Motivated by the idea of turning Flushing Meadows, literallya land of refuse, into his greatest public park, Robert Moses—New York’s “masterbuilder”—brought the World’s Fair to the Big Apple for 1964 and ’65.Though considered a financial failure, the 1964/65 World’s Fair was a sixtiesflash point in areas from politics to pop culture, technology to urban planning,and civil rights to violent crime.
In an epic narrative, Tomorrow-Land shows theastonishing pivots taken by New York City, America, and the world during the fair. It fetched Disney’s empirefrom California and Michelangelo’s La Pietà from Europe and displayedflickers of innovation from Ford, GM, and NASA—from undersea and outer-spacecolonies to personal computers. It housed the controversial work of Warhol(until Governor Rockefeller had it removed) and lured Ken Kesey and the MerryPranksters. Meanwhile, the fair—and its house band, Guy Lombardo and his RoyalCanadians—sat in the musical shadows of the Beatles and Bob Dylan, who changedrock and roll right there in Queens.And as southern civil rights efforts turned deadly, and violent protests alsooccurred in and around the fair, Harlem-based Malcolm X predicted a frighteningfuture of inner-city racial conflict.
World’s Fairs have always been collisions of eras, cultures,nations, technologies, ideas, and art. But the trippy, turbulent, Technicolor,Disney, corporate, and often misguided 1964/65 fair was truly exceptional.