Howard Smith, Digging the 60’s Scenes and Happenings


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

June 2, 1966, Vol. XI, No. 33


By Howard Smith

The fog rolled in on the rock flow in the basement of 14 Waverly Place, and it was like nothing that ever happened before. It was so thick that people couldn’t see other people a foot away. There were two loud raga rock bands. If you leaned over and said something in a friend’s ear, it turned out to be someone else’s friend.

More fog. The ceiling disappeared. Everyone was dancing alone; your partner was invisible anyway. It was like a swamp. You expected frogs, but what you got were dancing butterflies. They were girls in tiny bikinis and strange body paint wearing veil-like cape wings. They danced, twisted, pulsed, and disappeared into the vapors and flashing colored lights.

The walls were gone. There must be a lake nearby. Everybody felt moist and pleasant, but electric. People looked beatific and calm and lost.

Finally, everyone was out on the street in the rain. Was it really the street? It certainly didn’t feel like New York.

A repeat of this environment will be attempted on June 11 at the same place.

Allan Kaprow, young elder statesman of the happening, has decreed that a happening can be a private affair — but not necessarily. Suggests Kaprow:

“Couples make love in hotel rooms. Before they check out, they cover everything with large sheets of black plastic film.”

But for the group-minded and those not up to this form of endeavor: “In a neighborhood, people inflate, by mouth, a 20-foot weather balloon. It’s pushed through the streets and buried in a hole at the beach. The people leave it.”

And for the passive: “Rockets, spread over several miles, go up in red smoke, explode, scatter thousands of scraps of paper with messages.”

These are among dozens of “available activities” that Kaprow has offered to the people whom he has invited to take part in his four-month three-city happening called “Self Service.”

It will happen between the months of June and September in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles. There will be no spectators,, except those who happen to be where it happens.

Says Kaprow: “It is a work comprising activities for yourself.”

It will all be casual and flexible. None of the events will be announced and all actions will occur more or less at random, interspersed over the summer months. Not even the performers in one city will necessarily know when or where other actions will take place…

[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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