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The Day-Glo Effect 

Exhuming Ken Kesey and Further 40 years after the Acid Tests

Thursday, Dec 30 2004
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(top): Photo by Tom Johnson (bottom): Photo by Ted Streshinsky

Skippin’ through the lily fields I came across an empty space, It trembled and exploded, left a bus stop in its place. The bus came by and I got on, that’s when it all began, There was Cowboy Neal at the wheel of the bus to never ever land.

—"That’s It for the Other One,"The Grateful Dead

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Zane Kesey bears a striking resemblance to his father, deceased novelist Ken Kesey. The main difference is that Zane, 42 or 43 years old (he forgets), is yet to be victimized by the male-pattern baldness that struck his dad in high school. Dressed as a tourist in a Hawaiian shirt, stone-colored pants and blinding-white running shoes, Zane guides a reporter from a local daily around Further, the 1947 International Harvester bus that he drove down from Pleasant Hill, Oregon, to Pomona for the L.A. County Fair. Construction workers passing through the exhibition hall stop to gawk at the bus’ coat of narrative imagery, which evokes a William Blake painting. With its Day-Glo interior, its golden Joker figurine mounted on the hood and its American flags positioned at full mast, it’s a dead ringer for the original Further, the 1939 International Harvester that Ken Kesey and his Merry Band of Pranksters piloted from La Honda, California, to the Big Apple and back 40 years ago this past summer. The original Further is stuck in a swamp outside of Eugene, Oregon, waiting to be resuscitated, but it’s still very much alive as an icon of the days when Kesey and his Pranksters put acid on the map by gobbling it like mad and, over the course of their literal and figurative trip, fermented the mindset that would move the counterculture from the Beats to the hippies.

Flashback to 1964. Ken Kesey, having already published One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, has just finished his follow-up, Sometimes a Great Notion. To celebrate, he and the hangers-on around his place south of San Francisco set off for the World’s Fair in New York City. At the wheel of their audaciously painted school bus is Fastestmanalive Neal Cassady, the real-life Dean Moriarty to Jack Kerouac’s Sal Paradise in On the Road. En route to the East Coast, the Merry Pranksters stop in Millbrook, New York, where their spontaneity proves at odds with the sterile experimentation of rival heads Timothy Leary and his League of Spiritual Discovery. Upon their return to La Honda, the Pranksters start hosting psychedelic tribal gatherings called the Acid Tests. These freeform festivals of light, sound and pictures, with LSD as the party favor of choice, eventually travel to Santa Cruz, San Jose, Muir Beach, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles and the beaches of Baja, Mexico. "I’d like for someone to someday list all of the Tests that took place," Zane says.

The Pranksters’ story — a part of which is Kesey’s mythical transformation from country bumpkin to college wrestling star to literary lion to borderline cult leader — is most famously told by Tom Wolfe in his 1968 counterculture opus The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Because Wolfe never was on the bus, he had to rely on firsthand accounts from people trying really hard to convey the experience, along with countless reels of film documenting the voyage and Tests. Wolfe’s New Journalism masterpiece was conceived as an article for the Sunday magazine of the now-defunct New York World Herald Tribune. Legendary editor and current UC Berkeley journalism lecturer Clay Felker decided that the story was "so significant and wonderfully reported and written" that he devoted the entire issue to it. That Sunday the Herald Tribune sold more than 750,000 copies, beating The New York Times.

Condensing such an epic, metaphysical journey into a simplified Q&A session with a clueless reporter is noticeably irritating to Zane. After a while, he stops the session and sends the daily reporter off to do his homework, referring him to various books on the topic.

"That’s the kind of stuff that would drive Dad crazy," Zane says after the reporter leaves. Sitting on the bus’ shiny bumper, though, he is all bark and no bite, hamming it up for a photographer by sporting shades and flashing peace signs and touching his index figure to his tongue to symbolize the act of dropping acid. Like father, like son. Zane’s audience is rapt as he tells the story of making a magical batch of Kool-Aid when he was a child. Instead of sweetening the drink with granulated sugar, he used some "sugar cubes" he found laying around. When Zane’s parents came home, they found him dangling from the tree fort. They took Zane to the doctor to have his stomach pumped, but it was too late to stave off the sugar’s effect. So Ken Kesey took his son to play in the woods instead.

