50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love
June 5, 2017 3:52 PM   Subscribe

1967 was 50 years ago, and San Francisco is remembering the Summer of Love. The year actually kicked off well before it was summer, with the 50th anniversary of the Human Be-In in January. There are many exhibits and events in commemoration, including The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll at the de Young museum, which includes works by under-recognized photographer Elaine Mayes.

Unfortunately, permits have been denied repeatedly to stage a free 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love concert in Golden Gate Park. (The permit denial even sparked the release of a new Diggers broadside, Support Your Local Free Music.)

The GLBT Historical Society is exhibiting Lavender-Tinted Glasses: A Groovy Gay Look at the Summer of Love, highlighting such queer folks as Janis Joplin, Kenneth Anger, Allen Ginsberg, and astrologer Gavin Arthur.

On the Road to the Summer of Love is the California Historical Society's exhibit, co-curated by Grateful Dead historian Dennis McNally and Alisa Leslie.

A free exhibit at SF City Hall of Jim Marshall's 1967 photographs is closing soon on June 17. If you can't make it, there's an online slideshow at Juxtapoz.

The Haight Street Fair
is the baby sibling of the Summer of Love, at only 40 years old - it's this Sunday, June 11.

The Hippie Modernism show (which originated at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis) has already closed its run in Berkeley, but there is a catalog.

(40th anniversary of the Summer of Love Previously)
posted by larrybob (41 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
The Summer of Love exhibit at the de Young is very fun and unusual in my mind - it's music posters, a number of photographs and a lot of full-body outfits that embody the iconic fashions of the day. I'm, not sure if I could pull off a crocheted bodysuit, but it probably looked amazing on someone back in the day.
posted by GuyZero at 4:14 PM on June 5, 2017

Strange memories on this nervous night in Trump's America. Fifty years later? Is that all? It seems like a century, or at least an epoch—the kind of peak that never comes again, except in endless reruns and add campaigns. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to claim to have been a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run… but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you have always claimed to have been there and alive in that corner of time and the world, even though you were 4 years old and living in a laminated suburban bomb shelter.

So now, less than fifty-five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the sea finally levels out around Sierra Nevada after the ice caps melt.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:27 PM on June 5, 2017 [19 favorites]

posted by lalochezia at 4:32 PM on June 5, 2017

> I'm, not sure if I could pull off a crocheted bodysuit, but it probably looked amazing on someone back in the day.

Modern day couple wearing a pair of vintage-style crocheted body suits, with matching crocheted super-hero-style capes and masks. My takeaway from the example is that anyone who manages to look "amazing" in a crocheted bodysuit probably looks even more amazing NOT wearing said bodysuit. They to be the sartorial equivalent of wearing a tea cozy.
posted by mosk at 4:44 PM on June 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

Berkeley, in typically awful fashion, chose to commemorate the anniversary by replacing all the bike racks along Telegraph Ave with brightly colored peace signs. They also held a "Summer of Love street fair" where they encouraged people to dress like hippies. I saw a flyer in Moe's and instinctively blurted out "oh, for fuck's sake." The woman behind the counter was like "yeah, tell me about it."
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:45 PM on June 5, 2017 [10 favorites]

It's cute that the summerof.love link notes there's an exhibit specific to the town of Bolinas. It's summary reads, in part, "[the influx of hippie culture] also brought an extraordinarily irrepressible “can do” attitude for engaging with life. Soon Bolinas crackled with creative energy in the arts, agriculture, intellectual exploration, social, political and environmental activism, science, cultural events, and the building of homes and community. Over the ensuing years, people on opposite sides of polarizing issues have found common ground and a shared commitment to preserve the local environment and small town lifestyle."

I point this out because Bolinas today, including those hippies who stayed put after the late 60s, would probably eagerly reject newcomers who arrived in a similar movement. We live in San Francisco, and we use Bolinas as synecdoche for the tarnished side of the hippie coin. Bolinas became isolationist, or maybe nativist, with alarming speed, and to this day it's not the most welcoming place to amble through. The town is almost 90% white, and it closed its doors to new homes just about as soon as the summer of love ebbed. It's uncomfortable to read that exhibit's description because it's so unbearably saccharine, when we're talking about a city whose defining long term vision has been keeping people from knowing how to get there.

As part of remembering the warm fuzzy glow of that long gone era, let's also remember the toxicity that its glow concealed.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 5:06 PM on June 5, 2017 [15 favorites]

I remember that Lou Reed said that the summer of 1967 was the best time to be in New York City, because all of the grifters, hustlers and phonies left town to go to San Francisco to prey upon the kids there.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 5:18 PM on June 5, 2017 [14 favorites]

I was there with my family. We were not exactly hippy types, but we were selectively leafleted. So my mom said we should just go. I had a hit from a joint. We were given free sandwiches and I met the guy who started the Diggers. It was cool.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:25 PM on June 5, 2017 [7 favorites]

I spent that whole summer babbling incoherently and soiling myself
posted by thelonius at 5:27 PM on June 5, 2017 [12 favorites]

i spent that whole summer listening to am top 40 radio

it was an awesome, life-changing experience, even if i was just 9 or 10
posted by pyramid termite at 5:33 PM on June 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Ha, Thelonius. It never occurred to me until just now, but I was conceived during the Summer of Love. But it was in Mississippi, so there is really no connection.
posted by thebrokedown at 5:34 PM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's funny, even though I was alive fifty years ago, it's hard to remember now that SF had such a hippy image. When I think about the city now, I just think about tech bros, venture capitalists and other rich folks.
posted by octothorpe at 6:44 PM on June 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

I was just in the Bay Area with time to kill. I wish I would have known.
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:51 PM on June 5, 2017

Even if you're just passing through SFO airport, there's some Elaine Mayes photos of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival there. (or see them on the web link gallery.)
posted by larrybob at 6:56 PM on June 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

The highlight of every summer throughout my childhood was our annual trip to the Bay Area to see family friends. I loved San Francisco so much, and my whole life I dreamed about living there someday.

Now that I actually live in the Bay Area, I rarely go to SF, and when I do it feels nothing like the place I spent so much time in as a kid. Everything feels so precarious. It breaks my heart to see what SF has become, and it's downright insulting when a place like Berkeley installs peace sign bike racks while planning to finally turn People's Park and the Oxford Tract into student housing (as rent and tuition skyrocket). It's an insult to pretend you look like counterculture while you raise rent and undo everything counterculture was, for better or worse, trying to accomplish. Even dropping acid doesn't open doors of perception anymore, it just makes you a better programmer.

My dad was visiting recently, and he said it had already changed by the time our family left in the 80s. It was already headed towards what it is today. But at least a family could still afford an apartment back then.

I love the history of the Bay Area, and this is a great post. It's just that sometimes commemorating the Summer of Love feels like grasping for a place that will never be the same. It feels more like a memorial than a celebration.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:09 PM on June 5, 2017 [13 favorites]

Stop making me feel old, jerks!
posted by Samizdata at 7:50 PM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I spent that whole summer babbling incoherently and soiling myself

You too, huh? As I mentioned years ago on the blue, in my Toronto tour guide days, I used to pause walking tours by the Hockey Hall of Fame and tell them a bit about it, including that the Stanley Cup when not otherwise engaged was kept there. I recall an Australian once saying that it must be incredibly exciting for people in Toronto when the Leafs win the Cup. I replied truthfully that last time it happened, I cried and I wet myself, because I was six weeks old.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:07 PM on June 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

I once met Chet Helms at a party in SF in 1996 and he was planning his 1997 30th Anniversary concert, which actually did happen. I talked to him for a while about internet video streaming, which at the time was very very young but was still happening. I wonder if that weekend was streamed over the internet. I never have found out.
posted by hippybear at 8:16 PM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm old enough to have clear memories of that summer, but not old enough to have interesting memories of that summer. I was too preoccupied with the possible impact Twiggy could have on my eighth-grade wardrobe as well as the latest hits by Tommy James and by The Association to notice life outside my small downstate hometown. It would be years before I realized what I had missed—not that there's anything my 12-year-old self could have done even if I had been aware of what was going on.
posted by she's not there at 8:20 PM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

My mother-in-law was at the Monterey Pop Festival. That's got to count for something, right?
posted by vorpal bunny at 9:12 PM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am about nine months younger than the summer of love.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:47 AM on June 6, 2017

Danced at the Fillmore
Walk past the wig store

posted by Meatbomb at 1:56 AM on June 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am about nine months younger than the summer of love.

I'm born in Jan '68 and was adopted at 10 days old and I've always figured I was the result of the Spring Break before the Summer Of Love.
posted by hippybear at 3:10 AM on June 6, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oh man, I came in to plug the Hippie Modernism show at BAMPFA, which was great -- sorry to those who missed it.
posted by escabeche at 3:49 AM on June 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hippybear, you are same age as my oldest son given up for adoption, born April 68. Real summer of love that turned to tragedy baby. But he was conceived not in classy, romantic San Francisco, but in Passaic, NJ. We were sort of hippies though, at least college students protesting the Vietnam war and my son's father was a draft resister. All is well now, we are reunited and my son is an environmental activist, so some things do carry on.
posted by mermayd at 5:54 AM on June 6, 2017 [8 favorites]

Somebody said somewhere "What a bright light it must have been, to have cast such a long, dark shadow".
posted by Chitownfats at 6:33 AM on June 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was in New York City at that time. We had a big Be-In in Central Park. I went with my friend Nancy. We met a couple of cute guys named Chris and something else. After the Be-In we followed them to Chris' house in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn (Nancy and I lived in Brooklyn too, in uncool Sheepshead Bay).

Chris's room was painted black and he had colored lights all over. His mother was very cool. Lots of people came over and took drugs and listened to music. A girl looked as if she was in a trance. Chris's mother turned to me and said, "Isn't she beautiful? She's tripping." I wanted Chris's mother to be my mother.

When I got home I asked my mother if I could paint my room black. She said absolutely not. I bargained with her until she said I could paint one wall black - which I did.

Later I learned that Chris, whose last name was Stein, went on to found the band Blondie.

Odd Addendum: my nephew is now Blondie's keyboard player and told Chris my story of meeting him in 1967. He was amused.
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:40 AM on June 6, 2017 [16 favorites]

1970sAntihero Yeah, Lou Reed was right. I was out there ostensibly to attend a course at Stanford University. Hey, free airfare, room and board for two weeks. A couple of friends drove out and we convened in Berkeley where one of them had enrolled. Before this we tried to rent an apartment in the Haight. We found a notice on the bulletin board at the free health clinic. So we paid the guy and he made a key for us. All looked good until we went to said apartment that afternoon. It was occupied by a biker clan. They said they did not know the guy, who was from the Bronx it turns out. One of my friends who drove out to the coast lived in the Bronx and later encountered the same grifter guy that summer-fall. He said he didn't have the money. BUT, I did see The Dead at a free concert in Palo Alto, drove to the wineries on the way to Monterey, saw The Electric Flag, Steve Miller, Gabor Szabo, The Doors, and Janis Joplin at The Fillmore and Winterland and met many good people. A good time was had by all. My friend and I hitched back to NYC where we took the Staten Island ferry for 5 cents. It took us a week. A long strange trip.
posted by DJZouke at 6:41 AM on June 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I was born then (June 67) and on the other side of the world, but I discovered Woodstock and hippies when I was 14 and I think that's when I became a lefty, because I do believe that peace is something we should all be striving for and love is the answer (love for the Earth, love for each other) and that war is good for absolutely nothing (say it again).
posted by h00py at 6:46 AM on June 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Being fifteen/sixteen during the Summer of Love was wonderful. No, I wasn't among the hippies in Haight-Asbury, but in flyover country we had an idealistic trippy image of the hippies courtesy of the Time/Life empire, as well as the evening news. Teenagers are notoriously idealistic, and to live as if the world could change into a place of peace during that time was intoxicating (the LSD was intoxicating, too, and fueled the fire of those ideas of change).

After all, we were in the middle of a terrible war, and masses of Americans were starting to turn against it. This bloody century could abandon its war-mongering ways, and live by the light of love! That was the idea, anyway, and there was a great soundtrack to it (believe me, it sounded great fifty years ago).

