Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
August 12, 1971, Vol. XVI, No. 32
Who clubbed the clown?
By Ron Rosenbaum
Wavy Gravy, recovering from amoebic dysentery, tropical fever, opium addiction, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and a severe spinal condition, was out of Roosevelt Hospital on a special pass when someone clubbed him at Madison Square Garden. Of course whoever clubbed him — Wavy thinks it was a Garden security cop — had no way of knowing about the amoebic dysentery, tropical fever, opium addiction, pneumonia, or tuberculosis. But he did know about Wavy’s spine. When a city cop told him to “start running” Wavy told him, “I’ve got a spinal fusion here and I can’t run.” Wavy pointed to the spot in his back where the operation had been performed. Then a cop standing behind Wavy clubbed him right there where the operation had been performed. Wavy collapsed.
* * *
The whole thing began at 1 o’clock Sunday afternoon when Wavy got out of that bed, painted his teeth red white and blue, put on his flowing multi-colored patchwork robe, drew on his jester’s cap with its point drooping over the side of his head, removed the silver Nepalese lama’s ring with the tiny Donald Duck toy hanging by one webbed foot from it out of the mouth of his blue-eyed stuffed baby yak under his arm, walked out the ground floor lobby past the widened eyes of Joe Colombo bodyguards and well-wishers and took a cab to Madison Square Garden.
Wavy was headed for the Garden because he thought the people running the George Harrison Bangla Desh benefit wanted Wavy to help out with crowd security. Wavy is probably the single most talented crowd handler in the world because Wavy is a marvelous combination of Tibetan lama and Donald Duck, a charming childlike clown and a sophisticated Gandhian. He is less a crowd “handler” than an adept at getting people to handle themselves…
Like the best of clowns, Wavy Gravy — who started out the ’60s as Hugh Romney, Village poet and comic, and turned into a Merry Prankster, before becoming Wavy Gravy of the Hog Farm — like the best of clowns, Wavy will make as big a fool of himself as is necessary to make a wiser man of you…
But Wavy and his Hog Farm have been away from this country for 10 months, traveling from Paris to Nepal overland, after the notorious Warner Brothers “Caravan of Love” disintegrated in London…
Wavy was excited about helping out because he and the Hog Farm had been on the way to Bangla Desh to help the flood victims, collecting food and medicine and calling their traveling caravan “Earth People’s Stomach,” when the Pakistani civil war broke out preventing their entry into Bangla Desh. Wavy decided to head north for Nepal and got involved in a project building playgrounds and distributing toys and medical supplies to isolated villages in the Himalayas…
It wasn’t until the second show had already begun about 9.30 that night that someone sent a ticket down for Wavy. At last, ticket in one hand, yak in the other, Wavy rushed into the lobby, entering just in time to be run over by the small-scale riot that erupted outside the doors.
Shortly before Wavy stepped into the lobby a crowd of 200 people without tickets had charge the glass doors to the Garden, breaking through with a police barricade. A force of about 100 Garden security cops and city police had massed behind the doors and charged the crowd. Witnesses report clubbings as the crowd ran. Wavy didn’t run. He showed his big red ticket to a New York City cop. He said: “I’ve got a ticket.”
“Take your ticket and shove it up your ass,” the cop said. Wavy tried to talk but the cop immobilized him with a rolled-up newspaper under his chin, whacked him with the paper club, and told him to start running. That’s when Wavy remembers being clubbed from behind. Wavy didn’t see the face of his assailant — he is asking any eye witnesses to get in touch with him — but as he was lying on the floor clutching his yak, Wavy says he heard a New York cop yelling at the guy who clubbed him. “The city cop was freaked that the guy had gone berserk on me,” Wavy recalls.
…Wavy is on methadone for the opium addiction in addition to Demerol for his newly re-injured back, but he says he is “hopping mad.” “You know, I almost never get mad at anything, but I’m hopping mad now. We gotta stand our ground against these cretins until they listen.”
The “cretins,” Wavy explains, are the people who think security at rock events can be handled only squads of musclemen…
Mr. Tom More of Madison Square Garden has said that Wavy Gravy was not clubbed at all, that he suffered a heart seizure all by himself in the middle of the Garden lobby. Mr. More implied that Wavy might have made up his story about the clubbing.
Wavy Gravy has enough incredible stories to tell without having to make up on was dreary as that. I think some of his “friends” ought to stop nervously insisting they had no connection with the incident, and start helping Wavy find out just who clubbed him, and start talking back to the musclemen in the rock business.
[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.]
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 24, 2010