Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reviews: "Hair" by Eric Groce; "Chicken Soup for the Soul-Grandmothers"

Got a book review on the 60’s musical “HAIR”. Yes it’s a musical that defined a generation. This book, titled, appropriately, “Hair” by Eric Groce is chock full of history, pictures, lyrics and memories of this former ersatz hippie.

Pic of the Day

HAIR by Eric Groce, with a foreword by co-creator of HAIR, James Rado

It was a totally "you hadda be there" era.

For the "Hair" generation, life was tough, changing, confusing.

One major aspect of that time that today's youth will likely never experience is the military draft. Being subject to forced conscription, and make no mistake, this is what it was, changes everything about how you live your life.

I was a young woman, newly married to my childhood sweetheart. We were both born on the exact same day (same year!) and this fact might seem more like serendipity than of major import but not so, read on.

We were the very first generation, born in 1950, subject to the infamous military lottery.

I wonder if today's youth could ever imagine such a thing, if this same youth could ever wrap their minds around a notion that by a mere spin of some wheel somewhere, you're life, or death, might be changed or determined by the spin.

June 26 came in like the top ten. My 19 year old husband was very likely to be drafted, to be sent to that hell called Vietnam, our lives would be uprooted and changed by a force in line with an earthquake of life.

He wanted to move to Canada. I was very conflicted. I loved my country; I for sure didn't want to leave it, probably forever.

It cost us our marriage, yes it did. We fought over what to do, we began to fight over everything. I refused to desert to Canada. He was ready to go right after reporting to the draft board.

I saw the play "Hair" the first time it came to DC. I was hooked.

Like I said, you hadda be there in the late 60's, when men were coming home in body bags after fighting a war America seemed determined not to win. Nobody even seemed to understand the purpose of that hellish war. Vietnam tore more than my marriage apart. It was tearing this country apart.

Hair is the story of a young man too conflicted about what to do about the draft. He belongs to a "tribe", a loose group of "hippies" of the era, all smoking dope, making love and not war, viewing a world that would send them off to a distant rice paddy to die for God only knew why, as a nasty place, polluted, not worthy of any allegiance.


Of course the irony here is that even though through the years I'd seen the play Hair on every occasion that I could, even though I wore the long granny dresses of the era, hell yeah, I smoked dope and made lots of youthful I would be considered by most a Conservative of the highest order.

Well hell, today I now know that the Vietnam war was being overseen by Democrats who never knew how to fight a war in any fashion save raising the white flag of surrender. In fact, at that time most of congress and the presidency was controlled by Democrats and any time you have bad times it's usually because a Democrat's in charge and hey, I know that now.

I also have had a child since that era of peace, now a grandchild. Pretty much nothing makes you grow up more than being responsible for another life. The hippie era was also the time of the birth control pill, the hayday of its introduction in fact. There were few young children around when the pot flowed and love was made.

It wasn't about children or futures or plans. It was about the now, feeling good today, taking some moments from such as jobs and ongoing education, chilling out. Most of us born during the baby boom spent a year, maybe two or three, being a hippie or some facsimile thereof. Then life went on.

So I picked up this colorful and very large book detailing how the rock musical Hair came to be. The book has the lyrics to all the Hair tunes, and I do know them all.

It was two hippie type of fellows, one Gerald Rado and James Ragni, who came up with the concept of Hair. The book chronicles the story of how backing was obtained for the show, how a theater was found for its first venue, how the musical travelled around the world and through the ages, its most recent revival in the twenty first century, 2010 in fact.

I learned some things about the show I did not know. Two fairly famous entertainers started out appearing in Hair, one the very uptight Diane Keaton, the other the black singer, Melba Moore.

Hair has been one of the longest running ongoing musicals ever. Today it's more of a historical story while I saw it, felt it, lived it, loved it, breathed it, cried it and screamed it right during the time the musical was satirizing/exposing/mocking.

The young member of the tribe, Claude Bukowski, decided to go to Vietnam. He didn't come back alive. The emotion poured through me, my young married self to a husband who too might not come back alive, who would not, as Claude did, honor his country's draft notice, who would desert to Canada. Without me.

Ah yes, Hair is in my blood, even today, even as a grandmother now living a quiet mousy semi-rural life.

In reading the book, I learned that
--the infamouse nude scene:
"found a law on the books that said nudity was legal if it was in a tableau, with no movement."

Yes, Hair had a nude scene and the actors did, in fact, come up behind a curtain and stand before the audience completely naked. Hey, I don't know why the nude scene but it sure got the musical a lot of attention.

Finally, I found this in the book--
"The opinion of the NY Times had an even more profound impact on a Broadway show's success in 1968 than it does today."

You got to smile. But the above is true. The NY Times has grown into a pretty predictable bore nowadays, and for sure has lost the power it once had.

Another example of how the times have changed since Hair came along and moved a generation.
”Chicken Soup for the Soul-Grandmothers”

So I got a story in this book, released just the day of this writing-3/22/11.

It’s a Chicken Soup for the Soul thing, the stuff to read at the beauty parlor, the doctor’s office. The writing is generally well done, the stories are true and more precious for their truth than the quality of the prose.

My story is about a grandson I’ve never known.

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