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Aug. 16, 2022

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Summer of ‘72: How ‘The Godfather,’ the Rolling Stones, a chess battle and more shaped pop culture


In the summer of ‘72, “The Godfather” made moviegoers an offer they couldn’t refuse.

It was a summer when the Rolling Stones returned to the United States for the first time since 1969, on a legendary tour behind the album “Exile On Main St.”

It was a summer when the TV Western “Bonanza” was still so popular that the new season aired Monday nights while older episodes from 1967-1970 were retitled “Ponderosa” to run on Tuesdays.

It’s been 50 years since then, and pop culture has changed a lot since then … although considering the current Paramount+ streaming series “The Offer” tells a fictionalized version of the making of “The Godfather,” maybe not as much as we thought.

Here’s how the summer of ‘72 entertained us:

May 29: It’s Memorial Day and “The Godfather” is No. 1 at the box office, where it has been lodged since March 22 when it knocked “Dirty Harry” out of the top spot. It stays there all summer until Aug. 30 when the Goldie Hawn comedy-drama “Butterflies Are Free” took over for a week. But just when you thought it was out, “The Godfather” is pulled back into the top spot for another four weeks.

May 29: Actress Laverne Cox is born. In 2014, she becomes the first trans person to be nominated for an Emmy in an acting category for her work on the Netflix series “Orange Is The New Black.”

June 1: Alice Cooper releases the album “School’s Out,” which reaches No. 2 on the charts and lifts the band to its long-running success. At the mellower end of the musical spectrum, the Eagles release their self-titled debut and quickly find their own success.

June 1: Fanny, one of the first all-female rock bands, plays the first of nine shows at the Whisky A Go Go in 1972. The band founded by Filipino American sisters June and Jean Millington was a favorite artists such as David Bowie and acknowledged influence on all-female rock bands such as the Runaways and the Go Gos that followed.

June 3: “I’ll Take You There,” a sweetly soulful bop by the Staples Singers, reaches No. 1 on the singles charts.

June 4: Soviet poet Joseph Brodsky is expelled from the Soviet Union and emigrates to the United States. In 1987 he wins the Nobel Prize for Literature, and four years later he’s named U.S. Poet Laureate.

June 7: The musical “Grease” debuts on Broadway, launching a ‘50s nostalgia kick that brings the movie “American Graffiti” in 1973 and the TV series “Happy Days” in 1974. The musical runs 3,388 performances on Broadway — a record at the time — until closing in 1980.

June 9: The Rolling Stones play the Hollywood Palladium, and over the next two nights also rock the Long Beach Arena and the Forum in Inglewood. Tickets are $6.50 and with that, you also get Stevie Wonder as the opening act.

June: 10: “The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr. reaches No. 1 where it stays for three weeks. A fantastic all-round performer, Davis told people he didn’t like the song — he found it too saccharine sweet — but it’s his only No. 1 single.

June 11: The X-rated adult movie “Deep Throat” opens in theaters and becomes the first pornographic film to get widespread attention with reviews by Variety and the Chicago Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert. Its title also was adopted by the Washington Post as a code-name for one of the newspaper’s most valuable anonymous sources, which is, you know, kind of weird.

June 14: “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes,” the fourth of the original five movies, is released.

June 16: David Bowie releases “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust,” which doesn’t do much on the charts but in time proves to be one of the most influential albums of the year

June 21: Directed once again by famed photographer and social justice advocate Gordon Parks, “Shaft’s Big Score!” the second in the series about Richard Roundtree’s private eye character Shaft, is released.

June 22: The one-millionth Ford Thunderbird rolls off the assembly line in Los Angeles, but it’s nowhere near as cool-looking as the 16,155 sold in 1955 when it debuted.

June 25: Led Zeppelin, whose 1972 success was overshadowed by the Rolling Stones, play the Forum in Inglewood and two nights later the Long Beach Arena. The show are recorded and released in 2003 as the live album “How The West Was Won.”

June 27: The American video game company Atari incorporates in California. In November, it serves up the game Pong.

June 29: The Robert Redford political drama “The Candidate,” which looks at the cynical manipulation of the political system, is released.

June-ish: Comedians Cheech and Chong release their second album, “Big Bambu,” which took its name from a brand of rolling paper and the LP came with a joke rolling paper the size of the album cover. The album’s success was no joke, though, as it rose to No. 2 on the charts and was nominated for the Grammy for best comedy album. (The exact day of release in June 1972 is unclear, lost to the fog of time or obscured by the enormous clouds of smoke.)

