You have to feel for the magazine publishers and editors of the late 1960s. Not the ones from the staid publications like Time or Newsweek but the ones from the magazines trying to be hip. How do you make your magazine stand out? Well, you can make it extra-large, say, 10 ½” by 13 ½” . You can craft your logo like a pencil maze, filling it in with the colors of the rainbow. After that, you hire Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, “the stars of Paramount’s Romeo and Juliet,” to model clothes by Sant ‘Angelo. You fill the rest of the cover with copy touting features on Steve McQueen, Tim Hardin, “An Underground Press Guide,” “Beauty Secrets of Supergirls,” “Grooviest Unisex Fashions,” “Why Your Profs Serve the War Machine and Not You,” “How to Buy a Used Sports Car, beat I.Q. Tests, and Drop Out with Class…” And, oh yes, you can add some sort of insert. In past issues (there were 12 of them), there were posters of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, and the Blue Meanies from “Yellow Submarine” as well as a Janis Joplin foldout and a Blood Sweat and Tears record. This time you attach an “outasight comic book” to the bottom left of the cover.
It’s a Spider-Man comic, reprinting (sort of) ASM #42, November 1966 in a 7” by 5” format and it is really quite cool but I’m not going to review that here. We have a separate listing for that comic and I will deal with it there. So, then, what? Isn’t that attached comic the only reason to review this issue? Actually, no. Spidey appears elsewhere in this issue. Let’s start at page one and see if we can find him.
What else can you do to get people to buy your magazine? Well, you can hire some very accomplished and trendy writers as you can see on the contents page. And you have Helen Gurley Brown, author of “Sex and the Single Girl” and editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, as your Supervising Editor. And then you put a full-page Led Zeppelin ad across from the contents page.
I zipped right by the letters page with the hip name of Eye’s Ear that really leads off the issue. It has a letter from “A Misguided Byrds’ Fan” from Long Island City, New York, who says, “Does anyone remember way back in, oh, 1965, when the Byrds were superhip, human Lear jets? Like cars, they’ve been traded in.” Steve Lane of Brooklyn, New York thinks Jefferson Airplane are “indeed overblown and overrated,” the “kind of self-conscious, arty schlock [that] appeals mainly to some pompous jazz critics who want to use rock as a crutch for the remnants of jazz,” while Arthur P. Johnson of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania thinks, “the Airplane is, with the demise of the Buffalo Springfield, the major progressive rock group.” Susan Smith of Boulder, Colorado writes, “Well, how much longer must I wait? According to the grading scale of your November ‘Pop Star Quality Quiz,’ I am Definitely Neurotic and damn near rate a Born Superstar. Unfortunately, I am a foreigner (born in New Zealand), crave peppermint ice cream, dig my ‘oldies,’ never really excelled in anything and drive a taxi 63 hours a week. I have been anticipating fame for five years now; I invite your photographers to come out and take some nude shots of me as I have none to send you. Perhaps it is my uninspiring name which has prevented my overnight success.” And Henri Gabryz of Montreal, Canada writes, “Your fast and simple variation of chess…is just disgusting. In the near future, you may also show us a fast and simple variation of making love. It just shows how stupid you Americans are - always in a hurry; speed, man, don’t take time, live fast and miss everything. Life is not that short.”
Eye on Books, the book review column, is written by Judith Viorst, eventual author of the children’s book “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” Here she reviews “The World of Rod McKuen,” saying, “At the top of his form McKuen is merely a bad poet. But he is also too frequently mushy, self-pitying, preachy and smug. and sometimes you simply think he has got to be kidding.” She says of Marjorie Kellogg’s “Tell Me that you Love Me, Junie Moon,” “Watching the unsinkable Junie Moon and her two sad men torment and comfort each other, we see finally that love among the freaks is, simply, love - patched together from the wounds and fears and needs, the loneliness and limited choices, that reside in even the most perfect bodies.” And she says of Anne Moody’s “Coming of Age in Mississippi,” “We think we know all about it and yet, if we’re white, we know nothing. So it really doesn’t matter that Anne Moody is no great shakes as a writer, or that she fails to probe her psyche with clinical skill. For she has fed us beans and corn bread, lent us her own black skin, and taken us where we’ve never been before.”
