Monday, July 6, 2009

The Flaming Nose Covers the "Summer of '69"

Three huge events occurred during the summer of 1969, and they all went on to become formative television moments which helped define the sixties for years to come. The Flaming Nose will be covering all and will be giving you a heads up on where you might find coverage (TV and Web) to mark their respective 40th anniversaries.

The first and most important is NASA's Apollo 11 moon voyage, which took place forty years ago in mid-July. At least three of the Flaming Nose bloggers are confirmed space program fanatics, so you can expect multiple posts over the next few weeks. The website already features some terrific information about the mission. I have a personal connection to the Apollo 11 story, since I was lucky enough to be standing on the beach in Florida when I was a kid to witness the launch with my own eyes. Quick TV factoid about the moon landing 40 years ago; according to Nielsen Media Research it was one of the most viewed live events (worldwide) for decades, with between 600 million and 1 billion watching Neil Armstrong step onto the moon. Immense population growth and greater availability of television globally has seen many additional events surpass that number, including the funeral for Princess Diana, which was estimated at 2.5 billion viewers.

The next event is as dark a moment as the Apollo 11 mission was glorious. On August 9th, 1969, the infamous Manson "family" began its murderous rampage in Los Angeles, by killing movie star Sharon Tate and her friends, and later the LaBianca couple. Captured months later, the trial of Manson and his followers became a television and media circus (and that was BEFORE cable!), as well as spawning the best selling true crime book of all time, "Helter Skelter". Here's another little personal factoid about the Manson murderers. For a while, the family from Hell hung out at the abandoned Spahn movie ranch in Chatsworth, California....a mere mile away from this blogger's current humble abode. I drove up there to see what has become of the ranch 40 years later. The familiar rocky hills are still there, but the ranch location is now a private gated picnic area. There are no buildings left and the only sign that it was once a ranch is a large wooden crossbar made out of railroad ties at the entrance.

The final big event from the summer of 1969 was the long weekend of peace, love and hallucinogenic drugs on Max Yasgur's upstate NY farm. Of course, we are referring to "Woodstock", the muddy four day music festival that rendered a feature length movie, an album, made stars out of many musicians and gave us the most interesting rendition of the National Anthem ever when Jimi Hendrix reinvented it on a rain soaked morning. And now for the final personal connection... I was raised in upstate NY, and I recall very well the hoards of colorful hippies hitch hiking up route 17 to attend the festival that weekend in August. I was way too young to go myself (darn!).

So strange to have connections to all three of these historical moments. I feel a little like Forest Gump right now.

Stay tuned for more on the Summer of '69, right here on The Flaming Nose!


Judith said...

you forgot hurricane camille was that same year!!!

Lisa said...

Great post! What a crazy time!

Jane said...

Can you believe I actually drove up the road to see exactly where the Spahn movie ranch was? You can still pin point the exact area, although there is nothing left of it. 1969 was definitely a crazy year! I completely forgot about Hurricane Camille.