David McBride, “Death City Radicals: The Counterculture in Los Angeles,” in The New Left Revisited (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003), eds. John McMillian & Paul Buhle, 110-136.
In 1964 Art Kunkin, a former New York machinist and longtime member of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), launched the Los Angeles Free Press from offices located in the heart of the city’s coalescing hippie Bohemia, Sunset Strip. Partly because of its location, the Free Press—which later became the most widely circulated underground paper in the nation—devoted extensive coverage to “freak” and bohemian issues from its inception. In 1965, however, the paper’s coverage of the Watts riots was better than any other local paper’s, including that of the Los Angeles Times. In retrospect, Kunkin claimed that the Watts riot had made his paper: “Watts proved that this was a serious paper, not a sheet about Happenings attended by two hundred people.” Now, Kunkin thought, he had some credibility. The “Freep” would still be a landmark countercultural paper, but it had also become an important champion of a key New Left issue.
Not long afterward, in 1966, Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention released their first album, Freak Out! An outrageous, gaudy, psychedelicized hodgepodge replete with jarring dissonance, camped‑up pop art, and the odd anthem to groupies, the album nonetheless revealed the hybrid nature of 1960s radicalism. Zappa himself was one of the most important figures working within the vast milieu of hip Los Angeles; the “freak‑outs” he organized in 1966 drew thousands, and he was regarded by the local underground press as perhaps the most sage commentator on the state of the perpetually transforming “scene.” His first album displayed elements we typically associate with the more exuberant varieties of that era’s political radicalism—although it was certainly an ur‑freak text as well. The album’s opener, “Hungry Freaks, Daddy,” lashed out (through an ironic quote of a Rolling Stones riff) at a banal, soul‑crushing “Mr. America,” reminding him that “the emptiness that’s you inside, will not forestall the rising tide of hungry freaks, daddy!” This confrontational—if decidedly vague—attack on an allegedly inauthentic mainstream was not the only countercultural manifesto that veered into New Left terrain; “Trouble Comin’ Everyday” described, over a rumbling fuzz‑toned riff, Zappa’s feelings as he sat glued to the television set watching the Watts riots.
Memories of Radicalism and 1960s Los Angeles
The rise of the Free Press and the release of Freak Out!—both of which occurred relatively early in the trajectory of “the sixties” as an era of mass youth radicalism—showed that in Los Angeles, at least, political and aesthetic radicalism in everyday life meshed considerably. In other words, the familiar argument that the counterculture and the New Left were distinct entities (at least before New Leftists succumbed to the pleasures of pot, free love, and acid rock) cannot hold when applied to the admittedly unique Los Angeles region. Of course, the questioning of this shaky divide is hardly new; many historians, including Alice Echols, Doug Rossinow, and Julie Stephens have recently challenged this rigid separation between radical culture and radical politics in the 1960s.
Yet the case of Los Angeles throws the flaws of this model into starker relief than would, say, Austin or San Francisco. At the most basic level, radicals in the nerve center of mass culture felt compelled to treat cultural production as a fundamental concern. Also, the region’s relative lack of a tightly knit, college‑based Left meant that cultural and political radicals shared the same spaces and faced the same harassers from the mid‑1960s onward. And historically, Los Angeles—unlike San Francisco, famously—did not possess much of a historical legacy of leftist radicalism, except for a few episodes; in fact, the region was famous for its right‑wing tradition and apolitical anomie. Writing at the end of the 1960s, Michael Rogin and John Shover employed a close statistical, political, and psychological analysis to explain the remarkable popularity of Reagan and right‑wing sentiment in southern California in the mid‑1960s. Angelenos, they argued, were unable to imagine solutions for their problems outside the ideological parameters of right‑wing individualism, racism, mass conformity, and law‑and‑order sentiment.
Equally critical to Los Angeles’s uniqueness was the omnipresence of the mass cultural production system, which critics held responsible for the fakery and shallowness of mainstream culture. To those trying to create a new, radicalized culture characterized by openness to experimentation, freedom from market dictates, and tolerance, the film, television, and music industries seemed omnipresent, injecting the debilitating tedium of the constant hustle into the “underground” zones of L.A. To many observers, the culture industries colored the character of the rest of the region as well, making it a strangely disorienting and inhuman place, without grounding in “real” life. And the area’s seemingly endless, centerless suburban sprawl only enhanced the sense of weightlessness. In 1964 Theodore Roszak wrote in the Free Press, “There is perhaps no modern city where the sense of community is so dissipated as in Los Angeles. . . . It lacks even the physical integrity of a metropolis. . . . In reality, Los Angeles . . . is a case study in social disorganization . . . where the bonds of community life have grown hopelessly slack.” Cribbing from Nathanael West, Phil Ochs offered an even more damning indictment in 1967: “Los Angeles is Death City. . . . It is the land of the Philistines. Los Angeles is the ultimate in the materialistic exaggeration of America. It’s almost like the barbarians throwing themselves into the materialistic fires.”
Here, then, are some of the reasons why concerns over “culture”—the processes and contexts through which people receive and create meaning via their interactions with others and their environment—were such loaded issues in Los Angeles. Because they viewed their environs with such rancor, activists coming out of a leftist framework could not help but be animated by pleas to transform the culture. This did not mean that such people simply became hippies, however. New Leftists like Kunkin remained committed to the causes traditionally associated with the New Left—participatory democracy, racial justice, opposition to the Vietnam War, and so on. But the countervailing tendency to vilify the counterculture as misguided or dangerously quietist was simply less present in Los Angeles than in other major American cities. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) had a presence in Los Angeles, of course; UCLA was an outpost, and both that school and San Fernando Valley State (later Cal State‑Northridge) were quite tumultuous in the late 1960s. Still, the brand of student radicalism we associate with Berkeley, New York, Madison, Austin, and Ann Arbor was much less visible in Los Angeles. White radicals for the most part occupied hip zones: Hollywood, Venice, and the city’s canyons. Inevitably, such radicals had to intermix with the massive population of more aesthetically inclined radicals—the “freaks.”
That brings us to Los Angeles hippies, or “freaks,” themselves, who numbered in the scores of thousands by 1967. Some scholars have corrected the traditional view of the New Left/counterculture split by reformulating the “political” so that it encompasses the counterculture’s “anti‑disciplinary” politics. Others, through careful social histories, have shown how the two formations converged to a point through their common enemies and common efforts to replace the “death culture” of corporate America. Rossinow’s remarkable book The Politics of Authenticity is the most empirically extensive in this regard, although others recognized the phenomenon. Yet even Rossinow has determined that in Austin, at least, “the notion of an early united front between the new left and the counterculture was a myth. . . . The distances separating them were clear.” Moreover, the usual tactic in studying this phenomenon has been to look at a couple of always‑the‑same locales—the San Francisco Bay area and Manhattan—and always‑the‑same activists—the San Francisco Diggers and the Yippies. Perhaps most tellingly, Rossinow, a student of the hinterlands who should know better, repeats the truism of New York and San Francisco’s centrality, stating that in 1966 most of the underground papers in the country were located in those cities. Los Angeles, in fact, was as much a destination as the other two cities for youthful rebels and radicals. It also possessed at least as many underground papers, including the Free Press, the Open City, the Los Angeles Underground, Provo, the Oracle of Southern California, and a host of others.
Doubtless, investigating the Diggers, the Yippies, Berkeley, the Haight, and the East Village tells us much about the era’s radical politics. But Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Emmett Grogan, and the like were not the era’s only important hip politicos, and relying strictly on them gives us a curious portrait of America, one in which New York, San Francisco, and a couple of college towns are synecdoches for the rest of the nation, and mostly unconvincing ones at that.
In sum, focusing solely on these admittedly captivating figures and locales leaves us with a void. For if we believe that one of the most crucial stories of 1960s America was the mass culture industries’ final envelopment of American popular culture, we need to account for it. Moreover, the flip side of that story—the “massification” of bohemian themes, the summons to release oneself from all inhibitions manifesting itself throughout the circuitry of mass cultural production, the dissemination of (usually bowdlerized) radical themes in mass cultural texts—was most pronounced in Los Angeles. The effect was to magnify concerns among “tuned‑in” residents about the authenticity of culture. The signs of co‑optation were so ubiquitous in Los Angeles (and the agents of this process so shameless) that the issue captured the attention of local radicals throughout the period.
My purpose is not simply to point out the need to look at other locales besides “the biggies” in order to further the cause of historical parochialism. Analyzing a gargantuan local hippie scene reaching close to one hundred thousand acolytes—some of whom were truly committed while others were, as one hip wag put it, “establishment finks in paisley”—who shared the same neighborhoods as “politicos” raises two compelling issues. The first is the unusually high level of fraternization that occurred. The local strains of radicalism—political and cultural—both invested a great deal of energy in fomenting an experimental “life” culture typified by shoestring book stores, underground rags, and communes. And because they lived and worked together so closely, the intersections where their paths crossed very often seemed muddy and indistinguishable. Typically, local hippies and politicos advanced the same micro and macro political causes and defended the enclaves they mutually inhabited from encroachment by local authorities. In addition, because the local New Left was so concerned with cultural politics, the split between it and hippies was much less evident than elsewhere.
The second issue is one of framing. If we accept at least a portion of Daniel Bell’s contention that of all the 1960s movements, the counterculture proved the most influential, then perhaps we need to explore the demarcations within 1960s radicalism differently. That is, it should be a productive exercise to frame the topic so as to highlight the degree to which the counterculture shaded into New Left territory rather than the reverse. Since the dominant historiographical approach is to look at the extent to which the New Left drank from the fountain of hip, refashioning the relationship by accentuating the counterculture makes the standard view problematical. As well, scrutinizing a place like Los Angeles, where cultural politics held such sway, should provide us with fruitful new paths in reevaluating 1960s radicalism.
Los Angeles was a radical lodestar for other reasons as well. No issue was so instrumental in the development of 1960s radicalism as the battle for racial justice, a cause that went through a series of permutations throughout the 1950s and 1960s. While Harlem experienced a relatively small riot in 1964, the Watts riots signaled most clearly the arrival of “the fire next time.” In the years following Watts, black and brown radicalism in Los Angeles increased in intensity. By the end of the decade, Los Angeles—which was well on its way to becoming a prototypical polyglot city—had an increasingly racialized politics. It witnessed the emergence of both La Raza and a large local Black Panther chapter, and saw a series of violent conflagrations between the Los Angeles police department and minority activists. I do not mean to suggest that Los Angeles was in any way unique with regard to racial conflict. But given the pervasive view among contemporaries that Los Angeles was not a serious place, it is hardly surprising that scholars and laypersons alike have tended to accept this cliche without delving further. And while the argument that the city as a social entity lacked gravitas due to its widespread anomie, its residents’ refusal to acknowledge tragedy, and its privileging of images over “the real,” certainly contains more than a grain of truth, it is an oversimplification. Although the city was always peopled by non‑Anglos in large numbers, the immigration act of 1965 and the subsequent waves of migrants have remade Los Angeles into one of the two most ethnically diverse megalopolises in the nation. Since the 1960s, in fact, it has been a place where identity politics, the claims of aggrieved minorities, and ethnic/racial pride are essential to the region’s society, culture, and politics. The local variants of cultural and political radicalism served as important supports—even as they were often scorned and ignored by local elites—in the 1960s, a period in which interest in and conflict over such issues increased dramatically.
The Rise of Countercultural Space: Hip Zones in 1960s Los Angeles
Before I return to the broader issues of race and authenticity, any discussion of the radicalism of the era has to locate it in its material context, particularly in urban space. Cultural and political radicalism were not simply free‑floating clouds of signifiers—long hair, draft cards aflame, free love, Che‑style machismo—detached from a physical base. Those histories that firmly embed the era’s radicalism within a local social, political, and cultural context are almost invariably the most persuasive, partly because this method forces one to account for gray areas, overlap, and the more prosaic concerns of everyday participants. Even if the counterculture and New Left in Los Angeles were animated by national and international ideas and dilemmas, the battles they fought with authorities were almost always inflected by local concerns, and the most rancorous conflicts were often regional in nature. Examining these clashes, especially ones over the shape and character of the city’s urban space, reveals that the various forms of 1960s radicalism were not separable entities that commingled only infrequently but a loose, elastic, hip‑politico agglomeration fused by local circumstance. Furthermore, the periodic sweeps of “underground” zones by local authorities engendered clearly “political” reactions from hippies, responses that were in the main “New Leftist” in tone.
In keeping with the metro area’s sprawling nature, countercultural Los Angeles was relatively far flung, as hippies occupied a number of neighborhoods. The most important ones, however, were Hollywood and Venice, each of which drew tens of thousands of adherents over the course of the era. There was a New Left presence in these enclaves as well. By 1966 Hollywood’s Sunset Strip had become the center of Los Angeles’s new youth bohemia, transforming it from a glittery icon of “old” Hollywood dotted by “sophisticated, expensive supper clubs” for the “mink and diamond set.” By the mid‑1960s, “Hollywood’s last sanctuary of chi‑chi for the middle‑aged” was no more. Instead, the region had become “a 3,000 yard thorn in the sides of those Los Angeles citizens who believe in decorum and haircuts,” where one had to “buck a mob of beatniks for the pleasure of sitting down to a $50 dinner.” Thousands of freaks—outrageously dressed mod youths, pop artists, bikers, and bohemian holdovers from the 1950s—flooded the Strip every night to shop at the new stores that hawked hip paraphernalia, attend the numerous acid rock clubs and underground cinemas, buy drugs, or simply hang out on the streets. Adjacent areas—including the art gallery district on La Cienega Boulevard—experienced a similar influx. By mid‑1966 the neighborhood was a hip zone.
At the same time the zone became a haven for the local white New Left and its variants. Most significantly, in 1965, the Free Press located its office to the basement of the Fifth Estate, a notorious freak coffeehouse on the Strip. Owned by Al Mitchell—a forty‑two‑year‑old divorcee, parent, World War II naval veteran, and orphan—the coffeehouse, which featured both European art films and impromptu folk guitar shows, became a central gathering point for cultural rebels. (Mitchell himself began his own short‑lived paper in 1967, the Los Angeles Underground). More than simply “the unofficial pied piper of youthful Sunset Strip habitues,” as the Los Angeles Herald Examiner dubbed him, Mitchell espoused New Left causes. Enraged by the LAPD’s persistent harassment of hippies, Mitchell made a documentary film entitled Blue Fascism. And when organizing the widely publicized antipolice demonstrations by Strip hippies in late 1966, he stressed that “the demonstrations . . . were not just protests against the juvenile curfew law but were an attempt to focus community attention on a condition of police lawlessness, . . . brutality and gangsterism which plagues every Los Angeles minority including Negroes, Mexican‑Americans, the poor, and the rebellious young.” In short, Mitchell moved easily between both milieus.
The Strip‑based Los Angeles Free Press was essentially the local New Left paper, for all its countercultural bluster. As a source of information on racial injustice, SDS, local New Left schools, demonstrations, and antiwar activities, the Freep was authoritative. The Open City, a paper that lasted from May 1967 through early 1969 (when the publisher went bankrupt defending the paper from an obscenity charge), had a similar editorial style, but its estimated readership of thirty thousand paled in comparison to the one hundred thousand plus readers of the Freep. What tends to be forgotten about these papers is just how much they were of the New Left and perceived themselves as such. While certainly eclectic enterprises, both the Free Press and the Open City paid equal attention to the concerns of hippies and “politicos,” in large part because they were located at the epicenter of both populations. As well as scooping the Los Angeles Times on two of the era’s biggest stories—the Watts riots and the mid‑1967 demonstration in Century City against Johnson’s Vietnam policy—the Freep sponsored hip “happenings” and outdoor rock concerts on Venice beach. It was also a boisterous advocate of underground film, rock, and drugs. The paper’s work environment reflected its politics, with one visitor noticing in 1970 “kids, dogs, cats, barefoot waifs, teeny‑boppers in see‑through blouses, assorted losers, [and] Indian chiefs wander[ing] in and out, while somewhere a radio plays endless rock music. . . . It’s all ferociously informal.”
Venice, the poorest and most dilapidated of all Los Angeles communities abutting the ocean, had been a beat mecca in the fifties; it remained a radical and freak magnet afterward, even as it lost some of its boho luster to Hollywood. One of the Venice underground’s most colorful figures, John Haag, was an enthusiastic organizer of demonstrations, a committed leftist, a vociferous advocate of experimental culture, and the owner of a landmark beat coffeehouse. Like Mitchell, Haag straddled the counter‑cultural and leftist provinces effortlessly. He led the local W.E.B. Du Bois club chapter, and was both a Wobbly enthusiast and an exponent of organic American socialism. Yet he also demonstrated on behalf of hippie protestors on Sunset Strip and organized Venice freaks against a police crackdown. And when an affluent local high school, with the LAPD’s aid, clamped down on longhaired males in 1966, Haag and an assortment of “sandaled women from the Hollywood hangouts” rushed to the scene and demonstrated.
Haag was both unique and curiously representative of Venice itself. While populated by bohemians and radicals of all hues, Venice also possessed a sizable black ghetto. Activists there were the most radical in Los Angeles, always viewing the city—and, more generally, “the establishment”—as a ruthless enemy. As we shall see, ongoing police harassment in combination with a city‑approved attempt to redevelop Venice Provoked solidarity across the community’s radical spectrum.
By mid‑1967 certain of the city’s neighborhoods had become underground zones, populated by a loose alliance of hippies and leftists (many more of the former, actually) numbering in the scores of thousands. This vast expansion of the “turned‑on” population had happened rather suddenly, and given the conservative political culture of the city—personified by its pugnacious, red‑baiting mayor, Sam Yorty, as well as the notoriously intolerant LAPD—it was not hard to foresee trouble. Exhibitionist flair, demonstrative public behavior, and a brash experimentalism constituted the new tenor of these neighborhoods, and their facades were transformed accordingly within a two‑year span. On the Strip, for example, an environment of transgressive libertarianism had replaced the “old Hollywood” edifice, which had suggested to all the power of wealth and exclusivity. Previously the area had possessed an intimidating figurative, if not literal, giganticism that complemented the mythic “great man” blockbuster films of the pre‑1960s era. In effect, the old Strip’s giganticist architecture “articulated” a spatial code proscribing certain types of people and behavior, and its physical and ideological constitution helped determine its constituency. The new constellation of cultural and political radicalism, accompanied by the mushrooming shops and fly‑by‑night institutions that catered to it, invited a response.
According to Henri LeFebvre, the alteration of spatial codes constitutes a direct assault on an authority’s power, which employs such codes to fix what is accepted and forbidden. The presence of two opposing cultural blocs led to what LeFebvre referred to as a “spatial duality,” a situation of “contradiction and conflict” that “creates the strong impression that there exists a duality of political power.” The point here is that because hippies and politicos acted in concert to transform Hollywood and Venice into hospitable zones for experimentation and dissent, they appeared as a single, fixed target in the minds of authorities, who viewed the spatial metamorphoses with genuine alarm. In the resulting conflicts that occurred regularly from late 1966 onward, hippies and politicos worked together despite their clear differences on certain issues. To de‑emphasize this pragmatic tactical alliance would be unwise, for it colored and animated everyday life. The effect of repression, in most cases, was—at least temporarily—radicalizing.
The first major clash over space, the nationally publicized Sunset Strip “riot” of late 1966, was at first simply a protest by youthful mods against the sudden police enforcement of a long‑ignored curfew law. Since by this point thousands of full‑fledged hippies and less committed youths looking only for a good time were occupying the Strip nightly, the city felt compelled to act. Pressed by Strip establishments catering to an older, less flamboyant clientele, nightly arrests multiplied into the hundreds by mid‑1966. The Strip fell within two jurisdictions; part was in the city of Los Angeles while the rest was in an unincorporated section of Los Angeles County. Regardless of the partition, both city and county authorities sought to eradicate what one L.A. County supervisor called “the elements who would destroy the neighborhood by making the Sunset Strip the national headquarters for freaks, for delinquent juveniles or obscenity.” To be sure, crime on the Strip both minor and major skyrocketed in the mid‑1960s, but the evidence suggests that a more basic revulsion against nonconformity was the impetus here.
Although the riot generated both a camp B‑movie (the 1967 AIP film Riot on Sunset Strip) and a hit rock song (Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”), it was a decidedly minor affair. As more than one thousand hip youths organized by Al Mitchell marched on behalf of hippie rights, a few scaled and vandalized two mass transit buses and hurled some rocks. That was about it, and damage was negligible. Still, the hubbub initiated a wave of larger demonstrations over the next couple of months, some of them attracting a few thousand souls. The goal of the protests, at least initially, was to protect the right of free expression, which in this case meant the right of freaks to roam freely in a sophisticated, alternative consumption zone free from limits and custom. Yet because the events transpired in a space populated by a range of dissenters, all of whom felt persecuted by “the fuzz,” elements from all factions joined in. A New Yorker reporter noted that one protest included members of the W.E.B. Du Bois club, clergymen, and a motley assortment of “New Left radicals, Zen mystics, aesthetic avant‑gardists, and drug proselytizers.” Indeed, the amalgamation was so apparent that the New Yorker reporter criticized the alleged dogma of the protestors, pointing to the “constellation that is long hair, bohemia, the New Left, individualism, sexual freedom, the East, drugs, [and] the arts.” In this case at least, isolating the sundry components of “the underground” was no easy task. That, I would argue, is because control over the city’s physical terrain was the fundamental issue, and it naturally drew all sorts of radicals.
Protests continued into 1967, but by the end of January matters had been resolved in favor of the burgeoning counterculture. Basically, attempts to restrict access to the Strip had merely shuttled the same youths into other neighborhoods where they were tolerated even less. After much negotiating between protest organizers and local officials, the county eased restrictions, and the Strip remained a bohemian haven. Al Mitchell was not content, however, with what he felt was a minor victory; to him the battle was part of a much larger cause to extend social justice to African Americans and Chicanes. For the final mid‑February protest, he organized a series of simultaneous demonstrations on the Strip, in the budding gay district of Silverlake, in Venice, in Watts, and in East Los Angeles. While the turnout in Venice, East L.A., and Watts was negligible, the Strip and Silverlake protests attracted hundreds.
The event required a degree of organization for which Mitchell lacked the resources, and in any case Latinos and blacks were deeply suspicious of white hippies who spuriously ennobled poverty. Still, here was a series of events that began over an issue affecting hippies—whether they could maintain their neighborhoods as freak zones—yet expanded to encompass issues animating the New Left, including racial and social justice as well as police brutality. As such, it upsets the standard tale: New Left activists demonstrating over a particular social or political injustice, only to be joined later by an enthusiastic but ill‑informed, naive counterculture that diluted the movement’s focus.
Ironically, this episode would replay itself in the fall of 1968, when the county again tried to rid the Strip of the counterculture by enforcing loitering laws. Again demonstrators marched, only this time the scene was more farce than tragedy. Only about five hundred protestors turned out, and they concluded the march by surrounding the sheriff’s station and oinking like pigs. Yet even this protest had a dual purpose—to free both the Strip and jailed Black Panther leader Huey Newton. The organizers insisted that “the tie‑in between the Newton protest and the Strip protest is a natural one. . . . After all, the middle‑class white kids who are being rousted by the sheriff’s deputies are finally finding out just what the black people have had to take for years.” Just as authorities had oppressed blacks for centuries, Peace and Freedom Party organizer Ed Pearl argued, hippies of “middle‑class” origin were “being told where to sit, . . . , where to stand, . . . and even when to die.” The comment was preposterous, yet Pearl’s chutzpah indicated the degree to which hippies and politicos saw their causes as ideologically adjacent.
“Space” encompasses more than residential and commercial areas, of course; it also includes the “public” territory. And all varieties of 1960s dissenters invested “the street” with both emancipatory power and portentous meaning. Radicals, as well as sufficiently enraged liberals, cherished “the street” as a central public ground. Indeed, some of the most memorable local events of the era took place in the streets, and more broadly in public space. The 1967 anti‑Vietnam protest in the Century City district was one such incident, and it remains perhaps the most momentous local protest of the era. And because virtually every shade of dissenter opposed the war—albeit some in more organized fashion than others—the participants in antiwar protests ran the gamut.
The Century City demonstration certainly fit this model, as hippies composed roughly one‑quarter of the ten to fifteen thousand demonstrators. Noting that hippies participated in antiwar protests alongside the New Left is neither novel nor interesting; after all, one would expect this essentially pacifistic lot to oppose the war. More importantly, though, this event and others like it show that regardless of ideological deviations, circumstances consistently forced the two crowds together. They inhabited the same enclaves, contested the same police, and often championed the same causes. Their ideological premises may have been distinct, but the physical ground on which they operated was usually the same; they squared off against the same opponents. Tactical alliances were the predictable by‑product.
The protest itself was tumultuous. In June 1967 President Johnson arrived in Los Angeles for a fund‑raiser at a hotel in Century City, a sleek, antiseptic corporate district nearly devoid of residents. On the night of the protest, the demonstrators approached a wall of police in front of the hotel, who ordered them to march past. When the protestors held their ground, the police descended, starting a bloody melee in which dozens were wounded and arrested. The crowd itself was diverse, as “women of high fashion strode beside the hippie‑clad.” Civil rights organizations, local communists, hippies, and antiwar liberals all participated, as did Dr. Benjamin Spock, prizefighter Muhammad Ali, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) leader H. Rap Brown, and the Women’s Strike for Peace. Some of those present even strained to legitimize the demonstration by pointing to the presence of older members of the respectable middle class and downplaying the role of “the costumed, bizarre element.” Yet, according to most observers, the counterculture was at Century City in force. One sympathetic middle‑aged commentator estimated that hippies numbered four thousand, a figure with which the less friendly LAPD agreed. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner reporter covering the event also concurred, noting that “several thousand of the demonstrators—mostly teenagers and young adults—danced at the protest to the music of a wildly gyrating rock and roll band” playing on a flatbed truck.
To the surprise of few, the institutions representing the Los Angeles “establishment”—the interlocking alliance of dominant public and private entities that strove to shape the city’s public life—exonerated the LAPD and blamed the protestors. The establishment included the relatively August Los Angeles Times (which at this point was lurching slowly from reaction toward liberalism), although after Art Kunkin’s Free Press issued an extra issue that convincingly debunked the official line reported in the Times, that paper redid its story entirely. In any event, the exculpation had the signal effect of radicalizing those so inclined, but it also locked the local New Left and their hip compatriots more closely together at a practical level. Few hippies were being politicized for the first time, of course. Most were sustaining a relationship with politicos that had already been fostered, in part through clashes with authorities over public space.
The more strictly ideological relationship between the counterculture and the New Left also merits consideration. The local counterculture’s ideas and actions concerning racial inequality constitute the most important issue here, and in the Los Angeles context are especially telling. To reiterate, the Free Press, equally a leftist and hip paper, offered the best local coverage of the Watts riot, printing the justly famous headline, “The Negroes Have Voted!” In Art Kunkin’s eyes, he was now legitimate, perhaps fulfilling the role he had envisioned when he joined CORE in the late 1940s.
Hipsters’ concern over racial inequality would remain high. Certainly, Al Mitchell’s attempt to connect the issue of hip youths’ access to the Strip with racial injustice in East L.A. and Watts was one indication of this, albeit a strained and ultimately unsuccessful one. A few months after that abortive alliance, the Open City envisioned the possibility of cementing the coalition. On the eve of the much ballyhooed “summer of love,” as the local scene prepared for an influx of hip initiates from across the nation, an editor hoped that by the end of the summer the hip community would channel its energy into an effort to “brighten the ghettoes, turn the older generation on to the loving directness and humanism of their kids, break down racial barriers,. . . provide numerical and spiritual muscle in a fantastically heightened program of protest against the Vietnam war, inane laws about drugs, [and] general injustice and established cruelty.”
The Open City compared the hippies to SNCC and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) volunteers who left the North during the summer to combat racist institutions in the Deep South, and even hoped that the counterculture would “organize love‑teams to canvass areas where Negroes and Mexicans and hippies are moving and help convince old residents that their new neighbors are to be welcomed, not retreated from.” The twenty‑two‑year‑old Elliot Mintz, a hippie activist, gadfly, and radio host, agreed enthusiastically that “we are literally going to change the state of the nation this summer.”
While nothing so dramatic ever occurred, the local community did launch visible and sporadically successful efforts to attack racism in solidarity with ghetto residents. The most notable results of this half‑formed alliance were the countercultural happenings and “love‑ins” held in Watts and East Los Angeles. The first such event, an acid test organized by the Merry Pranksters in 1965, took place at a hall in Watts. It was almost entirely a white affair, however. Residents viewed it as a curiosity, and were—according to Tom Wolfe, at least—apparently nonplussed by the fact that organizers saw the locale as a “humorous—ironical?—site for such carryings on.”
The interracial love‑ins of summer 1967 were far more earnest affairs. Love‑ins, modeled after the “human be‑in” that took place in San Francisco earlier that year, were outdoor “happenings” filled with acid rock, various amateur entertainers, free‑form dancing, sex, drugs, and a healthy dollop of Eastern mysticism. Held in the city’s major parks beginning in the spring, love‑ins became stock events for the next few years, sometimes attracting crowds numbering over ten thousand. In mid‑summer 1967 the Open City announced the first Watts love‑in, intended as a “historic bringing together of the city’s two hip communities, the white hippy [sic] and his black brother who has long provided the model for his way of life.” When the love‑in took place, hip spokespersons were delighted. The hippie/anarchist paper Provo—whose staff, a local offshoot of the better‑known Dutch collective, handed out leaflets on the Strip and provided information on transportation to the event—counted more than seven thousand attendees. Strip denizen and artist Vito, a well‑known “freak,” brought his dance troupe, which “made an obvious impression on white people who had ‘never seen white folks act that way before.’” A number of black rock and electric blues acts performed, including Taj Mahal and the Chambers Brothers. And, as at hippie love‑ins, there were “spontaneous bongo drummers, flutists, and other music makers.” Open City reporter Bob Garcia deemed the event a total success: “The hippies short‑circuited the ghetto’s mental hate syndrome with smiles, freaky renaissance clothes, bare feet, free food, and an open attitude which became contagious as the day wore on.” The distrust palpable at the love‑in’s start “vanished,” Garcia reported, “into common humanity” as blacks and whites danced together. For good measure, boxes of cigarette lighters with “burn, baby, burn!” stamped on them were available.
