Continuing the discussion on Hair, I post below an unabridged, uncensored anonymous guest comment from a good friend:
“Hair” opened on Broadway while I was in elementary school in New York City. It was a succes de scandale: naked women appeared in the finale (I heard at one of my parents’ parties) and they smoked joints on stage. It was the triumph of the hippies, the great unwashed. My parents, though they viewed themselves as bohemians, had no patience with “letting it all hang out”: they were old enough (and poor enough) to remember the ravages of parasites and venereal disease that have always accompanied free-for-alls.
The radio wouldn’t have been allowed to play the song which described (then often illegal) alternative sexual practices, but “Aquarius” played frequently, in the cool version of The Fifth Dimension, and we even learned it for chorus at school. “Harmony and Understanding…no more falsehoods or derisions”…that was certainly laudable. I am not so sure about the “mystic crystal revelations,” nor what exactly was meant by “the mind’s true liberation”, because everyone talking about this was stoned and not very coherent. I certainly wasn’t aware of it at the time, but this probably marked the point at which the public face of protest against the war switched from folk-singers to the acid powered. And then there was the endlessly rainy summer of Woodstock, where we returned, literally, to the primeval mud from which we emerged. The lean years followed.
I was in college when the movie musical came out and I went to see it with a group of friends. We were embarassed, not shocked, perhaps becauses it had been toned down a bit from the original, perhaps because times had changed. I remember thinking it was a reasonable summation of the senselessness of the ’60’s, but I also remember thinking how little I would have liked to have met any of the protagonists, even as portrayed by Treat Williams. They were too reminiscent of the stuporous teenagers and college students who had long roamed our neighborhood and the ones I met up with now that I was in college myself.
And, in case anybody wonders if this is the last word on the topic, pick up this week’s issue of the New Yorker and read Hilton Als (who writes the pithy, readable Et Als colums online for the New Yorker, and is the author of the memoir, The Women) His review ‘Not So Free Love,’ contains this observation with regard to the portrayal of blackness, particularly the stereotyping of Hud, the composite of the Militant Black Man:
“…In short, aside from the draft, all the “issues” in “Hair” seem to have to do with race, and the task of representing them falls on the overburdened black characters, who have to do almost everything here except tap-dance.”
I’d still like to go. As Shakima “Kima” Greggs says back in Season 2 of The Wire, “If I hear the music, I’m gonna dance.”