Boomers Lose More Cultural Influencers

In the past week, several deaths were announced where each had contributed considerably to boomer culture. In particular, Lee Iaccoca and Arte Johnson passed away, and it was announced that Mad Magazine would cease publication.

Lee Iaccoca ( October 15, 1924 -July 2, 2019)

As chairman of Ford Motor Company, Mr. Iacocca was instrumental in creating the Ford Mustang, introduced at the 1964 World’s Fair. Later, he produced the Ford Escort. Mister B and his siblings all owned Mustangs at one time or another, so therefore, his influence directly affected Mister B’s family. (Read: Boomers Loved the Ford Mustang)

When Mr. Iaccoca left Ford, he became CEO of Chrysler Corporation at the time the company was bankrupt. He became the on-air spokesperson (“If you can find a better car, buy it!”) and helped secure a $1.5 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Congress to save Chrysler in the early 1980s. Chrysler paid back their loans with interest in1983, seven years ahead of schedule. Iaccoca went on to oversee the launch of the minivan and Chrysler K-cars.

The boomer era was a car era, and Lee Iaccoca was a big part of that.

Arte Johnson (January 20, 1929-July 3, 2019)

Arte appeared on dozens of popular TV shows in the 1950s and ’60s, including The Danny Thomas Show (1956); The Red Skelton Hour (1960); Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1961); The Twilight Zone (1961); Dr. Kildare (1962); McHale’s Navy (1963); Bewitched (1965); The Dick Van Dyke Show (1966); Lost in Space (1968); I Dream of Jeannie (1969), to name a few. Yet most boomers became aware of Arte from his stint on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1967-71).

Many boomers (including a young Mister B) imitated his comic Laugh-In phrases that made him famous: Very interesting! (dressed as a German soldier, smoking a cigarette); Want a Walnetto? (as a dirty old man approaching Ruth Buzzi on a park bench) ; and as the man in a yellow raincoat riding a tricycle, always falling over.

Arte continued to appear in a wide variety of shows, and did extensive cartoon voiceovers, up to 2005.

Mad Magazine (1952-2019)

When the President of the United States refers to Alfred E. Neuman, you know you’ve made a lasting cultural impression. However, the person he was comparing to Alfred is a younger-generation presidential candidate, who said he did not know the reference and had to Google it. And therein lies the problem for Mad Magazine, as with most magazines in the 21st century; people don’t access and read magazines today the same way boomers did. Mad will cease monthly publication after the August issue. While technically not a “death,” it can certainly feel that way to many boomers.

Mad started publication in 1952 as a comic book, then became a magazine in 1955. Mister B bought his first Mad Magazine in 1962. He was an instant fan of Mort Drucker’s superbly illustrated movie and TV satires, Dave Berg and Don Martin’s cartoons, Al Jaffee’s back-page fold-ins (1964-2017) and the Cold War send-up of Spy vs. Spy by Antonio Prohias. There was not a current fad, event or politician that escaped the wit and humor of Mad.

Were these influencers welcome in your home, boomers?

Boomers Say Good-Bye to Two More Influencers

This week two icons of the boomer era passed away: Doris Day and Peggy Lipton. Both of these women recorded albums and both of them were actresses, but the two could hardly be more different. The contrast between them happens to illustrate the evolution of the Boomer Generation from the 1950s into the 1960s.

Doris Day
Though she started singing at an early age, Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff wanted to be a dancer. Her training would come in handy years later, on the silver screen. Nonetheless, she began singing at 15, which lead to her first record contract in 1947. Singing with several Big Bands, Doris Day became popular with servicemen during WWII and later, Korea.

She had a bona fide hit with Sentimental Journey in 1945, recording with Les Brown and His Band Of Renown. The song became a symbol for servicemen returning home. Her first foray into acting came in 1948 in the film, Embraceable You.

In the early 1950s, she starred in a series of musicals, in which she acquired the wholesome image of the girl next door. She attempted to jettison her image by accepting grittier, dramatic roles, including starring opposite Jimmy Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1956. Her last film was With Six You Get Eggroll (1968).

While her acting career took off, she never stopped singing and recording. One of her biggest hits, Que Sera Sera, released in 1956, was used in the movie Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960) and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966). In 1968, it became her theme song for The Doris Day Show (1968-73) on TV.

Her real life was anything but the perfect world of the wholesome girl she portrayed on screen. She married four times, and in her autobiography stated that there was never any intention of projecting any image at all, by either herself or her publicist.

Peggy Lipton
While Doris Day began her singing career at age 15, Peggy Lipton started modeling at the same age. Her first acting job came at age 19, and she soon appeared on a variety of TV shows, including The John Forsythe Show (1965), Bewitched (1965) and The Virginian (1966).

Most boomers, however, will remember Peggy Lipton for the TV show that catapulted her to popular fame: The Mod Squad (1968-73), in which three young, groovy outsiders became undercover agents for the police. Ironically airing the same years as The Doris Day Show, Mod Squad, was one of the earliest shows to have a multiracial cast (tagline, “One white, one black, one blonde”) and one of the first TV shows to depict the counterculture that was growing among boomers. As a result, she became a fashion icon with her flower child image: long, straight blonde hair and bell bottom pants. Capitalizing on her TV fame, she released her first album of mostly covers in 1968, from which she had a hit single with Donovan’s Wear Your Love Like Heaven. She released a second album in 1970.

Ms. Lipton married music producer-legend Quincy Jones in 1974 and they divorced in 1990.

In later years, boomers saw her in a variety of movies and TV appearances. Most notably, she came back as a regular character in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (1989-91). In Angie Tribeca (2017), she played the role of the mother to the show’s title star, her real-life daughter with Quincy Jones, Rashida Jones.

As far as Mister Boomer was concerned, Doris Day was more for his parents’ generation. Granted, she was a terrific singer and actress of that time, but Mister B much preferred Peggy Lipton in The Mod Squad. Mister B did not hear any of Peggy Lipton’s records in his earlier years. She was definitely better on screen than on record.

What memories do you have about Doris Day and Peggy Lipton, boomers?