Seeing those vintage Venice pics fired-up some memories. I can still see the gold aura around these beautiful young people, many having dropped LSD. We were lighting up the place – literally!
Several months ago Michael Dundon told me about the time Christine sold two paintings to her friend, Raphael Fouquet, in order to bail Michael out of jail. He had filed a false police report against Larry Sidle, my ex-brother-in-law, after he came to his brother’s house in Venice and harassed her. Michael said Larry was selling drugs to school children. I suspect Larry was a member of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. He was a surfer in the early sixties, and lived in an old mansion on the beach Play Del Rey. Larry helped put together to first Rolling Stones tour.
There are two other connections to the Brotherhood, but, after reading about them, I best keep some secrets.
The Brotherhood of Eternal Love was an organization of drug users and distributors that operated from the mid-1960s through the late 1970s in Orange County, California; they were dubbed the Hippie Mafia. They produced and distributed drugs in hopes of starting a “psychedelic revolution” in the United States.
The organization was started by John Griggs as a commune but by 1969 had turned to the manufacture of LSD and the import of hashish.
In 1970 The Brotherhood of Eternal Love hired the terrorist organization Weather Underground for a fee of $25,000 to help Timothy Leary make his way to Algeria after he escaped from prison, while serving a 5-year sentence for possession of marijuana.
Their activities came to an end on August 5, 1972, when in a drug raid dozens of group members in California, Oregon and Maui were arrested, though all of them were released within months; some who had escaped the raid continued underground or fled abroad. More members were arrested in 1994 and 1996, and the last of them in 2009; he served two months in jail after pleading guilty to a single charge of smuggling hashish. A documentary called Orange Sunshine (named for the LSD they produced) on the organization is on the way, and in 2010 Nicholas Schou published a book on the brotherhood.
“The Brothers settled in Laguna Beach, a small seaside resort thirty miles south of Los Angeles. It was the pure scene, an electric beach community tucked against a semicircle of sandstone hills rising twelve hundred feet above the Pacific. The majestic landscape attracted an artist colony, and the sun and waves brought surfers. John Griggs supplied a lot of LSD for a growing Freaktown where hippies danced barefoot across beaches and mountains murmuring, “Thank you. God.” In this exquisite setting the Brothers employed acid as a communal sacrament, hoping eventually to obtain legal permission to expand their consciousness through chemicals in much the same way that the Indians of the Native American Church used peyote. To support their spiritual habit, they opened a storefront in Laguna Beach called Mystic Arts World, which sold health food, books, smoking paraphernalia and other accoutrements of the psychedelic counterculture. The headshop became a meeting place for hippies and freaks of every persuasion, and soon more people wanted to join the fledgling church.
While Mystic Arts provided a steady income, it wasn’t enough for the ambitious plans of the Brotherhood. They needed more money to purchase land for their growing membership, so they started dealing drugs—mostly marijuana at first, which they snuck across the border in hundred-pound lots after paying off police officials in
Mexico. Within the next few years the Brotherhood of Eternal Love developed into a sophisticated smuggling and distribution network that stretched around the globe. Huge quantities of hashish were brought in from Afghanistan by Brothers equipped with false ID and crew-cut wigs. They eluded the authorities by zigzagging across oceans and continents in transport outfitted with hollow compartments filled with contraband—unloading at one port, sometimes traveling a short distance overland, then reloading at the next port and substituting yet another phony registration for the vehicle. They also sold LSD obtained from Owsley’s lieutenants in Haight-Ashbury.
Leary and his new wife, a young ex-model named Rosemary, had a standing invitation from John Griggs to visit Laguna Beach. He was greeted by the Brotherhood like a private heaven-sent prophet, and he acted the part, preaching to the group about love, peace, and enlightenment. Leary enjoyed the adulation as well as the town’s mellow atmosphere. He and Rosemary rented a house near the ocean and spent much of their time dropping acid, lolling in the surf, and talking with the hippies on the beach. Leary was very conscious of his role as elder statesman of the town’s burgeoning head colony. He tried to stay on good terms with everyone and
never missed a chance to flash his trademark grin when he saw a policeman.” –Acid Dreams
The scene was painted for a journalist some years later by one of the young men who lived in the Drive: ‘I went to school in Hollywood and got into surfing and just like everyone else I wound up in Laguna. Things were happening then, opening up. The chicks were seeing things and there was a lot of grass and there was a vibe that you could make it with love and digging each other… I’d go down to Laguna more and more and finally I just moved into a place on the Canyon with some chicks and a couple of other guys. It was cheap and it was fun. You know the bond, the thing that tied us up together was surfing and dope and balling. We’d get up early in the morning, stay out in the sun all day and somebody always had more grass… Then this cat Farmer John started coming around and he was really into acid. So we did a lot of acid and dug it and Farmer John was putting down a heavy brother-love rap.’ Griggs, a charismatic figure, began to enlarge the Brotherhood, drawing people in to create concentric rings which spread out from the central core of Brothers who had moved into Laguna.
The Brotherhood and its apostles were no longer occasional dealers. ne business was now a full-time occupation, financing the way they lived and the opening of the Mystic Arts World Store. At first, there had been odd deals of marijuana tucked inside matchboxes—and, the next moment, consignments of kilos. They arrived in Laguna so often that Lynd for one no longer found anything strange in this new life. ‘It was just an everyday occurrence. We would buy kilos of marijuana across the Mexican border and sell them to other Brothers who would turn round and sell them, with the money going to the store. Then there was the LSD sales. Different people would go up to San Francisco which was the place to buy LSD and buy it in quantity to resell in Laguna,’ he said. As far as the marijuana was concerned, ‘there could be anything from one kilo to as many as 300 to possibly 400 kilos at a time. I had taken kilos most likely on half a dozen occasions, possibly even a dozen occasions to places like San Francisco. Most of the money that was made was turned into the shop. Randall would collect money and Johnny Griggs would collect…’The two men were at the centre of the distribution system for the marijuana. According to Lynd, kilos were bought for $45, sold to Griggs and Randal for $65-$70, who then sold them for $100 or more. The buyers broke down the kilos to smaller dealers selling on the streets. Sales were not confined to the houses up in Woodland Drive. At night, the area round the Taco Bell fast-food stand, close to the Mystic Arts World, and crowded with surfers, beach bums and hippies, buying and trading small deals.
Lynd may have sounded nonchalant about the source of supply in Mexico, but the Brothers worked out a careful system centered on a town near Tijuana, a few miles south of San Diego. The long-haired Brothers may have seemed unlikely company for an officer in the Mexican police, but once a month they met for a quiet chat. There was not much that a policeman missed in a tiny Mexican town. A group of young Americans renting a house, coming and going with battered cars and trucks on the dusty roads in and out of town stood out among the local peasantry and the tourist buses thundering past. But a policeman has to live, even a local police chief. he had arranged their tenancy and offered to watch the house for a few dollars; for $30 a month, the Brothers paid him not to. In return for this outlay, the Brothers could buy their marijuana, hide it in the fenders of their cars and drive across the border without problems. No one seemed to bother them.
Griggs was so excited by the Brothers’ successes, he would telephone Leary at Millbrook: ‘Hey, Uncle Tim, we’ve just moved half a ton of grass and we’ve got some righteous acid.’ The calls came in about once a week, but Leary tended to dismiss them, although Jack, his son, now in his teens, decided he would go west to California and have a look. He returned home to Millbrook filled with enthusiasm. One evening, he told his father, Griggs was counting out a stack of $1,000 bills by the light of candies. The air in Griggs’ home on Woodland Drive was heavy with incense and the smell of marijuana. Jack Leary leant over, took a banknote and lit it with one of the candles. As a thousand dollars disappeared in a bright flame, black ash and the smell of burning paper, no one batted an eyelid.
But back at Millbrook, Leary was astonished. He called Griggs and offered to repay the $1,000 dollars, but Griggs would have none of it. ‘Hey, Uncle Tim, we all wanted to burn a thousand-dollar bill. It was a great thing he did, very enlightening.’
Leary was becoming a frequent visitor to the West Coast as he toured the country lecturing and lobbying. When he decided to visit Laguna with Rosemary, his latest wife, he was greeted like an elder statesman and given conducted tours of the Brothers’ achievements. He said: ‘They were running the store which was an enormous, beautiful place. Just a group of guys who were pooling all their resources to raise consciousness. They were dedicating their lives to becoming better people. They could see it happening round the country. They were pioneers.’