Hiawatha Bailey calls the ’60s in Ann Arbor “a rare moment in space and time when everything just came together.”

Bailey was a member of the White Panthers, a group that worked with the Black Panthers for equal rights for African-Americans, during those years. It’s stories like his — stories about hanging out with John Lennon and protesting on South University Avenue — that have inspired Alan Glenn’s documentary film “Ann Arbor in the 60s.” The film, which is “still in the research stage,” has evolved greatly since its inception.

“Originally, it was just going to be a film about interesting people in Ann Arbor,” Glenn said, “kind of like an Errol Flynn kind of film.”

But now the film has become an exposition of the ’60s as an era in Ann Arbor. Glenn had been writing a series of articles for The Ann Arbor Chronicle spotlighting members of the community who were active and influential during the ’60s. The articles converged into his new vision for “Ann Arbor in the 60s,” because the characters he was interviewing were good candidates for a more historically based documentary.

“The hippie-type person that I was learning about became what the film was devoted to, because they seemed to me the most interesting ones,” he said.

During the ’60s, Ann Arbor was a center of radicalism and cultural movement. Glenn hopes to show how the town attracted visitors including Bob Seger and John Sinclair (A Detroit poet and drug activist whose story inspired the creation of Hash Bash), and how it was among other college towns like Berkeley, Calif. and Madison, Wisc. where the New Left really got a foothold.

“The ’60s were a turbulent time, but without Ann Arbor they wouldn’t have been in the same way,” Glenn said.

Bailey agreed: “We were out there protesting, and we did change things. Everybody was a hippie then, and went out to protest.”

Glenn also hopes to feature the role the University played in shaping the times. As a college town, he says, Ann Arbor was a hotbed of student activism. The first meeting for Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was held in Ann Arbor, and President John F. Kennedy introduced the bill to form the Peace Corps on the steps of the Union.

Bailey sees these events as proof of the freedom inherent to the college setting.

“The power of the people was really in the students,” Bailey said. “You know, here they were, away from their parents, having sex for the first time, dosing on acid, and they could run into Jimi Hendrix and shake his hand. They could really express themselves and could use their parents old constructs and political system to change what was going on.”

Despite its prominence during that time period, Ann Arbor didn’t share in much of the media exposure given to Berkeley and Madison. But Glenn may have an explanation.

“Well, (Ann Arbor) wasn’t as violent as a lot of the other towns,” Glenn said. “The President of the University at that time, President (Robben) Fleming, worked to diffuse violence (against students), rather than just crushing the opposition.”

But Glenn doesn’t want to claim that Ann Arbor was devoid of tension or violence during the long ’60s.

“The police were pretty lenient, but there was one sheriff who did want to go out and bust heads and teach lessons,” Bailey said. “(There would) be a bunch of hippies just sitting there, drawing with chalk and tripping on acid and he’d come up and drag them off the street and cut their hair.”

But what Glenn really hopes to feature in “Ann Arbor in the 60s” is how the town served as a cultural Mecca during those times, inspiring new sounds and artists.

“I talked to Mike Luntz (of Brownsville Station) and he said that there are cities that pop up every so often that just act as a place for talents to converge,” Glenn said. “It was Seattle in the ’90s, Minneapolis in the ’80s, and it was Ann Arbor in the ’60s.”

It’s this cultural movement and the talent it attracted that Glenn hopes will make “Ann Arbor in the 60s” a success.

“It has celebrities: Bob Seger, Iggy Pop, Tom Hayden, Bill Ayers, Gilda Radner, Christine Lahti, John Lennon, Paul McCartney. It has excitement — sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. It has plenty of sensationalism,” Glenn said.

Like many small-time filmmakers, Glenn is struggling to fund his endeavor. He said he has received a few small grants so far but is looking for people who are willing to invest and are just as passionate about the subject matter.

While Ann Arbor may no longer be overrun with hippies drawing chalk pictures on the sidewalk, Glenn feels the subject matter of the film is still relevant.

“The ’60s are still a popular topic, and they’re still very much with us,” Glenn said, “Witness the Bill Ayers flap during the last election. The ’60s have been in the air of late – 40th anniversaries and such – and so this seems like a perfect time for a film like this.”

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