Whatever you may have heard, countercultural Berkeley did not materialize, Brigadoon-like, out of the marijuana haze of a Vietnam War protest. Long before there was a Berkeley Barb or a How Berkeley Can You Be? parade, there were Berkeley bohemians. And Charles Augustus Keeler, by the standards of proto-hippiedom, was Sgt. Pepper.
I couldn’t decide what made me feel dirtier—looking at hundreds of pictures of naked girls, or rifling through the personal belongings of a man I’d never met. But I was doing both one evening in the Bancroft Library reading room, traversing the late photographer Charles Gatewood’s massive archive chronicling the kink, tattoo, and body modification subcultures of America and especially the West Coast.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about an incident that happened in 1965, seven years before I was born. It centered on an antiwar protest in Berkeley, one of the first of countless such protests to come. Though just a blip in the grand scheme of Vietnam era turmoil, it seems to point to something important about America and the nature of patriotism.
It starts with a guy named “Tiny.” Tiny was 6’7” and 300 pounds. And he really liked to fight.
In countless ways, Berkeley is undeniably different. And that uniqueness is part of what draws people here—not just students and professors, but folks of all walks, many of whom are distinguished in their fields or famous for their exploits.