Peter Berg and Judy Goldhaft
Interview by Marty Lee & Eric Noble
April 29, 1982
Peter & Judy's Home
PB: I don't usually reminisce about this sort of
stuff, so you have to ask good questions.
ML: I'm glad we're doing this finally.
EN: We were both interested in to what extent
there was a conscious playing out of anarchist tradition. There
seemed to be an immediate recognition on the part of anarchists,
especially in England.
PB: You mean historically? Or the contemporary?
EN: The contemporary.
PB: Let me do historically first. Of the dozen
initial protagonists of the Diggers, probably only myself had
anything like a radical political historical sense. The other
people weren't radical, political traditionalists, which is what
attracted me to what we were doing. That's what pulled me into it
that people were accomplishing what radical
traditionalists might want to accomplish without even knowing the
background. So I was sort of a resource for that sort of stuff. I
was the only one who had read Kropotkin, OK? Or the Situationiste
But the Provos in Amsterdam had a very strange
influence in that for example if you read the book I Jan Cremer
Jan Cremer is an individualist radical. He's a self
celebrating egocentric maniac and most of I Jan Cremer is not
believable. But he was one of the figures in the Provos. He
probably made up most of the book. But it has this individualist
radicalism about it. If there was a living character like the Jan
Cremer that Jan Cremer describes, it was probably Emmett Grogan,
who had a similar background. Second-generation American, Irish,
rebelling against Catholicism, took off for Italy when he was
eighteen to become a filmmaker. To study at Cine Cita,
"Cinema City." And Emmett then got into the Army, was
drafted into the Army, didn't resist. But once he was in the Army
he did things like take a thousand pictures of himself on the
picture-making machine and even used his photograph as
photographs for new recruits. Just absolute Jan Cremer-style
individualist rebellion. So, Emmett, who had no political
background disliked the Left "creep
communist" would be something Emmett might say, very easily.
Somewhere along the line, Billy Fritsch, who has
a left-wing, longshoreman, Communist Party, good Jewish boy,
Jewish progressive radical from Brooklyn, background. Peter Cohon
is very articulate, very smart, but very glib. Not particularly
hanging onto any idea. Didn't think in traditional terms, at all.
Not particularly consistent. Didn't want something to happen
because it had never happened before. Simply wanted it to happen
because it would be different, or whatever.
And various women. Nina. Nina's dad was a CP
member. Jane Lapiner's folks are notorious, old CP'ers. She was
brought up in CP camps when she was a kid. She's not particularly
"communista", Jane. Judy Goldhaft, socialist tradition.
Her whole family is socialist, from the word go. Jewish
socialists, chicken farming, successful, socialist, southern New
Jersey. So there were all those threads that you'd think of, as
like a lot of people shared those. But Judy never read much
political stuff. Jane dislikes it. Billy Fritsch rebelled against
it. Living with Lenore Kandel at the time, who was another
political rebel. Not at all like her dad who was a red writer
who was banned. The only one that I knew in that group
I mean I was sort of recognized as the person who was
actively trying to tie things into the historical tradition of
left-anarchism. But the Provos had this funny influence in that
the Provos did things like put white mice under Queen Juliana's
carriage, and that gave them three seats in the Damme by doing
that. But to give you an idea of who they were, Jan Cremer was
one of them. To be as individualist as Jan Cremer was is very
radical in Europe, even now. Europeans are not as
individualistically inclined. If you went to Denmark, and you
looked like you were ill in the street, fifty people would stop
to help you immediately. Danes are very communalist. Even ... ,
in the countryside at least. Even the English are. But Americans
are not, as a rule. Americans stand around and stare at murders,
whereas Europeans try and figure out what's happening.
Does that answer that question?
ML: I'm intrigued by certain ideas, catch
phrases, like "social acid." "LSD as hard
kicks" rather than, say, as a panacea. Not that "social
acid" and "LSD as hard kicks" are necessarily ...
PB: Well, the Digger group were more social
oriented than revelatory. No question about it. Regardless of
their backgrounds. Things were real when people did them, and
what people do has to relate to food, shelter, economics,
employment, creativity, etc. Big social motivation not
"what is the inner truth and mystery of life?" So, if
someone took LSD to find out the inner truth and mystery of life,
that kind of individual was disregarded or derided by the Digger
people. The Digger people saw drugs in terms of individual
personal fulfillment within a social context. I have a right to
get off, hard. I have the right to get off hard. And to be among
people who do this similarly. So sex wide open sex
wide open drugs wide open creativity get you off
hard. Right? Play a flute, make out, drop acid, and go do
something social. That would sort of be where we were at. So
social acid relates to that. "Free" is social acid,
because it disorients and distorts ideas people have about social
relationships. For example, class, or consumerism, or financial
status, or professional status, or whatever. Give the doctor acid
and the doctor will be down on the ground eating grass, literally
eating grass. Billy Fritsch once was eating grass during ... He
was eating grass, on his hands and knees. He was grazing.
JG: A lot of people ended up climbing trees and
perching there, and meditating.
PB: People nested, and he grazed. I thought I was
so clever because I wasn't doing all those things and then I
found myself taking off my clothes. But we saw the act of taking
off your clothes as being social. It said something. It said,
"you can walk around naked." And walking around naked
was good because it was expansive. It heightened individual
experience. See, what's social about it is that society, from our
point of view, was essentially repressive. Society wanted you to
work, society wanted you to pay, society wanted you to be good,
wanted you to repress other people. So, if you weren't going to
be doing those things, didn't you represent an alternative
society? That was our point of view. An alternative society is
active -- it's not "go sit on the mountain and take your
clothes off." It was "give speeches on city hall
steps" during the Alioto regime.
EN: In that context, what did Free mean to you?
In reading accounts of that period, there seem to be two points
of view of what Free meant. There was the merchants' take on it
-- that it was this aggressive, cynical ...
PB: Socialism. Yeah, cynical -- they thought it
EN: The other is a very idealistic view of what
PB: To me, personally?
EN: To you, and to people who were doing it?
PB: It was just a great thing to do for theater.
You could theatricalize any social event, any economic event, any
personal event, by injecting Free in it. Because it just blew out
the parameters. Free meant wilderness to me. It was just like
having a forest in the City, suddenly, if you said Free. If you
said "you don't have to pay for something -- here's your
food, and it's free -- here are your clothes, and they're free --
and here's you, and you're free, and what are you going to do
next?" -- was so catalyzing as a theatrical ... as a life
act. You just couldn't beat it. If you said "Red" it
would hardly touch it. If you said "Vietcong" you
wouldn't even get near it. If you said "Black" you
wouldn't get near it. "Free" could be applied to any of
those other things. Just put Free in front of anything and do it
and it would be interesting. It would be better than what we had
then, and it would probably lead to some sort of revelation on
your part, and social revelation for somebody else. I saw what we
were doing as being a guerilla theater troupe who performed free,
got people involved with it, and had them perform free -- so that
waves of it would go out from there. That's from me. There were
people -- there were some figures during the Digger period,
Tobacco was one, a guy named Tobacco, and a couple other people,
saw Free as meaning "Bum." It just meant
"bum" -- it was the cigarette tree, and the lemonade
springs and that kind of thing. They wanted to realize, "I
don't have to do shit the rest of my life." I think the
merchants were probably cynical about those people, and they read
that on what we were doing -- which was incorrect. I actually
always thought they were stupid for not just being entertained by
what we did. They should have just been entertained by it. Some
of them were. Ron Thelin was so entertained, he became one. He
became a wave. You know he was a merchant.
JG: The merchants had a reason to feel pretty
defensive about it. It was them that we were asking to give us
stuff to give away free.
JG: So we were cutting into their profits. A lot
of them were quite nuts about us.
PB: One of them just volunteered to pay the rent
on the Free Store. I don't know if that's a well kept secret or
not. What was the name of that shop? It was the one that started
Cost Plus, then she started this big bead shop. And she just
walked in one day, and she said "What do you guys
need?" I said, "I need the rent every month for this
Store." And she said, "You got it." She just
wanted to do that. She thought it was interesting.
JG: And the guy who had the other shop, way down
PB: The Phoenix.
JG: The Phoenix. Always gave us stuff for events.
You know, flutes and bells ...
PB: We would just walk in and tell him what we
needed, and he'd say, "Sure, just take it." So if we
were going to have an event in the park, and we needed 3000
wooden flutes because somebody's idea of Art, or Theater, was to
have people play wooden flutes for 15 minutes in the scenario of
what was going to happen that day -- which was the way we
designed those events. I don't know if you are aware of it --
they weren't wide open. They were built to make wide-openness
happen. So one time, Lenore Kandel thought it would be the
greatest idea in the world to hang 500 sets of glass, Chinese
chimes in every bush around Marx Meadow -- that if we did that,
people would discover them, take them home with them, play them
and be entertained and felt elegant for the event. So, we went in
and asked Tosh for 500 sets of Chinese chimes. He said,
"Sure. Just take them."
JG: Wind chimes.
PB: Like those. And Lenore spent hours stringing
them up in the trees. Some of the stuff came from them, not all
of it did. By no means did all of it. But, there were these
people that were like ... The other merchants thought it was a
profiteering scheme. They thought 1% Free meant we were the
mafia. We'd beat them up if they didn't give it to us.
[Laughter.] And being around Billy Fritsch would give you that
impression. Billy or Emmett. Both of them could perform "I'm
going to kill you." Fritsch performed that on Bill Graham
once with marvelous results. Graham was writing checks like mad,
and gave us the Fillmore theater one night to perform a Digger
event. He was scared to death of Fritsch -- thought Fritsch was
going to kill him. And Billy never said anything like that. He
just wore this black leather and lurched. Sort of a trick he did.
Yeah, if you looked at it from the outside, you'd say, "He's
threatening Graham." But I knew Billy, and Billy would've
acted like that anyway. He liked to act like that. He liked to be
ML: Digger events.
PB: Digger events.
EN: You already mentioned a bit about the events.
There was something always in rereading, and in the oral
tradition that I got living at Kaliflower, was that there was
something special about the Digger events.
PB: Well, they were theater.
EN: What was that?
PB: They were scripted and performed.
EN: What was the script? What are some examples?
PB: Here's one that worked really well. We wrote up a playbill
for the event, and the playbill read "Carte de Venue"
-- which means your card to go someplace -- and "Street
Menu." That's all it said. It didn't say playbill, it didn't
say theater. It just said "Carte de Venue and Street
JG: Because it was a street theater event.
PB: These were all handed out on the street. They listed
social ideas and principles, and things that would be done about
them right that day. I wrote it, but I forget what it said. One
of them had to do with money. The Death of Money and the Birth of
Free would be one of the events. And for that ... these bills
were passed out, and people were told -- which wasn't very
difficult, because they were all on the street anyway -- there
were tens of thousands of people on the street, so it was very
easy to do this kind of thing. And they were told at a certain
hour, this event will begin. So they said, great.
JG: That was the beginning of the event, giving out the cards.
PB: About an hour before it happened. What happened was that
Roberto Morticello had made these enormous animal heads, like
five feet high, of goats, varioius things, bears and so forth. A
group of people wearing these animal heads, dressed in black,
carrying wands with silver dollar signs on them, that were high
in the air, and a coffin with enormous coins in it, walked down
JG: Xerox reproductions blown up of quarters and silver
PB: Walked down the street singing "Get out my life why
don't you babe" to the Requiem. So it went, [sings to the
Funeral March Requiem tune] "Get out my life, why don't you
babe." Right? For, like, five blocks down the street. This
was quite a procession. There were women in front with candles
lit wearing black. Altogether about twenty-five people in this
cortege that went down the street like that. There was a group of
people behind them who gave out penny whistles and flutes, and so
forth. That was the next thing on the thing, was going to be this
orchestration. And that was based on the public nuisance law.
