Through 1,036 days of the New Frontier, from the take off in a freezing Washington blizzard, to its sudden end on that bright Dallas Day, a nation was captivated by Camelot.
By 1961 American’s were swept up in Camelot Mania.
Suddenly everything concerning JFK was news and the nationwide obsession was already beyond control. The appetite for all things Kennedy was seemingly insatiable and the media was all too eager to feed the hungry public’s interests.
Flash forward 50 years later and the fascination still holds.
Our cravings for Camelot have not diminished. Americans still can’t get enough of Kennedy. Now on the countdown to the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, the interest has been ratcheted up as the media is flooded with articles, TV specials, films and stories covering every imaginable topic, angle, theory and sentiment about the Kennedy’s.
The mythology lingers…we remained transfixed.
It’s not hard to understand.
We are drawn to a past that once held so much promise for the future.
On the cusp of a new decade, mid-century Americans were ready to blast off into the New Frontier of the 1960s with a handsome,youthful war hero leaving grandfatherly Dwight Eisenhower in the dust. When John Kennedy moved into the old mansion on Pennsylvania avenue it became a swinging White House, crackling with spirit and youth
JFK would lead the US into the future and the fabulous promise of the 1960s. With a ring-a-ding-ding Americans were ready to stare in to the future that Kennedy beckoned us to.
Stylishly dressed in 2 button suits, and brimming with confidence JFK had the fresh air of progress, his energy as effervescent s a bottle of Pepsi and a star struck nation was enthralled, eager to bask in his glow.
Every aspect of Kennedy fed an insatiable press. You couldn’t pick up a newspaper or magazine without seeing some reference to the Kennedy family away from the family profession of politics.
Robert Kennedy worried that the First Family might suffer from “overexposure.” Some voters doubtless were bored by the incessant awareness of the Kennedys. But the majority eagerly awaited the most minute detail of their everyday life.
Crazy For Camelot
Like today, Kennedy lore was featured in films, on television, on the Broadway stage and in musical tributes. Every book shop had its department of Kennedy books of which by 1962 there were already well over a hundred. Courses at hairdresser schools gave instructions on how to imitate the First Ladys bouffant. Because her husband usually appeared bareheaded, the hat industry entered a recession.
The public loved Mamie but left her in the peace she craved. They demanded to know what Jacqueline wore to the last gala.
There was no escaping the Kennedy influence on popular culture- rocking chairs. 50 mile hikes, touch football, pill-box hats and Boston accents were all the rage creating a mass marketing of Kennedy inspired amusements.
And 1962 was a banner year.
Besides the plethora of JFK board games, coloring books, and trinkets, the biggest sensation was the “The First Family” recorded by Vaughn Meader. The record album poked fun at JFK’s WWII PT Boat history, the infamous rocking chair, the Kennedy Clans athleticism, and touch football games.
Recorded in October 22, 1962 “The First Family” sold more than a million copies within 2 weeks, eventually winning the Grammy for album of the year in 1963.
It wasn’t long before Americans could recite favorite lines from the record including “move ahead with great vigah”
The Kennedy’s became a boundless source of material for other comics too. But despite the quantity of Kennedy material the parodies were rarely barbed and the satire seldom stinging-it was more often the humor of endearment.
One popular parody was called “Caroline’s Doll Book” written by Joyce Haber one of the last of Hollywood’s powerful gossip columnists. Known for her barbed commentaries, the satirical book caricatured the First Family along with a collection of cold war era figures from the world of politics and pop culture.
Tomorrow a look inside “Caroline’s Doll Book”, for a glimpse into the people, politics and issues that caught Americas attention during the heady New Frontier, whimsically capturing the flavor and mood of the times
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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