Rainbow Farm was something of a watershed for me, the end of the four-year trail trying to manifest a cannabis festival that could rival Woodstock.
The mission had begun with a trip to visit Ken Babbs of the Merry Pranksters. “I’m thinking about calling it the World Hemp Expo Extravaganja,” I said. “That’s great,” said Babbs, “but you should just call it Whee!” That’s when a lot of stuff clicked in my head and I realized the vibe we were really trying to scout was fun, and I endeavored to manifest the world’s most fun festival possible, and I am sure in many people’s minds succeeded. Just ask Fishbone. But I was saddened to see a recent attack on the festival in the Portland Mercury, a savage piece of hippy bigotry posing as humor if ever there was, a piece that failed to mention a single ceremony, much less the amazing birth of a baby. Although it’s true the site was comically packed with people stoned out of their minds, we were used to that vortex from years of producing the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, and referred to the telepathic effect as “entering stonerville.” Whee just had ten times more stoners.
John Sinclair, Dennis Peron, Stephen Gaskin and Paul Krassner did a peace circle with the Rainbow Gypsies early the first day while tents were still going up. Just seeing that circle made the event for me, but there would be dozens more to follow over the weekend, some small, and some immense. I was sure we were well on our way to rebuilding the counterculture and couldn’t imagine the difficulties that lay ahead.
One significant problem was Oregon was infested with meth heads, and that scene carried a ton of bad vibes and rip-offs. The other problem was the owner of the site was way out of tune and had no respect for the Pranksters and no idea who Ken Kesey was on the cosmic scale. But after two festivals, he ended up losing the property, while fighting county officials and local law enforcement the entire time.
The next property owner to volunteer to host my event was Gideon Israel in Washington. But after one Whee, he was also taken down by a local sting operation. Gideon’s festival site was a campground called Rainbow Valley.
I made a plea at the Cannabis Cup for someone brave enough to hold a Whee! festival considering the first two were crushed by the authorities. That’s when I joined forces with Tom and Rollie of Michigan. They were the brave ones who stepped forward, only this time the authorities weren’t just taking the property. First, they had child services take away their son and refused all contact. Although a gay couple, the boy was Rollie’s child and the most important thing in their lives. And after losing the boy, they both lost their minds and decided to go down swinging.
I was in Woodstock when it all went down and had just returned to New York City. While picking up some video tape at B&H, a teller told me a plane had struck the Trade Towers. I noticed the smoke while riding my Honda Hawk across town. But when I got to my office, I was horrified to discover a string of voice messages from Tom and Rollie, the first of which announced their plan to stage a Waco-like event to bring awareness to the benefits of cannabis legalization. But as the messages went on, they became more and more frantic, until it was just Rollie. By that time, I’d already searched online and discovered they were both killed by FBI snipers. The story was already nearly a week old, but virtually nothing had penetrated the national media. And, of course, this was September 11, and a story was unfolding that would wipe Tom and Rollie’s quest for glory from the pages of history.
Fortunately, Dean Kuipers wrote a book about the event, and the book is being made into a major motion picture, so hope remains alive Tom and Rollie’s quest for martyrdom may not have been in vain. This is a difficult subject for me because it accompanied the shock of 9/11 in a massive double whammy. I had a string of people join me on my missions only to wind up in prison for a few years. But now the authorities were taking lives as well as prisoners. For years, I found it impossible to write anything about Rainbow Farm or about 9/11.
The saddest part for me was the Whee! vibe was all based around improvisational fun and peace ceremonies and learning how to foster and spread non-violence.
When I emceed the first circle to be held at Rainbow Farm, Tom came running up to join in and hold hands, an indication he really wanted to participate in peace culture.
Gatewood Galbraith, a trail-blazing attorney from Kentucky, was pushing armed revolution at the time, and may have helped hook Tom up with the spook-infested Michigan Militia, a huge mistake. I will always wonder if I’d been at work that week, would I have been able to talk Tom and Rollie out of this insane plan to create a Pot Waco? Could my participation in some way have prevented their deaths? Had I known what was going on, I would have attempted to mediate a peaceful solution when the stand-off began. I just never got the chance to play that role and it haunts me.
But you can check out that first peace circle at Rainbow Farm on a video from my archives first posted online two years before their deaths.
Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig is one of the greatest unsung heroes who sought justice after JFK’s murder in Dallas. Craig arrived at Dealey Plaza seconds after the shooting and raced to the picket fence at the top of the knoll, closely following the motorcycle cop who’d ditched his bike to run up the hill. The scene behind the fence was chaotic because a large number of people had already gathered. There were footprints and cigarette butts near where many witnesses saw a plume of smoke appear as the shots rang out.
Craig noticed a woman attempting to drive out of the parking lot and stopped her, taking her into custody for questioning. Deputy Sheriff Lewis appeared and took her off his hands.
Craig then crossed Elm Street and began interviewing witnesses. Arnold Rowland and his wife said they saw a man with a rifle in a Texas School Book Depository window overlooking the plaza before the presidential limo arrived. They hadn’t said anything because they assumed he was a secret service agent. Deputy Lewis appeared again and took the Rowlands off his hands.
Suddenly, a shrill whistle sounded and Craig noticed a man in his twenties run down the knoll from the direction of the depository. A green Rambler station wagon slowed and the man jumped inside. Craig wanted to detain this vehicle, but traffic was intense and he failed to cross in time. When he did make it across, Craig went to the depository steps and was greeted by a man claiming to be a Secret Service agent. Craig began talking about the suspicious Rambler, but the agent seemed little interested. Craig’s boss, Sheriff Decker appeared and told Craig the suspect had left the scene and someone should search inside the depository.
Upon arriving at the sixth floor, Craig quickly located three spent cartridges by the southeast corner window, all lined up as if carefully set in place, something he found highly suspicious. One cartridge had a strange crimp. A rifle was soon located stashed in a pile of cardboard boxes. Stamped on the barrel was “7.65 Mauser.” Captain Fritz, chief of homicide for Dallas, arrived and took possession. That night the murder weapon used to kill JFK was described on all three networks as a German Mauser.
By the way, the Mauser is a short-barrel carbine invented for use by cavalry officers. Carbines are not typically a weapon of choice among professional snipers due to limited range and low bullet velocity. They are, however, slightly easier to conceal than long barrel rifles. The Italians made a cheap imitation of the Mauser, the 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano.
Problem is the cartridges on the floor were 6.5 Carcanos, which meant the rifle and cartridges didn’t match.
“I arrived at Capt. Fritz office shortly after 4:30 PM,” wrote Craig later. “I was met by Agent Bookhout from the F.B.I., who took my name and place of employment. The door to Capt. Fritz‘ personal office was open and the blinds on the windows were closed, so that one had to look through the doorway in order to see into the room. I looked through the open door at the request of Capt. Fritz and identified the man who I saw running down the grassy knoll and enter the Rambler station wagon—and it WAS Lee Harvey Oswald. Fritz and I entered his private office together. He told Oswald, this man (pointing to me) saw you leave. At which time the suspect replied, I told you people I did. Fritz, apparently trying to console Oswald, said, take it easy, son—we‘re just trying to find out what happened. Fritz then said, what about the car? Oswald replied, leaning forward on Fritz’ desk, that station wagon belongs to Mrs. Paine—don’t try to drag her into this. Sitting back in his chair, Oswald said very disgustedly and very low, everybody will know who I am now.”
Because he was a Dallas police officer, it was impossible for the Warren Commission to completely ignore Craig. However, when the Commission report was released significant changes were made to his testimony. Meanwhile, Craig was ordered never to talk about the case with anyone in the media. After being caught talking to someone, he was fired.
Like other important witnesses, Craig was shot at, driven off the road, and hounded at almost every twist and turn of his remaining short life. As a key witness to the assassination, he’d assumed he’d become famous someday, but instead was quickly flushed down a rabbit hole.
Many early gatekeepers like Mary Ferrell worked hard to discredit him, which, in hindsight is probably the best indication of how important he really was. Mary Ferrell was a lawyer for Mobile who made the assassination her life’s obsession. She never really managed to connect the dots on the case, even though the most obvious trail led straight into JM/Wave, William Harvey, Ted Shackley and David Morales.
Craig sadly died of a gunshot to the chest in 1975. Self-inflicted so they say and it could be true because he was a completely broken man whose autobiography had been universally rejected by the publishing world.
Back in 1987, the marijuana rally scene had long since faded away, and it wasn’t until a group called the Freedom Fighters appeared that the modern rally scene took off. That’s because in the late 1970s, the media was using smoke-ins to mine images of hippies smoking joints in public, and these images were greatly alarming mainstream America, and were helping turn people against legalization.
Because it was so difficult to distinguish hippies from burnt-out drug fiends on looks alone, NORML began a policy of not supporting smoke-ins. It was the birth of what became known as “the suits versus the stoners.”
