50 years… To the younger among us, such a span must seem impossibly large -- why, it's practically a lifetime!
To we who are slightly longer in the tooth, we hope fervently that it is at least not quite a "lifetime"…
A couple of years ago you will recall we looked back, at this most significant time of year, at events from a Century ago -- now, by merely halving the distance, we take a flying leap from Ancient History to, for many of us at least, Actual Memory.
(And for those to whom fifty years is still a matter for historical tomes only, who yet find themselves unable to yet turn away from these meandering musings of mine, I strongly urge you to find the nearest amiable Old Person, and ask them a few hundred questions. I will wager they will have you seeing the magical past through their eyes in minutes, and will have the time of their life doing so! I missed many a chance to do so myself, and yet the times I did open my ears to such talk remain priceless -- indeed, half these columns owe their very existence to the collective wisdom of my own forbears.)
At any rate, there were a lot of things you could still do in 1966. As the year dawned, you could still see a brand new episode of Mr. Ed on your television. As a matter of fact, that spring you could still catch new episodes of The Flintstones, The Munsters, Dick Van Dyke, Patty Duke, The Addams Family, Perry Mason, and My Favorite Martian.
By the end of the year they would all be gone.
1966 was also the last year you could see The Beatles perform live -- locally at Dodger Stadium -- their second-to-last show ever.
(It is best we don't actually talk about the Dodgers, themselves -- 1965 had given them a World Series Championship, but this year, though they again made the Series, they lost in four straight games. Pitching legend Sandy Koufax retired immediately thereafter.)
1966 was also the last year you had a chance of a Walt Disney sighting at the Disneyland park. He would often tour the grounds in the morning, and I myself recall being there once when Walt, according to several different sources, had graced the premises with his presence just hours earlier.
By the end of the year that chance was gone, as Walt himself was gone.
Walt, of course, was not the only living legend who shared some part of this magic year with us, only to depart before its flame had been snuffed out. Hollywood icons Buster Keaton and Ed Wynn, Mongomery Clift and Clifton Webb, the great artist Maxfield Parrish, and iconoclasts Lenny Bruce and Bobby Fuller all chose this time, fifty years ago, to take their leave.
Indeed, 1966 was not a good year at all for Los Angeles teenagers. Coincident with the passing of Lenny and Bobby, a certain Bob Dylan had a motorcycle crash, the details of which he refuses to discuss to this day. At the time he simply disappeared, giving rise to rumors that he had in fact died, or was a vegetable.
Closer to home, Beach Boy Brian Wilson was hard at work on his strange masterpiece-in-the-making "Smile", when a series of mysterious fires broke out across the city. Brian was convinced he had unwittingly unleashed demonic forces upon the land, and within a month or two killed the project.
Now, 1966 turned out to be a golden age for Rock 'n' Roll clubs in LA, but by the end of the year old curfew laws were brought out to force as many of these clubs as possible out of business. The kids predictably took to the streets, and so it was that, as Uncle Walt lay dying in a hospital bed in Burbank, thousands of "his" kids, who had cut their pop cultural teeth on Davy Crockett and the Mouseketeers, were now setting city busses afire on Sunset Boulevard.
Now, a cursory glance at the films and songs of the year would give the lie to nay notion that the year was anything short of remarkable -- 1966 gave us songs such as "Sounds of Silence", "Good Vibrations", "Strangers in the Night", and a few massive hits from the aforementioned Beatles, as well as films such as Born Free, Fantastic Voyage, and A Man for All Seasons.
And finally, lest we mourn overmuch at the passing of all those earlier cited TV shows that breathed their last in this fateful year, we should recall that 1966 was also the year that introduced us to Batman, Dark Shadows, The Time Tunnel, The Monkees, That Girl, The Green Hornet, Family Affair, Mission Impossible, and Star Trek.
And that spring, my mom finally allowed me to start buying Mad Magazine (it had long been verboten in our household).
That summer, I turned 10.
The year had its moments…