In 1973 The Fifth Estate newspaper was on the cusp of turning from a left-wing, anti-war, underground newspaper into a full-blown anti-authoritarian and anarchist serial manifesto. It was founded nearly ten years earlier by 17-year-old Harvey Ovshinsky as a new voice "of the liberal element in Detroit" and became enjoined in the web of dissident rags traversing the country in the Vietnam War era.
Though a liberal enterprise the paper wasn't solely a political mechanism as art, music, fashion and social life figured into the equation of an all-encompassing counter-culture. An off-shoot publication called the Hip Pocket Directory was one such example of the "lifestyle' and offered up a white pages of sorts for like-minded folks to share in socially conscious wares, food and entertainment.
Prem Pal Singh Rawat, on the other hand, was steeped in the old traditions of culture, religion and social caste. He was and remains the Indian Satguru Maharaji who took the reins of his father's "Lordship" at the tender age of 8-years-old upon the previous master's death.
In 1973, at the age of sixteen, he assumed administrative control of the Divine Light Mission and began to shape it towards his personal vision. His leadership wasn't without controversy though as he defied the wishes of his mother and both traveled to the West and married an American. Subsequently he was disowned by the family and his brother was appointed the head of the Indian branch of the movement.
He was met with mixed-reactions of joy, skepticism and mockery by devotees, hippies, the curious and others but his trip abroad was considered a success. It wasn't until he reached Detroit in August of 1973 that it became a three-ringed circus.
The Guru appeared before the Detroit Common Council on August 11th to discuss the motion for granting him ceremonial keys to the city. During the meeting a reporter from the Fifth Estate burst through the doors, gave a yelp and charged toward the beefy apostle, pulling a shaving cream pie from a bottomed out pizza box, which was concealed under a bouquet of flowers that were brought for the Maharaj Ji, and slammed it into the unsuspecting Guru's face and quipped, "I always wanted to throw a pie in God's face." As the lathered mass slithered down the Guru's face onto his suit, the prankster, Pat Halley, 22, ran from the building escaping the grasp of pursuing guards and holy followers.
Afterwards, the prank was largely met with disdain from the public but made Halley both an underground celebrity and a national news story. He condoned his actions calling the guru a "slick businessman" and explaining that as an anti-authoritarian the act was of righteous indignation towards a power figure.
The Guru however was resigned to both forgiveness and hyperbole calling the incident "nothing like the nails through Jesus Christ" and stating that the perpetrator knew not what he was doing. His followers weren't so diplomatic about the matter. After stalking Halley for several days two of the group's followers persuaded a reluctant Halley to grant them a sit-down discussion where they beat the young man causing a skull fracture among other injuries. Two men were arrested in the beating with one later confessing that he was coerced by the group to exact revenge or face deportation, a fate which he realized despite his devotional actions. Halley and the Mission later settled an out-of-court civil suit for roughly $10,000.
For an exhaustive recap of events visit this site.
India Guru Faces Up To Pie In The Eye; The Pittsburgh Press, August 8, 1973
Pie In The Guru's Face; The Mount Airy News, August 10, 1973
Man Hurt Whose Pie Hit Guru; The Spokane Daily Chronicle, August 15, 1973
Guru Followers Beat Pie-Tosser; The Pittsburgh Press, August 16, 1973
Followers Of Guru Hold 2 Attackers; The News and Courier, August 18, 1973