"It's Free Because It's Yours" by Dominick Cavallo
Part Two (of five parts).

    
     

The Setting

The San Francisco Bay Area was not the only geographic setting in the United States where the counterculture could have originated. But from a historical perspective it was the most fitting. From its frenzied, chaotic and violent inception during the Gold Rush of the late 1840s, San Francisco (and the area surrounding its capacious bay) was a place where, as one historian put it, "the bottom fell out" of nineteenth-century assumptions about moral order and progress.(15)

In some ways, the history of San Francisco undermined an important assumption about the American advance to the West: that it fostered moral elevation as well as national greatness, economic opportunity and social progress. "Manifest Destiny," the idea that a transcontinental America was tantamount to a divine charter for the creation of a new empire, implicitly linked moral and economic progress. The transformation of untamed wilderness and uninhabitable desert into cultivated farms and vibrant, commercial cities represented not only the triumph of progress and order over an anarchic wilderness. It promised as well, in the words of Walt Whitman, "immense spiritual results."(16)

On the moral plane, this marriage between commerce, nationalism and Christian rectitude was compromised somewhat by the daring and determined sensuality exhibited by San Franciscans throughout the nineteenth century. From the beginning it was an open city, where behavior deemed deviant or scandalous by nineteenth-century standards was not only tolerated, but at times even admired. This was not unusual for frontier boom towns. But well past the city's frontier stage, San Franciscans openly professed their relish for the pleasures of the flesh. A number of its streets were named for notable madams who ran the city's numerous houses of prostitution. The city also possessed a determined predilection for feeding the senses. Its citizens were as famous for their insatiable desires for good restaurants and fine wines as they were for openly negotiating sexual companionship in saloons. San Franciscans boasted of their city's luxurious hotels and its ornately appointed theaters and opera houses. [p. 105] Toleration toward others, and inclinations toward a life both sybaritic and sophisticated, characterized the city from the start.(17)

To some degree, these conditions were a legacy of San Francisco's almost overnight transformation from a sparsely inhabited town to a major city. Its population soared from 1,000 in 1848 to nearly 30,000 five years later.(18) And the city's ethnic diversity made sharp contrasts in behavior inevitable, and toleration of different cultures (with the notable exceptions of Asian immigrants and African Americans) an imperative of survival. Gold, adventure and the willingness to start life anew made San Francisco a magnet for immigrants from Chile, China, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, England, Australia, France, Canada and Russia. The city's architecture, a mosaic of cultural styles drawn from scores of cities around the globe, reflected the diverse national origins of its inhabitants.(19)

The thousands of native-born Americans thrown into this mix were as alien to the area as the numerous non-Americans. American nationals were in no position, therefore, to impose their values upon white ethnic groups from other countries or to overtly discriminate against them. For example, San Francisco did not replicate the discrimination aimed at Irish Catholics during the middle of the nineteenth-century in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. The simultaneous settlement of the Bay Area by native-born Americans and white foreign nationals compelled the former to be more tolerant than they otherwise might have been.(20)

Because San Francisco rested on the western edge of the continent, its isolation from the populous cities of the East and the farming communities of the Great Plains provided its inhabitants with the freedom to create their own version of America. In some ways, the early denizens of San Francisco turned American assumptions about propriety and decorum on their heads—almost as gleefully, publicly and scandalously as would their colorful heirs in the Haight-Ashbury one hundred years later.

At the Parker House or the El Dorado women dealt the cards, a brass band or banjo music played, and gold nuggets were piled high on the tables. One could take a brandy-smash at the bar, then stroll the crowded streets rakish in hussar boots, corduroy pants, red flannel shirt, and sombrero. Costume was posturing and romantic.(21)

As the nineteenth century progressed, the city's combination of refined hedonism and toleration toward white newcomers and the morally deviant was institutionalized rather than eliminated. Its inhabitants managed to balance acceptance of the ongoing rowdiness, robust sensuality and raw individualism [p. 106] characteristic of San Francisco since its Gold Rush days with a sense of civic pride for the city's sophistication and the refined tastes and civility of its citizens.(22) To be sure, the majority of its citizens were temperate, church-going folk. They complained about the sensuous ways of a city that by the 1890s had justly earned its title as the Paris of North America. There was much to complain about. San Francisco possessed a saloon for every 96 inhabitants, along with an untold number of brothels and opium dens.(23) But challenges to these and other infractions of Victorian-era morality, a staple of moral reform movements in New York, Chicago and other cities at the time, were tempered in San Francisco. Its citizens were inclined to define themselves as a people liberated from the country's Puritan heritage.(24)

By the late nineteenth century this comparative tolerance, along with a heritage of living on the continent's western and, perhaps, moral edge, made San Francisco the country's first enclave of bohemia. Avant-garde painters, novelists, dancers, actors, sculptors and photographers from around the nation and the globe gravitated there. After the earthquake of 1906 many of them, including Isadora Duncan, Gertrude Stein, Jack London and Frank Norris, moved to Carmel, a hundred miles south of San Francisco, and commuted between the two sites.(25) As Richard Miller pointed out, San Francisco's unique heritage of toleration, "Wild West traditions" and European sophistication made it a port of entry into the United States for European bohemianism. San Francisco

was the epitome of the Wild West refined by Paris. In San Francisco the American frontier tradition of the self-reliant free spirit combined with Europeans and college-bred Argonauts, with seamen and French sporting girls, with savage criminals from the slums of Sydney and New York, and learned how to read and write and build a city.(26)

San Francisco's bohemian ways continued into the twentieth century. In the thirties the city's North Beach section became its bohemian quarter. In 1955 Alien Ginsberg gave the first reading of his epic poem Howl at the Six Gallery in North Beach (his friend Jack Kerouac supplied the wine).(27) In the twentieth-century, as in the nineteenth, San Francisco possessed "a culture of civility" that, according to sociologists Howard Becker and Irving Louis Horowitz, was unique among large American cities. More than any other American city San Francisco was a "natural experiment in the consequences of tolerating deviance." Its inhabitants "know that they are supposed to be sophisticated and let that knowledge guide their public actions, whatever their private feelings."(28)

San Francisco's traditions of civility and tolerance would experience their most challenging tests in the 1960s—and came close to cracking under the stress. [p. 107] In the early years of the decade a surge of political activism among students at the nearby campus of the University of California at Berkeley challenged the political repression of the fifties. And from 1965 on, the center of the city's cultural radicalism shifted from North Beach, with its enclave of Beat writers and bohemians, to the Haight-Ashbury district. The fixtures of the small Beat movement—poetry, jazz, alcohol and discreet use of marijuana and amphetamines—were replaced by tens of thousands of hippies who lived in communes, listened to and created new forms of rock music, openly displayed their sexuality and boldly experimented with hallucinogenic drugs.(29)

The Free Speech Movement

In the early sixties, two unanticipated and very different forms of rebellion erupted among young people in the Bay Area. Their impact would ripple through the rest of the country during the remainder of the decade and to a great extent define for many Americans what the sixties youth culture represented: incessant political unrest among college students and a Dionysian hippie dance of abandon choreographed by hallucinogenic drugs and rock music.

Prior to 1964, most Americans viewed college students as a privileged class poised for a future of security, affluence and influence. One of the first public signs that some students viewed themselves in a different light—in fact thought of themselves as oppressed victims of an impersonal, repressive, boring society— appeared across the bay from San Francisco. In the fall of 1964 the Free Speech Movement (FSM) erupted on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley.

The FSM was a response by Berkeley students to new restrictions on student political activity imposed that fall by the university's administration. The restrictions were pushed by conservative members of the university's Regents. As early as 1960 conservative Regents were upset by the involvement of Berkeley students in left-wing causes. Students from Berkeley had played a prominent role in the massive demonstrations against the House Un-American Activities Committee that occurred in San Francisco in May 1960. In the early sixties, they were active as well in efforts to end both capital punishment in California and de facto racial segregation in the Bay Area.(30)

Since the beginning of the Cold War, political activity on campus had been generally prohibited. This was especially true of activism perceived by the university administration as "left wing," which in the repressive climate of the fifties meant almost any form of protest against the status quo. By the early sixties this included civil-rights activism. For instance, the new regulations prohibited students from engaging in off-campus acts of civil disobedience, a tactic regularly [p. 108] used in civil-rights protests. Also, students were prohibited from proselytizing or passing out political literature on city-owned sidewalks at the main pedestrian entrance to the campus, the intersection of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way, where student political activity had traditionally been tolerated by the university.(31)