That you weren't allowed to be a public nuisance. So, Act II said
"Public nuisance is public newsence." [Spells
newsence.] And people were encouraged to play these flutes, and
so forth, by people who were quite good at it -- who would go
along and just teach them how to do it, and then set up banks on
both sides of the street of people playing. None of this would be
really spectacular unless you understand that it's like ten
blocks of people and the sidewalks are jammed, and altogether
there were just thousands and thousands of people, all doing
this. And Act III, or the third thing, said "Liberate the
park." So people started yelling ... You know, I don't
remember this exactly, I remember the flow of it. People were
encouraged by varioius cheerleaders and instigators to go
liberate the park. So this whole crowd quit playing music, let
the funeral cortege go its way, and ran to the Panhandle. So the
Panhandle suddenly filled with all these people. And at the same
time, I think some rock band, maybe the Grateful Dead, had agreed
that they would bring a truck down at that same moment, which
they did. They sort of like led people to the park. They were all
young careerist rock musicians at the time -- having a crowd of
ten thousand suddenly materialize is quite a boost for your ...
whatever. Whatever reasons they play rock music. They played a
couple sets, and then at a certain point there was this other
thing. You would go back to the street and perform this thing
called "The Intersection Game" where the street would
be effectively closed to all traffic by the presence of ourselves
doing a very strange game. People actually left the rock concert,
left the Grateful Dead, not all 10,000, but about half of them,
and started streaming back to the street for this next event. All
of this was just word of mouth, that this would happen. To get to
the street, Judy and I held marbalized paper that was ten feet
long and four or five feet wide across the sidewalk, so they
couldn't pass unless they leapt through it. We started out with a
pile of a couple hundred sheets of this stuff. As people jumped
through it, we'd say, "In the same way that you've had to
take the sidewalk, you can take the street." By that,
everybody was all for it. They were all for taking the street.
And we'd get to the street and there would be giant puppets, one
named In and one named Out, who would argue about whether or not
they could walk in the street. Out, who was in the street,
finally convinced In to stop being in and drop out. By then, the
streets were full of people. Nobody was on the sidewalks anymore.
Then, the sun was going down and somebody had gone to a junk yard
and had gotten a couple thousand rear-view mirrors from junked
cars, and those were passed out and people were encouraged to go
up on the roof and reflect the setting sun onto the street. I
mean this was all ... this was orchestrated, but at a certain
point, you lost control of it. People were very good at these
things. They were very, very good at them. They wanted to know
what they were going to do next.
JG: And people did more than what was suggested.
PB: Then, a chorus of women -- in everything like silver hot
pants and Bolero tops and tye-dyed outfits -- stood on top of a
rooftop and another group on the street -- chanted this poem that
was held up on some marbalized paper that Lenore had written for
this event. And thousands of people were chanting this poem and
bouncing lights down on the street. It was quite incredible. By
then, the police had arrived, which was really why we had
bothered to do the whole thing. The police arrived to try and get
people out of the street. [Laughs.] Which was fuckin'
impossible.That's what were called the Haight Street Riots. But,
our intent was to fill the street up with people who were in such
a mood that they would prevent the police from removing them.
And, we were quite successful. Three or four times we did events
like that, that just had that same number of elements in them. If
the cops ever did grab anybody ... one time they grabbed Phyllis
and Chocolate George, and a couple thousand people marched on the
Haight-Ashbury police station. That was all part of the event.
That was the Now! event, where everybody had little cards that
said Now! And Phyllis stood on the back of a motorcycle with a
big sign that said Now! Everybody somehow knew what all this
meant. You could call it from an interior point of view we
all had theatrical backgrounds, and it was kind of like trying
out this new amplified street theater. We wanted to make street
theater an art form. A social, active art ... you know, a social
opera, in which some in which some social fact would be
established afterwards, like "the cops can't come on the
street anymore" or "hells angels don't get busted
anymore" -- whatever the theme was. We wanted to exercise
these elements of theater to allow that to occur at the end. All
our events were like that. By the time it got toward the end,
people would come and ask us what to do next. [Laughs.] No idea
-- just do whatever you like. People thought -- they knew it was
theater and they thought, well, theater ends at a certain moment.
We had no idea. Just turn on the spigot and let it go. We were
good at turning on the spigot. We knew how to... And the people
were there. If they hadn't been there, we couldn't have done
this. We would've looked vapid. We would've looked like
art-theater or something, you know? But it was mob theater. It
was just terrific. Very high events.
JG: If people thought that the Digger events, or Digger
productions, were different than other productions, it's because
what we did is we picked a certain amount of props and a certain
amount of structure without demanding anything of anybody, and
let people use whatever they wanted to do, to do whatever they
wanted with the stuff, including take it. Peter made an outline
for how the Rolling Stones should do their event -- the event
that ended up at Altamont. What the outline of it was were
providing interesting things for people to do and breaking up the
situation of everybody sitting and watching one group of people
perform -- because that didn't seem like a lot of fun.
PB: For example, a truck with dummies of the Rolling Stones on
it, that would go around playing recorded music, while the
Rolling Stones themselves would do whatever they wanted to do,
including play music. [Laughter.] And, 5000 seedlings would be
given out, and 5000 yards of blue velvet. It was going to be in
Marin, in a valley in Marin, and the trees would be planted, and
so forth. But they didn't like the theater of that. They liked
coming in with a helicopter into a Speedway. I went climbing that
day. I knew that would be a disaster, man. Imagine sitting in
bleachers, yech. Not our people. Not at that time. They were just
too liberated. They thought they could do anything. They thought
they had a right to do anything. Brautigan did an event one time called the
Candle Opera. I think there were 5000 people carrying around candles and
singing various parts of poems and stuff like that. And one of them was
called End Of The War in the Straight Theater. We got the ... we hard
nosed the ... the Straight Theater people also were terrified of Billy
Fritsch. Billy Fritsch was just good at looking menacing and saying
"We want your theater tonight." The End Of The War had posters
of Lyndon Johnson and Ho Chi Minh with their arms around each other, and
Bruce Conner was going to run for ...
JG: He was running for mayor.
PB: For mayor of the city. He gave a speech. His speech was apple pie,
chocolate ice cream. He went on ...
JG: These are the things I'm for.
PB: Yeah. We had a searchlight. The Communist Party sprung for some of
the money for this. They trusted me, man. And the Democratic Party sprung
for some of the money. We had a searchlight. It said "The End Of The
War" on the marquee. It was on the solstice.
JG: We had somebody make ... we had a potter make up free money to be
given away and they were wonderful ...
PB: Flying cocks on them.
JG: Flying cocks on them.
PB: A ringed cock is the free money to get in. Everybody is given free
money in order to get in. The Up Against The Wall Motherfuckers set up a
table with ammunition right around the ring of it. A card table with .38
bullets and 30-30 bullets. Amazing. Somebody walked around with a rifle
all during this thing. When you went inside what you saw was a film that
people had really gone to some trouble to prepare of fast-time photos of
plants growing, volcanoes erupting, waves coming in, islands appearing and
disappearing off Iceland. All of these things. A soldier getting shot and
falling. Real documentary footage. Then they were speeded up and then they
were played on three projectors at once so the images got all confused
together. Then Steve Miller's band played although it wasn't announced.
The theater was overwhelmed by then. There was no form to it so people are
everywhere and Miller and his group had to fight to get in to play and
they played. Lapiner's did a dance which people thought actually was a
bunch of people high on acid. They really didn't know it was a dance. And
there was a cargo net. We put a cargo net in the theater so that people
could climb up the walls. And they were climbing up the walls. What was
far out about this whole thing with all the berserkness going on in the
theater ... I mean people were also handing out acid tabs so it was
guaranteed to be absolutely berserk ... was that we had put a bunch of
cuttings from the park they had pruned and we put all these branches
around the walls of the place. It was a vernal equinox, that's what it
JG: You have to remember that when we describe these things it's
impossible for us to separate them in our minds. And so it may be one
event or it may be another event that happened in the same space.
PB: This happened, this one. Oh, this event started ... when you got
into the theater people obediently sat in their seats and then a group of
women went around, this was amazing ...
JG: That was the equinox. That didn't happen at the End Of The War.
That was a different event.
PB: OK, I'm sorry.
JG: It was the same place.
PB: The End Of The War what they do, they danced with these pruners.
People just took them and began dancing with them. So the band is playing
and people are dancing with trees and bushes. Five hundred people could
get on the floor of that theater. That was quite amazing to see. Nobody
could have told them, "Now dance with trees." I mean, if you had
said "Dance with trees" they would have said "Fuck
you." But somebody got a tree and started dancing with it and
everybody thought it was such a neat idea, they just got rid of their
partners and grabbed a tree. All these people were dancing, bogeying with
trees. I went home at that point, I thought "They're going to be
fine. We've succeeded. We've succeeded." It was a social event.
JG: It's just providing the props to do something is what actually
happened. And sometimes somebody would do something that we didn't even
expect and it was just wonderful. Like when we left the End Of The War, I
remember leaving the End Of The War because it had gotten so heavy in
there, it was really strange. The Steve Miller Band, what they played was
"When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" and they played it
PB: They played it as an orchestral sort of piece.
JG: I don't even know how they played but it was really strange.
PB: Kind of the way Hendrix does The Star Spangled Banner.
EN: Right, I was just thinking about that.
JG: Peter looked at me and I looked at Peter and we said, "It's
time to leave this place." But when we walked outside ...
PB: People dancing with trees and [sings in deep slow cadence]
"When Johnny comes marching home again." ... Bye, turn off the
JG: Good bye.
PB: People carrying around flying-cock money staring at it. Quite
JG: Somebody, I don't even know who did it, I don't even think it was
anyone we knew, but somebody had taken silver sparkle and thrown it
outside of the theater so that when you walked outside not only was the
spotlight still going around but the whole sidewalk was sparkle with
glitter, with silver glitter. It was like a bomb of glitter had dropped
and all over the sidewalk and all over the street there was this glitter,
which was something that wasn't in our script but somebody had put it in
the script and it was great. And that's what just providing the ideas or
the outline did to people ... is that the next time somebody went to an
event they said, "let's get something together and do it and it will be
really crazy and wonderful." And people did do that. Like we didn't expect
people to take the trees off the wall and start dancing. But we thought
that the theater was such a cold space that it ought to have ... let's
bring some greenery in.
ML: It sounds like you really would come away from that buzzing for a
few days, someone who would wander in ...
PB: I was about to say that I would guess to be realistic about it that
maybe 25% of the people involved would be confused. Like at this End Of
The War thing, the Reds that showed up because they had paid for some of
it, were confused. They sat in the balcony in a little group
together. It was very funny. And they were quite confused. And Julian
Beck's group was there doing "I can't travel without a passport, I can't
JG: "Paradise Now".
PB: "Paradise Now". And they were so confused, because they would do
this, they would do the lines and people would just write "Passport" on a
piece of paper and hand it to them.
PB: Or they'd say "I can't smoke marijuana" and you'd give them a
joint, right? So their little theatrical thing sort of broke down. They'd
had a lot of success with this in Europe, but it wasn't quite making it.
And they had a meeting up on the balcony, in fact in the dressing room
like good actors. We thought they were very funny. Because all the real
actors at this event were all out in the crowd. I mean they were doing
crazy things, just bizarre things. But these people were acting like a
theater troupe, which at that point was just kind of ridiculous to be
doing. And they said "Well we want to help the community form itself and
get together. How should we do that?" I just started cracking up. I was
hopeless. I couldn't answer. I was loaded, you know. I was struck so much
by the irony of it. You know, Julian Beck's group is supposed to be like a
social radical group, and they were incapable of dealing with this
situation. They were wearing jockstraps doing this thing, you know. "I
can't walk around naked" and someone says "Pull down your jockstrap". "I
want to see your dong. Just pull it off." It had just gone out the window
for them. But somebody else patiently explained that what they should do
is go down and mingle with the people and have a good time and do
spontaneous things and do whatever all these other crazy people were
doing. Certainly the Julian Beck group had no more credentials as artists
than Bruce Conner, Steve Miller, any of these other people who were there.