I thought it was a silly policy by NORML because you can’t have a culture if you don’t congregate and hold ceremonies. So when I got a letter from some students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor saying their legendary Hash Bash founded by John Sinclair was down to less than a dozen die-hards and about to die, I took action by creating the High Times Freedom Fighters.
The concept of wearing tricorner hats and Colonial outfits was to help carry the new message about hemp and our founding fathers, while also costuming the members so that their appearance could not be held against them. The Freedom Fighters became instant magnets at every rally because news crews seek people in colorful costumes. Members were trained to start talking about George Washington and hemp as soon as any cameras were rolling on them.
To encourage participation, members were given pins at every rally they attended and there was even one letter-writing campaign where you could get a pin with a blue Liberty Bell for every response you got from Congress. John Birrenbach gathered so many responses his tricorn became smothered in pins. I didn’t initially realize the implications of what we were doing, but the magic began manifesting on a big scale right away, and the costumes and Betsy Ross flags were certainly helping.
Within two years, the Freedom Fighters became the largest legalization group in the country and only required $15 to get a lifetime membership that included the Freedom Fighter Newsletter edited by Linda Noel, who was the original brains behind the Boston Freedom Rally. From their inception, the Freedom Fighters were wired into my Cannabis Cup, and a member elected by open council to attend the Cup all-expenses paid every year, an honor won by luminaries like Jack Herer and Gatewood Galbraith. It was bizarre when High Times told me to give up the organization saying it conflicted with my editorial duties. I’d amassed a volunteer army of over 10,000 members, and many were enthusiastic supporters pouring immense energy into creating new rallies and other cannabis events all over the country. It was certainly snowballing.
This background is all in the way of announcing my hope that someday a Freedom Fighter reunion takes place at the Hash Bash and Rodger and I are put in charge of a few of the ceremonies.
After three years of self-publishing, I have some hints for newbies in the field. (Note: it’s been eight years now.) 1) I suggest joining Quora and using that site to navigate all forks in the road. Before undertaking any new project, ask Quora for advice. You typically get a response from an expert in the field within hours. Most Quora users are polite and seeking information only and there is an unspoken rule against hostile behavior, although some of the younger users engage in flame wars and loaded emotional content. 2) Set up a free blog. Three years ago, I asked Quora, “what is the best blogging site,” and determined WordPress was the option I liked. It’ll take time to design and tweak your blog, and you need to blog something everyday for a month or two before you’ll get any sense of bearings and find your unique voice and subject matter. Look for an under-developed niche that doesn’t have a lot of competition. Many of my books began as a series of blogs on a subject that interested me, a list that includes my most recent one, Killing Lincoln: The Real Story. 3) Feed your blog into social media sites, and use social media daily. Every book should have its own Facebook page. 4) Create a video site, Youtube or Vimeo are the big ones. Video is the best way to promote any product. Even a video shot on your smart phone can be useful. 5) Join ToonBoom (or similar site) to make your promo videos. To get HD resolution, you’ll need to pay an annual fee, which is worth it. Your animations will download easily to your video site. No experience is necessary to make professional-looking animations instantly. 6) Join Klout to get feedback on the effectiveness of your social media. Whenever you experience a bump on Klout, that indicates something is working. Find out what that is and keep doing it. Without a feedback loop like Klout, it’s difficult to judge how effective your social media is. 6) Publish your book on Smashwords and CreateSpace, or some other combination of ebooks and print-on-demand. (Note: Klout is now defunct.) 7) Join Prlog to circulate a free press release. These likely won’t get much attention, but every book should have an official-looking release that can be circulated on social media. You should post a promotional blog that provides links to your promo video(s) and press release(s). 8) Answer questions on Quora daily related to the topic of your book. Strive to become one of the most read posters on your subject of choice. The top ten in every subject are awarded honors on Quora, and it is not difficult to become one if you have good information to share. When all these cylinders are up and humming, you’ll likely be on your way to a career in self-publishing on zero budget. Good luck and happy publishing.
Dedicated to James “Chef Ra” Wilson
I was standing by my window
On a cold and cloudy day
When I saw Chef Ra a-skating
…………..G D7 G
Come to carry my blues away.
May the circle keep on tokin’
Bye and bye Ra, bye and bye
There’s a better world awaiting
…………G D7 G
In the sky Ra, oh so high.
Well, I noticed, the town was lonely
For Chef Ra, he had gone
All his friends, we were cryin’
………….G D7 G
For we felt so sad and alone.
