Hugh Romney, Before He Was Wavy Gravy
Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives. December 19, 1968, Vol. XIV, No. 10
The Hog Farm Commune: A Geodesic Christmas by Joe Pilati
The 365-day expanse the Yippies have already designated "Year of the Pig" is almost upon us. It will be a time of bemoaning Richard the Chicken-Hearted who says "we can't stand pat," and we sure can't stand Julie and David. But despite it all, Hugh Romney is back in town with his "extended family," the Hog Farm Commune, and he thinks there's something to celebrate.
Romney, whose troupe now does a sort of float-around comedy (as opposed to the stand-up type he used to do in his Village), is inviting "the whole world" (as he puts it, despite the fire laws) to the Electric Circus on Christmas Day. There the Hog Farm people and like-minded souls plan an all-day celebration of Christmas, or maybe Life.
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Sprawled out in a straight-backed chair at Abbie Hoffman's "office," wearing his usual attire (a green astronaut's suit with a Cities Service patch on the shoulder), Romney assured the world that the celebration is "free, so everybody should come and take what they want." The day will also be free in the less ethereal sense that people won't have to pay the usual Electric Circus prices, or for that matter anything. Freedom starts at 8 a.m. and will end (at least the more structured part) at 8 p.m.
The Hog Farm people will be setting up a 30-foot geodesic dome inside the Circus because, Romney says, "there isn't really room for the 60-foot one." There will be music (the Group Image and other group images), theatre (the Living Theatre, baring buttocks to blast the bourgeoisie, plus the Bread and Puppet Theatre with their Punch-and-Judy New York Times editorials), and possibly even childbirth (three or four women well into their eighth month have volunteered, Romney said).
"It's been...oh, a year and a half since I've been in New York, and people are so paranoid," Romney mused. He went into a reminiscence riff about Central Park be-ins, another era of Acapulcan Golden Oldies -- but that was quite a while ago, and Romney now feels that "people who've been scared inside should come out on Christmas Day, and see who each other are...or is it is?" The price of admission will be "a present, something to give someone else," and your signature on "the longest Christmas card in the world, which we'll sent to the Pope."
The 50 persons who comprise the Hog Farm Commune were at a fixed location in Sunland, California, until last spring. "We were grooving together, rising as one person, Romney bubbled, "practicing Hog Consciousness. We're really a sociological experiment -- the show is just an excuse."
He corrected himself: "We're not a show, really. We merely set up an environment in which things will happen." Seven months ago, Romney says the Commune pulled up stakes and started traveling, on the assumption that "home is where the Hog is." They travel in three rainbow-colored buses, creating environments at college campuses and other places where they're booked by the Radical Theatre Repertory. "Ken Kesey was with us in Colorado, yep, and we repaired plumbing for Indians in New Mexico. After we did that, we drove away watching these three Indians taking a shower and singing, probably a rain chant or something," Romney recalled.
All of the family's "shows," he added, are free. But since not everyone is as altruistic as the family, Romney asserts, "we've been stopped by the cops every 20 miles or so. Our pig gets terrified, but we've really gotten used to it. We've developed a whole show for them. We've got letters from ministers, teachers, the whole thing. The cop show gets to be as much fun as the show show."
One "cop show" earlier this month wasn't so much fun, though. The family was staying in a big farm house in Montroes, Pennsylvania. "We were sitting down to dinner when the cops busted in and tore everything apart," Romney said. The gendarmes found a pipe, scraped it out, said they'd found something incriminating, and arrested two people who are still being held on $2000 bond each. Romney says he can't get them out because $2000 is a lot of shekels for people who subsist on brown rice.
Although he did not indicate whether the cops are included in his speculation, Romney still believes that "people who can't agree on anything can at least make music together. Hey, Joe Pyne was with us for a couple hours and really...he stopped being Joe Pyne! But then he changed back again," he added distractedly.
It's impossible to predict how much Fuller anyone's life will be after they sit in that geodesic dome all day December 25, but Romney naturally oozed optimism. "I hope lots of good, gentle people show up," he said...a bit guardedly.
[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]
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