'Be-in' Provides A Taste Of '60s

Posted: August 25, 1986

It was a "be-in" - 1980s style - in Fairmount Park yesterday, but aging hippies and a veteran policeman who attended the original 1960s hippie gatherings said there was little difference.

About 10,000 people gathered near Memorial Hall yesterday for the bell- bottomed revival, whose main event was a free concert headlined by Southern rock star Gregg Allman.

"I've seen 50,000 people on the Belmont Plateau about 15 to 18 years ago at the be-ins, the love-ins," said police Officer Arnold J. Digiacomo, as he sat atop his Park Police horse named Chester.

The differences, he said, were "not much. Everybody wants to have a good time. I think this crowd is more cooled down than they were years ago. You treat them nice, and they treat you nice."

The first Philadelphia be-in - so named by one 1960s organizer because ''it's the place to be in" - was held in 1967 with 1,500 people.

Bill Barone, a long-haired rock guitarist who attended the first be-in, yesterday stood at the festival's edge and surveyed the scene.

Barone, 35, a Willow Grove heavy-equipment mechanic, wore a white plantation hat with a brown leather band over his longer-than-shoulder-length dark hair. He also wore mirrored sunglasses, a Fu Manchu mustache, blue jeans and work boots.

He admitted it was difficult to maintain his hippie garb from the Age of Aquarius 20 years later in the Age of Reagan.

The first be-in, he said, had "blacks, whites, Latinos, families and the freaks. It almost had a circus atmosphere to it. This isn't quite the same."

Yesterday's gathering was composed mostly of young people in their early 20s who said they came to hear the music.

Still, Barone, said, the similarities were strong.

"It's really striking in the sense that the warm feeling is very similar to what we had then," he said. "It's magical," he said.

Barone said he was surprised. "I didn't think these people from 1986 could generate a feeling that was similar to the '60s feeling," he said.

He recalled "the feeling" as "definitely more 'we' than 'I.' There was a quiet undertone - anything that happens, you're going to be taken care of. It was like a blanket over you. It's awful hard to describe."

There was a mixture of images yesterday. From the 1960s, there were tie- dyed shirts, Beatles music and fierce-looking motorcyclists parked at the gathering's edge.

And from the '80s, there were young men letting out primal screams, college students kicking beanbags called "hacky-sacks" among themselves and voyeurs taking in the event through the lenses of their video cameras.

But some things never change: like the devotion of rock fans to a rock legend.

In midafternoon, two sisters approached Scott Segelbaum, the promotion director for radio station WYSP-FM (94), the event sponsor, who stood backstage.

"Listen," said Judy Coleman, 25, of Morrisville. "Is there any way you know if we could get a message through to Gregg Allman?"

"I can't promise anything," Segelbaum brusquely replied, explaining that the rock star was holed up in a nearby hotel room until his late-afternoon appearance.

"Could we speak to someone in charge?" she asked impatiently.

"I am in charge."

Her sister, Barbara Hill, 29, of Hatfield, explained, "It's a request for him to play a song for a brother of ours who died two weeks ago. It was his favorite song. We only came for this."

The promotor, now seemingly moved, took the note and said he'd try. It must have been that feeling Barone had talked about - "the warm feeling . . . a quiet undertone . . . like a blanket over you."

Twenty years later, it was still going strong.

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