( The Four Musketeers : Lisa Janti, Annick Elzière, Jeanette Roberts and ruie Mullins)
5/2010 - Interview with ruie Mullins, Artist, Poet and Hippy
Annick Elzière: I am so excited to do this interview with you, ruie. The term "hippy" is so unknown to me because I was young in those days and neve caught onto it. Let's talk about the 60's, if you don't mind. Did you ever consider yourself as a "Flower Child?"
Ruie Mullins: Flower Child? Oh yes, definitely. It was the time of “flower power.”
Annick Elzière: We met in Arizona but you grew up in Los Angeles, I believe. Was the hippy movement big in California?
Ruie Mullins: Actually, I lived in Huntington Beach, California - It is part of Orange County in Southern California and is extremely conservative in its politics. I was also a jazz/blues vocalist during this period of my life and our home was toilet-papered many times because I had black musicians come by for rehearsals and also we were great friends with an inter-racial couple down the block, so my children were not welcome in some of the homes. But they didn’t care, they thought it was cool that we were different.
Annick Elzière: "Make love, not war" wasa very strong anti-war slogan inthe 1960s. Do you know if this great slogan expanded all over the world?
Ruie Mullins: There were demonstrations all over the world against the Vietnam War. And especially in London; where hippies and flower children were living. The hippie/flower Children phenomena began, I believe in Haight-Ashbury, a district of San Francisco, California. I think sometime in 1967 it became the center of the San Francisco Renaissance and that brought about the rise of a drug culture and rock-and-roll lifestyle of the mid 60’s. Lots of famous psychedelic rock performers like the Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin came to play there and of course the media played it up and it was in the press almost daily as a subculture.
Annick Elzière: Some people were hippies and some were not. You were a hippie and I was never a hippie. How do we know who is who? Please describe the outfit of a typical hippie of the 60's?
Ruie Mullins: Probably something like I wore. Jeans, a tie-dye shirt with a peace sign or a yellow sunflower; Indian moccasins, straight hair with a band around my forehead and no makeup. I had this darling green Mercedes and I would fly my blue peace flag on the antennae and a McCarthy for President sticker on my rear window as I drove around town.
Annick Elzière: You said that you had a ‘Mercedes’ but isn’t it against the hippie lifestyle or let’s say values or were some rich people hippies, as well? To me, a hippy drives a VW bus covered with graffiti like flowers.
Ruie Mullins: Yes, you are right. But at the time I needed a car to take the kids back and forth to school and a doctor friend had this green Mercedes that had been in an auto accident and he was going to sell it for practically nothing, so I bought it. It wasn’t very reliable and I probably would have been better off in a VW van but it did get some positive attention – mainly that it was not just hippies who believed that war was wrong and there was a better way.
Annick Elzière: We hear people talking about the so-called ‘Revolution of the 1960's’ when young adults embraced -Sexual Freedom- or let’s say “Free-Love”,and most of them lived in a commune, and listened to some wild music called Rock. What are your thoughts on all ofthis?
Ruie Mullins: Yes, I think sexual freedom was the most obvious of the times; but there was something a great deal more important happening. The music was a means of dealing with the emotional impact and a way of telling their story. They had found that the so-called establishment was not telling the truth; I mean we have found since that time that we were involved in something that began as a police action that had a far reaching impact of global proportions; they just wanted to live their lives in peace, get an education, and so they rebelled.
The students were trying to tell the older generation that war, this war in particular, was wrong and there had to be another way. That the older generation was more about greed and status and having things and that was not what was important; that living a good life, with love in your heart and love for your fellow man was what was important. That everyone should have an equal share; that people should not be starving; children should be safe. It was also a time of spiritual searching. Something to this day that is still going on. People are still trying to find a purpose---a meaning for life. The recent economic struggle has everyone thinking more about what is important. Perhaps we need a new generation of Flower Children to get us all back on the right path.
Annick Elzière: We definitely need a new generation of Flower Children. What do you think?
Ruie Mullins: Yes it certainly would be nice. And I think I would be glad to give it my support.
Annick Elzière: Were all young adults, hippies? How old were they?
Ruie Mullins: Students in their early 20’s mostly. Because I was involved in music and was also losing trust in the powers that be and could identify with this generation I found I was more comfortable with the so-called flower children. I began my involvement when I was about 23 or 24.
Annick Elzière: Maybe Marijuana and LSD became their Bible, no? That’s how I see them. Were drugs part of everyone’s life in those days? Many people are still addicted to drugs, today.
Ruie Mullins: There were Hippies who did drugs of course, there are people in all walks of life who use drugs. That was not the purpose behind the revolt of the hippie generation. At the time, Dr. Timothy Leary was a great advocate of LSD and he had lots of students at Berkeley who followed him. They thought that LSD would expand their minds and make them somehow smarter or more spiritual. Instead, many became addicts and it ruined their lives.
I can’t say I embraced the hippie life-style, I have never used drugs of any kind. It is rare for me to even take an aspirin. I didn’t live in a commune and I was raising a family by that time. What I did embrace and believed in was that there was a whole culture that did not believe in war and were doing something about it. They weren’t just sitting at home watching television. They were also involved in the political structure and trying to change it.
Annick Elzière: I heard that inthe 1950s and 1960s LSD was used in psychiatry to enhance psychotherapy.
Ruie Mullins: Yes. LSD was also used as a treatment for cluster headaches, (migraines) an uncommon but extremely painful disorder. It was also used to find spirituality when users claimed to experience lucid sensations where they have "out of body" experiences.
Annick Elzière: They were promoting Love and Peace while protesting the Vietnam war. Can you tell us about this?
Ruie Mullins: I must admit that some of the “Hippies” were just in it for the drugs and the excitement of it all. But then there were the others, these were the Flower Children and the group I identified with. We were involved in Fair Housing; discrimination against single parents; discrimination of any kind; civil rights. I joined an organization called “Another Mother For Peace” *and our purpose was to try and end the war through peaceful means. I spent a good deal of my days writing protest letters and having people in my home to discuss what we could do as peaceful and law-abiding individuals to encourage our government to stop the war.
ALL WARS. There was a bumper sticker at the time that said “What if they gave a war and nobody came” I mounted it on my car together with another favorite of mine “good neighbors come in all colors” and would park my car at the front of my house (we lived in a cul-de-sac) so that my neighbors would see these bumper stickers every day as they drove by and hopefully it would give them something positive to think about.
<<*Another Mother for Peace was founded in 1967 “to educate women to take an active role in eliminating war as a means of solving disputes between nations, people and ideologies.” AMP is a non-profit, non-partisan association. [Source: Internet]>>
I was also deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement that came along about the same time -the Watts riots and the marches in the south (An area of Los Angeles known as Watts).Stokley Carmichael was a speaker at the University of Irvine, and I took my family to hear him so they could decide for themselves.
There was a wonderful 1949 musical “South Pacific” that became a successful film in 1958 where this beautiful island woman sings a song for the children about how “You Have to Be Carefully Taught”… (the song is preceded by a lyric saying racism is "not born in you! It happens after you’re born.” Source the internet.) It is about how children are innocent and are not born with prejudices and hatred about the color of another skin…they are carefully taught….
The Watts riots were viewed by some as a reaction to the record of police brutality by the LAPD and other racial injustices allegedly suffered by black Americans in Los Angeles.
My grandmother had just come to California for a visit when she found herself in the middle of the riots. My uncle lived in Watts; he had been injured in WWII and could not work a regular job, so he was forced to live on a very small military pension, he could only afford to live in the Watts community. There was a great deal of anger and poverty there, but he would not take charity so he sold papers at a stand he owned on one of the corners near his apartment. He was living right in the middle of the area when the riots began and we had to find a way to get her out of there. So, my mother who was fearless and I, got in the car and drove to Watts and were stopped by the police who said it would be extremely dangerous for us to enter the area; but my mother told them her mother was in there and she was going to find her and get her out.
Well, we crossed the police line and drove to the corner of the street where my uncle lived and were again stopped by some men from the community; they escorted us to my uncle’s house and got my grandmother out to the car, and then we drove home. I don’t think I have ever been so scared in my life. Yet, I knew that we were safe and the men who escorted us to my uncle’s place were very respectful. They said they admired him and were happy to be of service.
I wanted my children to be good, kind and understanding. To love everyone regardless of who they were; and I am happy that they have grown to be such wonderful and responsible parents. These were principals that my grandmother taught me and I hope I have made her proud.
Annick Elzière: Because of the heavy useof drugs within the Hippie communes, I am wondering how productive these people were in those days?
Ruie Mullins: Well, it is true that drugs were prevalent in many of the hippie communes; but I can’t say that anyone I knew was involved. But, if you are asking did people feel negative about the hippie generation and/or the flower children…then yes. People are usually negative about what they do not understand. When you know why another person does this or that, it is much easier to understand them. I have always been a liberal thinker. As I mentioned before, I was taught as a child by my grandmother that discrimination and prejudice was wrong.
As a child I had, first hand, knowledge of discrimination as my parents were in show business and toured the country in clubs and theaters and left me with my grandparents in the midwest – I was not allowed in many of my playmate’s homes because I was told I was “white trash”. I remember how hateful that was and how it hurt.
Annick Elzière: No prejudice is a way of life but what made them feel so special? Was it because they let go of the norms and turn their back to everything?
Ruie Mullins: The so-called Hippie or Flower Children generation were bright, giving and beautiful young people with ideals that would give you hope for a better world. We would sing, pray, eat together, write poems and stories and we felt safer among ourselves than we did with the rest of society. It was just a beautiful time in my life, we were still innocent.
By the time of the Watts Riots, I realized that politics was no longer the answer for me and I decided to find a spiritual path that would work for me. For a long time I was agnostic. I just did not feel comfortable with any organized religion but then I began to read Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher who opposed the Vietnam war, and became involved in the Unitarian Church which is very liberal in its views and takes up all questions of Human Rights. We had a lot of the flower children at the church I attended. Then I discovered Buddha and then Mohammad and read the Koran. At one point I studied to become a Jew. It was because of my involvement with these movements that I eventually found the Baha’i Faith.
Annick Elzière: never thought of hippies being spiritual or followers of one religion or another. It is definately a time to unite and let go of all our differences.
Ruie Mullins: I don’t think they were necessarily religious people, but I do think they had a spiritual sense that there was something greater than themselves.
Annick Elzière: We hear that hippieswere sort of lazy, naive and irresponsible people. Would you agree with this statement?
Ruie Mullins: Well, I can only speak for myself and my friends. I was already a young married woman with a large family and my friends were much the same. Some were still students and were involved in marches against the Vietnam War, as was I. We definitely were responsible individuals but the hippies that people remember are the ones that made the news and got into trouble. You can’t judge the many who wanted to do good works, by the few who just wanted to trip out. We were arrested for marching but I would not call us irresponsible. We were trying hard with everything we could to convince people to think for themselves and do what was right.
Annick Elzière: It’s interesting to notice that so many people were hippies in the 60s and today many of them are working in the banking system and Wall Street. That’s kind of ironic, no?
Ruie Mullins: The only thing that runs Wall Street today and every day is GREED. We can’t blame the past generation of Hippies for that. I can’t speak for the entire hippie generation. Many “baby boomers” went on to corporate jobs and joined the status quo. I don’t think that greed was the motivation; they just probably saw that it’s really hard to “fight city hall” and if you can’t beat them join them. And like all of us, they wanted to have what everyone wants, a home, a family, children, a life.
As one friend of mine told me when I was commiserating, my neighbors shunned me; if you want to reach people with your ideas, you might try dressing down and talk to them on their level. Maybe then they will be more inclined to listen to you. I followed his advice and I am happy to say my neighbors and I found a middle ground and became friends. The same thing happened to the hippies and the flower children; I am sure they found that it worked for them too. If you offend people by the way you look, it makes it a lot harder to get them to listen.
Fortunately, many listened and the Vietnam War ended. But I am sorry to say that we as a people are allowing similar government strategies to happen all over again. It takes involvement but with today’s economy and so many people out of work and losing their homes, that is not so easy to do.
Annick Elzière: "Love is all you need" by the Beatles. "Made up my mind to make a new start. Going to California with an aching in my heart. Someone told me there's a girl out there With love in her eyes and flowers in her hair" by Led Zeppelin. And, a quote that was very famous during the 60's "Make Love, Not War". "Go with the flow!", they say. Does that bring memories back to you?
Ruie Mullins: I love all these lyrics. They tell a story of a time when we were more innocent. With the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I believe, we as a people lost our innocence. We have become more cynical and to trust is a hard thing to do.
Annick Elzière: You love singing. Do you miss those days?
Ruie Mullins: I have been involved in some form of music all my life. I started out at the age of 3 on my father’s radio program in Kansas City. I sang to a live radio audience “Somewhere Over the Rainbow '' and got a standing ovation. I will never forget how that felt. It was the most glorious moment. And late in my teens I was on many of the televised variety shows and then into my 30’s and 40’s I sang in local clubs throughout Southern California.
I had been offered a recording contract but it caused some friction in my marriage and my family has always come first so I declined. I kept on singing but less and less professionally. As it were, I divorced my husband about 10 years later and made an effort to renew my musical past, but unfortunately I began to lose my hearing a few years ago so I am not able to enjoy music in my life these days, but I have some very wonderful and incredible memories to give me solace.
Annick Elzière: Everything happens for a reason, they say. There is no doubt that the hippie movement was meant to happen. It allowed people to share their opposite views to what’s happening in the world. Each generation has its own way to promote love, peace around the world. How important was it for you to express yourself as a hippie?
Ruie Mullins: It was a very important time in my life and in the lives of many others. And yes, it was for a reason and I still live for the day when “war is obsolete” and we can live in a time when “good neighbors come in all colors” I am still involved in the Peace movements around the world, on the internet: Peace by Peace and Another Mother for Peace.
My goal today is not only to bring an end to war but to enlighten and encourage young women about their value and to be proud of themselves and to put an end to sex trafficking and bondage of women in third world countries. There is so much yet to do!
Annick Elzière: Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your thoughts about the old days, ruie. It sounds like you are still a ‘Flower Child’ at heart and I respect that.
Ruie Mullins: My pleasure, Annick.Thank you for listening and yes I am still a ‘flower child’ at heart.
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