Posts Tagged ‘Tom Forcade’
Tom Forcade came to New York City from Arizona to work for the Underground Press Syndicate (UPS) formed by six of the largest underground newspapers in 1966, a list that included John Wilcock’s East Village Other. When Tom arrived, the UPS offices and archives were located in Jim Fouratt’s apartment, but soon moved into Tom’s after he took over.
Tom was suspicious of Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, and questioned their qualifications to lead the movement, so rather than join the Yippies, he created his own counter-revolutionary movement, and to make sure everyone knew where he was coming from, he named it the Zippies, implying it was the peppy alternative to last year’s revolutionaries. Tom would have been the public face, except he was also a pot smuggler and dealer, which forced him to stay in the background, which may have contributed to his jealousy concerning Abbie who was always on the mic. Tom eventually built a speakeasy in Manhattan that sold pot by the pound to dealers, a place where suitcases were stacked to the ceiling.
According to a major pot dealer of the period, Tom began working with a Mossad agent on some big projects shortly after arriving in New York. Apparently, this agent eventually committed suicide. Tom used to tell this dealer if the Feds ever came after him, he had information that would embarrass them. But soon Tom committed suicide as well.
A.J. Weberman was one of the biggest weed dealers in New York at the time, and he became Tom’s co-conspirator in creating the Zippies after he discovered Tom had a better, cheaper connection than he did. Weberman also ran a weapons training camp in the Catskills for volunteers wishing to help defend Israel from Arab annihilation. After outing Bob Dylan as a dabbler in heroin, Weberman wrote a book on the JFK assassination stating Watergate burglar Frank Sturgis was one of the tramps and also a shooter, a view he holds to this day.
While Sturgis was up-to-his-neck in the plot, and undoubtedly drove the murder weapons from Florida to Texas, he is neither one of the tramps from the famous photos nor a likely shooter for JFK. However, a new book by Roger Stone claims Stugis was enlisted a few years after the JFK hit to assassinate President Richard Nixon.
According to Stone, the CIA feared Nixon was going dovish on Vietnam, and they also greatly resented his detente move with China. Sturgis was told to procure weapons and make preparations for staging a confrontation between Yippies versus Zippies that would erupt in gunfire, and during this melee, Sturgis was to make sure Nixon got fatally shot.
Sturgis went ahead and got the guns, but when it was finally revealed who the target was, he backed out. Later on the CIA employed the Watergate burglary as a lever with which to unseat Nixon.
Last year, Stone released a book claiming Lyndon Johnson engineered the Kennedy assassination, and while I’m sure Johnson was aware of the plot, it’s unlikely his power extended to the top of the Pentagon and CIA. So even though Stone is a beltway insider once close to Nixon, I don’t fully trust his judgment on some key issues. But he does bring interesting information to the table.
Some say Nixon bought his detente move with China by returning one of hundreds of funds created from black market gold stolen during WWII and then disappeared. Much of that gold originated in China and had been buried in the Philippines for years before being washed by Opus Dei working with some Bonesmen. At least that’s the story I’ve been able to piece together.
But now I’m wondering more about the possible double agents planted inside the Zippies and Yippies who were going to instigate the melee so Nixon might be killed. It seems fascinating the Yippie-Zippie split was well-known at the highest levels of the CIA, almost as if they had a hand in instigating it, but as someone who once had access to Tom’s correspondence and private writings, I have to say I don’t believe he was a spook, although he may have been surrounded by them, some of whom have yet to be identified.
After Woodstock erupted in the summer of 1969, every community in America rushed to create laws banning rock music festivals from their counties. This was a directive from on high because it happened everywhere and very quickly.
The campaign was greatly aided by a murder committed by a Hell’s Angles while the Rolling Stones launched their satanic anthem, Sympathy for the Devil, at the Altamont Speedway festival in 1970. In fact, most historians place the decline of the counterculture as starting with that moment. The Maysles made an incredible movie and its pretty clear the Stones were playing with matches while the Angels were playing with blowtorches.
Meanwhile, before Altamont took place, Warner Brothers was already plotting for months on how to capture the center of energy on the counterculture revolution so it could be properly mined for profit, a plot that involved putting the Grateful Dead and Merry Pranksters (two of the stars of Woodstock) on tour across America in a series of free concerts, and eventually send the hippie circus over to England, in a sort of reverse English invasion, as if the hippies were American’s answer to the Beatlemania/Gimme Shelter dialectic, as if the CIA was plotting to upstage Tavistock.
But when Altamont took place, the Grateful Dead were widely blamed for introducing the concept of the Hell’s Angels as a reliable security detail, due solely to their prior relationship. According to Paul Krassner, however, the concept of the Hell’s Angles as bouncers was actually introduced by Emmett Grogan, founder of the influential Diggers movement, who made use of improvisational ritual theater as reverse mind control. Before Grogan would provide a free meal, he’d make a person step through a skeleton doorway to signify their passage into another dimension, where the profit motive didn’t exist. I am sure that doorway helped break down some mental barriers.