Two other such love‑ins followed, one in Watts and the other in East L.A. Neither was nearly as successful, but they did indicate where hip sentiment lay. And these were not the only examples of attempted fellowship. The Open City and the Free Press always devoted considerable coverage to racial issues, and each had a number of Latino and black writers. Perhaps most interestingly, in 1969 Kathleen Cleaver and James Baldwin held a benefit for Huey Newton at Hollywood High School, then a locus of hip youth culture. White acid bands Country Joe and the Fish and Pacific Gas and Electric played at the event. Also, while two UCLA psychiatric researchers of the scene were mostly correct in stating that “the hippie is not negro,” African Americans and Latinos did participate. Two of the era’s most illustrious local rock bands, Love and War, featured interracial lineups. This participation was not limited to entertainers, who, as the scene’s quasi‑royalty, were admittedly atypical. In a 1966 photo essay of the Strip, roughly 8 percent of the hundred plus individuals photographed who looked at least vaguely hip were African American, a percentage closely proportionate to that of the greater Los Angeles black population.
One should not make too much of this fraternization, though; there was plenty of discord. The point is that many hippies were hardly quietist in addressing racial inequality (indeed, given the era, they were remarkably tolerant and accepting of other races). And while it is easy to criticize the loopiness of their tactics for effecting change, one cannot question either the intention or the real interaction that did occur. Still, friction was equally noticeable. The negligible turnout by blacks and Chicanes in East L.A., Watts, and Venice for Al Mitchell’s final Strip‑based protest spoke volumes. It underscored the counterculture’s chronic difficulty in allying with aggrieved populations, and pointed to a dilemma embedded in the counterculture’s rejection of “traditional” values such as respect for elders. Likewise, their contempt for middle‑class materialism was problematic. Economically and socially deprived minorities like African Americans and Chicanos might view such attitudes as both frivolous and ignorant of the role traditional forms of authority played in different cultures, especially when such institutions might protect a culture from assimilation. “Strippies” generally came from privilege, and their desire to roam freely on the alternative shopping paradise of the Strip, and to preserve its status as a countercultural stronghold, probably struck poorer Angelenos as an attempt by spoiled brats to enjoy their wealth more effectively. A few months after the events, the comments of H. Rap Brown, the incendiary leader of SNCC, lent credence to this speculation. Visiting Los Angeles in the summer of 1967 and speaking in general terms about hippies, Brown told the Free Press, “As long as they’re unknown longhairs who get fucked over by the law, they’re all for changing things. But when they get on top of the game, like some of them do in the music thing, they forget how it used to be, and pretty soon they treat money the same way all white Americans do—they get in a position to exploit and they’ll do it.” While he regarded hippies as benign, Brown made clear that he did not expect much from them:
I wish all white Americans were like the hippies, because they ARE peaceful, and that’s more than can be said for most honkies. . . . As far as I can see the hippies don’t generate much anger among militant black people. Black people tend to see hippies—well, like white people do—as the sick element of white society. . . . They don’t see them as the enemy. . . . Really, the black political people, the militants, see the hippies as more or less politically irrelevant.
Even more revealing of the gulf separating hippies and minorities were the disputes that occurred during the final two interracial love‑ins. The second one occurred three weeks after the first and, despite the Free Press’s provision of “thousands of small love gifts,” was a failure, marred by open antagonism between blacks and white hippies. It was almost canceled because of the recent Detroit riot, and the Free Press announced beforehand that black militants “who had been kicked out. . . during the first love‑in planned to make trouble if white hippies attended.” According to the Open City, the situation did not deteriorate to such an extent, but the few whites attending the mostly black event were fearful. This was especially apparent when a young black militant climbed onstage and “began to lay down a barrage of hate about getting whitey.” Other black youths there “seemed particularly hostile.”
The last summer love‑in, a month later, intended to “break the love barrier” between races. Even more than the second Watts love‑in, the third one—a “be‑in” in East Los Angeles at the end of August—proved to one observer that “Hippies have quite a bit to learn about people in general, and this is especially true if they are poor and not white Anglo Saxons.” Apparently, the mostly poor attendees from the surrounding area were outraged by the “stale food” from “people who accept poverty as a mask of liberation from the materialistic codes of the establishment but who have had ‘it’ in the past.” When a black child pelted a young hippie woman with a piece of stale bread, she proceeded to chase the child. When met with cries of protest and derision, she reportedly complained that “we came out to help you people and this is the thanks we get!” The East L.A. be‑in fiasco was not anomalous; minority communities throughout the nation rejected what they felt was patronizing assistance from white radicals.
The manifest dissension between the counterculture and minority rights movements raises another equally important issue: For all the New Left and countercultural crossbreeding, the terms still referred to distinct entities. To overlook the obvious and fundamental dissimilarities between the hip and New Left outlooks is to create a skewed, imperfect portrait. The Strip demonstrations of 1966‑67, for instance, were certainly infused with leftist undercurrents, but a pivotal motivation of the demonstrators was to ensure that the area remained a certain type of consumption zone, albeit a more colorful and raucous one than official Los Angeles would have liked. At any rate, by mid‑1967 the Strip was booming, as new shops serving the consumer youthquake opened their doors en masse. One model for the mass consumption of hip, a shop called the Stash, even gave hippies “’hanging about privileges,’ and they don’t have to spend any money while they’re at it. To [the owner] this is how it should be—straight people buy and hippies provide atmosphere.” And the Stash was but one among many equally exploitive examples of this phenomenon. Consumer‑driven hedonism, of course, was a far cry from the SDS ideal of participatory democracy.
There were other gaping ideological chasms as well. As Doug Rossinow has shown, the New Left emerged in large part as a consequence of postwar youth’s yearning for an existential breakthrough to a more authentic life. This quest for authenticity, alleged to exist beneath layers of banal artifice, motivated all varieties of 1960s radicalism, including the counterculture. In fact, the extent to which hippies idealized “the authentic” surpassed even the New Left. For many in the counterculture, living “authentically” was an all‑consuming passion, and the intensity of it separated them qualitatively from the New Left. Talk of stripping away the conventions of a bankrupt, plastic civilization permeated the local hip scene. To Frank Zappa, the “freak outs” he organized abetted the effort:
On a personal level, Freaking Out is a process whereby an individual casts off outmoded and restricted standards of thinking, dress, and social etiquette. . . . On a collective level, when . . . freaks gather and express themselves, . . . it is . . . a FREAK OUT. The participants, already emancipated from our national social slavery, dressed in their most inspired apparel, realize as a group whatever potential they possess for free expression.
All the trappings of modern life were suspect, from time clocks to science itself. To “break on through,” as L.A. rock star Jim Morrison so famously put it, necessitated transgression of both custom and morality in order to reach a realm of immediate feeling, preferably via the avenues of hedonistic pleasure—sex and drugs. Most in the New Left never explored this dictum quite like the counterculture did.
Reestablishing an organic link with “nature” was another key feature of the hip worldview. Many took to the city’s rugged canyons, trying to establish “more or less self‑sustaining communes” where one could “take acid in a relatively paranoia free atmosphere.” There, “man could know his god, nature, and his unity with life.” Music industry scenester Kim Fowley rhapsodized about “canyon living,” where hippies could
groove on each other and introduce to some of their spiritual contemporaries the joy of living un‑hung‑up outside the city thing, living in the country and nature, instinct; like a Thoreau trip. . . . You can trap your own food here [and] . . . make your own clothes and grow your own food. . . . We want to do our own thing. And so it’s hard to do your own thing when you live next door to a bank or something in Hollywood or Los Angeles . . . so if you live here you can do your own thing honestly.
Often, though, the counterculture took its search for the authentic beyond this rather prosaic condemnation of modernity into more extreme territories. Hippies’ willingness to extend this impulse into the nether regions of primitivist essentialism, atavism, and mysticism is what most differentiated them from the New Left, which, after all, remained wedded to a basically goal‑oriented progressive agenda. Locally, hippies evinced primitivism in myriad ways, from their self‑identification as a tribe to their idealization of the Indians as authentic noble savages. Love‑ins were integral to the process of reclaiming the primitive, as they helped to both reconnect hippies to a primordial soil and nurture vitalism. As Lawrence Lipton—beat chronicler, poet, and longtime Free Press columnist—suggested after the first love‑in, “atavis[m] was a positive as long as it stood against the city of cement and steel.” Hip mysticism was of a piece. Enthusiasm for Eastern religions derived from their alleged prioritization of the circular over the linear and rejection of the individualized ego, all of which stood in contrast to the deadening belief systems of the West.
Problematically, this primitivism was closely allied with an essentialist vision of human nature, one that had deeply sexist tendencies. Ideally, men and women were one with nature and free from the falsifications of modern life. Men were virile, wild he‑men, a vision best encapsulated by Jim Morrison’s lizard king persona. On the other hand, Lipton described “girls” at the first love‑in as “bacchanates celebrating the orgiastic rites of the Spring fertility rites, which they had come for, knowing it was expected of them at a love‑in.” At a later love‑in, an observer claimed that “the girls with the jugs [of wine] were like maidens from a virginal temple, poised and innocent.” Such banalities were not restricted to language; the Oracle continually displayed cliched drawings of anatomically “perfect” nude women at one with a psychedelicized nature. To be sure, sexism was a major problem within the New Left throughout the era. But when the local women’s liberation movement began to challenge that sexism vocally—particularly the ribald sex ads in the Free Press—those from a New Left perspective at least responded to and addressed the complaints, partly because they saw issues of social equality and liberation as paramount. The local counterculture, which was hamstrung by an essentialist sexism, did not even consider offering a response.
