"Groovy" and the MacDonald murders

If you’ve read “Fatal Vision” or any of the books criticizing Joe McGinniss’ acclaimed account, you’re familiar with Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, who was accused and convicted of murdering his pregnant wife and two young daughters in 1969. (I think there was also a TV movie on it.) According to MacDonald, the murders were committed by a bunch of drug-crazed hippies, who wrote “Pig” on the wall in Mrs. MacDonald’s blood. According to Jeff MacDonald, the female hippie chanted, “Acid is groovy,” among other things.

I was 13 when news of the murders came out. Remembering the Tate-LaBianca murders which had happened a short time before, I thought, “Wow! That’s heavy! Hippies are supposed to be all about peace and love!” But when details of the murders were reported, and my friends and I heard that one of the alleged killers (according to MacDonald) said, “Acid is groovy,” we had to laugh. Though it may not seem like it now, “groovy” was, in my recollection, a slang term with a very short life span. By 1969, I didn’t know a single young, hip person who still used the term.

In fact, as I recall, by 1969, the term was used primarily by 1) Sitcom writers and cartoonists, few of whom were young and hip, when writing dialogue for young, hip characters 2) Song writers, like The Turtles, who were trying to find a rhyme for “movie” (in “Eleanor”) and 3) members of the Establishment who were trying to establish their hipness and were painfully out of date. The song “Workin’ On a Groovy Thing” was a hit in 1969, but it was probably written earlier, was sung by the popular-but-not-cutting-edge-hip Fifth Dimension (I liked them, but come on, they opened for Frank Sinatra–a great singer, but pretty Establishment.) and it was written by Neil Sedaka, also not exactly a hippie.

OK, so as soon as my friends and I heard MacDonald quoting that “Acid is groovy” line, we laughed, and our immediate reaction was, “He’s LYING!” Not exactly enough to convict, and further reason why teens aren’t allowed to serve on juries.

So how wrong was my pubescent thinking on this topic? How long did the term “groovy” actually remain in the lexicon of truly young, truly hip people? (I know “groovy” experienced a recent upsurge in popularity; I’m not referring to that.) I don’t want to open up the whole topic of MacDonald’s guilt or whether McGinniss overstepped journalistic bounds. I just want to know about this “groovy” thing. Did anyone else who was around and old enough to understand the case think the term “groovy” was oddly out of date?

This has bothered me for years.

I think you are correct. His description of the alleged murderers seemed to be based on popular media depictions of hippies, and the Manson gang. I doubt anybody ever spoke like that in real life. At the time of the murders, terms like ‘groovy’ were a joke, often mocked with terms like ‘gravy’ and ‘farm out’.
Another case like this was Susan Smith who drowned her children in 1994. Her description of a non-existent car-jacker was remarkably similar to OJ Simpson, who was being tried for murder at the time.
In the MacDonald case, the military investigators were immediatly suspicious of his story. Even though they eventually found forensic evidence inconsistent with his story, criminal investigators are usually suspicious of any claim of a crime being commited by a mysterious stranger.
MacDonald may not have realized that the Manson family had scrawled the word ‘pig’ on a wall as part of a plan to tie the murder to ‘black’ militants, in order to start a ‘race’ war. He had taken an attempt to redirect guilt in one crime to do the same in his own crime.

His inlaws knew he was lying since he told the Army he did the dishes that night. They knew he never did dishes.

I was 16 in 1969. I recall thinking that “Acid is groovy” rang false as something an actual hippy would say; it sounded like what a straight would think a stereotypical hippy would say.

Right arm!

Out of state!

not that there’s anything wrong with hating hippies, mind you.

[Moderator Note]

I’m not sure what a comment like this is doing in GQ.

General Questions Moderator

just a joke, since the question has been addressed all other threads about hippies includes light-hearted hippie-hating, but I withdraw it.

I think he was adding to the late '60s ambience developing in this thread. It reflected common sentiments of the time.

Somewhere back there before all the silliness–out of state, indeed:rolleyes:–I think I got the answer I was looking for. It still seems odd nobody made a point out of it at the time, though. Thanks for the chuckles!

Given that a “late 60s ambiance” involved riots, burning cities, and large amounts of tear gas, I think it would be better to avoid developing it any further in this thread. :wink:

In any case, widespread bigotry against hippies was exactly the reason MacDonald thought they would make good scapegoats for his crime.

To the people saying that ‘Acid is groovy!’ isn’t something someone on acid would say, have you ever dropped acid?

Just asking.

Whenever I see people saying that “X would never say blank,” I want to go back and time and become an acid dropping hippie and say “Groovy!” just to prove them wrong. I’m not sure why.

“Groovy” was still used by some of my students in the early Seventies, but I don’t know what the OP has in mind for being “truly hip.”

The slang word “groovy” had been around longer than hipdom. I remember reading recently that musicians were using it in much earlier times beginning with the Thirties

I did react to “Acid is groovy” the same way that the OP did. It just didn’t seem plausible. But then I got to thinking – it might be the sort of thing people would say if they weren’t hip but wanted to seem hip.

Never did acid, but I did do mescaline a few times. And I wouldn’t have described that as “groovy.”

Thing is, “groovy” had a connotation of mellowness at the time. Marijuana might be described as “groovy.” Acid was more intense and hard-core. People I knew who did do acid (and I knew quite a few in college) wouldn’t refer their trips as being “groovy.” Doing coke (or for the really hard-core, smack) also wouldn’t be described as “groovy.”

Of course, none of this says it would be impossible for someone to say “Acid is groovy.” It just rings false.

taffygirl, some people at the time did realize that MacDonald’s story was suspect. They knew that his story of four hippies breaking in and killing his wife and his daughters didn’t make a lot of sense. The investigators on the case knew that what the hippies were supposedly doing and saying sounded fake. That’s why soon after the crime he was charged with the murders. The case was then dropped, partly because there wasn’t quite enough evidence to be sure that MacDonald could be convicted. It was only years later that it was decided that there was enough evidence to convict him that he was again charged with murder.

I remember this case, and I’ve always thought the hippie story just did not ring true.

To my middle-class teen self at the time, the “acid is groovy” remark sounded made up by someone who was trying to simulate hippie talk.

I don’t recall how MacDonald’s defenders (and they’re out there) explain this, but some have gone to great lengths describing weird counterculture types circulating in the area at the time of the murders. Though you’d expect if they were that far out (“Far out!”) they’d come up with better lines.

“Acid is groovy” was lame.

I haven’t tried it but doesn’t smack make you mellow? The closest I came was Vicodin so maybe I can’t talk.