Skip to main content

Interview with Charles Kaiser

:: ::


Kaiser, Charles ; McKiernan, Stephen


Charles Kaiser is an American author, journalist and academic administrator. He was the Associate Director at the LGBT Social Science and Public Policy Center at Hunter College in NYC, a leader of the Grove Fellowship Program, and a weekend nonfiction book critic at The Guardian US. Kaiser has won the grand prize at the Paris Book Festival and his book The Cost of Courage received great reviews from the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Christian Science Monitor along with some other publications.




In copyright

Date Modified


Is Part Of

McKiernan Interviews




McKiernan Interviews
Interview with: Charles Kaiser
Interviewed by: Stephen McKiernan
Transcriber: REV
Date of interview: 17 March 2010
(Start of Interview)

SM (00:00:03):
Testing one, two, testing. I guess we will start again.

CK (00:00:17):
By the way, I had lunch with two people today who you should strongly consider for your list. One of them in particular is Peter Goldman, who was the heart and soul of Newsweek Magazine from about 1962 to 1980 and he pretty much wrote all of the major cover stories about the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement. And he also wrote a biography of Malcolm X, which I believe is still in print in Houston colleges. And I think he would be a terrific person for you.

SM (00:00:48):
I think I have that book. I have so many books, I have to check that.

CK (00:00:52):
I do. It is one of the serious autobiographies.

SM (00:00:56):
Who was the second person?

CK (00:00:58):
The other one is Henrik Hertzberg, who was the chief political writer for the New Yorker, who was at Newsweek in Francisco in 1965. He wrote the first file about the [inaudible] and then he was Jimmy Carter's principal speech for the last two years of Carter's presidency. And he was twice the editor of the New Republic, and he was an extremely intelligent and particular fellow.

SM (00:01:25):
Wow. Did you mention I was doing this book?

CK (00:01:28):
I did. I mentioned that I had to get home so I could talk to you.

SM (00:01:31):

CK (00:01:33):
But I will send you their emails and you can take it from there, do as you like.

SM (00:01:37):
Super. Actually, I read yesterday your fantastic piece on Walter Cronkite.

CK (00:01:44):
Oh, thank you very much.

SM (00:01:45):
Yeah, I had not seen that. I was going into the computer again and checking on some of your most recent last year, year and a half pieces, and I thought that was very well written and it really hit at home because he was the man I look to for the news. He was so different.

CK (00:02:04):
He was the glue for the whole country for a long time or he was certainly the glue for, well, for more than just the liberal part. He was the glue for the same part of the country throughout all of that insanity.

SM (00:02:18):
And I think you hit it right on target when you said when they hired Dan Rather.

CK (00:02:23):
It was the beginning of the end.

SM (00:02:24):
Yeah. I mean, his whole persona was so totally different, and Roger Mudd would have kind of continued.

CK (00:02:34):
Oh, Roger was completely in the same, and he had been Walter Cronkite for three months every summer for years before that and he just was not a good in-house politician. It was nothing more complicated than that.

SM (00:02:45):
Yep. All right. Well, we are going to start off here and I am going to start a little differently than I did when I was in New York because I have done a little more reading and I read (19)68, but I was kind of pinpointing some points here that you made in the book. You said that you thought the election of President Kennedy taught the students about the power of the individual, how an individual person could change the way the whole country felt about itself. And I know you put that in your introduction. Could you explain that in more detail in your thoughts?

CK (00:03:25):
Well, I think for anybody between the ages of, well, I was only 10, but I was pretty precautious 10 year old. But for anybody who was a teenager through his twenties living in America, that the contrast between this aged and maybe even a little senile President Eisenhower, who I agree looks better and better in fresh respect, but did not look so great at the time. The contrast between having this very old person and this extremely young and vigorous person with two young children in the White House and a glamorous wife, it was a breath of fresh air and it was also... Mean, his whole message was let us move the country forward, let us move into the modern world. And how better to move into the modern world than with a 40, I think he was 43-year-old president when he was in office.

SM (00:04:21):
Yes. Do you think that when boomers were very young though, they looked at Eisenhower as that grandfather figure and it made him feel comfortable when they were very young because he was like a grandfather to them.

CK (00:04:34):
I do not know about that.

SM (00:04:35):

CK (00:04:36):
I do not really buy that, no.

SM (00:04:39):
You also talk early on in your book in the introduction, and we talked about this, about the Beatles and how important message of these four kids coming out of nowhere, but they had a talent that they could be involved in changing the world. And you also talked a lot about Bob Dylan. You kind of bring Kennedy, the Beatles and Dylan all together as the major forces that merged the culture and the politics. Could you briefly summarize your thoughts on that?

CK (00:05:11):
Well, the Beatles were important partly because they basically take the inspiration of Black American music and transform it into something which is accessible to everybody and they are important, as Allen Ginsburg put it, because they taught people that men could be friends and they really transformed, I think, they began the transformation of what the ideal of masculinity was. And it was certainly something with these long-haired, very attractive, very cute boys being the main cultural figures on the planet. It certainly softened the ideal of masculinity for an entire generation. Dylan, especially in the first four years of his recording career is the person who most successfully puts the ideals of an era to music. I mean, when he writes The Times They Are A-Changin', which, as he said to me, I wanted to write a big song in a simple way. He was very explicitly trying to, I think, galvanize a generation. Now, he quite soon decides that being explicitly political is going to limit him as an artist and he kind of abandons that around 1965. But for four years there-there was nobody who was more important in supporting the ideals of the civil rights movement through music than he. And Kennedy, Kennedy is intelligent and glamour and modernity. I do not know. Kennedy's the person who gets men to stop wearing hats. Kennedy stopped wearing a hat, the world stopped wearing hats. He had huge cultural influence way beyond whatever his political stance was.

SM (00:07:20):
I have ordered Gay Metropolis. I ordered it on Amazon because I wanted to get a first edition, so I got one on the way. But I have read a few things since I met you about two weeks ago, and that that you brought up the fact that there were four basic elements that kind of led to the Gay Liberation Movement. Obviously the Civil Rights Movement is an example of-

CK (00:07:46):
The civil rights movement is by far the most important thing of all because it is the example of Black people that really provides the entire blueprint for the gay liberation movement in terms of standing up to the power structure of straight white men in America. Nothing's more important than the civil rights movement as a model, but go on.

SM (00:08:10):
The other three. You have already talked about the Beatles. And the pill and the psychedelic revolution.

CK (00:08:18):
Yeah. Well, the pill, I think I said to you before, the reason the pill is so important is that it becomes the sort of public acknowledgement that sex can have a value which is not attached to appropriation. The straight sexual revolution is a necessary prerequisite to the gay sexual revolution because sex is no longer viewed as something which should only take place given marriage and for the purpose of creating a child. And until sex is given a value which is not connected to procreation, it is very hard to make an argument for gay liberation.

SM (00:08:58):
And then the psychedelic revolution.

CK (00:09:00):
Well, the psychedelic revolution is just part of... I mean, it is that and really the Vietnam War. It is everything which throws the established order into question. It is everything which makes it possible to question the way things are right now, and that includes the antiwar movement, taking LSD, you name it.

SM (00:09:24):
Well, you were at Columbia University, I believe, from (19)68 to (19)72.

CK (00:09:28):
Well, yeah, but I got there in the fall of (19)68, keep in mind. So I actually missed the biggest upheaval. I get there in the fall after the biggest upheaval, which is of course, the spring of (19)68.

SM (00:09:46):
Right. What was it like to be a college student in 1968? I know you got involved in the McCarthy campaign as a volunteer.

CK (00:09:51):
It was really more when I was at prep school because that was in the spring. So I was working out of the storefront in Windsor, Connecticut the fall of (19)68. Well, I do not know. Partly being a Columbia you had this sense that you were at the center of the world because even though there was not any particular disruption in the fall of (19)68, you still had enormous media attention. I mean, I can remember there was, I believe, a cover story about Newsweek probably with Mark Ru on the cover like a week or two after I got there. So you did feel like you were sort of under the microscope. I would say the main social thing going on was that everybody was smoking marijuana, except me. I was one of two people in my entire graduating class from prep school out of a hundred. I think I was one of two people who had not tried marijuana while I was in high school. And I did not until the spring of my freshman year at Columbia initially. I think movies were very important in the (19)60s. I think movies really were more important than books as a cultural driving force. And of course, most important of all was music. I think what connected us all more than anything else during that period was the music that we were listening to.

SM (00:11:27):
Now, you obviously talk a lot in your book about Bob Dylan, the Beatles music and particular songs that shaped the generation and may have even been a theme for the Generation. But besides the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, who are your top three, so to speak? What other musicians did you really look up to in the songs that had a meaning in your life?

CK (00:11:52):
Well, I would say everybody in Motown, all of the Motown stars and both the composers like Holland-Dozier-Holland and The Supremes, the Four Tops, all of those people. I think the success of Black Rock and Roll stars, the huge success, the mainstream success of Black rock and roll stars. Of course, there had been successful Black musicians before that, but I do not think there had ever been as many at the same time who had complete crossover appeal. And I think the fact that people in Birmingham, Alabama were as enthusiastic about The Supremes as the people in Philadelphia and Detroit was very important in a subliminal way to making the move towards Black equality possible. Because these were show business stars who were on the Ed Sullivan Show and everywhere else and it meant that there was, at least at the top, there was suddenly real equality between Black and white at least at the top of the music business.

SM (00:13:08):
Now, one of the albums in 1971, I can remember in the summer, I had to walk almost 10 blocks in Philadelphia to get it because I heard it came out, and that is What's Going On with Marvin Gaye.

CK (00:13:20):
Right, for example-

SM (00:13:22):
What an album. And then even a simple song, but it was one of the songs that the OJs did, Backstabbers. I thought that was... It had a message too. I listened to that over and over again and a lot of people liked the tune, but I always listened to the words itself. I know we asked this when I was in New York, but again, briefly describe your background. I know about your parents, your growing up years. And I am very curious again for you to talk about your relationship with Teddy White and the influence and inspired you to become a writer. Could you just give me a little bit about your background before you arrived at Columbia?

CK (00:14:09):
Well, before I was at Columbia I lived in Senegal from the age of 10 to 13. And I lived in London from the age of 13 to 16. And my father, one way or another, seemed to know most of the most successful writers and journalists of his generation and that very much included Teddy White who would come to our house occasionally from time to time. I remember he visited us once from the suburbs of Washington where we were living before we went to Senegal. And since he wrote really the most important book about John Kennedy's election and John Kennedy was the most important political figure in my life and everybody in my family fell in love with Teddy's book. And I think that at that point sort of subliminally implanted the idea in me of how exciting it could be to write a great non-fiction book. I always said that that book and the kingdom and the power about the New York Times were probably one of the two most important inspirations for me.

SM (00:15:20):
Well, one of the things I also learned since I was in New York is how important George Orwell is. You considered him the greatest writer ever.

CK (00:15:30):
Greatest journalist ever.

SM (00:15:31):
Yeah, greatest journalist ever. How were you introduced to him?

CK (00:15:37):
I was introduced to him because my brother, David, was at Harvard, was a senior, I think. Was he a senior? Yeah, he was probably the class of (19)69. And he decided to write his senior thesis about Orwell. And coincidentally it was in 1968 or... I do not know if it was considered or if this was White decided to do it, but the collected letters, essays and journalism, all of it came out in four volumes in 1968. So for the first time all of this nonfiction and work was available in one place. And I think I was infected by my brother's enthusiasm, who when you came across a particularly exciting passage in any of these volumes, he would read it aloud at the dinner table.

SM (00:16:33):
Was 1984 a major influence on you?

CK (00:16:39):
I certainly remember it as one of the scariest books I have ever read. I remember it that way. Really what Orwell did was he had all of these ideas. He wrote about all the ideas in 1984 and in Animal Farm first in the non-fiction form and then he took the same ideas and use them again to write novels. And I think for me probably cumulatively the non-fiction stuff is more important. But I admire him because he is the cleanest most effective writer I know and he was utterly courageous, perfectly willing to infuriate all the communists by writing a very balanced book about the Civil War in Spain after fighting on the Republican side. But he wrote a book which showed that there were no obvious heroes on either side of that war. And it is just his lifelong iconic of his class. And the fact that most of the time, but I think probably overall if you look at everything he wrote, that he had a be better record of predicting what was going to happen than anybody else. So there were certainly exceptions. He thought that there would be inevitably be fascism in wartime Britain, which never happened. But that was one of his rare mistakes, right?

SM (00:18:11):
When you think of the (19)60s, what was the watershed moment that you thought the (19)60s began and when you thought it ended from your personal perspective?

CK (00:18:23):
I think surely they begin for me with the election of John F. Kennedy. And there is so many arbitrary ways to say when they ended, but I think they began to end when Richard Nixon resigned from office and I would say the absolute final nail on the coffin was when John Lennon was murdered in 1980.

SM (00:18:52):
1980, yeah. When you look at that period, from your own perspective as a person who lived it, who was a college student in those crucial years, (19)68 to (19)72, I am not sure if you really said this in your book, what is the biggest disappointment that you feel when you look at that whole era and when you look at your generation, the boomers? What is your biggest disappointment in them and what is your thing you are most proud of within that group from that period?

CK (00:19:35):
I am proudest of the fact that I think we did more than any other generation to do what Molly Ivins describes. She says that the whole history of the United States can be viewed as steadily extending the principles of the Constitution to everyone. I mean, I am proudest of the fact that life for the average woman, the average African American, the average gay person could not hardly be more dramatic, different in 2010 than it was in 1958. I think all of that stuff is unbelievably important. And of course, I am most disgusted by the fact that what was briefly an anti-materialistic generation has become the most materialistic generation in the history of the world probably.

SM (00:20:34):
Give some examples of that because I have gotten that feedback from others too.

CK (00:20:41):
Examples of greed? What are you looking for? What do you mean?

SM (00:20:44):
Just some examples that you say you are disappointed in them because of their love for materialism. Is there specific instances you can explain, individuals?

CK (00:20:56):
Well, it is just a general. I mean, it seems like the general... Nothing was more looked down upon in my family than conspicuous consumption. Conspicuous consumption was considered one of the venal sins and I would say this generation has become as famous for conspicuous consumption as it is for anything else.

SM (00:21:24):
One of the most important things of, who said, the expansion of higher education, more students going to college in the (19)60s and (19)70s with the State universities and the community colleges, and of course you had your Ivy League schools, Clark Kerr in his book, The Uses of the University talks about the multiversity, about the links between what is going on in the university and what is going on in the corporate world. And supposedly during the time that you and I were both in college, the concept within local parentis where the college is acting like a parent, which was very big in the (19)50s, in early (19)60s, was not happening and the students did not want it in the (19)60s. It seems like it has come back. The question I am trying to get at here are your thoughts on the universities from that period, not just the Ivy league Columbia, but universities all over the country and how they responded to the student protest movement and whether the criticism that was sent their way by students was correct, that we were linked too closely with the corporate world. Charles, I want to mention, I interviewed Arthur Chickering last week, one of the great educators in higher education who wrote Education and Identity. And he said to me, one of the most revealing things he said, I never thought I would live to see again the corporations taking over the university. He has written a major piece, I think it is going to come out next month in one of the major magazines, that it is the same way it was when the students were criticizing it in the (19)60s.

CK (00:23:04):
That sounds right. Interesting. Well, in the short term, at least at Columbia, basically all of the.... I mean, the short term for the next 20 years or so, most of the goals of the protestors were fulfilled by the university administration. They democratized things by having a student senate or a university senate, which included student representation. They certainly did much less expansion into the community for a long time of the kind like going to gym in a public park, which is one of the things that is popular in 1968. But probably the thing that we were most excited about was in the fall of 1968, and which was a very explicitly done to dampen political activity, was the fact that they lifted all of this restrictions on the hours when women could visit men in their dormitory rooms.

SM (00:24:11):
Well, that was important.

CK (00:24:12):
That was important.

SM (00:24:15):
Yeah. I remember when my mom went to college back in the forties, my dad used to visit her in the residence hall and they had the woman, I forget the name of the person who ran the residence hall, the house mother or whatever, they had to walk by the room, they had to make sure the legs were on the floor at all times.

CK (00:24:32):
Said that was one limb on the floor.

SM (00:24:36):
Yeah. She told me about that. Some of the, I put down here, what do you think the overall impact is of the boomer generation on society? Do you think they have then good parents and or good grandparents in terms of sharing what it was like in the (19)60s and carrying some of the values into the future generations? Have they done a good job with that?

CK (00:25:07):
Yeah, I think certainly the parents of my social class and my generation I would say are more self-consciously parental than our parents were and partly because... I think that one of the really good things of the women's liberation movement was that it meant that men did become far more involved in the emotional lives of their children than the men of our parents' generation who were... It was a really a large part, a feeling that... Elise and I may be extrapolating too much from my own family, but I think everywhere that it was the woman's job to take care of the emotional development of the children and it was the man's job to bring home the bacon basically.

SM (00:25:59):
If you were to-

CK (00:26:00):
And I think now there is much more equality in the division of responsibilities.

SM (00:26:07):
If you were to place some adjectives on the boomer generation, particularly this 15 percent of the activist that seemed to participate in some sort of protest, what were some of their strengths and what were some of their weaknesses in your point of view?

CK (00:26:29):
Well, I think the main strengths of the activist was the perception of the white activist was the perception that the Vietnam War was an evil and wasteful enterprise and that almost anything that you could do to call attention to that was a worthy thing to do, an important thing to do. Certainly when people veered off into violence of making bombs, I would say I certainly parted company with them there. But I think all of the nonviolent stuff I think is very important and very useful.

SM (00:27:17):
How do you respond when you hear critics of that era, that timeframe say that most of the problems we have in America today go directly back to that period when, again, the increasing in the divorce rate, the drug culture, the no respect for authority, a sense of irresponsibility on the critics part?

CK (00:27:43):
I think all of our current problems can date from really primarily from the Reagan era, whose main philosophical message was be as greedy as you want to be and do not feel that you have to do anything for people who are less fortunate then you are and that that is far more important to our current catastrophic situation than any of the things that you just mentioned.

SM (00:28:10):
Yeah, that gets me into it because you remember when we spoke the last time we broke down the decades, on how the decades kind of influenced the boomers. And why do not we talk about the (19)80s? When you talk about the (19)80s, you really think of Ronald Reagan. And of course toward the end you think of George Bush who became president, but Iran Contra, those kinds of things. Of course, the economy was not very good. Jobs or lack of jobs in the early (19)80s, of course, the assassination attempt. What does the (19)80s mean to the boomers who had just been through the (19)60s and the (19)70s?

CK (00:28:57):
Well, the (19)80s is the decade that validates and encourages their pre-occupation with materialism. I think it is the absolute end of... For many people it kills off whatever remnants or the idealism of the (19)60s and the idea that you really should devote part of your life to improving the lives of people less fortunate than yourself.

SM (00:29:36):
When you think, of course, boomers being born between (19)46 and (19)64, when you think about the end of World War II, certainly the GI Bill, the baby boom started right around that timeframe. The greatest number of babies were born in 1957. Saw that in a statistic. But what was it about the late forties and (19)50s- [inaudible]. But what was it about the late (19)40s and (19)50s, what was it like at that time to be a young child growing up in that period?

CK (00:30:13):
Well, I think the most important thing was the explosion in the middle class, and the huge number of people who did not have to worry about providing the basic necessities of life, the huge number of people who were relatively prosperous, a larger proportion of the pot probably than at any other time up till that time. And that in turn, by the time the Boomers... Having grown up with this comparative lack of financial anxiety, if you were lucky enough to be part of that middle class, I think that it is the reason that 1968 to about 1971 were the years when college students spent the least amount of time worrying about how they were going to make a living for the rest of their lives and the largest amount of time thinking about how they could recreate the world and themselves. I think that amount of affluence was very liberating.

SM (00:31:30):
Well, I wrote down just off the top of my head some things. When you think of the (19)50s, this is just good old Steve McKiernan, and I would like your response to see if there is something missing here, I think of a GI Bill, I think Levittown, I think of Joe McCarthy and the Red Scare. Of course, you think of President Truman and Eisenhower, the nuclear threat, black and white TV. Parents giving everything to their kids. Church attendance seemed to be up. Parents were-

CK (00:32:01):
In the (19)50s was church attendance... Is that true? Is church attendants up in the (19)50s? I would be doubtful about that one.

SM (00:32:06):
Church attendance, well, some of them, things I have been reading was at least larger than it was in the (19)60s.

CK (00:32:12):
Than in the (19)60s, yeah. But I think the decline... I am guessing here, I do not know the numbers, but I would think the go decline begins after World War II and just accelerates in the (19)60s.

SM (00:32:27):
Is that because of their parents failed in World War ii or the nuclear threat and everything?

CK (00:32:36):
I think, well, certainly for my own parents, people of my own parents' intellectual class, I think that the creation or the invention of the atomic bomb contributed to a decline in the belief of an almighty God.

SM (00:32:52):
The other things were that the parents were proud that they defeated Germany and Japan-

CK (00:33:01):
Well, we talked about that. Yeah. I mean, I think that people of our age grew up as the beneficiaries of this kind of huge surge of confidence and self-esteem that our parents had, having participated in the greatest and most black and white triumph of good over evil over the last 100 years, for sure. I mean, the fact that the world was confronted with this absolute pure evil of Adolf Hitler and belatedly and that this gigantic cause overcame it, but at least it did come out the right way, I think that was extremely important.

SM (00:33:47):
And of course, the other things would be the civil rights movement was happening at that time with the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Little Rock Nine, and a lot of the things were happening there. The Beats were around, and Jackie Robinson was in baseball, and so it is really good things.

CK (00:34:05):
The Black people were giving a moral sample to the rest of the country.

SM (00:34:14):
Of course, I got a long list here, but the (19)60s, you could talk for five hours on the (19)60s. But what was it about the (19)60s that influenced the Boomer generation?

CK (00:34:26):
Everything. Drugs, the greatest probably access to the sex of any generation up to that time, at least in the United States. The idealism of the civil rights movement, the example of Martin Luther King. And the idealism of the anti-war movement, surely.

SM (00:34:59):
Yeah, and of course then we-

CK (00:35:02):
All the... I mean, it is just very hard to describe how the music and the politics and the culture and the drugs all did work together, but they did all work together very much to give us for a brief shining moment-

SM (00:35:22):
Still there?

CK (00:35:23):
Hold on. You there? Sorry, the phone fell.

SM (00:35:27):
Yep, that is okay.

CK (00:35:29):
...gave us very much a sense of ourselves as a generation apart, a generation that was new and different and in a way that I think more so than many other generations have had.

SM (00:35:43):
Well, you have written this great book, 1968, which I know is used in a couple universities here in this region. West Chester does not use it, I do not know why, but-

CK (00:35:53):
Well, you would better do something about that.

SM (00:35:55):
Well, I have got to talk to Dr. Kodosky because I know it is used at Villanova and I know it is used at other schools, so I have got to find out, he is-

CK (00:36:06):
At Duke, I know it is used at Duke.

SM (00:36:06):
Yeah. Well, it is a great book. And you wrote on a year that will forever be imprinted in the minds of every single Boomer, whether they were an activist or not. The question I am trying to ask is, were we close to a second civil war in 1968 in terms of all the terrible divisions that were happening? It came out, of course, at the convention, we had the assassinations. America really started getting divided really over the war with Tet experience early in the year. Of course, the riots in the cities, the burnings. Just were we close to a second civil war?

CK (00:36:53):
I am not sure we were closer to a second civil war, but we were closer to a sense of the world falling apart where all of the established order being in jeopardy, at least from April through November, which, I mean, the peak would really begin with the riots everywhere after Martin Luther King was killed. I would think it was that. Apart from the blunt, gigantic shock of the various assassinations, I think that surely the scariest time was that period immediately after Martin Luther King was killed when Washington looked like a scarier place than Saigon was, [inaudible] from all over the place and machine guns mounted on the parapet in front of the Capitol and the White House worrying whether they were literally going to run out of enough federal troops to pacify all the riots that were going on all over the country. And then there was that, and then I think to the part of the country which had escaped those riots, which was not very much except for the rural part, I think the scene of the disarray on the streets of Chicago was extremely unsettling thing to see, something to watch and to see not only poorer Black people or poorer black people revolting, but also middle-class white men. It just seemed like everything was a little bit kind of cruel. But I think certainly those images from the street of Chicago were as helpful that Richard Nixon getting elected as anything else that happened that year.

SM (00:38:57):
I think in your book, you say some three really important points that I did not know. First one, I knew about the National Student Association and because I knew people that were part of that group, but I did not know it had really started way back and in (19)47. And so when we talk about the anti-war movement and students involved in protests and caring about social concerns, well, the National Student Association had been involved and they cared about concerns kind of all the way through, did not they, from its outset? And you talk about how the CIA infiltrated it right before Loewenstein became, I guess, the president of it or-or after. But how important was that organization in the (19)50s?

CK (00:39:43):
Well, I think it was important to an idealistic vanguard, but I do not think it was important in a mass way. I do not think must people more all that aware of it.

SM (00:39:55):
You mentioned you made a point that a lot of the people that went down South maybe did Freedom Summer, who went down to voter registration, got involved in some of the non-violent protests, they were students from that period and they ended up many of them becoming the leaders of the anti-war movement.

CK (00:40:12):
Yeah, yeah. Well, certainly there was a great overlap, the leaders of this civil rights movement and the first leaders of the anti-war movement, yeah.

SM (00:40:27):
Could you also talk about the irony that the man who became, who you volunteered for in 1968 was the only man really political figure that challenged Joe McCarthy?

CK (00:40:41):
Right-right. Right, yes. Well, so that he did, he had two sterling moments of courage in his career: debating Joe McCarthy on the radio, and challenging Lyndon Johnson for re-nomination when every other Democratic senator was too scared to do so.

SM (00:41:01):
Now, were you able to hear that debate? Do you-

CK (00:41:05):
No, I do not know if it exists on tape, but I do not think I ever found it. No.

SM (00:41:11):
Was there ever a transcript of it?

CK (00:41:14):
I do not remember. I do not think I ever saw one. I think the closest I came was reading contemporary news stories about it.

SM (00:41:26):
Boy, he must have been fearless because that McCarthy, the other McCarthy, you went against him, you were in trouble.

CK (00:41:33):
Yeah. Although I did would be important to know, and I do not know whether that debate was before or after Ed Murrow had taken him on. Because that certainly I would say from the time that Ed Murrow does his first show attacking McCarthy, that is the beginning of the decline of his influence.

SM (00:41:53):
Could you also talk about the fact that maybe we would have had more people with a white Caucasian background who may have been against the war or spoke up sooner on civil rights issues, but they admired the African American community for their stand on what was happening in the South? They were kind of role models to many of the white people who wanted to speak up and did not out of fear.

CK (00:42:23):
I am not quite sure what you are saying.

SM (00:42:25):
You mentioned in your book that a lot of white people who may have spoken up earlier about the injustices toward African Americans in America, but were afraid to do so because of McCarthy.

CK (00:42:40):
Oh, because of Joe McCarthy.

SM (00:42:41):
Yeah, Joe McCarthy, and the fact that you know it... And of course-

CK (00:42:47):
I do not think there is any single individual who had a more negative impact in every way than Joe McCarthy did in the 1950s. I mean, in terms of making people unnecessarily fearful, anybody who had ever had the remotest connection to a Left-wing organization in the 1930s, regardless of whether they still had any of those views or not. I mean, he was a massively destructive figure.

SM (00:43:15):
There is a brand-new book out, I think by M. Stanton Evans saying that McCarthy got a raw deal. I do not know if you have seen that book.

CK (00:43:23):
I have not, but I do not need to read it to know that he is full of shit.

SM (00:43:29):
Charles, let me change my tape here. All right. I guess we are heading into the (19)70s here. What was it about the (19)70s that... And again, part of the (19)60s really goes to about 1973, but what was it about the (19)70s that was so different than the (19)60s in terms of its impact on Boomers?

CK (00:43:55):
Well, the (19)70s is really the era in which what had been the (19)60s in places like New York and Los Angeles and all the big cities, it is really when that sort of ethos, I think spreads out throughout the country into the smaller places and the more rural places. And everybody has long hair by 1973, whereas only people in big cities probably had long hair in 1968. But it is also the period where, well, I think for the main activists in the (19)60s, the fact of Richard Nixon's election was kind of a symbol of the fundamental failure of the movement to bring about real change, at least in the government. I think it was a very depressing event for people who were in the streets in (19)60s, the fact that all of that activism in some sense culminated in... I had an exchange with... When I published 1968, Arthur Crim, who was another dear friend of my father's and was a big fundraiser for Lyndon Johnson at a ranch named for Lyndon Johnson, he read the book and obviously lauded, celebratory tone but he said, "But God, did not we pay this huge price in the reaction the country went through to all that disruption." And obviously we did pay a huge price because it had been so upsetting to so many people that it in some sense enabled the rise of the Conservative movement for the next 40 years. So, there is that. But we have never... Even though, well, you can argue with the Supreme Court we have gone certainly backwards somewhat on school desegregation. But there has never been an attempt really, except [inaudible], to paint Black people is inferior to white people, and there is nobody who questions any, the capacity of women to be competent chief executive officers of major corporations. And I cannot say it often enough that the transformation of the way gay people are treated and what they are allowed to become, what professions they are allowed to be in openly, could not be more dramatic. I do not know if you saw what I wrote most recently about the New York Times with Ted Olson and David Boies were at the New York Times last week talking about gay marriage?

SM (00:47:03):
No, I did not see that.

CK (00:47:04):
And in the audience were Arthur Sulzberger Jr., who was the publisher of the paper, and Andrew Rosenthal, who was the editorial page editor who's probably written more pro-equal rights editorials about gay people than anybody else. And 30 years ago, their fathers ran the paper, Punch Sulzberger and Abe Rosenthal, and both of them were extremely homophobic, and every gay employee of the newspaper assumed that their career depended on keeping their sexual orientation a secret. And basically, this current publisher single-handedly, really, transformed it from one of the most homophobic institutions in the world to one of the most gay-friendly institutions in the world.

SM (00:47:56):
That is in the... Was that in... I will look it up.

CK (00:47:59):
That was in the blog I posted last week.

SM (00:48:03):
Okay. I will have to check that out. Was that the one, the Columbia Journalism blog?

CK (00:48:08):
No, it is now hosted by the Hillman Foundation.

SM (00:48:10):
Oh, okay. Yeah, that is where I saw some of yours, too. Okay.

CK (00:48:13):
Yeah. It was originally hosted by Radar Magazine when there was a Radar Magazine, and then I moved to the Columbia Journalism Review, and then I moved to the Hillman Foundation when they offered me more money than the Columbia Journalism Review.

SM (00:48:26):
A couple of things within the (19)70s that stand out. Of course, Kent State and Jackson State, Watergate, Nixon resigning and Ford becoming president, the Pentagon Papers. And the only other thing kind of disco music, the music changes drastically. Your thoughts on any of those events? And then oftentimes, and I would like your thoughts on this, when we talk about the sexual revolution, we talk about more of the (19)70s and the (19)60s sometimes. And the critics of the (19)70s will say that because of the sexual revolution, there was a direct link to the AIDS crisis of the (19)80s. And of course, when you think about the (19)80s, again, you have got to think of Reagan. I interviewed Mark Thompson a couple weeks ago, and Mark Thompson almost, he actually started crying on the phone. That is the only time he did it, he said, when he starts thinking of Ronald Reagan.

CK (00:49:20):
Who is Mark Thompson?

SM (00:49:21):
He wrote Advocate Days. He is Malcolm Boyd's lifelong partner, and he was one of the leaders of the Advocate for many years. He said when he talks about Ronald Reagan and about how Ronald Reagan treated gay and lesbians in America, as if they did not even exist, he gets real emotional. But-

CK (00:49:48):
You know what he said about his son though, Ronald Junior, when he first took the office? He said, "He is all man, we have made sure."

SM (00:49:57):
Oh, wow.

CK (00:49:59):
I have always wanted to know what the test had been.

SM (00:50:02):
Yeah. His son does not seem to be all that bad. I think his son is a little liberal, is not he or something?

CK (00:50:07):
His son is very liberal, yeah.

SM (00:50:08):
He has got his own radio show, I think, out in the West someplace. Your thoughts on those major events of the (19)70s, Kent State, and their impact and either something-

CK (00:50:18):
Well, there was still a huge... I mean, the (19)70s is when I witnessed all this. The second biggest disruption of Columbia University was in 1972 when there was, again, buildings occupied, and anti-war protests and police came on the campus, and it was really kind of a mini version of what had happened in 1968, and it was a period... There was still a period when there was a lot of middle-class protests in the streets going against the war, which was after all, dragging on and on thanks to Henry Kissinger. But there was also the music was less interesting, except for Stevie Wonder and a couple of other people. But the amount of diversity, which was really the hallmark in the music of the (19)60s, was that someone with almost any conceivable musical style had a shot at being a star. Whereas my mid (19)70s I would say, disco was the main form of a popular musical entertainment in America. And certainly there is a huge amount of sexual promiscuity in the 1970s, that is undeniable. I mean, it is the really the time in our time when you felt like the biggest danger, physical danger, to you of being promiscuous was getting something which could have gotten rid of with a couple of shots of antibiotics. So, there would never be quite that same libertine spirit again because of the AIDS virus.

SM (00:52:05):
Yeah. When you think of all the movements that really evolved from the civil rights movement and used the civil rights as their role model... I have been asking this question to a lot of my guests, too. There seem to be a lot of unity within these movements. That is, the women's movement would come out strong, they would be at any gay lesbian protest and vice versa.

CK (00:52:30):
Well, no, not at all. On the contrary, the women's movement, especially at the beginning, Betty Friedan was obsessed with not letting lesbians take over the women's movement. That was a big leitmotif.

SM (00:52:41):
What year was that though?

CK (00:52:44):
Oh, as late as 1968 or so. If you really want the right women's movement person, you should interview Susan Brownmiller, who wrote Against Our Will, which was the groundbreaking book which changed the law on rape. Because up until then in most states, the victim could barely testify in her own trial. It was a very important book. Then she did a big look about the women's movement about 10 years ago. But she would be the person to get the blow-by-blow on that. I can give you her email, too.

SM (00:53:17):
Yeah, that would be good.

CK (00:53:17):
Three emails I owe you: Susan, [inaudible], and Peter Goldman.

SM (00:53:21):
Yeah, and Susan, I believe I could tried to contact her, but it was her book company, and something Susan Brownmiller books or something.

CK (00:53:30):
She is in the phone book on Jane Street in Manhattan.

SM (00:53:33):
Okay. You corrected me on that, but what I am getting at is that the (19)60s seemed to be a period when movements evolved for individual rights for so many different groups, whether it be the Native American group and the American Indian Movement, which was in its heyday from (19)69 to (19)73. Then obviously, you have got Stonewall, which was a historic event for gay and lesbians. You have got the Chicano movement. I just spoke to Dr. Franklin last week about that group out in San Francisco. And certainly, the environmental movement in 1970. What are your thoughts on all these movements? Are you pleased with the direction they have gone as years have progressed? Are they still strong or do you think they have become so singular in their... they do not work with other groups?

CK (00:54:32):
Well, I certainly think that the Conservatives are much better at uniting their movement than the Left has been, with the exception of the election of Barack Obama. But generally speaking, I would say there has not been. Of course, part of the problem is the complete withering of the labor union movement in America, which was extremely important as a source of self-financed progressivism, and it has gotten so much smaller than it was in the heyday. Your question is really too broad for me to answer, is what do I think of all these movements? I mean, that is just too... I cannot get a handle on that.

SM (00:55:17):
Yeah. I think what I am getting at is, do they work with other groups or are they just concentrate on their own issues and become isolated?

CK (00:55:27):
There is some [inaudible] but not as much as I would like there to be, probably.

SM (00:55:32):
How about Boomers that say they feel they were the most unique generation in the history of the United States because they were going to change the world in every way? They were going to end Racism, sexism, homophobia. That was an attitude that a lot of the Boomers had back in the (19)60s, and some still have it.

CK (00:55:51):
Well, I mean, there was more progress made for women and gays and Blacks when we were young than at any other period in America since at least the Emancipation Proclamation, I would say so. I mean, to say we were the most unique generation? Well, that is not a statement that I would want to defend. But we were, briefly, one of the most successfully activists generations, is the way I would put it.

SM (00:56:31):
You will remember this question, and I have the whole issue of healing. Do you feel the Boomers are still having a problem with healing from the extreme divisions that tore them apart when they were young, divisions between Black and white, and obviously those who supported the war and those who did not, and the troops as well? Do you think the generation will go to its grave like the Civil War generation not truly healing? Or is there truth to the statement time heals all wounds? Do you think that the Boomers are a generation-

CK (00:57:00):
Wounds all heals, is the other way to put it.

SM (00:57:02):
Yeah. Do you think-

CK (00:57:06):
I do not know the answer to that question, that is another one of those. But I mean, I think there will always be fundamental disagreements. I would say one of the fundamental disagreements now is between the people who realized that the war was a pointless and wasteful exercise, which could not have been won under any circumstances, and the counter movement, which says if only we would just hung in there a little longer, we could have defeated the Viet Cong, which I think is completely ridiculous. But I do not know. The rest of the questions, I do not think I really want to answer.

SM (00:57:47):
I know that when we took our students to meet Ed Muskie, he answered it in this way, "We have not healed since the Civil War." That is-

CK (00:57:55):
Yeah. You told me that. Yeah.

