Read an Excerpt
Turning On Newsweek
I just love it when people in high places quit their jobs and then expose the fancy people they used to work for. I devoured every word penned by Jackie Kennedy's former secretary, Mary Gallagher, when she disclosed to the world her boss' finicky demands to have her nylons hand-ironed after laundering, and her penchant for selling her hardly-worn clothes to discreet secondhand shops rather than giving them to her maids the way most rich women do. Ex-establishment people have a real fascination for me. I myself am one of them, and this is my exposé. I worked for three years at Newsweek, half a block from St. Patrick's Cathedral. I quit the magazine in October 1968 and fled the country for a year to regain my sanity.
I came to Newsweek after 5-1/2 years at the University of California at Berkeley, armed with a B.A. sloppily attained in English and a political education and lifestyle carefully nurtured through years of demonstrating, organizing, arguing, turning on and free loving. I had been busted once, for ecstatically sitting in as a fanatical adherent of the Free Speech Movement. My sentence was a light one, due to the recommendation of my probation officer. She was favorably impressed with me for no other reason than liking a CBS documentary on the FSM, entitled The Berkeley Rebel, in which I had appeared. I was the archetype of the Berkeley liberated woman and, like Joan of Arc, I cut off all my long, black hair and headed for the big city and thereal world to act out my destiny. In this state, I fell upon Newsweek.
For the full three years I was at the magazine, I was always startled by people's reactions to my working there. Old politico friends from Berkeley whom I would see from time to time looked askance at me and mumbled under their breath that I had sold out. Maybe my Berkeley friends were right. From the Free Speech Movement to Newsweek?
Was I or was I not co-opted? At Newsweek I was the house Freako-Doper-Lefty and I was tolerated, later even indulged, because I carefully cultivated the illusion that I knew everything about drugs and which buildings would be taken over next at which school. Men and women alike at Newsweek cultivated a knowing air of sophistication about everything in the world. After all, the magazine touched on everything in the world within its covers. They prided themselves on their "hip" ability to assimilate anything that might take placeas long as the impact was first tempered by being filtered through Newsweek.
For the first eight months I was a "clipper," brandishing my "rip-stick" (a yard-long piece of metal with a single-edged razor on one side) at eleven newspapers a day, searching for stories for the Nation department to rewrite at the end of the week. Omigod, every day clipping out pieces of newsprint and filing them in little cubbyholes for writers who worked wedged into coffin-sized cubiclesand all the while congratulating myself for having landed a glamorous New York job, out-competing 500 other identically-qualified liberal arts, Betty Co-ed graduates. I can't tell you how thrilling it was to work in such an important place. I took home $65 a week for the privilege and was even supplied with a khaki uniform smock denoting my status. Ostensibly, the smock was utilitarian rather than an indication of caste, to save the clippers' clothes from newsprint smudge. In my case, however, it hid the fact that I had to wear the same clothes every day because my salary only permitted such luxuries as toilet paper and lunch.
When I was hired, there was no such thing as a male clipper. Later, the whole system was altered and girls were hired directly as researchers. Clippers were hired on a permanent basis and did not have to have a college degree. But during my early employment, I developed a hatred of all the young hotshots coming out of Harvard and other Ivy League holes who held degrees identical to mine, but who, because of their penises, were automatically sent to one of the bureaus and paid $120 a week to become writer-reporter trainees.
But besides career promises, there was a wonderful lack of formality about the place that belied the stigma of my drab smock. Everyone was on a first-name basis. I could call editor Osborn Elliott "Oz." Writers would talk to me and call me by my first name. Very early in my clipper days, I established myself as an authority on hippies, drug addicts and leftists. And it was smoking dope that got me my first reporting assignment, liberating me from the clip desk. It was unheard of for a clipper to do reporting, but I had a special background.
The Nation department was doing a story on the scene in Greenwich Villagedrugs, runaways, lifestyles. Despite the fact that they had New York-based reporters and some half-dozen researchers sitting there, Senior Editor John Jay Iselin (a 36-year-old, short, dark-haired man who always appeared in shirtsleeves and wore suspenders) decided to make use of the magazine's Berkeley freak for an undercover assignment. I dressed up like a hippie and hung out on McDougal Street and in Washington Square, asking teenagers from Queens if they turned on or fucked. While there, I met a very hip and talkative dealer, went to his apartment, interviewed him and bought a tiny chunk of hash which I duly brought into Iselin's office the following morning to show him. He peeled back the tinfoil as delicately as a demolition expert, asking all kinds of dumb questions about how you smoke it, what the high was like and if it was addicting. When I told him I'd had to buy it so that my dealer friend would trust me, he instructed me to fill out an expense account form. Did he want the hash? "Oh, no," he said quickly. "You keep it."
"How do I write it up," I asked naively"$15 for hashish?" (I had never filled out an expense account form before.)
"Put it down as entertainment," said the great-great-great-great-grandchild of America's first chief justice.
In the summer of 1967, Newsweek indirectly bought enough grass and paraphernalia to warrant a felony sentence in New York of from one to 15 years. Only three years behind the times, it was decided to do a cover story on marijuana, and, naturally, I was assigned to the story. The cover designer, Bob Engels, uncertain of what he wanted, allowed me to hunt up paraphernalia and other material for a cover photo. I went down to the Lower East Side's Psychedelicatessen and purchased two beautiful water pipes, a hash pipe, roach holders, a dozen packets of cigarette papers and a few little psychedelic toys. What a haul! I also bought two ounces of Acapulco Gold and one ounce of Panama Red from my favorite exclusive downtown dealer. Newsweek footed the whole bill without a ripple, and I got the payola of a lifetime. But it didn't end there. The fact that marijuana was to be legitimized twixt the pages of Newsweek gave rise to unexpected curiosity on the parts of both the senior editor and the writer of the piece, both of whom decided, independent of each other, that their respective editing and writing would lack verisimilitude unless they tried the stuff. The writer, Paul Zimmerman, was a graduate of Amherst with a masters from Berkeley, a chubby, dark-haired, easygoing fellow in his early 30s who was quickly ascending the Newsweek hierarchy. He played it safe and took the dope and my instructions home with him to share with his wife. Liking it, he nevertheless castrated his story, balancing the viewpoint to be exactly in the wishy-washy middleeven before he was edited.
Ed Diamond, the 45-year-old senior editor, wanted atmosphere as well as dope. He asked me in conspiratorial tones if he couldn't come down to my place to try it out. For a moment I was panicked, as my past proselytizing for the weed included my testimony that it enhanced lovemaking. But I was mistaken in my fears, for he quickly added that he would like me to invite some of my pot-smoking friends. And so I invited some of my more respectable dope-smoking, ex-Berkeley friends to be good Samaritans to my boss. Frantically, I cleaned my West Village apartment, borrowed chairs and colored lights from the gay man next door, and bought all kinds of head food to delight the palate of the stoned. On the afternoon before the engagement, Diamond called me into his office. He looked worried. Uh, he paused, would ... uh ... I mind if ... uh, his wife, Adelina, came too? Ed had compulsively confessed what he was doing, and his suburbanite wife insisted on coming. I didn't mind at all. The family that smokes together goes on to better things. Ed and my friends came on schedule; the wife came later. I had the best of all possible dope rolled and set out on the table. We all began smoking and conversing in awkward tones. The senior editor, however, didn't know how to inhale (shades of Bill Clinton), as he was not a smoker, thus necessitating the use of special paraphernalia to insure his getting high. Adelina, quiet and withdrawn, smoked and smoked and never said a word, but later sat there with a weird smile on her drawn face. Ed conversed as energetically as he would at any cocktail party, while my friends and I got so high our tongues stuck to the roofs of our mouths. The rest of us had had enough, but Ed wouldn't smoke unless we continued, so we kept on going. I staggered into the kitchen to prepare the goodies and was swept by a tidal wave of dizziness. Blackness encroached along the edges of my vision, and I realized with horror that I was about to pass outI had OD'd in my zeal to get that maniac high. I lurched through the living room. "Heh ... heh ... ha, ha ... I ... uh ... hmmmm, ah ... smoked a little too much hash ... don't ... uh ... judge by me ... be with y'all in a sec...." I lay down on my bed and listened to the screaming silence from the next room. "I blew it," I thought. I recovered shortly and fed them, but Diamond wouldn't smoke any more, and he and his wife soon left, thanking me profusely for a wonderful time. Later, he told me his wife had loved the stuff, but that he only got a slight "buzz." I made a vow never to play guru again.
After the cover story came out with the only piece of actual writing I was ever allowed to do for the magazineit was so heavily edited that all statements which seemed to emanate from my own personal knowledge of grass were deleted and substituted with phony quotes from people who didn't exist; Oz was fearful lest Newsweek readers get the idea that a staffer smoked the stuff with the magazine's approvalI was approached by people all over the magazine, asking me to get them some pot. They all wanted to try it, but were afraid of buying it from some shady dealer. Me they trusted, and for a week I toyed with the idea of increasing my meager earnings by being Newsweek's exclusive dealer, but in the end I decided I didn't want to deal with the notorious suspiciousness of novice smokers who see any dealer as someone who's out to burn them. And they were so straight, too. During the marijuana issue, I came to work with some Japanese incense and lit it in the office I shared with Zimmerman. The smell went all the way down the drab, institutional corridors, prompting editors and researchers to come banging on my door to verify their suspicions that, at last, they had smelled the sinister weed. Amazing. They not only had never smelled pot, they didn't even know what incense was. I was ordered to stop burning the stuff.
To be fair, I wasn't the only one at Newsweek who had ever turned on. A few of the researchers had occasionally imbibed, but only one of them could be classified as a head, and she was circumspect about it. I was pleased that one ex-Harvard writer whom I initiated became a confirmed head. It led, I am convinced, to his leavlng Newsweek and eventually heading for hip San Francisco and a television job.
One late Friday night, while a blizzard raged outside, he and I sat in my office with the window wide open and the snow pouring in, furtively puffing away at three joints in a row, giggling hysterically and half hoping we would be discovered. I am sad to say it was the only time that I turned on at work. It was my choice; I could have done it easily enough. But I hated the sterility of the place. The walls were the same color as my discarded clipper's smock, and the lights were naked fluorescent fixtures. Only the senior editors on up rated a carpet and a colored wall. To prevent retina regurgitation, I bought rose-colored glasses for my myopic eyes and plastered my side of the office walls with offensive collages of LBJ, Vietnam atrocities, naked balling couples and Fillmore art-nouveau posters. Zimmerman's side of the room was bare, and he bitched to me that he didn't want to have to look at napalmed babies every day when he worked. Other visitors also complained that my choice of wall art was tasteless and offensive, but I was the self-appointed scourge of Newsweek and believed it was good for them. When I appeared on a CBS network documentary on marijuana, urging viewers to turn on, CBS disguised my identity by saying I worked for an unnamed major magazine and left it at that, so Newsweek didn't care.
Excerpted from an article in Scanlan's.
Love and Haight
When I graduated Radcliffe without having met a Harvard man who could support me in the style to which my mother, a lawyer, had always aspired, she took me shopping and made me try on mink coats. Obviously I would need a disguise if I was to attract the right sort of victim. I put on a few to humor her and hated every one of them passionately. I wanted to look like I'd been dragged through a gutter by a herd of wild horses, not like I'd been insulated from the vicissitudes of life by a roster of ranch minks. It's important to remember that at this point in subcultural history it was hard to hate mink coats generically. No one was referring to fur coats as "dead animals" or spraying them with red paint. So if you didn't want a mink, you had to hate them one by one. As I did so, sneering at each one's hemline, color and cut, my mother concluded that my attitude was too immature for real minkso she bought me a starter mink.
It was the cheapest kind in stocka black, dyed Japanese mink. It had a stand-up collar, raglan sleeves, and it tied at the waist with a thin leather belt which was a good deal softer than the fur itself. I don't know what they feed minks in Japan, something perhaps grown in the ruins of Hiroshima, but whatever it is makes their hair quite strong. Almost wiry. The words "mink coat" evoke a luxuriant sensuality, but, I noted with a certain bemused fascination, my mink was more like a body-sized beard. I resolved to wear it with irony. No sooner was I wrapped in its folds than I began to choreograph my escape from everything my mother hoped it would drag me into. My first move was to visit my friend, Judy, who had dropped out of college to live with an artist on the Haight. It was 1967, and the Haight was what it called "happenin'." Judy's artist boyfriend had stopped painting and turned into a jeweler. Obediently, so had Judy.
They lived behind their little silver shop literally on Haight Street just a puff or two from Ashbury. I got to sleep on a foam rectangle on the floor in the back of their flat like a derelictmy lifelong dream. And sleeping, I soon realized, was all I wanted to do, because to step outside onto Haight at that time was utterly and profoundly exhausting.
Mario Savio, the leader of the Free Speech rebellion that spawned the Love Generation, and the Diggers who worked the dumpsters and donors to feed it, were brilliant, industrious visionaries. They organized more positive human energy with less autocratic nonsense than any of us have seen before or since. The Haight was Anarchism's last and best standa triumph of the human spirit, at least for the many who had some.
Inspired by the visible showmen who grabbed the media and ranfirst away with it and then into its armsa second tier of strong personalities flowed into whatever vacuums of responsibility arose. They certainly weren't in it for the money, and they weren't there to etch their names into historythe era is remembered for its marketable bell-bottoms, not for its remarkable success in refuting the need for top-down authoritybut they came forward and did what needed doing for no reward other than the expression of their own generosity, hope and style.
They wrangled with cops, overdoses, health problems, kids' animal needs and questions of justice. They put out newspapers, organized clothing exchanges, ran a small subsidiary economy based on recycling and drugs. They worked, and worked hard.
Equally numerous, however, were the sheep. "Express yourself. Be an individual. Do your thing, man. Don't be conformist. I'm an Aquarian. Have another toke." These banal and ulterior words, or words so like them as to be dismally indistinguishable from them, gushed from the river of drug-crazed ersatz pirates, hobos, clowns, Edwardian decadents and Peruvian peasants burbling down the pavement. A chick could not get to the corner to score a pack of cigarettes without a proposition of some kind. And she was obliged, style-bound, to look happy to get it, whether it was an offer for Meth, or Reds, or a toss on the mat with someone who would soon evolve into either Charlie Manson or a 12-stepping bore.
Hey, Mamma: How about a groovy group grope in a purple-painted hovel? How about a chance to cook rice with some beautiful, blond, big-breasted beauties in tiny tie-dyed T-shirts while we guys drive up the coast to hammer nails into redwoods so we can fuck up the clear-cutters' bandsaws? Sounds ab-so-fucking-lutely like wow, but, uh, maybe later. Too many choices make me drowsy, man.
Judy and her boyfriend rapidly perceived that I had no desire to leave my foam, and he didn't like that. I was a bad influence, meaning, I think, that when I was napping in the cubicle next door Judy felt constrained about making noises in bed. Because she loved me and didn't want to hurt my feelings by asking me to leave, they conspired to fix me up for the weekend to get me out of there.
The man with whom I was to journey was named Steve. He was from Connecticut, which Mother would have approved, but he drove a Norton, which, I was assured, was the coolest fucking motorcycle in the world. I crammed my starter mink into my little duffel bag, jumped on & behind him and held on for the ride.
I don't remember where we went. Today, Judy said that she thinks it was Stinson Beach. Something like that. Anyway, Steve had a friend who was doing some construction work on a house sitting on stilts overlooking the Pacific, and we could stay there while construction was in progress. I don't remember seeing any construction, and I don't remember ever seeing the ocean. Either it was wrapped in mist, as often happens, or we were too stoned to distinguish ocean from sky.
What I do remember is that the pot was free, and plentiful, and that Steve and I did not have a very good time. I wanted him to find some reason to adore me. I didn't care what reason that was, nor- could I think of any suggestions offhand, but that was all I wanted, and I was decidedly not getting it. I did my best to fake an orgasm, which was what one did back then to be adorable, but Steve, ahead of his time, wasn't buying.
"I want to see your clit twitch," he explained patiently. "If it doesn't, it means that you aren't really coming." I considered this piece of intelligence with more credulity than I subsequently learned it deserved. I was still young enough to believe that there was something fun about my body left to learn. A little more dope, I figured, might help.
That set the pattern for the weekend. I desired; he refused; he demanded the implausible; I had another toke; and repeat. Eventually he wandered off down the hill to watch Nature's clit twitch, leaving me on my cot with a copy of Macbeth.
I read it for what seemed like days. I was in the mood by then for the Shakespearean tool-kit of storms and power and witches and murder. The words bounced around in my head, glowing, rolling down ravines of marijuana and drifting up, burning off the page like fog rising up over the California hills. "Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives"? Puzzling and divine as California itself.
The next morning, still stoned, we headed back. A storm gathered up around us and the air turned cold. I put on my Japanese mink with a dirty olive poncho over it tied with electrical cord so that Steve wouldn't fixate on what a Bergdorf Goodman Bohemian I was. It rained abruptly and dramatically (The Tempest came to mind), and then it was over. As the clouds swept away, a siren sounded.
Steve pulled over, and we got off the Norton, stoned and nervous. As if under orders from my mother, I removed my poncho to reveal my starter mink and my "good upbringing."
The cop swaggered over at a leisurely pace.
"We saw you throw that bottle away," said the cop to Steve, which was interesting, because I hadn't noticed a thing.
The co-cop, who had gone snooping off to the side of the road, returned with an amber pill-bottle with crud in it. He opened it.
"It's full of roaches," he said.
"I guess we're going to have to take you in," the first cop gloated.
This was my chance to escape my fate. A jail term on a drug rap, even a trumped-up one, would take me out of the Misfit Class and catapult me all the way into Instant Hipness. I was envisioning myself in jail, strip-searched nightly by giant matrons, ripening slowing into a female Genet, when I noticed the two cops bundling Steve into their car and preparing to drive away.
"Hey," I actually said, "what about me?"
Cop number one explained that I wasn't under arrest. He agreed to take me in so that I could get a ride back to Judy's from the station. But to do that we had to wait for a separate car and a matron. He waited with me.
On the way back, I asked the cop if he'd read any good books lately. He said that he was enjoying Exodus. Because he knew that I was from Jew York, as it was known in those parts, and that Steve's name was Levy, I understood that he was reassuring me that he, at least, was only interested in persecuting Steve for his taste in drugs, not his ethnic origin.
I encouraged him to deliver his synopsis of the plot, hating myself for feigning an interest in airport literature simply to flatter a tyrant. But I did strenuously recommend Macbeth.
Turned out that the place Steve had been arrested in was Redwood City. I didn't know at the time that it was one of the most conservative, hippie-hostile places on the West Coast, but as I sat in the molded plastic chair in the Redwood City Police Station, I started to worry about what would happen if Steve was actually jailed.
He could easily get five years for those joints. And I'd feel obliged to visit him in prison. I'd have to stay in California, learn to drive, and give up my entire life out of loyalty to this cool guy who didn't even like me, and who I wasn't all that crazy about, either.
At that point, just as my stomach was doubling its knot, a pair of cops entered, Stage Right, with a German Shepherd. They started giving it orders in German.
"Alt!" one exclaimed.
The dog sat.
"Achtung!" shouted the second new cop.
I clutched my rough mink to my cheek as if it was something Audrey Hepburn might want to be buried in, whipped out my trusty Macbeth, and tried to look both genteel and Gentile.
"Your dogs speak German," I observed graciously. "Is it because they were trained there?"
"We use German commands so that ordinary people can't order them around," lied the larger cop with the sort of smile a Nazi would use to lure you to the "showers."
After a very long time, during which I reread Macbeth with equally little comprehension and far less pleasure than before, the co-cop emerged from a "secure area" and asked if I was the girl who had been with Levy. I said I was, and waited for the oppressor's ax.
"I hope your friend didn't pay money for that pot of his," said the cop dryly, "because according to the lab, if he did, he was had."
He took a kind of snickering pleasure, I felt, in eviscerating any delusions of Hipness I might have had left. The upshot was, they hit Steve up for a zillion parking tickets. Friends came to bail him out, and by nightfall I was back on my foam pallet at Judy's, dampening her love life.
Afterwards, I imagined that my mink had saved Steve as well as me. I never really enjoyed reading Shakespeare before or since, so I knew our dope was good. Therefore, I surmised, it had to be pity for lovely, classy, minky me that had persuaded the Gestapo to let him off. It didn't occur to me until years later that he may have traded in his dealer for his freedom. I'll never know what exactly happened, because I didn't see Steve again after that. I learned a few years later that he had drowned in shallow water while helping someone move a boat. He may have hit his head on a rock, Judy thought. The details were officially confusing. Later I wondered if perhaps a dealer he'd ratted on had gotten out of jail and done him. I'll never know, like I said. But it was thanks to what happened that day with him that I finally understood the Great American Truth that my mother, the lawyer, was trying to impart to me personally, and it is this: The bad news is that, try as you might to move up or dive down, you will never escape your class. The weird news is that, no matter what your class is, no matter whose skin you're wearing or what you're smoking, there are fleeting moments in the vicissitudes of life when this bad news will save your hide.