Collegiate Survey Indicates Zappa And Wald Are Favourites

By Roger Doughty

Sarasota Journal, October 3, 1969

NEW YORK (NEA) – On the surface, Frank Zappa and George Wald don’t have much in common. Zappa, the zany Head Mother of the Mothers of Invention looks like the stereotype of a hippie, which he more or less is. Wald looks more like the kind of guy who delivers biology lectures at Harvard, which he does.

But deep down inside, where it really counts, Zappa and Wald march to the beat of the same drummer (probably Ringo Starr, at that). They’re both genuine, 100 per cent campus folk heroes, two of the ultrahip people whom today’s students revere, identify with and influenced by.

To find out just who the youth of America is turned on by, Youth Dynamics conducted a special survey for NEA and asked guys and gals on campuses as diverse as City College of New York and the University of Texas to fill us in on who’s hot on the superhero list these days.

Some campus heroes who finished high on the list are Eldridge Cleaver (“He’ll need all the ice he can find to keep his soul cool in Cuba,” one CCNY coed volunteered), Bob Dylan, Che Guevara, the Rev. William Sloan Coffin, John Lennon, Norman Mailer, Janis Joplin (one of the few females to crack the lineup), Arlo Guthrie, Robert Kennedy, Dustin Hoffman, Muhammad Ali and Bobby Seale (the Black Panther leader), all of whom are pretty predictable.

But, to see how your generations are gapping, try on Arthur C. Clarke, Laura Nyro, Carlos Castaneda, Hermann Hesse and Richard Farina.

If you know all five, you could rap with Zappa and come away fairly undamaged (no mean trick).

For those not in the know, Clarke, who is 51, wrote “2001” and is, as one Ohio Slate junior puts it, “the literary genius of the future,” which may or may not make the 46-year-old Mailer the literary genius of the past.

Miss Nyro sings, very well, too, and is going to be, according to the kids in the know, “one of the hottest singers in the country in the next three months. She’s the new Joni Mitchell.” (By the way, know who Joni Mitchell is?)

Hesse, a German novelist, wrote a lot of things of interest to young readers these days. His “Das Glasperlenspiel,” written in 1945, deals with a utopian fantasy on the philosophy of withdrawal from the world. He also authored “Der Steppenwolf” in 1927 (it deals with the confusion of modern life and still makes great reading). There’s a rock group called Steppenwolf.

Castaneda is the author of a tome about Don Juan, a Yaqui Indian who dreamed up a “way of knowledge” while munching on plants in Arizona, while Farina, by far one of the most revered figures on campus, is the late brother-in-law of Joan Baez and the subject of some of her most moving writings and comments.

Robert Downey, who put together “Putney Swope,” the witty up-with-black-folks flick, is tabbed as a super-hero on the way up, while Peter Fonda is busting through, thanks to “Easy Rider.”

But by far and away the most talked about figures, the survey shows, are Zappa and Wald.

Wald was making his way through life with a lot of success (he won a Nobel Prize, for medicine and physiology, in 1967) and not too much fanfare until last March, when he delivered a speech on “A Generation in Search of a Future” to 1,500 students and scientists at MIT. Now he’s hailed as the patron saint of the young, “The next Dr. Spock,” according to the survey crowd, and for good reason.

A typical Waldism goes like this:

“I think this whole generation of students is beset with a profound uneasiness and I don’t think they have quite defined its source. I think I understand the reasons for their uneasiness even better than they do. What’s more, I share their uneasiness.”

As for Zappa, a frequent lecturer on campuses around the country (he doesn’t have a Nobel Prize, but he’s all for peace), his role as a social worker through music has made him something of a giant in his field.

“The only way you can fight for survival is through social outrage,” Zappa says, and today’s students seem to be tuned in to what the self-proclaimed oracle of rock has to say. 

Zappa, who seems to take life with a grain of salt (he's been accused of putting down everything), is a firm believer that “good people come in all kinds of personal packaging,” which may explain why he looks nothing at all like George Wald.

One thing they do have in common, though, is that they’re both over 30. But, of course, they both know all about Hermann Hesse.

This syndicated article was published in many newspapers in September and October 1969.

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