July 3, 1980 - Berkeley Barb Dies, a Victim of '70s - Washington Post

July 30, 2015 - Sex, Drugs, Revolution: 50 Years On, Barbarians Gather to Recall The Berkeley Barb - California Magazine

August 14, 2015 - Berkeley Barb: Ex-staffers Recount Underground Newspaper's Founding 50 Years Ago - Vallejo Times-Herald

Berkeley's Own Don Quixote - by Diana Stephens

Read Barb vet David Haldane's Nazis and Nudists in its entirety (.pdf)
Will Durst
the berkeley barb for crum's sake.
growing up in wisconsin it was a beacon of long distance light.
George Csicsery
Here are two pictures of me from that very same day at Altamont. Photos were taken by Barry Jablon. I also remember Jonathan Eisen’s book because I have two or three pieces in it, including my cover story about Altamont from the "Tribe."

Norman Quebedeau
My first published cartoon. I drew this when I was 19 and during the week of the invasion of Cambodia and shootings at Kent State and Jackson State. Max put this on the cover of the Barb and launched my long career as a semi-under-employed cartoonist. I am forever indebted to him.
Stew Albert
Stew Albert is an almost-nice Jewish boy who grew up in Brooklyn between World War II and the Cold War. Many of us remember hiding under desks during practice nuclear attacks, but Stew remembers the brass pail in his vestibule filled with white sand in case the Japanese bombed his house and there was a fire. Yes, Stew grew up very bored in Brooklyn―and got out in a hurry. His was the unspectacular childhood of a not-especially-promising kid. He wasn’t good at punch ball, spelling, math, geography, or kick-the-can; although he did have some surprising skill swinging a stick at a spaldeen. He wasn’t particularly popular nor was he disliked; he was invisibly normal. He did, however, have one very distinguishing characteristic: he was, and still is, a very blond Jew.

Stew frequently daydreamed about outlaws and tough guys, as did his father, who worked as a city clerk for fifty years. By all rights, Stew should have followed in his old man’s footsteps. But instead, we find a young man stoned and hanging-out, in bed with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, shvitzing in the Luxor Turkish Baths with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, drunk in Santiago, Chile with Phil Ochs and blasted with Allan Ginsberg on a manic drive through San Francisco’s hills. An alert CIA agent would have easily recognized our former loser on an Algerian beach acid-tripping with Timothy Leary. Can this childhood mediocrity―outstanding only for his hair color―be the same guy showing off his Chicago riot head wounds to William S. Burroughs? Can it be him amidst the chaotic siege on the Pentagon in 1967, giving a speech to the 82nd Airborne about the Lone Ranger? How did this putz kid reinvent himself?

Instead of taking a civil service test, he started taking his daydreams seriously. But why? It must have been the sixties―that brief period of time when everything seemed possible and the future was up for grabs...

Stew passed away in 2006. He is the author of his memoir, Who the Hell is Stew Albert (Red Hen Press, 2003, and coauthor with Judy Gumbo of The Sixties Papers: Documents of a Rebellious Decade (Greenwood Press, 1984).
Amie Hill
THROWBACK THURSDAY: San Francisco, California, c. 1970


Around 1970, when I was working at KSAN-FM, one of the first "underground" radio stations in the country, I encountered one of the icons of the era, Eugene L. Schoenfeld M.D., aka "Dr. HipPocrates."

In 1966, Gene had started to write a newspaper column, "Ask Dr. Hip," in which he replied to medical questions considered too X-rated for the average media-medical-advice dispenser to handle.

Witty, erudite, clearly written and immensely helpful on subjects such as STDs, crab lice, birth control and street-drug side effects, the column first appeared in the BERKELEY BARB, gathered a large following, and was later syndicated to a number of forward-thinking mainstream newspapers.

Wikipedia states: "The advice dispensed in the 'Dr. Hip' columns was one of the few sources of medical information the hippie generation, distrustful of establishment sources of any kind, would listen to. His books, DEAR DR. HIPPOCRATES; NATURAL FOOD AND UNNATURAL ACTS; JEALOUSY: TAMING THE GREEN-EYED MONSTER,; and DR. HIP'S DOWN-TO-EARTH HEALTH GUIDE, had an empowering effect on those people. Dr. Schoenfeld was a pioneering radio personality on Bay Area stations in the 1970s, and subsequent talk show doctors credit him for being a trailblazer."

Well, if Gene did any radio trailblazing, it wasn’t due to my efforts. The station paired the two of us for a Q&A show, but my nothing-special voice and his quiet and deceptively low-key manner failed to deliver the requisite on-air pizazz, and we were soon discontinued.

One day at the station, however, Gene asked me if I’d be interested in joining him to participate in a study that his brother Frank, also an M.D., was conducting at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Hospital, on the effects of marijuana.

