War on Hippies

Brass Tacks

Parallel To Massachusetts Avenue, away from the noise and neon of Harvard and Central Squares, Kinnaird St. aspires to gentility. The shrubbery and patches of grass are ragged, but the narrow, four-story houses, with clapboards painted in variations on brown, are staid and even attractive. The area looks much as a neighborhood of college students and young Cambridge couples should look.

To Daniel J. Hayes Jr., Mayor of Cambridge, however, Kinnaird Street is, as he puts it. "Hippie Row." Next week, according to sources close to City Hall, the Mayor has scheduled a series of 1 a.m. narcotic raids on Kinnaird Street residences.

The raids, if they occur, will form another episode in Mayor Hayes' much-publicized War on Hippies, which was announced two weeks ago. "The great unwashed," said Hayes, "are creating an intolerable situation in our City by the widespread use of drugs and other anti-social practices such as boys and girls living together under the guise of 'Free Love' and without any benefit of clergy." It was the start of an energetic campaign to drive "the hippies, beatnicks and other undesirables" out of the city. Said Hayes, "These groups add nothing to the Cambridge scene other than a sense of distaste and repulsiveness on the part of our many residents."

Drug users were his primary target, but Hayes seemed equally incensed by a variety of moral and material trappings--bare feet, beards, long hair, birth control pills ("We've found birth control pills at every raid," he thundered), pre-marital intercourse, Digger-type communes, even the sort of liberated prose of the Avatar, certain columns of which lie heavily penciled on the Mayor's desk.

Just two days after his statement, the Mayor launched the first skirmish in his War on Hippies, a televised raid at 183 Columbia Street. It is in a dusty slum area whose dirty gutters and tottering houses contrast sharply with Kinnaird Street.

In that early morning raid on a six-room apartment, 17 hippies were arrested on narcotics charges. One unfortunate--who arrived shortly after the raid to look for his sunglasses, was booked for vagrancy. In his press and television statements, Hayes laid primary emphasis on the squalor in which these hippies lived. "A flop-house," he said. "I never saw such a filthy situation. There are terms which I could use but I would not use in public."

Whether the hippies were being booked for narcotics violations or for garbage in the refrigerator, two days after the raid there was no evidence of squalor, except for some clothes strewn in the hallways. The apartment seemed to make the best of a bad thing. Collages, pop art, quotations from Hegal, and flower decorations relieved the monotony of beige paint. When the Commissioner of Health arrived to inspect it, he told a representative of the absentee landlord, "I wouldn't mind living here." Then he ordered the apartment be boarded up as "unfit for human habitation."

Its former residents, out on bail, were drifting from friend to friend. In a cramped Boston apartment, one thin Digger picked sporadically on a guitar. "Look," he said, "all we were trying to do was groove together." Another was trying to get the telephone number of the Manhattan Diggers. He would set up a Digger Fund. He would collect $20,000. But, at the moment, he said, he couldn't lay hands on a hundred.

Palladin strutted back and forth, resplendent in black vest, white turtleneck and shoulder-length black hair. He reads poetry in Village coffeehouses. His poetry had been confiscated. "I'm running for mayor," he announced in his nasal voice. "And at the last minute I'm going to throw my suport to Hayes and blow the voters' minds. They'll all vote against him."

"Why don't they just leave us alone?" asked the guitar player. "We stay in our own territory and do our own thing." For the Diggers, most of them unemployed drop-outs, their "thing" is mostly of drugs and "grooving" in the commune.

Earlier this week, the Mayor of Cambridge took a sip of his chocolate frappe, leaned forward in his chair and defined the enemy: "It's not the hippie, it's the hip-bo." The Mayor leaned back. The word is of his own devising, and he is proud of it. "Hip-bo comes from three things. First, hobo. Second, the combination of hippie and bum. Third, from Life Buoy soap. Remember that commercial with the foghorn blowing B-O, B-O?" To Hayes hip-bo's are the ragged tail-enders of the hippie movement, the floaters without money. "There are chronic drug and narcotic users," he charges.

But there is more to the Mayor's aversion than drugs, On LSD and marijuana, he is actually enlightened. "It's wrong when people don't understand the dangers and consequences of drugs," he says. "But if they do, why, I'm in no position to make a judgment. Look, when a Harvard professor, say, or a student wants to turn on in the privacy of his own home--well, for them it's a pleasure. They'd rather use drugs than drink." The Mayor pushed away the frappe and lit a Newport. "I'm not a moralist who'll tell you that you can't do it."

