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.


In Praise of Bobby Faust

faustI’m trying to think of where it was that I first met Bobby Faust. It must have been at a party with the 6th Street crew down in the East Village somewhere, probably at Terry and Dave’s apartment. He was part of the Rainbow Family when I joined up and came over to the 8th Cannabis Cup to play the role of the caterpillar in the Alice in Wonderland On Weed fantasy that Garrick Beck had written just for the event.

When I started planning the first World Hemp Expo Extravaganja (Whee!), Bobby quickly made himself an essential part of that operation, in effect becoming one of the original founding members of the Temple Dragon Crew. I didn’t realize at the time Bobby had a very strong connection with the Merry Pranksters, apparently having first met up with that crew at Woodstock.

Funny how many of us were actually at that first Woodstock festival, including me, Bobby and Fantuzzi. The whole reason I planned for Whee! to happen in Eugene, Oregon, was so we could pull the Pranksters into the movie, which was to re-start the non-violent hippie counterculture by uniting all the greatest shamans we could find, a list that included the Gaskins, the Pranksters, John Trudell, John Sinclair, Paul Krassner and a few others. I assembled an army of over 200 volunteers to build hippie disneyland on a shoestring in an empty field. I thought we were well on our way to healing the sickness infecting America with our positive vibrations.

Bobby was my right-hand man at the second Whee. For some reason, I’d decided I didn’t want to sit at Mission Control this time and supervise the stage for a second year. Instead, I wanted to prowl around and check on all the problems and issues everywhere on site and make sure grifters and hoodwinkers weren’t running amok. I spent most of my time checking for wristbands because the venue didn’t have a proper fence and anyone could easily sneak in. My objective was to give away wristbands to anyone who actually couldn’t afford one, but also collect admission from those that could.

Because of his short stature, Bobby often had trouble getting around, but once I gave him a golf cart he could drive with no problems, he became one of the hardest working members of the crew, buzzing around the venue solving all sorts of problems all day and night.

Later on, when the Pranksters invited me onto the Grandfurther Tour, which was their historic second trip across America and into Canada, Bobby joined me and Andre and 622 on that incredible adventure. The Pranksters were happy to see me, but overjoyed to see Bobby. In fact, Kesey considered Bobby one of the most magical people he’d ever met and he told me so.

When it came time to visit a Phish show, we found out where the lines were because the Pranksters and Bobby got in free and became part of the improvisational show Kesey put on, his way of telling Phish they were the new Dead Tour. Meanwhile, Andre, 622 and I had to buy tickets into the show and then sneak backstage, where we climbed up to the top of Further and just hung out there for most of the show.

Unfortunately, Bobby had a stroke and passed over at 11 am on February 3, 2014. This news comes two days after I learn Rene Ricard also unexpectedly died from a brain tumor? What can I say, this is shaping up to be a somewhat painful year.

The first Rainbow Gathering 420 ceremony

imagesI first met Jack Herer at a NORML conference in Washington, DC. There really wasn’t much of a chance for us to connect there since Jack and John Sajo were working hard on their initiative in Oregon. So shortly after I returned to New York City, and Jack returned to LA, I booked a ticket to visit him to share a vision I’d had after reading an early and brief version of The Emperor Wears No Clothes.

We met at a plush house with a pool in the back. This was not Jack’s pad, but something much more polished. We sat around the pool while I ran my tape recorder and went through Jack’s life story in 45 minutes or so. Then we moved back into the kitchen to smoke a joint and drink some ice tea.

While in the kitchen, I unhatched my scheme. I needed Jack to join the hemp legalization group I’d created through a cartoon character named Ed Hassle. What started as a goof, had suddenly morphed into a viable foundation for a national hemp movement. Using my background in improvisational ritual theater, I’d already had a vision of people marching for hemp freedom, led by a Colonial-style fife and drum corps wearing tricorn hats and flying American flags. Because the founding fathers were hemp farmers and recognized the strategic value of hemp, we needed to take back these symbols from the right wing, who had commandeered them unfairly for propaganda purposes. “I need you as a leader in The Freedom Fighters,” I told Jack. “By dressing up in Paul Revere outfits, we’re more likely to get on the television news, and if we get interviewed, we can talk about the history of hemp in America.”

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 12.43.52 PMNORML didn’t support rallies at the time, mostly because news photos of ragtag hippies didn’t project a suitable image for forging a broad-based pro-marijuana coalition. There was always somewhat of a divide between the Grateful Dead clan, epitomized by Jack, and the more conservative faction, some of whom were lawyers and felt the hippie era was over. I was willing to work with both sides, but bringing back mass rallies was key if we were going to educate the nation quickly about hemp saving the world.

I had a two-pronged plan: 1) Jack needed to go to the Rainbow Family Gathering with me. The Rainbow Family had already accepted marijuana as a legitimate sacrament, even though it’s use was not permitted near Felipe’s Kid Village. I’d recently gone to the Minnesota National (in 1990), and been zapped. My entire world view turned around as I realized the ideals of the 1960s were alive and we could live in a world without violence, if only for a few weeks a year. The gathering was the perfect place to incubate an environmental awakening around hemp.

2) We needed to attend the Hash Bash in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which was the last surviving great pot rally from the late 1960s. But the Hash Bash had dwindled down to a dozen die-hards, and they were worried the event was about to become extinct. Not only did we need to rebuild the Hash Bash, but we needed to bring back all the other Big Ten pot rallies in the neighboring states. “We’ll call it The Hemp Tour.” Some of this conversation ended up on that audio tape, so I plan to dig that out someday and transcribe it so I can prove these facts.

The Freedom Fighters rolled into the Vermont gathering in full force, but tensions in the camp prevented harmony and Jack didn’t attend far as I remember. The next national Rainbow Gathering was in Colorado and held at a very high elevation, and there was a long, uphill march to the site, followed by a long down hill march. I got pretty tired on the way in, because I pitched camp midway to main circle, on a ridge overlooking the entire gathering. I put my tent up in a small patch of trees and started erecting signs and flags. Jack trailed in near dark with about seven people in tow, none of whom carried camping gear or even a warm coat. Once it got really dark, they started wondering how they were going to survive the night. I suggested they keep close to the fire. Meanwhile, Jack had a huge medical emergency that started with something he ate and just escalated from there. He’d forgotten to bring his ulcer pills but didn’t provide that essential info to any of the CALM healers for around 48 hours, so nobody could figure out why he was in so much pain. I ended up taking a hit of acid just to stay up all night to help take care of him. It was just me and another brother feeding the fire to keep Jack’s entourage from freezing to death.

Since our location was right on the trail, and my psychedelic signs were effective, we drew some huge audiences to our daily 420 ceremonies and took advantage of the natural amphitheater that had initially attracted me to the spot. One brother saw my 420 sign coming in and got really excited. I guess he was from Marin county, because he said he wanted to name his tea kitchen 420 and encourage people to gather there to smoke pot, but was worried that might conflict with our own ceremony. “That’s ok,” I assured him. “Just let people know Jack Herer and Steve Hager are doing a 420 ceremony here every day. The major part of this ceremony was a sermon on hemp by Jack, who was still working on polishing his hemp rap. I’d already developed my approach, which was cannabis was the sacrament of peace culture, and 420 represented our holiday, one for celebrating non-violence.

When the Freedom Fighters marched into the Diag at the University of Michigan that year, Jack and I were all dressed up in our tricorn hats. Dozens of people had already joined our fledging organization due to full-page ads in High Times and the Freedom Fighters were all dressed up in amazing costumes. I saw Steve DeAngelo standing on the steps as we paraded in, flags unfurled and drums beating. He was beaming and later would tell me our entrance was the best moment of political street theater he’d seen in decades. The Diag ceremony happened at high noon, so we always had to find an alternative site for our 4:20 ceremonies.

