Our Magical Trip

ARBLESMagic_TripLast night I talked to my friend Chris who lives in the Village in New York. We got on the subject of being persecuted because we were, or, had been hippies. I told her as a historian our demonization was not unique. People who hold a contrary opinion outside the box, have been hammered since the dawn of mankind.

I own a theory that Cain killed Able because Able read a poem to his nother-goddess in order to honor her, while Cain gave her a basket of fruit and vegetables. Hence, the fruit and vegetable folks have been trying to seize the day, be the only apple in their mother’s eye! Whatever it takes!

“You’re such a good little boy Cain…………….NOT! Can you put some music to that poem……..Able?”

When Ken Kesey and the Pranksters handed out LSD like candy, like normal people, we Acid Heads wanted something to look at and something to listen to. We also wanted to read our poems. Almost everyone has written a poem and tucked it away somewhere. But, what no one wanted, was to hear how groovy your acid trip is, or was. So, like the third monkey, you kept your mouth shut. These trips also got tucked away. Nick Sands made millions of hits of acid, and there exist not one testimony. Where were these Trips put?

Four years ago I became friends with Rick Cobian. He picked my brain for various reasons. He was amazed. When he told me he was in contact with the producers of a new movie about the Pranksters, I told him they are heading for The Cliff.

“Watching a film about someone on acid is the most boring thing ever invented, even more boring then watching some dude floss his teeth!”

“How so?” asked Mr. Cobian.

WE all have something inside of us that needs to get out – is what I should have said – and then kept my mouth shut. After giving Rick an interesting answer, he said maybe he should put me in touch with these guys – before they start filming. I knew that was not going to happen, because folks had already got in line and were blowing a lot of sugar up each others ass. No one wants to hear the truth from someone who might know something – at this stage! The real movie would have been to have two dudes stoned on acid shooting the dudes who made ‘Magic Trip” in 3-D. That chance came and went. The original 1000 would have gone to see that version while high on LSD.

“Now, this is more like it!”

Being a Hippie Historian is a thankless job. I dare point out where I was, and am still coming from? I was never a pot-head mind you.

These movie makers threw some Acid Parties around Eugene and up in Portland. I was not invited. I believe Covian’s band Jupiter Hollow was being tagged as the garage band of old.

Below is the review of Magic Trip that appeared in te New York Times, that says what I said. I understood this dilema as an artist who took my first LSD trip in SF in 1965. I rendered a thousand paintings an hour – without a canvas of easle! Why would I, or anyone who was hip want to focus in on just one image suspended in time, put there by a “Look at me!” ego tripper? Our late friend, Denny Dent solved that problem by performing on stage in front of some famous rock groups. Denny rendered Rock Idols in the time it took to play their big hits. His videos remind me of scenes from the movie ‘Across the Universe’ that a scene in Magic Trip is compared to.

“We hear his voice over a faked re-enactment.) The cheesy visual effects accompanying the sequence are meager compared with the full-blown psychedelia in Julie Taymor’s movie “Across the Universe.”

The best acid trip reenactment was in ‘Taking Woodstock’. The group love plays ‘Red Telephone’.

Above is a photo of the rock band ‘The Marbles’ who were hired to give background sounds to Ken Kesey’s turning on of the city of San Fransisco. Chris told me she met Peter Shapiro at a frat party in Berkeley. They were known as ‘Danny Clap and the Bangers’. Peter was catering to the college kids in Berkeley who were into getting drunk and into getting into women’s pants. They wore green velvet Beatle suits.

“They played hits like Louie Louie!” Chris told me.

I was bowled over. As a historian I had hit pay dirt. I told Chris about the movie Animal House tha made this song famous, it a tradition to play Louie Louie at college parties, especially in Eugene where this movie was filmed.

“Students attend the U 0f O just to do a bit of Animal House before they hit the books. It’s traditional. That the Marbles played at the first Acid Tests makes them a very unique, and very possibly the first psychedelic band that was playing in the Bay Area before anyone else.

Chris was blown away! Coming from Boston she was disgusted at the West Coast college boozers, saying they were stinky and loud.

“Is this really going on?”

“Have you seen the movie?”


I told Christ about the obstaces I have endcountered in recording our magical trips, and she gave me her blessing.

“Write it down! Record it, Greg!”

Chris went on a date with the owner of the Night Owl Cafe to see Buzzy Linhart who was trying to make pot legal in Oakland – before Perlowin came on the scene. Chris good friend moved in with Buzzy. I already got permission to write the history of the hippies from my childhood friend, Nancy, after I visited her at the Creamery in 1985.

“You recall so much of what I have forgotten. Why don’t you write a biogrpahy of the hippies?”

Ken was still alive. In 1987 Nancy got me on The Bus. I was faced with the same dilema, being, the history of the hippies was a bore, so I began ‘The Gideon Computer’about the last hippie – of the futrue!

Christine told me about her first acid trips. She was living off Telegraph on Channingh Way. She was affected by the tear gas in the battle over People’s Park. She told me about her vision while on peyote that was inteupted by Rich Stevens who was part of our crowd. Chris was Keith’s lover and then mine. ‘Across the Universe’ is her movie.

Two years ago I sent an e-mail to my friend, Jeff Pasternak. He had a rck group in Hollywood and tried to get his father to put The Doors in his movie.
I talked about making a Brodaway Musical from Love’s ‘Forever Changes’. It would be a great vehicle for captured the dance of the 60s. At the Filmore our garage bands supplied the music and the poetry, we suppiled the dance. We were rank ameteurs. Proffessional dancers didn’t dare!

Jon Presco

If you have ever agreed to baby-sit for a friend who needed a sympathetic watchdog while experimenting with psychedelics, you know how boring it can be to observe someone else in the throes of an acid trip. Unless, heaven forbid, the friend freaks out and has to be carted off to a psych ward, there is nothing interesting about it, not even the addled oh-wow remarks of the person under the influence. Meaningful communication is possible only if you’ve also ingested hallucinogens and are flying side by side. Then you might share the clammy fantasy of crawling around it

Alex Gibney/Magnolia Pictures
Ken Kesey in the documentary “Magic Trip.”
That unbridgeable distance between the stoned and the sober is the problem with Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood’s documentary “Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place.” This distillation of home movies shot by the author Ken Kesey and his friends, known as the Merry Pranksters, chronicles their acid-fueled cross-country bus trip in 1964 from California to New York to visit the World’s Fair. Thanks partly to Tom Wolfe’s raised-eyebrow account, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” that bohemian lark has been retrospectively hailed as the flash point of the emerging hippie counterculture.
Compiled from more than 40 hours of 16-millimeter footage shot during the journey and stored in a barn near Eugene, Ore., “Magic Trip” is the cinematic equivalent of a yellowed scrapbook whose pictures are accompanied by sketchy captions created after the fact.
Because the Pranksters were too careless to synch the images with the sound, many of the movie’s voice-over reminiscences come from audiotapes recorded 10 years later, with the speakers haphazardly identified. Their accounts are supplemented with sparse narration by Stanley Tucci. None of the storytellers could be described as transfixing yarn spinners. Any philosophical afterthoughts are resoundingly banal.
With nicknames like Stark Naked, Intrepid Traveler, Mal Function, Gretchen Fetchin, Generally Famished and Zonker, the Pranksters suggest nothing so much as a group of attractive, preppy-looking partygoers, outfitted in red, white and blue, whose traveling bacchanal zigzags across the country, with each stop identified by a postcard.
In those more relaxed times, the Pranksters encountered only sporadic harassment. Their psychedelically painted vehicle, a 1939 International Harvester school bus that they christened Further, was an object more of curiosity than of hostility. In downtown Phoenix they mocked the presidential aspirations of Senator Barry Goldwater by driving the bus backward. Outside New Orleans they accidentally visited a beach for black people and fled in fear and embarrassment.
There is a minor uproar in Houston, where they visited the author Larry McMurtry in his staid, middle-class neighborhood, and the mentally unstable Stark Naked went missing. The Pranksters are also shown dancing around in a circle and playing instruments (badly) while imagining that they sound like John Coltrane, as well as splashing around in an Arizona pond while spontaneously inventing tie-dye (or so the movie suggests).
The World’s Fair proves to be a disappointment, as does a visit to the Millbrook, N.Y., estate where Timothy Leary reigned as the East Coast acid guru. This was not the euphoric, proto-hippie summit meeting they had anticipated, and Leary’s West Coast counterparts found themselves looked down on as frivolous.
The film begins with a biography of Kesey, a glamorous, blondish roughneck writer known for his novels “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Sometimes a Great Notion.” His college dreams of being an Olympic wrestler ended with a serious shoulder injury. The documentary includes a history of LSD and a re-creation of Kesey’s participation in a 1959 government study in which his moment-by-moment remarks after taking LSD were tape-recorded. (

Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place
Opens on Friday in New York and San Francisco.
Written and directed by Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood, based on the words and recordings of Ken Kesey; voice of the interviewer, Stanley Tucci; edited by Ms. Ellwood; music by David Kahne; design and animated sequences by Imaginary Forces; produced by Will Clarke, Mr. Gibney and Alexandra Johnes; released by Magnolia Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes.
Besides Kesey, the most famous Prankster was Neal Cassady, the speed-fueled motormouth who was the model for Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” and the principal driver for the journey’s West-to-East-Coast lap. Then in his late 30s, he was already a visibly ravaged shadow of Kerouac’s heroically defiant rebel and well on his way to becoming the kind of babbling burnout you don’t want to sit next to on any bus trip, magical or not.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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