Special Collections & Archives Blog

Smiling Through the Apocalypse, edited by Harold Hayes (1969)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 3:51 pm

Dust jacket designed by George Lois with illustration by David Levine

Tom Hayes’s documentary film on the life of his father, Harold Hayes, is titled Smiling Through the Apocalypse: Esquire in the Sixties. The film, which is currently showing at the River Run Film Festival, takes its name from a 1969 anthology of Esquire magazine pieces. Both works provide a view of the decade as chronicled by the iconic magazine and its remarkable editor.

From a typescript draft with notes by Harold Hayes

In November of 1969 Esquire magazine subscribers received a special offer from publisher Arnold Gingrich. The enclosed letter began, “You are just now escaping, by the skin of your teeth, the most incredible decade in this country’s history: the 1960′s.” It continued,

From Jack Kennedy’s brave cry, “Let us begin,” to the mad smile of Sirhan Sirhan . . . from the first jarring beats of rock music through the frightening chants of “Up Against the Wall,” you have in fact lived through the most interesting of times: a time of generation gaps, sex explosions, peacock revolutions, drug fads, pop art, war, madness, and super-cockeyed wackiness.

And so, welcome to the end of it all. The “cursed” decade is over, and frankly we are in a mood for celebration. To this end we have prepared the most ambitious project in Esquire‘s 36-year history — a book of the decade, our own special version of the sixties. It is a big, handsome, oversize volume of more than a thousand pages called

“Smiling Through the Apocalypse: Esquire’s History of the Sixties”

The anthology gathered some of the most memorable articles from Esquire’s most memorable decade. Wake Forest alumnus Harold Hayes had become managing editor in 1961 and chief editor in 1963, and as Frank DiGiacomo observed in a 2007 Vanity Fair article

Hayes’s Esquire would identify, analyze, and define the new decade’s violent energies, ideas, morals, and conflicts—though always with an ironic and, occasionally, sardonic detachment that kept the magazine cool as the 60s grew increasingly hot. Esquire would become the magazine of the New: “The New Art of Success,” “The New Seven Deadly Sins,” “The New Sophistication,” and, ultimately, the New Journalism, the fancy term given to nonfiction that’s written like a novel.

The Harold Hayes Papers, housed in ZSR’s Special Collections and Archives, shed light on  the creation and development of Smiling Through the Apocalypse. The project was important to Hayes, as it documented the eventful decade in the history of both the nation and the magazine. In a memo to Arnold Gingrich Hayes asked for complete editorial control of the project: “I hope you will not believe me to be challenging your authority or position with the magazine if I lean heavily on your forebearance [sic.] and request you to let me do this one alone.” (Gingrich’s response in a handwritten note: “I thought we had already reached that conclusion.”)

Materials in the Hayes Papers also show that the anthology’s (and the magazine’s) tone of casual irreverence was achieved through a great deal of creative brainstorming and meticulous planning by Hayes and his editorial staff. Below is one of Hayes’s many pages of notes on Smiling Through the Apocalypse. Here he listed possible titles for the book itself and for its sections.

Another page of notes listed categories with possible articles. A potential “section on Ladies” did not make it into the final book.

In order to have the anthology ready for sale by Christmas 1969, Esquire staffers had to meet some tight deadlines– as this memo to editor Byron Dobell made clear.

The volume led off with Norman Mailer’s famous article on John F. Kennedy, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket.” Its original publication in 1960 had sparked the first of many conflicts between Esquire and the contentious author, when Arnold Gingrich changed the title of the article without Mailer’s consent.

Although all of the articles in Smiling Through the Apocalypse had been published in Esquire, there were still issues of copyrights and royalties to be sorted out for the 50 authors collected in the anthology.

A typescript draft of another advertising flyer for the book is an artifact from a time when cutting and pasting involved actual scissors and tape. But the pasted-in quote from Harold Hayes provides his raison d’etre for the Esquire anthology:

The real history of the Sixties has already been written . . . by talented people who didn’t know (or care) they were writing history, because they were reporting what happened– as it happened. It’s all there — told like it was — in the pages of ten years of Esquire.

Harold Hayes’s introduction to Smiling Through the Apocalypse sums up Esquire‘s journey through the pivotal decade in American history. His take on Esquire began as a reaction against “the banality of the Fifties.” Hayes and his fellow editors and writers wanted to shake up the magazine world and bring a fresh perspective to American journalism:

[I]n words and/or pictures (curiously the pictures always provoked the greatest outrage, especially George Lois’s covers)  and occasionally with some loss of dignity, the idea was to suggest alternate possibilities to a monolithic view. . . . At Esquire our attitude took shape as we went along, stumbling past our traditional boundaries of fashion, leisure, entertainment and literature onto the more forbidding ground of politics, sociology, science and even, occasionally, religion. Any point of view was welcome as long as the writer was sufficiently skillful to carry it off, but we tended to avoid committing ourselves to doctrinaire programs even though advised on occasion that we might thereby better serve the interests of mankind.

As the decade wore on, the writing in Esquire reflected the increasing upheaval in the society around it:

Against the aridity of the national landscape of the late Fifties we offered to our readers in our better moments the promise of outright laughter; by the end of the Sixties the best we could provide was a bleak grin.

Hayes concludes his introduction with a reference to the “collective confusion” of Americans in 1969.

Harold Hayes continued as editor of Esquire until 1973, when a dispute with the management led to his resignation. Hayes went on to other projects, and Esquire became a very different sort of magazine. Nearly 50 years after its publication, Smiling Through the Apocalypse is a fitting monument to the editor and the magazine that best captured the Zeitgeist of the 1960s.

ZSR Special Collections’s copy of Smiling Through the Apocalypse was owned by Harold Hayes himself. It was part of the  large collection of books and manuscripts that Hayes bequeathed to his alma mater shortly before his death in 1989.

 

Behind the Scenes with Documentary Filmmaker Tom Hayes

Friday, April 5, 2013 3:35 pm

Editing Harold Hayes: The Making of a Documentary Filmmaker
A Discussion with Tom Hayes
Friday, April 19, 2013, 4:00PM
Special Collections Reading Room
Z. Smith Reynolds Library

Please join us in the Special Collections Reading Room on April 19 as Tom Hayes (WFU ’79) takes us behind the scenes of his documentary Smiling Through the Apocalypse, which is a featured film at the 2013 River Run Film Festival. The film explores the life and career of Tom’s father, Harold Hayes, with a focus on his years as editor of Esquire magazine in the 1960s.

In this informal presentation and Q&A session, Tom Hayes will discuss the making of Smiling Through the Apocalypse, a film described by one reviewer as “a 99 minute act of love, the story of a publishing icon through the eyes of his son.” Although he had worked as a television producer for over 20 years, Tom’s tribute to his father, who died in 1989, was his first foray into documentary filmmaking. As such it presented a host of new challenges– from fundraising, to navigating fair use law, to dealing with temperamental interviewees. Tom will discuss what he learned as a filmmaker during this process, and also what he discovered about his father’s profound influence on American journalism of the 1960s.

Harold Hayes, a Wake Forest alumnus and North Carolina native, was chief editor of Esquire from 1963 to 1974. During this time the magazine was on the forefront of the New Journalism. Contributors like Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Gore Vidal, Nora Ephron, Peter Bogdonavich, and many others captured the essence of the turbulent decade in Esquire’s pages. In making his documentary Tom Hayes interviewed many of these authors, as well as designers, photographers, and Esquire staffers. He also made extensive use of archival materials, in particular the Harold Hayes Papers at Wake Forest. Materials from the Hayes collection will be on exhibit in Special Collections.

This event is open to the public. For more information, contact Megan Mulder at 336-758-5091.

Wake Forest Writers’ Archives on Exhibit

Thursday, March 22, 2012 10:43 am

 

In conjunction with the Words Awake celebration of Wake Forest writers, the spring exhibit in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives features six Wake Forest authors whose papers reside in the archives and manuscripts collections.

Laurence Stallings, Harold Hayes, John Charles McNeill, W.J. Cash, and Gerald Johnson received their undergraduate degrees from Wake Forest. Maya Angelou was awarded an honorary doctorate and is a member of the WFU faculty. Each collection is a fascinating record of the author’s life and career.

A writer’s published works are the end products of a long process of thinking, researching, drafting, and editing. The material on view in Writers’ Lives illustrates this process. In one letter Harold Hayes tries to interest Gerald Johnson in writing an article for Esquire on the hypothetical result of the South winning the Civil War. In another Laurence Stallings describes the trials and tribulations of rehearsing a Broadway musical with his collaborator Oscar Hammerstein. W.J. Cash’s typewriter sits next to his annotated typescript of The Mind of the South. John Charles McNeill’s college notebook contains manuscript versions of poems published in Wake Forest’s Student magazine. An early draft of Maya Angelou’s screen adaptation of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is handwritten on notebook paper.

All of the archival materials in these collections were donated to ZSR Library by the authors themselves or by their family members and friends. The Special Collections and Archives department now makes them available to researchers all over the world.

The Writers’ Lives exhibit will be on view in the library’s Special Collections Reading Room (Reynolds Wing, 6th floor west) through June 2012. Special Collections is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information or to make an appointment to view the exhibit after hours, please contact Megan Mulder at 336-758-5091 or mulder@wfu.edu.

 

 

 


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