Peter Berg and Judy Goldhaft

Interview by Marty Lee & Eric Noble

April 29, 1982
Peter & Judy's Home
San Francisco

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 material thoroughly.

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. [Laughter.]

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 was cynical.

EN: The other is a very idealistic view of what it meant.

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.

PB: Sometimes.

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 past Masonic.

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 menacing. [Chuckles.]

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 Menu."

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 the street.

JG: Xerox reproductions blown up of quarters and silver dollars.

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 was.

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 really strange.  

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 searchlight.

JG: Good bye.

PB: People carrying around flying-cock money staring at it. Quite bizarre.

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 smoke reefer..."

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?

PB: Yeah.

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 sure.

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 it.

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.

PB: Yeah.

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 period.

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 democratic.

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 doing.

EN: Was it a twenty-four-hour kind of thing that everyone … that people had together?

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: Yeah.

PB: Right.

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: Yeah.


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 there.

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 they’re niggers.”

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 women.

PB: Oh sure. Lenore certainly was charismatic. She was charismatic. You were.

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 and India.

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. [Laughter]

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 …

JG: Traditional?

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 mentioned.

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, Hunters Point?

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 else?

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, heroin.

PB: Police were trying to stop the spread of these new and dangerous drugs?

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 these drugs?

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 ugly.

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?

PB: [?]

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 war zone.

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]

Tape #3

ML: [?]

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 away.

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.

JG: Yes.

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 never existed.

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 in later?

JG: [?]

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 psychedelia?

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.

[Cross talk]

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, that’s 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 dance class.

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 Edge papers?

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?

PB: Hmm.

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 —

PB: Saigon.

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.]

JG: [?]

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 positive …

[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, Planetedge.

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 booth

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 maybe not

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 children.”

EN: [laughs]

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.

EN: [gaffaws]

JG: [to PB] Is that an interesting article?

About 14.49 of tape 4 (the end is at about 25:30min.)





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