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From “Beach Party” to “Woodstock”: The Pop Cultural Revolution of Sixties America


November 30, 2011
The Sixties was one of the most controversial decades in American history. Cold War politics, civil rights, student protest, and the Vietnam War all profoundly affected American society and culture even as popular culture both reflected and influenced the decade’s social upheavals. This public program brings together three specialists of American culture of the Sixties.
The program will highlight some of the key developments in popular film and music and consider the role of political and social factors in shaping popular culture, as well as the impact of pop culture on society. Author Tom Lisanti will explore some of the popular films from the Sixties beach movie genre such as “Beach Party,”Ride the Wild Surf,” and “Beach Blanket Bingo” while Professor Susan Schmidt Horning will discuss popular music from Motown to Woodstock. After the presentations, a conversation will be moderated by Professor Joan DelFattore, a specialist of American culture.     
Susan Schmidt Horning is an assistant professor of history at St. John’s University in New York. She specializes in 19th and 20th century U. S. history, American technology and culture, and sound studies. She is the author of, Chasing Sound: Technology, Culture, and the Art of Studio Recording in America (forthcoming), which explores the interplay between technology, music, and engineering from the birth of the American recording industry through the 1970s. Susan is also a former musician and amateur recordist who played with the 1970s rock band, Chi-Pig, and performs with The Email Special, a jazz group comprised of fellow historians of technology and science who play once a year after their annual conference.

Tom Lisanti has a BA from Hofstra University and is the Rights and Permissions Manager at The New York Public Library.  He is also an award-winning author of seven books about Sixties Hollywood such as Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969, and one with former Sixties actress Gail Gerber, her memoir Trippin’ with Terry Southern: What I Think I Remember, which won the Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medal for “Best Autobiography/Memoir of 2009.” His most recent book is Dueling Harlows: Race to the Silver Screen. It’s the backstory about the making of two rival motion pictures both titled Harlow (one starring Carroll Baker as Jean Harlow, the other Carol Lynley) that quickly turned into one of the nastiest, dirtiest feuds that Hollywood ever witnessed. Tom also writes for Cinema Retro magazine as well as his own Blog found at his web site

Joan DelFattore is Professor of English and Legal Studies at the University of Delaware. She holds a Ph.D. in English from Penn State University with a specialization in modern American culture, and she regularly teaches multidisciplinary courses about America in the 1960s.  Her field of research is free speech, and she is the author of dozens of articles as well as three books published by Yale University Press.  Her work has won awards from the American Library Association, the American Educational Research Association, the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America, and the Spencer Foundation.  She is presently a Writer in Residence in the Allen Room at the New York Public Library, where she is working on a new book on academic freedom to be published by Yale.