On October 27, 1967, senior editors gathered for the Thursday story conference to see how things were shaping up for the coming issue of Newsweek. A scrim of cigarette smoke hung over the room. Foreign had the Vietcong ambush that nearly wiped out a US Army company north of Saigon; Nation, the 100,000 peaceniks noisily besieging the Pentagon. Back-of-the-book was selling a think piece on how poorly the media had covered the riots in Detroit and Newark that summer. Eyes glazed over. Ho-hum news fare for the ’60s. That stuff might do for inside, grumbled executive editor Osborn Elliott, in his honking Upper East Side accent. “But, c’mon boys, what’ve we got for the cover?” Unease pervaded the room.
That’s when Shew Hagerty, noted for his smoldering pipe and sense of irony, spoke up. You guys obviously aren’t into it, he said, but it’s the Summer of Love out there. Kids from all over have been flocking to Haight-Ashbury and the East Village, crashing in hippie pads, spacing out on the sidewalks. And things haven’t gone well, especially in the East Village. Along with tolerating loose living, the place is a dangerous slum. There’ve been assaults, rapes; emergency rooms are bulging with overdoses. Parents are taping notices up on light poles, searching for missing children. There was that story in the Times last week about the rich girl, Linda Fitzpatrick, from Greenwich, and her boyfriend Groovy—bludgeoned to death in a tenement basement on East 10th Street.
Oz’s eyes lit up. “That’s it,” he exclaimed. “That’s our cover. We’ll call it ‘Trouble in Hippieland.’ ” Nothing did better on the newsstand than scaring the shit out of mom and pop out there in Middle America. But the Times already had Linda Fitzpatrick. Newsweek, he said, needed a runaway of its own.
Time was short—deadline loomed late the next day. Hagerty fired off queries to all domestic bureaus, ordering them to scrape up bummer hippie stories. The magazine’s star writer, Harry Waters, would do the survey piece. Finding our runaway? That job was handed to me. Yes! Just 28 and freshly hired, salivating for a coup—Columbia J-School, The Providence Journal. Now, Newsweek. This would be the day I arrived.
It seemed late to go hunting for the girl myself, much quicker to work through someone with contacts. That would of course be Abbie Hoffman, the counterculture impresario with the tumbling hair. Sure, Abbie said on the phone, he could get us a runaway; would there be, like, some payment? Over an expensive lunch at the Gloucester House, a Newsweek hangout on 49th Street off Madison, I laid out our requirements: mid-to-late teens, a good talker, should come from somewhere beyond the Hudson River, photogenic. And, most definitely, she must be having a bad time with the Flower Child experience. This story was an object lesson, not a siren song.
Two hours later, Abbie called back with the goods. She’d be waiting at a place called the Something Coffee Shop on Second Avenue at 10th Street. Look for blond hair and a gray-and-green-striped sweater. Her name was Marcy.
I found her sitting in a booth staring glassily out at the sidewalk scene—girls in long dresses, boys wearing headbands and surplus Army jackets. Jefferson Airplane was softly rocking over a scratchy speaker. Marcy had straight, streaked hair hanging to her shoulders. Her face was slightly pudgy but pretty, in a malt-shop way. Abbie had explained our mission: I was writing a story about runaways and wanted to interview her. Sure, she said. Just don’t use her name. “Oh, we won’t,” I assured her, clicking my ballpoint into operation. She was high from a steady intake of speed, stp, acid, codeine—whatever friends gave her—and her words gushed out in a breathy voice, with no periods or paragraphs.
Marcy said she had run away from Flint, MI, after lengthy warfare with her father. To punish some transgression, she said, he had killed her pet turtle and torn up her vegetable garden, and was not nice to her boyfriend, a drummer named Twig. That May, before her 17th birthday, Marcy packed her clothes and, with her pet cat, caught a ride to Detroit, where she fell in with a motorcycle gang called The Outlaws. Marcy grew frightened of the guys’ carousing, and she moved in with a 28-year-old pusher she called the Walrus, from her favorite book, Alice in Wonderland. Stoned one day, she injured her leg jumping out of a moving car, and developed an infection after the Walrus treated her with morphine. She said it turned “beautiful colors, but it hurt.” He got her to a hospital in Windsor, Ontario; she spent two weeks recovering, and then hitchhiked to the Newport Folk Festival. “After that,” she told me, “I ended up here.”