In 1969, a former Maryknoll seminarian from East Los Angeles named Tom Dunphy moved to Berkeley. Several years earlier he had been ordained “General Wastemoreland,” alluding to and mocking General William Westmoreland who commanded United States Army forces in South Vietnam. Dunphy in his Wastemoreland persona, bedecked in an over-the-top imitation of a military uniform, was a one-man anti-war guerrilla theater until the war in Vietnam ended, brightening and lightening Berkeley and anti-war protests around the country. He is still with us, doing good works as Tom Dunphy, with his Wastemoreland uniform safely archived at the Bancroft Library.
Dunphy was born in 1944 into a devout German/Irish Catholic family living in the heart of Spanish-speaking Chicano East Los Angeles. When a junior in high school, Dunphy entered the Maryknoll seminary in Mountain View, which provided four years of high school and four years of college education. He spent years in Mountain View, the Maryknoll seminary in Glen Ellyn south of Chicago, and then St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. He earned several degrees. Most if not all of his classes were taught in Latin. With still years to go before reaching full priesthood, Dunphy left the seminary, partly because he simply did not feel called to the priesthood any longer and partly because he disapproved of Los Angeles Cardinal James Francis Aloysius McIntyre’s pro-war, rightwing politics.
After a year at CSU Los Angeles and having gotten job as a social worker,, Dunphy met General Hershey Bar, a former dancer named Bill Matons who after a few decades living as Calypso Joe and the Calypso Kid had adopted the satirical persona of a general who was a vehement opponent of the war in Vietnam. The nom de guerre was a play on General Lewis Blaine Hershey, the Director of the Selective Service System.
The General had written a small satirical book entitled Kiss Don’t Kill. Dunphy was instantly struck with the same passion and conviction that had led him into the seminary. With General Hershey Bar, he felt as if he had been sent on an errand. For a year – more or less – Dunphy visited college campuses hawking Kiss Don’t Kill, sometimes in the company of General Hershey Bar and sometimes on his own.
The two traveled to an anti-war demonstration in San Francisco. Dunphy was still employed as a social worker and so had a car and gas money. As they left the demonstration for the trip back to Los Angeles, General Hershey Bar said, “Tom, would you like to be a general?” Dunphy said, “Yeah, okay.” They settled on the name Wastemoreland (“I waste more land than any other general!”) and General Hershey Bar lined out the steps Dunphy had to take to become a general – make his uniform, adorn said uniform with medals and plastic war toys, print draft cards, and fake newspapers.at the Earl Hayes Press in Hollywood.
The two made hundreds of trips to college campuses, using satire (or is it parody?) to preach an anti-war message. Their jokes evoke, for me at least, a vaudeville comedian’s jokes.
They also produced low-production-value comics called Peace Nuts. The drawings were by William Stout, a young student on a scholarship at the Chouinard Art Institute within the California Institute of the Art. Stout has gone on to become a famously diverse artist of international renown. In late November he saw the publication of Fantastic Worlds – The Art of William Stout, a massive retrospective on his fifty-year career as an illustrator, comic artist and filmmaker.
For his last several years living in Los Angeles, Dunphy slept on the couch of friends and wrote Get Off Your Apathy! about Florence Beaumont, which was published by General Hershey Bar’s Handicap Publications.
On October 15, 1967, Florence Beaumont, a Southern California housewife and mother, became so frustrated with the lack of progress toward ending the war in Vietnam she went to downtown Los Angeles, set her purse down in front of the Federal Building, poured gasoline on herself, and set herself on fire.
Although he lived in Los Angeles, Wastemoreland loved the counterculture scene in San Francisco.
Dunphy moved to Berkeley for good in 1969. Several years of couch-surfing In Los Angeles while writing Get Off Your Apathy had left him penniless. He relied on the kindness of his sisters Ginger and Rose but lived much of the year on the street.
By the end of the year, he had addressed some mental health issues and had pulled out of the dive. He made a new uniform, something which he did several times over the years, starting with a uniform from an Army surplus store and then embellishing it. With a new uniform, he once again emerged as General Wastemoreland in public.
In late November 1969, he flew as General Wastemoreland to Montreal for the Hemispheric Conference to End the War in Vietnam. Hoàng Minh Giám, the leader of the North Vietnamese delegation, gave Dunphy the microphone and let Dunphy tell anti-war jokes in French: “Vive le General! ” Giám then presented Wastemoreland with a medal, quipping, “You are my favorite general.”
On March 7, 1970, three days after his 26th birthday, he married Elizabeth Schwartz at the University Lutheran Chapel at 2425 College Ave. in Berkeley. They met in front of the Med. She was a Hare Krishna. They were living together in her home at 2728 Garber St.
The wedding was announced in the February 27 edition of the Barb. “All the local antiwar people” were cordially invited. Harold Adler, a professional photographer, made these great photographs of the wedding. He did so in his capacity as a friend and admirer, not as a professional gig.
Officiants included Richard York of the Berkeley Free Church (frizzy hair), Bishop Phillip Emmons, Isaac Bonewits of the Universal Life Church, the Rev. Mike Likin of the Episcopal Church Berkeley, his Holiness Pope Morris Kight of the Holiness Church for the liberation of Love and Peace, and a priest from the Russian Orthodox church.
Standing to the right of Wastemoreland in the peace cake photo is Mona Bazaar, the author of several self-published books: Exotic Recipes for a World Without War (1963); Free Huey: Or the Sky’s the Limit (1968); The Trial of Huey Newton; Selected Articles and Statements (1968); Black Fury: Police Brutality, White Racism(1968); The End of Silence (editor) (1970); and Cookbook in Solidarity with the Symbionese Liberation Army (date unknown).
The marriage didn’t last long.
Later in 1970, Dunphy as Wastemoreland was flown to England and spent several months in Europe. Warner Brothers spent nearly a million dollars putting together the Medicine Ball Caravan, as 150 recruited hippies undertook a cross-country tour from San Francisco to D.C., living the “Aquarian lifestyle” and staging a series of free concerts along the way. It was not without authenticity, as Wavy Gravy and some Hog Farmers were part of the group.
A group of rich Berkeley hippies somehow connected to the caravan paid for Dunphy/Wastemoreland to fly to Washington D.C.
In Washington, he met up with the caravan, appeared in an anti-war demonstration, and made the trip to London.
The crowning moment of the time in England was to have been the last concert of the Medicine Ball Caravan. The concert was held on Aug. 31st at Charlton Park, Bishopsbourne, Kent near Canterbury. It was an utterly profound failure.
After the Canterbury Festival, Dunphy stayed on in London for several months as the guest of Jay and Fran Landesman. They were a high-profile hip American couple with counterculture connections stretching from the Beats to the beautiful people of the late 1960s. Through them he met George Harrison of the Beatles, the Italian writer Niccolò Tucci, and through Tucci he met Fellini.
On November 8, 1970, David Frost booked Jerry Rubin as a guest on his television show. Berkeley’s Stew Albert was on stage with Rubin at the beginning of the segment
By the end of the segment, some 20 Yippies – including General Wastemoreland – had taken over the stage in front of 17 million viewers. Frost saw the show as an advertisement for law and order. Others saw it differently. General Wastemoreland eloquently explained that his uniform was a tribute to the millions who died in world wars.
Back in the USA, Wastemoreland kept up his one-man guerrilla theater. He went from state to state, campus to campus, living on the generosity of students. He believes that he was arrested 52 times.
Around 1976, Wastemoreland moved to Cotati.
General Wastemoreland earned his five stars in Cotati. At his urging, the City Council declared the city a national monument, something which Wastemoreland hoped would prevent high-rise apartments from being built. He failed a few weeks later to get a resolution passed to seek federal recognition of the landmark status. Vice Mayor Henry Fassin stormed out of the meeting, calling the plan “Ridiculous.” In Cotati, Wastemoreland became vocal about socialism: “Capitalism is directly opposed in Christianity. Socialism is the country’s savior.”
In 1977, Wastemoreland was hit crossing a street by a drunk driver with no lights. He sustained multiple broken bones and suffers still from short-term memory loss. He moved with Ginger back to Berkeley.
The environment in which General Wastemoreland once thrived had changed. He slowly faded away and Tom Dunphy the conscientious pacifist Catholic emerged. He did work for the Native American Health Center in San Francisco and helped out at the Saint Anthony’s Foundation. He has taught Latin and Greek at the North Berkeley Senior Center. He remains an observant Roman Catholic, and for decades has attended mass at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic church on Addison in Berkeley.
Dunphy/Wastemoreland is at times associated with the Yippies. It is an association or comparison that seems on its face to be valid, but it only goes so far. Like the Yippies, Wastemoreland was a highly theatrical, anti-authoritarian practitioner of street theatre and symbolic politics. Unlike the Yippies, who were grounded on pop culture, the excesses of the 1960s counterculture, and a naked anti-authoritarianism, Wastemoreland was grounded in Roman Catholicism and pacifism. He was ours for much of his anti-military career. People who were here then light up when I mention his name. He was a beacon in a chaotic and troubling time.
He lives a quiet life now, surviving on disability payments.
His uniform is archived at Cal, but he has his photographs and letters and poems and books. And memories. On Jefferson just south of University, near his apartment, a mural celebrates him.
Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,000 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-plus-year resident muses on what it all means. A much longer and more idiosyncratic version of this post may be seen at Quirky Berkeley.