[To this point in the transcription. The following added April 2023:]
But about 25% of the people would be confused or you know they had
bad trips or whatever. But three quarters of the people would have
really blissful smiles and feel really creative. They knew that some
people had gone to a lot of trouble to give them an event and that they
had made the event. I mean, people caught on pretty quickly. Somebody is
going around giving out 500 penny whistles, or whatever. Somebody had to
go get those. Somebody is facilitating or helping out this event. And
they responded. I’m supposed to be a creative, joyful person and I will
be. So there are blissful smiles and these spontaneous acts that nobody
expected … that would occur. Quite liberatory in a creative way. And we
were trusted. We were trusted even if people didn’t understand our
political, social angle on things. They trusted us to be a good-time
group of people.
ML: Did reporters ever wander into this thing?
JG: They could never figure out what was going on.
ML: Yeah, I would assume.
PB: Well, Nicholas Von Hoffman wrote about an event. But he had the
unfortunate experience of being introduced to Roberto LaMorticella who
hated reporters and despised mass media and is an anarchist, an
Italian-type anarchist. He really put Von Hoffman on so badly that when
Von Hoffman wrote about it in a book called We Are The People Our
Parents Warned Us About, he describes what happened and it’s obvious
that he doesn’t know why he was treated that way. He wasn’t insulted, he
was just put on so badly he couldn’t make any sense of it. And we
frequently would introduce reporters to people who were not Diggers and
tell them they were, you know, to get stories. And the classic of course
was introducing a Saturday Evening Post reporter to a Newsweek reporter
and telling each one of them that the person they were going to talk to
was going to be sort of quiet and listening but in fact that was the
person who ran the Free Store. And they actually sat there and dealt
with that for fifteen or twenty minutes before they figured it out.
[Laughter] One of them wrote a story about it, didn’t mention that part,
but wrote a story about the Diggers. [Chuckles]
The television event with Burke in New York is a highlight of my putting
on reporters. Alan Burke had a show in New York where he played the
hostile, arrogant, aggressive, New York interviewer dealing with
whatever new piece of flam or fraud or whatever came along. He had had a
guy on before me on the show who was an obvious exploitative personality
trying to be part of something that was happening. It was obvious this
guy just got off the train from Saskatchewan and was trying to make
money or something. And Burke destroyed him. In fact, he was very easy
game. And then I was … they wanted a personality to represent the
Diggers and so I told them that I was various people. I told them I was
Emma Goldman, I told them I was Emmett Grogan, that Emmett Grogan was in
fact really Emma Goldman and that Emma Goldman was in fact in the
audience tonight. And all of these things … I had a dueling pistol in
the top pocket of my jacket and I took it out and began waving it
around, waving it at Burke. An old cap-and-ball pistol. Every time he
would ask a question, I wouldn’t answer him and I’d just talk about
something else or I would look somewhere else or I would direct the
cameraman to do various things. I tried to talk with people in the
audience. I told people watching it … I said, “Would you bring the
camera down so I can look directly into the camera?” And Burke was
insane. He had really lost control of the situation. Poor dear. Which I
enjoyed, I had a real sadistic feeling about this. I asked them to bring
the camera. I looked right in the camera and said, “If you’re seeing my
face right now, you’re watching a little box. And the little box that
you’re watching is a representation of the box that we’re all in which
is called a studio. So would you pull the camera back now and just pan
the studio, start with the roof.” So they’re showing the cables and
girders. And I said, “The exit signs.” and they show the exit signs.
“And this group of people that think they’re an audience here, that
they’re not watching television, could you show this bunch of poor
people here? And now would you show Alan Burke’s shoes, and show his
ear.” And they were doing all that stuff. I can’t remember actually
having a bit of fun. So I said, “When you’re watching a box and you’re
in a box there’s only one thing to do and that is to get out. And that
is not as difficult as it seems. What you do is get up, so if you’re
home watching, get up and I am going to walk out the door that says Exit
over it. Would you show the door that says Exit? And you can either walk
out of your house or turn off your television set. Now here we go.” And
Burke was yelling, “Come back. You can’t do this. Come back.” I kept
walking, I said, “Just keep the cameras on me.” I was having a hell of a
time. Walked right out the fucking door. [Laughter] Oh, that event was
interesting because Abbie Hoffman was there. So was Paul Krassner.
ML: In the audience?
PB: Yeah, in the audience. And they had no idea what we were all about.
Somebody had asked them to come. That turned … well, it certainly turned
Krassner on. I knew he was there. I think Hoffman was there but Í’m not
JG: You had met Hoffman before at the …
PB: I met Hoffman at Schoolcraft, Michigan at the SDS conference.
JG: But also Phyllis and … this is the kind of thing that would happen.
PB: We were a real gangster performing troupe. We were awfully good at
JG: Because we had been so involved in doing theater things that when
Phyllis and Siena who happened to be in New York at the same time that
this show was going to go on and heard that Peter was going to be on it
… I assume Peter had been saying that anyway. They decided to be in the
audience. So they went into the audience and at some point in the middle
of the interview, Peter said something about … that there wasn’t anyone
named Emmett Grogan. It was a woman also named Emma Grogan. Siena stood
up and said, “I’m Emma Grogan. And … this is a cream pie.” Thwak.
[Laughter] And Phyllis did the same thing. They hit some people in the
audience with a pie in the face. [Laughter]
PB: Siena creamed a woman who had gone up to the microphone to ask an
innocent question, you know. She probably had gotten tickets a month in
advance to watch the Alan Burke Show, caught a pie in the face when she
went. [Chuckles] Well it was quite amazing. That’s typical. That was the
way we treated the media. Oh, and media worked into it because media was
hierarchal. The media was an intermediary between you and people and
between life. And media told you what was going on. And television told
you what was going on and so forth, reporters did. And, in fact, you
were, you know, your own source of news is what we would say. So to live
that out we would give ourselves like bogus names or, you know,
deliberately freak out reporters or fuckup Alan Burke Show, like that.
Because we thought it was a piece of theater. It was instructive in a
social manner. We had all this justification for having a lot of
malicious fun. [Laughter]
ML: You mentioned that conference, that SDS conference.
ML: I’ve heard a similar account …. In terms of what was going on all
around the New Left at the time. How were you guys related to that? What
was your perspective on it.
PB: We thought they were stodgy, dull, bureaucratic, centralistic and
they didn’t have much imagination. That if society was going to be
changed in the direction SDS wanted to change it, it wouldn’t be much of
a change. But since we assumed they were independent autonomous radical
people, that if they were exposed to what we were into, they would enjoy
doing that better than what they were doing. It would be more
beneficial, so I had no doubt for example the Chicago demonstrations,
the whole mood in Chicago, came out of the visit that we paid to that
SDS conference. It wasn’t in Schoolcraft. Schoolcraft is just a town on
the way that I always remembered because of its name. But I have no
doubt that that’s the case because Hoffman was there and he couldn’t
believe what he was seeing. He said nothing. He absorbed it. He was sort
of a dutiful radical, you know he’d worked for SNCC and he was
investigating us, sort of like a party ideologue kind of person. And he
was fascinated, just by the presentation we made. Which somebody wanted
to record and I told him they weren’t going to record it. That if it
didn’t have any effect on people to listen to it, you know, then it
didn’t have any effect and fuck it. And also to go in town and get Billy
Fritsch out of jail. Because Billy had taken the rap for putting our
rented car in the creek so that Emmet wouldn’t get busted for it. Bill
was very good that way, very brotherly sort of person. Emmet was showing
off on a dirt road, went over a rise and came down. There was gravel on
the other side and the car went right, it was a station wagon, went
right into a canal, and we all bailed out of the car and the cops came
pretty shortly. And Billy just took the rap with it. Billy was a felon,
which is considerable for him to do. That’s how I started off my rap,
was, “You know we have a problem, one of our brothers who’s a felon just
took a rap so somebody else could be here, feeling that he wasn’t
particularly articulate but that act is very articulate and we need a
lawyer and we need funds probably to get him out, so somebody volunteer.
One of you guys must be a lawyer. We get him out and that’s the
condition for us to describe to you what we’re into and doing.”
ML: So in terms of you coming to this conference, did your reputation
precede you somewhat?
PB: Somewhat. Yeah some…
ML: And people were hip to …?
PB: The Yippies hadn’t happened yet. The Yippies came out of this.
ML: Yes, that’s what I meant.
PB: Well it’s true, what I’m telling you is true. I’m not taking credit
for something that’s not true. Tom Hayden saw us and thought he was
watching the sulfurous fumes of Hell. And he was in the room too And it
was just … whoa … this is absolutely contrary to anything he ever knew.
And he was also in this sort of middleclass outfit. Maybe rolled up
sleeves but it was, you know, a white business shirt or something. But
Hoffman was transfixed. He just watched. He remembered everything he saw
… which became quite apparent thereafter. And then a group of people
began in New York as a result of the SDS thing and they broke … A group
of people started which included Martin Cary and Susan Cary and a few
other painters and artists.
End of first side of first tape
PB: … he was dropped out by then. He decided to leave New York and come
out here because of the happenings. Hoffman … and I guess Rubin was
influenced. Krassner certainly was. We stayed at Krassner’s place which
was something I hope he describes in the book he’s putting together,
because that was pretty wild of him. Yeah, that was a very seminal
EN: I’m real interested in how you worked together and … like on
planning the events. How did people work together? Was it a collective
effort? Or did someone have an idea and do it on their own or …
PB: It’s a little like the way Mike [Helm] and I put together the
newspaper, the way Mike puts together a newspaper — talks to people what
they’re interested in and so forth. There wasn’t any process per se. It
was a very creative bunch of people and it was mind blowing to do these
things. It was a lot of fun. So if somebody said that they had an idea
about something they wanted to do, all the other people would say,
“Sure, we’ll help you do it.”
PB: And there was a core you know of about a dozen people, some of whom
didn’t have a lot of ideas, and just liked helping people do these
things, some of whom had great ideas and didn’t necessarily know how to
bring ‘em off, so people collaborated in that way. It was pretty
JG: A lot like Peter’s description of Billy Frisch saying that he didn’t
feel he was very articulate, so he would take the rap. Just, you know …
people were good at certain things and they did what they were good at
EN: Was it a twenty-four-hour kind of thing that everyone … that people
PB: I screwed around at the time, if that answers your question.
[Laughter] More like a seventy-two-hour thing.
EN: What about the …
PB: People lived in various places, like some people lived in
collectives in the Haight, and some people lived in shared apartments,
and some people lived in little houses, and whatever. And there were
ways you could get hold of people that had telephones and ways you got
hold of them when they didn’t have telephones. And if you ever couldn’t
find anybody, you just went out and hung out on Haight Street for half
an hour and you’d see them. Because if they weren’t by a telephone or
they weren’t where they normally lived, they were on the street. People
were very busy. Some people exhausted themselves, you know, doing
various things. I exhausted myself at the Free Store a couple times. I
know that Nina and Siena exhausted themselves doing Free Food. Emmett
exhausted himself regularly. One of the reasons was that he was a very
hyper person, very high-strung person, period. Just on the natch, he was
very high strung. And, you know, just could not go to sleep so he would
do things all night long and all day long until he dropped.
Some people were mostly contributive. Peter Coyote was sorta slow
getting into it because he was doing a very big role at the Mime Troupe
at the time. The Mime Troupe was on the road going to places like
Madison. Every place they went there was a riot. The Mime Troupe at the
time. Either they helped start it or it was brewing anyway and people
saw them as sort of like cheerleaders of their revolt. We had all left
the Mime Troupe because … Most of us who were in this Digger group were
Mime Troupe people. Well, a good percentage of them. Certainly the
theater-minded people. And they were interested in anarchist theater —
decentralized, you give the people the props and they’ll invent the
play. And if the play doesn’t make something happen as a result, it was
failure. Two very different things from ordinary theater. It would not
have worked if there weren’t so many people around who were hip to it.
People just [claps hands] picked up on it like that. They just knew
exactly what we were talking about.
JG: If they didn’t the first time, the second time they saw it
happening, they knew.
