January 14, 2017

50 years ago today: The Human Be-In.

Ah! Watch it in its 1967 glory — San Francisco takes off toward the Summer of Love:



In the early 60s, we'd had "sit-ins," when civil rights advocates quite logically made a protest out of sitting at lunch-counters where black people had been excluded. The "-in" suffix got attached to "teach" when the Students for a Democratic Society held a teach-in at the University of Michigan in March 1965. The "Be-In" of January 14, 1967 preceded the "love-in" and the TV show "Laugh-In."

In the hippie era, the idea that we could simple "be" felt — often with the prompting of LSD — so right. To hold an event that was patterned on a protest with that "-in" but at which you would just be... well, it was very 1967, as was the delight at the cosmic pun on "human being." Remember, this was before hippies seemed dumb. Imagine a time when hippies felt like the cutting edge of enlightenment:
The Human Be-In focused the key ideas of the 1960s counterculture: personal empowerment, cultural and political decentralization, communal living, ecological awareness, higher consciousness (with the aid of psychedelic drugs), acceptance of illicit drug use, and radical liberal political consciousness....
California had, only a few months earlier, banned LSD, shutting the door to cosmic perception. Timothy Leary was there to say "Turn on, tune in, drop out." Among the other gurus: Richard Alpert ("Ram Dass"), Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Dick Gregory, Lenore Kandel, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Jerry Rubin. Yes, there were also women in those days, but it was before prideful enlightened men noticed a need to perform gender-diversity theater. Male human was human enough for the Human Be-In. There is, however, a snakily sexy lady dancing in the audience in that video.

Hells Angels provided security. Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Quicksilver Messenger Service played music. There was "White Lightning" LSD from Owsley Stanley and free turkey provided by the Diggers.

The serious adults who ran the mainstream news and covered the Human Be-In didn't think they were running free ads for LSD and the counterculture but they were. And those ads were vastly more effective than ads for conventional trips to tourist destinations. We teenagers watched and dreamed of making it out to San Francisco where life was beautiful and love was everywhere.

ADDED: "There was an awakening going on, and we knew it was happening across the country, and we knew there were pockets of people out there who felt isolated and alone and scared. We wanted to send a signal out to them: 'Hey, it’s OK to come out and spread your wings. Be your fully glorified self in all your beauty and joy. … You are not alone.'"

52 comments:

tcrosse said...

If you go to San Francisco be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

Anglelyne said...

Looks like a White-In to me.

There's a lot of privilege needing checking going on there.

rehajm said...

There was "White Lightning" LSD from Owsley Stanley and free turkey provided by the Diggers.

..and Dick Gregory provided the cookies

Ha. Of course, Gregory provided the diet shakes

Ann Althouse said...

They didn't worry about cultural appropriation then. All that Indian religion, used for its sounds and its colors.

khematite said...

Preceded almost ten years earlier by Jean Shepherd's inviting his NYC radio fans to a "mill-in" in Washington Square, where everyone would just "mill about" and maybe also fly a kite.

http://www.villagevoice.com/news/jean-shepherds-rally-6722827

buwaya said...

Out in the avenues the square Catholic adults were quietly being the real city, though lots of them were contemplating moving to Walnut Creek, Petaluma and Novato. Part of the reason there were so many hippies in SF in the first place was that rents were low, as so many had already moved out.
The trickle became a flood after 1968, with school busing (pre-Boston), and then the years of disorder, with the Zebra killers and crime out of control.
SF in 1962 was, by all accounts, orderly and charming.
SF by 1972 was much less so.

"Season of the Witch", Talbot
Interesting reading.

YoungHegelian said...

Looking back on that aspect of the 60's, it's amazing to see what a melange of radical left & radical libertarian ideologies it was. It was, in that way, a real fluke in the history of the Left.

Historically, the Left, even the anarchists, has had no use for this sort of "social parasite" behavior. Notice that in the list of "key ideas" there is absolutely nothing even close to changing consciousness through labor. There are no "proletarian voices", just poets & actors with their "degenerate lives".

Well, the modern post-Marxist Left has resolved that set of dialectical contradictions. There's no anarchic fun any more with our present set of lefty clowns. It's back to having the Stalinist poll up their asses about personal behavior. Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Dick Gregory, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, or Jerry Rubin would do nothing but laugh at the phrase "grab a chick by the pussy", & they'd think you were a sexually repressed prude if you didn't.

traditionalguy said...

There was the Hindu Pantheism, along with Pharma of LSD doses, Peyote,and Marijuana as a beautiful carrot and LBJ's Viet Nam Draft insanity as the big stick. Throw in sexual freedom of the new birth control pills, and 1967 became a tsunami with no limits among the teens. The survivors who did not find Christianity became today's Liberal Professors ruining College Education and despising Trump.