OK, I said.

This conversation was overheard by the station’s news director, the legendary Wes "Scoop" Nisker, who daily delivered the hard news of the world in the form of aural collages that incorporated commentary, music, comedy, sound-effects—sort of Edward R. Murrow meets Spike Jones.

The show’s motto became the title of Scoop’s first book (he’s written seven more to date): IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE NEWS…GO OUT AND MAKE SOME OF YOUR OWN. In that spirit, Scoop suggested that I come back to the studio afterwards and be interviewed about our experience.

OK, I said.

So Dr. Hip and I trundled up to UCSF, where we met up with brother Dr. Frank and a sober-looking parcel of other MDs. We signed waivers, and listened straight-faced to a talk about the kind of effects we might expect to feel while under the influence.

We were then each issued a small marijuana cigarette to smoke (fortunately this was before the evolution of strains of weed that could knock you on your butt with one inhale). Roach clips were not provided.

We were then ushered into a room remarkable for its simultaneous sterility and ugliness—bright fluorescent ceiling lights, unadorned hospital-green walls, muddy-looking linoleum-tiled floors, and two gray metal folding chairs facing an obvious two-way mirror. An atmosphere less conducive to observing examples of POTHEADIA STONEDOUTICUM in anything resembling native habitat could hardly have been contrived. Or perhaps that was the idea.

As instructed, we sat down in the chairs. Frank went to take his place with the others behind the mirror. We sat.

And sat.

Nothing happened, except for the odd behavior of a couple of the fluorescent lights, which began humming cheekily in two-part harmony.

"What do they expect us to do?" I whispered to Gene. He shrugged. We sat, the air in the room growing more surreal by the minute.

I was just beginning to become fascinated by the linoleum, a kind of restful gray gooped with sludge-green and—ooooh! Flecks of orange!—when Gene turned to me, and said, conversationally but with an air of great seriousness: "You know, I have this overwhelming urge to rip your clothes off."

We both cracked up, and there was a sharp rapping from the other side of the mirror, presumably Frank calling us to (snicker) order. We obediently subsided, and sat. And sat. Time flowed.

I believe Gene started making rude faces at himself in the mirror, but I’m not sure, because by that time I was well on the way to becoming one with the linoleum.

Fortunately, Frank came in then, asked us a few questions about time and depth perception ("you’re kidding, right?"), and grouchily released us with a few trenchant remarks, a $15 stipend, and a bodacious legal high.

Gene and I burst out onto the street on a wave of relief, vying with each other to comment on the previous strangeness. Then I remembered my promise to Scoop, and though I did stop on the way to buy a box of Screaming Yellow Zonkers, I boarded the pre-BART N-Judah trolley car for an amusement-park ride through a series of simulated Sergeant Pepper San Francisco streetscapes to KSAN, where Scoop interrupted the newscast for a special bulletin.

My memory of our interchange is hazy, but I believe I made several clever rat-in-a-maze references, reinforced by quotes from Rilke, Dagwood, and Winnie-the-Pooh.

But in fuzzy retrospect, it was when requested to describe the quality of the weed currently being pushed by the UC educational system that I really rose to the occasion: "Fair and full-bodied, with a hint of ennui, saucy top notes of fluorescence and an irresistible undertone of linoleum."

Or something like that.

High old times.
Before I got a job and was living on the street, I sold the Barb on Haight St. That’s how we lived: made enough money every day to buy a loaf of bread, peanut butter, jelly, a hit of acid, and a outrageous priced ticket ($2.50) to the Fillmore or the Avalon to hear some cool music. The Barb literally saved my life and other friends during those years. Just saying!
Gabrielle Schang
I began as a layout artist, then reporter, and finally Asst. Editor, when I was called before a Federal Grand Jury as a result of communiqués I received at the Barb, from the New World Liberation Front (NWLF) following the SLA’s kidnapping of Patty Hearst. I refused to hand them over to the FBI for fingerprinting.
Paul Kleyman
I wrote for the Barb when I first arrived here in late '67, and I actually spent the afternoon at the Altamont concert sitting up on the hillside with Max and then hitching a ride back to SF with him in the back of a pickup truck (he got off in Berkeley, of course).

At the Rolling Stone's/Hell's Angels debacle at Altamont, I spent most of the afternoon up on the hillside sitting with Max Scherr. One of the folks who strolled by for a visit with Max was photographer Sam Silver, a sometimes contributor to the Barb. Sam took this shot of me that afternoon, and it appeared about a year later in the book, "The Age of Rock 2" by Jonathan Eisen. It's been a source of amusement that I appeared as a face of Altamont. At the end of the event that night, and before word of the killing was more than a rumor, Max and I caught a ride in the back of a pickup, with him being dropped off in Berkeley and me getting a surprisingly fast list back to SF. For all of his well known faults and quirks, Max impressed me on the ride with his ability to calmly draw out the initial thoughts and impressions of group in the back of the pickup about the event, which he did with hardly more than a few words and nothing of his own reflections or of who he was.

Apollinaire Scherr
I'm Max Scherr's youngest child. I live in New York, so I've been following the upcoming anniversary from afar-- through the website, the articles in the Chron and the Daily Planet and Cal alumni magazine.

And though what people say about my father is alternately entertaining and depressing, none of it is very surprising. People, close and far, have always used him as a screen for their own issues. On one side, hagiography; on the other, vilification. So I was pleased to find a version of him that I recognized: As Diana Stephens remembered Gar saying, "scruffy and earnest, sweet and gentle, a 'genial provocateur.'" And playful, I would add, with a healthy sense of the absurd.
Dan Siegel
Before Facebook and Twitter, there was the Berkeley Barb.

I chose Berkeley Law—then known as Boalt Hall—because Berkeley was Berkeley. I moved here in 1967. Stop the Draft Week began a week later, followed quickly by the Movement Against Political Suspensions, the Vietnam Commencement, the fight over Eldridge Cleaver teaching a course on campus, the Third World Strike, People's Park, the Vietnam Moratorium, an Cambodia.

The Barb helped keep us organized, reported on protests, and provided a forum for discussion and debate. Without censorship. And it wasn't corporate.

Dan Siegel is a Civil Rights Attorney, former ASUC President and a former Oakland School Board Member.
G. Pascal Zachary
I worked in the final years (77-80) when the Barb tried (somewhat comically) to free itself from escort ads and other ads deemed offensive to women. This led to some ironic outcomes. I also had a valued chance to spend a day with the inimitable Max Scherr. He drove me out to Livermore, where I covered a protest against the bomb lab. Fascinating to hear and see him.

After the Barb folded, I continued to write for the Spectator -- and then went to work for the Santa Barbara News & Review, the East Bay Express, the Bay Guardian -- and, later, mainstream publications such as Wall Street Journal and NYT and one of Time's publications. More recently I've spent considerable time in Africa -- 43 visits since 2000 -- and I married a West African (further proof that journalists are prone to "marry their beats").
Rob Hurwitt
My first memories of Max are of this odd little man with the scraggly beard selling the paper at Bancroft and Telegraph -- and, of course, of reading the Barb and liking the idea of a paper that covered local protests etc in a manner that seemed more recognizable, more truthful than the local dailies (which it seemed got their information from prejudicial sources, such as the FBI).

I started writing because a friend started an underground paper in DC and asked me to contribute stories from out here; Max liked some of what I'd written and called and asked if I'd write for him as well. And I agreed. After that I generally went in maybe once a week to deliver my copy and pitch stories, or have Max pitch some to me. Like many of the writers, as I understand it, it never occurred to me that I could get paid for any of this. I didn't even hear about the famous spaghetti feeds until some time later -- and don't really remember meeting Jane Scherr until much later, around 1980, when I was working for the Express.

A few journalism tips from Max stick with me to this day . . . covering Monterey Pop for the Barb, and how being from the Barb meant something to the organizers . . . and the article I wrote for Max that -- many years later, thru the Freedom of Information Act -- I discovered was right at the beginning of my CIA file.
John Jekabson
I saw Jim Schreiber quite often after his days at the Barb. He worked as a letter carrier in Berkeley. His route was in the Berkeley flats somewhere just above San Pablo Ave. I last saw him in the middle 1980s. He was very quiet and kept to himself, none of his fellow workers knew anything about his days with the Barb. Although he did join the letter carriers union, he was not active and never came to any meetings, or gave advise about politics, like I said, he was very private and kept to himself. I don't know when he passed away, but he already had been retired from the Post Office for quite some time.

I know he had an up and down relationship with Max. I first met him in May of 1966, right when he started working for the Barb. I was just leaving and I recall that at that time he was the only paid staff member, -- the first hired by Max. It was in the next two years 1966-68, while Jim was the managing editor that the Barb expanded, from 3,000 per issue to 45,000 or 50,000 per issue. I do recall that sometime in those two years Jim left for a short time to work for a "straight" newspaper, but then came back to Max.

When I came back to Berkeley in September 1968 Jim was again having conflicts with Max and abruptly quit. That was when Max made me the managing editor. When we had the Barb strike in June 1969 Jim re-appeared and was one of the main organizers of the strike against Max. When we put out the Tribe Jim became our editor, a position he held for over a year -- until conflicts within the Tribe collective forced him out. Eventually he want back to the Barb and worked for Max again, and after that went to work for the Postal Service.

Jim was a very private person, despite being together and working side by side, I can't say I ever got to know him well. He was very good as an editor, always very professional, and much of the success of the Barb is do to his diligent work.

