I fell victim to a kind of midwinter malaise the last couple of days. It wasn’t really flu although there were symptoms of that. It wasn’t a bad cold, yet it was as close as could be. I had the old reliable headache/nausea thing I used to complain of to my mother when I wanted to ditch a school day. Ma used to work at Frank’s dimestore over on North Avenue, just west of Oak Park Avenue so she’d have to trundle off to work and I’d have the whole day to myself to draw pictures, watch the Three Stooges and, when I had hit puberty, sneak peeks at my brother Joey’s Playboys, a fine collection of which he’d not hidden well enough from me.
Anyway, I wasn’t crying wolf yesterday — and heaven knows where Joey’s old Playboys are now. Besides, I can’t think of anything more boring than Playboy magazine at this advanced age although, truth be told, I actually did read the articles back in those feverish days of my early adolescence. Problem is, there’s nobody around today like Muhammad Ali, Fidel Castro, Madalyn Murray, Timothy Leary, Helen Gurley Brown, or any of the hundreds of subjects of the fabled Playboy interview. So, stuck in that netherworld between sick delirium and hazy wakefulness, I surfed YouTube on and off.
Lo and behold, I found the entire hour-plus video of the first JFK assassination bulletins on CBS TV. Dang mang, TV was so quaint in those days. The initial network interruption came in the tenth minute of the November 22, 1963 episode of As the World Turns. The soap itself was a prime example of vintage TV production values. Hell, it opens with a simple title card with soap-y organ music behind it. And, as for the show, your nine-year-old niece or nephew can put out a better looking shot, more subtly lighted with higher quality audio, these days.
And then the screen turns black for a few endless moments and a simple black CBS Bulletin card pops up, as if some unseen hand has dropped a piece of cardboard in front of the camera. You can actually hear papers being shuffled somewhere. The card remains onscreen as Walter Cronkite announces, “In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade…. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded….” He concludes the minute-long bulletin with, “Stay tuned to CBS News for further details.” And then — swear to god! — the network cuts to a freaking Nescafé commercial. Even more amazing, after the ad, CBS cuts back to As the World Turns.
Think about that for a minute: The President of the United States has been shot — maybe to death; no one knew for sure at that early juncture — and the “Tiffany Network,” so-called because it was the cream of the TV nets and was, for all intents and purposes, television’s network of record, gives the viewing public all of 59 seconds’-worth of coverage.
CBS News cut into ATWT another time moments later, cut back to the soap again, and then ran uninterrupted coverage, but only nearly eight minutes after its original bulletin.
Imagine the same thing happening today. For pity’s sake, Anderson Cooper would leap bodily from your screen and shake you by the shoulders, nearly shouting, “Holy Jesus Christ in heaven, a loud noise has reportedly been heard near the president! We’re now going to interview every single, solitary citizen of the United States — as well as a select few Russians, Chinese, and Brits — for their reactions to this monumental event! Don’t move! Don’t eat! Don’t even pass gas! The world has changed forever!”
And so on.
The coverage would continue nonstop for weeks. The NFL might even delay the Super Bowl for a few moments.
Wow. Well, you know what Bob Dylan sang about the times….
Man Of Lamantia
My guest on Big Talk Thursday was collaborative/community artist Joe Lamantia. He and his wife, Merridee, herself an artist, are key members of this town’s creative royalty.
Joe, who was born and raised on Chicago’s southwest side, and Merridee met in Boston and moved to Bloomington years ago because they’d had their fill of big city living. Joe actually designed the big brain sculptures that were part of Jill Bolte Taylor‘s Brain Extravaganza exhibit of a few years back. Some of those brains, measuring 5’x5’x4′, are still on display here and there around town. Joe’s “Flying V” guitar, more than 30′ tall, adorns the south wall of the 7th St. Garage.
Go here for the podcast of the Lamantia interview and tune in to WFHB, 91.3 FM, for Monday’s 5pm Daily Local News feature for further chat with the artist on Big Talk Extra.