#76 – Dick Bernard: "Taking Woodstock" (and "zipping to Zap")

UPDATE ON THE ZIP TO ZAP:  Subsequent to the September 6 update I received two most interesting items:  my brother, who had been involved in the event sent a research piece that was most interesting #mce_temp_url#   .  Then I ordered the 1991 documentary on the event, an equally fascinating summary of what happened during those interesting few days in rural North Dakota in 1969, a few months before Woodstock.  I’d recommend the 53 minute video to anyone with an interest in the topic.   It can be ordered through #mce_temp_url#
UPDATE September 6: see comment re Zip to Zap, as well as link references at end of this post.
Original Post:
Yesterday we went down the street to see the just released “Taking Woodstock”, a film I thought would give me a retro look at Woodstock 1969.  Maybe it would be a temporary release from the bizarre country we seem to be living in today:  A country where some people are terrified that the President of the country might have some unsupervised time with unsuspecting school children when school begins this week (more on that on Tuesday morning.)  A country where health care for all is somehow un-American.  One wonders where we’re headed, and my concern is not our President; my concern is the collective us.
“Taking Woodstock”  turned out to be a very good choice of movie.  It had a comedy aspect to it, and was not a documentary, but in the over two hours in the theatre it gave a pretty decent picture of how Woodstock impacted on small town New York state and the participants in the drama.  I wouldn’t call it an exciting movie – for a while I wondered where it was going – but it was interesting, and gave lots of food for thought.
In the end, it seems, Woodstock 1969 was an unintended very major event that was simply allowed to happen.  One wonders how such an event would play out today, with “cowboys” wandering the streets, armed and dangerous; moralists tut-tutting about immoral behavior, and all the rest.
The 1969 bottom line, or so it seems: in an atmosphere that could well have been chaotic and violent, Woodstock participants did their thing, peacefully, and the area recovered.  Even in the midst of a disastrous Vietnam War, there was a sense of sanity and civility that we seem to have lost today.
(There’s plenty of information available about Woodstock: a good source seems to be http://www.woodstock.com/1969-festival; for more about the film, http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taking_Woodstock )
For the record, I totally missed out on Woodstock in 1969.  I don’t remember a thing about it “back in the day”.  I remember hearing about the famous “Zip to Zap” in the spring of 1969 (my kid brother almost scored with Life magazine with photos he took there, in western ND); and about the moon-landing in the summer, but nothing about Woodstock.  Had I known about Woodstock, I would not have been interested. Wasn’t my thing.  Plus I was going to graduate school, building a new house, getting ready for a child who arrived August 25, 1969, etc.  On my priority list, Woodstock wasn’t….
Still, Woodstock has been an object of fascination for me over the years.  
I could grant that lots of the folks who hung out at Woodstock in the summer of 1969 – perhaps even most of them – engaged in one or another kind of dangerous or even self-destructive behavior.  But best as I know, their only potential victims were themselves.  They were surrounded by a genuine ad hoc community of sorts that cared whether the neighbors lived or died.  The atmosphere was live and let live.
Today the moralists would be out there with their National Guard troops and their blazing news releases raging moralism and hell-fire and damnation, and doing their best to quiet other voices.
The Woodstock.com site (URL above) gives a pretty decent summation of what seems to have been Woodstock 1969: “…a community of a half million people who managed to peacefully co-exist over three days of consistent rain, food shortages, and a lack of creature comforts. “Woodstock is a reminder that inside each of us is the instinct for building a decent, loving community, the kind we all wish for,” according to Joel Rosenman. “Over the decades, the history of that weekend has served as a beacon of hope that a beautiful spirit in each of us ultimately will triumph.”
If you can, see the film….
Note:  The person posting the comment on “Zip to Zap” has an interesting website #mce_temp_url#, which includes an astonishingly beautiful piece of music by San Franciscan Matt Venuti.  Do visit and share.

1 reply
  1. Jackie
    Jackie says:

    Great post, haven’t seen the movie yet but will soon. Wanted to let you know there’s also a fun DVD / documentary of “Zip to Zap”, called Zap Revisited. Interviews, archival footage, interesting characters. A West Fargo, ND native, Chris Breitling, produced the film while a grad student in film school. It’s only $12 and here: http://www.ZapRevisited.com/


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