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LBJ Swings Like the Pendulum Do

For a fun Sixties flashback – sans acid – see the LBJ Library's 'Signs of the Times: Life in the Swingin' Sixties'

By Robert Faires, Fri., Jan. 21, 2005

LBJ Swings Like the Pendulum Do

Make like Austin Powers this weekend and travel back in time to the era of love-ins and Laugh-In, Carnaby Street "birds" and Yardbirds, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and "The Girl From Ipanema," the Dave Clark Five and Slaughterhouse-Five. The LBJ Library and Museum is providing the flashback – sans acid – via a fun new exhibition called "Signs of the Times: Life in the Swingin' Sixties."

The exhibit covers the way we were in pop music, fashion, home decor, television, sports, art, literature, cinema, and psychedelia. In the section devoted to the British Invasion, the walls are covered with blown-up photos of all the mad lads and mop-tops who crossed the Pond and got those readers of 16 so hot and bothered, and as you listen to their Top 40 hits piped through the speakers, you can marvel at how young and fresh-faced they all were. Or just ogle the life-sized go-go dancers shakin' their hullabaloos projected on a screen inside a lighted cage. And don't miss The New York Times account of the Beatles' arrival at Kennedy.

The fashion section goes heavy on the mod, natch, but also boasts a pair of "gear" Nehru jackets, as well as the vintage hair dryer used by Lynda Johnson Robb. If you need to cool your heels, you can do so on the sofa in the wood-paneled living room. You can watch a little boob tube – with cigarette commercials yet! – but don't touch the Scotch; it sets off an alarm. You can also take a seat in a comedy club and watch footage of Lenny Bruce, Jonathan Winters, Bill Cosby, and a boyish Woody Allen doing an amazingly topical (and funny) routine about the KKK.

If you haven't gotten your fill of cathode-ray entertainment, you can turn on, tune in, and drop out at four interactive touchscreen monitors with recorded episodes of more than a dozen hit series of the day, from The Avengers to Get Smart, The Addams Family to The Smothers Brothers, I Spy to That Girl.

There's a lot more to trip out to: a trio of spider-print gowns worn by the Supremes; Ike Turner's axe; a pre-Ali fight robe and trunks labeled "Cassius Clay"; vintage Gilbert Shelton posters for Austin's Vulcan Gas Company; a Robert Rauschenberg sculpture; memorabilia from Bill Graham and "Broadway Joe" Namath; and a screening room where you can watch scenes from breakthrough films such as The Graduate, Dr. Strangelove, A Hard Day's Night, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It may be familiar stuff to most of us – so much of the Sixties has never left us, on the radio, on TV, in film – but this concentrated package allows us to really immerse ourselves in all of it at once and remember, if we'd forgotten, how much happened, how much the culture shifted, in such a short span of time. So swing it, baby. Get back to where you once belonged.

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