Sally was one of the gate-crashing feminist sexual liberationists of her generation; I couldn't get enough of that! She was a great storyteller, and I loved to listen to her.
But sometimes it feels like you never really get to know anyone... until they're gone. They tell their story to someone else, and you learn something altogether new.
When Sally was 50, she decided to "live life to the fullest" and then arranged to "checking out," at age 70, regardless of her health. That was 1994.
That decision, to plan her own death, was my first experience with someone choosing their own exit without any, as they say, suicidal tendencies. She let all her dear friends and lovers know her intentions, and wrote a letter to us the night before she said adieu.
Now, years later, I've discovered something more, a detailed story of Sally's life I hadn't heard before.
All the subjects of Janet's book are the kind of largely-unsung heroes who made leaps in American history that still take your breath away.
Sally, for example, is famous as an era-changing anthropologist, but her life as a feminist and sexual pioneer was perhaps, more revolutionary in her time.
From Sally's Interview:
“Not a Jewish princess”
“I was born in Brooklyn in 1924. My parents became upwardly mobile and moved to Long Island when I was nine. I was supposed to be a Jewish princess, but something went wrong. It never quite worked out that way.
"I went to a very small private school from fourth grade through high school. Played a fair amount of field hockey, studied a lot of French and Latin.
"When I was in the second grade in public school in Brooklyn, this little boy and I had a real crush on each other. We were caught passing notes back and forth. When the teacher came to dinner at our house, I remember hearing her and my parents laughing, their being so amused and snotty about it, because this little boy, whom I had a crush on, was Chinese. I was just furious. What was wrong with his being Chinese? ....
"It was one of my first recognitions of my parents’ racism. My sister told me that Chinese are dirty and steal and carry knives and murder kids—all kinds of nonsense.
"In my family, my sister, who was two years older, was always the
good child and I was the bad one. It was made crystal clear. I had
“funny” ideas. I was not quite what my parents hoped for. During the
thirties, when I was a kid, my parents were enraged about racism in
Germany and then they would sit around and talk about “schwartzes”.
When I was a teenager, thirteen or fourteen, I said, “Don’t you see any
"They said,”What do you mean? We’re the chosen people and we’re talking about schwartzes.” It made no sense to me. My sister is close to my age and was exposed to exactly the same thing and yet we are just as different as day and night. I have no idea why we got different genes, but I am glad I got mine. I have a very low tolerance for bullshit and lies.
"I had a big fight with my parents about the incarceration of the Japanese in 1941. I was seventeen when that happened. I got kicked out of the USO when I was eighteen. I was a junior hostess at the local USO and I danced with a black sailor. I was expelled because 'We don’t dance with black sailors.' I said, 'Why not?' She said, 'Because we don’t!' I said, 'That’s not a very good reason.'
"One of my father’s business friends, who was with Brown Brothers Harriman, a big banking concern, came over for dinner. It must have been my senior year in high school. My father and I had several discussions on race before this. He said, (I’m sure to irritate me because of this) 'Atlantic City is a great place to have a convention. You can be sure to get some nigger there to push you in a chair along the boardwalk.'
"I said, 'Oh, a nigger pushing a kike, how fascinating.' There was
this deadly silence at the table. Everybody was so embarrassed,
mortified. They just looked at the ceiling or the
floor—one of those awful times when nobody made eye contact. My father didn’t talk to me for about two months after that. He was just enraged. My mother said that it was a terrible thing to have done. I said he asked for it. He knows my feelings about racial epithets and if he can use them, I can use them.
"I went from a small private school to Vassar because my sister’s
grades weren’t good enough to get her into a private, first-rate Ivy
League school and my mother had tremendous social ambitions. By having
a daughter at Vassar life could be turned around in many ways. So it
was either Smith, Vassar, or Wellesley. I got into Vassar and I hated
it. It was 1942 and the War had just started. I knew I did not want to
be [at Vassar],that was clear to me. The school I had gone to was
really, really good academically. I don’t know what my expectations of
college were, but Vassar did not meet them. The classes were
disappointing and the women were extremely snobbish. I was very unhappy there.”
Everything good is on the highway.
“I came home on spring vacation and announced to my parents that I
was not going back. Of course they were just absolutely shattered. I
heard all about the sacrifices they had made, what an ungrateful child
I was, and how could I do this to them. I just said
'I’m not going back.'
"They said, 'We’re not going to support you,' and I said fine. I
cashed in the war bonds I had, took a course in typing and shorthand
and got myself a job. It was a fascinating job. I
worked from 1943 to 1945 writing up case histories in the psychiatric treatment clinic of the Children’s Court of New York. For an overprotected Jewish princess it was quite an eye opener.
"Hung out in New York, slept around a lot, dated a lot of people in
the black jazz world. Smoked my first marijuana in 1944; didn’t know
what I was smoking except I was in an afterhours joint and they were
passing around ‘reefers’, that’s what they were called then.
"Took courses here and there and decided it really was time to go back to school. Started hearing strange and fabulous things about the undergraduate program at Chicago which Robert Hutchins had set up there. Wrote them and they said come on out and take the entrance test, which I did. I got in and then asked my father for financial help. I think he was so happy to have me out of the bars and the Village that he said sure. He didn’t know what I was going to do there, but whatever it was it was better than hanging out with black guys in jazz joints in New York.
In 1945 when I moved to Chicago to the University of Chicago
neighborhood on the South Side, my father would visit and say “How can
you stand to live surrounded by
communists, faggots, and niggers?” I would say, “But I like communists, faggots, and niggers.” He would walk away wondering where he had gone wrong.
"I found the Chicago undergraduate program extremely stimulating, loved it, and did very well. The undergraduate program in those days had no options. When you entered the college there was a standard program that all students went through. It was a balanced program in physical sciences, biological sciences, humanities and social sciences. Class attendance was not required. If you could pass an exam without ever going to class that was fine. You were graded on a six hour exam at the end of each course, and how you did on that exam set your grade.
"In the fall of ’45 lots of returning vets were coming back from the
War, coming back to school. So being an overage undergraduate, ripe old
lady of 21, was not much of a social
hardship as it would have been later or pre-War, because the whole age of the student body was older. It was a fine program.
"It was really a great time and Chicago was in ferment then, just a neat place to be. I guess from the time I was about 19 on I really wanted a baby. I met a guy in Chicago who was a grad student and we started dating, and finally moved in with him and married in 1947. He is the father of my child. I was a Roosevelt liberal and he was too. During the time we were married I went sharply to the left and he went sharply to the right and became a devoteé of Milton Friedman and that whole crew in Chicago.
"Loved being pregnant. Felt great being pregnant. The better I felt the sicker he got. It was just awful. His ulcers got worse and worse. We separated and then came back together a few times. Toward the terminal stages of the marriage he said to me, 'You didn’t want a husband, you just wanted the egg fertilized.' I became totally outraged and thought what a son-of-a-bitch to say that.
