Somewhere there must be some aging avatars of the Be Here Now generation who gather in a thrall of nostalgia to put on their scratchy copies of the Grateful Dead and float back to their fabulous heyday called the '60s, when "life was free and so was sex."
Wherever they are, tripping however they trip, Gregory O. Smith, by all indications of character and interest, will be far away.
That's why the 26-year-old Potomac resident, whom a neighbor described as a "devout Mormon," filed a $1.2 million libel suit in Montgomery County Circuit Court Wednesday charging that an Esquire magazine article about the '60s "conveyed and represented to all persons throughout the world . . . that Gregory O. Smith was a member of the hippie culture . . ."
In March 1977, Esquire published an unabashed 10-page account of the sexual mores of the '60s called "The Way We Weren't."
It was by Sara Davidson, Berkeley sorority sister cum radical journalist and best-selling author of "Loose Change."
She wrote it like it played: "Life was free and so was sex. Mmmmmmmmm sex. The ripe scent percolated in the air. All over Berkeley strangers would lock eyes and flash. Everyone was turned on."
Although he wasn't mentioned in the article, a picture of Smith, who now is 26 and works for a computer company in Washington and attends night courses at American University, was prominently displayed just two pages from a couple of embodiments of the age naked and embracing at Woodstock.
No caption accompained the picture, which was part of a portfolio Esquire editors called "the way love looked in the '60s."
Photographer Charles Harbutt caught Smith and his 16-year-old friend Susan MacKenzie Tendall, sitting on a blanket at a Who concert at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in 1970.
The picture has already cost Esquire a "substantial sum," according to Tendall, who sued the magazine for $2.4 million in June 1977 and won an out-of-court settlement for an amount she agreed not to disclose.
In the Smith suit, which asks for compensation and damages on two counts of libel and invasion of privacy, Smith charges that the publication of the picture without his consent "together with the wicked representations, insinuations and innuendoes flowing from the publication . . . have defamed him in the eyes of the world, and in the eyes of many of his relatives . . . and has caused him humiliation, embarrassment, deep mental anguish, and sleepless nights."
Lee Eisenberg, editor of Esquire when the magazine published Smith's picture, declined to comment on the suit.
At the urging of his lawyer, Charles Shafer, a neighbor, Smith refused to discuss his suit against the magazine.