The Sixties and Seventies were truly a bizarre time. In a New York Times article on the architect Philip Johnson and his avant-garde Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, they included a number of recollections by people who were there including one Ruth Smithers:
MS. SMITHERS In the 60s, Mr. Johnson threw a big party for Merce Cunningham. It was at the time of all the massive publicity for Andy Warhol. I think MoMA had just bought the soup can.
I was standing with a double scotch, hoping for the best. It was spring and twilighty. All these people milling around, very glamorous. I said: “Mr. Johnson, look over there. There’s a white-haired man coming in.” I thought it was an old guy. Philip said, “It’s Andy.” Everyone went over to say hello, except me. I didn’t know who he was.
It was John Cage music and Merce Cunningham’s dancers — beautiful dancers. Cage’s music had something to do with doors slamming and whistles going off. Then great balloons — some big and black, some small and red and yellow. It was very strange. I thought to myself: “Here we are in 1967, standing next to a glass house listening to doors slam and whistles going off. This is out of this world.” It was so out of context for suburbia in the 60s. You were talking about car pools and how not to have babies.
We left shortly thereafter. My then-husband thought the whole thing was humbug.
I’m with the former Mr. Smithers. Humbug to all that modernist self-aware pretentiousness. Not that we don’t have our own cultural issues now, but —Hoo, boy!—the Boomer generation was weird.
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