Atlantic City 1964
Upcoming Book by Al Frazza
In a three-week period in the summer of 1964, Atlantic City played host to the Democratic National Convention, the Beatles only New Jersey concert, and the Miss America pageant.
The political, musical, sociological, and entertainment spotlights all shone on the seaside resort town with its famous boardwalk.
Atlantic City, and the world, would never be the same.
In August 1964, just nine months after Vice President Lyndon Johnson assumed the presidency upon the assassination of President Kennedy, the Democrats met at Convention Hall in Atlantic City to nominate Johnson as a candidate for a full term as president. Several days later, the Beatles came into town to perform their only New Jersey concert. Beatlemania was in full frenzy, and the Beatles remained trapped in Atlantic City’s Lafayette Motor Inn for two days off after the concert, as the sound of screaming fans surrounded the hotel. Just days after the Beatles left, the Miss America pageant began in Atlantic City. As it had for decades, Miss America related events dominated life in Atlantic City for a week, culminating in the final night’s televised event, which was watched by millions throughout the country.
This was a different Atlantic City than the one we know today. It was more than a decade before legalized gambling. Beautiful old hotels dominated the look of Atlantic City, where now there are casinos.
Historian Al Frazza, who spent years documenting New Jersey’s Revolutionary War historic sites in his RevolutionaryWarNewJersey.com website and State of Revolution book, is now in the process of extensive research for a book about this fascinating moment in Atlantic City in the summer of 1964.
Q & A with Author AL Frazza about his upcoming Atlantic City 1964 Book
How long have you been researching this Atlantic City 1964 book?
I began researching the book on the first day of 2020.
Do you have more research to do?
Absolutely! There is a lot of ground to cover. I’m simultaneously researching the Democratic Convention of 1964, the Beatles’ stay in Atlantic City, and that year’s Miss America pageant, along with the history of Atlantic City up to 1964, and the year 1964 in general.
What forms do your research take?
All types of documents. Original newspaper and magazine articles. Documents and recordings from the Johnson white house. Studying photographs and newsreel footage. I’m also conducting interviews with people who were eye-witnesses to the events.
This story seems a long way from your previous history work on the Revolutionary War. How did you move your focus from the 1700’s to the 1960’s?
After I finished the RevolutionaryWarNewJersey.com website and the State of Revolution book, I knew that I wanted to move onto something completely different. I’ve basically closed the door on my Revolutionary War research and work.
I knew I wanted to work on a story in a completely different time period. And this is a time period I am extremely interested in – the politics, the music, the culture, etc. And in this one short period in Atlantic City, NJ, it all comes together in a captivating way.
How does researching 1964 differ from researching the Revolutionary War era?
While the basic approach to the research remains the same — go through as many original documents as you can find, and work to figure out what actually happened — the types of documents are very different.
For example, when researching the Revolutionary War era, almost all of the documents are written documents – letters, journals, etc. Photography, film, and audio recording had not been invented yet. When I worked on my Revolutionary War New Jersey research, I spent many hours reading George Washington’s correspondence. But I could never actually see what his face looked like when he talked, or how he walked. I could never hear what his voice sounded like. This was also true of Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton or anyone else who took part in the Revolutionary War.
But for researching events in 1964, there is actual film and audio footage to be studied, in addition to the written documents. I can actually see and hear Lyndon Johnson, Bobby Kennedy, Fannie Lou Hamer, Hubert Humphrey, Martin Luther King Jr., John, Paul, George and Ringo, Jackie DeShannon, The Exciters, Vonda Kay Van Dyke, and Bert Parks, who all play a role in the story I’m researching.
Another big difference is that I am able to interview people who were eye witnesses to the 1964 events I’m researching. This was of course impossible when studying events that happened almost two-and-a-half centuries ago.
Are you enjoying this research?
Very much so. I find the story fascinating, and it is filled with many interesting people. And every unexpected discovery in the documents makes me very happy.
When can we expect to see the Atlantic City 1964 book published?
Some time in the next several years. I still have a lot of research and writing to do. I want to get every detail as correct as possible, and that takes time.