Grateful Dead seen in San Francisco local news footage at famous ‘Death of a Hippie’ ceremony, 1967
12:57 pm
Grateful Dead seen in San Francisco local news footage at famous ‘Death of a Hippie’ ceremony, 1967

In the spring of 1967 a tourist bus to transport curious gawkers through the new “hippie” district of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco sprang into existence. The bus actually drew a great deal of attention at the time, including derisive commentary from newspaper columnist Herb Caen and Hunter S. Thompson as mentioned in this DM article from two years ago. This was perhaps the most noteworthy manifestation of the media frenzy that descended on the city of San Francisco in 1967.

After the famous Summer of Love had come and gone and a reported 100,000 young people descended on the heart of Haight-Ashbury, the local residents began to tire of the hubbub. R. Crumb was exercising his usual skepticism of idealism but also probably simply reporting accurately when he commented:

The Haight-Ashbury was appealing. ... It was much more open than any other place. But the air was so thick with bullshit you could cut it with a knife. Guys were running around saying, “I’m you and you are me and everything is beautiful, so get down and suck my dick.” These young middle-class kids were just too dumb about it. It was just too silly. It had to be killed.

Thus it was that a group calling itself the Diggers arranged a mock wake and a mock funeral to mark the death of “Hippie, devoted son of Mass Media,” as the sardonic invitation had it. The event was scheduled for Friday, October 6, 1967.

As the Berkeley Barb reported just hours before the funeral, “Purpose of exorcism is to ‘free the boundaries of the Haight-Ashbury district’ and destroy the ‘we/they’ concept inherent in the idea of ‘hip’ community according to one member of the Committee for Community.”

It’s stated at the end there that Ron Thelin would also be closing the Psychedelic Bookshop “for good.” The Psychedelic Bookshop had been an important epicenter for the hippie movement, so the decision of Thelin and his brother Jay to shut down the store on the same day as the hippie funeral surely marked the end of an era.

Someone at KRON, a San Francisco TV channel, put together an interesting collage of footage taken during the event. This was never used for broadcast purposes, as will become immediately apparent to you as soon as you click on the link—there’s no narration and basically it’s just a jumble of footage thrown together with hardly any synchronized sound. You can see the Grateful Dead playing briefly, and even hear them play a few notes.

In March 1968, the Canadian Broadcasting Company ran an hour-long report on the goings-on in San Francisco the previous summer. The show, directed by Donald Shebib, was called “The Way It Is… San Francisco Summer 1967.” The program is noteworthy for avoiding unnecessary histrionics, taking the hippie movement as a valid topic of discussion. In the show you can see commentary from visionary poet Michael McClure, footage of the Grateful Dead hanging out at their Ashbury Street home, a visit to the Psychedelic Bookshop, The Straight Theater, scenes from McClure’s play The Beard and rare shots of the bard of the Haight, Richard Brautigan, walking through Panhandle Park in all of his glorious splendor.


Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Square people gawk at Haight-Ashbury hippies from the safety of a tour bus, 1967
Rarely seen film footage of hippie bard Richard Brautigan

Posted by Martin Schneider
12:57 pm



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