wavy gravy interview grateful dead freedom leaf

The Clown Prince of the 1960s counterculture, Wavy Gravy is still kicking it at the age of 81. Born in 1936 in New York as Hugh Romney and raised in Connecticut, he began his career as a comedian with the help of Lenny Bruce after a stint in the Army. In the mid-’60s, he founded the Hog Farm, a commune and collective in the Los Angeles area. He’s best known for his role as an MC at the Woodstock festival in 1969, where he told the hungry horde at one point, “What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000.” He married one of Bob Dylan’s ex-girlfriends, Bonnie Beecher, in 1965 (she changed her named to Jahanara Romney). They have one son, who was christened Howdy Do-Good Gravy Tomahawk Truckstop Romney in 1971 (he goes by the name Jordan). These days, Wavy Gravy is on the board of the SEVA Foundation, which provides eye care and blindness-curing surgery in Asia, Africa, and Latin America; and runs Camp Winnarainbow in Laytonville, Calif.

Were you in San Francisco during the Summer of Love?

No. We had several buses and set up anywhere. It was like the Acid Tests. We supplied the power, and people supplied their heads.

wavy gravy interview grateful dead freedom leaf

Members of Furthur, Ratdog and Disco Biscuits jam at the Camp Winnarainbow benefit concert at Ardmore Music in Philadelphia in June.

Did you go to the Human Be-In or the Monterey Pop Festival?

No. We drove through San Francisco around that time, I think.

How about the Magic Mount Music Festival on Mount Tamalpais?

No, but I’ve gone the last few years and will be at the Sound Summit there in September.

Fifty years later, what does the Summer of Love mean to you?

It was the beginning of the great transformation that eventually turned into Woodstock and the Woodstock Nation, as Abbie Hoffman called it. Suddenly there were a half a million freaks.

Do you see any similarities between now and 1967?

Well, then we were bogged down in a hideous war. So much happened. We smoked pot, changed our eating habits and had a big impact on the world that you still see today.

What do you think of Donald Trump?

Trump makes Richard Nixon look like a piece of delicious chocolate cake.

wavy gravy interview grateful dead freedom leaf

Wavy Gray and his wife Jahanara

Have you been to any of the Summer of Love commemorations in San Francisco?

I went to the exhibit at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate. I wore my rainbow jumpsuit. It’s an astounding representation of that time frame in a museum.

Your SEVA Foundation does great work for people without sight. How’s that going?

My greatest legacy is SEVA. Now 4.5 million people don’t have to bump into shit anymore.

What do you think of the latest version of the Grateful Dead—Dead and Company?

I’m enjoying the addition of John Mayer, but I miss Jerry [Garcia].

Do you still do your improvisation workshops?

Yes, but I don’t do stand-up anymore. I do sit-down. I taught improv at Columbia Pictures. Harrison Ford was one of my students.

How’s your health?

I don’t walk so good. I get around camp in a psychedelically colored golf cart.

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