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1966 Twenty-five Years Ago

April 2024
3min read

Bobby Hull of the Chicago Black Hawks broke hockey’s single-season scoring record, slapping home his fifty-first goal on March 12 against the New York Rangers to best his previous high of fifty, reached in 1962. The Chicago forward would finish the season with fifty-four goals.

The same day, Barry Sadler’s “The Ballad of the Green Berets” entered radio’s Top Forty. The tribute to the Special Forces achieved number-one status later that year, driven as much by strong feelings over the American presence in Vietnam as by any virtues of the tune itself. Two years later it served as the anthem for The Green Berets , a John Wayne war movie, which outgrossed all of the star’s other films. Barry Sadler, a former combat medic in the Special Forces, sold nine million copies of the tribute and wrote more than twenty novels about mercenary soldiers over the years. He later trained rebels in Nicaragua and Guatemala, where he was shot in an apparent robbery in 1988. Partially paralyzed in the shooting, Sadler died as a result the following year.

After grudgingly ruling on March 21 that Fanny Hill: The Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure was not without “redeeming social value,” the Supreme Court that same day also decided the case of magazine publisher Ralph Ginzburg, upholding a Philadelphia court’s conviction on charges of distributing obscene materials by mail.

Ginzburg had worked as a freelance writer and photographer and wrote briefly for television before taking charge of circulation promotion at Look when he was twenty-three. He became an editor at Esquire in 1956, and there he took an article of his own and turned it into the best-selling book An Unhurried View of Erotica . From this came the idea for Eros magazine, a hard-bound quarterly that he launched in the early sixties. It was the advertising for Eros , not its glib sexuality (Ginzburg chose addresses in towns such as Middlesex and Intercourse, for example, for mailing his magazine), that later swayed the opinions of five of the judges.

“We view the publication against a background of commercial exploitation of erotica solely for the sake of their prurient appeal,” wrote Justice William Brennan for the majority. “The leer of the sensualist also permeates the advertising.”

Ginzburg had been fined twenty-eight thousand dollars and sentenced to five years in jail in the decision the Court was upholding. The Ginzburg case was part of the developing “prurient-interest” standard used by the Court in a series of obscenity cases. After serving a reduced term, Ginzburg published Castrated: My Eight Months in Prison , in 1971.

To inaugurate the cool, modern hall Philip Johnson had designed for it, the New York City Opera, which had become one of the nation’s leading opera companies, chose to present a twelve-tone opera. On the night of February 22 a capacity crowd of twenty-eight hundred filled the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center to see and hear Don Rodrigo by the Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. Last-minute adjustments had been made to the hall’s acoustics. Before the lights went down, New York’s new mayor, John V. Lindsay, drew laughter from the splendidly dressed audience by promising that “just as I have no intention to interfere with the operations of the Police Department, so I have no intention of interfering with the operations of the City Center of Music and Drama.”

The cast included the rising young Spanish tenor Placido Domingo. The opera, concluded one critic, was “all very brilliant, all very powerful, but also very external,” lacking “anything touching the heart.” But to the audience that enjoyed the gala production that night, it did not matter. The City Opera, which had begun as a poor but imaginative independent outfit twenty-two years before, was now a world-class company with a hall to match its ambitions. The old building had had “an intimacy it will take some time to build here,” one patron remarked later opening night. “But we can have more elaborate productions here.”

A February issue of Look and a subsequent column by Russell Baker in The New York Times marked the advent of computerized dating in America. Some one hundred thousand students on New England college campuses, according to Look , had turned to a new “compatibility-research” group hoping to circumvent the trial and error associated with the process. Baker, in his February 9 column, “Automation Comes to Love,” quoted the computer service’s cheerful assurance: ” ‘We’re not taking the love out of love. We’re making it more efficient.’”

“Until a few years ago,” the columnist lamented, “when parking became almost impossible, there was a more amenable machine available for boy-girl compatibility research. It was called the car.” Computerized dating turned out to be a fad that faded that year, but it would reemerge complete with video aids in the 1970s to offer clients even greater selection and efficiency and it has been among us ever since.

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