PB: You know we called things — like the “Free Frame of Reference.” We
used to have this orange square in front of the Free Food. It was like
12’ x 12’ — and we said, everything that happens within that frame is
the “Free Frame of Reference.” So people going by on Oak Street and Fell
Street, which are main thoroughfares, would see people in the morning
and at night getting food in the park in front of this huge picture
frame. [Laughter] And we called everything we did the “Free Frame of
Reference.” People sometimes wore little orange squares on a string
around their neck — it was just the free frame of reference. And we also
said, “Anybody that wants to be a Digger, just says they are, and does
whatever they like.” So there were no lessons on how to be a Digger.
People that were involved with it had a gang, collective,
guerrilla-troupe mentality that just operated constantly. Like if
somebody needed their teeth fixed, one person would figure out how to
get their teeth fixed and the other person would write a manifesto about
fixing teeth free. Everything was related that way. Somebody had a baby.
One group of people would be concerned about whether or not it was a
good birth and the other would be concerned about setting up a free
clinic. So the baby would be born and the free clinic would happen in
the same day.
JG: The baby would be born and the doctors who delivered the baby would
listen to what was going on and say, “God, there ought to be a free
clinic.” And the next week they would come to the free store and set up
a free clinic.
PB: Somebody had to move and they needed a truck. So they said what we
need is a free truck. One group of people would help them get their
stuff in boxes and the other group of people would go out and find a
free truck. And the free truck would come back and it would have “Free
Truck” painted on it. The person would get moved and then it was a free
truck for the rest of the time. It was always like that. It was a very
natural collectivity. There must have been a deep yearning on
everybody’s part. There was on mine to operate like that. Money would
not be a problem any more. Money would just not be a problem. Anything
money could solve, we could solve. So we just have to find out where the
surplus is, where the extras are, where the garbage is, where the donors
are, the contributors, the professionals … whatever. Whatever we needed
we could find it and we’ll get it. And, for the writers, we’ll get the
paper and we’ll set up the printing press and you write it and we’ll
distribute it. Painters do it on the wall. I’ve got an excellent wall.
That was on the wall [referring to the 1% Free poster]. One hundred and
seventy of those put on walls all over the city one day. It was a great
idea, right? Somebody had a great idea — let’s make something and put it
on the walls and it will be like our “Digger ad.” The Diggers should
have an ad, right? Let’s just make an ad that is absolutely cryptic. It
was bigger than anything else. It doesn’t look like anything else. And
let’s put it on freeway stanchions, and, you know we put some on men’s
room doors in the park, just weird, Bank of America right over their
plate glass windows. Just went out one morning, just the way we made the
posters, we distributed them. We gave one to all the storekeepers on
Haight Street. They all thought it was a threat. [Laughing] They said,
“Jesus, if they’re can make posters like that, they must want to kill
us.” [Laughing] It’s like the cop that busted Roberto and I and three or
four other people for doing this puppet show. We got to court finally,
right? And the puppets were seized as evidence in this trial. Did I tell
you this story? And, the cop comes out and says, “Your honor, these
people were deliberately entertaining people in such a way as to cause a
confluence of pedestrians in a legal right of way which blocked traffic.
It was deliberate, and they did it in a menacing way.” And, the Judge
said, “Well, traffic may have been blocked, but what was menacing?” The
cop said, “Did you see the puppets?” Judge said, “Why would the puppets
be menacing?” and he said, “I want the puppets brought in as evidence.”
So they brought in the puppets. The judge looked and said, “They’re a
very interesting creation.” They were. They were the same heads we had
used in the “Get Out My Life” thing. “So they’re pretty interesting.
What’s menacing about them?” “They’re nine feet tall.” [Laughter] “Those
puppets are nine feet tall, they could have hurt somebody.” Judge said,
“Oh come on, I think you’re stretching it a bit.” It’s the same thing.
The posters are so big they must be menacing.
… Here’s Billy Fritsch, Peter Coyote, right?
JG: It’s like that … the photograph that was taken after the court case
was over that was on the front page of the Chronicle. I mean the …
ML: I’ve seen that.
JG: You’ve seen that? They’re all going … [gestures]. One of them’s
going … [gestures]. I mean, you take a bunch of actors and you let them
go out of court and you get a news photographer who says, “I’ll take
your picture. And we’ll put it in the newspaper.” That’s what actors do.
It was just, like two minutes later he had this incredible photograph.
PB: We had been defended by a lawyer who was at the Lawyers’ Guild, you
know and he’s a guy who was associated with left wing causes and so
forth. And, I’m sure what was in their mind was that we were being
vindicated for our socially progressive attitudes and we should have
beamed at the camera and looked like the boy next door. We knew that,
that we were being set up for a Left commercial, so instead we did this.
People would say, “What does 1% Free mean?” And I’d always say, “I’m
glad you asked that.” And just go on. “It was supposed to make you ask
me what it meant.” “Well, that’s being deliberately confusing.” “No,
it’s not. It’s being inspiring.” Well …
ML: Was there a point in which the Diggers became conscious of, I don’t
know how to ask you quite … There’s a certain orientation where you were
doing things within the community and there’s this rebound effect,
between you and the community. It’s a creative spark.
PB: The Haight community.
ML: And there’s also perhaps another part where you get all the people
start coming in the summer. The free food, for example, in the park,
when you’re feeding all those people. It wasn’t simply theater, at a
certain point, for these people. It’s very much a necessity.
JG: All the time. Right from the beginning.
PB: Theater had to be about necessity.
ML: Was there a sense of losing grip on the situation, in terms of the
influx of people?
PB: No … The people in the Mime Troupe knew that there was this
incredible potential group of people in the Haight. Some of them knew it
and some of them didn’t. The people who knew it, knew you didn’t have to
put up with too much bullshit any more. Right? As far as form was
concerned. They knew that these people would do almost anything. And so,
we deliberately injected Free into it. You know, it was going to be love
and drugs and happiness, it had to be Free Love, Free Drugs, and Free
Happiness from our point of view. That would be social and political,
that was the message. OK? That simple. But the implications were much
bigger than that and we always had to stay a little ahead of the
situation. So when someone suggested that 100,000 people would come to
the Haight, a bunch of merchants had a meeting and said that they had to
police themselves. The Oracle Staff, the Haight Ashbury community were
afraid of this wake and we said…
ML: The Oracle Staff as well?
PB: Oh yeah, very much.
ML: I had a sense that they were …
PB: No, no. They almost fired somebody for printing Gary Snyder’s poem
about Viet Nam. You know that poem, The Curse on the Men in Washington?
Somebody almost got fired for printing that in the Oracle. The Oracle
was much more transcendental. LSD for transcendental, a very elite kind
of thing. We went to the meeting and said, “100,000 people here’d be
great, in fact we ought to advertise. What we want really is a million.
We’d like a million. And what we should do about it is be very outgoing.
You know, try to involve people in as many things as possible.” Well,
the Oracle people sort of made the Human Be-In from their perspective of
what that would be like. The Human Be-In was very diggerly. It actually
was. But it was Oracle in that there was a stage, and there were stars
and that sort of thing. It was a very manipulated kind of event. But it
was moral. I was in a meeting with Ginsberg and Snyder. That’s how I met
Gary Snyder, he was at this meeting. And they were all talking about,
you know, all these people coming and what sort of message would they
get. And we listened to what they said. We said that sounds like a great
idea but what we want to do is involve more and more of them in more and
more free activities. In fact, if there were 500,000 people in the
Haight Ashbury who were as friendly about what we’re doing as the people
there are now, that would be half the population of San Francisco, so we
could make a Free City. I mean, San Francisco could be liberated by a
group of people like that. And they, you know, they’re rational people
except they’re crazy, and we were that crazy that we wanted to do that.
JG: We just wanted to make …
PB: So we started the Free City thing. See, our version of the Human
Be-in was the Free City thing. Where what you do is you get out of the
Haight, you go to City Hall steps, you have free events in parks and the
Fillmore and all over the city. At the same time, the cops had their
idea about how to deal with it. They make a one-way street, put up
yellow mercury vapor lights and patrol the street in groups of six, and
bust everybody who couldn’t prove who they were.
ML: When did that actually happen?
PB: The Summer of Love. That whole ‘68 routine. It all happened in ’68.
ML: You know, I always got the impression, maybe it’s wrong. In part
from Emmett’s book, in part from other things … it was always like the
Oracle group was in to all these people who were coming. It was the
Diggers who were warning that this was going to mess up things.
PB: Well, Emmett gives a strange twist … yeah, in Ringolevio …
JG: I never read Ringolevio.
PB: I know what he’s talking about. The problem that you’re running into
there is that, one, Emmett doesn’t necessarily report things any more
accurately than Jan Cremer does. The second thing is that we did say,
you know, all these people are coming, we might have even been
instrumental in having the meeting, but my feeling and the feeling of
other people was that that was not a threat, that that was a good thing.
That rather than being against it, people should be for it. But they
should take creative and constructive social steps about it. So you
could say like the Free Clinic came out of the Summer of Love, and our
influence on that was very mixed. I mean there was a group of people who
were the “Free City Doctors.” We knew who these people were. They were
never involved with the Clinic necessarily. But the Clinic people
certainly got, you know, a lot of juice out of what we were doing.
ML: The impression I get … most of this is from just reading things,
like out of this story and stuff, is that the Summer of Love was in some
sense a real bust for a lot of those people coming through. Sort of a
very idealistic. Lost souls wandering in expecting something that wasn’t
JG: They got hyped.
PB: To tell you the truth, yeah … we thought it was a media hype. The
media bought it. I never had a feeling of keeping people out. I always
thought, come on, if 10,000 people in the Haight were turning the
fucking city on their ear, what would 500,000 do? The truth is that they
were manipulated by many, many more people than ourselves. And in much
more venal ways. I mean Altamont is a manipulation of that kind of
consciousness that was absolutely criminal. That was criminal, Altamont.
You know, it’s a group of elitist rock and roll stars, the Rolling
Stones. I never knew why Emmett involved himself in that. Emmett sort of
became a different person. Maybe he was just tired too. Emmett was so
charismatic, so interesting, so original, and imaginative that if he got
tired of all that, got strung out, you know, wanted to stay that way for
awhile and find out who he was. Who could blame him for it? He was like
a liaison for the Rolling Stones in Altamont. One time he came by and
picked me up in a rented car. They had gotten him a rented Lincoln.
Driving a rented Lincoln around. He thought it was very funny. And he
said, “You want to be part of this concert?” I said, “No. It looks ugly
to me.” “Well what would you suggest?” I said, “Bring me up to talk to
them and I’ll suggest it.” I never got past a manager. But I wrote out
this thing for the manager, in fact in the Rolling Stone office, wrote
out the event Judy described. And Emmett said, “You know, just for kicks
I’m going to Xerox that.” Why? “I want to remember this cause I doubt
that they’re gonna do this. I just want to remember the details.” So I
Xeroxed it and asked, you know, to give it to Jagger. We walked out and
Emmett said, “They won’t do it.” I said, “What are they going to do?”
“They’re going to have a disaster.” I said, “Why are you having anything
to do with it?” He said, “I’m interested in this thing about the Hells
Angels being involved with it.” Maybe that was what he was interested
in. But that just, you know, was a terrible bust. Terrible scene for any
of the Digger people that were involved with it. It was horrible.
Christ, you could tell that the situation was wrong. Theater of it was
wrong. Angels were not going to be anybody’s security force … not in the
sense that you hire them at eight and dismiss them at five. Yeah, it was
a total disaster. If it had been a success, it wouldn’t have been much
either. Which is my point. Suppose it’s not a disaster, suppose it’s a
success. You have a stage full of Rolling Stones, hierarchal show
business media model surrounded by a phalanx of beaming Hells Angels and
you’re gonna have a million people that just had a terrific day, now
what? You know, you just reinforce the whole pop-media trip. So I think
Emmett must have had very mixed motives by that time, you know. He was
probably interested in whether or not the power of the Hells Angels was
on the level of like the police. He was probably interested in that. He
had kind of a military head that way.
EN: Can you talk about the Hells Angels some more and what you…
PB: I never knew them as a whole club. I knew them as individuals and
only from the San Francisco Club, and any Hells Angel will tell you that
the San Francisco club was much different than any other one. And Mike
McClure had a friendship for a long time with Frank Reynolds, who was
the secretary of the Angels. I got introduced to Pete Knell, who was the
president. Pete Knell had to save me one day from getting crunched by a
bunch of the people in his club because I made the casual remark that I
thought the Black Panthers were the only group around that were on the
same level as the Hells Angels. That was enough to almost get me killed.
[Laughter] And as these people came up, you know they were running up
the stairs in the Free Store to beat me to death literally. And Emmett
and Billy Fritsch were backing away from me. They were giving them a lot
of room to do whatever they want to do. Pete Knell just stuck his arm
out — just put his hand out — and caught one of these guys in the head
and stopped him short and said, “Leave him alone, he’s interesting.”
They all said, “Fuckin’ nigger lover, hippie asshole.” They all went
back downstairs again. But they had come up in a group. They knew what
should not be said. You should not say the Hells Angels are like the
Black Panthers. That was a mistake. So Knell said, “You are interesting.
What do you mean by something like that?” “Well, for example, compared
to the Angels, the San Francisco motorcycle police are a second rate
motorcycle club.” He said, “That’s true. It’s true,” [Laughter] I said,
“Right it’s true. So compared to the police, the Black Panthers have
more discipline and better [?] soldiers than the police are.” He said,
“Maybe you’re right. But I don’t like ‘em. They’re communists, and
EN: What did they do with the Diggers, the Hells Angels? Was it
individuals who were involved?
PB: They did events with us.
JG: They liked our parties.
PB: They used to come to our parties. They liked the music in the park …
some. They liked the women that were around the Diggers … a lot. Diggers
did have a tendency to attract some good-looking girls. They liked our
relationship with the Grateful Dead.
JG: Some of the Diggers were good-looking guys.
PB: Yeah, right. But also attracted to good-looking girls. Socially
committed … [?]
EN: Do you want to talk about that? I’ve always been interested in the
difference between the men and the women in the Diggers. Was there ever
a discussion of um, the difference, was there a sense of the women
feeling liberated or was there any discussion of sexism?
PB: Judy should answer that. But what I would say was that everything we
were doing was so different, was so liberatory, that people would get
swept up in it. Like I remember many times turning and seeing Nina or
Judy or Siena or Sam, Phyllis and looking at them and both of us, our
eyes would be saying, “We’re doing something that almost nobody
understands.” You know? There was a real bond that way. That look would
be the same whether it was Peter or Emmett or Judy or Nina. We were
conspirators. We were a conspiracy gang, and there was this ethos going
on, that any one of us could do anything. This was very much different
from what everybody else was doing.
JG: I think we already answered the question that you’re asking. That
people did what they were good at doing. And people who had ideas for
events were helped to manifest them by other people. And, I think the
fact that there were a couple of very charismatic men involved with the
Diggers doesn’t ignore the fact there also were some fairly charismatic
PB: Oh sure. Lenore certainly was charismatic. She was charismatic. You
JG: When we set up the Free Store the first thing Lenore did is find a
small space in the Free Store and decorate it with velvets and beads and
incense — theme of sumptuous, beautiful room that you could imagine.
PB: It was supposed be like the changing room in the Free Store, but it
obviously was not that. It was a seduction cavern.
JG: A love nest. [Laughter] You know, Lenore is the person who suggested
that the next celebration after the Invisible Circus should be the
Summer Solstice, and, you know, the going up on the tops and roofs of
buildings with the sheets of papers and poems was as much my idea as it
was anybody’s and dancing down the street was my idea but actually Jane
actualized it even better than I imagined it could be done. We all did
it. Tie dying was Jody — Luna Moth — who one day came in and said,
“There are all these white shirts that people are dropping out and
leaving in the Free Store …”
PB: She just learned the technique, right? She just learned it.
JG: “… let’s do some classes and let people make themselves beautiful
out of these clothes.” And, I think all of the tie-dying comes from the
classes that she began to do.
EN: It became something you’d see every place you go, tie-dies.
PB: Yeah. People would make them and give them away.
ML: You mean this was the first time that tie-dying was done?
PB: No, not the first time but how it became a popular phenomenon.
JG: The first time that it was done as a large social thing in the
United States. Tie-dying has always been done in Africa and Indonesia
PB: Jody learned it in a crafts class.
JG: No, Jody actually has a degree in …
PB: Oh, so she knew about it.
JG: Yeah, she went to the California College of Arts and Crafts, and one
of the classes that she was involved with was that. She was very into
batiking, but she was also very into tie-dying. And I think maybe Karl
[Rosenberg] had met her and said, “I’m going to take you down to meet
these people because there’s a great opportunity to do a lot of
tie-dying.” And, at the time, you know, the middle 60s, sociologically
was at the end of a very repressive social time. The 50s were very
repressive. Despite how cute they’re all made on Fonzi. They were very
sexually repressive and at the same time there were a lot of soap
operas. You didn’t go to work without a white shirt and a tie. And so,
when people quote dropped out and began to come to the Haight Ashbury,
one of the things that we ended up getting were a lot of white shirts.
PB: You can’t do anything for them except tie-tie ‘em.
JG: Right. That’s the first stuff that got tie-died were these stacks of
white shirts that people had given us.
PB: And every sheet that ever came in got tie-died.
JG: And sheets, right. You know, because I came in in the middle I don’t
know what Peter said about the women being or not being political. But
both Jane and I were very aware of the political ramifications as were
Nina and Phyllis and Siena also.
PB: I didn’t say ramification. I said history. Eric had asked me a
question that had two parts. One part was “To what extent was this a
deliberate historical reiteration of traditional anarchist or
revolutionary ideals” and “To what extent was it influenced by other
movements and other places at the same time?” I said it was probably
influenced by other movements, other places more than traditional
because people either didn’t have traditional political backgrounds …
PB: Yeah. Academic. Or else they rebelled against them like Jane did.
JG: Well, Jane comes from a pretty outrageous Communist background.
Everybody is at least liberal if not Left background. But have you asked
Peter about the connections with Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, the
Black people at Hunter’s Point, or the Wah Ching in Chinatown? The
political connections that got made?
ML: No. The only thing that I know about that is in Emmett’s book that
he mentions — and I don’t know if it was his idea or a Digger idea —
about the Free Breakfast Program of the Panthers. That was suggested to
them. But, I don’t know much about the relationships that you just
PB: It’s probably true that it was suggested by Digger activities but it
might not have been Emmett. You’ve got to be a bit careful of that.
Emmett is really celebrating himself.
ML: And by suggested, it’s one thing for someone to see, like, Abbie
Hoffman and you know, to take off from there. And then an explicit
suggestion made, “Why don’t you guys…”
PB: Or with Bobby Seale. We deliberately had a conversation with Bobby
Seale one day at Black Panthers headquarters in Oakland and suggested
things like that to him. But suggested all kinds of things. You know,
free schools, free breakfasts, whatever. Why don’t you do free things?
And he said, “Well, where are we going to get resources? We got to get
jobs for people.” And we said, “Well, it’s still surplus period. You
know, you can find … what we’re good at is finding stuff and giving it
to people.” And he was a little suspicious of that because he was
traditional kind of middle class Left, in a way. His goals were.
JG: Emmett went to a great deal of trouble to deliver to the Oakland
Black Panthers the fish every week. When we had a fish pick-up. Because
that was something … we asked them what they were interested in having
and one of the things they were interested in having was the fish.
PB: Yes, that’s really true. That came out of that meeting. They said
that they would love to have some sole, filet of sole.
ML: Well, could you elaborate on that thing Judy was saying? Wah Ching,
PB: We made deliberate contacts with those groups. Deliberate contacts
with what was called the Wah Ching then, who were more Marxist than they
are now. Wah Ching means “China born” and it was a political group, late
60s political group, that had sprung up in Chinatown. Deliberate
overtures to the Grape Strike people. That was always part of it. In
fact the Free Store, the idea for a free store, came out of a visit to
Delano where they had free medical care and free theater and free this
and free that. You know if you belonged to the union you got all that
and I was asked to write an article about it and I came back and wrote
Trip Without a Ticket instead. About how we should do that. So that was
a real relationship.
EN: That was before the Free Store? Trip Without a Ticket was …
PB: The first free store was called the Free Frame of Reference. It
wasn’t really a free store. It was a garage that was set up to talk
about diggering-up the Haight Ashbury. The first Free Store was at Carl
and Cole, and it was rented on the pretense that it would become a
boutique. We lied to the people that owned it. Told them we’d set up a
boutique. And, Kent and I did that and we called it Trip Without a
Ticket and wrote this thing about what it was. The essay Trip Without a
Ticket was distributed on the street as an invitation to come to the
Free Store. That was a direct influence and we knew people. And who
JG: The Mission Rebels.
PB: Mission Rebels, right. Same thing. Mission Rebels were de la Raza
origin. But I don’t think … And, the Hell’s Angels came about because we
didn’t see the Hells Angels as a socially antithetical or antisocial
entity. We saw them as people who were wanting to have a good time and
were into a liberatory mode of expression. And we admired their outlaw
style, because Diggers were pretty outlaw as well. The police knew us.
The police deliberately went after several of us. We were arrested often
for doing what we were doing and if you just put out a tally sheet and
look at it kind of objectively, it wasn’t too much different than Hells
Angels in some ways at least. But none of those really took very well,
those political alliances. For one reason the Hells Angels and Black
Panthers didn’t like each other. I had personal meetings with Eldridge
Cleaver and you know they felt at the time that they were very much
under the gun and they needed a tremendous amount of support per se.
There wasn’t going to be an event where the Wah Ching, the Mission
Rebels, the Diggers, the Black Panthers and the Hells Angels all had an
event together as a benefit or something. It wasn’t going to happen.
Because everybody was too involved with their own problems. And in that
regard, probably the Hells Angels, at least individuals in them, were
more contributive toward events and, you know, taking people to the
hospitals … whatever, than any of the other groups, you know, on the
surface. It wasn’t a good time to make alliances and as you know very
few alliances occurred. You know that Diggers carried the food to
Alcatraz. Were you aware of that?
ML: The Indians?
PB: Yeah, during the occupation. Linn House, other people got a boat
together and ferried out food and water. The first Alcatraz newsletters
were printed on our Gestetner machines.
JG: And the tepee that was on Alcatraz belonged to one of the Diggers
who also was an Indian.
ML: Around what year was that?
PB: ‘68-’69 …
JG: Something like that.
PB: You know the problem with that period in terms of imagining it all
to be a lasting thing that came out of it was that almost everything
that bubbled up kept bubbling in its own particular … cylinder or
something. And a lot of them didn’t make it through the period. A lot of
people were after things or drugs and they turned out to be relatively
short termed demands. It certainly was true for us. As long as there
were people coming to the Haight Ashbury, as long as there was a youth
and creativity explosion, an art youth explosion going on, there was a
group of people that we could do things with. But when there wasn’t or
when the police moved so heavily against them, we couldn’t stop it. All
we could do was to try and outflank them, and then we gave ourselves a
limit for how long we could do that because you get personally
exhausted. The same thing happened with the Black Panthers, happened to
Alcatraz and happened to the Wah Ching who are now, well I don’t want to
cast aspersions. Mission Rebels … you know the same things happen.
ML: To what extent do you think in terms of police repression as being a
factor [?] …? To what extent were the different drugs that were coming
in, do you see as responsible? … like STP, strange acid, a lot of speed,
PB: Police were trying to stop the spread of these new and dangerous
ML: No, I didn’t see it that way. I’m saying — looking at the drugs
themselves. The police were putting them out, there’s no question.
PB: How much of the police repression had to do with trying to stop
ML: No. Police repression is one factor in terms this of living this
creativity explosion. The change of the drug scene …
PB: From wide open to controlled?
JG: From available to not available?
ML: Available not available … just different drugs that they’re coming
in. STP all of a sudden when PCP ran out. From what I understand, at
least, there’s in some sense a shift of the drugs that were available.