July 1: “Song Sung Blue” by Neil Diamond climbs to No. 1 for one week, becoming his second and last solo No. 1 after 1970’s “Cracklin’ Rosie.”

July 7: Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is published as a book, after originating as a loosely fictionalized series in Rolling Stone in late 1971.

July 8: “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers reaches No. 1 and hangs out there — leaning on it — for three weeks.

July 11: A showdown between world chess champion Boris Spassky and U.S. champion Bobby Fischer begins in Reykjavik, Iceland. Chess doesn’t get this much pop culture attention until Netflix releases “The Queen’s Gambit” in 2021.

July 15: “The Ken Berry ‘Wow’ Show” joins the ABC network summer schedule with then little-known actors such as Steve Martin, Teri Garr and Cheryl Ladd in its cast.

July 19: “The Thing With Two Heads” is released in theaters. It’s the story of a racist, terminally ill scientist played by Ray Milland, who wants his head transplanted onto another body so that he can live on. When he comes to after the operation, he’s been attached to an African American man played by former L.A. Rams football star Rosey Grier. Things — including the rudimentary special effects — do not work out as planned.

July 21: Comedian George Carlin is arrested at Summerfest in Milwaukee after performing his “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television” monologue, a bit he’d recorded on May 27 for his “Class Clown” album. You can say most of them on TV today, but we still can’t here.

July 29: Actor Wil Wheaton is born in Burbank, California. After starring at 14 in the classic coming-of-age tale “Stand By Me,” he realizes his destiny as an icon of nerd culture with his role as Wesley Crusher in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (and no spoilers, another recent show in the “Star Trek” universe), early blogging success, multiple books, a role as an evil version of himself on “Big Bang Theory,” and much more.

Aug. 1: “Bug Suspect Got Campaign Funds” is the headline on the first story written by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the Washington Post about the Watergate Scandal. Four years later, their work will not only have contributed to the end of Richard Nixon’s presidency, but it will also see Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman portray them in the 1976 film “All The President’s Men.”

Aug. 6: Geri Halliwell, or Ginger Spice, the eldest of the Spice Girls, is born in Watford, England.

Aug. 14: Producer-writer Jesus Salvador Trevino’s “Yo Soy Chicano” is released. The film is considered the first Chicano-produced documentary on the Mexican American experience.

Aug. 15: Ben Affleck is born in Berkeley, California, though he grows up in and around Boston, where he learns to love Dunkin’ Donuts and Matt Damon, the latter of whom with he wins an Oscar for writing “Good Will Hunting.” Later, he wins an Oscar for Best Picture for “Argo” and falls in and out love with J. Lo, and now back in again. Also, he played Batman.

Aug. 19: The live pop music series “The Midnight Special” pilot airs at 1 a.m. on NBC stations. John Denver is the guest host, and performers include Mama Cass Elliott, Argent, Harry Chapin, David Clayton-Thomas, the Everly Brothers, the Isley Brothers, Helen Reddy, Linda Ronstadt, and — phew! — War.

Aug. 20: The Wattstax Music Festival is held at the Los Angeles Coliseum where about 100,000 fans pay $1 each to see the Bar-Keys, Isaac Hayes, the Staples Singers and more. One dollar!

Aug. 22: “And Now For Something Completely Different,” the first feature film from the Monty Python comedy troupe, is released in the United States.

Aug. 24: “Hot August Night” is recorded by Neil Diamond at the Greek on this night during his 10 shows at the venue this month. It goes double platinum and becomes one of Diamond’s classic records.

Aug. 27: “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass hits No. 1 for only one week, but they’re still singing about her in that port on a Western bay where she worked layin’ whiskey down.

Aug. 30: “The Last House On The Left,” the first film by horror director Wes Craven, is released. Where exactly is the house? The movie poster helpfully shares its location: “It rests on 13 acres of earth over the very center of hell!” (You have to wonder what it would go for in this market, though.)

Sept. 1: Bobby Fischer finally finishes off Boris Spassky in the 21st game of their match. His prize money totals $154,677.50 and I’m never going to stop wondering about that 50 cents.

Sept. 4: Come on down, Bob Barker! It’s Labor Day and Barker goes to the first day on the job as host of “The Price Is Right,” a job he’ll hold down for the next 35 years.

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