SM (00:57:57):
Yeah, and he did not even comment on 1968, which is what I was-

CK (00:58:01):
He is probably still too traumatized by 1968 to comment on that.

SM (00:58:05):
Yeah, you may be right. The other question is dealing with the issue of trust. One of the qualities that the Boomers have always been looked upon as having is this business of not trusting anybody in positions of responsibility and whether they pass that on to their children or their grandchildren. But would you say that this generation, more than any other, was just not a very trusting generation because of all the leaders that lied to them and assassinations and all the things, that dreams-

CK (00:58:40):
[inaudible] different point of view towards figures of authority than the generation that proceeded us, certainly, I would say that. And a lot of that had to do specifically with Lyndon Johnson, who after all, did run on an anti- war platform in 1964 and then proceeded to escalate the war in ways that I thought only Barry Goldwater could have done.

SM (00:59:12):
I would like your comments, you had mentioned that Walter Cronkite was so unique amongst all the journalists from that period when Boomers were young or even into their twenties watching television in thirties and forties. What do you remember about the media from the (19)50s and (19)60s and (19)70s that stands out, beyond just Cronkite? I want to mention these names here because these are names that I remember as being kind of important. These are the people we watched when there were only three channels. Huntley-Brinkley, John Cameron Swayze, Dave Garaway, Frank Reynolds, Douglas Edwards, Don McNeill and the Breakfast Club, Arthur Godfrey, Frank McGee, Hugh Downs, Dan Rather-
Arthur Godfrey, Frank McGee, Hugh Downs, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Eric Sevareid, Howard K. Smith, and I guess Nancy Dickerson was the first female that I think was on TV all the time, along with Sander Vanocur. Were they kind of special? Were they different than the ones we see today?

CK (01:00:24):
Well, I mean, Huntley-Brinkley are the inventors, really, of the modern evening news broadcast, as we know it. Although, twice as long as it was when they started, still basically the format, they were the first ones who made it a kind of mass cultural phenomenon. The main difference was that the big newspapers and the big networks really did have a monopoly on the distribution of information, which is unimaginable in the internet age, but probably, in the coverage of black people by southern newspapers in that era, with some honorable exceptions like the Atlantic Constitution, was largely awful, and the coverage of gay people was uniformly awful by all publications everywhere, pretty much without exception, in the 1950s and the early 1960s. On the other hand, we did not have cable news, and I am convinced that cable news has done more to denigrate or to degrade the national conversation than anything else in the history of the modern mass media because they do so much to focus on the trivial and things that are not important, and they also put on the air all kinds of people who are supposed experts who never would have had any public outlet back in the day when there were only three networks. So I do not know if that [inaudible] or not.

SM (01:02:22):
Well, I wish I had had a chance to totally read your book, Gay Metropolis, but after talking to Mark Thompson for almost two hours a couple weeks ago about The Advocate and everything, we talked a lot about the AIDS crisis and the loss of life within the gay community. He mentioned that he went to as many as a hundred funerals of friends, and the fact that when you talk about gay and lesbian boomers, so many of them have passed on, some of the most talented ones. He talked a little bit about Paul Monette, the great writer, and some of his friends that were at The Advocate as well. Could you explain in your own words what it was like to be a gay person, say in the (19)50s, (19)60s, and (19)70s, and where we are today, just briefly?

CK (01:03:25):
Well, my knowledge of the (19)50s is obviously from people older than myself. To be gay in the 1950s was to be invisible or was to make the large proportion of your energy to making sure that your sexuality was invisible to everybody else. It was a time when you never saw any positive depiction of gay people anywhere in the public media, and the only openly gay people in the world practically were Ginsburg, James Baldwin, and Gore Vidal, sort of, kind of, but not exactly. Things are not all that different in the (19)60s, we have accepted, until the Stonewall Riot in 1969, and then you have immediately, this kind of organizational energy that you had never had before. The (19)70s is the great flowering of open gay life, and huge matter of fact, obviously, but it is still a time when in the (19)70s there were no openly gay reporters at any major newspapers, anywhere. There were two gay reporters that I know of at the Washington Post in the (19)70s, Roy Aarons, and I am going to forget the name of the other one again, who ran into each other in a gay bar, and they were both so embarrassed, even though they were both gay, they were both so embarrassed to see each other in a gay bar, that instead of saying hello to each other, they ran in the opposite direction, never talked about it again. In 1980, there was a total of two openly gay reporters in San Francisco and New York City, Randy Schultz in San Francisco, and a guy named Joe Nicholson who was at the New York Post. Well, what I say in the Gay Metropolis, is really that the AIDS crisis was, well, first of all, you have to say, as you were saying before, the AIDS crisis wiped out half of my generation of urban gay men. I think the most likely number is 50 percent, and I think that had a really devastating effect on the culture. I think that is really an important reason, why the culture in the (19)90s was relatively arid and vapid. So many of the most creative people, I mean, were dead. But age is the best and the worst thing that happens to us; the worst for that reason, because half of us were wiped out, and the best because it finally stimulated us to do something like the kind of mass organization that we should have done 10 years earlier, and it resulted in everybody, millions of people, being forced out of the closet, and America realizing that people like Roy Cohn, and Brock Hudson, and so many others were in fact gay, which is something most people did not realize before the AIDS epidemic. So, it created all this organizational energy and it made it clear to people for the first time, just how many people really were gay.

SM (01:07:09):
Has the AIDS quilt done to the gay and lesbian population and their families what the Vietnam Memorial has done to veterans?

CK (01:07:20):
I think it certainly did at the beginning. It certainly did in its heyday. I mean, I can remember very vividly, I cannot give you the year, it might be (19)88, I am not sure, but the first year that it was displayed in Washington during one of the gay marches on Washington, it was an unbelievably traumatic event for many of us. I mean, you literally walked around the quilt and discovered that the people that you did not know were dead were dead for the first time, but because it does not have a permanent display anywhere, I do not think you can say that it has quite the same effect as the Vietnam Memorial, just because it is not somewhere to be seen at any time.

SM (01:08:09):
I know I have been trying to get an interview with Cleve Jones. It is kind of hard.

CK (01:08:14):
What has happened? What happened?

SM (01:08:16):
Well, I contacted his assistant, but I think he let his assistant go. I got to get back to him again, because there is different people. I think they might have interns in there, wherever he works, and so they are not very good at getting word to him, so I got to get to him directly. You mentioned, I want to also know your thoughts on what happened in 1978 in San Francisco, because here it is, to some people who may not live in the Bay Area, it is not big to them, but certainly the assassination of George Moscone and Harvey Milk were major events. It is almost like, they are not like Dr. King, and Bobby Kennedy, and John Kennedy, but here we are again, somebody murdered, who was so visible, who was fighting for somebody's rights and the answer, even whether this guy was on Twinkies or whatever, they ended up dead. Your thoughts on that particular day in San Francisco in November? I lived out in the West Coast. I know the impact it had on that city, and I know the impact it had on the state is sad. Just your thoughts on 1978 and what happened in San Francisco with the Harvey Milk and George Moscone?

CK (01:09:40):
It was a terrifying event, a devastating event, I mean, you could see it as an extreme reaction by one deranged individual to all the progress that gay people had made up to that point. Harvey Milk was extremely important, as the recent movie captured so well. He was an extremely important, early, charismatic gay leader in a period where we had had very, very few, if any, charismatic gay leaders. So it was both a tremendous shock, tremendously depressing, and on an individual basis, it was just a tremendous loss for the movement, just to lose somebody who had been so effective in that way.

SM (01:10:39):
You mentioned that movie, and that leads me in back to something you mentioned much earlier about the counterculture of the (19)60s and (19)70s and how important the music was, certainly the art was, and the movies. In your view again, or for the first time, I know you mentioned this in our interview before, what were the movies that you felt really explained the culture of the (19)60s? That really talked about the (19)60s?

CK (01:11:07):
Explained or captured?

SM (01:11:09):
Yeah, I would say captured the (19)60s and the (19)70s.

CK (01:11:17):
Medium pool; have you ever seen Medium Pool?

SM (01:11:18):
Yes, I have.

CK (01:11:21):
Bonnie and Clyde, in a funny way, has a real 60s sensibility, and I cannot exactly explain why, but partly because it is a very violent movie, and partly because that was a very violent era, so I think it has something to do with that. Ell, my favorite movie in the world is A Thousand Clowns with Jason Robards, which is really the first celebration of someone who is questioning authority, so it is, in a way, in it is way, it is kind of the first movie about the (19)60s, in New York City at least. I do not know. I mean, movies were very important in the (19)60s, but not so much because they captured the era, because I think most of the important movies of that era were mostly set in other time periods.

SM (01:12:25):
Where would you place the Vietnam films Apocalypse Now, Deer Hunter, Taxi Driver?

CK (01:12:35):
Deer Hunter, I thought it was a big [inaudible]; Apocalypse. Now, I thought it was kind of a mess; Taxi, I did not see until this year on an airplane; Platoon is very important, but that is much later, right?

SM (01:12:52):

CK (01:12:52):
Is that the (19)80s or something?

SM (01:12:52):
Tom Cruise, yes.

CK (01:12:54):
Coming Home, that is a very important movie. That is about, I think late (19)70s, is not it?

SM (01:13:01):

CK (01:13:01):
With Jane Fonda and John Voight?

SM (01:13:10):
Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Yep. Then the other ones are, The Graduate.

CK (01:13:11):
Well, The Graduate is the key movie, in terms of, I mean, no other movie ever captured the division [inaudible] generation.

