It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

[Directed by John Sheppard for Grenada TV, 1987]

When the British film group asked for a copy of Nowsreal in 1982, it was for this film that they wanted to use the footage. Derek Taylor was the Beatles' press officer and he had extensive connections to the Diggers. Ultimately, none of Nowsreal would be used in It Was Twenty Years Ago Today but the Diggers still play a strong part in this work. There are interviews with David Simpson, Ron Thelin, Peter Berg, Judy Goldhaft, and Peter Coyote along with other actors who were playing roles during the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967. There is archival footage of the Death of Hippie event that the Diggers produced in October, 1967, as well as much more material from that era.

I believe Derek Taylor would have heartily approved of including this film in the online Digger Archives, if he were still alive. His discussion of the Diggers is an important piece of evidence for one of my main historical theses—the Diggers created a persona which became the essence of the Sixties Counterculture. Derek's comment in this film fully supports that idea. He says, "They [the Diggers] were in my opinion the core of the whole underground counterculture because they were our conscience." This film is no longer available anywhere in the world of commerce. The companion book that Derek wrote of the same title is still available from rare-book dealers, but the DVD is nowhere to be found. Someone has uploaded an eight-part video of the DVD to YouTube, and it's interesting to read the comments of viewers. Many proclaim this to be the best film about the Sixties.

So without further ado, here is a film that is worthy of inclusion in the online Digger Archives not only for the Digger material it includes, but also as a valuable resource for anyone who wants to understand that period and the people who helped formulate it. That I am writing these words at the exact moment that Paul McCartney is playing the last concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco somehow adds to the magic of this archival provenance. [Ed. 2014-08-14]

[See below for an index of Digger- and Haight-related scenes.]


It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, 1987

Directed by John Sheppard, edited by Kelvin Hendrie, produced by Rod Caird, Simon Albury and John Sheppard for Granada Television, 1987. Running time: 1 hr 45 min


Index of Digger- and Haight-related scenes

33:40 David Simpson on the Diggers
34:05 Peter Coyote on authenticity
34:16 Derek Taylor on the Diggers
34:52 Peter Berg and Judy Goldhaft on Free
35:41 David Simpson on The Beatles
35:57 Footage of The Human Be-In
36:35 Allen Ginsberg on the Be-In
37:28 Ron Thelin on the Be-In
37:52 Timothy Leary at the Be-In
39:38 Chet Helms bringing greetings
41:16 Paul McCartney: "it looks weird from the outside but it isn't"
42:36 Jefferson Airplane playing
44:49 Paul Kantner quoting Robin Williams "If you can remember the 60s ..."
50:18 David Simpson on "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out" and the Haight influx
51:20 Gray Line tour of Haight Street, 1967
54:27 Setting up for Monterey Pop Festival, June, 1967
54:51 Derek Taylor on the MPF
55:13 Michelle Phillips on the MPF
56:13 Performances at the MPF
58:06 Janis Joplin "Ball and Chain"
59:42 Peter Fonda on the MPF
1:08:41 Ponderosa Pine on the playfulness principle
1:09:11 Abbie Hoffman news conference, 1967
1:09:32 Ponderosa Pine on the planning of the Pentagon Levitation and Exorcism and the difference between East and West coast underground cultures
1:10:22 The West Coast Lifestyle
1:10:48 Allen Cohen on the Haight-Ashbury community
1:11:12 Allen Cohen on the Oracle
1:11:53 Stanley Mouse on psychedelic posters
1:12:54 Paul McCartney on visiting the Haight-Ashbury
1:13:08 Interview of Grateful Dead
1:14:23 Ron Thelin on "Death of Hippie"
1:14:35 Footage of the "Death of Hippie" event with Ron Thelin's narration
1:15:20 Ron Thelin on giving it all away on the day of "Death of Hippie"
1:15:35 Funeral pyre blazing in the Panhandle
1:16:01 Ron Thelin on the gift of sharing
1:16:13 Summer Solstice celebration, San Francisco, 1967
1:16:17 The Exorcism of the Pentagon
1:18:46 Brief footage of (what is purported to be) George Harris (Hibiscus) placing flowers into the rifle barrels of the soldiers at the Pentagon
1:19:30 Close up of the flowers and rifles with Allen Ginsberg describing the true meaning of flower power
1:21:30 Abbie Hoffman on the organizing principle of the Pentagon protest
1:29:44 Chet Helms on the message of the music
1:31:00 Peter Coyote on the mass media (continues at 1:32:09) and the big lie that the counterculture disappeared
1:36:43 Ron Thelin answering the question "Is Love all you need?"
1:37:41 David Simpson (followed by Peter Coyote) answering the same question

The Digger Archives is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Cite As: The Digger Archives (www.diggers.org) / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 / All other uses must receive permission. Contact: curator at diggers dot org.