My other Sproul Plaza fountain story is a little sadder.
Again it was right after the Hate Man drum circle had been shut down for the night. Around 10 PM. And we’re all lazing around on Sproul. Except that Elizabeth — more commonly known by her street name the Sea Hag — is causing a big ruckus.
Elizabeth got stuck with the Sea Hag moniker because she was skinny and boney like the Popeye character. And because she could get incredibly obnoxious when she was drunk — which was most of the time. She had this loud, shrieking incredibly discordant voice. And she wouldn’t shut up. She’d get right in your face and keep squawking and shrieking at you — this hideous obnoxious drunken babble — until you were finally gonna have a nervous breakdown..
On the particular night she kept inflicting her bad act on Panther — this burly, but generally good-natured street hippie who was part of the scene back then. Elizabeth was in full Sea Hag mode
“Elizabeth. PLEASE!! Please just leave me alone!!” Panther kept imploring.
But Elizabeth just wouldn’t leave Panther alone. She kept getting right in his face and screeching her madness at him at top volume.”AAACKKKK!!” she’d screech over and over. Followed by “OOORRKKK!!’. And ” AAUUGGHHH!!!”
And finally Panther snapped. He grabbed Elizabeth the Sea Hag in his burly arms and dragged her to the fountain and dunked her head right into the water. Held her head under the water for a couple of long seconds before he finally released her.
Elizabeth pulled her head out of the water. Shook the water off her hair dramatically. Cursing and squawking and sputtering loudly — some incoherent gibberish as she spit the water out of her mouth like a floundering fish. And then she mostly sat there quietly by herself for the rest of the evening. So at least it succeeded in shutting Elizabeth up. For once. So we were all grateful for that.
But later when Panther calmed down he expressed serious regrets over what he had done. “Boy, I came close to seriously fucking up. If I had accidentally whacked Elizabeth’s head against the side of the fountain? I could have gotten arrested for assault and done 10 years in prison!”
Myself? I’m a male chauvinist pig. And I’m an advocate of the “dunking stool” where the Pilgrims in the days of old used to strap ornery women into this contraption where they’d dunk the women into the river as punishment and to cool them off.
On the other hand, I always had a soft spot for Elizabeth. She’s been on the Telegraph street scene longer than anybody. She was one of the first street hippies on Telegraph back in 1968 when she was a teenage runaway way back when. And she’s still here. And she’s constantly longing for the good old days just like me. And we’d often reminisce between the two of us about Telegraph street characters past. “Remember Gypsy?” “Remember Pallidan?” Etc. And everyone came and went. Except for Elizabeth who was left behind. So she’s kind of tragic just like me.
I actually published some of Elizabeth’s photos of the street characters in the last issue of the TELEGRAPH STREET CALENDAR 2004. And another time — to shut her up — I bought her a copy of Terry Compost’s photo book about People’s Park. And she sat there very quietly (for once) and soulfully for a long time. Looking at all the photos of all the Berkeley street characters over all the years. Every picture conjuring up a dozen memories in her mind.
And it occurs to me I haven’t seen Elizabeth in at least a year. Last I heard she was living in a little room in Oakland. I hope she’s doing good wherever she is