May the circle keep on tokin’
And get high, oh, so high
There’s a better time awaiting
……….G D7 G
In the sky, with Ra, so high.
Won’t you please drive by slow
For that man you are a-haulin’
………….G D7 G
We so hate to see him go.
May the circle keep on tokin’
And get high, Ra, oh so high
There’s a better world awaiting
…………G D7 G
In the sky Ra, in the sky.
Once you identify the principle polemicists salting the intel-sponsored propaganda, you’re halfway to enlightenment; and once you identify the major memes those polemicists are salting, you can easily ID a lot more spooks and avoid their rabbit holes to nowhere. Anyone supporting obviously fake memes is either a spook or hoodwinked true believer and there is no other option. Spooks and true believers can’t be trusted, so divide conspiracy research into two categories, trusted and not trusted, and learn from both categories. With practice and a keen eye for detail, you’ll soon be learning more from the disinfo than the authentic intel (mostly because there’s a lot more noise than signal). But you must avoid falling into the traps, what I call the rabbit holes, the biggest of which is racism in any form. The most powerful forces promoting ethnic cleansing are spook-driven, manufactured to assist the war-for-profit scenarios with their divide-and-conquer propaganda, something always easily identified.
The post-WWI generation was turned against Jews in many ways and on many levels, but mostly through Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, both of whom demeaned the culture whenever possible. These were the two most influential novelists when novels were an influence. At the time, Jews were not integrated into high society, not allowed to join the country clubs or fraternities of the oligarchy. Instead, rich Jews had their own aristocracy centered on families holding stock in the Federal Reserve, the ones who also owned some of the biggest investment banks, the ones linked to names like Rothschild and Warburg. This division between these two powerful oligarchies along the Eastern seaboard was intentional and in place prior to the Civil War. They are still separate in some quarters.
I suspect Revilo P. Oliver worked for OSS during WWII. He was a brilliant intellectual and mastered a dozen languages, and was considered an expert in the origins of religion. He taught at the University of Illinois, where I grew up, evolving into a major player on the national stage.
Residing walking distance from campus on Ohio Street, Oliver could be seen slouching off to his office in the Classics Department wearing an enormous black fedora and ankle-length trench-coat, looking like a parody of an intelligence operative. His vicious letters to the editor of the News Gazette probably served mostly to recruit members to the local lodge of the John Birch Society, an organization Oliver had a hand in creating.
Soon, however, his buddy William Buckley, a Boner from Yale who ran the National Review, dropped Oliver as a contributor. And then the Birch Society began purging the most virulent racists off their rolls, of which Oliver was the ringleader. Oliver responded by publishing evidence the Birchers had been overrun by the same Jews manipulating the State Department, United Nations, and world-wide Communist conspiracy.
During Halloween, local children in his neighborhood collecting donations for UNICEF were warned in advance to steer a wide birth from his block, lest they cross his path and engender a political rant on the evils of globalism.
“When my sister was reading Nancy Drew she and Connie Marshall, whose dad became a federal judge, went all around the Oliver’s house tapping the walls for secret entrances,” recalls Mary Gates DeRosier. “Mrs. Oliver had a funeral for her dog and invited the neighbors. My mom went and told us that the dog was laid-out on the sofa surrounded by flowers. Mrs. Oliver was always giving us flyers about the dangers of Coca-Cola and of fluoride in the drinking water.”
Oliver moved on by creating the National Alliance, now known as the National Vanguard, the wellspring from which many generations of terrorists with strange links to intelligence operations have sprung. Funny, how nobody writes or talks about Oliver today, except his supporters, even though his role as a spook propagandist should be obvious with hindsight.
Soon after JFK’s assassination, Oliver published a dissenting opinion claiming JFK was a communist who’d been murdered by the communists because he’d decided to “go American.” He claimed Lee Harvey Oswald had been trained by the KGB, and the Warren Commission had been preordained to claim Oswald was a lone assassin. This was published after the commission was announced, long before the 888-page report appeared. Oliver’s theory was peppered with distortions and outright fabrications, as well as some amazing secret truths, evidence of inside sources. The government, especially the State Department, was heavily penetrated by a secret communist conspiracy run by Jews, claimed Oliver, and as evidence he cited the impossibility of a Marine formerly posted at our most secret base in Japan defecting to Russia, and then freely returning to America, and yet not monitored by the FBI. This could only happen if the State Department was infested with cooperating communist conspirators claimed Oliver, ignoring the more obvious explanation Oswald was an American spook who was returning from a failed penetration operation in Russia.
