Hugh Holmes Norton,
Eleanor Katz, Elliott Macis,
Mary Sue Valenti,
INT: How did you feel about the assassinations.
HAL: Kennedy's assassination seemed like, how in the world could this ever happened, then Lee Harvey Oswald's assassination, Oh my god, they're going crazy down there in Texas. I believe the next to die, shortly sometime later would be Martin Luther King, and by then our cynicism had begun to show, or at least mine and I got to thinking myself there is, there is an army of some kind out there and they're gunning for people who suggest and are demanding that there are things that need to be changed in the land. Ways of thought, ways of behavior, not going to be accepted, you're threatening too many vested interests, blowing away. Then the absolute culmination Bobby Kennedy's assassination during the presidential primary race in 1968. that evening I don't recall personally whether I was awake when the news came, because it happened late at night, I think it was eleven or twelve o'clock at night, but what I do remember the next morning was finding my wife Terry, who had been the liberal element of the family for many years, I found my wife Terry on the sofa weeping at dawn, because I missed, I realized that she wasn't in bed and went out looking. She's on the sofa, she's weeping and of course the news is still rolling you know, and the playbacks of the assassination and I could not come to grips with that one, I thought that this proves you know that that there good men are being sent to slaughter for reasons that bear looking into, and it was about that time, 1960, in the 67 68 time period that my mind set and my view of the world began to alter itself radically.
INT: What had Robert Kennedy meant to you.
HAL: Robert Kennedy meant to me, that guy had guts, he had so much nerve, and I don't mean you know arrogance, although he had his share of that, but he had a sense of where he wanted the country to go, and used his position of power, attorney general, senator, he used his positions of power in ways that I found completely correct, completely admirable and I could overlook his, some of his methods because I felt his objectives were, were so laudable, and so worth pursuing, and the loss of Robert Kennedy seemed to me first of all to eradicate a potent force for things that I felt were good and correct. Secondly the clear signal to anyone else who would want to follow his path the same waits for them, and whether it would be an over-extension of the thought process or not, I feel that those assassinations of those wonderful men of the sixties put on notice the others who might consider being heirs as visible in their pursuit of these lofty goals. Those who would say attack the status quo of the powers that be and the moneyed interests and the Mafia as well as organized labor gone sour as well as the giving and taking of favors. Seem to put on notice that you run a potentially lethal risk by making yourself known as visibly as Robert Kennedy and others like him did, especially Martin Luther King as well.
HAL: By that time I think we're talking about 1962 perhaps 63 somewhere in those early sixties, of the free speech movement at Berkeley, Mario Savio at the helm. They're sitting in the chancellor's office and refusing to move and the police are coming, Ronald Reagan the governor is sending in the, the baton wielders and people are being carted off in the wagons to jail and frankly I do have a powerful recollection of one evening driving home, listening to the radio in the news of what's going on in Berkeley, and I was thinking to myself, those people are nuts, what are they doing a thing like that for, life is pretty good, what are they complaining about. Remember this is 62, 63 I think maybe 64 but before I begin to give things really a serious introspective thought about my own situation or the general condition of life in this country. So my attitude at the time of the free speech movement disturbances on the Berkeley campus was one of tisk tisk tisk, those children should obviously get back to class, learn their studies, get out of school, get a good job, they'd be happy, because that's what had happened to me. I did not have at that time a feel for the coming wave of the change of attitudes and the change of thinking and the change of the culture of the country. I didn't have a feel for that at the time it was very too much leading edge for the person I was at the time, and I don't know if it happened today that I'd recognize it either. I'm not a forward looking visionary, but the free speech movement at Berkeley struck me as odd because the students were creating a fuss. But it struck me also as bizarre that the governor should feel so powerfully about this that he would send in the head knockers and draw blood, over such a thing. after all were just talking about students, you know they can be taken care of in lots of different ways, you don't have to club them over the head to get them to listen. I think that if anything stuck, that stuck with me, the free speech movement draw blood over free speech when we're talking college campus and students. Well there some will argue that they weren't all students, that some were professional agitators, that might be true, but I think by and large it the reaction was overdone by a reactionary administration, the University of California was board of regents is appointed by the governor, the governor at the time was Ronald Reagan, you can draw your own conclusions, you know you're not going to get a bunch of bleeding hearts on the board of regents when Ronald Reagan had personally pointed them out. So I shouldn't really in retrospect have been surprised but I was appalled at what happened to the free speeches.
INT: Particularly at the time of massive explosions in the culture what did you think of ....
HAL: Well the Beatles struck me as an odd bunch because first of all they looked strange compared to the Buzz-cuts that everybody was wearing at the time and they dressed peculiarly with their bell-bottoms, that I later put may pairs on myself, and they banged their guitars in raucous ways and they had no vocal skills that I could see and furthermore they had a bad reputation because they were wild kids, and I personally didn't care much for the Beatles at the time, I thought that it was just noisy music you know those crazy kids. later on when their works were interpreted by other artists, I came to appreciate what the Beatles really did contribute to the music world. And especially when our own children began to bring in other cultural expressions and would play them on they're own equipment in the back of the house. First I'd be a little annoyed and then I'd get interested and say what are you playing, listen to this guy Dad this is Pink Floyd or somebody like that, this guy's great, and I'd listen. But I'll tell you one I've never come to terms with Neil Young, I cannot stand Neil Young and I never have been able to, and I can't listen to him today, he just doesn't do it for me.
