On-line hippies hitching a ride to Woodstock

August 03, 1994|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Sun Staff Writer

Here's another hint for anyone who still thinks Woodstock '94 ($135 tickets, $10 burritos, no alcohol) is going to be like Woodstock '69 (no tickets necessary, free love, Genessee Ale and a smorgasbord of alternatives).

This Woodstock is on-line.

Through the America Online service, Woodstock in its past and previous incarnations has been discussed, dished and dissed under topics ranging from "Commercialism" to "Were you there in '69?" and "Leave Woodstock Alone!"

That last heading provides a needed refuge from the young and cynical, whose caustic assessments sometimes drown out the, well, mellower voices of those in their 40s and 50s, looking back through rose-colored granny glasses.

"So what if you trekked through the mud pit in your broken-down car to get there on no money to eat dirt sandwiches!" complained a 26-year-old from Cambridge, Mass., under the heading "Old r,8p,12l Duds [sic] Get Lost." A Tennessee man, who goes by P. Norman and was born about a month before the first festival, says simply: "I can smell the patchouli from here. I'm wretching."

A Mesa, Ariz., woman, 20 in 1969, holds fast to her memories: "All I truly remember from Friday night was the air filled with music everywhere -- from stage to the car. It was calming, astounding, and unforgettable."

Baby boomer and New York writer Lewis Grossberger, posting under the name Gothamite, says: "Woodstock Online. Oh, wow, how groovy. How heavy, man. I just dropped some virtual acid and I think I'm gonna like, throw up."

Woodstock Online is more than a sounding board for generational schisms and grousing. It has kept its followers abreast of developments for each of the anniversary festivals -- up through Monday's announcement of the cancellation of Bethel '94, a concert on the original site that promised reunions of acts from the first one. (The other Woodstock, scheduled for Aug. 12-14 at Saugerties, N.Y., has a lineup that includes Bob Dylan and the Spin Doctors, but still has 100,000 tickets left to sell.)

Other information available on-line:

* The Woodstock do's and don'ts: No alcohol, no food, no pets, children discouraged. But with a plastic bowl, you get free drinking water.

* Carpooling information, ticket exchanges, maps of the concert site.

* Discussions of Woodstock past; dire predictions about Woodstock present. A "chat room" to talk about the festival with other interested folks.

* Attempts to find old friends and make new ones.

* A place to post your e-mail address, which will then be transferred to the official Woodstock Online T-shirt. As of yesterday the list was at 350 names and counting.

* A pitch for a book, coming out this fall, by Jack Hoffman, brother of Abbie. And, in the spirit of Abbie Hoffman's "Steal this Book," advice from a young man on how to get in free: ("Bring someother Ticketmaster tickets from a local play or motorcross race in your hometown . . . walk in with a dazed look and don't make eye contact.")

One is tempted to wonder what the original festival might have been like if so much information had been available. Would it have collapsed from a lack of spontaneity, or attracted even more people, thanks to the dissemination of alternate routes?

"The service has been very helpful," says Tom Nix, 26, of Norwalk, Conn., who has organized a multi-state keg party via Woodstock Online. "Otherwise I would not have been aware of what was going to happen. I saw the Woodstock room after I had bought the tickets."

Jack Hoffman can't keep up with all the responses his posting has generated. But the 54-year-old, who missed the first Woodstock because his wife had just given birth, has no regrets about missing this one, too.

"Forget it," he says. "Most of these kids don't know who their two senators are. It's become nothing but a mega-mega money event. I see nothing but a total rip-off."

Some of the most touching postings come from Vietnam veterans.

David Cassell, stationed at Fort Holabird outside Baltimore, recalls sticking out his thumb and heading north that weekend, unconcerned about being AWOL.

"I had the mandatory Fu Manchu mustache, a highly decorated Levi jacket and fringed moccasins, a knapsack and a flute," says the 46-year-old veteran when reached by telephone in San Francisco. "I arrived just a little bit before Richie Havens started. The fences were gone and I plunked myself down."

Richard Fitzpatrick, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans in Washington, left this haunting message: "In an airport terminal on the way to South Vietnam I saw news coverage of the Woodstock event," he wrote. "On my way to 365 days as a grunt. . . . We both remember rainstorms. But you remember birth and love and I remember death and hate. May this country's future be of Woodstocks -- not Vietnams."

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