By Elliot Tiber
Originally Published In The Times Herald-Record – Woodstock Commemorative Edition
Text copyright 1994 The Times Herald-Record
At sunup Sunday, Grace Slick’s voice wafted out of the festival bowl to a pasture above: “One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small…” “Some (jerk) was out there making eggs over a campfire, going, “Hey man, it’s the Airplane! Hey, man, it’s the Airplane!” recalled Jerome O’Connell, the hippie from Rome, NY.
Judge Liese heard a commotion out on the lawn. Hippies were camped all over the grounds of the Waldheim Hotel bungalow colony in Smallwood, which the judge owned. But Liese couldn’t explain this banging. At 5:30am, the judge got up to investigate in the grayish morning light. “I saw a longhaired man wandering around all the bungalows, trying to open the doors,” he said. “I asked the fellow what he was looking for. “He said, ?A doctor.’ “I told him Dr. (Stuart) Dombeck was three-quarters of a mile away, but it would be impossible to get there because of the roads. He kept raising his voice louder and louder. I finally told him to leave. “But I guess I made a mistake, standing too close behind him. The next thing I knew, I woke up. He’d punched me in the mouth and knocked me out. I was down maybe 20 or 30 minutes.” The blow also knocked out most of Liese’s teeth. “The newspaper headline read, ?Hippie slugs judge,'” Liese said.
Abe Wagner wasn’t fond of freaks. Years later, he recalled the hungry kids, the lost kids, the kids with nowhere to sleep, nowhere to relieve themselves. The kids using and selling drugs. There were “rabble-rousers, ” as Wagner called them, but he emphasized that they were a small minority. “I felt sorry for the kids lying by the roadside,” Wagner said. “Hungry. Dirty. I remember a Belgian couple; she was crying. They had lost their kids. What could I do?” Wagner said he and his neighbors fed them. “Most of us here had two or three weeks of food on hand. We put a plank across our driveway and put the food on it and fed the kids. And we took cans of soup and set up a soup kitchen for the kids in an old building on Lake Shore Road.” But there was also a handful of nasties among Wagner’s neighbors. Wagner remembered one Bethel resident who charged $10 to tow a car out of a muddy ditch and onto the road. When one kid didn’t have the money, the neighbor towed the car right back into the mud.
Wavy Gravy called it “Breakfast in Bed for 400,000.” The recipe: Rolled oats or bulgur wheat (often both). Cook until mush. Add peanuts for taste. Cook until the texture of goulash. For a side dish, stir-fry any vegetables that can be scraped together. Scoop the mixtures onto paper plates. “These people were feeding literally hundreds of thousands of people with nothing,” Krewson said. “They were taking what they could get and feeding people with it.” Gravy told the audience that it was no miracle. “We’re all feeding each other, man,” he said.
The Hog Farm had become the Greater Hog Farm. Gravy was now leading thousands of volunteers, sort of. Many newly recruited Hog Farmers had red polyester rags, each stenciled with a winged pig, tied around their arms. ” It got hard to tell the Hog Farm really responsible people from the casual hang-around Hog Farm people,” Goldstein said. “Suddenly, the only credential was the Hog Farm. There were so many people doing so many things that the Hog Farm brassard (arm band) became an all-areas pass. A vegetable chopper wanted to participate, and three hours later, he’d be running a crew. Gravy’s idea was simply that eventually, everyone in the whole crowd would have a brassard.
By noon, the sun was beating down on Bethel. Heatstroke became the biggest worry, even some fans were showing signs of pneumonia from being drenched for two days. The promoters considered turning the fire hoses on to mist the crowd, but didn’t. It started to rain again in the afternoon. Sunday’s lineup again was packed with rockers: The Band, Joe Cocker, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Ten Years After, Johnny Winter and Jimi Hendrix. Iron Butterfly, which pioneered heavy metal rock’n’roll, was also scheduled to play. The group arrived in New York from a seven-week, nationwide tour and called for a helicopter to bring it to the festival. But Lang and the other organizers worried that Iron Butterfly’s brand of hippie/heavy-metal music might be dangerous under the circumstances. Emcee John Morris dispatched a nasty telegram to the group at the airport. It was designed to provoke the members into deciding not to play. But Lee Dorman, Iron Butterfly’s bassist, remembers it differently. Woodstock organizers, he said, were supposed to send a helicopter and didn’t.
