1960s Hollywood riots and kissing a Sunset pig

While in Europe and feeling homesick, Joni Mitchell composed the song, California, in which she pines for her adopted home, determined to return soon.

To express how much she misses the Golden State, she writes:

Oh but California
California I'm coming home
I'm going to see the folks I dig
I'll even kiss a Sunset pig
California I'm coming home

The “kiss a sunset pig” line may be cryptic to some folks who are unfamiliar with the time and the culture of Hollywood in the late 1960s and early ’70s, but it’s crystal clear to anyone who lived in the area at the time.

“Pig,” of course, is the pejorative name for police adopted by the ’60s counterculture. Kids on Sunset Boulevard used the term freely against cops when they began enforcing a 10 p.m. curfew because local business owners were rattled that the Sunset Strip, a 12-block stretch of the boulevard, had become a popular hangout for young people from all over Southern California.

The curfew sparked a series of riots in November 1966 because youths felt that their right to be part of the exciting psychedelic music scene that was flourishing at iconic nightclubs like Whiskey a Go Go and Pandora’s Box was being violated.

According to the Associated Press, “A group of 55 Sunset Strip merchants demanded that Mayor Samuel W. Yorty close down the gathering places they called ‘public nuisances.’”

Police Capt. Charles Crumley complained of “hoodlums living like bums in Hollywood advocating such things as free love, legalized marijuana and abortion.” Perish the thought!

Kids gathered one evening in front of Pandora’s Box to protest the curfew, which touched off a riot that “sucked in 1,000 juveniles and young adults.” There were more than 50 arrests during that weekend on charges ranging from disturbing the peace to felonious assault.

The unrest on the Strip was front-page news in Southern California, and disc jockey Humble Harv, then with radio station KBLA-AM 1500, devoted an entire hour call-in show to the topic.

Among the protesters at the riots were actors Peter Fonda, who was arrested, and Jack Nicholson.

A front-page story in the San Bernardino Sun on Nov. 28 recorded the melee this way:

There were an estimated 1,500 young people, longhaired and some short, mini-skirted girls, people under and over 18, jamming the Strip when police and deputies waded in with prodding nightsticks.

One youngster told a newsman: “The cops look at your hair first, then decide whether you’ve broken the law.”

The riots inspired Stephen Stills — then of Buffalo Springfield and later of Crosby, Stills and Nash — to write the following lyrics to the song For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey What’s That Sound):

What a field-day for the heat 
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

It's s time we stop,
Hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

This is where I write to amuse myself.