On October 1 the civil-rights activist Jack Weinberg and others defied the ban. Weinberg was arrested for distributing literature for the Congress of Racial Equality. When police placed him in the back seat of a squad car, hundreds of students surrounded it. In the first, and perhaps most memorable, act of massive student defiance toward campus authorities in the sixties, the squad car was prevented from moving for 32 hours. While Weinberg remained in the car, and the crowd surrounding it grew to a few thousand, dozens of students took turns standing on its roof, making speeches about the pros and cons of the ban on political activity. Most of the speakers removed their shoes to avoid damaging the squad car. And a few weeks later, FSM leaders voluntarily collected over $400 from students to pay for repairs to the vehicle.(32)

The outrage created by the university's prohibition on student political activity, along with the arrests of Weinberg and others, created a semester-long uproar on the campus. The lies and duplicity of a feckless university administration, which portrayed the dissidents as little more than puerile adolescents engaged in a fraternity-style lark, made matters worse. From the students point of view, they were fighting to secure their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly. Acrimony and frustration mounted on both sides, and on December 2 Sproul Hall, the university's administration building, was occupied by nearly 1,000 student protesters who staged a sit-in.(33)

Edward Meese, Berkeley's assistant county prosecutor (and later attorney general in President Ronald Reagan's administration) told Governor Pat Brown that the students were "busting up" Sproul Hall. Meese was being less than truthful. The occupation of the administration building obviously disrupted the campus. But the demonstrators, unlike many campus protesters later in the decade, carefully avoided abusing university officials or damaging property. They spent the day singing FSM-inspired folk songs ("Don't know if I'm subversive," went one, "just want to say what I please.") Some studied for final examinations, while others watched Charlie Chaplin movies. Jewish students organized a Chanukah service. The governor ordered the police to remove the students, which they did at 3 A.M. on December 3. Nearly 800 students were taken into custody in the largest mass arrest in California history. A campus-wide student strike ensued. Finally, on December 8 an overwhelming majority of the faculty voted to support the FSM's claim that the First Amendment guaranteed students' rights to freedom of speech and assembly [p. 109] on the campus. The administration caved in, lifting the prohibition on student political activity. The students had won a stunning, nationally publicized victory.(34)

On the surface, the Free Speech Movement was an ardent defense by students of their right to enjoy fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. For this reason, even politically conservative student groups, such as the Young Republicans, supported the FSM (most of whose spokespersons were liberal to left) and participated in its rallies. But as the crisis deepened during the fall, issues unrelated to free speech unexpectedly surfaced among some of the leftists involved in the movement. These students began to question the right of the university to restrict their behavior in any fashion, except when the well-being of others was clearly imperiled. In their view, the university's traditional power to act in loco parentis was illegitimate.

More significantly, these students started to see themselves as fodder for an educational system—and a society—determined to mold them into efficient and compliant components of what FSM leader Mario Savio amorphously but ominously referred to as "the machine" of American society.(35) White middle-class college students saw a contradiction between their expectations of becoming autonomous, independent adults and the ultimate purposes of their education as it was defined by the society. In a famous metaphor, the president of the University of California, the liberal Democrat Clark Kerr, called Berkeley a "knowledge factory." Berkeley and the country's other major research institutions were what he called "multiversities." They promoted diverse forms of knowledge that not only reflected "middle-class pluralism," but were also, according to Kerr, "instrument[s] of national purpose" as well.(36)

Some students took a dim view of Kerr's vision, and of the impersonal nature of the university's academic and administrative environments it tacitly sanctioned. They saw it as proof that they were perceived by society as "products" and "resources" whose destiny was to serve the needs of an undefined "national purpose" not of their choosing. Particularly those students involved in or sympathetic to causes for social justice saw a parallel, however inexact, between themselves and victims of racial discrimination and economic inequity. Their sense of being "oppressed" was rather vague and undefined, but it brought to the surface powerful undercurrents of resentment. "For the first time," FSM leader Michael Rossman said years later, "the question becomes, What about us? For the first time we took the conditions of our lives, the institutionally determined conditions of our own lives, not as a base from which to address others' problems but as the ground of our own oppression. When people began to make this sort of connection, the floodgates opened."(37)

[p. 110]

Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters

On June 14, 1964, while some of the Berkeley students who would lead the FSM in the fall were being trained to participate in the Mississippi Freedom Summer project, Ken Kesey and thirteen companions, who called themselves the Merry Pranksters, boarded a colorfully painted bus at his ranch in La Honda, California. La Honda was a small town located on the southern part of the San Francisco peninsula. Ostensibly, they were headed east, for New York City. Their actual destination was wherever the drug LSD might take them.

Kesey had purchased and refurbished the bus with money from the sales of his 1962 best-selling novel, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. The exterior of the bus was painted in swirls of bright primary colors. The destination sign in the front was deliberately spelled "Furthur." The warning on the bus's rear door read, "Caution: Weird Load." The interior contained bunk beds, benches, a sink and a refrigerator. A sophisticated wiring system linked record players and microphones to exterior speakers, allowing those inside the bus to broadcast their music and conversations to the outside world. Exterior microphones captured the sounds of America, transmitting them to those inside the bus. The Merry Pranksters had sobriquets (a common practice in the counterculture they helped create) that captured new dimensions of their identities revealed by LSD. Among them were: "Intrepid Traveller," "Hardly Visible," "Stark Naked," "Mal Function," "Zonker" and "Highly Charged."(38)

The principal driver of the bus was the legendary Neal Cassady, called "Sir Speed Limit." In the fifties version of the "trip" across America, captured in his friend Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road, Cassady was the model for Dean Moriarty, who drove the car at furious speeds back and forth across the country. Kesey, called "The Chief" or "The Navigator," purchased expensive camera equipment to make a movie of the voyage. He called the 45-hour filmed chronicle of the trip "The Merry Pranksters Search For The Cool Place."(39)

The "trip." It was a powerful metaphor linking an LSD-inspired interior journey to the historic American inclination to take to the road in search of another place, "cool" or otherwise. But Kesey's bus trip reversed the historic direction of American movement. He and the Pranksters went from west to east. They wanted to discover what might happen to themselves and the country when the East experienced what had been uncovered in the West a hundred years after the Gold Rush: the liberating qualities of LSD.

Kesey was an accomplished novelist and a charismatic, rambunctious westerner—equal parts intellectual and cowboy. A native of Eugene, Oregon, Kesey was a drama major and on the wrestling team during his undergraduate [p. 111] years at the University of Oregon in the late fifties. He was exposed to LSD in 1959, while working as a psychiatric aide in a veteran's hospital in Stanford. The experiments there were part of a secret operation funded by the Central Intelligence Agency to determine the potential utility of hallucinogens as weapons in the Cold War. Hospitals and psychiatrists across the country, carefully selected by the CIA, conducted these government-sanctioned and financed experiments on patients. Many individuals were unaware they were being given the drugs. Others, like Kesey, were volunteers.(40)

LSD, peyote and other hallucinogens were revelations to Kesey. Unlike other enthusiasts of LSD, such as Timothy Leary, Alan Watts and Richard Alpert, Kesey was not interested in studying the drug's biological, neurological or psychological effects. Nor did he care about its potential for enhancing spiritual insight.

Kesey used LSD as a catalyst of personal liberation and social interaction. Drawing on both his wrestling experience and his college major, he had an action-oriented, theatrical, muscular approach to the drug. The individual should "act" in public while under its influence. Spontaneous public performances while under the spell of LSD was a way of uncovering, exposing and enacting elements of personality normally hidden from consciousness. Equally important, it was a means of tapping into interior spaces of personality that might be immune to social control. The drug might liberate the individual from both the limitations of normal consciousness and the constraints of social conventions and conformity. In effect, Kesey viewed LSD as a chemical bridge that connected hitherto unchartered realms of the mind with unexplored spaces of social territory.

The purpose of the bus trip was to see what might happen when spontaneous behavior inspired by hallucinogenic drugs confronted what Kesey saw as the dreary conformity and dismal rationality of American society. The Pranksters were like the Indian Chief in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, who escaped from the superficially benevolent but manipulative and ultimately brutal state-run insane asylum. The asylum reflected what Kesey saw as the banality, conformity and violence at the core of American culture. The bus trip was a way of telling the country that the strange-looking, drugged young "inmates" on the brightly painted bus were "breaking out" of their American confinement. To where, or toward what end, was unclear. They assumed, as had so many peripatetic Americans before them, that the road would reveal everything they needed to know.

As the bus made its way through Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, New York and other states during the two-month trip, it is doubtful that people who encountered the Merry Pranksters understood what was happening. Few [p. 112] Americans in 1964 had heard of LSD, despite the Central Intelligence Agency's extensive testing of the drug on thousands of people in the fifties and early sixties. This changed after the bus trip, when Kesey and the Pranksters returned to California and initiated the "acid tests"—Kesey used the word "acid" as a shorthand for LSD. Initially held at homes of friends, then in large halls rented by Kesey, the acid tests brought together hundreds of people and ample supplies of LSD-spiked punch. The acid tests also included two phenomena that seemed natural complements to the hallucinogenic state: light shows created by overhead projectors and strobes and rock music (embryonic "acid rock"). The music at the acid tests was usually performed by Jerry Garcia, an early Kesey acolyte, and his band the Warlocks. The band would shortly change its name to the Grateful Dead.

The acid tests were soirees of spontaneity. People confronted each other, displaying normally inhibited qualities of their personalities liberated by the drug. The point was to summon the courage to expose in public the "natural" self unlocked by LSD. As Kesey put it, unless "you get very near that precipice where you're likely to make a fool of yourself, you're not showing very much of how you feel. You're playing it safe."(41)

The Pranksters' "trip" and the acid tests were the genesis of the counterculture. Both were designed to reveal the "authentic" self that lay beyond the claims of convention, conformity and personality. The right to exhibit this natural self took precedence over socially acceptable behavior. As Kesey told the Pranksters at the start of the bus trip:

Here's what I hope will happen on this trip. . . . All of us beginning to do our own thing, and we're going to keep doing it, right out front, and none of us are going to deny what other people are doing. If saying bullshit is somebody's thing, then he says bullshit. If somebody is an ass-kicker, then that's what he's going to do on this trip, kick asses. He's going to do it right out front and nobody is going to have anything to get pissed off about. He can just say, "I'm sorry I kicked you in the ass, but I'm not sorry I'm an ass-kicker. That's what I do, I kick people in the ass." Everybody is going to be what they are, and whatever they are, there's not going to be anything to apologize about. What we are we're going to wail with on this whole trip.(42)

Bill Graham and the Fillmore

More than anyone else in San Francisco, Bill Graham grasped the potential for transforming the various media used in the acid tests for the purposes of mass entertainment. Graham took the disparate features of the acid tests—electronic [p. 113] music, strobe lights, film, slide projectors and, by implication, hallucinogenic drugs—and transformed them into a new form of entertainment: the psychedelic dance-hall experience.

Graham was an unlikely candidate for this enterprise. He was New York tough and brash, rather than San Francisco civil and tolerant. Graham was also "straight." He avoided drugs in those years and had a temper that was as volatile as its threshold was low. If these traits were not sufficient by themselves to distance Graham from San Francisco's emerging hippie "love scene," they were supplemented by an obsession with the economic bottom line and a genius for money making that frequently inspired the wrath of the city's radicals, especially the Diggers.(43)

Graham was indeed different from San Francisco's cultural avant-garde, and not solely because he came from the New York area (so did the most notable Diggers). His toughness was hewed from personal travail and tragedy. He was born Wolfgang Grajonca in 1931 to a Jewish family in Berlin. He escaped the Nazi fury in 1939, fleeing first to France, then to Spain, on a long march with 63 other Jewish children, including his sister. Living mostly on oranges and relentlessly pursued by the Germans, only 11 of the children survived the journey (Graham's mother was murdered by the Germans; his sister survived Auschwitz). The ten-year-old Graham made it to the United States in 1941, where he experienced a painfully long stay in an orphanage before being adopted by a Jewish family from the Bronx. He changed his name to Graham as a teenager by searching the telephone book for an Americanized approximation to Grajonca.

Hoping to become an actor, Graham moved to southern California in the late fifties. He didn't make it in Hollywood, and eventually headed north to San Francisco. R. G. Davis, the director of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, hired Graham as the theater company's business manager. Davis's theater company, which performed for free, was perennially impoverished, and Graham quickly gained a reputation within the city's music and artistic communities as a creative, driven and successful organizer of benefit shows produced to raise money for the Mime Troupe. But the experimental theater group also needed money to pay the hefty legal fees incurred from ongoing battles with the city's Parks Commission. Notwithstanding San Francisco's hoary reputation as an urbane citadel of tolerance, Davis and his actors were bounded by censorious city officials. Mime Troupe performers were repeatedly arrested on charges of nudity and obscenity during their performances.(44)

Toward the end of 1965, Graham convinced some of the city's artists, poets and musicians to perform in benefit shows to raise money to defray the Mime Troupe's legal expenses. The Mime Troupe benefits were so successful that [p. 114] Graham was asked to organize the legendary three-day "Trips Festival" at the Longshoremen's Hall on the weekend of January 21, 1966.

