1969 was the year of Woodstock and the Manson murders; of miniskirts and "Midnight Cowboy"; of moratoriums and the first tales of My Lai; of "Portnoy's Complaint" and "I Am Curious Yellow." There were all sorts of new "cultures" - as in drug and counter.
Ike died. And Ho Chi Minh. And Judy Garland.
Pop psychology polarized the world into "freaks" and "straights." Black was beautiful. And there was violence on the streets - 60 Weathermen captured, three of them killed in Chicago...black students with guns took over Cornell. Police with night sticks swept through student mobs at Harvard Yard. Columbia University was in the throes of the spring SDS offensive.
"Sesame Street" was born and the Beatle's Paul McCartney, so the heavy rumor went, was dead. The Mets lost their awesome grip on last place - and won the World Series.
And, at 10:56 p.m. on a Sunday summer's eve, July 20, two me climbed down onto the Sea of Tranquility and let us know, after 2 million years as earthlings, what it was like to walk on the moon. In one corner of the earth, one man, who had turned down an invitation to the moon launch, also had a rendezvous that same weekend. As if playing out a Greek tragedy, he would forever share in the history books the anniversary. The two events are interwined in memory: Ted Kennedy driving off Dyke Bridge at Chappaquiddick as the first moon men - Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. - moved toward that shining sphere, to wrest away its mysteries.
Las Vegas, July 14, 1979. As an exercise in tackiness "America's Salute to the Astronauts" at the Dunes Hotel seems without peer, even by Vegas standards. Tawni Sims, starring in a movie called "The Jayne Mansfield Story" and with the cleavage to prove it, keeps maneuvering to get close to Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon.
Aldrin politely maneuvers away. Finally she works her way up while he is standing at the bar. Photographers yell, "Hey Buzz." He turns, they snap. Sims beams. Mission accomplished. Some 20 astronauts, some of whom seem confused about the whole event, stand on stage as the big band strikes up "When You Wish Upon a Star." The G-strings on the dancers behind them are coordinated; red, white and blue. Charo, of the hulahoop curves, flings herself off stage to remove coat, tie and shirt of a man in the audience while singing "Gootchy Gootchy," which she composed. Billy Carter mumbles corny jokes with a robot. A comic shouts corny jokes to the audience.
Wayne Newton says reverently that when the astronauts walked on the moon "and that Great American flag was raised, that was one of the highlights of my life as an American." He sings a Dixie medley and the G-string chorus displays bare behinds to "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy," and end with a gian cancan to "Stars and Stripes Forever."
Aldrin refuses to talk to the press. "I came here to be entertained - period."
Most Americans today are hard pressed to name more than five astronauts but none of the astronauts will say they are forgotten heroes. Charles Duke, who went to the moon on Apollo 16, said, "I suppose people need heroes and that's what they made us. Still, I don't think I'll ever be comfortable with it." Then comes the Gee Whiz. "It was a lot of fun and I had a great time doing it."
"It was almost as if we had two Americas back then - the crew cuts doing a piece of technology, and the long hairs blasting the hell out of society.... The thing I remember most about the space program were the nights before a launch. I would go out to the cape and the booster was always on the launch pad. Liquid oxygen made it frosty, and it had spotlights on it. That big, smoking, bluish thing ready to go off.
"The dark blue sky. Often a moon. You're out there in a marsh and you had to say to yourself, "What makes this night different from all other nights?" You know the questions asked in the seder? I would always think of that. And it was different." Julian Scheer, former assistant director for public affairs, NASA.
Only two men landed on the moon 10 years ago today - Aldrin and Armstrong. But 1969 was a year of mass movements on earth. Lured by music and some tribal pull, nearly half a million young people from all over the country descended on a 600-acre dairy farm in the Catskill village of Woodstock. For one weekend, they formed an instant city. "The roar after a songI It was scary. God, I had never seen so many people," said Joe MacDonald of Country Joe and the Fish. Food was a problem. Two East Village artists tried to warm soup in a beer can suspended by a string over a wastepaper fire.... Cut feet were a major medical problem.... Two babies were born.... After two rainstorms in three days, some went nude.,... Others, blissed out on drugs, sat in puddles....
Another half million gathered in Boston, New York and Washington for a November moratorium, as protest against the Vietnam War dominated world affairs. A 40-hour "March Against Death" moved silently. Far into the distance they wound their way, some 46,000, each carrying from Arlington Cemetery to the Capitol, the name of a soldier killed in Vietnam or a Vietnamese village destroyed by U.S. troops....
