In November of 1969, 100,000 protestors took to the streets for the San Francisco Moratorium Peace March. I was there as we assembled at Kimbell Park in the Western Addition and wound our way along Geary Blvd. for the four-hour journey to Golden Gate Park, ending up at the Polo Fields for a rally. The Tet Offensive was in full swing, as North Vietnamese regulars pushed into the south. American bodies were needed. Nearly 500,000 U.S. troops were deployed to the conflict, a tenth of that number never coming home.
Those who were protesting the protestors argued that the marchers were all left wing agitators imported from the outside. As evidence they photographed the Communist Party of the U.S., which participated openly with their banner. Labor unions were present with their flags as well, but for the most part the throng consisted mostly of Mr. and Mrs. Average America, walking alongside teachers, scientists, librarians, firemen and even downtown suits. (more…)
Sun rays pushed their way thru the wisps of fog, which hovered above the lawn of Hippie Hill in San Francisco. During the Summer of Love protestors, musicians and young people came together to take in the sweet smells. Pass the joint and celebrate, for their was much to be thankful for. On any one day in ’67, you might visit the knoll at the east end of Golden Gate Park and spy Charles Manson lecturing on the evils of desegregation or Captain Trips playing with The Dead or Peter Coyote recruiting troops for his anarchist Diggers.
Drum circles, swirls of smoke and dancing were common scenes, everyone connecting with each other and the universe, dropping acid, throwing out smiles. You might even look up toward the Janis Joplin Tree and catch a wild-eyed girl with her guitar. To this day it is still one of the best people-watching places in the City. (more…)
The Hells Angels and the Summer of Love seem at opposite ends of the spectrum, right? That’s what I thought before I started gathering data for my next novel, Don’t Stop the Music. Sonny Barger and his fellow bikers considered themselves caretakers of the Haight Ashbury when heaven appeared to have kissed the earth. In 1967 one hundred thousand kids, Vietnam Vets, drop-outs and curiosity seekers descended upon the neighborhood. The deluge was overwhelming and the Angels lent a hand. They provided free security for music concerts in Golden Gate Park and elsewhere (such as at Altamont Speedway, which went horribly twisted, but that’s another story). They aided Huckleberry House with the corralling of wayward children. The Diggers enlisted the Angel’s help with the distribution of free food, clothing and medical services. And this is where it gets interesting. (more…)
The Hells Angels and acid began their chaotic relationship in 1966 down at Ken Kesey’s farm in La Honda along the San Francisco peninsula. Kesey was fresh off a commercial success with his novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and celebrated by hosting Acid Test gatherings with plenty of LSD. Sonny Barger and George Wethren and some of their other biker-club bros visited one of the happenings along with a mixture of Bohemians, Stanford grads, musicians and others. The bad boys of Oakland had acquired a liking for the little known chemical. They floated in and out of the lush redwood groves, taking long journeys to Psychedelia, exploring females who graced themselves like Eve upon a garden of ferns. Barger orbited beyond his known experience, the universe exploding into neon blues and yellows and reds, orgasms on a runaway train of laughter and pain and holiness. To this East Bay banger, marijuana was lost smoke when compared to the miracles of LSD. (more…)
Charles Manson was born in 1934 and enjoyed a brief career as a song writer, which had been influenced by a chance association with Dennis Wilson, drummer and co-founder of the Beach Boys. But the devil soon took hold and he became the master of the creepy and the macabre. By the time he strolled into the Haight Ashbury District of San Francisco during the Summer of Love, he was already a seasoned criminal.
One day in 1967, I drifted down from my apartment on the corner of Hayes and Stanyon to investigate the latest goings-on. Standing on an orange crate in the Panhandle was this scruffy, wired dude preaching and singing on the merits of an all-white society. Four wide-eyed girls gazed at him with this far away look as if he was the next coming. But for the rest of us, the name Charles Manson meant little. He was nothing unusual at the time. After all, the Haight was full of castaways, leftovers, and drifters of every species. And then there was the summer along the banks of the Russian River where everything started to get twisted for Mr. Manson. (more…)
The Haight Ashbury in the sixties was THE playland for the insane and want-to-be’s. Nothing wrong with that. We had plenty of guidance, all done to the beat of rock ‘n’ roll. Jefferson Airplane lived at 2400 Fulton while the Dead were just five blocks away at 710 Ashbury. If that wasn’t enough, other neighbors included Janis & Big Brother, who were in separate quarters along Oak Street in the Panhandle. Peter Coyote (later known for his films) helped to establish the Diggers, a group of anarchists with a wild hair up their wazoo. While researching for my next crime novel, Don’t Stop the Music, I found out that they believed in a society without the interference of government. A system of bartering took hold in the Haight where food, clothing, housing, medical needs, music and even advise were freely distributed. (more…)
Jerry Garcia was a San Francisco kid through and through. He was raised in the tough Outer Mission by his grandmother who was a no-nonsense organizer for a local union. Jerry would hang out at his mother’s bar in the Embarcadero with hard-drinking longshoremen. In fact, his Irish legacy in the City goes back to the Gold Rush days. So you can see that perhaps he was more than a little miffed when Chief Cahill and Mayor Shelley and others referred to him as an “outsider”, but that was the way he and the Grateful Dead were treated during the Summer of Love in 1967. (more…)
Janis Joplin seemed destined to experience and contribute to the full measure of the sixties…for better or worse. While doing research for my next crime novel, Don’t Stop the Music, I unearthed some rather interesting anecdotes. Soon after leaving the University of Texas (where she was misunderstood and voted “Ugliest Man on Campus”) she embarked on a music career and hooked up with Big Brother and the Holding Company as well as the Grateful Dead. They all lived together in Lagunitas up north in Marin County in 1965. The following year, Big Brother and Janis broke out of the local scene and were introduced to the world at the Monterey Pop Festival. While this propelled them onto center stage, their living arrangement reportedly introduced Janis to hardcore drug use. (more…)
The Human Be-In was a Haight Ashbury event in Golden Gate Park in January of 1967, announcing the upcoming Summer of Love. This is the setting for the beginning of my next historical crime novel, Don’t Stop the Music. At the time I lived in the Haight and witnessed first hand the counterculture movement. We were angry at the status quo, rejecting the illegal war in Vietnam, segregation, and the middle-class morality.
Human Be-In, A Brief History:
The Human Be-In got its name from combining humanist values with the scores of sit-ins at college campuses and southern lunch counters. The event was announced as a gathering of tribes to protest a new California law banning the use of the psychedelic drug LSD that had been put into effect the previous year. (more…)