Down and Out in San Francisco

After returning from Sweden and flunking my draft physical, I tried a few jobs, like canvassing for one of Nader’s political action groups (see, The Mysterious Saul Alinsky), and also working phone sales for a mob operation selling discounts to Vegas casinos masquerading as radio quiz-show jackpot awards. Both those operations seemed similar and equally sleazy, although the Nader group paid in full, while the mob op disappeared overnight owing me hundreds. I also tried working in an automobile plant producing bumpers, but wasn’t cut out for that grind.

So I went back to college for free, enrolling in San Francisco City College to study journalism, film and theater. I had little money and no car, but I found a room a block from the school for $50 a month that was owned by a Filipino woman who also lived there. She had rented the downstairs to her best friend, Rose. The upstairs had three tiny bedrooms. Ronnie moved in first. Then I arrived. Then our landlady decided to move into the pantry behind the kitchen so she could rent another room.

Ronnie had once been signed to a major film company right out of high school and, according to him, was being groomed as a leading man in the John Wayne/Rock Hudson mode when his career tanked for some reason and he was obviously gay although we never discussed his orientation. Ron had a lot of stories about Hollywood in the early sixties, and was a bit bitter, but had now morphed into a master of bilking the welfare state of California, which is what I guess I was doing in a way too, collecting my free education in a state I’d just moved to. Ron became a model for a character in a play I would soon write. I even have some correspondence from him, although I lost touch with Ron quickly and I’m sure he never saw the play.

Funny how I took a photograph of my desk, starting in Stockholm and then continuing in San Francisco. I was convinced I was going to become a famous writer some day, and was already documenting my progress. I did write one story during this period, The Stockholm Manifesto, based on my experiences in Sweden evading the draft, a story available for free on my smashwords site. You’ll notice my ceremonial elements are assembled in this photo: two candles, the record player and albums, expensive bottle of bubbly, and a bunch of manifestation prayers adorning the wall above my headboard.

One day when Rose came up for a visit, I told Bugsy I wanted to get a picture of her for my archives, so he sat in the living room and I took Rose’s picture over his shoulder. The following semester, Bugsy’s brother Don and I moved into the house next door and I think we were even paying less rent for more space.

The picture on top shows me seated at my trusty Olivetti. Within a year, I’d write my first play on that machine, inspired by my year in San Francisco attending City College. And that play would be my first big break as a writer because it was staged at the University of Illinois and then invited to the National Theater Festival Regional, where it got a standing ovation. But that’s another story with another set of pictures. This is the real place that story was based on, inhabited by a real cast of characters. If you ever want to check out that play, however, you can read a sample for free on my smashwords site. It’s called Mrs. Roses’ Boarding House.

The underwater OM circle

This story is dedicated to Jan Hutton, whose crossed to the spirit realm on June 27, 2013. Jan was a willing participant in all my improvisational ceremonies, no matter how crazy they seemed at the time, because she had a deep connection with the spiritual vibrations. Her spirit is a good place to be.

By the time I went to my first National Rainbow Gathering, I’d already been hanging out with Garrick Beck in the East Village for over a year, and also attending the Rainbow picnics in Central Park, which I stumbled into by accident one afternoon.  So when I arrived at my first gathering, I came well prepared and even carried a bunch of water-based florescent paints so I could make cool signs, paint faces and customize my camp. I built a pretty elaborate scene next to Garrick. This is where I first met the great Fantuzzi, the star of the midnight jam sessions.

Of course, my life turned 180 degrees after that experience. I’d been focused on the garage band scene at the time and leading my band the Soul Assassins to rock’n’roll glory on the Hemp Tour while leading the fight to legalize marijuana, but suddenly I had an urge to put a major effort into spreading Peace Vibe Consciousness. First thing I wanted to do was visit my cousins in Florida. Tom had saved me in 1970 by buying a one-way ticket to Stockholm so I could escape the Vietnam War, an experience both my cousins had been through and neither wanted me anywhere close to that national nightmare.

After Vietnam, my cousins had spent a few years traveling the world. I maintained correspondence with them during this time, and kept everything, including all the Vietnam letters. Someday I’ll put that up on Smashwords, as Tom is a great writer and very funny. They both became anti-war activists right after leaving the service. Eventually, they settled in Delray Beach and got jobs as lifeguards. But they had a secret hideout in the Florida Keys, where they would go on vacations whenever they had time off. I went there to initiate them into the Rainbow Family. My plan was to build a sort of private gathering celebrating the Rainbow spirit, something I thought might convince both my cousins to come and join me at an upcoming regional in Ocala, Florida.

Before my cousins arrived I constructed a giant peace pole and designed some ceremonial spaces.

There were psychedelic signs everywhere. I had a bag of mushrooms and brewed up some mushroom tea, the drinking of which would be our first ritual.

Just to get the right vibe going, after the mushroom tea and ceremonial face-painting, I started reading from the autobiography of Red Cloud.

Most people don’t realize the counterculture came out of Congo Square in New Orleans, and it started as a merger between Black African slaves who had been living in Haiti working the sugar plantations and the local native Americans. You can see the Native influence in the New Orleans ceremonies of today. That influence is huge on hippie culture as well, and it’s a path for all people to experience vibes of Native culture without actually becoming a wannabe because our version is a hybrid of all cultures, which is what Rainbow is really all about. After an OM around the Peace Pole and drumming and chanting, it was time to get into the boats. My cousins had two sailboats at the time, a big one and a little one.

Jerry built the little one himself, as well as the trailer he lugged it around with. It was a masterful craft, very fast and seaworthy. As I recall, there was a race to see which boat would get launched first and Jerry won easily. Once we were out near the Gulfstream, it was time to go snorkeling, one of our favorite things to do in the Keys, and this was before the pollution killed most of the coral.

Then I got the inspiration to do an underwater OM, which actually worked out fantastic since we could all hear each other clearly and it seemed to have a calming effect on the ocean around us.

(I’d later try to do one of these in Jamaica with the High Times staff, but soon discovered they were all wearing life-preservers which made submerging impossible.)

After the underwater OM, I got fascinated by a lonely baby jelly fish and followed the transparent little creature back to his nest, where thousands of relatives were breathing in unison. I was thinking about doing an OM with them, but then suddenly snapped out of my mushroom fog and realized what a dangerous situation I was in. Very suddenly I was swimming full-speed back to the boat.

We loaded up on the big boat and headed back to the safety of our camp. It was a great week, and I had a blast creating my little hippie disneyland, but, in truth, although my cousins went along and joined in on the ceremonies, they didn’t get drawn in enough to want to ever attend a Rainbow Gathering. In fact, Jerry admitted he’d accidentally stumbled into the Ocala Gathering one year and been scared off and freaked out by the sight of some naked hippies. That was the difference between me and my cousins. I had joined the counterculture as a teen while they had joined the army, so going to a gathering for me was like going home. Why it’s so hard for outsiders to get over the nakedness I’ll never know. It’s just another form of freedom, and if you never use it, you aren’t really free.

Beatles or Stones?

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Haven’t seen Not Fade Away yet, but I’m super interested in this just-released attempt at capturing the garage band movement of the 1960s, although the initial reviews are not great, so I guess it won’t be creating a new franchise for Sopranos creator David Chase.

Immediately after Beat Street, I tried to launch my own garage band movie, and even had a great script titled The Runaways. I have a habit of walking away from energy centers at peek levels, and could have had a successful career as a professional hip hop journalist, but, instead, right after Beat Street and my book Hip Hop came out, and inspired by my new South Bronx friends, I decided to return to the music of my roots. In both cases (garage, hip hop), huge creative vibes were unleashed initially by kids age 14-16, with no one else involved, except our inspirations, which, in my case, initially emanated from England mostly (although Amsterdam had a scene just as good as Liverpool’s or London’s). Yes, it was the Beatles who made me want to pick up a guitar, but when I finally got that guitar, it was Rolling Stones songs I actually performed on stage with the Knight Riders. I was still in junior high when I saw their first performance at a sock hop at the end of the school year. I had no idea a bunch of kids my age could engineer such a mind-blowing rock sound. They only played one or maybe two songs, but I was changed forever. I didn’t recognize the song at the time, but later discovered it was Get Off My Cloud, although it could just as easily have been Gloria, the chords are similar and that now famous garage rock anthem from Them and Van Morrison was actually picked up by a local band in my town before the Shadows of Knight covered it. Within a year I was playing bass in the Knight Riders.

