The radical ideas of the sixties gain acceptance and traction. They are mainstreamed and assimilated into American life and culture. The 70s prove to be a sharply different and far more tranquil decade.
The Vietnam War continues to divide. Republican Governor James Rhodes of Ohio sends national guardsmen onto the Kent State University campus resulting in the shooting deaths of four students who are protesting the war. Two days after the shootings, Rhodes loses the Republican primary election
Enough is enough. As the Vietnam War ends and people frantically flee Saigon in helicopters, we lose a vice president and president to resignations. The aftermath influences several movies, including The Deer Hunter, Coming Home, and Apocalypse Now. Oliver Stone documents things for future telling.
Watergate, impeachment hearings and Deep Throat, but not Linda Lovelace’s kind. “I’m No Crook.” Gerry Ford is the right man for the right time and has a cohesive impact. The peanut farmer promises hope but ends up creating a crisis of confidence which leads to his being a one-term disappointment. Nixon (1969- 1974), Ford (1974-1977), and Carter (1977-1981). Make way for the “Great Communicator.”
Later, the Iran Hostage Crisis destroys Carter’s hopes for a second term. Hey, sixty-six Americans are held hostage for 444 days in what is our first encounter with Radical Islam. Of the approximately ninety people inside the embassy, fifty-two remain in captivity until the end of the crisis. Days of white hot rage for frustrated Americans as an attempted rescue mission fails.
The Iran Crisis leads to a gas shortage as lines stretch for miles and people argue at the pumps. Everyone rushes to “top off” even if the tank doesn’t need it. It isn’t that people cannot afford gas; hell, there is no gas to sell. Attendants work while wearing guns. It’s bad karma.
The United States experiences an economic recession. And as if to further humiliate, the economy of Japan prospers. Say what?
Updike, Vonnegut and Oates write books, and Simon, Shepard, and Mamet write plays. The books are about man’s alienation from his spiritual roots. Toni Morrison emerges as a strong literary voice who writes about the Black American experience in a new and compelling way. Other influential books are The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, The Happy Hooker by Xaviera Hollander, and Fear of Flying by Erica Jong. Movies range from the Godfather to Dog Day Afternoon, with Jaws, Taxi Driver, the Exorcist, Grease, Rocky, a Clockwork Orange, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Chinatown, and Annie Hall in between. Jack Nicholson makes his considerable mark.
Killer Clown John Gacy is a real horror show. He chills onlookers as his final words are, “Kiss my Ass.” The ‘Hillside Strangler,’ Zodiac, the Son of Sam, and the Atlanta Child murderer run up terrifying body counts. Handsome and articulate Ted Bundy punctuates this in a decade marked by serial killers extraordinaire.
An unusual series of paranoia-inspired events leads to the deaths of more than 900 people in the middle of an African jungle. What happens at Jonestown in Guyana on November 18, 1978, is a mass suicide. The charismatic cult leader of the People’s Temple, Jim Jones, gives 912 followers a deadly cocktail of a purple drink mixed with cyanide, sedatives, and tranquilizers, and then takes his own life in the end. Kool-Aid will forever take on a new meaning.
Unlike the sixties, the seventies are the “Me Decade.” Activism switches to activities for one’s own pleasure. Cocaine-fuelled, hedonistic parties are cool.
Pre-marital sex is an integral part of the sexual revolution, which in turn is fueled by the impact of the Pill.
Idiots streak nude through public places, while mellowed-down families vacation in station wagons exhibiting “family values.” Everyone wants an RV. Pet rocks, mood rings, and wild fashions contrast with serious issues like the gasoline shortage and the hostage crisis. On the bright side, many medical breakthroughs in cancer research and heart surgery are happening, and that is great news. Environmentalism as a movement takes root. Earth Day.
Affirmative action becomes controversial. Minorities and women assert their rights to jobs and quality education. Right On! Native Americans demand attention to their plight as well; casino ownership is yet to come. Women, minorities, and gays increasingly demand legal equality and privileges in society. Gay Pride parades shock at first and then become boring. Hippies peak and begin a subtle morph to yuppie.
“I am woman, hear me roar.” By the end of the decade, the feminist movement helps change women’s working conditions. The proportion of women in state legislatures increases dramatically. Women surpass men in college enrollment by 1979. Cities such as Los Angeles, Detroit, and Atlanta elect their first African-American mayors. U.S. Representative Barbara Jordan gains prominence with her eloquence during the Watergate investigation and hearings.
Elvis dies in 1977. The country mourns.
Meanwhile, while American culture flourishes, disco ducks quack. Far Out, Man!
The influence of the hippies is mainstreamed. Men sport shoulder-length hair, bushy mustaches, and long sideburns. Non-traditional clothing becomes the rage, including bell-bottom pants, hot pants, platform shoes, clogs, hip-huggers, earth shoes, and gypsy dresses. Knits and denims are the fabrics of choice. Polyester and leisure suits (ugh) are commonplace for men. Lycra stretch disco pants in hot, strident, shiny colors with stretch sequin tops make their gaudy appearance in disco joints.
Steve Rubell and Ian Shrager build the hottest disco ever—Studio 54. It showcases the ‘70s to the max. Sex, cocaine, and/or amyl nitrate “poppers” seem to be everywhere, but so do bags of cash and. finally, IRS Agents. Gay sex at Fire Island, Provincetown, and San Francisco is open and wild – but something horrible is lurking in the wings. Brutal reality looms.
From the first Queen of Disco, Gloria Gaynor, to Chic’s “Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” and “Everybody Dance,” the music is made for dancing. Nard Edwards and Nile Rodgers lead Chic. Wild times at Club-Med. Discothèques rule. Jamaican reggae music sung by Bob Marley becomes popular and so does “Jamming.” Ya, Mon! Saturday Night Fever fuels “disco fever” sweeps the club scenes. The Bee Gees, the Village People, Donna Summer, and Supertramp make the scene. And Barry White, will “Never, Never Gonna Give You Up.” With Sly, we have hot fun in the summertime.
The meltdown accident at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant begins on March 28, 1979, and is scary as hell. Until Chernobyl several years later, it is considered the world’s worst civilian nuclear accident
Typewriters begin to give way to word processers.They in turn are threatened by something called the computer age but the first ones are the size of a house.
Curt Flood pursues the case known as Flood v. Kuhn (Commissioner Bowie Kuhn) from January 1970 to June 1972 at district, circuit, and Supreme Court levels. Although the Supreme Court ultimately rules against him, upholding baseball’s exemption from antitrust statutes, the case sets the stage for the 1975 Messersmith-McNally rulings and the advent of free agency. Thanks to Flood’s courageous stand, professional athletes, previously “owned” by their teas, demand and receive the right to free agency. Before 1970, few earned more than $100,000 per year; at the end of the decade, hundreds do. Ali is hailed as a hero, if not a seer, but Flood is just as much a true and righteous hero.
Pete Rose breaks Ty Cobb’s record of 4,256 hits. The Hall of Fame awaits—or does it? Pele rules in soccer.
Elsewhere in sports, the’72 Munich Olympics turn into a bloodbath as nine Israeli athletes are killed at the airport after a long siege. Terrorists claiming to be from a Palestinian guerrilla group called Black September kill two Israelis outright and take others hostage. They then demand the release of 200 Arab guerrillas jailed in Israel. Incredibly, during the siege, the aging and insensitive Avery Brundage, president of the International Olympic Committee, orders that the Games continue, and his senility rules.
We have a good fight for the fans…not like the fights now…they fight
for millions, and it’s over in a minute–Alvaro “Yaqui” López
When I last saw “Little Red” at an HOF luncheon, if one didn’t know
what he’d done – the warrior he was, he’d have passed for an accountant,
sitting quietly.—Joe Rein
He [Mike Weaver] was beating the hell out of me…–Larry Holmes
For all of the years that I’d seen him, Monzon never gasped for air, tired
or opened his mouth gagging for oxygen in any round.––George Diaz Smith
1976 produced perhaps the most celebrated team in Olympic history and included Leo Randolph, Howard Davis, Leon Spinks, Sugar Ray Leonard and Michaels Spinks along with 7 medals in all.
The decade later becomes known as the Golden Age of Boxing, especially in the talent-rich heavyweight division with Ali, Foreman, Frazier, Norton, Quarry, Chuvalo, Lyle, Tate, Bonavena, Young, Shavers, Patterson, Bugner, LeDoux, Terrell, Ellis, and many other big boppers doing their thing. Ali continues to reign as larger than life, but so does the great Carlos Monzon. Ali fights Frazier in the first of three in the “Fight of the Century.” These big guys bring out the best in each other in the division’s greatest era. A guy named Wepner ostensibly inspires the invention of a guy named Balboa.
On March 8, 1971 – In the “Fight of the Century,” Joe Frazier met and Muhammad Ali square off at the Garden amidst a circus-like atmosphere and major jet-set happening. .It was pure seventies as outrageously dressed fans, and countless celebrities were at ringside. As for the fight, Ali lumped and bloodied Joe’s face, but Frazier wore down Ali to the body and then cinched matters by decking him in the 15th to win a unanimous decision and retain his heavyweight title. Wow!
The Bobick brothers, Rodney and Duane, did all of their fighting in the 70s and have a combined record of 85-11. Howard “KO” Smith fights his entire career during the 70s and manages to beat Mike Weaver twice and a bunch of other tough heavies as he finishes with a 17-2 record. Tough Marty Monroe goes 21-0-1 during the 70s.