"Then I thought about it for a while and said, 'You are totally right. I really didn’t
want a husband, I just wanted a baby.'
"I went home and told my parents I was getting a divorce. My mother became hysterical and my father was furious and told me no one in our family had ever gotten a divorce. I said it was probably about time they did. My mother said what could she tell her friends at the golf club. How could I do this to them? It was just insane. My father assumed that I was going to move to New York. I said I was staying in Chicago, that was where my life was, that was where my friends were. He said he wouldn’t send a penny of support. I lived on $2700 per annum child support and alimony. It’s true that went a lot further in 1950 than it does now, but it wasn’t very far for it to go.
"I was full-time mom—learned how to sew, learned how to do a lot of
things I had never done before. The first year I was separated was the
most maturing year of my life. I was 26 and had never been totally on
my own. I had always had my parental support and then my husband’s.
There I was on my own with a baby, being a single parent, which was a
shock. I was absolutely horrified by how my married women friends
treated me. They
didn’t want me around their husbands. It was awful.
"I spent a very, very lonely year trying to figure out what I wanted to be if I grew up and how I was to handle all this. It was not easy. A whole bunch of people who got married post-War, came to the Hyde Park area of Chicago. A lot of us got divorced and then in the early fifties there was a tremendous amount of reshuffling. Everybody was dating everybody’s ex-husband and ex-wife. It was very incestuous and very funny. The joke at the lab school where my daughter went, was two kids meeting in the hall and one kid says to the other “My father can beat up your father!”, and the other kid says,”Don’t be stupid, my father is your father.”
"I dated a lot. I met a guy who was a lawyer and a great cook; he pushed all the right buttons there. I married him. Shortly after we married, I realized it was a total disaster. I wanted more kids and he didn’t want kids. We bought a falling-down house in the same neighborhood. It had been one of the original farm houses in the neighborhood and the city had grown up around it. I got some power tools and remodeled the house. Most of my male friends were so offended by that. I learned by doing, how to do plumbing and such. It was great fun. I had a great garden there."
Old boys’ club develops a crack
“When the second marriage started to fall apart I said obviously marriage is not my thing. I’m going to have to get a career of some kind because I don’t want to be dependent upon a husband for support. I leaned in the direction of social science, thinking about political science. A friend was talking about the anthropology department. I signed up for a couple of courses.
"My daughter Susan was in school full-time in third grade. I went back to school at the age of thirty-two. I started as a graduate student in 1956. The chairman was a misogynistic little son-of-a-bitch. At the opening tea for new grad students he said, 'This is a professional department and we always get a few dilettante housewives and types like that in here.' His wife leaned across the table and said, 'Don’t you listen to a word he says honey, you stick with it.'
"If ever my feminist conscience was forged it was during the
experience of being a grad student in the Anthro Department at the
University of Chicago. My interest turned rapidly to prehistory. The
guy who was in charge of Old World archaeology was a famous but not very
bright man. He was the kind who came on like gangbusters and implied that my Ph.D. was safe only if I hung around his office and made coffee for his distinguished guests and perhaps put out a little on the side.
"Anthropology is a strange field because its most famous practitioner at that time was a woman, but Chicago’s department had an all-male faculty and still has. The anthropology graduate faculty at Chicago has never hired a woman. It’s just a scandal. I was not taken seriously because I was overage as well as female.
"I split with my husband after the first year. He was convinced I was in school just to have affairs on the side. I was working so hard there was no way I would ever have had time to even carry on that way. It became crystal-clear to me while watching what went on: one thing a grad student should never do was fuck faculty. I got it on with a lot of my fellow students, but never with faculty. I chose as my faculty advisor the only guy who did not put out sexual vibes. He was very dedicated and serious.
"When I told him I wanted to work under him and get my Ph.D. he told me to come into his office and close the door. I thought, oh no, here it comes!
"He said, 'You’re very bright, your work is good, and I’ll back you
as long as you turn out the work, but I want you to know that there is
a lot of feeling against you in the department
because of your social life and the way you dress.'
"I said, 'What do you mean the way I dress?'
"He said, 'You wear tight sweaters and makeup.'
"I thought, give me a break, this is just ridiculous. His suggestion was that I look more like a vestal virgin; I said, 'It’s not my style.'
"He said,'I don’t think you’ll get a Ph.D. out of this department, but if you do good work I’ll back you.' I continued to do good work, did some field work, did my thesis and got my Ph.D., much to the surprise of everyone there except perhaps my advisor and me.
"The first big hurdle was the prelims. The Chicago department at that point, had a policy of taking in large numbers of grad students. In my entering class there were 44, and perhaps 3 or 4 of us would receive a Ph.D.; it was that difficult. The big filtering thing was the prelims—two days of written exams over physical and cultural anthropology, archaeology, linguistics.
"When I took the exams the students were identified by number and
not by name on them so I passed. The departmental secretary was a black
woman who liked me. That summer I stopped by the office and she asked
if I had gotten a Ph.D. pass and I said yes. She said
Dr. Tax sent in the wrong grade for you. She showed me he had sent into the registrar’s office that I had gotten a terminal masters, which meant I couldn’t go on for the Ph.D. She told me I could get to the very end of my career and it would be my word versus
"I went to the registrar’s office and to the various faculty members who knew I had creamed the exam and got the grade changed. It was pretty awful. For me to have to rectify this error was awful. Definitely it was an intentional error.
"I went to France to do field work in the summer of 1960 with a crew from Harvard, run by a militaristic man, who didn’t like women, didn’t like Jews, and didn’t believe in divorce. I had three strikes against me right there.
"He wanted me to leave the site at 10 a.m. every morning to help his wife with the shopping and cook lunch for the crew. I told him, 'I didn’t travel to France to be a cook. I like to cook and I cook at home, but that wasn’t what I came for.'
"He said, 'I’m the director of this expedition and you’ll do as I say.'
"I said, 'I’m sorry, I’m not here to cook. I’m here to dig.'
"From that point on, he did not address another word to me all
summer. He’d tell the foreman, 'Tell that woman so-and-so.' He would
never directly address me after that. He
had his prefixed notions of what he would find on the site. When somebody found something that blew his pet theory, he would call them incompetent. That not only happened to me, but to other people too. He was a very rigid, bigoted man.
"I had an ally in François Bordes whom I continued to work with for many years. Bordes was the big name in French prehistory at that time. He was at the University of Bordeaux, near the area in Southwest France where all the famous caves are. Every night when the dig would shut down I would get in my car and drive over to the Bordes’ house. They would feed me brandy, pat my hand and tell me everything would be all right and that I just had to stick it out.
"My daughter stayed with her father the first month that summer and
then she flew over to join me. She just hung around the dig and got to
know the local kids. She was about
eleven at the time. I was horrified that her French was better than mine after about a month.
