History of the World According to the Movies: Part 84 – 1970s America

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Of course, disco wasn’t the only popular music genre and was actually a craze in the later 1970s yet perhaps because of the 1977 Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta, this is how we remember the 1970s. Sure this may now be a dated look into 1970s hedonistic culture to my Millennial viewers who may not believe that Travolta was actually skinny, but as far as movie history goes, it’s an essential even if it’s not very good and more like a 1970s version of Magic Mike without the stripping involved. Or that seeing John Travolta in polyester may make you feel uncomfortable.

YOLO may be a 21st century term but it definitely characterizes the attitude of the 1970s when love was free and the “Me” decade was in full swing with self-esteem, self-discovery, and individual identity. Of course, there’s the bit of environmentalism and animal rights as well as feminism and hippies which are still around from the 1960s. Also, this is a time when people use recreational drugs, get divorced, cohabitate, and you name it. Of course, costume designers love this time since nowhere is the YOLO spirit of the 1970s demonstrated in fashion. Many men wore polyester leisure suits with flaring trousers and cuffs while sporting their heavily sprayed manicured hair and sideburns and/or the handle bar mustache we tend to associate with porno movies. Many women wore feathered Farrah Fawcett hair and slinky dresses with no bras. Those who could grow a poofy afro did. Still, the 1970s was a turbulent decade with terrorism, economic duress, energy crises, crime, political scandals, you name it. Also, the Cold War is dying down but it’s still showing no signs of slowing down.

Still, in the United States, while the Vietnam War winded down in the early part of the decade, the economy would be on the decline with the rise of the rust belt and the laissez faire kind of economics dependent on the banking industry that would dominate the next few decades which would end with the 2008 recession. You have the energy crisis which raised the price of gas and encouraged people to save energy and protect the environment. Yet, when it abated people forgot about it and then had gas guzzling cars like there’s no tomorrow. You also have the big political scandal extravaganza like Watergate as well as fashions and mores may seem cool by their standards but would lead to lifelong embarrassment in later generations particularly when the young people of this time get married and reproduce (I’m talking to you, Dad). Still, American movies and music flourish in this era with creative filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, science fiction movies we can take seriously, and some of the greatest music ever made that will be cherished for generations. And no, I don’t mean disco music but it’s up there, sort of. TV would also take strides as well with M*A*S*H, Sesame Street, The Electric Company (which featured a little known actor by the name of Morgan Freeman. Yes, that Morgan Freeman), Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Saturday Night Live, and The Muppet Show. Still, you have more women entering the workforce as well as the gays rising with single parenthood no longer taboo. There are a lot of movies made at this time which contain their share of inaccuracies I shall list.

Richard Nixon:

Richard Nixon was an alcoholic. (I’m not sure about this but apparently Oliver Stone believes so.)

Richard Nixon gave Leonoid Brezhnev with a Lincoln Continental at Casa Pacifica. (Contrary to Frost/Nixon, he presented a Lincoln Continental to Brezhnev at Camp David in 1973.)

Richard Nixon was conservative. (He styled himself as a Cold War centrist whose healthcare plan may have been more liberal than Barack Obama’s {which Ted Kennedy opposed but later regretted calling it “the biggest mistake of his career.” Yet, many would beg to differ, as we remember Chappaquiddick} as well as supported the failed Equal Rights Amendment. He’d also start the EPA, Amtrak, and OSHA, increase benefits for government programs, expand desegregation, and ended forced assimilation for Native Americans. Yet, he did start the War on Drugs and cut spending for NASA. Still, if Nixon wasn’t such a dick, he may have been a great president.)

Richard Nixon was a big potty mouth. (He swore, yes. But Jack Brennan never knew of a time when Nixon dropped a single F-bomb. “Expletive deleted” might’ve consisted of “hell” and “damn.” Besides, Lyndon B. Johnson may have been much worse, profanity wise.)

Pat Nixon:

Pat Nixon was an alcoholic with a pill addiction. (This is grossly exaggerated in Nixon yet, you can understand why the Nixon daughters hated it.)

