There’s a line in the They Might Be Giants song “Ana Ng” that goes “all alone at the ’64 World’s Fair, 80 dolls yelling ‘small girl after all’. Who was at the DuPont Pavilion? Why was the bench still warm? Who had been there?” That line plays in my mind sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) and it sparked my interest in finding out more about the 1964 World’s Fair.
The fair opened in Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York in April, 1964 and ran through October, 1965 with a break during the winter months. This was the third World’s Fair to be hosted by New York City and had the dual theme of “peace through understanding” and “Man’s achievement on a shrinking globe in an expanding universe.” The Unisphere, a 12 story high sculpture of the earth that still stands today, represented this idea. In reality, “man’s achievement” was largely represented by corporations with their own pavilions to showcase their products and revel in the optimistic future of the space age. I’ll admit that’s one of the many reasons I love the idea of the fair. The relationship between consumers and corporations has changed dramatically in the years since the fair and I love the idea of getting excited to go to a corporation’s pavilion to see its upcoming products and hear how my life would be improved by owning them. It’s a form of advertising that doesn’t exist in the same way anymore, and things like that always catch my interest.
The name “World’s Fair” is a bit of a misnomer since many countries chose not to participate in the event for reasons you can easily look up elsewhere. Still, there was a legitimate international element to the fair as a handfull of nations like Japan, Ireland, Spain, and Austria had a presence in both exhibits and concessions. Some of the more fun exhibitions from the United States included a dolphin show from Florida, a scale model of New York City, and the world’s largest cheese which was, of course, provided by Wisconsin. The commercially run pavilion to gross the most money during the fair’s run was, believe it or not, the Gay New Orleans Night Club which put on a show headlined by Go-Go dancer Candy Johnson (who would become the subject of the Strangelove’s song “I Want Candy” and who is also known for appearing in ’60s Beach Party movies).
A notable influence at the fair was none other than Walt Disney. Many of what are now considered classic experiences at Disneyland were created for the 1964 World’s Fair, including the Carousel of Progress, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and the infamous It’s a Small World ride. The audio animatronics perfected for the fair would later contribute to the development of other popular rides at Disneyland, like the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. Walt showcased his company’s exhibits at the fair in a broadcast called “Disneyland Goes to the World’s Fair.” If you want to see that, some kind soul has uploaded it online for your enjoyment:
And now, to bring things to a fun end, here’s Miss Perpetual Motion herself Candy Johnson dancing during the closing credits of Beach Party to give you an idea of why her appearance brought in so much money. Damn that girl can dance: