Captivated by Camelot

Vintage Life Magazine Covers John Kennedy

What a Life!
Top Row (L) Vintage Life Magazine 3/11/57 Senator John Kennedy already a leading candidate for the nomination of 1960 penned an article on how his party could beat the Republicans.(R) Happy Victory President -Elect and Mrs Kennedy surrounded by family. Vintage Life Cover 11/21/60
Bottom Row (R) Life Cover Memorial Issue JFK’s Death 11/29/63 (L) Life Magazine- The Warren Report 10/2/64

Constant Cravings 

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.

"John Fitzgerald Kennedy ...As We Remember Him" 1965

“John Fitzgerald Kennedy …As We Remember Him” 1965
A unique portrait of John Kennedy prepared with the cooperation of the Kennedy family, drawn from documents, letters, speeches, photographs and actual conversations

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.

Star Struck

Vintage JFK Magazine Covers

JFK had style-class grace elan presence and coolness under duress. The White House would jump with interesting people and unlikely happenings.
(L) JFK’s WWII heroics are revealed in the ” Saturday Evening Post” 11/18/61 (R) The Kennedy Inauguration – Vintage Life Magazine Cover 1/27/61

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.

Kennedy Family Vintage Magazine covers JFK and Jackie

The Kennedy Family was a sure-fire seller for any magazine cover. despite the projection of normalcy on the Kennedy family, thy were far from typical. They were American Royalty (L) “Look Magazine” in Jan. 1962 featured  a dare-devil ” Uncle Jack” at the wheel of the presidential golf cart overflowing with his nieces and nephews at the family compound in Hyannis Port. Photo by Stanley Tretick. (R) The mounting interest in Caroline reached a peak with the birth of her brother John Jr who himself made headlines around the world. Besides being a fashion icon Jackie was a depicted as a devoted Mom who  made valiant attempts to give her children  a happy normal life.  Jackie posed in the White House for this portrait for “McCalls” Magazine May 1962

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

Kennedy book covers White House Nannie and  A Day in the Life of President Kennedy

A peek into the day-to-day life of the Kennedys was offered in 2 different books published after the death of JFK
(L) “White House Nannie” 1966 Written by Maud Shaw who was the Nannie to Caroline and John Jr. from 1957-1965. She tells the story of her history filled days with the family, though never betraying the family trust. (R) A Day in the Life of JFK by Jim Bishop Published in 1964 it was an hour by hour record of a typical day in the White House

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.

Jackie Kennedy

Jackie was Jacks secret weapon. Jacqueline Kennedy was the gracious hostess and well-bred fashion Queen. Carefully orchestrated state dinners for visiting dignitaries received wide publicity. Jackie proudly showed off the way she redecorated the White House and reporters lavished attention on the high culture and taste that the Kennedy’s appeared to bring to government.
Jackie’s expensive wardrobe was often a topic of discussion, lampooned in this page (R) from the “JFK Coloring Book” published in 1962 with drawings by Mort Drucker of MAD Magazine fame. (L) Cover Look Magazine 1961 “What You Don’t Know About Jackie Kennedy”

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.

kennedy board game

“The Exciting New Game of the Kennedys Board Game” by Transco 1961/62
Players assume the role of one member of the Kennedy family clan and compete ( as real Kennedys do) with each other in a contest for national prominence.
The categories each player competes in are: 1) Personal Image 2) Influential Friends 3) Social Standing 4) Position of Importance 5)Popular Support 6) Backing of a Power group

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.

kennedy The First family Album

Vaughn Meader came to the public attention in July 1962 through an appearance on the CBS TV show talent Scouts. The studio audience erupted in amazed laughter when Meader who physically resembled President Kennedy started his impression of the chief executive during a press conference. Meaders career was launched into a short-lived orbit with appearances on the Steve Allen Show and Ed Sullivan.

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.

Sweet Caroline

Caroline Kennedy 1961 JFK

Within weeks of being elected, public interest in Caroline soared and the public interest was insatiable. Everything concerning Caroline was news.
R) “Caroline’s Doll Book” by Joyce Haber drawings by R Taylor GP Putmans Sons 1962 (L) Cover of Redbook Magazine June 1961 “The delightful World of Caroline Kennedy” Cover photo by Richard Avedon

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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