Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Steve Curry, whose image...

...appeared on posters for the Broadway rock musical “Hair,” died at age 68. From his obit in the New York Times:

“Hair” was the first show to open at Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival on Astor Place. A celebration of the emerging 1960s counterculture, it focused on the lives of a tribe of hippies in New York City and featured songs that became pop hits for other artists, including “Aquarius,” by the Fifth Dimension; “Hair,” by the Cowsills; and “Good Morning Starshine,” by Oliver.

I'll never forget "Hair," even though I've never seen the play or the subsequent movie. But when our family moved to Short Hills, New Jersey in 1969 the play was very much in the news and a symbol of all that my Midwestern, Catholic parents were deathly afraid of. I remember driving around our new town with my horrified parents, staring out the window at the local high school kids in their long hair, jeans and bare feet! (We went to Catholic schools, of course, where we wore a coat and tie.)

From Wikipedia (my emphasis):

A product of the hippie counterculture and sexual revolution of the 1960s, several of its songs became anthems of the anti-Vietnam War peace movement. The musical's profanity, its depiction of the use of illegal drugs, its treatment of sexuality, its irreverence for the American flag, and its nude scene caused much comment and controversy. The musical broke new ground in musical theatre by defining the genre of "rock musical," using a racially integrated cast, and inviting the audience onstage for a "Be-In" finale.

I have to think that of all these things, the nudity probably scandalized my parents (and fascinated me) the most. "Can you imagine? Nudity in public? What is this world coming to?"

Apparently, the scene wasn't really that big of a deal:

It lasted only twenty seconds. Indeed, the scene happened so quickly and was so dimly lit that it prompted Jack Benny, during the interval at a London preview, to quip, "Did you happen to notice if any of them were Jewish?"

But I remember the sixties being a very scary time for my parents (and my family). The world seemed to be losing its collective mind: my college-age brother grew his hair long (sort of), my brother-in-law went off to Vietnam, kids were smoking pot and dropping acid, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, cities were rioting -- and all of that before breakfast!

And "Hair" was pretty much the embodiment of all that change. I really need to see that flick.

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