August 8, 1974: Fate

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(Pictured: Stills, Young, Nash, and Crosby onstage in the summer of 1974.)

August 8, 1974, was a Thursday. Britain, Greece, and Turkey begin a second round of negotiations in Geneva over the fate of Cyprus, which had been invaded by Turkey last month after a Greek-backed coup overthrew the island nation’s government. New Yorkers are buzzing about stuntman Phillippe Petit, who eluded security at the World Trade Center and walked a tightrope between the two towers yesterday. In Wenatchee, Washington, investigation and cleanup continue after a railroad tank car explosion killed two and injured 66 on Tuesday. Illinois governor Dan Walker draws the first winning numbers in the new Illinois State Lottery at the State Fair in Springfield. In Georgia, Savannah State College holds its 110th commencement exercises.

Howie Pollet, star pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1940s, dies at age 53, and Nuremberg defendant Baldur von Schirach, one-time head of the Hitler Youth, dies at age 66. Future MMA fighter Mike Budnik is born. National Football League players continue a strike that began last month over a rule restricting player movement from team to team. The inaugural season of the World Football League continues; reports today claim that the league’s robust attendance figures are inflated and the vast majority of fans get in free; tonight in Jacksonville, over 43,000 watch the hometown Sharks get a last-second win over the Hawaiians 21-14. In today’s Peanuts strip, Sally channels Theodore Roosevelt to ward off a playground bully. The People’s Republic of Congo issues a stamp commemorating the joint Apollo-Soyuz space mission that will take place in 1975. In Washington, the design of what will become the Hart Senate Office Building is approved. Vice-President Gerald Ford awards the Congressional Medal of Honor to Army Lieutenant Loren Hagen of Fargo, North Dakota; Hagen was killed in action in 1971 and his father accepts the medal.

President Nixon is up before 4AM meeting with aides and making phone calls. He arrives in the Oval Office at 9AM, gets a haircut at 10:15, and spends the rest of the day in brief meetings and calls with staffers, attorneys, and members of Congress, pausing at 5:30 to veto an ag bill. At 8 in the evening, he meets with a large congressional delegation, and at 9:01 Eastern time goes on TV to announce that he will resign the next day. Network primetime schedules are disrupted by the resignation news; earlier in the day, the three broadcast networks scheduled 18 game shows and 13 soap operas, although resignation news preempted some of them. Liza Minnelli plays the Great Allentown Fair in Allentown, Pennsylvania; her show is delayed so that Nixon’s resignation speech can be broadcast over the sound system. Joni Mitchell plays Pine Knob Music Theater in suburban Detroit, where she announces Nixon’s resignation to the crowd.

Johnny Cash plays Las Vegas, and Crosby Stills Nash and Young play Jersey City, New Jersey. An unknown California rock band called Van Halen plays another of its regular gigs at Gazzari’s in West Hollywood. At WCFL in Chicago, “Annie’s Song” by John Denver is #1, knocking “Rock Your Baby” by George McCrae to #3. “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” by Elton John is at #2. The hottest record on the chart is “The Air That I Breathe” by the Hollies, leaping to #5 from #16. Also new in the top 10: “Wild Thing” by Fancy at #10. Also making a big move: “Machine Gun” by the Commodores, from #24 to #14. The #1 album at WCFL is Elton John’s Caribou. WCFL afternoon jock Larry Lujack is pictured on the back of the station’s survey alongside ads for Cruz Garcia Real Sangria and Unguentine aerosol for sunburn.

Perspective From the Present: I spent much of the resignation week with my grandparents, who had sold their farm and moved to town earlier in the year. I devoured the newspapers and watched everything that was on TV, including Nixon’s speech on the night of the 8th and the coverage of his departure the next day. Although I was only 14, I knew what I was seeing was like nothing else in American history, traumatic and sad but at the same time an example of the way the world is supposed to work: great wrongs do not go unpunished, and those who perpetrate them get the comeuppance they deserve, one way or another. It doesn’t work that way anymore, and it didn’t always work that way then, either. In 1974, however, it did.

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