Within a couple of years, the war dragged on, King and Kennedy were killed, Nixon was elected, Charlie Manson wrought his havoc, Altamount became Woodstock's evil twin, and a fresh new Black Panther leader, Fred Hampton, poised to lead a divided Panther movement, was assassinated by the Chicago cops. The radical nature of the change we had envisioned splintered into various political and religious cults by the 70's...But they say that we are always who we were when we were 16, and I know a lot of my cohorts have been trying to keep that spirit of anarchaic optimism alive ever since then, in the arts, teaching, lawyering (on the left), etc. The handful of hippies who became Wall Street Yuppies are the exception to the rule, as well as the enduring stereotype about what happened to the Summer of Love hippies. And, yeah, we all know what happened to San Francisco.
posted by kozad at 8:14 AM on June 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

(As per my cranky comment above, I was born in August of 67.)
posted by Samizdata at 8:34 AM on June 6, 2017

I'm re-reading Joan Didion's "Slouching towards Bethlehem" as it works well for both the summer and the current socio-political climate and didn't realize it'd been 50 years since then and a lot has changed. And most things are just business as usual. I'd recommend it for a different reading on the late '60s as Didion watches various dreams come apart in the wind, as it's a theme that seems to keep on repeating in America.

"The center was not holding. It was a country of bankruptcy notices and public-auction announcements and commonplace reports of casual killings and misplaced children and abandoned homes and vandals who misplaced even the four-letter words they scrawled. It was a country in which families routinely disappeared, trailing bad checks and repossession papers.
Sue Ann’s three-year-old Michael started a fire this morning before anyone was up, but Don got it out before much damage was done. Michael burned his arm though, which is probably why Sue Ann was so jumpy when she happened to see him chewing on an electric cord. “You’ll fry like rice,” she screamed. The only people around were Don and one of Sue Ann’s macrobiotic friends and somebody who was on his way to a commune in the Santa Lucias, and they didn’t notice Sue Ann screaming at Michael because they were in the kitchen trying to retrieve some very good Moroccan hash which had dropped down through a floorboard damaged in the fire."
posted by Zack_Replica at 10:41 AM on June 6, 2017

Hippybear: I once met Chet Helms at a party in SF in 1996 and he was planning his 1997 30th Anniversary concert, which actually did happen.

Chet Helms used to show up at a lot of San Francisco events and took photos, and he used to have a great website with lots of his recent photographs on it. I remember seeing him taking pictures at Cynthia Plastercaster's exhibit in San Francisco in 2002, for instance. Unfortunately, after he died in 2005, his website went away. It looks like his brother John Helms was running a website with his photos, but it's not up at the moment.

There's also a website for a film in progress about Chet Helms.
posted by larrybob at 12:28 PM on June 6, 2017

For those of you keeping score, released in the run up to the flower power summer of 1967:

October 1966:
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme - Simon & Garfunkel

December 1966:
Buffalo Springfield - Buffalo Springfield

January 1967:
The Doors - The Doors

February 1967:
Surrealistic Pillow - Jefferson Airplane

March 1967:
The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground & Nico
The Grateful Dead - Grateful Dead

May 1967:
Are You Experienced - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

June 1967:
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 1:47 PM on June 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

1967: I was four, and we were still living in beautiful (?) Daly City, CA - 15 minutes south of SF by car, but from a cultural standpoint it may as well have been on the other side of the world. My parents were (and still are) very nice people but they are also very square, so I came to discover a lot of the 1960's only later, after it happened.

I came to strongly envy those who actually got to experience the music scene in SF as it happened. I "discovered" the Dead in 1981 and fell in love with the scene and the music, but knew I was late to the party. Would have loved to have taken it in as it happened, though I think I would have paid for that in other ways, lol. In the long run it was probably best that it all happened as it did, but I would have definitely loved to have seen the Dead at one of the storied, original SF venues, dancing along with a head full of Owlsey's finest :-)
posted by mosk at 3:54 PM on June 6, 2017

Being a young kid during the hippie era might not have been so great, though, as seen in the 2005 documentary Following Sean, a followup to a 1969 student film called Sean, about a four-year-old kid in the Haight. (Previously, Previously)
posted by larrybob at 4:34 PM on June 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hippies are what we have now ruining the world. A blight on their Summer of 'Love'
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 6:19 PM on June 6, 2017

Putin, Trump, and Xi Jinping were not hippies. Tree-huggers have not ruined the world. Dollar-grubbers have.
posted by kozad at 8:59 PM on June 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

And we would've gotten away with it, too, it it hadn't been for those meddling kids and their dog!
posted by Chitownfats at 9:00 PM on June 6, 2017

I've always believed that Republicans like McConnel and Sessions were the college students who couldn't manage to get lucky during The Summer of Love, and are taking out their long held resentments on the youth of today.
posted by monotreme at 9:12 PM on June 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

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