Friday, September 5, 2008

University Close-Up

So I found out earlier this week that the University Archives here at Mizzou house a complete run of a fifteen-minute campus radio show that ran in the late 60s and early 70s called "University Close-Up". I looked through the show list the other day, requested several episodes, and spent a couple hours earlier today listening to them. Many of those segments are, naturally, campus figures talking about campus issues like new developments in the School of Agriculture and the revolutionary use of motion pictures in a "Family Life" class.

Most of the shows I listened to were interviews with or speeches from some prominent figure who visited the university. Here are some highlights -

Singer Andy Williams in 1968 talking about how much things had changed in popular music recently: "For a band singer, like me - that's what I call it, a band singer - it used to be you went into a studio with an arranger, and he picked out the songs, maybe twelve songs. You recorded maybe four songs in a session, and the sessions were three hours long. You can't do that these days; The Beatles changed everything. They spend four months in the recording studio, and they do all kinds of sonic tricks, and we can't keep up. And all of the young singers now are writing their own music. I used to call myself a pop singer, but I'm not that anymore. . . . I did just meet with the Beatles. I was in London - not for a meeting, but for something else, but while I was there, I met with them. I'm doing some specials this year, and I met with the Beatles about maybe doing one of them together."

That didn't happen, obviously, but it blows my mind that it might have.

New York Times humor writer Russell Baker in 1968: "Washington is the biggest factory town in America, and like in any factory town, every time you get a new boss, you get a new way of doing things. Every time there's a new president, you change your whole way of life in Washington. When Kennedy was elected, everyone started hanging French Impressionist paintings in their houses. 'Kennedy loves French Impressionism,' they all said, so they hung up French Impressionist paintings. And daiquiris. Everyone started to drink daiquiris. That gave me heartburn. I was drinking scotch & soda - we all got to drink scotch & soda under Eisenhower - and someone said to me, 'What are you doing? Kennedy likes daiquiris. We all have to drink daiquiris now.' So for me, the Kennedy administration was three years of heartburn. And you had to learn how to fall into a swimming pool with your tuxedo on and come up smiling. Head colds. Well after that we got Johnson, so everyone took down the French Impressionist paintings and replaced them with buffalo heads. I burned my buffalo head right before I left. It had begun to get fleas."

Also Baker: "Every day I go into a big giant box, get into a little metal box, go up seven floors and sit in a box all day. When the day is over, I get into a box on wheels, drive miles out in the country, go into a box, where I take off my tie, put my feet up and watch a box. Why do I this? Why am I living in boxes, waiting for the final box?"

That Girl star Marlo Thomas in 1970 talks a lot about helping out with underpriveleged youth and a star's responsibility to do what she can to help society. It's about what you'd expect from Marlo Thomas, but I really like the bit where she says "I'm crazy about the teenagers. They aren't creeps or law-breaking people. They just need something to do, and if you ask them to help with the smaller children, they will. Like everyone else, they need something to do."

Talk show host David Susskind in 1970 talking about the Vice President of the United States and his tendency to blame television for society's ills: "Television is blamed because it's so visible. When Agnew wants someone to lash, it's a good visible target. So are movies with the new permissiveness with nudity and obscenity."

[At this point, the interviewer brings up a quote from another news personality saying, essentially, that Agnew is evil and will destroy television.]

"I don't agree. You need Agnew. He's welcome. American mediocrity has a face to it. It's all in one face now. Spiro Agnew is all that's lousy and wrong in American life. Before, it was a theoretical proposition."

2001 author Arthur C. Clarke in 1970 predicting what life will actually be like in the year 2001: "Satellite communication will be everywhere, and everyone will connect through satellite hookups. Cities as we know them will no longer exist, because they won't be necessary."

I was hoping he was going to say more on that subject, but he really didn't. He mostly just talked about how 2001 doesn't have any messages, because he doesn't believe fiction should have any, saying "If you have a message, send it Western Union. Fiction should tell a story."

Anyway, I hope you got as much of a kick out of that stuff as I did. I transcribed one interview in full, but I'm saving it for tomorrow because it deserves a full post.

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