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December 22, 2014

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DAILY MEMO: HISTORY:

Summer of ’69 gave us more than just Woodstock

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Associated Press / File

Elvis Presley helped transform Las Vegas, beginning in July 1969, by showing that entertainment could turn a profit for hotels.

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Any moment now, the news cycle and national conversation will shift from political scandals and celebrity deaths to hippie hype: Aug. 14 is the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, the epic four-day rock festival which drew more than 30 bands and more than 300,000 fans to a farmer’s field in Bethel, N.Y.

The signal event of the summer of ’69 is already getting big play here in Las Vegas: The Fremont Street Experience is spending an estimated $1.7 million on a 1969-themed campaign, offering free weekend concerts through Labor Day with a mix of tribute bands and such Woodstock survivors as Jefferson Starship (formerly Airplane) and Canned Heat. Carlos Santana, who is in residence at The Joint at the Hard Rock, will most likely have something to say about it, too — the festival broke his band from Bay Area cult attention to international fame.

But why should Woodstock get all the attention? There were plenty of other significant ’69 happenings that are worthy of recognition, if not a full-on street party:

The invention of the ATM

Where would Las Vegas be without those magical machines that dispense cash on demand? Maybe we would all have more money in the bank if Don Wetzel had never developed the first automated teller machine, which was installed at a branch of Chemical Bank on Long Island in New York.

Elvis Presley begins his Vegas era

When Kirk Kerkorian finished building his International Hotel (now the Hilton), he asked Presley to be the exclusive headliner, and Presley debuted July 26. The King signed up for twice-yearly monthlong stands for $125,000 per week — and stayed till 1977. For the first time, a Vegas hotel acknowledged it had profited from entertainment, and what had been just another gimmick to entice gamblers became a tourist draw in itself.

Man walks on the moon

Neil A. Armstrong, 39, invented the moonwalk when he stepped down from the Apollo 11 lunar module, saying “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” Fremont Street Experience is marking the monumental moment with a Saturday performance by Jefferson Starship (an offshoot of original Woodstock vets Jefferson Airplane) and the 5th Dimension on July 25.

The Gap opens its first store

Taking its name from the newly discovered “generation gap,” the San Francisco-based shop sold record albums and bluejeans, eventually sprouting all over the country and making denim the defining uniform of generations of Americans.

The gay rights movement is born

Homosexuals and drag queens fought back after police raided New York’s Stonewall Inn; gay people worldwide suddenly discovered they were a community, one which from then on would forcibly resist discrimination.

David Reuben publishes “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)”

Psychiatrist Reuben’s plain-spoken Q&A-style explanation of human sexuality became one of the decade’s most popular books and essential covert bathroom reading for millions of teenagers, who later learned they had been more than a little misinformed.

“The Brady Bunch” debuts on ABC

America’s favorite family moved into our living rooms on Sept. 26, and refused to leave — four decades later, Brady children still pop up, only now they’re on reality shows. Other zeitgeist-changing 1969 debuts include “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and, perhaps most revolutionary, “Sesame Street,” which used TV techniques to actually teach, rather than merely distract, U.S. children.

Pringles change the shape of munchies

Procter & Gamble introduced the cloned, uniform-sized chips, made from cooked, mashed, dehydrated, reconstituted potatoes, packaged in soon-to-be iconic, oxygen-free cylinders. “The munchies” were discovered sometime around 1969, and from then on, junk food would never look the same.

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