“The identification of the murderer was a near-miracle. If not the result of divine intervention, it was the result of a series of coincidences of the same order as might enable a bum with a dollar in his pocket to enter a casino in Reno and emerge with a thousand,”noted Oliver, in another one of his many spot-on assessments. This miraculous identification and capture of Oswald began with the murder of Officer J.D. Tippit. Oswald’s wallet was discovered at the scene, along with four spent cartridges from his revolver. Strange Oliver could recognize the anomaly of Oswald’s strangely trouble-free re-entry into the USA after supposedly defecting to the enemy, but missed this highly improbable wallet, especially considering Oswald was captured an hour later with a wallet in his pocket (and a revolver that didn’t work). Which means the wallet at the scene must have been planted. There’s also the witnesses to the Tippet slaying who claim Oswald was not the man they saw fleeing the crime. The only other option is believing the official story Oswald murdered Tippet, then calmly emptied his revolver, tossed his wallet on the ground and then fled the scene, found a new wallet with ID, found a new revolver (that didn’t function) and discarded his working revolver, which is the version Oliver opted for in this instance.
“Americans known to be opponents of the Conspiracy, including General Walker, prominent members of the John Birch Society, and leaders of other conservative organizations, began to receive threats of death by telephone from creatures who somehow knew that Kennedy was dead before he reached the hospital,” wrote Oliver. I believe this detail is also spot-on in that Texas John Birch supporters put up the $150,000 to pay the shooters and were among the first notified of the mission’s success, but salting that observation with the lie these calls included death threats to the paymasters is an obvious misdirection that recalls Edwin Stanton’s efforts to claim he was a target of the Lincoln assassination conspiracy, and not one of the instigators himself.
Oliver was especially harsh on the then director of the Council on Foreign Relations, the recently-fired former CIA head, Allen W. Dulles. “Dulles was the head of an American spy ring in Switzerland during the Second World War and is said to have done a fairly good job,” began Oliver, “although it was believed at the time that his organization was infested with double agents who were really in the employ of the Soviet — and even more serious implications can be drawn from the testimony given in Karlsruhe last July by Heinz Felfe, a Soviet agent who had been Mr. Dulles’ German counterpart and supposed competitor in Switzerland.” Yes, Dulles was head of OSS in Europe and was posted in Switzerland, and recruited the bulk of the Nazi spy network into the CIA in a secret surrender with Malta Knight Reinhardt Gehlen, who was later rewarded by becoming head of the West German secret services, but Felfe was a minor figure when posted in Switzerland compared with Dulles, and just one of many spooks accepting pay from all comers.
“One writer has recently suggested that it was the C.I.A. that arranged the assassination of Kennedy; I know of no evidence to support that opinion, but obviously Mr. Dulles’ creation is open to suspicion. Perhaps that is why he is a member of the “special commission,” wrote Oliver in a brief and startling moment of spot-on clarity that was instantly jettisoned.
Oliver claimed the commission would paint “Comrade Oswald as a poor, lone critter who done it all alone. Probably ‘psychiatrists’ will be produced to prove he done it ’cause, at the age of six months, he had to wait an extra five minutes for his bottle.” Strange that Oswald was likely worked on by CIA psychiatrists while a teen in New York, prior to his being hypnotized by David Ferry while a member of Ferry’s Civil Air Patrol in New Orleans. The fact he knew the outcome before the investigation began was yet another spot-on.
Oliver was called before the Warren Commission to testify, and I imagine that was a scripted encounter. Mark Lane was another one of the few independent investigators allowed to present evidence directly to the Commission. It took me decades to realize Lane’s testimony was likely scripted as well, for he was also a former OSS officer, and was likely guided into a role as the premier debunker of the official story. He soon tainted himself by embracing Willis Carto’s holocaust denial movement. Isn’t it strange that both Oliver and Lane were on polar opposites of the political divide, one far left the other far right, and yet both believed in a Jewish conspiracy running the world?
If you want to find a contemporary salter of disinfo, check out Jan Irvin, who treads in Oliver’s footsteps with lies and distortions. Irvin produces propaganda supporting the theory the hippies were created by the CIA, and that Tim Leary, Ken Kesey and me are employees of that agency, and not its critics. Since I’m on the inside of this particular conspiracy theory, it’s impossible for me to ignore Irvin is making shit up. So I put him in the “not trusted” category. And wouldn’t you know, he also believes Jews are running the system through some secret satanic cult based on the teachings of Aleister Crowley, which just confirms my suspicions intel is exploiting Crowley for propaganda. But they do the same thing with their phony UFO evidence they are constantly manufacturing.
