The Nature Boys of Los Angeles

June 4, 2013 Comments Off

My essay on the Nature Boys of Los Angeles, a.k.a. how German Lebensreform philosophies were imported to the deserts, canyons, and streets of Southern California to pave the way for the 1960s counterculture (with a darker result across the sea), a.k.a. Hippies vs. Nazis, was published recently by Frieze magazine. Read it here.

William Pester, the Hermit of Palm Springs, ca. 1917.

Mentioned in the article are: Gypsy Boots, Eden Ahbez, the Eutropheon Live Foods Cafeteria, Maxmillian Sikinger, John and Vera Richter, Hermann Sexauer, William Pester, the Health Hut in L.A., Nat King Cole (!) who sang Ahbez’s song Nature BoyLebensreform philosophy, Monte Verita, Herman Hesse, Gusto Gräser, the Wandervogel movement, Aryan athletics, the pacifist film The Boy with the Green Hair (1948), McCarthyism, and the Hollywood Blacklist. 

I have a few acknowledgments to make. First to the weird and wonderful annals of Arthur Magazine, who published an incredible photo of the  Nature Boys eating watermelons in Hollywood on their blog a couple years ago. Next, to artist Luke Butler, who reminded me (in a conversation about something completely different) that Hitler was a vegetarian. And then to Gordon Kennedy’s wild and weird out-of-print book Children of the Sun: A Pictorial Anthology From Germany to California 1883-1949 (Nivaria Press, Ojai, 1998). I hope this book gets re-published by someone out there.

Sources included:

-William Clark, Jim Cogan, Quincy Jones, Temples of Sound, Inside the Great Recording Studios (San Francisco: Chronicle, 2003)

-Martin Green, Mountain of Truth: The Counterculture Begins, Ascona, 1900-1920 (Boston: Tufts University, University Press of New England Hanover and London, 1986) 

-Michael Hau, The Cult of Health and Beauty in Germany: A Social History, 1890-1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003)

-Richard Miller, Bohemia: The Protoculture Then and Now (Chicago: Nelson Hall, 1977)

-Charles Nordhoff, California for Health, Pleasure and Residence, (New York: Harpers and Brother Publishers, 1873)

-James Palmer and Michael Riley, The Films of Joseph Losey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993)

-Karl Toepfer, Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture 1910-1935 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997)

-John Alexander Williams, Turning to Nature in Germany: Hiking, Nudism, and Conservation, 1900-1940 (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2007)

-Richard Ungerwitter, Nudity and Morality, 1906

-Anton Wagner, Los Angeles: The Development, Life, and Form of the Southern California Metropolis, 1935

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