This is a whirlwind journey through the tumultuous 1960’s. Hippies and Yippies. Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll. Peace, Love, War, Harmony and Rage. This is a look back at that period of time, how the events of those days changed the world and changed the people who lived through it, and how those changes continue to effect the world even today.
This is the life-story of the Reverend Billy Williams who experienced all of it, from Woodstock to Vietnam. He was there for the protests and the parties, from coast to coast. He was an active participant in the events of those days and a keen observer of the action who recorded those events in his daily journal. He experienced the good and the bad, and he tells it like it was.
The 1960’s was a unique time in history; it could be compared to an earlier Renaissance, where the ideas and actions of a generation had a profound effect on the Human experience. This is the history and the philosophy of those days, all wrapped up in a rousing good tale that is Billy’s and his fellow Hippie friends’ true life experiences.
Those were the days, and here they are, to be lived again.
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Will It Play in Peoria
The Autobiography of the Reverend Billy Williams
By William Williams
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2016 William Williams
All rights reserved.
Friday, August 23, 1968, 9:30 A.M. Chicago Democratic National Convention At the Picasso sculpture
We had left Woodstock the day before at the un-godly hour of four in the morning. Joe and I had taken turns driving from upstate New York all the way to Chicago, spelling each other every few hours or so, while Serena, Joan, Mallory and Hans and Gretel had made themselves as comfortable as possible back in the crowded conditions in the cab-over camper on the top of the pickup truck that Joe had borrowed from an uncle.
The old pickup and camper was good cover, as Joe's own VW van that was painted in wild psychedelic colors would have been a moving target. As Joe's Uncle George, a cool old dude, had pointed out, "You'll probably get pulled over by every corn seed country cop in every county you go through. And besides," he'd said with a wink, "You're probably hauling some of that Hippie moonshine or whatever you call that crazy stuff you youngsters are doing. You'd never make it there in your rig. Take some fishing poles and tackle. If you get stopped, tell them you're going to Lake Michigan for the Perch run." It was good advice and generous of him to loan us his rig.
Needless to say, with seven people, we had made numerous pit stops along the way which accounted for the thirty plus hour journey. At several of those stops, Serena had used a pay phone to call her contact in the Berkeley Red Squad that was using a Chicago hotel room as a temporary headquarters. After the calls Serena related to us the news that the Youth International Party and the Hippies were gathering like a massive guerrilla army in downtown Chicago. Also she told us the news that Mayor Daley had all the Chicago police forces on duty, and that the Governor, Samuel Shapiro, had called out the National Guard.
"We're going to make history," she said. "This will be bigger than last year's March on the Pentagon."
To me, it sounded like a lot of hassle for just one pig? But Serena was our in-house Anarchist and was hip on all the actions that had preceded this event, so follow her I would.
We'd planned to get to Chicago before daybreak to try and beat the city traffic into town. We were running late and due to the huge mass of people, the normal commuters plus the additional multitudes swarming to and congregating for the demonstration, we'd had to park far from our destination. It looked like a long, several city blocks hike to get to the Civic Center.
Serena was a bundle of nerves, saying, "Come on, hurry or we'll miss the show." My eyes were fixated on her shapely posterior and legs that moved like pumping pistons in her tight blue jeans as she hurried down the sidewalk. I was stiff from sitting in the truck, I was groaning to keep up with her as was the rest of the crew.
We'd finally arrived at our destination to find the Civic Center outside in the front around the sculpture full of Hippies. After the forced march I was leaning back on the sloped edge of this fifty-foot tall steel structure, enjoying the shade it provided, and looking up at this enormous piece of abstract artwork, trying to figure out what in the world it could possibly be. The rest of the crew was standing in front of it gathered around Hans a few feet away as he was giving a learned discourse on Picasso's varied works.
"It's a fantastic example of his Cubist period," Hans said.
"It sure looks like something, but I don't know what." said
"It looks like a big bug," said Joe.
Shaking his head, Hans informed Joe, "You're obviously untutored in the fine arts. Didn't they teach you anything at college?"
"They taught me that a big bug is still a bug," replied Joe.
"Look. Is that Jerry?" asked Serena, pointing at a station wagon that was pulling up out on the street.
"It is him," yelled Serena, jumping up and down excitedly. "There's Jerry. Look, in the back. He did it. He brought a pig to the party!"
"Far out!" yelled Joan.
And thus, our wild week at the Democratic National Convention began.
I sat up from my angled reclining position and saw a fellow with long, curly, dark hair and a beard pulling a chunky tan colored pig from the back of the station wagon that had stopped right on the street in front of the sculpture. There were another half dozen Hippies who got out of the station wagon and walked with the fellow holding the pig to his chest.
Serena and the others ran down to the car. Serena and Joan were un-furling a large bed sheet that had painted across it in bold letters:
VOTE PIGASUS FOR PRESIDENT
I followed them through the crowd and got there in time to see the Hippie called Jerry hand the pig to one of the other Hippies. Jerry then began to read from a sheet of paper. This was apparently the acceptance speech for the pig that was named Pigasus.
When Serena had gotten the phone call two days before and told me about this, I had initially thought it was some kind of practical joke – wanting her to drive all the way to Chicago to see a pig nominated for President? But Joan and Joe and Hans and Gretel, who it seemed also knew this Yippie character, Jerry Rubin, and appreciated his zany sense of street theatre, had broken up laughing and they had immediately began preparations for the trip.
The fellow, Jerry, now read from the paper in a clear, carrying voice, "I, Pigasus, hereby announce my candidacy for the President of the United States, and ..."
That was as far as he got, before about two dozen uniformed and plain-clothed police officers rushed in and interrupted him. By now I was standing next to Serena who was yelling at the top of her lungs, "VOTE FOR PIGASUS. PIGASUS FOR PRESIDENT"
Several hundred more Hippies who were gathered around took up the chant until the Civic Center resounded with their voices.
"VOTE FOR PIGASUS. PIGASUS FOR PRESIDENT"
Then all hell broke loose as the cops wrestled the pig away, slammed Jerry and his friends to the ground and handcuffed them, all with a measure of violence that seemed totally out of proportion. What had just moments ago seemed like a humorous stunt now had degenerated into an ugly scene.
Serena was screaming, "FUCKIN' PIGS! FUCKIN' PIGS! FUCK YOU PIGS!"
The crowd of other gathered Hippies also began screaming, "FUCKIN' PIGS! FUCKIN' PIGS! FUCK YOU PIGS!"
The cops who weren't occupied with Jerry Rubin and his co-conspirators waded into the crowd and began pushing and punching the Hippies, telling them, "GET BACK."
Serena wouldn't give ground and one of the uniformed cops, a fat sweaty guy, whirled, and growling, "Hippie bitch," raised his riot club in the air over Serena's head. Serena, not ducking or dodging, stood like a martyr, seeming to welcome the coming hit, while screaming in the cops face, "FUCKIN' PIG!"
Acting on pure instinct and getting the luck of the draw, I stepped behind him as he began his backswing and his weight was shifting to his fat-ass rear. As his equilibrium reached the top of his backswing I delivered a hard roundhouse kick low to the back of his planted leg. His own momentum and the force of inertia flipped him up and over backwards in the air like a circus acrobat. His feet were pointed straight up, then gravity took over and he landed hard on the asphalt with a huge THUUMMP, hitting the ground like a three-hundred pound sack of shit. "HUUUUGH", he expelled all of the air out of his lungs.
Grabbing Serena's arm I began to drag her out of the melee and into the crowd to get away before the cop could get up. She spat and cursed like a wildcat, trying to pull away from me to get back to the forefront of the confrontation.
It had turned into a full scale riot. The cops were beating people left and right with their clubs and punching people with their fists and kicking them after they were down, like the cops were possessed by a demonic force or something. I was shocked by their extreme violence. 'Jesus Christ,' I thought, 'it's a fucking nuthouse!'
I saw Joe pulling Mallory and Joan away and Hans and Gretel also retreating. I wrapped my arms around Serena and half carrying her wriggling body, pushed our way out of the crowd, following Joe and the others. We got to the corner, making good our escape. The riot carried on behind us.
Several blocks away, we were sprawled on the grass at a park and Serena harangued me roundly for, "Leaving our comrades to fight the pigs alone. We should have stayed and kicked those bastards' asses!"
Serena was standing over me, her fists clenched, still agitated. Looking at her, her red hair sweaty and tangled, her blue eyes sparking, her damp t-shirt hugging and emphasizing the swell of her proud braless breasts, I only smiled and told her, "You forget, lady.
According to Joe's Chinese proverb, I'm responsible for your life, and for your safety. No matter how crazy you are."
"Fuck you and that stupid proverb," she muttered crossly.
Hans laughed and said, "And she who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day."
Joe, flicked his lighter and said with a laugh, "Let's burn this Joint, relax for a while, and then go find some breakfast. I'm fucking starved. And while we're eating, we'll raise a toast to Jerry and those other dudes who got busted. I bet they'll eat moldy baloney for dinner in jail tonight, while those pigs eat the pig. Then we'll go to the Hilton for the demonstration. We can't miss that. Hah! What a way to start the convention! That Jerry's wild, isn't he?"
Serena swelled up for another outburst, then, always unpredictable, she burst out laughing, dropped to her knees, threw herself into my arms, and exulted, "Pigasus! Wasn't that fucking great?"
"It was a hoot," exclaimed Joan, laughing.
"Yes," shrilled the usually reserved and quiet Mallory, "Let's go do it again."
"Jeeezus Chreesto! Vat next?" asked Gretel, grinning and shaking her head.
(... the Chicago Democratic National Convention–to be continued ...)CHAPTER 2
Woodstock, New York Sunday, January 15, 1950, 4 A.M.
Once upon a time in the psychedelic Hippie days of Harmony and Rage ... No
It was a dark and stormy night ... No, no.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ... No, no, and no.
So, where to start?
I'm not suffering from writer's block, it's just that the beginning has to begin just right. A good beginning makes for a good journey and it is my intention that this be not only a worthwhile journey for you, dear reader, but also a journey of fulfillment for me as I write these words in an attempt at self-examination to try to decipher the meaning of – well, all this.
As far as beginnings go, it's like when I was planning and writing a new sermon. Once I found where to start the sermon, the rest of it always just fell into place. Of course there were times when I would not have a beginning, a sermon planned or any well thought out words. At those times, I would just trust in Providence to put the right words in my mouth, as Huckleberry Finn would say.
Sometimes on those occasions I would help Providence along, with maybe an alcoholic beverage, maybe a Toke on a Joint, maybe a snort of a line of Coke, maybe some backstage sex with some lovely, willing woman, or even some combination of those. In other words, The Good Lord helps those who help themselves.
There, you see, it is my intention to be brutally honest, in this, my autobiography.
This isn't the first time I've sat down to do some writing. I have, over the course of the last many years, written and published other works. Those were mostly of a religious nature wherein I was attempting to expound upon the text of the scriptures, the King James Version of the Holy Bible to be precise, and to exhort the reader to understand the words of Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
And, as a diligent student of the world's various religions, I've studied the writings of other faiths to try and understand how God could be perceived so differently by the various cultures and peoples who inhabit this planet, sometimes harmoniously and sometimes not so harmoniously, and in the process sometimes embrace those of other faiths but usually readily slaughter one another over their beliefs in their particular God.
But my other writings were easy to compose as the text of the Bible and other different religious texts, and His (whoever your He, or, She, may be) words are sort of inscrutable and mystic and therefore are open to various interpretations so one can be fairly creative in one's presentation.
You can see this creativity in action at numerous places of worship around the world on a regular and continuing basis as it is presented by those various individuals who profess to interpret their God's Word. Some of those presenter's, to be unflinchingly blunt, are charlatans, scam artists, sociopaths and others with their own agendas. Do I include myself in those categories? Being honest with you, and with myself? That will be your decision – I leave it to you, at the conclusion of this tale, to make that decision.
Anyway, so, this is the story of my life. I intend for this to be a true and factual accounting, a no-holds-barred and no-punches-pulled exposition of the events of my life and my reactions to those events. My publisher, who printed and distributed my other works, introduced me to several individuals who are in the business of writing biographies for those unable or unwilling to write their own. Ghost writers they are called. Their finished works are promoted as being written by the subject of the biography, but that's mostly just a con to hype the sales.
After meeting with those ghost writers and reviewing some of their work, I finally decided to perform this task myself. It's not that I had any specific objection to them or their talents, I just thought that the story of my life should be told straight out without any creative interpretations. I decided that this should be told, as they say in the courtroom, truthfully, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
I should point out that I had begun keeping a journal, after a particular night's experience that I will soon elaborate upon, with the thought of perhaps one day writing a play for the stage. The stage and theatre was in my blood, having been exposed to it from my earliest memories, but, you're probably wondering: The Reverend Billy Williams, a playwright?
Actually, stranger things do happen, as fiction has no conceivable comparison to reality, as I'm sure you've witnessed. So my written words here are not merely foggy recollections but have a basis in the facts, as they evolved, as I wrote them at the end of the day on a daily basis for many years, and now refer to those pages of notes and remembrances.
Okay then, I suppose the place to start is: In the Beginning.
At 4 AM it was a dark, windy, snowy and stormy winter night on Sunday, the fifteenth day of January, 1950 in Woodstock, New York when a man-child was born. That newly arrived infant came kicking and screaming into this world. That was me, little Billy, as this was many years before I became the Reverend Billy Williams. That date, January 15, and that place, Woodstock, would both figure prominently in the rest of little Billy's life. The one for a good reason, the other for a not so good reason.
The infant that was born on that bitterly cold early morning in the Catskill Mountains had no inkling of what his future was to be at that moment in time, he was simply another resident among those who called the small town of Woodstock their home which included my parents and now little Billy, me.
How did my parents come to be living in Woodstock, New York in 1950, why was that the particular place where I was born? That is another whole and interesting story in itself but in an effort to be concise I will dwell here on the facts as they relate to my autobiography.
My father and mother were both native born in New York City and were aspiring actors who had met in Manhattan in the spring of 1941 where they both had supporting roles in a Broadway play. His name was Thomas Williams and her maiden name was Pearl Tracy. My father supplemented his sporadic acting career by working as a carpenter building the stage sets while my mother, who was a pianist and skilled at painting would apply the finish to the scrims, flats and scenery of my fathers constructed sets. My parents managed to find work in the theatre before the curtain went up as skilled hands, during the production as actors, and afterwards when the set was struck. This mingling of their talents was very practical and contributed to the circumstances of their meeting.
Excerpted from Will It Play in Peoria by William Williams. Copyright © 2016 William Williams. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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