The crowd was smaller, but they still came by the thousands - some 21,000 to a little uptown Manhattan chapel, all day and deep into a humid night, to stare at a tiny and fragile figure in gray chiffon, in a white steel coffin. Judy Garland inspired the most maudlin eulogies, including one to "Who Killed Cock Robin." A reporter alleged that a tourist at the funeral chapel actually said: "She's found her rainbow now." The Whole World Watches
Five years of planning, 10 manned Gemini and four manned Apollo flights, scores of doctors, suit designers, geologists, lighting and photo experts, engineers, sponsors of what to eat and drink...it all added up to 22 hours on the moon.
Some 300,000 worked on Apollo 11 and the largest TV viewing audience in history came when they landed on the moon - 528 million around the world, from Pamona to Prague - as Armstrong plunked his 9 1/2-B lunar boots on the moon.
People sat in bars and in their homes and watched the quivery black and white bulky figures that looked humanoid. Many viewers raced outside, like 5-year-olds, to see if the moon looked any different as Armstrong and Aldrin kicked up moon dust, and left the American flag, a plaque and $1 million in scrap metal and seismograph equipment behind.
Moonwatchers crowded Tafalgar Square, Pope Paul peered through a telescope, Moscow heard it on the Voice of America. The moon trip was brought to you by corporate America and the jillion sponsors quickly congratulated themselves in ads. "As anyone who watches television knows, the people who manufacture Tang made a big thing out of the fact that astronauts drink it for breakfast while they're traveling in space.... The three of us dutifully sampled the orange drink, supposedly Tang, and instead chose a grapefruit-orange mixture. If Tang was on our flight, I was unaware of it," wrote Aldrin, in his autobiography, "Return to Earth."
They became the new men in the life of our dreams, bouncing airily across the moon. The disconcerting evenness of tone, the crisp commentary of the moon explorers, the torrent of data seemed to wipe out centuries of moon-inspired poetry and decades of Tin Pan Alley songs. But they were, after all, all too reassuringly human.
"Neil might have been the first man to step on the moon, but I was the first to pee in his pants on the moon. I was, of course, linked up with the urine-collection device, but it was a unique feeling. The whole world was watching, but I was the only one who knew what they were really witnessing." Aldrin, again. Killing and Criminals
It chilled in its horrible bizarreness that wild August night at 10050 Cielo Drive in Bel-Air, Calif. Five victims stabbed to death; blood trails through the plush home of movie director Roman Polanski, the word "p-i-g" scrawled in blood. The body of his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, a rope around her neck and slung over a ceiling beam, tied her to the murdered Jay Sebring, a noted Hollywood hairdresser, a hood over his head. It wasn't until December that Charles Manson's cult followers were arrested....
In April, a Los Angeles jury returned a death penalty verdict against Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, for the assassination of Robert Kennedy the previous June. In March, James Earl Ray pled guilty to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and was sentenced to 99 years in prison.... Skyjackings zoomed from an average of 2.3 attempted per year (1950 to 1967) to 71 in 1969. Fifty-eight of them went to Cuba.... Moon Talk
Astronauts were technocrats - not poets or philosophers, they kept trying to tell a world that wanted romance. They had anxiety attacks about what they would say.
"We didn't tell them what to say," says former NASA spokesman Scheer. "We wrote a script for Nixon to use when he talked to them on the moon. It was designed for 10 to 15 minutes. The whole effort fell considerably short in time. (Nixon: "For one priceless moment in the whole history of man all the people on this earth are truly one. This certainly has to be the most historic phone call ever made.") The astronauts said, "Yessir, no sir, that's right." The president, a great admirer of John Wayne, got John Wayne "yeps.""
"Beautiful" was an oft-repeated astronaut adjective; even as the pictures of the moon looked like pock-marked plaster. The now immortalized "One small step for man...one giant leap for mankind" was all Neil Armstrong, says Scheer. "I was asked a number of times by various crews for some idea of what to say in flights. But the Lewises and Clarks of modern times mouthing the words of some public relations man seemed a real distortion of history. It was up to them and that's why you got silly things, like Wally Schirra holding up a card, "Deke Slayton, are you a turtle" The whole world knows the answer is, "You bet your sweet a-- I am.""
There were poets, however, who came out of the woodwork to speak for the moon men - Marianne Moore, James Dickey, Archibald MacLeish. At last man could see the earth, wrote MacLeish, "that tiny raft in the enormous, empty night." "Cleansing the Soul"
A sexual revolution, a life-style revolution, a fashion "unisex" revolution, a social revolution were galvanized by the under-30 crowd, many of whom championed the supremely arrogant motto, "Don't trust anyone over 30."
And the over-30 establishment media romanticized every move they made - from the crumbled wrecks of Haight-Asbury flower children to commune dwellers. Youth panhandlers boasted that they could make as much as $400 a week on city streets - particularly if a frail young girl accompanied them. One such panhandler said, "The experience cleanses my soul."
In sweeping Life magazine terms "The Commune Comes To America," Youthful settlers, "refugees from affluence" they were called, lived in teepees and adobe huts and log cabins. They wore flowers in their hair and named their children "Evening Star" and such. They were Quakers, Zen Buddhists, Christians, atheists. They were, in former lives, computer programmers and Radcliffe graduates. Some moved through LSD days, some eschewed drugs. Many of them are now back working for corporate America. Cosmic Pressures
The astronauts were straight arrow. The pattern: Mostly from small towns, often the Midwest, many were only sons, engineers, military academy, political conservatives, test pilots, very proud of military rank, long married, multiple children.
"They ran the gamut from super human beings to a couple of colossal horse's a--," says Scheer, "but they were an exceptional, talented group."
"The professionally brave wife? That was something we laid on ourselves," says Rene Carpenter, now divorced from austronaut Scott Carpenter. "In private, we used to do a takeoff on those interviews: "Did you say you're happy, thrilled and proud, Mrs. Barely There?" We were just average Americans and we wanted so much for America to be proud of us. This was the ultimate project. They were professional men who never thought in terms of danger or death. They always thought in terms of redundancy of systems and back-up."
As for the wives, "We wanted to be what everyone wanted us to be. We worried about what hat to wear in the parade, what color lipstick. The first step was maintaining composure. The next step was maintaining privacy. The final step was maintaining a united front."
After the moon walk, Italian paparazzi trailed Aldrin on a journey to find a new suit fit for ceremonies with kings and queens and ticker-tape parades. Japanese photographers leaped fences to get at Armstrong beside his pool.
Armstrong, the most reclusive of the three Apollo 11 astronauts, now teaches engineering at the University of Cincinnati, hawks Chryslers on TV and retreats most of the time from the press. Crewmate Collins once said Armstrong "lives in a figurative castle surrounded by a moat full of dragons."
For years, the astronauts and families and plumbers and carpenters and engineers and secretaries and technocrats and groupies formed an encapsulted civilization at Houston and Cape Kennedy. Being captives of fame brought problems for some astronauts, most notably Aldrin, who never got over not being first on the moon and tailspinned into depressions, alcoholism, mental problems and affairs. "We were all basically pilots and scientists and were not at all accustomed to a public life style," he wrote. Always, there was the "image of the astronaut" to uphold. "One and all we were portrayed as devoted family men, as most of us were." But not "all quite the way we were portrayed to be.... For an astronaut, the opportunities for companionship were nearly endless...the temptations grew rapidly in proportion to the supply. Many of us resisted, then gave in...." Peace, Etc.
In quite another world, the shock waves could be felt: John Lennon and Yoko Ono got married. But they gave the whole thing "relevance," nearly as favorite a term in 1969 as "heavy," as in "Man, that's heavy."
The couple decided to stay in bed for seven days and seven nights to protest violence in the world, certainly the most popular type of protest ever thought up by the peace movement. Ex-Spacemen
Where are they now, those men that most America cannot recall by name? Some are rich. Alan B. Shepard is a millionaire through lucrative financial speculation, builder of shopping centers and a Coors beer distributor. Edgar Mitchell found "blissful alteration of consciousness" while viewing earth from space. He sits around monitoring his brain's alpha and theta rhythms and has ESPd his way into a profitable career helping businessmen divine the workability of business hunches. Jim McDivitt is president of Pullman; Frank Borman president of Eastern Airlines; Jim Lovell is president of a small telephone company; Pete Conrad, a vice president of Douglas Aircraft, flies jets again; Walter Schirra is a leading environmentalist.
Michael Collins is under secretary of the Smithsonian. Two are senators (John Glenn and Harrison Schmitt). Tom Stafford is with the Pentagon. Gordon Cooper is vice president of Disneyworld. Deke Slayton is director of space shuttle operations. James Irwin was one of the first to drive a lunar rover on the moon. He and astronauts David Scott and Alfred M. Worden went to the moon with a get-rich-quick scheme; carrying a thick packet of letters for a German stamp dealer. They were severly reprimanded and renounced their share of the profits. Along the man's relationship with Jesus Christ at his evangelistic foundation in Colorado called High Flight. Charles Duke is in Texas real estate and supports Irwin's evangelical crusade. "Compared to Christ, Apollo 16 is not even in the same scale." Anti-Moon Talk
Not all the world embraced our moon ventures in 1969. Blacks of the National Welfare Rights Organization picketed Houston and Cape Kennedy; they pointed to "starvation and hunger...taking place within miles of the space center." Lewis Mumford philosophized that the moon shot served a "malign, military political purpose."