SM (01:13:26):
Another one in that period was The Sterile Cuckoo. I do not know if you saw that with Liza Minelli.

CK (01:13:31):
Yeah, correct.

SM (01:13:32):
Of course, she followed it up with Cabaret, which was...

CK (01:13:34):
Well, that is the (19)70s. I mean, I write about that in the Gay Metropolis, that really, although it is set in the 1930s Germany because of the bisexual theme of it, and also the kind of sense of forces beyond your control taking over. That was, I mean, I really felt when Cabaret came out was when I was in my twenties, that this was as much a portrait of the life I was leading in Manhattan, in terms of social interactions, as it was a portrait of 1930s Berlin.

SM (01:14:18):
Another one is Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, which was about the sexual revolution of the time.

CK (01:14:24):
Yeah, I saw it and I do not really have enough to recollect.

SM (01:14:29):
Then there were the black films like Shaft and all those other, they were fairly big as well.

CK (01:14:37):
Yeah, well, they were mostly about making money.

SM (01:14:40):
Now, I mentioned this, I keep saying it, I am going to cut this out of the editing, but the three slogans that I felt really defined the period were Malcolm X's "By any means necessary"; Bobby Kennedy, when he talked a Henry David Thoreau quote, "Some men see things as they are and why, I see things that never were and ask why not," which is kind of symbolic of all the activists of the era fighting for different causes; and then of course you had the Peter Max poster, but not too many people remember seeing these words, "You do your thing, I will do mine. If by chance we should come together, it will be beautiful," symbolic of the hippie kind of mentality. Your thoughts on....

CK (01:15:24):
You have left out, "black is beautiful and gay is good."

SM (01:15:27):
Well see, I am asking yours. I am asking what quote you would...

CK (01:15:32):
"Black is beautiful," which I believe is Stokely Carmichael's creation, and "gay is good," which was Frank Kameny's creation in direct response to "black is beautiful." He saw Stokely Carmichael say that on TV, and he said to himself, we need something like that for the gay movement, and there upon invented "gay is good."

SM (01:15:51):
Well, David Michener said something about the, you probably know him?

CK (01:15:56):
I do not really know him. no.

SM (01:15:57):
Yeah, well, he said something about the gay community because he says, I have been working for years trying to get them to include music in their protests or music linked to their causes, and he says it has been a fruitless battle. He said there was no music, and all the other movements had music, so that was just a...

CK (01:16:20):
[inaudible] music was the disco music.

SM (01:16:22):
Right, you may be right. I know the Bee Gees came to be well known at that particular time. Again, the other thing is the pictures that really stand out in your mind, because pictures say more than a thousand words. The pictures that you feel define the (19)60s and the (19)70s, or when Boomers were young?

CK (01:16:42):
Which pictures we...

SM (01:16:44):
We are talking about photography.

CK (01:16:47):
Yeah, well, the Vietnamese girl, and the picture of the girl at Kent State, and the picture of the three athletes at the Olympics in 1968, and certainly at the time, although I do not think it has the resonance down through the years, but the gigantic picture of the funeral procession for Martin Luther King on the front page of the New York Times the day that he was buried.

SM (01:17:26):
I have got only two more questions. One of them is, when you talk about the (19)60s and look at that period, you saw the Civil Rights Movement and you saw that Stokely Carmichael challenging Dr. King saying, your time has passed. Byard Rustin, another person who was well known for being a gay person, right here from Westchester, in this debate with Malcolm X, where he also told Rustin that your time has passed because Black Power is here now, and non-violent protests is a thing of the past. What I am getting at here is, whether it be the Black Panthers, or Black Power Weathermen taking over for Students for Democratic Society, the American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee, what sent them down was the violence there, and even I was talking to someone yesterday about the environmental movement and some of the violence that has really hurt their cause. Even in San Francisco, the area where I lived in 1978, the violence that took place after Harvey Milk, violence seems to hurt every cause. Just your thoughts on the whole concept of fighting for certain issues, and beliefs, and justice, and rights, and then this violent segment comes in, by any means necessary, and it seems to really hurt a cause; your thoughts on that?

CK (01:19:00):
Well, I guess there is something to the idea that some of the people who remained active in these causes the longest probably had a frustration over the lack of progress, or whatever specific thing they were interested in, did turn to violence and in no case was this the decision which actually contributed to any real social progress.

SM (01:19:30):
Who are your mentors and role models that you look up to today, whether historic or people that you have known in your life?

CK (01:19:47):
Frank Cleins, of the New York Times, because he was the most honest and the most... Cleins, c-l-i-n-e-s, the most honest and the most elegant journalist I know. George Orwell still, even though he is dead, he certainly is saying, George Orwell reminds me every day of the obligations of a writer to be fearless and accurate, as accurate as you can be. Everybody says Nelson Mandela, but I will say Nelson Mandela too. I mean, he is the extraordinary, modern figure of our time, modern political figure of our times, for sure.

SM (01:20:37):
What do you think the history books will say after all the boomers have passed on? What will be their legacy, when people write about them who were not alive, when they were alive?

CK (01:20:53):
I suspect what they will write about the most is the music, because that will be the part that they can actually experience in almost the same way that we did. I mean, that is the big difference between the 20th century and all the centuries before it, is that all of the people in exceeding generations are all going to be able to experience all the popular music that was around. Whereas before the phonograph, only a tiny proportion of the popular music of any era survived into the next one. Also, I think the music was the most was lasting artistic thing that we created in that time. So I would say it will be the music and it will be the perception that this was the generation which exploded centuries of prejudice against people who were not white, male, or straight.

SM (01:22:03):
The one slogan that came out in your book, and I have heard it before, please define what you mean by this; I know what it means, but for people that are reading it, "just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not after you."

CK (01:22:21):
Well, we discovered as decades went on, that there had been an awful lot of surveillance by the FBI, and by the CIA, [inaudible] by the CIA being completely illegal at the time. It means that paranoia was often grounded in reality, even then when you did not know it for a fact at the time.

SM (01:22:48):
COINTELPRO was pretty scary. It was almost like McCarthy all over again.

CK (01:22:52):
Yeah, on a broader scale, I think.

SM (01:22:55):
Yeah, lives were ruined there too. Charles, is there any question I did not ask that you thought I was going to this time?

CK (01:23:04):
I do not think so.

SM (01:23:06):
All right, well, that is it. I got it. That is exactly an hour and a half.

CK (01:23:09):

SM (01:23:17):
John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.

CK (01:23:24):
Well, John Kennedy was the first great love affair of my life, and I was a big Kennedy supporter at the age of 10, and we had a debate in fifth grade in Mrs. Green's class, and I debated Steve Lane, who took the Nixon position, and I had the Democratic National Committee Handbook, which had a whole series of questions for the Republicans, which seemed to be completely unanswerable at the time. I think it is important to remember that at this point in his presidency, or certainly two years into his presidency, that people did not feel markedly different about him than Obama's supporters feel about Obama. That he was seen as very ineffective; he had had this disaster of the Bay of Pigs, he had had one big success in the missile crisis, but the Civil Rights legislation was stalled, and nobody quite saw how it was ever going to get passed, and there was a, I think, big perception that this was a great speaker and a pretty boy, and not someone who could get a lot done. I think we will never know, but the odds are that my brother David is correct in believing that he would have resisted the quagmire that Lyndon Johnson took us into because he had the balls to stand up to his own advisors, and Lyndon Johnson did not have the balls to stand up to the Kennedy advisors who he inherited. I think in particular that there is a pretty good chance that Dean Russ would have only lasted one term, and that alone would have made a huge difference. I shook Bobby Kennedy's hand once. I never shook Jack's; I saw Jack and the inaugural...

SM (01:25:46):
Well, I shook his.

CK (01:25:47):

SM (01:25:48):
Yeah, that is on the bottom of my letter; at Hyde Park.

CK (01:25:52):
Oh, yes, I remember.

SM (01:25:53):
Yeah, I was 11? I do not know.

CK (01:26:00):
Anyway, I met Bobby, who came to my father's swearing in when he became Ambassador to Senegal. Then he was supposed to come visit us in Senegal, and I spent a week experimenting in front of the mirror trying to get my hair flip the way his did, and then his plans changed and he never came to visit us in Senegal. In 1968, I was exactly like Murray Kempton and many, many others, and I hated Bobby Kennedy because I was a hundred percent for Gene McCarthy...

SM (01:26:31):
That was my next guy, McCarthy.

CK (01:26:33):
And Bobby was the coward who would come down from the hills to shoot the wounded, as Murray Kempton put it, after McCarthy almost wins in New Hampshire, and he comes in to steal all the fire, and then when he was shot, it was the end of everything. It was the most horrible [inaudible] of all. Especially because of the cumulative effect of it, you know?

SM (01:27:05):
Yeah, Eugene McCarthy, because he was the first person I interviewed.

CK (01:27:11):
Oh, good. I am glad you got him.

SM (01:27:12):
I got him, and we got along real well. I am Irish, he is Irish. I spent two and a half hours, and I got a long interview with him, but I had met him twice before, but he would not answer two questions. He said, when I asked him about Bobby Kennedy, he said, read the book, just read my book. Got a little emotional, but he said, just read the book. I did not ever have the guts to ask him a question. I would have asked it to him now, why did not you continue? Because I still...

CK (01:27:48):
He had a breakdown. He had a complete break. He never recovered. He, more than anybody else except Ethel, never recovered from Bobby Kennedy's assassination. That was it. He was never, he never functioned after that. That was it. He blamed himself. I am convinced he blamed himself as everybody kind of blamed themselves for contributing, and it was irrational, of course, but we all felt that we had contributed to this climate of hatred and viciousness, and especially hatred of Bobby. He had been as nasty and vicious to Bobby, in print, and in public, as anybody else was in 1968. But, he is the crucial figure of the year because he is the only person with the balls to run for President against Lyndon Johnson, even though I do not think he had the slightest interest. I mean, he pretty much admitted when I interviewed him that he never really intended, he never intended to be President. What his goal, his ambition, his intention, was to force Lyndon Johnson to change his position on the war, but certainly not to force Johnson out of office.

SM (01:29:03):
How about Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, because they were the yippies.

CK (01:29:10):
Yeah, I never took either of them very seriously at the time. They were both too radical and too theatrical for my taste. I was much more of a, I was not very radical, except that I was gay, but that did not really make me radical politically. I was a real old-fashioned Democratic Liberal; Gene McCarthy liberal. Gene McCarthy was also pretty radical in what he said about the CIA and what he said about America being the arms merchants of the world.

SM (01:29:52):

CK (01:29:52):
He said a lot of things that no modern progressive candidate would say.

SM (01:29:59):
I just found him to be brilliant.

CK (01:30:01):
Oh, he was brilliant. He was brilliant, but he was not...

SM (01:30:03):
Wanted to be brilliant.

CK (01:30:03):
Oh, he was brilliant was brilliant, but he was not a serious person. He was brilliant, but he was unbelievably, and he fails us terribly from June to August of 1968 in ways which are... I mean, from June through the rest of the year, he is just a complete catastrophe. A, because he never reaches out to Bobby's people B, because he does not function as a candidate from June until August and C, because he does everything he can really to undermine Hubert. He hates Hubert and-

SM (01:30:41):
Yeah. Well, Hubert Humphrey and Spiro Agnew were the next two, because Spiro was the hatchet man, he was going all over the college campuses with all this highfalutin language. Your thoughts on...

CK (01:30:56):
Hubert is the tragic figure. I think it would have been a different world if he had been elected in 1968, but he really was genuinely emasculated by Lyndon Johnson. When Johnson said, "Do not worry about Hubert, I have got his pecker in my pocket." He was not exaggerating. Spiro Agnew inaugurated the most successful right-wing propaganda campaign ever. He really changed the way the press was perceived, and he was the beginning of this obsession with balance, and the beginning of really moving the whole debate in Washington 25 degrees further to the right than it had been before. I think the seeds of those speeches have grown into giant trees of Fox News and Pat Buchanan being a major... Just all kinds of terrible things came out of him.

SM (01:32:28):
Benjamin Spock and Daniel and Philip Berrigan.

CK (01:32:34):
Well, we did all think we were Spock's children there for a minute. And he was very good about the war, and the Berrigans were two of the most courageous and honorable people of their time, I think, probably.

SM (01:32:51):
And then the women, which is Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, your thoughts on so-called leaders. I got Phyllis Schlafly's thoughts in person, but...

CK (01:33:03):
I admired Gloria enormously as a journalist. She wrote great stuff for New York Magazine. My favorite will always be her profile of Pat Nixon in the 68 campaign. And she asked Pat who she most wanted to emulate, and Pat naturally said, "Mamie Eisenhower." And Gloria said, why Mamie Eisenhower? And Pat said, "Because she captured the imagination of America's youth."

SM (01:33:44):

CK (01:33:44):
And then she lost it, which Pat never did. But she lost it and she got pissed off, and she said, "We have not had it easy like other people, we have had to fight for everything we got. We have not had time to sit around and think about things like who we wanted to emulate." And Bella was... Well Bella, introduced the first gay civil rights law in Congress, so I guess I am grateful to her for that. And I think I probably voted for her against Pat Moynihan in the Senate primary, because I had not forgiven Pat for working for Richard Nixon. And I never read Betty for Dan's book, but I went to college with her son who I liked very much. Sean Friedan.

SM (01:34:32):
That is the one Phyllis Schlafly kept commenting on was her. She is the one that started it all with her books about the... Well, the attack on motherhood...

CK (01:34:44):
Betty was...

SM (01:34:44):
All that other stuff.

CK (01:34:44):
No, but she was very important in living a greater imagination about what possibilities of life were for them.

SM (01:34:54):
I know I mentioned the Black Panthers, but there is unique personalities within them. You have got Eldridge Cleaver, you have got Huey Newton, you have got Bobby Seale, you have got HRF Brown, you have got Stokely Carmichael, you have got Kathleen Cleaver. And of course you, Dave Hilliard is not as well known, and Elaine Brown, but Newton was pretty big. Seale was big too, but Newton was like, and Eldridge Cleaver who ended up becoming a conservative at the end. But just your thoughts on their personalities. Angela Davis was not one of them. She was just an activist. She was not a Black Panther.

CK (01:35:30):
I do not know enough about their personalities to have a useful opinion.

SM (01:35:35):
But overall, you just were afraid of them?

CK (01:35:39):
I thought they were pretty scary at the time, yeah.

SM (01:35:42):
How about George Wallace and Ronald Reagan?

CK (01:35:55):
George Wallace perfected what really became the strategy of the Republican Party for the next 40 years after he ran for president, not obviously as a Republican. But he really was the genius at focusing the fear of poor, dumb white men on everything that was different from them. And that is really pretty much been the essence of most Republican campaigns since then. And Ronald Reagan's campaign was successful for, among other reasons, a TV campaign run in all of the Southern states three weeks before the election, whose theme was the gaze of taking over San Francisco, and now they want to take over the White House. And Jimmy Carter's approval rating among evangelicals was, these are not real numbers, but something like 65 percent before this campaign and 35 percent after that campaign. And the Republicans under understood how to use and exploit the fear of black people and then gay people more effectively than any other major party. And they owe a lot of it to the path making of George Wallace.

SM (01:37:50):
Only about three or four more here, and then we are almost done with one final question. And that is Daniel, not Daniel Berrigan, Daniel Ellsberg in the Pentagon Papers number one. And Robert McNamara himself, the man himself.

CK (01:38:13):
McNamara did a lot to try to redeem himself during all the years after he was Secretary of Defense. He did actually understand by the time Johnson pushed him out, that the war had been a disaster, but he also probably had as much as any other single person had to do with getting us in there. And he was terribly two-faced throughout the time that he was in the administration. My favorite story, which I think I tell in 1968, which is when Kosygin was in London on one of the 18 failed peace missions, and there was a bombing halt in place, and they were about to resume the bombing while Kosygin was there. And David Bruce, my father's [inaudible] ambassador in England, wrote a telegram, marked it please pass to the President. This would be a catastrophe if you resumed the bombing while Kosygin is here. It will set a terrible message throughout the world. Cannot do this. And they did delay it for three more days. And the day after, or a couple of days after, Bruce sent his telegram, McNamara called him up and said, "David, thank you so much for that telegram, it arrived at just the right time. It was just enough to turn the tide and cannot tell you how useful it was."

SM (01:39:55):

CK (01:39:57):
And then my father learned from somebody else who had been in the same room that when Bruce's telegram arrived, McNamara said, "Who the fuck is David Bruce to tell us when we should bomb and not bomb? What does he know about bombing?" So there was that.

SM (01:40:16):
Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater?

CK (01:40:21):
Well, Richard Nixon was, when I was growing up, Richard Nixon was... My family had exactly the same shoot of Richard Nixon as Herblock did, that this was a man who hopped up out of sewers all across America when he was campaigning. And his role in the McCarthy period, and in all the red baiting and all of that stuff made him as bad a person as there was. Now, it is true that Ronald Reagan and the second George Bush have managed to make him look like a relative moderate, but this was not a great president. He went to China. He was the only person who could go to China and do that because he had spent all of his life up in that time taking the wine that would have made it impossible for any Democratic president to do that. So yes, it is great that he went to China. It is not great that he contributed to the isolation of the Chinese from the rest of the world for the previous 20 years. And without question, he prolonged that fucking war for five years longer than it should...

SM (01:41:50):
Can I use that word in the...

CK (01:41:51):
Absolutely. I mean, that is...

SM (01:41:54):
Everybody is going to see the transcription.

CK (01:41:59):
They were terrible.

SM (01:42:00):
And Barry Goldwater?

CK (01:42:06):
Well, my brother, David's favorite Art Buchwald column was the 180 wrote, I think in the spring of 1965, saying, "Thank God we defeated Barry Goldwater. If we had not, we would now have a hundred thousand more troops on the way to Vietnam and we would be bombing the hell out of the North Vietnamese, and it would all be a catastrophe." So I do not think the conservative movement has done America any real good in the last 50 years. And to the extent that Barry was the father of the modern conservative movement, I am not an admirer. On the other hand, he did have the balls to have the right position on gays in the military, I think long before Colin Powell did.

SM (01:43:05):
What is your thoughts on Buckley? Because Buckley was very important in the...

CK (01:43:11):
I think Buckley is also the father of many terrible ideas which have worked their way into the mainstream and done grave damage to America.

SM (01:43:21):
Sargent Shriver and the Peace Corps, and then Harvey Milk. I want your thoughts on...

CK (01:43:28):
The Peace Corps was an entirely good thing. And whatever Sarge did to make it a success was a wonderful thing. And when we lived in Senegal, we had the first class of Peace Corps people who were in Senegal and all over the world as well, but they were a very impressive group of young idealists who were responding to the call of the Kennedy administration to give two years of their life to make the world a better place. And that was genuinely impressive.