The Trips Festival was the supreme acid test. It was the formal "coming-out" party for the LSD experience, the event that helped launch LSD and San Francisco's hippie scene into the national spotlight. It included Kesey and the Pranksters. The music was provided by the best of the emerging San Francisco rock bands, including the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. Another new band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, which would shortly hire Janis Joplin as their lead singer, also performed at the festival. The music was deafening, as bands played simultaneously at both ends of the hall. There were vats of acid-laced Kool-Aid and light shows. Films were projected on ceilings and walls. And a play produced by a group called America Needs Indians was performed. All of this was going on at the same time. A poster advertising the event said the Trips Festival would include "Revelations—nude projections, the God Box. The endless explosion. The Congress of Wonders, the Jazz Mice, liquid projections, etc., and the unexpectable."(45) Perhaps as many as 6,000 young San Franciscans, most of them "stoned," passed through the doors of the cavernous hall that weekend. They were dressed, as a journalist who covered the festival for the San Francisco Chronicle noted, in styles reminiscent of old San Francisco:

Long-haired girls in trailing dresses skipped along the street. Tall men with mustaches, long hair a' la Bonnie Prince Charles or, sometimes, Buffalo Bill Cody, wearing high boots and Stetson hats. They all seemed to be cued into [San Francisco's] Frontier Days and [their dress] ranged from Velvet Lotta Crabtree to Mining Camp Desperado.(46)

Graham had no interest in hallucinogenic drugs and, at this time, precious little in the visceral, improvisational music blasting from the Grateful Dead's amplifiers. But he understood that something new was happening among the young of San Francisco, and that there was money to be made from it. Lots of money. This was not simply "fun" or drug-inspired hedonism, though both were central features of the experience. It was also what Graham called "living theater," a free-form exhibition of the spontaneous self.(47) It was self-exploration unself-consciously carried on in public. No one seemed "uptight" or repressed, much less constrained by social convention. And, he was convinced, people would pay to be part of it.

Within a week of the Trips Festival, Graham leased an old beige brick building on 1806 Geary Street in the Fillmore district, a predominately African American neighborhood. The building housed storefronts on the street level and [p. 115] a spacious ballroom above them. It had a stage, a balcony in the rear, a large dance floor and a huge turn-of-the-century bar. Graham staged his first show, modeled on the Trips Festival, at the Fillmore Auditorium in February 1966.

From the Mime Troupe to the Trips Festival to my first show in February [in the Fillmore] I realized what I wanted to do. Living theater. Taking music and the newborn visual arts and making all of that available in a comfortable surrounding, so it would be conducive to open expression. What I saw was that when all this truly worked, that space was magic.(48)

By the end of 1966 Graham's Fillmore, along with his rival Chet Helms's Avalon Ballroom on Sutter Street, had created the sixties dance-hall experience. At the center of the light shows and the drugs was the live music performed by scores of San Francisco rock and acid-rock bands that developed from 1965 on. The music they composed and played, the "San Francisco Sound" as it was called, was an indigenous American music combining blues and hard rock with electronic guitar feedback. The feedback often created a distortion evocative of the hallucinogenic state. The bands that emerged in San Francisco during this period had a seminal impact, along with Bob Dylan and the groups of the "British Invasion" like the Beatles and Rolling Stones, on the development of rock music for the rest of the decade. From 1965 on they included the Charlatans, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company (with Janis Joplin), Hot Tuna, Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Sly and the Family Stone, Country Joe McDonald and the Fish, Santana, the Steve Miller Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival and many other groups.(49)

Beginning in 1966, the San Francisco Sound was a powerful medium for disseminating to the rest of the country what had been going on among the Bay Area's young people since 1964. Bill Thompson, the road manager for Jefferson Airplane, described the impact of the group when it played in Iowa during its first national tour in 1966:

You should have seen it when we came out to play. We had a light show. But all the girls were in ruffled dresses all the way down to their ankles with corsages, and their families were there. We started the light show and we had three sets to do that night. The first set, it was like we were from Mars. Guys with their hair cut like Dobie Gillis were standing there and staring at us. The parents were all farmers. They were looking at one another and saying, "What the hell is this stuff? Too loud for me, Maude. Time to go home and milk the goat." So they all left. The second set, people started dancing a little bit. They started getting into it. The third set, people went nuts. Off came the corsages. Shoes [p. 116] were coming off. Guys were ripping off their ties. They went nuts. It was like the turning of America in a way.(50)

The Scene Is Noticed

By 1966 the expressions of unrest percolating within young people in San Francisco were ready to move east. The rest of the country would be infiltrated by the sense of oppression and alienation among college students that had exploded during the Free Speech Movement; by the extreme "do your own thing" individualism exhibited by Kesey and the Pranksters during the bus trip, the acid tests and Trips Festival; and by the experiences of personal and collective ecstasy produced by the music and light shows of San Francisco's Fillmore and Avalon dance halls. The San Francisco scene, with its odd combination of seething rage, quests for personal liberation and the hippie spirit of "free love" and community, worked its way through America in the second half of the decade.

In a way, San Francisco's relationship to the rest of the country had come full circle since the middle of the nineteenth century. Restlessness, nationalism, a hunger for wealth and adventure and the search for a new life precipitated the country's "Manifest Destiny" to the Pacific Ocean in the previous century. "We go eastward to realize history and study the works of art and literature, retracing the steps of the race," wrote Henry David Thoreau in 1862. But "we go westward," he continued, "as into the future, with a spirit of enterprise and adventure."(51) That adventurous western spirit was about to head east in 1966.

In the early months of 1966, the national news media descended on San Francisco. Reporters from Time and Newsweek, as well as correspondents from network television news programs, did stories on the Trips Festival, the acid tests, the San Francisco Sound, the dance halls and the first Human Be-In, held in Golden Gate Park in January 1967.(52) Most of all they focused on the Haight-Ashbury and its hundreds of young, long-haired, bizarrely dressed denizens. A San Francisco columnist had recently christened them "hippies."(53)

The hippies looked as though they came from another time, or another country. This inspired a bus company to launch a tour of the Haight-Ashbury. It was immensely popular with tourists. Each week hundreds of visitors from around the country were driven through the strange scene that was Haight-Ashbury, The bus company advertised the excursion as "the only foreign tour within the continental limits of the United States."(54)

What the tourists saw must surely have struck them as "foreign." Many of the huge, run-down but still stately Victorian homes of the neighborhood had been transformed into hippie communes. They contained hippie "crash pads" [p. 117] and rehearsal halls for bands who lived in the district, like the Grateful Dead and Big Brother. The tourists were driven past the many recently opened shops that catered to the counterculture. There were the I-Thou Coffee Shop and Love Burgers, where hippies and other young people purchased or panhandled meals. And the Wild Colors Boutique, where they bought Victorian-era clothes, cowboy hats and the new "mod" bell-bottomed pants that hung low on the hips. Observant tourists on the bus who looked into the boutique's large display window might see an employee sitting on a mock throne and dressed as the pope. Her job was to sell penny "indulgences" on a piece of paper to shoplifters as they left the store. The indulgence read "You Are Forgiven."(55)

As the bus drove past 1535 Haight Street the tour guide pointed out the most famous "head shop" of the sixties, the Psychedelic Shop. The Psychedelic Shop was the creation of Ron Thelin, a "hip" Haight merchant who made it the general store of San Francisco's counterculture. It sold drug paraphernalia and tickets to Graham's Fillmore dances, books on transcendental meditation and the Kama Sutra. The Psychedelic Shop featured a bulletin board where hundreds of young runaways from around the country could get messages from their parents. And Thelin set aside a "meditation" room, where one could search for inner tranquility or experience more sensual delights.(56)

The tourists might also see the recently organized Diggers, who created a mime play in which Haight-Ashbury hippies surrounded the tour bus. The hippies aimed mirrors at the people on the bus. The mirrors reflected back upon the tourists the wonder, shock or fear they experienced when they saw the unbridled freedom enjoyed by hippies of the Haight. In effect, the Diggers were asking a silent question of the American tourists who had stumbled on what must have struck them as so un-American a place: who, indeed, were the real "foreigners?"

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