Born in 1936, Hugh Romney was an improvisational actor and standup comic who befriended Lenny Bruce
and Bob Dylan
when he settled in New York's Greenwich Village in the early '60s. Romney's career took him to the West Coast in the mid-'60s, where he fell in with Ken Kesey
's Merry Pranksters and became a key figure in the early days of the hippie movement. Adopting the nickname "Wavy Gravy", he embraced the persona of a playful clown, in part because he observed that hippies got arrested at protest marches, but clowns in parades did not. Wavy Gravy and his wife formed a commune in Berkley, CA, called the Hog Farm, and members of the group were hired to help with security at the Woodstock rock festival in 1969, with Romney dubbing his group "The Please Force." Wavy Gravy became one of the more visible figures in the '60s counterculture scene, but unlike some of his peers, he never lost track of the ideals that came to symbolize the decade; well into his seventies, Wavy Gravy still works on behalf of environmental concerns, operates a camp (Camp Winnarainbow) that teaches clowning to homeless and underprivileged children, helps run a charitable organization (the Seva Foundation) that funds eye care for the poor in the Third World, and works with children living with brain injuries. Described by his friend Paul Krasner
as "the illegitimate son of Harpo Marx
and Mother Theresa", Hugh Romney's remarkable life story is brought to the screen by filmmaker Michelle Esrick in the documentary Saint Misbehavin': The Wavy Gravy Movie
. The film had its world premiere at the 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival.