So Be It... Are You Wavy Gravy? It's Okay; I Can Work Around You

"Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don't have a sense of humor it just isn't funny anymore. ... Sure, I could of done it different - put my clown in a closet and dressed up in straight clothing. I could of compromised my essence, and swallowed my soul. ... I became a clown for when I visited children's hospitals, but when I was invited to demonstrations, I discovered that the cops didn't want to hit me anymore. ... Laughter is the valve on the pressure cooker of life. Either you laugh and suffer, or you got your beans or brains on the ceiling. ... I always say, dare to struggle, dare to grin. ... What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 4,000. ...  The whole earth is in jail and we're plotting this incredible jailbreak. ...  We're all bozos on the bus, so might as well sit back and enjoy the ride." - Wavy Gravy, American entertainer, performer, peace activist, and philanthropist (b. May 15, 1936)

*Wavy Gravy was born and raised Hugh Romney from East Greenbush, New York. In 1954, Romney volunteered for the military draft and was honorably discharged after 22 months in the U.S. Army. Romney enrolled in Boston University's Theater Department in 1957, using his G.I. Bill allotment, and later attended the Neighborhood Playhouse for the Theater in New York City, later working at the Gaslight Cafe as nighttime poetry and entertainment director. Romney's early career was managed by famed Jewish-American comedian, social critic and satirist Lenny Bruce, 1925-1966, who was considered rogue and counter to the established American societal norms that the post-World War II era.

For a time, Romney shared an apartment with longtime American folk singer-songwriter Tom Paxton, b.1937, in Greenwich Village, and was one of Bob Dylan's earliest friends in New York City. Later, one of Bob Dylan's girlfriends, singer and television actress Bonnie Beecher, married Romney in 1965. Today, both she, now known as Jahanara Romney have a son, Jordan Romney, b.1971, also known  as Howdy Do-Good Gravy Tomahawk Truckstop Romney. In 1962, Lenny Bruce brought Romney him to California where the young comedian did a live recording of Hugh Romney, Third Street Humoras the opening act for legendary American jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk, 1917-1982, at Club Renaissance in Los Angeles, California. Soon, Romney became involved and known within the developing West Coast's counter-culture movement of the 1960's.

By 1966, Romney had helped to establish what would become famously known as the Hog Farm Collective.  The Collective was established through a chain of events beginning with thehijacking of the Merry Pranksters' bus by 1960's psychedelic leader and noted author Ken Babbs, b.1939. Babbs' bus hijaking left the Merry Pranksters...

Merry Pranksters: A group of mostly counter-culture Americans formed in 1964 with the assistance of noted American counter-culture and psychedelic 1960's author Ken Kesey, b.1935-2001, who sometimes lived communally and promoted the use of psychedelic drugs. Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters are noted for the sociological significance of a lengthy road trip they took in the summer of 1964, traveling across the United States in a psychedelic painted school bus along with the enigmatic labels "Further" or "Furthur". Their early escapades were chronicled by American author Tom Wolfe, b.1937, in his book "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test".

...stranded in Los Angeles - living up to their motto: Never Trust a Prankster. Romney was evicted from his one-bedroom cabin in Sunland, a northern suburb of Los Angeles, after the landlord found out that a large group of assorted Pranksters and musicians were staying there. Two hours later, a neighbor informed Romney that a nearby hog farm needed caretakers. Romney accepted the offer and worked the farm in exchange for rent. Local people, musicians, artists, and folks from other communes began staying at the mountain-top farm. In his book Something Good for a Change, Gravy described this early period as a "bizarre communal experiment" where the "people began to outnumber the pigs. By 1966, the Hog Farm had coalesced into an entertainment organization providing light shows at the Shrine Exposition Hallin Los Angeles for music artists, now considered legends and icons, the Grateful Dead, Cream, and Jimi Hendrix. Beginning in 1967, the collective began traveling across the country in converted school buses purchased with money earned as Hollywood movie extras. The Hog Farm relocated to Black Oak Ranch in northern California in the early 1990s.

At the first Woodstock Festival in 1969...

Woodstock Music & Art Fair (also referred to as Woodstock or The Woodstock Festival): A music festival, billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music", which was held at a 600-acre dairy farm in the Catskill mountain region, near the hamlet of White Lakein the town of Bethel, New York State, from August 15-18 of 1969. During the sometimes rainy weekend, thirty-two acts performed outdoors in front of 500,000 concert-goers, many of which were part of the wide-spread Hippie movement of the, espousing ideals of peace, world and free love for all. The festival, widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history, is listed as one of the "50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll" by Rolling Stone Magazine and was captured in the 1970 documentary movie "Woodstock".

...Romney and the Hog Farm Collective accepted festival executive Stan Goldstein's offer to help with preparations and would call his group the Please Force, a reference to their non-intrusive tactics at keeping order, as in "Please don't do that, please do this instead". When asked by the press - who were the first to inform him that he and the rest of the Hog Farm were handling security - what kind of tools he intended to use to maintain order at the event, Romney's response was "cream pies and seltzer bottles," a reference to those 'tools' as traditional clown props, a gimmick of which he was now incorporating into much of his act and personae which resulted from his political activism. "I became a clown for when I visited children's hospitals," he said, but when I was invited to demonstrations, I discovered that the cops didn't want to hit me anymore. According to Romney, "[The media] wrote it down and I thought, 'the power of manipulating the media', ah ha!" Wavy Gravy, as Romney was soon to be known, has been the the Master of Ceremonies ("Emcee") and the only person to appear on the bill of all three Woodstock Festivals. Per Romney at Woodstock, 1969, "What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 4,000!" The cheering was immense.

At the 1969 Texas International Pop Festival, a festival similar, but not typically until that year, to the very recent Woodstock Music Festival of two weeks prior. Hugh Romney, lying onstage and exhausted after spending hours trying to get festival-goers to come together and put their clothes back on, attempted to stand when it was announced that American blues performer and composer B.B. King, b.1925, was going to play. As Romney began to get-up, off of the stage on which he was laying, a the hand of B.B. King appeared on his shoulder. It was King who asked, "Are you wavy gravy?" - a reference to being intoxicated or stoned on alcohol or drugs, not sober or clear-thinking, 'out of it' or not in one's right mind, or not conscious of the present state of existence. Romney then replied, "Yes." "It's OK; I can work around you," said B.B. King, as he began a set that would last for several hours after that. According to Romney, "it was a mystical event," and he assumed the moniker "Wavy Gravy" as his legal name. This name fit in well with Romney's comedic, psychedelic, hippie clown image; frequently being arrested at demonstrations, he decided he would be less likely to be arrested if he dressed as a clown - "Clowns are safe," he said. Wavy Gravy, his name ever since that time, however, enjoys traditional clown activities such as jokes, magic tricks and entertaining children.

In the 1970's, Wavy Gravy and residents of the Hog Farm established the Nobody's Business political campaign in time for the 1976 American Presidential election. The "campaign" touted the ideals of peace and love for all, providing such rallying cries as: "Who's in Washington right now working to make the world a safer place? Nobody!"; "Nobody's Perfect"; "Nobody Keeps All Promises"; "Nobody Should Have That Much Power". The joke had previously been used in the 1932 short film Betty Boop for President.

The Nobody's Business campaign held a rally across from the White House on November 4, 1980 that included Yippies (i.e., The Youth International Party, whose members were commonly called 'Yippies', was a radically youth-oriented and counter-cultural revolutionary offshoot of the free speech and anti-war movements of the 1960s. It was founded on Dec. 31, 1967) and a few anarchists to promote the option of "none of the above" choice on the ballot. After criticizing then-President Jimmy Carter, b.1924, former California Governor Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004, and U.S. Congressman John B. Anderson, b.1922, the committee offered the "perfect" candidate: Nobody. "Nobody makes apple pie better than Mom. And Nobody will love you when you're down and out!" shouted Wavy Gravy to a crowd of 50 onlookers at the rally. To date, The "Nobody for President" campaign has participated, in some manner, in each U.S. political race for President.

Wavy Gravy, now known as Hugh Romney only in passing and memory, has maintained his activist ideals of peace for all and love for everyone by founding and co-founding several, highly regarded benevolent organizations, including Camp Winnarainbow, the Seva Foundation and the Hog Farm, that serves as an activist commune. Wavy Gravy is also the official clown of the legendary rock band the Grateful Dead and has two radio shows on Sirius Satellite Radio.  A major film documentary on Wavy Gravy's life, Saint Misbehavin': The Wavy Gravy Story, was released in late 2010 by Ripple Effect Films and received excellent reviews.


 

Click the links to learn more:
Wavy Gravy (Wikipedia)
Wavy Gravy's Homepage (WavyGravy.net)
Merry Pranksters (Wikipedia)
Ken Kesey & the Merry Pranksters (LYSergia.com)
Woodstock (Wikipedia)
Nobody for President 2012 (NobodyforPresident)
Wavy Gravy: From "Please Force" To Peace Activism (WoodstockStory)
Camp Winnarainbow: A Circus and Performing Arts Camp
Seva Foundation: Compassion in Action (Seva.org)
Saint Misbehavin': The Wavy Gravy Story (RippleEffectsFilms)

Click the links for video clips of Wavy Gravy:
The Wavy Gravy Movie: Saint Misbehavin' - Trailer (YouTube)
Wavy Gravy at Woodstock (1969)
Wavy Gravy: Not Just an Ice Cream Flavor
Wavy Gravy: Nobody for President
Wavy Gravy: Woodstock Nation


*Information, pictures and video clips used in this blog taken fromWikipedia, WavyGravy.net, RippleEffectsFilms, YouTube, and various online resources. Wherever possible, proper credit and accurate attribution is given for information obtained and used in this blog. All material used here is made available for the advancement of social science. The fair use of such material is provided for under U.S. Copyright Law, in accordance with U.S. Code Title 17, Section 107, and is intended for educational and intellectual purposes. No purposeful copyright infringement is intended and no payment for this blog is received.

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Comment by Scott Brenner on May 25, 2012 at 9:30pm

My note to Wavy Gravy, on Wavy Gravy (Official Fan Page) on Facebook:

"Happy Birthday, Wavy! Sorry I missed it last week, but let me at least tell you how grateful I am for your presence in this world - it's been a better place because you stayed true to you, to peace in our world, and to love in our time. This blog - like everything else - is a work in progress, but is my way of saying 'thank you' for your lifetime of love and devotion to our brothers and sisters, the children of Love, of Light; and especially those of us in dire need and dour spirit, who sometimes need cheer and smiles the most."

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