Dateline 1960: A Time For Greatness — Updated


Update: A time for greatness indeed. Cuban cigars will become legal for the first time since the Kennedy administration.

* * *


The last in our troika of JFK-themed posts is the announcement of a new book by Taschen. The $150 tome reproduces the article “Superman Comes To The Supermarket,” which Norman Mailer penned for Esquire in 1960. Also included are some 300 photos for the hardcore Camelot fan. Below is Taschen’s description of the book. — CC

With his Hollywood good looks, boundless enthusiasm, and mesmeric media presence, John F. Kennedy was destined to capture the imaginations of the more than 70 million Americans who watched the nation’s first televised presidential debate. Just days after beating out Richard Nixon by the narrowest margin in history, Kennedy himself said, “It was the TV more than anything else that turned the tide.”

But one man begged to differ: writer Norman Mailer, who bragged that his pro-Kennedy treatise, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” had “won the election for Kennedy.” The article, published in Esquire magazine just weeks before polls opened, redefined political reporting with Mailer’s frank, first-person voice identifying Kennedy as the “existential hero” who could awaken the nation from its postwar slumber and conformist Eisenhower years. Both Kennedy and New Journalism had arrived.

34 Comments on "Dateline 1960: A Time For Greatness — Updated"

  1. TV, Norman Mailer or was it Mayor Daily and dead democratic voters? Chicago, somethings never change. 😉

  2. …It is altogether comic that plenty of American conservatives (a lion’s share of them Evangelicals) wear t shirts and jeans and other forms of lowest common denominator garbage whereas left-leaning radicals, liberal Protestants, social critics, and Brooklyn-dwelling hipsters wear Ivy or something resembling.

  3. S.E. So true.

    On the other hand, “left-leaning radical” these days doesn’t mean the SDS and the Weathermen (one of whose bombs, we all recall, exploded by accident in the West 11th St. basement of the maker’s parents).

    It refers to Elizabeth Warren wanting to limit the exposure of the taxpayer to the leveraged speculations of large financial institutions. Oh, how the mighty have fallen! (irony alert)

  4. There is not anything Liz Warren supports that would limit taxpayer exposure, “too big to fail” has just been codified by laws she supports.

  5. RJG
    Google OWS and bombs

  6. MAC

    For context, I was thinking of a recent mainstream talking-heads discussion on Warren’s chances to beat out Hillary for the Democratic nomination. One view was that she is too left and radical. Then recall that Glass Steagall was repealed under Clinton (not Reagan or Bush Papa) and it gives a sense how far ideas about “left” have shifted.

  7. Everyone knows that before Kennedy imposed the ban, he made sure that he got as many Cuban cigars as he could. As usual, a Democrat imposed on others something he himself had no intention of doing.

  8. Talk about polticizing everything. Everyone stockpiled cuban stogies, and it just happened to be a Democrat in the White House when we ceased relations with Cuba.

    In the mid-90s I spent some time working at a couple of tobacconists before getting my first writing job. Worked at one in Albany, a small town next to Berkeley. Got to some pre-embargo cubans that had been in storage the past few decades. Not bad. The pre-World War II Balkan Sobranie pipe tobacco was better. The texture of the smoke was like a silken cloud.

  9. Great pic-I’ll stay out of the politics lol

  10. Ah yes, his Petit Upmann

  11. Cubans have always been available, it’s who you know. Besides, we are all descendants of smugglers one way or the other.

    It’s hard to comment on Kennedy or Mailer without politics, one’s profession and the other’s subject.

  12. Thank you, MAC. CC, I like to inject a wee antidote to the Kennedy worship that is so prevalent (I am not accusing you of this).

    I disagree with the assertion that a Republican would also have stockpiled Cuban cigars. While it’s possible, the Democrats are the party of “rules for thee but not for me.”

  13. I plead guilty to the charge of Kennedy worship.
    Haven’t found anybody else worthy of worship since the 60s.

  14. Vern Trotter | December 18, 2014 at 4:57 am |

    The recent death of Ben Bradlee brought back memories of his sister in law, Mary Meyer, the serious mistress of JFK and his friend since prep school. Mary was not one of the bimbos and Hollywood tramps but was the former wife of CIA operative, Cord Meyer, and a regular on the Georgetown dinner circle. She had shared many hours of pillow talk with Kennedy and knew many secrets.

    Mary was shot and killed, hit-man style, on the tow path while jogging near the Key Bridge in Georgetown several months after the murder of the President. She had been making lots of noise about the cover up Warren Commission’s findings, and threatened to go public about what she knew. Her diary was much sought after, found by Bradlee and promptly turned over to James Angleton of the CIA who had broken into her house looking for it. Her killing remains unsolved.

    A Very Private Woman by Nina Burleigh and Mary’s Mosaic by Peter Janney are two recent books about this fascinating episode.

