|Pages from Michael Butler's Journal
The Story of the San Francisco firings
Jolie Kanat, original member of the San Francisco Tribe wrote:
Here is the story of how the entire San Francisco cast of HAIR got "fired!"
As I recall, it was either late 1969 or early 1970. The Vietnam war was still raging. And at the same time we were performing every night, sending the message to literally millions of people, from every HAIR tribe in the country and world, that the war was a hideous violation of our deepest beliefs and and morals.
(Actually as I think about this, the story takes on more interesting layers).
We were all screamingly young, as well as ardent in our beliefs about the message of the play. Many of us were not veteran professionals. We had been chosen for not only our talent, but our freshness and energy as well It was different than, say, performing in Bye Bye Birdie, where the underlying message was not necessarily on the front page of the newspapers daily.
During the first year of the very successful and remarkable (sold out, standing room only, talk-of-the-town) San Francisco run, a general business "moratorium" was called by political leaders of the anti-war movement. All businesses were to close for a time in protest of the US bombings in Vietnam and Cambodia. It was not a small issue. Especially in the San Francisco area where the anti-war movement had a stronghold.
In our enthusiasm for this anti-war effort,
the entire cast (or most of us) decided to stop working in the play for...I
don't remember how long...a night? A week? We were sure the
director, stage managers, writers (Mr. Rado and Mr. Ragni) and producer
(Mr. Butler) would support us in our valiant effort to send the message
But...we didn't really think we were risking
I still do not know what the point of view of management at that time, but having owned a business since then, I can imagine the feelings were very mixed.
A show or two was cancelled. Our paychecks were docked appropriately. However, we were re-hired shortly thereafter. As I recall, the cast published a full page explanation in the San Francisco Chronicle for the missed shows.
This story is a perfect example of how there are no absolutes in this life. For example, it would have been right to perform and it would have been right to join the moratorium. It was a time that is hard to describe to anyone who was not there, don't you agree?
I can only imagine the consternation we must have caused Michael and the people running the production. But perhaps they had their own uncertainties to grapple with, too.
Michael Butler replied:
Jolie's story is correct, I can embellish it a bit.
At the time we are writing about there
were so many tribes of HAIR performing that the production company was
freaking out. How could we keep these shows together artistically, emotionally
and spiritually. In one smoke filled conference there was a thought of
getting a 747 we could live in. It would have video monitors for each show.
When we saw any problem
I still have that pipe and on special occasions it is used.
Peace and Love,