October 6, 2015
Remembering the Haight’s ‘Hippie Funeral’: My NEW Taki’s column
No predictions on the “JOOOOOO!!!!”-yness of the comments…
Pallbearers carried a gray coffin piled with “love beads” and other already stereotypical “flower power” tchotchkes through the streets before lighting it on fire.
The Diggers handed out a dense yellow “street sheet” that promised, between scads of “poetic” nonsense and excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, to (all-caps) “EXORCISE” the now-world-infamous crossroads where “the tourists came to the Zoo to see the captive animals” on a corny guided bus tour called “The Hippie Hop.”
It hadn’t taken long for this literal corner of man-made “paradise” in San Francisco—“paradise,” that is, as long as your personal definition of utopia embraces scabies, rape (statutory and otherwise), mediocre music, body odor, and unpleasant, sometimes fatal drug misadventures—to devolve into a corrupt, commercialized, comic-relief parody of itself.
And yet, alone in the American annals of “progressive” “experiments in living”—and quite unlike its immediate predecessor, Beat—the hippie movement didn’t die.
In fact, W.J. Rorabaugh, professor of history at the University of Washington in Seattle, argues in a widely noted new piece that the “Hippies Won the Culture War.”
I was obliged to cut a lot of stuff for length.
Rape and other forms of assault and exploitation greeted young women who ventured into the neighborhood. Some of them were as young as 14. “Rape is as common as bullshit on Haight Street,” said the Diggers in 1967. They were accurate on both counts. Venereal disease and vaginitis were epidemic. The murder rate and incidents of physical assault soared. Robbery and burglaries became commonplace. In perhaps the most pointless robbery in the history of the United States, the Diggers’ Trip Without a Ticket free store was burglarized!
By the end of the summer, heroin, barbiturates and other “body” drugs vied for popularity with consciousness-altering and less-expensive drugs like LSD and marijuana. The profitability of hard drugs led to an outbreak of violent crime. When police arrested a notorious heroin dealer, they found a suede bag in his car. The bag contained the severed arm of a drug dealer who had been murdered. When asked about the bag and its contents, the “stoned” drug dealer told police, “I’m very, very, hazy about that arm.”
In retrospect, perhaps the most telling sign of the decline of the Haight-Ashbury and the counterculture was the arrival late in 1967 of Charles Manson, recently paroled from prison.
So don’t don’t buy the revisionism that Manson wasn’t really part of the “scene,” in both SF and LA (where he partied with rock stars, including Neil Young.)
His “Family” was studied for a paper about communal living experiments published (post-Tate) in The Journal of Psychedelic Drugs, where he was described as a guy who “expressed a philosophy of non-violence” (although the rest of the paper acknowledges his cult leader grip on the “Family” and overall weirdness; it’s hard to know, however, how much of that was added after the murders…)
Manson wrote a weekly column for a Los Angeles underground/alt paper, and was “Man of the Year” at another.
I’m getting kind of sick of this too by the way, from Rorabaugh this time:
Freaks frequently shared the same views as radical activists. Both groups dressed alike, listened to the same rock music, and indulged in free sex. Hippies, however, were deeply suspicious of all authority and did not share the radical desire for bigger government. Freaks also thought that protests were a waste of time. Some had become disillusioned after participating in demonstrations.
This is the narcissism of small differences, like libertarian in-fighting.
Whenever I hear that Abbie Hoffman et al were frustrated by the lethargic, apolitical hippies, I wonder why the author doesn’t just come out and write:
“The radicals and their KGB handlers viewed freaks with impatience, considering them useful idiots at best and parasites at worst.”