PB: Oh, the drugs got uglier and uglier in the Haight. Sure, I mean in
1965, if you were in the Haight Asbury and used heroin you were probably
somebody from the 50s. You know, one of the artist dropouts from the 50s
or whatever. It was a jazz, esoteric, blues-life drug. But by 1968, it
might be the first drug that you took when you hit the Haight. And by
1970, it certainly was. Or, you know, it could very well be. So sure,
the street got really ugly. ‘69 late ‘69, ‘70 it started getting very
JG: Yeah, we thought in ‘68 that … there was a lack of marijuana for a
couple of months or for six months or for a year. It was really hard to
get any marijuana and there was some discussion, which was discussion
but never factualized — although it may have been factual — that it was
being stopped by both the police and the mafia in order to introduce
harder drugs. It did change, it changed the feel of the street.
ML: This change …
PB: I don’t know anything about the details of anything that Judy just
said, but I was also put off by the paranoia that had to do with
marijuana. The paranoia generated by marijuana was enormous.
ML: Just your holding marijuana?
ML: [?] … saying about drug?
PB: Yeah. And people that dealt became progressively more paranoid.
EN: The murders of Superspade …
PB: Yeah. Superspade got murdered over some drug deal. People’s arms
were cut off, that kind of thing. There was a time when the Free Store
first opened, somebody walked in one day and brought in a couple of
bricks, you know, a couple of kilos of Mexican marijuana, paper-wrapped
pressed bricks as a gift. Somebody just brought in a plane load or
something. I put them in plastic bags and just drove all through the
Haight and just gave bags of it to people that owned stores and stuff
and said just give it to people. You know, we got two bricks of it and I
just want to get rid of it. So I just handed bags, like ounce bags, out
to everybody I saw. Well, half the storekeepers I walked up to, who were
apparently part of the psychedelic revolution, were terrified — I think
they thought they were being set up. They thought that I was trying to
bust them, that I was trying to get them busted, that if they gave it to
people in the store, one of them would be a cop … just incredible
paranoia. Nothing like it exists today. There’s just no similar
reference point. So that amazed me. I would say things like, “Goddam,
this is called a psychedelic shop, you’ve got a sign — Psychedelic
Shop.” I’m saying, “Get me some psychedelics, right? I’ve got so much of
this, and I don’t care if you’re a storeowner or not, I’m also giving it
to people on the street.” They’d say (whispering), “You’ll get busted,
you know. You be careful. How much … you could sell this for a lot.” You
know, just the volume of barbed wire in the mind that marijuana
generates. Or generated. Just enormous. I don’t know anything about
details of what you’re saying. I would suspect any of it as being, like,
Mafia or police. I would think dealers would have gotten interested in
dealing schmooze to people in the Haight. There’s no reason why they
shouldn’t. I mean, dealers are dealers. And if they could find somebody
and somebody was interested in Smack and got strung out on it and
thought it was as harmless as marijuana, and then needed to buy more of
it and the person said, “Deal it to your friends.” They would. Same
thing that happens in the projects and in the Mission today.
ML: I was told by someone, a former contractor for the CIA, who lives in
Silicon Valley nowadays, that he, as part of his duties, was happy to
set up illicit LSD [?] in the Haight during the Summer of Love.
PB: I suspect, without mentioning names, that the illicit LSD that I saw
a great deal of — once something on the order of 2500 to 5000 tabs —
that were given to us to give to people. I would think the origin was
the East Bay and I think you know what I’m talking about.
ML: Yeah, sure. I think that’s different.
PB: I wouldn’t suspect that individual of being involved with the CIA
even to get out of a bust.
ML: No, I don’t suspect that. I’ve got a question. I’m trying to get a
sense of when the scene is shifting, when it’s turning really, like a
PB: Remember the Diggers are done by the Summer Solstice of 1969, OK?
ML: The Diggers are done? Or the Free City Collective?
PB: The Diggers became Free City and it’s over on the Summer Solstice of
69. It’s done.
JG: That theater production was finished.
PB: The Diggers who had then become Free City were now over. We worked
real hard to make a great send-off for all that.
ML: A great send off for all that, meaning?
PB: Well we had a ... You know, in Nowsreal there’s a shot of a theater
marquee on Haight Street and it said, “On the Summer Solstice San
Francisco will Enter into Eternity.” Right? There was a staging meeting
for that staging event at the Straight Theater, and then there were
trucks and we went from North Beach to Hunter’s Point, to the Fillmore,
to the Mission District, to City Hall, doing events all day long that
day, handing out the Digger Papers, which were then in print, they were
very fresh in print, and told everybody that, you know, Free City was up
to them. Whatever Free City would be, people could make … We’d really
provided enough of an example, given enough of our time and it was also
very hard to keep things going. People were fatigued and the fact was
that militarily the police had done something with the Haight Ashbury,
which is much more interesting than conspiracies to me, is what they
overtly did. Which is that they were so threatened by the challenge of
people coming, drugs, and the activities of the Diggers that they
decided to make it all one way, to question everybody they saw on the
streets all the time, harass people continually. People were in and out
of jail constantly. And we were so used to it, that you just, you know,
“Who’s busted now?” “How many times have they been busted?” “OR” boys
[OR = released from jail on one’s Own Recognizance] … [?] any way from
those days. And getting these people out and what are we going to do
about this? Can we organize to take the police on? Do we want to
organize formally to ask the mayor to stop? Joe Alioto. Or do we want to
keep up our same style. And our “same style” was outflank ‘em and just
keep going. And it was Digger style to have a big Free City event.
JG: You know we got around the cops a lot, because we were doing things
that were so unexpected and so outrageous that they just had no idea how
to deal with it. Like when we read poetry from the steps of City Hall,
which we did for three months, it took them two months to figure out
what they could bust us on. [Laughter]
PB: Yeah, and then they busted us the day the mayor went to Los Angeles.
The Mayor announced formally that he was going to go to Los Angeles the
next day and that day, when we went down, everybody knew, you know,
watch out. And a bunch of Tac [“Tactical”] Squad black marias were
parked on the corner, and we knew it was all going to go down, you know.
So we decided that if they wanted to bust us, we would make that
impossible and we did.
[End of tape 2]
PB: Oh, it’s on film.
JG: A lot of people came and watched the poetry.
PB: He knows what I’m talking about. Eric has seen these pieces. You
have to see it to believe what’s going on.
JG: We mingled with the crowd. So that in order to bust somebody they
would have to jostle ordinary citizens.
PB: By then, there was a group of 200 to 500 people a day that would
come out to have their lunch and be entertained by the Free City numbers
going on at City Hall steps. And while the cops would go to the Haight
Ashbury and were busting everybody in sight, we went to City Hall steps
and for three months held the steps, every day, at lunch and made these
speeches and poems and proclamations and turned people on to things.
Every single day for three months all during what we called the Free
City period which ranged from the Equinox of ‘69 to the Solstice of ‘69.
[sic: should be 1968, not 1969.]
ML: Is that..
PB: Full out front effort to let everybody in the city know that we were
up to something that isn’t just you know drugs and whatever there was to
consume. Pretty honest when you think about it. You may not regard it in
terms of its efficacy, but it was pretty fucking honest of us to do and
we were not going to stop. And the police … We would always be able to
get out on OR, always be able to get everybody who wanted to get out of
jail on OR. It’s just when you have police constantly patrolling the
streets, either you go to the Mayor and ask that he change things,
right, or that things be changed. Or, you combat the police actively,
which we never wanted to do, we never wanted anybody to get hurt.
ML: It was a little Aikido.
PB: Yeah. Our idea of Aikido was to go down to city hall steps. Pretty
brave when you think about it.
JG: Our idea of Aikido was to open up the whole city so that it wouldn’t
just be everybody concentrated in a ghetto-like area that could be
surrounded and patrolled. A lot of people moved to the Mission District
at that time.
ML: Yeah. The Haight was pretty nasty.
JG: Yeah. Because the street was one way and people were hassled on the
street and the police could control the Haight Ashbury, you know it’s a
small neighborhood. [?]
PB: Yeah. Take two streets on both sides of Haight Street. Just hold
both streets. And they did this often.
ML: I have two quick questions, maybe three quick questions, that come
to mind. At what point in time did the Diggers become Free City? Is
there a certain point …?
PB: On the Spring Equinox 1969 the Diggers became Free City. [sic: 1968]
ML: Ok. All right.
PB: Emmett is gone now, largely gone by the way. Emmett is gone.
JG: Did we do the Free City News before that? The single sheets on the
Gestetner, or did they all …?
EN: Some of them were before that.
PB: They might have been called Free City, but Free City wasn’t thought
of as being an event. Free City was a three-month event. Theatrical
event, if you like.
ML: To back track a little bit. The Death of Hippie Event. Did that idea
originate from the Diggers?
PB: Yes. I even know specifically who thought that up. It was Ron Thelin.
JG: Ron Thelin who used to run the Psychedelic Shop … and gave it all
PB: He painted “Free” over the Psychedelic Shop sign the same day he did
Death of Hippie that was a put-on of the media.
ML: Was it by that time that, alright it was a put-on of the media … But
it was also something more than that. To me that was one of the most
cleverest things from what I know about. [Judy giggles] So much of it is
clever, it’s a little bit of folklore, but that’s brilliant.
PB: But in a funny way, it was true, right? Yes, it was brilliant.
ML: Was it a sense that it’s not only that the Summer of Love was over
and putting the hype back in its place …
PB: No, it wasn’t that the Summer of Love was over. It was that Hippie
JG: Hippie was a media hype and it never existed except in the media.
PB: There weren’t a bunch of stupid people out there. You know some
people are stupid but there weren’t a bunch of stupid people. There were
people who had come from the repressed late 50s and 60s, right? Were
against the war in Vietnam, and against the draft. I mean paratroopers
took off their uniforms and put on other clothes in the Free Store. That
happened. Literally. They were against sexual repression. They were
against repression of the mind. Some of them were Leary devotees. You
know, Leary of the early period. And there were a lot of them. And they
weren’t dumb. They loved … man, you should have seen the rock concerts
in the Panhandle, during that period. You could see … It was incredible
to be there. It was like being in Morocco/Egypt/Zanzibar and the Black
Ghetto and your fantasy all at the same time. People around you doing
incredible things. And, our events in the park were even more
incredible. Once, for example, somebody boosted three floors worth of
scaffolding and engaged people, at one event, in the process of erecting
scaffolding to make a three floor — three floor! — tower in the middle
of Speedway Meadow. And someone else thought, “Oh, if you’re going to do
that, I’m going to get a garbage truck full of ice, crushed ice, and
deliver it to this event so that the people on top of the tower can
fight off people that try to get on it.”
JG: But none of it was planned like that.
PB: So people were just told to come to the park, right, and in the
middle of this Kent begins erecting this scaffolding with plywood
floors, windows, balustrades, turrets. Amazing kid’s toy. And then, ice
was brought up in a bucket, right, by a brigade and people on top were
pelting people below with snowballs in the middle of July in San
Francisco. [Laughter] And, people below were throwing ice back and
everybody ganging up and charging the tower. The tower begins to fall
and people hang on and that was just one of the things happening, right?
I don’t mean to sound too overboard about it but that was quite
spectacular. Well, people that do things — you might think, well that’s
a nice childish thing to do, but actually it involved a lot of thought,
a lot of creativity to do it. And that’s what happened. So there were
those kinds of people and I think that if people were disappointed by,
you know, introduction of drugs … Of course, the police repression. You
can’t emphasize this enough. The source for this would be … what’s the
name of that newspaper that Marvin Garson put out?
EN: The Express Times.
PB: Express Times, just reported this flat-out. This is what’s going on
there. And the Express Times was Diggered up you know. The Express Times
became a Digger medium. Marvin Garson’s last three months of it are
Digger. Just solid out-front Digger. And it was an attempt on his part
to politically create an annealing process to make the Haight
defensible. It wasn’t possible to do it. You know a lot of transient
people wanting to be turned on suddenly confronted by the police. People
say the Haight Ashbury’s a bummer. And indeed that might have led people
to want to get slowed down behind schmeeze as much as any conspiracy you
think. But they’re not stupid people.