Pass the patchouli: acid test poster promises NealCassady and The Dead 

 

The San Francisco Bay Area may be synonymous with the counterculture, but Los Angeles provided a haven for the scene’s progenitors once the heat up north got too hot. What’s more, Los Angeles is on the way to Mexico, where Kesey had fled after faking his death to avoid a felony marijuana-possession charge in January of 1966. Later that month, Reverend Paul Sawyer offered to let the Pranksters stage their first L.A. Acid Test at his Unitarian Universalist Church in North Hills. His only requirement was that LSD not be served, since his congregation would be participating. "I was kind of concerned that the thing would become a publicity ploy," he says, his tone deliberate.

Set back about 50 yards from Haskell Avenue, the church is at the end of an asphalt path lined with shrubbery and vibrant flowers that culminates in a circular driveway. It was constructed in 1964 by Neutra contemporary Frank Ehrenthal and is regarded as one of the world’s first round churches. Sawyer likens the church to the Hagia Sophia, though it has taken on "The Onion" as a nickname on account of its bulbous, wineglass-upside-down-without-a-stem shape. In 1969, the church was renamed Sepulveda Unitarian Universalist Society.

Sawyer, who until his retirement this past summer was the reverend of Throop Memorial Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasadena, met Kesey in 1965 at San Francisco State University, where Kesey was giving a speech about Sometimes a Great Notion. Afterward, Kesey invited Sawyer, his wife and kids up to La Honda for a ride on the bus and a glimpse at a real, live Hell’s Angel. (The Pranksters’ relatively harmonious relationship with the biker gang came to an abrupt end after an Angel stabbed a black fan to death during the Rolling Stones’ set at Altamont Speedway, an event captured in the stark Gimme Shelter documentary.) Later that year, Sawyer and Kesey were invited to speak at Asilomar, a new-age conference center on the coast of the Monterey Peninsula. Sawyer was tapped for his knowledge of the arts, religion and worship, and Kesey because One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest had turned on the head theologian at Asilomar.

Having labored all of his ministerial life under his association with Kesey, whom he says many considered crazy, Sawyer is nevertheless quick to exalt the man, his comrades and the overall experience: "Their goal and interest was really making life not just fun, but good in the deepest moral sense. There’s a deep morality to it — to make heaven on Earth, as they say, and to be quite deep at that. Not at all just some playing around. And playing around was part of it. Not to be so highly serious but to have a deep purpose. I think that’s underrated around Kesey’s situation, and I don’t think it comes through in Tom Wolfe’s book. He intimates that that’s what they were reaching for, but you don’t have the sense that they touch it."

The Pranksters went on to throw Tests throughout Los Angeles in 1966. The most notorious was at a Youth Opportunities Center in Watts on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday — only months after the Watts Riots. Reached by phone at "hippie Hyannisport," the communal house in Berkeley where he lives, Wavy Gravy of the Hog Farmers, a collective assembled to quell heads having bad trips, recalled that night. "The electric Kool-Aid was coined by me the night of the Watts Acid Test. Although [Wolfe] did maintain that I put the acid in the Kool-Aid at Watts — and I still have mothers hit me over the head with umbrellas for that one — I didn’t. In fact, I spent a good part of the evening saying the Kool-Aid on the right is for the children and the Kool-Aid on the left is the electric Kool-Aid. Get it? Nudge, nudge. My big falling out with the Pranksters is that I didn’t think people should take LSD unless they knew they were taking it."

Wavy’s eagerness to warn Test participants of the Kool-Aid’s contents stems from an incident involving the Who Cares Girl, the nickname for a freak-out at Watts who required heaps of love and affection to mollify.

 


Contrary to the Reverend Sawyer, photojournalist Larry Schiller never invited the Pranksters into his life, but they ended up in his home anyway. "I remember one night at 3064 Elvill Drive [in Studio City], my wife and I are in bed — and I’ve got three kids — and people are jumping up and down in our swimming pool," Schiller says, eating a steak with his bare hands in the commissary of a production office in Canoga Park. "And I get out of bed and go out and see who’s in our swimming pool. There they are — half a dozen people tripping out on acid. My wife went ballistic, but I didn’t because I recognized the faces. I later came to know them very quickly as the Merry Pranksters."

While under contract with Life magazine in the mid-’60s, Schiller was lured away by the big money of The Saturday Evening Post. When that publication failed, he returned home with his tail between his legs. No matter. He had a "get" that would land him back in the good graces of his Life editors. Following up on a tip from Dr. Sidney Cohen, an LSD expert stationed at Wadsworth Veterans Administration Hospital near UCLA, Schiller modified his idea of doing a medical story on LSD to focus on the subculture of teenagers winding up with psychoses from using the drug indiscriminately. The result was "LSD: The Exploding Threat of the Mind Drug That Got Out of Control," a cover story in the March 25, 1966, issue of Life that unintentionally aided in criminalizing the substance less than six months later.

L.A.’s underground acid scene took hold at an unlikely place — the neighborhood deli. "I found out very quickly that Canter’s Delicatessen was where everybody hung out and dropped acid from 11 at night until 4 in the morning," Schiller says. "By hanging around there three, four, five, six nights, I also discovered that at 1 in the morning Phil Spector would pull up in his car, and I also discovered that The Who would pull up — that in the wee hours of the morning, when the Troubadour was done and the Whisky a GoGo was done, this was the place."

Schiller’s method of ingratiating himself was to disarm the people he was shooting by being upfront with his address and phone number at the outset of an encounter. At organized Acid Tests this was less of an issue because attendees were required to purchase an identification card for a dollar or two that included such information. To this day, Schiller’s not sure if it was his honesty or the ID card that led the Pranksters to his swimming pool; however, he did find out that they had been using his mailbox as a drop-off and pickup spot for drugs. In the course of his reporting, Schiller invited the Pranksters to his studio on Sunset Boulevard for a photo session that he hoped would yield a cover shot for the Life spread.

"As Tom Wolfe writes, they started getting real paranoid of me, distrustful of me," Schiller says. "Because they saw me shooting black-and-white film, and they thought the cover of Life magazine was color. They didn’t realize that I had an idea in my head in which I was going to use their images in black-and-white and then do a solarization of color — like Richard Avedon’s pictures of the Beatles, like Andy Warhol’s lithographs. But even better than that." Kesey’s right-hand man, Ken Babbs, was the first to think he smelled a rat and, in typical Prankster fashion, aborted the shoot, hijacked Further and headed for Wavy’s. Those who chose to stick around ended up in a photo spread inside the magazine.

Like Tom Wolfe, Schiller didn’t indulge in LSD, though he does testify to the ubiquity and significance of the Tests. "Everybody who went [to the Tests] knew they were going to drop acid there or knew there was acid there. The music was incredible. It was music you hadn’t heard or felt before. People just existed as they wanted or as they came, not knowing how they were existing. It was the first time that I think I saw strobe lights being used to enhance an experience. There were light shows all over the fucking place. They used different types of projectors — this and that — different types of images that had no relationship to each other, but all had a relationship because they were all organized and coming alive and exploding in different ways," Schiller says, and then hesitates. "I don’t know if I’m making myself clear."

 

 


Among the photos Schiller took of the Tests, the most enduring is the image of an aimless wanderer that later graced the cover of the Flaming Lips’ Soft Bulletin album, which is a testament to Schiller’s influence on pop culture. But Schiller’s legacy doesn’t end at pictures. "If it wasn’t for the Life magazine essay, do you think The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test would exist?" he asks me. "I’m not saying that Tom Wolfe wouldn’t have written a book, but that essay was one of the things that got him interested in the subject."

 

Not only does this year mark the 40th anniversary of the Pranksters’ odyssey, but it is also the 10th anniversary of my discovery of Ken Kesey and the Pranksters, the Beats, the Grateful Dead, recreational drugs, free thinking and, as someone who had a hankering to be a writer, the internal debate over whether it is more meaningful to be the author of a remarkable story or the character who makes the story remarkable. During my senior year in high school, I had to give an oral report on the poet or writer of my choice for English class. My teacher, Mrs. Pittman, tired of my inability to choose a subject, suggested I check out a guy by the name of Allen Ginsberg. Coincidentally or serendipitously, I soon thereafter found myself watching a film in American History in which Ginsberg rallied a group of demonstrators with his words. Considerably more intrigued, I nonetheless waited until the night before the presentation to pore through Ginsberg’s Collected Poems 1947–1980. I was mesmerized. "That’s poetry?" I thought. Cool.

