So, what’s this “Hippie Queen” bit?
Hey, hippies don’t have queens! Well, that’s the point, really.
I discovered I was not really a Beat chick. Sure, I had some long black stockings, but they reminded me of the brown cotton lisle stockings my mom made me wear to school in the wintertime. Garter belts, uncomfortable, necessary in snow country because girls couldn’t wear pants to school for many years yet. And those stockinged legs ended in sensible brown oxford shoes, too. Ugh! I used to wear them almost to the bus stop, then hide behind a tree to take them off and stuff them into my book bag. Then, on with the ankle socks. Cold legs were better than fake (or real) nylons for a budding fashionista!
So, what was I? During the Beat days the thing to be was HIP. “Hipster” was from the black music and arts culture, derived itself from the zoot suit era of “hep” and “hepcats.” These hipster dudes dressed cool, had their jive down, and were probably how the weed started leaking into the Beat culture. They actually thought they were hipper than they were — or, than I thought they were. They seemed to stand around talking trash and looking good. Hipsters were a step up from jive-asses or what came to be called hippies — until that term got appropriated by Herb Caen, the San Francisco columnist, for the new, more colorful baby boomer kids who bloomed as flower children in the mid-sixties.
Ben and I and that baby I was pushing in the stroller, now turned 4, had made a stab at being ex-patriots in Paris early in1962. We returned to the Bay Area, unsuccessful at cracking the Parisian lifestyle, settling in Berkeley that summer. On our return, a long-term friend, Morgan Upton (who was from our SF theater days and later a member of The Committee improv comedy troupe), brought us a copy of “Bob Dylan” to hear. This was the young Dylan’s first album, out in 1961. By the time his second one, “Freewheelin’ ” was out, we were listening to his new brand of folk and blues with avid ears, enhanced by mind-altering drugs. “Blowin’ in the Wind” blew our minds. Joan Baez followed closely on the heels of Bobby and the music began to take us on a whole new trip.
Yes, the music. There really was something “blowin’ in the wind” those days. Things started changing rapidly. Politically, everyone was set on their heels in 1963 when Jack Kennedy was assassinated, followed by more. What was happening to us all? We got hold of our first LSD. We started demonstrating against the Vietnam War. We began to see ourselves as even more alien to the world we lived in. So much seemed so wrong. We started collecting “trips,” bringing them to each other. Jerry Wainwright, my dear friend and later the photographer for Native Funk & Flash, was our inventor and finder of strange devices, adding to our tripping bag of tricks. (More on the Godbox later.)
Wainwright in his Dr. Godbox persona
Folks like Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, and Lenore Kandel spanned the Beat generation and made it across the borders into the Sixties Counterculture. I really arrived in the gap. My sense is that much of the thinking or mindful set-up for the Sixties happened within that 1960–66 period. The term “hippie” showed up when Herb Caen reported on the Summer of Love in 1967. By then I was self-identified in the hip art scene, but never did consider myself a hippie. They seemed to be derogatorily described as barefoot and unwashed, rather purposeless. These were unfair generalizations, but when people called me a hippie, I couldn’t relate.
Much later, when it became apparent that the entire period in which I was embedded was clearly designated that way, I had to give in, though I always felt a bit of reluctance. So, maybe 20 years ago I took up saying, in response to the question, “You were a hippie, weren’t you?” or the like, I compromised by saying “Well, I was a Hippie Queen.” What I’m acknowledging is the hubris, the snottiness, really, that made me hold myself apart.
I hope it’s apparent I own the attitude. A Hippie Queen, self-appointed: Hmmph!