Burning Man runs a similar ritual on arrivals, but they charge an outrageous $400 per person for something Peter Schumann provided for decades for free? And Schumann (founder of the Bread & Puppet Theater) also gave away bread he baked every morning, bread smeared with garlic and oil. I’ve never been to Burning Man because I wouldn’t cough up $400 to spend a week in the desert, even with the LA party scene. If Grogan was alive today, he’d be standing at the Gates and protesting the rip-off.
But there are some key elements documented in this new book just released by Trine Day, the best publisher in America. The book is the Bandit of Kabul and the new details concern the Grateful Dead being kicked off Warner’s Medicine Ball Caravan simply because they were scapegoated for Altamont. The Pranksters were removed because Kesey had re-emerged from Mexico and Warners did not trust Kesey, thinking he might attempt a real counterculture revolution instead of the comfortable dialectical profit stream they were looking for.
So Warner’s great follow-up plan to Woodstock was a huge bust. A French directer looked for cowboys and naked hippies, while completely ignoring the magic of Kesey’s last minute substitute Wavy Gravy, who has since proved himself one of our greatest saints. Today the movie is mostly know as the only film footage of High Times founder Tom Forcade, who dogged the caravan as it traveled across American, staging a counter-festival at every stop.
Between 1980 and 1981, a lot of emerging artists knew the Zeitgeist was changing and were experimenting with new media hoping to catch whatever wave might come along. For a year or two, Xerox art became the rage for many. In fact, Jean Michel Basquiat was doing it before he started painting on canvas, and the form may have even helped him segue from writing cryptic poems in the street to inventing his own image vocabulary based on opening up his inner child. Tom Forcade, the founder of High Times, by the way, was an influence on Jean’s teen years because Forcade was the most legendary character living downtown in the 1970s. Jean dumped a box of shaving cream on his high school principal, something that might have been inspired by Tom throwing a pie inside Congress during an investigation on pornography a few years earlier. One of Jean’s biggest boosters at the time (Glenn O’Brien) was momentarily Editor of High Times, and wrote the first major article on the new writers like Jean and Fab Five, although no one thinks of Jean as a writer today as he quickly backed away from that scene.
Of all these Xerox artists, Keith Haring was one of the most political, using Burrough’s cut-up technique to rearrange headlines from the rabidly right-wing New York Post to convey shocking messages (left). Haring was also very prolific. Anytime he did something, Keith usually went all-in, and his short-lived Xerox phase was no exception. Kenny Scharf might have been living with Keith at the time, although maybe they were just in school together but he also joined in with his own Xerox art (below).
Vapo Jet is the title of this piece, and it has to be one of the most phallic of all Kenny’s early work. The Fifties mom wearing Jetson-style sunglasses quickly became a recurring archetype in Kenny’s personal iconography. I wonder sometimes if my Xerox art collection is worth anything? None of the pieces are signed and it’s pretty easy to make forgeries, although I’ve never tried.
Keith eventually switched from cutting up Post headlines to inventing his own personal iconography, and that switch took place during the short-lived Xerox art movement. By New Year’s Eve 1980, Keith’s new vocabulary was fully formed (left). Meanwhile, Kenny went to soak up the vibes at Stonehenge that spring and made a color Xerox that shows him with Samantha and Bruno.
I’ve made it one of my life’s missions to celebrate the under-celebrated counterculture saints, a list that includes Mezz Mezzrow, Johnny Griggs, John Sinclair, Tom Forcade, Ina May Gaskin, Stephen Gaskin….and, Paul Krassner, the dean of counterculture journalism.
Funny little known story: When Tom Forcade arrived in New York with great spiritual fervor, he was flying the colors of Sinclair’s White Panther Party, but Sinclair’s entourage did not trust Tom and revoked his chapter while John was in jail, leaving Rev. Tom in charge of the Free Rangers. Tom quickly decided Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin did not deserve to be chiefs of the movement and started a counter-revolution against them. But during that attempted coup, Tom never, ever spoke badly of the third in the Yippie trinity, Paul Krassner, and even offered him the job of editor of High Times, but Paul later went to Penthouse instead, which was probably a great loss to the potential of what might have been.
At an underground media conference, Tom stole $500 from Jerry and burned it secretly in the parking lot because that’s a political act Jerry had encouraged. Tom would later brag about it in his little-known book Caravan of Love and Money.
Pot Stories for the Soul was the first book I edited when I launched High Times Books in 1999. Stephen Gaskin’s Cannabis Spirituality would be the second. Okay, I didn’t edit a thing. Krassner is untouchable, but I did play a somewhat crucial role. The original manuscript was titled Amazing Dope Stories and contained not just pot, but all drugs. After being blown away by the material, I suggested we break it into three books and call the first one Pot Stories for the Soul, to be followed by Acid Trips for the Soul, to be followed by Mushroom Trips for the Soul….
But after the first volume came out (and won the Firecracker Award and became a Book of the Month select), we got hit with some legal threats from the Chicken Soup for the Soul people and the other two volumes got their names diverted to avoid a lawsuit.
The new edition contains tons of new material as well as a new intro by the Dean himself. Five stars.
Oh, and check out my documentary on Paul: