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Altamont: When the Hippies Were Expelled From the Garden

Did the Sixties really end on December 6, 1969?

by
Kathy Shaidle

Bio

December 6, 2013 - 6:30 am
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Woodstock parody "Altamont" shirt via HollywoodLoser.com

Woodstock parody “Altamont” shirt via HollywoodLoser.com

Everything you think you know about the 20th century is wrong.

It’s been a favorite theme of mine for years — that liberal (self-)mythologizing rarely withstands even the slightest scrutiny:

The Rosenbergs were guilty. Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty. Alger Hiss was guilty. OJ was guilty. Lee Harvey Oswald was guilty. Mumia was guilty. Leonard Peltier was guilty.

Rachel Carson lied. Alfred Kinsey lied. Betty Friedan lied.

To that list, Ed Driscoll adds familiar names like Kitty Genovese and Truman Capote.

Earth Day started out as a commemoration of an event that didn’t quite happen as advertised.

Vietnam? Don’t get me started.

One day, we’ll find out the Scottsboro Boys were guilty.

And some people still wonder why a lesbian waitress would cook up a hoax about homophobic customers…

Once you realize that liberals live in a nostalgic past of their own invention and on-going promotion (like Mrs. Havisham or a tragic Tennessee Williams “heroine”) almost everything “progressives” do then makes “sense.”

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Top Rated Comments   
The if the Hippies were ever cast from Eden, it happened a little earlier than Altamont.....But it WAS the Angels who gave them the Bums Rush...


In his book about his adventures with the Hells Angels, Hunter Thompson captured a vividly amusing moment in Berkley, I think it was 1965 (maybe a bit later, but certainly before the "Summer of Love")


Seems the "college" hippie-types thought it was cool to party withThe Angels, who tolerated them because of a mutual interest in Drugs and Girls...the college kids had the money and the hotties, the Angles had the clubhouses, bars and connections...both sides were vaguely "anti-something" at the time enjoying the Cali Party Scene.


When "the moment" came, it was at an early anti-war protest....and Thompson (who I outgrew as an "author" by the time I was 20?) does do a masterful job of understanding the significance of the fracture....


The fault line, the divide we see unto this day, witnessed as it happened RIGHT there and then....


The Angels were on campus for the "party-riot" and the chicks , but the privileged kids, the actual "students", the ones with the cars and the girls and the cushy future lined up, started chanting and protesting not JUST to get out of 'Nam (which was not yet too TOO unpopular at this moment) but chanting FOR Ho and the VC to win...that it was AMERICA that sucked, not just the situation in 'Nam..


And then it happened...the Angels, never a group to screw around with, got annoyed and probably EMBARRASSED by these twerps, and started kicking their ass..bloodied them up nice in a pretty viscous brawl, to the utter astonishment of the kids who thought the Angels were "down" with everything they were selling...a


And the permanent split between the two different sides of "America" begain...The snotty, privileged, self-absorbed Posers, and the gritty Blue Collar kids they now sneer at as inferior (but still fear)


The Two Americas emerged right there, young people and their FUTURE CHILDREN forever at odds from that moment forward...social, political, environmental, diet, technology, political correctness, you name it....


Just look at the Tattoos that have became popular since then...Bikers get American Flags, poser-fags get "Asian symbols" they cant even READ....American Eagles verses pseudo "tribal", Anchors and Crossed Rifles vs cartoons and flowers...Duck Dynasty vs Will and Grace....


before "that moment" they were relatively the same, the children of depression era and WW2 parents, raised in 'almost" the same culture and and "almost" same economic status...but after that Day in Berkley, the tectonic social plates were shifted, never to be repaired


For all the dislike I have for Thompson, he does a great job capturing it in far less lines than I'm torturing you all with here...if you get a chance to read his take on it, please do, its a masterpiece of perception...



18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment

I attended college during the 60's, as well as a tour in the Marines. I was so countrified and square, the hippies thought I was a cultural amusement.

I was a pretty good observer, and I noticed the hippies from wealthy families were not throwing away their lives (People from the Bill Ayers background of money and connections), but people from modest means were throwing away a tremendous opportunity to look cool and be lazy.

When college was over, the wealthy kids took their rightful places in industry and finance; discarding the bellbottom trousers and bulky sweaters, they accepted positions guaranteed them by the laws of nepotism. A haircut and a bath was the typical initiation, next came three piece suits and wingtips, and they were ready for business, well sort of. The kids who were from more humble backgrounds faced a different reality at the end of their hippiedom; they had a useless degree in underwater basket weaving and no hope of getting a good job. They took jobs as laborers and either worked their way up to a better position or spent 45 years in the same spot.

The wealthy kids were living a lie, and the kids from humble families fell for the silliness and paid for that mistake for the rest of their lives. Surely, there are a lot of bitter people out there getting ready to retire after believing in a life style that wasn't real. Oh, some of them continued the illusion and kept their ponytails even when they had snow on the roof year round, while trying to be the last beatnik, but I bet they still wonder what might have been.



http://skooksjournal.com/?p=666
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I grew up in the '60's, and knew a lot of hippies, and even more wannabe hippies.

To me they were all very practical. They knew they were too lazy to ever accomplish anything worthwhile, so they made a fetish out of accomplishing nothing.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (47)
All Comments   (47)
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I grew up as a child in California in the 1960s in a "wonder years" neighborhood that was the stereotype of why California was considered a suburban paradise for WWII vets returning from the Pacific to start families in the sunshine.

I remember the hippies at the beach and hitch hiking and the flowers in their hair. I liked the music as a child too. But as a child, the ugly side of the hippies was the focus of attention for our classmates. We stood in the rain during bomb threats from the local college kids. We were terrified by the Manson story and waiting for them to descend from the hills each week. If NY was afraid of the summer of Sam, we spent years of fearing the SLA and the Underground. There were billowing clouds of smoke visible to 12 million LA area suburbanites during the summer riots. When Nixon ran a Presidential campaign on law and order, voters came running.

Every 7-11 seemed to have a dope addled hippie panhandling to anyone passing by, even 10 year old boys.

Then there was Altamont and the motorcycle gangs and the violent rhetoric used towards the Pigs by SDS on the nightly news. The US capitol was bombed and in a three year period bombs went off at least once a month. It was terrorism on US soil and when MLK and RFK were killed, we didn't imagine Capitalism was killing these men, we felt the hippies were tearing our world apart ...and we were just kids. The kids the hippies claimed to be "bending the rules" in order to save.

We didn't need to be saved by them. We went to school with lunch money from our hard working parents in our pockets and a POW bracelet on our wrist.

They were selling a protection racket and they still are. If you want to keep your history, you can keep your history. Period.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've never known anyone, regardless of ideology, to refuse a hot shower when the time was ripe or otherwise. Hey man, fu@k off, I just want to be dirty and stink. Circumstances can lead to times without, such as military deployments, long trips (in a car) wintertime out in the woods, mental difficulties, personal conflicts, homelessness, etc.

In some cases people put themselves in untenable situations, but regardless, one of the best things you can offer someone who has compromised shower time is a hot shower. Hippies didn't adopt such non clean practices, and not commonly as a political statement. There was a wide spectrum of behaviors, not much different than any population group.

Try and keep your average lady, from hippie to... Hillary, out of the shower for more than a day or two.

Maybe some people are naturally hydrophobic. And maybe some people naturally run to the hype.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I missed Altamount as I was home on extended leave from Viet Nam and setting off on the path to addiction, but I saw lots of the sordid world of sex, drugs and rock n' roll. I think the whole hippie thing was largely media myth.
There were and are a few noble back to the earth naifs, but mostly it was a tawdry drug fueled exercise in deviant behavior, Don McLean's "whole generation lost in space.'
The best account I've read of the bay area counter culture was Joan Didion's essay, "Slouching Towards Bethlehem". It is an exquisite account of squalor and stupidity.
One sidenote of Altamount is it spawned one of Robert Hunter's best Grateful Dead songs, "New Speedway Boogie". It's almost prescient for our age:
I don't know but I've been told
It's hard to run with the weight of gold
I don't know but I heard it said,
It's just as hard with the weight of lead.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
The if the Hippies were ever cast from Eden, it happened a little earlier than Altamont.....But it WAS the Angels who gave them the Bums Rush...


In his book about his adventures with the Hells Angels, Hunter Thompson captured a vividly amusing moment in Berkley, I think it was 1965 (maybe a bit later, but certainly before the "Summer of Love")


Seems the "college" hippie-types thought it was cool to party withThe Angels, who tolerated them because of a mutual interest in Drugs and Girls...the college kids had the money and the hotties, the Angles had the clubhouses, bars and connections...both sides were vaguely "anti-something" at the time enjoying the Cali Party Scene.


When "the moment" came, it was at an early anti-war protest....and Thompson (who I outgrew as an "author" by the time I was 20?) does do a masterful job of understanding the significance of the fracture....


The fault line, the divide we see unto this day, witnessed as it happened RIGHT there and then....


