Photo by Walter Bredel (I think) for East Village Other (1966)
Kreplach to Invade London
June 7, the Kreeping Kreplach Non-Profit Cultural International Foundation of Purple Art Combine held its first press conference at the Village Gate.
The Combine composed of Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Jonas Mekas, Barbara Rubin, Ed Sanders, and Tuli Kupferberg talked with reporters from ABC, The Village Voice, WINS and an Italian film company explaining the function of the Kreeping Kreplachs.
Ginsberg did most of the talking, but kept trying to pass the buck to Andy Warhol who smiled shyly. Ginsberg explained that the purpose for the Combine was to expedite matters of international cultural exchange. He said that money and union problems existed in the artistic and entertainment fields which could be circumvented by international coordination.
The KKNPCIFPPAC will work by paying the expenses of visiting artists in America and England. The money after expenses, from poetry readings, concerts, or exhibitions, will be put into a fund in the country where the performance is held and applied to the next performance.
“The culture has changed,” Ginsberg said. “A new generation has grown up. Everybody’s hip now, and we’re going to put on a giant festival and prove it.”
The first activity of the Combine will be to stage a rock and roll, film festival at Royal Albert Hall in London on June 17th and 18th. The festival will exhibit the talents of filmmakers Jonas Mekas, and Andy Warhol and the musical talents of The Fugs, The Velvet Underground, The Flowers, The Chambers Brothers, and Donovan.
Radio Caroline, an avant garde station off shore from London, will fit the bill for the transportation and publicity expenses of the first performance.
Ginsberg told the press, “We’ll stage a teeny bopper concert at Lewiston Stadium next. Jim Marcus said he would try to help. Maybe we can also arrange an intercity tour of the U.S. also.”
“We’re planning to bring to the U.S. some poets from Liverpool and one of the Beatles who’ll play his secret electronic tapes and show home movies.”
Barbara Rubin, the prime mover and organizer of the Combine told of last years poetry reading at Royal Albert Hall and hinted at problems that have been surmounted to present this years festival. “Last year the poets filled the hall. It holds about 7,000 people and we had to turn away a lot more. This year we should be able to fill it for the 17th and 18th of June but we had to promise them that Allen Ginsberg wouldn’t read. Last year he offended the English sensibilities somehow.”
This year Peter Orlovsky, Ginsberg’s sidekick and a poet in his own right will go to the festival. Orlovsky has been known to behave himself.
Someone explained that Kreplach is a word that some Jewish mothers use for their sons who don’t become doctors or lawyers and make a lot of money. Ginsberg said that maybe they’d have to change the name of the organization.
The Royal Albert Hall has been leased and the airplane roster shows 76 names on it. 76 members of the underground. London will never be the same.
Gathering of the Tribes. Human Be-In poster by Lorin Gillette.
Although it had been surfacing in the media for a while, the big announcement of the counterculture’s “arrival” took place earlier that year with a major event. The Human Be-In had occurred on a lovely day, January 14, 1967, and newspapers and magazines transmitted photos and stories of the mass celebration into America’s most remote communities. The nation knew that something was going on “out there.” Paisley banners and flags stenciled with marijuana leaves fluttered in the balmy winds that seemed to be blessing the fifty thousand people assembled before a single stage crowded with celebrities and Haight Independent Proprietors (HIPs). Jerry Rubin was representing the “political aspect” of the counterculture, while Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert represented expanded consciousness and bliss. There were also a few genuine seers and artists like poet Gary Snyder, back from ten years of studying Zen in Japan; his old crony, Allen Ginsberg; and Zen master Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, abbot of the nearby San Francisco Zen Center, solid as a rock, smiling and enjoying himself.
Fifty thousand people took drugs, danced, painted their faces, dressed in outrageous costumes, crawled into the bushes and made love, fired up barbecues, pitched tents, and sold wares—crystals, tie-dyes, hash pipes, earrings, hair ties, and political tracts. Fifty thousand people played flutes, guitars, tambourines, tablas, bongos, congas, sitars, and saxophones, and sang, harmonized, and reveled in their number and variety, aware that they were an emergent social force.
The Diggers doubted that the event would benefit the neighborhood much or change its political realities, but a party is a party. It was our neighborhood and our community and also our receptive audience, so we were there too, giving away free turkeys donated by LSD mogul Stanley “Bear” Owsley. We had underestimated the impact this event would have on community solidarity and self-awareness and the ways it would trumpet the existence of the counterculture nationally. Individual freaks, isolated in heartland hometowns, were delighted to discover that there were thousands like them in San Francisco, who were prepared to embrace them as brothers and sisters; they wanted to be there too. More kids began arriving from everywhere. They served themselves up as sweatshop employees to the merchants and as customers to the dope dealers; they begged, scrounged, and hustled in order to survive. The Haight Independent Proprietors appeared at conferences with city officials discussing the “problems” of the community. People making money off the scene—the rock bands, merchants, and dope dealers—felt that publicity about the Haight would “change people’s heads” and automatically generate changes in economic relationships and political structures—a fond hope, easier to entertain than the nine-hundred pound gorilla of changing one’s own life.
Time magazine coined the word hippie to describe the new pilgrims, juvenilizing the word hipster and trivializing in the same stroke those seeking alternatives to Time’s official reality. — Peter Coyote from his memoir, Sleeping Where I Fall