Katherine Wilson made a movie about Animal House that will be showing on May.
When I met Betty, I got such a calm sence of well-being. I loved her daughters. I felt that I should have been with Barry instead of Keith. Perhaps she did not want to replicate her mother’s bond with an artist?In my novel ‘The Gideon Computer’ Berkeley Bill Bolagard has a T.V. show titled ‘The Authentic Human Being Show’ where he invites folks from all over LA to come prove that LA is not full of phonies. Betty would be on that show, and not her husband. However, if Bill had ‘The Authentic Human Family Show’ then all the Zorthians would be on camera. The photo of Betty playing guitar with her children, is the acme of love and sanity.
When Christine Rosamond Benton came tolive with us at ‘Idle Hands’ The Zorthian sisters commented on how beautiful our bond was.
“You two are the most beautiful brother and sister we ever met.”
Our family was not without, class, grace, and love. Perhaps it time to reveal this truth?
Betty Williams 1918 – 2011
Santa Barbara Land Trust Cofounder
Here is the testimonial of Alessandra Hart who co-founded BEAF:
“A small group of our friends decided to create the Berkeley Experimental Arts Foundation and we rented a space on College Avenue in Berkeley which we made into a theater, calling it Open Theater & Gallery. Pop Art was just coming in, Andy Warhol was experimenting with it on the East Coast. We opened with a pop art exhibit and a theater piece my husband, Roland Jacopetti, wrote.”
The Loading Zone played at the event these artists and filmmakers put on at the Open Theatre. Here is the missing link between artists and Psychedelic Music that was an intended to be a sideshow to a multimedia happening aimed at expanding your mind, with, or without LSD. We are talking about ART, that would soon be pushed aside, put on the back-burner while The People got it, that they were Art Pieces, living sculptures on a new and very fluid stage. The Muse was everywhere, and in, everyone. No one wanted to look at art anymore and grove on the artist, his or her………..TRIP! Five hundred people were now living galleries with ten million paintings flashing inside their minds every second. There were light shows, but, who gave a rat’s ass? Artists were being – humored!
Psychedelic Filmmaker, Ben Van Meter, is accused on the Village Voice of being on a – ego trip! Huh? I love seeing that world I took part in through the eyes of a fellow artist. We exist in real life, and not up on that Music Stage that keeps cranking out musical notes like bubbles in hope the players can get lucky and strike it rich.
Two days ago Peter Shapiro called me. We talked about the time he put on a happening in the backyard on Miles. He and Tim O’Connor wanted to celebrate my marriage to Mary Ann Tharaldsen. Peter invited Swami X to bless us, even conduct a second Hippie Wedding, but, he was a no-show.
Instead we got our Jewish neighbor, who we placed on a platform in between the Japanese arch I built in the center of an octagonal garden.
Peter told all his friends to bring a loaf of cheap whitebread as an offering to the Swami. Many brought flowers and placed them around Swami Swartz who did a great job doing a Swami-Rabbi with Vaudville Jesus routine. When we lined up to get our share of the loaves and a blessing, Swami Swartz bid us to kneel, hold out our hand, and then slap five pieces of Wonderbread into our palms.
In the background we had five beautiful young women doing Tai Chi in their white outfits. Their shadows were cast upon the doors of the old garage while multicolor dots of wonder opened new levels of wedded bliss and awareness.
When Stefen Eins came to the rescue of the Queen of the Wends, a creative hand was stretched across America. Chris was backstage for all the Zone’s events. For several months Stefan and I have talked about doing a Broadway Musical based upon the music of Love, and an aging Woodstock Nation. But, with the discoveries I have made in the last several days, we are looking at THE GENESIS of Psychedelic Rock Be-ins that connect to Warhol’s Factory and filmmakers.
What is truly astounding, Alessandra Hart, read from Revelations during these Mind Alterations. Consider the apocalyptic art of my ex-wife who was married to Thomas Pynchon, whose movie is due out in December. Pynchon is a One Man Band who might want to consider giving proceeds from ‘Inherent Vice’ to Bruce Baille so he can preserve this important film history.
“I also borrowed a white noise machine, which was supposed to help you meditate and get into other brain wave patterns. We also had taped layers of music, playing simultaneously, and added voice readings from the Book of Revelations from the Bible. It was a multimedia event. We called it “Revelations.”
The Open Theater in Berkeley is most famous for debuting Big Brother and The Holding Company, and for being one of the incubators of the Trips Festival, which we have covered elsewhere. Indeed, another blogger discovered a listing in the Oakland Tribune Theater section that listed one of (if not the) first advertisements for “Psychedelic Music” at the Open Theater. Following the lead of this blogger, I reviewed the Theater Sections of The Oakland Tribune for 1965 and 1966, and managed to piece together the brief, but interesting history of the organization. I apologize in advance for any serious Theater scholars who have stumbled across this, as my focus is more on the musical side of the venture.
The Oakland Tribune first mentions the Open Theater on July 21, 1965. Founders Ben and Rain Jacopetti had formed a group called the Berkeley Experimental Arts Foundation “for the presentation and study of new art forms and trends”. After opening on September 30, 1965, the Open Theater began presenting shows every weekend, and sometimes on weekdays as well. The first listing above (under the heading Little Theaters, from the Sunday, November 7, 1965 Tribune) was typical of their Fall 1965 offerings. There was new theater on Fridays and Saturdays, and on Sunday they had “Sunday Meeting,” a spontaneous meeting. Sometimes music was advertised, as presented by either Ian Underwood or The Jazz Mice, Underwood’s trio.
It was the Sunday Happenings that seemed to be one of the precursors to The Trips Festival. According to Charles Perry’s 1984 book Haight Ashbury: A History, there was apparently multi-media performances, with lights and nudity (too much nudity for San Francisco’s Broadway), music by Underwood and others, an Art Gallery featuring contemporary art, and so on. The bass player for the Jazz Mice was artist Tom Glass, known also as Ned Lamont, and a painting of a huge comic book-style painting of his graced the lobby.
In January, the open theater begins to shift somewhat more towards music. The second (split-up) entry is from the Sunday, January 9, 1966 edition of Oakland Tribune. The Sunday night happening is followed by an apparently musical performance by Day Wellington and The Poor Losers. The next weekend is January 14 and 15, when The Loading Zone and Big Brother make their debuts, in evenings of “rock and roll and theatrical improvisation”.
The weekend of January 21-22-23 was the Trips Festival, in which the Open Theater participated. They surely contributed some multi-media, and Ian Underwood’s Jazz Mice played the first night. On the Saturday night (January 22), Underwood and others presented an avant garde musical performance. The last day of the Trips Festival, however, the Open Theater has its Sunday Meeting as usual, although perhaps some of the regular participants may have been a little worse for wear.
The last clipping is from the Sunday January 23 edition of the Tribune, noting the Happening, and also upcoming musical events. They are
Thursday January 27, 1966
Ramon Charles McDarmaid and Don Buchla, Movies by Bruce Baille
Don Buchla had constructed the Thunder Machine for Ken Kesey’s Pranksters, a sort of electronic percussion device.
Friday, January 28, 1966
Performances by Congress of Wonders and Ned’s Mob, introducing new material.
Congress of Wonders were a comedy trio, also regulars at the Open Theater, who did hip comedy and performance art (they later released a few albums). Ned’s Mob are unknown to me.
Saturday, January 29, 1966
Rock and Roll dance featuring The Loading Zone
This would have been The Loading Zone’s third performance, to our knowledge, the first two having been two weeks earlier at the Open Theater (Jan 14) and then at the Trips Festival (either Jan 21 or 22). The Loading Zone was based in Oakland.
The Open Theater continued to present performances through early March. They presented a John Cage piece on February 4 and 5 (reviewed by the Tribune) and a few other shows. Ian Underwood was now mentioned as the Musical Director, and per the March 12, 1966 Tribune it appears that Ben and Rain Jacopetti had left, and the Open Theater was under new management. However, by the end of March the Open Theater had closed. Ian Underwood said the Theater group was looking for a different space, but it was not to be.
Alessandra Hart testimonial
But I’ll begin by telling you about myself and my experiences and evolution, starting from ’65 – ’66.
I was in an artists’ crowd. I was in my mid-20’s and we had a child. The Beatles were already a big thing and everyone’s hair was getting long, our clothes were casual and mostly we wore jeans.
I had created a kind of light show that was participatory and people came to our attic to experience it and “have their minds blown” – a kind of opening up that expanded one’s consciousness. We used light show techniques with an overhead projector, slide projectors, moving film, and I had convinced a Palo Alto scientist to lend me a new contraption they were experimenting with, a strobe light that flashed in a sequence that appears to stop action in movement if other lights are low or off. It turns out that if it synchronizes with certain brain patterns, it can stimulate an epileptic seizure, but that wasn’t known at the time.
I also borrowed a white noise machine, which was supposed to help you meditate and get into other brain wave patterns. We also had taped layers of music, playing simultaneously, and added voice readings from the Book of Revelations from the Bible. It was a multimedia event. We called it “Revelations.”
A small group of our friends decided to create the Berkeley Experimental Arts Foundation and we rented a space on College Avenue in Berkeley which we made into a theater, calling it Open Theater & Gallery. Pop Art was just coming in, Andy Warhol was experimenting with it on the East Coast. We opened with a pop art exhibit and a theater piece my husband, Roland Jacopetti, wrote: “The Hard Con, the Soft Con, and the Unvarnished Shuck” a kind of spoof on how we felt the older culture had “conned” the people.
This period of time was when the first bumper stickers that said “Question Authority” started to appear. We questioned EVERYTHING! We wanted to know the truth: the truth inside the truth! Not what we’ve been told but what we can experience directly and KNOW to be true!
Out there the scientists were getting ready to travel to the moon! They were taking care of the exploration of outer space – we were interested in “inner space.”
Soon other friends who were experimenting in their own fashions and we decided to “take our show on the road” so to speak. Bill Graham, was like an “impresario”. He brought you Woodstock later on. He was the manager of a small pantomime group called The Mime Troupe. Our Open Theater and the Mime Troupe were accustomed to small audiences of maybe 10 or 12 people, just to give you a sense of scale of the popularity of little theater at that time. Ben Van Meter was an experimental or “underground” film maker and was also working with overhead projections and light shows that happened in somebody’s garage. Stewart Brand later created the Whole Earth Catalog. He had a show he called “America Needs Indians.” Ramon Sender had an experimental music center he called the Tape Music Center.
Chet Helms was finding himself, but he had begun to work with other musicians and he arranged for his group, the Family Dog (which I think is where Janis Joplin started out, I’m not sure), Grace Slick and the Jefferson Airplane, and the early group who evolved into The Grateful Dead to play rock ‘n roll. We were going to perform our “Revelations”. Somebody got a big trampoline and the Olympic athlete, later novelist and spiritual author Dan Milman performed on it with the strobe light trained on him. Stewart knew Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a popular novel at the moment. Ken showed up with his busload of Merry Pranksters who had been on the road with something they called The Acid Test.
Together we rented the Longshoreman’s Hall, a large hall in the San Francisco port area, and planned a big multi-dimensional, multi-media three-day event we called The Trips Festival. A “trip” was anything that surprised you, opened your mind, or brought you unexpected delight or illumination. It was set for January of 1966. As it turned out, it was a bigger “trip” than any of us could have imagined.
Just before the event while we were getting the last things in place, maybe half an hour before ticket sales were to begin, Bill Graham who was taking care of the money, went outside to see that everything was right there. He came back in, wildly waving his arms, eyes big, and he said, “They’re lined up around the building out there, waiting to get in!” None of us had experienced crowds like that before, and we were more than a little wide-eyed. Thousands of people attended in those three days.
Unknown to me, Ken Kesey had spiked the punch with his “Acid Test” formula and many people had taken the test. It very quickly became apparent that while all our theatrical “trips” were certainly interesting enough, that the music was the thing that actually held the energy. It could provide the people a means of self-expression and the possibility to work out their various energies in a positive mode, while still interacting with other people. It was the unifying element; essential. Bill Graham understood this so immediately that before the three days were over, he had gone out to find a big hall to rent on a regular basis. He tied up the Fillmore which became THE place to hear this kind of music. Later the Avalon Ballroom also opened. The Rock scene was born!
The Trips Festival was the first time any of these people had come together in a place where they realized there were others like them who were interested in the exploration of the same kinds of things. The alienated and small cliques of friends were suddenly part of a culture that could create change! Everyone was filled with excitement and possibility.
In time this event became credited with opening the gateway to the 60’s, to the Rock and Roll era, to the San Francisco counter-culture scene. In 2008, last fall, there was a documentary that premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival called simply “The Trips Festival”. It includes original footage of film taken in ’66 at the Trips Festival and interviews with people who were responsible for creating it. There’s a short image of me looking very hip, a black and white photo from the time. Women were kept in the background in those days. We’d never allow it now, but the film kept to that custom. It’s an hour-long regular DVD and can be purchased from its maker through the website of the same title.
Some psychedelic documentaries celebrate the self; others blatantly impose the maker’s subjectivity on the scene. Ben Van Meter’s mondo freeform SF Trips Festival, An Opening (1968) uses a gallery show to advance—or perhaps parody—the epoch’s prevailing East Coast—West Coast dialectic, expressing a wholesome hippie distaste for the echt degenerate Warhol, whose Elizabeth Taylor silkscreen is superimposed into obliteration. Jud Yalkut’s Turn, Turn, Turn (1965-66) is a super verite—mess, with the filmmaker pivoting around some sort of kinetic art show. (Every be-in love-in group-grope demo included some nerd with a camera—sometimes even me.)
A celebration of the psychedelic with reference to England’s ancient magical heritage. Circulus take us to a ‘future medieval’ world, weaving beautiful acid folk ballads and instrumentals, whilst Bridget Hayden leads us into transcendence by fusing evocative imagery with experimental and improvised music. The Spiral Tribe Dance Company perform dances inspired by ancient ritualistic dance and Paganism. A selection of Ben Van Meter’s rare psychedelic films from the 1960’s will be screened throughout. Peter Sundae (Cranium Pie) sets the scene with a ‘far out’ DJ set comprising wyrd, psychedelic and acid folk vinyl gems. The event is hosted within The Bedford’s circular ‘Globe Theatre’, lit by the Bardo Light Show’s hand-manipulated oils, chemical slides, films and video effects. It’s all about community, community, community!
Ben Van Meter was a young independent filmmaker and lightshow artist who was living in San Francisco during the 1960’s. Always outrageous, iconoclastic and controversial, Van Meter’s work evolved from social satire to a mind blowing psychedelic celebration of life and expanded consciousness. A selection of Ben Van Meter’s short films will be screened throughout the Hip Death Goddess event. Van Meter was the first film artist who’s work truly conveyed the psychedelic experience. Van Meter covered the pre-summer of love in San Francisco music / hippie scene, filming such ‘happenings’ as the first “Trips Festival” (1965), and legendary promoter Bill Graham’s first ever concert at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium (December, 1965) Films featuring important San Francisco scene personalities such as Grace Slick with her first band “The Great Society”, “The Warlocks” (precursors to the Grateful Dead), “The San Francisco Mime Troup”, “Quicksilver Messenger Service” and other icons of the 60s era.
Culture and Society
The cultural-makers of San Francisco could care less about computers. Cultural life was, in fact, moving in the opposite direction, towards primitive, grotesque and provocative forms of expression. The assault to the senses was global. In 1959 dancer and mime Ron Davis had founded the R.G. Davis Mime Studio and Troupe, better known as the San Francisco Mime Troupe, specializing in silent anti-establishment mimed comedies inspired by the Italian “commedia dell’arte.” In 1961 Bruce Baillie and Mildred “Chick” Strands founded the San Francisco Cinematheque to show experimental films and videos. At the same time, Bruce Baillie started the artist-run cooperative Canyon Cinema that also distributed the films (one year before Jonas Mekas started the more famous Film-Makers Cooperative in New York). In 1962 composers Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender established the San Francisco Tape Music Center to foster avantgarde music. Pauline Oliveros’ dadaistic chamber music and Terry Riley’s repetitive patterns had little to do with classical music. Subotnick indulged in chaotic live electronic music, thanks to Berkeley-based hobbyist Don Buchla, who built his first electronic synthesizer in 1963.
The experimental music of the Bay Area was, again, representative of an alternative lifestyle and an anti-conformist approach to innovation. Unlike Europe and the East Coast, where the audience was mainly music specialists, in San Francisco experimental music reached a broad and diverse audience. It was, yet again, the spirit of the eccentric independent, indifferent to the rules and the traditions of the genre. In 1962 Michael Murphy, a former Stanford student who had spent two years in India to practice meditation, opened the “Esalen Institute“ at Big Sur to promote the integration of Eastern and Western philosophy and “spiritual healing.” Esalen became the epicenter of the “human-potential movement,” named after Aldous Huxley’s lectures on the idea that humans are not fully realizing their potential, which could lead to much better lives.
The visual arts found a new haven in the East Bay. Peter Voulkos, who had started the “Funk” movement by applying the aesthetics of abstract expressionism to ceramic sculptures, had moved to UC Berkeley in 1959. UC Davis (between Berkeley and Sacramento), in particular, became a major artistic center. Pop art was pioneered by Wayne Thiebaud (even before Warhol made it famous in New York), who moved to Davis in 1960. Ceramic artist Robert Arneson became the local leader of the funk aesthetics pioneered by Voulkos. William Wiley, who joined Davis in 1963, expanded funk to painting. Roy De Forest joined the faculty in 1965. The most influential of the Davis group was perhaps Wayne Thiebaud’s assistant Bruce Nauman, who (after joining the San Francisco Art Institute in 1966) went on to dabble in a variety of media (photography, neon, video, printmaking, sculpture, performance). He established a praxis of interdisciplinary art. Meanwhile, the first public showing of computer art was held at San Jose State University in May 1963, organized by Joan Shogren, who had programmed a computer with “artistic” principles.
Something even more monumental was happening in the Bay Area. In 1964, Mario Savio at UC Berkeley started the “Free Speech Movement,” the first major case of student upheaval, peaking with the “Sproul Hall Sit-In” of December in which 768 protesters were arrested. This movement eventually would lead to massive student marches and riots around the nation and Western Europe. Meanwhile that same year in the South Bay, MkUltra’s alumnus Ken Kesey organized the “Merry Pranksters,” a group of young freaks who traveled around the country in a “Magic Bus.” They lived in a commune in La Honda and experimented with acid.
LSD began to be manufactured in large quantities by Owsley “Bear” Stanley at the UC Berkeley campus. It soon became widely available and relatively cheap. UC Berkeley had hosted an Institute for Personality Assessment and Research since 1949. The CIA was involved from its inception and probably contributed to the diffusion of psychoactive drugs on campus. Incidentally, the most famous of LSD gurus, Timothy Leary, was at the time (late 1950s) the director of the Kaiser Foundation Psychological Research in Oakland and did teach at UC Berkeley. Yet he did not try LSD until 1960, when he had just moved to Harvard. Whatever the original source of hallucinogenic drugs, they became the common denominator of the Bay Area’s cultural life, and the symbol of an attack on the “American way of life.”
In 1965 the cultural world became even more effervescent. For example, Ron Davis of the San Francisco Mime Troupe published the essay “Guerrilla Theatre.” Ben Jacopetti inaugurated the Open Theater as a vehicle devoted to multimedia performances for the Berkeley Experimental Arts Foundation. The Family Dog Production organized the first hippie festival. The authorities had lost control of the situation and a youth culture was taking over the area, headquartered in the Haight-Ashbury district. Word of mouth was spreading throughout the US and young people were attracted to San Francisco’s extravagant and tolerant society. By 1966 the media could not ignore the phenomenon anymore. Stewart Brand organized the “Trips Festival,” collating Ken Kesey’s “Acid Test,” Jacopetti’s Open Theater, Sender’s Tape Music Center and rock bands. The Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead popularized a new genre of music inspired by psychedelic drugs, acid-rock. Willie Brown formed the Artists Liberation Front at the Mime Troupe’s Howard Street loft. The first issue of the San Francisco Oracle, an underground cooperative pamphlet, was published. Emmett Grogan and members of the Mime Troupe founded the “Diggers,” a group of improvising actors and activists whose stage was the streets and parks of the Haight-Ashbury district and whose utopia was the creation of a Free City. The first “Summer of Love” of the hippies was going on, including a three-day “Acid Test” with the Grateful Dead performing. Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis and other African-American Oakland-based activists founded the socialist-inspired and black-nationalist “Black Panther Party” (the violent counterpart to the pacifist “flower power” ideology of the hippies). The revolution was widespread and octopus-like.
However, the University of California dominated the area nearest to campus, and by 1968 the existing venues were well West of the campus, nearer to the Bay and in a somewhat downtrodden old industrial district. San Pablo Avenue, once US Highway 40, had been known as Music Row during World War 2 and afterwards, as well-paid defence workers from all over the country enjoyed a wide variety of music. The changing economy and the rise of Interstate 80 still left San Pablo Avenue as a major thoroughfare, but considerably reduced in importance. As a result, however, there were spaces available for music venues, with few residential neighbours to complain. The most prominent Berkeley venues along San Pablo Avenue in the Summer of 1968 were the New Orleans House, Mandrake’s, Tito’s, the Lucky 13 and the Freight and Salvage.
The Cabale Creamery
It was on San Pablo Avenue, a main north-south thoroughfare parallel to Telegraph on the opposite (west) side of town, at the southwest corner of Dwight Way and San Pablo. I don’t recall how “Creamery” got attached to it — maybe from the steamed milk that was in the cappuccinos and lattes? The name “Cabale” was taken from “Cabala,” a medieval system of Jewish mysticism. (Other dictionary definitions are: “a traditional, esoteric, occult, or secret matter” and “an esoteric doctrine or mysterious art.” Do any of those terms resonate with bluegrass, nearly a cult in itself?! Hahaha.)
The Lucky 13, 1106 Solano Avenue, Albany, CA (at San Pablo)
The other direction, on San Pablo and Solano (in the city of Albany) was a somewhat mysterious place called The Lucky 13. “Lucky 13” was the tag for a popular Oakland soul station (KDIA 1310 AM), and the Lucky 13 was an after hours teen club, only open between 2-6 am. East Bay soul groups (like Tower of Power) would play there, promoted by the radio station, but the history of this venue has been very hard to unravel.