mccarthy-era

Anyone have any primers for McCarthyism? Cause I feel like that’s something that needs to be retaught right now. This level of censorship is not new. Artist, scientists, activists, and many others will face possible blacklisting and huge censorship and it would do us good to relearn from our own history since it wasn’t that long ago. 

i’ve been reading this novel that was written in the ’80s and takes place in the ’70s and the main character is about my age which is about the same age both my mom and the author were then. and it’s been fascinating because the main character and i are eerily alike in a lot of ways and i relate to her intensely and find myself completely forgetting that it’s not set in the present until she mentions her girlfriend’s mccarthy-era childhood or refers to “the disco hits of last summer” or whatever, and it’s just completely laid bare my ignorance in imagining, as one can’t help but subconsciously imagine, that my generation is somehow fundamentally new and different and older generations incomprehensible, because to acknowledge that older people are fully people and were once just like you is to face the fact that you, too, will be old (if you’re lucky) and one day die, not just in theory but in reality. it’s helped me understand my mom better and gain a lot more perspective on life but it also means i have a lot less patience for generalizations about generations because sure, there are very real differences in the worlds we’ve grown up in but we’re a lot more alike than we think. i feel that deeply now but i can tell it’s only going to get clearer with time.

Host Segment 1 (S02E05)

Crow: Boy, that phantom sure did creep… at a slow pace. Well, Rocket Attack USA should be exciting! The overlords said it was a war film.
Joel: Uh, actually, I think it’s a Cold War film.
Servo: Cold War… now, what the heck was the Cold War, anyway, Joel?
Joel: Well, the Cold War was a rich, fertile time of paranoia, virulent conservatism, rampant jingoism…
Crow: Oh, the Reagan era!
Joel: Well, uh, actually, I think it was the McCarthy era, in the fifties.
Crow: Oh, the Charlie McCarthy era!
Joel: Well, yeah, you’re right, exactly… 
Crow: I am?

Joel: …it was the McCarthy era. Yeah, these are some artist renderings. You wanna bring it in, Cambot, just a little bit? Uhh, you see… I have here these artist renderings. You see, one day Charlie McCarthy looked at Howdy Doody’s hair and saw red.

Joel: After that, Charlie formed the McCarthy Hearings on Un-American Activities. Howdy turned informant and named names. 

Joel: Gumby, Pokey, Kukla, and Ollie were all implicated on Howdy’s damning testimony. Turns out, Gumby and Pokey were in bed with the Chinese. Their arrest started out the whole “Free Art Clokey” Movement. Kukla and Ollie had worked on left-leaning Clifford Odets’ playhouse manuscript, but they were cleared of all charges. One of the era’s biggest informants…

Servo: Oh no, not the duck from You Bet Your Life!
Joel: He was a good friend of arch-conservative Marx Brother writer Morrie Ryskind, and as far as he was concerned, the secret word was ‘subversive.’

Joel: After that duck’s devastating testimony, neither Jerry Mahoney, Knucklehead Smiff, or Farfel worked for years. Arthur Miller took it upon himself to write an emotionally gut-wrenching commentary on the Cold War era called Topo Gigio goes to the Circus. Topo, by the way, used his earnings from The Ed Sullivan Show to fund the attempted assassination of Fidel Castro. 
Servo: Joel, after this, nothing will ever shock me again. 
Joel: Oh yeah? Brace yourself, ‘cause the most sinister friendly witness brought up in front of the committee was none other than…

Joel: Lambchop!
Crow: Oh, wow, big surprise!
Servo: I always hated her, anyway.
Crow: Yeah.
Joel: She was the one who put the finger on…

Joel: Davey and Goliath!
Servo: Oh, no…
Crow: Not Davey and Goliath!
Servo: Say it ain’t so, Joel, say it ain’t so!
Joel: Davey, being a god-fearing American, was more than happy to cooperate. Goliath named names, too: [as Goliath] “Uhh, let’s see, uh, there was Dalton Trumbo, Ring Lardner Jr., Albert Maltz, and Bertolt Brecht.” [as Joel] Unfortunately, all the committee heard was “Arf arf. Arf arf, arf.” Goliath was convicted of contempt of Congress and sent to the pound.

Servo: Well, at least we know an era like that will never happen again…
Joel: That’s right, my little friends.
Crow: Yeah. I’m sure glad I’m not a puppet!
Servo: Me too!
Joel: Yeah, me neither… [to the viewer] Who pulls your strings?
[Commercial Sign]

My dudes, please don’t tag my anti-daxamite fuckboy posts with that god-awful ship. I don’t need some tweenage groupies sniffing around my blog fancying themselves McCarthy-era spies sent in to root out the evil gays and publicly shame them.

