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by John Wester, April 26, 2012
Hippie met its ugly death
In Buena Vista Park;
Buried with the smack and meth
With candles in the dark;
Vietnam the only trip
That had the people in its grip.
* * *
Organized by the Diggers, residents of Haight-Ashbury marched through the streets in early October, 1967, carrying a coffin to symbolize the “Death of Hippie.” They carried it to Buena Vista Park, the oldest park in San Francisco. The park sits on a hill whose low end is bordered by Haight Street. The Diggers (a name taken from history) were a radical community action group of activists and street theater performers who operated in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. The protest was against the commercialization of the hippie movement, or the notion that it was a “movement” at all. The Diggers maintained “hippie” was a phenomenon created by the media. The residents wanted the media out of Haight-Ashbury.
* * *
At the time I was living in Mendocino and writing for The Illustrated Paper, a paper published there sporadically from a print shop in Fort Bragg. The editor’s wife, Hillie was a plate maker at the shop which cut the cost of printing way back. The editor, Walter, and I visited Haight-Ashbury several times to talk with the people who put together another underground paper called the Oracle which had offices above Haight Street. Walter was a good graphic artist and wanted to meet the art editor at the Oracle. The first time we went there, a guy was there to see another editor, waiting in the front office with me and Walter. We said hello but he wasn’t in the mood for talking. He wasn’t a hippie, looked straight. He was wearing a hat and sunglasses even though it was dark outside. When we got inside to see the art editor, Gabe Katz, we asked about the guy outside. Gabe told us he was some “nut job named Hunter Thompson who wants to write a book on the Hells Angels and he wants us to introduce him to the San Francisco Chapter”. I was later in a commune with Gabe but that’s another story.
In January of ’67 my wife and I came down from Mendocino in January to attend a festival called the Human Be-in in the panhandle at Golden Gate Park. It was a free event that went from noon until evening. It was organized in an attempt to get the Berkley radicals and the counter culture, represented by Haight-Ashbury, to work together. Speakers included Allen Ginsberg, Jerry Rubin, Timothy Leary, the poet Gary Snyder, and Richard Alpert who later became Baba Ram Das. The comedian Dick Gregory also spoke. I think the Glide Memorial Church’s Cecil Williams was there, too. Rock bands included the Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Grateful Dead. The underground chemist, Owsley Stanley, provided free LSD called “White Lightning.”
It was a beautiful sunny day. What I took from the event was seeing the San Francisco Chapter of the Hells Angels run some poor bastard through a gauntlet of fists and boots and nobody did anything about it. Probably the right thing to do at the time. Wikipedia, with apparently no irony intended, says that the Angels were kept busy returning lost kids to their parents. The Hells Angels had adopted Haight-Ashbury and “protected” it like they did the Grateful Dead.. They also sold a lot of crank in the Haight. The Human Be-in was a prelude to the Summer of Love and the Death of Hippie capped it off.
* * *
As punk rock music started losing momentum and branching into different factions a lot of the original political stances dissolved as well. Hard-core, Post hard-core, peace punk (stayed very political), crust, Grind-core, pop-punk, skate punk, etc. Lots of different sounding music, but most bands would cite punk rock as their roots or inspiration. There were also regional divisions in look, sound, and style. In the Pacific Northwest a bunch of bands started playing heavier, darker tunes with roots in the 60s and 70s hard rock as well as punk. Before it really blew-up in popularity, magazines were starting to take notice and dubbed this “Seattle” style. One of these bands, Nirvana, got huge, so the media was falling all over itself to come up with a better moniker than “Seattle style.” They came up with GRUNGE. Not that big a deal really. Then grunge bands were popping up all over, adopting the media's portrayal — unshaven, longish hair, flannel shirts. The “look” became more important than music, and I kept hearing about GRUNGE until that poor junkie Cobain ate a shotgun. I could go on and on about this, but this is what I was thinking about after my Rhyme Alert. Postscript. I wish I could somehow thank the Mainstream Media for romanticizing heroin, I lost a few friends that might never have gone near that nasty shit.
* * *
“And all the hippies moved to Albion and lived…” said the Boonville editor.