Tales from the Woodstock Nation


Abbie Hoffman comes across pretty poorly in the book WOODSTOCK” THE ORAL HISTORY. Comes across like a two-bit street hustler, con-man. First he tries to extort the promoters, threatening to disrupt the festival and cause violence if they don’t kick down a big chunk of dough for The Revolution, man (just give the money to ole Ab and he’ll make sure it gets redistributed to “the people”). And demands ample stage-time so he can deliver his crucial message to the Woodstock Nation. He was righteously outraged that these fake pseudo-hippie capitalist pigs were exploiting the righteous hippie counterculture for financial gain (even more outrageous, they weren’t cutting Abbie in on some of that dough).

The promoters managed to placate Abbie by treating him with kid-gloves (“Better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in). But he didn’t end up getting much out of the deal. Mostly because the promoters had decided from the beginning that they wanted to keep Woodstock as non-political as possible. And also because the cute little hippie boy, Michael Lang, who co-produced Woodstock, also had good street hustler, con-man instincts himself. So he was able to out-hustle all the hustlers. Ha ha. 

Though it is amusing to watch these self-appointed “leaders” like Abbie Hoffman trying to get a grip on the Woodstock Nation. They see the parade going by and rush up front and pretend to lead it.

WOODSTOCK: THE ORAL HISTORY: A goddamn book review full of peace and love (and some of the other stuff, too)

This is the best book I’ve read about the Woodstock festival. WOODSTOCK: THE ORAL HISTORY by Joel Makower. The first half of the book deals with the people who actually put the festival together (which is a fascinating story in itself). And the second half of the book deals with how they dealt with it, as they were completely overwhelmed by the situation. Which was intense beyond belief (they were expecting maybe 50 thousand people and then got over-loaded with a half million people) (and deal with THAT motherfucker).

Basically Woodstock was put together by four Jewish guys in their early 20s. The two guys that bankrolled it were two rich kids with trust funds who were looking for some way to spend their money and have some action. They had never even produced a concert before. So they started out with Woodstock as their first event. Ha ha.

The third guy was Micheal Lang — the young hippie boy with the Dylan/Donovan hair who rode around on his motorcycle and embodied the “hippie ethos” of 1969 (he was groovy). He had put on a couple of low-level hippie rock concerts. So he was the expert.

The fourth guy was Artie Kornfeld — this young hippie guy who worked for one of the record labels as the “house hippie” and scored a couple of hits and was their only connection to the Music Business (he spent the concert stoned out of his mind on LSD and was basically pretty useless).

It took the two kids who put up the money over a decade before they worked their way out of debt. Ha ha.


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I always opine that the main legacy of Woodstock was that it perpetuated what I call “the psychedelic hippie myth.” This notion that a half million people were able to live together for 3 days in peace and harmony and brotherhood — in spite of many obstacles — because of the sheer grooviness of the psychedelic hippies. They were so full of love and cosmic wisdom that they demonstrated to the entire world a new and far more advanced mode of existence, man. Back to the Garden, and all that. Expanding their consciousness. The Love Generation. It was the Dawning of the Age of Aquarious, I tell you.

And the media certainly laid it on thick. Larding the Woodstock Nation with flattery and praise.

But when you read this book, you find out that what saved the day wasn’t cosmic hippie grooviness. But that the two young guys who bankrolled the festival quickly realized the potential disaster they had on their hands. And started writing out checks left and right for hundreds of thousands of dollars to put out one potential fire after another. And if they HADN’T done that, the whole thing very well might have spun out into one of the biggest disasters of all time.

And just 6 months later the Rolling Stones would find out that hippie good vibes would not save the day at Altamont. And in fact, the Stones had walked right into that disaster precisely because they had naively BELIEVED in the Woodstock myth.

An ironic epilogue: The day after Altamont the San Francisco Chronicle ran a frontpage story extolling Altamont as “Woodstock West,” with an excited narrative about the alleged grooviness that had flourished at the festival. That’s how eager the media was to advance that particular narrative.

A narrative that largely lives on to this day, I might add.
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Originally published 2002_11_19

As I write this, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is giving a lecture at the Zellerbach Auditorium on the other side of the UC Berkeley Student Union Building where I’m typing this thing on the campus computers. A large crowd of demonstrators are decrying the Israelis, holding signs, angrily ranting into megaphones, and waving Palestinian flags. Being against Israel is like, The In Thing, this year.

Which is weird to me.  Because I remember getting obsessed with the Israel/Jewish issue about 15 years ago, and getting dropped by about half the papers that were running my strip at the time for my terrible, terrible “anti-Semitism.” Almost nobody even talked about that stuff back then. And to do so was to risk public ridicule and shame. Which has always been my thing, I guess. Because face it, I AM ridiculous.

But it’s been a symptom of my “career” that I’ve always been 15 years ahead of my times. Or maybe 15 years behind the times. But never in sync with the times.