The film review column (Eye on Films, of course) is by playwright Israel Horovitz, the author of “The Indian Wants the Bronx” and father of Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys (who was about 3 years old at this time). He gives a scathing review of “Head,” starring Jack Nicholson, Victor Mature, and the Monkees. It is rather a mess of a film but I get the feeling that Israel loathes it because he loathes the Monkees. (“A ‘Truly Great’ commercial goes easy on product: lots of sun shots, bipacks, tripacks, overcranking, undercranking. Then, when the dumb consumers are presumably breathing in gasps, about to drool over and destroy their cheapo porno paperbacks while looking up, we slam in a zoom and freeze on product for the overwhelming orgiastic moment of sell. Well that’s just super when you’re selling Kindness or Kleenex, but when you’re moving the Monkees, man, it just doesn’t fool anybody!”) He’s much nicer to the film version of Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party” with Robert Shaw. (“And Pinter has written an astonishingly beautiful screenplay that sends the actors skyrocketing into great performances.”) So, it makes sense that Israel thinks, “’The Birthday party’ is a film that will endure. It is a film you will see two or three times in the next ten years, long after ‘Head’ became the that-thing-you-did-in-the-sixties.” And you’d think that would be the case but “Head” still crops up and I didn’t even know they had made a film of “The Birthday Party” and I’m a Pinter fan. The truth is, for most people, the Monkees are better known than Harold Pinter.
There are three different Eye on Records columns. Jon Landau (who also wrote for Crawdaddy and Rolling Stone and later became a producer for Bruce Springsteen) writes on Soul and R&B. Michael Thomas (who may be best known for his exchange with Janis Joplin on the Dick Cavett Show in 1969) writes about Rock and Pop. Donal Henahan (who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 while working for the New York Times) writes about Classical. Jon Landau tells us “This month’s new releases are a gold mine for soul music fans. How else to describe a month in which Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and Albert King all have new albums out?” He also says that Sam (from Sam and Dave), “shows beyond doubt that he is the finest living singer of soul music.” Michael Thomas begins his column with “It’s hard not to feel dispirited, these rabid Iron Butterfly days, it’s hard not to just plain curse and gripe – rock ‘n’ roll’s got itself into a deep dark pit where everybody’s been feeding on each other and grown fat and lazy and red around the eyes and every band seems to sound worse than the one before and a lot, far too many, sound like the Iron Butterfly, which is to say, like pigs being slaughtered.” But then he goes on to review Traffic and declares it “a magnificent record, a turbulent, braying thoroughbred record, that unites all the band’s happiest versatilities.” He then goes on to review Nico, Donovan, Tim Hardin, and the Beau Brummels and he likes all of them, which seems to put the lie to that whole depressing opening paragraph. Donal Henahan covers some electronic music in his review. To those spooked by the thought of it, he notes, “The arrival of the new instruments, and the new sounds that can be invented with them, has given many people the same vertiginous sensation they get by looking over a cliff. It was that way in the sixteenth century when the harpsichord came as a shock to those who had been reared to think the lute had been ordained to play all the music worth hearing. And in the eighteenth century, when the piano came along and kicked out the harpsichord.” In his review of “Switched-On Bach” by Walter (now Wendy) Carlos, Donal writes, “Musicians invariably laugh, or sneer, until they hear this one; then they sober up in a hurry. If there is any disc that dramatizes the electronic breakthrough of music in the sixties, this is it. Try it, especially if you think you don’t like Bach.”
The feature called Songbook prints the lyrics to three songs by the Incredible String Band. Do you remember the Incredible String Band? I don’t much either, though they did play at Woodstock.
Let’s skip ahead a bit. James Ridgeway of the New Republic has written a rather long, dry article called, Your Professors Wage War, which seems to say, as far as I can tell, that the universities that have done work for the government are pretending that they no longer do that work in order to appease student protesters but actually still do this work in secret locations. The sentence that stood out to me is, “Princeton and the Davis campus of the University of California are working on new ways to get leaves to fall off trees, thus helping us to defoliate more of Vietnam.” I believe that is probably true.