ML: I’m not into conspiracies for the sake of conspiracies.
PB: No, No. I’m not on your case. There’s a lot of conspiracy talk at
the time. You expect that from potheads. You expect a lot of conspiracy
talk. At least during that period you do.
ML: I have this idea in my head from reading the books — right? — that
the Death of Hippie, while it might have been in respect what you say it
was in terms of exposing the media hype and the illusion of …
PB: Right. If you ask Ron Thelin why he did the event he would say, “I
don’t want Hippies, I want Free People.”
JG: Also, you know …
PB: He would say that out-front to you. He even wrote a piece that
that’s the thing.
JG: You know people did say the result of the media hype some of the
things that happened were very strange like people would come on a tour
to see the Haight Ashbury and they would roll up their windows, they
would lock their doors.
PB: Greyline buses came through.
JG: And everybody thought that was just hysterical that people were
afraid of people on Haight Street whereas the people there were more
open there than the people in the cars. And some weekends people stopped
the traffic and charged them an admission fee. [Laughter] That’s what
Hippie was. That image that the media sent out.
ML: What I’m getting at here is, what I’m trying to understand … The
Death of Hippie happens a year after LSD was made illegal — a year after
the Love Pageant thing. Does it also mark, not in terms of its
symbolism, or what it was intended to evoke … but mark as an
acknowledgement of the transition in terms of the scene that the street
was becoming a lot rougher at this time or did the roughness really set
PB: Well it seems like a pretty rough element involved. There were
rapes. There were rapes in communes. There were crash pads where people
were knifed, and there were heavy motorcycle type influence … They was
always a rough edge. Diggers were thought to be part of that rough edge,
as a matter of fact. You could have called us tough angels you know, all
lower case. We knew we had to be that way because we were goin’ to get
busted, it was going to be difficult [?] what we were doing. We had a
sort of outlaw tough … tough kind of ethic going … [?] a kind of
toughness. That element was always there. What I’m trying to get at is
that the police caused this thing to become a dominant element. I can
imagine anyone coming in getting bummed out by the streets. It was a war
zone. You have to believe what I’m saying. It was a war zone and if you
were 18 years old and a runaway from Michigan to come there and have a
good time and be sexually liberated and express your desire for peace
and love and joy and be part of the Digger phenomena and ran into that
street, you’d be bummed out enough to say, you know, I’d like to have
something to quiet me down, or you know, I want to feel happy and I just
want to be in a glove, which is schmeezville.
PB: Death of Hippie right, if it’s in your mind, I think it’s very
creative on your part to say, “God that’s strange. Did he kill off
hippies by doing that?”
ML: For some reason, I associate that …
PB: Isn’t it strange that somebody had a take on the media that turned
out to, you know, prophesize what would happen?
ML: I don’t think that, you know, that the prophesy is very strictly … I
think the prophesy could be extrapolated from the country as a whole
with respect to the media and the way that [?] and the hippies in
particular are relating to it. Which, in my mind is really a lot to
criticize. The rationale is that it works, you get your message across
but I think you can [?] …
PB: Can I make a last comment? Maybe for your essay or whatever, just to
get it clear in my mind. If you look at Anarchist history overall,
you’ll see these highlight periods, like the Paris Commune, or the [?]
collectives in Andalusia in 1934 or single individuals or groups of
people — 1848, etcetera. What struck me was that there was — personally,
Peter speaking now — there was the opportunity to act out something I
knew as historically belonging to a certain tradition in what we were
doing. And I wanted to do that. To seize the time. Because it was going
to be possible to do it. And that was the motivation. Also, theater was
a motivation. Wasn’t everybody’s motivation. But it does permeate the
Digger thing to some degree. The theater/anarchist, you know,
self-searching for a self-liberating quality of it. As a social
exercise. That individuals should be liberated as a social exercise.
Right? Anarchism. And, definitely, a real break with the theater
tradition that was around at the time.
ML: And yet, it’s also … It’s part of anarchist tradition but the
results are also acid with it. To what extent does that set it apart in
some sense? What does that do to it when you have this whole overlay of
PB: Looking back on it, probably no more than absinthe had to do with
the Paris Commune. From my point of view.
JG: One of the things that acid did was … I don’t know if acid did it or
it just was happening … that you would get an idea and you would walk
out on the street and twenty other people had gotten the same idea.
[Laughter] And people were very sensitive to each other. They really
were. There was a whole community. There really was a whole community.
And the community felt paranoia together, felt joy together. And was
aware of the kind of … What was in the air was available to anybody that
wanted to be aware of it.
PB: Also, the people that wanted to be Diggers, the people that wanted
there to be this phenomenon of Free and life-acting and social relevance
were politically frustrated by the war, by the slowness of civil rights
stuff, by the slowness of sexual liberation, and guerilla theater was
already a term in existence before the Digger phenomenon. So they’re
somewhat frustrated because they want more. They want more to happen. On
deeper levels. They want more direct contact. More, “You care about me
babe? Yeah, I care about your teeth.” More — not media politics or
counter politics — but real stuff to happen. And I think that there’s a
group of people who are also willing to do that. Given all that, now
take the phenomenon of someone who smokes a joint, lays back and
delivers a rap on the way the world should be. You must have heard these
in the early 60s. You must have given them. These politically frustrated
people who want these things to happen and will say “Do It” and the
other people will say “Well, I was just exercising my mind” or “I have
no idea” or “I forgot what I said.” The Digger people would do it. So if
you want to put drugs in some role there, I would put it as opening up
the head enough to see alternatives and possibilities. The difference is
“Let’s do it now. Let’s put Free in front of it.” [In voice imitating
someone stoned:] “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a bus that you could
just get on and run?” Diggers would say it’s called “Free Bus” — it’s
got sixty seats in it. You sleep in it at night. And, the first place it
goes is Tucson. Let’s go. That’s what the Diggers would do.
I used to say, I mean if you want to talk about toughness. My toughness
would be any [?] can have a vision. There’s no problem with that. The
difficulty is trying to make it happen. Social acid.
ML: Yeah, I like that term.
JG: Did you ask your last question?
ML: Yeah, I think.
JG: The Diggers didn’t really want to be interviewed or presented in any
kind of other framework than their own. That’s what is so confusing to
people about the Diggers. That’s why you get all these weird
descriptions of the Diggers. It’s like the Digger movie. The Digger
movie has no narrative. You see it and whatever you make out of it,
PB: There’s a reason for that, Marty. See, the Digger movie is an art
form. You may not think it’s a significant one, but it is an art form.
In fact, the movie Medium Cool grew out of Haskell Wexler sitting in our
house looking at Nowsreal. He saw that and said, “Oh my god, you’re
going to do the Democratic Convention in Chicago, that’s the way we
should do it. We should do it exactly like that.” So there’s no plot to
Medium Cool. You’re suddenly on the street in Chicago and it’s happening
to a number of people who are actors. The idea came from that. But my
ideas came from Godard.
JG: Godard came up with the same ideas at the same time.
PB: Well, sort of. But, the idea is this film will start and it will
treat you exactly as though you were one of the people involved with
this phenomenon who are enjoying the hell out of what you are doing, the
way we all were. So this film is essentially made for us to watch,
right? I used to call it a “tribal deer skin” of the Free City thing.
Because I knew it was going to be over. We all did. So one of the things
was let’s also make a flick about it while we’re doing it to remember
it. Because nobody else will remember it. So we made this film. The film
has that feeling — you may get lost in this film. Like there’s a long
dance sequence in it that we really had trouble editing down. We didn’t
want to edit it down. And it just goes on and on and on.
JG: You asked about the women. I mean, how much of the footage is the
PB: Oh yeah. I’m talking about the event in the Carousel [Ballroom]
where people are banging trays … it was called Free City Convention. It
may have been to our everlasting credit or peril that we used to not
take ourselves too seriously. The Free City Convention, we just rounded
people up and people came from everywhere to go to it. There were bands
and so forth. Things were hanging in the air that said “State of Mind”
“State of Race” …
JG: There was a mayoral election that was going to happen so there were
all these conventions going on.
PB: There was a campaign called “Vote For Me.”
JG: The convention in Chicago was happening. There were conventions
happening everywhere, so Ron decided to do a Free City Convention.
[note: the Democratic National Convention would happen several months
later, in August. Free City Convention took place on May 1, 1968.]
PB: When you see Nowsreal, watch the way it ends. It ends with cut
footage of one of the people doing one of the events in the park on that
Solstice day that Free City ends. Watch how the film ends. The sun goes
down. There are cuts of this person dancing and the sun will go down and
the Cleveland Wrecking Company will just hit a chord that’s a twang,
like a broken electronic thing that just goes, and it ends. And that’s
exactly the way we gave it away. Just like that. A sad day in a way. A
bunch of people gathered on the rocks to watch the sun go down.
Reassured each other that we hadn’t just wasted our time. Very strange.
JG: Free City was to make San Francisco a totally free city and a free
city-state. That was the ideal of the most we could most politically
accomplish. To free San Francisco as an open city.
PB: There was a poem we talked about that. That would interest Marty.
Remember we were trucked out to Bolinas one day. Charles Olson. Somebody
gets us in a car and says this whole idea about liberating San
Francisco, you got to talk to this poet Charles Olson who’s in Bolinas
right now. And drove us all the way out there … and here’s Olson who’s
eight feet tall. Enormous person. Standing up in the room and he was
giving some … he was being very professional about being a poet. I walk
into the door, I listen to him for a couple minutes and dove across the
room and knocked him right into a chair. And he said, “Ho, ho, ho,
what’s this?” And I said, we’re in San Francisco, to make a city-state,
how do you it? Somebody said to drive all the way out here and ask you.
We talked about it for a couple hours. So she’s right.
ML: Olson, I really think, is right.
PB: The only way to do that was to liberate each one of the individuals
in the city. Do you dig?
JG: And, each neighborhood. That Summer Solstice, we had asked the
people in Chinatown to do a Summer Solstice event in their park, and
asked the Mission Rebels to do a Summer Solstice event in Dolores Park,
and asked the Black community in Hunter’s Point … We were in contact …
That’s why I said to talk to Peter about the various … We really were in
contact with all those people.
ML: It was a few years later that Planet Edge began to evolve? Some
people, near Peter obviously …
JG: Peter wrote the Planet Edge papers right after … I can’t remember if
it was right after … On the Summer Solstice, we left and went to the
country and Peter edited that film. Peter, when did you write the Planet
PB: Late ’69.
JG: When we got back from Europe?
PB: Before going. We decided, a group of us decided that what we would
do … Free City was over, and we would do something called Planet Edge
for a while. Because we couldn’t take on the responsibility of realizing
this insane vision of liberating the whole city by our own activities
any more. We wanted to actually sit and see what happens. I think it had
an effect on …
JG: The name of [?]
PB: Talk about gay rights. I’ll never forget Israel. Did you ever meet
Israel? I’ll never forget him dancing, running like a gazelle through a
crowd of 10,000 people in the street where he made up a flowing white 1%
Free [?] and being the gay gazelle of May. Absolutely naked and there
was something about it that was so … I mean you knew the person was gay.
You knew that this was a gay person. He wasn’t just being a person. He
was being revealed gay person who just did not give a shit anymore.
Right? He was being free. It was amazing. Quite amazing. I watched him …
he was quite a, what would you call it? A protagonist.
ML: I’ll tell you the story the first time I heard about the Diggers. I
was thirteen years old.
PB: Is this a good story or a bad story?
ML: Just give you my reaction to something. I was thirteen years old. I
didn’t turn on to drugs or anything. I was watching a TV program with my
parents on the Haight. One of those Summer of Love programs. It might
have even been that Harry Reasoner hatchet job. They were all hatchet
jobs. But it might have been that one. Cause I saw it later, you know?
ML: And then there was this group the Diggers. They showed some people
bringing food out of the cars and stuff. And they said something about
how they were giving all this away for free. Thirteen, very vivid … how
the fuck are they doing that?
JG: New social model.