My advice: avoid any variation on any rabbit holes resembling: the Communists are running the world; the Jews are running the world; the Satanists are running the world, or the CIA created the hippies.
B. F. Spath has just released a masterpiece of psychogeography, a little-known occult art form that emerged out of the French counterculture of the late 1960s and one that’s been evolving through a small handful of radical European artists ever since. With this book, Spath strikes his claim as an American grandmaster of the order.
Psychogeography involves telepathic emanations and psychological impacts of specific locations and also improvisational wanderings through new environments, a quest whose purpose is the act of questing into the unknown. In Spath’s case, however, this translates into a fascination with Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, once a sacred site for Native American ceremonies, and from the 1770s through the 1800s, one of the premier ceremonial sites for Europeans in North American. Before the advent of Ellis Island, immigrants arriving in Manhattan landed mostly here, and it was from these docks many clipper ships departed for distant shores in search of opium, spices, silk and china. For someone buried in the basement of a Lower East Side tenement, Battery Park becomes the key psychological escape from the suffocating claustrophobia of modern life.
The book involves the sacramental use of cannabis for making telepathic contact with ghosts of ancient ceremony and ritual, and the perils that sometimes afflict the intoxicated.
Since Spath is one of the founders of the Pot Illuminati, I’m hoping this book sparks great interest in the coming revolution in cannabis spirituality, a movement I expect to overtake many established fundamentalist religions someday.
The most important thing about the Pot Illuminati is the one rule: “don’t hurt anybody,” and while we respect the rituals of ancient religions and study their histories, we reject all dogma as false, and don’t recognize leaders, except in respect to the most creative among us. We don’t fund-raise or collect money from anyone for anything, which make us the only non-corruptible religion on the planet.
The ancient city of Balkh, once a jewel of the Silk Road although now long abandoned, is some of the geography I’d like to explore someday, perhaps even following the Oxus River down to the Caspian and Black seas, a route traversed by the original stoner tribe. There are spiritual sites dotted all through the Caucasus Mountains created by this cannabis-using tribe, as well as a ring of settlements buried in mud around the rim of the Black Sea, settlements that were engulfed by a tsunami created when the Bosphorus Strait was breached due to rising sea levels. Someday this area will become a mecca for pilgrims seeking a connection with the origins of cannabis spirituality.
Talk to me about being raised in Illinois and how you became a writer.
I started a fanzine in 7th Grade and by the 11th I was publishing my own underground newspaper called The Tin Whistle distributed to four high schools, and banned at all of them.
My hippie newspaper published six issues in 1968. The schools in Illinois were very racist and polarized at the time, but my newspaper led a movement for recognizing black student rights among other campaigns. We were able to elect the first black student council president in the history of Urbana High School, and he did a lot to heal the broken race relations. His name was James “Chef Ra” Wilson and he taught me a lot about ceremony. We both ended up going to the first Woodstock festival, then he went to Jamaica and became an early Bob Marley devotee. We worked on many projects for decades until one Christmas Day when his heart exploded while he was sleeping.
What was your entry into hip hop?
I moved to New York at the end of 1979. My roommate Jeff Peisch was into the music scene and working at Record World Magazine with Nelson George, and he gave me a promo copy of These are the Breaks by Kurtis Blow. Shortly after that, I went to the New York/New Wave art exhibition curated by Diego Cortez, and was astounded by a subway train titled Break by Futura 2000. The connection between the song and the mural made me realize something was going on and nobody was covering it. As a young reporter, it looked like an opening.
What was the first article on hip hop that you read that changed the game for you? Who wrote it? How did you hear about it?
For over a year I didn’t read anyone’s articles. There were none. I only wrote my own. There were a couple of photographers on the scene, Martha Cooper, Henry Chalfant, but I was the only journalist. Most of the coverage aside from me was coming out of England. But they weren’t on the ground and going to any parties, just reviewing records and sometimes interviewing acts if anyone came to England, which was rare early on.
What was the first magazine/newspaper publication that you heard about just focused on hip hop? Did that inspire you to write for it?
There were no magazines until after Run DMC. I guess The Source was the first big one that went all hip hop, although Phase 2 had a fantastic fanzine he was self-publishing for years. I had long since stopped covering hip hop when The Source appeared.
Who were you looking up to as far as writing?
The journalists who most influenced me were Calvin Tompkins, George Orwell, Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe.
Do you call yourself a hip hop journalist?
I sometimes call myself the first hip hop journalist, because in the early days I was the only professional reporter on the scene. But I have 30 books and only three are on hip hop, and all those concern only the first generation from 1974 to 1984.
How did you feel when your name was on the cover of The Village Voice for your cover with the words “hip hop” on it?
Bambaataa coined the term and focused the culture. I just told his story. It took the Voice half a year to print it, although it was “accepted” immediately. I was enraged they held it so long because I was afraid someone was going to break the story, but fortunately, after endless phone calls and threats to publish elsewhere, they finally put it on the schedule.
You were able to make a major impact in how we receive hip hop through your writing and Beat Street. Did you ever have any intention to impact the culture the way you did?
If only my script had been used, it was the real thing. The movie was a great disappointment. Only the dance crews and some of the rap performances saved it. The plot was completely whack. I didn’t recognize any South Bronx people I knew and wrote about.
Who was your favorite artist interview?
In the world of hip hop I am closest with Grandmaster Caz, Coke La Rock and Busy Bee. In fact, we are all members of a secret society called The Pot Illuminati and hold ceremonies upon occasion. Those are three of the greatest storytellers in hip hop, and also three of the most overlooked people in hip hop’s history.
Who was the 1st person that you heard of calling themselves a hip hop journalist? What opened up for you because of it?
By the time hip hop went global and hip hop journalism was born, I was long gone and had no interest in the gangsta rap that came up in a huge wave to displace the political fervor of Public Enemy. I only did research on the first generation, from Kool Herc to Funky Four to Furious Five to Treacherous Three to the Cold Crush Brothers. And I also covered graffiti and some of the original dance crews. I was in a rock band in the sixties, and after rap got commercialized, I formed a garage band and played three-chord-rock for a decade. Being around hip hop inspired me to get back to my own musical heritage. Although I did one hip hop performance early on as a deejay with Jeff Peisch rapping and David Bither (now of Nonesuch Records) on saxophone. Between the three of us we had enough talent to give the soon-to-emerge Beasties Boys a run, but it was just a one-off goof. But David blew the lid off that party as I recall, with me scratching up some hip hop anthem.
What was the first article you wrote about hip hop?
A biography on Futura 2000 for the New York Daily News. After that I had my Voice cover story, followed by one more Voice story. Then I wrote three articles for the Soho Weekly News. And then a couple stories for the East Village Eye. Then I sold Beat Street and published my book, Hip Hop. Then I stopped covering hip hop and not a single hip hop magazine ever asked me to write anything or even gave me props for blazing the trail, although everyone was reading my book to find out how it all started. Most of the people I was hanging with never got props either, like Coke La Rock. Virtually nobody knows him, yet he was right there with Herc when it all happened and playing a major role. My book went out of print really fast and copies started selling for $500 for years.
Whats your experience with publications?
I prefer to self-publish and maintain control over my work.
Who are some rappers you that you feel changed the game for hip hop?
Grandmaster Caz elevated rapping with his comedy and complex story lines and Melle Mel elevated lyrics to high art with those lines in Superappin’ that became the best part of The Message. In fact, my version of Beat Street (called Looking for the Perfect Beat) was built around the political awakening of a kid in the South Bronx who moves from partying to seeing-the-big-picture. When Run/DMC landed, they brought back the original first generation style of staying hard and giving no quarter, something the original scene had drifted away from.
When Tom Forcade made the bold move of relocating his commune from Arizona to New York City in a school bus filled with Mexican weed, he devised the perfect cover: a church group, with him as head pastor, which is why he wore a clerical collar—although he added a black slouch cowboy hat worthy of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western as his crown.
When I say magic and religion are the same thing, and run on the same rules, costumes are a great illustrator of the concept. By dressing as a Reverend, Forcade disarmed Christian opponents to hippies. It’s the same when someone puts on a Santa Claus outfit. Suddenly, they’re not a normal person, but something somehow connected to vibrations on the astral plane.
I’ve been studying the history of cannabis and religion for 30 years, and the creation of the Pot Illuminati is almost as complex and well-thought-out as the creation of Bitcoin. Constructing a corruption-free form of religion is no easy task. First, you have to strip away the useless dogma, which represents the encrusted mind control propaganda. You can download my free ebook The New Pot Enlightenment on numerous platforms for a complete picture of the religion. There’s only one rule: don’t hurt anyone.
