When my artwork hung on the wall of the New Balladeer, I studied The Mix. Did art and folk-rock go together? Was there a place for artists in The Scene. Bryan invited me to the garage where he lived with the artist, Vito, but I declined when he said I might get pulled into an orgy.
When I lived with Peter Shapiro, my art patron, Bob Hamilton dropped by and bought me some more canvases and paints. Peter had me grinding keys for the Kalimbas he made and sold, for a bottle of cheap beer. I did a large painting of Rena Easton that Christine saw, that inspired her to take up art in 1972. Above is a pic of me taken in 1974 in Rosamond’s studio. In back of me is the canvas she had ready to do my portrait.
Here is footage of the last Acid Test put on by Ken and Neal Cassidy, who came home with the Loading Zone after one of the tests, and wouldn’t leave. This was the Zone’s first attempt to live together. Neal commandeered a guest bed in the hall, and did all his speed. He did not stop talking for days. This film is what you get when you put a bunch of alpha males in a room, and give them a extremely introverted hallucinate. Ken and the Pranksters thought the best way to test folks, was get in their face and blow their mind, while, the administers maintain their cool, and their faux believe they are doing art.
Many Acidheads believed Jesus was a charismatic Alpha Male, and is why the hippie chics dug him, or, anyone that imitated him. No alpha hippie male read the Bible, but, Charlie Manson, when he was in jail. Manipulating people’s mind became the new art form. The church employed art and artists to depict a mind-blowing Jesus that had overcome death.
Why wouldn’t a Alpha Male Hell’s Angel on LSD believe he too could cheat death and know God? Consider armed Crusaders with their family cote of arms on their back. At Muir Beach Ken got on the mic and asked if anyone believed they were God. A black man raised his hand. Ken invited him on stage. He spoke to His people.
I doubt if any of the Pranksters were artists, or, they would not have put on such a cheap looking Halloween Test. There were Lightshow Artists, however. And, psychedelic posters. There are very few accounts of an acid trip. The idea was to be As One, be in with the in-crowd, and look like you are of one groovy mind.
Peter Max is the only artist that made it big during this time. Rosamond posters were big sellers. There is this bullshit about Max and the Yellow Submarine, which codified the lie that all hippies had the same goofy cartoon visions – especially the Beatles!
Killed it! Max is rendering Max Money. The Beatles are Millionaires. Then, Michael Jackson bought the rights to their music. Jackson is Black Max, until he turned into White Max! Play both videos at the same time. I think Ken charged 3 cents to get into his Spook Show. Read comments below video. Did Acid produce any great literature? No! Then, it all died! I wonder why? Hellish bodyguards at Altamont. Sympathy for the Devil. Why hire real artists and ad agencies?
When I lived with the Zone I did large canvases in my room next to the sound room. Bob hung one up in the lathe shop at UC Berkley.
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.
In 1965 I attended a party at the Zorthian Ranch with my childhood friend, Nancy Hamren (whose grandmother owned the recipe for Nancy’s Yogurt) and Barry and Seyburn Zorthian, the daughter’s of the artist, Jirayr H. Zorthian, who was influenced by Thomas Hart Benton. Thomas is the cousin of the muralist, Garth Benton who married my late sister, the world famous artist, Christine Rosamond Benton. These four women and myself would live in a commune in San Fancisco, our rent paid by Betty Zorthian, the heiress of the William’s Shave fortune. Seyburn is an artist.Zorthian and I discussed art up in his studio while beautiful young L.A. Godesses soared on the trampoline to ‘Gloria’.
We also partied at Betty’s mansion in Pasadena where she kept horses. We dropped LSD that was legal at the time. I did a psychedelic cowboy shoot-out routine with Toby Zorthian’s gun he had for quick-draw lessons he was taking. I did the slow-mo-draw, where the bullet would come out of the barrel real slow, and do very curious things on the way to a cosmic target where it was swallowed up in a parallel universe. I had folks in stiches in my peace-time play on a deadly weapon turned into an instrument of Cosmic Love!
Nancy dated Stanely Augustus Owlsley, and with Christine, they went on a date with Nick Sands who was also a manufacturer of LSD.
Jirayr Zorthian was the Grand Marshall of the Doo Day Parade that may have inspired the Eugene Celebrations Parade. The New Los Angeles Folk Festival reminds me of the Eugene Folk Festival. Our Mayor should declare Altadena our Sister City and conduct a culture swap. Hip folks could stay in L.A. while those folks stay in Eugene.
“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.