Obscenity and Busts (Verbatim transcript from Tuesday, March 25, 1969) Well, we got busted today, -- Max called, told me over the phone – for obscenity, the MC5 pic on page nine, people fucking. Max has never called me at home before. I hurried to the office. It was a mad house, crowded, full of all kinds of strangers, newspaper guys, radio stations calling. Max seemed to enjoy it -- all the attention. He was like "holding court" with it centered on him. Larry Duga, his attorney, was already there.

Soon we all – the staff, even Jane, the press people, -- walked down the four blocks to the Hall of Justice for the arraignment. Jeeez, it was a big caravan, all our photographers were there, Shames, Copeland, Hoffman, and the strange new cat named Bacilla. He’s the one who took the "obscene" photo, -- it’s some chick, a "groupie" I think they’re called, with the MC 5 at a party -- I guess he’s their official photo guy. (But one chick with all those guys? man, that doesn’t seem like fun for anyone! I couldn’t do anything like that, nothing loving or tender about that. But OK, that’s the world they live in!)

I even took one of the office cameras, but all that was overkill, just for the first arraignment. The ordinary scoffers and petty criminals were baffled by our arrival. The police on duty were surprised we were so many, and quickly started locking doors.

Max paid $500.00 (five bills he counted out) and gave his statement out front to the press. "This is purely political," he said. "It’s an excuse... they want to close us down... people have always been fucking. That is not obscene. The war in Vietnam is obscene," he repeated that quote several times, gleeful the radio stations had to use their bleepers. Several news guys said, "this is going live," but he still said the same thing. He loved it.

Already I was taking notes for the next issue. How WE were gonna play it -- it’s always an opportunity when you get that much publicity. Every straight paper had us on the front page. Max was in a good mood, even sans the $500.00.

Jayson Wechter
When I was a teenager in New York City in 1968, I found a tiny shop on St. Marks Place in Greenwich Village that carried underground newspapers from around the country. None seemed as storied or evocative for me as the Berkeley Barb, reporting on the "off Broadway of history" from the epicenter of political activism and social and cultural upheaval. Ten years and 3000 miles later, I was a columnist and contributing editor at the Barb, writing about underground comics, the Hooker’s Ball, and whatever odd event or activity in the Bay Area intrigued me. I reported on protests over housing issues in the Haight Ashbury, interviewed offbeat artists and writers and wrote about covertly exploring San Francisco’s sewers.

Barb staffers and contributors were known as "Barbarians," a clever bit of word play but also a description of how we approached free food and drink at press events. The writers were paid a few cents a word, but the editors tried to make up for it by handing out review copies of books that we’d trade for cash at local bookstores. The Barb was too poor to put on a December holiday party, but once held one on extremely short notice when one of the sex advertisers donated a case of champagne. At some point in that drunken evening, I called for fellow Barbarians to join me in climbing to the top of the sixty-foot tall water tower outside the Barb’s Heinz Street office. At least one adventurous soul joined me, and I remember that I made it to the top and no one fell, but not much else.

I was once assigned, at the instigation of the advertising director, to write a guide to saunas and spas in San Francisco, which enabled her to sell two pages of ads to saunas and related businesses. Every day for a week I had the enviable job of getting up and heading off to sweat and soak. When the Barb shot the photos to accompany the multi-page spread, the ad director and I posed in a hot tub. I brought appropriate props: a fedora to wear, a cigar to smoke and a decoy duck to float nearby, because while the visual message was supposed to be "sex" (the story’s front page headline was "Some Like It Hot") this was the Berkeley Barb, and you just couldn’t do things in a conventional way.

In the three and a half decades since I wrote for the Barb, I’ve done a lot of different things, but I’ve never worked anyplace where I was paid so little or had so much fun!
Sandi Morey
I was in my mid 20s when the Barb first came to my attention. I was a dedicated Oracle reader and had recently arrived home to SF from the South, where I participated in the Civil Rights Movement, the Student Peace Union and singing my way around the U.S. on an odyssey that everyone should do in their 20s. I remember The Tribe as well, but it isn’t as fully in my memory as the Barb and Oracle.

I am especially grateful to Dr. Hip for navigating me through the health issues of my time, where to get a diaphragm, how to use it, where to get free health care, support groups for women, etc. I also appreciate that the Barb dealt so well with all the political issues of our time, most of which are still with us and worse. But we really made a dent back then, and the Barb brought many of us to consciousness in order to engender change.

I remember an article with a great cover on Robin Morgan’s first book, Sisterhood is Powerful, that led me to question my heterosexual life. I felt the guilt lift as I embarked on my first and only homosexual relationship, which turned out to be just as complex and unsatisfying as my heterosexual relationships had been up to that time. I was 40 when I married my delightful current spouse.

I wonder if there would have been a Bay Guardian or an East Bay Express without these early publications. They supported the counterculture and were supported by it. They spawned little papers in Hawaii, and likely in many other places. They helped all of us think outside the box. They helped us meet and connect and presented voices we wouldn’t have ordinarily been exposed to.
Winston Smith
[I had] my artwork featured in the Barb at least once years ago (and on the front page, no less!) [...] I believe it was either late 1979 or in the Spring of 1980. I have a couple copies of the issue in my archives, but God only knows what’s become of them. I believe the headline for my interview was The Numb Tag Artist. This featured a sticker I had designed that mocked the new fad of yuppies wearing name tags to introduce themselves at business events and parties. (As in: "Hi! My Name is: —fill in the blank-)". But in place of a space to write your name I’d added a UPC (the newly introduced Universal Price Code that was suddenly appearing on certain supermarket items... and is now on everything... but it was especially creepy at the time.)

These are two versions of this dumb joke, but it seemed to be enough to attract the interest of Barb editors Warren and Mark. I was pleased that they’d chosen to feature my artwork on the front page. It was a good issue to be in, so I was honored to participate in my own small way.
The influence on the Berkeley Barb has been considerable for me. All these obscure connections have finally come together. Congratulations to all involved in the celebration! The Berkeley Barb was a life-changing influence for me and I’m sure others have similar accounts (even if just reading the information and insights the Barb published changed their lives for the better.)

Many thanks to the Berkeley Barb for helping to launch my so-called "career". It’s all THEIR Fault!!
Rev. Mother Boats (Brian MB Traynor)
I was stringer and staff photographer and set up the dark room for The Berkeley Barb, founded and owned by Max Scheer. I can"t remember exactly when I started writing as stringer or column-inch person, but it was somewhere around 1970.5 to 1972 since I left for Costa Rica, New Zealand and Australia on board S/V Sofia in 1973.

I did spend a lot of time in office writing and then some weeks or months later started building the dark room in back storage room, and was quasi-official photographer or "on staff," being paid by Max to work in office.

As you understand, 90% of those connected to the radical movement only submitted stories and data to the Berkeley Barb. The staff were the typesetters, an editor or two, a classified editor and bookkeeper. Freelancers mostly submitted photographs that where paid for by Max and a few photographs where actually printed or done at the office. Much of the photos and data was, of course were "page-lifted," from other publications.

If I was at the reunion, I probably would clink once we talked about times and places. I have been in Australia since 1974.

Pat Brown only remembers the receptionist. I have asked Jefferson Poland and Leo Laurence—early writers and activists—if they remember the individuals list and others. Leo was working at KGO-TV and Jefferson has his own income. Both I think, wrote under other names, and may have sent stories by mail or them dropped off and not bothered to cut out their stories from Barb, and file their request for payment.

Although many may have established movements and organizations via the Barb or got their word out, they may have never actually been staff, or actually part of the Barb office itself. There was a symbiotic thing in that Max needed copy and individuals needed their voice to be heard—such as Black Panthers, and feminists as well as Gay Liberations. If it was not for the Barb, these people would not have been published.

I am trying to get together and send to Gay archives (such as in Australia and Germany) the unfiltered true history of the founding of the Gay Liberation=Committee for Homosexual Freedom movement in the US that later spread around the world. Both Jefferson Poland and Leo Laurence had been writing for Barb about "being a homosexual and proud," which was unheard of in 1968-9.

The photo of Leo and Gayle Whittington in the Berkeley Barb, published in Gayle's book (he died some time ago now) was sometime around early 1969. (I had huge archive in Australia but then all been send off and now only scanned copies of few items) Leo said he and I believe Gayle first started the Committee for Homosexual Freedom (CHF) around January. Pat Brown just told me on phone, the first time he went to CHF meeting was 15 March 69 held at Leo"s house. Pat became picket captain at State's Steamship, the first openly homosexual protest moment again a person being fired for his sexual orientation. It went on for five days a week for weeks. This picket, and many other demonstrations, were months before the "Stonewall riot" in June 1969, which is considered by New Yorkers as start of the Gay political movement.

I reported previously about my Mob coming into Barb office with me 
after hours when I worked in darkroom and running up the telephone bill on Max.
 (I always thought it was Galt, but maybe it was "Headstone" after all?) I may 
have lost my job because of the bill and Max's frugality.

Mother Boats was a founding member of is the Committee for Homosexual Freedom, which was first activist openly Gay movement that 
led to Gay Liberation.
Randy Alfred
Browsing the Barb at Ghirardelli - An aunt and uncle were visiting from Boston in 1968, so I took a day off from boring sociology grad school at UC to play tourist with them in San Francisco. As we walked from Fisherman's Wharf, my uncle noticed the numerous hippie-ish folk hawking a variety of underground newspapers from blankets on the sidewalk. He asked what kind of publications they were.

