Wayne Rodgers Still Lives the Woodstock Life 40 Years After the Summer of Love
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Big Wayne Rodgers is stardust, man, he's golden, he's been living the Woodstock life all these 40 years, ever since he hitched from Georgetown to the Aquarian Exposition up there at Max's farm in August 1969, and wound up with a memorable cameo in the Oscar-winning documentary.
It was like the second day of the festival and Rodgers, 6-foot-5 and about 120 pounds, all of 19 years old, staggered out of the Port-O-San portable toilet, marijuana pipe in hand, and wow, there were guys with cameras, making what became the iconic film "Woodstock." Rodgers's blue shirt was open, he was unwashed and unkempt, his brown hair was an unruly wad on top of his head, and he was about 17 tokes over the line.
"Want some? Want some?" he says to the filming crew, offering hits. He's got this goofy grin. He says "Far out!" and "Out of sight!" For lo these many years, the lovable pothead scene has been a fan favorite.
We know this because we just talked to Michael Lang, who co-produced the festival, and who has a new book out, "The Road to Woodstock." We reached him on his cellphone in Manhattan traffic (he still produces music) and told him we're writing about this Woodstock guy who never gave up the lifestyle, the stoked dude who came out of the Port-O-San.
There's a little pause, and then the man who created Woodstock says: "Hey, I remember that guy! Man! Tell him I said hello!"
It's been 40 years since the crystallization of the peace and love era, the Aug. 15-18 festival outside of Bethel, N.Y. There was mud and music and 500,000 kids and not a single hair-care product. After Jimi Hendrix wrapped up the show on Monday morning, everybody went home and the whole thing died. Nixon, man. The Hells Angels stabbing somebody to death at Altamont, which was California's version of Woodstock. People suited up and went into corporate America or plastics or something.
Not Big Wayne.
He has a cabin sort of a house in the woods, about three miles outside this little town in western Virginia. ("It's Woodstock in name only," he says. "Lots of Republicans, man, lots of them.")
He's got sheets of plywood for floors, a school bus he bought for $600 in the back yard, and lots of old motorcycles and motors and things, and two talking macaws (Elvis and Kooky) on the back porch, and five tons of marbles he sells sometimes ($2 per pound), and thousands of albums, and half a dozen guitars and amps and an exercise bike and a great picture of John Wayne and a set of steer horns mounted on the wall to hold a cowboy hat and a funky old fedora. The place is on a bluff overlooking the north fork of the Shenandoah River. The sign on the front door reads: "Hippies Use Backdoor. No Exceptions."
There are lots of trees and almost no neighbors, and when it snows he can be shut off from the world for a week or more.