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R.I.P. "I felt a great disturbance in the Force" when Ram Dass, psychedelically correct superstar, passed at age 88, Dec. 22, 2019. (After 2019 issue was published.) The long-time Marin County resident was a writer, teacher, and lifelong spiritual guide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MillValleyLit Salon Spring 2020

HOME| THE LITERARY LATTÉ - Stories, Memoirs | ON MY NIGHTSTAND - Books Reviewed |POETRY REVIEW | THE SCENE - Lit Events | JEB & ARTWORK | SALON - Interviews, Submissions, About

Nicosia with Kristin Stewart at Cannes for On the Road movie. Gerald Nicosia and Kristen Stewart at the after-party for On the Road, post screening at Cannes Film Festival, May 23, 2012. (Nicosia was Beat consultant and Stewart played Marylou.) Photo by Noémie Sornet.

GERALD NICOSIA INTERVIEW PART 2 continued

by J.Macon King

Poets of San Francisco & friend in North Beach (from left to right): Top Row: George Scrivani, Neeli Cherkovski, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gerald Nicosia, Jack Mueller. Bottom Row: Unknown man, Matthias Pfaff, photographer Mark Green. Photo by Chris Felver, courtesy of Gerald Nicosia.

Nicosia: Yes, well I am still paying the price for it. My book, Memory Babe, which everybody has used, which honest people recognize as a great book about Kerouac, is still out of print because of that blacklist. Every book that Viking Penguin publishes, they keep Memory Babe out of the bibliography, because Sampas has threatened them that he could take back those contracts. So they are succumbing to Sampas's threats.

It's outrageous. Pick any Viking Penguin books off the shelf, look at the Kerouac bibliographies. There is no mention of Memory Babe. I do not exist in those books, even though virtually everybody in this field has used my work. 

King: That was a significant work, 767 pages. 

Nicosia: Based on 300 interviews. So yes, my major work is out of print. In this country, I am banned from conferences. I was pulled out of the one at NYU [NYU Beat Generation Conference, NYC May, 1995] by the police, the same way Jan was. But yet, I go to Europe and I am hailed as a hero because Sampas's influence does not exist there, it does not reach that far. I was asked to be the keynote speaker at the first international Beat Studies Association conference in Holland in September. 

There were professors there from all over the world, from Turkey, Australia, and everyone came up to me and people wanted their picture taken with me, I was like a star. Everyone telling me how important my book was, and they had all used my book. It was like a different world, it was like The Emperor’s New Clothes. Suddenly people were telling the truth. Whereas in this country, they are all afraid because they may lose access to Kerouac materials if they are seen as my friend.

One of the things you can do in this interview is set the record straight. There was a fake press release that all of the Kerouac archive was at the New York Public Library, and that is not true at all. Sampas put Kerouac's journals there, not the manuscripts. The nine or ten most important manuscripts, the books that he wrote on rolls of paper, which I found out through reading his letters, are not at the New York Public Library. I read 2,000 of his letters when I was writing Memory Babe, and he refers to those nine or ten rolls. [Teletype rolls, except for the first one, on taped-together sheets of Japanese drawing paper.]

Those are the most important manuscripts, and not one of those is in the New York Public Library. They have all been sold into private hands. The only one we know about is the one that Jim Irsay bought, and we do not even know where the others are. Apparently Sampas could not get the big money for the journals that he got for the manuscripts, so he sold the journals to the New York Public Library, but he did so with a proviso that I do not think the New York Public Library should have accepted. 

I heard they paid millions for those journals. They should not have accepted the conditions he put on them, one of which is, "Nobody can use this material unless I give my personal approval to what they are doing, to what they are writing. I have editorial control over what they are writing." So, in effect, if you say, "I want to use this material in the New York Public Library, but I'm gonna write a thesis in which I say Memory Babe is the most important Kerouac biography," Sampas is going to say, "Sorry, no fucking way, you ain’t getting near those journals." You have to say, "I am going to write a book in which I show that the Sampas family was the most important influence in Jack Kerouac's life." "Oh okay, you have permission to use those journals."

King: That is terrible. 

Nicosia: It's complete control and censorship of Kerouac scholarship, and it's doing tremendous damage. One of the things I saw at the Beat Conference in the Netherlands, because there were scholars presenting papers on Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac, was that Burroughs scholarship and Ginsberg scholarship were far beyond where Kerouac scholarship is. The people that were reading papers about Burroughs and Ginsberg were really getting into complexities of style and the way the books were written and the origins of the manuscripts. Because they were allowed access.

The Kerouac scholarship was on a very superficial level. In fact, it was mostly women complaining about the sexism in Jack Kerouac, that was kind of the level of the scholarship. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that there is not free use of Kerouac's material. In order to edit a Kerouac book, it doesn't matter if you are some person that nobody ever heard of, you just have to kiss John Sampas's rear end. This is not the way that scholarship should proceed, and this censorship is really having a detrimental effect on Kerouac scholarship. 

Nicosia reads from his revealing Kerouac book. Mill Valley Library 11-13-19. Photo: J.M.King

King: In 2001, the original roll of On the Road was sold at Christie’s to Jim Irsay, whom you mentioned, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts football team. Sold for 2.43 million dollars, which was a world record for a literary manuscript. Was that roll indeed the crown jewel of the collection, and did you or Jan have any idea of the high dollar value that some of these items would have in the contested estate? 

Nicosia: We knew that. It was very clear why Sampas was selling stuff into private hands because he could get far more money for it than he could get from libraries, and it became a big issue. In fact, that was the reason Jan got thrown out of the conference at NYU. Sampas was selling all of these things into private hands through dealers. We talked to some of these dealers. We knew he was getting enormous sums of money. Way more than for the work of other writers. It's because Kerouac is a cult figure; he is like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. 

