The Invisible Circus was one of the defining moments in the emerging counterculture of San Francisco. It was the Digger answer to the Human Be-In which was a magical event for many, and yet replicated the same stage-star-syndrome that was so antithetical to the Digger-do spirit of personal autonomy. The Invisible Circus was the opposite. There were no stars, just venues. Rooms and hallways and sanctuaries to “do your own thing”—whatever the creative impulse would inspire. Billed as a 72-hour happening, the event started at 8pm on Friday, February 24, 1967 at Glide Church in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, the site of one of the Free Fairs that the Artists Liberation Front had organized the previous Fall. By Saturday morning (2/25/67) things were getting a bit out of hand. The ministerial leadership of Glide called it quits. But the stories about the Invisible Circus would circulate for years (decades). Here’s the Dave Hodges poster that announced the event.
During the brief existence of the Invisible Circus, Chester and Claude set up the John Dillinger Computer instant news service in one of the backrooms at Glide Church with their Gestetner mimeograph machine and Gestefax scanner, and they churned out dozens of bulletins all night long. When I started collecting Communication Company broadsides in 1971, a friendly soul let me xerox his collection of Invisible Circus printouts. Unfortunately all the copies in the Digger Archives are now third generation copies. There are several which are iconic of the times but are now too faded to scan. I made a facsimile of one, “Dear mom and dad … from Emil” (see below). Such a gest, so typical of Com/Co’s style.