The Pop History Dig

“Reagan & Springsteen”
1984

President Ronald Reagan speaking at the Reagan-Bush campaign rally in Hammonton, NJ, 19 September 1984.
President Ronald Reagan speaking at the Reagan-Bush campaign rally in Hammonton, NJ, 19 September 1984.
     It was mid-September 1984.  U.S. President Ronald Reagan was on the campaign trail bidding for reelection in a race against Democrat and former vice president, Walter Mondale.  Reagan was leading in the national polls at the time and had come to Hammonton, New Jersey for a Reagan-Bush campaign rally to give a campaign speech.  Hammonton, known for its blueberry production, is located in southeastern New Jersey in Atlantic County, not far from Atlantic City. 

     The town had gone all out for Reagan’s visit, staged in an outdoor venue.  Patriotic bunting decorated the buildings and a local band with cheerleaders was in place on the stage.  A giant American flag filled a large wall behind where Reagan would speak.  A large printed banner running along that wall offered a patriotic slogan that read: “America: Prouder, Stronger & Better.”  A crowd of more than 30,000 had come out in Hammonton to hear Reagan, many of them waving hand-held American flags. 

Ronald Reagan, barely visible in this photo, center left, approaching rostrum for 1984 speech at Hammonton, NJ, September 19th.  Photo, PerOwer, flicker.com.
Ronald Reagan, barely visible in this photo, center left, approaching rostrum for 1984 speech at Hammonton, NJ, September 19th. Photo, PerOwer, flicker.com.
     Ronald Reagan typically had optimistic and upbeat things to say in his speeches, and his remarks in Hammonton that day were no exception.  This time, however, in part of his speech, he made reference to a popular rock and roll singer known to many in New Jersey and elsewhere.

     “America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts,” President Reagan said in his speech.  “It rests in the message of hope in songs so many young Americans admire: New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen.  And helping you make those dreams come true is what this job of mine is all about.”

     Bruce Springsteen at the time was about as popular as a rock ‘n roll singer could be, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt a politician – even an incumbent president – to be identified with that popularity.  Springsteen then had a very successful album, Born in the U.S.A., with a popular song of the same name.  The album had been released in June 1984 and was No.1 on the Billboard album chart by July 1984, remaining on the chart for 139 weeks.  It would also spawn seven Top-10 hit singles and become one of the best-selling albums of Springsteen’s career with over 15 million copies sold in the U.S. alone.  It was a monster hit, as was its title song, “Born in the U.S.A.”  The release of the song as a single had followed the album.  It was the third single from the album, and peaked at No.9 later that year on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

Cover of Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 single, “Born in The U.S.A.,” which rose into Billboard’s Top Ten.
Cover of Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 single, “Born in The U.S.A.,” which rose into Billboard’s Top Ten.
     By late August 1984, the Born in the U.S.A. album was selling quite well.  Songs from the album, including the title track, were receiving frequent radio play.  And on top of that, Springsteen was on a live concert tour promoting the album and getting lots of national press.  One stop on the tour was the concert at the Capital Center outside of Washington, D.C., which received some prominent media coverage.  CBS Evening News correspondent, Bernard Goldberg,   reporting on September 12, 1984,  cast Springsteen as a modern-day Horatio Alger:  “His shows are like old-time revivals with the same old-time message: If they work long enough and hard enough, like Springsteen himself, they can also make it to the promised land.”  The next day, on September 13, 1984, nationally-syndicated Washington Post columnist, George Will, wrote a column entitled “Bruce Springsteen U.S.A.” (also titled, “Yankee Doodle Springsteen” in some editions; see Will’s full column as it appeared, posted here, beneath “Sources” at end of article).  Will had attended one of Springsteen’s Washington performances at the invitation of Springsteen’s drummer, Max Weinberg and his wife Rebecca.  In Will’s newspaper column, which ran in numerous papers all across the country, he praised Springsteen as an exemplar of classic American values.  Wrote Will, in part:

“I have not got a clue about Springsteen’s politics, if any, but flags get waved at his concerts while he sings songs about hard times.  He is no whiner, and the recitation of closed factories and other problems always seems punctuated by a grand, cheerful affirmation: ‘Born in the U.S.A.!'”

Washington Post columnist, George Will, took Bruce Springsteen’s rock music the wrong way.
Washington Post columnist, George Will, took Bruce Springsteen’s rock music the wrong way.
     President Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign, then a few months before the national elections, was in full stride.  George Will, a conservative Republican, had some friends and connections in the Reagan White House.  Will got the idea that bringing Springsteen, or his songs, and the Reagan-Bush campaign into closer alignment might not be bad idea, and he suggested this to some of his White House friends, including Michael Deaver, Reagan’s long-time advisor.  Deaver staffers then made inquiries to Springsteen’s people, asked if the song could be used for the campaign.  They were politely rebuffed.  Still, the idea that Reagan should somehow try to associate with the popular Springsteen did not die, and seems to have reached Reagan’s speechwriters, which accounted for Reagan’s remarks about Springsteen in his September 1984 speech at Hammonton.

     The national campaign press, meanwhile, after hearing Reagan’s mention of Springsteen at Hammonton, were skeptical that Reagan knew anything at all about Springsteen or his music.  Some asked what Reagan’s favorite Springsteen song was, for example. After a time, came the answer: “Born to Run.”  Late night talk show host Johnny Carson began making jokes about Reagan’s new favorite music.

Bruce Springsteen performing in 1985.
Bruce Springsteen performing in 1985.
     Springsteen himself was on tour as the George Will piece ran in the papers, and also when Reagan gave his speech in Hammonton.  But a few days after Reagan’s speech, during a September 22, 1984 concert in Pittsburgh, Springsteen responded.  He was on stage introducing his song, “Johnny 99,” a song about an unemployed auto worker who turns to murder.  “The President was mentioning my name the other day,” said Springsteen, as he moved into his song, “and I kinda got to wondering what his favorite album musta been.  I don’t think it was the Nebraska album [about hard times in America].  I don’t think he’s been listening to this one” ["Johnny 99"].

     Meanwhile, Democratic presidential challenger Walter Mondale would say sometime later while campaigning, “Bruce Springsteen may have been born to run but he wasn’t born yesterday,” referring to Reagan’s use of the Springsteen association.  Mondale later claimed to have been endorsed by Springsteen.  But Mondale, too, was off the mark.  Springsteen manager, Jon Landau, denied any such endorsement, and the Mondale campaign issued a retraction.

     Springsteen, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, had a bit more to say about Reagan:

“I think people have a need to feel good about the country they live in.  But what’s happening, I think, is that that need — which is a good thing — is getting manipulated and exploited.  You see it in the Reagan election ads on TV, you know, ‘It’s morning in America,’ and you say, ‘Well, it’s not morning in Pittsburgh.'”

Cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” album  –  No.1 on the Billboard chart in July 1984.
Cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” album – No.1 on the Billboard chart in July 1984.
     George Will and Reagan’s speechwriters had misinterpreted Springsteen’s music.  True, they may have mistook the energy of the song and its rousing chorus for a kind of pro-America flag-waving, when actually the message was about how the system beat people down, and in the case of “Born in the U.S.A,” a local guy who goes off to fight in Vietnam, and returns to find no job, no hope, no respect.  It’s the working class disconnected from government and certainly from foreign policy.  Springsteen would later explain that the song is about a working-class man in the midst of a spiritual crisis, trying to find his way:  “…It’s like he has nothing left to tie him into society anymore.  He’s isolated from the government.  Isolated from his family…to the point where nothing makes sense.”  At the time of George Will’s column, some who had read his thoughts on Springsteen’s music took exception to his interpretation charging that he was trying to refashion Springsteen as a “hero of the right.”  Yet there are strains of patriotic craving in the song.  Some social scientists have scored “Born in the U.S.A.” as a lamentation on the loss of true national pride and a critique of a hollow patriotism– a cry for a patriotism that was once there but no longer exists.

Sept 1984: President Ronald Reagan acknowledging the crowd at Hammonton, New Jersey. AP photo.
Sept 1984: President Ronald Reagan acknowledging the crowd at Hammonton, New Jersey. AP photo.
     Ronald Reagan, in any case, was re-elected in 1984, as the Reagan-Bush ticket soundly beat Walter Mondale and running mate Geraldine Ferraro.  The American economy continued to limp along for a few more years with unemployment in the 7-to-7.5 percent range.  Springsteen, meanwhile, was in the midst of one his most popular periods, having continued success in performing and songwriting.  Ronald Reagan, however, would not be the only politician to try to associate with Springsteen’s music.  In 1996, U.S. Senator Bob Dole, then running for president against Bill Clinton, briefly used “Born in The U.S.A.” in his campaign a few times until Springsteen objected.  And in the year 2000,  Republican Pat Buchanan, also mounting a campaign for president, used “Born in the USA”  as intro music to open his campaign.

     For other stories at this website on music and politics, see for example, “I’m A Dole Man,” “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Baracuda Politics.”  Thanks for visiting — and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. - Jack Doyle.


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Date Posted: 14 April 2012
Last Update: 14 September 2014
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Reagan & Springsteen, 1984,”
PopHistoryDig.com, April 14, 2012.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

“Born in The U.S.A.”
Bruce Springsteen – 1984

Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up

Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man

Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Iwas born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says “Son if it was up to me”
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said “Son, don’t you understand”
I had a brother at Khe Sahn
      fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone

He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I’m ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go

Born in the U.S.A. I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I’m a long gone Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I’m a cool rocking Daddy in the U.S.A.

“Born in the U.S.A. (song),” Wikipedia.org.

“Bruce Springsteen,” Wikipedia.org.

Bernard Goldberg, “Bruce Springsteen,” CBS Evening News, September 12, 1984.

George Will, “A Yankee Doodle Springsteen,” Washington Post, September 13, 1984.

George F. Will, “Bruce Springsteen’s U.S.A.,” Washington Post, Thursday, September 13, 1984, p. A-19.

Ron Collins, “A Curious Piece,” Washington Post, September 17, 1984, p. A-14.

Nora Leyland, “Will on Springsteen (Cont’d.),” Washington Post, September 19, 1984, p. A-26.

Francis X. Clines, “President Heaps Praise on Voters in the Northeast,” New York Times, Thursday, September 20, 1984, p. B-20.

Francis X. Clines, “Mondale Assails Reagan on Arms,” New York Times, Tuesday, October 2, 1984, p. A-22.

Joseph F. Sullivan, “Politics; Rally in Middlesex Lifts Mondale Spirits,”New York Times, Sunday, October 7, 1984, Section 11, p. 1.

Robert Palmer, “What Pop Lyrics Say to Us Today,” New York Times, Sunday, February 24, 1985.

Jon Pareles, “Bruce Springsteen – Rock’s Popular Populist,” New York Times, August 18, 1985.

Nicole Colson, “Sing a Song of Hypocrisy; Do the Political Candidates Pick the Songs That Fit Them?,” SocialistWorker.org, March 28, 2008, Issue 667.

Todd Leopold, “Analysis: The Age of Reagan, President Loomed over the ’80s, an Era at Odds with Itself,” CNN.com,  June 16, 2004.

Jeff Vrabel, “1984 Bruce Springsteen: “Born in The U.S.A,” PopMatters Picks: Say It Loud! 65 Great Protest Songs, Pop Matters.com, July 19, 2007.

Bruce Springsteen on the cover of People magazine in September 1984, about the time of President Ronald Reagan’s remarks about him in Hammonton, NJ.
Bruce Springsteen on the cover of People magazine in September 1984, about the time of President Ronald Reagan’s remarks about him in Hammonton, NJ.
Cahal Milmo and Andy McSmith, “Musical Fallout: Pop Goes the Politician…,” The Independent, (UK.), Friday, May 16, 2008.

Jack Sanders, “Springsteen, Walmart, Populism &Republicans,” IssueOriented.com  March 19, 2009.

Jefferson R. Cowie and Lauren Boehm, “Dead Man’s Town: ‘Born in the U.S.A.,’ Social History, and Working-Class Identity,” American Quarterly - Volume 58, Number 2, June 2006, pp. 353-378.

“America’s Future Rests in a Thousand Dreams Inside Your Hearts,” September 19, 1984 speech of President Ronald Reagan at Hammonton, New Jersey, formerly displayed at My Hammonton.com, since removed.

Associated Press, “Music and Candidates: An Uneasy Alliance,” KLEW-TV.com, May 29, 2008, updated, November 20, 2008.

John Perich, “Born In The USA: Our Most Misappropriated Patriotic Song?,” Over ThinkingIt.com, July 3, 2009.

Randall E. Auxier and Doug Anderson (eds.), Bruce Sprinsteen and Philosophy: Darkness on the Edge of Truth, Open Court Books, 2008.

Rob Kirkpatrick, The Words and Music of Bruce Springsteen, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007,198 pp.

“Ronald Reagan Rock,” Hammonton, New Jersey, RoadsideAmerica.com.


“Bruce Springsteen, U.S.A”
By George Will, Washington Post
September 13, 1984

     What I did on my summer vacation: My friend Bruce Springsteen…Okay, he’s only my acquaintance, but my children now think I am a serious person.  I met him because his colleague Max Weinberg and Max’s wife Rebecca invited me to enjoy Max’s work, which I did.  He plays drums for Springsteen, who plays rock and roll for purists, of whom there are lots.  For 10 shows in New Jersey, he recently sold 16,000 $16 tickets in the first hour, all 202,000 in a day.  His albums can sell 1 million copies on the first day of release.

     There is not a smidgen of androgyny in Springsteen, who, rocketing around the stage in a T-shirt and headband, resembles Robert DeNiro in the combat scenes of “The Deerhunter.”  This is rock for the United Steelworkers, accompanied by the opening barrage the battle of the Somme.  The saintly Rebecca met me with a small pouch of cotton — for my ears, she explained.  She thinks I am a poor specimen, I thought.  I made it three beats into the first number before packing my ears.  I may be the only 43-year-old American so out of the swim that I do not even know what marijuana smoke smells like.  Perhaps at the concert I was surrounded by controlled substances.  Certainly I was surrounded by orderly young adults earnestly — and correctly — insisting that Springsteen is a wholesome cultural portent.

     For the uninitiated, the sensory blitzkrieg of a Springsteen concert is stunning.  For the initiated, which included most of the 20,000 the night I experienced him, the lyrics, believe it or not, are most important.

     Today, “values” are all the rage, with political candidates claiming to have backpacks stuffed full of them. Springsteen’s fans say his message affirms the right values. Certainly his manner does. Many of his fans regarded me as exotic fauna at the concert (a bow tie and double-breasted blazer is not the dress code) and undertook to instruct me. A typical tutorial went like this:

Me: “What do you like about him?”
Male fan: “He sings about faith and traditional values.”
Male fan’s female friend, dryly: “And cars and girls.”
Male fan: “No, no, it’s about community and roots and perseverance and family.”
She: “And cars and girls.”

     Let’s not quibble.  Cars and girls are American values, and this lyric surely expresses some elemental American sentiment: “Now mister the day my number comes in I ain’t never gonna ride in no used car again.”

     Springsteen, a product of industrial New Jersey, is called the “blue-collar troubadour.”  But if this is the class struggle, its anthem — its “Internationale” — is the song that provides the title for his 18-month, worldwide tour: “Born in the U.S.A.”

     I have not got a clue about Springsteen’s politics, if any, but flags get waved at his concerts while he sings songs about hard times.  He is no whiner, and the recitation of closed factories and other problems always seems punctuated by a grand, cheerful affirmation: “Born in the U.S.A.!”

     His songs, and the engaging homilies with which he introduces them, tell listeners to “downsize” their expectations — his phrase, borrowed from the auto industry, naturally.  It is music for saying good-bye to Peter Pan: Life is real, life is earnest, life is a lot of work, but . . .

     “Friday night’s pay night, guys fresh out of work/Talking about the weekend, scrubbing off the dirt. . ./In my head I keep a picture of a pretty little miss/Someday mister I’m gonna lead a better life than this.”

     An evening with Springsteen — an evening tends to wash over into the a.m., the concerts lasting four hours — is vivid proof that the work ethic is alive and well.  Backstage there hovers the odor of Ben-Gay: Springsteen is an athlete draining himself for every audience.

     But, then, consider Max Weinberg’s bandaged fingers.  The rigors of drumming have led to five tendinitis operations.  He soaks his hands in hot water before a concert, in ice afterward, and sleeps with tight gloves on.  Yes, of course, the whole E Street Band is making enough money to ease the pain.  But they are not charging as much as they could, and the customers are happy.  How many American businesses can say that?

     If all Americans — in labor and management, who make steel or cars or shoes or textiles — made their products with as much energy and confidence as Springsteen and his merry band make music, there would be no need for Congress to be thinking about protectionism.  No “domestic content” legislation is needed in the music industry.  The British and other invasions have been met and matched.

     In an age of lackadaisical effort and slipshod products, anyone who does anything — anything legal — conspicuously well and with zest is a national asset.  Springsteen’s tour is hard, honest work and evidence of the astonishing vitality of America’s regions and generations.  They produce distinctive tones of voice that other regions and generations embrace.  There still is nothing quite like being born in the U.S.A.

______________
George F. Will, “Bruce Springsteen’s U.S.A,” Washington Post, Thursday, September 13, 1984, p. A-19.



“The Jack Pack”
1958-1960

Rat Pack members without Joey Bishop, from left: Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin. Photo, Life magazine, 1960.
Rat Pack members without Joey Bishop, from left: Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin. Photo, Life magazine, 1960.
     “The Jack Pack” was the name briefly attributed to a famous group of 1960s entertainers who supported U.S. Senator John F. “Jack” Kennedy (JFK) in his 1960 run for president.  “The Jack Pack” moniker was actually a variant of “The Rat Pack,” a nickname for a coterie of Hollywood stars and Las Vegas entertainers that included: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford.  In 1960, this group was temporarily dubbed “the Jack Pack” by Sinatra when they worked in various ways to support Kennedy’s election bid.  Kennedy had socialized with Sinatra and the group on occasion and liked the camaraderie, which later turned to political and financial support on his behalf.

     What follows here is Part 1 of a two-part story featuring “Jack Pack” history, primarily with Frank Sinatra at the center.  Part 1 covers Sinatra’s politics, the Rat Pack scene in Las Vegas,  and some of the group’s friends during Kennedy’s presidential run – mostly from 1958 through Kennedy’s election in November 1960.  Part 2 of the story picks up at JFK’s presidential  inauguration in January 1961, covering  selected Sinatra, Rat Pack, and Kennedy Administration history through JFK’s assassination in November 1963 — plus a few related outcomes beyond those years.  First, some background on the Rat Pack.

     In the late 1940s, film star Humphrey Bogart had a loyal group of friends and drinking buddies in an area of Los Angeles known as Holmby Hills.  Then Hollywood rookie, Frank Sinatra, who had moved his family into that area in 1949, became a nearby neighbor to Bogart, and then a member of his group.  Legend has it that Bogart’s wife and film star Lauren Bacall, saw the drunken crew of friends all together one night at a casino and remarked that they looked like a “rat pack.”

Life magazine “rat pack” photo, from left: Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop, and Dean Martin.
Life magazine “rat pack” photo, from left: Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop, and Dean Martin.
     Sometime after Bogart passed on in 1957, Sinatra established his own inner group of cavorting buddies, all from Hollywood and the world of enter- tainment.  Sinatra’s “Rat Pack” – not initially called that at first – came about gradually from their work in Las Vegas and their Hollywood contacts.  The late-1950s-early-1960s “Rat Pack” era appears to have begun in Las Vegas in January 1959 when Sinatra and Dean Martin – then performing separately at The Sands lounge and casino – began appearing in each other’s acts.  Sinatra knew Joey Bishop from the early 1950s on the east coast, when Bishop performed at the Latin Quarter in Manhattan.  He later asked Bishop to open for him at Bill Miller’s Riviera club in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and soon thereafter Bishop was regularly opening for Sinatra, becoming known as “Sinatra’s comic.”  Bishop also began appearing in first-rate clubs even when Sinatra was not on the bill. 

Dean Martin, Sammy Davis & Frank Sinatra having a good time.
Dean Martin, Sammy Davis & Frank Sinatra having a good time.
     Sinatra was singing with Tommy Dosey’s band in 1941 when he first met Sammy Davis, Jr., then an aspiring dancer with the Will Mastin Trio.  They reconnected some time later after Sammy was discharged from the U.S. Army, and Sinatra would later help Davis in his career.  Peter Lawford and Sinatra had worked in a few films together in the 1940s, but Sinatra came to know him much better as Jack Kennedy’s brother-in-law.  More on that relationship a bit later.

     By the early 1960s in any case, the Rat Pack became known for its multiple-person stage acts – with all five of the principals on stage together, plus others occasionally.  The Sands, in fact, would sometimes advertise the horseplay on its outdoor marquee with billings such as: “Dean Martin – Maybe Frank – Maybe Sammy.”  Others from Hollywood and the entertainment world would also occasionally appear and/or hang out with the Rat Pack group.  Shirley MacLaine, for example who starred with Sinatra and Dean Martin in 1959’s Some Came Running, would also become a Rat Pack “associate” from time to time.

Dean Martin on stage at the Sands in Las Vegas, where Rat Pack performances drew large crowds of celebrities & VIPs from Hollywood and elsewhere.
Dean Martin on stage at the Sands in Las Vegas, where Rat Pack performances drew large crowds of celebrities & VIPs from Hollywood and elsewhere.
     The core group of the Rat Pack, however – consisting of Sinatra and his co-performing buddies – basically set up shop in Las Vegas during the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Las Vegas at the time was still growing, and the Rat Pack helped bring in the notice, the visitors, and the money.  The Rat Pack’s nightclub act evolved into an entertaining and popular song, dance and comedy act with a lot of cutting up on stage, a rolling bar of alcoholic beverages, along with a measure of social commentary thrown in from time to time. 

     The Rat Pack “schtick” was part Vaudeville, part Hollywood, and part “bad boys.”  It became a unique stage genre and vintage Las Vegas.  But it only lasted a few years before it burned out and was eclipsed by a fast-changing cultural scene.  In its day, however, the Rat Pack did the trick and fit the national mood.  Musically and culturally, it occupied the transition period between the first surge of rock `n roll in the 1950s by the likes of Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Buddy Holly – music which Sinatra initially derided – and the arrival of the Beatles in 1964.

Rat Pack stage act with rolling beverage cart, early 1960s.
Rat Pack stage act with rolling beverage cart, early 1960s.
     In addition to their stage act, the Rat Pack compadres also made films together – some shot in Las Vegas.  Ocean’s Eleven of 1960 was among the more famous of the Rat Pack films, but there were also nearly a dozen others.  Through the early-1960s period, Sinatra and his Rat Pack group reigned supreme in contemporary culture; they became the “cool guys” of their generation, bringing a good share of business to both the Las Vegas nightclub scene and Hollywood’s box office.  Their network of contacts, friends, and business partners ranged across Hollywood, Vegas, and beyond, including some underworld figures like Sam Giancana of Chicago and also various Hollywood stars such as Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Janet Leigh, Angie Dickinson, and others.

Rat Pack film, "Sergeants 3," 1962.
Rat Pack film, "Sergeants 3," 1962.
     The “Rat Pack network” of that era could also be a potent fundraising and vote-getting machine, a fact not lost on Kennedy family patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy, an old hand when it came to Hollywood stars and the film business.  The Rat Pack in 1960 became intertwined with the Kennedy family – especially by way of Peter Lawford’s marriage to Jack Kennedy’s sister, Patricia.

     However, for some Rat Packers like Dean Martin, politics was a bit of a side show, not to be taken too seriously.  Martin, in fact, had met and caroused with a young Congressman Jack Kennedy in Chicago one night 1948 when he and Jerry Lewis were working as a comedy team at the Chez Paree club – a meeting that left “Dino” unimpressed. 

     But in 1960, Jack Kennedy and politics became very central to Rat Pack leader, Frank Sinatra.


Sinatra’s Politics

Frank Sinatra with then-U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy outside of The Sands hotel in Las Vegas, NV, Feb 1960, when Kennedy stayed there during a campaign swing.
Frank Sinatra with then-U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy outside of The Sands hotel in Las Vegas, NV, Feb 1960, when Kennedy stayed there during a campaign swing.
     Frank Sinatra, from his days as a young boy growing up in New Jersey, had been involved in politics by proximity if nothing else.  His mother had worked as a Democratic Party committee woman in New Jersey, and as a boy he marched in political parades.  But once he became famous as a young singer in the 1940s and caught the national limelight, politicians soon noticed and sought him out.  In 1944 he received an invitation to the White House from Franklin Roosevelt, then in his third term.  At the time, Roosevelt was under fire from conservatives in the press, especially the Hearst newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst.  Sinatra, too, had also received some unflattering ink from the Hearst papers.  At his meeting with FDR, the two shared stories with Sinatra giving the president some insight on the music business.  But Sinatra was awe struck by the White House attention and couldn’t believe how far he’d come.  Roosevelt, he told the press, was “the greatest guy alive today, and here’s this little guy from Hoboken shaking his hand.”

Sheet music cover for song “The House I Live In,” from the RKO short film of the same name starring Frank Sinatra, 1940s. Chappell & Company (1942).
Sheet music cover for song “The House I Live In,” from the RKO short film of the same name starring Frank Sinatra, 1940s. Chappell & Company (1942).
     Sinatra supported FDR and contributed to the Democratic Party.  He also appeared at the party’s rally at Madison Square Garden that campaign season.  He would also become a close friend to Eleanor Roosevelt and years later would invite her to appear on his television show.  Sinatra was also active in certain causes, particularly fighting racism and segregation.  In 1945, he appeared in, produced, and won an Oscar for the 1945 short film and song, The House I Live In – a plea for ethnic and religious tolerance.  In the film role, Sinatra intercedes to protect a Jewish kid being attacked by a gang of bullies.  Sinatra appeals to them through the lyrics of the film’s song: “The faces that I see / All races and religions / That’s America to me.”  This short film was scripted by Albert Maltz, a person who would later come into Sinatra’s life when he became involved with Jack Kennedy.  Sinatra would sing “The House I Live In” on various occasions during his career, and sometimes at political gatherings, as he did at a 1956 Democratic party rally in Hollywood.  Sinatra would also put his career at risk at times when he refused to play clubs and hotels that discriminated against blacks.  Actress Angie Dickinson, who sometimes cavorted with the Rat Pack, would later call Sinatra, “a very powerful, subtle force in civil rights…[and] not only in Las Vegas.”

Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner at Los Angeles political rally for presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, 1955.
Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner at Los Angeles political rally for presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, 1955.
     After World War II, Sinatra became publicly associated with left-wing groups and supported organizations that were later identified by Congress as Communist front groups during inquiries by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).  Though Sinatra was named in some committee documents, he was never brought before HUAC.  The Hearst newspapers, however, gave him a rough time over his left-wing involvements.  Sinatra’s career, however, like others in Hollywood at the time, suffered.  According to one account, Columbia records asked Sinatra to return advance money and MGM released him from a film contract.  He was also dropped from his radio show.  But Sinatra remained politically involved.

Frank Sinatra with former President Harry Truman (center) and toastmaster George Jessel in November 1957 at Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner and fundraiser, Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles.
Frank Sinatra with former President Harry Truman (center) and toastmaster George Jessel in November 1957 at Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner and fundraiser, Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles.
    
     In 1947, he urged former FDR vice president Henry Wallace to run for President, which Wallace did as a Progressive Party candidate.  But in 1948, Sinatra also campaigned for the re-election of FDR successor, Harry S. Truman.  In 1952 and 1956, he supported the unsuccessful presidential bids of Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson.  He campaigned for Stevenson in 1956, also the year he came into contact with the Kennedy family for the first time.  At the 1956 Democratic convention he sang the National Anthem, but remained at the convention to observe some of the politicking that occurred after Adlai Stevenson had thrown open the vice presidential nomination to the full convention.  A young new Senator, John F. Kennedy, was making a run for that spot.  Kennedy lost to Senator Estes Kefauver, but Sinatra had watched the Kennedy machine in operation on the convention floor.  From that point on Sinatra took an interest in the rising young senator he believed was heading places.  But it was British actor Peter Lawford, a subsequent “rat pack” member, who would help Sinatra become much closer to Kennedy and the Kennedy family.


Lawford-Kennedy

Patricia Kennedy Lawford and Peter Lawford, 1960s.
Patricia Kennedy Lawford and Peter Lawford, 1960s.
     Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford had known each other from working in Hollywood, dating to the 1947 musical comedy film, It Happened in Brooklyn, in which they both appeared.  But their paths crossed again in the early 1950s under somewhat less cordial circumstances.  Sinatra had been angered by a 1953 gossip column account of Lawford’s meeting with Ava Gardner, who Frank had recently broken up with.  Some bad blood reportedly flowed between the two over the incident.  Sinatra later discovered he’d overreacted to the Ava Gardner story, and he and Lawford more or less went their separate ways.  Lawford, meanwhile, married Patricia Kennedy in 1954, the sister of then U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy.

     In August 1958, at a dinner party at Gary Cooper’s home, Sinatra came to know Peter and Pat Kennedy Lawford somewhat better.  By New Year’s Eve 1958, the Lawfords were celebrating at a private party with Sinatra at Romanoff’s in Beverly Hills, a popular spot with Hollywood stars.The Lawfords soon had a regular bedroom at Frank Sinatra’s Palm Springs place, where they made frequent visits.  They were all together that night, seated at Sinatra’s table with Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner.  In July 1959, the same group would return to Romanoff’s along with Dean Martin and others at a Sinatra-sponsored 21st birthday party for Natalie Wood.  The friendship between Sinatra and Lawfords grew to the point where the Lawfords frequently visited Sinatra’s Palm Springs estate, making the 120-mile drive there from Los Angeles on many weekends.  In fact, the Lawfords had a regular bedroom at Sinatra’s place where they kept clothing for return visits.  Sinatra and the Lawfords also traveled to Europe together on vacation.  Pat Lawford was so charmed by Sinatra she middle-named her daughter “Frances.”  Sinatra also helped Peter Lawford land film work in Hollywood, including a role in the 1959 film Never So Few.  The two men also became partners in a Beverly Hills restaurant named Puccini’s and Lawford soon became a full-time member of Sinatra’s Rat Pack in Las Vegas.


Frank & Jack

Kennedy’s dramatic bid for the VP slot at the 1956 at the Democratic Convention – and his charisma –  had been seen by millions of TV viewers.
Kennedy’s dramatic bid for the VP slot at the 1956 at the Democratic Convention – and his charisma – had been seen by millions of TV viewers.
     Some sources date Frank Sinatra’s first meeting with Jack Kennedy to 1955 when Kennedy attended a Democratic Party rally where Sinatra had also appeared.  And in 1956, as mentioned earlier, Sinatra was quite taken with what he saw in the young Kennedy seeking the VP slot at the Democratic convention that year.  But through the Lawfords, Sinatra came to know Jack Kennedy more on a personal level.  The Lawfords owned a large beach front house in Malibu – the former mansion of Hollywood mogul Louis B. Mayer – a place, it would turn out, where “rat packers,’ Kennedy campaigners, and other political and Hollywood “glitterati” would gather occasionally for parties and other events.

     Jack Kennedy and Sinatra appear to have spent time together in the summer of 1958, whether at the Lawfords or elsewhere.  Some sources have Sinatra endorsing Kennedy for president as early as October 1958, though Kennedy was more than a year away from formally announcing his candidacy at that point.Sinatra visited Kennedy at his Mayflower Hotel “hide away” suite in D.C., and Kennedy, when traveling in the U.S. West, would sometimes visit Sinatra.  Sinatra was also quoted in the press about that time calling the young Senator “a friend of mine.”  Meanwhile, on trips east, Sinatra would sometimes visit Kennedy in Washington, D.C. at a “hide-away” suite that Kennedy kept at the Mayflower Hotel where he would have dinner parties for celebrities and private guests.  Likewise, Kennedy, when traveling west on political business, would sometimes visit Sinatra.  In early November 1959, after a Democratic fundraiser in Los Angeles, JFK and his aide Dave Powers were Sinatra’s guests at his Palm Springs estate for a couple of nights.  On that visit, before coming to Palm Springs, Sinatra and JFK had earlier attended a Democratic Party fundraiser in Los Angeles and had dined at Pucinni’s restaurant in Beverly Hills – the restaurant owned by Sinatra and Peter Lawford.  Kennedy and Powers stayed at Sinatra’s Palm Springs house for two nights on that visit.  Reportedly, after Kennedy’s stay there, Sinatra began calling the room JFK had used “the Kennedy room” and later had a nameplate put on the door noting “John F. Kennedy Slept Here.”  JFK’s father — clan patriarch and former Ambassador, Joseph P. Kennedy — also stayed at Sinatra’s place on at least one occasion during 1959-1960.  But JFK  at this point, in late 1959, was a recently re-elected U.S. Senator, not yet a formal presidential candidate.

 

JFK announcing his presidential bid, U.S. Senate Caucus room, January 2, 1960.
JFK announcing his presidential bid, U.S. Senate Caucus room, January 2, 1960.
Campaign Begins

     On Saturday, January 2, 1960 at the Senate Caucus room in Washington, D.C., Kennedy officially announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.  Kennedy had already been campaigning, of course, meeting with party officials and traveling the country.  But after his formal announcement, and a January 14th speech at the National Press Club in Washington, Kennedy’s campaign would begin to target primary election states and other locations where he needed to improve his standing.  One early campaign stop Kennedy made was in New Hampshire, where the first primary election would be held in March.

     On Monday, January 25, 1960, Kennedy and wife Jackie, visited Nashua, New Hampshire, one of the state’s larger towns.  On that wintry afternoon, Kennedy walked down Main Street by himself and went into several local stores, shaking hands as he went.  One of the shop owners gave Kennedy a pair of golashes to wear, as it was pretty slushy in the streets that day.  It was a different era in primary politics then, as Kennedy had no entourage of body guards and handlers.  Local folks were meeting him face to face.  At one point, as he rounded the corner of Main and West Pearl streets in Nashua, continuing to shake hands, he made he way to one of the town’s downtown landmarks, Miller’s Department Store.  At about that point he was joined by his wife, Jackie, and put his arm around her and they continued down the street, arm-in-arm.

Kennedy headlines from Nashua, New Hampshire, January 1960.
Kennedy headlines from Nashua, New Hampshire, January 1960.
     There was a rally that day at the Nashua City Hall Plaza, with participants in winter coats holding Kennedy placards as the candidate told the crowd he was running for president.  Kennedy would also meet and be photographed with City Hall employees that day, and give a talk at the local Roatary Club as well.  The next day in The Nashua Telegraph newspaper, the Kennedy visit was front-page news, as would be the case in other towns and cities as Kennedy campaigned that year for his party’s nomination.  “Crowds Out To See Kennedy,” said the headline.  And from that point on, it was regular campaigning, sometime with his wife Jackie along, and/or other members of the Kennedy clan.


The Sands marquee at night during 1960 highlighting the Rat Pack group.
The Sands marquee at night during 1960 highlighting the Rat Pack group.

 

Las Vegas

     Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, meanwhile, began filming the original Ocean’s Eleven movie, a film about a plot to rob several Las Vegas casinos.  While filming, Rat Pack members would also perform in the Copa Room at The Sands, doing two or more stage shows each night and sometimes partying with friends thereafter into the wee hours.  One famous run of their show – from January 26 through February 16, 1960 – was billed the “Summit at the Sands,” a title that played on an international summit meeting in Paris at the time between President Dwight Eisenhower, Russia’s Nikita Khrushchev, and French President Charles De Gaulle.  The Rat Pack “summit” was an “anything goes” stage act of song, dance, and cutting up that became quite popular.

     The Sands act with Sinatra and his Rat Pack drew high-rolling and well-known Hollywood royalty – actors, actresses, and producers such as: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Kim Novak, Jack Benny, Cole Porter, Red Skelton, Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas, Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Gregory Peck, Cyd Charisse, Peter Lorre, and others.  Sinatra, who had been singing at The Sands since 1953, already had a Hollywood following.  “He drew all the big money people,” Las Vegas lounge singer Sonny King would later say of Sinatra.  “Every celebrity in Hollywood would come to Las Vegas to see him, one night or another.”  Sinatra and the Rat Pack, in fact, are given credit in some quarters for putting Las Vegas on the “big time” entertainment map, and helping spawn the frenetic economic growth and building boom that occurred there through the 1960s and beyond.  At one point in February 1960 – at the height of the Rat Pack’s “Summit” shows – the Sands had received eighteen thousand reservation requests for its two hundred rooms.


Kennedy Visit

JFK meeting Rat Pack members & others outside the Sands Hotel, Las Vegas, Feb 1960. From left, clockwise: film director Lewis Milestone (back turned) Dean Martin left of Milestone, shaking hands with JFK, Buddy Lester, Joey Bishop center, Sammy Davis, Jr., partially hidden by Kennedy's arm, Kennedy, and Frank Sinatra.
JFK meeting Rat Pack members & others outside the Sands Hotel, Las Vegas, Feb 1960. From left, clockwise: film director Lewis Milestone (back turned) Dean Martin left of Milestone, shaking hands with JFK, Buddy Lester, Joey Bishop center, Sammy Davis, Jr., partially hidden by Kennedy's arm, Kennedy, and Frank Sinatra.
     In early 1960, one of Jack Kennedy’s part-campaign/ part-recreation visits was to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he would hook up with his friend, Frank Sinatra.  On Sunday, February 7, 1960, the candidate and his entourage – including a young Ted Kennedy, then Western states coordinator for the campaign – were stumping through the American West for political support and fundraising before the big eastern primaries were to begin.  They set up shop in the Sands Hotel, holding press conferences there and fundraisers, but also taking in the stage shows of Frank Sinatra and friends during their stay.  Whenever Jack Kennedy came to a show, he was usually seated up front near the stage.  And Sinatra, at some point during the act, would single him out for recognition.  “Ladies and gentlemen,” he would say with microphone in hand, gesturing toward Kennedy, “Senator John F. Kennedy from the great state of Massachusetts, the next President of the United States.”  Sinatra would often add laudatory lines, calling him “one of the brightest persons here or anywhere…”  Kennedy would rise briefly to a standing ovation from the audience.

Judith Campbell, in earlier photo, who was in her late 20s when she first met John F. Kennedy.
Judith Campbell, in earlier photo, who was in her late 20s when she first met John F. Kennedy.
     There were also a few private gatherings at the Sands between the Kennedy campaign group, Sinatra’s Rat Pack group, and various Sinatra friends during JFK’s February visit.  On the evening of February 7, 1960, they gathered for dinner at Frank Sinatra’s table in the Garden Room.  Among Sinatra’s guests that evening was a woman in her late 20s named Judith Campbell, who was introduced to Senator Kennedy and his entourage.  Campbell was formerly married to actor William Campbell, and for a time had been seeing Frank Sinatra.  Campbell joined the group and sat next to Ted Kennedy.  Jack Kennedy sat directly across from her.  Campbell would later recall Teddy as a rosy-cheeked young man, “who was very good looking” and a great teaser, with “eyes that never stopped flirting.”  But Campbell, according to her own later account of that evening, was more taken with the charm, sophistication, and “plain likability” of Jack Kennedy.  The following day, Jack Kennedy invited Judith Campbell for lunch on the patio of Frank Sinatra’s suite at the Sands.  Kennedy would later rendevous with Judith Campbell in New York in early March prior to the New Hampshire primary.

Years later, there would be all manner of reports and allegations about Kennedy meetings with Campbell and other women, some of whom were introduced to Kennedy by Frank Sinatra and/or Peter Lawford, including Marilyn Monroe.

     Years later, there would be all manner of reports and allegations about Kennedy meetings with Campbell and other women, some of whom were introduced to Kennedy by Frank Sinatra and/or Peter Lawford, including Marilyn Monroe.  FBI files would also include reports of showgirls visiting and/or partying with Kennedy and his entourage at the Sands in February 1960.  Still other reports and books mention possible Kennedy-female liaisons at the Cal-Neva resort at Lake Tahoe, Nevada, a resort part owned by Sinatra and frequented by Rat Pack members and friends.  Some reports also note an effort by the Kennedy campaign in 1960 to “clean things up” after the Sands visit (and possibly others) to collect all available photographs, etc., lest they become public.  On the topic of JFK partying and female companions there is an extensive, but not always credible collection of books, magazine stories, and other sources found on-line and elsewhere.

JFK shaking hands with Jack Entratter, manager & entertainment chief at the Sands, February 1960.
JFK shaking hands with Jack Entratter, manager & entertainment chief at the Sands, February 1960.
     But on Kennedy’s February 1960 swing West, and during his stay at The Sands, he did quite well by most accounts.  Beyond the introduction to Campbell, Kennedy left the Sands, according to one account, with “satchels full of cash,” referring to fundraising gains made in part through Sinatra’s friends and connections, including the owners of the The Sands hotel and casino.  Frank Sinatra by this time was well on board to help JFK win his party’s nomination and the national election beyond.  He would work hard for Kennedy throughout 1960.  And while Hollywood and politics had certainly mingled before, this was something of a new mixture between nationally-popular entertainment titans and a rising political star.  Sinatra, in particular, pulled out all the stops for his new political friend, and apart from any personal advantage he stood to gain from the association, Sinatra appears to have sincerely believed that Jack Kennedy would be good for the country.


Record label for Kennedy campaign song, “High Hopes,” by Frank Sinatra, recorded, Feb 1960.
Record label for Kennedy campaign song, “High Hopes,” by Frank Sinatra, recorded, Feb 1960.
“High Hopes”

     Among other things, Sinatra lent his voice to the Kennedy campaign.  He refashioned one of his earlier songs for Kennedy campaign use – “High Hopes” – a song first popularized by Sinatra in the 1959 film, A Hole in the Head, a comedy directed by Frank Capra in which Sinatra, Edward G. Robinson, Eleanor Parker, Keenan Wynn, and others appeared.  The original song was written by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Sammy Cahn, who also helped to rework the new version for the Kennedy campaign.  The original “High Hopes” had been a hit song, featured with a children’s choir and lyrics that described animals doing seemingly impossible acts.  The song appeared on pop music charts of its day, was nominated for a Grammy, and also won an Oscar for Best Original Song at the 32nd Academy Awards — all of which made it a highly recognizable tune.

“High Hopes”
JFK Version, 1:49

Everyone is voting for Jack.
‘Cause he’s got what all the rest lack.
Everyone wants to back, Jack.
Jack is on the right track.

‘Cause he’s got High Hopes!
He’s got High Hopes!
1960’s the year for his High Hopes!

Come on and vote for Kennedy.
Vote for Kennedy,
and we’ll come out on top!
Oops! There goes the opposition, ker…
Oops! There goes the opposition, ker…
Kerplock!

K-E-double N-E-D-Y
Jack’s the nation’s favorite guy.
Everyone wants to back, Jack.
Jack is on the right track.

‘Cause he’s got High Hopes!
He’s got High Hopes!
1960’s the year for his High Hopes!

Come on and vote for Kennedy
Vote for Kennedy,
Keep America Strong
Kennedy, he just keeps rolling along
Kennedy, he just keeps rolling along
Kennedy, he just keeps rolling along
Vote for Kennedy !
_______________________
Listen to full song at JFK Library.

     Sinatra recorded a special promotional 45rpm version of “High Hopes” in February 1960 for use on the campaign trail, throughout key primary states, and into the general election.  This tune, with special “elect-Jack-Kennedy” lyrics, and backed by a chorus version of “all the way,” pretty much became the JFK campaign theme song.  And while Frank Sinatra wasn’t always available to make personal appearances on behalf of Kennedy — though he did his share — his presence still permeated the campaign everywhere by way of this song.

     And on some occasions, “High Hopes” received a little bit of extra help.  Leading up to the West Virginia Democratic primary election in May, juke boxes in that state, which were controlled through an organized crime network,  were updated with copies of the “High Hopes” recording. 

     Kennedy aides also went through the state paying tavern and restaurant owners a small stipend to assure that the new jukebox version of “High Hopes” was played frequently.  Beyond West Virginia, the special recording was widely circulated and used during Kennedy’s election run, played at campaign rallies, on jukeboxes, and also heard in some TV ads.  The Sinatra song for JFK was heard all across the country.

     During the primary election season, however, Kennedy handlers became nervous about Sinatra and the Rat Pack becoming too overtly connected to the campaign, as Democratic rivals, including Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon Johnson, would try to cast those associations in a negative light.  So, Sinatra and other Rat Packers did limited public campaigning for Kennedy during the primaries.  And not long after the New Hampshire primary– in which Kennedy had won the state’s Democratic Party nomination on March 8, 1960 – there came some controversy with Frank Sinatra.



The Maltz Affair


1950, photo from film clip, Albert Maltz.
     In February 1960, Sinatra planned to hire Albert Maltz to write the screenplay for a film he was making about an army deserter during WWII using the title, the Execution of Private Slovick.  But Maltz was one of the famous “Hollywood Ten” – alleged communist party members who appeared before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in November 1947.  Maltz was one of those jailed in 1951 for contempt of Congress, refusing to tell the committee whether he had ever been a member of communist organizations.  When word of Sinatra’s plan to use Maltz was reported by the New York Times on March 12, 1960, the reaction, especially in some conservative corners, began to reach into Sinatra’s involvement with the Kennedy campaign.  Sinatra fought back, claiming his critics were hitting “below the belt.”  At one point he even took out an ad in the Hollywood trade papers saying he was his own man and could hire who ever he wanted.  General Motors, however, then a giant economic power, had been lined up to sponsor some of Frank’s TV specials, and threatened to withdraw over the Maltz connection.

Frank Sinatra & Elvis Presley on Sinatra’s May 1960 “Welcome Home Elvis” TV special.
Frank Sinatra & Elvis Presley on Sinatra’s May 1960 “Welcome Home Elvis” TV special.
     One of Sinatra’s planned TV specials at the time was to “welcome home” Elvis Presley, the young rock ’n roll star whose earlier U.S. Army enlistment was then ending.  But Presley’s manger, Colonel Parker, also called Sinatra, saying Presley might have to pull out.  Then the Catholic Church, including a Boston cardinal, began suggesting that if JFK were perceived as soft on communism, this might cost him some Catholic votes.  With that, patriarch Joe Kennedy weighed in, telling Sinatra he felt the controversy would hurt Jack’s presidential bid.  In early April 1960s, Sinatra finally agreed let Maltz go, but he paid him in full.  Sinatra also had a bit of dust up with fellow Hollywood star and then Richard Nixon supporter John Wayne over the Maltz affair.  Wayne and Sinatra had attended a benefit dinner at the Moulin Rouge club in Los Angeles later that spring, and they nearly came to blows over Maltz, according to one account.  The incident arose over earlier negative comments Wayne had made about Kennedy and Sinatra’a hiring of Maltz.  Wayne reportedly told a reporter, “I wonder how Sinatra’s crony, Senator John F. Kennedy, feels about Sinatra hiring such a man.”  In any case, neither Kennedy nor Sinatra appeared mortally wounded by the Maltz affair.  Sinatra, for his part, was then having a good run on broadcast television.  His “Welcome Home Elvis” TV special – the final show in a series of four successful Sinatra TV specials – was broadcast in May 1960, and according to reports at the time it earned “massive viewing figures.”  That special, and others that preceded it, also typically included other Rat Pack members, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, and at the Elvis show, Sinatra’s daughter, Nancy.


Wisconsin

Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy shown on Life magazine cover, March 28, 1960.
Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy shown on Life magazine cover, March 28, 1960.
     Kennedy, meanwhile, in March and April of 1960, was facing a formidable challenger in the Wisconsin Democratic Presidential primary, fellow U.S. Senator Hubert Humphrey, a popular liberal from Minnesota.  The two senators had squared off in Wisconsin.  Both men had campaigned extensively in the state.  Kennedy used his family members and wife, Jackie, to help cover the state.  Kennedy sisters Eunice, Jean and Pat were there, as were brothers Bobby and Ted.  The March 28, 1960 edition of Life magazine did a feature piece on the two candidates spread over several pages with photos of their respective campaigns in the state.  There was also a small photo of Frank Sinatra included in Life’s story with the caption “voice Sinatra,” referring to his Kennedy “High Hopes” recording, but also mentioning that he did not appear in the state for Kennedy in person.  On April 5, 1960, the day of the primary election, Kennedy emerged the victor, beating Humphrey by a count of 478,118 to 372,034.  It was an important primary win for Kennedy.  However, Kennedy’s margin of victory in Wisconsin had came mostly from heavily Catholic areas, and that left party bosses unconvinced of his appeal to non-Catholic voters.  So the next primary state of West Virginia – a heavily Protestant state where Kennedy would also face Humphrey, but where anti-Catholic bigotry was said to be widespread – would be crucial.


Poster announcing April 26, 1960 campaign event with Senator John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, during West Virginia primary.
Poster announcing April 26, 1960 campaign event with Senator John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, during West Virginia primary.


West Virginia

     West Virginia turned out to be a critical state that Kennedy needed to win for the Democratic Presidential nomination.  Without a primary win there, he faced the prospect of a brokered convention decided by Democratic Party bosses where competing candidates such as Lyndon B. Johnson, Adlai Stevenson, and/or Hubert Humphrey might do quite well.  Initially, Kennedy thought he would not need to run in the West Virginia primary, as earlier polling in the state in 1958 had shown him to be well ahead of the likely Republican nominee, Richard Nixon.  It also appeared there would be no Democratic challenger to run in the primary.  But after Hubert Humphrey decided to run there, another Lou Harris Poll found Kennedy running well behind Humphrey.  Kennedy’s Catholic religion also became a factor in West Virginia.  But on May 8th, two days before the election, Kennedy’s campaign brought Franklin Roosevelt’s son into the state to help, and in a radio broadcast paid for by the campaign, FDR, Jr. asked JFK how his Catholicism would effect his presidency.  Kennedy replied that taking the oath of office required swearing on the Bible that the president would defend separation of church and state.  Any candidate that violated this oath, Kennedy said in the broadcast, not only violated the Constitution but “sinned against God.”Kennedy patriarch Joseph Kennedy reportedly asked Frank Sinatra to seek election help in West Virginia from Chicago mob leader Sam Giancana.  Kennedy also framed the religion issue one of tolerance versus intolerance, and this in particular, helped put Humphrey on the defensive, since Humphrey had long prided himself a champion of tolerance.  Kennedy defeated Hubert Humphrey in the West Virginia primary.  In addition to Kennedy’s own deft maneuvering in that campaign, he reportedly also had other help.

     Kennedy patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy reportedly asked Frank Sinatra to seek election help in West Virginia from Chicago mob leader Sam Giancana.  Giancana allegedly helped spread cash around the state and also influenced certain unions to help get out the vote in the primary election.  In any case, Kennedy defeated Hubert Humphrey in the West Virginia primary with more than 60 percent of the vote, helping dispel doubts that he could win in Protestant territory and that Americans would support a Roman Catholic nominee.  It was Kennedy’s seventh victory in the primaries.  On the following day, Humphrey conceded and withdrew from the presidential race.  However, there were still other Democratic rivals who could challenge Kennedy at the convention.  Chief among these was U.S. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas.

U.S. Senator Lyndon Johnson would announce his candidacy in July 1960.
U.S. Senator Lyndon Johnson would announce his candidacy in July 1960.
     Later that summer, in the week before the Democratic National Convention, former U.S. President Harry S. Truman said at a July 2nd, 1960 news conference in Independence, Missouri, that John F. Kennedy lacked the maturity to be President, and that he should decline the nomination.  Truman may have been trying to help some of the other Democratic candidates, such as Lyndon Johnson or Adlai Stevenson, who might fare better at a brokered convention.  Truman also had tangled with Joseph P. Kennedy in his political past, so there may have been some bad blood there as well.  But a few days after Truman made his remarks, Lyndon Johnson on July 5, 1960, announced that he would seek, and said he expected to win, the presidential nomination at the upcoming convention.  Johnson asserted Kennedy had less than 600 of the required 701 delegates needed for a nomination.  Johnson claimed he had at least 500.  Adlai Stevenson, the party’s nominee in 1952 and 1956, had also announced his candidacy about a week before the convention.  But Johnson was the bigger threat, and he challenged Kennedy to a TV debate which was apparently held during or leading up to the convention before a joint meeting of the Texas and Massachusetts delegations, and which most observers believed Kennedy won.  After that, Johnson was not able to expand his delegate support beyond the South.


Democratic Convention

John F. Kennedy arriving at the Democratic National Convention on July 9, 1960, at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, California.
John F. Kennedy arriving at the Democratic National Convention on July 9, 1960, at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, California.
     As the Democratic National Convention opened in Los Angeles, California at the Sports Arena in July 1960, Frank Sinatra and friends helped fill a “big donors” fundraising dinner on Sunday evening, July 10th at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.  Sinatra and Judy Garland performed that evening at the event.  More than 2,800 guests attended, with a number of Hollywood attendees recruited by Sinatra, among them: Milton Berle, Tony Curtis, George Jessel, Janet Leigh, Shirley MacLaine, Joe E. Louis, Mort Sahl, and others.  Then, as the convention got down to the business at hand, it was formally opened on Monday, July 11th, 1960.  On stage, and as part of the opening ceremony, was Frank Sinatra and some of his friends – Sammy Davis, Janet Leigh, and Tony Curtis, and Peter Lawford.  Also in attendance were Nat “King” Cole, Shirley MacLaine, Lee Marvin, Edward G. Robinson, Hope Lange, Lloyd Bridges and Vincent Price.  Some of these celebrities were introduced to the convention one by one.  However, when Sammy Davis, Jr. came forward, he was booed by the Mississippi and Alabama delegations.  Davis was devastated.  Choked up, he managed to sing through the National Anthem with Sinatra and others, but left the convention hall shortly thereafter.

Sammy Davis, Jr. and May Britt, undated. Photo, Brian Duffy.
Sammy Davis, Jr. and May Britt, undated. Photo, Brian Duffy.
     Sammy Davis, as part of Sinatra’s team, had worked hard for Kennedy.  On the campaign trail, the Kennedy people would give Davis a list of rallies and cocktail parties in cities and towns where Davis would be playing.  Davis would attend these gatherings, sometimes to sing a song or just mingle with the guests.  He would later report that he enjoyed doing it and being involved in the excitement of the campaign.  Yet politically, inside the Kennedy campaign, Davis was seen as a potential liability in some parts of the country, especially in the south.  And Kennedy needed southern Democratic support to win the election.  The south at that time was still deeply mired in its segregated ways.  In fact, in 1960, most Southern states still had on their books anti-miscegenation laws, which prohibited marriage between whites and blacks.  The Supreme Court would not strike down those laws until 1967.

Tony Curtis & Frank Sinatra share a happy moment with Patricia Kennedy Lawford and Peter Lawford at the Democratic  Convention, July 1960. Photo: Life/Ed Clark
Tony Curtis & Frank Sinatra share a happy moment with Patricia Kennedy Lawford and Peter Lawford at the Democratic Convention, July 1960. Photo: Life/Ed Clark
     Earlier that year, Sammy Davis had become involved with Swedish actress and Hollywood movie star May Britt.  The two had fallen in love and made plans for marriage.  Davis, in fact, had announced in May 1960 that the couple would be married in mid-October 1960.  Frank Sinatra agreed to be Davis’ best man at the wedding.  A torrent of bad press, with all manner of ugly public and private displays of hatred and threats came at Davis for the pending biracial union between he and Britt.  Soon, Kennedy was being hit by some critics as approving interracial marriage.  Sinatra was being singled out as well.  Newspaper stories about Sinatra being Davis’ best man sometimes ran next to stories about Sinatra campaigning for Kennedy.  Reportedly, Joe Kennedy sent word to Davis to postpone the wedding.  In any case, Davis began to feel the pressure, and he knew that Sinatra was feeling it too.  He decided to postpone the wedding until November 13, 1960.  But at the Democratic Convention that July evening as he tried to sing the National Anthem after the southern booing, Sammy Davis was a deeply wounded man.  “Delegates Boo Negro,” read one news headline in the New York Times the next day – accompanied by a smaller sub head that noted, “But Sammy Davis Jr. Is Also Applauded at Convention.”

Frank Sinatra & JFK huddle during a dinner at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, July 1960.
Frank Sinatra & JFK huddle during a dinner at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, July 1960.
     Interestingly, however, on July 10, 1960 — the day before Davis was booed — JFK appeared at a rally of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that was held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.  Kennedy was cooly received there, but won the crowd over when later in his remarks he vowed to end segregation. 

     Two days later in the inner workings of the convention, Kennedy’s team did push through a civil rights plank calling for the end of segregation.  Martin Luther King, Jr at the time called it “the most positive, dynamic and meaningful civil rights plank that has ever been adopted by either party.”  However, it would take another four years before some of those provisions would become law.

Patricia Kennedy Lawford, left, looks on as her brother, John F. Kennedy makes his remarks at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, July 1960.
Patricia Kennedy Lawford, left, looks on as her brother, John F. Kennedy makes his remarks at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, July 1960.
     Meanwhile, back at the Democratic convention on the evening Davis was booed, Sinatra and other friends helped to work the floor of the convention for Kennedy delegates.  He, Judy Garland, Kay Thompson, and others worked to persuade Democratic delegates to support Kennedy for the nomination. On July 13th, Sinatra joined JFK and the Kennedy clan monitoring the early convention activity by TV from the Beverly Hills mansion of Joe Kennedy’s Hollywood friend, Marion Davis.  There were meetings and comings and goings there that day with labor leaders and party bosses from all over the country, preparing for the convention vote.  The formal casting of delegate votes for the candidates would occur the following day.

Jackie Kennedy reading about JFK’s nomination in the “Boston Globe” newspaper back home in Hyannis Port, MA, July 14, 1960. AP photo.
Jackie Kennedy reading about JFK’s nomination in the “Boston Globe” newspaper back home in Hyannis Port, MA, July 14, 1960. AP photo.
     On the evening of Wednesday, July 13, 1960, John F. Kennedy won his party’s nomination for President on the first ballot.  Wyoming’s 15 delegates gave him the two-thirds majority.  With 761 votes needed to nominate, Kennedy received 806.  U.S. Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson came in second with 409 votes.  Sinatra at that time was quite excited with JFK’s victory, reportedly back-slapping Peter Lawford and saying, “We’re on our way to the White house, buddy boy…”

     Back at the convention the next day at 9 a.m., Kennedy asked Lyndon Johnson to be his running mate, and to the surprise of many, Johnson accepted.  Johnson was not the preferred candidate of many in JFK’s camp, including his brother, Bobby.  But Johnson would prove to be an important pick on election night.  Meanwhile, after hours, as the political business of that day’s convention activities subsided, Peter and Pat Lawford threw a nomination party for JFK at their Santa Monica home, with Frank Sinatra and various other celebrities attending, among them, Marilyn Monroe.

A Jack Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson campaign poster for the 1960 presidential election.
A Jack Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson campaign poster for the 1960 presidential election.
     On a late Friday afternoon, July 15, 1960, Democratic Presidential nominee John F. Kennedy appeared before a crowd of some 80,000 people in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to deliver his formal acceptance speech.  At the time, the gathering was touted as the largest crowd ever to hear a political speech.  It was in this speech that the phrase “The New Frontier” was first used.  In his remarks, Kennedy cited the American West as the “last frontier,” saying “we stand today on the edge of a new frontier— the frontier of the 1960s.”  As the convention concluded, the Democrats had their ticket ready to do battle with the Republicans: Jack Kennedy for President and Lyndon Johnson for Vice President — “Leadership for The 60’s,” as one campaign poster put it.


Ocean’s 11

The Rat Pack film, “Ocean's 11,” premiered with a street party in Las Vegas, Nevada, August 1960.
The Rat Pack film, “Ocean's 11,” premiered with a street party in Las Vegas, Nevada, August 1960.
     As the Democrats made plans for their fall campaign, the Republicans convened their convention in Chicago, Illinois at the International Amphitheatre from July 25 to July 28, 1960, nominating Richard Nixon.  The attention of the Rat Pack, meanwhile, shifted to the premiere opening of their new film, Ocean’s 11.  Frank Sinatra had already attended a New York meeting in June with film director Lewis Milestone and Warner Brothers executives to plan a big August 1960 grand opening and film premier in Las Vegas.  That summer, Sinatra had also arranged to have a private showing of the film at his Palm Springs home for Jack and Jackie Kennedy.  In Las Vegas at the film premier that August, Sinatra and various Rat Packers were on hand to meet with the press to promote the film and also to do their stage act.

A 1960 "Oceans 11" movie poster billing Rat Pack members plus Angie Dickinson.
A 1960 "Oceans 11" movie poster billing Rat Pack members plus Angie Dickinson.
     All five of the Rat Pack core group appeared in the film – Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Joey Bishop.  A number of other stars also appeared, some briefly, among them: Angie Dickinson, Cesar Romero, Richard Conte, Buddy Lester, Shirley MacLaine, Red Skelton, and George Raft.  The plot of the film involves a group World War II veterans recruited by Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) and Jimmy Foster (Peter Lawford) to rob five different Las Vegas casinos in an elaborate New Years eve heist.  The film was among the top ten grossing films that year but was not widely cheered by all film critics.  Bosley Crowther of the New York Times,  writing in August 1960, observed: “A surprisingly nonchalant and flippant attitude toward crime — an attitude so amoral it roadblocks a lot of valid gags — is maintained through “Ocean’s 11…”.  Still, the film was popular because of its stars.  And over the years, it would become a signature “Rat Pack” film – remade in 2001with George Clooney, Brad Pitt and others.  Sinatra and his Rat Packers, in various combinations, would appear in at least nine other Hollywood films made between 1958 and 1970.  Sergeants 3, for example, another film with all five Rat Pack members, would come out in 1962.  Back at the 1960 Kennedy campaign, meanwhile, the effort was now focused on the fall contest with Richard Nixon and the Republicans.  Sinatra and friends would continue to help out where they could.


Fall Campaign

Frank Sinatra appearing at a gathering of Kennedy supporters at the home of Janet Leigh, September 1960.
Frank Sinatra appearing at a gathering of Kennedy supporters at the home of Janet Leigh, September 1960.
     As the general election campaign began, Sinatra persuaded some of his Hollywood friends to hold small receptions for prospective Kennedy supporters.  Sinatra was friends with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, both successful film stars who had been married to each other since 1951.  Leigh had co-starred with her husband in five films through the 1950s, including Houdini (1953) and had just appeared in the Alfred Hitchock classic Psycho, released in June 1960, in which she is murdered in one of Hollywood’s most famous shower scenes.  Leigh and Curtis had also attended the Democratic National Convention that July.

     In early September 1960, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis agreed to use their home for a “Key Women for Kennedy” campaign event.  On September 7th, a crowd estimated at 2,000 turned out at Leigh’s place  for quite a successful gathering.  Ted Kennedy, then the western states coordinator for his brother’s campaign, was also on hand for the event.  Frank Sinatra, shown at left, appeared there as well.

     Out on the campaign trail, the issue of Kennedy’s Catholic religion had not gone away.  Many still feared that government under Kennedy would be unduly influenced by religious interests, and the issue was still seen as a distinct liability for the candidate.  As Kennedy made a campaign swing through Texas, he decided to take on the religion issue directly.  On September 12, 1960, he spoke before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in Houston, Texas where he famously told his audience: “I am not the Catholic candidate for President.  I am the Democratic Party candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic.  I do not speak for my Church on public matters – and the Church does not speak for me.”   Also that September, in Hawaii, which had only recently become a state, Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford were on location filming The Devil at 4 O’ Clock.  While in the state, both did some campaigning for Kennedy, including one performance before an audience of about 9,000 at the Waikiki Shell.

Richard Nixon & JFK debate on television, 1960.
Richard Nixon & JFK debate on television, 1960.
     By late September 1960, the Presidential race was capturing mainstream public attention, as the first of the Kennedy-Nixon televised debates was broadcast nationally on Monday, September 26, 1960.  The debate was telecast from the studios of WBBM-TV in Chicago.  The one-hour debate demonstrated the power of image over substance, as Kennedy came across cool and collected, while Nixon, due in part to poor makeup and a recent illness, appeared tense and ill at ease on camera.  Although Kennedy was given the edge by many who watched the debate on TV, others who only listened on radio believed Nixon won.  Additional TV debates between the two would follow – one on Friday, October 7th from Washington, D.C.; a third on Thursday, October 13th with the candidates appearing on a split-screen telecast, Kennedy in New York and Nixon in Los Angeles; and a fourth on October 21st from New York.

Oct 31 1960: JFK tells Temple University students in Philadelphia he’d like to have a 5th TV debate with Nixon, who could “bring President Eisenhower along, too.” Photo: TSutpen.Blogspot.com
Oct 31 1960: JFK tells Temple University students in Philadelphia he’d like to have a 5th TV debate with Nixon, who could “bring President Eisenhower along, too.” Photo: TSutpen.Blogspot.com
     Through October 1960, Frank Sinatra continued to help Kennedy and the Democrats where he could, serving, for example, as a host for the Democratic Governor’s Ball in New Jersey in late October, and also appearing jointly with Eleanor Roosevelt in a radio appeal for Kennedy.  Sinatra and his Rat Pack friends weren’t the only Hollywood glitteratti helping Kennedy.  Singer Harry Belafonte appeared in one campaign TV ad. with Kennedy aimed at African-American voters.  In other radio and TV commercials, Lena Horne, Milton Berle, Gene Kelly, Ella Fitzgerald, Henry Fonda, and Myrna Loy also made pitches for Kennedy or performed on his behalf. The candidate, of course, was doing his share too, making appearances in major cities during the closing days of the campaign.  In late October, there were campaign stops in Philadelphia and New York.  On Friday November 4th,1960, Kennedy appeared at the Chicago Stadium for a big pre-election rally where more than 1.5 million people came out.

     Richard Nixon and the Republicans, meanwhile, were pulling out all the stops as well.  On Sunday, November 6th, Nixon ran 32-page advertising supplements in Sunday newspapers, and later that evening pre-empted the General Electric Theater on CBS-TV for a 30-minute appeal to voters.  On the day before the election, Monday, November 7th, Nixon appeared on ABC-TV for four hours (2-6 pm) in the first telethon in presidential campaign history, assisted by Hollywood celebrities Ginger Rogers, Lloyd Nolan, and Robert Young.  Kennedy appeared on ABC-TV that evening too, following Nixon, from 6:00-to-6:30 pm.  As election day approached, some polls had Kennedy leading by a slight edge, others had Nixon in the lead.  Most believed it was too close to call.


Election Night

Nov. 1960: JFK & aides watching returns on TV after the election. From left: artist Bill Walton, Pierre Salinger, unidentified man on stairs, Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Jack Kennedy, RFK. secretary Angie Novello, and campaign aide Bill Haddad.  Photo, Jacques Lowe.
Nov. 1960: JFK & aides watching returns on TV after the election. From left: artist Bill Walton, Pierre Salinger, unidentified man on stairs, Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Jack Kennedy, RFK. secretary Angie Novello, and campaign aide Bill Haddad. Photo, Jacques Lowe.
     On the day before the election, Jack Kennedy spoke at city hall in Providence, Rhode Island before thousands of supporters, returning to his home in Boston following the speech.  On election day, November 8th, 1960, he and his then pregnant wife Jackie, voted at a branch library near their Boston home.  From there they joined Kennedy family members, friends and a few campaign staff at the family compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, where several Kennedy homes were used in monitoring the election returns.

     Frank Sinatra, meanwhile, watched the voting on the West coast from the home of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, along with other Hollywood stars and movie people, including Bill Goetze, Billy Wilder, Milton Berle, Dick Shepherd and others.  The Curtis-Leigh home that evening served as a “clearinghouse” for Hollywood Democrats all around the country who had worked for Kennedy.  Calls that evening were coming in from Henry Fonda in New York, Sammy Cahn in Las Vegas, Peter Lawford in Hyannis Port with the Kennedy family, and also Sammy Davis, Jr., who was then performing at the Huntington Hartford Theater in Hollywood, but giving his audience updates on the election returns.

Peter Lawford & Pierre Salinger following teletype returns, election night, Nov 1960.
Peter Lawford & Pierre Salinger following teletype returns, election night, Nov 1960.
     In the voting that night, Illinois proved to be a crucial state, having 27 electoral votes.  Nixon had taken most of the state’s 103 counties, rural and suburban.  But Kennedy would take Cook County by a slender margin, and Chicago, where reportedly, Sinatra and Joe Kennedy had prevailed upon Sam Giancana for assistance.  Democratic Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was also believed to have been helpful on Kennedy’s behalf in Illinois.  Other states, including Texas, were also at issue with suspected election-night shenanigans on both sides.  The Nixon camp too, in downstate Illinois and elsewhere, had its share of suspected vote manipulations.

     On election night, as the early returns came in from large cities in East and Midwest – Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Chicago – Kennedy initially amassed a large lead in the popular and electoral vote.  It appeared he had certain victory.  However, after some early and premature TV declarations of Kennedy wins in selected states – and some retractions – an hours-long “too-close-to-call” contest set in, stretching late into the night.  As later returns came in – especially from the rural and suburban Midwest, the western states, and Pacific Coast states, Nixon began to catch up.  Some newspapers, including the New York Times, had even prepared “Kennedy elected” headline copy.  But the election was still too close to call.  Nixon made an appearance at about 3:00 a.m. that hinted toward concession, but he did not formally concede.  It would not be until the afternoon of the following day, Wednesday, November 9th,  that Nixon finally conceded and Kennedy claimed victory.

New York Times of November 10th, 1960 announcing JFK victory in presidential election. JFK shown with wife Jackie and family members at Hyannis Port, MA press event.
New York Times of November 10th, 1960 announcing JFK victory in presidential election. JFK shown with wife Jackie and family members at Hyannis Port, MA press event.
     Kennedy had defeated Nixon in one of the closest presidential elections of the twentieth century.  In the national popular vote Kennedy led Nixon by just two-tenths of one percent (49.7% to 49.5%), while in the electoral vote Kennedy won 303 votes to Nixon’s 219 (269 were needed to win). 

     Back on the west coast the next day, Frank Sinatra went work at an MGM set in Hollywood where they were making the film,The Devil at 4 O’Clock with Spencer Tracy and others.  The film’s director was Mervyn LeRoy, a Republican, with whom Sinatra had made a friendly wager on the election outcome.  A photo reportedly exists of Sinatra riding atop a donkey with LeRoy leading them around the MGM lot, apparently a result of Sinatra winning the wager.  After the election, Rosalind Wyman, who served as the co-chair of the 1960 California Kennedy-Johnson campaign and Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, singled out Sinatra for his campaign help, saying he went wherever he was needed.  Sinatra, of course, was elated with JFK’s victory, and looked forward to a continuing friendship with the president-elect in the years ahead.

JFK campaign button, 1960.
JFK campaign button, 1960.
     Part 2 of this story continues with Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford playing a major role in the Kennedy inaugural festivities of January 1961.  Part 2 also covers the changing relationship between Sinatra, JFK and the Kennedy family as the Kennedy Administration moved into governing the country.  Sinatra’s reaction to JFK’s assassination is also covered there, as well as Sinatra’s later turn toward the Republicans and what became of the Rat Pack members and a few of their friends beyond the 1960s.  See also at this website, for example: “1968 Presidential Race–Democrats” and “1968 Presidential Race – Republicans,” both of which also focus on the Hollywood/politics mixture.  Thanks for visiting. - Jack Doyle.


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Date Posted:  21 August 2011
Last Update:  21 August 2011
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “The Jack Pack, 1958-1960,”
PopHistoryDig.com, August 20, 2011.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

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John F. Kennedy, who was first elected to Congress in 1946, is featured on Time’s cover, December 2, 1957, as the “Democrat's Man Out Front.”
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“The Jack Pack”
Pt.2: 1961-1990s

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The Rat Pack on stage together in a 1960s' performance.
The Rat Pack on stage together in a 1960s' performance.
     This is the second part of a two-part story on the history of Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack and their dealings with the 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy and his early Administration.  The “Rat Pack” was a nickname for a coterie of Hollywood stars and Las Vegas club entertainers that included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford.  For a time in 1960, this group and some of their friends were dubbed “The Jack Pack” when they helped the Kennedy-for-President campaign. 

     Through the early 1960s, Sinatra and his Rat Pack reigned supreme in contemporary culture; they became the “cool guys” of their generation.  They brought record-breaking crowds to the Las Vegas nightclub scene and made millions for Hollywood’s box office  through the movies they made.  The Rat Pack’s network of contacts, friends, and business partners ranged across Hollywood, Las Vegas, and beyond, including movie stars such as Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Janet Leigh, Angie Dickinson, and Shirley MacLaine, and also some underworld figures such as Sam Giancana of Chicago.

“Rat Pack” members early 1960s, from left: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.
“Rat Pack” members early 1960s, from left: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.
     Sinatra and the Rat Pack became intertwined with the Kennedy family in part through Peter Lawford’s marriage to Jack Kennedy’s sister, Patricia, and later through Sinatra’s friendship with U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy.  But the Rat Pack’s Hollywood and business network in the entertainment world also made it a potent force for fundraising and voter turnout, which soon become apparent in the 1960 presidential election and beyond.

     Part 1 of the story covers Rat Pack history and the group’s involvement with the 1960 Kennedy campaign, up to and including John F. Kennedy’s election in November 1960.  Part 2 of the story picks up here as plans for the 1961 Kennedy inauguration festivities are being made.  This part of the story will also cover Frank Sinatra’s falling out with JFK and the Kennedy family during the early 1960s, as well as what became of various Rat Pack members and friends and Kennedy family members in the years following the Kennedy election.


Washington Gala

Jan 1961: Frank Sinatra escorting Jackie Kennedy to her box at the National Guard Armory for a pre-inaugural gala staged by Sinatra to help pay off JFK & Democratic Party campaign debt.
Jan 1961: Frank Sinatra escorting Jackie Kennedy to her box at the National Guard Armory for a pre-inaugural gala staged by Sinatra to help pay off JFK & Democratic Party campaign debt.
     In December 1960, Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford began planning a big, star-studded gala and party fundraiser to be staged at the National Armory in Washington, D.C. on January 19th, 1961, the night before JFK’s formal inauguration.  Among the performers and notables Sinatra and Lawford would gather for this event were: Harry Belafonte, Milton Berle, Nat King Cole, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Kelly, Frederic March, Ethel Merman, Jimmy Durante, Mahalia Jackson, Bette Davis, Laurence Olivier, Leonard Bernstein, Fredric March, Sidney Poitier, Bill Dana, Kay Thompson, Roger Edens and others. 

     Sinatra was responsible for personally recruiting many of the stars, some flying in from filming and performing locations abroad.  He and Lawford also convinced several Broadway producers to shut down for one night so actors such as Anthony Quinn, Ethel Merman and Laurence Olivier could attend.  One account had it that Sinatra personally bought out the theater tickets for the performances of the Broadway plays in conflict so the those actors could partake in the Kennedy gala.

January 19, 1961: Part of scene at the JFK inaugural gala in Washington, DC, organized by Frank Sinatra.
January 19, 1961: Part of scene at the JFK inaugural gala in Washington, DC, organized by Frank Sinatra.
     Several thousand seats at the National Armory would be sold for $100 each and 72 ringside boxes for small groups were sold at $10,000 apiece.  “We’ve already sold out the 72 boxes,” Peter Lawford told Time magazine in early December.  Sinatra added, “This will be the biggest take in show-business history for a one-nighter.  We expect to raise $1,700,000 for the one night…”  In January, Sinatra and Lawford flew to Washington on Kennedy’s private Convair plane to begin work on the gala.  The Hollywood stars, producers, directors, conductors, and musicians involved were housed at the Statler-Hilton Hotel in Washington, reportedly taking over the top floor or so.  Sinatra also hired a Hollywood photographer named Phil Stern to document the entire enterprise, later giving each of the participants their own photo albums.

Sammy Davis, Jr., 1960s.
Sammy Davis, Jr., 1960s.
     But in arranging the gala there was also some nastiness for Frank’s friend, Sammy Davis, slated to be one of the gala performers.  Davis had planned to take leave from his engagement at the Latin Casino near Philadelphia in order to perform at the gala. But given his recent mid-November 1960 mix-race marriage to Swedish actress May Britt, Sammy was still too hot politically for the Kennedys.  Reportedly, there had been discussions with Bobby, Jack and Peter Lawford on Sammy’s participation in the gala, concern being that Southern Democrats would object to Sammy and his new wife attending.  Three days before the gala, after Sammy had bought a new tux and his wife a new gown, he received a call from the White House.  It was Evelyn Lincoln, JFK’s personal secretary.  She told Sammy the president didn’t want him at the inauguration, a decision by the president described as being forced upon him by the politics of the moment, and counterproductive to fight.  Sammy said he understood.  Peter Lawford called Davis to try to smooth things over, but Sammy was crushed.

Gene Kelly performing at JFK gala, January 19, 1961.
Gene Kelly performing at JFK gala, January 19, 1961.
     On gala day, there was a snow storm in Washington, dumping eight inches on the city through the evening.  But the show went on.  There was singing, dancing, poetry, stage skits, dramatic readings, and tributes to the presidential and vice-president.  Gene Kelly danced; Sydney Poteir read poetry, and Pat Suzuki sang. Kelly sang “The Hat Me Dear Old Father Wore” and did an amazing dance routine. Fredric March did a recitation invoking God’s help to “give us zest for new frontiers, and the faith to say unto mountains, whether made of granite or red tape: Remove.” 

Bill Dana, famous in that era for portraying a fictional Chicano character known as José Jiménez, did a well-received comic routine with Milton Berle.  Nat King Cole sang and so did a young, 34 year-old Harry Belafonte, whose 1956 Calypso album had become the first long-playing album in history to sell over one million copies.

Frank Sinatra & Peter Lawford enjoy a lighter moment at the 1961 gala for President-elect John F. Kennedy.
Frank Sinatra & Peter Lawford enjoy a lighter moment at the 1961 gala for President-elect John F. Kennedy.
     Jimmy Durante sang a version of the “September Song,” a JFK favorite. Sinatra sang twice that evening, once with “You Make Me Feel So Young,” and also “That Old Black Magic,” putting a few new twists on the old standard with lines like: “That old Jack magic had them in its spell / That old Jack magic that he weaves so well…”  There was also a long biographical tribute sung to Kennedy describing his rise to power, using a parody of popular songs composed by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.  This skit began with Sinatra and Berle doing a send up of that era’s famous news team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.“…[I]t may have marked the moment when popular entertainment became an indispensable part of modern politics.”
                                       – Todd Purdum
  “High Hopes,” was also used in this segment, now reworked by Sinatra with new lines that included: “Jack and Lyndon B /… Let’s follow their lead / They’re the men that our America needs!”

     Todd Purdum, writing a Vanity Fair retrospective on the famous JFK gala 50 years later, summed it up this way: “It was an only-in-America blend of high culture and low comedy, of schmaltz and camp, and it may have marked the moment when popular entertainment became an indispensable part of modern politics.”  In fact, Bette Davis said as much during the show in part of skit she did, reading from a script by radio dramatist Norman Corwin: “The world of entertainment—show-biz, if you please—has become the Sixth Estate…”

JFK with Frank Sinatra at the pre-inaugural gala, Jan 19, 1961, the night before JFK’s formal inauguration.
JFK with Frank Sinatra at the pre-inaugural gala, Jan 19, 1961, the night before JFK’s formal inauguration.
     At one point near the show’s end, with an introduction from Sinatra, JFK rose to speak as a single spotlight shone on him.  “We saw excellence tonight,” Kennedy said, while  commending Sinatra and Peter Lawford for their work on the gala.  “The happy relationship between the arts and politics which has characterized our long history I think reached culmination tonight,” he said. 

     Of Sinatra’s role in the gala Kennedy said, “You can not imagine the work he has done to make this show a success.”  Kennedy called Sinatra “a great friend,” and added: “Long before he could sing, he used to poll a Democratic precinct back in New Jersey.  That precinct has grown to cover a country, but long after he has ceased to sing, he’s going to be standing up and speaking for the Democratic Party, and I thank him on behalf of all of you tonight.”

1961: Inaugural dancing at the Armory.
1961: Inaugural dancing at the Armory.
     The gala would raise millions to help reduce the Democratic campaign debt, and despite the snow and difficult logistics, Sinatra had pulled off one of the greatest Hollywood-on-the-Potomac fetes the city had ever witnessed.

     Even though it was nearly 1:30 a.m. when the gala ended, and Jackie Kennedy had long since gone home as she was still recovering from the Cesarean birth of John Jr., JFK went to another party that night given by his father, Joseph Kennedy, at Paul Young’s restaurant in downtown D.C.  JFK didn’t get home until 3:30 a.m. 

     However the next morning, Inauguration Day, Kennedy was up at eight, reviewing his speech and preparing for a full slate of official and ceremonial meetings with outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and then on to Capitol Hill for his swearing in and one of the more memorable inaugural speeches in U.S. history.


President John F. Kennedy delivering his inaugural address at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 20, 1961.
President John F. Kennedy delivering his inaugural address at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 20, 1961.
     On the evening of the inauguration, as the President and first lady were making the rounds to the various inaugural balls being held in Washington, Sinatra threw a party at the Statler-Hilton Hotel for all the cast and crew who had been involved in the preceding night’s gala.  The President, on a visit to the Statler-Hilton for one of the balls that evening, managed to slip away to join Sinatra’s party and mingle with the guests there.  Frank Sinatra was very pleased, and went home to California feeling pretty good about himself and his friend in the White House.


The Sinatra File

     Following the inauguration, the ties between Frank Sinatra and the Kennedy’s – especially those involving JFK and the White House – would gradually become strained and eventually would be severed.  But this would not occur for another year or so. 

FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, center, meeting with JFK and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, January 1961.
FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, center, meeting with JFK and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, January 1961.
     Sinatra had been monitored by the FBI stretching back to 1946 when he attended social gatherings in Cuba as a guest of some organized crime figures.  The FBI had an active file on Sinatra which continued for years (Sinatra’s full FBI file would not be released publicly until December 1998, ultimately revealing nothing criminal, subversive, or unpatriotic; a file filled with mostly unsubstantiated complaints and anonymous sources). 

     But in February 1961, within weeks of JFK’s inauguration, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent a pointed memo to the new U.S. Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy.  The memo detailed Sinatra’s extensive connections to organized crime figures.  Robert Kennedy would later impress upon his brother, the President, that he needed to distance himself from Sinatra.

Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford & Robert Kennedy wait for helicopter en route to a Cedars-Sinai Hospital charity event in Hollywood, July 1961.
Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford & Robert Kennedy wait for helicopter en route to a Cedars-Sinai Hospital charity event in Hollywood, July 1961.
     Still, exchanges between the Kennedy family, Sinatra, and members of his Rat Pack continued through 1961 and beyond.  In early July, Sinatra and Peter Lawford joined U.S. Attorney General, Robert Kennedy to attend benefit dinner for the Cedars-Sinai Hospital at the Beverly Hilton in Hollywood.  Another report had Sinatra, the Dean Martin family, Peter Lawford and family, Sammy Davis and May Britt, and Janet Leigh using the French Riviera home of Joseph P. Kennedy during a ten-day vacation in August 1961. 

     Then, in late September 1961, ten months after the election, Joe Kennedy threw a thank-you party for Frank Sinatra at the family’s Hyannis Port, MA compound.  At that point, JFK as president was still talking with Sinatra, as Sinatra would approach the president during the Hyannis Port visit to ask for a small favor.

Frank Sinatra sought JFK’s help to lobby Arthur Krim to make this film.
Frank Sinatra sought JFK’s help to lobby Arthur Krim to make this film.
     Screenwriters in Hollywood had come to Sinatra about starring in a film, The Manchurian Candidate, based on a 1959 novel by Richard Condon.  The Manchurian Candidate is a story about a Korean War hero, brainwashed by the Chinese Communists, who then returns home programmed to assassinate the president as part of a larger conspiracy to take over the White House.  In addition to starring the film, Sinatra also had business interests in its distribution.  However, the head of Universal Studios at the time, Arthur Krim, was queasy about the film project and its Cold War politics.  Krim was also then national finance chairman of the Democratic Party.  So, when Sinatra was visiting the Kennedys in Hyannis Port in September 1961, he told Jack Kennedy of the plan for the film and Arthur Krim’s reluctance to make it.  President Kennedy called Krim and the movie project went forward, with Krim later saying that Kennedy’s call had made the difference.

     Despite Kennedy’s help on the Manchurian Candidate, Sinatra’s access to the President and the White House would soon be ending.  Later in the fall of 1961, Sinatra visited the White House as part of a larger group that included Peter Lawford and others.  And during that year, press Secretary Pierre Salinger had been questioned by members of the press about Sinatra’s relationship with the president.  The inner circle around Kennedy – including Robert Kennedy and the President himself – became less comfortable having Sinatra around the White House.  But soon, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI would provide some additional information on Sinatra.


Rat Pack Popularity

Richard Gehman’s 1961 book helped to popularize the term “Rat Pack.”
Richard Gehman’s 1961 book helped to popularize the term “Rat Pack.”
     Meanwhile, the Rat Pack in 1961 seemed to gain in popularity and public notice.  The first book arrived that year using the term “Rat Pack” in its title.  A writer from Lancaster, Pennsylvania named Richard Gehman published a paperback volume with Belmont Books in New York titled, Sinatra and His Rat Pack.  The book sold reasonably well and went into at least three printings according to one source.  In the fall that year, a late night talk show hosted by David Suskind featured a Rat Pack roundtable on one of its shows with a mix of journalists and Hollywood celebrities who debated the Rat Pack’s merits and maladies.  Even a New Yorker cartoon appeared with a psychiatrist addressing the concerns of a middle-aged man lying on the treatment couch, with the psychiatrist saying: “What makes you think Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and all that bunch are so happy?” 

     There were also continued stage and club performances of the Rat Pack as a group, or in various combinations.  Work on films with one or more members of the group continued as well, and Sinatra had a film or two of his own.  The Devil at Four O’Clock, a volcano disaster film with Sinatra and Spencer Tracey came out in October 1961.  Sinatra’s music continued to be popular.  Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford would have their notices as well.

President Kennedy points to map of Laos at press conference in March 1961.
President Kennedy points to map of Laos at press conference in March 1961.
     The Kennedy Administration, meanwhile, had a full plate of activities in 1961.  In March, Kennedy announced the establishment of the Peace Corps.  The president also held a press conference that month to discuss communist involvement in Laos.  In April, in his first international and military crisis, U.S.-backed invasion of Cuba ended in disaster at the Bay of Pigs.  Kennedy appeared on TV taking full responsibility for the fiasco, an operation inherited from the Eisenhower Administration.  The Soviet Union that month put the first human in space, as cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth in a Soviet spacecraft.  In May, speaking before the U.S. Congress, Kennedy committed the U.S. to landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade.  In June, Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev held a summit in Vienna.  Cold war tensions escalated in August, as construction on what came to be known as “the Berlin Wall” began; an actual brick-and-block wall that would divide East and West Berlin with the purpose of preventing people from fleeing communist-held areas of the country for sanctuary in the west.  Elsewhere in the world, Kennedy Administration officials were working on foreign policy initiatives such as the “Alliance for Progress,” a joint U.S./Latin American economic development program.  In December  the President traveled to Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.


Stay At Frank’s?

     As JFK’s presidential schedule for early 1962 was being plotted out, it was revealed he would be making a trip west to California in March of 1962.  Early on, it was decided Kennedy would have an overnight visit at Frank Sinatra’s Palm Springs estate on March 24th, 1962.  This planned JFK visit became a big event for Sinatra; a very prideful moment – much more than the pre-election partying the two had shared.Sinatra went all-out for the anticipated JFK visit – remodeling the house, adding new cottages, extra rooms, communications gear, and more. . . He even had a helicopter landing pad installed.  This was now the President of the United States who was coming to stay overnight.  Sinatra had initially built this Palm Springs residence in 1954.  It included a main house, a movie theater, guest houses, a barbershop/sauna, two swimming pools, tennis courts, and a personal art studio.  But now, he would make improvements.

     Sinatra went all-out for the anticipated JFK visit – remodeling the house, adding new cottages, extra rooms, communications gear, and more to accommodate a president and his staff.  He even had a concrete heliport landing pad installed.  But within days of the planned visit – on March 22nd, two days ahead of the planned arrival at Sinatra’s – Peter Lawford was told by JFK and Bobby Kennedy to inform Sinatra that the President would not be staying at Sinatra’s place.  Lawford tried to convince the President and Bobby not to cancel the visit, to no avail.  It was then arranged that the President would stay at singer Bing Crosby’s place.  Lawford then called Sinatra, fabricating a story about how Sinatra’s place was more open and more vulnerable and that the Secret Service had instead approved Bing Crosby’s “more secure” place, backing up against a mountain.  Sinatra was stunned by the news, and tried appealing to Bobby Kennedy with no success.  At one point, Sinatra reportedly took a sledge hammer to the heliport he had built to vent his frustration, and he was quite unforgiving of Lawford and others even remotely connected to the cancellation.  From that point on, Sinatra and JFK pretty much parted ways.

JFK, J. Edgar Hoover & Robert Kennedy.
JFK, J. Edgar Hoover & Robert Kennedy.
     Bobby Kennedy and the President had both heard from J. Edgar Hoover about Sinatra and the fact that Sam Giancana – who Bobby’s Justice Department was then investigating – had stayed at Sinatra’s place.  Hoover had lunch with the President only a few days before his scheduled March 1962 trip West, and it is believed he discussed Sinatra and Judith Campbell with the President, among other things.  JFK knew Hoover played hardball and he wasn’t about to give him any more ammunition by staying with Sinatra.  But Sinatra was wounded badly by the cancellation.  Years later, Sinatra would say he would have understood if JFK had personally spoken with him about why, politically, he could not be seen with him, given his ties, etc.  Sinatra said he would have accepted that.  But Kennedy never did that, and Sinatra remained forever hurt by the slight.  JFK, meanwhile, had a pleasant visit at Bing Crosby’s place on March 24th, 1962, where guests at that time reportedly included Marilyn Monroe.


“Happy Birthday”

Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” May 19, 1962. Photo, UPI.
Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” May 19, 1962. Photo, UPI.
     Less than two months later, on May 19, 1962, Monroe made a famous public appearance singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to JFK at a Madison Square Garden event for the President’s 45th birthday.  It was a huge gala affair, with a number of Hollywood entertainers.  Monroe, who arrived late to sing the birthday greeting, was introduced by Peter Lawford.  Her appearance came toward the middle-end of the program, and she performed the song in her very best, most sexiest voice.  More than 15,000 people attended the JFK gathering, also a Democratic fundraising event, with many VIPs and politicians in the audience.  It was hosted by New York Mayor Robert Wagner with Jack Benny as emcee.  Among those performing were: Robert Merrill, Ella Fitzgerald, Danny Kaye, Henry Fonda, Maria Callas, Peggy Lee, Jimmy Durante & Eddie Jackson, Mike Nichols & Elaine May, Diahann Carroll, and Bobby Darin. Richard Adler, a composer and lyricist, famous for Broadway musicals such as The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees, produced the show.  Jerome Robbins, of The King and I and West Side Story fame, choreographed a big dance number.  Monroe, in addition to “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” also continued her musical tribute to the president, adding a few lines of thanks — “for all you have done, the battles you have won” — to the tune of “Thanks for the Memories.”  Monroe wore a sleek, form-fitting, specially-designed dress for the occasion, made for her by designer Jean Louis.  Kennedy remarked at the podium later that evening that he could “now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.”  Kennedy would later be photographed briefly talking to Monroe with brother Bobby and others at an after party.

Robert F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and John F. Kennedy in rare photo taken at private “after party,” May 19, 1962. Advisor Arthur Schlesinger, with glasses, is shown at right.
Robert F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and John F. Kennedy in rare photo taken at private “after party,” May 19, 1962. Advisor Arthur Schlesinger, with glasses, is shown at right.
     According to some reports, Kennedy had first met Monroe at his sister’s house – Peter and Patricia Lawford’s Santa Monica beach house – sometime in 1959-1960 (although some reports say Kennedy knew Monroe as early as 1954-55).  Reportedly, other JFK and Monroe get-togethers occurred around the time of Kennedy’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles on July 12th and July 13th, 1960, including a dinner at Puccini’s restaurant in Beverly Hills, owned by Sinatra and Lawford, and also at a private party at the Lawford’s Santa Monica home the night of Kennedy’s nomination at the Los Angeles 1960 Democratic National Convention.  But Monroe’s appearance at the President’s birthday party in New York on May 19th, 1962 would be her last public appearance.

     Frank Sinatra, not long after the President’s cancelled overnight visit, began a world concert tour in a dozen or more cities to raise money for various children’s charities.  On that trip, Sinatra did concerts in China, Israel, Greece, Italy, London, Los Angeles, Milan, Tel Aviv and Japan and raised more than one million dollars for various benefits.  He returned to the U.S. in late June 1962.


Marilyn’s Fall

Marilyn Monroe in happier times with Frank Sinatra & club manager Bert Grober, Cal-Neva Resort, 1959. Photo: D. Dondero, Reno Gazette.
Marilyn Monroe in happier times with Frank Sinatra & club manager Bert Grober, Cal-Neva Resort, 1959. Photo: D. Dondero, Reno Gazette.
     In late July 1962, according to author J. Randy Taraborrelli, Frank Sinatra invited Peter and Patricia Lawford for a weekend visit to his Nevada resort, the Cal-Neva Lodge at Lake Tahoe.  Marilyn Monroe, a friend of the Lawfords and also of Frank Sinatra, joined them.  The Lawfords and Monroe traveled together and arrived by private plane.  Monroe, however, was not well by then, suffering from depression and taking medication.  Sinatra, in fact, upon seeing her, was shocked and angry about her condition and called her doctor on the spot to relay his concern.  But at one point during the visit, Monroe did some self-medication and Pat Lawford later found her in her room collapsed.  Sinatra, meanwhile, became worried over the incident, concerned she might die at his resort.  He told his valet, George Jacobs, to get Monroe out of the resort.  One guest who happened to be in the Cal-Neva lobby at the time reported seeing Peter and Pat Lawford on either side of Monroe helping to carry her out of the resort to a private plane that took her back to Los Angeles.

Marilyn Monroe, center, at Peter & Pat Lawford’s home in 1960-61, with Peter Lawford left and Frank Sinatra next to Monroe looking at a photograph. May Britt is standing at right.
Marilyn Monroe, center, at Peter & Pat Lawford’s home in 1960-61, with Peter Lawford left and Frank Sinatra next to Monroe looking at a photograph. May Britt is standing at right.
Patricia Kennedy Lawford, now visible in another photo from that same time, is seen standing at left. Seated woman may have been Shirley MacLaine.
Patricia Kennedy Lawford, now visible in another photo from that same time, is seen standing at left. Seated woman may have been Shirley MacLaine.

     Other accounts of that weekend at the Cal-Neva report that Dean Martin and Monroe’s former husband, baseball great Joe DiMaggio, were also at the resort.  DiMaggio had never been happy about some of Marilyn’s Hollywood friends.  Still other accounts have Peter Lawford telling Monroe at that point that all communication with JFK and Bobby Kennedy was to be cut off.  Monroe reportedly had been upset over some things JFK had said to her in private, and she had also seen Robert Kennedy.  Monroe that summer was also working on the film Something’s Got to Give, which was never finished.

     After the Lawford’s returned home from their weekend visit with Sinatra, Peter Lawford called Monroe on August 4, 1962, concerned about her health.  He found that she was still not well, sounding quite depressed.  He later tried calling her again but couldn’t get through.  He then thought about going directly to her home.  However, he was advised, that as the President’s brother-in-law, he should  not go there.  On August 5, 1962, Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood home.  She was 36 years old.  Her death was ruled to be “acute barbiturate poisoning” by Los Angeles coroner Dr. Thomas Noguchi  and listed as a “probable suicide”.


Late 1962

Scene from “The Manchurian Candidate,” in which Frank Sinatra, as Korean War veteran Bennett Marco, attempts to help a fellow veteran who's been brainwashed.
Scene from “The Manchurian Candidate,” in which Frank Sinatra, as Korean War veteran Bennett Marco, attempts to help a fellow veteran who's been brainwashed.
     Through the remainder of 1962, Frank Sinatra continued his work.  In August and September he was busy making a filmed adaptation of the Neil Simon play, Come Blow Your Horn, which would not be in theaters until the following year.  In October 1962, Capitol Records released a new three-record set of his recordings – Sinatra, the Great Years.  A few weeks later, near the end of October, The Manchurian Candidate, the film Sinatra starred in and had gone to JFK for help with producer Krim, began playing in theaters.  JFK, in fact, had viewed the film at a special White House screening on August 29, 1962, the day a U-2 spy plane over Cuba would discover eight missile installations under construction– information that would lead, two months later, to the “Cuban missile crisis” and a showdown with the Soviet Union.

     By October 16th, a day the New York Yankees would beat the San Francisco Giants in game seven of the 1962 World Series, Kennedy was shown new U-2 photos revealing fully-equipped missile bases capable of attacking the U.S. with nuclear warheads.  Plans were drawn up for a possible U.S. invasion of Cuba.  A massive mobilization of military hardware began, and more than 150,000 active duty troops from the Marines, Army and Air Force were either positioned in Florida or put on high alert, while additional reservists were ordered to report for duty.

Cuban “missile crisis” headlines, Oct 1962.
Cuban “missile crisis” headlines, Oct 1962.
     On Monday, October 22, 1962, President Kennedy appeared on television to inform Americans of the Soviet missiles in Cuba.  He explained that a Naval blockade had been placed around Cuba to prevent any further Soviet deliveries. 

The President also stated that any nuclear missile launched from Cuba would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviets and he demanded the missiles be removed from Cuba. 

     The “missile crisis,” as it came to be called, was the closest the world ever came to nuclear war in the 1960s.  In the end, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev turned his ships around.  The Soviets agreed to dismantle the weapon sites and, in exchange, the U.S. agreed not to invade Cuba and remove its missiles from Turkey.


1963

April 1963: Frank Sinatra hosts the Academy Awards ceremony, shown here escorting actress Donna Reed.
April 1963: Frank Sinatra hosts the Academy Awards ceremony, shown here escorting actress Donna Reed.
     Frank Sinatra hosted the Academy Awards ceremony in 1963.  Earlier that year, Playboy magazine ran an interview with Sinatra that revealed him to be quite well-informed on a range of domestic and international issues, and in which he mentioned the Kennedy Administration a few times in the context of policy issues. 

     Sinatra also recorded a new LP in April 1963, titled Sinatra’s Sinatra.  This was an album of Sinatra songs from the 1940s and 1950s, updated with new versions for Sinatra’s own label, Reprise.  The album did quite well, reaching No. 9 on the Billboard and U.K. album charts.  The film Come Blow Your Horn, in which Sinatra starred, was also a major box office success that summer, garnering him a Golden Globe acting nomination.

     President Kennedy that spring, among other things, visited Hollywood briefly for a Democratic Party fundraiser.  This affair, however, was a limited VIP gathering of about one hundred of Hollywood’s biggest stars, among them: Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, Burt Lancaster, Charlton Heston, Gene Kelly, Dean Martin, Rock Hudson, Jack Webb and others.  “Instead of offering a formal speech the president table-hopped, impressing his guests with a wide-ranging knowledge of movies in general and their careers in specific,” explains Alan Schroeder of Northeastern University who has written on the presidency and Hollywood.  Kennedy was a life-long fan of Hollywood, and remained intrigued about its inner working and even its gossip.

June 1963: JFK delivering his famous speech in West Berlin.
June 1963: JFK delivering his famous speech in West Berlin.
     Back in Washington, meanwhile, JFK had a full agenda of pressing issues, domestic and international, with both difficult and hopeful signs for the future.  In June 1963, Alabama Gov. George Wallace refused to allow two black students to enter the University of Alabama forcing Kennedy to use the National Guard to ensure the students’ safety.  On June 11, Kennedy gave a nationally-televised evening speech announcing a civil rights proposal, a speech that helped calm tensions while also putting front and center the “moral issue” then confronting the nation.  “It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution,” he said.  “The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities …[T]his Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free …”  Also in June, some eight months after the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke at the American University commencement in Washington, D.C. urging a reexamination of Cold War stereotypes and calling for a strategy of peace.  In the final months of his presidency, the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was negotiated and signed.  June 1963 was also the month that President Kennedy arrived in the partitioned city of Berlin, Germany, delivering his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in West Berlin.

August 1963: Martin Luther King on the Mall in Washington, DC, “I have a dream.”
August 1963: Martin Luther King on the Mall in Washington, DC, “I have a dream.”
     In popular culture that July, the Beatles’ had become a sensation in Britain, but not yet in the U.S.  On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  A few weeks later, on September 12, 1963 in New York’s Carnegie Hall, Frank Sinatra sang “Ol’ Man River” at a benefit gathering for Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Frank Sinatra’s son, Frank, Jr., who was sitting in the balcony for that performance, later observed: “Here was the greatest black leader in history watching this white man sing a song about slavery, and there were tears on his cheeks.”

     Elsewhere, however, Frank Sinatra had his problems.  In Las Vegas, Nevada, the state’s Gaming Control Board recommended in September 1963, that Sinatra’s casino gambling license be revoked for allowing Chicago crime boss Sam Giancana to visit Sinatra’s part-owned Cal-Neva Lodge at Lake Tahoe.  The Gaming Control Board had a published “List of Excluded Persons” who were not allowed in casinos even as customers, and Giancana was on that list.  Sinatra never understood the stigma of his friendship with Giancana and others like him, as he had been friends of theirs since the 1940s.  Still, Sinatra had to give up his casino license and sell his interests in the Cal-Neva and the Sands. ( Later, however, Sinatra would have his Las Vegas bona fides restored in 1981 when he applied for license as an entertainment consultant at Caesars Palace, listing President Ronald Reagan as a character reference and having Gregory Peck testify on his behalf.  The Gaming Commission voted their approval, 4-1 ).

Nov 22, 1963: JFK, Jackie, and Texas Governor John Connolly in Dallas moments before shots were fired.
Nov 22, 1963: JFK, Jackie, and Texas Governor John Connolly in Dallas moments before shots were fired.
      Jack Kennedy, in November 1963, was scheduled to visit Texas to make a series of political speeches across the state.  On November 21, 1963, Kennedy flew to Texas making three visits that day in San Antonio, Houston, and Forth Worth.  The next day, as his car drove slowly past cheering crowds in Dallas, shots rang out.  Kennedy was mortally wounded and died a short time later.  Within hours of the shooting, police arrested 24 year-old Lee Harvey Oswald as the prime suspect.  Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson – with a shaken Jackie Kennedy beside him aboard Air Force One – was sworn in as President.  The nation went into deep shock and weeks of mourning.

An Era’s End

New York Times front page, November 23, 1963.
New York Times front page, November 23, 1963.
     In late November 1963, Frank Sinatra was filming a scene for Robin and the 7 Hoods in a Burbank, California cemetery when he learned that Kennedy had been assassinated.  Stunned by the news, Sinatra reportedly became very quiet and took a series of long walks away from the set, thinking about the tragedy.  He also called the White House from the set, and spoke briefly to a staffer there.  He then returned to the waiting film crew and said, “Let’s shoot this thing, ’cause I don’t want to come back here anymore.”  After the scene was finished Sinatra went to his home in Palm Springs and, according to his daughter, Nancy Sinatra, “virtually disappeared” for three days while the Kennedy family and nation mourned.  Sinatra would later say of Kennedy: “For a brief moment, he was the brightest star in our lives. I loved him.”

Washington Post front page, Nov 23, 1963.
Washington Post front page, Nov 23, 1963.
     Kennedy’s assassination marked seminal changes for the nation’s character and its culture.  America became a less innocent, more somber place.  Numerous turning points, public and personal, followed.  For the Rat Pack, Kennedy’s death also marked the end of an era.  Rat Pack hijinks-type entertainment would gradually fade from the scene.  By 1964, with the arrival of the Beatles, the music had changed as well.  Yet Frank Sinatra, for one, would hold his own.  In 1965, Sinatra turned 50, but he still had years of hit music ahead of him.  In that year alone, he recorded the retrospective album, September of My Years and starred in the Emmy-winning television special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music.  In early 1966 he scored a recording hit with the blockbuster single, “Strangers in the Night,” a song that would later win three Grammy awards.

Frank Sinatra shown in a room at his home that includes framed photos and other memorabilia from his Kennedy-era years.  Date unknown.
Frank Sinatra shown in a room at his home that includes framed photos and other memorabilia from his Kennedy-era years. Date unknown.
     In July 1966 Sinatra married Mia Farrow, a short-lived relationship that ended in divorce less than two years later.  Back in Las Vegas, meanwhile, things were also changing.  In 1967, Howard Hughes became the owner of the Sands.  Frank Sinatra’s politics would change, too, but not right away.


Sinatra Politics II

     In the 1968 national elections, during the Democratic presidential primaries, a number of Hollywood celebrities became engaged in those contests, generally hoping to change national policy as the Vietnam War divided the country.  Paul Newman and others were backing Democratic candidates such as Senator Eugene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy, or Hubert Humphrey, then Vice President to incumbent Lyndon Johnson who had decided not to run for re-election in a shocking announcement.  McCarthy appeared to have the early momentum, then Bobby Kennedy jumped in and was headed for victory before his tragic assassination in June 1968.  However, Kennedy had done quite well with Hollywood supporters.  But one entertainer noticeably absent from the Kennedy bandwagon was Frank Sinatra.

Frank Sinatra backed Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election.
Frank Sinatra backed Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election.
     Sinatra’s go-round with the Kennedys in 1960 had left its mark, plus the fact that as Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy had initiated actions against the Las Vegas gambling scene where Sinatra had friends and interests.  In 1968, Sinatra supported Vice President Hubert Humphrey for the Democratic nomination.  The old Rat Pack was split among the Democratic candidates: Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Shirley MacLaine had endorsed Robert Kennedy during the primaries; Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Joey Bishop backed Humphrey.  Sinatra had met with Humphrey in Washington in early May 1968, pledging to make campaign appearances for him.  In Oakland, California, on May 22nd, 1968, Sinatra headlined a gala supporting Humphrey and a delegate slate that opposed RFK in the California primary.  At the Oakland fundraiser, Sinatra gave an extensive live performance.  He also performed for Humphrey at an August 1968 gala at Cobo Hall in Detroit; appeared for Humphrey at the Houston, Texas Astrodome with President Lyndon Johnson; made a TV ad for Humphrey that fall; and re-stated his support for Humphrey on a live election-eve national telethon.  However, the Humphrey-Muskie ticket that emerged in that politically volatile season of 1968 was not enough to beat Richard Nixon.

Jan. 1971: Frank Sinatra with California Governor Ronald Reagan, Vikki Carr, Nancy Reagan, Dean Martin, Jack Benny (obscured), John Wayne & Jimmy Stewart.
Jan. 1971: Frank Sinatra with California Governor Ronald Reagan, Vikki Carr, Nancy Reagan, Dean Martin, Jack Benny (obscured), John Wayne & Jimmy Stewart.
     By 1970, however, Frank Sinatra began shifting his politics to the Republicans.  The first signs came when he spoke out in support of former actor Ronald Reagan, then running for re-election as California’s governor.  In fact, Sinatra urged his old Hollywood friend Reagan to move more to the center.  Sinatra, however, remained a registered Democrat who broke with Reagan on issues like abortion.  But in 1971, the Republicans nationally were being drawn to Sinatra’s potential star appeal.  A memo then circulating among  some of Richard Nixon’s presidential aides on Sinatra noted: “He has the muscle to bring along a lot of the younger lights.”  Nixon aide Charles W. Colson wrote of Sinatra: “If we are going to cultivate him, as I believe we should (I also recognize the negatives) then he should very shortly be invited to the White House to entertain.”

Frank Sinatra’s April 1973 performance at the Nixon White House on Red Cab Records, 2010.
Frank Sinatra’s April 1973 performance at the Nixon White House on Red Cab Records, 2010.
     In July 1972, prior to that year’s presidential election, Frank Sinatra announced his support for Richard Nixon.  “The older you get the more conservative you get,” he explained to his daughter Tina, who at the time was working for the Democratic candidate George McGovern.  Sinatra’s old Rat Pack pal, Sammy Davis, Jr., also supported Nixon in 1972. 

     In April 1973, a time when Sinatra’s “comeback album” Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back had appeared, he was invited by President Richard Nixon to perform at the White House, the first president to do so.  Following a state dinner for Italian Prime Minister Guiulio Andreotti, Sinatra performed a number of his songs for more than 200 guests in the East Room of the White House.  During Nixon’s presidency, Sinatra visited the White House several times.  He also supported Nixon’s moves to recognize the People’s Republic of China.

Frank Sinatra, left, campaignng with Ronald & Nancy Reagan, 1984.
Frank Sinatra, left, campaignng with Ronald & Nancy Reagan, 1984.
     By 1979, when Ronald Regan ran for president, Sinatra campaigned for him, saying at one point he worked harder for Regan than he had since 1960 when he backed Jack Kennedy.  And as Sinatra had done for Kennedy 20 years earlier, in January 1981, he now also produced Reagan’s Inaugural Gala, lining up a slate of performers that included Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, Dean Martin and Charlton Heston.  “I don’t view the inaugural as political,” he said when asked about producing Reagan’s show.  “If Walter Mondale had won, and if he had asked me to do [his gala], I’d have been there.”  Sinatra also campaigned for Regan in 1984.  In fact, during October and early November of that election season, Sinatra went to Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Hartford, Westchester, New York, Washington, D.C., Sacramento, and San Diego doing Republican receptions and/or fundraisers on behalf of Reagan.

May 23, 1985, Sinatra received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan. Cabinet member Jeane Kirkpatrick is seen in the background.
May 23, 1985, Sinatra received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan. Cabinet member Jeane Kirkpatrick is seen in the background.
     Throughout Reagan’s presidency, Sinatra made frequent trips to the White House, as well as serving on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.  In 1985, Reagan presented him with the Congressional Medal of Freedom at a White house ceremony.  It was, according to friends and family, one of the proudest days of his life.  Sinatra remained friends with both Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and later sang at the inaugural gala for George H.W. Bush as well.  And although he identified more with Republican presidents in his later years, Sinatra met Bill Clinton at a small dinner party in Los Angeles after Clinton became president.  At that meeting, Clinton later recalled, Sinatra spoke about his admiration for the Kennedys and his pride in having been a part of the Kennedy campaign and JFK’s White House years.

Flashback: Frank Sinatra, January 1961, at Carnegie Hall benefit concert for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with Sy Oliver (left) conducting. Dean Martin and Sammy Davis also participated.
Flashback: Frank Sinatra, January 1961, at Carnegie Hall benefit concert for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with Sy Oliver (left) conducting. Dean Martin and Sammy Davis also participated.
     On July 4, 1991, Sinatra, at the age of 75, wrote an opinion piece that ran in the Los Angeles Times and summed up one of his life’s major social concerns – race relations:

“[W]hy do I still hear race- and color-haters spewing their poisons?… Why do I still flinch at innuendoes of venom and inequality? Why do innocent children still grow up to be despised? Why do haters’ jokes still get big laughs when passed in whispers from scum to scum? …Why do so many among us continue in words and deeds to ignore, insult and challenge the unforgettable words of Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence’s promise to every man, woman and child — the self-evident truth that all men are created equal?”

     Sinatra passed away in 1998, ten years before the election of Barak Obama.  Yet, had he be around at the time, he might well have returned to the Democrats and supported Obama.

_________________________________________

Rat Pack Postscript
1960s-2008

1965: Rat Packers D. Martin, S. Davis & F. Sinatra with Johnny Carson subbing for J. Bishop in St. Louis.
1965: Rat Packers D. Martin, S. Davis & F. Sinatra with Johnny Carson subbing for J. Bishop in St. Louis.
     The Rat Pack had their glory days mostly in the early- and mid-1960s.  Thereafter, there were occasional reunions, benefit shows, some continued film making, and revival tours involving one or more of the group.  Some of these gigs involved guest participants,  as with Johnny Carson in 1965, shown at left.  A few of their later reunion attempts even  extended into the 1980s.  As individual performers,  however, the Rat Packers of the 1960s pretty much went their separate ways in later years.  And for the most part, each fared moderately well, at least initially.

Feb 7, 1960: Peter Lawford & Sammy Davis, Jr. on stage at Four Chaplin’s Benefit, Las Vegas Convention Center.  Photo, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Feb 7, 1960: Peter Lawford & Sammy Davis, Jr. on stage at Four Chaplin’s Benefit, Las Vegas Convention Center. Photo, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
     Peter Lawford had appeared in the film the Longest Day in 1962 and two Rat Pack- related films with Sammy Davis –Salt and Pepper (1968) and One More Time (1970).  He also had some continuing success on his own in film and on television series in the 1970s.  But things began unraveling for him after his divorce from Patricia Kennedy in February 1966.  They had four children together.

     Lawford, who liked the ladies and partying, married three more times after Pat Kennedy, each time to a woman half his age.  Lawford died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve 1984 of cardiac arrest complicated by kidney and liver failure after years of drug and alcohol abuse.

Best of Sammy Davis collection on 20th Century Masters CD, 2002.
Best of Sammy Davis collection on 20th Century Masters CD, 2002.
     Sammy Davis had continued success in Las Vegas through the 1960s, as well as in film and on stage.  During his career, Davis appeared in 39 movies, four Broadway plays, and released some 47 albums and 38 singles.  His 1962 song, “What Kind of Fool Am I,” was Grammy-nominated for both song of the year and best male solo performance.  In the Broadway musical Golden Boy of 1964 he received a Tony nomination for best actor.  He would also host his own TV show on NBC in 1966 and had top music hits, such as “I’ve Gotta Be Me” in 1968-69 and “Candy Man” in 1972.  Davis also had film and TV roles through the 1970s and 1980s.  After reuniting with Sinatra and Dean Martin in 1987, Davis toured with them and Liza Minnelli internationally.  Davis, who suffered from throat cancer, succumbed to the disease in May 1990.  He was 64 years old.  At his death, Davis was in debt to the IRS and his estate was the subject of legal battles.  On May 18, 1990, two days after Davis’ death, the neon lights of the Las Vegas strip were darkened in tribute to him.

DVD cover for collection of Dean Martin’s TV shows, 1965-1974.
DVD cover for collection of Dean Martin’s TV shows, 1965-1974.
     Apart from the performing and films he did with Sinatra and other Rat Packers, Dean Martin had his own successful film, singing, and TV career.  His 1964 song “Everybody Loves Somebody” was a million-selling top hit.  In fact, between 1964 and 1969 Martin released 11 albums that were certified “gold,” which at the time meant sales of more than 500,000 each.  All eleven of Martin’s albums were recorded for Reprise, a label founded by Sinatra in which Martin was an investor.  Martin also had a sizeable holding of RCA stock.  Martin released his final Reprise album, Once In A While, in 1978.  Thereafter recording became less prominent in his career.  In television, The Dean Martin Show, a variety-comedy series in which he starred, ran from 1965 to 1974 for 264 episodes, often in the top ten.  Following that series, The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, which he hosted for NBC, and during which Martin and friends would “roast” a celebrity, ran from 1974 to 1984.  A late 1980s tour with Sinatra and Sammy Davis was attempted, but did not go well.  Martin gave some of his last solo performances in Las Vegas at Bally’s Hotel in 1990.  A life-long smoker, he was diagnosed with lung cancer at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in September 1993.  Dean Martin died at home on December 25, 1995.  He was 78 year old.

Joey Bishop, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin during a Rat Pack stage act in the 1960s.
Joey Bishop, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin during a Rat Pack stage act in the 1960s.
     In the 1950s, Frank Sinatra asked comic Joey Bishop to become his opening act.  Soon thereafter, he was opening regularly for Sinatra and also began finding work in first-rate clubs even when Sinatra was not on the bill.  After becoming a member of the Rat Pack, he also became a Sinatra loyalist.  In mid-1960, Bishop received an invitation from then vice president Richard Nixon to perform at the Republican Convention, which he turned down.  Bishop would later acknowledge  Sinatra’s help in his his career, including roles in Rat Pack movies.  Bishop appeared in 14 films, including Ocean’s Eleven and Sergeants 3, and served as master of ceremonies at JFK’s inaugural gala.  However, Bishop felt he was more mascot than full-fledged Rat Pack member, revealed in a 2002 biography by Michael Seth Starr titled, Mouse in the Rat Pack.  Still, Sinatra regarded Bishop as central to the Rat Pack’s success, crediting him with writing most Rat Pack jokes and quips, material assumed to be ad-libbed, but much of which was actually scripted.  Bishop also went on to star in two of his own TV shows, a sit com on NBC (1961-65) and a late night talk show ABC (1967-1969), both called The Joey Bishop Show.  Regis Philbin got his start as Bishop’s sidekick on the later talk show.  Joey Bishop died of heart failure in October 2007.  He was 89 and at the time, the last surviving member of the 1960s Rat Pack.

Frank Sinatra on the cover of Newsweek, September 6, 1965.
Frank Sinatra on the cover of Newsweek, September 6, 1965.
     For nearly three decades beyond his Rat Pack years, Frank Sinatra had a full recording, acting, and performing career.  His recordings alone — with some 296 singles and 69 albums – span almost 60 years.  He began his professional singing career in the 1940s with the Harry James and Tommy Dorsey orchestras.  Singers in the 1940s began to manipulate the microphone for detail and nuance, and Sinatra learned to do it better than most.  And throughout his career, Sinatra would become a master of rhythm, timing, and phrasing and also re-interpreting older standards.  By the mid-1940’s he had become a successful solo artist and had made his film acting debut.  He would win a Golden Globe and Academy Award for his 1953 performance in From Here to Eternity, and would later win other Academy and Grammy Awards for his music. 

Frank Sinatra on 2008 U.S. postage stamp.
Frank Sinatra on 2008 U.S. postage stamp.
     In television, from the 1950s through the 1970s, he hosted both his own variety shows and various TV specials, winning an Emmy for the November 1965 special, Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music. In addition to other songs, Sinatra’s “My Way” of 1969 – a song written by Paul Anka with Sinatra in mind – became a blockbuster hit on the U.S. and U.K. music charts, especially in the U.K, where it stayed inside the Top 40 for 75 weeks, from April 1969 to September 1971.

     Sinatra flirted with retirement briefly in the early 1970s, but by 1973 had a gold-selling album and a television special.  He also returned to live performing Las Vegas and elsewhere.  Still recording in his later years, in 1993 he recorded Duets, an album of old standards he made with other prominent artists which became a best seller.  Sinatra died May 14,1998, he was 82 years old.  Included among the many honors he received over the years were: Kennedy Center Honors in 1983, the earlier-mentioned Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985, and a Congressional Gold Medal in 1997.  Sinatra was also the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards during his career, including the Grammy Trustees Award, the Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  The U.S. Postal Service issued a 42-cent stamp in his honor in May 2008.

     Other stories at this website that deal with and/or touch upon the life of Frank Sinatra include: “The Sinatra Riots, 1942-1944,” “Ava Gardner, 1940s-1950s,” and “Mia’s Metamorphases, 1966-2010.”  Other Kennedy family stories include: “JFK’s Profiles in Courage, 1954-2008,” “RFK in Brooklyn, 1966-1972,” and “JFK, Pitchman?, 2009.”  Beyond these, see also the various category pages, archive, or the Home Page for additional story choices.  Thanks for visiting – Jack Doyle


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Date Posted:  21 August 2011
Last Update:  21 August 2011
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “The Jack Pack, Pt. 2: 1961-2008,”
PopHistoryDig.com, August 21, 2011.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Jan 1961: Peter Lawford & Frank Sinatra at airport en route to work on JFK inaugural show. Photo, Phil Stern.
Jan 1961: Peter Lawford & Frank Sinatra at airport en route to work on JFK inaugural show. Photo, Phil Stern.
Nat King Cole and Tony Curtis preparing for show at JFK inauguration.  Photo, Phil Stern.
Nat King Cole and Tony Curtis preparing for show at JFK inauguration. Photo, Phil Stern.
January 1961: Frank Sinatra rehearsing for JFK Inaugural Gala.  Photo, Phil Stern.
January 1961: Frank Sinatra rehearsing for JFK Inaugural Gala. Photo, Phil Stern.
Jan. 19, 1961: Jackie Kennedy stepping out into the snowfall en route to Inaugural Gala with JFK behind her.
Jan. 19, 1961: Jackie Kennedy stepping out into the snowfall en route to Inaugural Gala with JFK behind her.
Jan 20, 1961: Ted Kennedy & family patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy, on JFK Inauguration Day. (Paul Schutzer).
Jan 20, 1961: Ted Kennedy & family patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy, on JFK Inauguration Day. (Paul Schutzer).
Jan 20, 1961: Frank Sinatra, JFK & Peter Lawford at one of the inaugural balls. Photo, Phil Stern.
Jan 20, 1961: Frank Sinatra, JFK & Peter Lawford at one of the inaugural balls. Photo, Phil Stern.
1961: President Kennedy walking with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara at Hyannis Port, MA.
1961: President Kennedy walking with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara at Hyannis Port, MA.
July 8, 1961: Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and U.S. Attorney General, Robert Kennedy attending benefit dinner for Cedars-Sinai Hospital at Beverly Hilton, L.A.
July 8, 1961: Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and U.S. Attorney General, Robert Kennedy attending benefit dinner for Cedars-Sinai Hospital at Beverly Hilton, L.A.
May 19, 1962: Peter Lawford introducing Marilyn Monroe at JFK’s birthday gala in New York city.
May 19, 1962: Peter Lawford introducing Marilyn Monroe at JFK’s birthday gala in New York city.
JFK birthday cake being carried into hall as Monroe & Lawford leave stage.  Photo, Life/Bill Ray.
JFK birthday cake being carried into hall as Monroe & Lawford leave stage. Photo, Life/Bill Ray.
August 6, 1962: New York Daily News front page, reporting on the death of Marilyn Monroe.
August 6, 1962: New York Daily News front page, reporting on the death of Marilyn Monroe.
1960s: Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra performing together on stage.
1960s: Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra performing together on stage.
June 27, 1963: President John F. Kennedy in Ireland.
June 27, 1963: President John F. Kennedy in Ireland.
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Dec. 3, 1963: Look magazine ran a special picture story on JFK & his son shortly after the president’s death.
 

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“JFK, Pitchman?”
2009

Omega watch magazine ad of 2009 using JFK image and quote, ‘We choose to go to the moon,’ and also commemorating the 40th anniversary of the American moon landing .
Omega watch magazine ad of 2009 using JFK image and quote, ‘We choose to go to the moon,’ and also commemorating the 40th anniversary of the American moon landing .
     Well, perhaps not pitchman — but awfully close.  The image and words of John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, have been used recently in a 2009 advertising campaign to sell Omega Speed- master watches.  JFK’s image is there, big as life, as seen in the sample magazine ad copy at right that ran in the August and September 2009 editions of Wired maga- zine, among others.  JFK is also shown in a TV version of the ad that uses historical film footage of a 1962 speech he gave (clip below).  The magazine and TV spots were created around the 40th anniversary of the American landing on the Moon and the Apollo space program that Kennedy initiated.

     Still, in the Omega ads, Kennedy is the all-important center of attention.  No, he doesn’t endorse the product; doesn’t say anything remotely connected to a watch, although a watch is clearly shown.  Kennedy’s presence in the ad, however, is quite enough.  It’s an endorsement by association, which is obviously what Omega intended. In fact, the company says as much in an April 2009 press release: “Omega is basing a worldwide campaign for its iconic Speedmaster chronograph watches  around a photograph of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.”

     Omega Speedmaster watches have history with the U.S. space program; the Omega Speedmaster Professional was the official watch tested and approved by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for use by U.S. astronauts in the 1960s.  In fact, a few of the watches eventually made their way to the moon with astronauts wearing them — a claim made in the upper portion of the ad in the small print beneath the Omega logo:  “The first and only watch worn on the moon.  20 July 1969.”  This ad isn’t using astronauts, however, but rather a famous president whose name and image in print — and voice in the TV clip — summon up a lot more than just the moon program.

Close-up of JFK Library drawing used in Omega ad.
Close-up of JFK Library drawing used in Omega ad.
     Omega, of course, obtained all the requisite permissions to use the JFK material from the rights holders — in this case, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston.  It is presumed there was some kind of compen- sation involved for the use of the material, but no amount has been revealed publicly.  There does appear to have been some kind of agreement for including the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on the advertising copy, as there is a small drawing of the library building in the lower lefthand corner of the ad with a note urging readers to “learn more” by visiting the JFK Library at their website, www.jfklibrary.org.


Moon Program

     Kennedy first proposed that the nation launch a major undertaking to reach the Moon in a May 1961 address to Congress, saying: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him back safely to the earth.”  Later, in 1962 speech at Rice University, he reiterated the nation’s commitment to that goal.  Omega watches became involved in the space program with Astronaut Gordon Cooper’s launch on May 15th, 1963, when the Speedmaster watch was approved by NASA for use on all of its manned flights, including the six lunar landings.  When Apollo 11 landed on the Moon on July 21st, 1969, Omega watches went there as well, one in the landing craft and one on Buzz Aldrin’s wrist when he joined Neil Armstrong on the lunar surface.  Thus the company’s claim, “the first and only watch worn on the Moon.”  More detail about the history and use of Omega watches in the Apollo program can be found in an article at the Lunar Surface Journal website and also at OmegaWatches.com.



     The video spot Omega used in its 2009 advertising campaign is a 30-second piece that excerpts images and words from Kennedy’s September 1962 speech at Rice University in Houston, Texas.  “…We choose to go to the moon…,” Kennedy says, as a portion of his speech is shown.  “We choose to go to the moon and do the other things before the end of this decade not because they are easy, but because they are hard…”  Cut to Apollo rocket launch.  Then cut to final frame with an Omega Speedmaster Watch that zooms up large to fill the screen.  This is followed by credit lines and a brief glimpse of the JFK library drawing similar to the one in the print ad with the words, “Learn more. www.jfklibrary.org…”

     Omega’s JFK ad campaign went out internationally as well as within the U.S., part of a larger effort by the company to increase its exposure worldwide.  The print ads and TV spots ran in the summer of 2009, July through September.  Omega was then offering its Speedmaster Professionals in two special, limited editions — “40th Anniversary Apollo 11 Moonwatches” — a stainless steel version with a limited run of  7,969 produced, and another 18-karat yellow gold version with 69 produced.  Each watch would bear special engraving commemorating the lunar landing and also the numbered edition of each watch.


Exploiting Kennedy?

     Some may rightly wonder if Omega was exploiting America’s famous past president by hawking their watches on his good name and image, as well as the U.S. space program’s seminal accomplishment.  Rachel Day, a spokeswoman for the group that runs the JFK Library, told the New York Times she was unaware of any prior sanctioned use of Kennedy’s image for commercial purposes.  Then why start with watches?

Horizontal version of the JFK Omega watch ad, 2009.
Horizontal version of the JFK Omega watch ad, 2009.
     Omega officials, for their part, say they were trying to tap into the history of the event and the significance of the accomplishment.  “It was an unbelievable achievement,” Stephen Urquhart, president at the Omega division of the Swatch Group, told the New York Times in June 2009, referring to the moon landing — “probably the most important scientific achievement of the last century.”  Urquhart also suggested that the Omega ad was in part an attempt to revive history, although he acknowledged, “with so much going on in the world today, it’s not easy to revive memories, and some people have for- gotten.”  Still, his company found that even for “the younger generation, it rings an emotional bell” because of the historic nature of the event.  The September 2009 issue of Wired magazine — a magazine popular with young, upwardly mobile technology readers — carried the horizontal version of the Kennedy ad spread across two full pages in the magazine’s front section.

     Still, there were a few observers on the web who did comment on the Kennedy-Omega advertising — this by no means an exhaustive survey of such comment, much of which seemed more focused on watch styles and quality.  One writer noted a potential conflict between politics and marketing.  “I don’t really mind the celebrity endorsements or JFK, as a man,” he wrote.  “I just find it odd that Omega chose a politician in their ad.  Politics are a very sensitive matter and having a political figure, past or present, is not a good idea from a marketing perspective.”  He acknowledged, however that Omega was trying to tap into historic aspect of JFK and the space program.  Another writer named Brittany, added: “…While the ad is done in a pretty tasteful manner, I can’t help but think of the implications it has on JFK’s public image, advertising and what it says in general about the use of the deceased to sell (largely non-beneficial) wares.  I always feel a bit uneasy when images of people who have passed away are used in advertisements — even if their likeness is being used primarily to evoke the aura of an era long-gone…”

Omega & Apollo
Astronauts Using Watch

Apollo 8      Bill Anders
Apollo 8      Jim Lovell
Apollo 10    Tom Stafford
Apollo 11    Neil Armstrong
Apollo 11    Mike Collins
Apollo 12    Dick Gordon
Apollo 13    Fred Haise
Apollo 14    Alan Shepard
Apollo 14    Ed Mitchell
Apollo 15    Al Worden
Apollo 15    Jim Irwin
Apollo 17    Ron Evans
_________________________
* Not a complete list.
Source: “Flown Omega Speedmaster Pro-
fessional Chronographs Currently on Public
Display,” Lunar Surface Journal, 2004.

     Comedian Jon Stewart appears to have noticed Kennedy’s use in the ad, too.  In a send up he did on the moon landing’s 40th anniversary on the July 20, 2009 Daily Show, Stewart showed clips of the moon activity, astronauts, and Kennedy’s speech, quipping at one point about “that guy from the Omega watch ad,” among other things.

     In any case, the history of NASA’s involvement with Omega watches suggests that the technical merits of the watch, and the ease of its use and preference by the astronauts in the Apollo program, were the factors that convinced NASA in the 1960s to use it in the program.  And as Omega notes at its website, NASA made its decision to use the watches quite independent of any arm-twisting from Omega.  Still, in terms of advertising copy, it’s plain to see that ads featuring former President John F. Kennedy’s speech and image would be a lot more evocative and appealing to prospective magazine readers and TV viewers than alternatives that might have featured the watch’s scientific or technical performance in space.

January 1961 Life magazine photo of JFK with wife Jacqueline at inaugural ball.
January 1961 Life magazine photo of JFK with wife Jacqueline at inaugural ball.



Omega & Kennedy

     Omega also has another connection with Kennedy — and another watch it marketed in association with his name.  In 1960, a friend and political donor of Kennedy’s, Grant Stockdale, gave then-senator John Kennedy an Omega Ultra Thin watch.  That watch was later seen on Kennedy’s wrist in a photograph taken of Kennedy during his January 20th, 1961 presidential inauguration — a photo published in the January 27th edition of Life magazine.  Years later, in December 2005, Omega bought the actual watch that Kennedy wore for $350,000 at an auction, and it is now in the Omega Museum in Biel, Switzerland.  Also coming along with that watch was an original letter from Jacqueline Kennedy who wrote to Grant Stockdale thanking him for the watch, calling it the “thinnest most elegant wristwatch” and also commenting on how much her husband liked it compared to a more “chunky little one” that she had given him.

     In 2008, Omega decided to sell some commemorative editions of this watch, which they dubbed the “Kennedy Omega Ultra Thin.”  This watch, designed to look like the original JFK watch — which Omega says Kennedy wore throughout most of his presidency — went on sale in mid-2008, limited to 261 numbered commemorative pieces.  Each watch came with an 18-k gold case, black leather strap, and the gold “Omega” stamp and logo.  They were priced at $8,250 each.

Omega’s “Ambassadors”

     In addition to former U.S. Presidents, Swatch’s Omega brand has also associated with a number of celebrities in recent years who have helped the company sing the praises of its watches around the world, in both advertising campaigns and personal appearances.  Omega calls its celebrity spokespersons “ambassadors,” and at last count there were some 14 or so famous and near-famous from the worlds of sport, Hollywood and elsewhere doing their part for Omega watches.  Among Omega’s “ambassadors” as of mid-2009 were: Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps of the U.S., Massimiliano Rosolino of Italy, and Alexander Popov of Russia; pro golfers Sergio Garcia of Spain and Michelle Wie of the U.S.; yachtsman Dean Barker of New Zealnd who led his team to an Americas Cup; film stars George Clooney, Nichole Kidman, Daniel Criag (James Bond), Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Memoirs of a Geisha), Abhishek Bachchan (Bollywood actor, India); supermodel Cindy Craw- ford; racecar driver Michael Schumacher; U.K. yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur, the youngest person to circumnavigate the earth in a solo yacht race; and Eugene Cernan, the last astronaut to walk on the Moon.


The Swatch Group

     Omega is part of the Swatch Group, a Swiss company that is the world’s largest watch manufacturer.  It was formed in 1983 through the merger of two Swiss companies, ASUAG and SSIH, taking the name Swatch in 1998.  The company produces some 19 watch brands, and came to be known in part for its colorful plastic Swatch watches, as well as higher-end brands such as Breguet, Blancpain and Omega.  Other of its brand-name watches include:  Jaquet Droz, Glashütte Original, Union Glashütte, Léon Hatot, Omega SA, Tiffany & Co., Rado, Longines, Tissot, Calvin Klein, Certina, Mido, Pierre Balmain, Hamilton, Flik Flak and Endura. 

     In 2007, gross sales of the Swatch Group were in the neighborhood of 6 billion Swiss francs making it the equivalent of a Fortune 400 company or better.  Beyond watches and their components, Swatch has also ventured into high technology, fabricating microprocessors, smartcard technol- ogy, portable telephones, and other future-oriented designs.  It has also produced wrist- watches that double as telephones and credit cards.  In October 1998, Swatch debuted a novel small-car venture with Daimler-Benz called the Smart car, a project from which Swatch later withdrew.

     Swatch is no stranger to self promotion and pushing its wares.  In 1996, when the company was aggressively pushing for attention and market share in the U.S. market, it opened a mega-store on New York’s 5th Avenue, became the official timekeeper to the Olympic Games in Atlanta that summer, and also mounted a giant Swatch watch in New York’s Times Square to count down the year minute-by-minute on the way to 1997.  In 2008, a big part of its strategy in China came with its sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and securing rights as the official timekeeper at the Games.  In the runup to the Games, Swatch placed a giant ‘Olympic Countdown Clock’ in Tiananmen Square.  The company reportedly spent something in the neighborhood of $100 million in connection with its sponsorship and promotions during the games.  Swatch and its various brands also use various celebrities from the world of sport and cinema to advertise its products. (see sidebar).

George Clooney is among the Omega “ambassadors” doing advertising for the company.  This ad includes the wording “George Clooney’s choice” just above the featured watch.
George Clooney is among the Omega “ambassadors” doing advertising for the company. This ad includes the wording “George Clooney’s choice” just above the featured watch.
     In 2009, as part of its Moon landing advertising and promotion, Omega also featured former astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Eugene Cernan, along with NASA engineer James Ragan, in press and other events in various cities around the world.  In June 2009, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin and NASA engineer James Ragan appeared with Omega president Stephen Urquhart, to open an Omega-sponsored exhibition at the Hong Kong Space Museum celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.  This same group also appeared a few days earlier in Tokyo, Japan for a press event at the Omega boutique store in the Ginza Prefecture to commemorate the Moon landing.  Earlier in June, Buzz Aldrin had appeared separately at an Omega press event and VIP cocktail party in New York City at the company’s 5th Avenue store.  Also in June, astronaut Eugene Cernan, the former astronaut and the last man to walk on the Moon, was in Portugal and Spain to help Omega launch its Speedmaster Apollo 11 “40th Anniversary ” limited-edition watches.

     Other stories at this website about John F. Kennedy include “JFK’s Profiles in Courage.”  Also at this website, stories about the use of celebrities and/or popular music in advertising include, for example, “Madonna’s Pepsi Ad,” “Nike & The Beatles,” “Dennis Does Ameriprise,” “Sting & Jaguar,”and “Selling Janis Joplin.”

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Date Posted:  29 August 2009
Last Update:  30 August 2009
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “JFK, Pitchman? — 2009,”
PopHistoryDig.com, August 29, 2009.

_______________________________




Sources, Links & Additional Information

Mary Jane Pittilla, “Omega Chooses the Moon in New JFK Ad Campaign,” The Moodie Report, April 27, 2009.

Ariel Adams, “Omega’s New John F. Kennedy Speedmaster Watch Ads,” Luxist.com, April 30, 2009.

Stuart Elliott, “Marketers Look to the Heavens to Honor the First Moon Walk,” New York Times, June 10, 2009.

Andrew Adam Newman, “Omega’s Reminder: J. F. K. Wore One,” New York Times, August 3, 2009.

Lee Bailham and Eric M. Jones, “Omega Speedmaster Professional Chronographs,” Apollo Lunar Surface Journal, 2004.

How the Omega Speedmaster Became the Moonwatch,”OmegaWatches.com, Monday, April 6, 2009.

Omega’s Presidential Campaign — The JFK Library Foundation, Apollo 11 and The Speedmaster,” OmegaWatches.com, Thursday, April 23, 2009.

OMEGA Celebrates the First Moon Landing with 2 Limited Edition Watches,” Omega  Watches.com, Tuesday, July 21, 2009.

“JFK’s Omega Ultra Thin Wristwatch,” OmegaWatches.com, Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Deidre Woollard “Omega To Sell Replica JFK Watches,” Luxist.com, February 22, 2008.

Ambassadors,”OmegaWatches.com.

“Dr. Buzz Aldrin: Legendary Moonwalker Lands at Omega’s NYC Boutique,”OmegaWatches.com, Wednesday, June 3, 2009.

“Omega Welcomes Buzz Aldrin to Tokyo,”OmegaWatches.com, Wednesday 17. of June 2009

“Hong Kong Space Museum Opens ‘Beyond Time’ Exhibition,” OmegaWatches.com, Friday, June 19, 2009.

OMEGA Welcomes the Last Man to Walk on the Moon to Portugal,”OmegaWatches.com, Friday, June 19, 2009.

Ram Mudambi, “Branding Time: Swatch and Global Brand Management,” The Richard J. Fox School of Business & Management, Temple University, Philadelphia PA, 2005, 19 pp.




“Orleans-to-Congress”
1972-2009

John Hall, center, a founding member of rock group Orleans,  on the cover of their 1976 album, ‘Waking & Dreaming’.
John Hall, center, a founding member of rock group Orleans, on the cover of their 1976 album, ‘Waking & Dreaming’.
     In 1972, John Hall was a founding member of the rock ‘n roll group Orleans.  Thirty-four years later he was elected to the United States Congress.

     Hall was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1948 and later lived many years in New York’s Hudson River Valley.  In high school he was three-time National Science Foun- dation scholar.  At Notre Dame University he studied physics, but later transferred to Loyola College.  After a time at Loyola, he left school to pursue a full-time career in music.  By 21 he was writing and composing music for Broadway and off-Broadway productions.  He then became a session musician and songwriter, spending time with artists such as Janis Joplin, Seals & Crofts, and Bonnie Raitt.  Then in January 1972, at about age 24, Hall became a founding member of Orleans, forming the group at Woodstock, New York in Ulster County.  Other members at the time included Wells Kelly and Larry Hoppen.  Lance Hoppen, Larry’s brother, joined the band later that year.  Another member Jerry Marotta, also joined later.  Hall served as the group’s songwriter and as one of its guitarists.

After his election to Congress in 2006, Rep. John Hall was soon engaged in the public policy process, including matters such as the war in Iraq.  He is shown here with Army General David Petraeus on a visit to Iraq in October 2007.
After his election to Congress in 2006, Rep. John Hall was soon engaged in the public policy process, including matters such as the war in Iraq. He is shown here with Army General David Petraeus on a visit to Iraq in October 2007.
     Orleans soon became a top 1970s American rock band turning out hits such as: “Dance with Me”(1975), “Still the One”  (1976), and “Love Takes Time” (1979).  Orleans had started out touring clubs and colleges in the northeast U.S.  However, the group soon had a recording contract with ABC Dunhill Records, releasing Orleans, a debut album in 1973.  Their first Billboard Hot 100 hit came in early 1975 with “Let There Be Music” on Asylum Records.  “Dance With Me” followed, rising to No. 6 on the pop charts.  “Dance With Me” placed the group in a “soft-rock” category, and they toured with Melissa Manchester, but also with bands such as Little Feat.

Orleans lineup in 1976-77, from left:  Wells Kelly, Larry Hoppen, Jerry Marotta, Lance Hoppen & John Hall.
Orleans lineup in 1976-77, from left: Wells Kelly, Larry Hoppen, Jerry Marotta, Lance Hoppen & John Hall.
 

     In 1976, another big hit came with “Still the One.”  The single peaked at No.5 on the charts as Orleans then did a major cross-country tour with Jackson Browne.  The ABC television network, meanwhile, made “Still The One” its theme song for a 1977 promotional campaign, giving the song continuing and wide exposure to a large national audience.  The song was also used in TV advertising spots and movie soundtracks.  However, within Orleans, some internal stresses emerged, and John Hall left the group to pursue a solo career.  He formed the John Hall Band and released two albums, but this venture disbanded after limited success.

Celebrities in
Politics

     This story is one in an occasional series that will periodically feature famous people — sports stars, Holly- wood actors, musicians, TV personali- ties, and others — who are not initially involved in politics, but who later, given their fame or other public notoriety, enter or influence politics at the national and/or state levels.  Among those profiled in this series will be those who run for and/or attain political office — from U.S. President, Congress, and the U.S. Senate, to various state-level races and governorships — as well as those who may receive political appointments, judgeships, ambassadorships, and other similar posts.  Celebrities who rise to positions of national political influence, though unelected, may also appear in this series, as well as notable leaders in other countries who come to their posts via celebrity or other media fame.



Music Player
Orleans – “Still the One”

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

John Hall, Activist 

     John Hall, meanwhile, during his music career,  had become active in the anti-nuclear movement, co-founding Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE).  He co-produced “No Nukes” concerts that were held in Madison Square Garden in the late 1970s.  He was also involved in successfully fighting a proposed nuclear power plant site on the Hudson River in Greene County, New York. Living in Saugerties, New York, he co-founded Saugerties Concerned Citizens and helped write the town’s first zoning law.  When Ulster County announced plans for a 200-acre solid waste dump to be sited on a historic farm, Hall led the opposition.  By 1989, Hall was elected as an Ulster County legislator.  In the late 1990s he was twice elected to the Saugerties Board of Education, later becoming Board president.

     During this time, however, Hall had not abandoned his music.  He continued writing songs for other artists and reunited with Orleans in 1990, 1996, and 2000.  In 2005, he released Rock Me on the Water, an album of songs inspired by an extensive sailing trip he’d taken.  He also formed another band named Gulf Stream Night.  But politics soon became John Hall’s central gig.

John Hall, running for the U.S. Congress.
John Hall, running for the U.S. Congress.


Bid For Congress

     In 2006, Hall set his sights on higher public office, then concerned for the future of the Hudson River Valley and disillusioned with the war in Iraq.  He ran in the Democratic primary for a seat in the U.S. Congress representing New York’s 19th congressional district.  He won the primary with 48 percent in a four-way race and then faced incumbent Republican Sue W. Kelly in the fall elections.  In October, the New York Times — noting he was a musician, but “not a posturer or political dabbler” — endorsed Hall for Congress.  “His platform is ambitious and coherent,” said the Times, “with calls for universal health coverage, a return to fiscal discipline and a full-bore national effort to achieve energy independence. He blends a deep-blue idealism with a crisp command of details…”

     However, his opponent, Republican Sue Kelly, had been a popular, six-term incumbent, who was well funded in her races.  She had won handedly in 2004 with 73 percent of the vote.  Nevertheless, Hall defeated Kelly in November 2006 with 51 percent of the vote, beating her in her home county of Westchester to help pull off an upset victory.  He was only the third Democrat elected in the district since WWI. 

An enthusiastic John Hall supporter.
An enthusiastic John Hall supporter.
     John Hall was helped in his election win by 1,200 volunteers who did door-to-door work and manned phone banks prior to the election.  Some of Hall’s old rock ‘n roll fans turned out as well — a few amazed at the novelty of voting for a former rock star.  Offered one New York blogger at “Fred Sez,”Hembeck.com, in the run up to the 2006 election: “Tomorrow, I get to do something I’ve never had a chance to do before: vote for someone who I first saw perform live on stage back in the mid-seventies, and then whose records I bought…”  But there was also a separate $500,000 campaign by businessman Adam R. Rose that also contributed to Hall’s victory.  Rose, an openly gay real-estate developer bankrolled the Majority Action group which ran negative advertisements against Hall’s opponent, Sue Kelly, because of her support for the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would ban same-sex marriage.
Pete Seeger, Jackson Browne, and John Hall playing some music.
Pete Seeger, Jackson Browne, and John Hall playing some music.


Muscians Help

The Basketball Diaries full      In his campaign, Hall also had the support of fellow musicians, some of whom helped raise money for him (see box below).  Others gave concerts on his behalf.  Singer Jackson Browne, for example, gave concerts for Hall.  Browne did four benefit concerts for Hall in New York, June 2-4, 2006, which also included Dar Williams and Pete Seeger.  On August 20, 2006, Browne again performed on behalf of Hall in New York city, along with Rosanne Cash, Steve Earle and Nanci Griffith.


Rockers for Hall
2006

     In the spring of 2006, musicians Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, and Bonnie Raitt, wrote a fundraising letter on behalf of John Hall’s bid for Congress.  Here’s the text of that letter:

Dear Friend,

     Our longtime friend, fellow No Nukes/MUSE artist, John Hall, whom you may also remember as a leader of Orleans (Dance With Me, Still the One) is running for Congress in the 19th District of upstate New York. John’s been a lifelong activist and right out of the starting gate, is emerging as a very welcome and successful candidate in debates and testing so far. He’s up against a very tough contender, the six-term incumbent Republican (and Tom DeLay crony) Rep. Sue Kelly, and of course needs to raise as much money as possible early in this primary race.

     A bunch of us MUSE folks and other music industry friends have already lent our support and I’m writing to ask if you would consider contributing to help get John Hall elected. John is extremely smart, articulate, committed and in our minds, would absolutely bring a much needed fresh and clearheaded voice to our muddled political quagmire. Please spread the word if you agree and thank you so much for your support.

     You can check out his positions and background at http://www.johnhallforcongress.com/, contribute on line at http://www.actblue.com/page/johnhallforcongress/ or send your contributions to “John Hall For Congress,” PO Box 377, Dover Plains, NY 12522.

     As you may know the limit for personal contributions during the primary period is $2100 (MARCH 31st is the end of the 1st Quarter FEC filing period so act quickly please), and an additional $2100 may be sent to his General Election Escrow Account, which will be returned with interest if he does not win the nomination.

     We think it’s fantastic that John has decided to set aside his music career for the time being and dedicate himself to politics for the better of us all.

     Thank you for your support. We can make a difference,

     Bonnie Raitt, Graham Nash and Jackson Browne

P.S. Any amount that you contribute will help. If 2000 people send $50 each, John’s campaign will receive a $100,000 boost. This will keep him in the game to carry the message of peace and diplomacy, economic justice, government and corporate accountability, healthcare for all, environmental protection and alternative energy.


     Once in Congress, John Hall served as a progressive Democrat.  He became a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and in his first term, among others things, he voted to raise the minimum wage and supported federal funding of stem cell research.  He also became engaged in the daily work of serving his constituents on a variety of fronts, from veterans’ rights to help for public schools.  Nor did Hall forget the issues in his home state that had brought him into politics, calling for closing the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, for example, and continuing that fight and others in Congress.


Nuke “Bailouts”

From left: Bonnie Raitt, Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) & Graham Nash, with Rep. John Hall at news conference on Capitol Hill, Oct. 23, 2007, urging Congress not to approve federal loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants. Not shown, Jackson Browne.
From left: Bonnie Raitt, Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) & Graham Nash, with Rep. John Hall at news conference on Capitol Hill, Oct. 23, 2007, urging Congress not to approve federal loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants. Not shown, Jackson Browne.
     In October 2007, during his first term, Hall also took part in a gathering of rock ‘n roll artists who came to town to lobby against federal loan guarantees for nuclear power plants.  In his younger days in the late 1970s, in the wake of the nuclear plant accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, Hall had joined with rock musicians Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and Graham Nash and others to organize the “No Nukes” concerts at Madison Square Garden that helped stir public opposition to nuclear power at that time.   In October 2007, these musicians and others reconvened to hold a press conference and lobby Congress to oppose the loan guarantee provisions in a pending energy bill.  “Thirty years ago, we felt that this monster was dead,” Graham Nash told an Associated Press reporter.  On Capitol Hill in Washington, the musicians warned that a Senate version of the energy bill contained the loan guarantees provisions, which they called a “virtual blank check from taxpayers” to help build more nuclear plants.  They noted, however, that the bill as a whole contained some very good provisions, including those for renewable energy sources and improved energy efficiency standards.

John Hall with reporter in New York.
John Hall with reporter in New York.
     The musicians’ group had also launched a petition drive and a YouTube music video as part of their campaign.  A number of environmental groups lent their support, along with dozens of other music artists and rock banks, including R.E.M., Ben Harper, Maroon 5, Pearl Jam, Patti Smith and Wynton Marsalis.  Their petition drive had collected more than 120,000 signatures to present to Congress.  The Nuclear Energy Institute, meanwhile, dismissed the effort, saying nuclear energy was on the brink of a revival due to increased energy demands and concerns about global warming.  “It’s almost as if they’re in a time capsule [from the 1970s] and they’ve been transported forward,” said Steve Kerekes of Nuclear Energy Institute.  But Reps. Edward Markey (D-MA) and John Hall said they expected that the musicians group would provide more positive lobbying muscle on the energy bill.  The nuclear power industry continued to push Congress to expand federal loan guarantees for building new nuclear power plants.
Hall meeting with constituents.
Hall meeting with constituents.


Targeted in ’08

     In the 2008 election campaign, meanwhile, John Hall drew numerous potential challengers for his re-election bid, including former Rep. Sue Kelly and Emily Pataki, daughter of former popular Republican Governor George Pataki.  At one, point, Republicans had sought former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer to oppose Hall, but Fleischer declined.  Hall had also been targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee in the fall election.  A Republican newcomer, Kieran Lalor, became Hall’s opponent.  On November 4, 2008, John Hall was re-elected, defeating Lalor with 58 percent of the vote.

Rep. John Hall addressing constituents’ questions.
Rep. John Hall addressing constituents’ questions.
     Hall’s Congressional website as of July 2009 notes that he opposes privatization of Social Security, and supports a swift and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq combined with a renewed emphasis on diplomacy.  He supports intensive efforts to produce more renewable energy, better funding of veterans’ programs, universal health care, and full funding of the No Child Left Behind legislation.  Hall currently serves on three House Committees — Transportation and Infrastructure, Veterans’ Affairs, and The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.  Hall is married to Pamela Bingham Hall, a graduate of Vassar College and an attorney who has worked as General Counsel to the Tennessee State Treasurer and as Tennessee Assistant State Attorney General.

Man-Thing movie download      One final item on a musical note.  During the national presidential campaign in 2008, Hall took a shot at Republican Presidential candidate John McCain for using the Orleans song “Still The One” in his presidential campaign without asking for permission.  Four years earlier as well, in late October 2004, Hall had criticized the campaign of President George W. Bush for using the same Orleans song at his campaign events without permission (Bush had a similar problem with a Tom Petty tune).  In the case of Bush, formal cease-and-desist letters went out to the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney ’04 Campaign and the song was later dropped from the campaign’s playlist.

     Stay tuned to this website for future stories on politics, music, and culture.

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Date Posted:  10 July 2009
Last Update:  10 July 2009
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Orleans-To-Congress, 1972-2009,”
PopHistoryDig.com, July 10, 2009.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Website of U.S. Rep. John Hall, U.S. Congress.

Orleans,” Wikipedia.com.

John Hall,” Wikipedia.com.

“An Endorsement for Congress,”(Westchester), New York Times, October 22, 2006.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, “He’s Still the One,” The Nation, Wednesday, October 25, 2006.

John Hall for Congress.

Andrew Miga, Associated Press, “Rockers Renew 1970s Anti-Nuke Theme,” USA Today, October 23, 2007.

Harvey Wasserman, “No-Nukers Sing a New Green Tune,” The Nation.com, November 9, 2007.

Margaret Menge, “Cornwall Lays KJ Pipeline Issue at Feet of Freshman Rep. John Hall,” Cornwall LocalOnline.com, Saturday, February 23, 2008.

Union of Concerned Scientists, “Massive Federal Loan Guarantees for New Nuclear Power Plants Would Put Taxpayers, Ratepayers at Risk,”March 4, 2009.

Abby Livingston, NBC / Domenico Montanaro, First Read, “Rep. To McCain: Stop Using My Song!,” MSNBC.com, Friday, June 13, 2008.




“1968 Presidential Race”
Republicans

Richard Nixon, center, is flanked by Dan Rowan, left, and Dick Martin right, of ‘Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In’ TV show at October 1968 campaign stop in Burbank, CA.  Nixon appeared on  ‘Laugh-In’ in mid-Sept 1968 in the humorous 'sock-it-to-me' segment, covered later below.  (AP photo)
Richard Nixon, center, is flanked by Dan Rowan, left, and Dick Martin right, of ‘Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In’ TV show at October 1968 campaign stop in Burbank, CA. Nixon appeared on ‘Laugh-In’ in mid-Sept 1968 in the humorous 'sock-it-to-me' segment, covered later below. (AP photo)
     In the 1968 presidential race, Hollywood and celebrity involvement in politics reached a level not seen in several decades.  The participation of movie stars, singers, directors, authors, sports figures, and other celebrities in the election was more prominent among Democrats perhaps, but was also a factor on the Republican side.  Historically, Republicans were more suspicious of liberal-leaning Hollywood than Demo- crats.  And Hollywood itself, especially after the communist witch hunts of the late 1940s and 1950s, was leery of politics generally. 

     “People in Hollywood are generally afraid to be active in politics,” said actor Dick Powell in September 1960.  “This is especially true of some in television who believe that their sponsors would not want them to be identified with a political party.”  Another actor, Vincent Price, added in the same 1960 interview: “Here in Hollywood, actors are not supposed to have political opinions.”  But many did, of course.  Dick Powell, for example, was then, in September 1960, heading up a group of Hollywood Republicans supporting the Richard Nixon-Henry Cabot Lodge ticket then bidding for the White House.  But by the early 1960s, and in 1968 in particular, celebrity involvement in politics would become much more prominent.

Ronald & Nancy Reagan at victory party after winning the 1966 California governor's race.
Ronald & Nancy Reagan at victory party after winning the 1966 California governor's race.
     In fact, by the mid-1960s, Republican actors began running for, and winning, public office.  Actor/dancer George Murphy was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1964, and actor Ronald Reagan won the California Governor’s race in 1966.  Murphy was a film actor who danced with Shirley Temple in the 1938 film Little Miss Broadway and acted opposite Judy Garland in Little Nellie Kelly (1940).  Murphy became active in California politics in the 1950s and had served as director of entertainment for Dwight Eisenhower’s presidential inaugurations of 1953 and 1957.  By 1964, Murphy became a politician himself, winning a California U.S. Senate seat.

     Ronald Reagan had been movie actor in the 1930s and 1940s, appearing in variety of films, and also became a familiar 1950s TV host for the popular “General Electric Theater.”  Reagan’s second wife, Nancy, had also appeared in Hollywood films.  In addition to Reagan and Murphy winning office, one of Hollywood’s most notable childhood stars from the 1940s, Shirley Temple, ran for an open seat in Congress in 1967, but did not win.  Still, by the time of the 1968 presidential election, with Ronald Reagan as California’s governor and George Murphy in the U.S. Senate, Hollywood and its celebrities were clearly a presence in Republican politics.  But among the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination that year, was the very un-Hollywood former Vice-President, Richard M. Nixon.

 

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Nixon’s Rise 

Nixon cheering himself over election returns in 1950 in defeat of Democrat Helen Gahagan-Douglas in U.S. Senate race.
Nixon cheering himself over election returns in 1950 in defeat of Democrat Helen Gahagan-Douglas in U.S. Senate race.
     Richard Nixon had grown up in the shadow of Hollywood, but was certainly not a Hollywood type himself or inclined toward its culture or lifestyle.  Still, throughout his political career, Nixon would find a measure of star power in his campaigns, with various celebrities and studio executives supporting him.  Yet in his early career, Nixon would probe Hollywood as a Congressman hunting communists, and in 1950 he would launch a Senate bid opposing former Hollywood actress, Helen Gahagan-Douglas.

     Nixon first made his way onto the national scene in 1946, elected as a Congressman from California.  In Washington he quickly made a career for himself in the late 1940s as a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which pursued alleged communists in government and in Hollywood.  Although Nixon became known for his role in the Alger Hiss case  — a State Department official accused of being a Soviet spy — he also helped HUAC query Hollywood actors and executives suspected of communist activities or lacking in their loyalties.  In 1947 hearings, for example, he asked Jack Warner of Warner Brothers, “How many anti-communist movies have you made?” 

George Murphy, shown here with Shirley Temple in 1938, helped Richard Nixon in his bid for the White House in 1960, and became a U.S. Senator himself in 1964.
George Murphy, shown here with Shirley Temple in 1938, helped Richard Nixon in his bid for the White House in 1960, and became a U.S. Senator himself in 1964.
     In 1950, Nixon ran for a U.S. Senate seat from California, opposing Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas.  Douglas was a 1920s Broadway actress who starred in the 1935 movie She.  Elected to Congress in 1944, Douglas served three terms in the U.S. House as a liberal New Dealer.  She was married to a former actor, Melvyn Douglas, later a Hollywood executive and also among “suspect  liberals.”  During Nixon’s Senate campaign with Gahagan-Douglas, he cited her alleged “Communist-leaning” votes in Congress.  On the campaign trail he called her “the Pink Lady” (“pinko” being short slang for communist), saying at one point she was “pink right down to her underwear.”  Nixon won the election, but many felt he had run a smear campaign against Douglas.

     As a young Congressman and then a Senator, Nixon rose quickly in the Republican party, becoming Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vice-presidential running mate in 1952 (though Nixon did have one brush with controversy that year nearly costing him his career; see “Nixon’s Checker’s Speech”).  The Eisenhower/ Nixon ticket, in any case,  won two successive terms  — 1952 and 1956.  But when Nixon ran for President in 1960, opposing John F. Kennedy, he lost.  Then in 1962, he tried to become California’s Governor and lost again, this time to Democrat Pat Brown.  In each of these elections, from the early 1950s, there was always some contingent of Hollywood — both actors and studios — supporting Nixon and/or the Eisenhower/Nixon ticket.  Nixon first met entertainer Bob Hope in the 1950s when Nixon was Vice President.   Hope would become a friend and supporter thereafter.  In 1960, when Nixon ran for the White House, Hollywood stars George Murphy and Helen Hayes formed a “Celebrities for Nixon Committee.”

Nixon had met Bob Hope in the 1950s when he was Vice President with Eisenhower.  Hope became a Nixon supporter, and is shown here in September 1969 with President Nixon in the Oval Office.
Nixon had met Bob Hope in the 1950s when he was Vice President with Eisenhower. Hope became a Nixon supporter, and is shown here in September 1969 with President Nixon in the Oval Office.
     Another Hollywood supporter helping Nixon in 1960 was Mervyn LeRoy, a film director and producer.  In the 1930s LeRoy directed Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar (1931) and as head of production at MGM in 1938, produced The Wizard of Oz.  Involved in advancing the careers of Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Robert Mitchum and Lana Turner, LeRoy also produced musicals in the 1950s and a series of hits for Warner Brothers such as Mister Roberts, The Bad Seed, No Time for Sergeants, The FBI Story and Gypsy.  In August 1960, LeRoy was heading up a drive in Hollywood to recruit others for Nixon.  In addition to LeRoy, George Murphy, and Helen Hayes, the 1960 Nixon/Lodge ticket also had other Hollywood backers, including: Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, Rosalind Russell, Robert Montgomery, Robert Cummings, Robert Taylor, Irene Dunn, Cesar Romero and Mary Pickford.  Again in 1962, when Nixon ran for Governor of California,  he found a similar roster of Hollywood supporters — among them, Jimmy Stewart, Red Skelton, Rosalind Russell, Dick Powell, June Allyson, Robert Young, Tony Martin, Cyd Charisse, Irene Dunn, Johnny Mathis, Louise Beavers, and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

Nixon on Jack Paar TV show, believed to be March of 1963.  Parr is holding Nixon’s book, ‘Six Crises,’ published in 1962.
Nixon on Jack Paar TV show, believed to be March of 1963. Parr is holding Nixon’s book, ‘Six Crises,’ published in 1962.
     But after Nixon lost badly to Pat Brown in the 1962 California Governor’s race — by nearly 300,000 votes — he charged that the media had showed favoritism to Brown.  Many pundits at the time thought Nixon was finished as a politician, especially since he declared the day after his loss: “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”  But several months later, Nixon appeared on The Jack Paar Program, (a talk show similar to that of today’s David Letterman or Jay Leno ) leaving the door open to his political future.

     And sure enough, by the mid-1960s, Richard Nixon was rising from the ashes of his prior losses, on his way to one of the biggest political comebacks in American history.  Nixon joined a New York law firm after his California gubernatorial defeat, and from there laid the groundwork for his return.  He campaigned vigorously for Republicans in the 1966 Congressional elections, providing a key base of indebted members.  Republicans added 47 House seats in that election, three in the Senate, and eight governorships.  Nixon was also traveling and advancing his ideas on national politics and international affairs among Republican insiders.  So it was no surprise to party regulars in January 1968, when he formally announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.

 

Romney, Rocky & Reagan

In some 1967 polling, Michigan Governor George Romney, a former auto company executive, led Nixon among moderates.
In some 1967 polling, Michigan Governor George Romney, a former auto company executive, led Nixon among moderates.
     Nixon’s initial challenger for the Republican nomination was Gov. George Romney of Michigan, father of Mitt Romney, the recent Republican presidential candidate of 2008.  George Romney was a successful business leader at the American Motors car company from 1954 to 1962, maker of one of the early compact cars named the Rambler.  He became Governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969.  Romney formally entered the race for the Republican presidential nomination in late November 1967, saying, “A Republican president can work for a just peace in Vietnam unshackled by the mistakes of the past.”  Although Romney led Nixon among moderates in very early polls, he soon met with political misfortune.  Romney had initially supported the war in Vietnam, but later moderated his position after making a fact-finding visit there in 1965.  “I no longer believe that it was necessary for us to get involved in South Vietnam to stop Communist aggression in Southeast Asia,” he explained at one point, urging “a sound peace in South Vietnam at an early time.”  This was a sharp reversal from his earlier belief that the war was “morally right and necessary.”  However, in making his reversal on the war, Romney explained during one interview of being misled by military officials, using the term “brainwashed,” which would turn out to be an unfortunate choice of words that eventually undid his presidential bid.  By February 1968, less than two weeks before the New Hampshire primary, Romney pulled out of the race.

Nelson Rockefeller, shown on Time’s Aug 1960 cover, had previously battled Nixon for the nomination and lost.
Nelson Rockefeller, shown on Time’s Aug 1960 cover, had previously battled Nixon for the nomination and lost.
     Nelson Rockefeller, governor of New York, became the heir apparent to moderate and anti-war Republicans after Romney went down.  A descendant of the Rockefeller oil fortune, Rockefeller had been New York’s governor since 1959.  He had also run for the Republican presidential nomination twice before — once in 1960 losing to Nixon, and agin in 1964 losing to conservative Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. 

     In the first primary of 1968 — New Hampshire on March 12th, now without Romney — Nixon took 78 percent of the vote.  Republicans wrote in the name of then yet-to-announce Rockefeller, who received 11 percent of the vote.  Rockefeller became something of a reluctant candidate, but allowed party members and others to work on his behalf.  And eventually, Rockefeller did get into campaign mode, putting forward a plan to disengage from Vietnam and also offering some novel Republican strategies to address urban problems.  But throughout the 1968 primary season, Nixon generally led Rockefeller in the polls, although Rockefeller won the April 30th Massachusetts primary.

Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis star in 1957's ‘Hellcats of the Navy,’ by Columbia Pictures.
Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis star in 1957's ‘Hellcats of the Navy,’ by Columbia Pictures.
     The other Republican candidate then on the horizon, and a potential problem for Nixon, was filmstar-turned-politician Ronald Reagan.  Even before he became California’s Governor in 1966, Reagan had begun to attract a national following, especially among conservatives.  He had given an important, televised speech supporting Barry Goldwater for President in 1964 which had marked him as a rising star. 

     By 1968, with support from conservatives, Reagan emerged as Nixon’s chief rival in the Nebraska presidential primary of May 14th.  Still, Nixon took 70 percent of the vote there to 21 percent for Reagan, and 5 percent for Rockefeller.  Nixon continued to win the primaries, with the exception of California, which he conceded to Reagan — a primary in which only Reagan’s name appeared on the ballot. 

     Reagan’s large margin in California, however, gave him a narrow lead in the nationwide primary popular vote — Reagan had 1,696,632 votes or 37.93% compared to Nixon’s 1,679,443 votes or 37.54%.  Some believe that if Reagan had made a committed run for the nomination, and had mounted a serious campaign earlier, he could have beat Nixon.  Still, by the time the Republican National Convention assembled in August 1968, Nixon had 656 delegates, needing only 11 more to reach the nomination at 667.

 

Celebrities for Nixon

Nixon shown here with Rudy Vallee in the 1960s.  Vallee had been a well known radio and Hollywood film star of the 1930s & 1940s.
Nixon shown here with Rudy Vallee in the 1960s. Vallee had been a well known radio and Hollywood film star of the 1930s & 1940s.
      Ronald Reagan, of course, was Hollywood personified, and with wife Nancy Davis who had also been an actress, they were well-connected throughout Hollywood.  But Richard Nixon had his own Hollywood connections, reaching back to the older network of stars who had supported his earlier campaigns.  Nixon’s Hollywood stars, however, were somewhat older than those on the Democratic side in 1968. Nixon’s group included stars who had reached their peak in earlier years, such as Ray Bolger and Rudy Vallee, for example — but stars, nonetheless, who still had a following.  “I have been making speeches for the Republicans, trying to create more party unity,” explained Ray Bolger to a reporter in April 1968.  “They sought me out, but I happen to be very fond of Dick [Nixon] and think he’s very able.  I’ve played golf with him.”  Rudy Vallee was also quoted at the time saying that Nixon was “the most qualified man in this country, intellectually and emotionally.”  Nixon’s campaign would also recruit other TV entertainers, athletes, and singers to help in his 1968 presidential bid.  Among these stars, for example, were: Pat Boone, Connie Francis, Jackie Gleason, Hugh O’Brian, Ginger Rogers, and last but not least, John Wayne.

John Wayne’s movie, ‘The Green Berets', was released in July 1968.
John Wayne’s movie, ‘The Green Berets', was released in July 1968.
     Wayne had backed Nixon over Kennedy in the 1960 presidential race, and in 1968 he was backing Nixon again.  Wayne liked Nixon for his anti-communist stance.  A supporter of the Vietnam War, Wayne was a critic of Lyndon Johnson’s handling of the War.  Wayne had made a popular war movie at the time that used Vietnam — a very patriotic film called The Green Berets (June-July 1968).  The film had a premier in Atlanta, Georgia on June 25, 1968, which coincided with that city’s “Salute To America” celebration.  Wayne served as grand marshal in the parade, and the overall event attracted some 300,000 people.  The Green Berets film, meanwhile, was cheered in the south, but protested in northern cities and university towns.  Nixon’s campaign staff had noted Wayne’s appeal to blue collar voters and a certain segment of the white southern vote.  One of Nixon’s campaign aides at the time, Kevin Philips, explained Wayne’s appeal to a segment of voters Nixon needed: “Wayne might sound bad to people in New York,” he said, “but he sounds great to the schmucks we’re trying to reach through John Wayne — the people down there along the Yahoo Belt.  If I had time I’d check to see in what areas The Green Berets was held over [in theaters], and I’d play a special series of John Wayne [Nixon campaign] spots wherever it was.”  Wayne was also scheduled to speak at the Republican Convention in Miami that August.
Green Bay Packer quarterback Bart Starr – shown on a ‘Sport Illustrated’ Jan 1967 cover – was a Nixon supporter in 1968.
Green Bay Packer quarterback Bart Starr – shown on a ‘Sport Illustrated’ Jan 1967 cover – was a Nixon supporter in 1968.

     Among other Nixon supporters were famous athletes, including, former heavyweight boxing champ Joe Louis, Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Wilt Chamberlain, and Green Bay Packer quarterback Bart Starr.  Joe Louis was long retired from the boxing ring by then, but his name was still well known to sports enthusiasts.  Bart Starr was probably the most famous professional football player in the country at the time.  He had led the Packers to NFL Championships in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, and 1967.  In 1966 and 1967, he also led the Packers to convincing victories in the first two Super Bowls and was named the Most Valuable Player of both games.  Pro basketball player Wilt Chamberlain  — the LeBron James and Shaqueal O’Neill of his day — was nearly ten years into his career by then, and had played for the Harlem Globetrotters, the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, and Philadelphia 76ers.  He would help Nixon reach out to the black community and tout Nixon’s ideas on “black capitalism.”

Tex Ritter, who sang the famous 1952 movie song, ‘Do Not Forsake Me Oh, My Darlin’, was a Nixon supporter in 1968.
Tex Ritter, who sang the famous 1952 movie song, ‘Do Not Forsake Me Oh, My Darlin’, was a Nixon supporter in 1968.
     Another Nixon sup- porter in 1968 was Tex Ritter, a singing cowboy who began a radio career in the late 1920s, and also had success with stints in radio, film, Broadway, and recording.  Ritter, father of the late actor John Ritter, was also known for singing the famous High Noon film song of 1952, “Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darlin.”  It won an Academy award for Best Song of the year and also became a popular hit.  Ritter sang the High Noon song at the Academy Awards ceremony in 1953, the first to be televised.  By 1968, Ritter had also become quite active in Republican politics, supporting the runs of various candidates including, John Tower of Texas, Howard Baker of Tennessee, George Murphy of California, Barry Goldwater of Arizona, and Ronald Reagan in California.  A personal friend of Nixon’s, Ritter also wrote a campaign song for Nixon in 1968.  On one occasion when Ritter was on tour in Germany, Nixon arranged for a plane to meet Ritter and his wife so that Ritter could entertain a political gathering being held for Nixon in Nashville, Tennessee where nearly 25,000 supporters were gathered.  Nixon would also garner the support from Roy Ackuff of the Grand Ole Oprey.
Republican convention in Miami, August 1972, where Nixon was nominated on the first ballot.
Republican convention in Miami, August 1972, where Nixon was nominated on the first ballot.

 

Miami Convention

     On August 5, 1968 at the opening of Republican National Convention, Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami Beach, Florida, there were mini-skirted Rockefeller girls, Nixon men on stilts costumed as Uncle Sam, and live elephants out in the street.  Celebrities such as Hugh O’Brien and John Wayne were on hand too.  On the first morning of the convention, delegates cheered enthusiastically as John Wayne spoke.  Nelson Rockefeller, technically still in the running at that point, had his celebrities, too — among them, Kitty Carlisle, Teresa Wright, Nancy Ames, Hildegarde, and singer Billy Daniels.  On the evening of August 7th, 1968, an estimated guest list of some 8,000 were wined and dined at a Nelson Rockefeller reception.  Lionel Hampton’s band provided music, and among the guests were hundreds of celebrities.

John Wayne adressing convention.
John Wayne adressing convention.
     During the main business of the convention, however, Nixon was nominated on the first ballot with 692 votes.  Rockefeller was second at 277, and Reagan third at 182.  For vice president, House Minority Leader Gerald Ford proposed New York City Mayor John Lindsay.  However, Nixon turned to Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew as his running mate.  After Nixon received the nomination, celebrities who had lined up for the other candidates shifted their support to Nixon.  By September 1968, “Celebrities for Nixon-Agnew,” had more than 100 famous names on its roster, among them, Rory Calhoun, Ray Milland, Art Linkletter, Guy Lombardo, and Connie Francis.  Three weeks later, the Democrats convened their national convention in Chicago, nominating Vice President Hubert Humphrey and U.S. Senator Ed Muskie from Maine (see companion piece on the Democrats).

Ronald Reagan threw his full support to Nixon at the 1968 convention.
Ronald Reagan threw his full support to Nixon at the 1968 convention.
     The Democrats’ gathering in Chicago had been quite messy and divisive, with fighting over the Vietnam War and clashes in the streets between police and demonstrators, all televised to a national audience.  Nixon and his campaign capitalized on the Democrats’ misfortune by staging a massive campaign appearance in Chicago that fall, with Nixon’s “law and order” speeches blending imagery of the Democrat’s convention violence along with the general unrest in the country that year.  This “law and order” theme, coupled with his courting of the “law-abiding” middle class, was used heavily in political campaign ads that fall.

Nixon campaigning in the Philadelphia, PA area, July 1968.
Nixon campaigning in the Philadelphia, PA area, July 1968.
     In May 1968, Nixon had given a radio speech that focused on the “silent center” of American voters — “the millions of people in the middle spectrum who do not demonstrate, who do not picket or protest loudly” — but were at the heart of America.  Nixon courted this constituency and refined his message in the fall calling these Americans the “silent majority”.  The core of the idea, according to Nixon speechwriters, was found in a 1948 book by historian Arthur Schlessinger, Jr., called The Vital Center.  But Nixon made it his own during the campaign, hitting the theme time and time again, at the convention and throughout the fall of 1968.  Nixon claimed to speak for this majority of law-abiding citizens; citizens who felt in 1968 they were being blamed for the social problems of the day; citizens the liberals “talked down to.”  Amidst the growing social upheaval, Nixon appealed to these voters, promising a return to the stability of the Eisenhower years.

 

The Celebrity Preacher

     Another prominent American who had the ear of the middle America, and was also a supporter of Richard Nixon in 1968, was evangelist Billy Graham.  Graham was a very popular religious leader with a huge following.  A long-time friend of Nixon’s, Graham had prominently supported Nixon over Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election.  In the 1950s, he had also supported Eisenhower.  When Nixon was Vice President, Graham arranged for Nixon to address major gatherings of Methodists, Presbyterians, among others, and wrote at least one speech for him, according to Garry Wills.Billy Graham’s huge popu- larity in the south was  seen as especially helpful to Nixon’s “Southern strategy.”  “Graham worked closely with Nixon in the 1968 campaign, advised him on relations with the Evangelical community, and vouched for him in that community,” explains Wills in his book Head and Heart: American Christianities.  Graham’s huge popularity in the south, in particular, was regarded as especially helpful to Nixon’s “Southern strategy” in 1968, a bid to appeal to conservative white Democrats in southern states, many still fearful of racial desegregation.  Although Graham had desegregated his own religious activities in the South during the 1950s, he denounced civil rights agitators in the 1960s.  His endorsement of “law and order” fit nicely with Nixon’s plan to attract Southern whites to the Republican side by denouncing liberal activists.

Billy Graham & Richard Nixon, 1970.
Billy Graham & Richard Nixon, 1970.
     Graham also rose publicly to Nixon’s defense during the fall election campaign after Humphrey supporter George W. Ball, a former ambassador to the Unite Nations, had made a negative comment about Nixon’s character.  “Mr Ball reflected on Mr. Nixon’s character and personal integrity,” said Graham to reporters in September 1968.  “I have known Richard Nixon intimately for more than 20 years.  I can testify that he is a man of high moral principle.”  Ball had said he thought Nixon a man “more interested in public opinion polls that principles.”  Ball said he found “no pattern in Mr. Nixon’s life.  He is a man who is one thing one day, and another the next”.  Billy Graham was also advising Nixon when he chose Spiro Agnew as his vice president at the Republican convention, although Graham had favored Sen. Mark Hatfield of Oregon, an active Christian.  At one of his crusade services in Pittsburgh shortly before the 1968 election, Graham accorded Nixon a place of prominence and praised Nixon “effusively,” according to author Michael G. Long in his book, The Legacy of Billy Graham.

 

Connie & Jackie

Popular singer Connie Francis, shown here on an album cover, made a TV ad for Nixon in 1968.
Popular singer Connie Francis, shown here on an album cover, made a TV ad for Nixon in 1968.
     Nixon also enlisted singing artists and television personalities to offer public endorsements or do campaign ads.  In September 1968, the Nixon campaign made a TV commercial with singer and movie actress Connie Francis.  Francis was then a popular singer and had a large following.  Among her hit songs in the 1950s and early 1960s were: “Who’s Sorry Now”(#4, 1958), “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool”(#1, 1960), “Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You”(#1 1962), and others.  She had also appeared in few films, such as Where The Boys Are and Follow The Boys (1963).  In the late 1960s, Francis had a number of albums on the market and was also appearing on TV shows and performed for audiences abroad as well.  In her appearance in the Nixon campaign ad, Francis commented on finding disrespect for America in her travels abroad, while also noting a deplorable lack of respect for authority at home.  In the ad, Francis said Nixon would set things right if elected president.  The spot ran during the popular Laugh-In TV show.  New York Times writer Jack Gould, reviewing the Connie Francis ad, said it “embraced all the ills of the oversimplified campaign ad…”
Jackie Gleason, popular in his 1950s ‘Honeymooners’ TV sit-com, shown here in the 1961 film ‘The Hustler.’
Jackie Gleason, popular in his 1950s ‘Honeymooners’ TV sit-com, shown here in the 1961 film ‘The Hustler.’

     In the fall of 1968, Jackie Gleason, the TV entertainer and film actor — making his first endorsement in national politics — threw his support to Richard Nixon.  Gleason was the star of The Jackie Gleason Show and The Honeymooners, both of which were popular TV shows of the 1950s and early 1960s.  Gleason had also made a few movies by then, including The Hustler of 1961, in which he played opposite Paul Newman as pool shark Minnesota Fats. ( Newman had supported Democrat Eugene McCarthy).  Gleason in 1968 was still a popular celebrity and had a following throughout the country. 

     In the fall campaign, Gleason kicked off a one-hour long televised rally for Nixon from New York’s Madison Square Garden on October 31, 1968.  He introduced the hour with his personal endorsement of Nixon, stating on the tape it was his first ever political endorsement as he made his appeal to voters. 

     On the tape, after a narrator introduces Gleason — who is dressed in a dapper suit with a carnation in his lapel — he makes his pitch:

Nixon with Jackie Gleason on golf course.
Nixon with Jackie Gleason on golf course.

     “I love this country.  It’s been good to me — beyond my wildest dreams.  And because I love America so much, lately I’ve been concerned.  Like a lot of you, I’m concerned about where American is going in the next four years.  That’s why I’ve decided to speak up for Richard Nixon.  He sees it like it is.  And he tells it like its is.  I’ve never made a public choice like this before.  But I think our country needs Dick Nixon —  and we need him now.  I think we’ll all feel a lot safer with him in the White House.
     In the next hour, you’re going to see him, hear him speak.  Listen to him.  Make up your own mind.  Never mind what everybody else tells you he says.  Listen to him say it, yourself.  And see if you don’t agree with me.  Dick Nixon’s time has come.  We need him.  You and I need him.  America needs him.  The world needs him.  …And so Madison Square Garden, ‘a-wa-a-a-y we go!’.”

Richard Nixon with Jimmy Stewart, Fred MacMurray, and Bob Hope at Burbank, CA Lakeside Golf Club in January 1970.  (AP photo)
Richard Nixon with Jimmy Stewart, Fred MacMurray, and Bob Hope at Burbank, CA Lakeside Golf Club in January 1970. (AP photo)
     Following the election, Nixon and Gleason would continue to have contact with one another, particularly in Florida.  Gleason lived in Florida and Nixon had a compound on Biscayne Bay only miles away, where he would vacation during his presidency.  In addition, both were avid golfers, and Gleason would have Nixon as a guest at some of his later celebrity and charity golf tournaments.  During his Presidential years, Nixon would also play golf with Hollywood celebrities from time to time.

T.V. Strategy

Esquire’s May 1968 cover had some fun with a stock Nixon photo mixed with some cosmetics ad copy. ‘This time he’d better look right,’ said the cover note, alluding to Nixon’s poor showing vs. JFK in 1960.  Nixon did not debate Humphrey in 1968 and held few press conferences.
Esquire’s May 1968 cover had some fun with a stock Nixon photo mixed with some cosmetics ad copy. ‘This time he’d better look right,’ said the cover note, alluding to Nixon’s poor showing vs. JFK in 1960. Nixon did not debate Humphrey in 1968 and held few press conferences.
     Back on the 1968 campaign trail, meanwhile, Nixon and his handlers were careful in how they used television.  Although Nixon disliked the press, and he had fared poorly in his televised debates with John F. Kennedy in 1960, his 1968 campaign made great creative use of television in political advertising.  In addition to celebrities such as Connie Francis and Jackie Gleason pitching for Nixon, there were also some well known and up-and-coming politicians who made political spots supporting Nixon.  Former actor and California governor Ronald Reagan made a Nixon TV ad urging voters not to vote for the third-party candidate (i.e., George Wallace), calling it a “wasted vote.”  Hollywood’s U.S. Senator George Murphy of California also urged voters in a TV ad to elect Nixon, stressing Nixon’s qualifications in world affairs.  And a Congressman named George Bush (i.e., George Bush senior) made a TV ad for Nixon focused on youth and Nixon’s “new answers for the 70s” — stressing Nixon’s “confidence in kids.”  Law and order and crime were also themes in Nixon’s TV ads.  Some played on fear, as in one showing a woman walking down a poorly lighted street while the narrator spoke of a rising crime rate, violence, and assault, and the  need to make streets safe.  Using the “law and order”theme, the campaign also turned out ads that tried to associate Nixon’s opponent, Hubert Humphrey, with social protest, rising crime, and violence in the streets.  One ad showed a smiling Humphrey as images of Vietnam, protests, and the out-of-control Democratic convention rolled by to a Dixieland rendition of “A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.”  The spot ran once in prime time but was pulled after Democratic protest.  Nixon meanwhile, mindful of how television hurt him in 1960, refused to debate Humphrey directly and held few press conferences during his campaign.  But he did appear in a series of hour-long TV programs and biographical profiles — programs produced by media consultant Roger Ailes, then in one of his first political jobs (Ailes is today the president of Fox News Channel).  In these controlled settings, Nixon was interviewed by panels of carefully-selected citizens.  He occasionally faced tough questions, but the discussions took place in front of partisan audiences from which the press was excluded.

 

“Sock it To Me”

     Nixon did, however, make one notable TV appearance in the 1968 election; an appearance on one of the more popular TV shows of that day — Laugh-In.  Formally known as Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, the comedy and variety show was something like the Saturday Night Live of its day, though more of a fad show.  But it was quite popular among the young.  It offered witty skits and political barbs, and made stars of Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin.  But most importantly for advertisers and politicians, Laugh-In had a very good rating, with millions watching.  In mid-September 1968, Nixon broke from his general election campaign to appear on the show and recite the show’s signature catchphrase, “sock it to me,” often done by noted celebrities. Some believe that Nixon’s ‘sock-it-to-me’ appearance on Laugh-In helped him win the election, as it cast the otherwise formal and stodgy Nixon in a few seconds of self-deprecat- ing humor. Nixon’s taped appearance ran on September 16, 1968.  Nixon himself had been reluctant to do the spot, not being a big fan of TV to begin with.  And most of his aides were not very keen on the idea either, and advised against it.  But one of the show’s writers, Paul Keyes, was a friend of Nixon’s, and when Nixon was out in California for a press conference they took a camera and got him aside to do the phrase.  But it wasn’t easy. It took several takes.  Nixon kept saying the phrase in an angry tone.  Finally, Nixon did the line as a question, “Sock it to me?, with emphasis and uptick on the “me.”  That was the version used, and the producer thought it made Nixon look good — so good, in fact, they thought Hubert Humphrey should appear on the show in an equal role.  For Humphrey, they were thinking of using a variation of the phrase — “I’ll sock it to you, Dick” — as if responding to Nixon.  But Humphrey’s handlers thought it would appear undignified, so Humphrey did not appear.  Happily for Nixon, his Laugh-In appearance may have helped him in the election.  Some believe that the brief clip had cast the otherwise formal and stodgy Nixon in a few seconds of self-deprecating humor.  Even Humphrey would later tell the show’s producer that not making the appearance on Laugh-In  might have cost him votes in the election.  Nixon would also make an appearance with Laugh-In’s Dan Rowan and Dick Martin at a campaign stop in Burbank, California in October 1968 (see photo at beginning of story above).

Nixon campaigning in Philadelphia, PA, on Chestnut Street, September 1968. (AP photo).
Nixon campaigning in Philadelphia, PA, on Chestnut Street, September 1968. (AP photo).

 

Nixon Wins

     On election day that November, in one of the closest elections in U.S. history, Nixon beat Humphrey by a slim margin.  Although Nixon took 302 electoral votes to Humphrey’s 191, the popular vote was extremely close: Nixon at 31,375,000 to 31,125,000 for Humphrey, or 43.4 percent to 43.1 percent.  Third party candidate George Wallace was a key factor in the race, taking more votes from Humphrey than Nixon, hurting Humphrey especially in the south and with union and working class voters in the north. Wallace recorded 9.9 million votes, or 13.5 percent of the popular vote, winning five southern states and taking 45 electoral votes.  Democrats retained control of the House and Senate, but the country was now headed in a more conservative direction.

     In his victory, Nixon brought some of his famous friends along with him to celebrate at the inaugural festivities.  And beyond that, a few also made it into the realm of policy and received formal appointments.  Shirley Temple Black was appointed by Nixon to be U. S. Representative to the United Nations.  Other of Nixon’s famous friends became informal advisors and helped set a new cultural and even moral tone in the country. 

Esquire magazine ran a June 1969 cover story on ‘the Nixon style’ featuring his celebrity friends (behind Nixon):  Art Linkletter, Billy Graham, Rudy Vallee & Lawrence Welk.
Esquire magazine ran a June 1969 cover story on ‘the Nixon style’ featuring his celebrity friends (behind Nixon): Art Linkletter, Billy Graham, Rudy Vallee & Lawrence Welk.

     In June 1969, Esquire magazine poked fun at the new “Nixon style” in Washington with a cover story depicting Nixon supporters Lawrence Welk, Rudy Vallee, Billy Graham, and Art Linkletter along with Nixon himself for the story, “Getting Hep to the Nixon Style.”

     Nixon would subsequently win re-election in November 1972, crushing Democrat George McGovern. But the Watergate scandal — which began as a back-pages, police-blotter news story about a bungled break-in at the Democrat’s Washington, D.C. headquarters — was already in motion.  Watergate would soon unravel to become a full-fledged national scandal that would shake the federal government to its core, bringing Nixon to impeachment and then resignation as President in August 1974.  Meanwhile, back in California where Nixon’s career had begun, there were those who remembered the 1940s and 1950s, and proudly sported a popular bumper sticker during the Watergate years that read: “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Helen Gahagan-Douglas!”

(Note: See also companion piece on the Democrats in 1968 ).

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Date Posted: 11 March 2009
Last Update: 11 March 2009
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “1968 Presidential Race, Republicans,”
PopHistoryDig.com, March 11,2009.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon video

Murray Schumach, “Producer Plans Drive for Nixon; Mervyn LeRoy, Heading the G.O.P. Hollywood Push,”New York Times, Tuesday, August 23, 1960, p. 26.

Murray Schumach, “Hollywood Slate; Luminaries Come to the Aid of Their Parties in the Presidential Race,” New York Times, Sunday September 25, 1960, p. X-9.

Murray Schumach, “Hollywood Joins Political Battle; Stars Jump on Bandwagons in Brown-Nixon Contest,” New York Times, Monday, September 17, 1962, p. 37.

“The Brainwashed Candidate,” Time, Friday, September 15, 1967.

Chris Bachelder, “Crashing The Party: The Ill-Fated 1968 Presidential Campaign of Governor George Romney,” Michigan Historical Review, September 22, 2007.

Warren Weaver, “M’Carthy Gets About 40%, Johnson and Nixon on Top in New Hampshire Voting; Rockefeller Lags,” The New York Times, Wednesday, March 13, 1968, p. 1.

Louis Calta, “Entertainers Join Cast of Political Hopefuls; They Get Into Act to Back 3 Candidates for the Presidency,” New York Times, Saturday, April 6, 1968, p. 42.

Associated Press, “Celebrities Endorse Candidates,” Daily Collegian (State College, PA), May 5, 1968.

“NFL Quarterbacks Head Busy Day for Athletes,” The Washington Post, Times-Herald, May 23, 1968, p. C-9.

“Wilt Chamberlain for Nixon,” New York Times, Saturday, June 29, 1968, p. 30.

Tom Wicker, “Nixon Is Nominated on the First Ballot,” New York Times, Thursday, August 8, 1968, p. 1.

“Wilt Chamberlain Will Push ‘Black Capitalism’ Program,” New York Times, Thursday, August 8, 1968, p. 30.

Robert J. Donovan, “GOP Names Nixon on First Ballot,” Los Angeles Times, August 8, 1968, p. 1.

Don Irwin, “Nixon Comeback Had Its Start in Ashes of 1964 GOP Debate, Los Angeles Times, August 8, 1968, p. 1.

“Chamberlain to Aid Nixon’s Slum Program,” Los Angeles Times, August 8, 1968, p.10.

“Nixon Image Defended; Billy Graham Blasts Ball,” St. Petersburg Times, Monday, September 30, 1968, p. 10-A

UPI, “Billy Graham Says Nixon Is Not ‘Tricky’,” The Washington Post, October 1, 1968, p. A-4.

“Nixon Gets Quasi-Psychedelic Plug,” New York Times, Wednesday, October 9, 1968, p. 33.

Thomas J. Foley, “Politicians Take Cue From Show Business; Nixon, Humphrey Both Use Panel Shows, Documentaries in Biggest TV Campaign, Los Angeles Times, October 6, 1968, p. A-16.

For 1968 campaign ads, see Museum of the Moving Image, “The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials: 1968.”

Gary A. Yoggy (ed.), Back in the Saddle: Essays on Western Film and Television Actors, 1998, McFarland & Company, Inc., 1998, 224pp.

Norman Mailer, Miami and the Siege of Chicago, Weidenfeld and Nicolson,1968.

Garry Wills, Head and Heart: American Christianities, New York: Penguin Group, 2007.

Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, Billy Graham: The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House, Center Street, 2007.

Seth Dowland, “Judgment Days: Two New Books Find Good and Evil in the Rev. Billy Graham’s Presidential Politics,” Mountain Express, Vol. 14 / Issus 11, October10, 2007.

Cecil Bothwell, The Prince of War, Brave Ulysses Books, 2007.

Ann Heppermann & Kara Oehler, “This Weekend in 1968: Political Plays to the Silent Center,” American Public Radio, May 17, 2008.

“The Presidents Series: Richard M. Nixon,” American Experience, PBS/WGBH, 2002-2003.

 

“I Won’t Back Down”
1989-2008

Tom Petty on the cover of his 1989 single, ‘I Won’t Back Down,’ a popular song for political campaigns.
Tom Petty on the cover of his 1989 single, ‘I Won’t Back Down,’ a popular song for political campaigns.
     “I Won’t Back Down” is the first single from Tom Petty’s first solo album, Full Moon Fever, released in 1989.  The song was written by Petty and his writing partner at the time, Jeff Lynne.  It rose to No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 single’s  chart.  It also appeared on Billboard’s mainstream and modern tracks charts, which rank radio play.  The song’s popularity helped send Full Moon Fever  to the multi-million-selling sales club.  By October 2000, the album had sold more than five million copies.


A Fighter’s Song

     “I Won’t Back Down” says it all in its title; it’s a fighter’s message;  he’s standing his ground and he won’t back down.  The lyrics — shown below in sources — suggest a struggle against the odds, whatever they might be; and a determined stand against the powers that be, whoever they are.  And Petty’s defiant tone in the performance provides just the right touch of attitude.

“I Won’t Back Down”
  Music Player

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


     The song reaches anyone who has been wronged, as well as those who might be out to prove a point.  It has a kind of universal and personal appeal.  Plus, it’s good rock ‘n roll.  It’s also a perfect song for a political campaign.  And not surprisingly, more than a few politicians — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents — have all used it.


The Politics of Song

     Politicians, especially in recent years, have begun scouring the pop, country, rap and hip hop music charts for tunes that strike a chord with their would-be supporters.  They “borrow” these tunes and use them as theme music during their campaigns, playing them before speeches and at rally locations on the campaign trail.  Sometimes, however, they don’t bother asking the artist’s permission to use the songs, or acquire all the requisite legal blessings.  Such “oversight” can sometimes lead to embarrassing situations — for both candidate and artist.

     Happily, for most of those using Tom Petty’s song in various campaigns over the last decade or so, there have only been only one or two of those awkward situations.  Notably in this category, however, was the year 2000 presidential campaign of then Texas Governor W. Bush.  Bush had used “I Won’t Back Down” at campaign events during the 2000 race, becoming practically “a fixture” at those events, according to one report.  Tom Petty wasn’t happy about that. In early 2000, Tom Petty’s publisher sent George Bush a “cease and desist” letter to stop his campaign from using the song. So, he had his publisher send Bush a “cease and desist” letter.  That meant Bush was compelled to stop using the song at his campaign events.  Petty did not want the use of his song to be construed as an endorsement of candidate Bush.

Young Tom Petty.
Young Tom Petty.
     Petty’s publisher, Randall Wixen of Wixen Music Publishing Inc., wrote to Bush in early February 2000 telling him to “immediately cease and desist all uses of the song in connection with your campaign.”  Wixen said in his letter to Bush that the use of the song “creates, either intentionally or unintentionally, the impression that you and your campaign have been endorsed by Tom Petty, which is not true.” 

     About a week later, Michael Toner, a lawyer for Bush’s campaign, wrote back to Wixen, saying:  “We do not agree that the mere playing or use of a particular song at a campaign event connotes any impression, either intentionally or unintentionally, of endorsement.”  Nevertheless, Toner confirmed that the Bush campaign would not use the song at any future campaign events.  “So we backed down,” said Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett, jokingly, to reporter Jake Tapper, then covering the issue for Salon.com.

 

Dems Like Tune

U.S. Senate candidate Jim Webb at an October 2006 campaign stop in Annandale, Virginia. Photo-Brendan Smialowski/Getty.
U.S. Senate candidate Jim Webb at an October 2006 campaign stop in Annandale, Virginia. Photo-Brendan Smialowski/Getty.
     On the Democratic side of the aisle, a number of candidates — “fighters” all  — had used Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” in their political campaigns.  Virginia Democrat Jim Webb, a Vietnam Vet and former Secretary of the Navy who mounted a pugnacious, reform-minded run to win a U.S. Senate seat in 2006, used the Petty song in his campaign.  On November 3rd, 2006, right before the election, Webb’s campaign staged a lively outdoor rally with prominent Democrats at Virginia Union University in Richmond.  At that rally, Webb took to the stage to the beat of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”  Webb won the race over  Republican incumbent George Allen.

     Another U.S. Senator in 2006, Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey, during his re-election bid, made “I Wont’ Back Down” his campaign’s theme song.  It could be heard playing on sound systems from schools to senior centers all across the state.  It was played wherever Menendez appeared, usually as he entered the room or took the stage.  In some cases, the song was played live by a local band rather than the pre-recorded Tom Petty version.

Senator Menendez campaigning in Trenton, NJ, October 2006. (Photo, Sylwia Kapuscinski/Getty)
Senator Menendez campaigning in Trenton, NJ, October 2006. (Photo, Sylwia Kapuscinski/Getty)
     In West Deptford, NJ that fall, a local group of senior musicians called The Entertainers was used — four guys that had been playing local gigs for seven years.  When the Menendez campaign told the band the Petty song was the song they would be using, the band leader had never heard of it.  He then ran out and bought the CD, found the lyrics online, and had The Entertainers rehearse it briefly before Menendez’s appearance.  Later that same day, as Menendez was joined by former President Bill Clinton at Essex County College in Newark, the Tom Petty version was back on the sound system.  Menendez was 52 at the time of his re-election bid.  He was being challenged by Republican  Thomas Keane, Jr., a state senator and son of former governor and 9-11 Commission member Thomas Keane.  Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, had previously served as a school board member, mayor and state legislator before being elected to Congress in 1992.  In January 2006, he was appointed by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine to fill the Senate seat vacated by Corzine to serve as Governor.  Menendez then won the seat in the general election that fall, becoming New Jersey’s first elected Hispanic senator.  In 2006, he prevailed over Keane and was re-elected to a second term.  Tom Petty’s tune, no doubt, played at his victory party.
Cover of Brooke Masters’ 2006 book on Eliot Spitzer.
Cover of Brooke Masters’ 2006 book on Eliot Spitzer.


Some “Backing Down”

     Sometimes, however, the political candidates using a particular song come to bad end — certainly, no fault of the song’s artist.  In two cases where the Petty song was used prominently in campaigns there came a bit of irony, as the candidates in these instances — both fighters in the populist mold — would unfortunately, “back down.”  One was the promising New York Democrat and progressive, Eliot Spitzer, who had used “I Won’t Back Down” in launching his gubernatorial bid and throughout his campaign.  The song had played prominently in Buffalo as Spitzer launched his bid, and it was frequently heard on the campaign trail as well.

 Other Venues

     “I Won’t Back Down” has also been heard in other prominent venues, some political. After Al Gore conceded the 2000 presidential election to George Bush, Tom Petty and other musicians attended a gathering of supporters at Gore’s Vice Presidential home in Washington. Petty performed the song for Gore and his supporters at the gathering.

     Petty also played the song as part of the September 21, 2001 benefit telethon for the victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Nearly 60 million people in the U.S. watched that televised special, which included celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Cruise. The song became a bit of a patriotic anthem after the 9-11 attacks. “I Won’t Back Down” was also one of four songs Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers performed during the 2008 Super Bowl halftime show.

Spitzer, as New York  Attorney General, had  come on like gangbusters, taking on the powerful at every turn, even on Wall Street.  And if ever there was a guy who wasn’t going to “back down,” it was Spitzer through and through, with his sights set on Washington and bigger things ahead.  But alas, it was Spitzer’s personal peccadilloes and call-girl revelations that brought the later-elected New York Governor down.

     A somewhat similar case was that of the formerly, much-admired Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards, who also cultivated the image of a fighter.  Edwards speeches were filled with references to fighting corporations and American revolutionaries, often urging his listeners to rise up against special interests.  Through 2007 and 2008, Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” could be heard in a repertoire of Edwards campaign songs that fit his themes and underlined his message.  In gearing up for the New Hampshire primary in August 2007, for example, Edwards spoke in the town of Hookset.  After the event, the campaign played “I Won’t Back Down” as Edwards shook hands of supporters on the way to boarding his “Fighting for One America” campaign bus.  However, many months later, after the primaries had ended, Edwards’ revelations about a campaign relationship outside of his marriage helped take him out of the national political arena.


“Defiance” Music?

Hillary Clinton celebrates her April 2008 win in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary with Governor Ed Rendell.
Hillary Clinton celebrates her April 2008 win in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary with Governor Ed Rendell.
     Then comes Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton during her hard-fought 2007-08 Democratic presidential primary campaign.  In late April 2008, after she had won the Pennsylvania primary, but was nevertheless being urged to drop out of the race given an uphill delegate climb, she emerged at her victory party to Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”  And again in June, after a Hillary speech in New York that was not a formal concession speech, “I Won’t Back Down” was piped out over the sound system.  Was the candidate sending out a little message of defiance here? Certainly it appeared that way to a few reporters.  Nothing wrong with that, however.  At least she kept them guessing for a time.

     Political candidates come and go, of course, but the music lives on to play in many other battles. Doubtless, Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” will be heard in other campaigns to come.  And that’s not a bad thing, as we need all the fighters we can get  — or at the very least, those who want to try.  So let the music play — especially that which helps bring more folks into the political process.

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     See also at this website, for example, “I’m A Dole Man” (music & politics), “Four Dead in O-hi-o” (protest music), and “Only a Pawn in Their Game“(civil rights related).  For other story choices on politics and culture please see that category page.  Thanks for visiting. - Jack Doyle.

_______________________________

Date Posted:    7 March 2009
Last Update:   28 June 2011
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “I Won’t Back Down, 1989-2008,”
PopHistoryDig.com, March 7, 2009.

_______________________________

 

 

 

Sources, Links & Additional Information

Cover of Tom Petty’s 1989 album that includes  ‘I Won’t Back Down’ track. (also great Versa-Climber / work-out music!).
Cover of Tom Petty’s 1989 album that includes ‘I Won’t Back Down’ track. (also great Versa-Climber / work-out music!).
Frank Bruni, “The 2000 Campaign: Campaign Notebook; A Wistful Bush Reflects On Hearth and Home,” New York Times, Friday, January 28, 2000.

Randall D. Wixen, Wixen Music Publishing, Inc., Calabasas, CA, Letter to Governor George W. Bush, Austin, TX, Re: Tom Petty/”I Won’t Back Down”, February 4, 2000.

Michael E. Toner, General Counsel, George W. Bush for President, Austin, TX, Letter to Randall D. Wixen, Wixen Music Publishing, Inc., Calabasas, CA, Re: Tom Petty/”I Won’t Back Down”, February 11, 2000.

Jake Tapper, “Don’t Do Me Like That: Tom Petty Tells George W. Bush to ‘Back Down’ From Using one of Petty’s Songs at his Events,” Salon.com, September 16, 2000.

Patrick Healy, “Democracy in Action,” New York Times, May 30, 2006.

Andrea Bernstein, “Spitzer Bus Tour Is Unofficial Campaign Kick-Off,” WNYC.org, Radio & print report, June 3, 2006.

David W. Chen, with reporting by Jonathan Miller & Nate Schweber, “As Expected, New Jersey Primaries Create Senate Race Between Kean and Menendez,” New York Times, June 7, 2006.

“I Won’t Back Down”
Tom Petty & Jeff Lynne

Well I won’t back down,
no I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down

Gonna stand my ground,
won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from
draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground,
and I won’t back down

Chorus:
Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down.

Well I know what’s right,
I got just one life
In a world that keeps on
pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground,
and I won’t back down

Hey baby there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
________________________
Note: song is longer than appears when full
chorus & recurring refrains are added.

Cynthia Burton, “Menendez: He Has Risen Despite Defying Alliances,”Philadelphia Inquirer October 15, 2006.

Todd Jackson and Michael Sluss, “Senate Hopefuls Still Pounding the Pavement; George Allen Gets an Endorsement and James Webb Trots out Some Democrat Heavyweights,” Roanoke.com, of The Roanoke Times, November 3, 2006.

David W. Chen, “A Fight Song Comes Alive,” New York Times, November 5, 2006.

Peter Nicholas, Edwards Levels Attack on Clinton-era White House,” Los Angeles Times, August 24, 2007, p. A-12.

Adam Nagourney, “Do You Know the Words to the Edwards Fight Song?,” The Caucus Blog, New York Times, December 19, 2007.

Adam Nagourney, “On the Trail: The Edwards Playlist,”New York Times, December 20, 2007.

Sarah Wheaton, “Accompaniments; Theme Songs and Others,” New York Times, February 16, 2008

Imprint ipod Gail Collins, “Hillary’s Smackdown,” New York Times, April 24, 2008.

 Kleinheider, “That Ain’t Any Kind Of Concession Speech I Ever Heard Of,” NashvillePost.com, June 3, 2008.

“I Won’t Back Down,” SongFacts.com.

“I Won’t Back Down,” Wikipedia.com.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, United States Senate.

U.S. Senator Jim Webb, United States Senate.

“Eliot Spitzer,” Times Topics, New York Times.

“John Edwards,” Times Topics, New York Times.





“The Kefauver Hearings”
1950-1951

An estimated 30 million Americans watched the 'Kefauver hearings' in 1950-51, some in movie theaters like this one.  (Photo - M. Rougier/Life).
An estimated 30 million Americans watched the 'Kefauver hearings' in 1950-51, some in movie theaters like this one. (Photo - M. Rougier/Life).
      In May 1950, a little-known U.S. Senator named Estes Kefauver, a 47 year-old Democrat from Tennessee, began a series of investigative hearings on organized crime. These formal hearings of the U.S. Senate — which came to be known as the “Kefauver Hearings” — were unique in the history of politics, also heralding the power of television. They became the first congressional hearings to draw a large national audience. Beginning in Washington, D.C. in May of 1950, the Kefauver hearings lasted 15 months with sessions held in 14 cities. More than 600 witnesses gave testimony. It was not the first time that congressional hearings were televised, but it was the first time that a large national audience became involved in a national issue by way of television. Although fewer than half of all American homes had TV sets in 1950-51, many people were able to watch in bars, restaurants, and businesses. Some movie theaters also ran the hearings.

'Crime Hunter Kefauver'-Time cover, 12 March 1951.
'Crime Hunter Kefauver'-Time cover, 12 March 1951.
      The Kefauver hearings on organized crime proved a fascinating and engrossing revelation to many Americans — introducing for the first time to many viewers terms such as “the Mafia” and the details of how criminal organizations worked. During eight days of hearings in New York City in mid-March 1951, for example, over 50 witnesses described the highest-ranking crime syndicate in America — an organization allegedly led by Frank Costello who had taken over from Lucky Luciano. According to Life magazine, “the week of March 12, 1951, will occupy a special place in history. . . people had suddenly gone indoors into living rooms, taverns, and clubrooms, auditoriums and back-offices. There, in eerie half-light, looking at millions of small frosty screens, people sat as if charmed. Never before had the attention of the nation been riveted so completely on a single matter.”

     The Kefauver hearings also had the advantage of being the “best show” in town at the time — and for the most part, the only show in terms of available daytime content.  The witnesses, testimony, and interrogation-by-senators offered compelling programming for TV networks then trying to fill up their telecasts. “…Dishes stood in sinks, babies went unfed, busi- ness sagged, and depart- ment stores emptied while the hearings were on.”

- Time magazine  Television was still new then, and daytime television was wide open.  Prime-time slots were filling up, but daytime needed programming, and the Kefauver hearings fit the bill nicely.  Advertisers then could have big chunks of daytime TV fairly cheaply Time magazine, for example, helped sponsor the Kefauver hearings in New York and Washington, promoting magazine subscriptions in its advertising.  The TV networks were just beginning operations in some cases, so experience was thin, and broadcast range limited.  The New York sessions of the Kefauver hearings, for example, went out live over a “national” network that included twenty cities in the East and the Midwest.  Still, in some cities at that time, the purchase of television sets had begun to skyrocket, and the Kefauver “show” no doubt helped push sales along too.  In the New York city area, the number of sets had doubled in the 1950-1951 period. 

     Once the hearings began, they became something of a national event, with TV providing the new means for connecting millions of onlookers all at once.  And throughout the country, people began tuning in.  Housewives, in particular, who were then more at home in those days than they are today, called their friends to spread the word about the new show.  “From Manhattan as far west as the coaxial cable ran,” wrote Time magazine, “the U.S. adjusted itself to Kefauver’s schedule. Dishes stood in sinks, babies went unfed, business sagged and department stores emptied while the hearings were on.”  The drama was real life: crime bosses, street thugs, and U.S. Senators; good guys vs. bad guys.  “Estes Kefauver came off as a sort of Southern Jimmy Stewart, the lone citizen-politician who gets tired of the abuse of government and goes off on his own to do something about it,” wrote David Halberstam in his book, The Fifties.

April 7, 1951 edition of "The Saturday Evening Post" headlines a story about the Kefauver Hearings.
April 7, 1951 edition of "The Saturday Evening Post" headlines a story about the Kefauver Hearings.

 

National Celebrity

     In the end, Kefauver’s crime hearings attracted an estimated 20-30 million television viewers. However, the hearings didn’t always play well in every city, such as Las Vegas, nor have a positive or lasting result (see sidebar below). But they did make Estes Kefauver a national political celebrity, establishing him in the public mind as a crusading crime-buster and opponent of political corruption. Before long, he was on the lecture circuit, appearing in magazines, and also on television shows like What’s My Line? At one point, Hollywood even called him to play bit part in a Humphrey Bogart movie called The Enforcer. In the Saturday Evening Post, a ghostwritten four-part series about his investigation titled “What I Found in the Underworld” was published under his name in the Spring of 1951. A subsequent book, Crime in America, written with Sidney Shalett, was on The New York Times best-seller list for twelve weeks.

Kefauver in Las Vegas
1950

     The producers of the PBS documentary film, Las Vegas: An Unconventional History, covered Kefauver’s hearings in their film, and posted some interesting observations on their web site. An excerpt follows here:

     . . . On November 15, 1950, Kefauver and his colleagues arrived in Las Vegas. The committee had already been conducting hearings for five months, and they were tired. Many of the high profile casino owners who had received subpoenas for the committee, like Moe Dalitz, had skipped town. Kefauver and his committee interviewed only six witnesses, and these were hardly helpful. It was the same throughout the hearings; ambiguous answers and flat-out denials were the norm.

     After just two hours of interviewing witnesses, the committee took a break to visit Boulder Dam. Upon returning, they continued the hearings for a short time before holding a press conference and calling the Las Vegas portion of the investigation to an end. All told, the hearings barely lasted a day.

     To Las Vegans, the hearings were both a relief and almost disappointingly anti-climactic. As a story covering the hearings in the Las Vegas Review-Journal began, “The United States Senate’s crime investigating committee blew into town yesterday like a desert whirlwind, and after stirring up a lot of dust, it vanished, leaving only the rustling among prominent local citizens as evidence that it had paid its much publicized visit here.”

     What Kefauver and his colleagues were finding was that the relationship between politicians, authorities and mobsters was not as clear-cut as had been posited. . . . .Syndicate members were often major donors to political campaigns. Many prominent politicians of the day, even those who publicly praised Kefauver’s efforts, had intimate, albeit secret, ties with Syndicate members. Kefauver himself was known to be fond of gambling, and committee member Herbert O’Conor was rumored to have ties to the Mafia.

     The Kefauver Committee’s final report was more than 11,000 pages long, out of which only four pages pertained to Las Vegas. [T]he committee came up with little new information about Las Vegas . . . .

     To remedy Las Vegas’ apparent inability to keep organized crime out of city lines, Kefauver suggested that the federal government impose a 10 percent tax on all gaming. But such a proposition would have been disastrous for Las Vegas, and Senator Pat McCarran fervently and successfully argued against Kefauver’s suggestion.

     . . .Nevada officials were eventually pressured to make steps toward some kind of gaming oversight. In 1955, to weed out gangsters, the state required that any owner of a casino be licensed by the state gaming board. The act inadvertently enshrined organized crime. It ruled out corporations, which have thousands of shareholder “owners,” making personal (and mostly illegal) fortunes the only money readily available. That was Kefauver’s legacy. Later, Nevada created the Gaming Control Board, and adapted more stringent laws in an attempt to weed out gangster applicants for licenses. In 1960, the Gaming Control Board published “the Black Book,” officially entitled A List of Excluded Persons, banning known gangsters from casinos.

     . . .While the Kefauver hearings did bring the problem of organized crime to the national consciousness, forcing the FBI and the government to publicly admit that such an organization existed, the hearings did relatively little to damage the strength of the Syndicate. In fact, the hearings persuaded local hoods that they were free from the law — a Senate committee had come to town and nothing happened. The presence of organized crime grew even stronger and more concentrated in Las Vegas, as another wave of criminals, seeking refuge after being run out of their home states, surged into Nevada. The Syndicate would continue to wield control of Las Vegas for two decades after the conclusion of the Kefauver Hearings.

Source: PBS Television, The American Experience, Las Vegas: An Unconventional History.

 

Presidential Bid

     As a result of all the national exposure, Kefauver’s political fortunes rose precipitously, and in 1952 he sought the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. He made history briefly when he defeated President Harry S. Truman in the New Hampshire primary, proceeding to win twelve of the fifteen Democratic primaries. But the primaries at that time were not the main method of delegate selection. At the national convention in Chicago that summer, Kefauver led on the first two convention ballots. But in the end Adlai Stevenson received the Democratic nomination. In the general election, Stevenson and running mate Senator John Sparkman of Alabama lost to the Republican ticket of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon. Estes Kefauver, however, would be back.

1951 hardback edition of Kefauver's crime book published by Doubleday.
1951 hardback edition of Kefauver's crime book published by Doubleday.

 

 

Small Town Boy

     Kefauver had grown up in the small town of Madisonville, Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smokies. His father owned a hardware store there and had served as the town’s mayor. Growing up, young “Keef” as he was nicknamed, worked one summer in a Harlan County, Kentucky coal mine living with four other miners and developing an abiding appreciation for coal mine life and labor unions. At the University of Tennessee Kefauver was a fraternity man, who threw discus and high-jumped on the track team, played tackle on the varsity football squad, and was elected president of the student body. After graduating in 1924, he taught math and coached high school football for a year, then went to Yale Law School. In the courtroom, he was good with juries, and according to one of his former partners, used a “country boy” approach to good effect. But Kefauver also used plain language and a straight-forward approach the jurors could understand and never tried to be eloquent or poetic.  In 1938, he made an unsuccessful bid for the state senate, then won a U.S. congressional vacancy the following year.  In nine years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Kefauver championed public power programs of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and New Deal programs.

     In 1947, when he ran for a U.S. Senate seat, he traded country quips and raccoon stories with his opponent. That resulted in one instance with Kefauver donning a coonskin cap which then became something of a campaign trademark for him.  He was later shown wearing one on the March 1952 cover of Time magazine (coincidentally, after Walt Disney ran a TV series on Davy Crockett, who also wore the coonskin cap, a “Crockett craze” ensued in 1955 with young boys all across the country wearing the caps).  Kefauver won his U.S. Senate seat in the 1948 election.

Time cover in September 1956 as the Democrats' Stevenson-Kefauver ticket sought the White House.
Time cover in September 1956 as the Democrats' Stevenson-Kefauver ticket sought the White House.
 

 

2nd Presidential Bid

     In 1956, Kefauver again sought the Democratic Party presidential nomination, scoring a few upsets and winning some important primaries, until losing a key battle in California. At the convention, the nomination was thrown open to the delegates but Adlai Stevenson was again selected the party’s nominee.  However, Kefauver did win the Vice Presidential slot in a competition with a young U.S. Senator from Massachusetts named John F. Kennedy. The Stevenson-Kefauver ticket lost to the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket in 1956, and Kefauver returned to his Senate post. (Kefauver was considered the front runner for the 1960 Democratic nomination, but he let it be known in 1959 that he wasn’t going to try again for a third time.)

 

Senate Career

     In the Senate, Kefauver turned his attention to big business and monopoly practices.  His U.S. Senate Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee investigated economic concentration throughout the U.S. economy, industry by industry, issuing a major report in May 1963.  He found monopoly pricing in the steel, automotive, food and pharmaceutical industries, and recommended among other things, that General Motors be broken up into competing firms.  He was also highly critical of excess profits in the U.S. drug industry.  The Kefauver-Harris Drug Control Act of 1962 required drug companies to disclose to doctors the side-effects of their products, be able to prove their products were effective and safe, and allow drugs to be sold as generics. In 1956, Kefauver and fellow Tennessee Senator Albert Gore Sr., and Lyndon Johnson were the only three southern Democrats who refused to sign the “Southern Manifesto,” a political document signed by more than 90 other politicians opposing racial integration. On August 8, 1963, Estes Kefauver suffered a massive heart attack on the floor of the Senate, and died a few days later.

For additional stories on politics at this website please see the Politics & Culture category page. Stories from the 1950s and 1960s are also gathered by decade in the Period Archive, found at the top right corner of this page. Thanks for visiting – and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 17 April 2008
Last Update:  25 January 2011
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “The Kefauver Hearings, 1950-1951,”
PopHistoryDig.com, April 17, 2008.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

“It Pays to Organize,” Time (cover story), Monday, March 12, 1951.

“The Rise of Senator Legend,” Time (cover story), Monday, March 24, 1952.

Joseph Bruce Gorman, Kefauver: A Political Biography, New York: Oxford University Press,1971.

David Halberstam, The Fifties, New York: Villard Books/Random House, 1993, Chapter 14, pp. 187-194.

See an extensive collection of photographs of the Kefauver Crime Hearings in Kansas City, Missouri, at the Western Historical Manuscript Collection Photo Database, 222 Thomas Jefferson Library, One University Blvd. University of Missouri, St. Louis, MO (314) 516-5143.

G. D. Wiebe, “Responses to the Televised Kefauver Hearings: Some Social Psychological Implica- tions,” The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 2, Summer, 1952, pp. 179-200.

Estes Kefauver & Kefauver Hearings, People & Events, “Las Vegas: An Unconventional History,” The American Experience, Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Television, 2005.

U.S. Senate, “May 3, 1950: Kefauver Crime Committee Launched,” Historical Minute Essays, 1941-1963.

Jack Anderson and Frederick G. Blumenthal. The Kefauver Story, New York: Dial Press, 1956.

Ivan Doig, “Kefauver Versus Crime: Television Boosts a Senator,”Journalism Quarterly, Autumn 1962, pp. 483-90.

U.S. Congress, Memorial Services Held in the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, Together with Remarks Presented in Eulogy of Carey Estes Kefauver, Late a Senator from Tennessee, 88th Congress, 1st session, 1963. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1964.

Estes Kefauver, with Irene Till, In a Few Hands: Monopoly Power in America, New York: Pantheon Books, 1965.

Joseph Bruce Gorman, “The Early Career of Estes Kefauver,” East Tennessee Historical Society’s Publications, 1970, pp. 57-84.

Philip A. Grant, Jr., “Kefauver and the New Hampshire Presidential Primary,”Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Winter 1972, pp. 372-80.

Harvey Swados, Standing Up for the People: The Life and Work of Estes Kefauver, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1972.

Richard Edward McFadyen, Estes Kefauver and the Drug Industry, Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1973.

William Howard Moore, The Kefauver Committee and the Politics of Crime, 1950-1952, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1974.

James Bailey Gardner, “Political Leadership in a Period of Transition: Frank G. Clement, Albert Gore, Estes Kefauver, and Tennessee Politics, 1948-1956,” Ph.D. dissertation, Vanderbilt University, 1978.

Richard Edward McFadyen,”Estes Kefauver and the Tradition of Southern Progressivism,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Winter 1978, pp. 430-43.

William Howard Moore, “The Kefauver Committee and Organized Crime,”in, Law and Order in American History, Joseph M. Hawes (ed.), Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1979, pp. 136-47.

Charles L. Fontenay, Estes Kefauver, A Biography, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1980.

William Howard Moore,”Was Estes Kefauver ‘Blackmailed’ During the Chicago Crime Hearings?: A Historian’s Perspective,” Public Historian, Winter 1982, pp. 5-28.

Philip A. Grant, Jr., “Senator Estes Kefauver and the 1956 Minnesota Presidential Primary.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Winter 1983, pp. 383-92.

Gregory C. Lisby, “Early Television on Public Watch: Kefauver and His Crime Investigation,” Journalism Quarterly, Summer 1985, pp. 236-42.

Jeanine Derr, ” ‘The Biggest Show on Earth’: The Kefauver Crime Committee Hearings.” Maryland Historian, Fall/Winter, 1986, pp. 19-37.

Hugh Brogan, All Honorable Men: Huey Long, Robert Moses, Estes Kefauver, Richard J. Daley, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Film Clips of the Kefauver Hearings. See, for example, eFootage.com, where the following clips are available: 1.) Morris Kleinman “The Silent Witness” – Cleveland Gambler, Morris Kleinman, remains silent during his questioning at the Kefauver Crime Committee hearing in Washington and then he gets reprimanded by one of the Senators; 2.) Abner “Longy” Zwillman – Abner “Longy” Zwillman on trial during the Kefauver Crime Committee hearing in Washington. The organizer and the founding member of a nationwide crime syndicate talks about his reputation as the “Al Capone of New Jersey” and getting in too deep with the mob; 3.) Senators & Abner Zwillman – The senators involved in the Kefauver Hearings and the notorious gangster Abner “Longy” Zwillman being questioned; 4.) James J. Carroll’s “Fright Factor” – St Louis’ Betting Commissioner James J. Carroll at the Kefauver Crime Committee hearing voicing his opinion that the media presence in the courtroom is a “fright factor” and claiming that he doesn’t know whether he can answer the questions properly with all the cameras present; 5.) James J Carroll Talking – St Louis’ Betting Commissioner at a Kefauver Crime Committee in Washington, denying that he’s ever known a man named Frank Costello or Nicki Cohen; 6.) Jacob “Greasy Thumb” Guzik – Jacob Guzik, one of the heads of the Chicago underworld, at the Kefauver Crime Committee hearing; and 7.) A Crowded Kefauver Committee Hearing – The Kefauver Crime Committee hearing played to a standing room only crowd in Washington, D.C. and were filmed by several news crews.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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