Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Covering 1968

A while back I was asked to help behind the scenes (way behind the scenes!) with an upcoming museum exhibition on the year 1968. The Oakland Museum of California is a partner, and I spent a day there offering thoughts on the game plan, which sounds very cool.

The working title is the 1968 Project, and Brian Horrigan has created a weblog to get the ball rolling. I bring it up now because Brian posted this week about Ramparts and its coverage of the 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago.

When reflecting on 1968, it's easy to focus on the political turbulence and miss a wealth of other cultural material. The risk there, perhaps, is to view the politics as unmoored from its social context. My sense is that the Project 1968 team is working hard to see that year steadily and whole--no small task.

One of the serendipitous outcomes of my day at the museum was meeting David Gans, the musician who hosts KPFA's show on the Grateful Dead. Since then, I've visited with David more, read quite a lot about the Dead, and even visited the new archive at UC Santa Cruz (Nicholas Meriwether, proprietor). David also appeared at my California culture class to discuss the Dead and play a song he wrote about Jerry Garcia. Which was a lot more fun than anything in my undergraduate education. (The classroom part, anyway.)

By coincidence, I'll be at the Oakland Museum today on California Studies Association business. The museum has been a good partner over the years, and I'm looking forward to hearing more about their plans.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Baron Wolman

This week I had the pleasure of hearing from Baron Wolman, who contributed many key photographs to Ramparts. He took the Oakland 7 photo I discuss in the Ramparts book as well as two others, of Jann Wenner and Carol Doda, that actually appear (uncredited) in that book. Let this post be my first step toward full penance.

In his email, Baron writes, "I shot photos/covers for the magazine (and for Stermer) without ever much knowing of its origins and deliberately staying away from the theater you so well described."

In addition to forgiving my oversight, Baron told me he was Rolling Stone's first chief photographer. He also offered this valuable historical footnote.
At my urging Jann started a Rolling Stone look-alike paper called Earth Times. It was as close to environmental muckraking as Jann ever got but immediately suffered from advertisers, both potential and existing, becoming worried about the paper’s willingness to speak uncomfortable truths. Seeing the difficulty in keeping both papers going (we still had regular cash crises at the Stone), he handed it over to the staff, which tried valiantly to keep it going, but, well, you can imagine the rest. Earth Times drew from Ramparts in that I think it had some of the writers but equally in that it tried to educate the readers (and the People) about what could lie ahead if we didn’t start caring about the environment.

When Jann moved Rolling Stone from Brannan St. to Fourth Street, I took over the Rolling Stone editorial offices above Garret Press for the fashion magazine I helped start called Rags. We hired away many of Rolling Stone’s staff (including Jon Carroll and John Burks), borrowed some of Stone’s/Stermer’s design elements, and also printed on newsprint on Garret Press’ machines downstairs from the offices. We described Rags as “the Rolling Stone of fashion.”

Here's Baron's website. I hope it's OK that I cribbed one more photo for this post. Note his tasty photographs of the Grateful Dead. Could come in handy--this time with appropriate credit.

Many thanks, Baron.

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