The hip-bo's, according to the Mayor, are less private about it. "These people recruit the young and inexperienced kids who are looking for some kind of kicks. The hip-bo setup is nothing but filth, dope, narcotics, and sex. Our young people have got to be protected. The daughters of Cambridge residents, he says, must not be tempted. "Obviously I don't see myself as the father image of these girls," explains the Mayor, a squat man with a barrel chest and bull neck. "But I represent the thinking of a community."

The Mayor is running for re-election Nov. 7. "Look at this," says Hayes, reaching into a pile of letters. "This lady writes that already one family on her block has moved away because of the hippies. This sort of thing has got to be stopped." The electorate doesn't switch administrations during a war, especially when the war is being won: Hayes has charted the way to victory. "If we can get rid of the hip-bo's, we can dry up the supply of drugs. In that Digger operation on Columbia Street we had a distribution point for the hippies and the local element. If the Diggers are driven out of Cambridge, the hippies and drug-users will also leave."

But it may not be that simple. The hippie world is an intricate underground of friendship and empathy. In recent raids, Hayes has personally seized a large stack of letters and diaries containing the names of suppliers and hippies all over the country. "It's like this," explains Palladin, lost in admiration for his own words. "Like I want to organize something. I put on some groovy clothes, go out on the street, and tell the first freaky looking person I see. In the next hour he tells four other freaky looking people, and they all have four friends. And then I call up Pinkie, from the Disciples. He puts on his leathers and motorcycles into the South End. And he tells everybody. Me, I go up to the Shakes (a Boston hangout) and tell all those freaky people. And when the thing is supposed to happen, hundreds of people show up."

There are infinite gradations on the hippie scale--from the down-and-out hip-bo to the Harvard student in flowered shirt to the young executive who likes to turn on. The Mayor finds it convenient to maintain that the hip-bo's are the sine qua non of the hippie movement. But in the treacly web of hippie contact and connection, everyone has communication with everyone and strict dependence on no one.

In the next few weeks, hip-bo's will be hunted mercilessly. On October 16 the City police will begin to enforce vagrancy laws: anyone who cannot provide evidence of his means of support will have to move out of the City, pay a fine, or serve a jail term. A source close to the Mayor reports that the police will stop anyone with a beard, moustache, or long hair. Apparently, the Mayor is taking pains not to involve the University in his war--a bursar's card will be sufficient evidence of not being a vagrant. But there are Harvard students living in all of the City's Hippie Rows. "So far," says the Mayor, "I've been decent to Harvard. We're keeping Harvard out of it. But you'd be surprised what I can do."

There are limits. Last Sunday morning the Mayor appeared on television to gloat over what hippies are calling "the Great Bust." A few hours later, unperturbed hippies were smoking grass on the Cambridge Common. "Smoking marijuana?" challenged the Mayor last week, taking a quick sip from his frappe. "Have you got proof? Our men say it was mostly tea leaves." Anyway, he added, "A raid there would have been a bust"--he means a failure--"because the hip-bo's left when they saw the police around. The hip-bo's are the ones we're after."

A more crucial setback has been the reaction of the Cambridge real estate community. In his first statement Hayes called on landlords and rental agencies to refuse to rent to hippies.

So far, the landlords are not impressed. "Hayes is a schmuck," says one young real estate owner who rents to hippies. "This is a Nazi-like gesture. If a guy has money and references, he gets the place. It doesn't matter whether he has a beard or not." Echoes a property manager for one large firm, "I understand there's a law against discrimination. I wouldn't want to break the law."

But pressures stronger than exhortation may work. Health and housing inspectors have only to apply the housing code standards on square footage per person or the stricture against more than five unrelated people in one apartment.

Minues after the Great Bust, a middle-aged woman bystander saw a policeman write down an address and hand it to an inspector. "It's a hippie apartment," he said. "Go over and inspect it." Zealous inspectors have little trouble finding fault with the slum apartments which hippies inhabit--as with a lot of other apartments in Cambridge, for that matter. The inspectors can evict the tenants only if there is danger to life and safety; but landlords must correct violations once the inspector arrives. Says Hayes, "I've warned the landlords that if they do rent to hippies, they'll be in for all sorts of problems."

"We are trying to get rid of one group," says the Mayor flatly. "But we're going to be very careful. We're not going to be open to the legal charge that we are discriminating against one group."

Palladin disagress, for what it's worth. His commune is boarded up; his poetry has been confiscated; he has been busted. "So it was overcrowded," shrugs Palladin. "So we turned on. That doesn't affect Hayes--unless he wants to move in."