When I visited Berkeley for the first time in the summer of 1974, age 17, my older sister was living on Benvenue Avenue. She was living in this boarding house with her hippie boyfriend in a one-room hippie pad (mattress on the floor, Jefferson Airplane poster on the wall, etc.). Unbeknownst to us at the time, Patty Hearst was living right down the street in this brown shingle. We probably anonymously passed her on the street many times. . . All that would change a year later when the SLA — the Symbionese Liberation Army — burst into the house with machine guns blaring and kidnapped Patty Hearst, spraying bullets across the neighborhood as they made their swashbuckling exit.
To give you an idea of the mood of Berkeley at the time, I remember much earnest political debate about the Patty Hearst affair. Were the SLA righteous revolutionaries, offing the pigs and transforming society into a beautiful new tomorrow? Or were they in fact just a bunch of demented, violent, destructive lunatics? The debate raged. And, at least within my circle of friends and acquaintances, opinions leaned overwhelmingly towards the former. The SLA were, as we used to say, “right on.” And when Patty Hearst picked up a machine gun and transformed herself into the revolutionary “Tanya,” there were many, many Berkeleyoids who were thrilled to the point of orgasm, practically.
At any rate, the whole Patty Hearst story is a classic time-capsule of the town that was Berkeley in the mid 1970s.