Bay Area Guy said...

California had, only a few months earlier, banned LSD, shutting the door to cosmic perception. Timothy Leary was there at to say "Turn on, tune in, drop out." Among the other gurus: Richard Alpert ("Ram Dass"), Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Dick Gregory, Lenore Kandel, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Jerry Rubin.

My Dad and Uncle (Road Manager for Iggy Pop & the Stooges) were both at University of Michigan in the 60s. They "hung out" with aforedescribed legendary crowd. Many, if not most, were New Yorkers, moving west to Grad School, then ultimately moving to California.

True, they made a bit of history, fought to stop the Vietnam War, and in the process, got laid and did a lot of drugs - some to excess (see Joplin, Janis; Morrison, Jim; Hendrix, Jimmi; and thousands of less famous others).

If you sidestep the hagiographies and the propanda though, you see a lot of divorce, suicide, overdoses, and family destruction in their wake. The casualties far outweighed the supposed benefits. They broke a lot of eggs, but produced only a foul smelling omelette.

I was a little too young to appreciate the times, since I came of age in the 70s, after Nixon resigned and much of the intensity receded.

As an example, Timothy Leary, a young Berkeley Professor, insisted that his Wife accept an open marriage. He got to sleep with attractive coeds, she slowly faded away, and committed suicide in her 20s. They don't write much about her.

wildswan said...

There was a famous cartoon in Pogo a fifties cartoon strip: We have met the enemy and he is us. I guess that was my Sixties. When I first heard "If you come to San Francisco" I couldn't get it out of my head. I won't say I believed but I couldn't forget. After all the commmunal living and all the drugs and all experiments in living were over, I thought "We have met the enemy and he is us."

buwaya said...

1968/69 was when thousands of SF kids (like my wife) were bused to Hunters Point, partly a political consequence of this sort of thing in 1967, and vice versa. The experience sold a lot of homes in Novato.
But 1967 is remembered, selectively.
Some people seem to be more worth remembering, for some reason.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

No, hippies always seemed dumb. There was no before.

traditionalguy said...

Think about it. Beautiful 18 year old girls just getting on the Train to SF intending to take drugs, listen to music, and make love with other teens they meet. No plans beyond that.

But the music was good, beyond belief good.

Earnest Prole said...

Here’s the beginning of the Summer of Love (in color), June 1967 in Monterey. Their optimism and innocence is almost heartbreaking today.

tcrosse said...

No, hippies always seemed dumb. There was no before.
Before hippies were Beatniks, a different kettle of fish.

Luke Lea said...

I was there. It was hell. Pandalerium.

YoungHegelian said...

@Earnest Prole,

Their optimism and innocence is almost heartbreaking today.

Those kids were raised in two parent families by moms & dads who had survived the Depression & had won WWII. Their lives were heaven on earth by comparison. Most of those kids had spent their childhood Sundays in a church, willingly or not. They had gone to academically rigorous schools where you were taught to behave, & paddled if you didn't.

When they fell off the straight & narrow, often it wasn't very far. Furthermore, they knew what the straight & narrow path looked like & how to navigate it when they decided it was time to come back.

Today's kids have none of those advantages. When they fall, they have no idea where to look for "Up".

William said...

I was young then. Due to the necessities of life, I couldn't attend such events. I thought I was missing out on a lot. As it turned out, I dodged a bullet........The be-in looked like a good place to hook up with drugs and/or girls, but you had to look sincere and earnest to score.

damikesc said...

Remember --- 99% of the people there turned into the most thoroughly jack-booted fascists one can fathom.

William said...

I went to one such happening in Central Park. It was some kind of anti-war event. Abbie Hoffmann was on the stage. There was a line of cops off to the side. Abbie said "I don't need any fucking pigs to protect me from the people. Get these fucking pigs out of my sight." The crowd applauded, but they didn't rush the cops. I drifted away. Not my kind of crowd.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Was that the time and place to ward off the movement? Bombings? Polonium in the LSD? Ann says the news was an ad. How do you make an ad that says "don't be these people?"

John said...

Missed it by that much.

I arrived in SF on Jan 15 having traveled non-stop from Albany NY with 4 other guys in a VW for 4 days.

Spent my first night in 1090 Page which was this huge boardinghouse that was like somethign out of a bad B movie.

Lived in a ground floor studio apartment with several others on Fell Street in front of the Panhandle.

Heard free concerts in the park by Greatful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and others. Hung out at places like Tracey's Donut shop.

Ahhhhh... yessss.

Those were the days, my friend. I am lucky as Hell they ended for me. I got a draft notice and dodged it by joining the Navy. I'd have died very young otherwise.

John Henry

LYNNDH said...

