Monday, September 29, 2008

Bowzer over Ginsburg

A group of scholars has been studying the way historical perceptions about an era are created. Example: the 1950's.

The idea of the Fifties that America still holds — the happy, “greasy” Fifties — was an “invented History.” Up until 1969, quite an opposite cultural memory held sway. When Americans remembered “the Fifties,” they thought of Joe McCarthy witch hunts, of an “age of anxiety,” of the “shook-up generation” diving under their desks during A-Bomb drills, of the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit selling out and Holden Caulfield cracking up, or Allen Ginsberg ’48 and Jack Kerouac ’44 too “beat” to fight back. Nothing to get nostalgic about there.

Then something changed.

“The replacement of the Beat with the greaser as the emblematic 1950s rebel” had, Marcus reports, consolidated its hold on American “memory” within a very few years, by the time of Happy Days and Fonzie.

Where did this come from?

Tracing back, Marcus discovered, as Guffey had, that the new Fifties was no older than Columbia College, spring 1969, when the Kingsmen put on two shows: “The Glory That Was Grease” and the “First East Coast Grease Festival,” attended by 5,000 students from Massachusetts to Maryland.

Not the "Louie,Louie" Kingsmen......

Renamed Sha Na Na, they became regulars at Fillmore West and East, appeared in the Oscar-winning Woodstock movie as well as the movie version of Grease, which their act had inspired. Their syndicated TV show ran for years, worldwide.

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