Deward Hastings took his time warming up to new people. The opposite can be said about his backyard Berkeley hot tub — precisely set at a scalding yet lively 113.5º using a laboratory-grade mercury thermometer.
The 78-year-old, a longtime Berkeley fixture known to many simply as “the Hot Tub Guy,” opened up the handcrafted redwood tub behind his Essex Street home as a sanctuary to the outside community — free of charge — for nearly 50 years.
Deward Hastings in a recent photo. (Photo courtesy of Greg Callahan)
This past Saturday, the storied hot tub is where a guest arrived to find Hastings lifeless taking a final soak. He was pronounced dead by emergency responders a half hour later. His death does not appear suspicious, according to Berkeley Police Officer Byron White.
But the sudden and unexpected loss has left Hastings’ closest friends reeling, trying to figure out how to honor his memory and preserve the magic of the space in his absence.
The tens of thousands of guests who slid into Hastings’ steaming tub during his lifetime have wildly different memories and first impressions of the man and his hidden oasis, which he started cobbling together as a thirtysomething in the 1970s.
In the days following Hastings’ death, hundreds of people on social media have offered words such as “unique,” “intelligent,” “generous” and a “bastion of Berkeley weirdos” to describe the hot tub and its surprisingly introverted owner.
He spent a lifetime wearing many hats. He studied engineering, chemistry and physics at UC Berkeley and operated a printing press during the Free Speech Movement. He ran beverage operations in local Renaissance Faires and worked as a stage manager for musical events, which lent itself to his all-black daily uniform. But Hastings mostly kept to himself, despite the hot tub sometimes used by upward of 60 to 100 guests a day.
Deward Hastings poses for a portrait. Photo courtesy of Greg Callahan
But why would a shy, old hippie strive to create this silent yet communal mecca that was known to attract busloads of Grateful Dead fans whenever the band played in and around the Bay Area?
Greg Callahan, who first stumbled upon the tub in his 20s before moving in next door nearly three decades later, said it was Hastings’ way of using his physical resources and mechanical knowledge to create a safe, natural place for people to escape society’s troubles.
Hastings worked behind the scenes — almost like a stagehand hosting his own play — to give guests the experience of a natural hot spring as soon as they entered a personal code and stepped foot onto his property, encircled by towering redwood trees, a California-native ecosystem and a sturdy wooden fence.
Yes, clothing was optional under the moonlight, but Hastings’ closest friends and neighbors say the goal was to create a sanctuary that allowed skinny dipping, not a hookup spot.
Steam would rise into the air for 24 hours, six days a week. As smoke from freshly smudged sage lingered in the cool air, the only sound penetrating the silence was …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News
Stock Market: Suez Canal Update! Floating!
The Suicide Squad | Official IMAX® Red Band Trailer
From the horribly beautiful mind of James Gunn and filmed in IMAX. Experience