thank you sir, for your service!

And to the other sports geek that corrected me on the Gillman brain behind the AFL; obviously you speak nothing but truth as far as Gillman and his contribution to the "other league" was concerned. But I'll stick by my praise of Stram, who was left with the impossible task of bringing down the NFL that first year that the two leagues competed.