FORMALS WORN BRALESS. SMILES GOING the full count. ‘Hair done’ and flown in for the occasion. Rosalind Russell doing an inspired Bert Parks. What more could a mother of four or a young career girl or a grandma want? All of us females were glued to the TV to see the Clairol television spectacular—Women of the Year 1973. For the special the sweet team of Clairol and Ladies Home Journal had joined forces to scatter some insight, honesty and pin-pendants (female version of Oscar), on the movement. Television, which has cast women as so many mannequins was going to do right by us.
As testimonial affairs go, it had the makings of a fascinating variety show. Even Ed Sullivan couldn’t have booked this bunch—Shirley Chisholm, Nikki Giovanni, Eunice Shriver, Barbara Walters, Lynda Johnson Robb, Margaret Chase Smith, Mamie Eisenhower, et. al.
Pin-pendants, Emmys, and Oscars, however, are to real achievement as Mother’s Day is to child birth. You had to extend your imagination to remember that these women had achieved great things away from the TV camera and away from the special. Somehow the ladies receiving the awards were, more sinned against, then winning, all victims of the rigid event. They deserved our sympathy for having to be the first to receive awards that were only production numbers.
There were various categories, plotting out the paths of liberated women—Business Woman of the Year, Political Woman of the Year, Woman of the Theater, Youth Activist, Volunteer Woman of the Year. There was no category for bridge or dieting or chauffeuring kids about.
Rosalind Russell, reigning at the podium, leant her ample voice and enthusiasm to the theatrics at hand. She would lavish great introduction on a woman (the presenter of the award), who would then bestow an even greater introduction to the winner of the award. Have you ever seen a girls’ relay team, one woman passing a basketball over her head to the next woman who passes it between her legs, to the next breathless woman who passes it over her head? Well, the mechanics of the awards were like that. In this way (which was the way of inadvertent high comedy) Rosalind introduced Marlo (Thomas) who presented the ever so great Helen Hayes with a pin-pendant. Marlo Thomas is to Helen Hayes as Danny is to Agamemnon.
There is probably a reason why Ed Sullivan’s show fossilized his face. Smiles can become paralyzing. Luckily, though Women of the Year had obviously been programmed as a slick presentation, it was saved by some wonderful human flaws that allowed a little empathy and laughter to come in the back door. You see, some of the ladies really weren’t used to the theatrics and cameras and radiance of a diamond-studded audience. One woman, honored for her role as coordinator of a large urban volunteer corps, began her lines with the strength she must have begun every day; but soon lost in the moment, nothing clearly recorded in her memory, she became a grammar school actress and froze: “We must all respond (blank), we must all respond (blank) we must all respond (blank).” She turned to Rosalind Russell, staged left for support, and blurted out with an eight-year old’s grin, “WELL I’VE DONE IT.” But a stiff smile from Roz soon restored her enough to verbalize her gratitude. Unfortunately, each woman was given about 20 seconds to accept the award, time only to smile and fumble her lines, but not time enough to impart any wisdom. After the 20 seconds were up, blond usherettes with rockette smiles, escorted each winner off the stage with the determination of a vaudeville hook.
The guiding light behind this whole affair seemed to come from Clairol, the sponsor, who kept nibbling away at the finished product with outrageous, inane commercials. Of course what commercials wouldn’t have been insulting—women and geritol, women and hamburger helper, women and floor wax, women and regularity? The same inequities would have been served up to men with male commercials: People as consumers are not exactly people as humans. But Clairol did seem to be adding insult to injury by asking women if they wouldn’t like to be a taste of honey, by saying everything would be all right after the age of 37 if one only dyed the fact. Then, they belied that statement by using a progression of models who were all padded creatures in their teens and twenties. They even postured Raquel Welch as what women could expect if they only voted brunette. Clairol, selling women up the river by telling them their hair would survive their accomplishments and exhaustion. They left too many split ends.
Enough rancor. The show went on, slightly diminished. But unlike the commercials, at least the pin-pendants went out to all age groups. They didn’t just honor the fad. So women with Ethel Merman upper arms and lots of lines (the kind that time writes) stepped forward. Mamie Eisenhower, fumbling her script like a real veteran, stepped out into a standing ovation. Whether people were standing more for pity than honor was not immediately discernible. There seemed to be invisible, strong cue cards turned on the audience.
Naturally, the most important award category was missing, the Deep Throat Award. No time for innuendo or a little irony. Women would have come along way, baby, if only Viva had been up there accepting the award for the best…of them all.
As a fitting eulogy to the program, there was a group singing “America, the Beautiful” for the specious reason that it had been written by a woman. If some unwary soul had turned on the TV just at that moment, he might well have thought he was in the midst of a PTA meeting with such odd PTA’ers as Kissinger, Muskie, Tunney, Strauss, all singing away.
What did this liberated piece of fluff mean? Some free lance thoughts: If this is recognition, I’d like to see discrimination. No one left laughing, no one left crying, one woman left a pair of white gloves behind. On our sensitive Nielsen Ratings, it was head and shoulders above the Golddiggers and other female non-sequiter programs. After seeing it through, I don’t think any men will be beating down the door for equal time.
THE DEFEAT OF MEAT
DURING THE NATIONAL MEAT BOYCOTT late last April, several dedicated meateaters in Amarillo conceived, organized, and almost completed what would have been the world’s largest free barbecue. It was to be the crowning event of Meat Appreciation Day, a celebration to proclaim Amarillo’s pride in being the center of the beef industry. It should, therefore, immediately be made clear that what ensued was not the fault of the meat itself.
The preparations were awesome: a pit dug 180 feet long, four feet deep, and three feet wide; 17,000 pounds of top beef from 30 donated beeeves; 1,700 miles put on the also donated truck and trailer which transported the cattle to the slaughterhouse; several hundred volunteer man-hours spent seasoning slabs of meat, wrapping them in butcher paper, and slipping the 20-pound bundles into burlap bags; the gathering of a mountain of logs, railroad ties, and fenceposts to feed the fire in that 180-foot pit; the stalwart dedication of those few who stood guard through a long and chilly panhandle night after the bundles of meat had been dumped onto the glowing fire.
The following afternoon fully 12,000 meat-hungry Amarillans gathered for the feed. It was hot. There were no seats for the crowd. They shuffled in the dust while actors Andy Devine and Ben Johnson and gambler “Amarillo Slim” Preston took their bows. Politicians spoke. The Amarillo Gunfighters Club staged a mock shoot-out, then repeated the act. A local recording artist sang as 12,000 shadows grew longer beneath the hot sun.
Then, as serving lines began to form, a solemn man strode to the pit and reached inside. He felt one bundle of meat and his solemn look changed to one of puzzlement. He felt another bundle and another, all like the first. The meat was not hot. It was, in fact, cold—as cold as when it was dumped into the pit.
The man, no longer so puzzled as frantic, scurried to a loaned mobile home which was being used as headquarters for Meat Appreciation Day. Inside, the organizers and a few other notables learned the awful secret. Outside, the huge crowd grew restless. Who was going to break the news to them?
Someone suggested that Congressman Bob Price should be the one since he was a Republican. Price thought that was unfunny; but he did suggest that newsmen “take a few shots and then get the hell out, ’cause there’s gonna be some mad S.O.B.’s around here in a few minutes.”
Finally Tom Folmar, the owner of a tractor dealership and prime mover behind the event, climbed upon a flatbed truck and told the crowd: “We have failed…we all tried real hard, but the meat just didn’t cook.” He leapt down, looked around in vain for a friendly face, and then did the only sensible thing. He shed tears.
The throng, meanwhile, had kept their places in the serving lines. Already given heaps of pinto beans, pickles, and bread, most of the gathering stared at their plates. The only meat to be found on Meat Appreciation Day was the chunks of salt pork floating in the beans.
“Well,” as Andy Devine said, digging into another helping of beans and bread, “the meat at these things is usually raw anyway.”
KIDS IN COURT
THE ANNALS OF LAW ARE abundant with names that mean very little to the layman. Even in celebrated cases such as Brown vs. Board of Education, it’s unlikely that anyone would inquire about the person named Brown who eventually led the Supreme Court to order school desegregation. Perhaps that is as it should be since anonymity in such matters is generally a blessing.
For Alicia Morales that anonymity may temporarily be a thing of the past: The case of Morales vs. Turman began in U .S. Federal Court in Sherman, Texas late in June. It is, in some ways, as important a case as Brown.
Before her legal troubles began in early 1970, Alicia worked in a clothing factory in El Paso for $70 a week, $65 of which was promptly confiscated by her father. Alicia tried hiding the money from her parent, but one Friday he showed up at the factory, collected her weekly earnings and made such a rumpus that Alicia was fired.
Alicia refused to support her father any longer and went to live with a friend of her mother’s. Her enraged father decided the girl must be punished. He signed in court an agreed judgment which put Alicia behind bars on February 27, 1970, at the Gainesville School for Girls under the authority of the Texas Youth Council. The charge made against her was “incorrigibility.”
Fortunately for Alicia, her imprisonment came at a time when the incarceration of juveniles was under scrutiny by a couple of bright young lawyers. One was Steven Bercu, a U.T. law graduate whose interest in juvenile law began while he was a staff attorney at El Paso Legal Assistance Society. Bercu had already begun to suspect the scales of justice in the El Paso Area were slightly askew when it came to young people in trouble. For one thing, the then juvenile judge apparently made a habit of sending youths to prison without a hearing or the benefit of legal advice. The procedure was fairly simple. All a parent or adult had to do was sign an agreed judgment stating, for example, that a child was an “incorrigible.” The judge added his signature and the child was committed to a state institution under the jurisdiction of the Texas Youth Council. Since the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 1967 that juveniles had a right to counsel, and Texas affirmed that decision by statute in 1969, these practices were both unconstitutional and illegal.
Early in 1971, Bercu and his co-lawyer from Center, Bill Hoffman, went to the Gainesville School for Girls in Gainesville, Texas, armed with a discovery order which allowed them to talk to some of the inmates. Of the 18 girls they saw, six, including Alicia Morales, signed affidavits saying they’d been committed without hearings or lawyers and retained the two young men as their attorneys. A short time later at the Gatesville School for Boys six boys were added to the list of clients.
When the lawyers returned to Gainesville and attempted to talk to their six clients, they were told that no private conversation would be allowed, that a supervisor of the prison would have to be present. Despite phone calls to the director’s office in Austin, they were unable to get that decision reversed. That same evening the two lawyers began a law suit which made two claims: (1) that state juvenile institutions had prevented their clients from communicating openly with their attorneys and (2) that Texas juvenile judges, as a group, used illegal courtroom practices and procedures in the incarceration of juveniles.
At 6 a.m. the next day, weary and worn from the night’s labors, Bercu and Hoffman boarded a plane for Beaumont where they filed their complaint in the federal court and met the man who will preside during the trial in Sherman, Judge William Wayne Justice, whose reputation belies the old adage that there’s nothing in a name. The case gained momentum due to admissions from several judges about the procedures used for committing youngsters to prisons. In Dallas County, Judge Ted Robertson stated that from January, 1967, until June, 1971, of the 1,220 children he had found delinquent, only 170 had lawyers. Judge Lewis Russell admitted that during the same period of the 3,513 boys and girls he had found delinquent, only 204 had lawyers. Judge Edwin Berliner from El Paso had committed 75 youths under 18 without a hearing and another 24 who had not had attorneys.