Delving into Collected Poems and related writings, I got hip to the names behind the words, the characters giving shape to the verse. William Burroughs, Carolyn Cassady, Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bill Graham, The Grateful Dead, Chet Helms, John Clellon Holmes, Herbert Huncke, Robert Hunter, Jack Kerouac, Timothy Leary, Michael McClure, Mountain Girl, Peter Orlovsky, Gary Snyder, Augustus Owsley Stanley III, Hunter S. Thompson, Wavy Gravy, William Carlos Williams, Tom Wolfe . . . But it was Kesey — not so much for his writing as for his individualism and ability to forge his own destiny — who grabbed my throat after I read "First Party at Ken Kesey’s With Hell’s Angels," a poem I delivered to the class:

 

Cool black night thru redwoods cars parked outside in shade behind the gate, stars dim above the ravine, a fire burning by the side porch and a few tired souls hunched over in black leather jackets. In the huge wooden house, a yellow chandelier at 3 A.M. the blast of loudspeakers hi-fi Rolling Stones Ray Charles Beatles Jumping Joe Jackson and twenty youths dancing to the vibration thru the floor, a little weed in the bathroom, girls in scarlet tights, one muscular smooth skinned man sweating dancing for hours, beer cans bent littering the yard, a hanged man sculpture dangling from a high creek branch,children sleeping softly in their bedroom bunks. And 4 police cars parked outside the painted gate, red lights revolving in the leaves.

 

Kesey died in 2001, at the age of 66, from complications during surgery to treat cancer of the liver. With Kesey gone, original Prankster Ken Babbs — the guy, in fact, who coined that term — survives as the most direct link to this period of history, and the best person to help me understand the essence of the merry pranks and the Prankster motto, "Never Trust a Prankster."

Babbs tells me that pranks were random yet calculated expressions of performance art meant to surprise people, shock them, make them laugh, shake them up a bit, but never make them feel as if they’re the butt of a joke. An example of a prank: When I e-mailed Babbs to request an interview — an admittedly scattered and overzealous request — he placed my e-mail on his Web site/blog, www.skypilotclub.com, without asking for permission (as if he needed it, but still), and next to it wrote a response: "Take your time. Take all the time you can, remembering time is money and if you need money seek no further than how much time you have on your hands or as grampa said, ‘Hold out both hands, shit in one and wish in the other and see which one fills up faster.’ Time waits for no man. What’s that other famous saying? Something about, sure, it will happen, it will happen when pigs fly. Well, we pilots know that is not an impossibility. It is a Skypilotclub reality, one we participate in every day. The interview is on. Michael, proving himself a participant, is joining Skypilotclub so this will be between members, for members, and about members." I caught his drift and mailed a check for $7 to cover the Skypilotclub membership dues.

Babbs and Kesey met in 1958 while attending the same graduate writing program at Stanford University as Robert Stone and Larry McMurtry. The following spring, while Kesey was working at the mental ward where he scored the drugs that fueled the get-togethers of poets, intellectuals, musicians and philosophers expanding their minds on Perry Lane, the bohemian spot in Palo Alto, Babbs left for Vietnam to serve a five-year tour of duty with the Marines. During his absence, Kesey wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion. Upon returning ("I got off the helicopter and on the bus"), Babbs also managed to author a novel. To this day it sits in a box in his office in Dexter, Oregon, unpublished.

 

Kesey with some friendly neighborhood Hell's Angels Photo by Ted Streshinsky  


Babbs: One of the reasons I should have gone ahead and published it then was it’s a psychedelic novel. I didn’t realize at the time that I was writing a psychedelic novel.

Me: In what respect?

Babbs: Did you see the movie Apocalypse Now?

Me: Yes.

Babbs: Well, would you say that’s a psychedelic movie?

Me: Yeah, I’d say it’s pretty psychedelic.

Babbs: Okay, then. There you go.

Burned out on the typewriter, Babbs and Kesey started practicing the art of the come-on — "of making things up, spontaneous combustion, eruption," Babbs says, the Beat in him surfacing. "We’d lie on the floor at night and put microphones to our mouths and make up stories — complete novels right off the cuff, with characters and dialogue and everything." Eventually, these improvised novels grew into plays that they would film themselves performing. When someone in their circle proposed the trip to the World’s Fair, Babbs and Kesey decided to make a movie of their journey across America in Further. What they found was real drama playing out in ordinary, everyday situations, and they reasoned that if they entered into these situations — breaking the fourth wall — it would make for a good movie. Babbs adds, "We had serious intent here, because we thought that when we came back we’d edit it and put it all together and it would play in the theaters, just like movies do."

