Once upon a time there lived a young dragon who loved to protect the weak and he became so popular, people built a temple in his honor to celebrate peace culture, and invited him to live inside. Donations flowed in from all over the empire because most people desire peace on earth, especially the ones who have tasted war. The nice dragon moved into the temple and kept guard on the treasure inside.
Another dragon lived nearby and was devoted to conflict and war. He was not popular. He was greedy. He liked to play people by pretending to be a nice dragon. But he was not nice and had blood on his fangs. But when it was useful, he pretended to support peace, which is how he infiltrated the temple and poisoned the peace dragon. The treasure was soon sold to buy a waterfront house in the Yale enclave in the Hamptons, a waterfront mansion in Palm Beach, a horse farm in Ireland, and an apartment on Billionaires Row in Manhattan overlooking Central Park. The temple transformed into a nest of thieves.
There’s also a labyrinth, race horses with 5-pound ticks, and another savage murder in this story, and it’s not a fairy tale but the real story of what happened to High Times, and how the company was stolen by the secret leader of the terrorist Weather Underground and then run into the ground.
Since I filmed most everything I did while at High Times, and since I have the rights to exploit that footage, I’ve made a feature about a meeting that transpired after the art director got into a pissing war with the son of Tom Forcade’s sister.
At the time, the magazine was the envy of the industry, with the highest sell-through rate and highest paid advertising of any magazine in its class. We had 100,000 paid readers and 55 pages of paid advertising. (When I’d arrived, the magazine had under 20,000 readers.) The advertising, by the way, was the sleaziest stuff possible: Fake pill ads and then fake bud ads. But those rip-off ads brought in a half million a year so the bad dragon loved them.
The magazine was gutted by the bad dragon, but finding out what really happened was a voyage of discovery through the labyrinth.
Fortunately, I filmed the bad dragon in action, including a visit from his co-conspirator, a former military intelligence operative who came to the office to deliver a two-day magic show intended to persuade the impoverished and naive staff that blue skies were ahead.
Check out my 20-part series “The Strategic Meeting.” It plays just like a Christopher Guest mockumentary, but it’s all hilariously true.
Just keep in mind, bad dragons have no empathy and never display any real feelings, just backhanded compliments amid layers of sarcasm. If you look close you might catch the sneers.
Tom Forcade came to New York City from Arizona to work for the Underground Press Syndicate (UPS) formed by six of the largest underground newspapers in 1966, a list that included the East Village Other. When Tom arrived, the UPS offices and archives were located in Jim Fouratt’s apartment, but soon moved into Tom’s after he took over.
The summer of 1966 it became obvious a new zeitgeist was sweeping through American youth. The acolytes of this geist were certainly easy to spot with their long hair. Intel had a serious problem in that most of these were 15-17 years old. It would take time and effort to build influencers to corral these untamed youth. So a massive effort was put into place to demonize the emerging culture. Suddenly, just having long hair was enough to get one brutalized while walking down the street.
Intel didn’t have a problem identifying who the hippie messiah was as it was obvious the folksinger Bob Dylan had inspired most of these teens, awakened their political consciousness and convinced them cannabis was a good thing, although the cannabis content had be carefully veiled. The Beatles had also been inspired by Dylan and were much more upfront about the importance of cannabis. It was the Beatles who kicked off the change in hair style away from the military crew cuts most teens had in the early 1950s.
The following summer, however, an event took place that had repercussions on the future of the counterculture. Israel launched a secret attack on Egypt’s air force before invading the Sinai, Golan Heights, West Bank and Jerusalem. The Egyptian retreat from Sinai was a lot like Iraq’s retreat from Kuwait. Israel captured the crucial buffers they sought to protect their borders, but also knew they had created a united Arab coalition that would some day take revenge, but that would not unfold for another five years.
Meanwhile, fund raising efforts to support Israel ran to a fever pitch, and the Mossad created an additional income stream through the distribution of Lebanese hashish, the famous “red Leb.” A lot of the distribution was done through prominent rabbis, who were encouraged to locate people inside the emerging counterculture who might help with the distribution.
