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.
The first reference to 420 I ever saw was a flyer handed out at an Oakland Grateful Dead show that was designed to pull people across the Bay to participate in a 4:20 pm ceremony on Mt. Tam on April 20th. A short blurb was published in the news section of High Times in May, 1991, which, strangely, did not mention I had announced to my staff that 420 was proof of cannabis spirituality. From the day I saw that flyer, I began organizing 420 ceremonies in earnest, and the big ones were held by the national hemp legalization group I’d started a year earlier called The Freedom Fighters. There were 420 ceremonies at the Freedom Fighter conventions and at the Freedom Fighter encampments at the Rainbow Gatherings, both the regional in Ocala, Florida, as well as the Nationals.
The first 420 ceremony at the Cannabis Cup was in 1993 simply because after founding the Cup, I did not return to the event for four years, stung by comments that I’d created the event only as a excuse to get high, and not as a serious event. The Cannabis Cup 4:20 pm ceremony began as an open council that everyone attending the Cup was invited to. Council always began with an OM, the ancient prayer from the far east that harmonizes people. I’ve done a lot of research into the origins of the “OM” and come to the conclusion it was created by the Sakka’s (Scythians) and moved around the world. OM has two sounds, the “O” rings the rib cage, and the “M” (also known as a y-buzz) rings the facial bones and skull. I also believe “Amen” is a western adaptation of the eastern “OM.” After the OM, we’d pass Eagle Bill’s Native American wooden staff (in place of a feather), and the person who held the staff was allowed to speak. In this manner we discussed how to move forward with the Cup and our ceremonies. In 1994, Eagle Bill was the master of ceremonies and high priest of 420 council. Later, this function was taken over by whatever counterculture icon we were honoring. For example, when Bob Marley was inducted in our hall of fame, Rita Marley was the high priestess, and Ras Menelik was the high priest.
By 1995, there were numerous 420 pm and am ceremonies taking place at the Cannabis Cup. All the am ceremonies were held in the lobby of the Quentin Hotel, where the staff and performers stayed. I didn’t really organize 4:20 am ceremonies. The Temple Dragon Crew (protectors of the Cannabis Cup) began organizing those. Basically dozens of people would show up and chant and sing for hours until 4:20 am, and then everyone would line-up under a big clock in the lobby of the Quentin Hotel and have their picture taken at exactly 4:20. When I found out the crew was doing this, I joined that ceremony. I would credit Rocker T as a primary instigator of the 420 am’s.
The biggest 420 am celebration was always the night of the awards show, as many would return to the States the next day and usually there was a lot of cannabis left to consume. Entire kolas would be set on fire in the hotel lobby and passed around and sniffed. Later on, the crew took slabs of waterhash and used them as papers, filling the insides with cannabis. Those hash/weed joints were each worth hundreds of dollars and would be consumed in a matter of a few minutes.
The Waldos contacted the Cannabis Cup in 1997. This is the same year 420 starts at Boulder, Colorado, although some try to claim there were 420 ceremonies in Boulder prior to 1997, I’d like to see some proof of those claims before I’ll swallow that story. I published the true origins of 420 in High Times after meeting the Waldos in 1998, around the same time I created the WHEE! festival in Oregon, which was ten times bigger than the Cup. Whee!, like the Cannabis Cup, used 420 as the central ceremony of the event.
I was contacted today by a reporter working on an article on the history of 420. I’m happy to help any researchers interested in this topic. There’s a big difference between using the word “420” as a code, and organizing a ceremony. The idea of 420 ceremonies really spread around the world primarily through the Cannabis Cup, which was attended by influential stoners from around the world. Below are some of the questions I was asked, and the answers I gave.
I have the HT edition with the flyer and in bold it states “Get together with your friends and smoke pot hardcore.”
HT didn’t publish the flyer, they published Bloom’s selective excerpts from the flyer. The purpose of the flyer was to attract people to an annual ceremony on Mt. Tam.
It’s abridged? I didn’t know that.
I saw the entire flyer. It was for a ceremony on Mt. Tam. At the time I was researching Soma and the Sakka culture, and shouted out “THIS IS IMPORTANT!” Bloom thought it was ridiculous. He wouldn’t even participate in my 420 ceremonies, which I began that very day. The most important thing to realize about counterculture ceremonies is they are always rooted in improvisation. The Waldos were masters of improvisation. But the Waldos did not create the Mt. Tam ceremony. That was created by the kids in their high school who came later on, their younger brothers and sisters created that ceremony, but it stayed on Mt. Tam and never moved…until the Cannabis Cup. Bloom started his campaign to write me out of the history of 420 last year. When he published his current story, I’d finally had enough. He was there, he knows the truth. He also knows that he resisted everything I was doing all along the way.
I guess he’s passionate about crediting the Deadheads.
Jack Herer was a lifelong Deadhead and sold most of his books on Dead Tour. Jack’s first 420 ceremony was at the Cannabis Cup.
I think Wavy-Gravy’s ‘eternity’ comment puts it in the longest term perspective. It’s his way of saying “so what?”
You can pick any form of spirituality, it all works. The secret, however, is that you have to believe. I wrapped my deepest beliefs around 420 from the moment I became aware of it. I remain very close with the Waldos, who deserve a place in history alongside the Merry Pranksters. The Temple Dragons should get more credit for spreading 420, especially Rocker T. So what? So what, Merry Pranksters? So what, Congo Square? So what, cannabis spirituality? There’s something deeper going on here than just having a party, that’s what. I was the first person to announce cannabis was Soma of the Rig Veda, at least in North America to my knowledge. It was during my investigations of the historical use of cannabis that I became aware of 420. Bloom handed me the flyer. He then wrote a story about how silly the whole thing was, after I already told him I was going to reorganize my spiritual beliefs and events around the concept of 420. Thousands of people came through these events for ten years. Yet today, Bloom asserts the ceremonies I created did nothing to spread 420? The people involved know better. I’m not trying to take credit for 420, and I’ve made it clear what I think 420 should be about: “A day of peace in the drug war,” but after Jack Herer died, in wishes with Jack’s family, I asked people to also remember Jack on that day. But if you are going to write the true history of 420, please never forget the Temple Dragon Crew!
I was seated in the auditorium at Urbana High, waiting for the senior class speeches to begin, when Larry Green suddenly appeared out-of-nowhere wearing an elegant double-breasted pinstriped suit, while sporting my blue hat.
“Can I borrow your hat?” he’d asked me the night before on the phone. “Sure,” I replied. And in a few minutes, Larry arrived to pick it up so he could wear it during his election speech the next day. My hat was famous around school for having “LSD” embossed on it, just as I was somewhat famous for being one of the first people in town to actually take LSD.
Smitty detested that hat so much that the first time I wore it into the boy’s locker room for gym class, I was told Smitty wanted to see me in his office. I’d never been summoned by Smitty before and was plenty nervous going in, and assumed it had something to do with my new underground newspaper, but it didn’t. Smitty just ordered me leave my offensive hat in my hall locker, or he promised to confiscate and destroy it.
I was the publisher/editor of The Tin Whistle at the time, and Larry was our official candidate, and I was running the campaign promoting Larry’s election. Our school was in great emotional turmoil at the time, starting when Smitty encouraged members of the U-Club to beat-up longhairs and Frank Sowers hit the kid with the longest hair in school (Doug Blair) over the head with a baseball bat, and the next day Carp retaliated by sucker punching Frank on his front lawn. Then the radical blacks sided against the U-Club and jumped on one of the head jocks in the halls. At first, that seemed like maybe a good thing. Obviously, it was not.
I remember standing on the second floor of Urbana High about a day later when I saw a typical violent altercation about to go down. There were around six sophomore blacks ganged-up against one prominent senior starter on the football team. But before any blows were thrown, a half dozen white members of the football team appeared out of nowhere, running to the rescue from all directions. Obviously some sort of alarm system was now in place amongst the team to thwart these random beat-downs that were taking place. At that moment, all sympathy shifted away from the blacks, who had suffered under Smitty’s racist regime, and back to the head jocks, who were now just viewed as total innocents trying to defend themselves against superior numbers. I started thinking how could The Tin Whistle help end all this senseless violence?
Meanwhile, Charlie Gerron, a columnist in The Tin Whistle was stoking the flames, challenging any jock in school to a one-on-one match, and I’m sure Charlie would have gladly taken anyone on, had anyone ever accepted.
Jim Cole, former lead singer of the Finchley Boys, came back to school for a few days the previous semester, while he was renting a room at Eric Swenson’s house. One morning Cole was asked to read the day’s announcements over the public address system and he read them all perfectly, except for the fact he changed the final one, a fundraising effort for the Association for Foreign Students: “the AFS will be sponsoring a race riot in the cafeteria at noon. Bring your own weapons.”
You see, the previous day, a racial altercation had cleared the lunchroom momentarily, and everyone was still on edge from that incident. But Cole sure let the air out of the balloon with that fake announcement. We all laughed heartily together, blacks, whites, jocks. Cole, meanwhile, bounded straight out of the school and never came back. I guess the Grandmaster of Mayhem had been searching for a proper exit line and that was it. So this was the background to the student elections taking place at Urbana High in the fall of 1968.
My hat must have provided the final magic touch, because Larry certainly wowed the crowd that afternoon. It may have been his first “great performance,” although certainly not nearly his last. Sauntering across the stage in a sort of Fred-Astaire-meets-Lenny-Bruce persona, Larry launched into a beatnik poem by Shel Silverstein lifted out of Playboy magazine. (I wonder if any students thought he was jivin’ off the top of his head?) When this performance was over, Larry asked everyone to vote for Jim Wilson. And then Jim took the stage and gave a very serious speech about the need to address the racial communication issues at the school, a speech that soon swept Jim into office, with all of us in full support.
Except for that slight last-second, ego-meltdown by Larry, who, after his grand performance was over, was swarmed by sycophants urging him to stay in the race. I remember Larry coming up to me soon after he heard I was urging people to vote for Jim Wilson. He was super mad and saying “I am running!” I was crestfallen at that moment because I knew Larry was letting the magic slip away. It was a sort of Frodo-won’t-let-go-of-the-ring moment.
You might wonder, why the hat? Larry was still under haircut rules at the time, and I had just recently escaped them. I think I wore that hat so much because it helped disguise the fact my hair was really shorter than it should have been. And I think that’s the same reason Larry employed it, as his character that day was an ultra hipster. And Larry was running against another white dude with almost shoulder-length blonde hair. So the hat may have been the perfect touch to his act. You’ll also notice that in my column for that month, I’d created these white and black devils as a comic illustration, representing, no doubt the twin paths that had emerged at the beginning of the counterculture, one of which involved violence and one of which did not.
Jim Wilson was now the first black senior class president in Urbana High history, thanks in no small part to Larry Green throwing him his support (and then taking it back too late for anyone to notice), and the fact no member of the U-Club ran against him, and as a result of the football coach unfairly blackballing him off the team. And the first thing Jim did was ask every student to fill-out a one-page query on racial attitudes.
We didn’t know it at the time, but Jim edited these responses and was going to have them read aloud in public assembly, just to show us how crazy deep our collective racism really ran. See, most of us were living in our own little worlds. Some of the more socially progressive among us certainly had no idea of the primitive beliefs being held by some of our fundamentalist fellow students, just as none of us knew the history of racism in the town, and how all blacks had been herded around the hemp factory near the railroad tracks on the north-side to live in shacks with no electricity or running water. These conditions existed up through the 1960s in some parts of the slum, although slowly a few black families had leaked into better parts of town.
The reading of selected passages of these forms caused great stress, as evident in a photo of some tearful reactions published in the yearbook as it was happening (left).
Charlie Gerron, in fact, rushed the backstage and began pounding on the door, eventually reduced almost to tears. Charlie wanted to beat-up the students reading those ugly responses behind a screen. Charlie didn’t realize those weren’t the same students who thought black people smelled bad and were spawns of the devil, that was just Albie Fisher and some friends of Jim’s reading those outlandish statements of ignorance.
Jim’s student forum on racism worked to perfection, however, as no one in the school from that day forward ever asserted there was no such thing as racism at Urbana High. The only question now was, what was Jim going to do about it?
Prior to the arrival of Cream and Jimi Hendrix, it was pretty much unheard of not to have a dedicated rhythm guitar player in almost every ’60s’ garage band. In fact, my former band, the Knight Riders, was actually one of those few since John Knight played organ. I played bass in the Knight Riders, a beautiful Gibson SG.
Twenty years later, when I started the Soul Assassins in my Upper West Side apartment in New York City, I began by playing cardboard boxes with drum sticks. Brian Spaeth was the first actual instrumentalist in the Soul Assassins, since he played both bass and sax. Bob Brandel, one of the leading guitar players from the original garage band scene in Central Illinois came in next on lead guitar. As soon as Brian Moores, a former drummer for the Finchley Boys came on board, it was only natural that I start playing rhythm.
One afternoon we were practicing “Just Like Me,” when, out-of-the-blue, I took a timid little solo on top of Brandel’s howling solo. And when we were listening to the tape later, the band went crazy: two guitars soloing at the same time! They thought it sounded great! Me, I had the exact opposite reaction. I thought the song lost all intensity the second the rhythm guitar dropped out and I vowed never to let the rhythm drop out of a song again. It was my first and final guitar solo.
Years later, I remember talking to Chip Znuff, who was a big Soul Assassins fan. I said something like, “I’m just a rhythm guitar player.” He looked stunned. He couldn’t believe I didn’t understand the crucial and central role played by the rhythm guitar in many bands, including the Soul Assassins. But as the Ramones proved so well, any band can get can by with no lead guitar. But few get by without a solid rhythm. In fact, it’s the rhythm guitar that defines the sound of many rock bands. The Rolling Stones would be a perfect example.
I was playing a Fender Telecaster out of a Fender Deluxe Reverb with trebles cranked up on both. The sound was super crunchy like a saw-blade carving up chunks of chords and spitting them out. Brandel’s lead guitar usually landed between me and the bass. That’s how far up in the treble atmosphere I normally resided.
Anyway, for those who care, the Soul Assassins are coming back for a grand performance soon. Dino Sorbello is on bass, Rodway on drums, Brandel on lead guitar and me. We’re all looking forward to loading up that old lumber truck for another ride down the mountain—two wheels on all the curves— a style also known as “r-r-r-real rock’n’roll.” To commemorate this occasion, I’ve been digitizing some of the old Soul Assassins tapes and I actually found that one and only guitar solo I ever took on “Just Like Me.” You can find it by clicking the link at the top-right column of this page that says “click here to listen to the Soul Assassins.”
After I posted my take on Alex Jones’ ridiculous Madonna-Illuminati conspiracy theory, I got this response on facebook: “Illuminati conspiracy, today, revolves around the idea that some groups have been in touch with higher intelligence….”
Anyone who claims special access to information from other dimensions and or galaxies (ala David Icke), is a guaranteed 100% fraudster. This hoodwink is nothing new, by the way. It’s been going on for centuries and never seems to fail to capture true believers. In fact, this is how all religions start out. When spirituality moved from tribal shamanism to organized religions, the first thing the corrupt priesthood did was claim a special relationship with god. All religion is really magic. You can claim your messiah’s miracles are really real, but there isn’t any fundamental difference in the way Christianity, or Scientology, or Mormonism, or Aleister Crowley actually works—it’s all magic. And magic does work—if you believe in it, so it’s pretty much self-fulfilling.
I don’t doubt that telepathic energies exist, and some of those energies even travel through the dimensions of time and space. Also, some people, usually known as “psychics,” can occasionally tap into these telepathic energies. A good example would be George Washington Carver, who had the ability to “talk to plants.” But for every real psychic there’s always been ten thousand fraudsters, all claiming special access to hidden knowledge they will happily share with you—for a fee. Why anyone would ever believe any of this hogwash is beyond me. One thing about real psychics like Carver: they don’t use their abilities to manufacture religions or profiteer in any way from their special talents. And if they did, they’d likely lose those talents right away. So please don’t make the mistake of thinking the ruling elites have any special access to other dimensions or worlds in outer space or are really lizard creatures from another dimension. This is simply a hoodwink story made-up to justify their monopoly on power and keep the populace in a state of shock and awe, and prevent them from realizing the truth—that people have the power. It’s just a matter of waking up and shaking off the mind control mechanisms being manufactured to prevent that global wake-up from taking place. And claiming the Illuminati have contact with other dimensions is not part of the solution, but just another rabbit hole leading to nowhere.