Harvey Milk:

Harvey Milk’s publicity stunt with scooping up dog poop was real. (It was staged which Milk doesn’t mention.)

Most of Harvey Milk’s supporters were young, gay, white men. (Actually contrary to Milk, they consisted of gays of all ages, shapes, sizes, creeds, and colors as well as senior citizens {ironically}, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and women. He fought for their causes with great passion for their concerns, too along with those of gay men. Call his support base a rainbow coalition if you will. “He stood for something more than just him” as one commentator put it, but Harvey Milk has become so identified as a gay icon that he’s mostly associated with gay rights which is fair. Not to mention, his tenure in elected office lasted less than a year. Still, Sean Penn was perfect as Milk despite being straight and not so loveable and his Oscar was much deserved.)

Dan White:

San Francisco Supervisor Dan White was a closeted homosexual. (While Milk implies this, there’s no suggestion that this might have been true, but let’s just say his rampage at San Francisco’s City Hall wasn’t due to chemicals found in Twinkies but mental instability and professional jealousy. Still, Dan White was able to get away with manslaughter with his defense arguing that the killings of Harvey Milk and George Moscone weren’t premeditated {when they totally were} as well as having a jury that his all white, conservative, and straight. Still, San Francisco responded strongly to the Milk and Moscone’s murders since it shortly after the Jonestown Massacre and the killing of US Representative Leo Ryan {the only Congressman to be killed in the line of duty}.)

Dan White’s lawyers argued that consumption of junk food caused a chemical imbalance in his brain. (His lawyers had psychologists say that he was clinically depressed which led to him consuming vast amounts of junk food. However, I think he was just a crazy guy.)

Dan White’s first child was born in January 1978. (His son was born in June, yet Harvey Milk did attend the boy’s christening despite White’s grudge against him.)

Karen Silkwood:

Karen Silkwood was naïve and not quite bright. (A lot of people Karen Silkwood knew weren’t very happy with Meryl Streep’s portrayal of her. According to her father from a People magazine article, “The movie made her look not very bright and a hick Tobacco Road type. Karen was brilliant. She was an A student. I’ll tell you what happened. The lawyers were scared of that damn movie, and [director] Mike Nichols didn’t stick to his guns.” A union official who worked with her said the film portrayed her as more naïve and less political savvy than she really was.)

Sheri Ellis:
Sheri Ellis was a moody lesbian who might’ve betrayed Karen Silkwood. (The real Sheri Ellis was miffed at such insinuation that appeared in Silkwood. After her roommate’s death she invaded the Kerr-McGee plant with a .22 rifle that turned out to be unloaded. Like Silkwood, she was also exposed to radiation on a daily basis and she shared an apartment with her {which had to be decontaminated in which the process took three months}, not a house. Ellis was also fired from Kerr-McGee a few months later for flying a paper airplane in the plant according to her. Still, she didn’t mind being portrayed as a lesbian though but she declined to reveal her sexual orientation.)

Patch Adams:

Patch Adams was just a funny doctor who believed that laughter was the best medicine. (Contrary to the Robin Williams film, Adams’s ideas amounted to much more than that such as having loving and caring doctors as well as sending clowns into war zones, refugee camps, and orphanages. Not only that but he also believed in free care. In fact, his Gesuntheidt Institute was the main reason Adams wanted the film to be made, since he needed money. )

Patch Adams tried to kill himself while he was a middle aged man. (Contrary to the biopic, he was 17 to 18 years old, yet it’s more believable to have him in a mid-life crisis as played by Robin Williams rather as a kid who’s life had just gone through a shitty adolescence such as his dad dying while stationed in Germany, having to adjust to civilian life in Virginia, his uncle and father figure committing suicide while Patch was in college, and his high school girlfriend breaking up with him. Not only that, but he received the nickname, “Patch” by a fellow patient he had befriended who “patched up” the loneliness in his life, not a psychiatrist. He was also hospitalized in a mental institution on 3 separate occasions. So in medical school, he wouldn’t have been much older than most of his peers.)

