Originally created 08/16/98

Hair-itage Month on the Internet

THE SITE: The Hair Pages
THE ADDRESS: http://www-leland.stanford.edu/~toots/Hair/hair.html
THE REASON: The Age of Aquarius dawns digitally

August, you may be surprised to learn, is American Hair-itage Month -- a clever promotional scheme by the beauty and hair-care industry to encourage consumers to try something new with their plumage -- be it a new haircut or color, perm or highlights.

There was a time a few decades ago when doing something -- or not doing something -- with your hair was more than a fashion statement. It was a political statement, a declaration of where you stood on the social and political controversies of the day.

In August, 30 years ago, many people were hearing a popular new anthem that began with the words: "Gimme a head with hair -- long beautiful hair" from the Broadway musical "Hair." It was the creation of two out-of-work actors, James Rado and Gerome Ragni, who, according to Rado, "wanted to create something new, something different, something that translated to the stage the wonderful excitement we felt in the streets." The streets were in New York's East Village and the "excitement" was generated by the long-haired, free-spirited, peace-loving hippies who inhabited them.

Tracy Harris isn't old enough to have visited the Village in its hippie heyday, or even to have seen the original Broadway production of "Hair." But that hasn't dampened her enthusiasm for this onetime cultural phenomenon. And, judging by the lively exchanges on the message board and in the chat room of her Web site, The HAIR Pages, a lot of other folks share her feelings for the musical that three decades later continues to generate controversy in revival productions.

Take these comments, for example, regarding "Hair's" famous nude scene: "I believe the nude scene is crucial to the show. Last summer I played Jeanie in our local production. We had originally planned on the nude, but the local censors put an end to that. The nude scene is the climax of the first act, without it you feel let down. Plus I believe it is a discredit to the writers to disinclude it. They had intended to create an entertaining period play ... (a play that reflects a certain period in time) and to censor it is an insult! Good theater is art. Hair is art."

If you're not familiar with the nude scene -- or any other part of "Hair" -- Harris has provided just about everything short of a video tape of the original cast production to acquaint you with this milestone in American musical theater. You'll find an account of "Hair's" pre-Broadway productions en route to the Biltmore Theater; its court battles (it was nearly banned in Boston); public reaction and its awards. A synopsis of the plot and the often provocative lyrics of its songs are provided as well as cast photos. There's information on current productions of the play all over the world and information on how you can mount your own production, including how to obtain the script.

The rebellious spirit of "Hair" apparently lives on in many of its fans. In a section noting the history of the HAIR Pages, Harris, who from what we can learn about her on the site is about as far removed as one could be from one of "HAIR's" freewheeling hippies, has logged this incident: "February 9, 1996: In support of the Coalition to Stop Net Censorship the HAIR Home Page was turned black. Why? Someday someone in government may decide that the HAIR Pages are obscene!"

Right on, Tracy!


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