But as I get older it bothers me less. Because you realize, no matter how ingrained a thing is, no matter whether 99% of the people agree on the Right Position, it’ll just be replaced 15 years later by something completely different. If not just as stupid.

I remember one of the best cartoons I did at the time that nobody saw: “All in the Shamir Family.” It was a take-off of “All in the Family,” with then-Prime Minister Shamir as Archie Bunker. His daughter Gloria marries Meathead, who’s a Palestinian, so Shamir has him taken out and shot. (And to think I never reached the level of fame and success of “Garfield”)… The only guy who would print it was that zen bastard Paul Krassner (who’s Jewish by the way).

What got me fascinated with the whole “Jewish Issue” back in 1990 was the whole Holocaust Revisionism debate. Everybody told me: you can’t talk about that stuff, you can’t read that stuff. So, of course, I had to. What sparked my interest was a trial in Canada against this whacky lunatic named Zundl who got busted for publishing a book with the title “Did 6 Million Really Die?” A legitimate question of inquiry, I assumed, and certainly they could crush him like a bug simply by showing where they came up with that figure. But then (and here’s the weird part), when you start investigating where exactly this “6 million” figure came from, you realize it was basically just pulled out of thin air. There really are no statistics to back up this claim. Just because it’s been repeated a zillion times in the media doesn’t make it so. Even Raul Hilberg himself (an eminent Jewish Holocaust scholar) says the figure is closer to 3 million, that “6 million” is really  a “symbolic” figure. Which is fine. But how come this guy Zundl is thrown into jail for questioning something that isn’t true? It smacked of a 1984, “2+2=5, believe it or else,” Big Brother kind of mentality.

Almost immediately I was attacked for sticking my nose into this: “What are you, a nut?  Are you saying The Holocaust never happened?” As if this was a black-or-white proposition with no shadings of gray in between. Certainly the Holocaust Revisionists were  contesting some of the basic tenets of the Holocaust Orthodoxy (there’s that word). There basic position was that the Holocaust, as tragic as it no doubt was, has been greatly exaggerated and distorted by the popular media, as well as being used as a propaganda tool to justify the state of Israel and the oppression of the Palestinians. Which is a little different than saying “It never happened.” But somehow that’s how it always got twisted around in the mix.

The other thing that piqued my interest was: the Institute of Historical Review (the main publishers of Revisionist material) had their entire warehouse of books burned to the ground in an arsonist attack (on the Fourth of July, no less, how’s that for rubbing it in?).  The prime suspect (never proven) was Irv Rubin and the lunatics at the JDL (which is a whole ‘nother story). But the weird thing was: You had actual book burnings, on a massive scale, as well as censorship of ideas regarding legitimate historical inquiry. And not a peep was heard about this from all the bullzhitters in the media. At the same time, that windbag Jello Biafra was prancing around in front of the media spotlight with his No Censorship campaign because he had been busted for putting a banal photo of ass-and-cocks on his album cover which was bought by minors. And this was the great “Free Speech” issue of the times. What a sickening spectacle it was to see this Jello Biafra creep preening in the media spotlight like he’s some kind of heroic crusader for truth.

Anyway, I’m still pissed at the Israelis, 15 years later. But it’s not from some high moral ground, like: “Oh, how could those terrible, terrible Israelis oppress those poor innocent Palestinians!” I mean, I’m an American, and we crushed the Indians into the dirt. And actually I don’t think ANY nation has much in the way of bragging rights when it comes to throwing stones at other countries’ glass houses. My beef with Israel isn’t at their immorality, but their abject STUPIDITY. I mean, I come from a long line of Italian mobsters. And as dumb as these thugs are, even they know that there’s only two ways to deal with your enemies:  1.) You sit down and make deals that benefit both sides, or 2.) You wipe them out. Get rid of them. With one clean cut, as painlessly as possible. It’s the only way. Shit or get off the pot. Israel, on the other hand, has spent the last 50 years trying to do a little of both at the same time. It’s like they’re trying to make “peace” while they’re endlessly cutting the Palestinians with little paper cuts. And then wondering why the Palestinians get more and more pissed every day.

The reason the Roman Empire lasted as long as it did wasn’t because the Romans — as thuggish as they no doubt were — just  marched into these countries and crushed and dominated the people. What they did was chop off the heads of the Kings at the top, but left most of the political infrastructure intact, over-seeing it, of course, but leaving the lords and dukes and senators to have their power and turf, too. Making deals, you dig — one hand washing the other — and providing the countries with irrigation and water and all sorts of services. This scene in the modern Middle East, where the Israelis spend 50 years with their foot precariously propped on the Palestinians neck….how can they POSSIBLY think this situation is tenable?

I have no ending for this column. Because I can’t envision any ending to this stupidity.

Can’t we just get along, you fukking stupid azzholes….