Saturday, May 1, 2010
Before The Beatles came along, the early 60's were like a hangover from the 50's. As kids, we imitated 50's teenagers, like the ones we saw in movies, with the full skirts, or straight, with bobby sox, and the guys had duck tails and rolled up jeans. It was getting a little tired.
THEN~! The British Invasion!! Started by the Fab Four, and then, all the great bands that followed, and of course all the MAD, MOD fashions!
We had moved to Hollywood in 1965, and the kids were into the whole surf scene that was going on at the same time. The boys mostly like The Beach Boys, and the girls mostly like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Soon, some of the boys started combing their hair down in the front to look like the Liverpool lads.
There was a buzz in the air. Something's happenin' here, what it is ain't exactly clear....maybe the answers were blowing in the wind, but all we knew is that the times they were a changing...and..things got... psychedelic! A new big word. Had to look it up.
I was too young at first, for the war that was going on to be in my consciousness. I was vaguely aware of something going on far away, but that was something grown-ups talked about, and the boring guys on tv. I was more interested in other things, and maybe that was the point.
The Southern California music scene had mushroomed out of Laurel Canyon, the groovy hippie enclave, where my best friend, Debbie lived in a big old ramshackle cabin on top of Look Out Mountain Dr. Down the hill was the big old log cabin where Frank Zappa lived. It was once owned by silent film cowboy, Tom Mix. Across the street was Houdini's old sprawling, run-down estate. There were many rock and roll shows on tv that all these bands appeared on, some local, some national. Hollywood aGoGo, Shindig, Lloyd Thaxton, Where the Action Is, Ninth St West, Hullabaloo. Shivaree! We watched them all. Some kids from school were in the group of kids that danced on one of the shows. Next door to us, lived a couple of rock and roll singers. One guy was in The Hollywood Argyles, of "Alley Oop" fame, and the other guy, Joey Paige, who used to sing with the Everly Brothers, appeared on Hollywood a GoGo.
Our room was soon transformed into a hippie den, with psychedelic posters covering the walls, printed cotton bedspreads from India, colorful pillows, and a beaded curtain across the door. We'd spend hours in there, burning candles and incense, listening to The Doors, and other groovy bands.
We attended The Teen Age Fair! It was at The Hollywood Palladium. Where Frank Sinatra sang with Tommy Dorsey. A whole FAIR!!! JUST for teenagers!!! FREE Clearasil!!
Besides The Sunset Strip being a mecca for wandering youth, Fairfax Ave. which has since returned to it's former jewish cultural roots, was also quite the groovy hang. After a long night of just hanging out, or clubbing on The Strip, seeing The Doors, at The Whisky aGoGo, or The Byrds at Ciro's, with the grey haired, bearded sculptor, Vito, and his dancing Freaks; who would mesmerize the crowd, with their free-style freak dancing; the hippies would either go off to parties in Laurel Canyon, or, if the munchies got to them, they'd spill over down onto Fairfax Ave. and go eat at Canter's, the jewish delicatessen, that was open 24 hours.
The Free Press Bookstore had opened up on this stretch of small, family-owned, jewish businesses. It sold the alternative newspaper, The Free Press, and other counter culture publications, books, posters, buttons, jewerly, and paraphenalia. It smelled like incense. Very hip, and happening.
My sister and I were walking home from Fairfax High, down Faifax Ave, and as we passed the Free Press Book Store, we noticed a little boutique opening up. We went in and started talking to the people opening it, David and Roseanna, hip, art-school types, and their employee, Henny, a pretty blonde school girl from Austria. We told them we would see them every day after school! And we did! They made mini dresses, and they were all $13, which soon became most of our wardrobe. They called it, "I'm a Hog For You, Baby", from a song.
On their opening night, my sister and I modeled their dresses in the window, sometimes dancing, and sometimes,we froze for minutes at a time! One day, we were hanging out after school, eating chocolate chip rolls from Canter's bakery, and Cher came in to shop!
There was a groovy head shop down the street called the Infinite Mind. They had a room in the back, where you could lay down on pillows on the floor, and listen to music, and watch the trippy liquid light show! For Free! Very groovy!
Sometimes, we would cruise The Strip if someone's friend had a older sibling with access to a car. Or, we'd go walking up there, but had to get home by the 10:00 curfew.
We met Rodney Bingenheimer, The Mayor of The Sunset Strip. He knew EVERYBODY!!
"Hi, What's Happening?", was Rodney's standard greeting, in his boyish, nasally voice. He was also Davy Jones' stand-in, on "The Monkees".
My sister and I had met a band from the Bay Area, when we were going to Hollywood High.
We would go watch them rehearse after school, at a theater nearby. One time we mentioned Rodney Bingenheimer, and the guys exclaimed, "Rodney Bingenheimer!!?" "We went to high school with him in Mountain View!!!! "Yeah, man, he was mowing lawns, and one day, he threw down the lawn mower, and said, 'Fuck this shit, I'm going to Hollywood and be famous'".
There were Love-ins in Griffith Park! The Merry-Go-Round area. Hundreds of peace loving souls gathered, to eat, dance, share, play music,paint their faces, and love! Wear your love like Heaven, and don't forget the flowers in you hair! Our neighbor was an older hippie dad, and he would drive us to the Love-Ins, and pick us up at a specified time and place. We would see Gypsy Boots, the hippie health food guru, and Wild Man Fischer, who sang with Frank Zappa. The Diggers passed out free food. A cute hippie guy gave my sister a joint, and she turned me on in the bushes. Really Groovy!
People hitchhiked everywhere. Everyone was cool, was your brother. The feelings of peace, love and goodwill were everywhere you went. You met people, hung out, had an experience, and went on your way. It really was a beautiful thing. Yes, there were some hassles from the Man, and you'd encounter some uptight straights, but they just weren't hip, man, they just didn't get it.
Then--Charles Manson. Everyone got paranoid. Bad drugs flooded the streets. OD's. Crime. Unsavory types posing as hippies. It all went bad, and then became a joke.
I really thought we would change the world. Maybe all that beauty and honesty was a threat to the Establishment. People coming together and getting along? Naw...better we should be polarized, and fighting over "issues".
There are things that the counter culture has indelibly influenced. Speech, for one thing. Hippie venacular is ubiquitous. Ecology, recycling, health food, spirituality, fashion,(maybe not to the best effect, as casual has become slovenly) are just some examples.
There was a huge backlash, of which we are now only recovering from. I again feel a change is in the air, as people have become disenchanted with the consumer culture, a tanking economy, and a government that has disappointed, and let them down.
Maybe the times they are a changing again.....and peace will guide the planet, and love will steer the stars! Let the sunshine in!