Ah, Summer of '67. I was again in summer school trying to keep my grades up to avoid the draft. Very important. I remember that several years earlier my roommate and I read something in the college newspaper about a "physicadellic" (sorry about the spelling and it's not in spell check) experience. That was before LSD was greatly known about, and of course here in CO - NO, not Boulder - was fairly new.

Jupiter said...

"Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Dick Gregory, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, or Jerry Rubin would do nothing but laugh at the phrase "grab a chick by the pussy", & they'd think you were a sexually repressed prude if you didn't."


Those are all guys, right? No chicks?

Jupiter said...

I missed that scene by a few years. But in the 70's, I read a fair amount of bitching by the various feminists who had discovered that all those righteous liberated revolutionaries expected them to cook dinner and wash the dishes, just like Mom. And then they wanted a blow job and an "open relationship", which we were all pretty certain Mom had not been expected to provide. I felt a fair amount of sympathy for them at the time. Being a "chick" did not sound like much fun, and it didn't look like anything was going to change. The more things changed ...

But it's been a long time since I heard anyone say "It's a man's world". People used to say that all the time, and mean it. I guess the feminists put a stop to that. Now everybody's miserable. You go, Girls!

Mary Beth said...

24:28 - "I would say this, to all the members of the establishment, we are happy and proud to have you in our brave new world."

Carol said...

So it got down to LA by June and I went to a Be-In at Seal Beach. Not much happened but when I went to a Be-In at Santa Anita Park a guy asked me if I wanted to learn the secret of the utmost of somewhat (or some line like that) and got me stoned in his car. I'm sure he hoped for more but I escaped back to the park.

I gotta say, the people really were nice, about that time. Beta-boys you could say. Then the more aggressive types took over. It wasn't hard to do.

chickelit said...

The best year to be a hippie was 1965, but then there was not much to write about, because not much was happening in public and most of what was happening in private was illegal. The real year of the hippie was 1966, despite the lack of publicity, which in 1967 gave way to a nationwide avalanche in Look, Life, Time, Newsweek, the Atlantic, the New York Times, the Saturday Evening Post, and even the Aspen Illustrated News, which did a special issue on hippies in August of 1967 and made a record sale of all but 6 copies of a 3,500-copy press run. But 1967 was not really a good year to be a hippie. It was a good year for salesmen and exhibitionists who called themselves hippies and gave colorful interviews for the benefit of the mass media, but serious hippies, with nothing to sell, found that they had little to gain and a lot to lose by becoming public figures. Many were harassed and arrested for no other reason than their sudden identification with a so-called cult of sex and drugs. The publicity rumble, which seemed like a joke at first, turned into a menacing landslide. So quite a few people who might have been called the original hippies in 1965 had dropped out of sight by the time hippies became a national fad in 1967.

~Hunter S. Thompson (1968)

Charlie said...

Go to Haight Ashbury today and look at the fall out from all this. It's not pretty.

Mountain Maven said...

We have never recovered.

buwaya said...

The fallout in the Haight is pretty much done.
You have a few less-than-sincere tourist oriented shops of a rather contrived funky vibe, and its got a bit more than its share of bums for a an SF commercial street, but otherwise its rather dull.

As for the bums, you will find plenty more along Market, Civic Center and many spots South of Market are bum central.

John said...

Jupiter,

I think it was Eldredge Cleaver but it might have been another Black Panther. He was asked what position women should have in the movement. His answer was classic:

"Prone"

I suspect he knew the difference between prone and supine and used the word on purpose.

Those folks had no problems grabbing a woman by the panther and then just wearing it out.

Pussy - Panther. All the same thing, no?

John Henry

robother said...

And Charley Manson had just been released from prison. All the players were taking their places on the stage.

Gretchen said...

I'm with the hippies always seemed dumb, maybe if you were one, you thought you seemed cool, but everyone who wasn't on drugs thought you were dumb. People on drugs sound like idiots, generally they are self-absorbed and avoiding actual human interaction.

BillyBob said...

Good times. Then along came speed, "and the whole wide world is taking far too much methadrine"

retail lawyer said...


Traditional Guy says

"Think about it. Beautiful 18 year old girls just getting on the Train to SF intending to take drugs, listen to music, and make love with other teens they meet. No plans beyond that."

Oh, I've been thinking about it all these years. I took the train with these people, but I was barely old enough for an outing on my own. But I saw it. I was so young the Diggers frightened me. It looked really bizarre to a pre-teen.

glenn said...

And at 15 the younger sister of one of our friends and her best friend took of from the Central Valley to SF and got gang raped in Golden Gate Park. She had flashbacks for years. Suck it boomers.

wild chicken said...

True about the media "ads" for drugs. The Newsweek pot issue, spring 1967, got me real interested...right when I should have been planning what I was goingto do after high school.

Not good.

wild chicken said...