President Nixon, ever quick with the hyperbole: "This is the greatest week in the history of the world since the creation." He was quickly reminded by pal Billy Graham about Jesus Christ.
The moon flight spawned an eternal cliche. "If we can send a man to the moon why can't we...?" Fill in the blanks with your favorite earth-bound issue: "find a cure for cancer," "end poverty," "solve the energy crunch." Coffee, 67 Cents a Pound
On TV, it was the last gasp for cigarette commercials, and the first major inroads of blacks selling products along with whites. A dedication to serious causes flourished; environmentalists burgeoned as oil slicked the coast of Santa Barbara; feminists found more audiences, even though women were still referred to as "girls" - "The girls of rock bands" proclaimed one headline: "This is a four-girl typing pool," said one ad.
Black struggles for equal rights made news, even though most of the media still referred to them as Negroes.
In the it-was-ever-thus category: The 1969 headlines on inflation, high cost of oil, the declining dollar and tax revolt are interchangeable with those of today. Families struggled to stay even on $15,000 salaries - when Mavericks sold for $2,000, suburban homes for $20,000, and coffee was 67 cents a pound. "Curious Yellow"
It was, also, a time for fun. People who never read sports pages followed the Mets and Marvelous Marv Throneberry, who wandered helplessly under pop-ups, missed first base while running out a triple. Casey Stengel's "Can't anybody here play this game?" became a battle cry when the Mets wowed the world by winning...Norman Mailer won the Pulitzer for "Armies of the Night," lost his cockamamie bid for mayor of New York and got a half million buckos to write about the moon voyage, as only Mailer could. He started his book-long moon meanderings with the fact that he began the '60s by stabbing one of his wives....
People sat on plastic, disposable furniture and watched plastic, disposable TV fare: "Jim Nabors Hour," "Ironsides," "Bewitched," "Hawaii Five-O," "The Andy Williams Show," "Laugh-In," "Gunsmoke," "Mission Impossible" and "The Flying Nun." And Penelope Ahse, an unknown housewife, made it big with a sexurbia pot boiler, "Naked Came the Stranger." It was the literary hoax of the year - 25 Long Island Newsday reporters were Penelope Ashe, each penning parts of the sex spoof.
Hollywood was into its first months of X and R and PG and G."Easy Rider" and "Midnight Cowboy" were among the "important" films. "Easy Rider" was seen as the bikers' symbolism for man's search for personal freedom by some awed critics. Others found star Peter Fonda a "sententious squirt."
On the streets, bottoms peeked out from fanny-high minis and T-shirted women jiggled along in what became known as the "no-bra trend." In Sacramento, a judge had the arduous assignment of deciding whether two naked dancing girls were giving a lewd performance at "Fig Leaf A-Go-Go." After rigorous inspection: "No."
Franco Zeffirelli lambasted his colleagues for the "pornographic panorama of Italian films." The Italian Association of Cinema Authors promptly expelled Zeffirelli; pornography was preferable to repression. Zeffirelli; And William Manchester would write of Jackie Onassis, coming out of the Swedish blue film "I Am Curious Yellow" wearing a tight black leather mini, that Camelot seemed a long way off....
Now, 10 years after the astronauts' glory days, people ponder what the moon trip meant. For some, it reminds man of how dismally he has failed to put things in order on earth.For others, such as Aldrin, it exemplified man's "insatiable curiosity" to explore the unknown.
Armstrong is bitter that the space program has slowed down. And some see the ho-hum attitude of today a logical and welcome progression. Julian Scheer who was there when the world hung on every soupcon, of what the astronauts ate for breakfast, says, "In the final analysis all the space program did was develop a new transportation system. The day will come when traveling in space will be as commonplace as traveling by airplane."
Or, going to the moon. CAPTION: Picture 1, Apollo crewmen on the moon; Picture 2, Judy Garland; Picture 3, the miniskirt; Picture 4, Apollo astronauts Charles Conrad, Richard Gordon and Alan Bean; Picture 5, a demonstrator; Picture 6, a San Francisco flower child; Picture 7, Woodstock; Picture 8, a demonstration arrest; Picture 9, scene from "Midnight Cowboy." Design by Terry Dale.