Now this was the aunt who told raunchy stories in front of the kids, and the uncle who slipped extra money to his teenage nephews and told them where they could find a hooker. So I said they should buy a paper and read it. I figured it'd give them plenty of adult entertainment that night. Uncle Morry asked which one he should buy, because he didn't want to stare like a clueless gawker. I said, "Next time we pass a vendor, just toss him a quarter and say. 'Gimme a Barb.'" And so he did.

Moments later while we waited for our order at the Ghirardelli Square ice-cream parlor, Auntie Belle began reading the Barb personal ads in a quiet, conversational voice. She was amazed by their frankness -- though they were probably tepid by today's online standards. The personals were an unclassified jumble, and Auntie Belle had already read several that referred to gay men. Then she came to one that explicitly said, "Gay man seeks gay man for fun and sex."

She looked across the table at Uncle Morry and me. "For sex?" She was plainly astonished, but certainly not judgmental.

"Yeah, Auntie Belle," I said. "That's what gay means."

Her astonishment got the better of her, as she mentally reviewed the earlier ads she hadn't properly comprehended. Then, in full voice that could be heard throughout the restaurant, she bellowed, "Oh, I didn't know that's what gay meant."
Heads turned.
The place went silent.

Auntie Belle realized she'd caused a scene and flushed bright red. Uncle Morry and I started laughing. Big, jolly laughs. The restaurant returned to normal. Auntie Belle's complexion returned to normal. She joined the laughter in our booth.

Half the people in the restaurant likewise probably didn't know what gay meant. (It was 1968.) Of those remaining, some probably thought I'd just come out to my parents. The others probably thought that the 20-something guy and 50-something guy had just revealed we were a couple.

At the time, I was too deep in the closet to be threatened by this scene. In fact, I was so deep in the closet that I didn't even know it was a closet that I was in. I didn't create a blip on my own gaydar. (What, never? Well, hardly ever. I usually ignored, forgot or repressed any such self-signals. Herr Doktor Freud, are you listening?)

When I did come out to myself and friends a few years later, the first guy I had sex with... I met through an ad in the Barb.

And when I came out to parents and relatives a few years after that, the first thing Auntie Belle asked was whether she'd embarrassed me reading the Berkeley Barb at at Ghirardelli Square.

Which was funny, because by then I was writing for the Barb.

Isn't That a Riot - I wrote a Barb story in May 1979 explaining why a lenient verdict in the Dan White trial would almost certainly trigger a riot in San Francisco. I was in the Barb office in Berkeley handing it in on Monday afternoon when the verdict was announced. We all rushed back to the City. I reached the Castro neighborhood just as angry marchers set off for City Hall.

The next morning, I phoned editor Mark Powelson about riot coverage. He said he wanted to run my article as is, changing only the lede and close. And he did, under the headline, "Why the lid blew off." Except, in the rush to deadline for the weekly Thursday edition, he missed the close. I wrote that the May 12 mini-riot on Castro Street "might be only a small-scale dress rehearsal for what might come later." The original verb tense is my proof the piece was turned in before -- and accurately predicted -- the riot.
Ken Wachsberger
Celebrating Berkeley Barb’s 50th Anniversary of Founding - August 24, 2015

I’ve said it many times already in many forms. I’m happy to say it again: My deepest thanks to the Berkeley Barb reunion committee for inviting me to share in the festivities of the fiftieth anniversary reunion, Wednesday and Thursday August 12-13. (Events took place all week but those were the only two I was able to attend.) The Barb, one of the legendary underground papers of the Vietnam era, hasn’t actually been around since 1980 but it was founded fifty years ago, in 1965, and fifty years of anything is worthy of a celebration.

Reunions always include at least two parts. First is the celebration, seeing friends who you haven’t seen in what seems like forever and who you’re never sure you will ever see again, and also seeing folks who go back to the same time but who you never knew personally and are meeting for the first time. So the event is joyous at the same time as it is bittersweet.

Here are some of the friends who shared memories and laughs with me:

Friends I met while organizing against both major parties in Miami Beach in the summer of 1972 (Gabrielle Schang, Leslie Bacon, Babs Yohai, Kathy Streem, Judy Gumbo);

A friend who worked with me on Joint Issue in Lansing-East Lansing, Michigan, and then made the trek west with a stop at the Barb (Stephen Vernon);

A friend from East Lansing who worked on another area underground paper, The Spectacle (Tom Price);

Contributors to my Voices from the Underground Series (Trina Robbins, Alta, Laura X, all veterans of the feminist newspaper It Ain't Me Babe);

Members of the reunion committee (Raquel Scherr, Gar Smith, Diana Stephens, John Jekabson);

The legendary medical advice columnist Eugene Schoenfeld, known as Dr. HIPpocrates.