When I opened up google news today, I was pretty stunned to find zero mention of the massive corruption involving Treasury bonds going down today. The $6 trillion seized in Italy (from a safety deposit box in Zurich) may be just the tip-of-the-iceberg. This one case represents half the USA public debt. Apparently, these funds were going to be used to buy plutonium from Nigerian sources, which sure sounds like a possible intel-op approved at the highest levels of National Security. You see, I have the crazy idea that the terrorist networks are actually a creation of the same octopus controling the world banking system and they engineer most of the terrorism, as it has long been known as an effective method for keeping populations in a state of shock and confusion. Wars are managed for profit and terror is needed to drive the populations into war.
Then there’s the other big news story coming out of London: Lord James of Blackheath reveals a $15 trillion money-laundering operation involving Treasury bonds, more than twice the USA public debt. Is this evidence of a global shake-down with worthless paper being dumped at alarming rates for pennies on the dollar?
Here’s what the Lord had to say about the source of all this phoney money: “First, there may have been a massive piece of money-laundering committed by a major Government who should know better. Effectively, it undermined the integrity of a British bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland, in doing so. The second possibility is that a major American department has an agency which has gone rogue on it because it has been wound up and has created a structure out of which it is seeking to get at least €50 billion as a pay-off. The third possibility is that this is an extraordinarily elaborate fraud, which has not been carried out, but which has been prepared to provide a threat to one Government or more if they do not make a pay-off.”
Note suspicion falls first on the obvious culprit: the guiding forces currently ruling the Treasury Department. Second is a rouge element inside an intelligence agency. It seems more likely, however, that MI6 already knows all about this corruption, and may even be a willing participant.
Doug was a university student for about one semester before he decided to drop out of the U of I. He applied for a job as a disk jockey at one of the local radio stations and got it. Doug soon moved to an apartment near Uni High. He put an extra mattress on the floor in his two-room apartment and I was always welcome to crash there. He was still sniffing toluene at the time, although Doug had his sights set for bigger and better highs. After extensive research, he and a friend from Uni High decided the easiest psychedelic to self-manufacture was DMT and they set about collecting all the ingredients, supplies and equipment necessary, all of which was being stashed in secret panels above his kitchen cabinets. They were stealing this stuff by going into the steam tunnels and entering labs late at night (see my eBook, “The Steam Tunnels”). They would always dress up in lab coats and act like graduate students while breaking into these labs. Sometimes they would just brazenly load up carts of supplies and wheel them around in full view of anybody. The secret was that white lab coat, which gave them an aura of respectability despite their long hair.
Doug was at work during the afternoon, and I had a set of keys, so first chance I got, I invited Carole and her friend Alice over to check out my new hangout. Larry was also with us on this particular day. Doug had completely covered one wall with record album covers and he always had the best records, including lots of really obscure stuff you couldn’t find anywhere else. Around this time, Doug turned me onto the little-known West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and H.P. Lovecraft, a split-off band from the Shadows of Knight. I played my favorite cuts from both albums. The girls, however, seemed more interested in a campy “Hobbit” record that had been churned out to cash-in on that craze. It was really silly and they laughed while playing one particularly silly song over and over. It was about Daffodils.
Carole and Alice were also interested in the toluene, never having tried glue, so I showed them how that worked. Before I knew it, Larry and Alice were deep into their bags and had crawled under the covers in Doug’s bed. Suddenly, Carole put down her bag and french kissed me with great passion. It was the first time I’d ever kissed a girl and my mind sort of exploded. I was super aware of the mistake I’d made the first time around, so I pretty much kept my hands to myself, while Larry started balling Alice right away. I just kept making out with Carole. She probably was wondering why I didn’t make any serious moves, and she actually ordered me to get high at one point and handed me her bag. I pretended to take a few whiffs, but I really had no interest in the glue high. I was a lot more high from that french kiss. I was extremely conscious of the fact Carole was in a compromised state and was determined not to take advantage of the situation. Mostly, though, I was just a typical virgin, I guess, too shy to make a serious move. Eventually, Carole and Alice had to go somewhere and they both split rather suddenly. A few minutes later, I noticed the bottle of toluene was missing.