And by the way, that includes feelings. Notice there are some who delight in wounding people with gossip, and when called out respond: ‘it was just a joke, dude.” What they are really doing is employing telepathic weapons, flying false flags. There are plenty of ways to do humor where all sides laugh heartily. But when one side weeps, that wasn’t humor at all, but a death bomb to the heart.
The Pot Illuminati, on the other hand, are experts at dropping love bombs. And a lot of our lingo and philosophy comes from Carl Von Clauswitz, the preeminent European philosopher of war, a man respected in the highest corridors of the Pentagon and CIA. That’s because if you study your opponent’s magic, you can steal his sigils and tap his telepathic energy. It’s not unlike hacking into an opponent’s website. I discovered this technique in the late 1980’s when I created the Freedom Fighters and formed a tribe wearing tricorner hats with psychedelic Colonial outfits. Within a few years we were on the Boston Common with 100,000 people cheering us, although the national news media never spoke a word.
The Pot Illuminati is not seeking donations nor converts. While I realize the Tree of Life, Burning Bush and Holy Grail all involve cannabis, I do not slavishly imitate religions of the past and also realize there is much more to life than getting stoned. Not to mention, the less you do, the higher you get. Spirituality flows through us naturally, and you only need to meditate to connect with signals. There are many flavors and vibrations to choose from but love with always be the most powerful and you should never hang endless on one vibe. My personal favorite is fun.
Perhaps someday someone will make a film of my book Art After Midnight and explore the New York social scene born in the shadow of CB’s by freshman art students from around the world, converging at a time when world’s collided and paradigm’s began shifting in downtown New York City.
I selected Tseng Kong Chi as a primary photographer for my 1985 book, although I included all the great photographers who documented the scene, especially Harvey Wang, who took this photo of Tseng performing with Keith Haring at Club 57. I’m pretty sure this was before Tseng assumed his Chairman Mao identity, and that Club 57 was the lab where Tseng honed some skills. Club 57 was an orgy of creativity in action.
When they finally make a great film about this scene, it won’t be about Basquiat, Haring or anyone else, but the entire community because everyone who attended these ceremonies made a contribution. Like most movements, 50 stars were involved, but there were 500 in the audience, and the audience is just as important as the stars when it comes to birthing new movements because they add the necessary psychic energy to lift the movement higher. And Tseng was certainly one of those 50, so its wonderful the Grey Art Gallery has recognized him with a long overdue major exhibition.
Without Tseng, where would Borat be? If only I had a video camera back then and the foresight to follow Tseng around like he followed Keith—only Keith was chalking subway panels while Tseng was crashing the biggest old-money events in town with a self-created VIP name-tag and a non-speaking Mao persona. He even got photos with Henry Kissinger and Henry thought he was some visiting dignitary from China and not a performance artist. But this was performance art on a whole new scale.
Maybe you know this movement took massive energy from the collision of hip hop and punk? I like to think of Tseng’s work as 3D graffiti because it was all about getting up. When a writer starts, the first mission is to formulate a word, tag, nickname, message to be promoted. The Mao character was Tseng’s tag in a way and I think he remained mute because Tseng was shy and it took a lot of confidence for him to launch into these epic social scenes and remain in character.
The Grey Art exhibit includes an enormous print of a photo Tseng shot for the back cover of the book, inspired by a continuing series Tseng was working on, in which he was photographing Keith, Kenny, Bruno, Carmel, Ann, John, Min and a few others. He had a series of group shots taken just before some big ceremony or night on the town. I asked him to do the same thing for the back cover, only I wanted to include some other major characters in the book, like Patti Astor, Steve Maas, Animal X, Joey Arias, David McDermott and Peter McGough. I probably talked it over and we decided it should be kept down to a dozen to be manageable. And at the last second, Kenny Scharf dropped out, and although Jean Michel was invited of course, I didn’t realize including Jean could only be guaranteed if we’d taken the photograph at his place on Great Jones. There may be people left out of this photo still harboring faint grudges today, and I wish we’d just invited all 50 stars and made it like Sergeant Pepper’s. Next time I’ll know better.
As the objective reporter, I didn’t want to insert myself into the photo, so I didn’t even attend the shoot. In hindsight, another mistake. But Tseng did call me as soon as John Sex walked in the door. “He doesn’t have his hair up,” said Tseng, massively disappointed. I think we’d both envisioned John in the center with his giant pompadour. “Don’t worry,” I said. Later when I saw the photo, I noted Joey had come prepared to upstage John’s hairstyle with something more epic than a giant blonde pomp—black devil horns.