The death this week of Scott McKenzie stirred up mixed feelings about “flower power,” hippies and Haight-Asbury’s “Summer of Love.”
There was a simple-mindedness to that brief and shining era. Young people actually thought they could change the world — without doing anything except making love, making music and making themselves one with the universe by smoking pot and tripping on the LSD.
One result of this was that nothing really happened — many forces merged and met to force the end of the war in Vietnam and the enactment of legislation to protect the rights of minorities and women, but it had little to do with the hippies and wannabees panhandling for coins at the corner of Asbury and Haight.
Another result of the Summer of Love was music by psychedelic rock groups with names like Strawberry Alarm Clock and the 13th Floor Elevators.
And guys like Scott McKenzie, who really seemed to possess a sweet and sincere belief in the power of love when he sang his song — co-written with John Phillips of the Mamas the Papas — urging young people to come to San Francisco and to be sure to wear a flower in the hair….
There was a dark underbelly to the so-called Summer of Love: Lots of runaway kids with no place to live and no food to eat; lots off sexual violence and teen pregnancies, lots of drug burnouts. George Harrison of the Beatles visited to check out the San Francisco scene, attracted in part by the peaceful vibe emanating from McKenzie’s song. But mystical Beatle got the hell out of there when he looked around and realized, very quickly, that all was not incense and peppermints….that there was plenty to hate about the reality of the Haight.
Still, though, sappy lyrics and all, Scott McKenzie’s song stirs a sweet nostalgia, a longing for a simple time of beautiful swirling twirling dreamers with stars in the eyes and flowers in their hair.
I’ll never forget her cackle, her arched and plucked eyebrows, her crazy hair, her jokes about her husband Fang. Phyllis Diller died yesterday at age 95. The saying “Leave them laughing” appears to apply — according to CNN, Ms. Diller died with a “smile on her face.”
These two Phyllis Diller jokes left a smile on my face:
“Burt Reynolds once asked me out. I was in his room.”
“I have a tremendous sex drive. My boyfriend lives in 40 miles away.”
Phyllis Diller, in my mind, will always be associated with a group of comedians who appeared regularly on the “Ed Sullivan Show” — Jackie Mason, Alan King, Stiller and Meara, Rodney Dangerfield, Henny Youngman, Joan Rivers….the Sardi’s/Catskills/Friars Club crowd. In a related vein, Phyllis Diller was a real trailblazer, one of a only handful of women from that era who managed to succeeded in the male-dominated world of stand-up comedy.
Here Phyllis Diller on the Sullivan show, circa 1969:
I’ve been scheduling readings and book-signings for my novel “Rip” — a modern-day parody of Washington Irving’s classic “Rip Van Winkle” — at libraries in New York and New Jersey towns in the vicinity of the Hudson River .
Just confirmed that I will be appearing Saturday, Oct. 20, at 3 p.m., at the public library in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., in Westchester County, N.Y.
Admission is free. I will talk about my roots in the Hudson River Valley, my affection for Irving’s work, and how I came to write a latter-day “retelling” of the story of lazy old Rip Van Winkle. I’ll read excerpts from the book and answer any audience questions. I’ll then sign copies of the book, which will be available for purchase. I’ve agreed to donate 10 percent of the proceeds to the Briarcliff Manor library.
Briarcliff Manor’s well within driving distance from New York City, Westchester County, western Connecticut, northern New Jersey, and Putnam, Rockland and Dutchess counties. So mark your calendars and try to make it to my reading there if the date and time are convenient. Otherwise, I’ll be posting announcements of other readings/book-signings as they’re scheduled in other towns in New Jersey and New York state. If you would like to buy the book before one of the readings, it’s available at http://www.amazon.com/Rip-Nicholas-DiGiovanni/dp/0918842689