For example, Nelson Algren, a favorite writer of mine, a Chicago guy. Another man of the working class. If you do not know Algren's work, read him, John, because he is one of the great writers of the working class from Chicago. He wrote some great books like The Man with the Golden Arm…

King: Oh, yes, of course.

Nicosia: I can go buy a signed first edition of his for $500. If I want a signed first edition of On the Road, I am going to pay $15,000.

Why the difference? Is Kerouac that much greater a writer than Algren? Not really. But Algren was not a cult figure. Kerouac is a cult figure. We knew back in the '90s that Sampas was getting $10,000 for a one-page letter. Fantastic sums. This is why he was not going to libraries, because libraries at that time, the most that they could offer, was a million dollars for the whole archive.  That's what the New York Public Library and Berkeley's Bancroft Library were each offering. Sampas wanted more than a million dollars for one item. 

He wanted more than a million for the roll manuscript of On the Road, not for the whole collection. But Sampas had put out the word that, "Well, I have to sell it privately because no library wants it." Which was bullshit. So, what Jan and I did was we went to Rodney King, the curator at the New York Public Library. This was right before the conference at NYU, and we asked Rodney King, "What would you pay for the Kerouac archive?" 

He said, "I'd pay a million dollars because that's the most I can pay." We had already talked to Tony Bliss over at Bancroft …

King: At UC Berkeley.

Nicosia: Yes. He said, "A million dollars, but I couldn’t go over that." But Sampas again was putting out this word, "No library wants it," so at the start of the ’95 NYU Beat Generation Conference Jan asked Ginsberg for the microphone because she wanted to tell the audience that there were two libraries that want to buy this material. Because that was information that was being hidden from everybody. 

That is when John Sampas stood up, and he was right there because they always needed his permission, they still do for these conferences. He was sitting right next to Helen Kelly, the NYU woman that ran the conference, and Sampas said, "Get her out of here!" because he did not want her getting the microphone and telling the world about these two libraries. And Ginsberg went right along with him, "Yeah get the police, drag her out, she's irrelevant." I stood up and said, "You can’t take Jack Kerouac's daughter out of a Kerouac conference!" And they said, “Get Nicosia out, too.”

Jan Kerouac (in flannel) with Nicosia (middle), talking to reporters in Washington Square Park, June 5, 1995, after being thrown out of NYU’s Jack Kerouac Conference. Photographer unknown.

But that was what it was all about. Jan wanted to blow the lid off this and say there are libraries that want the Kerouac archive. But you see, Sampas did not want a million, he could have had a million dollars right there on the spot. But he was thinking, "Hey if I can get a fuckin' million dollars for each little piece, why should I sell it all for a million dollars?" Except that you would be doing Jack Kerouac and the literary world a service by putting it all in one place, but that is not what John Sampas was thinking about. He was thinking about how to make the most money off it.

King: Strictly business.

Nicosia: Strictly business. It still is.

King: It's sad that Jack took the slow way out, some say the Catholic way, drank himself to death at age 47 in October 1969, and this was just as the hippie revolution was underway, a revolution that the Beats precipitated. Neal Cassady died a year before, February '68, but Neal had a stint with the master prankster, Ken Kesey, driving the magic bus “Furthur” in pre-hippie '64. Even Ginsberg was along for the ride on that one. So, if you take a look at your time machine, fortune-teller ball, and we touched on this briefly before— If Jack had have stayed healthy and active, and maybe happier and lived, what do you think his role would have been during the hippie revolution? 

Nicosia: I do not know, it's hard to say. Jack was not a political creature at all, that is what I tried to explain to people. They always wanted to know how could he get on the wrong side of the hippies, and so on. But he always said, "I'm a Catholic mystic, a poet." He resented Ginsberg waving the placards. Jack was very non-political. Jack identified with the Chinese hobo poets like Li Po and Tu Fu, and the poets who lived in the mountains. Han Shan.

For Jack, if you are a poet—you are a mystic, you are a holy man. You get away from society, you write your vision, you get your visions from God or somewhere and you write them. Ginsberg had a much clearer role of the poet and writer as someone who functions within the political climate as a political force within society. Corso did too, because Corso was inspired by the great poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Shelley said, "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."

Shelley was saying that what you write in poetry affects the course of mankind. But Kerouac did not believe that or did not want to believe that. There was a part of him where, early on in his life, back in the '40s he would talk about how maybe writing could change America, but it was a very dreamy kind of thing. He failed to see that it does not just magically happen. You don't just write the book and it magically transforms the world. You have to go out and fight. People like Grace Paley, writers that have been out on the front lines, and Ginsberg too, Noam Chomsky, were actively fighting the system. 

Kerouac was not constituted to do that. Ginsberg of course resented Kerouac for that. Ginsberg wanted Kerouac to come out to the anti-Vietnam war demonstrations, "Jack, why aren’t you out there on the front lines?" Taking part in demonstrations, waving a placard, was not who Jack was, so I do not know what his role would be. I think he would have written sympathetically about it, and his writing would have had some effect. Ultimately, his writing did have a political effect. Books like The Dharma Bums and On the Road were used like guidebooks by the hippies. 

Maybe The Dharma Bums affected the '60s generation most of all because Kerouac foresaw the “rucksack revolution” in The Dharma Bums, and you had all these kids strapping on their rucksack and going out on the road and experiencing new lives. Ultimately his books did have political influence, and I think his writing would have continued to do so. On the William F. Buckley TV show Firing Line, Kerouac even said that the hippies were better kids than the Beats. I think there was a sympathy in him toward the young who were trying to find a new way. 