But there was something about the’70s that stands out like the ‘50s. These men all fought each other. Yeah, the best fought the best. Frazier fought Foreman twice, Jerry Quarry twice and Ali three times. Big George fought Norton, Jimmy Young and Ali. And Young fought Ali, Earnie Shavers, Ron Lyle, Norton and Foreman. Lyle fought Ali, Forman and Quarry. Ali fought everyone (Foreman, Frazier, Patterson, Shavers, Norton, Quarry, Young and all the rest).
In 1973, Foreman uses Frazier as a bouncing ball and floors him six times to win the title; he repeats the slaughter in 1976. Ali then shocks the world again, letting Foreman wear himself out pounding Ali against the ropes, then KOing Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire, to win heavyweight title a second time. It’s an incredible fan–friendly round robin. It’s boxing’s version of shock and awe. Surely, no era will ever have so many heavyweight fighters who are so talented at so many different levels. Teófilo Stevenson is pretty darn good as well.
In his first appearance since his defeat to Ali, Foreman takes on five opponents in one afternoon –Charley Polite, Boone Kirkman, Terry Daniels, Jerry Judge and Alonzo Johnson in Toronto. The freak show backfires as Foreman’s psyche (already badly weakened by his loss to Ali in the “Jungle”) is exposed. This is the weirdest thing you will ever see,” says commentator Cosell as fans throw things into the ring and Big George throws them back. Yikes!
In sharp contrast, the fifteenth round of Norton vs. Holmes in June 1978 is equally incredible and unforgettable, but for a different reason. Neither gives an inch. Both display a spine-tingling will and determination seldom seen in a boxing ring. Holmes will later have life and death struggles with Mike Weaver and Shavers. He comes back to win both
During that year a novice with seven professional fights wins the undisputed world Heavyweight championship, defeating Ali, by a fifteen round split decision, in Las Vegas. His name is Leon Spinks. Huh! It’s a long way from the “Fight of the Century” in 1971 when “Everybody was in the House that Night.” But Ali wins the rematch in New Orleans and with it, the heavyweight title for the third time.
A talented, young and good looking “Irish” Jerry Quarry is all about charisma. He fights everyone and later pays dearly. Big boxing matches are televised free on Saturday Afternoons and become events.
Bob Foster is one of the top five light heavyweights of all time and probably the hardest puncher to ever compete at 175 pounds, but he falters when he fights the heavyweights. Ali floors Foster eight times before KOing him in eight rounds.
Former heavyweight champion, Sonny Liston is alleged to have died from a morphine overdose, Las Vegas. His real age remains a mystery. WBA Flyweight champion Masao Ohba, 23, dies in traffic accident near Tokyo in 1973.
During the seventies Middleweight champion Carlos Monzon beats Nino Benvenuti, Emile Griffith, Jose Naples, Tony Licala, and Rodrigo Valdes (twice). He retires from boxing at age 35 In August 1977 with an amazing 87-3-9 record
West Coast boxing features Carlos Palomino,, Bobby Chacon, “Chucho” Castillo, Rafael “Bazooka” Limon, Ruben Navarro, Mando Ramos, Jose Napoles, “Yaqui” Lopez, a young Pipino Cuevas, and Frankie Baltazar. Chacon in particular battles with an uncommon fury and he too later pays. Carlos Zarate had two KO streaks of 20 or more during the decade. He KOs Alfonso Zamora in 1977. Wilfredo Gomez punches like his nickname—“Bazooka.” Wifred Benitez, at age 17, beats Antonio Cervantes to become the youngest world champion in boxing history. “El Flaco Explosivo,” Alexis Arguello, maintained humble nobility while using a paralyzing straight right. Argentina’s Monzon keeps winning and winning and winning. So does Brazil’s Eder Jofre. Chucho Castillo hands Ruben Olivares the first loss if his career.
Roberto Duran, Victor Galindez and Matthew Saad Muhammad put on wild shows. Speaking of wild, Danny “Little Red” Lopez is Saad before Saad, but Saad is Gatti before Gatti. Snatching victory from defeat is what they are all about.
The pleasure of watching great boxing free on TV blends well with the other aspects of the pleasure oriented decade. Big boxing matches are televised free on Saturday afternoons and become events. The operative word is free. Roberto Duran and “Little Red” become TV favorites. Boxing is becoming big. And so is sketchy Don King.
Hagler is coming on strong and a new Sugar Ray. Leonard stops Wilfred Benitez in 1979. He has arrived.
Dementia pugilistica (boxer’s dementia or punch-drunk syndrome) continues to become more noticeable though it has been around since the beginning of the sport. It is horrific because it develops over a period of years, with the average time of onset being about twelve to sixteen years after the start of a career in boxing. And there is no turning back once it arrives. Many famous fighters eventually become afflicted with it. Parkinson’s also haunts several ex-boxers.
In the end, boxing in the seventies was characterized by dominating champions and intense rivalries.