As a result of these revelations the Attorney General of Texas has been charged by the court with the responsibility of overseeing the proceedings in juvenile courts. He must report periodically on whether the proscriptions of the law are being followed.
In the meantime, Bercu, who had been joined on the case by another O.E.O.-funded lawyer named Peter Sandmann, had amended his plaintiff’s case to declare that juveniles incarcerated by the Texas Youth Council had a right to rehabilitative treatment. The law has never precisely defined what rehabilitative treatment means, and it is this part of the suit that gives it national importance. Should such a definition obtain from the decision in Morales vs. Turman, almost every state in the union, including Texas, would have to change the way its juvenile detention centers are run to comply with the court’s rulings. Philosophies of confinement and punishment for juveniles would have to be severely modified.
The suit also claims that the inmates were subjected to “oppressive, unhealthy and inhumane conditions.” This generalized heading includes charges of insect-ridden food, frequent beatings, buckets in cells for human waste, inadequate medical treatment for inmates, the frequent use of control drugs such as Thorazine, and, except in the case of the modern school at Brownwood, drab, depressing facilities that bespeak an attitude of hopelessness and futility.
It is not as if these inmates were hardened criminals. Only 3 per cent of the girls and 5 per cent of the boys were committed for acts of violence. They are children from all ethnic groups, although the largest percentage is white. Many of them have shared the same misfortune of being unwanted at home and then sent away to a hard, often cruel existence inside old institutions run by outmoded methods.
It would be foolhardy to look to Morales vs. Turman for all the answers to these problems. But the law can sometimes point the way and even shed some light in dim and shadowy corners.
WHITHER BEN BARNES
HE LIVES, HE LIVES, ALTHOUGH his life style is muted somewhat. In Brownwood now he still spends many of his waking hours on the telephone in his office or car, reaching across those thin wires and air waves to keep himself in touch. Most of his dealings these days have to do with affairs of the Herman Bennett Co.—bargaining for shopping center projects, supervising construction, building and managing Holiday Inns, buying land. They are all affairs that have to do with making money. Until 1973 Ben Barnes’ life was eaten up with money, but it was money designed to make his political life a continuing reality, to fuel his consuming political ego that at times seemed to be an entity with a life of its own.
Vestiges of his political habits remain. He still walks at the head of the group he is with, always in an abrupt, nervous hurry. In restaurants and airport lobbies strangers rush up to introduce themselves. “Haw yew,” he says.
Behind him are a dozen years of hot and heavy politics, finding who needed what from whom and delivering, delivering. Barnes learned early that everyone wants something, and to each of them he gave enough that they wanted him to stay in the dealer’s chair. But suddenly…
These days, instead of Frank Erwin stomping into Barnes’ office to outline the latest political deal to get more money for the University of Texas, in comes Marion the Agrarian.
Marion the Agrarian was so named recently when he expounded, in the presence of Barnes and a hard-bitten urban reporter, on the values of rural life. Marion’s pet theory holds that eventually everyone in the world will live in Texas, attend Texas A&M, and come to live in Brownwood. Barnes nods assent.
Because that is how Ben Barnes is today. Ben is living his life almost as if there were no political tomorrow. Sure, he’ll try to cadge an occasional convention for the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, and he still chats occasionally with folks like National Democratic Party Chairman Robert Strauss. But he doesn’t talk openly about politics much, except in the way that Don Meredith might talk about football, or Stan Musial about baseball. Barnes is waiting, watching the sun, keeping those political legs in form by running on business trips to Kerrville and Houston and Dallas and New Orleans and Taos, N.M., doing business, meeting people—Haw Yew, Hah Yew.
He says he has no political ambition. Most politicians who have political ambition say they have no political ambition. The wise politicians who have no political ambition but wouldn’t mind serving if the people called wait, then wait some more.
If the call comes, the response is ready. If it doesn’t come…
Marion, what’s that stuff again about the good rural life?