Remembering Rainbow Farm

Tom and Rollie

Rainbow Farm was something of a watershed for me, the end of the four-year trail trying to manifest a cannabis festival that could rival Woodstock.

The mission had begun with a trip to visit Ken Babbs of the Merry Pranksters. “I’m thinking about calling it the World Hemp Expo Extravaganja,” I said. “That’s great,” said Babbs, “but you should just call it Whee!” That’s when a lot of stuff clicked in my head and I realized the vibe we were really trying to scout was fun, and I endeavored to manifest the world’s most fun festival possible, and I am sure in many people’s minds succeeded. Just ask Fishbone. But I was saddened to see a recent attack on the festival in the Portland Mercury, a savage piece of hippy bigotry posing as humor if ever there was, a piece that failed to mention a single ceremony, much less the amazing birth of a baby. Although it’s true the site was comically packed with people stoned out of their minds, we were used to that vortex from years of producing the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, and referred to the telepathic effect as “entering stonerville.” Whee just had ten times more stoners.

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 9.28.52 AMJohn Sinclair, Dennis Peron, Stephen Gaskin and Paul Krassner did a peace circle with the Rainbow Gypsies early the first day while tents were still going up. Just seeing that circle made the event for me, but there would be dozens more to follow over the weekend, some small, and some immense. I was sure we were well on our way to rebuilding the counterculture and couldn’t imagine the difficulties that lay ahead.

One significant problem was Oregon was infested with meth heads, and that scene carried a ton of bad vibes and rip-offs. The other problem was the owner of the site was way out of tune and had no respect for the Pranksters and no idea who Ken Kesey was on the cosmic scale. But after two festivals, he ended up losing the property, while fighting county officials and local law enforcement the entire time.

The next property owner to volunteer to host my event was Gideon Israel in Washington. But after one Whee, he was also taken down by a local sting operation. Gideon’s festival site was a campground called Rainbow Valley.

I made a plea at the Cannabis Cup for someone brave enough to hold a Whee! festival considering the first two were crushed by the authorities. That’s when I joined forces with Tom and Rollie of Michigan. They were the brave ones who stepped forward, only this time the authorities weren’t just taking the property. First, they had child services take away their son and refused all contact. Although a gay couple, the boy was Rollie’s child and the most important thing in their lives. And after losing the boy, they both lost their minds and decided to go down swinging.

I was in Woodstock when it all went down and had just returned to New York City. While picking up some video tape at B&H, a teller told me a plane had struck the Trade Towers. I noticed the smoke while riding my Honda Hawk across town. But when I got to my office, I was horrified to discover a string of voice messages from Tom and Rollie, the first of which announced their plan to stage a Waco-like event to bring awareness to the benefits of cannabis legalization. But as the messages went on, they became more and more frantic, until it was just Rollie. By that time, I’d already searched online and discovered they were both killed by FBI snipers. The story was already nearly a week old, but virtually nothing had penetrated the national media. And, of course, this was September 11, and a story was unfolding that would wipe Tom and Rollie’s quest for glory from the pages of history.

Fortunately, Dean Kuipers wrote a book about the event, and the book is being made into a major motion picture, so hope remains alive Tom and Rollie’s quest for martyrdom may not have been in vain. This is a difficult subject for me because it accompanied the shock of 9/11 in a massive double whammy. I had a string of people join me on my missions only to wind up in prison for a few years. But now the authorities were taking lives as well as prisoners. For years, I found it impossible to write anything about Rainbow Farm or about 9/11.

The saddest part for me was the Whee! vibe was all based around improvisational fun and peace ceremonies and learning how to foster and spread non-violence.

When I emceed the first circle to be held at Rainbow Farm, Tom came running up to join in and hold hands, an indication he really wanted to participate in peace culture.

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 9.19.39 AMGatewood Galbraith, a trail-blazing attorney from Kentucky, was pushing armed revolution at the time, and may have helped hook Tom up with the spook-infested Michigan Militia, a huge mistake. I will always wonder if I’d been at work that week, would I have been able to talk Tom and Rollie out of this insane plan to create a Pot Waco? Could my participation in some way have prevented their deaths? Had I known what was going on, I would have attempted to mediate a peaceful solution when the stand-off began. I just never got the chance to play that role and it haunts me.

