The 1968 Exhibit: Covering 1968

"You've Come a Long Way" campaign launched, July 22, 1968

One of the most famous advertising campaigns in US history launched on this day in 1968:  "You've come a long way" (sometimes with "baby" added at the end) was the provocative tagline for a new, thinner cigarette produced by the Phillip Morris Company and marketed specifically to women.  The campaign, developed by the famed Leo Burnett Agency, was wildly successful, both in commercial (it sold a lot of cigarettes) and cultural terms, becoming almost instantly a national catch-phrase.  

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The campaign traded on-- one might have said "co-opted" in the 1960s-- the emerging feminist consciousness and the rise of  "the New Woman," a woman who was independent, self-sufficient, and eager to demonstrate her confidence.  At the same time, imagery in the ads linked this sassy confidence with U.S. women's history (itself an emerging field in academe)  in contrasting the freedom and glamour of today's woman with the drudgery and repression that women in the past had endured.  

It was all very clever-- and Phillip Morris knew they had a winner right away.  An in-house corporate study from 1986 touted Virginia Slims' "brand personality" as the key to its success.  Contrasting the brand with "women's" brands produced by PM competitors, such as "Eve" and "Satin,"  Phillip Morris said the Virginia Slims brand was "feminine but non-threatening.  It was 'user-friendly.'  The women were women who could make choices but had not lost their femininity.  The brand was aspirational."  

"Aspirational"-- and also, like all other cigarettes-- addictive and lethal.  The Virginia Slims campaign was widely credited-- "blamed" may be more appropriate-- for convincing thousands of teenage girls to take up smoking as a sexy, free-wheeling and .....  even revolutionary act.  

 

 

Robert F. Kennedy dies in Los Angeles, June 6, 1968

 

Robert F. Kennedy dies in Los Angeles, June 6, 1968

 

Senator Robert F. Kennedy was mortally wounded in a shooting in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968 about 15 minutes after midnight, and after nearly 26 hours was declared dead on June 6.   The assassination took place in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel, just moments after Kennedy had declared victory in the California Democratic primary for the party's presidential nomination.  The gunman was a young Palestinian-American, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, who had become obsessed with Kennedy's support for Israel.  Sirhan Sirhan was tried and convicted in 1969, and sentenced to death, a sentence later commuted to life imprisonment.  At age 67, he remains in prison in California.  

58 It's easy to forget how very brief Kennedy's presidential campaign was.   He had only declared his intention to seek the nomination on March 16-- after Eugene McCarthy's surprising show of strength in the New Hampshire primary (March 12), but before the famous announcement (March 31) by President Lyndon Johnson that he would not be seeking a second term, opening up space for Vice President (and eventual nominee) Hubert Humphrey.   March, April and May 1968 were thus months of immense volatility.  

Kennedy's campaign went into high gear by the end of March, producing vast quantities of brochures, mailers, and buttons--most of which, sadly, were never 61 distributed.  Many boxes of unused campaign materials ended up with the Robert Kennedy Papers at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, which has generously shared some of them with "The 1968 Exhibit."  

 

Most amazing, however, is this extraordinary full-page advertisement, published in the New York Times on May 16, 1968:  a seemingly endless list of "boldface" names and their professions, followed by the simple line "..... are for Kennedy."  It's worth enlarging the image and taking a look at the still-famous names who endorsed Kennedy.  In alphabetical order, it starts off with Hank Aaron ("Atlanta Braves") and Charles Addams ("Cartoonist") and concludes with Donald Zagoria, a political scientist.  Along the way are Hollywood stars (Warren Beatty, Rod Steiger, Sidney Poitier, Janet Leigh) and directors (Otto Preminger, Joseph L. Mankiewicz); artists (Larry Rivers, Andy Warhol); writers (Norman Mailer AND Truman Capote); sports figures (Vince Lombardi, Bob Cousy, Roosevelt Grier); and entertainers, including Sammy Davis, Jr., Bill Cosby, and  Diana Ross and the Supremes ("singing group, Detroit, Mich.").   Take a look:  63

 

Hubert H. Humphrey at One Hundred (and in 1968)

Hubert H. Humphrey was born on this day, May 27th, one hundred years ago.  He thus shares a birth year with another towering figure in American political history, Ronald Reagan.   And at one time early in their public lives the two men actually occupied roughly the same side of the political spectrum---the liberal Democratic side.  Reagan, of course, swung far to the right by the 1950s, becoming the great standard bearer of American conservatism, while HHH remained devoted to liberal political ideals until his dying day, which sadly came too soon, in January 1978, when he was only 66.  

The career of Hubert Horatio [one of the great middle names in history] Humphrey has been beautifully chronicled by Minnesota filmmaker Mick Caouette in his 2010 documentary Hubert H. Humphrey: The Art of the Possible (look for the trailer here), and in numerous biographical works.  

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The year 1968 was -- or should have been -- Humphrey's year.  The year's HHH narrative is well known:  In March, the man he served under as Vice President, Lyndon Johnson, under brutal pressure from a failing war in Vietnam, decides not to run for a 2nd full term as President.  A full month later, HHH-- facing stiff opposition from two anti-war Democratic senators who had entered the race for the nomination-- Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy-- throws his hat into the ring, announcing that his will be a "politics of joy."  McCarthy's campaign stumbles, Kennedy is killed in early June, and HHH emerges as the front-runner for the nomination, though still fighting to become his own man, independent of the twinned curse of LBJ and Vietnam.  The nominating convention in Chicago in late August (the Republicans had gone first, and nominated former VP Richard Nixon, not without some heavy baggage and "negatives" himself) becomes a near disaster, both inside the convention hall and outside with pitched battles between out-of-control Chicago police and violent, angry, antiwar "hippies" and "Yippies" spoiling for a fight. HHH emerges a winner, but is severely bruised by the riots and Democratic disarray.   The full Fall campaign-- just a little more than two months long-- is rocky, and further complicated by the strong presence of arch-segregationist and former Alabama governor George Wallace, running on a third party.  HHH is way behind for a while, then pulls very close in the waning days of October, only to lose-- barely-- to Nixon on November 5th.  