“Two or three times, we checked out of our hotel and went to the heliport on 33rd Street,” Dorman said. “It never came. I guess it had more important things to do, like feed people.” The band went home to California and, at first, members didn’t mind missing the festival. “When we… heard how big it was, we thought, ?Damn, we missed it,'” Dorman said. “It would have been great to play ?In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ or even to just say ?Hi.’ “
Ben Leon ran the boat rental business on Filippini’s Pond, popularly known as “Leon’s Lake.” The 90-year old kept watch on the boats from the porch of a shanty perched on the hillside above the largest of Woodstock’s skinny-dipping spots. On Woodstock weekend, Leon wasn’t renting boats, but he was still watching. “He sat on the veranda, the old fool, and you could hear him 50 feel away: ?Heee-heee-heee. Haw-haww-haww,'” Feldman said. ” He had a gigantic pair of binoculars. Must have been Navy submarine spotters or something. The funny thing was that 10 days after the festival, he dropped dead. I talked to the undertaker, and he said he never could wipe the smile off the guy’s face. That’s the way to go, I guess.”
He was 17. She was 15. Sometime during the weekend, they came to banker Charlie Prince with a problem. Their parents didn’t know where they were. They had another problem. The boy had taken his father’s week-old 1969 Oldsmobile out for a drive. Somehow, they’d ended up at Woodstock. They had one more problem. They couldn’t find the car.
Attendance estimates kept rising. By Sunday, the state police figure was 450,000, and others rounded it off to an even half-million. But Record editor Al Romm, who coordinated coverage from a trailer behind the stage, believed the estimates were all wrong. Citing aerial photos, Romm swore that Woodstock drew maybe 150,000 people. “There were 100,000, 150,000 there,” Romm said. “It was to everyone’s advantage – the police, the promoters and the reporters – to say there were more. It was to nobody’s advantage to say there were less. The biggest concert before it had 20,000 people. (Woodstock) was still a big deal; there were just not as many people.”
Bert Feldman, Bethel’s historian, also maintained that the attendance figures were wrong. But he thought the figures were low. “There were 700,000 people there,” he said. “The attendance estimate is based on aerial photos, and there were thousands of people under trees.”
The motorcycle roared up to the El Monaco Hotel on Sunday afternoon. Behind the handlebars was a bearded hippie. On the back was a woman screaming that she was having a baby. Resort owner Elliott Tiber raced in. He said he was the only one on the lot who wasn’t stoned, and he relied on his instincts to help deliver the baby. Then he watched as Army medica flew mother and child away in a helicopter. “She must have been stoned,” Tiber said. ” Either that, or Janis Joplin was quite a draw. The mother ?had olive skin and big black eyes. Her English was kind of broken. A French accent, I think.'”
Ralph Corwin pulled out a pack of cigarettes, lit one and started trucking down Hurd Road. The 26-year-old biker from Winterton met up Sunday afternoon with a young couple. The girl wore an Army fatigue shirt and a pair of black jeans. The guy begged a smoke; Corwin flipped him three or four. The couple walked away. Corwin looked over his shoulder. The girl’s black jeans were missing on the back side. “Only the strip down the center,” Corwin said. “No undies, and her cheeks were hanging out.”
A short, violent thunderstorm struck around 5pm, triggering an early exodus from the grounds. Leo O’Mara noticed a guy with a red beard, wearing a vast muddy poncho and a huge smile. O’Mara sat in the mud and wondered why this guy was so thrilled in such miserable weather. “Then I noticed that there were three other sets of legs under that poncho,” O’Mara said.
Jerome O’Connel started walking back to the car at sundown. The rains had continued throughout much of the day, and O’Connel felt whipped by the weather. He wasn’t the only one who really wanted to leave. “I remember that there was a whole line of cars on both sides of the road,” O’Connell said. “There wasn’t enough space in the middle for a car. But someone had driven down the middle anyway. There was a 3-inch scrape on both sides all the way down. Must have been 50 cars scratched.”
All weekend, hippies had camped out on the Heller Dairy farm at the intersection of Route 17B and Happy Avenue. The kids didn’t ask permission before pitching camp. And they left broken bottles and bent cans behind. But the last straw was Sunday night. “The last day, we had a car outside, with a hose next to it that we used for washing the car,” said Blanche Heller. “We woke up and found that they had cut the hose and drained all the gas out of the tank. Now, if only they had asked….”
