Turn On, Tune In, Drop Dead
Sooner or later, this blog was going to have to get around to MAD, right? ¬†We could have done the 1968 election issue, with all of the candidates' pictures scrambled (and maybe we'll get to that one eventually). ¬†But this issue -- this cover, at least-- is priceless: ¬†Alfred E. Neuman-- by this date universally recognized as the archetypal dope--decked out as a "hippie," with a decorative border incorporating some distinctive five-part leaves and a classic MAD motto: ¬†"Turn On, Tune In, Drop Dead." ¬†("Drop dead" was a favorite MAD expression.) Here, Al is sporting a scraggly beard and longer red hair than usual, but he has the familiar gap-toothed grin, freckles, jug ears, and vacant expression. ¬†Plus beads, flowers in the hair, cowbell and bear-claw necklace-- like, wow.
"The Hippie": Becoming a laugh line and a stereotype
To land on the cover of MAD in the 1960s was to achieve some sort of pinnacle of pop-cultural notoreity; MAD editors wouldn't have bothered with you if you weren't somehow culturally "of the moment." ¬† But the famous individual, or trend, or icon, or sacred cow had to have attained enough breadth of recognition to allow for sufficient pungency as a MAD lampoon. ¬†And so the arrival of the hippie get-up on MAD in April 1968 tells us quite a lot about the hardening and the codifying of this stereotypical "Sixties" character.
It all happened pretty quickly. ¬†Etymologists generally point to an early-1965 usage of "hippie" (in TIME magazine) as the first "conventional" use of the word, as opposed to earlier, more marginal uses-- as variants of the beatnik-era "hipster," for example. ¬†So throughout 1965 and 1966-- and especially by the January 1967 "Be-In" in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park and, later that year, the "Summer of Love"-- the hippie moved rapidly from being "sub-cultural," socially detached, and "different" to being an utterly familiar archetype--AND a figure of nearly bottomless hilarity. ¬†I would not be surprised if there were "hippie" Halloween costumes in stores by 1968--as there are today. ¬† I wonder when the first sitcom hippies appeared-- 1968 again would be a pretty good bet. ( I know that some kind of nadir was reached the following year, when Lawrence Welk showed up in wig and full hippie regalia on his show: ¬†not hard to find--but hard to watch--on YouTube.)
A "weird sub-culture"
So here's MAD, throwing its considerable weight behind this process of Stereotype Formation. ¬†I remember this issue well (I was 17 when it appeared on the newstands, its price now "30 cents-- Cheap" instead of 25), not so much because of the cover but because of the hilarious (well, maybe you had to be there) send-up of one of my favorite TV shows, "Mission: Ridiculous." ¬† But the issue also includes an extensive "cover story"-- a mock magazine called "Hippie: The Magazine that Turns You On (if you're cool enough to light it up and smoke it!)" ¬†The introduction says: ¬†"There's a wild new group of people who have become prominent in America recently. ¬†They have their own unique language, their own strange behavior, and their own bizarre philosophy which is commonly misunderstood by many oldsters. ¬†The group is known as 'Moderate Republicans.'" ¬† ¬†It goes on to explain that there's another "weird sub-culture" kn0wn as hippies, and MAD is going to explain them in this magazine as a public service.
For sentimental hippies?
The magazine includes fake movie ads ("The Wild Freakout Acid Trip at the Hippie Teeny-Bopper Love-In Orgy on the Strip"); classifieds ("Help! I'm being held prisoner in my Hi-Fi and TV-equipped own room in the suburban home of my materialistic, conformist parents"); a takeoff on the Peanuts "warm puppy" bestseller, this one called¬†"Uptight is a Dry Sugar Cube"; a gossip column ("Drachma the Digger has made arrangements for starving N.Y. orphans to receive food packages from Vietnam War Orphans"); and a gift guide for "sentimental hippies who want to collect relics of the past: ¬†shoes, ties, soap, bras, draft cards, combs."
You get the picture.
Finally, it's been so long since I looked at MAD that I forgot that they carried no advertisements--except gag ads, like this takeoff on ads for "100 millimeter" cigarettes from the back cover of this issue: