Be-In, be-in, Being

Central Park Rite is Medieval Pageant

A few thousand people were still encamped on the hill, dark except for the flickering light of a few fires, when the police arrived in force around 7:30 p.m. Police beamed lights on the hill and used bullhorns to order the Be-In to disperse. Again the crowd rushed the cops. This time it was more tense, moving towards a nightmarish showdown. Then it eased, and the police let them stay, watching the crowd from a distance. The Be-In broke up shortly afterward.

"The police were beautiful," said Jim Fouratt, who helped to organize the Be-In. It was really strange and it freaked them out, but they were beautiful."

The four main organizers of the Be-In were Fouratt, an actor; Paul Williams, editor of "Crawdaddy" magazine; Susan Hartnett, head of a group called Experiments in Arts and Technology; and Claudio Badal, a poet-playwright from Chile. With a last-minute budget of $250 they printed 3000 posters in English and Spanish, and 40,000 small notices in a day-glo design donated by Peter Max. The posters appeared on walls and telephone poles in every part of the City. The notices were tacked on doors, stuffed in mailboxes, and passed out on the street.

Linn house presides over wedding of anita and abbie hoffman in central park (June 1967).
photo: Fred W. McDarrah
Linn house presides over wedding of anita and abbie hoffman in central park (June 1967).

"We tried to remain anonymous," Fouratt explained. "People would ask who was organizing it, and we would give them a Be-In button and tell them 'You are!'"

Fouratt doesn't think that a Be-In can succeed or fail. "It just is," he said. Nevertheless, most participants thought that the Easter Be-In was a triumph. It avoided many of the pitfalls of the first Be-In, a "Gathering of the Tribes" in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park on January 14th. Personalities dominated the first Be-In, and the activity was centered on a stage. The New York event seemed more spontaneous.

Another Be-In, in conjunction with the Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam, is planned for April 15th. It is scheduled to begin in the Sheep Meadow at 11 am and conclude with a walk to the peace demonstration at the UN at 2 in the afternoon. Some people are skeptical about mixing Be-Ins with politics. The Be-In seems almost a sacred event, harking back to medieval pageants, gypsy gatherings, or the great pow-wows of the American Indians. At the same time, it is a new and futuristic experience which, once refined, offers great promise. But it should be refined carefully. It is a lot of energy to deal with.

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