That’s when I had the first major paranoid breakdown of my teenage existence. Before long, I’d convinced myself that the whole make-out session had been a ploy to steal drugs. I was a very sad chuckle-head back then because I’d soon sabotage any potential relationship with Carole by concocting the most evil scheme imaginable. When Doug came home I told him about the missing bottle. Doug just opened his secret cabinet and pulled out a giant gallon container of toluene he had stashed there. But after I explained my plan to Doug, he readily agreed to play his role. So I called Carole and said Doug had gotten back, the bottle of toluene was missing, and Doug was going into withdrawal. I acted really crazed while Doug painfully moaned in the background. Before long, I had Carole in tears. She called Alice and Alice’s story was the bottle had been tossed in the bushes or something. We never got it back. But my torturing of Carole over this stupid bottle was really over-the-top, although in my paranoid delusion, I couldn’t stop myself.
After the phone calls were over, and Doug and I were laughing about what great actors we were, Doug mentioned that the news director at his new job was a really cool guy who wanted to meet me. His name was Don Clark and unfortunately, he would soon radically change all our lives.
The first issue of The Tin Whistle could not have been more explosive and the first two articles in that first issue actually set the stage for a lot of what would happen for the rest of the year. “Jock is Beautiful,” was written by Charlie Geron, and made reference to a beating inflicted on a prominent member of the U-Club.
The blacks, it seems, had finally taken sides in the jock-longhair conflict Smitty had been fomenting, and decided to side against Smitty and with the longhairs. Charlie also took a swipe at the U-Club Parent’s Association, run by Smitty and the fathers of his white stars.
The other (unsigned) letter to the editor was titled “Racism and Discontent” and mostly concerned the systemic racism in the athletic department, and the fact black parents were never invited to the meetings, most of which were held at Smitty’s house.
“An impending crisis hangs over Urbana High School and no one really realizes the seriousness of the matter,” wrote the anonymous author. “The White racism and Black discontent that are so prevalent in our nation and community is manifested in the actions and attitudes which make Urbana High a potential area for racial disturbances.” These words would soon prove very prophetic.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but those two articles were extremely offensive to Smitty and he immediately called a meeting of the entire U-Club. After they were all assembled, he entered the room and exploded: “I put more niggers through college than any coach in this state!!” was just one of many inflammatory comments made during his emotional tirade. It’s only recently that I’ve come to realize these meltdowns were likely the result of PTSD from his years as a tail-gunner.
During most of the speech, Smitty was staring straight at Jim Wilson, who was the starting end at the time, and Harvey Treat’s favorite receiver. In fact, Harvey’s favorite play was a bomb he threw to Jim. So far they’d run the play three times and it had scored a touchdown on all three tries.
It was clear Smitty felt sure Jim had written that letter as he had taken on a rather erudite style recently, likely a result of his being influenced by the oratory of Fred Hampton.
“And if you see some kid with his shirttail hanging out, smoking a cigarette on school property, you have my permission to punch them out,” concluded Smitty.
Although Smitty didn’t actually say “longhair,” I think those final comments were aimed at me and my cigarette-smoking crew. Smitty had watched me grow up because we went to the same Lutheran Church for many years, until I defected, something that would have certainly not gone unnoticed by him. The U-Club meeting was Smitty’s way of declaring war on the counterculture and especially on me and The Tin Whistle; and the first casualty was Jim Wilson, who’d continue suiting up for games for the rest of the year, but would never play football again in his life. Such was the punishment for writing a letter to The Tin Whistle that Jim actually didn’t write! Many years later, John Reinhardt (who was white) confessed that the prophetic letter was his and he left it unsigned because he suspected what Smitty’s reaction to any sort of criticism might be.
The tragedy was that Jim was talented enough to get a football scholarship. He placed third in the State in the high-jump that year and could basically out-jump just about anybody, a great asset for an end. He was around 6′ 4″ and had blazing speed. His dad, a track coach at the University, had been grooming Jim for a possible professional career, but then Jim’s dad died unexpectedly, and then Smitty silently blacklisted Jim off the football team for a crime he didn’t commit. Jim could have folded his cards and given up on life. Instead, he decided to run for senior class president. And you know what? Not a single member of the U-Club ran against him. I think it was an amazing display of their respect and affection for Jim. As well as their realization that maybe Smitty was wrong. But Smitty had been right about one thing: Jim was the alpha male on the civil rights movement in our class. And if he could get a chance, he intended to confront the racism so prevalent in our school at the time.
