Paree Bakhtiar Blair; Beloved by Hippies

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 24, 2006

Paree Bakhtiar Blair, who fed the hippies "loveburgers" in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in the late 1960s, died of sepsis Oct. 31 at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring. She was 74.

Dubbed "Love" and "the Mother of Haight" by the community, the flamboyant, flame-haired Ms. Blair was famous for her 25-cent burgers and "lovedogs," which she gave away if she thought someone really needed it.

Her "six-stool lunch counter redolent of its maternal proprietor's patchouli oil perfume" became a signature hangout in the peaceful hippie haven along Golden Gate Park's panhandle, wrote Charles E. Perry in "The Haight-Ashbury: A History" (1984). "On holidays, hamburgers were always free and there were lines up to three blocks long to get them."

Rock impresario Bill Graham disdained Love's enterprise, calling it "a sleazy commercial rip-off," Perry said in an interview Thursday. But Ms. Blair was much appreciated on the street.

"She was wild, and she always spoke her mind," said her daughter, Shireen Blair of Lanham. "She read palms and tarot cards and was a huge gift-giver. The police used to go to her to identify dead bodies, and every one of the flower children of the Haight would go to her for advice -- because she was just a little bit older, in her 30s." She was particularly supportive of unwed mothers in the neighborhood, her daughter and Perry said.

Ms. Blair had a life in the Washington area both before and after the late 1960s. She became an interior decorating consultant and a union activist but kept the nickname "Love" and identified strongly with the 1960s throughout her life, her daughter said.

"But she did not smoke pot at all," Shireen Blair said. "Pot was not part of her thing."

She was born in Tehran and moved to the United States as a teenager, meeting her husband, Bryce Davenport Blair, at Kenwood Country Club. They married in 1949.

By 1964, settled in West Hyattsville, she separated from her husband. Feeling the call of the counterculture, she moved to New Mexico and then to San Francisco. She attended the College of Marin, but by the "Summer of Love," she had taken over an old bar called the Pall Mall and opened her grill. Her neighbors included Grace Slick, members of the Grateful Dead, Rudolf Nureyev and thousands upon thousands of teenagers who drifted into the city.

"She got caught up in everything," Perry said. "She just wanted to open a hamburger place and then . . . "

Ms. Blair returned to West Hyattsville in 1971 and opened another business, Love Decorators, from which she sold Home Interiors products until 1978. She was the product line's top saleswoman on the East Coast in 1972. She later went to work for the union now known as UNITE HERE as a shop steward and banquet hostess for its Local 25. She retired because of illness in 1997.

Her husband died in 1971.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include two sons, Bryce Blair of Silver Spring and Jeffrey Blair of Martinsburg, W. Va.; eight grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

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