Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Week as a Hippie

I'm not an Aquarius. I'm a Cancer.

I'm also not sure what this admission means, but I felt it was important after my week flashing back to the 1960s. Having now tapped into my inner flower child, I thought I'd share my observations after tripping out. (OK, I didn't drop acid, perhaps a few Altoids, but you get the point.)

It all started a week ago Saturday when I had tickets to see a professional production of "Hair." While I enjoy live theater, this is one show I had never seen, not even the 1979 film version. However, having older siblings, I knew as a kid all the popular songs and the fact that everyone got naked.

I was prepared for the free-flowing storytelling, but I must admit that I was unprepared for just how much of a departure it is from traditional musicals. After the first act, I was unsure how I felt. After the second act and a moving ending, I did like the show overall and appreciated the fact that this production was of superior quality.

Since we planned to see it a second time, I decided to spend the week attempting to adopt a late '60s mindset to better understand what it was all about.

It certainly helped that last Sunday's premiere of the fifth season of "Mad Men" took me so vividly back to the mid-'60s. Jessica Pare's now-classic rendition of "Zou Bisou Bisou" (above) certainly put me in a groovy state of mind.

But Don Draper and gang are no hippies (although Peggy is intrigued by the counterculture), and I needed more.

Mid-week it dawned on me to finally watch a movie that has been sitting on my TiVo for three years: "Easy Rider." Believe it or not, I had never seen this 1969 classic about two California drug dealers (Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper) who decide to take the money from their latest sale, hop on their motorcycles and head for Mardi Gras.

Much like "Hair," the narrative floated from one encounter to another, with Fonda's Wyatt so pensive that he's nearly mute. Jack Nicholson is manic brilliance as George, a lawyer who joins the duo for the trip to Louisiana. This film taps into the cause behind the hippie culture, one that explores the meaning of true freedom, the right to express oneself in a way that societal norms may not allow, and the empowerment this provides. One of the crucial points is that society's narrow views can bring about tragic results.

"Easy Rider" was made for a pittance but netted box office gold for Columbia Pictures. And it was the perfect companion piece to "Hair," which tackles the same themes.


The next day I jumped online and read the lyrics for all of the songs. I also looked up the history behind the show and how it captured what was happening in Greenwich Village in the mid-1960s.

Armed with my newfound knowledge and an understanding of what it all meant, I was ready for my repeat encounter with "Hair." And all I can say is "wow!" I didn't expect to love it so much the second time around.

The show has garnered some criticism locally from people who have labeled it "anti-American," "anti-family" and "anti-religion." And I did see a handful of people leave before the end of the show each time. However, these labels are short-sighted, because the hippies were fighting against an establishment that was telling them how to live their lives when they wanted that freedom to discover themselves. And remember, this was a time when the Civil Rights moments was occurring, the women's rights movement was just around the corner and Vietnam was a divisive war.

If I had time, I really should have watched "Woodstock." That would have completed my flower child hat trick. But I'm glad to have seen "Easy Rider" and "Hair." While I may leave the love beads at home when I go to work tomorrow, I'll be thinking about my week as a hippie and the lessons I've learned. And I'll be humming "Let the Sun Shine In" all day long.

17 comments:

  1. Well...welcome to the 1960s, Brian! You would have made a spectacular 'flower child,' I'm sure!

    Though I have something of a 'been there, done that' attitude about the '60s/'70s, I've never seen "Hair" (too much else going on back in the day, perhaps). I'll just say that it was a great time to be young and leave it at that. And I'm happy you've experienced a bit of "the dawning of the Age of Aquarius" and gotten a sense of what the times were like "all those years ago"...

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    1. Thank you! Interestingly enough, I was born in the 1960s, but what memories I have from that time are essentially of kindergarten, when no one was protesting anything except a nap. Still, with five older siblings, I mostly remember the music and feel like their music was also mine. I distinctly remember my oldest sibling buying The Beatles' "Abbey Road" after it was released in 1969. I have loved that album (yes, album! LOL) ever since.