Remember when the Smothers Brothers were hip? They were! Peter Vanadia writes about Dick Smothers getting into auto racing.
Rock critic Nik Cohn gives us Arfur the Teenage Pinball Queen about a fifteen-year-old runaway girl who is “the greatest pinball artist of our time.” Although this is presented as fact with photos of Arfur, it is, as far as I can tell, complete fiction…if the fact that Cohn wrote a novel in 1971 entitled, “Arfur: Teenage Pinball Queen” is any indication. According to Wikipedia’s entry on Nik Cohn, “When reviewing a rough mix of the Who's rock opera Tommy, he told the group members that the album lacked a hit single. Hearing this, Pete Townshend decided to take the song "Pinball Wizard," which he had already written knowing that Cohn was a fan of pinball, and incorporate it into the rock opera.”
Psychologist Charles W. Slack Ph.D. tells us about The I.Q. Test and How to Beat It. He hits us with three Myths, “IQ’s Do Not Change” (shouldn’t that be “IQs” without the apostrophe?), “it’s wrong to try to change your IQ score by studying,” and “IQ measures whether you are smart or dumb.” According to Slack, “How smart you are is how fast you can learn something. And you learn fast or slowly depending on what’s in it for you. Anybody at all can learn to score in the ‘genius’ slot on the IQ test by enough study and practice…IQ tests aren’t worth a penny. They are an enormous travesty. The only tangible result of their use is to encumber progress and to regulate achievement by slicing individuals up into categories.” So, how do you beat the IQ test? As far as I can tell, you study for it. Slack includes “A Possible (IQ) Study Sheet,” which includes a lot of info amidst his rantings. “It makes my blood boil (212 degrees Fahrenheit, 100 degrees centigrade on the thermometer) to think that people are not allowed to commence with their education because they have failed to score high enough on some test or other. If testers were more familiar with the Bible (including the Book of Genesis, which is the story of creation, and the Apocrypha – the books of disputed authority on the Old Testament), they would realize that their tests are doing no good but actually a lot of harm to the 200,000,000 people in the United States, including 100 Senators and America Women (of average height, between 5 feet 3 inches and 5 feet 6 inches.).” And so on. If you can get through all this, you really are a genius.
What follows is an article about actor Steve McQueen, entitled Steve McQueen: Centerpunching, written by Harlan Ellison. Yes, that Harlan Ellison. I think Steve McQueen has been forgotten by many because he died 40 years ago at the age of 50 but he was a “man’s man” back in the day, perhaps the sort of man that Ellison would criticize. But no. Harlan was clearly taken by McQueen, not because of his macho persona but because of how he cared for those working with him and around him; because of his battles with the Hollywood studios in trying to make the films he wanted to make. By the end of the article, Harlan is openly admiring. “After lunch, the dune buggy arrived. It was a lovely thing. Open frame, big balloon tires, canopy, a fierce little mother that McQueen climbed down into and screeched off into the desert. Then he went to scout locations for shooting with the buggy. We waited. An hour. Two hours. The sun thundered and the desert rippled with the kind of heat that turns the eyes to poached eggs. Everyone assumed McQueen was doing the location thing. Almost three hours later, he came walking back in from the mind-boggling vastness. The buggy had broken down. Without hat, without shirt, without water, in 114 degrees of killing heat, Steve McQueen had walked out of three miles of desert. He wasn’t even winded. No one seemed to pay any attention. The man had performed a feat that might have killed any average man, a feat that would certainly have sunstroked even a strong man. But McQueen had done it, had grown perhaps a bit more tanned, didn’t think anything about it, joked that it was a good thing the Highway Patrol didn’t have to pull him out again as they’d done several times before, and was impatient to start shooting again.”
Harlan tells a story from the time of writing this article in “How Steve McQueen Saved My Life” on On the Road with Ellison Volume Two. In his story, he talks about the dune buggy breaking down while he and Steve are out in the desert and he talks about how he keels over while walking back and how Steve carried him over his shoulders, a fireman carry, one and a half miles back to safety. He finishes with, “He’s dead now and I miss him. He was a hell of a guy.” It’s a hell of a story but it isn’t a story he tells in the article. Did he not want to inject himself into the story at that point? Was it a different dune buggy breakdown (since Harlan does mention that it broke down more than once)? Did it never really happen? I guess we’ll never know.