Hip primitivism often degenerated into outright anti‑intellectualism, and here is where the cleavage was most stark. Hip figures who thought about the issue held that film and music, as full sensory experiences of the body, could supplant a debilitating reliance on intellect and linearity. In this view, connection and communication were more genuine if they involved all stimuli receptors. Hippies’ glorification of children as prelapsarian innocents tended to anti‑intellectualism as well. The Oracle trumpeted the virtues of naive art, publishing poems “by children and the childlike.” This irrationalist streak was also apparent in comments about political change. Instead of New Left strategizing, one local hippie commented, “we don’t think in . . . terms . . . of plans and objectives.” A Provo editorial was more effusive, stating that “the power of empathy, championed by the acid heads, is going to carry the first wave of the revolution.” Finally, actor Peter Fonda, who was deeply involved in the local hippie scene, defended the Sunset Strip protests by saying they weren’t political. An admirer of McCluhan, Fonda maintained that young cultural radicals “need much cooler leadership. Mario Savio is a jerk.” Such sentiments put hippies at a loss as to how to go about formulating social reconstruction. Their vague, half‑baked notions appeared silly, particularly when they were considering the revolutionary potential of “acid‑head empathy.” Old Leftists may have assailed New Leftists for depending on emotion and action at the expense of analysis, but when compared to hippies, New Leftists were veritable logicians.
As has often been said, these aspects of the hip weltanschauung did not have much political content; directives to embrace primitivism, mysticism, and so forth were effectively about transforming one’s own head. Yet despite the dead ends and plain silliness manifest in this realm of countercultural thought, hippies were still talking about authenticity and the lack of it in contemporary American mass culture. And while the New Left eschewed the counterculture’s more theatrical methods of reclaiming authenticity, they did see it as a crucial personal and political issue. The pervasiveness of mass cultural production in Los Angeles meant that the “inauthentic” images produced by the system suffused the entire environment so entirely that no one could escape their reach.
As a consequence, the underground press devoted much ink to assessing the problem using leftist rhetorical devices, particularly regarding the ability of the local entertainment industries to effortlessly co‑opt ostensibly oppositional culture. For example, a Free Press columnist complained about major label co‑optation of hip music, detailing how large corporations were using seemingly independent front labels to give their acts the veneer of independence. In a similar vein, Lawrence Lipton offered a wildly paranoid review in mid‑1966 of a record purporting to capture and describe the nature of the LSD experience. To him, it was symptomatic of co‑optation. Another Free Press writer complained that in comparison to San Francisco, local hippie radio personalities “seem[ed] less pure, less sincere. . . . It is a mirror reality of what was once spiritual, but in their hands becomes saran wrapped and exploitative.” The writer did not consider Los Angeles “real” but “a haven for star‑tripping success worshipping punks, ex‑Hippies turned . . . entertainment company whores.” Ultimately, the attention paid to the issue proved that concern over “culture” resonated beyond the confines of the hip world.
There is yet another reason to qualify the admittedly undeniable rift between the two camps. In certain pockets of the local underground by 1970, the hip‑Left union extended beyond an awareness of the machinery of cultural fakery and neighborhood‑based resistance to a deep correspondence between outlooks and objectives. Michael Letwin, for example, who began his career in 1971 as a local high school radical by helping to organize the Red Tide, a teenage collective, was strongly influenced by Michigander John Sinclair’s White Panther Party. Their most notorious mouthpiece, the hard rock band the MC5, joined wild‑eyed hedonism with left‑wing politics to great effect. Letwin, who lived near UCLA on the city’s west side, identified himself at the time primarily as a “freak,” yet drew on this worldview to become a labor organizer years later (in fact, he said that by 1969 “hippie” had become a term of opprobrium directed at listless, apolitical heads). For him and many others, the solution at the time was the hip‑New Left hybrid of the “freak.” He moved in and out of both worlds with such ease that for him, and doubtless for many others, the two were indistinguishable. While perhaps atypical of the broader counterculture, Letwin’s activities spoke to the porousness of the boundary between the two groups. Just as important, his hybrid positioning again attests to the intertwined trajectories of the counterculture and New Left, in spite of the clear fissures separating them.
Venice and the New Left‑Hip Amalgamation
Despite the notable differences between hippies and New Left politicos, then, the contours of environment, circumstance, and place often forced each into the other’s territory, both ideologically and practically. As has been stressed, this tendency toward superimposition was present as early as 1965. And on many occasions, the counterculture was effectively in the New Left, reacting to contingency by adopting its framework and tactics. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Venice district of Los Angeles in the late 1960s. Venice witnessed an especially intense conflicts between local authorities and real estate developers on one side and a fluctuating hip‑politico coalition on the other. The relatively poor neighborhood and longtime bohemian enclave remained relatively funky and seedy in the late 1960s. An interracial district now populated by hippies, radicals, and assorted iconoclasts, it was quite different from the relatively upscale Hollywood zone—although Venice saw its share of hip commerce—yet still possessed a vibrant street culture that gravitated toward the beach.
But because Venice was potentially a prime beach community, developers eyed it jealously. Among the various Los Angeles beach communities, Venice was the poorest and least hospitable to the southern California high life. The Venice‑based Oceanfront Improvement Association (OIA), a group of developers, recognized this, but they hoped to transform the area into a “new Miami Beach.” They planned to lobby the city government into approving a plan to “upscale” Venice through devices such as increased property assessments, eminent domain, and sales of public property. Interested property owners and speculators would do their part, demolishing dilapidated, inexpensive housing for the poor and replacing it with beachfront high‑rises. In addition, as an anti‑development informant claimed to have heard at an OIA meeting, a campaign to “sweep the undesirables [off] our beach” was necessary in order to realize Venice’s potential as a moneyed enclave. The editors of the unabashedly pro‑development Evening Outlook (a widely circulated west side daily that served Venice) felt likewise, favoring the completion of a canal improvement project that would raise property values and, as an added benefit, drive out the poor. As the editors put it, “The Venice canals will become part of the first‑class Marina Del Rey project [an affluent subdivision]. The canals and their perimeters should be first‑class as well.” And clearly, the assorted cultural and political radicals were not “first class.”
The city obliged the developers. Beginning in early 1968 the LAPD periodically sent in its crack metro squad to patrol the area, ostensibly to aid the regular Venice division in battling an unprecedented crime wave (a true claim, although the district was not unique in this respect). Not only did the elite squad single out hippies; it was by all accounts gleefully brutal. In February 1968 the squad shuttered hip institutions, breaking windows in the process, and apprehended more than one hundred hippies, often basing arrests on appearance alone. Police had been hassling area bohemians for years, but never to this extent. According to the Free Press, one Venice “hippie leader asked [a squad member] why they were there. And they answered, ‘We’re going to clean the trash out of Venice. If you want to stay out of jail, move out of Venice.’”
Two subsequent sweeps increased the tension. That autumn, the Los Angeles Times surmised that “hippies, property owners,. . . and police are involved in a conflict with social overtones that far transcend Venice.” The police hated the hippies, “whom they regarded as wastrels infiltrated by hard‑core criminals and left‑wing political extremists.” Hippies responded in kind, “believ[ing] that property owners—eager to make a luxurious high rise community out of Venice—had talked the police into frightening them out of the area with massive sweeps and pointless arrests.” Following the first metro squad raid, an Open City writer asserted that the officers “were not men. These were pigs. Brutal, thick‑necked, pink.” Indeed, to sociologist Anthony Giddens, then a visiting professor at UCLA and a Venice resident, the scene in general was reminiscent of the “fall of the Roman Empire.” He recalled nearly thirty years later that “the coast was lined with armed cops and . . . thousands of hippies strewn across the beach wearing all sorts of strange clothes.” Given the situation, many observers thought Venice was due for a riot.
As redevelopment plans proceeded, local freak and leftist activists organized to defend from a sterilizing renewal effort what a visiting UCLA professor from Germany identified as a community of “spontaneous human exchange,” “participatory directness,” and an exhilarating “unpredictability.” The city’s plan to augment “renewal” by building a freeway through Venice that would separate the ghetto from the beachfront only made locals more suspicious, especially when a city planning commissioner said that “probably 90 percent of the people living in Venice won’t be there when the freeway comes.” The future for the existing Venice looked bleak: “The colonial office downtown formulated the master plan; the natives will formulate their plan; then the master will put his plan into effect and the natives will become natives of Watts or Big Sur [a countercultural redoubt].” In their place would be a “machine‑made non‑community with its faceless institutional architecture, bland middle‑class conformity, its relentless image of clean, sterile streets and houses full of happy people with happy problems. The city will have made another cultural desert.”
In residents’ persistent complaints about the city’s intentions was the recognition that they, along with ghetto blacks, were living, breathing impediments to renewal. The community only tightened in response to the repression, however. After the first raid, activists from a coalition of leftist and liberal organizations, including the ACLU and the Peace and Freedom Party, formed the Venice Survival Committee (which the Evening Outlook contended was composed almost solely of hippies). During the raid itself and in the days immediately following, the committee demonstrated in front of the Venice police building, chanting, “We won’t move from Venice, No!” In late 1968 the committee began publishing its own newspaper, the Free Venice Beachhead, which served as a broadside for antidevelopment forces.
Through the Free Venice Beachhead and more established underground papers like the Free Press, the Venice Survival Committee provided residents with sharp analyses of the developers’ underlying motives. The Beachhead also delighted in exposing the city’s duplicity—despite officials’ protestations to the contrary—in trying to eradicate hippies and blacks through excessive property assessments and building condemnations. The Free Venice Committee, led by John Haag, was also active; it gathered more than two thousand signatures—5 percent of Venice’s population—for a petition opposing redevelopment. And throughout the late 1960s, demonstrations, both major and minor, were commonplace in the area.
After the city council approved a property assessment hike in the canal district—which, incidentally, would drive out the current poorer residents—activists from the Survival Committee and the Peace and Freedom Party formed a secessionist organization, “Free Venice.” And though “Free Venice” was not successful, neither the city nor developers could claim victory. For even as redevelopment plowed forward, Venice never really changed that much; to this day it remains a downbeat district filled with nonconformists, aesthetes, minorities, radicals, and crime. In their spirited defense of a certain vision of Venice, local radicals undercut the potential of the alternative. New buildings simply could not attract a wealthy “mainstream” to an area so notorious for political radicalism and cultural transgression.
The role of hippies in Venice was a culmination of sorts. For while leftists certainly participated, as evidenced by John Haag’s leadership, hippies comprised the bulk of activists. They were also the primary targets of redevelopers and the LAPD. Furthermore, their vision was an essentially New Leftist one—participatory democracy, social and racial egalitarianism, authenticity, and cultural experimentalism. And again, it was a contest over a discrete spatial zone that drew such sentiments to the fore. Indeed, competing visions of the built environment engendered the most passionate reactions. When Horst Schmidt‑Brummer juxtaposed in his Venice photo essay the old, whimsically decorated buildings of Venice with the new, spare, linear, security‑oriented buildings envisioned in the master plan, he captured well the hip/politico coalition’s ability to blend concerns about authenticity, freedom, experimentation, and technocracy.
Nineteen‑seventy saw the release of Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, a film that revolved around the relationship between a radicalized Los Angeles college student and a young woman working for a local real estate developer. Both start out as relatively apolitical. In the film’s opening scene, the student, Mark, rejects the group‑oriented leftist/Black Panther radicalism espoused by his fellow classmates (including, in a cameo, Kathleen Cleaver) in favor of a less systematic tactic of individual action. And although the woman (Daria) wears hip clothes and listens to hip music, she is neither aware of nor concerned about the crisis facing political radicals, either locally or nationally. Through a sequence of happenstance events, however, both become radicalized. After witnessing a trigger‑happy LAPD officer gun down a black campus radical, Mark shoots the officer and flees to Arizona. It takes Mark’s own death at the hands of yet another LAPD automaton to radicalize Daria, who had fallen in love with him in the “authentic” natural setting of the Arizona desert. This radicalization occurs in the film’s climax, as Daria envisions a spectacular explosion of an Arizona desert resort that the company she works for is using for a business meeting. In the throes of her violent fantasy, she goes a step further: Not only is the resort blown sky high, but all the consumerist garbage produced by such a barbaric social system explodes as well—television sets, refrigerators, even a loaf of Wonder Bread.
That the film was set primarily in Los Angeles was no mistake. As Antonioni makes clear throughout, Los Angeles, although seemingly crawling with leftist white radicals and Black Panthers, is a black hole of artificiality and gross consumerism. Tacky billboards and smog range as far as the eye can see. Such an alienating environment, Antonioni seems to suggest, was fully capable of producing virulent forms of political and cultural radicalism. Moreover, as the film progresses, the barriers compartmentalizing 1960s radicalism dissolve, and the setting fosters a seamless matrix of “the underground.” Mass culture, combined with authoritarian repression, forces radical sub‑currents to flow into each other.
In his earlier film documenting the London counterculture, Blow-Up (1966), authenticity is the sole issue at stake, and rebellion is purely aesthetic. There are two ways to read Antonioni’s shift in emphasis. One is that he was simply following headlines, as political radicalism increased its mass appeal after 1966. In this narrative, a formerly apolitical counterculture moved toward radicalism, though with questionable conviction and rigor. The second reading is that Los Angeles was simply different, although a bellwether just the same. There the fusion had occurred years before, and the camaraderie between hippies and the New Left derived from the omnipresence of mass cultural production and living in close quarters. Priorities were different in L.A., Zabriskie Point suggests. The steady barrage of billboards, advertisements, and the mass media enveloped one, and local radicals had to account for the debilitating sense of unreality this produced.
Antonioni is hardly a reliable reporter, of course; his evocation of Nathanael West’s themes of cultural decadence and his employment of the hoary trope of L.A.‑as‑grand‑metaphor were stock. Moreover, audiences may have been oblivious to these messages; they may simply have liked the film for the heady cinematography. Still, the director was on to something. The way each subculture feeds off the other, mass culture’s nourishment of radicalism, hippies’ vaguely New Leftist operational framework, and the primacy of racial identity politics all reflected ongoing trends in the city.
Thus the emphases on the crucial importance of the politics of culture and identity were not merely the refuse of the “true” spirit of 1960s radicalism, epigones emerging after a classical New Left imploded. At least in Los Angeles, such concerns infused a broader political radicalism from the Watts riot onward. By the same token, the support offered by politicos to these causes probably made hippies receptive to political radicalism. Repression was equally important in fomenting radicalism, especially since local authorities were not very adept at discriminating between targets. Palpable dissension between politicos, hippies, and black radicals erupted at times, enough to justify categorizing to an extent. But the case of Los Angeles forces us to reconsider two analytical strategies: the notion that the New Left became countercultural rather than the reverse, and the too‑easy detachment of a politically committed and publicly oriented New Left from an apolitical and “alternative” (rather than oppositional) counterculture. The cliche certainly holds in some instances, but too frequently it has been overplayed.
1. Los Angeles Free Press, 20 Aug. 1965, 1, 27 Aug. 1965, 1.
2. “The L.A. Free Press Is Rich,” Esquire, June 1970, 56.
3. For an example of Zappa’s role as reliable commentator, see Los Angeles Free Press, 13 Jan. 1967, 1.
4. Examples include (in varying degrees) Thomas Frank, The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997); Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (New York: Bantam, 1987); David Caute, The Year of the Barricades: A Journey through 1968 (New York: Harper and Row, 1988); W. J. Rorabaugh, Berkeley at War: The 1960s (New York: Oxford University Press 1989); Peter Levy, The New Left and Labor in the 1960s (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994); Alien Matusow, The Unraveling of America: A History of Liberalism in the 1960s (New York: Harper and Row, 1984); Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 1976).
5. Doug Rossinow, The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left in America (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998); Julie Stephens, Anti-Disciplinary Protest: Sixties Radicalism and Postmodernism (New York: Cambridge University Press, r998); Alice Echols, “We Gotta Get Outta this Place: Notes toward a Remapping of the Sixties,” Socialist Review 2.2. (spring 1992): 26‑28; Alice Echols, “Nothing Distant about It: Women’s Liberation and Sixties Radicalism,” in The Sixties: From Memory to History, ed. David Farber (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 149‑74; Gitlin, The Sixties. Other examples of this increasing sophistication include David Farber, Chicago ‘68 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988) and Richard Candida‑Smith, Utopia and Dissent: Art, Politics, and Poetry in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). Aniko Bodroghkozy contended recently that “these delineations [separating the New Left from the counterculture] are rather arbitrary and do not properly suggest the merging between these two tendencies. Activists embraced many of the aspects of countercultural ‘lifestyle polities’ such as drug use, engagement with the burgeoning music scene, and experimentation with different modes of living. Hippies, especially after becoming recipients of law and order disciplining, tended to move in more confrontational directions. So when I think it is important to distinguish these two modes of youth rebelliousness in the 1960s, I think it is important to emphasize their common roots” (Aniko Bodraghkozy, “Groove Tube and Reel Revolution: The Youth Rebellions of the 1960s and Popular Culture” [Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1994], 40‑41).
6. The authors speculated that locals’ lack of either a sense of tradition or an acceptance of limits made the city an exaggerated, grotesque version of the American Dream and a dismal realization of Tocqueville’s fears of a conformist, authoritarian democracy. See Michael Rogin and John Shrover, Political Change in California: Critical Elections and Social Movements, 1890-1966 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1970), 153‑212.
7. Los Angeles Free Press, 27 Aug. 1964, 1; Open City, 9 June 1967, 3, n, 14.
8. L.A. County sheriff Peter Pitchess delivered an alarmist report regarding local campus‑based SDS and black nationalist radicalism to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce in early 1969. He focused in particular on San Fernando Valley State (minutes of board of directors meetings, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, 20 Feb. 1969, USC Regional History Archive, box 34, 16‑3). Regarding UCLA, the firing of radical professor Angela Davis in 1969 as well as the murder of Black Panthers Bunchie Carter and John Huggins on campus the same year by black nationalists indicated the level of tumult. And like hundreds of other universities throughout America, UCLA experienced massive protests and police‑student confrontations in the wake of the 1970 Cambodia invasion (Michael Letwin, interview by author, 27 Nov. 2000). Robert Brenner, later a well‑known leftist academic, was also involved with the radical Student Worker Action Committee (SWAC) at UCLA in the early to mid‑1970s. Thanks to Steven Brier for information on Letwin and Brenner. Regarding Carter’s murder, see David Hilliard, This Side of Glory: The Autobiography of David Hilliard and the Story of the Black Panther Party (Boston: Little, Brown, 1993). The Free Press also devoted extensive coverage to this murder.
9. Stephens, Anti-Disciplinary Protest.
10. Rossinow, The Politics of Authenticity, 260; Stephens, Anti-Disciplinary Protest; Farber, Chicago ‘68; Matusow, The Unraveling of America; Gitlin, The Sixties. One exception is Simon Frith, who has recognized L.A.’s centrality to the counterculture. See Simon Frith, “Rock and the Politics of Memory,” in The Sixties without Apology, ed, Sohnya Sayres (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982), 59‑69, esp. 54.
11. To be fair, this process gathered momentum earlier, with the rise of television (and even earlier still through radio). The rise of television and its impact on culture is documented in Lynn Spigel, Make Room for TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992) and James Baughman, The Republic of Mass Culture: Journalism, Filmmaking, and Broadcasting in America since 1941 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).
12. Michael Letwin, a radical from Los Angeles who began his career as a radical “freak” in a local high school in 1969‑70, said that growing up in Los Angeles, one always felt the presence of the industry. He personally grew up being interested in it and said that co‑optation was noticed by all. He later helped organize a leftist‑freak polyglot high school student collective named the Red Tide.
13. Open City, 21 July 1967, 12.
14. Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism.