But the Pranksters had another thing coming when they returned to La Honda. "We got back home and hooked up the film and turned on the tape recorder and we went to watch the movie and the movie is going along and the sound would be going along okay and then all of a sudden it would start to sssssslllllllllllooooooowwwwwwww ddddddddddooooooooowwwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnn and the picture is going along right at the regular speed aaaaannnnnndddddd tttttthhhhhhheeeeeee ssssssoooooooouuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnddddddd iiiiiiiiisssssss ffffffffaaaaaalllllllllllllllllllllllllllllliiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnngggggggggg fffffffaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrtttttttttttthhhhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrr and fffffffffffaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrtttttttttthhhhhhhheeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrr and fffffffaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrtttttttttthhhhhhheeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrr. And then other times thesoundwouldspeeduplikemad."

While working through the synching problem, the Pranksters — Zonker, Speed Limit, Intrepid Traveler, Mal Function, Hassler, Hardly Visible, Gretchen Fetchin’, Dismount, etc. — would host Saturday screenings of their work in progress, with the Warlocks–cum–Grateful Dead serving as the house band. Word spread throughout the Haight and Berkeley like the monster surge of adrenaline that occurs a half-hour after dropping a hit of primo acid. Kesey and wife Faye’s place would soon be overrun with seekers anxious to get high with their newfound heroes. The ruckus would leave behind such a mess that the Pranksters were forced to take the Tests to auditoriums, other peoples’ homes, and wide-open spaces.

Suddenly, Babbs drifts off into an aside. "Have you ever heard of the Aquarian Conspiracy?" he asks. "It’s something that I think comes from England. According to the Aquarian Conspiracy, all this stuff that happened with acid started in England to bring about the downfall of the American government so we would become once again an English colony. Well, something like that. They’re still pissed off at us.

"So, this is a conspiracy. One of the things of the conspiracy is that we were going all over the country and turning everybody on. It couldn’t be farther from the truth because we never passed out acid to anybody. It was strictly a personal thing. In those days it was legal. Where it came from, I don’t know. We didn’t have access to any of that kind of stuff. We’d get stuff once in a while and go turn on ourselves." Of the Tests, in particular, he says, "It’s not like we didn’t know people were taking acid. We weren’t the supplier, though. The raison d’être of the Acid Tests was not to pass out acid and get people high; that was just something people did."

 

Original Electric Kool-Aid cover art  


I quit acid years ago, after a hellish ride on two no-bullshit tabs from a sheet bearing a profile of Timothy Leary’s face. Somewhere in the "St. Stephen"–to–"The Eleven"–to–"Turn On Your Love Light" segue on The Grateful Dead’s Live/Dead, hearing music in stereo became like being trapped in a darkened haunted house with the music from the stereo acting on me like frightening noises jumping from the shadows. Notes emanating from nowhere hung in pockets of air taunting me. Totally wrecked and out of control, I buried my head in a pillow while those tripping with me questioned the existence of a midget scampering about the room. I can only imagine what it was like at a Test, where coping was not enough when Kesey, who enjoyed pushing the limits of everyone’s mental threshold, expected performance under the spell of LSD, composure in the throes of its absurdity.

Naturally, I was psyched to find out that Zane had pieced together enough film and sound to make The Acid Test, a 55-minute VHS tape of footage from a couple of L.A. Tests. Available for $25 from Key-Z Productions, a mail-order Web site and archiving operation Zane founded in 1989 or ’90 (like his age, he forgets), the mini-film has sold approximately 5,000 copies in nearly five years. Through www.key-z.com, Zane also sells memorabilia related to Kesey and the Pranksters and the Beats who influenced them, including two other mini-films recounting the eastbound leg, The Merry Band of Pranksters Look for a Kool Place and North to Madhattan: The Merry Band of Pranksters Look for a Kool Place, Part 2. "We need to come out with the trip back, which is going to be a lot of fun," Zane says. "They go to Yellowstone and come through Canada, hit the Calgary Stampede and pick up some runaway hitchhiker and paint her up while she’s in her panties. They drop off Cassady and pick him up again in Oregon. Eventually, they wind up in Mexico."

Similar to the recently released Festival Express documentary about a five-day train ride and impromptu jam session through Canada featuring Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, the Band and others, The Acid Test and both Kool Places are historical documents more than 30 years in the making. More staggering to contemplate is the 50 to 75 hours of 16mm film left behind by the Pranksters when they went on hiatus in the late ’60s. "I’m still looking for the right person to do the Ken Kesey life documentary," Zane says. "Because, boy, do I have some footage." Prospective directors can use this free synopsis of The Acid Test to get their agent excited:

An unidentified voice bellows, "This is the engine room coming in loud and clear. The captain has just informed me that we’re now on the verge of going into Operation Crystallization. Kesey, the chief engineer, has already left his space unit at the AV console to go down to the engine room to prepare the rocket fuel needed to enter this new configuration. The captain himself is going down — there’s the electrician. Cassady, however, will remain at his post in the projection booth in order to keep driving this ship through whatever electrical and meteor showers we happen to encounter. We’ll keep all the stations alive on the line, and the old pointed-head will continue to monitor from his post."

