Berkeley’s People’s Park and Me — Who Else?

by Steed Dropout
Dec. 27, 2011

As I have tiresomely noted in my bio-tag following numerous people’s park articles in Berkeley Daily Planet, I have lived a half block from world-famous People’s Park for thirty-one years.

Here’s some of the people’s park articles.

I arrived, 1970, in Berkeley, one year after the bloody battle between hundreds of police and students and townies for what has now become sacred grounds in Berkeley — People’s Park. You could say, I was DOA (dead on arrival) because, even then, I was looking for escape.

Supposing myself under surveillance for my activities with the Hawaii Resistance, a late sixties Oahu-based anti-draft, anti-war movement, if not at risk from the U.S. Naval Reserve (inactive), which could have re-called me to duty, I wanted nothing to do with radical politics.

Gawkers and dreamers. Homeless man an on right schemed to claim bricks from felled Sequoia building, across street,but his plan was doomed from the start. The bricks are too polluted to claim. They are now part of a pile still - nearly a month since the big blaze - awaiting Berkeley officials' clearance for removal.
Photo by Ted Friedman.

It soon became apparent, I wanted little to do with anything.


After my wife and daughter and I rented on Carleton Street, close-by Berkeley’s buzzing Telegraph Avenue scene, I soon hooked-up with a dope-dealer, who sold me half a “key” of Columbian Gold, and then camped in his truck outside the pad, saying he had made a mistake.

Thomas Letchworth (real name) didn’t want the dope back, he just wanted to smoke it back. So we hung out most days smoking the dope and playing Chess, while I neglected my domestic duties. My wife, a librarian, scolded me repeatedly.

Seeing this side of her may have led to our break-up, and eventual divorce. Thank god my marvelous daughter even talks to me.

Letchworth and his “old lady,” Barbara taught me hippy ways, even though at, 30, I was too old. The motto: “don’t trust anyone over 30.” I was still being carded!

After the split, I was free to pursue the sixties ethos: “turn-on, tune-in, drop out.”

Amy's Blues - People's Park fallen angel, She said she was Amy Blue, and would out-with U.C. Police's finest, but plunged from the tree in the wee hours, breaking her back. Google people's park fallen angel for the lurid story. Before she fell she gave me a talisman to keep me safe. Photo by Ted Friedman.

I didn’t see much of the park, especially since I perceived it as a vast, abandoned stink-hole, under constant surveillance by police. I wondered why anyone would put themselves under such a dangerous glare. Arrests for marijuana were copious.


I hadn’t yet discovered the Med, but was nuts for the Berkeley Telegraph Repertory Cinema, one flight up from a laundry. It was here, I met, the Rep’s owner, George Pauly, and turned-on a boiling cinema lust, that would get me through my 35 drop-out years.

George, who died in 2007, was nicked by the bullet that killed James Rector as he stood on George’s roof in 1969. I was glad that I had missed all that, but in some Berkeleyans minds, the battle for people’s park was emblazoned forever.

Since I was ten years from residing so close to the park, I could avoid it. I resided briefly in Berkeley’s upscale (I rented rooms) Northside, where I ran in the nearby hills, and hung out in what is now, the Gourmet Ghetto. People’s Park was not my Berkeley.


Because, I had not yet self-identified with low-lifes, I considered anyone hanging in the park to be low-lifes, dealers, or escaped felons

Funny that on the day before X-mas, I found myself in the park — trying to score. No need to fear the heat, after a recent big dope raid (20 plus dealers cited, reportedly) took the pressure off. A dealer, I have gotten to know, was not there. Because I belong to a “pot club,” on Telegraph, I never buy in the park.

But the club closed for the holidays, and I didn’t get word. Chance for a little research. Ten dollars here, ten dollars there, and I wound up paying thirty for two dime bags. A ten-spot went to the guy, whom I foolishly paid before he delivered. Kids, don’t do this in your parks.

Street tramps on Telegraph. Photo by Ted Friedman.

The dope didn’t work, but I did get background for a piece — “People’s Park’s Dopey Scene.”


Living near some of my most exciting stories changed all that. In the park, I became friends with Hate-Man, homeless for 30 years, a New York Times reporter drop-out, who refuses to come back, even though I begged him to work with me, or on his own, through the Planet.

Still, he has become my journalism confidant and advisor.

I could list my friendship with the university-appointed park co-ordinator, and scores of park low-life’s I’ve grown to love.

Here’s how the whole love-hate thing works. When you become a source or subject for one of my articles, you advance to protected status — resistant to criticism. Kill someone; rape someone; whatever. My response, “hey, they’re good copy! Lay off.”

Check back, as I say more on P.P., and as my angle shifts.

Steed Dropout reports for the Berkeley Daily Planet, under the assumed name of Ted Friedman. He has an upcoming piece entitled, “In Berkeley We’re All Smarter Than Cops,” which chronicles the last gasps of Berkeley’s tiny Occupy band.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.