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So when I talk about the 1960s garage band movement, I lived it, not as a star, but as a teenager struggling to take on a new cultural identity against intense resistance, mostly from my own father. They call it a “generation gap” today, but it was really a generation war.

Although I’d later learn to embrace non-violence, that wasn’t the way it started, and if you read my first short story (East Village), which is free on smashwords (and now illustrated with my art from the period), you can get inside my 16-year-old mind, and it was certainly chock full of violence, the love of which may have been initially planted by the mainstream media. Many teens of the era, me included, had to run away in order to become ourselves. And those adventures often led to big cities, like New York, where some freaky movies and weird shit always went down. After some of those adventures, we became jaded, cynical, old souls pretty quick.

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My next short story, also on smashwords, and also recently updated with photos and illos from the period, covers my climactic battle with my parents, which occurred in 1967. The cover photo (left), taken by Bugsy, reveals my regular uniform at the time: black double-breasted leather jacket, jeans and long-sleeve white shirt. I think every black kid in my high school coveted that jacket, and some even warned me never to leave it in my locker unguarded. The fact it was double-breasted is what made it so distinctive. If you want to experience the raw emotions unleashed during the era, you will find them here, although it will cost 99 cents, as I need to get something back from all this art I’ve created. The next one, however, is free.

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My final short story in this trilogy from the 1960s, is a dispatch I wrote while hiding out from the Vietnam War in Stockholm, Sweden, where I had a wonderful apartment and gorgeous girlfriend (left), and a brief gig as an extra in a film (Joe Hill), but still felt strangely empty upon being separated from my beloved homeland for such a long stretch. This was near the zenith of my nihilistic tendencies, and the story lapses back into the black humor of East Village, a much needed relief from the trauma of The Steam Tunnels.

Hopefully I’ll soon post my original garage band script that bounced around Hollywood for over a decade. I almost got a low-budget version done through High Times, and even had a cast assembled and a $100,000 budget drawn up, but then the funding fell through. The main thing about this post though is if there are any people out there interested in 1966-9, you might want to check out these three eBooks because they were written during the period. In other words, it’s the real deal. Us hippies were a lot tougher than you think.

When it comes to JFK and 9/11, Oliver Stone blinks

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I hate to keep picking on Oliver Stone since he’s got one of the few shows on TV worth watching. I mean, TV is a real wasteland these days. I sometimes find myself watching the BBC channel because nothing better is on. Even Chef Ramsey is better than most American TV shows and the BBC often has better movies than its American counterparts. But back to Stone. His series on American history has been fun to watch, even if there’s little in it that I didn’t know before. But it’s the parts being left out that really amaze me.

The best example so far is Stone’s retelling of the JFK assassination, a subject he covered in depth in a previous feature film, where the evidence of CIA involvement was marshaled. Even though that film was built around a great American hero, Judge Jim Garrison, the courageous judge is not even mentioned once in the series? Huh? Even more astounding, Stone never mentions any details of the plot. We know today that Johnny Roselli bragged to many people about being one of the shooters and was paid $50,000 by his boss Sam Giancana, although Giancana later told his brother the money came from the Texas oil crowd (Hunt, Murchison) via the CIA. Why does Stone back off the facts and not go after the CIA on JFK?

Even more mysterious is how Stone handles 9/11, backing up the fiction that Osama bin Laden was the mastermind behind the event. There’s so much evidence of a coverup in 9/11 it would take several books to cover all the mysteries, but none of the evidence even enters the picture as Stone buys into the fiction that the event took the Pentagon by surprise. Just detailing the Pentagon strike and how that plane did a curlicue in order to hit an office near the ground floor where financial corruption was being investigated, when that pilot could have much easier just made a direct hit on the offices of the Joint Chiefs, which was a straight-line target that didn’t involve any expert maneuvers.

But there are some really good things in the show. Like the detailing of the Bush family relationship with the Nazis. And the fact Standard Oil and other Rockefeller companies did business with the Nazis throughout the war, and sometimes even seemed to be giving them preferential treatment over the allies when it came to crucial war supplies. The German Luftwaffe depended on fuel made only by Standard Oil throughout the war.