I’m a lesbian in Texas. I have enough of this shit to deal with in real life.

June is Pride Month!
Celebrate with Notable Queer Folk from History

Gladys Bentley was an accomplished jazz and blues singer of the Harlem Renaissance. An open and proud butch-lesbian, she performed at notorious queer speakeasies such as Harry Hansberry’s Clam House with a backing chorus in full drag. Her deep sensual voice, cross-dressing and open flirtations with women made her quite the popular act. “America’s Greatest Sepia Piano Player” was openly condemned and harassed in McCarthy Era America, and later underwent hormone treatment to “cure” her homosexuality. Despite this, Gladys remains pivotal as a queer icon, especially in the African American community, lauded by Langston Hughes and Cary Grant alike. (Source: Wiki)

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Saturday’s Hero being picketed due to perceived communist ties, RKO Theatre, Los Angeles, 1951 

So many characters in 1960s sitcoms had a Terrible Secret which, if uncovered and made public, would have Disastrous Consequences: loss of livelihood, loss of position, loss of acceptance in society.

Fortunately, no 1960s sitcom character was actually a card-carrying Communist. No, the secret was something less political: a witch, a genie, a martian, a talking horse, an angel, a ghost, a talking car, a robot. etc.

Above: Ray Walston in a publicity photo for My Favorite Martian (CBS, 1963-1966).

youtube

Edward R. Murrow on Senator McCarthy, from See It Now, March 1954.

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Okay, here’s the deal with “Traveler."  I already have a thing for this period of history and so my opinion in no way can be trusted, but I thought they did a fabulous job on this one. It’s deliciously disturbing to see how far back the conspiracy goes, and some of the motivation behind it. Mulder’s father being in on it— we sort of knew but hadn’t really seen in flashbacks— was just icing on the cake, which was already chock-full of McCarthy being in on it.

Oh, and David Moreland, the man who played Roy Cohn— magnificent job, sir.

Paul Leroy Robeson (April 9, 1898 – January 23, 1976) was an American singer and actor who became involved with the Civil Rights Movement. At Rutgers College, he was an outstanding football player, then had an international career in singing, as well as acting in theater and movies. He became politically involved in response to the Spanish Civil War, fascism, and social injustices. His advocacy of anti-imperialism, affiliation with communism, and criticism of the United States government caused him to be blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Ill health forced him into retirement from his career. He remained until his death an advocate of the political stances he took.

(Source: Wikipedia)

There are a lot of good Carol Channing stories but one of the best ones is that when she was starting she was in a revue that was written by and starred a bunch of communists and had deep communist themes but she didn’t realize any of this and only found out later when they were all black listed during the McCarthy era. Apparently they kept trying to get her to write her representative but she was like “guys I need to concentrate on this solo I have.” In her book she said that she thinks she wasn’t blacklisted because she believes that there was a spy in the company, which to her credit was common in that era, that knew that she had literally no idea what was going on.

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The Allen Ginsberg Photographs at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, May 23-September 8, 2013

There never has been an English-language poet more universally known or influential then Allen Ginsberg. Not even Byron, Wordsworth or Dylan Thomas knew the breadth of reputation enjoyed by the New Jersey-born poet at the height of his dazzling fame.

Coming virtually from out of nowhere during the McCarthy era, Jewish, skinny, neurotic, bespectacled, publicly homosexual and obsessively codependent – everything that a post-war American poet ought not to be – Ginsberg blazed through the literary scene on both sides of the Atlantic and then went on to sweep over both sides of the Amazon, the Yangtze and the Black Sea.

Single-handedly he trounced the prodigious and seemingly insurmountable antisemitic god of modernism, T.S. Eliot, shrugging the monumental Wasteland aside with his epic old testament Jeremiad HOWL. Just to let Eliot’s mentor Ezra Pound know that a new boy had arrived, he paid the reclusive former fascist polemicist and make-it-new demagogue a visit in his redoubt in Rapallo, by which time Ginsberg was, arguably, the most popular poet alive.

It must have sent a message to Pound, who during World War Two, over Mussolini’s airwaves, had ranted gloating predictions about the inevitable demise of world Jewry. Here, gazing tenderly down upon him with big warm wet Blakean eyes was the queer Jew Ginsberg, come to slip the poetry torch from Pound’s trembling fingers and bring it back to his beloved Greenwich Village.

