Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Al Capp Radio Show Tapes: Issue #2

We continue with another historic installment of The Al Capp Radio Show, a satiric spot feature from the turn of the 1970s. Be sure to check out our other posts here at MangMade regarding this venture into controversial talk radio by the creator of Li'l Abner, Al Capp.

THE AL CAPP RADIO SHOW: Tape 1, Episode 2
"Mr. Capp, Julie and David Eisenhower have been criticized for not joining moratoriums. What do you have to say about that?"
The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam was actually a series of protest events which topped its highest peaks of success in raising awareness for opposition to the war on October 15 and November 16, 1969. Anti-war activists mobilized millions of participants engaging in huge peace protests spread throughout the country. A crowd estimated to be 100,000 strong rallied in Capp's own Greater Boston area while 500,000 marched on Washington DC in November.

Popular figures of past and present joined in. Singers Joan Baez, Eartha Kitt, Dr. Benjamin Spock, the writer of our nation's baby owner's manual and frequent target of Capp's ridicule, George McGovern (ditto), and Ted Kennedy (mm-hmm) all took part, with the senators calling for the troops to be withdrawn by '72. While at Oxford, a young Bill Clinton helped to organize the simultaneous Moratorium demonstrations in England. This act became an issue years later in his 1992 presidential campaign.

The events included
the era's now iconic forms of splashy organized protest: marches, school walkouts, even closing campuses in some cases to allow students to discuss the war. The manner of tactics employed were increasingly the inspirations for Capp's plots and gags in Li'l Abner and targets of his withering contempt elsewhere. During this time many fans felt the strip's tone had become shrill. It's apparent Capp would think, "likewise." Abner fans, while fondly remembering the strips of short years prior, hold these sequences as the strip's nadir. As to how fondly the radio show is remembered... well, people still remember the Li'l Abner "comical strip."

In this episode, the woman
posing the question uses the word "moratoriums" (yes, you heard right, not the proper, more uplifting moratoria). These demonstrations and others would be filled with rock music, a hearty mix of celebrities and the likes of the profanely romantic S.W.I.N.E. (Capp's Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything). But they were certainly not attended by squares like Julie and David Eisenhower, whom Capp believed actually represented 98% of the day's youth that would eventually have to clean up the mess left by the strident 2% receiving sympathetic coverage by the press and pandering from politicians like George McGovern.

Richard Nixon's 20-year old daughter Julie had married Dwight Eisenhower's 20-year old grandson David in December 1968. Their year-long engagement had been part of the Nixon presidential campaign story. "I always campaign better with an Eisenhower," Nixon would capably wink on the trail.

Young Julie and David were celebrities by virtue of being the progeny of the political administration that had led America through the relatively graceful, stable 1950s. Observing the couple, each attending Smith and Amherst, the establishment would regard them as what was right about collegiate America: sensible, good, Republican youth. To his peers, David's opinion that it would be unfair to abolish the draft (as Nixon had proposed) and leave the nation's defense to a volunteer army left most campus baby boomers cold. Capp would indeed find it strange that today it is these same baby boomer liberals suggesting to reinstate the draft in the same name of fairness.

Capp's sarcastic response to the question is simply that these kids can't get anything right. Their traditional courtship and (SHUDDER) marriage had become passe by apparent standards in 1968. The couple's core values were anathema to the counter-culture crowd. Much of the vocal idealism of the day's youth was simply to embrace contrariety of whatever the previous generation may have held dear because that's a drag, man. So, Capp rattles off a litany of David and Julie's actions and inactions as though they were obviously misguided innocents clueless of their being so very square. "What else can you expect from kids with fathers like theirs?" Capp closes by postulating what would have happened had Julie and David's fathers and grandfathers supported moritoriums and American surrender in their youth and what it would have meant for 1960s moritorium leaders.

Related Links:

Julie and David Eisenhower TIME article
The Vietnam Moratorium by Jeremy Brecher (1969)
BBC On This Day: Millions march in US Vietnam Moratorium
Moratorium - Vanderbilt Television News Archive
Great Al Capp articles from Animation Archive
"Joanie Phoney" Li'l Abner episode strips at Mark Kausler's CatBlog
Art from Capp's Hardhat's Bedtime Story Book

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