So Who Really Owns The 60s -- Hefner Or Hoffman?

Most social historians agree the 1960s were a defining [more like a re-defining] time in American history. Our views and values changed sharply. But here’s the problem. There are two competing claims for ownership to the fabled 60s. The cool, buttoned-down Playboy cult personified by the eternally cool bunny-hopper himself: Hugh Hefner. Then there’s the hot, free-spirited Woodstock cult personified by the eternally angry protester: Abbie Hoffman.

Hef gave us Bunnies; Hoff gave us Yippies. Leaving the rest of us to decide who did his country the greatest service? Or perhaps better said, dis-service?

Maybe we can look at today’s television for an answer. TV viewing has reached an all-time high, with the average person staring 158 hours and 47 minutes every month. Nielsen sums up our addiction at more than 5 hours a day from which we’re getting a mixed message about those celebrated 60s.

On one hand, there’s the hot series “Mad Men” featuring the cool, martini-guzzling advertising barracudas of Madison Avenue who happily frequent the world-according-to-Hefner. On the other, the recurring documentary odes to the-whole-world-is-watching marchers in 1968 Chicago. How is anyone who wasn’t there to decide whose 60s it really was…?

I remember being there for both. For the Playboy cult, I was never cool enough to get a key; but I was gratified enough to get to roast the guy in 1978. As to the Yippies cult, I was never angry enough to get into the marches; but close enough to watch their furies that summer-hot night in 1968.

If it sounds like our nation had a split-personality back then, tell me what nation doesn’t. What person doesn’t. What community doesn’t. Labeling any of these one way may be tidy, but truth is rarely tidy.

But then that brings up another question — what’s truth? A man named Pilate once asked that. As best as I remember, the answer he got wasn’t exactly tidy either. Truth takes time sorting out.

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  • One doubts that it was Hefner Jack .... {He was a narrow tie 50's kind of guy keen on $ and power more than a real ‘Hip’ 60's type just hanging out with whoever} …. Hoffman was an obscure figure to many in America [and elsewhere] ....

    So No .... Not 'Hefner nor Hoffman' .... I think America was too caught up in dealing the ‘British Invasion’ and that covered the deeper malaise of dealing with that other Mr. H .... Mr. Ho from Southeast Asia ...

    That was the subtext to all psycho/social events of that decade from this Geezer's perspective .... the ghosts and tragedies of that time still haunt millions on this continent and in that small country now measurably avoided in memoir & memories .... A collective amnesia has left the populace in a state of denial and the result was and is the repetition of horrible dark mistakes made once …. being morosely re-visited like a perpetual curse for those who refuse to acknowledge terrible deeds done and losses suffered .... sigh!

  • In reply to Geezer:

    You're quite right -- I should have included Ho along with Hef and Hoff...America's fierce paranoid attack on Vietnam probably created the decade's most enduring traumas...ones we seem now to repeat wherever we feel threatened...what's ironic is that we continue to feel more rather than less threatened...the rise and fall of the Roman Empire may be the prototype for this narrative....I hope not!

  • "the rise and fall of the Roman Empire may be the prototype for this narrative....I hope not!" .... Me too Jack .... Me too!

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