Immense efforts were made to corral Dylan into intel ops, but he wisely decided to disappear, refusing all efforts to anoint him as the leader of the hippies. Into this vacuum stepped Abbie Hoffman and Tim Leary.
Hoffman had been profoundly influenced by a visit to California, where he met many of the original Diggers, who deployed street theater to steer people away from blind obedience to authority. Hoffman was also influenced by David Dillinger, a Yale-, Oxford- and Columbia-educated son of a rich Republican, whose family had strong links into the Daughters of the American Revolution. Dillinger was a pacifist who had refused to serve during WWII and afterwards became an important activist for civil rights for Southern blacks, a campaign Hoffman joined.
Intel, meanwhile, was busy building influencers inside the Civil Rights movement. They already had plenty of operatives running the rightwing opposition to that movement embedded into hate groups like the KKK.
The Yippies were founded in December of 1967 by Hoffman, Paul Krassner (who came up with the name), and Jerry Rubin. Krassner was running the most influential counterculture fanzine, The Realist, which had been publishing since the early sixties. Krassner had been the youngest child to solo at Carnegie Hall, and claimed in his autobiography that he’d been brainwashed by constant practicing and had never experienced anything close to a normal childhood. He had difficulty socializing, although his bond with Hoffman and Rubin was instantaneous.
Reverend George von Hilsheimer came to assist Krassner with his new magazine almost immediately. He wanted to create a Summerhill-like school for counterculture kids and used the Realist to recruit students and teachers. This effort was funded by Krassner to the tune of $50 a week. The school, named Summerland in homage to Summerhill, soon manifested outside Rosman, North Carolina.
One week after being opened, however, the school was attacked by local townspeople who began firing guns, setting off bombs, and burning down the cabins that constituted the school. Some townspeople claimed homosexuality, Communism and race mixing were part of the school’s secret agenda.
Hilsheimer moved on to Florida to establish Green Valley, a boarding school for wayward youth in Orange City, Florida. In 1973, that school was raided by the local authorities after strange stories of von Hilsheimer’s use of electro sleep, vivid confrontation, mega vitamins, hypode-sensitization and electro-shock as therapies. There was a strange batch of new age quacks brought in to educate the children. In 1968, Michael Waker, 18, killed himself with a pistol Hilsheimer had allowed him to purchase. Another suicidal student was also offered a pistol but declined. That same year, Bill Ayers, son of one of the richest men in Chicago, created a similar Summerhill-type school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ayers would soon go underground as one of the principle leaders of the terrorist Weather Underground. He would spend the next decade urging his flock to kill police and distribute weapons and explosives to disturbed blacks recently released from either Vietnam or prison. The SLA that kidnapped Patti Hearst was just one of their many side projects. The Weather Underground used sex, drugs and group hypnosis to program people into accepting violence as the only way to cure America’s ills.
I can’t say whether Krassner was played by Hilsheimer or was a knowing participant in his MK/Ultra-style operation. Later in life I confronted him on some of these matters. I never could understand how he was blind to the reality that Jerry Rubin was an intel operative. Dillinger seems to have been the person who injected Rubin into the scene. Rubin’s opening act was appearing in Congress dressed like Pancho Villa and carrying an automatic rifle. Certainly, this was a blatant attempt by intel to steer the hippies towards violence, or at least create that impression in Middle America.
Charles Manson would soon appear an the dominant hippie archetype. This was all certainly part of the same operation. The Weather Underground initially hailed Manson as their culture hero. Krassner spent a lot of time covering the Manson trial and got close to his flock, but abandoned the story. It would take decades for some of Manson’s suspicious connections to MK/Ultra to emerge.
The biggest problem with uncovering MK/Ultra was the fact the original expose was written by the editor of the East Village Other. The book’s foreword thanked such obvious intel operatives as John Foster “Chip” Berlet and MI6 super spook William Stephenson.
