January 14, 1967. It quickly became a hippie badge of honor. Golden Gate Park, a few months and few blocks from ground zero of the San Francisco Summer of Love.
We’re talking about the first, the historic, star-studded, stoned-out Be-In, officially known as the Human Be-In, A Gathering of the Tribes.
The direct inspiration was to protest a new California law banning LSD. Speakers at the Be-In were the leaders of the burgeoning counterculture, a celebrity A-list: Allen Ginsberg, Richard Alpert aka Baba Ram Dass, Dick Gregory, Jerry Rubin, Gary Snyder (Beat poet) and the star attraction, direct from Harvard and The Cosmos – Timothy Leary, who uttered for the first time the iconic battle cry “Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out.”
Music blared from local bands on the verge of national fame. Marijuana clouds drifted overhead. LSD was as plentiful as cheap wine, and they were often served together.
About 25,000 souls showed up. And this was before you could text a “flash event.”
What were you supposed to do at Be-In? A silly question. If you had to ask, you didn’t dig it. Be somewhere else.
A series of Be-Ins quickly followed in New York Central Park. They attracted a “motley hippie” crowd, as described by The New York Times: “Poets from the Bronx, dropouts from the East Village, interior decorators from the East Side, teachers from the West Side and teeny boppers from Long Island.”
The Central Park events quickly morphed into anti war-demonstrations, the largest on April 15 with attendance widely estimated at 100,000 to 400,000. Some violence ensued.
The events spawned the baby boomer “In” movement. Street protesters launched lie-ins. College students organized teach-ins. Pot advocates held smoke-ins. John and Yoko Ono conducted their famous Bed-In for Peace in Amsterdam, inviting friends and reporters to their honeymoon suite.
This buzz was not lost on Hollywood execs in 1968 who jumped on the “fad” and premiered Laugh-In. Co-optation at its best or worst.
The beat goes on. In San Francisco, an annual Digital Be-In was organized in 1989. It draws major tech players and claims to emphasize the original counterculture communal values.
♫ Music Trivia: What’s the next line of this Jefferson Airplane classic?
One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all…
Answer at end of post
♫ Music Trivia
…Go ask Alice
When she’s ten feet tall
White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane, 1967