Patch Adams met his girlfriend Connie Fisher in medical school who was murdered. (Actually his girlfriend was his future wife Linda Edquist with whom he had children with and divorced in 1998. As to the person he knew who was killed, it was actually his best friend who was a guy.)

While in medical school, Patch Adams practiced without a license and stole medical supplies. (Contrary to the Robin Williams movie, the real Patch Adams never did these things which would be considered felonies.)

Sports:

Billy Martin was the manager for the New York Yankees in 1972. (He was the manager of the Detroit Tigers at this time and wouldn’t manage the Yankees until 1975.)

The Baltimore Bullets moved the Washington DC in the early 1970s. (They didn’t move there until after 1974 and displaying support for them wouldn’t be seen cool in DC during the Nixon administration.)

Dickie Eklund knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard in a 1978 fight. (Contrary to The Fighter, he didn’t and says so nowadays though he’d brag about it for years. Most likely, he more or less tripped Leonard but the latter won anyway by a unanimous decision.)

Muhammad Ali:

Angelo Dundee was at Muhammad Ali’s Ali-Quarry fight. (This was the only fight Dundee wasn’t with him.)

Muhammad Ali sat down after each round against George Foreman. (Contrary to Ali, he wouldn’t sit down during the fight at the end of the film. I hope Ali didn’t get grilled, get it.)

Before the Ali/Foreman fight, Muhammad Ali had an argument with his wife Sonji of him seeing Veronica. (Contrary to Ali, it happened before the 3rd round of the Ali/Frazier fight “The Thrilla in in Manila” in 1975. And it wasn’t with Sonji because they were divorced by this point. Rather it was with his second wife Belinda.)

Music:

“Fooled Around And Fell In Love” was a hit in 1970. (It was released in 1976.)

Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good” was hit in 1976. (It was released in 1978.)

Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” was a popular hit in 1974. (It was released in 1980.)

Steely Dan was a popular group in 1971. (Their first album came out in 1972.)

Bobby Darin:

Sandra Dee stayed with Bobby Darin in the hospital when he was dying in 1973. (She was in an alcohol induced denial at home and was passed out on the floor that her family had to break into her house to find her and notify her of Darin’s death. Also, Darin’s second wife was banished from his room because she couldn’t hold her tears {she’s not in Beyond the Sea though}.)

Tina Turner:

Tina Turner attempted suicide in 1974. (Contrary to What’s Love Got to Do with It, she attempted suicide before a show in LA in 1969 shortly after she learned a friend and fellow Ikette was pregnant with Ike Turner’s child.)

Tina Turner addressed the courtroom to keep her stage name. (According to an interview with Oprah, she said her lawyer did after Tina advised him to drop a potential financial support suit as their divorce dragged on for a year.)

The Runaways:

Joan Jett wore leather pants throughout her career. (Contrary to The Runaways, she said she never did but only wore jeans.)

Joan Jett wrote “I Love Rock n Roll.” (Jake Hooker wrote it.)

Television:

Carol Kane was on the first season of Taxi. (She wasn’t on the show until the second season.)
Andy Kaufman:

Andy Kaufman was the host of SNL’s first episode. (Contrary to Man on the Moon, it was George Carlin.)

Lorne Michaels asked the home viewing audience to vote Andy Kaufman off SNL. (This happened in in 1982 while Michaels wasn’t on the show. He’d return in 1985.)

Andy Kaufman did his Jimmy Carter impression before SNL began. (Contrary to Man on the Moon, Kaufman couldn’t have done this since before the election of 1976, Jimmy Carter was a virtual unknown outside Georgia. Kaufman was from Long Island. Also, SNL began in 1975.)

Andy Kaufman met his girlfriend Lynn while wrestling women on The Merv Griffin Show. (Contrary to Man on the Moon, they met between 1981-82 when his “wrestling” career was dying down. Actually they met during the filming of My Breakfast With Blassie.)

Hollywood:

Deep Throat made $600 million at the box office. (Contrary to Lovelace, according to Roger Ebert, “Since the mob owned most of the porn theaters in the pre-video days and inflated box office receipts as a way of laundering income from drugs and prostitution, it is likely, in fact, that ‘Deep Throat’ did not really gross $600 million, although that might have been the box office tally.” Still, none of the money made went to Linda Lovelace.)

