Locals Talk About Meeting Jimi Hendrix, Drugs and Skinny Dipping
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"Welcome to Hip City, USA," read the one-page SURVIVAL handout Silverthorne resident Cheri Breeman saved from the festival. "We're now one of the largest cities in America ... Where we go from here depends on all of us. The people who promoted this festival have been overwhelmed by their own creation. We can no longer remain passive / we have to begin to fend for ourselves."
The guidelines asked people to think twice before taking a dip in the lake, which, by default, became the main source of water. It said the Hog Farm would tend to "drug freakouts." It asked people not to be "piggish" about food. And, it warned: "Don't run naked in the hot sun for any period of time ( do it in the shade ). Water blisters are a bummer."
"After Friday, a lot of things changed," Breckenridge resident Patty Theobald said. "We were on the main hill, and they didn't have medical help until ( later ) Saturday, and they announced that somebody just had a baby."
Organizers also made ongoing announcements about not dropping acid, Blue River resident Mitch Weiss said. But no one policed the area.
"It was a really interesting feeling to party and not have to look over your shoulder," he said. "There was no fear."
Breckenridge resident Steve Henderson was a 20-year-old studying chemical engineering and touting: "Anything brown and leafy is fine, but don't do the chemicals."
Still, plenty of people were "nonstop tripping," Silverthorne resident John Timmons said. People passed around psychedelics left and right.
"There were so many people walking around like butlers at a cocktail party offering up, in the palm of their hands, hashish, PCP, rainbow acid, grass and whatever, like an a la carte buffet," said Breckenridge resident Bobbie Hamilton.
One of Hamilton's psychologist friends ended up volunteer counseling those who wound up in the bad-trip tent, and every so often, he was able to sit on stage with the bands. Hamilton spent most of Friday night baby-sitting a friend of hers, who accepted some "unsavory elephant appetizer from the 'butlers' on the way in."
Even attendees who didn't actively take drugs soaked up the spirit of Woodstock.
"You just walked around, and you'd get high," Frisco resident Eric Fisher said.
Among the visual images Fisher still recalls is Roger Daltrey of The Who gyrating on stage wearing a blue fringed jacket.
"It seemed very trippy and ethereal," Fisher said. "No matter how straight you were, you were walking in a cloud."
Meanwhile, the heat, road dust and lack of showers on Saturday enticed many to peel off their clothes and reinvent the sport of mud sliding, once it rained. In fact, the wet clay made footing so treacherous, it was often easier to slide down the hill, Hamilton said. Hundreds of naked people swam about 50 feet from Timmons' campsite, while thousands more walked around the concert area.
"It wasn't any sexual or exciting thing," Timmons said. "It was just people being free."
But whether or not it titillated depends on perspective. Frisco resident Sylvia Conway thought it was "a great place to get laid." Breeman said she was too innocent to know about anything like that. Weiss, a 17-year-old at the time, simply enjoyed the scenery.
"I was hoping to have a lot of sex, but I just didn't have any luck," he said, laughing. "I was trying to be cool with all these naked women running around."
Various campsites built reputations for having good wine or giving good massages, Henderson said. People marched around with surreal props, like a wooden coffin with a skeleton dressed as Jesus attached to it, Theobald said. And the sky poured and poured - until, as Fisher described it, a group began an anti-rain dance by clapping beer cans and bottles together. Around that time, an Army helicopter flew over, dropping cases of sunflower seeds, which opened up and fluttered down. Then, the sun came out, and the musicians resumed playing.
"I know it wasn't me tripping, because I met two other people who remember the same scene," Fisher said. "It was totally amazing."
Meeting Hendrix Fisher went to Woodstock with the sole purpose of seeing his idol, Jimi Hendrix, play. Unfortunately, he ended up helping a friend fix his Mustang, then crashing out in the front seat after about 48 hours of sleeplessness. It was Timmons who met Hendrix.
Timmons was headed to his campsite for his first nap in three days. He decided to walk along the road behind the stage and slipped in the mud. That's when the car driving Hendrix away after his famed "Star-Spangled Banner" performance ran over Timmons' leg.
"The mud was so deep and soft, it just hurt a little bit," Timmons said. "Nothing was broken, but they felt bad enough to give me a ride back to my campsite."
As Timmons sat behind Hendrix and chatted, he surreptitiously reached into his backpack and hit "record" on the 3-inch reel-to-reel tape recorder he had brought, along with 40 tapes. When he returned to camp, he replayed it, only to realize he hadn't captured Hendrix's voice, and, indeed, had erased about an hour of music. The program Hendrix had signed was stolen years later, so now, Timmons is left with only memories.
"( Hendrix ) seemed like just a down-to-earth, really good guy," Timmons said. "He was so electric on stage, and there, a half-hour later in the car, he was just mellow."
By Kimberly Nicoletti
August 15, 2009