I think he would have been there as a silent partner, somebody maybe who is writing and would have been supportive, but I could not see that he would have had a direct political role because it just was not who he was. 

King: Understood. Okay, I am going to start wrapping it up here. Gerald, you have been a college teacher, a playwright, documentary narrator, active in Vietnam vet affairs among other things, you are still writing poetry books, freelancing, you will be at the Beat Museum in North Beach in October***** for the unveiling of the Kerouac scroll, or roll, as you have said to be the more accurate name, and now you are a movie consultant. What is next for you?

Nicosia: I just finished a book, which I was calling “The China Poems,” but I have decided now to call it Night Train to Shanghai, from the longest poem of the book. I have just finished it, and Don Ellis is going to publish it. Don Ellis used to be the publisher of Creative Arts, but he has a new company now called Grizzly Peak Press. Within the next year, you can look forward to my new book of poetry. 

King: Some of those are the poems you submitted for MillValleyLit

Nicosia: Yes, you have a few of them. “The Three Buddhas” is one of the poems in Night Train to Shanghai. But it’s a full book of poems and it's, I think, an important book because it deals with the political reality of China versus America. I am very proud of it. It has some serious poems about political realities, and some humor, too. “The Three Buddhas” is a lighter, funny poem.  

I am also working on this very big book right now, which is called Beautiful, Colored and Alive: The Life and Work of Ntozake Shange. I have been working on it for a few years, I have interviewed hundreds of people, and it's going to be a major biography of the size and scope of Memory Babe, because I believe Ntozake Shange is as important to Black writing as Jack Kerouac was to white writing. 

King: We look forward to it. Any parting words for the struggling writers out there?

Nicosia: Well, a lot of writers starting out now have to do their work on the Internet, blogs, self-publishing. Because, as I told you, you have these multi-nationals controlling commercial publishing. They are not looking for mid-list books, they are looking for books that will sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Most first novels do not fall into that category, most serious biographies of people like Gregory Corso do not fall into the 200,000-copy category.

So a lot of these books are not going to get accepted, not going to get published, not going to get funded. A lot of people have turned to self-publishing, they have turned to small presses. Small press has always been a venue for people that cannot get published elsewhere. You know this, that’s why you’re publishing your own literary webzine, promoting budding writers and reviewing their works. It's just a lot tougher now. The newspaper and magazine book reviews do not exist anymore. When I was a kid, growing up, I got my education in books from the Chicago Tribune book review. 

Every Sunday in Chicago, there was a 30-page book review as thick as a fat pancake. The reviewers were some of the best writers in the country. Like Seymour Krim, whom I became friends with later on. If you read those reviews, you would get an education in literature. Those reviews do not even exist anymore. I think the Chicago Tribune book review is one page now on Sunday. Some of the book reviews no longer exist as freestanding book reviews—The Washington Post reviews books in other sections. The LA Times book review, I am not sure if that exists anymore; if it does, it's really shrunken. 

So you do not even have outlets for new writers, and if they get their book published, there are no outlets for it to get reviewed.  So how are people going to know about its existence? Except on the Internet, through websites and blogs, so a lot of getting known has to be done there. But the problem of course is there is so much on the Internet that stuff gets lost there. Your book may get reviewed on a blog, but nobody sees it because there are 10,000,000 blogs out there to read. 

Whereas in the old days, when you had maybe twenty major book reviews in the United States, those were sources where people would get to know new writers. Ishmael Reed was this unknown black kid from Buffalo, but when he published his second book, Yellow Back Radio Broke Down, it was given major reviews in places like the Chicago Tribune, and suddenly he was put on the map. Ishmael Reed is now a major American writer. But in a situation today where you do not have those reviews, would a powerful, new, young black writer get known the way Ishmael Reed got known overnight because five or ten of those book reviews put him on their front page? So it’s a different situation, and what it means is that a lot of writers may not be getting known that should be getting known. It’s not a good situation, it's just not. 

King: But do they keep writing anyway? 

Nicosia: Well, if you are a real writer, you write because you have to. It’s your calling. One of my friends, the Beat poet Jack Micheline, taught me a long time ago about the perseverance of a real writer. He was not getting published; City Lights would not publish him. I do not want to get on to the subject of Lawrence Ferlinghetti here, but he basically ignored a lot of the writers in San Francisco, including Jack Micheline. And Micheline was a wonderful poet! You should read him, a real poet of the streets.

This was somebody who lived in the flop-house hotels on Mission Street, walked the streets every day, talked to the people on the streets, would get his stories from the people on the streets, go home and write his poems about the people he met each day. Wonderful. Had a jazz rhythm, a jazz swing. It's probably out of print, but try to find Micheline's North of Manhattan. That was his one major publication. Go on AbeBooks, or other used-book places on the internet. Get a copy of North of Manhattan by Jack Micheline. You will love his poetry. 

We did get a hard-to-find copy, and did love Micheline's poetry.

He would mimeograph his poems, or Xerox them, when he was not getting published for years and years. He would go to the copy shops and he would Xerox 20 copies of a poem, and he would stand on the street corner and sell them for a dollar each. He said, "I'm getting my work out," and I said, "Jack, only 20 people are reading your work." He answered, "Doesn’t matter!" 

King: That was how Richard Brautigan started, he handed out his poems in the 60’s in Haight Ashbury with the Diggers just to get his work out.

Anyway, thank you very much, I appreciate your time. You have done tremendous work on the legacy of the Beats and are an amazing resource of information. 

Nicosia: Thank you for shining a literary light on my work.

END

 

   

Nicosia with Carolyn Cassady, Beat writer, muse, widow of Neal Cassady, lover of Kerouac, at Beat conference, Petaluma, 2001. Photographer unknown.

The late Vietnam veteran novelist Larry Heinemann (National Book Award for Paco’s Story, 1987), Ron Kovic (Born on the Fourth of July), and Gerald Nicosia, Hermosa Beach, California, 1991.  Photographer unknown.

With Bob Kaufman at the publication party for Kaufman’s book THE ANCIENT RAIN, at the Old Spaghetti Factory in North Beach, May 1981. Photo by Ira Cohen.

Notes:

Part 1 of this interview is available upon request.

***** 2012

Kerouac's unintended legacy? A legal limbo:

Chicago Tribune article by Rick Kogan: https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/ct-ent-jack-kerouac-century-book-kogan-0301-20200225-mmkhb7vfyzejjp25eco75tfxl4-story.html

http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/Kerouac-s-unintended-legacy-A-legal-limbo-3289862.php

Jack Kerouac, Novelist, Dead; Father of the Beat Generation. NY Times obituary of Jack Kerouac: http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/09/07/home/kerouac-obit.html

 

© MillValleyLit. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any material without permission is strictly prohibited.

All writing, submissions, and comments are the views of the respective authors and interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the views of MillValleyLit or Editorial staff.

 

 

 

 

MillValleyLit

Salutes Psychedelia Issue - 2019

Michael & Carol Griggs Randall in front of autographed poster of documentary.

"These are Tales of the Great Drug Runners..." Interview with Michael Randall, co-founder of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the 60's legally registered Southern California church that used LSD and hashish as their sacrament. Inspired to spread their gospel, the Brotherhood soon fueled the Counterculture Revolution with 130,000 hits of Orange Sunshine and fifty to perhaps a staggering 200 tons of first-ever-in-U.S. Afghani hash. Smuggling product in surf boards, film canisters, exotic musical instruments, VW buses, and boats, with dozens of secret identities, the Brotherhood operated as global Scarlet Pimpernels with such a cloak of invisibility, top law enforcement dismissed the very idea of organized hippie outlaws. No way - hippies are a joke, a nuisance, a passing fad.

That changed when the Brotherhood's escapades made international headlines. Tim Leary, the World's Greatest LSD Showman (to coin a phrase), started living in a teepee on the Brotherhood's ranch and surprisingly announced he was running for Governor of California against Ronald Reagan.* Leary quickly brought unwanted attention and heat to the BEL. Leary was busted in Laguna Beach for two roaches and sentenced to 10-years for possession (with previous conviction, 20 total), but really as a political prisoner. Michael Randall was architect of Timothy Leary's 1970 notorious prison escape. As if that was not brazen enough, on Christmas Day – the Brotherhood dropped 25,000 tabs of acid from a plane on a concert to induce a communal spiritual revolution.

Michael and his wife Carol have lived quiet lives as meek, mild-mannered jewelers in Marin County, without even friends and associates knowing their true identities. The couple finally revealed themselves in the brilliant William Kirkley documentary, ORANGE SUNSHINE (2016). Michael Randall told me it took the producer almost five years to convince him.

Michael told me that the group distributed about 130 million hits of Orange Sunshine before federal drug agents finally caught up to the Brotherhood in 1972. Randall was busted at the New Year’s Eve Dead show at Winterland. When the conspiracy trail went south, he went on the lam and spent the next twelve years on the run with Carol and their family. Randall was finally re-arrested in 1984 near Boulder, CO and sent to prison for five years.

Carol Griggs Randall said in a magazine interview, “The ’60s was a movement of people who saw how things could be done better. It was a whole movement that changed things and the Brotherhood was a big part of it. We wanted to create a spiritual revolution and nothing less.”

Interview with Michael Randall of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love by J. Macon King

Randall speaks to MillValleyLit about what the sixties were like before LSD, his smuggling life, tripping around with Tim Leary, Albert Hoffman, Owsley, the Dead, Jimi, plus his continuing gospel of spiritual expansion.

At the brewery where the Orange Sunshine movie poster came to my attention, I met up for beers with the co-founder of the Brotherhood that fueled the 1960s Counterculture. Michael Randall, jewelry artist, poet and author, is a tall, lanky, imposing figure, usually sporting a vest and hat. He has a warm, welcoming demeanor, with a sense of humor, but also seems like a man who doesn’t suffer fools. He told me upfront that his agent advised him not to talk to me, because of upcoming projects and so forth. Michael said that he liked me and wanted to talk anyway. He would just have to keep a few things to himself. That was agreeable. At times during the interview I felt that I was truly sitting across from a bonified guru.

Produced by William A. Kirkley. Dennis Harvey in VARIETY calls it a: "sunny retro thriller, maintaining a brisk pace and lively aesthetic surface. The caper narrative tilt is heightened by having actors play the main characters in wordless re-enactment sequences that blend quite well into the whole, being shot to look like 8mm home movies and other archival materials." With: Michael Randall, Carol Griggs, Rick Bevan, Ron Bevan, Travis Ashbrook, Wendy Bevan, Michael Kennedy, Neil Purcell.

IN THE BEGINNING

MillValleyLit: Michael, you, and the Brotherhood of Love, were really at ground zero of the hippie/psychedelic movement. You knew and\or were friends with some of the big names of the era: Tim Leary, Owsley and his protégés LSD chemists Tim Scully and the late Nick Sand, Kesey, Ram Das, Albert Hoffman? 

