The Beatles And Jets In The Fall Of ‘64
Welcome to September 1964!
In the United States and elsewhere in September 1964, the past was very much present and the present served as a prelude of history to come. Across the ocean in London, in his first of many acts of destruction in the name of art, Pete Townsend of The Who destroyed his guitar in a performance in the Railway Hotel. Down in Washington, DC, the Warren Commission issued its long-awaited report into the assassination of President Kennedy having occurred the previous year. And back home in New York, the city celebrated a 300th birthday of sorts; New Amsterdam and its surrounding area fell to the British and was renamed New York on September 8, 1664.
That month in 1964, the borough of Queens played host to another timeless American tradition. As the sweltering summer heat mellows and crisp autumn breezes ever so gently turn heads, in September we strap on our helmets and make way for football - American style. After taking the field for their first four seasons at the long vanished Polo Grounds in Harlem, the New York Jets faced off with the Denver Broncos on the gridiron in their first contest at Shea Stadium on September 12. The Jets, formerly known as the Titans, did not disappoint the 44,000 plus fans present, routing their American Football League rivals from out west by a score of 30-6. The new denizens of Shea, however, fell to the Boston Patriots and a hostile Fenway Park crowd two weeks later, and finished their inaugural season in Queens with a disappointing record of 5-8-1.
For locals whose hearts could not bear an autumn of gridiron heartbreak, the movie theatres were a welcome sanctuary. At the Loews Triboro on Steinway Street, moviegoers took in the religious themed drama Becket, which pitted Peter O’Toole as King Henry II against Richard Burton’s Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Those in the mood for some lighter entertainment may have headed to The Strand Theatre on Crescent Street and Broadway in Astoria to catch the comedy A Hard Day’s Night, starring The Beatles.
Meanwhile, out in Flushing, some quick sleuthing by local police detectives quickly solved a $15,000 art heist involving works taken from the garage of local artist and sculptor, Joseph Cornell. The pieces, which were wooden boxes, were recovered within one day. The police swiftly arrested three locals who had sold the hot art to Manhattan gallery owners. One of the burglars, a young aspiring actress named Joyce Hunter, was romantically involved with Cornell until her murder in a Manhattan hotel three months later. Although the celebrated Assemblage artist quickly forgave his financially strapped lover for her crime, she would haunt his dreams for decades after her untimely demise.
That September, Queens said goodbye to renowned actress Margherita Sargent Duncan of 28th Street in Long Island City. Mrs. Duncan, who passed away at the age of 80, treaded the boards in front of Broadway audiences for 50 years. After first appearing in the play When Knights Were Bold alongside future husband Augustin Duncan, the Queens resident enjoyed a six-decade run culminating in the 1955 production Inherit the Wind, which dramatized the 1925 Scopes ‘Monkey Trial’. In the intervening years, the graduate of Radcliffe College appeared alongside the great Lionel Barrymore in Macbeth and played the role of Mrs. Fay in The Great Gatsby in 1926. Mrs. Duncan passed away at the Connecticut home of her son, Angus Duncan, who was an accomplished Broadway performer in his own right, having appeared in such productions as The Dark Hours and Romeo and Juliet.
That's the way it was in September 1964!
For further information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718- 278-0700 or visit our website at www.astorialic.org.