Drugs, dirt and hot German bikers: Two teens who ran away to Woodstock recall the adventure of a lifetime
Maureen McFadden, a 17-year-old theater nerd, ironed a hippie-style peasant blouse and defied her mother to head to the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair that became the soundtrack of her life.
That weekend, from August 15 to 18, the Philadelphia teen took drugs, made out with a German biker and partied in the muddy mess of Max Yazgur’s Bethel, New York, farm.
“I just can’t believe that I saw all of those people in one weekend. It is more than any music lover could have asked for,” McFadden said.
She vividly recalls performances 50 years ago by the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
“It went the full spectrum. It was pretty fantastic,” said McFadden, now a 67-year-old entertainment publicist in Santa Barbara, California.
Her Woodstock odyssey included a sidekick from her Catholic Youth Theater Organization, Denise Montana, who told her parents that she was going to see plays in New York City and would directly return to Philadelphia.
“I lied because she would never let me go,” Montana said. “There was no way I was missing Woodstock.”
Montana called from a Manhattan pay phone to tell her mother that she was really headed to Woodstock and would be safe.
“And I can still hear her scream, ‘WHAT?’ ” Montana said.
‘Crazy theater people’
The teenage theater pals joined other actors on the road trip, missed the first Friday night of folk-oriented music and arrived at Woodstock on Saturday, ready to get loaded.
“We had our mescaline; we had our hashish,” McFadden explained. “And it did enhance everything. Everybody took care of everybody at Woodstock.”
“We were crazy theater people,” Montana added.
The friends recall sharing the ground with handsome long-haired German bikers.
“They had a blanket. We didn’t have a blanket,” McFadden said. “It didn’t matter that they couldn’t speak English. They were rebels and we were rebels, so boom!”
McFadden said she and one biker didn’t venture much past “second base” on the slushy field, and the real romance was with her rock heroes.
“The Who played every great song they had written up to that point,” McFadden gushed. “Roger Daltrey had on this outfit with these long fringes on it, and we were tripping, and we would watch the [fringes’] trails and go ‘oooooh.’ ”
“Janis Joplin sounded wonderful,” Montana remembered. “Jimi Hendrix sticks out. When [Monday] he did his last song, it was perfect to leave when he was playing ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’ ”
Together — McFadden, Montana, their theater pals and the German bikers — tripped, danced and sang the weekend away, along with an estimated 350,000 to 450,000 other youth.
‘Peace and love’
Montana, 68, is a professional singer still living in Philadelphia who scored a hit in 1976 with “Merry Christmas All.”
Woodstock fills her soul, in a sort-of tough-edged Philly way.
“I’m kind and gentle, unless somebody pisses me off,” Montana said.
McFadden works as a publicist out of a house decorated with a menagerie of eye-popping mementos from the late ’60s, including the same wooden boxy radio where she first listened to artists who later serenaded her at Woodstock.
“There are a lot of people who still live by the Woodstock credo of peace and love,” McFadden said, wearing a psychedelic orangey red tie-dye shirt and peace-sign necklace.
“I signed my letters ‘peace and love’ ever since. I’ve had a couple people in business say, ‘peace and love, though?’ And I’m like, yeah. Peace and love. Don’t forget about that. That is what it’s all about.”
McFadden said her late single-parent mom forgave her for disobeying a no-Woodstock order. But details of drugs and hot German bikers probably have her rocking and rolling in her grave.
“She was glad I got home safe and sound; that was her main concern,” McFadden said. “She knew she had taught me well.”
McFadden believes that there’s a lesson here, arguing that a polarized America could use a Woodstock festival right now.
“Damn straight. Damn straight we could,” McFadden exclaimed. (Plans for an anniversary show were scrapped this month.)
“We need to be reminded about that. That it’s not just all the bullshit we hear every day. Take a breath, think of where you are, think of who you love, keep them near.”