Saddest thing about the counterculture was how so many older couples thought they were missing out and broke up. Men for pussy and women to find themselves... Wreckage all through the 70s from that.

Bill said...

That drop earring makes Gary Snyder look like a trans-dowager.

David said...

50 Years Ago Tomorrow (Sunday): Super Bowl I.

It wasn't even named the Super Bowl then.

I was in grad school at University of Michigan and my wife and I gave a party. Black and white TV on a table in our half basement apartment. It was a fun party. It was also the last Super Bowl Party I ever gave.

The Super Bowl is still with us. The be-ins no longer be in.

David said...

Jupiter said...
"Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Dick Gregory, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, or Jerry Rubin would do nothing but laugh at the phrase "grab a chick by the pussy", & they'd think you were a sexually repressed prude if you didn't."


A girl I had known in Pittsburgh ran with this crowd and eventually married Gregory Corso. She was beautiful, sweet and very intelligent. She looked like a debutante (which she had been) but was actually a natural born contrarian. She knew most of the men Jupiter mentioned. They treated women like dirt, something to roll around in and then wash off when you felt like it. The movement was about pussy as much as anything. Women of the era--or many of them--took the bait. It didn't turn out well for most. My friend was smart and confident enough to avoid being degraded by this culture. But she was exceptional.

jaydub said...

"Remember, this was before hippies seemed dumb. Imagine a time when hippies felt like the cutting edge of enlightenment"

I graduated from a midwestern U in 1968, so I guess I was the right age to have fallen into the whole hippie movement. Thing is, hippies always seemed dumb to me and everyone I knew at school. We had a few on campus - mostly druggies and social misfits - and they were mainly ridiculed. Nothing has happened in the intervening 50 years or so that would change my mind. In fact, some of the people I now know that embraced the culture at the time, particularly the women, seem somewhat addled to this day. Don't know if that's because of the drugs, or because they were predisposed to that kind of excess to begin with, but a fair number seem to have head issues.

Michael K said...

Thing is, hippies always seemed dumb to me and everyone I knew at school. We had a few on campus - mostly druggies and social misfits - and they were mainly ridiculed.

I agree. Even my kids, pre-teens in those days did. My son, who was about 5 or 6, one time told me a joke. "Where would you hide something from a hippie ?" Answer, "Under a bar of soap."
He is now a 50 year old layer.

I saw a car on the freeway in LA the other day with a "jaydub" license plate. Was that you ?

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

". . . would do nothing but laugh at the phrase "grab a chick by the pussy",

I love how people have just distorted the Trump quote into having it say and mean whatever they want it to say.

The real context was: "they LET YOU grab them by the pussy". He was discussing, accurately, the behavior of gold diggers and groupies in general, towards the rich and the famous.

JCCamp said...

In any group of "hippies", you would find felons, fugitives, sexual predators, drug dealers, the sick, lame and lazy, the drop-outs. There would be younger kids looking for what they saw on Walter Cronkite at 6:00 PM, and generally found only unhappiness and drug habits. Walk into a herd of hippies, and one would be overwhelmed by body odor and incoherent anarchist sentiments, mixed with Episcopalian churches running food banks and giveaways. Everyone said "pig" when they meant "officer" or "working adult."

It was the time being homeless was admirable, and drug-users prided themselves on their wisdom and maturity, but as previously noted, it was mostly about getting laid and getting high, hopefully at the same time.

And this generation of morons has led to their progeny being pretty stupid as well. For see, see SANDERS, Bernie, socialist.


ganderson said...

"Hey punk where you going with that hair on your head?
Hey punk where you going with that hair on your head ?
Well I'm going to the love in, then I'm going home to bed"

Dennis Braswell said...

Things have hardly changed. The press today Is as much an unwitting proponent as then.

Gk1 said...

Yeah please do check out Haight Ashbury now its completely taken over by pricey boutiques and rampant "consumerism" with a smattering of homeless bums who panhandle.

R.J. Chatt said...

Also this event took place before the Left developed its obsession with the objectification of women's sexuality and sensuality and made it a bad thing.

Honestly, I could not watch this whole video straight through (pun intended), just caught snippets throughout and found the obsessive focus on beautiful girls was the only thing visually interesting but overdone. Otherwise, what is interesting about people milling around? Boring really.

The film for me was a real expose of the leering nature of the "male gaze." PS I recently watched the videos by John Berger called Ways of Seeing and he talked extensively about the "male gaze" in art history, i.e., the use of the female form in art for male gratification.

Lyin'PB_Ombudsman said...

"We teenagers watched and dreamed of making it out to San Francisco where life was beautiful and love was everywhere."

Then, we grew up and became golden year geezers in Madison........

jaydub said...

@Michael K, not me. I lived in San Diego for about 20 years, but left there in '96. I currently live in Spain.