A superb tactical promoter who had for a time worked as a Mad Man on Mad Ave, Ginsberg played the media like a harpsichord. Cunning, irrepressible, this Edward Bernays of the poetry avant-garde assembled – from a loose network of free versifiers intoxicated with Charles Olson’s theories of projective verse – his own stable of charismatic hip darlings to parade before the cameras of Vogue and Vanity Fair.

Ginsberg’s mass media and television-promoted cultural revolution not only swept over the American pop scene and Partisan Review but also laid the groundwork for the Sixties and all that was to come. When not arranging publication for his pals, he was finessing the Associated Press to report on their latest shenanigans, especially a faithful inner cohort that included Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, Michael McClure, Herbet Huncke, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso and a host of lesser-knowns along for the ride. Never before or since has so much media spotlight been trained on such genuine eccentrics. Everyone knows that organizing artists is like herding cats. Yet somehow he succeeded. And from his efforts came to be born, for better or worse, much of the world as we know it.

It was more a movement of friends then any conjoined take on literature, though the production of great novels and poems was certainly it’s grand premise. A close examination of seminal Beat documents shows very few of the aesthetic correlatives typical of a literary uprising. On The Road, Howl, Naked Lunch, Bomb – these texts bear little if any correspondence beyond a vague notion of rebellion and estrangement.

Yet we feel that we know these writers as intimates. That feeling of instant befriending is one of the secret sources of the Beat’s ongoing appeal. They befriend you with their words, their faces, their acts, their snapshots. That was due largely to Ginsberg’s faithful documentation and broadcast of their every little move and mood, and nowhere do we see this aesthetic of publicised intimacy and friendship better demonstrated then in the his private photographs, BEAT MEMORIES on display until September 8 at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum.

The exhibit, which comes to the Bay Area from the National Gallery has been something of an event in this city. Despite the fact that Ginsberg hailed from the East Coast and spent the bulk of his time there, he remains most identified with San Francisco, particularly the North Beach district, where poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who stood trial for his publication of Howl, can still be found shelving Dostoyevsky’s novels under D in the Fiction section of his historic City Lights bookstore.

In fact the display of these snapshots taken over decades of Ginsberg closest friends, lovers and associates has sparked a kind of Beat reunion among many of the locals who knew him. This will reach a celebratory crescendo from July 12-15 when The Allen Ginsberg Festival, which I’ve co-curated, celebrates three days of Beat culture with panels, readings, performances, lectures and general Beatific city-wide mayhem.

Standing before a photo of Beats assembled in front of City Lights Bookstore, leaning close in to read Ginsberg’s handwritten inscription is Neeli Cherkovski, poet and biographer of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Charles Bukowski, and a longstanding intimate of Ginsberg. “Boyyy, look at this…” he says aloud to anyone who might be listening. Around the exhibit and its planned events hover other longtime Ginsberg confidantes like poet David Meltzer, Beat historian and longtime assistant to Ginsberg, Bill Morgan, Kerouac biographer and poet Ruth Weiss, who first contrived the performance of serious poetry to jazz in the late 1940s. Weiss was an associate of such San Francisco legends as Kenneth Patchen and Kenneth Rexroth – the same Rexroth who later MC’d the historic Gallery Six reading where Ginsberg’s performance of HOWL in a storm of trembling and tears (as Kerouac passed jugs of wine and shouted ‘GO!”) launched The Beat Generation.

Viewing Burroughs slumped lazily across a bed, or hunched on a sofa with Kerouac, or Ginsberg lounging on a rooftop, or Kerouac enjoying a smoke on a fire escape in dreamy-gritty black and white, one becomes oneself black and white, lost in a legendary marginality that time will redeem with immortal technicolour fame. It’s a strange poetic effect of time-inversion, witty and yet innocently earnest in its celebration of ordinariness, but with powerful déjà vu echoes of tragedy foreseen. One can feel Ginsberg’s visionary, far-seeing eye in each frame, sense that somehow he knew that some of the figures in the photographs would become iconic, eternal, in ways that would destroy them. One wants also to draw back from the awful snapshot of Kerouac in later life: overweight, drunken, the dissipated image of his own father, as something too private and painful to share on a museum wall. But then, if the Beats had anything to bind them one to another as writers and friends, and them to us, it was in precisely this sort of unrestrained sharing of the most intimate self-truths revealed, no matter how stark, how raw, with anyone who willing to read or listen.