MR: These are all people I know. Many of those people have been very, very close friends. Ken Kesey, I didn’t know well, but I met him many times. Sand and Scully were dear, dear friends, we love each other. I knew Ram Das very well, I knew him all my life.

MillValleyLit: Jerry Garcia, the Dead, Bill Graham?

MR: Yes, we could go backstage whenever we wanted. Bill Graham used to have his security “arrest” me and take me in the back where Bill would steal my hash. He loved hash. Look, I'm not really into people with names or that are well-known.

MillValleyLit: Because you have led such a private life, understandably, for many, many years, underground for twelve years, I’m trying to establish for the readers just where you fit in with more familiar names.

MR: Then Ralph Metzner should be in there. 

MillValleyLit: Right. He just passed away.

MR: Yes. We were at his memorial service. It does happen that I know a lot of the people and a lot of big things were just coming in the 60s. We weren't trying to be famous. We were doing the right things and following our instincts. Also Alan Watts, I've been to his house in Malibu at parties many times.

MillValleyLit: I used to hang out on Watts' giant houseboat in Sausalito, the old ferry S.S. Vallejo. My friend lived there helping with the restoration after Alan died. It was the site of the 1967 "Houseboat Summit" on LSD with Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and Alan Watts.

MR: O.K., if you want a big name, I dropped acid with Jimi Hendrix. Then I was just a few feet away from him as he performed tripping on stage in New York.

MillValleyLit: Now we’re talking! That’s more impressive than “I Dropped Acid with Groucho Marx.”** The late Paul Krassner’s booklet. Krassner (Editor’s note: Yippie leader, Chicago 7 Trial, etc.) gave it to me in North Beach. Actually, he sold it to me. But at least he signed it.

MR: Timothy, Richard Alpert and Metzner from Harvard were the three main people that were doing experimentation with psychedelics. They were going into prisons and doing sessions with prisoners with the authority’s permission. And they were the first discovering the spiritual aspects and healing aspects of psychedelics, that it could help heal people who are criminals, or criminally insane or strung out on heroin. I personally turned people on to acid that were junkies that quit shooting dope right then and there and never went back to it.

One San Francisco couple like that, the man came with me to Laguna Beach, and the wife checked into rehab, already done the standard government whatever rehab. He never shot heroin again. She overdosed six months later. So, I think the whole thing with Harvard was that they started out with psychedelics as a tool, a psychological tool and a spiritual tool. I mean that's where it was born and by the fact that a bunch of hippies started taking it, I mean if you're going to have a revolution you have to have people doing the revolution. It isn't going to happen in the doctor's office. It's not going to happen in the research facility. It's going to happen on the streets or better in the countryside on the beaches and mountains and rivers and streams - getting high. And discovering who you are, your inner self. It's an amazing opportunity that we've been given in my opinion to be able to take a pill. It seems like it pisses some people off to even suggest that you can take a pill and have a spiritual revelation, but it's true. You can. It happens. It happens I'm damn sure near every time anybody takes it, under the right circumstances.

That's why we put out a guide book, A Psychedelic Guide, which is a guide book that follows closely upon Timothy Leary's book, Psychedelic Prayers. His book is a reinterpretation of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, written 2500 years ago in China, before Christ, which is some of the most profound simple, clean wisdom about Consciousness and about how to not be attached; how to un-attach yourself from all of the things that life sort of gets glued onto you.

LEARY - The WORLD'S GREATEST LSD SHOWMAN: U.S. Senate hearing 1966.

 

MillValleyLit: Yes, right. You gave me a copy of your book a while back. It’s a good guide. I wish I had it when I first tripped.

MR: It’s something I don't make any money on. In fact, I lost money. I never did it to make money. We give it away. You can buy that book on Lulu Press.* It's a good book and it's nice to have a little bit of guidance and some suggestions as how to still your mind. How to go about it, to prepare your mind. The real overlooked truth about LSD is the immediate spiritual revelation.

CIA, COPS, COURT and DISORGANIZED CRIME

MillValleyLit: Let’s get this question out of the way. We know about CIA documented use of LSD for mind control, MK-Ultra, etc. Also, theories of their involvement influencing the psychedelic movement, using some leaders as tools, perhaps attempting to get people to drop out of everything and become useless and controllable. What are your thoughts?

MR: Yes, we know that the CIA tried to use it, so people have come up with government conspiracy theories like that - maybe Timothy Leary was working for the CIA? That’s bullshit. I hear something like that and take exception to the suggestion that Timothy Leary was a CIA stooge. He was a brave man. He was not a perfect man. I don't like perfect. I have never met a perfect person and I hope I never do. But he was an inspiration and to reduce the whole psychedelic movement to.... that we were puppets in the strings were being pulled by the CIA or some government, is complete bullshit. That is what someone who has never taken LSD would come up with. If one did, they would know what the experience with LSD would be like. You are not subject to anything. It frees you, right? It frees you from all these vines and bindings that we have, and we damn sure weren't connected to any government conspiracy. We were free young people discovering ourselves and trying to help others free and discover themselves.

JK: Right. I agree. I suppose the only time the authorities ever got involved besides busting people, and I guess trafficking themselves, Air America, Bobby and the Boys (Bobby Seal), and all that, was pressuring people to make deals and be informants. >>>>

& &

A Psychedelic Guide by the Randalls and Trippy Poetry by Carol Randall, one of the original founding members of The Brotherhood of Eternal Love (and Sisterhood), a group of spiritual hippies who helped usher in the psychedelic era in the 60's and 70's. (Lulu Press**)

 

"Now, little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux." From Albert Hoffman notes.

 

LSD chemists Tim Scully and Nick Sand.

The Sunshine Makers documentary on the LSD chemists Tim Scully and Nick Sand. "The undaunted spirit and psychedelic warrior of love and light, Nick Sand, the outlaw chemist, died in his sleep on Monday April 24th, 2017 at the age of 75. (They were)...most famous for the Orange Sunshine brand of LSD distributed by the Brotherhood of Eternal Love..." "Nick Sand found a way to smuggle in and dose many prisoners at McNeil Island Penitentiary with psychedelics during his stay there. 'We got the whole prison stoned...' (said Nick)." From Casey Hardison at psymposia.com.

LSD was first synthesized by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in 1938, who was the first man to trip on LSD in a self-experiment in 1943, known by fans as "Bicycle Day." He rode his bike home high as a kite. The drug was legal in CA until Oct. 1966.

>>>>

MR: That didn’t work very well with our people. In court at my sentencing in the early 80s, the judge, Ramirez,  said, “I've got to tell you, you guys have really stuck up for each other. I've never seen so many people lie to this court, just trying to defend their friends.” (laughs) And I thought, oh shit. But he continued, “I admire that. And by the way, I was at your store in Laguna Beach when I was a law student and I thought it was beautiful. I hate to sentence you to prison right now.” But of course, he did. But he kind of had a little insight into it. It was strange. He made a point of saying during sentencing that he had been to our shop, “Mystic Arts World” (Ed. note – Brotherhood’s “hippie emporium” shop\HQ) in Laguna Beach. He lived in Palos Verdes and was going to UCLA law school. He had visited our shop when he was a student, and now he's the judge sentencing me to prison.

Weird the way fate works - it's the Little Wonders, we're all woven together. We made a deal and the judge took a year off that deal. We made a deal with the prosecutor and the judge gave a year less. The judge got in some trouble because of a big Mafia trial was going on about the same time. The Bonanno family (Ed. note – one of the Five Families of New York, involving Donnie Brasco). “Joe Bananas” they called him, and they got a pretty sweet deal and that judge got into a little bit of hot water. My judge had suggested that I apply for what they call Rule 35 for a sentence reduction, but I had to go to the parole board first. When in in the meantime, the shit hit the fan with the Bonanno family. Look, your iPhone is still recording. White man’s magic, Brother.

MillValleyLit: (laughs) Steve Jobs!

MR: ...who took Orange Sunshine, by the way. So anyway, I had to finish my sentencing, but he helped me write my first ---. He was a great judge and I really trusted him. It was a good thing I was on the run for twelve years before that, because the heat of the first trials (Ed. note - the conspiracy indictments of the Brotherhood members) was insane! They hated us so badly. Nixon is calling Timothy Leary “the most dangerous man in America” and labeled the Brotherhood “the most dangerous organization in America.” And they fucking hated us. So many times, they would have guns drawn. And they told me, “Go ahead and try to run, we would love it.”

MillValleyLit: They shot one of your people in the back right in Mill Valley.

MR: Yes, they killed Chuck Scott. They’ve killed a lot of my friends. When we started in Laguna Beach, we used to antagonize the police, but we were just having fun, right, we didn't take it seriously. And then they started killing people! Young surfers, an 18-year-old. The kid goes out a window and he's got an ounce of weed, and the Orange County deputy sheriff and another officer shot him and killed him. For an ounce of weed. They hated us, it was terrible. So, we didn’t like them very much either.

At our conspiracy trial, after they finally pulled some of us into court, they charged us with conspiracy for every crime every one of us did. Like thirty-five of us. They were trying out new RICO conspiracy charges on us. RICO was a new federal statute, just on the books in Oct. 1970. RICO was designed to fight organized crime. We were a bunch of hippies and surfers. We were disorganized crime! Which is why the authorities had a difficult time figuring us out. In the courtroom, under Judge Vincent, oh my God, it was hot. It was almost on fire - the animosity and the division. We had eleven motions for the defense. We won all our motions, but it was so hot, I had to skip out.

MillValleyLit: It didn't help when Joe Esterhaus, in Rolling Stone magazine, called you the “Hippie Mafia,” which I know you fully rebuke. Because you weren’t the ones shooting people.

MR: Funny thing is, we were NOT organized crime. We were DISORGANIZED CRIME! That article didn’t help, but our trial had already started.

MillValleyLit: What year was the indictment trails?

MR: 1972, ‘73.

LSD, LABS & LEARY Oh my!

MillValleyLit: OK. By 1972, you estimated that your group distributed upwards of 130 million doses of Orange Sunshine LSD. That is a large quantity of anything. And those tiny little pills were so powerful. Like diamonds. Maybe added symbology for “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Plus, humungous quantities, tons and tons, of top-shelf hash and pot. Thank you very much by the way!

MR: We were the biggest.

MillValleyLit: It seems that without the Brotherhood and associates, the revolution certainly wouldn't have had as much influence or staying power as it had, and certainly not as much mind expansion. What's your thoughts on that?

MR: Somebody else would have done it. If we didn't, somebody else would have been there.

MillValleyLit: Hard to believe anybody else could have done what the Brotherhood did, with your skill, enthusiasm, love, and yes, luck.

MR: Yeah, there's higher things that sometimes are, maybe guiding life. I do not know, but I know that you're right about what we did. It was pivotal in Consciousness. It was pivotal in that time. But if we hadn't been there someone else would have filled that role. But we did so that's the way it happened.

MillValleyLit: You mean if the Brotherhood was not there, Sand and Scully would have done something on their own?