I already told you about how Iving Azoff—the most powerful person in the music industry—got his start as Bob Nutt’s associate at Blytham, Ltd., in Urbana, Illinois, in 1967. (And thanks to an original Blytham business card sent-in by Guy Maynard, we now know Irv had a short-lived predecessor in that role named Dan Dailey.)
Gary Pini is another important character in this story, and he too would eventually rise to great heights in the record industry, producing dance music singles and early rap records. The photo shows Gary on the Quad at the University of Illinois. In the background you can see the round building we used to sneak into via the Steam Tunnels that ran underneath the entire University campus (see my book, 1966). Gary is the one who took me to see the John Cage installation at the Stock Pavilion.
Gary was going out with Caroline, who lived in a house at 1003 South Third Street with three other girls (Paula, Elke and Claudia), one of whom was an occasional lover of Jim Cole’s, which is why Cole spent a lot of time at that house.
Cole’s brother had an immaculate used Cadillac with minor issues parked in the driveway. After a few beers, Cole’d go into Destructo-Mania and jump out the second floor window onto the hood or roof or trunk, inflicting as much damage as possible with his booted feet. A sledge hammer often played a role in this game and the car was soon transformed into a worthless pile of junk. Bob Brandel removed the dashboard for use in an art class but flunked that project. “Why are you in school?” asked his professor. John McNaughton had a similar art class and the moldy mattress he pulled out of the Boneyard Creek so disgusted his professor that McNaughton flunked his assignment. But those two practically unknown masterpieces now constitute perhaps the finest examples of the short-lived Destructo-Mania Art Movement and would probably sells for millions at Sotheby’s if anyone could find them.
Destructo-Mania had to end, however, since that particular lifestyle is not really sustainable. But it sure went out in a blaze of glory. A bunch of people were tripping and drinking beer late one night when Tony Byrnes sat in a chair and it broke accidentally, spilling him onto the floor. Everyone froze for a second and then broke into laughter and couldn’t stop. This accident had a somewhat inspirational impact on Cole, who pretty soon smashed the nearest object with his foot. Of course, this produced gales more laughter and it sort of escalated out-of-control from there. In order to keep the laughter going, objects were ceremoniously brought into the center of the room and ritualistically sacrificed. This was Destructo-Mania of the highest and most spiritual power. No object was spared by these Destructo Monks. The girls ran around in a frenzy, moving their sacred pieces into rooms under their control, trying to save whatever they could. Small things like cups and dishes went quickly, obviously, but then even the largest pieces of furniture were eventually stomped into submission by the Monks of Mayhem. And before you knew it, virtually everything in the house was turned into a broken pile of junk on the living room carpet! At this point the Grandmaster of Mayhem himself, Jim Cole stood atop this glorious pile of destruction, armed with a jack-knife and matches delivering the final coup-de-grace, some by sword, others by fire. By this time, however, dawn was breaking and the girls were teary-eyed, so weary were they from trying to hold back the Monks. No longer could they feed this sacred fire of destruction, as there was nothing left to destroy. So they decided to help clean-up the mess they’d created and dragged the carpet with all the junk out the kitchen door and into the backyard.
This house was surrounded on all sides by the most clean-cut fraternities and sororities. In fact, the backyard was really a huge park used by fraternities for touch football games and frisbee throwing. The carpet was dragged to the center of this immaculate field where Cole set the mess on fire. I don’t know if the Fire Department ever arrived, but I’m sure the neighbors must have wondered where that huge smouldering pile of junk came from when they woke up hours later. The next weekend, I’d kick an empty beer bottle, trying to set off another round of Destructo-Mania, but the girls threw me up against the wall, threatened to punch me out, and announced the next person who tried to break anything was getting tossed out permanently. It was the end of Destructo-Mania.
Another detail completely missing in all ’60s films and docs: many of us were riding the new super-cheap Jap bikes. You could get a used 50cc model for $50. Here’s Cole (above) with his chopper. Larry and I had similar bikes, as did a few others in our scene.