When I write my blogs I can go all deep into philosophy-land and oh yeah, there was that heart attack thing… But not today. This story is about buying a ticket to see naked people sing and dance…
Apparently some astrologers report that right now is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. To be sure, I suspect a few are also saying “nuh-uh.” As for me I tell myself, “that’s entertainment.” I bring this up because when I hear the reporter talking about this new age stuff on my local NPR station I don’t glom onto spinning moons and planets. No-no. I start humming the iconic Aquarius song from Hair, the hippie musical that opened on Broadway in 1968. “The CC Strummers can do this on the ukulele,” I proclaim out loud as I’m foraging through the fridge for a snack.
But then I fall backwards in time and land at THAT matinee at the Aquarius Theater on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. It was an afternoon that shook my world. By then I had worn out my New York cast album of Hair and, in the process, learned the words to every single song in the show. My parents probably thought I had lost my mind as I skipped through the house singing “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna” or “gliddy-glub-gloopy, nibby-nabby-noopy, la-la-la-lo-lo.” Um, whatever that is…
So let’s just say that I was familiar with how this musical rolled, especially that infamous scene at the end of Act One where the cast gets naked on stage. You have to understand that in my repressed nuclear family we didn’t talk about body parts and all that doing-what-comes-naturally kind of stuff. It’s not like we lived on a farm and every season beheld the circle of life. I know it’s hard to imagine daily existence before the age of the internet, technicolor jpegs, high resolution videos. And Bridgerton. I remember a late night slumber party where my girlfriends and I tore through an absconded copy of “The Naked Ape” and wailed in horror (mixed with rabid curiosity) as the story of human zoology unfolded before us. I really wanted to see a naked person. Like, in person…
When Hair arrives in Los Angeles, I am SO there, on that blessed Saturday afternoon. The best seat I can get is way back in the orchestra section, closer to the bathrooms than the stage, but who cares. I’m living my hippy dream. For two hours, at least.
Act One. Stuff happens. Then more stuff happens. But I know that naked finale is coming. And I know when it’s here. The lights go psychedelic, a giant tarp covers the stage and undulates like canvas waves. The music rises in wild crescendos that I feel thrumming in my bones. Whoosh! The tarp snaps away and like magic the naked cast appears, posing like statues in a museum. But suddenly the lights go out in the theater. Well except for those awful flashing strobes. Strobes?
Body parts light up, yes they do, but then vanish in the dark. You don’t know what part belongs to what person. Was that a boob, a thing, an arm? The strobes flash on the audience too. Geez thanks for momentarily blinding me just as we’re getting to the good stuff. After a few anxious breaths the stage is once again flooded with light and all we see is a whole lot of nothin’.
I’m not proud to admit that I don’t remember anything else from the show except THAT. I’m sure this west coast performance of Hair was a full body immersion in sights and sounds. But I drove home, crestfallen, shaking my head at this latest brush with crushed expectations and icy reality.
Flash forward thirty-two years. To the summer of 2001. The latest revival of Hair lands back in Los Angeles at the Wadsworth Theater on the sprawling grounds of the Veterans Administration. Of all places. I have lived a lifetime or ten by then and seen plenty of naked people. (I was in nursing school for a while, so there’s that…) But I’m feeling that adolescent oh-oh-oh again as I snag another matinee ticket, which just happens to be the last available seat in the house. I am perched in the back row of the balcony, with my head leaning against the wall. At least I’m in the center. Two older women are sitting in front of me, breathlessly commiserating before the show begins.
This time I have binoculars.
Sam Harris and Jennifer Leigh Warren are the big name stars in this rollicking production. They sing and strut with their fellow long-hairs. It’s a joyous celebration as they tick off song after song before that big naked reveal at the end of Act One.
I’m looking for the tarp. Where’s the freakin’ tarp?
Suddenly the stage is lit in a beautiful pink glow as the cast members walk, like naked angels, into the light. And they sing. I think. They move gracefully. There’s choreography. I think. And every single body part is hanging out for everybody to see. You know what belongs to whom. No rushy-rushy. No strobes. Time stretches like a rubber band and…I can’t believe I’m saying this…it feels like this naked thing is going on forever. I have to pee. It also appears that it’s a little chilly on stage.
