.Historian Douglas Brinkley Talks ’60s Counterculture, Space Race

Historian Douglas Brinkley is coming to Santa Cruz for two events with one common goal: to remind us all about the legacy of the 1960s.

On Thursday, May 16, Brinkley visits Bookshop Santa Cruz to discuss his new book American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race. On the following night, May 17, he will be on stage at the Rio Theatre celebrating the all-female rock band Ace of Cups, who will then perform.

At the Bookshop event, Brinkley will cover the themes of his book, a long-view history on Apollo 11’s historic moon landing in 1969 and the central role that President John F. Kennedy played in making it happen. At the Rio, Brinkley will take a moment to reflect on the overlooked contributions of women in the late 1960s counterculture.

American Moonshot is an enthralling account of Kennedy’s conviction, even before he was elected president in 1960, that the U.S. had to do everything it could to land on the moon, even though the technology to do so was nowhere near up to the task at the time. When Kennedy was inaugurated, the Soviets were clearly winning the Space Race, having been the first to launch a satellite and a live astronaut into orbit.

“The question was how to respond,” says Brinkley. “(President Dwight) Eisenhower favored a more incremental approach. But Kennedy wanted to leapfrog the tit-for-tat competition and go for something big. The moonshot gave him that.”

At the other end of the historical spectrum, Brinkley is also steeped in the evolution of the counterculture. Among his biography subjects have been Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac. On Friday, he’ll focus on ’60s all-female band Ace of Cups.

“It’s an opportunity to look back at the counterculture and see the misogyny that was a part of it,” Brinkley said. Ace of Cups emerged during the Summer of Love in the Bay Area, and played alongside many of the now-legendary names of the period. But they failed to achieve commercial success. At last, they’re finally getting some recognition.”

Douglas Brinkley, author of American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race will speak at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 16, at Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Free. Ace of Cups performs at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 17, at the Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $25, tickets to benefit Monarch Family Services.


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