Take note that the Weathermen took their name from a Bob Dylan song, while an associate of Berlet’s became on of the biggest pot dealers in New York City while also writing a book falsely claiming E. Howard Hunt was one of the men taken into custody after JFK’s assassination. This was obviously a rabbit hole devised by James Angleton himself. And really just a sliver of the misdirection ops released like flares from a jet with a heat-seeking missile on it’s tail.
An even more important misdirection was the creation of the wacky Illuminati theories first presented by Kerry Thornley, a Marine based at Atsugi alongside Lee Harvey Oswald. Thornley would also create a fake religion called Discordianism, which was designed to create as much noise and confusion around every possible deep state event. Krassner would be introduced to this concept by Robert Anton Wilson, who soon wrote a completely bogus softcore porn trilogy about the Illuminati. All this was like done to obscure the fact that some of Yale’s Skull & Boners had assisted the JFK hit, and that fraternity was the only secret society known to be using Adam Weishaupt’s rituals and modus operandi.
Tom Forcade would temporarily join forces with Weberman to create an alternative to the Zippies. Weberman, meanwhile, had been stalking and hounding Bob Dylan, and began claiming he alone knew the real Dylan. His crackpot analysis of Dylan’s lyrics reminds me of the crackpot theories of Q-Anon. If you are going to make up lies, make them whoppers so they’ll be more likely believed by the dumbest among us.
The confrontation between Yippies and Zippies was designed to unfold during the Republican Convention in Miami in 1972, which effectively became the Waterloo for the Anti-War Movement. The movement had gotten a big push after the police riot at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, but all that was washed away when the hippies rioted in Miami. Take note that during the convention, the hotel where the Yippies were holed up was suddenly flooded with free Quaaludes, while the Zippies flooded Flamingo Park with free LSD.
According to Joe Barton, a major pot dealer of the period, Forcade began working with a Mossad agent on a big project shortly after arriving in New York. According to Barton, this agent eventually committed suicide. Tom used to tell this Barton if the Feds ever came after him, he had information that would embarrass them. But it wasn’t long before Tom committed suicide as well.
Weberman momentarily funded a militia training camp in the Catskills for volunteers wishing to help defend Israel from Arab annihilation.
Strange that a book by intel operative Roger Stone published a few years ago claims Frank Stugis (misidentified by Weberman as another of the tramps) was enlisted a few years after the JFK hit to help assassinate President Richard Nixon.
According to Stone, the CIA feared Nixon was going dovish on Vietnam, and they also greatly resented his detente move with China. Sturgis was told to procure weapons and make preparations for staging a confrontation between Yippies versus Zippies that would erupt in gunfire. During this melee, Sturgis was to make sure Nixon got fatally shot.
Sturgis went ahead and got the guns, but when it was revealed who the target was, he backed out. Later on, the CIA employed the Watergate burglary as a set-up to unseat Nixon.
Stone also claims Lyndon Johnson engineered the Kennedy assassination, and while Johnson may have been made aware of the plot, it’s unlikely his power extended to the top of the Pentagon and CIA. So even though Stone is a beltway insider once close to Nixon, I don’t trust his information on key issues. But he does bring interesting information to the table.
Some say Nixon bought his detente move with China by returning one of hundreds of funds created from black market gold stolen during WWII and then disappeared. Much of that gold originated in China and had been buried in the Philippines before being washed by Opus Dei working with some Bonesmen. At least that’s the story I’ve been able to piece together.
But now I’m wondering about the double agents planted inside the Zippies and Yippies who supposed to instigate a melee so Nixon could be killed. Strange that the Yippie-Zippie split was so well-known at the highest levels of the CIA, as if they had a hand in instigating it.