  15. I vaguely remember a Cord Meyer C-SPAN appearance. The early days. The manner in which he undermined Geraldine Ferrarro’s fitness for executive leadership was supremely and scathingly patrician. The whispered observation (accompanied by smirk) that she would need to do a lot of “homework” was, well, devastating. Nowadays we’re inundated with the heated, red-faced, raised voice approach (Scalia, Schumer, Barney Frank, etc.). It’s easy to forget there was a time when the quenched, reticent snub was more than sufficient to devastate. Requiescant in Pace, old line WASPs.

  16. @Athlone. Mimi Alford is on line one.

  17. @MRS
    I find it hard to understand why frat-rape is considered to be normal Ivy behaviour, but JFK’s extra-marital dalliance is not.

  18. Who’s doing the considering, in both cases?

  19. In the first case, the considering is done by the commenters who take every opportunity to tell us how well-behaved frat rats were/are. In the second case, it’s done by those who take every opportunity to engage in JFK-bashing.

  20. Althone, you’re just name-calling. That’s not an argument, and is illegitimate debate tactic.

    I’ll let the fraternity guys defend themselves, but I’m pretty sure there’s no one here defending rape (except, of course, for the powerful pro-rape faction).

    Pointing out unflattering facts is not “bashing.” JFK’s serial adultery and hoarding of Cuban cigars before he ordered an embargo reflect poorly on him, not those who observe that he did these things.

  21. @Henry

    Do you really think that had Nixon defeated Kennedy in ’60, he would have been too principled to stockpile cigars? How can you make such blanket assertions about personal morality based on political party alone?

  22. @Athlone – don’t hurt yourself moving the goal posts.

  23. Cuban cigars? When they start importing them, the price will make the Dominican stuff look cheap. Look at Balkan Sobranie, in the past, vintage stuff going for astronomical prices. On one web site, the “new” stuff is $34.95 for a 1.76 oz tin, literally three times the premium stuff like Dunhill, Peterson, or McClelland. PT Barnum was right, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

    All the US is doing by opening relations with Cuba is to take another country under its wing and finance its entire being.

  24. When I worked at the tobacconists in the mid 90s the idea of deliberately aging pipe tobacco I think was fairly new. In an air-tight tin it starts to kind of ferment and definitely changes into something richer and more complex.

    Ten years later and I’m in LA and on weekends would stop by the original Tinder Box on Wilshire, founded in the ’20s and where all the stars of Old Hollywood would go. I’d be still damp and sandy from surfing, but would shoot the breeze with the serious collectors hanging out there. This one time there were two heavyweights — a pipe author and another well known collector/show organizer — and they got to talk about aging tins with the date of acquisition put on a sticker on each tin. The guy had now reached the point where he only smoked tobacco that was five years or older. When the author asked how many tins he had squirreled away, the guy replies “about 1,500.” The expression on the author’s face, though himself an avid collector, was priceless.

  25. Chandler, I was talking about generalities, not specific people, when I said that the Democrats are the party of “rules for thee but not for me.” Having said that, there are, of course, exceptions to generalizations, but that does not invalidate the generalization (unless you’re a nominalist, which simply means that you do not think correctly about such things).

    I would also say that the behavior of Republican politicians has deteriorated, but they are not as brazen as their Democrat brethren.

    CC—great story!

  26. @Christian

    I can definitely understand the value (added) of the aged tobacco, like a vintage wine or collectible. But, to bring back Balkan Sobranie at $35 a tin? Unfortunately, I never smoked it back in the day when I’m sure it cost at most a dollar a tin. I will state that I recall some of the current brands, including even the commonest, like the Prince, being a much better smoke 40 years ago. Like everything else, quality has suffered with most products through the years.

    My comment definitely referred to the $35 current tin. Five or so years ago, HOW reintroduced some of the legendary brands, including Revelation and Country Doctor. I bought a sampler, cost around four dollars for each 2 oz. tin, good tobacco. How can the new Balkan at $35 be worth the price? Maybe,for the same reason, Jordache (Spelling?) jeans sold like hotcakes for $30, rather than $12 Levis in 1983. Make them expensive and everyone will want them. Hence, the PT Barnum reference. If priced in the $10 range, Balkan would hardly be noticed like the HOW stuff, at $35, everyone might want it and rave about its smoking characteristics.

    I will definitely agree that years ago, no one thought about aging tobacco. I really envy the fellow with 1,500 tins. If the new Balkan is made with ancient tobacco, it may indeed be worth $35.

    If any one has any experience with the new stuff, I’m sure we’d all like to hear about it. If it’s so much better than everything else, I’ll stand in line to get some.

    Light ’em up if you got ’em. Cheers!

  27. A lot of could rightly ask, Isn’t retro fashion synonymous
    with vintage fashion?” and it is actually a justifiable query.

  28. Only if you didn’t know the difference between retro and vintage.

  29. Vintage is relevant to one’s age.

  30. @MAC

    Did you, perhaps, mean “relative”, rather than “relevant”?

  31. Camford
    No, but both work.

Comments are closed.