HHH appeared on a lot of magazine covers in 1968, and if he were still around, he might have liked this one from LIFE, showing a winning pose with his running mate, Maine senator Edmund Muskie (though the headline --"But What a Week"-- pulls you back into the ugly reality of the convention debacle).  

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Surely, he would NOT have liked this one from Ramparts, the poster with his earnest face crumpled into a trash basket.  Look for this from an earlier Covering 1968 post.   

 

 

The NIXON 1968 Yearbook

The Nixon 1968 Yearbook


Full disclosure, right here at the outset:  Richard Nixon is my favorite President.  Not my choice for "Greatest President" (going to have to go with FDR there) but clearly at the top of "Most Fascinating," or "Most Compulsively Readable."  My interest in RN (as he often styled himself) may run in the family.  My greatest-generation-era Dad (an anti-JFK Irish Catholic) voted for Nixon 5 times on the national ballot (4 winning, one losing ticket).  My brother, a journalist, confessed some years back to a passion for reading Nixon biographies-- he counted 50 or so at the time that he had tucked away.  


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So working on the 1968 Exhibit has allowed me ample opportunity to exercise my guilty pleasure of reading about Richard Nixon.  As I wrote a while back, commenting on a magazine cover that declared that "the Nixon Era Begins" with his election to the presidency in November, it seems like ALL of the Sixties -- and at least a few years of the 1970s-- was The Nixon Era.  Yes, this Vice President for almost all of the 1950s lost the presidential race to JFK in 1960, and lost again two years later to Pat Brown in the California governor's race, but he always seems to be THERE, lurking around the corner, waiting, working patiently for His Time, which he seized, brilliantly, in 1968.  


Not that everyone was thrilled with the outcome in November 1968, not even Republicans.  A cloud of suspicion and anxiety about RN filled the airwaves and the media as the positioning and the campaigning ramped up.  Early in the year, LOOK magazine hired novelist Fletcher Knebel (co-author of the 1962 best-selling Seven Days in May) to profile the presumptive candidate, and ran the story as "The Puzzling Case of Richard Nixon."  There's a nice Norman Rockwell portrait of him, but also a famous photo of a shifty-eyed, scary Dick Nixon, too.  The article concludes:  "And so, candidate Nixon of 1968:  Hawk abroad, flexible innovator at home, a loser on the comeback trail, the old pro in the familiar, dusty road of a national campaign, a man who has learned to exploit the likelihood that he'll never win a beauty prize, the loner, the hustler, the riddle."  


Contrast this with this great find:  The Nixon 1968 Yearbook, a wonderful, big, glossy campaign book, published the Nixon/Agnew Committee just after the nominating convention in Miami Beach in early August.  On the cover:  The classic "tanned, rested, and ready" photo.  There are photo spreads of Nixon's baby and boyhood pictures, photos of RN's career as a member of the House of Representatives,  photos and stories of his forgettable eight years as Veep.  There are whole "chapters" with titles like "And This is His Partner: Pat Nixon," and "Powerful Running Mate: Ted Agnew."   My favorite photos are the "candids" of his family life-- in the "Family Album" section selected by Julie and Trisha Nixon-- there's even a shot of a bare-chested (yes!) Nixon on the beach with his kids.   Stark contrast to the famous photos published during Nixon's presidency of him walking "casually" -- at the suggestion of his media advisors-- on a beach, 


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wearing a suit and dress shoes.  


The Yearbook is a very effective bit of campaign propaganda-- brilliant in its own way as were his TV commercials.  You immerse yourself in it and believe in Richard Nixon as 1968 America's greatest hope -- just for a second.  

"Just Roll Tape," Stephen Stills studio session, 1968

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The CD "Stephen Stills Just Roll Tape" was released in 2007---a first-time release of music recorded (solo) by the famed guitarist, songwriter and singer at an informal studio session in 1968.  The spare album notes by Stills are (in their entirety):  "I was at a Judy Collins session in New York in 1968, and when she was finished, I peeled off a few hundreds for the engineer so I could make a tape of my new songs.  Some you'll know; some you might not.  The following fall we made the first CSN album, and the tape has been lost to the wind for almost 40 years.  Somehow it's found its way back, and these songs now feel like great friends when they were really young."  


The date "stamped" on the outside of the track list is April 26, 1968, although a Wikipedia article states that on that date Stills was playing a gig with Buffalo Springfield in Arizona, so draw your own conclusions.  Stills, who is the only artist heard in the session, singing and playing guitar and dobro, apparently left the tapes in the studio, and eventually considered them lost.  But they were somehow saved (and presumably unplayed) for nearly 40 years, finally ending up back in his hands.  


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The recording quality is amazing, especially the instrumental playing.  And Stills distinctive voice runs through its huge range.  As he says, some of the songs are familar--- VERY familiar to anyone who owned (or lived with a roomate, as I did, who owned) the first Crosby Stills & Nash album, released in 1969:  "Wooden Ships," "Helplessly Hoping," and especially the nearly 7-minute-long "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes."  Here's a YouTube (audio only) version of that one: