Travel Every mid-century maven knows Pan Am. All swank jet-setting dreams began with the famed airline. The first to employ luxury jetliners (Boeing 707s in 1958 and Boeing 747s in 1970), Pan Am was one of the founders of the commercial Jet Age. With 86 destination countries on all six major continents at its peak in 1968, the Pan Am name was synonymous with style, luxury, ( read more... )

Readable In the middle of the twentieth century, fear and paranoia were ingrained into the subconscious of every American. The 1957 launch of the Sputnik satellite had Americans wary of Soviet attack from the skies. And the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 assured the world that Soviet Premier Khrushchev was serious in his threat when he said “We will bury you.” The spectre of mutually assured ( read more... )

Readable After Playboy magazine made its mark in the early 1950s, imitators of all kinds sprang up with titles like Sir, Knight, and Gent. In 1957, one publisher took a devilish bent and called its new magazine Satan. Satan was little more than a Playboy clone. Both magazines had pin-ups, articles on the urban bachelor lifestyle, a jokes page, and an iconic anthropomorphic mascot. But maybe ( read more... )

Readable The Golden Age of Las Vegas has been over for quite some time. If you don’t count auxiliary members like Shirley MacLaine, Buddy Greco, or Angie Dickinson, the last member of The Rat Pack, Joey Bishop, passed away in 2007. He outlived Frank by 9, Dino by 12, Sammy by 17, and Peter by 23 years. Even the buildings, which are supposed to outlive those ( read more... )

Readable Paradigm shift. If you could boil down into a phrase what Mad Men is about, it would be “mid-century paradigm shift.” Mad Men explores it on the large scale: Clueless about how to sell coffee to young adults, the men of Sterling Cooper attempted to shoehorn the Port Huron Statement into their ad campaign. They completely missed the point because the cultural paradigm was changing. ( read more... )

Readable On September 7, 1963, during a performance at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Dean Martin joked “Right now, ladies and gentlemen, somewhere backstage, Frank Sinatra is punching a dealer right in the mouth.” Little did Martin know that four years later, Sinatra actually would start a fight with a Sands pit boss over revoked casino credit — only, in the end, it ( read more... )

Readable Mid-century retro goes by many names — Retro culture; Atomic culture — and it sometimes overlaps with many other subcultures like kustom kulture (i.e. hot rod & rockabilly fans); tiki culture, and even Goth. My preferred term for this subculture is Lounge Revival. To the outside observer, it would seem that the only thing your average Lounge Revivalist is interested in is dressing up in ( read more... )

Readable Gypsy Rose Lee. Tempest Storm. Lily St. Cyr. If there’s one word associated with these famous women, it’s “burlesque.” In the modern sense of the word, burlesque was a popular form of theatrical variety show featuring risqué comedy, parody, and pastiche. When it was exported from Victorian England to the United States in the 1840s, American elements were added: minstrel show performances, stage magic, contemporary ( read more... )

Readable Thanks to a post-World War II economic and technological boom, the 1950s and early 60s was the golden age for the bachelor lifestyle. With the advent of Playboy magazine, the quintessential guide to urban living, it reached critical mass. Armed with affluence, abundant leisure time, and the sagacity of Saint Hefner, bachelors found themselves with two things: freedom and optimism. The ultimate expression of this ( read more... )

Readable In America, the 1950s and 60s spawned The Monster Kids. These were kids, mostly pre-adolescent boys, who assembled Aurora model kits of Frankenstein or Dracula after school; read Tales From The Crypt comics with a flashlight under the covers at bed time; and sneaked downstairs on Saturdays to watch the late-night horror movie show on TV with spooky hosts like Zacherle, Chilly Billy, or Ghoulardi. ( read more... )

Readable “Here at home we’ll play in the city. Powered by the sun. Perfect weather for a streamlined world. There’ll be Spandex jackets – one for everyone.” - Donald Fagen, “I.G.Y.” Americans of the 1950s and early ’60s had a love affair with technology that, some would say, continues to this day. Nineteen fifty seven saw global scientific cooperation with the beginning of the I.G.Y., the ( read more... )

Readable “When a fresh-faced guy in a Chevy offered him a lift, Parker told him to go to hell.” – Richard Stark, first line from The Hunter On one side of a coin is James Bond, a suave secret agent with a license to kill. A connoisseur of many things, Bond enjoys fine food, fine women, and martinis shaken not stirred. A champion for Queen and ( read more... )