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  2. Always behind the times, when I was a little kid in the 60s Hippies only meant the folks "Ironside" arrested on TV. Currently working my way up to Beatnik. I'll probably be 70 before I find my inner flower child. However, I commend your week of immersion, enlightenment and entertainment.

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    1. Ha!!! That is so true ... police shows were always arresting "bad" hippies. And welcome to the Beatnik age ... you aren't that far from hippie status, so feel free to take that next step!

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  3. CFB, each of us seems to be inspired to take a different, but equally nostalgic, journey through the late 1960s. Your idea to "turn on, tune in and drop out" for an entire week, if only metaphorically speaking, reveals a fearless spirit for adventure. I like your idea to highlight "Hair" and "Easy Rider", two iconic works from late in the decade. Do I lose "groovy points" or have my love beads repossessed if I admit I never watched either "Easy Rider" or "The Graduate"?

    I recently saw a news segment featuring the revival of “Hair” in which the reporter focused on the “Twitter” friendly element of the production. The theatre had a specially designated section for those who positively must “tweet” while “watching” this new version of the musical. I wonder if “Hair” anticipated freedom of expression to include the right to “tweet”?

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    1. You don't have to worry about repossession of the love beads. Until last week, I had not seen "Easy Rider." "The Graduate" is a HUGE favorite of mine. I didn't see the report on a Twitter friendly environment. That is so funny ... I think the hippies would have been into Twitter for communication purposes but having everyone connected to their electronic devices all day long would have detracted from their communal existence.

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  4. Thanks Classicfilmboy for the "trip" down memory lane. I'm afraid I did all those sterotypical hippie things, including riding a Harley-Davidson chopper, participating in the Sunset Strip curfew riots (Something's Happening Here), seeing Jimi Hendrix burn his guitar, and screening the original releases of Bonnie & Clyde, Easy Rider, and 2001.It's a lot easier looking back on it than having gone through it, but fortunately there are still these vestiges like Hair, Woodstock the documentary, or the movies that can still be experienced.

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    1. You have some amazing memories. I hope you've written them all down!

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  5. CFB, I was born in '52, so I was always a little too young for the movement as it went along, especially since I lived in a small town in Indiana. But my brother was just the right age! He went to California and lived right at the corner of Haight and Ashbury, and he lived the life. I saw the Broadway touring company of Hair sometime in the late 60's, early 70's, I can exactly remember. I loved it. And you should definitely see Woodstock. The hippie movement started with such love and dreams, and it's so sad to me that it morphed into just sexual license and was not successful in its quest for loving each other as brothers and sisters. I'm always amazed that the uptight, controlling politicians now are the same people who grew up in an era of freedom! Apparently, they didn't get it. Loved your post!

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    1. That's cool about your brother. You are the same age as my older siblings, so they were just on the cusp of it. I always thought the younger siblings of the flower children adapted the culture without the cause. Perhaps all of the controlling politicians should be forced to spend an evening at "Hair" without being allowed to leave. It would be interesting to see their reactions!

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  6. Oh, and P.S. -- I'm a Cancer too! Love, baby!

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  7. Oh, Baby, I was swooning to "A Hard Days NIght" and morphing into something more colorful in "Yellow Submarine." Add a dash of Matt Helm and Julie Chirstie in "Darling" I am so there! Wonderful post- and so glad you enjoyed the show. The 60s were such a fun mix of cool and innocence.

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    1. Thank you! It was a great show. "Darling" would have been another terrific film to watch during my hippie week.

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  8. CFB,
    How groovy! : )
    Every time I see Jack in that gold football helmet I crack up. I'm enjoying Mad Men like everyone else now that it has ventured in to the 60's. The fashion, the furnishings, the music down to the bright colored walls.

    This post goes well with Christian's latest on 60's fashion.

    Very enjoyable! It looks like you had a fun week. Thanks for letting us take a peek.
    Page

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    1. Thank you Page. It was fun. Hope you are well!

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