Watch the Pocket Watch seems to think that pocket watches will make a comeback. (They didn’t…did they?) Matched-Up: He & She and She to He and They to We and We are all Together…for Spring is a fashion piece that thinks “girls will be looking like boys who dress like girls. And boys will be dressing like girls who dress like boys.” (This didn’t happen either…did it?) Dropping Out with Style has Lois Libien (author of “Paint it Yourself” and such things) telling us about “nine students who dropped out, what they did, and what dropping out did for them.” It says that the story continues on page 61 but it actually continues on page 66. Probably proofread by some dropout. No, just kidding! Lois tells us all the cool things these dropouts did and says, “Those who returned to school (most of them) did so with a thirst for knowledge and a vital interest that had escaped them before. Those who didn’t return to school are busy following their personal dreams. With success. Not one is sorry for the experience.”
And, at last, I’ve found Spider-Man. Not the mini-comic on the front but the article by Norman Mark entitled The New Superhero (Is a Pretty Kinky Guy) and subtitled “Spider-Men may be OK for fighting crime, but would you want your sister to marry one?” It is graced with a double-page collage of Marvel characters lifted from then-current Marvel Comics covers with pencils by Marie Severin, Jack Kirby, Herb Trimpe, Jim Steranko, Gene Colan, and John Romita. There’s Thor versus a Storm Giant from Thor #159, December 1968 where they’ve replaced the Giant’s club with Crystal from the cover of Fantastic Four #82, January 1969 (there’s also a head of Thor from Thor #158, November 1968). There’s the Hulk and Ka-Zar fighting Umbu the Unliving from Incredible Hulk #110, December 1968. There’s the X-Men looking up at a huge Eric the Red from X-Men #51, December 1968. There’s Captain Marvel and the Cyberex robot from Captain Marvel #8, December 1968. And swinging up above them is Spidey from the cover of ASM #68, January 1969.
Norman Mack, described at article’s end as, “a young cultural writer for Panorama Magazine of the Chicago Daily News. He is also a playwright whose works have been produced on television and in community theaters,” does a nice job extolling the virtues of early 1969 Marvel Comics but he does make two mistakes. First, he refers to the Human Torch as “the Flame” throughout. Much worse is that he perpetuates the notion that Stan Lee created everything, barely mentioning any artists by name. It is Stan himself who is quoted with “When I created the Hulk with artist Jack Kirby…” in the only example of an artist getting a co-creator credit. Still, there are some nice bits, particularly in the long description of Spider-Man and how he has grown from “a nudnick chemistry major with a skin problem” to today when “he dates sharp blondes…has become more muscular and has a handsome square-jawed face with no pimples.” Mack tells us, “Spider-Man’s chief nemesis is the Green Goblin, but he doesn’t even hate him. (The Goblin is in reality Parker’s roommate’s father, and how can a guy kill his friend’s dad?) So when Spider-Man fights the Green Goblin, he pulls his punches. That was why, in November, 1968, the Goblin managed to blow Spider-Man’s mind with psychedelic pumpkin bombs. Spider-Man recovered, captured one of the pumpkins and forced the Goblin to breathe its fumes. During the bad trip which followed, the Goblin saw what a rat he really was and disappeared when the psychic shock of the revelation gave him amnesia.” He compares the Kingpin’s appearance to “Chicago’s Mayor Daley,”
He says of Sue Richards, “Then she got pregnant! Pregnant! Could that ever happen to Wonder Woman? Why, you couldn’t even get her bracelets off!” He tells us, “In addition to a green-skinned star, Marvel Comics feature a number of Negroes, a significant breakthrough for the otherwise WASPy superherodom. (It has been suggested that the Bruce Wayne-Batman mansion is in a restricted neighborhood.)” He says of the various superheroes, “They have such psychological complexity that if they did not dash into alleys to don their superhero costumes they would probably be protesting with the New Left or sniffing psychedelic pumpkins.”