Between 1980 and 1981, a lot of emerging artists knew the Zeitgeist was changing and were experimenting with new media hoping to catch whatever wave might come along. For a year or two, Xerox art became the rage for many. In fact, Jean Michel Basquiat was doing it before he started painting on canvas, and the form may have even helped him segue from writing cryptic poems in the street to inventing his own image vocabulary based on opening up his inner child. Tom Forcade, the founder of High Times, by the way, was an influence on Jean’s teen years because Forcade was the most legendary character living downtown in the 1970s. Jean dumped a box of shaving cream on his high school principal, something that might have been inspired by Tom throwing a pie inside Congress during an investigation on pornography a few years earlier. One of Jean’s biggest boosters at the time (Glenn O’Brien) was momentarily Editor of High Times, and wrote the first major article on the new writers like Jean and Fab Five, although no one thinks of Jean as a writer today as he quickly backed away from that scene.
Of all these Xerox artists, Keith Haring was one of the most political, using Burrough’s cut-up technique to rearrange headlines from the rabidly right-wing New York Post to convey shocking messages (left). Haring was also very prolific. Anytime he did something, Keith usually went all-in, and his short-lived Xerox phase was no exception. Kenny Scharf might have been living with Keith at the time, although maybe they were just in school together but he also joined in with his own Xerox art.
Vapo Jet is the title of this piece, and it has to be one of the most phallic of all Kenny’s early work. The Fifties mom wearing Jetson-style sunglasses quickly became a recurring archetype in Kenny’s personal iconography. I wonder sometimes if my Xerox art collection is worth anything? None of the pieces are signed and it’s pretty easy to make forgeries, although I’ve never tried.
Keith eventually switched from cutting up Post headlines to inventing his own personal iconography, and that switch took place during the short-lived Xerox art movement. By New Year’s Eve 1980, Keith’s new vocabulary was fully formed (left). Meanwhile, Kenny went to soak up the vibes at Stonehenge that spring and made a color Xerox that shows him with Samantha and Bruno.
I’ve made it one of my life’s missions to celebrate the under-celebrated counterculture figures, a list that includes Mezz Mezzrow, Johnny Griggs, John Sinclair, Tom Forcade, Ina May Gaskin, Stephen Gaskin….and, Paul Krassner, the dean of counterculture journalism.
Krassner created the first counterculture magazine, The Realist, and immediately became a target for a wide variety of intel ops. They followed him for the rest of his life. For a brief time, he was publishing some cutting-edge conspiracy research, but soon veered out of that orbit because it was making him paranoid. He was investigating possible CIA links to Charlie Manson at the time.
In a strange way, Krassner’s satire pioneered the creation of fake news because he loved inventing the wildest stories just to see if people would swallow them, and in most cases, someone always did.
Funny little known story: When Tom Forcade arrived in New York with great spiritual fervor, he was flying the colors of Sinclair’s White Panther Party, but Sinclair’s entourage did not trust Tom and revoked his chapter while John was in jail, leaving Rev. Tom in charge of the Free Rangers. Tom quickly decided Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin did not deserve to be chiefs of the movement and started a counter-revolution against them. But during that attempted coup, Tom never, ever spoke badly of the third in the Yippie trinity, Paul Krassner, and even offered him the job of editor of High Times, but Paul later went to Penthouse instead, which was probably a great loss to the potential of what might have been. (Later on, Ken Kesey would also choose him as a co-editor.)
At an underground media conference, Tom stole $500 from Jerry and burned it secretly in the parking lot because that’s a political act Jerry had encouraged. Tom would later brag about it in his little-known book Caravan of Love and Money.
Pot Stories for the Soul was the first book I edited when I launched High Times Books in 1999. Okay, I didn’t edit a thing. Krassner is untouchable, but I did play a somewhat crucial role. The original manuscript was titled Amazing Dope Stories and contained not just pot, but all drugs. After being blown away by the material, I suggested to Paul that we break it into three books and call the first one Pot Stories for the Soul, to be followed by Acid Trips for the Soul, to be followed by Mushroom Trips for the Soul….
But after the first volume came out (and won the Firecracker Award and became a Book of the Month select), we got hit with some legal threats from the Chicken Soup for the Soul people and the other two volumes got their names diverted to avoid a lawsuit.
A new edition contains tons of new material as well as a new intro by the Dean himself. Five stars.