The radio is blastin'Parties were fun in the eighties and nineties, and they’re still fun today. But I’ll wager the best parties since Caligula held court were in the 1970s…. and by “best” I mean dangerous and depraved. I wasn’t quite old enough to host my own wicked 70s orgy, but I wasn’t blind either. There can be no debate – the gloves came off in the seventies, and all hell broke loose.
Someone's knocking at the door
I'm lookin' at my girlfriend
She's passed out on the floor
I seen so many things
I ain't never seen before
Don't know what it is
I don't wanna see no more
- “Mama Told Me Not To Come” by Three Dog Night
As I’ve said many times before, cultural change is gradual, and the boundaries that define a decade are superficial and arbitrary. The process began in the late sixties by 76 million Baby Boomers pounding on the door of the status quo. It reached its zenith in the seventies, and began to fizzle out in a cocaine fueled haze by the mid eighties.
The images throughout this post are from this time period. Every one of them looks like it’s about ten seconds away from being a porno. Indeed, any adult party during the 70s was in danger of becoming a porno at any given moment. The men and women sit among their liquor bottles and cigarette ashes poised for the inevitable – alternative eroticism, experimentation, and promiscuity. Surveys during the 1970s reported that by age nineteen, four-fifths of all males and two-thirds of all females had had sex.
The movie The Ice Storm perfectly captures the “key party”, where married couples put keys in a communal pot, and party goers blindly selected keys to see who they were going home with. It was not at all uncommon. The feeling of emptiness and regret that was felt as a consequence is handled expertly in the film.
A lot of factors converged in the 70s to make the sexual revolution happen. The Perfect Storm consisted of (1) widespread drug use, (2) counter-culture values permeating the mainstream, (3) the birth control pill, (4) a total embrace of the sexual revolution by the media (5) a “live for today” mentality brought on by the threat of nuclear annihilation and Vietnam, (6) the women’s liberation movement, and, finally, (7) the majority of the American population hitting their sexual prime at the same time.
No wonder the parties were incredible! And by “incredible” I mean sweaty, drugged, and often diseased.