Wavy Gravy

By Dominick A. Miserandino,
1960s icon Wavy Gravy, famous for his involvement with Woodstock and the Grateful Dead, talks about relaxation, meditation, and the average, 'Day in his Life.'

WG) I do this thing with the children where I said, "Breathing in, I calm my body. (breathes) Breathing out, I smile. (breathes) Breathing in, this supreme moment. (breathes) Breathing out, I know it's a wonderful moment." When I do that with the children, they all jump for joy. It's kinda cool.

DM) I guess it's pretty important to take a breath of relaxation every so often.

WG) Breathing is good, and if you breathe consciously, you can lower your pulse and blood pressure and other good stuff.

DM) Besides the breathing, what is a typical day in your life?

WG) Well, this week for example, I was just in Los Angeles making a documentary for German television on whales. They had tried to get me in England where they missed me.

DM) What is your involvement with whales?

WG) In 1973, our bus was floated to Sweden for the United Nations Conference on Human Environment. We actually fixed the bus up like a whale so that it had a tale and it squirted water up. On the tape deck was whale singing, and we drove through downtown Stockholm during rush hour. Well, we proceeded to capture a saturation of world press that was there for the UN conference and had nothing to do until the next day, and we then had a moment of being "It" internationally.

It had an enormous impact to the point of the United Nations passing a resolution against the killing and hunting of these whales as they are an endangered species. This was a documentary on the plight of the whales. They put me up in the Hollywood Roosevelt, and after the shot, they drove me to the house of Jackson Browne's manager where he cooked me a lunch of shark meat.

Then I had a meeting with this guy from Rhino Records who gave me this amazing CD called, "Washington Square Memoirs," about the folk group movement of the 1960s and 1970s. We talked about doing a production of a CD I'm recording now of children's stories that I recorded with Ken Kesey, who was the bassist of Starship and plays keyboard for Hot Tuna.

After that, I flew back to the Bay Area in time for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, who are good friends of mine, and then onto New York, where I shot for a day of reminiscing in my old Greenwich Village haunts with a film crew doing a documentary about those times.

And then back to the Bay Area where I have a benefit for the Grateful Dead charity followed by an event... then we're doing an event for my camp, Camp Winnarainbow.

DM) With all of these fun things, how do you pay the bills?

WG) Well, we make some money from Camp Winnarainbow, which is a camp for children and also adults. I also just had my art show in London, which seemed to do well.

I had 500 kids at camp this past summer for example. We do nine weeks for kids and nine days for grown ups every summer. The adult camp is a lot of fun. Camp Winnarainbow is possibly one of the most famous kids camps in the world... Written up from The New York Times to the Wall Street Journal. Also, we get royalties from the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream flavor named after me (Wavy Gravy) which helps send city kids to camp.

DM) Are you happy with where your life is right now?

WG) Absolutely. I am in total ecstasy with where my life is now. For the last 37 years, I've been a part of an extended family... a commune, so I don't have expenses like normal people. We have a Hippie Hyanisport in Berkley... a cluster of homes in the finest section of town, and 900 acres to the north by three hours where I do my children's camp. We have a 3-acre lake called, "Veronica" and a 315-foot water slide that runs into the lake. How many people do you know that have a 315-foot water slide?

And, at the request of Bill Graham when he moved on, we have a glorious basketball court in our sports field. Bill Walton and friends have supplied all of the backboards and other materials.

Also, pretty much every Labor Day we put on a show, but this year, we're taking a pass and going to Burning Man.

DM) Do you find the movement of the 60s is still alive and well?

WG) Well, absolutely, but in different forms. A lot of people are not particularly thrilled in the fact that we are under a presidential coup and we've all been totally Bushwhacked. It's interesting that Michael Moore's book, "Stupid White Men," is number one on the best seller's list for almost a month now.

DM) Do you feel the movement is stronger than before or not as strong?

WG) Well, things change. I think there are aspects of it that didn't exist before, and there are problems that didn't exist that people are facing, but most of the people that I know, that were doing stuff a long time ago, are still doing stuff. Some of them have taken off their tie-dyes for shirts and ties and business suits, but it was never really in the beads, the hair and dyes anyhow. I would say it was in the eyes actually, but certainly not their clothes or overlay.

DM) Do you think the current issues going on in today's world, like the mid-east crisis, would they have been handled differently by a different generation?

WG) Well, I don't know. Didn't Sharon do this all once before? And I also thought that Richard Nixon was the greatest political education we have ever had, but it looks like we need to relearn them again. I think we should Smoke Bush instead. I always say, dare to struggle, dare to grin. Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don't have a sense of humor it just isn't funny anymore.

DM) Do you ever have a bad day?

WG) Absolutely.

DM) How do you get yourself out of one?

WG) A couple of things that I suggest... if you're on a bummer... suggestion number one: try to find a paper bag that fits over your head, put it over your head, and do what I call the "Funny Mantra" (blows a raspberry).

If you have the true bag, you will turn into a living kazoo. It's a great search for the "true bag," but once you find it, it's an incredible... buzz.Your whole head begins to tickle, and it just cracks you up.

Laughter is the valve on the pressure cooker of life. Either you laugh and suffer, or you got your beans or brains on the ceiling.

Another suggestion is to get a cuckoo clock. It's very hard to maintain your bummer with a bird coming out of a box every fifteen minutes and hooting at you!


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