I have very good binoculars.
Then it ends. Quietly. The house lights go on. Intermission. One of the ladies in front of me leans into her friend and says, “next time we get the expensive seats.”
Click here to watch excerpts from the 2001 performance of Hair at The Wadsworth Theater in West Los Angeles.
One of the things I love about Zoom is that every player has the best seat in the house—front row center. The CC Strummers will be learning Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In this month in our Thursday Zoom ukulele classes. Email me if you would like to join us. Thank you for getting word out about our online classes. They are open to everyone.
When your blogs comes through I, “put it on the back burner” as my grandma would say. I save them for a quiet time without interruptions so that I can savor each line. This morning I read about Hair, and the naked people and you did not disappoint! You are such an entertaining writer. Thank you once again for a delightful read.
A little chilly on the stage! I am roaring!!
I remember “HAIR” so well, Cali. It was in New York in the 60’s when one of my dance partners from The American Musical And Dramatic Academy said come on and see the show I am doing. Imagine my surprise to see his full frontal up on that stage without warning? I thought the scene went on forever. Our jazz class was a little more awkward after that – -AT least for me – innocent goody two shoes.
This made me laugh! I saw Hair in London when I was maybe 14? – happened to be walking down a busy street and bumped into an old school friend whose cousin had something to do with the show. She asked if I’d like to go see it that very night – she had a free ticket. Two little convent girls with not a clue, apart from rumors – and we were in a BOX and when the naked part happened oh my. Where to look! Well, eyes like saucers we did look but from our box felt excruciatingly visible! Felt very daring and grown up! What a show!! Best part was my sister, 5 years older, was green with envy – you couldn’t get any tix never mind a box!! Thanks for reminding me of a happy memory!
Loved your Hair blog! My mother, who was most definitely NOT a hippie, unknowingly took my brother and me to see Hair on the Sunset strip when I was 16 and my brother was 13. She was absolutely aghast at the naked scene, and the whole play to tell the truth—but we loved it! I had a cassette tape of the cast album and played it constantly. I still have it! So many great songs.
Never saw Hair but did go to a play where I had no idea in advance that it contained a nude scene. It was a theater in the round setup and I was in the front row. Yes, indeed . . .
…you are so damned funny. You have to pee. It appears it’s a little chilly. I am laughing out loud. Thanks for the chuckle. Let the sun shine in…
Boy does this blog take me back. I was 7 years old when my mom bought the Hair soundtrack album. Like you, I learned every word on the album and pranced about the house, singing songs like “Sodomy. Fellatio. Cunnilingus…” not even knowing what they meant! But I knew they were “nasty”. “Dear mother, why do these words sound so nasty?”
My mom took my brothers to see the show but I “called in sick” I think because I wasnt sure I was ready for it! One of my few regrets in life for sure!
Wow! You’re such a prolific writer, Cali! I really enjoyed reading. In my imagination, that must be pretty hilarious to see the disappearing acts of body parts! Those hipppie days! LOL
You are hilarious! I also saw “Hair” and had much the same sentiments as you.
Your blog post was hilarious! We saw Hair at the Hollywood Bowl in 2014, I believe. It was raining, so we wimped out and left at intermission. All I recall is trying to beat the crowd out of the venue, no memories of nudity!
I remember seeing this with my oldest sister in San Francisco at their small theater on Geary St. I was a physical therapist so naked body parts were not new to me but it was the first time I smelled marijuana. Like opium, once you can identify the smokey odor, you will never forget it. With all the states now legalizing cannabis, it may be a common smell in the air
I remember a “history and literature” tour from my Melbourne all girls school in the early 70’s to Sydney. We stayed in the sleaziest hotel near Kings Cross, the only other guests were hundreds of young US soldiers on R and R from the Vietnam war. We were about 15 years old, but some girls looked much older. Somehow our crazy teacher Miss R. talked our way in to the newest show in town “HAIR” They allowed about 15 of us schoolgirls to watch from the back of the theatre. They ushered us out at the start of the nudity, but we got a glimpse! I also had the Broadway album of Hair and played it until it wore out. I still love that music….
One of the best school experiences I ever had. Now staying at that hotel at that time….there’s a whole other story in that one!