"I came back and wrote my thesis and got my Ph.D. in 1962. My research focused on the middle Pleistocene of the Western and Central Sahara. It was a library thesis. The topic was picked by my advisor. Essentially my thesis was to demonstrate the geological and geographic history of the Sahara. Going over the geology, the stone tools, the animals bones that were found there, showing that the place had been used by human populations and that the formation of desert was very, very recent, probably the end of the Pleistocene.
"Before then there had been a series of lakes and savannah where
human population could and did live. There was a lot of nonsense
written about the great antiquity of the human races, how the black
race had been separated from the white race for a long time and the
Sahara had been a barrier for gene flow because it was a desert and
couldn’t live there and therefore blacks were very, very different from Europeans. It was essentially a racist kind of argument."
"My main focus was stones and bones, particularly the transition period from Neanderthal to modern populations which seems to have taken place around the eastern Mediterranean basin,which is why I dug in France and Israel.
"One of the major problems in Europe was that prehistoric
archaeology and physical anthropology were very distinct fields. The
relationship between extinct human groups and the artifacts they left
was not systematically analyzed. French prehistorians come up through
geology, paleontology; they’ve had no background in general
anthropology, cultural anthropology or ethnology, whereas American
students do. When it comes to interpreting what these artifacts mean,
the French tend to just spin stories about what it was like. One of the
main contributions that those of us who went into Old World archaeology
from this American anthropology background was to be able to bring some
knowledge of how ethnographically-known hunters and gatherers lived and
what similarities and
differences between sites meant.
"The remains from every site contain different proportions of kinds of tools, of bones.
Probably these differences are a difference of function. That is, they were doing different things at different locations. French prehistorians had this bizarre mindset: different
artifacts reflect different ethnic groups.
"One of the things I was principally concerned with was trying to explain the kind of variability that occurred between sites of about the same period. You can make up a lot of stories about what inter-site variability means, but unless you have formulated hypotheses which can be tested, it’s just science fiction. Functional hypotheses, that is differences in what people were doing and how they were extracting energy from their environment, can be tested against independent data, but interpretation about their ideology or their spiritual life or their ethnic loyalties—we don’t find this stuff in sites. That’s all sci-fi. Paleopsychology is a dangerous field.
"Also I wanted to document some kind of change in adaptation from Neanderthal to modern groups that would explain the tremendous population growth in modern groups. Neanderthal groups were essentially opportunistic hunters. They would get a single deer and bring it back and butcher it. They probably lived in a fairly restricted geographical area. When you get to modern population sites, the most striking thing is the overwhelming proportion of a single species of large herd animals.
"In the Near East it was wild cattle; in Eastern and Central Europe it was mammoth; in Western Europe it was reindeer. These are migratory herd animals that have regular migration routes. Large numbers of cooperating groups harvested the animals as they came through narrow valleys. This is a very different proposition than leaving a hunting camp and wandering out to find food. These guys knew that food was coming through twice a year. They could smoke it. If it was at the height of the Ice Age in France, they could freeze it.
"They got tremendous time utility out of this resource. When you start getting large groups of people, assembled for a semiannual protein harvest, they develop rules about reciprocal rights between groups which are most often defined by mating patterns. This increases gene flow between groups which accelerates biological change. It also means a tremendous amount of cooperation is necessary between groups.
"If you want to draw lessons from prehistory, it is fascinating to
find out the thing that made us fully human wasn’t competition but
cooperative effort. One of the things I find fascinating too, was there
is no evidence for intergroup violence or warfare before about 4000
b.c., and human existence was around a long time before that. It wasn’t
until people started settling down, building cities, creating a class
structure, having investment in corporate capital, corporately owned
resources, that warfare started.
"I think these are very important lessons to draw from prehistory. Besides, digging is fun—getting away from the library, ‘facking fuckulty meetings’ and academic politics and
sitting in cool caves and then coming out and eating French food three times a day and getting paid for it."
"Lascaux was still open to the public in 1960 when I was in France working with the crew from Harvard. It was closed in 1963.
"The Abbé Glory, who was in charge of Lascaux at the time, said the crew could go after hours when the cave was closed to the public. We went in about 6 p.m. and were due back at the hotel for dinner at 9 p.m. My daughter and I heard that in the unlighted part of the cave there was a gallery with cat engravings. We took a flashlight and tried to find them. When we came back the lights in the main chamber were out and the crew had gone back to the hotel.
"Lascaux was set up with three systems of doors you had to go through. We found the last door locked. (Lascaux had nothing near it then. Now it has souvenir and soft drink stands.) We are pounding on the door and yelling. Our flashlight batteries got dim and it was black, no light at all and cold. Susan was terrified.'Mother, what are we going to do?' I said we may be the first people in 12,000 years to spend the night here, look at it that way.
"Meanwhile the crew got back to the hotel and were having dinner when halfway through
someone said,”Where are Sally and Susan?” They had to get the keys and come back to get us. We were in there about three hours. It was pitch black, freezing cold and just terrifying.
“When Susan went back to school she had to do a little essay on what
happened on her summer vacation. She wrote this story and the teacher
called her up after class and said,'My dear, it’s nice to have a lively
imagination, but you know this is too much.You simply can’t make up
these stories.' I had to go to school and tell the teacher that
it really did happen and that she shouldn’t have accused the kid of lying without knowing the facts.
"When you walk into the main chamber at Lascaux there are polychrome animals, some of them absolutely huge, in full motion galloping, all around on these white calcite walls. It is
a psychedelic experience, a very powerful experience. You walk in and you know this place was something special; it really was.
"I don’t know if they did prehunting rites or male initiation rites, but the place has a very, very important feeling. This is not just your John Doe, your average hunter artist. This system was supporting specialists who could produce this level of art. It is that skillful, that beautiful. The art work from the late Upper Paleolithic is exquisite. You are amazed by the level of artistry and the degree of anatomical knowledge they had. There were tremendous techniques developed by master artists that were lost and not rediscovered until the Renaissance.
"I worked near there at different sites about a third of my time
between 1960 and 1972. These sites—caves and rock shelters, were
probably hunting locations along the side of
valleys. The density of animal bone and artifacts is just incredible. You cannot imagine it unless you see it.
"I applied for a post-doctoral grant and got it. I went to dig a Neanderthal site in Israel in 1962. It was extremely fascinating. I went to Israel feeling I never had been pro or anti-zionist; being Jewish I had a generalized sympathy toward Israel, but when I went there I was horrified by what I saw. I spent a few weeks on a dig in Spain before I went to Israel. I found Israel more racist and more militaristic than Franco’s Spain.
"My site was in a valley, a wadi; nine months out of the year it was a dry stream bed which fed into Lake Tiberias (Sea of Galilee). At that time the Golan Heights were still Syrian. There were shellings almost every night. I sat up on the hills and watched the shelling like firework displays."
Les enfants terribles
"In 1961 or 1962 Lew Binford joined the faculty at Chicago. He was the boy wonder. He is seven years younger than I. He was very handsome, very charming, very bright, very funny. He had been married a couple of times before. When I was writing my thesis our offices were right next to one another. We became good buddies and talked a lot about archaeology. Went to lunch together a lot. He was a heavy drinker and some nights he would leave the bars, come by my house and ring the doorbell at 2 a.m., obviously on the make. I said to him, “I’m sorry, you’re very charming, and I really admire your head, but I don’t fuck faculty.”