MR: The first distributors were the Hell’s Angels. And then Ram Das.... I'm not going to go any further than that. I have to be careful because I don't want to say anything that... But connections were made and they came to us. They didn't want to work with Hells Angels so much. The Hell's Angels... and you’ve heard of the Diggers?

MillValleyLit: Yes, I’ve interviewed Peter Coyote about his Digger days in the Haight, and about his mentor/partner, Emmet Grogan, so I know a bit about the Hell’s Angel role.

MR: You know some of the Hell’s Angels got turned on to acid and it changed their life. And some of them turned on and it didn’t change their life; there’s not a guarantee. It depends on your insights. And the Angel’s started feeding hungry people.

MillValleyLit: So, it turned some of them around. And they were bad ass. Yes, the Diggers and their enlightened Angels friends were collecting and serving food to the influx of runaways and hippies that San Francisco government didn’t know what to do with. Kind of like now - San Francisco seems to be lost about the homeless and street people. On the flip side, what's on your insights on the negative impacts of LSD?

MR: It has a positive effect on most. At one of our showings, I think it was in Austin at the South by Southwest Film Festival where they were showing the documentary about us, Orange Sunshine. We took questions and answers on stage after the film and somebody asked, “Do you feel guilty about people that took LSD and had bad trips and came to harm?” And I said, “Of course, absolutely we do. We all do.”  

MillValleyLit: The best known one was Diane Linkletter, Art Linkletter’s daughter. Everyone loved Art Linkletter, so it was even more shocking to straight society.

MR: Most of the stories really aren't true to begin with and the ones that are true - are multiplied in the news. Multiplied so much that it seems like more than what it is.

MillValleyLit: Right! That story that Diane Linkletter was on LSD and thought she could fly - people still believe that today, although it has been repeatedly debunked and the tox report was negative for LSD. Art Linkletter led a media anti-drug frenzy.

MR: And let’s talk about alcohol here while we’re talking about bad consequences. Like John Perry Barlow said recently, not long before he passed away, that alcohol, prescription drugs and tobacco harm more Americans every day than LSD has since it was first taken in 1943. And that’s a true factual statement. And LSD’s been villainized. It’s coming out now.

MillValleyLit: Look at heroin. People drop dead all the time. I just heard that there were 239 O.D. deaths in San Francisco last year. And the new stuff - there was a mass overdose, in a New Haven park last October from some bad synthetic cannabinoid, “spice” or “K2.” 70 people hospitalized.

MR: Right. And people used to say, “I’ve taken every drug there is.” Now with this new thing Fentanyl, and this shit I never heard of and don’t even know how to pronounce.

MillValleyLit: Weird stuff coming of China.

MR: Oh my god, China. Those fuckers! You know, nobody that ever made LSD was some greasy criminal. All of them, all of them, have been spiritual people that I’ve ever known, and I’ve known a lot. There was never really that many back in the day, only a few of them, and we just happened to be the biggest and the best. We worked the hardest, too. We did not make money on it, either. We barely broke even. You’ve seen the movie, the drug dealers are driving sports cars, and we’re driving old pickup trucks. 

MillValleyLit: And to finance the LSD operation, is that why you got into the marijuana /hashish smuggling?

MR: Yes. Well, no. We had already been doing that. But we used the money from that to finance the LSD. And that was one of our big motivations to keep doing it and doing it and doing it. Everything I pretty much earned from that, and it was quite a bit of money, went to making acid. And when you do things on a big scale, and we did, and we did things on an international scale...

MillValleyLit: Huge. That blows my mind, the enormous hutzpah, the size and ambition ...

MR: And the laboratories we created were not done in someone’s garage. We had...

MillValleyLit: Official labs, with real brilliant scientists....

MR: Yes, with PhD’s running the whole thing. And some were very famous. We had some very famous people working with us. I met Albert Hoffman twice. He endorsed our endeavors and even gave us a few tips. He knew we were doing it for the right reason. He had some very spiritual writings. He took acid all of his life. He never did quit taking LSD.

MillValleyLit: I don’t believe I’ve read his work.

MR: He wrote a couple of books and he wrote many articles, essays for newspapers, magazines or journals. They are brilliant and beautiful and spiritual. He was a trip. Albert Hoffman was a boxer, and a bodybuilder. Not the little...

MillValleyLit: ... little spindly Einstein-looking character. (both laugh) Albert Huxley I have read. I know he took acid as he died.

MR: Oh yes. I’m going to do that, too.

MillValleyLit: That would be interesting. So, let’s get into Leary and the beginnings of your operation. Your group’s leader, John Griggs, he went to Millbrook, New York to meet with Leary. When he came back your group came up with a premise that drug would usher in a spiritual awakening?

MR: We already had that figured-out way before we met Timothy Leary. I'll tell you one thing. We were not disciples of Timothy Leary. Timothy Leary was actually, if truth be known, more of a disciple of John Griggs than the other way around. Timothy was in awe of John Griggs. John was a very special, deep spiritual being. He came here for such a short time and had such a deep impact and then left. He died at 25-26 years old. Timothy said that John Griggs was the holiest man he had ever met. And he was right about that.

 

To continue Interview, click here.

Notes:

*Lennon wrote "Come Together" for Leary's political campaign song, according to his Playboy interview, two days before his assassination.

**http://www.lulu.com/shop/michael-and-carol-randall/the-Brotherhood-of-eternal-love-a-psychedelic-guide/paperback/product-22139474.html

***Krassner wrote that, “the acid with which Ram Dass, in his final moments as Dick Alpert, failed to get his guru higher was the same acid that I had the honor of taking with Groucho Marx.” Originally in February 1981 issue of High Times. "I Dropped Acid with Groucho" - Paul Krassner.

