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Gary Owens

Gary Owens (80) mellifluous-voiced announcer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1968–73) and a familiar part of radio, TV, and movies for more than 60 years. Owens hosted thousands of radio programs in his long career and appeared in more than a dozen movies and on scores of TV shows, including Lucille Ball and Bob Hope specials. He also voiced hundreds of animated characters, was part of dozens of comedy albums, and wrote books. He died in Los Angeles, California on February 12, 2015.

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Secret tapes reveal JFK’s duplicity in Cold War, civil rights

By Larry Getlen

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, President John F. Kennedy consulted with his predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, explaining the deal that pulled our country back from the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Kennedy stressed to Eisenhower that, while promising not to invade Cuba would facilitate the removal of Soviet missiles from that country, he had absolutely rejected Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s request to have American missiles removed from Turkey, which would have made the deal a straight quid pro quo.
 “‘We then issued a statement that we couldn’t get into that deal,’ Kennedy told Eisenhower. Only an agreement not to invade Cuba. “‘Any other conditions?’ Eisenhower asked. ‘No,’ Kennedy said, adding later, ‘This is quite a step down for Khrushchev.’”
It wasn’t.
According to “The Politics of Deception,” a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Patrick Sloyan, Kennedy lied to Eisenhower, just as he would lie to the American people about the nature of this deal and others.
In truth, writes Sloyan, Kennedy folded against his tough Soviet counterpart, acceding to Khrushchev’s demands to remove 15 nuclear warheads from Turkey — within easy striking distance of Moscow — almost immediately.
In 2013, a Gallup Poll showed that Kennedy is still the most popular US president, with 74 percent of Americans considering him “outstanding” or “above average” at the job.
But in this book, Sloyan maintains that Kennedy wasn’t always the president we think he was.
Based on recently uncovered, secret tape recordings Kennedy made in the White House — including of the Eisenhower call above — plus declassified documents, Sloyan says that Kennedy was deceitful about some of his most important accomplishments and positions due to his desire to win re-election in 1964.

In the wake of the failed 1961 invasion of Cuba known as the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Kennedy installed nuclear-equipped Jupiter missiles in Turkey. In retaliation, Khrushchev installed nuclear missiles 90 miles from Florida and within easy striking distance of numerous American cities.
As far as the public knew, the two leaders met in a fierce showdown, and Kennedy, empowered by the threat of “devastating airstrikes” and “140,000 troops” deployed to Cuba, won, getting Khrushchev to back down and remove his missiles.
After, Secretary of State Dean Rusk was quoted as saying, “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.” This quote came to define Kennedy’s actions, portraying the leader as steely, steadfast and unconquerable.
Sloyan writes that in truth, Kennedy immediately embraced the idea of a swap, included Khrushchev’s silence as part of the deal, then covered it up for the American public.
Kennedy was concerned about the effect that news of the swap could have on his re-election chances. Many of his advisors feared that it would look to the American people as if “Kennedy had sacrificed a NATO ally after being outfoxed by the communist leader,” and that the deal would cause our fellow NATO countries to “forever doubt America’s solidarity.”
Once the decision was made to obscure the reality, Kennedy’s biggest concern was Gen. Curtis LeMay, the Air Force chief of staff, a harsh opponent of Kennedy’s on many fronts, and good friends with Sen. Barry Goldwater, the president’s likely GOP opponent in the ’64 presidential race.
LeMay was a leading proponent of a “preemptive first strike — launched without warning — that would destroy most of the Soviet missiles and bombers,” and openly called Kennedy’s deal “the greatest defeat in our history.”
LeMay was forbidden by his position from revealing Kennedy’s deal to the public. But he and another opponent of the deal, Gen. Thomas Power, commander of the Strategic Air Command, were scheduled to leave their posts in July 1964, leaving them free to reveal what they knew and likely torpedo Kennedy’s re-election. To keep them quiet, both had their service extended until after the election.
The missiles in Turkey were dismantled the following April. The administration publicly claimed that they had become irrelevant.

Civil rights
When buses carrying black and white passengers hoping to protest segregated facilities in Alabama were attacked, and their passengers beaten, in May 1961, Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent US marshals to protect the protestors, who came to be known as the Freedom Riders.
But Sloyan writes that neither Kennedy brother was genuinely sympathetic to their cause, concerned as they were with losing the support of white southern Democrats in ’64.
“ ‘Stop them,’ the president told Harris Wofford, his special assistant on civil rights. ‘Get your goddamn friends off the buses.’ ” Kennedy believed that the event was intended to embarrass him and put him in “a politically painful spot.”
Kennedy was so nervous about Martin Luther King Jr. that his secret recordings reveal him telling brother Bobby, “King is so hot these days that it’s like having [Karl] Marx coming to the White House.”
The president had already betrayed the civil-rights movement, failing to keep a campaign promise to end literacy tests for voting and appointing racist judges in the South.
He met with King at the White House, and informed him that despite promises he had made during his campaign, civil-rights legislation would be delayed for political reasons.
 “Kennedy,” writes Sloyan, “was not about to expend political capital on King’s priorities.”
King later said of the president, “I’m convinced he has the understanding and the political skill, but I’m afraid the moral passion is missing.”
When racial protests in Birmingham, Ala., erupted in violence in 1963, Kennedy said there was nothing he could legally do to help. This claim was quickly shot down by the deans of both Harvard and Yale law schools, with the former, Erwin Griswold, saying that “he hasn’t even started to use the powers that are available.”
It was only after Vice President Lyndon Johnson publicly took the lead on the issue that Kennedy made the tough, expedient choice to abandon southern votes and support King’s cause. He gave a speech calling for “American students of any color” to be able to attend school without fear and put forth legislation that would have “eliminated discrimination at the voting booth” and in other public spaces.

In the early ’60s, an embattled Southeast Asia was in danger of falling to the Communists.
America’s great hope for peace was South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem, who was fighting off an invasion from North Vietnam. Diem was committed to keeping communism out of his country but also refused American entreaties to make South Vietnam a full-on democracy. As such, there was a faction of our government that believed he should have been ousted.
Kennedy rejected the notion of sending US ground troops to assist Diem but made a secret agreement to provide him with 16,000 military “advisors.” He gave Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., his ambassador to South Vietnam, close to complete authority in determining the next step.
By 1963, top level Kennedy staffers were losing faith in Diem, who was gaining no traction against the Viet Cong. Plus, word of a harsh crackdown on his nation’s Buddhists was hurting his global image, and a picture of 73-year-old Thich Quang Duc setting himself on fire to protest Diem’s actions went global.
Some, including Assistant Secretary of State William Averell Harriman, began calling for America to withdraw this support. Harriman told Kennedy, of Diem, “I think we have just got to get him out. If we can get the vice president [Nguyen Van Thieu] to take the front job, we could get a few of the better generals to get together and have a junta.” The possibility that such a junta could leave Diem dead was also mentioned.
Kennedy deliberated for several months about what the result of jettisoning Diem would be. Some advisors believed it would ease their way toward defeating the Viet Cong. Montana Sen. Mike Mansfield, a top Kennedy advisor who advocated for removing US forces from the country, was, at that point, alone in fearing it would lead to “an all-out war in the jungles of Vietnam.”
Increasing doubts over Diem’s control of his government led to calls for his removal. In a decision his newly discovered recordings show he came to regret, Kennedy approved plans for a coup, despite there being no solid strategy, and no clear replacement for Diem.
After months of confused chaos, disagreement and vacillating amongst Kennedy and his brain trust, along with one failed coup attempt, it was determined that rather than actively supporting a coup, the administration would now merely agree “not to thwart one.”
“Refusing US help for Diem once the coup started became one of Kennedy’s last orders,” writes Sloyan, noting that if they had rushed in to save him, this could have revealed US involvement.
The coup was launched on Nov. 1, 1963. When Diem asked Lodge for help, the ambassador offered the protection of the US embassy but, possibly based on Kennedy’s order, would not send help to collect him, saying, “We can’t get involved.” With no way out, Diem was stuck, and he was assassinated later that day.
Lodge’s right-hand man, John Michael Dunn, later described Diem’s killing as, Sloyan writes, a “gangland murder,” a “hit” orchestrated by Lodge.
But if Lodge engineered it, Kennedy’s order gave him the tools to carry it out. When Kennedy, while meeting with his advisors, learned that Diem had been killed, “the color left his face” and he “stood and rushed from the Cabinet Room.” Gen. Maxwell Taylor, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, later remembered thinking, “What did he expect?”
Two days after Diem’s death, Lodge sent Kennedy a message.
“We should not overlook what this coup can mean,” he wrote, “in the way of shortening the war and enabling Americans to come home.”
Instead, the opposite happened. The Viet Cong’s war effort gained momentum in the wake of Saigon’s leadership vacuum, with a Viet Cong representative calling the coup and the assassination “gifts from heaven.”

“Kennedy’s order to get rid of Diem,” writes Sloyan, “was the real beginning of the American war in Vietnam.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them, is a dry-as-dust religion.” 

How The Beatles Taught Boomers About Money

By Greg Daugherty, Next Avenue Contributor

This April will mark 45 years since The Beatles broke up. That may come as a shock to members of a certain generation born between 1946 and 1964, of which I am a shocked member. Though few of us are walking around with Beatle haircuts anymore, the Fab Four still seems very much with us.

While they shaped the boomers in many ways, as a personal-finance writer, I’m intrigued by one way that’s rarely discussed: How we think about money.
That’s a thesis raised in Candy Leonard’s recent book, Beatleness: How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World.

First Purchase: Beatles Albums
“For many young fans, their first experience going to the store with friends, or saving allowance money, or earning money from lawn mowing or babysitting, was about buying Beatle stuff. Diverting lunch money was also common,” Leonard, a sociologist as well as a Beatles buff, writes. “Fans remember knowing approximately when the next record was coming out, calculating how much they’d have to save each week, and budgeting.”

It’s probably no coincidence that half the Beatles records you see at garage sales and thrift shops these days still carry the names of their former owners, written in childish script on their sleeves. The albums were that precious to us.

From ‘Money’ to ‘Taxman’
The Beatles’ songs, too, often dealt with money, proving that they were giving the matter some thought, as well. Money (That’s What I Want), a cover of a 1959 R&B hit that appeared on their second American album in the spring of 1964, was pretty clear in its message. But Can’t Buy Me Love, a Lennon-McCartney original released that summer, began to show some ambivalence.

By the time of Taxman in 1966, Baby, You’re a Rich Man in 1967, and You Never Give Me Your Money in 1969, they seemed fed up with the whole concept.

Fans, too, were beginning to become skeptical — not of The Beatles themselves, but of the commercialism that swirled around them, Leonard told me. When some discovered that the albums released in the U.S. were different from the U.K. versions — ones sold here typically had fewer songs — they felt cheated.

Accept No Substitutions
But American teenagers also got a useful lesson in the workings of the marketplace from The Beatles.

I know I did, as a young innocent, when I went to buy my first Beatles record. I picked an album that looked like the real thing but turned out to be an obscure orchestra playing their songs. Fortunately, a kindly cashier tipped me off.

I left with a 45 of I Want To Hold Your Hand as well as a lifelong habit of reading product labels and wondering what the catch is.

Skeptical or not, many of us have remained loyal customers ever since. “Boomers have purchased the Beatles catalog in so many formats and different remasterings, especially over past 40 years or so,” Leonard says. “As recently as November, a box set came out — all in mono. And fans buy it again and again.”

Of course the Beatles weren’t the only band with a thing or two to say about money. Pink Floyd (Money), The Grateful Dead (Money Money), The O’Jays (For the Love of Money), and Frank Zappa (We’re Only In It for the Money) all made contributions to the genre, as have musicians ever since.

But, as in so many other things, the lads from Liverpool had the greatest and longest-lasting impact.

As Leonard puts it: “The Beatles weren’t merely the soundtrack to important events in fans’ lives, they were the actual substance of the events and triggered the rite of passage from children to consumers.”

Greg Daugherty is a personal finance writer specializing in retirement who has written frequently for Next Avenue. He was formerly editor-in-chief at Reader’s Digest New Choices and senior editor at Money.

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John 'Hoppy' Hopkins: Photographer of London's swinging sixties dies

Among the best known figures from the decade, Hoppy photographed The Beatles and The Rolling Stones

Rose Troup Buchanan 

The British photographer, journalist, researcher and political activist John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins has died.
Hopkins, born on 15 August 1937, died at the age of 78 yesterday.
A Camridge university graduate with a degree in physics and mathematics, his career took an unexpected turn when he was given a camera on his graduation in 1957.

Arriving in London Hopkins became involved in the burgeoning underground arts scene of the 1960s, photographing many of the musical talents of that generation – including The Beatles and The Rolling Stones – while also documenting the capital’s seedy underside.
One of the founder members of the London Free School in Notting Hill, the creation of which led to the now world famous Notting Hill Carnival, he established the free news-sheet The Gate which was a forerunner of influential magazine International Times.
Hopkins was jailed for six months after being arrested for the possession of cannabis in 1967.

After electing for trial by jury, and described by the judge as a “pest to society”, a ‘Free Hoppy’ campaign sprang up which culminated in a full-page advert in The Times that called for changes to the existing laws and was signed by Francis Crick, George Melly, Jonathan Miller and the Beatles.

In his later years he worked with the British Arts Council, UNESCO and the Home Office researching the social uses of video.

He also exhibited macro photography of flowers as well as collections of images of personalities from the 1960s. 

Rod McKuen, mega-selling poet and performer, dies at 81

McKuen, one of the best-selling poets in US history, was also a singer and songwriter
January 29, 2015 

Rod McKuen, the husky-voiced "King of Kitsch" whose music, verse and spoken-word recordings in the 1960s and '70s won him an Oscar nomination and made him one of the best-selling poets in history, has died. He was 81.
McKuen died Thursday morning at a rehabilitation center in Beverly Hills, California, where he had been treated for pneumonia. McKuen had been ill for several weeks and was unable to digest food, said his half brother, Edward McKuen Habib.
Until his sabbatical in 1981, McKuen was an astonishingly successful and prolific force in popular culture, turning out hundreds of songs and poems and records, including the Academy Award-nominated song "Jean" for the 1969 film "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie."
Sentimental, earnest and unashamed, he conjured a New Age spirit world that captivated those who didn't ordinarily like "poetry" and those who craved relief from the wars, assassinations and riots of the 1960s.
"I think it's a reaction people are having against so much insanity in the world," he once said. "I mean, people are really all we've got. You know it sounds kind of corny, and I suppose it's a cliche, but it's really true; that's just the way it is."
His best known songs, some written with the Belgian composer Jacques Brel, include "Birthday Boy," ''A Man Alone," ''If You Go Away" and "Seasons In the Sun," a chart-topper in 1974 for Terry Jacks. He was also received an Oscar nomination for "A Boy Named Charlie Brown," the title track for the beloved Peanuts movie.
Frank Sinatra, Madonna, Dolly Parton and Chet Baker were among the many artists who recorded his material, although McKuen often handled the job himself, in a hushed, throaty style he had honed after an early life as a rock singer cracked his natural tenor.
He was born in Oakland on April 29, 1933, his father left when he was a baby, and he was terrified of his alcoholic stepfather. “He used me as a punching bag, so I ended up running away” at age 11, he told the San Francisco Chronicle in a 2002 interview.
During his teens he worked as a cowhand, lumberjack and ditch digger to railroad worker and rodeo cowboy. In his free time, he wrote poetry.
At 15, Mr. McKuen rejoined his mother in Oakland, where the high school dropout became a disc jockey at KROW. Thanks to a fellow KROW employee named Phyllis Diller, Mr. McKuen got a singing gig at the now-defunct Purple Onion in North Beach.

His break as a poet came in the early 1950s when he read with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg at the Jazz Cellar in San Francisco. He sometimes wrote a poem or song a day. He had no formal musical or literary training and prided himself on writing verse that anyone could understand as he bridged the Beat Generation, the hippies and the subsequent New Age of personal transformation.

Star Trek phaser will boldly fetch big bucks at auction

David Pierini

 A phaser prop from the original Star Trek series will be auctioned off next month. Photo: Propworx
A rare phaser pistol from the original Star Trek television series is “set to stun” when it goes on the auction block next month in Los Angeles.

It is made of fiberglass and one of only two known phasers to have survived the 1960s television series, which starred William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy as the leaders of the starship Enterprise.
The phaser could fetch more than $60,000, according to the website when it hits the block Feb. 21 during a Star Trek auction by Propworx.
Just whose’s weapon was this? According to auction house Propworx, it was likely used during several episodes of the second season. It has been visually matched to the March 29, 1968, episode “Assignment: Earth,” where a closeup shot puts it in the hands of a security officer in the transporter room.
A scratch and some small blemishes match the screenshot from the show and the prop up for auction. It was in the inventory of Star Trek’s production company, Desilu, before it went into the hands of a private collector after the series ended in 1969.
A page from the auction catalog shows a closeup of the phaser from a Star Trek episode and details visually matched to the prop up for bid. Photo: Propworx
Propworx serves the movie and television industry by selling off the assets of movie and TV productions. Its founder, Alec Petters, is known as one of the top collectors of Star Trek props and costumes.
While the old-school phaser is the jewel of the auction, fans can bid on 100 lots of costumes, props, models and other production materials from the Star Trek television franchise. Other items include a tricorder from The Next Generation series, a Klingon D-7 spaceship model, a Captain Sisko dress uniform and Klingon knives.
In 2013, a phaser rifle used by Shatner’s Captain Kirk was sold at auction for $231,000, according to
Propworx has two other Star Trek auctions planned for this year. Interested bidders can sign up on

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