The Invisible Circus: 50 years ago this weekend
By California Historical Society

ave Hodges "Poster for The Invisible Circus: A 72 Hour Environmental Community Happening" (1967)
Dave Hodges “Poster for The Invisible Circus: A 72 Hour Environmental Community Happening” (1967)

The Invisible Circus was a wild happening in early 1967 orchestrated by three activist organizations: the Diggers, the Artist Liberation Front, and the GLIDE memorial church. To this day, the Invisible Circus remains legendary in San Francisco underground circles, in part because of disputes about what happened at the event and how long it actually lasted.

Promoted as a “72 Hour environmental community happening”, The Invisible Circus (also known as Rite by Spring) included live dispatches produced by an in-house media outfit headquartered in GLIDE’s basement cubicles, tonnes of packing foam throughout the building, lectures on the dangers of pornography, as well as rock music and a bacchanalia atmosphere inspired by the Human Be-In several weeks earlier in Golden Gate Park.

On the first night (a Friday) more than 5,000 people showed up and more were expected over the next two days. Eight or nine hours into the three-day event—with nude people passing candles and dripping wax around the congregation and a performance by Janis Joplin having stirred the crowd —Glide officials decided they had seen enough; the full event was called off by the first morning and revelers scattered elsewhere in the city to continue the celebration. Some returned on Sunday (in time for services led by revolutionary pastor Cecil Williams) to complete the event.

Overviews of the event, some in dispute, can be found at:

http://www.diggers.org/diggers/incircus.html

http://www.bobbybeausoleil.com/the-lucifer-rising-suite-a-journey-out-of-darkness.html

http://ritesofspring1967.blogspot.com/2014/02/rites-of-spring-is-poster-by-renowned.html

The colorful poster/handbill for the event (seen above) remains one of the most iconic of the era and can be seen in BAMPFA’s Hippie Modernism exhibition. Another poster (see below) was created for the “Circus” by the legendary poster artist Victor Moscoso.

The Invisible Circus The Diggers Artists Liberation Front & Glide Church Handbill Victor Moscoso 1967 Feb 24
The Invisible Circus The Diggers Artists Liberation Front & Glide Church Handbill Victor Moscoso 1967 Feb 24. Courtesy of OIC Vintage.
Free Diggers Party handbill.
Free Diggers Party handbill. Courtesy of ttexshexes