SM (01:44:11):
What was the second person?

CK (01:44:13):
Harvey Mill.

SM (01:44:14):

CK (01:44:18):
I had a good friend named Jeff Katzoff who worked in gay democratic politics in San Francisco, so I used to hear a lot about Harvey through him. And I mean, he was very courageous and effective guy and a trailblazer. He was not the first openly gay person elected, that was really the state legislator in Minnesota. But he was certainly one of the first, and he was very important. And his assassination was an extremely disturbing event. And the second most disturbing thing was the pathetic sentence that his murderer received for this. And the movie, what is the name? Who plays the...

SM (01:45:22):
Sean Penn.

CK (01:45:22):
Sean Penn does one of the performances of a lifetime. The movie does something really important by capturing the political and emotional power of this person.

SM (01:45:36):
I am trying to interview Cleve Jones, but he is kind of...

CK (01:45:39):
Oh, you must be able to get to Cleve.

SM (01:45:41):
I ended up, I am going through this Tanner, they delayed it and delayed it. So I do not know what the delay is. Two more. Your thoughts on Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, which may be the predominant black personalities of the period.

CK (01:46:03):
Well, Jackie Robinson was a miracle. Both because he was so unbelievably talented and he seemed to have exactly the constitution and the demeanor that was necessary to play this unbelievably difficult trailblazing role. And who were the other two? King and...

SM (01:46:32):
King and Malcolm X.

CK (01:46:39):
I lived in Bethesda when King spoke on the march on Washington. And my Unitarian uncle minister Roger Greeley came to Washington for it. And everybody went into Washington, and there was an official, I think an official request by the organizers of the march not to have children there because they were so obsessed with having it to be a controlled event. So I stayed home and watched it on TV, and I have a vivid memory of one of the neighbors running into one of the kids my age in the neighborhood the next day saying, "We heard you cheering for Martin Luther King yesterday." He is not the most important American of the 20th century, which is probably Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He is certainly one of the five most important Americans in the 20th century because of his courage, intelligence, breadth of vision and charisma. He is, of all those great public speakers, he is probably the best of all those great public speakers. And most admirable for being so right so early about the Vietnam War, and being willing to do that, knowing exactly what the cost to him would be and still doing it. My favorite quote is at the beginning of that chapter of [inaudible 01:48:49], " One has to conquer the fear of death if he is going to do anything constructive in life and take a stand against evil." 1965. He was fearless. I think he was genuinely fearless.

SM (01:49:20):
Yep, I agree. And Malcolm.

CK (01:49:22):
Malcolm X, I was mesmerized by his autobiography that was ghost- written by, what is his name?

SM (01:49:32):
Alex Haley.

CK (01:49:33):
Alex Haley, yeah. That was one of the most powerful and exciting reading experiences of my adolescence just because I guess it described a life that I did not know anything about, and it was written with energy and passion. And certainly he is someone who I admire a great deal more afterwards than I did when he was alive. He also was somebody who I probably thought was a fairly threatening and scary figure, but he got less scary as he got it along. He went along, I think, and certainly his death was a terrible, terrible loss.

SM (01:50:28):
One of the important things, then we are done. We are done. Is the issue of religion too, and spirituality. The Beatles are very important part of this, how the Beatles split up, and George Harrison in particular. Well, all of them kind of...

CK (01:50:43):
That is the first end of the Beatles. How the (19)60s when the Beatles split up. That is certainly the first.

SM (01:50:48):
But also there is the fact that people went to church a lot, or synagogue in the (19)50s and they did not do it as much in the (19)60s. So there is a lot happening here. Billy Graham stands out to me as the number one evangelical of this whole period, and he has been pretty solid throughout. I think there was one president he did not like, and that was, Carter I think. He was not invited to the White House with him. But can you explain, when you talk about going off to make money, is the whole issue of religion and spirituality important? As the end of the Vietnam War happens, there is no more draft. So people will say, "Well, they go into themselves now they become, it is not we, it is about me." Is that really an important part of it there?

CK (01:51:35):
What the absence of religion?

SM (01:51:37):
Yeah, the absence of religion. The fact that I do not, more of fact I believe in the power above, but I do not necessarily believe in God. It was almost like an agnostic dogma.

CK (01:51:48):
Right. It probably, of course, parts of the church are very materialistic too, but I suppose it is broad absence made the wholesale embrace of crass materialism even easier.

SM (01:52:10):
Then the communal movement. Communes was that whole thing of getting away from it all. And so when the best history books are written about the (19)60s when we are all gone, I always say that when all the boomers have passed on, what do you think they will be saying about the boomer generation, historians, sociologists?

CK (01:52:26):
We made the best music.

SM (01:52:29):
Made the best music.

CK (01:52:31):
And we did transform. We transformed America. We transformed what was possible for black people and for women and for gay people. And all for the better. We did contribute a lot to America living up to the principles of the Constitution, of the Declaration of Independence in dramatic and important ways. It really was, before the (19)60s it really was a country defined by prejudice, and in which most of the most important positions of power were reserved or of avowedly heterosexual Protestant white men. And that has changed, and we deserve all the credit for that.

SM (01:53:51):
This is the absolute last question, and I swear. You already told about the fact that when you were a senior, you wrote that piece in your college paper. If you had...

CK (01:54:02):
In the New York Times about...

SM (01:54:04):
Yeah, in the New York Times. If you look at your (19)68 to (19)72 time in college, is there one specific event, either a speaker who came to your school or...

CK (01:54:15):
Saul Alinsky came to my...

SM (01:54:17):
Or a professor.

CK (01:54:18):
Saul Alinsky came to my prep school in about (19)67. That was very important. And the only good thing that happened to me in my entire prep school experience, I would say. The only public performance that I remember actually at Columbia, which was in (19)72 or three, was Don McLean coming and performing American Pie.

SM (01:54:48):

CK (01:54:48):
And it was the only time I ever used my press card to talk my way into a performance at Columbia. No, I do not remember any other...

SM (01:55:03):
Any speakers you went to see at college? No?

CK (01:55:04):
I remember going to see Arthur Schlesinger speak at the University of Connecticut also during prep school. No.

SM (01:55:20):

CK (01:55:21):
First thing I did politically was hand out stuff for John Lindsay at the polls in fall of (19)69 when he lost the Republican primary and he got reelected as an independent.

SM (01:55:34):
When you debated as a 10-year-old that other student where you had the platform, did you know going in into your opponent was not going to be as prepared as you were because you had the platform and he did not?

CK (01:55:47):
I think I as probably pretty confident as the son of Philip Kaiser that I would be more prepared than any opponent could be, yeah. I saw Steve again five years ago, and he apologized for taking the part of Richard Nixon. Steve Lane, L A N E.

SM (01:56:05):
Oh, wow. Is there any question I did not ask that you thought I was going to ask? Because I have had some...

CK (01:56:12):
We did not really talk about Bob Dylan, who is as important a cultural figure as there is.

SM (01:56:16):
You can say a few things. I know I have to be 2:45. What time is it now?

CK (01:56:22):
10 after two.

SM (01:56:22):
Yeah. I got to be over at his place at 2:45.

CK (01:56:25):
I have to be at the dentist at three, which is downtown.

SM (01:56:29):
Just on Bob Dylan.

CK (01:56:33):
Well, I would say the most religious, public religious experience I have ever had was listening to Bob Dylan at the Royal Albert Hall in 1965, when the uniform feeling within the audience was worship. Because he figured out a way to put our hopes and ideals to music in the most powerful way imaginable. And he demonstrated that one middle class Jewish kid from Minnesota could completely reinvent his life, and with nothing but a guitar and a harmonica transformed the way the entire vanguard of a generation around the world thought about itself and thought about its time. I think that as good as I will do, I think we can end there.

SM (01:58:06):

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview



Stephen McKiernan


Charles Kaiser

Biographical Text

Charles Kaiser is an American author, journalist and academic administrator. He was the Associate Director at the LGBT Social Science and Public Policy Center at Hunter College in NYC, a leader of the Grove Fellowship Program, and a weekend nonfiction book critic at The Guardian US. Kaiser has won the grand prize at the Paris Book Festival, and his book The Cost of Courage received great reviews from the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Christian Science Monitor along with some other publications.





Digital Publisher

Binghamton University Libraries

Digital Format


Material Type


Interview Format


Subject LCSH

Authors, American; Journalists; Hunter College; Kaiser, Charles--Interviews

Rights Statement

Many items in our digital collections are copyrighted. If you want to reuse any material in our collection you must seek permission, or decide if your purpose can qualify as fair use under the U.S. Copyright Law Section 107. If you think copyright or privacy has been violated, the University Libraries will investigate the issue. Please see our take down policy. If using any materials in this online digital collection for educational or research purposes, please cite accordingly.


Marijuana; Rock and Roll; George Orwell; John Lennon; Greed; Materialism; Baby boom generation; Vietnam War; Non-violence; Civil Rights Movement; Anti-war movement; De-segregation; Homophobia; Ronald Reagan; Kent State; Diversity; Edmund Muskie; Gay bar; NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt; Harvey Milk; Movies.



Item Information

About this Collection

Collection Description

Stephen McKiernan's collection of interviews includes more than two hundred interviews with prominent figures of the 1960s, which were collected between the mid-1990s and 2010s. The collection provides narratives of people who were actively involved in or witnessed events in the 1960s, an era which spurred profound cultural and… More

Link to Collection Overview

Link to Browse Collection Items


“Interview with Charles Kaiser,” Digital Collections, accessed April 25, 2024,