"When I came back from my dig, Lew was there waiting and the two of us got together then. He was running a dig the summer of 1963 in Southern Illinois and I went with him to work. He was coming up for tenure. Lew was extremely smart, but extremely crazy and aggressive. He had managed to alienate all the senior faculty at Chicago. Hanging out with me, and the two of us going back to Chicago and living together (in sin) we knew would be the last straw in terms of his tenure.
"He said, 'Let’s get married.'
"I said, 'Lew, marriage is not my thing. I’ve tried it twice and I’m not good at it.'
"'That’s because you haven’t married the right man.'
"I said, 'I will marry you for the sake of your tenure, but I’ll tell you now this is not going to be a permanent deal because I know myself well enough to know that marriage is not my thing.' We got married at the end of the summer and went back to Chicago. Susan was away at school.
"Lew and I became a professional couple of some note. Our skills were somewhat complimentary. He was New World; I was Old World. He was great on statistics and I knew the Old World data. He was a theory person. I was a data person. We turned out a series of articles and a book, New Perspectives in Archaeology, that took the whole field of archaeology and shook it up.
"Lew didn’t have grad students as much as he had disciples. He was very charismatic and he turned out some real first-rate students in Chicago during the time he was there. He had been a grad student at Michigan, but he had thesis problems and couldn’t finish his Ph.D. He couldn’t pass his French exam which he University required for him to get his Ph.D.
"I, in essence, helped him cheat on the French exam which he took in absentia from Michigan. Lew was from a middle-class family from the South. He was an extremely brilliant guy, but couldn’t write a sentence that made sense— that had a subject and a predicate. His writing was unspeakable. My job in the marriage became to translate what Lew wrote into English and to get him his Ph.D.
“The articles were mostly on theory and ways of analyzing data that was innovative and unconventional for the time. We questioned a lot of the premises underlying most archaeological interpretations and brought some scientific rigor into the field, in terms of formulating and testing hypotheses, instead of people just looking at data and making up a story.We did the first computer analysis of stone tool assemblages in 1966. That was considered very radical at the time.The program that we used gave us a very powerful tool for examining what variability in stone tools meant and how someactors co-varied with others.”
[For more detailed information see Binford and Binford, “Stone Tools and Human Behavior, Human Ancestors" (Scientific American, 1969)]
"I served another trickier function: one of Lew’s fatal flaws is that he’s a pathological liar—and most of the time he didn’t know he was doing it. He is truly incapable of
distinguishing what he wants to believe from what is real. He had a distressing tendency to “improve” data. He would generate a large number of original and intriguing ideas—90% of which bore little or no relationship to reality, but the 10% that were valid were great. I would attempt to steer him away from his more imaginative notions and help him in finding data to support the sounder ones, then help him write them up in comprehensible English.
"My role was super woman. I could do anything. I could cook, clean house, take his exams for him, translate his thesis into English. I could do all this and still carry on my own career. The first two years we were together we were both turned-on intellectually and sexually. It was a very, very high time for us both. Eventually it got to a point where he was claiming all the credit for what we had done and Chicago was going to fire him.
"I had a teaching job at Northwestern University. We lived in the south side of Chicago, 2 miles from where he worked, but 26 miles from where I worked. I drove the 26 miles up and back to Northwestern to teach. Lew, who was a drinker, would smoke dope occasionally, but his real thing was being a workaholic who could work like a fiend five days a week and every weekend get blind, falling-down drunk.
"Lew did not get tenure at Chicago which surprised no one. In 1965, the University of California at Santa Barbara was trying to change its ‘surfer school’ image into a real school. The University of California has a nepotism law where two people from the same family can’t get full-time jobs within the Cal system. Lew got the full-time job and I got a part-time job as a lecturer and we moved to Santa Barbara.
"Santa Barbara was a weird experience for me. I had come from a
super academic atmosphere in Chicago, out to this ‘surfer’ campus. I
arrived with my hair back in a bun,
dressed in my spike heels and knit suits. Little girls were running around in mini skirts and no bras. Everybody was stoned all the time. There were 85 kids in the first class I taught, an introductory course in human evolution. I realized about halfway through the course that one of the reasons I was having trouble in teaching those kids is that they were all stoned.
"I changed my teaching technique and went into showing movies and slides like show and tell. I was in total culture shock. I think it is true now, but even truer in the Sixties: there is more cultural difference between the East and California than there is say between the East and England or France. Much more. This is really a strange place. They speak the same language and do the same things but, my God, it’s a whole other scene.
"The chairman of the department and two of the faculty members there, who have since become significant names in the field, made the bargain where this would be the one anthropology department, besides Harvard, where no Jews were hired. Sometime that fall I heard this and made a great point of signing myself Sally Rosen Binford. I also made a point of speaking a few words of Yiddish at the faculty gatherings.
"The atmosphere got to be extremely tense. The anthropology meetings came up over Christmas that year. The chairman said what we need is someone who is an expert in Southwestern Indians, and someone who is an expert in Africa. We’re going to be recruiting. At that point there were many more faculty jobs than there were people to fill them. We were urged to go out and recruit our friends to join the Santa Barbara faculty.
"There was a guy who had been at the University of Chicago. Alfonso Ortiz, who is a Tewa Indian and extremely bright. Bill Shack, who had been in Chicago with me briefly, went to London to get his Ph.D. because he had been told by the chairman at Chicago that there was no room for blacks in the field of anthropology.
"I went to the chairman and recommended Alphonse Ortiz for the
Southwestern person and Bill Shack for the person in Africa. One of the
other faculty members reported that the Chairman’s comment was,
'Doesn’t she know any white people?'
"When we came back from the meeting, I said to Lew, “I don’t want to stay here for another year. I find this atmosphere totally offensive and repressive and it’s a rotten department. The library is terrible and the chairman is a fucking racist. Let’s contact Joe Birdsell at UCLA (Lew had a three year contract with the UC system) and see if we can get your contract transferred.” We went down to UCLA and they were thrilled with the prospect of having us there. So we moved to L.A.
"During the early Sixties, when the big boys in Washington decided
the Third World was where the action was, a lot of funny grad students
started turning up in anthropology. There
was a grad student in Chicago, now on the faculty there, a physicist, fluent in Russian, who suddenly developed a passionate interest in the Late Stone Age of the Soviet Union.
"There was a guy who is also on the faculty of Chicago now who had been in Army Intelligence in Germany. He became fascinated by Spanish prehistory. And people who had been in antiquities trade— the field was really being taken over by CIA intelligence people. What better cover could anybody have, for working in the Third World, than being an anthropologist.
"It’s not just paranoia on my part, believe me. I was becoming disenchanted very rapidly.
Meanwhile Lew and I were publishing like crazy— getting out a lot of great stuff and chairing a symposium at the national meetings where all our students read papers. It was this real dual thing where I was having tremendous professional success and yet becoming more and more disenchanted with the sexism and the racism and the takeover of the field by the CIA and other branches of intelligence.
"When a friend of mine who had done field work in East Africa came back, she was debriefed by the CIA about what was happening there. She said nothing was happening in Africa in the last 100,000 years that was of the slightest concern to her, but the CIA debriefed her anyhow.
"Another friend of mine who had done field work in Iran later on was told to turn over
her field notes to State Intelligence, and when she didn’t was told that she would just never get any more grant money. There was that kind of pressure.
"At UCLA more shit hit the fan, because there was a Southeast Asia
program. Suddenly in the Sixties everybody started having Southeast
Asian social science programs. A young
assistant professor, who was making the same rotten salary as the rest of us, drove a Porsche and had a basement full of French wine and a big house in West L.A. His area was Thailand and it turned out that he was on the payroll. The whole thing got to be really, really hideous.
"Once again at UCLA I was extra faculty; I had no permanent post. I was a lecturer and my husband had the ladder position. Everybody was recruiting faculty like mad at that point. We were contacted by the University of New Mexico, where we were both offered full-time positions. It sounded tempting, but at that time the marriage was in very bad shape. I knew in 1967 that the marriage was through, but Lew’s and my lives were so connected in the field that it wasn’t going to be easy to get out.
"In addition to doing the work with Lew, I wanted to follow my own interests and concerns. I applied for a senior postdoctoral grant with the National Science Foundation in 1968 to do further research in the Near East on some Neanderthal sites that were of some interest to me. When I got the grant, Lew said, 'If you go I won’t be here when you get back.'
"I said, 'Now wait a minute here, I’ve been helping you with your career this whole
time.” Instead of telling him to get lost and going out and doing it, I folded and agreed to both apply for another grant, which we did—which was a big mistake.
"It was probably one of the weirdest and most awful years of my
life. I was so furious with him and so resentful. He was drinking and
became physically abusive. In 1966 or 1967 at
UCLA we were having a fight about something. I said something very sarcastic and he took his hand and just cracked it across my face and sent my glasses flying across the room. He
was 6’3” and over 200 pounds.
I phoned the cops who were not anxious to help me. One of the cops took him out and put
his arm around him and said, 'Just love her up a little and it will be okay.' I was fit to kill. I had never been struck in my life and I was furious. The cops left and Lew was walking around feeling smug and happy.
"A few days later I said,”You are so helpless, you can’t even boil water. I cook everything you eat and everything you drink. I just want to tell you the next time you lay a finger on me you are going to wonder what the hell is in that cup of coffee, that bowl of soup.'
'"You castrating cunt!'
"I said, 'That’s right, you got it, but don’t you ever lay a finger on me again!” I had to do something. I was not going to take that kind of crap.
"We left Los Angeles and went to France for a hideous year— the year was dreadful, in terms of work, in terms of politics, our relationship. We came back to Albuquerque, which has to be the ass-end of nowhere. I said okay, I signed a contract; I’ll teach my classes this year but when this year is over I’m leaving.
"The more I thought about leaving, the more I withdrew from him, the crazier and more violent he got. He was hospitalized a couple of times because he was hallucinating. He was just mad. He claimed to have a bad heart; they could find nothing wrong with his heart, but he was having seizures. It was just really awful. He went off to Alaska to do field work in the spring of ’69 and I finished teaching my classes, put all my stuff in storage, put my dog in the car and split.
"I was invited to a UNESCO conference in Paris that summer. I spent some time in France, met some friends and hung around. I stayed with friends in Washington D.C. that year and spent a lot of time commuting between Washington and Cambridge. I was thoroughly disenchanted with anthropology at that time.
"I was really in a weird position where the subject matter still turned me on. I still follow the journals; I still keep up with what’s going on in research, but I thought I cannot sit through one more fucking faculty meeting. I just cannot sit through one more meeting with these bastards. I’m going to stand up and scream,'You’re just a bunch of sexist, racist, right-wing pigs!'
"Of course, at this point I had a reputation as a trouble maker in the field. Being a smart, uppity woman did not win me any favors. The Nixon administration had come in and research funds had been cut. I got a couple of job offers— one from Central Michigan and one from the University of Montana. I thought I don’t want to spin out my sunset years in Missoula, Montana. I think I’ll go back to the West Coast and get a place on the beach and spend a year just thinking about what I would do with the rest of my life. At that point I was so involved with academia. I thought I just can’t leave it."
Sandstone, and The Pentagon Papers
"My father died in 1968 so I was left enough money to pay for room
and board and enough clothes to cover my body if I was careful. I
couldn’t live a lavish lifestyle, but I could survive without working,
so I had some breathing space. I decided I would just take a year out
and see what happens. I went to L.A., lived in Venice. I spent a lot of
time walking my dog on the beach. I smoked a lot of dope, took acid for
the first time, took
mescaline, experimented with a lot of psychedelics.
"A friend of mine from the East, Ed Brecher,
who had done a lot of sex research, called and said,'There’s this
fascinating new place I’ve heard about in L.A. As an anthropologist and
as somebody who has had a life-long interest in sex, I thought you
might find this interesting. It’s a place called Sandstone. Go on up there and see what you think of it
and report back.'
"I went up. They had about fifteen acres in the hills above Malibu
between Topanga Canyon and the canyon to the North of there, with a
beautiful old ranch house. There were seven people living there
full-time, in what was essentially a group marriage. They were all
middle-class drop-outs who had done a little Fritz Perls, a little psychedelics, and had
decided their lives were shit and there must be something a little better than what they were doing. They were experimenting with open sexuality and trying to find ways of forming relationships that were meaningful.
"The guy who ran the place is brilliant; John Williamson. They decided they could support the place by taking members. The membership were free to come up and use the place during the day for sunbathing or swimming or whatever. There were parties every weekend. It sounded like it would fill a lot of needs and really be fun. It was a fascinating place.
"In June 1970, I joined Sandstone and spent the better part of two years up there. I maintained my own place at the beach, but used to go there for weekends and parties. The parties were about 60-70 people; it was a self-selected population. The ground rules were no drugs on the premises, but of course we were all doing drugs, but they were terribly afraid of being busted.
"Optional nudity, optional open sex, but the deal was if you
approached somebody and they said no, the answer was NO period. No
pressure to do anything that you didn’t want to do.
This huge house had no doors, which meant that everything that happened, happened publicly. Whether you were taking a dump, or fucking your brains out or eating a meal, or playing chess, or playing chamber music—whatever you did happened
in public, which kept people remarkably honest.
"The nudity scene was fascinating too, because without the social
symbolism of clothes, you had no idea whether the person you were
talking to was a stockbroker, a high-steel construction worker or a
dope dealer or what. It was really a fascinating place and drew a
tremendous number of really interesting people. There were about twelve or fifteen of us that became a really tight-knit group. Some were married and some weren’t; some were
partnered, some were unpartnered. We had sex together; we did acid together; we howled at the moon together and we became really tight friends. In many ways the friendships I
formed there are still the closest friendships I have.
"I spent a lot of time there in 1970-72. There were nights there
when I would put on my anthropologist’s hat and just sit back and watch
the primates behave. It was fascinating from that standpoint.
"In 1970 a former student of mine invited me over for dinner. Another friend of his, Tony Russo, came by who had worked for Rand Corporation. He became totally disenchanted
with the Vietnam War and dropped out. He was very active in the antiwar movement. He had this other friend, Dan, who was still working for Rand. The following fall I hung out with
Dan and Tony. I took Tony and Dan to Sandstone.
"They used to go off in a corner and have these funny, intense little conversations. I knew they were up to something. When I would ask, they would say, 'Don’t ask. It’s better if you don’t know.' Every time Dan would open the trunk of his car there would be papers stamped top-secret all over. Tony was being extremely paranoid, saying his phone was being tapped, thinking people were watching him. I thought, 'He’s really off his rocker.'
"In June 1971 the Pentagon Papers
were published. I was on my way to a party at Sandstone, driving up the
Pacific Coast Highway in my car, when the news came on.”We don’t know
who is responsible for the release of these papers, but it had to be
someone who worked for the Department of Defense and Rand.” The only person I knew who worked both places was Dan Ellsberg. Oh, my God, that was what they were up to!
Shock! The FBI came up to Sandstone and started asking all kinds of questions. Then a few FBI informants joined Sandstone and the whole thing fell apart very rapidly.
"I got a phone call about a week after the papers were published from a lawyer who said he was one of Dan’s defense team, but he xouldn’t talk to me and would I call him from a pay phone. At that point I had been doing enough LSD that I thought maybe I was getting paranoid. This is really bizarre. I called him from a pay phone and he asked did I know a very noisy restaurant where we can have lunch. I took him to this Jewish deli in Santa Monica where the decibel level is incredible. He kept looking over his shoulder.
"What he had to tell me essentially was that John Mitchell, Henry Kissinger and Nixon were furious and Ellsberg was going to get the book thrown at him. They were going to try to make the release of the Pentagon Papers a vast left-wing conspiracy.
"Since I had been very active in the antiwar movement and had ‘New Left’ ties I had to assume my mail is going to be opened, my phone is going to be tapped and I was going to be watched every moment. I thought this guy is crazy! I told him that I had no involvement, and he said, 'knowing Dan and Tony, and your history is such that you are going to be watched. I am warning you.'
"At that point my daughter was living with a young man about a mile from my house and they had a baby about a year before. They were doing a lot of dope and they had all their acid stored in my refrig.
"I said to this lawyer, 'What about drugs?'
"He said, 'Don’t worry about drugs.'
"I said, 'What do you mean, you’re telling me I should be uptight about the FBI!'
"He said don’t worry– if they want to find drugs in the house they’ll just plant
"I got a call from the FBI saying they wanted to talk to me. I told them my lawyer’s name and phone number. You can talk to him, but I’m not talking to the FBI. They said you’re being very uncooperative and you can be subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. I said go ahead and subpoena me. I made all my phone calls from pay phones.
"The phone company said I was chosen from a random sample and, free of charge, they wanted to install this new phone in my bedroom! I started noticing, when I went out to the grocery store, a car would pull out from the curb with two guys with trench coats and snap brim hats who would follow me to the store and back! It was just crazy, Just kooky. This changes your life.
"A bunch of us saw Dan off for a trip East at the L.A. airport.
People were there taking pictures of us. It was just ridiculous. In
September of that year two FBI men showed up at my door with a subpoena
to testify before the grand jury. I talked to my lawyer. You can’t take
a lawyer into the grand jury room, but you can cite the First Amendment
and the Fourth Amendment if you don’t want to testify. I refused to
testify. They had the option of
granting me immunity and then if I didn’t testify, they could have thrown me in jail for an indeterminate sentence. Thank God, they didn’t bother with that. It was really a terrifying time.
"That summer herpes hit Sandstone in a big way. I’d been hanging out a lot with Jeremy Slate, an actor and a member of Sandstone, a guy about my age. [The video link to Jeremy has a lot of stories about his life with Sally... Jeremy died in 2006] He was spending a great deal of time at my place. One night we were about to go to bed and he said, “Look at this funny thing I have on my penis.” It was a little tiny blister. Within a week we were both just riddled with herpes, which meant we couldn’t fuck anybody else.
"In the meantime Tony Russo had been put in jail, on Terminal Island. Jeremy and I would medicate our herpes and go to visit Tony in jail. It was a crazy time, absolutely crazy time. Dan’s trial was scheduled to begin in early ’73.
"Jeremy and I were both totally disenchanted with herpes and Sandstone. The FBI was bugging just about everyone. My friends were interviewed; my landlord was interviewed. We decided we would go to the Bay Area. Some friends of ours found us a house on Panoramic Highway above Mill Valley. Jeremy was still working in Hollywood part-time, traveling back and forth. Late that spring I got a phone call from Marilyn Burger who was then teaching at Goddard College in Vermont. She said we have an opening here in anthropology and Women’s Studies and would I like to come here for a year or two and teach.
"I thought, oh God, Vermont— wonderful, serene, beautiful Vermont. We packed up all our
things and went to Vermont for a year. I had forgotten all about the winters, having lived in California for so long. There was snow on the ground from November through May. It was so cold. After having spent two years as a practicing nudist, having to put on long underwear, mittens, scarves and layers before you could even step out the door!
"Goddard was a strange school. It was a place where upper
middle-class parents, whose kids had done too much drugs and were too
underachieving to get into Ivy League schools, wanted a nice, safe
place to send them. To put it mildly, it wasn’t a very serious academic
atmosphere. It was just God awful. Then the Watergate hearing happened,
Pentagon papers trial happened.
"I was glued to the television watching the Watergate hearings and we were all sweating out Dan’s trial, because they could have put him away for 115 years, if he had been convicted."
On The Road
“The summer of ’73, Jeremy and I left Goddard and bought a
motorhome, and decided to mosey on back to the West Coast. We decided
we loved living that way. Once again I put everything I owned in
storage. It was a marvelous way to live and to travel, because we
always had some of the creature comforts—our own bed and kitchen and a
flush toilet with us— and at the same time we were mobile. We could
stop and see friends all over the
"We spent about two months crossing the country and then lived in
the motor home from 1973 to 1976. Went down to Mexico and just
travelled. We were road bums. When our money ran out, we would come
back to L.A. just long enough for Jeremy to work, to be a guest star on
some series to pick up enough money to keep us in gas and food for the
rest of the way. We had a great time really. He’s a really neat guy and
one of my very
closest friends to this day.
"In ’75-’76 we decided to do an RV trip in Hawaii, but we needed a smaller vehicle than we had. We sold our big motorhome and found a place in Stinson Beach to live. We had a custom vehicle made. In July ’76 we flew over. There is a four month quarantine for dogs in Hawaii, and our dog was on Oahu in a quarantine station. We stayed on Oahu so we could visit our dog every day.
"Then we went to Maui and stayed there about eight months and went to the Big Island of Hawaii and stayed there about four months— spent the total of about one and a half years. It’s beautiful. I got into snorkeling for the very first time—spent a tremendous amount of my time just flat out looking at fish and eating mushrooms and just going crazy. We came back at the end of ’78 and got a place here in the City.
"Jeremy’s and my relationship takes some explaining. Since we had
met at Sandstone it was the assumption of our relationship that it was
an open one. He used to see other
people, and I used to see other people, but our favorite trip was bringing a friend home to bed and since we were both bisexual it didn’t matter whether our friend was male or female.
"We loved to bring home a friend and play; that was our thing. When
we got to San Francisco it became very clear to me here that the most
interesting people in this town were gay. I started hanging out with a
neat bunch of dykes I knew, and Jeremy
started hanging out in the gay baths.
"I started to be courted by, and fell head over heals in love with a lesbian, Jan, who was 20 years younger than I. Jeremy, who could handle a lot of things, just couldn’t handle that at all, and so he split. I don’t know if it was because it was a lesbian relationship or whether it was because I was in love with her in a way I had not been with him, or the intensity of our
connection that he found very, very threatening.
"Jan moved in with me. We were together for about seven years, which
was a fascinating experience. After having viewed the lesbian world
from the outside, seeing it from the inside as someone who was
partnered, was a totally different experience. I had my anthropologist
hat on the whole time thinking—my god, I really should be doing a paper
on this whole subculture, but at the same time thinking these were my
friends. I just never
would do anything to exploit them.
"Then AIDS hit and monogamy seemed to be the wisest option. Every time I get together with my old Sandstone friends we say all we could get was clap or herpes and it didn’t kill you— AIDS is deadly.
"My relationship with Jan in many way was making a transition from
middle age to being old and not doing it easily or well at all. It was
just awful and another rite of passage to get
through. When our sex lives got to be old, routine and dull, we talked at some lengths about opening things up and getting it on with other people, but it became very clear that we had something totally different in mind. With me there’s sex as play, as friendship, as fun, and then there’s making love. The two experiences are quite different for me.
"Jan is the kind of person that always had to be in love to be able
to be turned on. She started an affair with a much younger woman, which
I found extremely threatening. I was just freaking out and jealous as
hell. At the same time just thinking jealousy is politically
incorrect, what kind of terrible person am I to feel jealous and being eaten alive by this jealousy. We thrashed that one out and finally she stopped seeing her.
"We also thought it might be fun to go back to Maui, so we went back and stayed there about a year. We lived in Haiku near the pineapple fields in a funny little place called “Rice
Camp”, which was a settlement of Hawaiian and Filipino pineapple workers. We were the only ‘haoles’ there, certainly the only female couple there. The locals were suspicious
and unfriendly. The kids were extremely curious; they would come on the front porch and look in the windows. When we worked in the garden they would ask all kinds of questions, 'You guys married, you got kids, what you doing here?'— all kinds of things like that.
"Maui has a fairly large gay contingent, both male and female. There were Hawaii women’s
conferences which I was active in. The conferences were to get together the women from the five islands to foster support for the ERA. I was one of the organizers on Maui. I ran a workshop on sex and aging.
"Things got really, really tense between Jan and I over there, mostly over sexual issues. I asked her to leave and she came back here. I stayed on in Hawaii for six months. When I came back we got back together again, and lived together for a couple more years. Then she started an affair with another woman. It was a very exclusive thing; I was to have no part in it. We finally split up. It was a very difficult experience for both of us. We have finally recovered and are to the point where we are good friends and see each other about once a week or so for dinner.”
Anthropology and matriarchal-feminism
In 1979 Sally published an article entitled “Myths & Matriarchies”. A group of feminists protested Sally’s article as treason when she questioned their belief that women, in some remote prehistoric time, ruled their societies, under the guidance of the Mother Goddess.
“I first submitted “Myths & Matriarchies” to MS. magazine. Gloria Steinem was then editor. It was rejected.
"Dan Ellsberg knew Gloria. I said, 'Dan, call her and find out why.'
"The answer was she really didn’t care whether or not this matriarchy thing was true; she found it a useful thing for women to believe in. Like the tooth fairy, I guess. I don’t know what the hell she was talking about. That struck me as being one of most matronizing, objectionable, stupid things I’d ever heard in my life.
"Oh, was I trashed in the feminist press! 'She’s so male-oriented, no wonder! The male establishment has brain-washed her.' That kind of thing that you can’t argue against.
"Charlene Spretnak edited a book, The Politics of Women’s Spirituality: Essays on
the Rise of Spiritual Power Within the Feminist Movement. She included my paper in her book to show she’s broad-minded. She and Merlin Stone wrote a response to my article in which they redbaited me, which I thought was fascinating.
"I pissed off a lot of the soft-headed feminists. It seems to be so
obvious and so stupid—the function of all religion is to rationalize
the status-quo. For them to have wasted their time on this instead of
equal pay for equal work is trivializing feminism and is a total waste
of time. I got hate mail. The article was first published in a magazine
Behavior, now extinct. The editor said he received more nasty letters from that article than from anything they had published in years.
"The focus on the former glories of the "Matriarchy" drains off a
tremendous amount of energy and interest away from current problems,
like reproductive rights, equal wages for
equal work, medical care and so forth, into this never-never land of what might have been in the past.
in a critique of this whole matriarchy mother goddess thing, said,
'Mother goddesses are just as stupid a notion as father gods.' I think
she’s right. The bottom line in equal rights for women is not whether
or not there were mother goddesses in 4000
b.c.; it’s reproductive rights and getting paid the same amount of money for the same work. Every group invents a mythical past when they were once powerful and strong."
"I got involved with the Gray Panthers about 10 years ago, because they struck me as being a bunch of old feisty people and I was coming to terms with getting old and wanted to find some way of combining politics with that. The Gray Panthers seemed to be the answer. I was put on the board and made head of the board and served about a year, before Jan and I went to Maui. Since I’ve come back I’ve been active again. I’m now on the Board again and the housing committee.
"The point of the Gray Panthers is to build a movement of young and
old together. Their slogan is “Youth and Age in Action Together”. They
work on housing and medical care
and other related issues. They are national, but each chapter is autonomous. The Reagan administration cutting 90% of the budget for low-cost housing means that there is going to be no affordable housing in the city. We are trying to organize tenants and tell them what their rights are and what they can do to fight this. We’re trying to salvage something from the Section Eight Housing for low-income people. The housing situation in the City is disastrous. During the reign of Dianne Feinstein the stock of affordable housing dropped perilously, and furthermore, she said,”What homeless? I don’t see any
I’m also on the board of CUAV, which is Community United Against Violence, which has to do with gay bashing going on in town here.
"I keep saying I can’t go to one more demonstration, but still when political issues come up I find myself out in the street carrying a placard and marching. I keep telling myself it’s hopeless, stupid and a real waste of effort. I’ve been in demonstrations and come very close to getting my head beaten. My efforts have gone into the local level. I wanted to get Dianne Feinstein recalled. I hate that woman so much. She is such a self-seeking and selfaggrandizing human being and so cold. She will be the next governor, even though she left the City 180 million dollars in debt. Look what Reagan did— and people love him. We have national debt that is out of sight. Once you leave San Francisco her reputation is incredibly good. I worked hard on Harry Britt’s campaigns and I worked hard to get Art Agnos elected and trying to get us uninvolved in El Salvador and Nicaragua."
(When Sally made this prediction in 1988,
before Feinstein declared she was running, while she was still Mayor of
San Francisco. Feinstein was defeated in her bid for governor. In the
June 1992 primary, she received the Democratic Party’s nomination for
U.S. senator. Art Agnos, who served one term as mayor of San Francisco,
was defeated in the November 1991 election in his attempt at a second
term by Frank Jordan, former Chief of Police. Harry Britt was appointed
to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors when Harvey
Milk was assassinated by Dan White in 1978).
"Although each time I march in the streets I say this is the last time I do this idiot act, I can’t stop. I go on doing it because I get so frustrated I think if all I can do, is what I can do with my body that counts for something, I’ll put it out there.
"I’ve been active in politics all my life. I remember when I was 11 or 12 years old going around collecting money for the Lincoln Brigade, door to door. My parents had been Left,
but as they got money, they became more and more conservative. I grew up during the rise of fascism. Being Jewish gave me a very keen awareness of what was happening.
"In Chicago I found Ward politics there absolutely fascinating, Byzantine. It really was, just great! I just worked for the local ward-healer, worked on campaigns and canvassed. The first time I remember being photographed by the FBI, I was demonstrating outside the Federal Building in Chicago on behalf of the Rosenbergs.
"I was very active during the anti-Vietnam War era. I helped lots of students get out of the country by calling academic connections in Canada and getting them into school there. I told them what organizations were raising money to take care of students who were draft resisters. I was teaching at the time. I said I will not flunk any male student. That was a conflict of interest, but I did it anyway. Academia was so corrupt at that point anyhow.
"I have, I’m sure what amounts to very middle-class feelings about nonviolence. How could you not get involved in the civil rights movement of the Sixties? It was happening and I wanted to take part in it.
"I was on the Selma march in 1965. We marched down the main street of Selma and there was just absolute total silence. The streets were lined with local rednecks. There were thousands of us and all that could be heard were the sound of our footfalls. It was absolutely terrifying. Once we left town—hit the highway, that’s when all the cries of “nigger lovers!” could be heard. It was nice during that march to know that the army was on our side. They were lined up protecting the marchers. That was a very rare and wonderful feeling.
"When I went to Selma my father said, 'Why are you doing this?' I
said I could remember them saying to me in the Thirties, why wasn’t
someone doing something about what was
happening in Germany. But to them equating blacks with Jews was so bizarre they couldn’t understand it.
“I'm a volunteer on the switchboard. For the price of a phone call, anybody can get information. It is not a therapy or counseling switchboard; it is an informational switchboard. It’s for people who want to know what the symptoms of the clap are or where they can find a leather bar on Folsom Street. They run a training program for the switchboard volunteers. I’m their speaker on sex and aging. The gist of it my presentation: use it or lose it. That’s the message.
Harold and Maude
"I have a network of friends here, who I am very close to that I really love, from whom I get a lot of support. Since our initial interview, my sex life is reactivated. I have begun my “Harold and Maude” period. I’m seeing a 38 year old man and a 23 year old dyke. Also occasional group sex parties, safe sex, of course, with old friends.
"I am a total food freak. I spend a lot of time cooking food,
shopping for food and eating food. It is so funny since when I am by
myself I fix dinner. I have friends who come in
and the three courses and the glass of wine is there and the table is set. They say”you’re doing this for yourself?” It’s as if they had caught me masturbating—as though it’s indecent to be that good to myself.
"My friend asked me had I mentioned the three organizing principles of my life, which in her estimation were politics, food and sex. I said,”Not necessarily in that order.”
"My daughter has a grown boy and a daughter who will be thirteen. It’s great fun. I see them seldom, spoil them and love them and then walk off. Let somebody else take care of them, during teething and being sick and being naughty and all that shit. As my mother put it, her grandchildren were the dividends on her investment.
On special quality of life in the Bay area
“I’m an urban animal; I love cities. San Francisco is one of the last habitable cities left in terms of civility and not being totally trashed. I love the climate, the people, the whole ambience of the City. I love the tolerance it has, plus it is physically beautiful. I love looking down from my window. I love walking the streets.
"In 1933 my parents took my sister and me out of school for six months and we took the train out here. I remember the first time I saw San Francisco I promised myself that someday, when I grew up, I would live here. It took me until 1972 to finally make it, but I found it then."
"I don’t like having my body fall apart and being less strong. I
never really thought about my body until I was 55. Everything just
worked. I could eat anything; I smoked and drank. I always drank in
moderation, because I can’t tolerate a lot of alcohol, but it never
occurred to me to do something like exercise, because! When I started
having disc problems
in my back and neck,and went to various orthopedic people, faith healers, acupuncturists and massage people, I was told I should have a spinal fusion. I went to UC Medical Center’s
library and found there was 40% failure in that and I thought absolutely no way.
"The woman I was living with at the time said let’s join a gym. I
said no, I don’t do windows and I don’t intend to do gyms. She said oh
come on, and just through that serendipity of dragging me screaming and
kicking to a gym and trying Nautilus machines, after I had
gone three times, the backaches I had lived with for three years suddenly stopped.
"I thought this doesn’t make any sense at all, but apparently just building up the muscle tone and keeping the vertebrae from pressing down was enough that now I go three times a week. I come from a long line of peasants, which probably helps. The feedback in the gym is immediate; when I go I feel great. When I don’t go I feel creaky and lethargic and depressed. It really is a wonderful lift. If anyone had told me fifteen years back that I would be a geriatric gym junkie, I would have just laughed.
"You get a hell of a perspective on life when you get old. I found that when I was in my twenties, thirties and forties, being a female by myself on the streets, I always found myself being looked at, whistles and all that.
"Now when I am by myself, in a restaurant or in other public places, I have the same invisibility that a child has so that I can really observe things much more openly. You’re freer. A target is gone. All it takes is white hair and wrinkles and to most people you are just invisible. And infinite wisdom, of course. Don’t forget that! I am much more aware of patterns in my own behavior, because I have been living with them for so long.”
Photo: Jan, Sally, and Poodle Jake; Sally and Jeremy, both by Honey Lee Cottrell.