The series has been fun to watch, but it also seems pretty rushed, like they wrote a voice-over script in a few days and then slapped a bunch of royalty-free video clips around it, and then stuck in some Hollywood movie clips to provide some color against the grainy black and white newsreels. But the series could have been a lot more informative had Stone just lifted a few more rocks. For example, he mentions the Trilateral Commission set-up by the Rockefellers, but never mentions their earlier and probably more important power center: The Council on Foreign Relations, where the center of energy on political power in America can often be found.

 

The Real King of Conspiracy

 

Antony Sutton

The last time I wrote a blog exposing Alex Jones was right after his Super Bowl rant, which included a ridiculous allegation Madonna performed a satanic ritual to honor the Illuminati during the half-time show. That claim was as absurd as David Icke’s contention that the English royal family are shape-shifting aliens from another dimension. For centuries, some English royals promoted the story they were direct descendents of Jesus, a well-hidden secret embedded in their biggest secret society, Freemasonry.

Only that hoodwink won’t last much longer because Jesus is a myth based off Zoroastrian sun worship, so isn’t it convenient Icke has a new magical story that explains why the royals deserve to hold power forever? I only bring up Icke because the English media views him as the King of Conspiracy and I see a lot of similarities in these two characters, Icke and Jones, and suspect some secret agency or society is pulling the strings behind them both.

A blogger on CNN.com recently called Alex Jones the King of Conspiracy, which is really just a transparent attempt to sheep-dip all researchers (especially the 9/11 variety) as paranoid kooks like Jones with tin foil hats on their heads. CNN could be giving coverage to one of many real investigators, a number of whom would have real corruption to reveal, but instead they invite Alex Jones to come on and display what a table-thumping demagogue he is. I don’t think CNN should be allowed to anoint Jones as the “king” of anything, except maybe, the King of Bullshit.

The real King of Conspiracy is the late Antony Sutton (above), and if you don’t know who he is, or if you never heard of him, well, that pretty much explains the problem doesn’t it? Sutton never made it onto CNN.

First time “hip hop” appeared in print (and it wasn’t me)

Phaseatmybirthday3I didn’t realize there was a controversy about the origins of the term “hip hop” in the media until Michael Holman contacted me via facebook. Michael was part of the original downtown scene that included Jean Michel Basquiat and Fab Five Freddy. He’d just started managing the New York City Breakers when I first met him. The picture of him and me with Phase 2 and Stephen Crichlow was taken around this time at my birthday party at Lucky Strike. I wanted to get his crew into my film Beat Street, so I introduced Michael to Harry Belafonte. At that first meeting, Michael made a pitch to be the director of Beat Street. Both Harry and I felt though, that he was too inexperienced for a multi-million dollar project, but Harry liked him and signed him on as an associate producer. Who knows what might have happened though because the arrival of Andrew Davis as director signaled the demise of my script, although my original story is available on smashwords.com so any interested parties can dream with me about what might have been. I wonder if Michael even ever read it? Maybe he’s just the guy to go to back to Hollywood and get it done finally in time for the 50th anniversary of the birth of hip hop.

More to the point of this blog: ever since my original Voice article on Afrika Bambaataa was reprinted in a best-of hip hop journalism compilation, I began getting credit for putting the words “hip hop” into print for the first time. Not so, as it turns out, since Michael Holman apparently did that in a interview in the East Village Eye in January 1982. The interview probably took place shortly after Fab Five Freddy lured Bambaataa downtown to the Mudd Club for the first time, although Bambaataa and Fred soon began spending a lot of time working on the soon-to-come downtown-uptown merger that helped birth an explosion of creativity out of both camps. Michael and Charlie Ahearn were the first independent filmmakers to arrive on that scene. Anyway, I hope this mea culpa clears up the whole controversy.

Meanwhile, I’m about to release the first three ebooks from my new High Times Greatest Hits venture on smashwords. But I also have turned my attention back to my original Hip Hop book, which, although available in beta form on smashwords, desperately needs a complete overhaul with images and new material, as well as corrections to numerous typos. Thanks to Michael, I’ve been inspired to dive back into that project and hope to have an amazing new edition out in a few weeks. Among the gems I’ve uncovered so far is a picture of Kool Herc in 1975 taken by Coke La Rock and a complete copy of Bambaataa’s English class paper on street gangs.

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