With fighting in Vietnam, millions of people demanding love and peace, and one giant leap for mankind, 1969 was a very busy year. It was also an important one for Charles Manson, who spent the previous several years gathering a motley group of impressionable young people he called his "Family." Manson’s charisma and strange Hollywood connections helped draw people to him, and Manson filled the Manson Family with beliefs about a coming race conflict and his identity as the real Jesus Christ.
No stranger to depicting aggression, Quentin Tarantino adds the Manson story to his film output with the summer 2019 movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. While not much is known about the plot aside from Manson’s inclusion, a multitude of important events which happened that year might show up as well. Does Leonardo DiCaprio attend Woodstock? Will Margot Robbie be shown watching the very first episode of Sesame Street? Considering Tarantino’s love of obscure pop culture and the conflict and frustration in 1969, some great historic landmarks could be included.
NASA Launches Two Successful Voyages To The Moon
1969 proved an excellent year for NASA. On May 18, Apollo 10 launched as a trial to land on the Moon. As the first crewed mission to do more than orbit the Moon and return, the crew separated the lunar module, allowed it to orbit before descending to nine miles above the surface, and then brought it back up to reconnect with the command module. This test allowed NASA to gather information about the gravity on the moon's surface, as well as perfect their plans for landing a manned vehicle. As an added historical bonus, Apollo 10 transmitted back the first live color TV transmissions from space.
Thanks to Apollo 10's success, Apollo 11 launched on July 16 in order to send the first people to the moon's surface. Though the shuttle successfully launched, Commander Neil Armstrong had to manually land the lunar module due to computer malfunctions. Half a billion people around the world watched as Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out of the module onto the moon's surface and planted an American flag.
Hells Angels Slay Meredith Hunter During The Rolling Stones' Altamont Speedway Performance
In an effort to create a Woodstock-like experience on the West Coast, the Rolling Stones helped put together a show featuring themselves and other major acts, including Jefferson Airplane and Santana. Set for December 6, 1969, organizers named California's Altamont Speedway as the venue just days before the show and hired the Hells Angels as security, despite their record of viciousness across the Bay Area. Like Woodstock, more people than expected showed up, and the Hells Angels got serious about their work, using pool cues to keep people in line and off the stage. By the time the Rolling Stones took the stage at the end of the night, the crowd was extremely rowdy.
18-year-old African American teen Meredith Hunter attended the show along with his white girlfriend. When he climbed on a speaker in an attempt to see the band better, Hells Angels went after him. Hunter pulled out a side arm and raised it in the air attempting to scare the bikers. Several men surrounded Hunter as Hells Angel Alan Passaro slashed him with a knife several times. The biker group pulled Hunter away from the other audience members and proceeded to beat him. Hunter did not survive the incident.
Due to the size of the crowd, the entire incident went essentially unnoticed by others present, including the Rolling Stones, who continued playing "Under My Thumb.” A jury later acquitted Passaro as they believed he acted in self-defense, but the incident proved the peace and love of the late 1960s was sometimes no match for hate and racism.
400,000 People Gather At Woodstock
In 1968, four men decided to put together a music festival that came to be called Woodstock. Unfortunately, they had such trouble finding a venue willing to host that they didn't secure a location until a month before the festival was scheduled to start. After a dairy farmer offered them his land in Bethel, New York, the men quickly got to work planning security, selling tickets, and setting up medical tents, food pavilions, and restrooms. They expected about 50,000 people to show up, but when that many had already arrived two days before the festival began, they knew the size of the crowd would pose a problem.
In total, half a million people made their way to the grounds. Traffic jams backed up roads so badly that some festival goers resorted to abandoning their cars.
On August 15, 1969, rain, poor sanitation, and a lack of food didn't hold people back from enjoying the music of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and many more. After three days and 32 acts, the attendees returned home, leaving behind a few casualties, a huge mess, and the story of one of the most infamous music festivals in history.
The Stonewall Riots Kick Off The Gay Rights Movement
During the 1960s, many members of the LGBTQ+ community took refuge in gay clubs and bars in order to socialize and be themselves without fear of intolerant people or police. Laws banned many aspects of their lifestyles; for example, New York City made it an offense to wear gender-nonconforming clothes, publicly exhibit gay behavior, and solicit intercourse from members of the same gender. The Mafia owned and operated many of the gay bars and clubs since they knew they could make a profit catering to those who felt marginalized and lacked a place to express themselves freely.
One of their establishments, the Stonewall Inn, functioned as an important location within New York's LGBTQ+ community, but it wasn't free from problems. The owners blackmailed patrons, the bar was left in a dirty condition, and there were no fire exits.
The bar made history on June 28, 1969, when police raided the club without warning and started detaining people. Instead of leaving, patrons crowded around the entrance and began a riot. They accosted police, threw objects, and attempted to set the Stonewall Inn on fire. Protests continued for five days after the incident. The protest became an important part of LGBTQ+ history and lead to the formation of several large LGBTQ+ rights organizations.
Mary Jo Kopechne Perishes In A Car Driven Off A Bridge By Ted Kennedy
Mary Jo Kopechne was a volunteer for John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign and later worked in Robert Kennedy's office. On July 18, 1969, she attended a cookout with Senator Ted Kennedy on Chappaquiddick Island near Martha's Vineyard. Kennedy allegedly held the event to honor Kopechne and five other women for their political work but left the event early with Kopechne. He claimed he intended to give her a ride to her hotel since she felt sick, but evidence later proved Kopechne left her room key and purse at the cookout.
The next morning, Kennedy informed police he had driven off a bridge with Kopechne still inside the car, although he claimed to have tried to save her. Authorities discovered her in the submerged vehicle but couldn't charge Kennedy with Kopechne's passing since there was no evidence of any wrongdoing. They couldn't test for alcohol in his blood since so much time had passed between the incident and his report. Questions still remain about Kennedy's role in the event and what exactly happened that night, but he did plead guilty to leaving the scene.
Category 5 Hurricane Camille Makes Landfall
Category 5 hurricanes are the most powerful storms on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, and since 1924, four have made landfall in the US: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Michael in 2018, and 1969's Hurricane Camille.
As Hurricane Camille approached from Cuba in mid-August, researchers noted the strength of the storm calmed down, and they thought the storm would head towards Florida. Contrary to what experts believed, the hurricane continued to travel north and gained more strength.
Hurricane Camille hit Mississippi and Louisiana on August 17, 1969. It had winds of up to 175 mph across both states and raised the tide level as much as 10 feet. The storm completely wiped out Mississippi's Harrison County and leveled almost 4,000 homes across the state. Flooding and landslides caused even more damage and took the lives of more than 100 people. Researchers consider it to be the second strongest hurricane to ever hit the US.