Nudity and Flag "Desecration" Figure In Appeal Against Hair Foldo in Hub
by Guy Livingston
Variety - April 15, 1970

Bsoton -- The Boston production of Hair was closed last Friday (10) at the Wilbur Theatre at the order of the State Supreme Court.

Hair legal reps went into Federal Court yesterday (Mon) seeking an order to permit the show to play in its original form with the nude scene intact.  They were scheduled for further hearing on the matter today (Tues).  SHow remains closed meantime and refunds to ticket holders continue.

Coincidentally, motion picture exhibitors, because of the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling on nudity, are cutting nude scenes out of incoming product and taking another look at what scenes are playing to avoid trouble.

Richard J. Sinnott, Hub's unofficial city censor, who began the Hair situationby protesting "desecration" of the flag in the show opening night, advocated "bringing back the stocks and horsewhips for anyone who abuses the American flag" in speech before the Jewish War Veterans on Sunday (12).

Sinnott, chief of the licensing board, said: "Anyone who abuses the flag should be horsewhipped in public on Boston Common."

The flag scene was removed from hair following opening, and Supreme Court ruling specifically notes: "nothing in this opinion or any injunction is to preclude prosecution for any misuse of national flag, a matter not argued to us."

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that "each member of the cast be clothed to a reasonable extent," afterjustices had "reviewed" the show with its nude scene.  The ruling handed down Thursday (9) caught the management by suprise, and the cast played that night's performance a la nude regardless, claiming it was unclear as to when th order was to take effect.

Garrett Byrne, the District Attorney, said he would see to it that the Supreme Court order was enforced.  Hair closed Friday (10) and began refunding money.  There is said to be $600,000 in advance.  The management said refunds were running about 12%, with the majority of of ticket holders preferring to wait.

Jerry Arrow, company manager, said the troupe decided to close the show because "we feel we cannot performe with artistic integrity if we make the excisions the court has demanded."

The decision to close Hair was made after the show's attorneys, Gerald Berlin and (word not readable) Mahoney conferred with the District Attorney's office and representatives of the Supreme Court.  "I don't want to advise the cast to go on the show and risk jail"

Horace Greley McNabb, the press agent for Hair, said the musical has played in many other cities in the U.S. and abroad with no trouble.  He added that The Pilot, a Roman Catholic newspaper in Boston, recently published an enthusiastic review of the show.

Attorneys for the production asked for an injunction to prevent the District Attorney from closing the musical under Massachusetts obscenity laws when Hair opened for previews the last week in February.  He reluctantly agreed to postpone action until after Supreme Court Justices had attended a performance and rendered an opinion.

The D.A., it was indicated, would have arrested the 28-member cast.  After the Supreme Court ruling, Byrne said his office would prosecute any members violating the court ruling.  Arrow said the company had been advised they would be subject to criminal sanctions if they should preform Hair as it was originall written and presented.

The production opened March 6, after a week of previews, and has been grossing around $71,000 per week at a $10 top.  It has become a sort of cause celebre in Boston, with at least one newspaper abd one radio tv station becoming pro Hair.

The Supreme Court's order is figured to be of great interest to show business.  The opinion says, in part  "In this case, injunctive relief is sought against prosecution of the producers and members of the cast.  Declaration is sought that prosecution would contravene various constitutional provisions.

"Each justice participating has seen the performance at the request of the parties.  One scene shows members o the cast in the nude facing the audience.  One nude male performer is bathed on stage.  There is incidental stage action which a jury could conclude was clowning, intended to simulate sexual intercourse or deviation.

"The play, in various respects, will be offensive to some persons.  It constitutes, however, in some degree, an obscure form of protest protected under the First Amendment.  Viewed apart from the specific incidents mentioned above, it is not lewd and lacivious, whatever other objections there may be to it.

"The incidents already mentioned are separable from, and wholly unnecessary to, whatever theme this noisy, disorganized performance may have. Discretionary equitable jurisdiction, infrequently exercised, exists to restrain enforcement of unconstitutional application of a valid statute.

"Injunctive relief will be givenm but, by analogy to the principle that he who seeks equity must do equity, the injunction, to be framed in the county court,  shall be conditioned upon excision forthwith of the specified lewd features so as (a) to have each member of the cast clothed to a reasonable extent at all times, and (b) to eliminate completely all simulation of sexual intercourse or deviation.  Nothing in this injunction or any injunction is to preclude prosecution for any misuse of the national flag, a matrter not argued to us."

The Boston Globe, which has come out in favor of the musical, ran an editorial, Saturday (11) headed, "Hair is how you view it" along with a three-column cartoon showing a beak nosed black robed justice sneaking off with the bust of Venus, leaving the draped part of the statue unscathed.

The editorial commented, "The producers of the musical show Hair have decided to close it rather than conform with a ruling of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts that dur - (line missing from article) to a reasonable extent.  This is unfortunate and the public, not its morals, is the loser.  The matter will now be taken to the Federal courts, where supporters of the show will hope with considerable reasons for a different outcome.  Meanwhile the "banned in Boston" syndrome still persists.

"And a show that has run for three years in new York city and for long periods in 14 other major U.S. cities and in 17 foreign countries cannot be seen here.  Those who would ban it must hold that we are right and the rest of the world is all wrong.

"Five of the Supreme Court justices had viewed the show at the request of the producers and the district attorney.  It is perhaps unfortunate that they did, for Hair is a show one should only see willingly, as so very many have.  One is tempted to add, as if to gild the lily that the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.  And one hopes, somehow, and in spite of their decision, that the justices when they attended Hair both were offered, and accepted a flower.  They should have gone up on the stage after the show and danced with the cast, as we did."

In a sidelight to the affair, the show's local office attempted to send a cable to the producer Michael Butler, who is in Honolulu preparing another edition of the musical.  The message contained the text of the brief filed by the D.A. including words signifying male and female organs.  The cable office refused to accept it, however.

In line with the Globe condemnation of the Supreme Court ruling against the show, the critic for local station WNAC-TV, MArtin Bookspan, who panned the production on artistic grounds when it opened early in MArch, also attacked the court's action, terming it more "sophomoric" than the musical.

Copyright Variety.

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