ML: This is without taking acid or anything like that. I turned on a
year later. But there was something there that left a lasting
impression. I had no idea who these people were, what the hell … All I
cared about was playing baseball and whatever you do when you’re
thirteen years old. But that was something.
PB: You were one of the people on Oak Street going to work in the
morning. That’s what we hoped they would feel. They would often stare. …
influences. Like Kent, who’s still a performer, acts more than … so I
guess you’d call him a professional actor. Does a lot of work with the
One Act Theater in town. On one of those event days — oh, the morning of
the Equinox that began Free City. Kent thought, “If I were a straight
person going to work and I saw someone with a silver service and candles
sitting down and having breakfast on a freeway ramp that had been
discontinued — if I saw that, it would blow my mind.” So he asked
everybody out, and we all helped him. We got him a table and a silver
service and candles, and he got some kind of …
JG: He got most of it himself, I think.
PB: He got a lot himself. And he set that whole tableau up on the
freeway ramp that’s left over when you get onto the Oak Street freeway.
There’s one that just goes out into space. And there was Kent, out in
space. And what was so weird about it — can you imagine that we would do
something — and we would consider it disgraceful — to have a sign that
says, “This is the beginning of Free City.” We would have thought that
was disgraceful. So it’s an ever-lasting conundrum in anyone’s mind that
ever saw it. We believed that if you didn’t know what it meant, it meant
more than if you were told what it meant.
JG: Because if you were told what it meant, it limited your perception
of what it was …
PB: Anyone else seeing it would have said it was an art event if they
tied any meaning to it. And, in fact, it was probably a performance
event. But, for Kent, it was the Equinox. It was the beginning of Free
City. And it deserved a Grand Gesture. And anybody certainly would see
that this was an unusual day. [Laughter] So all our anti-media stuff, he
didn’t tell anybody for the press, nobody from the art community. He was
just up on the ramp doing that for about an hour-and-a-half until a
motorcycle cop came up and said, “What the hell are you doing?” And Kent
said, “Well this is the Vernal Equinox and it’s the beginning of Free
City. And I’m just making a grand gesture to usher it in.” [Laughter]
JG: He did that because he thought it would be a great thing to do. And
he also — I don’t think he told a lot of people that he was going to do
it in advance. And what he is when we got all together in the park, we
said, “Where were you this morning?” And he told everybody that he did
it. And it was such a turn-on. I mean, he did it to turn everybody on
and to turn himself on and because it was fun and because it would be
incredible. And everything was like that. And if you’re real aware of
watching TV news or anything, the news always surrounds the visuals with
an analysis of what’s going on. So you never get to see it and say, “God
that’s really strange. Why are they doing that?”
PB: Or brave or …
JG: Or think about why they are doing it. The closest that they ever get
to something like that is when something actually happens live and they
happen to have cameras there.
PB: A guy diving into the Potomac.
JG: Right. At the plane crash, or the actual footage of the American
embassy being invaded by …
PB: That knocked me out.
JG: I don’t remember where it was —
JG: The SLA, the house being on fire and surrounded and you didn’t know
what was going on. And nobody knew what was going on. And Three Mile
Island where nobody knew what was going on. There aren’t many events
that aren’t real … that, that free frame of reference.
PB: You know, if you wanted to do anything with anything that’s happened
today, I wouldn’t mind at all. I’ve lost my resistance … But what I
would do is read the Digger Papers and [?] these comments … so that you
can … like Death of Hippie is your idea. That that is synonymous with
the same synchronism, the same period when the Haight Ashbury starts …
that’s your idea.
JG: And it’s perfectly valid.
PB: I never had that idea. It’s your idea. If you read some of the
Digger Papers stuff through some of these comments, I think you’d flash
on other things as well.
ML: For sure. What’s going to be such a pleasure to write about this
stuff is that [?]. It should be … a nice challenge.
PB: Well I don’t know what you … I’m glad Eric was here …
[Tape cuts out]
[Martin Lee has left, presumably. Continued conversation in the room.]
PB: Wasn’t it amusing to have Mike Helm in the room today. You know,
Mike has never asked us about any of this, doesn’t know very much about
it, doesn’t care about it and all he knows is the Planet Drum … I wonder
what it was like for him to hear it. Because he was in the room, it made
me compare that time with now. And I was thinking that I didn’t want to
commit some of the same, not mistakes, but the same extreme points of
view right now. Because I would like us to come out of this with an
organization twenty years from now that is effective. I think all we
want to do now is build an organization.
EN: What do you mean exactly by that? What was it that the Diggers did
that was too extreme?
PB: The Diggers couldn’t happen if the people weren’t there and the
times weren’t what they were and stopped happening when the times
stopped being what they were and the people started leaving. [?] But
what we’ve done instead is we’ve bothered to do a little research. We
even have some science people out there arguing with us at this point,
saying that we’re not doing it right. That we’re too political and
social and cultural … But there are people now in universities who teach
this now. There are groups that have accepted … it’s not the same …
EN: That gets into what I was going to ask. Looking back at that whole
period of the 60s, so much of what happened has been co-opted. For
example, the music. What do you think, in looking back, were the lasting
effects or lessons from that period.
JG: I think the possibility of changing society. I could talk about that
people learned a lot and people are at a certain point now. I think a
lot of that educational process started then. The fact that you could
change society, that you could stop the war, that you could stop … I
don’t know … I mean, active things were happening before then but it
seems like it’s all been part of an educational thing so people can
actually change things.
PB: Lynn Brown called the other day, Jude. … and she asked me who from
the Digger period was around that worked at the Produce Market and so
forth. Who dealt with those people and I was struck … The Neighborhood
Arts scene came out of the Diggers. The Free Clinic certainly had a
parallel identity with it. The sexual stuff, the wide open sexuality had
an effect that probably was also anchored by the gay revolution. And
those things are good. Good social things that have occurred. I came out
of it. And when you were talking I thought about the people that didn’t
come out of it. That either died or were mentally injured or decided to
get a career. I’m glad that … people came and asked us what we wanted to
do, we said what do you want to do? … it’s impossible to have a
community. And there have been people who have stayed with that
community ever since. Let me tick off a few. David and Jane. Linn. Sam.
Nina. Judy. Peter. Siena. That’s not bad for a dozen people. And then we
lost … Billy Fritsch to the Hells Angels, brain dead.
JG: For Nina to call up and say David and Jane have been together for 15
years, we’re going to do a surprise party for them. For David and Jane
who have done so much for so many people. It’s going to be ridiculous to
go. But we’re going to go anyway because so many people have died and
we’ve sat around in the house and said, “We’re really sorry that
so-and-so is dead.” But we never got a chance to sit around with them
and say hurray we love the things you’ve done. It’s real important for
me, it’s probably real important for Peter to participate in any
[Miscellaneous side talk]
EN: What Marty started to say it but he didn’t really get to it, I
thought, was that I feel there’s a real continuity, Planet Drum,
JG: He started to talk about that but I think the environmental issues
that Planet Drum deals with have been … run a line all the way through.
PB: It’s culture.
JG: It’s culture. It’s human culture, relating to the environment. The
first Equinox poster, did you see the one that has the two circles? And
one of them is a Hopi, it’s red and white and black. I think I gave you
one, didn’t I?
EN: No, I’ve never seen it.
JG: It’s a flat … one of them is a Hopi design, I think it’s Hopi, and
the other one is a rock with a crack in it. What it said on the poster
was “We share a common piece of rock, cracked rock.” What’d it say?
PB: I wrote it but I don’t remember.
JG: It was beautiful.
EN: Oh, I know. Rolling Thunder was there.
JG: That’s right.
EN: I’ve never seen the poster for it.
JG: The hippies were involved in some [Indianola ?], quite a lot of [?].
We were never really involved in [?]. But we had a lot of interactions
with Indians and a lot of police confrontations.
PB: What did you … about the Means interview, Eric? Did you think there
was much belligerence on both sides?
EN: No, I thought it was sniffing-out each other’s territory or
something. I thought it was a great interview. And it’s left me with the
whole articulation of the idea of culture as a sustaining aspect.
JG: That is one thing the Diggers were. The Diggers were … somebody had
to put the ideas out and we introduced a lot of ideas …
EN: The free food delivery to all the communes. That was something that
Irving talks about as one of the things that inspired him to bring the
Free Print Shop out.
PB: Carp and Whitefish?
EN: Carp and Whitefish, that was the name of [Irving’s] print shop.
JG: Peter, I think we should take a copy of the film, either our copy or
Eric’s copy of Nowsreal up to the party. Not necessarily to show at the
party but after the party as a present ….
END of tape 3
TAPE 4 [continuing discussion with Judy and Peter and Eric while other
family matters are taking place in the dining room]
JG: You know we did a lot of bad things.
EN: Like what?
JG: We did things that were bad.
EN: You want to elaborate on that Judy?
JG: Well like Peter said. How about the merchants on Haight Street …
PB: Not only that. At the Invisible Circus the event at Glide Church.
JG: ….. bad things [laughs]
PB: What do you want to do, you know, for this event? I want to have a
panel discussion on obscenity and I want ….. a Baptist Minister, a
Leftist lawyer, a Catholic priest, and I want to be one of the
panelists, so we did that. We invited those people and in the middle of
the Invisible Circus madness, absolute madness, they gave us a room and
the Obscenity panel was going to begin.. So there was a table with four
chairs and everybody showed up except the Baptist minister. I showed up
in a surgical pajama outfit, OK? And I asked a friend of mine that no
matter what was being said, that fifteen minutes into the panel, to
start blowing fire, right? Doing a fire-eating act in the corner of the
room. And asked Kent and Kent said he would do something and he’d figure
it out when he saw the room. What he saw in the room was a glass trophy
case behind where the table was. So he broke into the trophy case,
undressed and began wiggling his cock [people laugh] And we had this
serious conversation with this Leftist lawyer and this Catholic Priest
and myself as a doctor you knew we’re talking about the effects of
obscenity on ….. the fire eater is blowing balls of flame and Kent is
waving his cock [everyone is laughing]
JG: What about
PB: In order to get into the room you had to go through a foot reading
JG: that Lenore had.
PB: And Lenore Kandel had set up a foot reading booth. She had people
take off. Everybody had to take off their shoes and socks and put their
foot up on a table and she would read it and tell them what was in their
future. So there was foot reading after you got through the foot reading
you entered this room and these balls of flames started exploding. And
then you know a fire eating act in a small enclosed room was quite
impressive. I mean you’re afraid, you’re going to die. You smell
gasoline everywhere and balls of fire [everyone laughing] ….It made
people feel different ways. That is bad. Don’t you think that’s bad? Or
Then interactions with Ocean or Aaron
EN: I remember hearing about that thing with Leonard Wolfe.
JG: That wasn’t so bad…….He wanted to get busted……
Then interactions with Ocean or Aaron
JG: Well, what did happen there was that we did have a wond…Jane
choreographed a wonderful dance and we just happened to perform it
naked. And we performed it naked, but the audience prevented the police
department from busting us. And nobody would have gotten busted because
the entire audience stood up and blocked the police from getting
anywhere near the stage and we rushed backstage and got dressed and then
came around to the front of the theater, so they couldn’t have busted
anybody and Leonard Wolfe gave himself up as the sacrificial lamb. He
said, “It was my fault. I’ll take the responsibility for these love
JG: Which he later found out was not such a good idea.
EN: Well, what was his whole thing? Was he coming in with
JG: He did something called “Happening House”. I don’t know. He was
trying to do things for the Love Children I think.
EN: Sort of as a paternalistic kind of..
JG: I think so I don’t know. I don’t know. Linn House could tell you
about that because he was involved in Happening House. He actually
provided a space for a lot of interesting things to happen. And then he
sort of didn’t like how out of hand it was getting.
EN: He didn’t have control over it?
JG: [softly] yes. I never know what to say about the stuff that happened
because it’s all subjective. Leonard Wolf’s defense when he realized
they were actually going to deport him because he wasn’t an American
citizen was that he didn’t know it was going to be a naked dance.
JG: [to PB] Is that an interesting article?
About 14.49 of tape 4 (the end is at about 25:30min.)