But you can check out that first peace circle at Rainbow Farm on a video from my archives first posted online two years before their deaths.

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Please Remember Rainbow Farm on April 20th

20010903-1-1On Labor Day week-end, 2001, President George Bush was attending a Teamster Rally in Michigan, the first President to attend such an event and in his usual jovial, cocky mood. He spoke about his wife being on the tour with him, which he thought was a great idea. It was typical G.W., all mom, flag and apple pie.

A photo from the rally hit the national news and was published everywhere, showing a Arab-looking child holding an American flag looking up at Bush. When I wrote about the importance of 420 being a ceremony for peace, Brian MucCullough reminded me to light some candles for Tom and Rollie of Rainbow Farm, who were just a few miles away that day about to be assassinated by American soldiers.

Tom and Rollie were gay biker dudes when I met them, and really into weed and throwing massive parties. They showed up at the Cannabis Cup and got pulled into the Temple Dragon Crew and fell in love with the ceremonies. It changed their lives.

Next thing I knew, they were throwing major ceremonies on their immense property in Michigan and invited me to come all-expenses-paid as a ceremonial chief and do 420 Peace Ceremonies, just like the one I’m doing in New Jersey at the Piscataway Hempfest on April 5th.

They called their property Rainbow Farm and licensed the WHEE! from High Times one year and spent a fortune bringing in the Cannabis Cup Band and other acts. But that was their last big event and it broke the bank. They could have survived, only their survival plan involved growing weed in the basement of their home, and once they got ratted-out and lost custody of Rollie’s son, they both went insane because they were loving and devoted parents who doted on the boy.

I was in Woodstock all that week and weekend, and didn’t return to New York City until the following Tuesday. I stopped off at B&H to pick up some video tape for my camera and the clerk told me: “A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.” Of course, I was thinking it must be some little prop plane. I continued to work on my motorcycle and by the time I got upstairs, the office was all abuzz and one tower was burning. I went to my office, where I discovered a string of voice messages on my phone.

I wish I’d taped those messages, because it’s the last time I heard Tom or Rollie’s voice. They called to let me know they were making a last stand, and wanted it to be a huge media event like Waco to draw attention to the War on Marijuana, and they needed me to be the spearhead in this attack. Only they didn’t have my Woodstock number, only my office. The messages got more and more frantic, and it pained me I was never able to contact them because I looked online and immediately discovered they were both already dead.

Tom was shot in the head by a sniper he never saw from a great distance. Rollie set the house on fire the next day and got shot in the neck as he exited the burning structure. Police or soldiers hand-cuffed him, then kicked the testicles out of his scrotum. When they delivered his corpse to the coroner, Rollie was still wearing their handcuffs.

tom.rollie2But I didn’t know any of this yet, only that they were both dead, and that I might have had a chance to talk them out of this crazy idea that something good might happen for the cannabis legalization movement from them committing suicide by cop.

So that’s why I’ll be lighting candles for Tom and Rollie of Rainbow Farm on April 20th and I hope you do to.

And when I went to the roof after listening to those heartbreaking messages, I watched a giant pillar of smoke blowing towards Brooklyn, and the main thought in my mind was how this was going to obliterate all news of Tom and Rollie’s death. And that’s exactly what happened. You think maybe it was planned that way? I mean, there was no reason for the police and soldiers to storm the property so quick. They could have negotiated for days with no violence, especially since they had the son as a bargaining tool, and both men were desperate to have some contact. But then, that would have allowed Tom and Rollie to turn it into a giant media event, which is what they were wanting and expecting.

It sure felt like there was some angry rush to execute these two loving men who just wanted to devote their lives to cannabis legalization because it was the right thing to do and they loved the spirit of the plant. And somehow they knew if they got it done quick, something really big was coming down the pike to wash it all away.

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