Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A remembrance of things past

So, it's come to my attention that many online almanacs list today, July 21st, as the day mankind (in the person of Neil Armstrong) first set foot on the surface of the moon.

Well, maybe, sort of. Here on the East Coast, it all took place on July 20th (1969). I remember it quite well. At the time, I was working at a "coffee house" in Ocean City, New Jersey called the Purple Dragon. Back then a "coffeehouse" was a place to get coffee or a soda, sit around with friends, read bad poetry aloud ("Interesting". "no, really, I liked it") and sing folk/protest songs. The Purple Dragon was funded as a youth project of the Methodist Church. It had started life as the "Open House" just off the boardwalk at 10th street. Hmmm, I think I'll save those stories for another day. At any rate, the Dragon had no TV, so I went over to Sweaty Mama's. (Sweaty Mama was the nickname of a friend who was a local Earth Mother Goddesses.) I was part of a small group who sat gathered around her "portable" television. It looked very much like the one in this photo. 

The broadcast images were grainy and unclear, but about 4:15 in the afternoon, the lunar module, named "Eagle", landed on the moon. And then we waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, as it was getting towards 11pm, Niel Armstrong started to step down the module's ladder. It was like a dream. I was 18 years old, and I was watching history unfold. It was a hell of a thing.

The above is NASA's newly restored footage. Sadly, it doesn't have the moment Armstrong first put foot on the moon, but then again it was blurry and hard to make out.

A few years ago, there was a wonderful story making the rounds. When Apollo Mission Astronaut Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon, he not only gave his famous "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" statement but followed it by several remarks, usual com traffic between him, the other astronauts and Mission Control. Just before he re-entered the lander, however, he made the enigmatic remark "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky."

Many people at NASA thought it was a casual remark concerning some rival Soviet Cosmonaut. However, upon checking, there was no Gorsky in either the Russian or American space programs. Over the years many people questioned Armstrong as to what the "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky" statement meant, but Armstrong always just smiled.

On July 5, 1995 (in Tampa Bay, FL) while answering questions following a speech, a reporter brought up the 26-year-old question to Armstrong. This time he finally responded. Mr. Gorsky had died and so he felt that he could answer the question.

When he was a kid, he was playing baseball with a friend in the backyard. His friend hit a fly ball which landed in the front of his neighbor's bedroom windows. His neighbors were Mr. & Mrs. Gorsky.

As he leaned down to pick up the ball, young Armstrong heard Mrs. Gorsky shouting at Mr. Gorsky, "Oral sex! You want oral sex?! You'll get oral sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!"

Oh, wait. The almanacs have it as "1969 Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin become the first men to walk on the Moon". Well, having the two of them on the surface would be right for the 21st. Never mind. We know the whole thing was a hoax anyway.

Today is also the birthday of singer Kay Starr. She was a big band singer, appearing with Joe Venuti's band, and had short stints with Bob Crosby and Glenn Miller. In the early early 1950's she had a couple of very big hits. The reason I'm mentioning this is that it gives me an excuse to post a Scopitone of her biggest hit. Scopitones were sort of a visual jukebox, using 16mm film.

The first Scopitones were made in France in the late 1950's. They became hugely popular, but by the late 60's they had just about faded from view. The last Scopitone was made in 1978. Here's one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Kay Starr - Wheel Of Fortune
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