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FEBRUARY 26, 1993 / BAM

Known from 197~1987 as the Board of Directors Award, the Arthur M Sohcot Award presentation salutes a group or Individual who, through excellence in performance and/or professional activity, or through dedicated public service, has contributed to the betterment of the local community.


Wavy Gravy is a man who inspires glowing praise. "He's a very pure, kind, gentle spirit," explains San Francisco publicist Cynthia Bowman, who has worked with the counterculture clown on numerous benefit concerts over the years. fit really goes beyond words. You start talking about him, and it starts to sound disgusting – too good to be true. But I've never met anyone else like him. "

Dennis McNally, who's handled the Grateful Dead's publicity for years, concurs: let's been said that he's rehearsing to be a saint. "

Wavy Gravy (born Hugh Romney) has lived a life filled with excitement, adventure, and philanthropy. He was a part of the Beat movement in the late 1950s, hanging out in Greenwich Village with hipsters and folk singers like Paul Krassner, Lenny Bruce, and Bob Dylan. He was a comedian and a comic actor, working for a time at the Committee (San Francisco's equivalent to Chicago's famed Second City troupe). By 1966, he was one of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters and living on a mountain top commune near LA called the Hog Farm. After a time, the Hog Farm took to the road with its members living in a fleet of converted school buses and traveling the country protesting the Vietnam War. Wavy Gravy achieved his first 15 minutes of fame when he declared from the stage at Woodstock, "What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000."

After Woodstock, the Hog Farm collective journeyed to Europe and eventually ended up in Nepal, distributing medical supplies to Pakistani flood victims. Disturbed by the countless numbers of people suffering from unnecessary blindness (due to easily operable cataracts or severe vitamin deficiencies), Gravy and his fellow Farmers joined forces with the World Health Organization to form Seva, an international medical aid organization.

Seva (named after a Sanskrit word meaning service) has since expanded its base of service to include many Projects where compassionate action can make a difference, including supporting refugees of violence in Guatemala, Native Americans caught in an ongoing health crises, and America's homeless population.

Another more recent Hog Farm project is Camp Winnarainbow, a performing arts summer camp located near Laytonville, California. Run by Wavy and his wife, Jahanara, Camp Winnarainbow teaches performance and circus skills to kids of all ages and from all economic backgrounds in an easygoing, everyone-has-a-talent atmosphere. We're just trying to have these kids' creativity validated, get them out of shyness and fears Wavy told the San Francisco Examiner in 1988. Everyone can shine here."

In addition to his Hog Farm undertakings, Wavy has filled his days (and months. and years) with an endless list: of benefits and worthy causes. There was Home Aid (for the homeless), Cowboys for Indians (for Native Americans), Blues Against Blindness (for SEVA), countless hours spent in children's hospital wards, and much, much more. "He's addicted to helping people, and his enthusiasm is contagious. The can talk you into anything, and you never resent it," laughs McNally. He's a painless dentist.

During his early days of protesting and activism, Wavy suffered a serious spinal injury. It was during a lengthy recovery from resulting surgery that he first donned his now-trademark clown outfit.

"Twenty years ago I battled my way out of a severe post-surgical depression by serving as a clown at the local children's hospital," he wrote in Whole Earth Review last fall. When it became apparent that the costume worked as a shield ("One day I had to go to a political demonstration at People's Park and I didn't have time to change my clothes or take my makeup off. I just shot down there and discovered that the police did not want to hit me anymore. Clowns are safe," he reminisces in his autobiography, Something Good for a Change), he adopted it permanently. Over the years, he's also tried Santa suits and Easter Bunny outfits, but the clown suit fits the best.


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