15. In late 1969 there was a major shootout between Black Panthers and the LAPD (Los Angeles Times, 2 Dec. 1969, 1; 3; 10 Dec. 1969, 6).
16. For a more extensive discussion of minority radicalism in late 1960s Los Angeles, see Laura Pulido, “Race and Revolutionary Politics: Black Chicano/a, and Asian American Leftists in Southern California,” Antipode 34 (2002). For the cultural dimensions of black radicalism in the period, see Daniel Widener, “’Way Out West’: Expressive Art, Music, and Culture in Black LA,” Emergences 9 (1999): 271‑89.
17. Rossinow’s The Politics of Authenticity and Farber’s Chicago ‘68 are the best examples of this.
18. “The Mad New Scene on Sunset Strip,” Life, 26 Aug. 1966, 75‑83; “Sunset Boulevard’s New Bohemia,” Los Angeles Magazine, Dec. 1965, 34‑42,; “The Hippie Invasion,” Los Angeles Magazine, May 1967, 30; Los Angeles Times, 4 June 1967, W1, W4; “The Sunset Strip,” New York Review of Books (hereafter NYRB), 9 March 1967, 8‑13; Los Angeles Times, 10 March 1966, pt. 2, 1, 8; “Could Your Daughter Kill?” Los Angeles Magazine, Feb. 1970, 30; Los Angeles County Ordinance No. 8874, 29 June 1965; Gordon Nesvig, clerk of the County Board of Supervisors, to Sybil Brand of the County Public Welfare Commission (with attachments), 31 May 1965, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Archives, file 330; Paul Hyman and Robert Wallach, “The Hippies and the New Values,” (paper given at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, 1969), 4, 9, 21.
19. Los Angeles Times, 10 March 1966, pt. 2, 1, 8; “Sunset Strip—A City in Self‑Defense?” Los Angeles Newsletter, 29 Oct. 1966, 3‑5; “Sunset for the Strip,” Newsweek, 4 July 1966, 22-23; Los Angeles Times, 28 Feb. 1966, 3; Life, 26 Aug. 1966, 75‑83; Los Angeles Magazine, Dec. 1965, 34‑40.
20. Life, 26 Aug. 1966, 77; Newsweek, 4 July 1966, 22; Los Angeles Times, 10 March 1966, pt. 2, 8; 20 March 1966, W4.
21. Ralph Gibson and Roger Kennedy, The Strip: A Graphic Portrait of Sunset Boulevard, Fall 1966 (Los Angeles: Roger Kennedy Graphics, 1966), 1; NYRB, 9 March 1967, 10; Los Angeles Free Press, 14 Jan. 1966, 6‑7; Newsweek, 4 July 1966, 22-23.
22. Los Angeles Magazine, May 1967, 30‑37, 70‑71. The Fifth Estate opened in 1961. See also Los Angeles Free Press, 17 Sept. 1964, 1; 22 Oct. 1965, 6; 13 Jan. 1967, 18.
23. Los Angeles Free Press, 13 Jan. 1967, 8‑9; Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 24 Nov. 1966, 2.
24. Al Mitchell, interview, Los Angeles Free Press, 13 Jan. 1967, 8‑9.
25. Esquire, June 1970, 55‑64; Los Angeles Free Press, 27 June 1969, 10, 16, 23; 19 July 1968, 3, 6; 1 Nov. 1968, 34‑35; Open City, 9 June 1967, 11; “LA’s Open City Closed Down,” Rolling Stone, 19 April 1969, 14.
26. When the Free Press moved to the nearby Jewish neighborhood of Fairfax in 1967, the ambiance was the same—a hodgepodge of political radicals and hippies living in a relatively cheap neighborhood. See Los Angeles Times, West Magazine section, 14 May 1967, 8‑9; Los Angeles Times, 5 June 1966, W1, W5. See also Los Angeles Underground, 1 April 1967, 7. Issues of the Los Angeles Underground are located in the UCLA Special Collections Archive.
27. Los Angeles Free Press, 20 Aug. 1965, 1; 26 June 1967 (extra ed.), entire issue; 24 June 1966, 12; 4 Aug. 1967, 9; 23 Aug. 1968, 33; 25 April 1969, 14‑15.
28. Esquire, June 1970, 58.
29. The coffeehouse Venice West Cafe Expresso was a notorious gathering place for beats in the fifties, but it closed in early 1965. See John Maynard, Venice West (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1991), 161‑68; Los Angeles Free Press, 21 Sept. 1964, 1-2; 1 Jan. 1965, 4; 15 Jan. 1965, 2; 25 June 1965, 3; 2 July 1965, 2; Los Angeles Times, 2.7 Jan. 1966, W 1-2.
30. Los Angeles Times, 8 March 1966, pt. 2, 1; 10 March 1966, 3; 13 March 1966, C1, Cn; Los Angeles Free Press, 25 June 1965, 3; 18 March 1966, 3, 5; 20 Sept. 1968, 8.
31. Los Angeles Free Press, 16 Feb. 1968, 1, 15; Open City, 16 Feb. 1968, 4; Los Angeles Times, 25 March 1968, 1, 10‑11; Evening Outlook, 8 Feb. 1968, 1‑2; “Damn It, We’d Rather Do It Ourselves,” Los Angeles Magazine, April 1969, 32‑35.
32. Los Angeles Times, 4 June 1967, W1, W4; Hyman and Wallach, “Hippies and the New Values,” 3; Los Angeles Magazine, Feb. 1970, 30.
33. Los Angeles Times, 1 April 1966, pt. 2, 1, 8; Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 19 Nov. 1966, C6; 28 Nov. 1966, 82; NYRB, 9 March 1967, 8‑13. Henri LeFebvre, The Production of Space (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1991), 142.
34. LeFebvre, The Production of Space, 374. This was a much discussed topic in the local press, both mainstream and underground. See Gibson and Kennedy, The Strip, 1; Los Angeles Free Press, 30 June 1967, 18; Open City, 20 Dec. 1968, 2; Los Angeles Magazine, April 1969, 35; Horst Schmidt‑Brummer, Venice, California: An Urban Fantasy (New York: Grossman, 1973).
35. Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 13 Nov. 1966, 1, 6; Los Angeles Free Press, 18 Nov. 1966, 3; Los Angeles Times, 14 Nov. 1966, 3; New York Times, 14 Nov. 1966, 36.
36. On 11 November, the night before the riot, 85 were arrested, while on 9 July 1966, 276 youths were rounded up by police. Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 12 Nov. 1966, 1; Los Angeles Free Press, 15 July 1966, 5. Before the summer of 1966, the curfew, which had been enacted decades earlier, was rarely enforced.
37. Los Angeles Times, 8 Jan. 1967, W5.
38. Los Angeles Times, 22 Nov. 1966, pt. 2, 1; 16 Jan. 1966, W1, W8; 20 Feb. 1966,W1,W8.
39. Los Angeles Times, 14 Nov. 1966, 3. One set of reporters even called the incident a “pseudo‑event.” They cited evidence that the “riot” was staged by television crewmen who egged the youths on, saying, “You’re not just going to stand there, are you? Do something!” (NYRB, 9 March 1967, 8‑13).
40. Los Angeles Times, 27 Nov. 1966, 1, 64, 28 Nov. 1966, 3, 15 Dec. 16, W14; Los Angeles Free Press, 16 Dec. 1966, 1, 21.
41. “Fly Trans‑Love Airways,” New Yorker, 25 Feb. 1967, 121.
42. Los Angeles Times, 5 Jan. 1967, pt.2, 1, 2; Evening Outlook, 2 Dec. 1966, 10. One observer stated in early 1967, “youngsters have been talking about spreading out and moving into the nearby San Fernando Valley, where the whole cycle will probably begin again with fresh protagonists” (NYRB, 9 March 1967); Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 21 Dec. 1966, 3. The conservative Evening Outlook editorialized that the arrest of a few Santa Monica High School students on narcotics charges “will serve to awaken many young people and their parents to the ugly realization that the Sunset Strip kind of sickness is a fact of life in every community” (Evening Outlook, 1 Dec. 1966, 1).
43. One Chicano writing to the Free Press in 1968 explained that Mexicans forced to live in places like Tijuana could not understand hippies who chose to live in squalor (Los Angeles Free Press, 19 April 1968, 4).
44. Works that, in varying degrees, take this approach include Rossinow, The Politics of Authenticity, Gitlin, The Sixties, Rorabaugh, Berkeley at War, and Caute, The Year of the Barricades.
45. Open City, 20 Sept. 1968, 2. In a strange mix of nostalgia and absurdism, protesters planned to “re‑enact [their] great victories” immediately afterward. After removing themselves to the exclusive Pacific Palisades neighborhood, they would surround and block a police car to memorialize the Berkeley Free Speech Movement; hold a free store “loot‑in”; symbolically reconstruct the old Strip hip nightclub Pandora’s Box; conduct a ritual “unmasking” of the police in memory of the 1967 Century City antiwar demonstration; and, finally, throw a party celebrating the electoral victory of new president of the Peace and Freedom Party Eldridge Cleaver (Los Angeles Free Press, 20 Sept. 1968, 8).
46. Perhaps the baldest example of this was the slogan of John Sinclair’s White Panther Party (of which the great Detroit rock band MC‑5 were the most famous members), “Dope, Guns, and Fucking in the Streets!” For a less ecstatic discussion of the issue, see George Lipsitz, “Who’ll Stop the Rain? Youth Culture, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Social Crises,” in Farber, The Sixties, 106‑34, esp. 113‑14.
47. In a feature article marking the thirtieth anniversary of the march, the Los Angeles Times argued that the “bloody, panicked clash left an indelible mark on politics, protests and police relations. It marked a turning point for Los Angeles, a city not known for drawing demonstrators to marches in sizable numbers. . . . The Century Plaza confrontation foreshadowed the explosive growth [nationally) of the antiwar movement and its inevitable confrontations with police. It shaped the movement’s rising militancy, particularly among the sizable number of middle‑class protesters.” A police officer stated that the impact of the demonstration “cannot be underestimated, in terms of its relevance to the LAPD, to the magnitude and effectiveness of the antiwar movement and to what kind of public appearances President Johnson would make in the future” (Los Angeles Times, 23 June 1997, A1, A15).