INT: What about the free love movement in San Francisco.
HAL: Living this close to the hate ashbury course in those turbulent years of the sixties and a lot of it was in the sixties when the hate ashbury became identified as the center of the counter-culture and the hippy movement and the drug scene. Frankly because drugs truly have not been a part of my life you know alcohol and tobacco and that's it. Drugs have never been a part of my life to any great degree so I couldn't understand why others would want to pour that stuff into themselves, to some degree I still don't. my main concern at the time was not, aside from the fact that they were wasting themselves physically, my concern at the time was for my own children, that is are any of the four in this house indulging in that kind of thing and I'd more or less satisfied myself that on a day to day basis that nothing of the sort was going on in any serious thing, I won't say that none of them dosed with one chemical or another but not to the, certainly not to the point where it impaired their relationships with Terry and me and not to the point where it impaired their school work and their social skills. But did I care a lot about the counter-culture that was emerging at the hate ashbury, go beyond the drugs, go beyond the bizarre dress, go beyond the strange fringe the fringe and look for, and look for signals that times they are a changing, as the lyric goes. Look for signals of that sort of thing. I was not the visionary to detect that. I was not personally alert to that kind of thing, but I can see now that that was a large part of the counter-culture, it was a signal that things were going to change.
INT: Did you experience a sense of horror about what the kids were getting up to.
HAL: Were it came to the hate ashbury being such a boiling cauldron of drug use. I get that from basically what I've read and not what I've experienced, directly or indirectly, I really did not have the sense of what's wrong with this country, that such things were going on. I had the sense that there are a lot of young people adrift who find their way to hate ashbury because that's where the market is for drugs, and that's where others like themselves have collected and it's a pleasant place to live, and the housing is cheap and San Francisco is a liberal kind of town that would give them the support they might need for subsistence, but I wasn't struck with any sense of horror or profound dismay that such a thing was happening. I just found, I personally found that hate ashbury to be a distasteful social event and a distasteful group of people, but I wouldn't in any way identify what they mingle with and in a way they're just looking at the superficial characteristics of the, of a drug related culture where the root causes run a lot deeper that what you can observe superficially. but at the time that hate didn't seem to be to as pivotal as say the government pronouncement of yet another multi-billion dollar space program was about to be launched you know, now that I found pivotal.
INT: The later sixties was a whole era of race riots how did you feel about Watts and Detroit and so on.
HAL: The Watts riot in what must have been what the middle sixties, got a lot of press up here and it struck me as a profound demonstration of a festering undercurrent of dissatisfaction and distrust on the part of blacks over the entire nation. Coast to coast and border to border. Watts seemed to be the place where the necessary ingredients came together in an appropriate mass and concentration. not the least of which was the climate at the time, I think it was it occurred in the heat of summer and it's relatively straightforward event triggered it, it was probably an arrest that triggered the Watts riot but then the whole thing went for days and blocks were burned. It seemed to me to be such a profoundly, such a profoundly violent and expansive demonstration of, of discontent that I just had a feeling that something is afoot, something really profound is afoot in the black culture to generate such a social event as the Watts riot, but all of that took place before I did any of my own self education on the condition of blacks and minorities in this country. So I feel it for me it was precursor, these events you know the assassinations, the riots, the hate ashbury counter-culture movements, their music, the change in dress, the change in hairstyle all of this was preparing me personally for things that were to happen to me later in the way of self education and making myself aware of the root causes of these manifestations you know, and even the free speech riots at Berkeley that we mentioned, again a preparation event persuading me finally that there's more to be learned about these events, than what has met the eye so far and that's later on in the sixties I undertook a sort of self-education activity.
INT: Did you support the civil rights movement.
HAL: Never had a doubt about the correctness and necessity for the civil rights movement. Much of that was to do with my wife's liberal and catholic upbringing. She was always there to point out to me in the news of the day, the things that were going on, that were good to do, but were creating a lot of bad press you know for certain people, and the sacrifices that were being made locally as well as elsewhere in the country in the name of justice, in the name of evenhandedness, in the name of a minority dealings. So Terry was always right there in my face showing me, telling me these things and demonstrating by her own actions and deeds what needed to be done in the neighborhood as well as in the nation. That again was alerting me and sensitizing me to these, to these episodes and their root causes. Free speech movement, never had a doubt and don't doubt to this day that that blacks have been historically mistreated and are being mistreated today and they're not alone in terms the minorities that are being mistreated and that has to stop, and yet I don't see that the curve is solidly upward, I'm not sure where we're going today.
INT: How did you feel ....
HAL: I thought at the time militancy was the way to go, because how else do you get someone's attention, you have to established, established systems don't seem to change unless cataclysmic events occurred to them. Events that they can no longer control, events that they can no longer ignore, events that can no longer be said to be passing waves of you know children at play. Established organizations, established economic institutions will respond only when struck solidly right between the eyes, and in ways that threaten their existence unless accommodation are made, and I think that what progress the civil rights movement has made, whether it be militant or not, has been made only to the degree that it was necessary for the establishment to change in order to maintain their relative positions of power, and so there's work yet to be done by the minorities, but militancy is just part of the game in my view. No does that mean I favor brandishing arms and AK47's in the neighborhood, some might I suppose interpret it that way, I don't think I'd go that far but where the line stops at militancy I would say, short of armed conflict, I would find myself backing militancy because I feel that the way that you get the attention of those in power.