Dimitrios Kambouris, Getty Images Move out of the way because Beyonce is playing…
- Posted on Jan 14th 2011 4:30PM by James Sullivan
Henry Diltz, Corbis
In fact, there were just two park rangers on horseback to police the crowd of 25,000 or so stoners who convened in Golden Gate Park. Officially known as "A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In," the event was organized not as a protest but a celebration. "Bring the color gold, photos of personal saints and gurus ... children ... flowers ... flutes ... feathers ... banners, flags, incense, chimes, gongs, cymbals," instructed the organizers.
Performers included the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Jefferson Airplane, Sir Douglas Quintet and jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Allen Ginsberg, who'd recently called for a "mass emotional nervous breakdown in these States once and for all," chanted. Acid guru Timothy Leary, making his first appearance in San Francisco, unveiled his "Turn on, tune in, drop out" routine. Underground legend Owsley Stanley delivered thousands of hits of White Lightning, his most potent brand of LSD to date, along with dozens of turkeys, which provided hundreds of sandwiches.
The MC for the day was an ex-Marine drill instructor everyone knew as Buddha. Even the Hells Angels, later infamous for their violent behavior at Altamont, played nice, tending to lost kids and guarding the sound system after generator power was mysteriously cut.
Just before the Human Be-In, the Oracle, the underground newspaper whose founders, Michael Bowen and Allen Cohen, were instrumental in creating the event, printed a rumor that a flying saucer bearing good news would soon land in San Francisco. When an unidentified man parachuted out of a plane, dozens of humans rushed to see who it was. Many claimed that it was Owsley, according to Charles Perry's definitive chronicle in his book 'The Haight-Ashbury,' but others thought the guy looked a lot like a local parachuting instructor.
Other rumors were not so benign. When Ginsberg and fellow poet Gary Snyder led an early-morning group in a pradakshina, ceremonially walking around the Polo Field to consecrate the event, word came back that some Satanists had skewered symbolic pieces of meat on the fences.
Still, almost all involved agreed that the Be-In successfully promoted the ideas of progressive living and peaceful coexistence. The Berkeley Barb had predicted that "fear will be washed away" and "profits and empire will lie drying on deserted beaches."
Well, sort of. Within a year, the Human Be-In had become such an icon of the era that NBC launched an absurd new variety show called 'Laugh-In.'