48. Norman Mailer noticed that among the thousands of demonstrators at the October 1967 march on the Pentagon, many were hippies (Norman Mailer, Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History [New York: New American Library, 1968], 108‑11).
49. Los Angeles Free Press, 26 June 1967 (extra edition), entire issue; Los Angeles Times, 24 June 1967, 1, 2 July 1967, 1, 20‑21; Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 14 June 1967, 1, 3‑4, 25 June 1967, 1, 3. One of the main organizers of the protest itself was Donn Healey, who had been married to local communist leader Dorothea Healey. I am indebted to an anonymous reviewer for this information.
50. Los Angeles Times, 2 July 1967, 1, 20‑21.
51. Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 24 June 1967, 1, 4, 25 June 1967, 3.
52. Los Angeles Free Press, 20 Aug. 1965, 1.
53. Open City, 26 May 1967, 4.
54. Los Angeles Magazine, May 1967, 72.
55. The best description of the Watts “acid test” and the other “tests” held in Los Angeles is in Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1968), 267‑86.
56. Open City, 7 July 1967, 10.
57. Provo, 1 Aug. 1967, 13.
58. Open City, 14 July 1967, 8, 9, 16; Los Angeles Free Press, 14 July 1967, 7, 12.
59. Open City, 4 Aug. 1967, 9; Los Angeles Free Press, 4 Aug. 1967, 17; Open City, 2 Sept. 1967, 7. Indeed, local hip music acts participated in a number of benefits for Native American rights in the late sixties. Oracle of Southern California, Aug. 1967, 15; “Festivals,” Rolling Stone, 9 Aug. 1969, 16; “Random Notes,” Rolling Stone, 9 Dec. 1971, 4.
60. Earl Ofari and Jerry Harrison, both black reporters, wrote respectively for the Free Press and Open City. They tended to cover political and social issues in the ghetto but also wrote frequently about the ghetto arts scene. Robert Igriega and Bob Garcia, both Latinos, wrote for the Open City.
61. Open City, 7 Feb. 1969, 2.
62. Hyman and Wallach, “Hippies and the New Values,” 10; Gibson and Kennedy, The Strip, 2‑3, 6, 10, 13, 20-21, 32‑33.
63. Los Angeles Free Press, 18 Aug. 1967, 3, 5.
64. Open City, 4 Aug. 1967, 9; Los Angeles Free Press, 4 Aug. 1967, 17.
65. Open City, 2 Sept. 1967, 7. The article was entitled “Love‑In That Made Mostly Enemies.” Interestingly, Watts‑based black director Ed Gentry filmed a mostly white love‑in, A Groovy Griffith Park Love-In, in early 1968. In it, he “seem[ed] to be insisting that the flower experiment has failed, that if you are white and hip you are still white and middle‑class, and though you have turned your back on white bourgeoise [sic] conventions, you still bear the guilt of whiteness. . . . Gentry superimposes art nouveau versions of the slogans of the ‘beautiful people,’ implying, one supposes, that the hip world has become an establishment to itself: snobbish, superior, and ambitious in its own special way.” Open City, 8 March 1968, 12.
66. Los Angeles Times, West Magazine section, 28 Jan. 1967, 17.
67. The most glaring example of the commodification of the countercultural ethos occurred annually at the city’s notorious teen fair. Located in Hollywood, businesses used the fair to discern what the next trends in youth culture would be. At the 1967 fair entrepreneurs emphasized psychedelic themes to determine what would be cool: “Even Sears Roebuck made its appearance in the form of a ‘Psychedelic Bug‑Out’ complete with hallucinatory movies consisting of teens frolicking in Sears bathing suits, viewed in reverse motion and through tinted lenses.” The 1969 teen fair saw the resolutely bohemian Flying Burrito Brothers and Jimi Hendrix play alongside displays of youth‑oriented bric‑a‑brac (Los Angeles Underground, 23 April 1967, 5; Los Angeles Free Press, 8 April 1966, 1, 4 April 1, 11; Evening Outlook, 1 April 1969, lA‑2A).
68. Liner notes to The Mothers of Invention, Freak Out! (Rykodisk: RCD 10501), 1966.
69. Oracle of Southern California, Aug. 1967, 3‑5, 18‑21; Lewis Yablonsky, The Hippie Trip (New York: Pegasus, 1968), 47; Open City, 19 May 1967, 3; Los Angeles Times, 1 June 1967, W1, 25 May 1967, W4.
70. Kim Fowley, interview by Bob Ferris, KNX Radio, 1968. Recording included on Highs in the Mid-Sixties, vol. 3, L.A. ‘67—Mondo Hollywood A Go Go (Archive International Productions: AJP 10005).
71. Los Angeles Times, west section, 28 Jan. 1968, 17-21; “Neil Young,” Rolling Stone, 30 April 1970, 40‑43; Oracle of Southern California, Aug. 1967, 28, Nov. 1967, 3‑9; Los Angeles Free Press, 7 March 1969, 6; Open City, 16 June 1967, 2, 29 March 1968, 8.
72. Lawrence Lipton, with Carlos Hagen, “Memories of a Love‑In” (1974), sound recording with accompanying transcript, New York Public Library Recorded Sound Archive, 1‑8.
73. Oracle of Southern California, April 1967, 4, May 1967, 3‑7, June 1967, 9, July 1967, 4, 26; Lipton, “Memories of a Love‑in,” 2.
74. A Free Press writer even declared that long hair on men “function[ed] as the lion’s mane, standing for pride, strength, and sexuality.” Short hair, on the other hand, “symboliz[ed] the young man’s willingness to submit to authority.” Los Angeles Free Press, 30 May 1969, 40.
75. Lipton, “Memories of a Love‑in,” 8; Los Angeles Free Press, 11 April 1969, 1, 22; Oracle of Southern California, Oct. 1967, 1, 14, Dec. 1967, 1.
76. Los Angeles Free Press, 4 July 1969, 6, 1 Aug. 1969, 5, 3 April 1970, 8.
77. Gene Youngblood of the Free Press, aping Marshall McLuhan, argued that “Our perspectives are no longer unilateral but kaleidoscopic. Our environment is more complex, more ‘total’” (Los Angeles Free Press, 21 June 1968, 33); see also Los Angeles Magazine, May 1967, 30; Oracle of Southern California, Dec. 1967, 4, 5, 14.
78. Hyman and Wallach, “Hippies and the New Values,” 14; Provo, 1 May 1967, 4; Los Angeles Times, 26 Nov. 1966, 19.
79. Provo, 26 May 1967, 9; Los Angeles Free Press, 24 May 1968, 26‑27. Free Press critic Harlan Ellison (a famous science fiction writer himself) skewered ABC television’s appropriation of hip, The Mod Squad (Los Angeles Free Press, 11 Oct. 1968, 5, 10 Jan. 1969, 5).
80. Los Angeles Free Press, 26 Aug. 1966, 2.
81. Ibid., 1 Nov. 1968, 34‑35, 41. For more unfavorable comparisons of Los Angeles to other scenes, see Open City, 17 Nov. 1967, 4, 8 Dec. 1967, 4, 14 June 1968, 8; “Pinnacle and Kaleidoscope in Los Angeles,” Rolling Stone, 11 May 1968, 18. Barney Hoskyns concluded similarly, remarking, “As early as 1965, San Francisco hippies were routinely dismissing LA as a plastic dystopia, the polar opposite of everything San Francisco stood for. Frisco was the city of Beats, Pranksters, and Diggers, of subversive street theater: Los Angeles was a mammon of hype and freeways” (Barney Hoskyns, Waiting for the Sun: Weird Scenes and the Sound of Los Angeles [New York: St. Martin’s, 1996], 140‑42). See also “Los Angeles Scene,” Rolling Stone, 22. June 1968, 11‑15.
82. Letwin, interview.
83. Open City, 5 April 1968, 13, 9 June 1968, 8; Los Angeles Magazine, April 1969, 32‑35, 56‑62; Free Venice Beachhead, Jan. 1969, 1; Los Angeles Free Press, 29 Aug. 1969, 12.
84. Evening Outlook, 23 April 1969, 4.
85. Los Angeles Free Press, 16 Feb. 1968, 1, 15; Open City, 16 Feb. 1968, 4; Los Angeles Times, 25 March 1968, 1, 10, 11.
86. Los Angeles Times, 25 March 1968, 1, 10‑11.
87. Open City, 16 Feb. 1968, 4. One Venice patrolman received a poster in the mail saying, “Abolish Trigger Happy Pigs” (Los Angeles Times, 27 Oct. 1968, W4).
88. “The Two Tonys,” New Yorker, 6 Oct. 1997, 66‑74; Los Angeles Times, 25 March 1968, 11, 27 Oct. 1968, W1; Open City, 27 Sept. 1968, 3.
89. Schmidt‑Brummer, Venice, California, 7, 21, 24‑25.
90. Open City, 20 Dec. 1968, 2; Los Angeles Magazine, April 1969, 35; Los Angeles Times, 28 July 1968, W1, W6; Los Angeles Free Press, 11 Oct. 1968, 2; Evening Outlook, 26 April 1969, 1‑2.
91. Open City, 16 Feb. 1968, 3; Los Angeles Free Press, 16 Feb. 1968, 15, 11 Oct. 1968, 2; Evening Outlook, 9 Feb. 1968, 1‑2, 10 Feb. 1968, 1‑2, 12 Feb. 1968, 1, 8.
92. Los Angeles Free Press, 25 April 1969, 3.
93. Los Angeles Magazine, April 1969, 34‑38, 56‑62; Free Venice Beachhead, Jan. 1969, 1; Los Angeles Free Press, 25 April 1969, 3.
94. Schmidt‑Brummer, Venice, California, 7, 21, 24‑25.
95. Zabriskie Point (MGM, 1970).
96. Blow-Up (Premier/MGM, 1966). Given the film’s opacity, it was remarkably successful in the Los Angeles area, breaking the box office record at a local theater (Variety, 13 March 1967, 3).