How do you combine effective, positive social activism with fun, puns, and clowning around? Probably one of the best answers to the question can be answered by the man with a Tornado of Talent, Wavy Gravy.
A jolly looking man with bushy white hair and a Santa like belly all wrapped up in hippie tie-dye and an impish sense of humor is what you get if you meet Wavy Gravy. For around half a century he’s been sprouting smiles on everybody who passes his way.
Wavy’s moniker came from B.B. King during the Texas International Pop Festival in 1969. Hugh Romney had reclined onto the stage from exhaustion after hours of convincing audience members to put their clothing back on. When B.B. King came on stage for his set, Hugh Romney started to get up. King’s hand rested on Romney’s shoulder. King asked, “Are you wavy gravy?” Romney affirmed the question. King then replied, “It’s OK, I can work arond you.” The clown thought that this was a mystical happening. Soon he legally changed his name to “Wavy Gravy”.
People are amazed at Wavy’s commitment to bettering our world. He wows us with humor and doesn’t display any self-importance. At every turn, people are inspired to help improve the world because of Wavy Gravy. Maybe you are familiar with the health and food charity called the “Seva Foundation”. Ram Dass, health expert Dr. Larry Brilliant and Wavy Gravy founded the organization as a realistic way to improve health and prosperity in much of the third world. Wavy continues to serve on the board of directors of Seva. He also hosts fund raising concerts that feature compassionate minded artists.
“I became a clown when these docs came to the house in Berkeley and asked me to come cheer up kids. I’d just had my third spinal fusion and I was looking for something to take my mind off the pain I was in.”
Wavy’s life was star studded from the beginning. As a youngster, he accompanied Albert Einstein on walks around the block. Later in life, his career was managed by Lenny Bruce. Wavy was one of the earliest New York friends of Bob Dylan. One of Dylan’s girlfriends, Bonnie Beecher eventually married Wavy in 1965. Later, during his “Hog Farm” days, he worked with the Gratefuld Dead, Eric Clapton and Cream as well as Jimi Hendrix. The Hog Farm collective was hired as a group of extras for the movie “Skidoo” by Otto Preminger.
Wavy Gravy solidified his public persona in his connection with the Woodstock Festival when he was brought on board to help with preparations. His team was dubbed the “Please Force”. They used non-intrusive techniques to keep order. When the press asked Wavy about his enforcement tools to keep order, he replied that the clown props, cream pies and seltzer bottles would work wonders.
“To let the people know there was life beyond Shirley Dean, we decided to focus on voter registration; each day I set up my card table somewhere in the district, signed people up, and passed out noses.”
Wavy is also famous for his Nobody’s Business venture reminiscent of his “Nobody for President” faux campaign. On November 4, 1980, the campaign held a political rally near the White House to promote the idea of “none of the above” on official ballots. The committee criticized Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and independent John Anderson. Their supposed candidate was Nobody. They quipped: “Nobody makes apple pie better than mom. Nobody will love you when you’re down and out.” Wavy adapted an old Betty Boop gag to the national election. “Nobody keeps all promises. Nobody should have that much power.” Wavy noted, “What a rush it was to plunge into the bin of official decision and cast a ballot in favor of FUN.”
In addition to his work with the Seva Foundation, Wavy is co-founder of the performing arts organization, “Camp Winnarainbow” near the Hog Farm in Laytonville, California.
He’s also a recognized collage artist. He has presented some of his collages in honor of celebrities in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work in collage art predates his clowning career.
Wavy has written two books. The Hog Farm and Friends and Something Good for a Change: Random Notes on Peace Thru Living. He has also appeared in recordings, movies, and radio.
He’s not only busy with grown up activities, Wavy enjoys traditional clown work, too. Among his favorites are joke telling, magic tricks, and delighting kids.
“Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”
The Blue Jay of Happiness wishes Wavy Gravy a happy 77th birthday today.