NEW YORK - Oh, happy day, when you could finally walk out of the cramped misery that this city gives you for a home and know that New York's long, cruel winter at long last has come to an end. On the Central Park Drive at 72nd Street I could hear the cast of Hair singing "Aquarius", the chorale soaring over the blossoming magnolia trees and bouncing back at me off the towers of Central Park West. When was the last time our town had seen a day like this? Under the flowers of a dogwood tree, two young cops in the Sunday uniform of the Special Events Squad were looking at the girls and trying not to smile.
In New York, there's always a sense of foreboding, like a siren off in the distance. Here was the first day of sunshine without winter's claws in it and you could still see suspicion scarring the gladness around you. A kid with long dark hair wearing a knitted mexican jacket walked by the long row of benches where the aging West Siders come to read their Daily Forwards. "God bless all my Jewish friends here" he cried out. "May the Jewish society live forever!" You could see the old, the feeble and the dying peering up through their cataract lenses, trying to see who this could be talking to them. They, too, could hear "Aquarius" rising in the distance, but it was too far for them to walk to the Mall.
Oh happy day. Only people could wear it out. On the Mall, the promoters of hair were celebrating the show's second birthday with a free spectacle at the bandshell, and already the New York Provos were handing out leaflets branding Hair as a culture rip-off and inviting followers to the cast's own private party at the Four Seasons afterwards.
"With all the green power Hair promoters have taken in, has any of it come back to the people?" the leaflets asked. On the stage, Oliver got up and sang his hit, "Starshine", and then, with his lisp, thanked Jim Rado and Jerry Ragni for writing this song that had been the key to his success.
There were young couples pushing strollers and fathers carrying children on their shoulders and queers with jackets draped across their backs. There were Puerto Rican rhythm bands grouped on rocky crags and kids playing leapfrog on the terrace near the pond and ice cream vendors surrounded by mobs with quarters in outstretched hands. On the grassy knolls, you could see people lying on blankets or else they just spread out the Sunday papers and lay down on them, the sheets blowing away one by one in the breeze.
At the Mall itself, there were perhaps 15,000 watching the show or what they could see of it. Maybe they would have been in the park anyway. Why did Hair get a day like this when the best St. Patrick's could do on Easter Sunday was a couple of hundred tons of snow? If was costing promoters $8,000 to put on this birthday party, but then Hair was earning its backers $310,000 a week.
"The point is we who created and live a free life-style are the ones who become the victims of Amerikan oppression ", the Provo leaflet said. On the fringe of the crowd, you could see a black cop with a two-way radio hanging from his waist singing along as Bert Sommer was on the stage: "...We're all playing in the same band..." Meanwhile, the two-way radio was broadcasting an alarm about a lost child.
By calling itself an American Tribal Love-Rock musical, Hair started off as one of the original hippie hypes, capitalizing on the season of the flower children and on the cheap thrill that a theater club audience would get watching them take their clothes off. But Hair's music has now transcended all that, growing as if from seeds through layers of commercial filth heaped on it.
The songs from hair are being sung all over the world.
More than 600 recordings have been made from the score, and half the songs
its cast sings have become recorded hits. There are now 20 road companies
of Hair playing the show in different cities of the world and more than
3,400,000 people have bought tickets to see it. At the bandshell,
Allan Nicholls, who now plays the Broadway lead, was telling the audience
to pick up its littler in the name of ecology.