A young, beardless Jerry Garcia offers a quizzical look while Augustus Owsley Stanley III (otherwise known as "Bear," otherwise known as Steely Dan’s "Kid Charlemagne," otherwise known as "Mr. LSD" to the media covering the counterculture) hauls an amplifier on his shoulder. Tape recorders, speakers and wires are strewn about in an electronic wasteland. A reel of film is rolled onto a projector. Arts and Crafts posters are detailed with sparkles and liquid lettering. Wavy Gravy bounces around, outfitted in a jester costume. The Grateful Dead’s first casualty, blues-belting, keyboard-and-harmonica-playing Pigpen, turns a complaint about the lack of electricity into song: "There ain’t no power on stage. No electricity on stage. Fix it. We need power, power, power. You got the poooooooower . . ." A beautiful woman in a transparent dress dances next to a Renaissance fairy twirling a wand. A square in a three-piece suit and a burly, leather-clad Hell’s Angel frolic in blissed-out reverie.

"Welcome to the inner sanctum."

Floodlights shine down from the rafters onto trash barrels being filled with a powdery, foreign substance. Men and women gather in a circle on the floor. They hand each other sake-type shooters and down the contents as if performing a ceremonial rite. The Grateful Dead’s relentless groove fades into reverberation, jagged voices, screeching, eeriness. Everything assumes a maddening shade of red. Pools of sweat boil on Kesey’s face. Partygoers noodling on woodwinds are instantly real musicians; one with a drawn-on handlebar mustache sports a helicopter-pilot helmet and black goggles as he plays a flute.

"There is no need for paranoia to exist in this auditorium."

Jesus freaks partake in a drum circle. A man wearing a turtleneck, his face painted white with black stars around his eyes and flecks of glitter in his hair, bebops around like a joker. Spasmodic bodies are suspended in strobe lights. Garcia sings "Death Don’t Have No Mercy" while Neal Cassady puffs on a cigarette and sways arm-in-arm with a lady friend. A bleaching effect overtakes the picture. The background melts into a spectrum of colors.

"The cops seem to be turning everything off . . . and they have asked everybody to be turned off."

"That’s impossible. You know as well as I do nobody’s going to be turned off. We’re not machines after all; we’re human beings."

"Can’t turn us off. Hell, no!"

"Ridiculous."

"Ridiculous."

"They can try to turn me off but all my switches have been short-circuited."

Equipment is broken down and loaded onto trucks. Meanwhile, Garcia dutifully sweeps the floor as a chorus cranks out "The Star-Spangled Banner."

 

Back at the fair, Zane tells us we have him for another 45 minutes and then he has to go back to the Sheraton, where his wife, Stephanie, and his pre-teen son Caleb are waiting to start their vacation in Disneyland. I offer to give them a ride to Anaheim, but Zane is fired up to surprise Caleb with the limousine he has rented — and pleasing Caleb is important, considering he is next in line to officially preserve and extend his grandfather’s legacy.

But for me this is where the love affair ends. As a child to parents who were at Kent State University when the Ohio National Guard shot four students dead, I was born a sucker for the romantic notions of Ken Kesey and fellow ’60s icons, and all they had to offer in terms of opening my mind in formative years. Now, like the Acid Test Graduation, the final Test in which Kesey urged not only the Pranksters but all heads to move beyond LSD for enlightenment, I too must move beyond my younger self’s fascination with the characters in my favorite story. Unfortunately, stardust and wanderlust don’t stand a chance against the real world.

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    A sometimes overlooked (but still incredibly unique) aspect of San Diego Comic-Con are the celebs available to sign autographs, as well as the autograph seekers themselves. If you've ever wanted to meet the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld or the guy who played Michelangelo in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, chances are, as you wander the Autograph Area, you'll be able to connect with someone you didn't even realize you were waiting your whole life to meet! All photos by Rob Inderrieden.
  • Real Madrid Soccer Practice at UCLA
    Fans came out to greet world champion soccer team Real Madrid as they practice at UCLA. This is the first time that soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has practiced with the team this year. All photos by Jeff Cowan.