The Angels were on campus for the "party-riot" and the chicks , but the privileged kids, the actual "students", the ones with the cars and the girls and the cushy future lined up, started chanting and protesting not JUST to get out of 'Nam (which was not yet too TOO unpopular at this moment) but chanting FOR Ho and the VC to win...that it was AMERICA that sucked, not just the situation in 'Nam..


And then it happened...the Angels, never a group to screw around with, got annoyed and probably EMBARRASSED by these twerps, and started kicking their ass..bloodied them up nice in a pretty viscous brawl, to the utter astonishment of the kids who thought the Angels were "down" with everything they were selling...a


And the permanent split between the two different sides of "America" begain...The snotty, privileged, self-absorbed Posers, and the gritty Blue Collar kids they now sneer at as inferior (but still fear)


The Two Americas emerged right there, young people and their FUTURE CHILDREN forever at odds from that moment forward...social, political, environmental, diet, technology, political correctness, you name it....


Just look at the Tattoos that have became popular since then...Bikers get American Flags, poser-fags get "Asian symbols" they cant even READ....American Eagles verses pseudo "tribal", Anchors and Crossed Rifles vs cartoons and flowers...Duck Dynasty vs Will and Grace....


before "that moment" they were relatively the same, the children of depression era and WW2 parents, raised in 'almost" the same culture and and "almost" same economic status...but after that Day in Berkley, the tectonic social plates were shifted, never to be repaired


For all the dislike I have for Thompson, he does a great job capturing it in far less lines than I'm torturing you all with here...if you get a chance to read his take on it, please do, its a masterpiece of perception...



18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
As I mentioned earlier, hippies partying with freaks usually resulted in unpleasant surprises. Partying with the Angels is plain dangerous - for anyone. The one's I've known do have rules of conduct and will even respect you. But if you spend enough time around them someone will inevitably test you if you're not there with the chief, and they're endemic sociopaths. Some of them will lay off if they think you're the kind of guy who'd get back at them, but some of them are plain crazy and don't care.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I went to college in the 60's. My main attraction to the hippie movement was for the sex, drugs and rock and roll - not for the "lifestyle." I didn't want to live on a commune, not bathe often or beg for money on a street corner. After a couple of acquaintances lost their lives via overdoses, I straightened myself out and actually worked in upper corporate management for over 30 years. I gave up the drugs eons ago because, in addition to f*cking you up, they don't help you pass random U/A tests and it's bad form for your kids to find a roach clip in the house. Altamont wasn't the most deadly rock concert by a long shot - maybe the first of this kind though. I have known a few Hells Angels over the years and found out the "truth" many years ago - so no surprise here. They have gotten more than their share of bad press over the years.

I saw the Rolling Stones once and thought they were terrible. I was more of a Jimi Hendrix sort of guy.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
We grew up mid-late '70's, listening to our "older brothers" music all through High School... Zepplin, Stones, CCR, Beatles, thinking "aw man, we really missed out, huh?"

By 1983 my Company Gunny overheard us playing our favorite tunes in the squadbay...


"you guys think that woodstock sh*t is pretty cool, huh?"

"Beats the hell out of Boy George, Gunny"

"Maybe so, but the only Wood Stock I remember in '69 was on my M-14"

And that was that.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Meredith Hunter was black?

I have heard this story maybe a dozen times and this is the 1st I heard of it.

But Shaidle tells us the reason why most of us did not know?
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, your tastes certainly differ from mine. I think Some Girls is a great album. It's not on the level of Sticky Fingers or Exile on Main Street, but it is a great album nonetheless.

Sticky Fingers was the first album to have the now famous tongue logo. Also the first with Mick Taylor, who happened to be a really good guitar player. (He went on to later player for Joan Jett, by the way.) Exile on Main Street, their only doulble lp, was the first recorded on the Rolling Stones mobile unit. This was in their ex-patriot years, when the Stones fled England for tax purposes. It was recorded on the French Riviera. Personally, I think it's their best work.

Some Girls was recorded after Mick Jagger's juant through Manhatten, where he regularly hung out in the basement of Studio 54. "MY brains are battered all over Manhatten . . . Go ahead, bite the Big Apple, don't mind the maggots."

Still, my point remains that the 60s ended when the Beatles broke up. That would be in January of 1970. The Beatles did their best work in the 60s. Srgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band changed the music world, seriously. It was the first album to have printed lyrics, not to mention all sorts of new recording methods.

In fact, Paul almost broke up the band at that time, with his obsession for perfection. The Beatles recorded over 2000 hours of studio tape for a 35 minute lp. Think about that.

Much has been made about the cover of Abbey Road. John is the Christ figure, Ringo is the preacher, Paul, barefoot and out of step, is the corpse, and George is the paul bearer. And in the background is a car misplaced that has a license plate that reads 28 IF. Paul would have been 28 that year, and this iwhat caused the whole "Paul is Dead!" controversy.

Strange that John died before him, assasinated, shot in the back, by a lunatic obsessed with a movie starlet. But, hey, that's just rock and roll, right? Yeah, I heard about it first on Monday Night Football from Howard Cosell.

Still, my point remains that the 60s ended in Juanary 1970, when the Beatles broke up.

All the great bands did their best work after that. The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Kiss, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Little Feat. The 70s was the decade for music.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Little Feat = Best jam band in history, bar none.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment

I attended college during the 60's, as well as a tour in the Marines. I was so countrified and square, the hippies thought I was a cultural amusement.

I was a pretty good observer, and I noticed the hippies from wealthy families were not throwing away their lives (People from the Bill Ayers background of money and connections), but people from modest means were throwing away a tremendous opportunity to look cool and be lazy.

When college was over, the wealthy kids took their rightful places in industry and finance; discarding the bellbottom trousers and bulky sweaters, they accepted positions guaranteed them by the laws of nepotism. A haircut and a bath was the typical initiation, next came three piece suits and wingtips, and they were ready for business, well sort of. The kids who were from more humble backgrounds faced a different reality at the end of their hippiedom; they had a useless degree in underwater basket weaving and no hope of getting a good job. They took jobs as laborers and either worked their way up to a better position or spent 45 years in the same spot.

The wealthy kids were living a lie, and the kids from humble families fell for the silliness and paid for that mistake for the rest of their lives. Surely, there are a lot of bitter people out there getting ready to retire after believing in a life style that wasn't real. Oh, some of them continued the illusion and kept their ponytails even when they had snow on the roof year round, while trying to be the last beatnik, but I bet they still wonder what might have been.



http://skooksjournal.com/?p=666
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
You make an excellent point about the difference between the wealthy kids who sampled certain aspects of hippiedom with an air of amusement bordering on disdain, and the less wealthy kids who seemed to take it more seriously and were more political. I knew the wealthy kids (though I was middle-class) and, though they might adorn themselves in an elegant form of hippie fashion and do lots of drugs, they always knew it was just a stopping-off point on their way to Ivy League degrees and conventional success.

Later I knew more of the die hard hippies and they were in it for life, committed to screwing The Man whenever possible and living lives that revolved around drugs. When I lived in NY there was a permanent contingent of the die hard Greenwich Village hippies still there even in the '80s, which is when I left the city. On return visits to The Village the same old hippies could be seen in their usual haunts; they're probably still there doing drugs and railing against The Man.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't think people have a good sense of how much more rural and small town America was in the '60s. Merle Haggard's "Okie From Mukogee" pretty much captures the attitudes of rural and small town America in the '60s. It was very easy to be a "hippie" in rural and small town America; all you had to do was do any one thing thought to be non-conforming.

Pretty much everyone who knew me in my high school days in rural Georgia will tell you I was a hippie. Funny thing, I was garage band musician from '64 or so, but I never had hair that touched my collar because you'd get suspended from school until you showed up with your hair cut. We usually played in dress slacks, a sports jacket or vest, and in one concession to rock 'n roll fashion, often ruffled-front tuxedo shirts. Most bands working dances looked just like us and only bar bands looked anything like the rock 'n roll imagery of the time. In 10th or 11th Grade US History, '65 or '66, I did a poster of a long-haired, dope smoking hippie with Tom Paine's quote, "That which we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly" as its caption. Now, that doesn't mean I wasn't a bit "wild," as the language was used back then; I did drink when I could get it, I did smoke some, your daughter wasn't safe with me, I tended to drive real fast and tear up cars, by my senior year marijuana had passed my lips. In other words, I was your basic South Georgia redneck boy, but I was pretty smart and was both willing and capable of questioning authority and the sacred pronouncements of those speaking from pulpits, lecterns, even judicial benches, and I wasn't real respectful of redneck cops. I spent a whole career as a Brooks Brothers-suited 'crat and Republican political appointee with longer hair than I ever had in high school, yet I'm still "the first hippie" to those I went to high school with.

