By Michael Goldstein
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Meanwhile, partly inspired by the online ventures of Timothy Leary, whose home he had often visited during Leary's struggle with terminal cancer, Perry established Teeth.net, one of the first technologically progressive artist-directed Web sites. Next, inspired by a book titled Cancer Planet Mission: An Introduction to Cosmophilosophy, Perry organized ENIT, a new festival that would take up where the steadily mainstreaming Lollapalooza -- at this point featuring Metallica as its headliner -- left off. ENIT was massively idealistic: Not only was its stated purpose to communicate with supercivilized extraterrestrials from planets less "cancerous" than ours, but it was sponsor-free and Perry-financed, and featured ceremonial tree plantings, free Hare Krishnacooked vegetarian dinners, and music from Porno for Pyros, the Sun Ra Arkestra, Deee-Lite's Lady Miss Kier, Meat Beat Manifesto, the ReBirth Brass Band and, for the L.A.-area date, Love and Rockets. But although the individual ENIT shows in August '96 were well-attended, there were only four of them, far below the number necessary to recoup the tour's enormous costs.
Porno for Pyros, with Mike Watt now on bass, had become a formidable live ensemble, moving toward a spiritual, cotton-robes-'n'-bindhis group-mind thing. But then DiStefano became seriously ill, and the band's post-ENIT tours were canceled. Before long, Perry's Web venture was gone, too.
"I've lost millions of dollars going purely for the music I love," says Farrell. "I don't miss the money. It doesn't sting. All added up, good things happened . . . You know, Magic Johnson lost championships, but he's a champion. And is he doing great things now? Is he a champion in his community? Looks like it to me."
By summer '97, Farrell was back in the Lollapalooza fold. And late that fall, Jane's Addiction "relapsed" for a posthumous valedictory tour of North America's sports arenas, with Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea replacing original bassist Eric Avery, who declined to reunite with his former bandmates. The shows were generally well-received, especially by the fans who hadn't seen the band in its heyday, but on their second of two evenings at the Universal Amphitheater a repellent, not-right vibe emanated from the stage. As a hyper, ill-at-ease Navarro roamed the stage in a topless black dress and garters, Perry's barely coherent lectures went on for small eternities. Flea and Perkins appeared embarrassed. Some epic hard-drug use -- later acknowledged by both Perry and Navarro -- was definitely going on, and it wasn't pretty.
A few months later, in the wake of the Tommy LeePamela Anderson boat-sex video sensation, a Web site began selling a Perry Farrell home video that purported to feature explicit sex, drugs and nutjob blather. It was inevitable: Porno From Perry. Farrell eventually won a court injunction against the sale of the tape in July '98, and though the video is impossible to find today, its existence has obviously shaken him. He won't mention it this afternoon in Venice, but in June 1998 he told the San Francisco Metropolitan, "The tape is a shame to me. If there's anything in this world I wouldn't want you to see, it's that tape . . . It wasn't even the drugs, although I don't do the drugs anymore. It's more the stupidity of my words. I'm speaking as an idiot. I say, 'Coke is the devil' and 'I can play the devil' . . . I might one day come to say I'm really glad that tape is there, because you can see how far a person can go, and you can see how a person can come back from going away that far."
THE ROUTE BACK FOR FARRELL -- BIRTH name: Perry Bernstein -- was through his roots. A full-blooded New York Jew who had been bar mitzvahed ("My first gig," he giggles), Farrell abandoned Judaism in his adult life to become an especially adventurous eso-tourist, investigating all manner of heterodox religious practices, rites and systems. His interest in the subject ranged wide, including serious flings with Santería and Hinduism, the Tarot and the I Ching, ritual scarification and Aleister Crowleystyle black magic.
"I was reading about black magic as anybody would read fiction," Farrell explains. "I appreciated its sense of mystery. I loved what it looked like. I was in a period as a young man when all that darkness is really enticing. I could get my hands on the books, and I wanted to know what they had to say. And did I try to actuate or perform any rituals on people? Not on people. But eventually I abandoned it, because in my mind, just playing with darkness, that's like half an idea. I need to know more. I want to know about lightness."
In 1996, Farrell was introduced by a filmmaker friend to the Kabbalah, a set of Jewish mystical teachings that purport to descend from a hidden oral tradition stretching all the way back to Abraham. Kabbalistic texts -- which are regarded by many Jews as incomprehensible, irrelevant or illegitimate -- range from legends of golems, demons and magically powered rabbis to discussions of numerology and palmistry to a 10-sphered map called the Tree of Life that represents both the structure of the universe and the individual. Farrell was intrigued by this mystical aspect to his family's religion that he had never known existed.
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