Here’s some little known history of 420 ceremonies: They started with the Waldos in 1971, and passed to the next generation in Marin County, where April 20th ceremonies on Mt. Tam at 4:20 PM occurred for three years before park rangers shut down that ceremony. But from 1992 until at least 1998, I was the only person I know of who was advocating and organizing 420 ceremonies. And I was promoting these ceremonies everywhere I went and through every event I created, including: The Cannabis  Cup, Whee, and the Freedom Fighter rallies.

After I got so involved with these events and activities, I voluntarily departed my post as Editor-in-Chief and moved back to my Upper West Side apartment to concentrate on events and video. That’s when a dude named Mike Edison was moved in to run High Times. Only Edison was given a lot more authority than I’d ever had and swiftly became both publisher and editor.

But I could never have a conversation with Edison as he would never stop talking. Didn’t matter what subject might come up, Edison was expert in all things. He started like a kid in a candy store with all that power, but it swiftly eroded because he alienated the entire staff. That’s when I was brought back as his “adviser.” But my advice was something he could never tolerate. I couldn’t get him to agree with a single story idea of mine and when I brought in the real story of who’d created 420, Edison refused to admit I had uncovered the truth.

When he later wrote a revenge book to assassinate my character, he’d claim that I “suppressed all other stories on the origins of 420, while taking it to cult-like extremes.” Now that quote has been used to promote the sales of his book, which got terrible reviews and sold few copies. Yes, when the truth arrives, it tends to “suppress” the disinfo tales. That’s what the truth is supposed to do. And if Edison had understood anything about making a successful company, he would have understood it happens through cooperation and mutual respect and building harmony, not by one dude bossing everyone around with his brilliant ideas.

If Jack Herer was alive, he’d tell the true story about the origins of the hemp movement and how we spread 420 ceremonies because he’s the only one who was with me on that mission from the start. What I find so strange is how few people in the movement ever acknowledge my participation in any of these events. And how my side of the story never seems to make it into the mass media, which is constantly being filled with bogus stories about 420 every year. And how Edison’s bullshit quote ends up on wikipedia to belittle my role in this history.

Introducing SMT: Stoner Mean Time

MtTamPeople sometimes ask me why I put so much emphasis on Mt. Tamalpais as the spiritual home of 420.

When our ancient tribal ancestors went to the top of the magic mountain, it was a vision quest to discover themselves. Going up is always a good thing, it’s when you feel yourself sinking down you have to be careful.

The Waldos started 420 in 1971, and organized many ceremonies on April 20th for years, and I’m sure they still do. But after over a decade, spontaneous gatherings erupted at the summit of Mt. Tam on April 20th at 4:20 pm that had nothing to do with the Waldos. When I heard about these gatherings, I made 420 the central ceremony of all my events like the Cannabis Cup and Whee!, as well as part of my daily life. So you have to understand Mt. Tam plays a key symbolic role in the story of 420.

Which is why I am cluing you in to a fun ceremony of tuning into 4:20 at Mt. Tam just as another way to celebrate our annual holiday. This revelation actually occurred to me because I needed to figure out a way to get all the MCC operators to turn on and tune up to the same frequency at the same time, so we can see if that well-focused telepathic energy, strategically placed around the globe, can jump start world peace. Ever since I created the prototype MCC almost three weeks ago, I’ve been manifesting a tremendous amount of creative energy, maybe you can tell?

There are a lot of frequencies (flavors) available and they tune into different chakras. Like if you want to blast your AC/DC, or Metallica, that’s cool, but understand that’s the red candle you are dealing with. I like to think of that not as your base or root, but as your ID deep inside your brain. When manifesting those energies, it’s easy to fly off the road, so enjoy the ride, but be advised there are different frequencies higher up the spiritual ladder that are just as fun and a lot more enlightening.

So let’s all have a great 420 this year and I hope everyone tunes into SMT and celebrates 420 on Mt. Tam together as a global 420 ceremony we can all join in on.