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Norman Mailer at Opa-Locka covering the arrival of a baby elephant shipped in by the Republicans for the 1968 Republican National Convention. This scene turned out to be the beginning of his book, ”Miami and the Siege of Chicago.”

Beginning in 1968, I photographed the Democrats and Republicans convening in cities that included Chicago, San Francisco, Miami Beach, Detroit, New Orleans and New York City.

Looking back on those smoke-filled arenas packed with candidates, delegates, movie stars, and the media who covered them makes me wonder how I survived to tell the tale. What do I remember most? The jockeying to get a floor pass that in the end didn’t much matter. My favorite photographs weren’t necessarily on the floor but on the edges.

It’s hard to predict what the political powwows will look like four years from now. In the meantime, I have enjoyed my virtual sabbatical.

Republican National Convention, Miami, July 1968

Happy and Nelson Rockefeller arrive in Miami Beach.
Governor Ronald Reagan.
Pat Nixon in the special seating area reserved for dignitaries. She was joined by her two daughters: Tricia (with Edward Cox), and Julie.
Governor George Romney and Senator Strom Thurmond.
James Reston, nicknamed “Scotty,” and Harrison Salisbury — both correspondents for The New York Times.
Max Lerner.
Thomas E. Dewey, the former Governor of New York, and his wife Frances.
Gov. Dewey ran for President against the incumbent Harry Truman in 1948 and was incorrectly declared the winner on election day in an eight-column banner headline on the front page of the Chicago Daily Tribune.
A.J. Baime’s Dewey Defeats Truman: The 1948 Election and the Battle for America’s Soul was published in July, 2020. That’s synchronicity!
Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth, writer and prominent socialite, the eldest child of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.
In addition to being the face of the New Woman Movement of the early 1900s, Alice Roosevelt displayed a needle-pointed pillow on a sofa in her home which read: “If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anyone, come and sit here by me.”

Democratic National Convention, Chicago, July 1968

Jean Genet, William Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg were reporting for Esquire.
Photographers like me were low on the pecking order when it came to scoring a floor pass. I realized that my best work was on the edges. You can see the stairway leading to the convention floor in the distance.
John Sacks was also working for Esquire.
Ralph Schoenstein dressed as an undercover policeman. He and I were assigned by New York Magazine to do a story on the extra security measures in place during the convention. Everything went well until we were taken into custody by two real undercover agents.

Democratic National Convention, Miami Beach, July 1972

Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug were among the ardent supporters of Senator George McGovern.
The Women’s caucus was holding a press conference at the Carillon Hotel.
Left: Feminist Betty Friedan, an ardent supporter of Shirley Chisholm.
Right: Catherine Mackin, NBC’s first female correspondent to serve as a floor reporter.
“Cassie” was 43 when she died from kidney cancer in 1982.
Pete Hamill in his private office.
Shirley Chisholm announcing her historic run for the White House.
“I am not the candidate of Black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the woman’s movement of this country, although I am a woman and I am equally proud of that.”
The Congresswoman had arrived in Miami with 152 delegates hoping for a deadlocked convention but McGovern had put together 1,729 delegates and he had no incentive to make any deals.
Shirley Chisholm returned to New York where she continued to represent the 17th Congressional district centered in Brooklyn.
She died in 2005.

Germaine Greer and Barbara Walters.
Left: Germaine Greer looking glam on the convention floor.
Right: Shirley MacLaine, New York delegate, tallying numbers after a floor fight.
Mayor John Lindsay and writer Gail Sheehy.
Sadly, Gail Sheehy died suddenly and unexpectedly this past August 24th from double pneumonia.
I.F. Stone, known as Izzy.
Jack Newfield was there as a delegate and a columnist for The Village Voice.
Pierre Salinger and Victor Navasky.
Navasky’s subsequent article, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Coronation,” appeared the following week in The New York Times Magazine.
Arthur Miller and William Styron.
Left: Robert MacNeil, known to his friends as Robin, and his floor producer.
Right: NBC Correspondent Sander Vanour.
John Kenneth Galbraith and Mary Bunting — Massachusetts delegates and Harvard colleagues.

Republican National Convention, Miami Beach, 1972

My husband Kurt Vonnegut and I were assigned by Harper’s Magazine to cover the Republican National Convention in Miami.
Left: The New Yorker’s Renata Adler with Charlotte Curtis from The New York Times.
Right: Historian Theodore White.
I never went to a political convention where I didn’t see Teddy White with a cigarette in his mouth and a pencil in his hand.
Henry Kissinger and his son David.
In Kurt’s words:
“Dr. Kissinger, after all, has been a leader of incredible wounds between the mightiest nations of all. But the administration he serves is bad news for those nations that are feeble, or what the King James version of the Bible calls, ‘the meek.’
Newsweek columnist Shana Alexander.
“Happy Days Are Here Again” was written by Shana’s father, Milton Ager, a successful Tin Pan Alley composer.
The song, selected by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s political advisors to precede the President’s acceptance speech at the 1932 Convention, has become the unofficial theme song for the Democratic Party.
Daniel Ellsberg and Norman Mailer. Kurt is standing behind them.
First Lady Pat Nixon.
More words  from KV:
“The Republicans were as high as kites at their convention. The enemy candidate was buried up to his neck in Populism, whereas their own candidate was buried up to his neck in God. Nothing remained to be done, so autographing parties starring the President’s wife and daughters loomed large on the official schedule for every day.”
Also on hand — young GOP supporters.
According to Kurt:
“Young girls had flown to Miami at their own expense. They were living proof that young people were crazy about Mr. Nixon. I had heard them cry out their admiration for Ethel Merman at a party for celebrities and youth on the afternoon before.
‘’I am from Harper’s Magazine,”  I said, “and I would like to ask you if you think an atheist could possibly be a good President of the United States.
“I don’t know, she said.
“Why not? I said.
“Well, she said, “this whole county is founded on God.’”
Frank Sinatra applauding from the section reserved for distinguished guests. Mr. Sinatra, once an ardent Democrat campaigning with his Rat Pack for President Kennedy, had switched lanes to support the Republican Party in the early ’70s: “The older you get, the more conservative you get.”
During Nixon’s presidency, Sinatra visited the White House on several occasions.
President Richard Milhous Nixon accepting his party’s nomination for a second term.
Our First Bound copy of Harper’s Magazine with Kurt’s piece and my photographs.

Democratic National Convention, New York City, 1976

New York Magazine’s Clay Felker and Ken Auletta.
Also from New York Magazine, Aaron Latham and art director Walter Bernard.
Richard Reeves and Jane O’Reilly, longtime colleagues representing New York Magazine’s posse.
Barbara Howar and Timothy Crouse, author of the seminal book about political campaigning: The Boys on The Bus.
Socialite Howar was on hand to write an article about the party scene published by … you guessed it … New York Magazine: “Laughing All the Way Through The Democratic Convention.”
Osborn (Oz) Elliott, Editor of Newsweek, squeezing through.
Times reporter R.W. Apple puffs up his prose.
Left: Jann Wenner, editor of Rolling Stone.
Right: Rolling Stone’s Convention Reporter Hunter Thompson.
Haynes Johnson, Katharine Graham, and Ben Bradlee commandeering The Washington Post.
Humorist Art Buchwald.
Life‘s Gjon Mili photographing while he’s being photographed.
Left: Warren Beatty was a delegate from California.
Right: Richard J. Daley was a delegate from his hometown of Chicago.
Peter Duchin and his orchestra had their own platform above the Convention floor from where he and his orchestra played such ditties as “The President Jefferson March,” by fellow liberal Democrat Leonard Bernstein.
Peter is recuperating from COVID following a lengthy hospital stay. I’m sure he’s tapping his feet to the tune of “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
Barbara Jordan delivering the keynote address.
Congresswoman Jordan from Texas was the first African-American woman to deliver a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.
The Carters and the Mondales accepting the Democratic nomination.

Republican National Convention, Detroit, 1980

CBS’s Dan Rather and Leslie Stahl.

Democratic National Convention, NYC, 1980

August 14, 1980: I photographed Walter Cronkite at Madison Square Garden when he anchored the 1980 Democratic Convention, his last, as he was set to retire in 1981.
Just before he signed off, his CBS colleagues at the network surprised him by putting up a photograph of his first convention coverage.
I photographed in color to contrast the present with the earlier days when we viewed TV in black and white.
This Convention is a one photograph layout because it’s the photograph I most care about.

Democratic National Convention, San Francisco, 1984

Bella Abzug cuddling with New York’s Governor Mario Cuomo prior to his rousing keynote speech.
The Golden Gate City welcomed 10.000 convention delegates and guests.
Left: Coretta Scott King with California Governor Jerry Brown.
Mrs. King expressed high hopes for the Walter Mondale/Geraldine Ferraro ticket.
Right: Mari and James Michener, epic chronicler of everything from Poland to paradise in sunny San Fran.
Veteran newsmen: Studs Terkel, Mike Royko, and Jimmy Breslin.
Photographer Robert Frank.
D.N.C. Chairman Charles Manatt, Kay Graham, and Warren Beatty hobnobbing at a party.
Margot Kidder, moonlighting as a reporter for Vogue, with Bonnie Franklin, known for her starring role in “One Day at a Time.”
The actresses were at a special event, “Celebration of Women.”
Look closely — that’s Carol Bellamy and Lynda Bird Johnson standing behind them.

Republican National Convention, New Orleans, 1988

Mortimer Zuckerman and Michael Kramer (New York Magazine).
Mort generously invited me to join him on his airplane.
Left: Walter Isaacson, working for Time magazine, grew up in New Orleans. When he heard that I was going to spend a day with Walker Percy he asked if he could come along and “carry my camera bag.”
Right: Susan Zirinsky and Ed Bradley.
As you all know, Susan is now the President of CBS News.
Left: A New York Delegate, columnist Murray Kempton, along with others, was harassed and herded off the convention floor by Chicago’s security who questioned his credentials.
Right: Photographer Diana Walker was on assignment for Time magazine.
Left: Senator Alan Simpson, a delegate from Arizona, with me.
Right: Conservative George Will.
NBC’s Connie Chung and her colleague, Tom Brokaw.
How Connie Chung survived in these high heels is one of the great mysteries of life.
Left: John Chancellor wth his boss, Michael Gartner, who was President of NBC News.
Right: Andrea Mitchell.
Chris Wallace with Donald Trump in CBS’s Supply Room.
I overheard Chris asking: “You haven’t bought this building have you Donald? I hope you’re going to let us stay here until after the Convention is over.”
After their back room chatting, they both proceeded to the Convention Floor for a formal interview. As I write this, Donald Trump is the President of the United States and once again he has accepted the nomination of his party.
Chris Wallace, now with Fox News, commented in his closing remarks that Trump’s acceptance speech sounded more like the State of the Union and “the real fireworks were on the mall, not on the podium.”
Who knows what lies ahead? The Television crews covering conventions have been shrinking for years. Magazines and newspapers are dying. Have we turned into A Nation of the Virtual?

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