Perhaps the tale
of the world's first Peace Pentathlon should be told in comic-book form.
Certainly the plot is graphic enough—full of bright colors, bold caricatures
and quotes like SPLAT! and WOW! and VROOM! The characters themselves might have
stepped out of Barbarella by way of Prince Valiant, with stops at Tarzan,
Batman and Submariner. Then again, they might have stepped out of the Yellow
Take the hero.
Super Hippie, known to his friends as David Smith (see cover), a mild-mannered
former child prodigy in golf, swimming and skeet (Northern California, Class D
all-bore champion at 15) who has latterly devoted his life to a crusade against
competition. Not that he doesn't compete. He does, with himself. But he rejects
everything that smacks of organized athletics, from starter's pistols
("violent") to finish lines ("uptight"). Not to mention crew
cuts. Super Hippie's hairdo makes Joe Namath look like Mr. Clean, and he has
spaced-out eyes that scrutinize everything with X-ray vision. Well, at least he
can see through a put-on.
everyday costume—he calls it his No. 1 Adventurer's Outfit—is a sight to
behold. Pythonskin boots with scales like new dimes. Bell-bottoms in a shade he
calls "spiritual purple." A wool shirt with ballooning, black-velvet
sleeves and five-inch cuffs cut from the gaudiest tablecloth in Tangier. All of
it topped off by a leather vest with enough straps and buckles to give the
Marquis de Sade a tingle. His No. 2 Adventurer's Outfit—the one he wears in
action—is simpler: Adidas sneakers, a buckskin loincloth, a tie-dyed sleeveless
undershirt in blue and orange with a white peace symbol on the chest. To change
from No. 1 to No. 2. all he does is hum a few bars from the Beatles" Here
Comes the Sun.
Then there's the
Peace Pentathlon itself, a sequence of events that might have been lifted from
the panels of Terry and the Pirates and reworked through the head of an
underground newspaper cartoonist. The pentathlon was to take place in the U.S.
Virgin Islands, which by themselves are a kind of funny-paper fantasy land. All
in one day, and all by his noncompetitive lonesome. Super Hippie planned to
parachute into the sea, swim a treacherous five-mile channel between St. John
and St. Thomas, scuba dive through a chain of underwater caves, run for an hour
and a half through jungle and countryside and wind up with a hairy trail-bike
scramble up a steep and tortuous mountain road. Five physically demanding
events, a test of versatility and endurance, run back to back with a minimum of
rest in between. But why?
explained it all to a group of young black street fighters that he met on his
first night in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas. The kids wanted to reduce Super
Hippie to honky hamburger (after all, he did look a bit weird), but he pacified
them with his Brotherhood Rap, then bought them a drink at a waterfront
Smith and I'm down here to do this Peace Pentathlon," he said with a smile
devoid of aggression.
"You dig the
Olympic Games, right?"
man," said Charlie, the leader of the gang. "John Carlos and the black
glove, I dig that."
said Super Hippie, hunched over a tall orange juice, "they have a thing in
the Games called the pentathlon—that's Greek for a five-event athletic contest.
Running, shooting, fencing, swimming and riding a strange horse over enemy
turf. It's supposed to test the skills of a battlefield courier—like a
messenger who's got the word from one general to another."