I have to admit that I love these articles that try to explain Marvel to laymen before the characters became household names. They usually have some egregious error in them and this one is no exception. But the writing here is snappy and fun and appreciative which makes it all right by me.
Let’s skip over Zippy Gear Via Zipcode, dealing with “Trendy new fashions from Sears’, J.C. Penny’s and Montgomery Ward’s New Spring Catalogs.” Let’s jump past A Cherry, A Cream Puff, A Steal or How to Buy a Used Sports Car, which gives us “The Eight Grooviest Buys.” Let’s stop at The Mind House, fiction by Ann Bayer, about whom I can find nothing. With lines like, “The room of her mind, Monica knew, lay within her skull walls and was square shaped. There were no colors or sounds or thoughts; only nothingness. They wanted to batter in the walls of her mind room with words,” I’m not surprised. The story appears to be about a little boy named Ned who has an alternate personality of a little girl named Monica but this is a little fuzzy and…you know what? Never mind.
Guide to the Underground Press by Jean Strouse, “assistant to the editor of New York Review of Books” gives us a guide of the Underground Press from Austin, Texas’ “The Rag” to New York’s “The Rat.” She writes about the confluence of the youth movement, the anti-war movement, and the drug movement. And she finishes with this quote from Paul Krassner: “No more marches. No more rallies. No more speeches. The dialogue is over, Baby. Tolerance of rational dissent is an insidious form of repression. The goal now is to disrupt an insane society. We’ve already applied for the permit.” Ahhh, the good old days!
Beauty Secrets of Super Girls is next. It asks Olivia Hussey (“whom Franco Zeffirelli chose from among the fairest of the realm to play Romeo’s Juliet”), Dionne Warwick (“the Scepter recording artist whose movie debut will be in ‘The Slave’”), Janis Ian (“famous for writing and performing pop songs about alienation”), Merrilee Rush (“on tour following her hit single, ‘Angel of the Morning’”), Peggy Lipton (“undercover cop on ABC’s ‘Mod Squad’”), Jane Merrow (“plays Princess Alais of France in ‘The Lion in Winter’ and is veddy British”), Shelley Plimpton (“who plays Prissy in the Broadway smash ‘Hair’”), “What is your beauty secret?” Here are some selected quotes. Olivia: “I’d never wear false eyelashes – I can’t stand anything false.” Dionne: “I wash my hair two times a week with a secret shampoo – I don’t even know what it is.” Janis: “On my lips I put Scotch tape. That’s my beauty secret.” Merrilee: “[M]y hair is down to my waist so it needs a lot of brushing.” Peggy: “I’m a vegetarian and vegetarians don’t get fat.” Jane: “I like lipstick very greasy – otherwise I chew it off.” Shelley: “I like to use baby powder on my face – that’s my beauty secret.” Knock yourself out, everybody!
Two very short stories by J. Meredith Feder follow. She is described as “an eighteen-year-old freshman at Pace College in New York” making “her first appearance…in a national magazine.” I don’t know if there were subsequent appearances. Her first story, An Historic Blooper has a politician second-guessing his speech. It ends with “Oh well, I ruined my chances with that line, ‘Give me liberty or give me death!’ I wanted to be President, but I’ll never be more than a member of the House with all my ravings. If George gets in, I’ll have no one to blame but myself, Patrick ‘Big Mouth’ Henry.” The second story Mirror Vision tells of the selling of a mirror that makes anyone look twenty years younger. It sells for personal use but “streets were soon paved with them, storefronts, walls, billboards, hillsides and entire buildings glistened with them.” Why? “It soon became clear that the success of the mirrors was not due solely to the fact that everywhere people looked they saw themselves younger. No. Ecstasy blossomed because, now, every member of that nettlesome, threatening, younger generation vanished.”
See the Shine in the Black Sheep Boy is a look at Tim Hardin, who wrote “If I Were a Carpenter” and “Reason to Believe,” played at Woodstock (according to “Woodstock Chronicles” by Richard Havers and Richard Evans, “Hardin had been expected to perform earlier but his drug problems made that impossible. It also made it difficult for his backing musicians to perform with him.” They quote drummer Steve ‘Muruga’ Booker; “After a while we played and, I must say, not well. To everyone’s disappointment, Tim Hardin was more stoned that we would have wanted.”), and died of a heroin overdose in 1980 at the age of 39. A bit of this is revealed in this exchange between writer Michael Zwerin and Donald Rubin, one of Tim’s producers and personal managers. “What’s wrong? Why hasn’t he made it like he should?” “He hasn’t been able to work because of his personal problems…but that’s been solved. We had him spend some time in a rest home in England. We think Tim’s the best, but he hasn’t had one fiftieth of the support or exposure he deserves.”
The One and Only, Never-to-be-Imitated, Genuine Oaf Test is supposed to test your reflexes and coordination. Trust me, you don’t want to take this test. It requires a lot of raw eggs. There is also unrolling a roll of toilet paper, unbuttoning a shirt and chewing a piece of string. Several cast members from “Hair,” including Diane Keaton, took the test. Diane got a 650 out of 1000, making her NOT an oaf.
There are only a few short features left. Electric Last Minute is the latest from New York, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London. There’s the Eye Horoscope. Leo: “Your tendency to be pushy will take its toll on your social life this month.” Libra: “To avoid alienating friends, be polite and guard against wounding their pride with your usual rudeness.” Sagittarius: “An appetite for excessive pleasures in all areas may get you in trouble. You could gain ten pounds or anger a loved one.” Elevator: People on the Way Up (and Down) spotlights “real people,” mostly students, on the way up. The way down includes gossip columns, mini-skirts, moustaches, and Jackie Kennedy (“She’s going to have to do something very, very brilliant indeed to get back on the Up Elevator. Like have the Beatles over for Baklava and Turkish coffee on the yacht, or Mick and Marianne, or Eric Burdon, or somebody – but if they go, then they’ll be on the Down Elevator.”) After that, I’d say this feature is on the Down Elevator. And then there’s EyeExchange, a page of Classifieds, such as, “Looking for male in Baltimore who can groove on such things as sunrise, purple, memories, sand piles, candles, wooden Indians, Blusette, books, the occult, astrology, reincarnation, Moody Blues, Butterfield, Blues, etc.” and “I need humans with which to conduct telepathic experiments.” and “I want to go back to college. No bread. Send any old (or new) quarters…I am completely serious and will spiritually thank those who help. PS: One quarter from every reader will probably foot the bill.” and “I am 17 and hung up on reality, but where have they hidden it? The world is plastic and the people in it are sick, but surely some of you care. Will you prove that?” and “To the girl who stood in front of me at the June 29th Big Brother concert at the Denver Summer Pop Festival – I never did get a good picture of Janis, JUST YOUR FAT HEAD!” These could all be fake but I don’t think so. It’s 1969!
The “Inside March Eye” page tells us that there will be a feature on the Rolling Stones, a trip to the set of the “Alice’s Restaurant” movie, an article asking “Does Your Mother Hate You?” and the winners of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Poll next issue.
So, is there a next issue? Well, yes, but Eye was on its way out with only three more issues to go. None of them have inserts. And none of them have Spider-Man. So, go ahead and collect them if you want but we won’t cover them here. (I would like to know the results of the First Annual Rock ‘n’ Roll poll, though.)
The mini-comic attached to the cover is enough to give it five webs but even without the comic, it’s five webs. What a strange, intoxicating look at what adults thought the youth movement was! Or maybe what the youth movement actually was! How can you read lines like “It just shows how stupid you Americans are - always in a hurry; speed, man, don’t take time, live fast and miss everything. Life is not that short,” or “During the bad trip which followed, the Goblin saw what a rat he really was and disappeared when the psychic shock of the revelation gave him amnesia,” or “I wash my hair two times a week with a secret shampoo – I don’t even know what it is,” or “I never did get a good picture of Janis, JUST YOUR FAT HEAD!” and not love this issue?
Next: The attached “outasight comic book.” Eye Magazine: Amazing Spider-Man Mini Insert.
Oh heck, I just ordered the next issue on eBay. I’ll tell you the poll results when I get it. (Did my horoscope say anything about obsessive collecting?)