UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

August 19, 2009

RECOVERED HISTORY: STRANGER IN PARADISE

Adam Bosch Times Herald-Record - Marty Cohen was nervous when he approached the burger-flipping hippie. Woodstock was an unfriendly setting for a state health inspector whose work clothes and crew-cut hair represented everything that the crowd of thousands was rallying against. Still, Cohen had spotted a foul: A bearded man, clad in nothing but a loincloth, chef's hat and love beads was grilling hamburgers for concertgoers. "I walked up to him and told him that he was violating a number of health codes," Cohen recalled. "Next thing I know I'm surrounded by hippies saying, 'Get lost, we're hungry.' "

Using some four-letter words, the cook told Cohen to stick his clipboard in an uncomfortable place.

"I found out quickly that I was not going to be useful in this place," Cohen, now 79, said with a chuckle.

Cohen [had] found a new summer job as a part-time state health inspector testing water quality at hotel pools and the cleanliness of delis. On Aug. 15, 1969, Sullivan County health director Gerry Leiber came to Cohen with an offer.

"He said, 'Marty, you want to make a little extra money? They're having a little concert in Bethel called Woodstock, and I need some inspectors.' "

Cohen took the job and found himself cursed at by the hippies he was assigned to regulate. Cohen's partner, a young health inspector who had just graduated from college, took the rejection in stride.

"I saw him one day with a loaf of Silver Cup bread and bottles of water," Cohen said. "He told me, 'You see all those naked girls over there? They're going to get thirsty and hungry.' "

The young inspector romanced several of those girls in the state trailer where he and Cohen were supposed to sleep, Cohen said.

Meanwhile, Cohen gave up trying to regulate the madness and wandered the muddy hills, listening to Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix instead.

When he arrived home after two days, Cohen's wife, Rita, used a garden hose to clean the mud off him. Forty years later, Cohen is still amazed that people are talking about the "little concert" that he was asked to inspect.

"After it was over, I never thought it would come up again," he said. "I had no idea it would be a historic window to what was happening in the '60s."

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are people still talking about Woodstock?

August 19, 2009 6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because, for a little while, it almost changed things. We are in severe need of major change right now.

August 21, 2009 10:19 AM  

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