August 15, 1973: Tantrums

(Protesters march against the TV show Maude and its abortion-themed episodes, 1973.)

(This is a brand-new, never-before-seen-anywhere post.)

August 15, 1973, was a Wednesday. In June, Congress passed a bill cutting off funding for American operations in Vietnam after August 15, ending direct military involvement in the war. Today, the final American air combat missions of the war are flown over Cambodia, and the aircraft carrier Constellation leaves harbor in the Gulf of Tonkin, where American ships have operated since 1964. President Nixon gives a nationally televised address on the Watergate affair. He insists he had no prior knowledge of the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters or of any coverup, and he suggests that tapes of his Oval Office conversations are covered by executive privilege. He also criticizes Congress for “a continued backward-looking obsession with Watergate.” An Associated Press survey in 12 major cities finds that the price of eggs has risen in eight of them. The largest increase was in Los Angeles, where a dozen eggs, which cost 69 cents on July 31, cost 88 cents this week. Major candymakers including Hershey and Curtiss are deciding whether to raise prices or further decrease the size of their products due to the rising price of raw cocoa beans. Hershey’s famous 10-cent chocolate bar was reduced in size by 0.12 ounces in January.

In major league baseball, a Baltimore win coupled with a Detroit loss puts the Orioles in first place in the American League East by one-half game. In the West, Kansas City expands its lead over idle Oakland to one game with a win over Cleveland. St. Louis and Los Angeles are divisional leaders in the National League. This afternoon, the Chicago Cubs lose to the Atlanta Braves 15-1. It’s their 10th straight loss. (The streak will reach 11 before the team finally gets a win on Friday.)

Nixon’s Watergate speech delays or pre-empts scheduled network programming: The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, Dan August, and Cannon on CBS; Adam-12, The Wednesday Mystery Movie, and SEARCH on NBC; and the sitcom Love Thy Neighbor, the TV movie Duel, and Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law on ABC. Last night, CBS repeated a controversial episode of the sitcom Maude, in which the title character, played by Beatrice Arthur, considers whether to get an abortion. Twenty-five of the 198 CBS affiliates did not carry the show, including stations in Milwaukee, Boston, New Orleans, and Seattle. The United States Catholic Conference has been pressuring CBS affiliates not to the air the rerun. When the episode was originally broadcast in November 1972 (when abortion was legal in New York State, where Maude is set, but before January’s Supreme Court national ruling in the case of Roe v. Wade), only two stations refused to carry it. A second abortion episode is scheduled for next week.

The Illinois State Fair continues in Springfield, where Bobby Goldsboro will perform two shows tonight at the grandstand. In Chicago, WCFL runs newspaper ads for its upcoming live broadcast of Chicago’s sold-out show at Chicago Stadium on Sunday night, which will be hosted by afternoon DJ Larry Lujack. On the latest Super CFL Survey, “Get Down” by Gilbert O’Sullivan is #1, knocking “Yesterday Once More” by the Carpenters to #2. “Diamond Girl” by Seals and Crofts makes a strong move from #12 to #5. “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings is even hotter, jumping from #18 to #7, the single biggest move on the survey. Also new in the Top 10: “Uneasy Rider” by the Charlie Daniels Band. Also making strong upward moves: “Are You Man Enough” by the Four Tops and “We’re An American Band” by Grand Funk, both up eight spots. New songs within the Top 40 are “My Maria” by B. W. Stevenson and “Loves Me Like a Rock” by Paul Simon.

Perspective From the Present: I would probably have watched the Nixon speech that night, and Maude the night before—although I doubt I knew what an abortion was, and the Maude episode did not use the word. I would have been suffering along with the Cubs, who were as sick of losing as their fans. On Tuesday, pitcher Ferguson Jenkins had a bat-throwing tantrum after being pulled in the fifth inning of the ninth loss in the streak, 5-1 to Atlanta at Wrigley Field. It was the last summer I played Little League baseball, at which I was even more inept than the Cubs. As one hot day followed another, I eagerly listened to the radio, reluctantly did farm work and took saxophone lessons, and certainly looked forward to returning to school—the eighth grade—in a couple of weeks.

May 17, 1973: Damage

(Pictured: the launch of Skylab, 1973.)

May 17, 1973, was a Thursday. The U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities opens televised hearings into the burglary of Democratic National Committee offices in Washington’s Watergate office complex. President Nixon talks to his lawyer, Fred Buzhardt, about the Huston Plan, a domestic spying program devised in 1970 to disrupt student protest movements—a conversation that will be recorded on the White House taping system to be revealed at the Watergate hearings later in the summer. Nixon is concerned that the Watergate committee knows about the plan, and he hopes to concoct a strategy to contain the political damage if the plan (which was never carried out, over objections from the FBI) is revealed. The president also signs an executive order regarding the “Inspection of Income, Excess-Profits, Estate, Gift, and Excise Tax Returns” by the Senate Commerce Committee. The Reverend Sun Myung Moon gives a speech in which he declares, among other things, “The whole world is in my hand, I will conquer and subjugate the world.” Three nuclear weapons are exploded underground in Colorado. The blasts, code-named Rio Bravo, are intended to release hard-to-get natural gas resources in the area. Rio Bravo is part of Operation Plowshare, an ongoing effort by the Atomic Energy Commission to find peaceful industrial uses for nuclear weapons. (The gas released will be too radioactive for use.)

The first group of three Skylab astronauts was to be launched today, but the launch has been postponed until the 25th. The first task for former moon-walker Pete Conrad, Paul Weitz, and Joe Kerwin will be fix damage to the orbiter suffered during its launch this past Monday. The three will spend 28 days in space, doubling the previous American record for mission length. CBS-TV airs the 1967 movie Countdown, starring James Caan as an American astronaut sent on a year-long mission to the moon. It follows an episode of The Waltons. NBC’s primetime lineup includes The Flip Wilson Show, Ironside, and The Dean Martin Show. ABC has The Mod Squad, Kung Fu, and Streets of San Francisco. During the day, the three broadcast networks air 17 game shows and 14 soap operas. The New York Review of Books publishes a review of the controversial movie Last Tango in Paris.

David Bowie plays Dundee, Scotland, and is mobbed by fans on the way to his limo afterward. In London, the Rolling Stones wrap up 11 days of work on their forthcoming album, Goats Head Soup. Canadian rock band Bachman-Turner Overdrive releases its first album. At WCFL in Chicago, the top of the survey dated May 12, 1973, comprises a strange brew of rock and cheese: “Sing” by the Carpenters (at #1), “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” by Vicki Lawrence,  Donny Osmond’s “The Twelfth of Never,” and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando and Dawn alongside Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein,” “Hocus Pocus” by Focus, and Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years.” WCFL’s album chart for the week is topped by Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. The top 10 also includes both new Beatles compilations, 1962-1966 and 1967-70, released last month.