John Wayne died in 1978. (He died in 1979.)

Hugh Hefner was in his 30s in 1972. (Contrary to Lovelace, he was in his forties, but he’s portrayed in the film by James Franco.)

Linda Lovelace:

Chuck Traynor sold Linda Lovelace to five men for a gang bang after the Deep Throat premiere. (Contrary to Lovelace, while both the real Linda Lovelace and Traynor did say that happened {but while Lovelace claimed it was rape, Traynor said she wanted to do it}, it may have took place at the beginning of their marriage before Deep Throat, before their marriage, before fame.)

Porn was a complete hell for Linda Lovelace. (Contrary to Lovelace, the real Linda Lovelace didn’t see doing porn as the worst part of her life. Her relationship with Chuck Traynor was complete hell from the beginning and would never improve. She would be stuck in that really terrible relationship for years and endure a ton of abuse. While porn may not be a recommended career for anyone, Lovelace’s work in the porn industry and her gradual rise as a porn star would allow her more independence as well as gave her a life chance to escape. She always said that Deep Throat was “at once a low point and a salvation.”)

Bruce Lee:

Demons were the cause of Bruce Lee’s early death. (Contrary to Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, they weren’t nor was his death the result of a family curse. His death was more likely due to an adverse reaction to a prescription painkiller called Equagesic {now banned in the UK} given to him by Betty Ting Pei and Nepal hashish marijuana {that he ingested, not smoked}, which is said to be near lethal. He might’ve been allergic to marijuana but let’s just say Betty Ting Pei’s idea of giving him a Equagesic tablet wasn’t a good idea. Not to mention, he’s said to be on anabolic steroids.)

Betty Ting Pei was Bruce Lee’s mistress. (Well, she’s believed to be his mistress but it’s unconfirmed.)

Miscellaneous:

There were an army of policemen present at the 1970 Syracuse University strike who attacked the students with their nightsticks. (Contrary to Born on the Fourth of July, according to New York Democratic state senator Nancy Larraine Hoffmann, a former student who participated in the strike, “It was totally unlike the characterization in the movie. There was no police presence even within sight. At no time was there any show of force, or any attempt to disperse students listening to speakers. It troubles me to see police officers maligned for Hollywood sensationalism.”)

Vietnamese immigration was unlimited in 1973. (It was limited to families of servicemen until 1975.)

President Jimmy Carter suffered from heat exhaustion in 1976. (He suffered from heat exhaustion in 1979. Also, as of 1976, he wasn’t president yet.)

Swifty Lazaar of CBS was much younger than Richard Nixon. (He was six years older than Nixon but Toby Jones is 30 years younger than Frank Langella.)

HBO was around during the 1970s. (Not until the 1980s.)

USA Today was around in 1970. (It’s first issue was in 1982.)

Ms. Pac-Man was around in 1978. (She wasn’t around until the 1980s.)

Wayne Dyer wrote The Power of Intention during the 1970s. (He wrote the book in 2004, yet Jennifer Lawrence cites this all the time in American Hustle.)

New York City bridges had blue necklace lights during this time. (Not until the Manhattan Bridge Reconstruction Program of 1982.)

The Boys and Girls Club of America existed at this time. (Yes, but it was just the Boys Club of America. It wouldn’t’ go by its present name until 1990.)

Food labels had “Nutrition Facts” on them during this time. (Not until 1994.)

The Advocate was a magazine in the 1970s. (It was a tabloid newspaper at this time. It would become a magazine in 1992.)

The New York City Rockettes had a black member in the 1970s. (They didn’t have a black member until 1988.)

Lever doorknobs existed in 1971 in most public buildings in the United States. (Not until the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.)

The Met Life building existed during the early 1970s. (Yes, but it was known as the Pan Am building.)

The World Finance Center and the World Trade Center were around in 1971. (The World Trade Center was just being constructed while the World Finance Center hadn’t been built yet.)

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