Old West Freak-Out.
The Signal | Wednesday, July 5, 1967.
Far away from Valencia Valley's own Mint Canyon deep in Los Angeles' ever-growing teeny bopper and "hippy" set, hundreds of people undoubtedly were giggling over an ad they had just read.
A few probably even observed, between a puff or two at their marijuana cigarettes, "Hey man, that's high camp."
The strange ad was listed in the Los Angeles Free Press, an unprofessional but financially successful tabloid that caters to the "underground community."
Buried between pages of hundreds of odd little notices promulgating everything from marijuana-smoking accessories to wife-swapping parties was the rather staid little announcement in bold type declaring:
"New Teen Dances." The rest of the ad promised "Four go-go tables" and a "Light Show in Hang-Town Hall of Wild West Village."
Then there were instructions on how members of the turned-on set could go about turning out for Hang-town. "San Fernando Rd., Golden State or San Diego Frwys to Hwy. 99. Take Palmdale cutoff, bypass frwy at Solemint Junction and keep straight ahead to 13600 Sierra."
A few nights after the ad appeared, a pair of longhaired "mods" were making their way up Mint Canyon to Callahan's Old West Village.
They were a young teenage musician and his girl. He, at least, was a bona-fide member of the "turn on, tune in and drop out" set.
Apparently, as it later turned out, the Free Press ad had not inspired an exodus of hippies to the Mint Canyon address. Not even the young man, a 17-year-old gentle-faced, mop-haired folk-rock composer of some note, had been drawn up the windy and desolate road by the ad.
Instead he was on an undercover assignment for The Signal, and his assignment was to record his observations to determine whether or not Callahan's was going to be a beachhead for a hippy invasion, in view of the Free Press ad.
The whole prospect of a hippy scene was even more intriguing because while the goings-on at Callahan's had not yet drawn the community's interest, another teenage night spot, just opening up, had.
The Lemon Tree.
The Lemon Tree on San Fernando Road in Newhall opened its doors recently following some community furor primarily because of opposition from several fundamentalist church groups.
But the Lemon Tree was allowed to open up only after a county board said that under no circumstances could it have go-go girls.
Meanwhile, during that same period, Callahan's had been plugging away its go-go girls, trying rather overtly to draw the very crowd that the fundamentalist groups feared might go to the Lemon Tree.
Formerly Callahan's held weekend teenage dances, but they weren't very successful, in spite of the fact Callahan's even won a measure of endorsement from the Hart high school board of trustees.
Thus The Signal's undercover reporter arrived on the scene at Callahan's with his girl one night last weekend to find out what was happening.
"I was kind of careful not to take many notes," he explained later, "because there were five or six there who seemed to be real hippy types — you know, beards and wearing glasses at night. I didn't want to take notes and ask too many questions because I didn't want them to think I was a 'narc,'" a term for narcotics officer.
Nonetheless, The Signal's reporter delved into his job with enthusiasm, noting that other than the five or six hippies, most of the kids there, all 20 to 25 of them, seemed to be local.
Mostly, except for the five or six hippies, whom he added might not have been real hippies anyway, these in attendance were just young kids trying to make the scene.
And the scene, he reported, was a long way from making it.
The advertised psychedelic light show was "pretty horrible." The flashing lights were very carelessly arranged; it was very confusing. You know a real psychedelic light arrangement is a pretty scientific thing, it's supposed to have one effect.
"It was also kind of bad the way the management kept staring at us, giving us weird looks," he added. "I hope, however, their eyes aren't bigger than their stomachs in this case."
"There was one woman who kept talking all the time about how this was all so good because it is good recreation for the kids," he said. "She struck me as kind of the neurotic mother type. She was trying so hard to show how 'hip' she was.
"You see," he explained, "she doesn't really know at all what is happening, what the young music is all about. It isn't for fun, it's a way of life, a serious thing. She's going to be really surprised if something good gets going there.
"As soon as these kids really start getting to the point where they know where it's at, the management is going to start acting like the older people do on the Sunset strip."
The upshot of his observations was just this very point. "These were 14-17 year-olds really trying to freak out. Of course, most were just trying to make the scene, or engage in popularity contests, but then they have to learn to make their own scenes, and this is a healthy start.
"I'm not going to put it down.
"I know from past experience that the very desirable outcome of peace and happiness is frequently achieved by just this kind of painful yet necessary route."
Despite the sloppy lighting, The Signal's expert on these matters was quite impressed with the fact that actually Callahan's had achieved a rather "groovy atmosphere."
"The live band was really pretty good, although, of course, it wasn't their own music," he explained, "and of all things, the wagon wheels and old west decor of the place were quite pop-arty."
However, the one big disappointment he suffered were the go-go girls. "They turned out to be only young schoolgirls, and only a couple were wearing even mini-skirts," he observed.