Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Airship Legacy - Part 8

Click here for Part 7

This part was really fun. For those of you who know me fairly well will probably laugh at the music portion, because yes I intentionally make it to where my favorite type of music has stronger and longer lasting effects on music. Was a lot of fun. The cultural side of writing an alternate history can be the most fun but also the most challenging. Hope you enjoy. 


            1940 was a game changer for the Glenn Miller Orchestra. After becoming a national success in 1938-39, the Glenn Miller Orchestra got the attention of several PanAm executives, and on January 19, 1940 PanAm had Mr. Miller meet the PanAm execs at their headquarters in New York, and gave him a proposal: Fly aboard our signature airships and perform. The whole proposal included doing radio broadcasts from the airships and making concert stops across the country. After discussing the proposal with his wife and band members, Miller accepted. On May 12, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, now called the Glenn Miller Sky Orchestra, went on their first flight aboard the GZ-12, ZS Atlantis, sailing from New York to London. Their first radio broadcast was in New York on May 22, then in London on June 1.
            The Glenn Miller Sky Orchestra performed on PanAm airships from 1940 to 1943. Miller became one of the top three performers in the United States, and was also a big success in the United Kingdom and in the German Empire. The orchestra performed before sold out crowds of over a thousand in 1942 and ’43 in both London and Berlin. When it was announced that the Orchestra was going to go on regular tour in America in 1944, the band put on “farwell” concerts at the Frankfurt airport inside one of the Zeppelin hangars. The concert sold out months in advance.
            Miller and his orchestra began their new “Back on the Ground” national tour on March 2, 1944. They’d planned to make a two year tour of the country. However, their plans were changed when Japan bombed Manila and Hong Kong on June 4, 1944. Miller decided to join the armed forces later in the year, and received a comssion in the Navy in December of 1944. Many orchestra members joined him, hoping to be of service to the country. Miller was stationed in Honolulu, and led the Pearl Harbor Naval Band. After much discussion with his superiors, Miller was given permission to get all of his orchestra members that were in the service under his “command”, and the Glenn Miller Navy Band was created in late 1945. Stationed in Honolulu, the group played for sailors and army men stationed in Hawaii, and were also sent out on Navy airships into the field to perform for the servicemen in the Pacific.  When the war ended in 1946, the Glenn Miller Navy Band marched in the victory parade in Tokyo and in Honolulu, and put on concerts for the troops in both cities.
            After the Great Pacfic War, the Glenn Miller Sky Orchestra returned, and the band toured on PanAm’s Pacific routes in 1947 and 1948. In 1949, the Orchestra performs aboard PanAm, DELAG, and British Airways airships. In 1950, Miller’s band announced a cut back in performances, only touring in the US.
- Richard, Dr. Neal. The Glenn Miller Story. Cambrigde, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994.

HOLLYWOOD, MAY 24- Today is the big day for MGM Studios, with the opening of their new featured film set aboard the fictional airship “L-100 Empire”, a German airship carrying the young heir to the German Empire to America. The film, Sky Capitan, stars {insert actor’s name here} as the daring Captain Adolph Jaeger, who protects the ships passengers when air pirates aboard the “Atlantic Bounty” pirate airship attacks the royal flight.
            MGM filmed the feature aboard the ZS Atlantis and the USS Houston, and has spent months putting their best efforts into this first film about an airship. The movie was also sponsered by the US Government and PanAm, in an effort to promote airship travel and commercial usage.
- “Sky Captain to Open Today,” Los Angeles Times, May 24, 1939.

            Films like Sky Captain, Air Wars, Over the Pacific, and Murder in the Air popularized the airship during the craft’s formative years in the 1930s and 40s. They also made films aboard airships a standard film procedure, especially when wanting to set things against a dramatic or exotic back drop. In 1950, the war film Battle of Hawaii featured the dramatic air battles of the “Kamakazi Zeppelins” used by Japan and immortalized the brave airshipmen of the USS Hilo and Oklahoma City. This film was an audience favorite, and was number one at the box office for 6 weeks.
            Another fan favorite of the glory days of airship movies was Zeppelin Zack, an adventerous explorer that scoured the globe in search of ancient treasure and lost civilizations. This film was released in 1952, and had 2 follow up movies in 1954 and 57, all three staring James Dean as the dashing Zackery Daniels.
            A great airship drama of the 1950s was the 1954 film The High and the Mighty, featuring John Wayne. In the movie, Wayne plays the first officer Dan Roman onboard the GZS Honolulu Queen, a Heartland class airship that suffers helium loss and Roman, the captain, and the crew must safely bring the ship into San Francisco.
            In the 1960s and 70s, the airship took a lesser role in most films, with the exception of the 1967 drama Botany Bay, which told the tragic story of the British airship that was shot down in 1944 at the outbreak of the Great Pacific War, and the 1974 German-American film Der Graf/The Count, telling the story of Count Zeppelin. In other films of those decades, the airship was merely in the background as people traveled from one place to another, not the setting of any real drama.
            In 1981, the Zeppelin Zack series has a return, with the fourth film made staring an aging James Dean teaching his predecessor Alexander, played by Harrison Ford, all the ropes of treasure hunting around the  world. In the first three films, Dean’s character had faced off against communist treasure hunters in Egypt, South America, and in Asia. In the 1981 Zeppelin Zack 4: War of the Red Czar, Zackery Daniels and his assistant Alexander fight of a mad Soviet general amidst the collapse of the dying Soviet Union who is trying to make off with powerful Russian antiquities smuggled out of Moscow. This movie was not as successful as the original three Zeppelin Zack films, but did open the door for a rather successful television series called Airship Alex that went on air for 7 years on USBC from 1982-1989.
            The 1990s where relatively quiet when it came to airships in the movies. However, the 2000s where a different matter. The 2004 German-American film Hugo told the life story of Hugo Eckener, from his first days at DELAG before WWI, to the end of his Presidecny in 1939. This film used the latest in computer film technology to recreate the great giants of the skies that were around during the 30s, including the 1929 Graf Zeppelin Round-the-World flight, dramatic shots of the 1936 Olympics, and the flights over Washington, Berlin, and New York. Sean Connery played Eckener. After Hugo, the 2006 remake of Battle of Hawaii took the computer film technology to the cutting edge, recreating the breath taking dog fights above the Pacific.
-“Airships and the Cinema,” TIME Magazine, August 13, 2009.

            For many years after the heyday of swing music, the American music industry remained heavily influenced by the “big band era”, which most music historians agree ended in the mid-to-late 1950s, when musicians like Glenn Miller began to scale back. Bands got smaller in number, and began to replace clarinets, saxes, and trumpets with guitars. The Glenn Miller Orchestra itself began using guitars in 1957.
            This new music style soon became known as Electro-swing, and it was this blend of electric guitar and the older sounds of swing that quickly filled the nation’s airwaves and jukeboxes. Musicians such as Frank Sinatra, George Fairway, Michael Thompson, and Luke Daniels held concerts in packed out music halls, public parks, and even a few stadiums. Electro-swing record sales were the largest portion of the American music industry from 1959 until 1980.
            Starting in the 1970s, a new music phenomenon began to occur within the Electro-swing movement: the Mega Concerts. The first Mega Concert occurred in New York City in 1972, where the city hosted “Electrica”, a concert that was held in Yankee Stadium and featured 12 Electro-swing artists. This concert was an instant hit, and other Mega Concerts popped up all over the country. “Electrica” became a yearly event, and is now a 3-day event featuring hundreds of artists, and has expanded from just Electro-swing music into other, newer genres.
-Goodman, Thomas. The 20th Century in Music. Los Angeles: UCLA Academic Press, 1997.

NEW YORK, JUNE 3, 1981- Late last night, after attending a benefit concert at Radio City Music Hall, music legend Glenn Miller, collapsed in the lobby of the Pennsylvania Hotel, having suffered a massive heart attack. Mr. Miller was rushed to a hospital in the New York area, where he died early this morning.
            His daughter, Jonnie Lamar-Miller, was with her father when he collapsed and accompanied him to the hospital. Lamar-Miller told reporters this morning that, “My father has gone to be with Christ, and be with my mother Helen. The last thing he said to me was, “I see her, Jonnie. She looks radiant.” He passed just moments later.”
            Mr. Miller’s body will be sent home to Boulder, CO, aboard PanAm’s Skygazer, which his daughter and her family will be aboard. Stevie Miller, Glenn’s son, will meet his sister in Boulder. Although the funeral details have not been released to the public yet, it is expected that thousands of fans will descend upon Boulder, Colorado, to pay a final farewell to the King of Swing.
-“Glenn Miller Dies of Heart Attack,” The New York Times, June 3, 1981.

            During the 1930s, Upton Sinclair stayed largely out of the public light, staying at his Monrovia, California, home writing and studying. Following the Pacific War, however, Sinclair once again got out in public. Knowing that America would never swallow socialism in name, he founded the American People’s Party in 1949, and began to work with students at UC-Berkley, and UCLA, starting the Students for the People organization. Sinclair spoke out for better conditions for California’s farmers and factory workers, and for new job opportunities for returning Pacific War veterans.
            The Students for the People organization quickly took off around California and the Pacific coast, and by 1955, there were S-P groups in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri. The APP had organized in 10 states: California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Colorado, and Missouri.  The following year, Sinclair made a successful bid for the California legislature, a major victory for this rebirth in American socialism. Also that year, the APP expanded into Texas, Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana.
            It was the students that really became the driving energy behind the APP in these early years. The Students for the People organization introduced socialism to many disillusioned students out on their own and wanting a change from the ideas of  “mom and dad”. Students involved in the S-P began to wear overalls and workers caps, many with red stars on them, as a sign to the outsider that they supported the People. These young people also began to adopt their own music, which would come to symbolize the two sides of American socialism. One group liked the folksy “Americana” music, and the other liked the hard sounds of “Industrial Punk”, with heavy drums and electric guitars and had sounds that made the listener think of a factory.
            By 1960, the APP had spread to a total of 33 states, adding Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, North and South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Sinclair was reelected to the California legislature, and was joined by 70 other APP representatives and 2 APP senators. The APP gained seats in 19 states during the 1960 elections. Sinclair was reelected to a third term in 1964, by which time the APP had spread to 41 states, 30 of which had APP members in government. In the 1968 California elections, the APP won the majority of the State Assembly. During that election season, 47 states had the APP present, and 40 of them had APP members in government.
            Tragedy struck the APP prior to the start of new legislative session in California, however. On December 12, 1968, Upton Sinclair collapsed in his home, and died the following morning. It had been expected that he would become the Speaker of the Assembly, but it was not to be. Another pioneering socialist would take his place. Sinclair’s funeral, held in Monrovia on December 17, 1968, was attended by thousands of loyal supporters from across the nation. His coffin was draped in a red banner, and he was supposedly buried with a copy of the works of Marx.
-Jennings, Dr. Karl. The Rebirth of American Socialism: The Growth and Success of the APP. Los Angeles: UCLA Academic Press, 2009.

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