By Maggy Donaldson
Nick and Bobbi Ercoline had only been dating three months when they joined flocks of their peers for the 1969 Woodstock blow-out that would become emblematic of their generation.
Months later and still falling for each other, the lovers realized they, too had become symbols: their heartstring-tugging image had gone down in history on the cover of the live album compiling highlights of the milestone music festival.
“We were like, are you kidding us? It was total shock,” Nick said, recalling the moment the couple saw themselves embracing on the now iconic album art, wrapped in a blanket amid the sea of humanity flowing over the alfalfa fields of Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York.
Fifty years on they’re regulars—rock stars even—at the Bethel Woods Center of the Arts that today runs the grounds where greats like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin jammed in torrential rain.
“We did not realize what we had really witnessed or had been part of until we got quite a distance from it,” Bobbi told AFP at the opening night of Woodstock’s 50th anniversary commemorations at Bethel.
“Every year further from it you look back and you realize—that was really something pretty phenomenal,” she said, as a fellow aging hippie donning frayed denim shorts, a fringed midriff halter top and long blonde pigtails frolicked nearby.
The pair nuzzle and smooch like honeymooners despite being married 48 years this month, and accommodate the many gawkers—many of whom have copies of the album in tow—eager for selfies and autographs.
Their place in pop culture lore “hasn’t changed our lives, but it certainly has enhanced it,” Bobbi said.
“I’m very thankful to have been a little part of this whole Woodstock experience,” she said, before giving Nick a loving glance. “And that I get to share it with the man that I’ve known for 50 years.”
Patchouli oil and weed
The lovebirds, who still live near the original Woodstock grounds, don’t remember the moment photographer Burk Uzzle snapped the image that showcases Nick’s mass of curls and Bobbi’s oversized sunglasses.
“But that’s a pose that you can see every morning in our house,” Nick said with a grin. “Either in the bedroom or the kitchen, first thing in the morning or the last thing at night.”
“What you don’t notice is when he talks too much I pinch his hand behind his back,” Bobbi chimed in.
She said her memories of Woodstock mostly pertain to the senses: “the smells... it was hot, humid, damp summer. It was campfires and cooking and patchouli oil and weed and body odor and vomit,” she said.
“Your senses were bombarded.”
But the Woodstock vignettes kept their charm, she said, sighing as she waxed nostalgic on the “singing, dancing, laughing, instruments being played, babies crying.”
Pointing to the “splintered” societal foundation of the late 1960s, Bobbi called Woodstock a “symbol that under the harshest times, the worst scenarios and circumstances, there’s always hope. As long as you’re kind and peaceful and love each other.”
The duo are VIPs at this weekend’s festivites at Bethel, where they relaxed in lawn chairs and held hands while enjoying a performance from folk mainstay Arlo Guthrie.
Groupies gathered nearby, eyes wide and fingers pointed as they murmured: “that’s them!”
Starry-eyed Patrick Depauw of Belgium —who trekked across the Atlantic especially for Woodstock’s golden anniversary—is one such devotee.
“I bought the triple album and listened to it hundreds of times, looking at this couple and imagining what they experienced,” he told AFP.
“The perfect union, a never-ending love,” he said, clutching his newly signed record, complete with the message “peace and love.”
“Look, 50 years later, they’re still together, they’re next to each other, they’re generous, they love each other.”
“You feel it.”