Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My celebrated "hippie" period

Here's another excerpt from the book I'm currently writing about growing up in the 60s in the San Fernando Valley. I'd take pre-orders but I haven't finished it.

By 1967 I had been as far south as San Diego, far north as Santa Barbara, far east as Las Vegas, and far west as the end of the Santa Monica pier. But that was about to change. My dad announced that we were going up to San Francisco.

Oh. My. Fucking. God.

I had wanted to go to San Francisco more than anyplace else in the world. I was intrigued by all the buzz about the music scene there, Haight-Ashbury, the Summer of Love, and okay, I’ll be honest – I just wanted to see a Giants game at Candlestick Park.

As always, we drove. I still had not been inside an airplane. Our family trips tended to be on the frugal side. We stayed at a Travelodge motel on Lombard St. in the Marina district. We should have slept in the Impala. It had more room.

But I didn’t care. I was just thrilled to finally be there. We saw the sights, traveled the bridges, dined at Kans in Chinatown, hopped cable cars, slurped crab cocktails at Fisherman’s Wharf, and gawked at the basketball-sized bazooms on Carol Doda whose image was proudly and largely displayed at the topless Condor club in North Beach where she jiggled them three times nightly.

Side note: Carol had risen to prominence in 1964 when many delegates from the Republican National Convention went to see her act.

I also got my first glimpse of the Haight-Ashbury district. This was hippie Mecca, the epicenter of the counter-culture revolution. Love was free and the drugs were reasonable. With Scott MacKenzie’s “San Francisco” as their anthem, young people from all over the country migrated to the Haight. Harvard Professor Dr. Timothy Leary, the noted advocate of psychedelic drug research (LSD) coined the catchphrase: “Turn on, tune in, drop out”. (That same year Leary would marry his third wife. Hard to tell whether the bride was really beautiful that day; all the guests were on acid.) This was a Utopian society, an oasis where you were free of the shackles of expectation and civilization. A haven for spiritual awakenings, creative inspiration, and yes, even consciousness expanding.

Haight-Ashbury looked exactly as you’ve seen it in documentaries and movies of the 60s. Loads of hippies in colorful garb (some with face paint) milling about, rolling joints, playing guitars and tambourines. Murals on the sides of buildings, head stores and ma & pa markets. And vivid kaleidoscopic color everywhere – from Tie Dyed clothes to rainbow store signs to a blue building with a yellow door. Imagine Jimi Hendrix as the art director of SESAME STREET. But it was festive and fun.

And as we drove through this idyllic world I thought to myself, “Ugggh! How the hell can anyone live here? It’s so dirty and crowded. What happens if you get sick? What kind of privacy would you get in one of these cramped apartments? How clean are the bathrooms? What’s the TV reception like?”

I had zero desire to turn, tune, drop, or whatever else was necessary to move to Haight-Ashbury and join this freaky scene.

It's one thing to be a hippie. It's another to give up creature comforts.

22 comments:

Baylink said...

Republicans? Looking at titties?

Say it ain't *so*, Joe!

I thought that was Carol. The injected silicone has a particular look that no other type of augmentation matches.

You have *sold* the book to someone; right?

Richard Y said...

I had a chance to go to San Francisco in 2003 or 04 (can't recall) and had to go to the Condor Club. Still there of course but was a sports bar when I visited. It still had a lot of the trappings of its former self, lots of photos of Carol, without the black bar across her chest :)

Matt Patton said...

In 1967 I neither tuned in, turned on, not dropped out. I did, however, start Kindergarten. Captain Kangaroo was about as psychedelic as it got for me. I understand that they caught Mr. Moose and Mr. Bunny rabbit smoking funny cigarettes off-camera once . . .

Tom Quigley said...

Ken, your remarks about the state of "Hippieville" seem to be shared by Pattie Boyd, George Harrison's ex- who noted in her autobiogrpahy about a trip she and George made to San Francisco around the same time:

"We were expecting Haight-Ashbury to be special, a creative and artistic place, filled with Beautiful People, but it was horrible--full of ghastly dropouts, bums and spotty youths, all out of their brains. Everybody looked stoned--even mothers and babies--and they were so close behind us there were treading on the backs of our heels. It got too the point where we couldn't stop for fear of being trampled."

How eerily similar! -- Or at least it is right up until the point where she goes on to mention that when they'd seen enough, she and George got back in their limo and headed to the airport to board their private chartered Lear Jet back to London...

Aron Ranen said...

Please take a moment to watch my documentary film POWER AND CONTROL: LSD IN THE 60'S.
It features a new interview with Ram Dass about the Harvard days...

Plus, an actual participant in Tim Leary's Miracle of Good Friday Experiment....btw..when I interviewed him..he was the DEAN & President of the Divinity school where Leary recruited the original participants!

Lots more, CIA & LSD with Marty Lee, Groucho Marx's LSD trip with Paul Krassner....Free Speech Movement and ACID.

I have posted the entire film at this link on youtube..please share
http://www.youtube.com/user/Realitysurfer#p/u/1/hZdz0G4lG6k

Dave said...

The Haight is still that way; I try to avoid it whenever possible, which is unfortunate, as Amoeba Music is there, as are some decent restaurants.

VP81955 said...

I think I read somewhere that in the 1970s, a TV station in Sacramento hired Carol Doda to read the news. Obviously she was covered up, but her giant man-made breasts were still visible on camera (and certainly the reason she was hired in the first place).

wv: "ippum" -- for the sake of Carol's health, let's hope that wasn't placed into her chest along with the silicone.

Bilge said...

Excuse me. I was there, tuning in, turning on, and dropping. Yes, there were people that had lost there way on several levels; casualties if you will. Do not let that fact blind you to what the scene really was. It was a electrifying transcendent moment in time that was revolutionary in thought and action. (does it sound like I'm still tripping?) The palpable sense of brotherhood was astonishing. Keep in mind the actual atmosphere of the times. It was DANGEROUS to be a hippie. At any given moment anyone might try to cave in the side of your head with a tire iron for being a anti-Vietnam hippie scum. I had a grandmother come up to me at a diner that had to be restrained by her husband from punching me.

That golden moment of transcendental explorers discovering fellow travelers was short lived. Heroin and speed and fraternity guys growing long hair just to get some girls, hastened the shift away from the connection. A little long winded, but I couldn't let Levine's flip take on it pass without...you know.

lizdmiller said...

Went from small town NY girl to SF Bay area co-ed(Mills College)between
'66-'70. Saw and heard the best music ever - Janice, Crosby, Stills,
Nash, Credence - didn't everyone have a 'contact high' in Golden Gate park? and yes, even saw Carol Doda, although not at her show!. I wasn't a 'hippie', didn't intentionally turn on, certainly never dropped out, but you couldn't help but be swept up in the sound of the times -LOVED THE 60s in Bagdad by the Bay!

Jeffrey Leonard said...

KFRC, KEWB and KSAN were the reasons I HAD to go to San Francisco in the mid to late sixties. Radio never sounded so good. Thank you Dave Diamond, Tom Donahue, Bobby Mitchell, Frank Terry, etc. You guys made it happen. It will NEVER be the same.

blogward said...

Ken! Your blog is the NEW Haight-Ashbury '67.

WV: sumacea = Vietnam and Indonesia.

Rainbow Starshine said...

Even as a child of the 60's, I could sense a hypocritical ("hippiecritical"?) undercurrent in the psychedelic/groovy/mod/ subculture...

...which was confirmed in later years as most of these folks abandoned their idyllic philosophies.

Tie-dye was cool, though.

VP81955 said...

I bet if Ken was listening to the radio in San Francisco in 1967, he was probably digging Johnny Holliday on KYA. Johnny moved to the Washingtin area later on that decade, where he still resides and works as the beloved voice of University of Maryland sports (as well as host of the "Nats Xtra" pre- and postgame shows on MASN)..

wv: "offenost" -- sounds like what happened to Jose Offerman in the Dominican Republic recently. Hello, banned for life.

Anonymous said...

KSAN in the 50's was the station the "hip" people listened to. Jumpin' George Oxford's Sepia Serendade in the morning AND aftertnoon dared to play "Work Wtih Me Annie" and Annie Had a Baby" by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters along with the big hit "Drinking Wine Spoodeody, Drinking Wine" (can't remeber the artist) that no one else dared play.

VP81955 said...

KSAN in the 50's was the station the "hip" people listened to. Jumpin' George Oxford's Sepia Serendade in the morning AND aftertnoon dared to play "Work Wtih Me Annie" and Annie Had a Baby" by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters along with the big hit "Drinking Wine Spoodeody, Drinking Wine" (can't remeber the artist) that no one else dared play.

Stick McGhee and his Buddies recorded it in the late '40s, one of the first hits for the Atlantic label. In fact, back then the label's colors were yellow and black instead of the more familiar red and blac. Jerry Lee Lewis cut a version of it around 1973 and had a moderate pop hit with it.

wv: "worgated" -- the latest invention to keep clothes lasting longer.

Debby G said...

My sister lived in The Haight in the '80s. One day when she was walking with her baby in the stroller, a woman stopped her to admire the baby. While she was distracted, the woman's friend stole her purse that had been dangling from the stroller. Nice.

When I was visiting my sister, my wallet was stolen on the subway. Then the married policeman I talked to hit on me.

And people from the Bay Area hate L.A.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, JVP8195. Should have remembered Stick McGee and the Boys (I think). Any way, as Jumpin' George would say: "I love everybody, escpcially you baby!" Jumpin' was the Hunter Hancock of the bay area, before Hunter.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I moved to the South Bay in 1969 and made a few trips to S.F. In fact, I was a street artist in the mid-'70s along Beach Street. Alas, the California dream became a nightmare when I discovered how many of the so-called hippies were just fad-chasing phonies.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken

I don't have any comment to make, but the wv - "pantsme" is too good to pass up.


cheers
B Smith

SharoneRosen said...

In '68 or '69, I was there with my parents... also on a road trip in the RV!

The love and peace movement felt very real to me... but it was kind of dirty.

I was wearing a Navy P-coat and had just grabbed my Dad's captain's hat from his head and put it on... at which point some mid-West Martha stood in front of me and took my picture! "Look Pa! I got a picture of a real hippie!!!

Mister Charlie said...

*sigh* The way you were going I thought it would be an idyllic ending...I guess Southern Califriona kids really were in another world.

I myself loved it, coming from the sticks of Illinois! Your description -is- perfectly apt, however.

rose said...

so cool.