Flowers, Guns and an Iconic Snapshot

George Harris sticks carnations in gun barrels during an antiwar demonstration at the Pentagon in 1967.
George Harris sticks carnations in gun barrels during an antiwar demonstration at the Pentagon in 1967. (By Bernie Boston -- The Washington Evening Star)

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

The most lasting image from the last big march on the Pentagon, on October 21, 1967, survives in the collective memory as summing up an era. Carnations in gun barrels were the essence of Flower Power. "I knew I had a good picture," says photographer Bernie Boston, 73, who took the photo for the Washington Star. His editors, not imagining the significance, buried it deep inside the A section.

What became of the young demonstrator? By most accounts, he was George Harris, about 18 years old, a young actor from New York. He was on his way to San Francisco, where he would come out of the closet, take the name Hibiscus, and co-found the flamboyant, psychedelic gay-themed drag troupe called the Cockettes, according to filmmaker David Weissman, who made a critically acclaimed documentary of the group in 2002. Harris died in the early 1980s of complications from AIDS, at the dawn of that epidemic.

So Boston's iconic photo, so emblematic of one era, was also secretly a harbinger of another.

-- David Montgomery


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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