december playmate gloria root covers the hip scene from taos to amsterdam
As American poets from Walt Whitman to Chuck Berry have frequently suggested, the great expanse of the North American continent tends to make migrants of those who live on it. Twenty-one-year-old Gloria Root is one of the new breed of urban nomads who -- in Berry's words -- "live and love across both borders, trip East and West from coast to coast." In the past year and a half -- since she decided that the nine-to-five work routine was a down trip after toiling on a telephone switchboard in Chicago -- Gloria has sallied from her Windy City apartment to spearfish in Mexico, ski in Colorado and otherwise pass the time among her peers in such ports of call as New York, San Francisco, Big Sur, Santa Fe and a bohemian community near Taos, New Mexico. Gloria has descended upon most of these locales without knowing anyone in the area, but, as she candidly puts it, "The way the hip scene is, if you look the part, you're in. Kids move around so much today that when I go to a city I've visited before, I never find the same people there. But it's easy for me to make new friends." One sure-fire way to strike up a conversation with most representatives of Gloria's generation is to mention politics; and she finds that wherever she goes, she hears much talk about revolution among her socially alert but alienated contemporaries. Gloria herself follows current events with an almost religious fervor. Although she digs skiing or taking in a ballet recital, she's more likely to be watching TV newscast or making her way through a volume by one of her favorite radical philosophers, such as Herbert Marcuse, Paul Goodman or the legendary Russian anarchist Prince Kropotkin.
It is Gloria's conviction that a major upheaval is both necessary and inevitable in the United States. "We've managed to narrow down all the freedoms we take pride in. We've created a political aristocracy that we didn't want, and too many of us are hopelessly trapped in that tired old business of getting an 'education' and a job that doesn't mean anything." Gloria believes that American society today contains a "hard-core revolutionary middle" that bridges economic, racial and generational gaps -- "not just a radical rabble, as the politicians would have us believe." She outspokenly favors a militant approach in dealing with the establishment: "When they club people on the head during a confrontation, it lets the whole world know how coercive the system really is. Until the week of the 1968 Democratic Convention, most of the country didn't realize how bad things could be -- and since then, a lot of them have forgotten. That's why demonstrations and protests are necessary -- to dramatize the dissenting viewpoint."
Relatively pacific means of expressing independence, such as drug consumption and way-out styles of dress, however, do have at least symbolic value in Gloria's view of things politic: "Individuals who have used hallucinogens or pot can experience life in more subtle ways and accept each other more readily than people who haven't." And unorthodox costumes, according to Gloria, serve to remind orthodox citizens "that there are other ways to live than what happens to be considered 'normal' here and now. If more people cared enough to expand their viewpoints by studying history or anthropology, they'd realize how many different life styles are natural and they'd be more tolerant. Young people aren't pushing any particular life style -- just the freedom to choose. And the youth revolution bridges all boundaries."
Eventually, Gloria expects to widen her own intellectual horizons by completing her formal education (she has studied at Illinois and at Northwestern's Chicago branch). For the immediate future, however, her plans call for a trip to Europe, where she'll visit such outposts of social change as Amsterdam and London and reconnoiter with the Old World's young radicals. We're sure that wherever Gloria wanders, she'll turn people's heads -- and blow their minds.
Photography by Pompeo Posar