One Year

Season 1: Episode 5

Elvis, the Pledge, and Extraterrestrials

Three stories from a single day in August 1977.

Illustration depicting a female with a microphone

Listen longer

Slate Plus members get ad-free versions of all Slate podcasts, plus extra segments, bonus episodes, and more. Try it today for just $1.

Join Slate Plus
Advertisement

Episode Notes

Three stories from one day in August 1977. Elvis Presley dies, and the National Enquirer goes after the ultimate tabloid scoop: a photo of the King in his coffin. A New Jersey high-schooler becomes a pariah when she refuses to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Astronomers in Ohio get a mysterious signal from outer space—could it be a message from aliens?

One Year is produced by Josh Levin, Evan Chung, and Madeline Ducharme. Mixing by Merritt Jacob.

Sources for This Episode

Elvis Presley: 

Books

Calder, Iain. The Untold Story: My 20 Years Running the National Enquirer, Miramax, 2004.

Nash, Alanna. Elvis and the Memphis Mafia, Aurum Press, 2005.

Vitek, Jack. The Godfather of Tabloid: Generoso Pope Jr. and the National Enquirer, University Press of Kentucky, 2008.

Articles

Alden, Ginger. “Girl Elvis Was Going to Marry Tells Her Heartbreaking Story,” National Enquirer, Sept. 6, 1977.

Blosser, John, Malcolm Boyes, Rod Gibson, Tom Kuncl, Ken Potter, and Donna Rosenthal. “Elvis Knew He Was Going to Die,” National Enquirer, Sept. 6, 1977.

“Elvis Autopsy Theft Scheme Reported,” United Press International, Aug. 31, 1977.

“Elvis: The Untold Story,” National Enquirer, Sept. 6, 1977.

Enquirer’s Growth Plans,” New York Times, Nov. 1, 1977.

Kleinfield, N. R. “Magazines Battling for Checkout Racks,” New York Times, April 4, 1979.

Kuncl, Tom and John South. “Emergency Medics Tell Inside Story of Elvis’ Death,” National Enquirer, Sept. 6, 1977.

Kupcinet, Irv. “His Cousin Cashed in on Coffin Shot of Elvis,” Chicago Sun-Times, Sept. 20, 1977.

Lardner, James. “Can 17,000,000 Readers Really be Wrong?,” Washington Post, April 2, 1978.

“Loyal Fans Mob Gates of Presley Mansion,” Associated Press, Aug. 18, 1977.

Nelson, Michael. “ ‘Elvis in the Box’: The National Enquirer Issue That Made Today’s Celebrity Culture,” History News Network, Sept. 6, 2020.

“Presley Death Exploited to the Hilt,” Knight News Service, Sept. 18, 1977.

Toogood, Granville. “Never Before Revealed—in the Months Before He Died … Presley’s Bizarre Behavior,” National Enquirer, Sept. 6, 1977.

Pledge of Allegiance:

Articles

Bomboy, Scott. “The History of Legal Challenges to the Pledge of Allegiance,” National Constitution Center, June 14, 2021.

Crawford, Amy. “How the Pledge of Allegiance Went From PR Gimmick to Patriotic Vow,” Smithsonian, September 2015.

Crockett, Zachary. “The Marketing of the Pledge of Allegiance,” Priceonomics.

Hanley, Robert. “Court Will Rule on Girl’s Suit Against Standing for Pledge,” New York Times, June 28, 1977.

Hanley, Robert. “Sitting During Flag Pledge Upheld,” New York Times, Aug. 17, 1977.

Lazarus, Shirley. “Pledge Not Her Style,” Morristown Daily Record, June 5, 1977.

Lipp, Deborah. “All I Want is the Right to Be Myself,” New York Daily News, Aug. 20, 1977.

Mauro, Tony. “High Schooler Sits Out Pledge; Court Order Prevents Her Expulsion,” Camden Courier-Post, July 11, 1977.

Rosenbaum, David E. “With Little Ado, Congress Put God in the Pledge in 1954,” New York Times, June 28, 2002.

“Tenth Grader Tests Pledge of Allegiance Requirement,” United Press International, June 13, 1977.

Worthen, Molly. “The Thirty-One Words,” the New Republic, Feb. 7, 2011.

Wow! Signal:

Books

Brooks, Michael. Thirteen Things That Don’t Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time, “Chapter 7: The Wow! Signal,” Vintage, 2008.

Gray, Robert H. The Elusive Wow: Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Palmer Square Press, 2011.

Kraus, John. Big Ear Two: Listening for Other-Worlds, Cygnus-Quasar Books, 1994.

Articles

Charbonneau, Rebecca. “This Month in Astronomical History: The Mysterious Wow! Signal,” American Astronomical Society, Aug. 28, 2018.

Early SETI: Project Ozma, Arecibo Message,” SETI Institute.

Ehman, Jerry R. “The Big Ear Wow! Signal (30th Anniversary Report),” bigear.org, May 28, 2010.

A History of SETI,” SETI Institute.

Kawa, Barry. “ ‘Big Ear’ Designer a Pioneer in Field,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sept. 18, 1994.

Kraus, John. “We Wait and Wonder,” Cosmic Search 3, Vol. 1, No. 3, Summer 1979.

Shuch, H. Paul. “Remembering John Kraus, W8JK,” SETI League, Fall 2004.

Slate Plus Member Content Bonus Episode

Music’s Pivot Point in 1977

Hit Parade’s Chris Molanphy and One Year’s Evan Chung on Donna Summer, the Bee Gees, Fleetwood Mac, and the other artists who made their mark in 1977.

Advertisement

About the Show

The people and struggles that changed America—one year at a time. In each episode, host Josh Levin explores a story you may have forgotten, or one you’ve never heard of before. What were the moments that transformed politics, culture, science, religion, and more? And how does the nation’s past shape our present?

The first season of One Year focuses on 1977, a year when gay rights hung in the balance, Roots dominated the airwaves, and Jesus appeared on a tortilla.

All episodes

Host