A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Marshall McLuhan’s sexual adventure

Marshall McLuhan (1965, age 54).  What this restaurant is exhibiting is inhibiting

We went to one of those new restaurants manned by topless waitresses, the Off Broadway in North Beach, here in San Francisco.  Ad men, Howard Gossage and Dr. Gerald Feigen, who are orchestrating the marketing of me, thought it would be a great experience.  It was an experience.  One of the party was a Mr. Herb Caen a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.  He ordered the strip steak sandwich and carefully kept his eyes averted from our waitress’s breasts while she was taking his order.  Claimed he was inhibited.  I told him inhibited is an interesting word it’s the opposite of exhibited, and what is exhibited causes you to be inhibited.

Michael Hinton (2009, age 57).  The extensions of woman is man

Marshall McLuhan was not inhibited by what was being exhibited by the topless waitresses at the Off Broadway restaurant when he went there in August 1965 with Tom Wolfe, Herb Caen, Howard Gossage, and Gerald Feigen.  He was it seems too busy observing to be inhibited. Two examples:

(1) During lunch a topless fashion show took place in which the announcer a fully dressed woman told the audience they were too quiet. They should be clapping more.  “Where,” she said, “was the applause?”  “Now ,” McLuhan said, “the word applause comes from the latin ‘applaudere,’ which means to explode.  In early times, audiences applauded to show their disfavour; they clapped their hands literally to explode the performer off the stage.  Hence you might say that, that the silence here is a form of approbation, at least in the classical sense.”

(2) McLuhan at one point looked around and said something like “the girls are wearing us.  They’re wearing our eyes.”

Who is wearing who?  How do you think McLuhan reported this excursion to his wife Corinne?  What were the ad men, whose mission it was to celebritize Marshall McLuhan, up to in taking McLuhan to this restaurant with two journalists in tow?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Tom Wolfe, The Pump House Gang. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1968, pp 129-168.

Herb Caen, “Rainy Day Session.” San Francisco Chronicle, Thursday, August 12, 1965, p. 25.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, November 10th, 2009
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Culture, Vol. 1 1 Comment

1 Comment to Marshall McLuhan’s sexual adventure

  • It’s the oldest PR trick in the book – if you want media to cover a topic, make it sexy.

    Not, mind you, that there’s much sexy about a topless restaurant .. not that I would know 😉

    Reminds me of the differences in ambiance between strip joints – those for men and those for women. One full of surprisingly quiet men, the other full of raucous women. Again, not that I would know ..

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