John Jekabson, Berkeley Barb veteran and member of the reunion committee, with Ken Wachsberger. (Photo credit Marianne Smith, August 2015)

And there were others, so apologies to anyone I neglected to list here.

The second part is reflective. When you’re living in the now and you’re looking back fifty years, and if you have an active mind, you can’t help but go deep inside yourself as you listen to others go deep inside themselves. The conference on Thursday encouraged the trip back in time. It began with a keynote from feminist comix pioneer Trina Robbins talking about women in the underground press and how she broke through the all-boys’ club of comix artists; and ended with a keynote from Dr. HIP, giving his fascinating life story including how he came to write his famous sex advice column for the Barb, which was "syndicated" in underground papers all over the country. (I use quotes because none of the papers that reprinted his column, he said, in fact paid him; we were kind of loose with understanding of copyright in those days.)

Between the opening and closing keynotes were two panels and a reading by feminist poet Alta. In the morning panel, moderated by Judy Gumbo, veterans of the Barb representing the entire fifteen-year span of its existence shared their memories by answering two questions apiece that Judy prepared specifically for them. I shared the afternoon panel with journalist/historians Peter Richardson, historian of Ramparts magazine and the Grateful Dead; and Seth Rosenfeld, chronicler of the FBI-Ronald Reagan war against student radicals in the sixties. Diana Stephens, who led the effort to organize the reunion after being inspired during the writing of her master’s thesis on the Barb, moderated this panel. A report on the reunion appeared in the Contra Costa Times News. You can read it here. Following is the full text of my talk, which I cut slightly at the panel in consideration of a tight time frame.

* * *

As a veteran and a historian of the sixties, I hear often—and maybe you do, too—the question: "When did the sixties end?" I’d like to reframe that question:

Same-sex marriage is now legal in the entire country.
Legal marijuana is not far behind.
Women are rising up again to fight for equality and to control their own bodies.
U.S. residents of Mexican descent, who we knew as Chicanos, are demanding a path to citizenship and the right to study their history and culture in schools and universities. Black Lives Matter.
A socialist is a viable candidate for president.
And the alternative press is vibrant, and more necessary than ever.

So my reframed question is: How have the sixties lasted so long? That shining star that never fades.

When I was compiling and editing histories of individual underground papers in the late eighties-early nineties for the first edition of my Voices from the Underground Series, I was chided by at least one friend, himself a veteran of the underground press, for putting so much effort into such an esoteric topic. Fortunately, I didn’t know what "esoteric" meant, so I was undeterred. Since then, it has become a major part of my life’s work. While working on that first edition, my most gratifying discovery was that my contributors were still politically active. This was no small feat. We were fifteen years after the war’s end. The country had veered dramatically to the right. We were living in Reagan’s America. A major percentage of our peers were becoming Yuppified. They were hiding from their own kids what they did to help us accomplish all that we did because they were paranoid of losing their jobs, even though the period had produced the broadest, most diverse antiwar movement in the history of our country.

Now we’re 25 years beyond that time. I know all of you are still politically active. And the country is starting to swing around to our side. I know it still looks bad, but the arc is curving in our direction. We were persistent. We were patient. And we were right all along.

And I discovered something else: Our friend Jerry Rubin said it best: "We are everywhere." Underground papers were everywhere. They were in urban, suburban, rural, ghetto, barrio, tribal, and other communities in every state of the Union and in countries around the world. They represented the gay, lesbian, feminist, black, Native American, Puerto Rican, Asian American, Chicano, senior citizen, high school, campus, community, anarchist, socialist, psychedelic, counterculture, new age, prisoners’ rights, rank and file, Southern consciousness, and other alternative voices of the day. They were found in every branch of the military—over 900 GI underground papers published by or directed to members of the military. Support the troops? You’re damn right we supported the troops. No one supported the troops like we did. Underground papers were everywhere. Each one spoke to its own unique audience. But they were united against the war.

So here we are celebrating Berkeley Barb, one of the greats, one of the legends, one of the first five members of Underground Press Syndicate, the first nationwide network of countercultural underground newspapers. My hat’s off to all of you who played a role in that history. You really are a remarkable family of heroes and legends and friends. I’m honored to be sharing this historic moment with you.

And congratulations to all of you who came of age in the eighties and nineties and have carried on our struggles, which we carried on from generations before us. You’re the new leadership.

We still have goals to achieve, fantasies to live, as Abbie [Hoffman] would have said, but the torch has been passed to the next generation. Our mission now is to share our experiences and lessons with current and future leaders.

Here’s the first thing, people of my generation, you’re going to find: too many young folks have no idea what happened back when. A journalist wrote to me recently. He said: "It is interesting how little the underground press plays into our popular conception of the 60s and 70s, given how vibrant the scene seemed to be."

We can debate the reasons but he’s right. Young, progressive bloggers, our political heirs, for the most part, have no idea of their journalistic roots.

So I’m issuing you all a challenge. We’re in the middle of a celebration and I’m issuing a challenge. Here’s my challenge: Record your stories. Now. Produce a movie. Publish a book. Post a blog entry. Write a letter to your kids. Get it down—because if you don’t, someone else will do it for you and it won’t be the way you remember it or the way you want others to remember it. Teach your children and your children’s children.

I’m grateful to the reunion committee for inviting me here to share my latest effort to preserve the greatest writings of our generation, including the Barb, and make them accessible to current and future generations of activists, artists, and historians. When we’re done, we will have digitized over 1,000 titles, representing over three-quarters of a million pages of exact, keyword-searchable, digital reproductions of underground, alternative, and literary newspapers and magazines from the fifties through the eighties covering all of the genres I mentioned earlier. We even have four papers published by the FBI to sow dissension in the Movement. With more funding, we could do more. So all of you wealthy heirs here today, let’s talk.

We heard Trina Robbins, in her keynote, talk about women in the underground press. The digital collection includes nearly 120 feminist and lesbian papers including the Bay Area’s own It Ain't Me Babe, the first nationwide feminist underground newspaper in the United States, and one fortunate enough to have had many of Trina’s covers and inside cartoons. Sometime after January 2017, the collection will go into open access, which means the entire collection will be accessible to anyone through a simple keyword search. While it is still in development, only patrons of supporting libraries can get into it, but one of them is Berkeley. In fact, the entire UC system is a supporter so anyone with access to any of the UC libraries can view the complete evolving collection. We have about 400,000 pages uploaded so far.

And if your library isn’t on board, here are two thoughts to keep in mind:
Please introduce me to your acquisitions librarian.

We have put aside a select list of twenty-two titles that are open access from the beginning so you can get a feel for the site and endorse it glowingly to your acquisitions librarian. One of them, in honor of this wonderful celebration, is Berkeley Barb. We’re working with a growing team of sourcing libraries and individuals, including some of you here today, who are sending us original copies of papers from their collections that we scan and digitize and then return to them. In this way, we are able to create complete runs of titles where the individual sourcing libraries had gaps in theirs. When we’re done, we will have, as far as we can tell, the only complete collection of the Barb anywhere and it will be fully keyword-searchable. Thanks to all of you who have shared your original issues.

I became aware of the Barb before Kent State, which is when I became radicalized. I remember the day. I was visiting my brother in Manhattan Beach. I was listening to Johnny Rivers sing "Going Back to Big Sur" and I realized that Big Sur was only about 400 miles north on Highway 1. So the next morning I filled my laundry bag with two days worth of clothing and camping gear, slung it over my left shoulder, and rode my right thumb up Highway 1. I know it was 1969 because that was my first of what would turn out to be a decade of hitchhiking adventures and it was the year, I learned later, that Jack Kerouac died. So naturally, I drew a karmic connection between the two of us, two generations of hitchhikers. Three short rides brought me out of the Los Angeles area, and then I got picked up by four long-haired hippies, two male and two female, in—cliché alert—a VW microbus with multi-colored swirls and shooting stars on the sides. There was so much smoke coming out of the car I was high before I sat down. Some time before I passed out with a big grin on my face, they introduced me to the latest copy of the Barb. I’m pretty sure that was why I had a grin.

For a kid from the eastside suburbs of Cleveland who wasn’t ready yet for the politics, the Barb was outrageous with its cartoons, graphics, and layout that told me there was something different out there that I couldn’t ignore. Later, when I came of age at Michigan State and realized that The Paper, East Lansing’s underground newspaper, was one of the first five members of Underground Press Syndicate, I discovered that the Barb had been another. Berkeley was the epicenter of the counterculture. The Barb was the voice of Berkeley.

The sixties was an amazing era, one of the most dynamic, colorful, significant—and divisive—eras in our young country’s history. I’ve never been one to apologize for the period’s supposed excesses and I’ll bet none of you have either. Were we excessive? Of course we were. We changed the world, for the better, and it’s still changing, for the better, because of what we did—and what we continue to do.

Congratulations to the Berkeley Barb for being such a major player in this historic era that never fades.

Ken Wachsberger is an internationally known author, editor, and speaker as well as a renowned expert on the Vietnam era underground and alternative press. During his tenure as Contracts and Copyright Manager with Reveal Digital, Ken has led the drive to identify and obtain permission for over 1,200 underground, alternative, and literary newspapers and magazines from the fifties through the eighties to be part of Reveal’s Independent Voices digital project.

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