Wavy Gravy: Activist, Clown

Wavy Gravy – “Breakfast in bed for 400,000”

“What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000,” said Wavy Gravy to the Woodstock attendees.   This statement exemplifies the service and comical spirit of the man.

Wavy was the “official clown” of the Grateful Dead. He continues to be a clown, activist, teacher of the arts, and, I guess you could say, one of living icons of Woodstock and the hippie spirit.

Wavy Gravy was born Hugh Nanton Romney on May 15, 1936.   In 1965, he married actress and former Bob Dylan girlfiend Bonnie Beecher in 1965.  They are still together today.

Wavy is the most celebrated member of the Hog Farm, who some consider to be oldest running hippie commune in the United States.  The Hog Farm originated on a collective hog farm in Tujunga, California, but it moved around to New York, Berkeley, and then to the Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville, California where it resides today. They also stayed for a time at their Llano, New Mexico site.

Hog Farm used to host the annual Pignic, which has been superseded other events in Laytonville like The Earthdance Festival.

Some say that if the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Weather Underground were the most politically radical groups of the counterculture, the Hog Farm must have been the comic relief.  Wavy Gravy has, in fact, been a professional clown for most of his adult life.

While the Hog Farmers were in New York they were recruited by the Woodstock Festival organizers to build fire pits and trails at the festival site.  Wavy Gravy and his comrades asked for and got permission to provide a free kitchen, too.  Most likely because of their role at the 1968 Democratic Convention protests (see my Chicago 7 article), they were, just a short time before the opening, asked to provide the ‘in-house’ security for Woodstock.  Gravy named his security force the “Please Force,” because they would ask people to ‘please’ do this or that, instead of ordering them.  A reporter asked him what tools his men would carry.  Always the clown, he answered, “Cream pies and seltzer bottles.”  Wavy Gravy and his commune buddies also helped man the “freak-out” tent for people suffering bad acid trips.

Just a couple of weeks after Woodstock, the Hog Farmers were called upon to helped keep the peace between the cowboys and the hippies at the Texas International Pop Festival in Lewisville just north of Dallas. It was at this festival that renown blues legend B. B. King gave Romney the name Wavy Gravy.

Today, Wavy Gravy works with his international development organization Seva Foundation, which is dedicated to ending poverty around the world.

There were several celebrations of Wavy’s 80th birthday in 2016.  Below is a clip from his party.


Wavy Gravy’s legacy continues.  He directs the Camp Winnarainbow (a circus and performing arts camp) in Laytonville, California.  Each year the camp puts on Camp Winnarainbow Adult Camp, which would make an outstanding vacation for those interested in learning more about making people laugh.

Also see:

40 page biography written for the occasion of Wavy Gravy’s 70th birthday, by Edward Sanders.

Saint Misbehavin: The Wavy Gravy Movie


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