 

 

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Recent MillValleyLit interviews include:

DeLorean Auto CFO Walter Strycker, Anne R. Dick, Lyle Tuttle, Catherine Coulter, David Harris, Tom Barbash, T.C. Boyle, Louis B. Jones, Peter Coyote, James Dalessandro, Michelle Richmond, Beat expert\biographer\poet Gerald Nicosia, rockin' writer Deborah Grabien, audiobook narrators Simon Vance and Paul Costanzo.

_______________________________________

Interview with the Publisher & Editor-in-chief of The MILL VALLEY LITERARY REVIEW

Whenceforth MillValleyLit?

J. Macon King with BFF Ducati Supersport S at Dillon Beach alien rocks.

John Macon King is Publisher of The MILL VALLEY LITERARY REVIEW. John wrote and directed for Rhubarb Revue Theatre and his writing and short stories has been featured in the Marin IJ, San Francisco Marina Times, San Francisco's Beat Museum and various magazines. He is co-founder of Gerstle Park Writers Salon, member of Marin Poetry Center, and a charter member of Live Poet Society. He has a reputation as a poet, but has written two novels and several screenplays he is saving to become an overnight success.

He has given numerous prose and poetry readings at the Mill Valley Depot Café, as well as Copperfield's, Book Club of California, the Sweetwater, Mill Valley Outdoor Art Club, O'Hanlon Center for the Arts, Words Off Paper, Novato City Hall, Sausalito Women’s Club, The Seahorse, West Point Inn, Bolinas Community Center.

Q. What was your background for this literary venture?

A. I have always enjoyed a passion for reading, writing and the creative community. While earning a Creative Arts degree I worked in a library and then as a manager at the bustling SFSU bookstore. In Marin I found a niche as a marketing consultant for LucasArts and basked in the creativity at Skywalker Ranch. I revived the Rhubarb Revue community theater, after its seven year closure, to encourage regular folks to take to the stage and perform along with seasoned performers. This same concept I applied to MillValleyLit - mixing emerging and established writers. The Rhubarb is N. California's longest running variety show and has sprung off an annual Murder Mystery Play. The theatre continue to be a venue for local writers and talent. http://tamvalley.org/rhubarb2018.shtml

Q. You have had previous experience with community newspapers and web sites?

A. Yes. Four friends and I created an underground newspaper in high school when our work was censored in the school paper. This was small town midwest in the early 70's, and the paper and our audaciousness were very controversial. No students had ever done that in the entire school district. We had freshmen passing them out at the Homecoming Parade. The principal grilled the prime suspects and really wanted to expell us, but he couldn't prove it was us. Emboldened, we printed two or three more issues. Ironically, the bigger secret was we were printing them at a local church. A sympathetic minister believed in our 1st Ammendment rights. The premier issue was called "The Dove" (you know, anti-Vietnam) and then we changed the name to "The Cynic," I suppose more properly reflecting our bad attitude. At our 20th high school reunion teachers and classmates were still talking about it.

With that depth of experience ; ) I was hired as a humor columnist for the San Francisco Marina Times. As Tam Valley Improvement Club VP, I became Editor in Chief for The Progress TVIC newsletter which at times went to over 2,500 homes in Tam Valley. After negotiating with Marin County to assume the name and site, we launched www.tamvalley.org as our site. It was really the first neighborhood web site, way before Nextdoor, etc. I soon gave up on expensive paper, printing and mailings.

Q. Have you participated in other groups?

A. I took several writing seminars including Syd Field and Robert McKee. McKee's was a huge group, but a handful of us went to lunch with him every day of the seminar. I knew the Van Ness\Polk (SF) area well so I helped pick the spots. That was fantastic. For a number of years I was the only male in an engaging Mill Valley book club. The women were supportive and interested in hearing a masculine perspective, which I did my best to uphold. MillValleyLit developed from all those experiences. 

Q. What other contributions have you made in the community?

A. Besides the Rhubarb Revue and TVIC, my community activities included Founder and Chair of T.V. Services District's Revitalization and Safety Commission, President of the Marin BNI Power Lunch of almost 50 entrepreneur business owners, Tam Valley School Technology Coordinator, and consultant to three successful local political campaigns.

End

Press interviews and news:

San Francisco Magazine http://www.modernluxury.com/san-francisco/story/the-literary-review-disrupted

Marin Magazine: "Local Literature" at top of page 30. Marin Magazine is available by subscription, on select newsstands, and a snazzy digital version at: http://digital.marinmagazine.com/marinmagazine/june_2013#pg1

Mill Valley Herald's front page interview with King: http://www.marinscope.com/mill_valley_herald/news/article_3329e140-8c20-11e2-91d0-001a4bcf887a.html

 Marin Independent Journal Paul Liberatore interviews King (no longer online).

Chess at 19 Broadway bar, Fairfax, CA

HOME| THE LITERARY LATTÉ - Stories, Memoirs | ON MY NIGHTSTAND - Books Reviewed |POETRY REVIEW | THE SCENE - Lit Events | JEB & ARTWORK | SALON - Interviews, Submissions, About

Credits:

Alpert & Leary courtesy Dying to Know documentary 2014.

Side photo Lights: Scott of the World photography.

J. Macon King headshot: Perry King

Uncredited photos: J. Macon King, except some stock promotional book jackets, posters, archival, or credited.

© MillValleyLit. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any material without permission is strictly prohibited.

All writing, submissions, and comments are the views of the respective authors and interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the views of MillValleyLit or Editorial staff.