Sunday, September 23, 2012

Atomic Popular Culture in Las Vegas

After our last class discussion I left intrigued about the effects of the nuclear age on American popular culture. I was specifically interested in the propaganda and marketing strategies of the nuclear age. In class we listened to “Atomic Cocktail” by The Slim Gaillard Quartette (1946) and “You Hit Me Baby like an Atomic Bomb” by Fay Simmons (1954). We also discussed the invention of the “atomic cocktail” by bartenders and the origin of the bikini, coming from the Bikini Isle atomic bomb testing. All of the previously referenced popular culture pieces that originated from use of the atomic bomb are positive reflections on the weapon of mass destruction. Coincidence?—I think not. Through use of American popular culture, the atomic bomb was glorified using propaganda and marketing strategies in order to eliminate the widespread fear amongst Americans and encourage pride in the invention and use of the new weapon—our “original child”.

One of the places where propaganda and marketing was most widely used is Las Vegas. In Las Vegas atomic popular culture ran rampant. Atomic popular culture can be recognized in the creation of the ‘Atomic Hairdo’, ‘Atomic Cocktail’, and ‘Atomic View Motel’. ‘Atomic’ became a positive connotation, and the marketing industry ran with it. With nuclear testing in New Mexico visible by Las Vegas residents, the city became a major influence in atomic popular culture. This was the beginning of the “sacralisation of commercialism” (Brown, 1998). Las Vegas was a “crass, banal, decadent, sinful, mind-numbing” illusion of reality (id). The golden desert bred an illusion that American citizens fed into. Atomic popular culture was embraced, even celebrated. Las Vegas became the “temple town of the American Dream”…”the city that stands on the edge of the desert, the end of the world” (id). The hype around atomic popular culture in Las Vegas helped suppress the eminent fear of Americans by exalting the nuclear age as a time of innovation and celebration. The atomic age produced the mogul of popular culture propaganda in Las Vegas—the basis of the city’s prosperity today.

Atomic bomb test - mushroom cloud with Fremont Street Casinos in foreground. April 18, 1953 (Las Vegas News Bureau Coll # 0049, Photo # 0414)

Parade float, "Nevada's First Atomic Bomb (Collection # 0107, Photo # 0018)

A girl showing off her "atomic hairdo" with a photo of the atomic blast that inspired it. The mushroom cloud-shaped-do is described in the caption as, "an old fashion and something dangerously new". (

Referenced: Brown, S. (1998). Marketing apocalypse: Eschatology, escapology and the illusion of the end. (New ed., pp. 87-101). Routledge. Retrieved from cocktail 1950s&ots=MnPJ0owSG&xsig=LzbZ2Dw-KYAgT81tauNTEzcdCIA

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