In Jeffersonville, the local congregation was upset about a kid who’d climbed into the basement of the church. He’d done no damage, left no mess, but the locals were still bothered by the intrusion. “They did find this young man in there, who had heated himself a can of beans, ate it, and left money on the table for the gas he used. ” said Adelaide Schadt, wife of the Bethel town attorney.
While other stars flitted in and out of the show aboard helicopters, headliner Hendrix was roaming the crowd on foot. O’Mara remembered Hendrix stopping to talk with many of the girls. Others remember the star’s turn in the Freak-Out Tent that day. “We didn’t know who he was,” Nurse Sanderson said. “Just a black man lying on the stretcher. Then everybody started saying, ?Hey, isn’t that Jimi Hendrix?’ There was a big stir about it. ” Hendrix lay on the stretcher for about 30 minutes before roadies hauled him out.
Investigator Cannock met Raymond Mizak’s father Sunday night in a funeral home on East Broadway in Monticello. The senior Mizak was accompanied by the youth’s uncle, a lieutenant in the New Jersey State Police. “It (the tractor) ran over his chest,” Cannock said. “His head was twice the normal size. Really grotesque.” The father told Cannock he had refused to give the boy permission to go to the concert. Cannock said the father blamed himself, said he should have locked his son up.
Two of the most vehement festival opponents showed up at the site independently sometime Saturday or Sunday. Wallkill Supervisor Jack Schlosser and former Bethel Supervisor George Neuhaus toured the grounds and came to identical conclusions. “It became obvious to me nobody knew what the hell they were doing. Nobody,” Schlosser said.
Cannock got to the morgue at Horton Memorial Hospital in Middletown later Sunday night. A man in his mid-20s, who had been at the festival, had died of a heroin overdose. Cannock can’t remember the man’s name, and it was never disclosed. But for the second time that day, Cannock was assigned to get a body identified. Cannock tracked down a friend of the dead man’s and met him at the morgue. “The kid had been autopsied already,” Cannock said. Inexplicably, the body was not stitched up after the chest had been split open for the autopsy, according to Cannock. “The friend pulled down the sheet to far and saw it all,” he said. “The kid passed right out.”
Outside Yasgur’s farm, Monticello Hospital nurses and doctors had set up a clinic in a school that was closed for the summer. Monticello Hospital’s head of nursing, Gladys Berens, helped deliver three babies there, only miles from the festival grounds. She was there when a Marine on leave was brought in sometime Sunday, unconscious from an overdose. The Marine – an 18 year-old from Long Island – died in the hospital, one of three concert fatalities. “This young Marine had been through the war without a scratch, and he ends up dying in Horton Memorial Hospital in Middletown, NY. How sad,” Berens, now 71, recalled.
Artie Kornfeld figured the capsule he was taking was speed, Dexedrine, something to keep him alert for the rest of the festival. His wife, Linda, took one too. Then he began hallucinating that the National Guard (which was not there) was shooting into the crowd. The colors were all melting together. “I was dosed. It was my first psychedelic, and it happened at Woodstock,” Kornfeld said. “I never would have chosen that place deliberately, never to do it at Woodstock.” Kornfeld learned later that the capsule was powdered psilocybin mushroom, a powerful hallucinogen. “I decided that we needed help. It was 12 hours before Hendrix,” Kornfeld said. “I was Thorazined out of it. That’s why I missed Hendrix.”
The Holiday Inn in Monticello was one of the headquarters for Woodstock performers. It was also the quarters for the state police. Cannock wasn’t impressed at being in the company of the rich and famous. He doesn’t even remember their names. “We were rubbing elbows. I wasn’t thrilled to have them there,” the investigator said. ” The two dead bodies were fixed in my brain.”
John Pinnacaia didn’t even feel it at first, just a twinge of pain on the instep of his foot late Sunday night. Then this girl started screaming, and there was all this blood. “It must have been some kind of bottle,” he said. “I couldn’t even see it. My foot was in the mud.” Pinnacaia had been listening to guitarist Johnny Winter while fetching peanut butter sandwiches for himself, his girlfriend and his sister. But the 18-year-old from Brooklyn took one step and became a Woodstock casualty. “This guy picked me up, threw me over his shoulder and ran me to the hospital (tent). Must have saved my life,” he said. A helicopter flew him to Monticello Hospital. “They’d given me a shot of anesthetic, but it hadn’t started working. They had to start stitching. Then this big fat nurse sat on me so I couldn’t move, and they started stitching. That’s all I remember of that. One other thing: They called home to ask permission to operate,” Pinnacaia said. “Mom freaked out.”