The '60s didn't look like Woodstock or Altamont anywhere but Woodstock and Altamont and in a few blocks of larger cities. The '60s didn't sound like Woodstock or Altamont. I made a living playing for high school and college dances in the late '60s, a good living, and if you'd like to empty out a hall and never get hired again, all you had to do was play "hippie music." Very little of the sounds of Woodstock or Altamont ever even made the Top 40, almost none of it ever made Number One. There would be a bar or two in big towns where you could play psychedelia and the other more adventurous music of the day, but you wouldn't get paid well and you didn't get tips. The real '60s sounded a lot more like "The Big Chill" than like "Woodstock." And it looked a lot more like ordinary America everywhere except a few blocks in the bigger cities and on college campuses. Even on almost all college campuses the long-hairs and radicals/activists were a small minority. You could get 200K people to go to the big outdoor concerts partly for the music, but mostly for the easy sex and drugs. You could get 100K to go to Washington partly to protest the War, really to protest the draft, and mostly for the easy sex and drugs. It all ended when enough people who'd been in college in the late '60s turned 23 and couldn't be on their parents' taxes and health insurance or they got a high draft number as Nixon reduced the draft and it was finally eliminated. The '60s weren't what you think they were if you weren't there and they sure weren't what the febrile imaginations of New York and California writers and film-makers, most of whom were never near Haight-Ashbury or the Fillmore East or West or their analogs in other cites in those days, have made those times into.


And I learned to hate everything about Altamont in the early '70s when the house band in the bar under my shop in Underground Atlanta started playing "Smoke on the Water" at least once a set from eight until midnight. I didn't really hate that song the first few thousand times I heard it.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wow man, trippy!

I think many people jumble up the politics of the New Left with hippiedom. Most '60's hippies were fairly apolitical, and, in may ways, some of the portrayals really miss the mark with hippies, beginning with "the politics".

I will say, I was there, Haight-Asbury, SF State, Altamonte, Berkeley, Big Sur, the Fillmore, the Avalon, the bikers, La Honda, family member in Levy's church, Golden Gate Park, the whole bit. Wow man! Where the action was, my friends and I gravitated to it. Many of us were musicians, in bands as well, so the action at times would be right there in front of you, with the access that followed.

The major motive power was sex. Remember the Pill, when it became available? Anyone who failed to notice this, well, there would be no there there. Politics, being lazy, getting loaded, listening to bands, music, art, being in bands, were a part of it, but it all revolved around the notion that where those things were, the availability of willing partners would be greatly enhanced. Another point, the Bay Area was quite conservative at that time by today's standards. Very few people adopted the hippie lifestyle, at that time. It changed somewhat in the '70s but the '80s is when the institutional aspects arrived.

Berkeley? Get drunk, yes joints, drunk, as alcohol (buyers were there for under 21ers, and loved being invited up. Access.) was never far from one's fingertips. Go confront the police, (many thought this was bullshI+), throw some things at the BofA, come back to the various apartments for a body count, recount incidents, get more loaded, pair up and... Repeat. SF State was different, that was truly the police being out of control.

Altamonte? When the Stones came on people did move towards the stage. I was about 75 ft away (loaded estimate) and people there were very enthused about the whole thing. You could understand Mick's speaking, asking for calm, but what else was new? And the Stones were good, musically. On the ride west home, picking up 4 hitchhikers, no one mentioned the violence except in passing. That was not the theme of the day.

Earlier in the day I was back 400 -500ft on the slope that came up from the stage. Mild hits of acid and wine set the scene for a very jolly time in that immediate vicinity. It was known somewhat about what was going on up front, Balin had been punched, but I don't remember a single person becoming really upset about it. People were partying as usual, and out for a good time, and that happened. Several friends (not all were that loaded, and in various locations) related the same scenario then as now. The knowledge of the stage front mayhem was beyond vague. It was the typical party time free concert scene. That's not to say that others had different experiences.

What is missed as well, was the widespread cynicism about the whole scene, by hippies themselves. Most, in the '60s, and later did not take hippies and New Left that seriously. A kind of Weatherman person came to a party at one point, preached, and was roundly dismissed. Yes, there was the long hair, the clothes, a vague anti war feeling, but to be identified, so that there would be instant acceptance, that was a major factor followed by meeting the desired person(s). Have things changed that much?

Most of my hippie friends left the Bay Area for other adventures. To characterize these people on the whole as lazy and worthless is akin to speaking of Negroes, spiders and snakes. The people who never could face life (from Jr. High on) didn't do so well later. The people who did (regardless of lifestyle), were by and large successes, to this day. Eight out of ten are today libertarian leaning conservatives.

One could go on forever about this. The point is that stereotypes rarely serve knowledge.

Every group and it's ups and downs. The hippies, the Angels, conservatives, liberals, pundits, and journalists are not exempt.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Altamonte or Altamont???... Altamont.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
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