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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Sex, Drugs . . .

As previously mentioned, the advent of the birth control pill and its widespread availability enabled the Sexual Revolution to take off, and the view of sex in the 1960s was radically different than in previous decades, with the freer attitudes toward sex being reflected in the movies and clothing of the times. The slogan “make love, not war” arose in protest to the Vietnam war.  Alternate lifestyles were experimented with, including communal living, and the “free love movement” advocated physical pleasure without the imposition of tradition restrictions.

In the 1960s, capitalizing on the success of Playboy Magazine in the 1950s, Hugh Hefner opened the first Playboy Club in Chicago, with scantily clad bunnies serving cocktails, complete with form-fitting outfits including bunny ears and puffy tails.  In 1964, Whisky-A-Go-Go, the first discotheque, opened in Los Angeles, and that same year, the Condor Club, a topless bar in San Francisco featured topless bikini clad go-go girls, dancing in cages.  Sports Illustrated came out with their first swimsuit edition, sans the topless model. 

The decade of the 1960s also witnessed many dance crazes from the "Twist," to the "Limbo," to strange sounding and even stranger looking dances such as the "Frug," the "Jerk," the "Swim" and the "Mashed Potato": 

There was a freedom with these dances that fit well with the spirit of the 1960s a freedom of movement, a freedom from the traditions of the older generation, a freedom to express oneself with spontaneous adjustments to the minimal patterns associated with thee dances.  (Rielly, 2003, p. 202)

The search for greater freedom entered the spiritual arena as well, and despite the Catholic Church’s partial makeover with Vatican II, which modernized the mass, and allowed meat-eating on Fridays, the church was losing membership.  Young people sought different forms of spirituality and experimented with Eastern religions and meditation, from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Transcendental Meditation (TM), to other more cultish organizations such as the Moonies and Hare Krishnas. 

During the 1960s, drugs became associated with the counterculture and the antiwar protests, although many people were experimenting with drugs not only to rebel, but also in order to increase their consciousness.  Timothy Leary, ex-Harvard professor became a countercultural guru after a profound religious experience with mushrooms in 1960, and became an “apostle of LSD,” encouraging people to “Tune in, turn on, and drop out,”  which then became associated with antiwar movement, symbol of counterculture’s rejection of older generation (Bowen, 1970b, p. 31).  After being dismissed from Harvard in 1963, Leary invented his own religion, the League of Spiritual Discovery. LSD was legal until 1966, and Wolfe’s (1968) The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test chronicled the cross-country trip of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters with their Acid Tests.  Young people sought “mind-blowing” experiences which could be triggered by:

music, sexuality, drugs, fool-the-eye art, or even by extended meditation into the esoteric reaches of astrology or Hindu mysticism.  It could also be triggered by a wild jumble of multi-media distortions hurled at the sense of patrons at psychedelic rock palaces”  (Bowen, 1970b, p. 76)

As the operators of the Pablo Light Show, a multi-media show at the Electric Circus in New York, explained about their show:

This is an environment.  Its like the advent of Feelys in “Brave New World.”  Maybe we could show Nassau and program the sea smell and soft breezes.  With five sense you learn more than with two.  With five sense, its happening.  Our motto comes from the novelist Herman Hesse: “We are in a magic theater, a world of pictures not reality/Tonight at the magic theater for madmen only/ the price of admission is your mind.” (Bowen, 1970b, p. 76)

These countercultural influences made their way into the world of fashion and fun, too.


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