BACK BEFORE HE hit the jackpot writing about music and the mob, the brilliant drunk journalist Nick Tosches wrote an article about a Massachusetts commune titled "God Crazed Hippies Reap Boffo B.O." While guests on the David Frost show, members of the commune were interrupted repeatedly by fellow guest Henny Youngman, who got no answer to his quite reasonable query, "How do you pay the rent?"
Youngman's question may finally be answered in Iris Keltz's wonderful Scrapbook of a Taos Hippie, an insightful and evocative view of the 1960s hippie scene in Taos, N.M. With words and pictures from Keltz and her commune comrades, as well as articles from the local mainstream press and the Taos hippie newspaper Fountain of Light, Scrapbook offers an insider's view of the idealistic and goofy hippie-commune lifestyle.
For my money, the most interesting aspect of the Taos commune story is the contentious and sometimes violent conflict that raged between the communists and those locals who somehow failed to succumb to all the positive vibes. Actor Dennis Hopper, who had his own hippie hole in New Mexico at the time, has said that his group was always well-armed to defend itself against rednecks, redskins, brownskins and other locals who felt, not unreasonably, that their home had been invaded. Keltz may not be the gun enthusiast that Hopper is, but she does a fine job documenting the battles.
If you grew up on the Whole Earth Catalog and granola, socialism and sprouts, Scrapbook will make you misty. But even the nice photos of naked hippie chicks frolicking in the grass won't keep arch capitalists like me from laughing out loud. As far as I'm concerned, Keltz's crew should've spent less time with Fountain of Light and more time with The Fountainhead.