August 1, 1969: Are You Kidding?

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(Pictured: Joe Namath of the New York Jets, who probably wouldn’t have traded places with anyone else either.)

August 1, 1969, was a Friday. On his foreign tour, President Nixon has already visited the Phillippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. He starts today in New Delhi, India, before moving on to Lahore, Pakistan. He meets privately with the Pakistani president in the afternoon, then hosts a dinner for the American traveling party before turning in for the night. He will visit Romania and the United Kingdom before returning home next week. The Nixon trip leads all three network TV newscasts tonight. All three also cover an unfolding murder mystery in southeastern Michigan, where five young women have been found dead in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti since March. Also today, three California newspapers receive nearly identical letters claiming responsibility for three recent murders there. In years to come, the incident will represent the beginning of the Zodiac case—a mystery that will be unsolved 49 years later. In the Gulf of Mexico off St. Petersburg, Florida, 13-year-old Robert Wamser is attacked by a shark while swimming in three feet of water. He is in fair condition after surgery.

The College All-Star Game is played in Chicago. The annual game matches a team of top college football stars against the defending NFL champions. This year that’s the New York Jets, who upset the Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl last January. Jets quarterback Joe Namath, who had retired in the offseason due to controversy over his investment in a New York City nightclub and un-retired just two weeks ago, is booed during the pregame introductions. A few high-profile college stars, including O. J. Simpson of USC, skip the game, preferring not to risk injury. The outcome is in doubt with two minutes to go, but the Jets hang on to win, 26-24. In baseball, the National and American Leagues are in their first season of divisional play. The hottest race is in the National League West, where Houston and Cincinnati are on winning streaks; five of the six teams in the division are now within 3 1/2 games of the lead, which is held by Atlanta. In the National League East, the Cubs have a seven-game lead on the Mets. In the American League, Baltimore is on cruise control in the East with a 14-game lead over Detroit; in the West, Minnesota leads Oakland by 3 1/2. The Twins win tonight’s showdown with the Orioles 4-3 despite leaving 15 runners on base.

The Atlantic City Pop Festival opens today; the three-day event features Iron Butterfly, Procol Harum, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Byrds, Janis Joplin, and lots of others. Tonight, the Beach Boys play the Schaefer Summer Music Festival in New York City. In Los Angeles, the Summer Shower of Stars series at the Hollywood Bowl features Blood Sweat and Tears. Led Zeppelin plays Santa Barbara, California, with openers Jethro Tull and Fraternity of Man. Elvis Presley continues an engagement at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, his first concerts in eight years. Earlier in the day, he holds a press conference, at which he’s asked whether his return has anything to do with the success of Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck; how he likes fatherhood and what his life is like at Graceland; about his movie career and whether he dyes his hair; and finally, if there’s anyone he’d rather be. His response: “Are you kidding?”

At KTKT in Tucson, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” by Jackie de Shannon is the new #1, knocking “In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans to #2. “My Cherie Amour” by Stevie Wonder is #3. “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones vaults to #4 from #12 last week. Other major movers include “We Got More Soul” by Dyke and the Blazers, up to #9 from #16, Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay,” up to #15 from #26, and “True Grit” by Glen Campbell, up to #20 from #38. The hottest record in Tucson, however, is “A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash, which is up 23 spots this week to #12.

Perspective From the Present: I was nine years old and I looked at the newspaper regularly, but apart from the sports, I wouldn’t have cared about much of what I saw in it. On this day, I was probably looking forward to visiting my cousin for a few days. We exchanged multi-day overnight visits every summer. I remember the date of my 1969 visit for an odd reason: the Tate/LaBianca murders happened the next weekend, and I saw the story in the paper while I was there.


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