What’s Your Name?
by Howard Belkamp, March 31, 2010
One curious effect of the 60s phenomenon was some people's ideas of who they were — or not — and consequently what their names were. Most obvious were the new identities with new made-up names. These came from reading, from cults, from drug trips.
There were the hippie names, one of my favorites was a Big Island guy who called himself Mooncloud. A friend of my landlord on Maui was called Zantar. No clue about the source. At the Sausalito waterfront in the 70s I encountered a woman calling herself Sevito, a Sanskrit word. She was on a vow of silence and communicated by writing notes on a little pad. She was also a feminist. Somehow I got roped into driving her around, and at one point she gave me a note saying, “I am perhaps the strongest woman you will ever meet.” Hey, I was chauffeuring her, wasn't I? The acid girl I met on the notorious Southwest Midnight Flyer S.F. to L.A. went by Alhalya. She said Leary gave her the new name. A Puerto Rican hooker on the waterfront had a child with her boyfriend, a cat-burglar by trade. They named the child Rainbow.
Another guy in Sausalito called himself Golden Eagle, and he always insisted on greeting everyone he passed on the dock with an unwelcome, smarmy hug, saying, “God bless you.” Glorious, no? His neighbors on the dock called him Turkey Feathers but one of them, investigative reporter Peggy Shaw, did a little digging and found his real name: Larry. She recalls, “He hated it when I called him that, which I did at every opportunity, of course.”
The Love Family cult in Arlington, Washington, gave “attribute” names. My girlfriend’s brother was part of it but hadn't gotten his official handle yet. His temporary name was Joseph (no “Joes” there!) and his wife was Siloam (Sill-oh-am). Their real names were Richard and Sherry. Through them I met people with attribute names, who introduced themselves, “Hello, I'm Strong” or “Hi, I'm Understanding.” They all gave up their identities (and material assets) to Love, the leader. Love Israel (“Love Is Real”). Everyone got Israel as their last name. Oh, and of course Love got to have sex with anyone he wanted.
The Source Family, run by the Rolls-Royce driving Father Yod, also gave new names, I met a guy on the Big Island called Path.
Some people just stress their formal names, apparently thinking it gives them class or distinction. Formal forms rarely roll off the tongue smoothly. Rare is the Margaret that doesn't go by Peggy, Peg, Meg, Maggie, Margie. Some guys are Dave, some are David. But I met a guy who took it a bit further and introduced himself as “Dah-VEED.” Okay, dude, whatever floats your boat.
Another dubious effect of the 60s was psychedelic/spiritual pretense, the new age holier-than-thou people. Busting them on this bullshit invariably caused reactions or behavior of a decidedly unevolved nature.
My favorite post-60s name-change story: A waitress at La Fonda restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico took mescaline and went out in the desert. She reports a wonderful trip where everything was bright and sparkling. During the experience she decided that from then on she would be Sparkle Plenty. To this end she went to court and made it legal. Next election cycle, she ran for congress, using the slogan, “Plenty For Everyone.”
She was not elected.