...And The 100% Unknown Fibers Album
Isolated from the otherwise densely populated Orange County by a wooded mountain range that surrounds it on three sides – the fourth border being the Pacific Ocean – the small town of LAGUNA BEACH has always been different.
Its reputation as a nexus for artists and bohemians lives on to this day, yet whatever passes for freakiness in 2009 pales in light of the extraordinary goings on that Laguna saw during the 1960s. Studying the original California beat & freak eras, you will find a lot of paths that lead to and from Laguna Beach.
by Patrick Lundborg
v 1.1 - various updates, 2008-Sep
v 1.2 - various updates including feedback and corrections from Happening organizer Curtis Reid, as well as some new images; 2009-Feb
v 1.3 - a new reminiscence from the event added at end, 2009-12
In fact, some locals claim that the town never regained its original atmosphere after the events surrounding the Christmas “Happening” in 1970. Although regarded as a successful, memorable event by many of the hippie participants, the influx of thousands of young heads brought the whole town to a stand-still over the Holidays, and the attention and chaos was directly opposite to what the community needed.
While neither a groundbreaking initiation rite like San Francisco’s “Human Be-In”, nor a darkly symbolic end of an era like Altamont, the Laguna Beach Christmas Happening is a remarkable story, with bizarre tangents presenting themselves as you pull at the loose ends. Involvement from the legendary LSD distributors “Brotherhood Of Eternal Love”, connections to the early days of live bootlegs, and a previously undocumented LP with recorded highlights of the happening, all raise the question how this event has remained almost unknown for 35 years.
But let’s begin at the beginning. According to several sources, the main instigator of the Happening was a young local named Curtis Reid, who had the vision of what it might be, and the resourcefulness to make it happen. With less than two weeks left to Christmas Day, an open letter was distributed to Laguna Beach residents, calling to a meeting to “make plans for the event and to form committees”. The town was essentially being hijacked by the heads.
By mid-December 1970 word of mouth about the planned festivities had gotten around Orange County, then all over the LA area (Art Kunkin, editor and owner of the LA Free Press, donated six full pages of ads), and soon the rings spread outside California. No one knew exactly what was going to happen, yet in the post-Woodstock daze (and despite Altamont), the locale and timing struck a chord among young hippies, who embarked on journeys from remote parts of the US to join the Laguna Christmas party. It’s worth noting that this occurred without the draw of any major rock music names; like the early San Francisco gatherings, the Happening wasn’t a “rock festival”, but simply... a happening! This didn’t keep rumors about famous participants from spreading, perhaps fuelled by the cunning arrangers. As the buzz became louder, the good towns-people were getting increasingly nervous.
In an unusual turn of events that indicates the special nature of Laguna Beach, the local police got involved with the staging of the Happening; presumably to minimize the damages on the central part of town. Depending on who you ask, the police either convinced arranger Reid of the dangers of staging the event in downtown Laguna and allowed it to continue only if it was moved outside town, or Reid tricked the police into helping out with material and logistics by agreeing to stage the Happening up in the Canyon, which had been his plan all along.
In a vital addition to this story, Curtis Reid recently got in touch with the actual chain of events:
- A long haired dude came into Milabee Treats, now the bike shop & "The Stand" on Thalia, the event headquarters, and announced that he had spoken with Mr Steponovich, the owner of the Sycamore Flats property in the canyon, and that he got the permission for us to use the property for the Happening and that everything was alright and we were welcome. The city was informed of this and happily went along with the plan. What began as the vision of a couple of thousand gathering on the beaches of Laguna for an everyone-is-welcome party to celebrate the birth of Christ, together for one day, quickly turned into a major event. Out of the blue an isolated canyon location with plenty of space for a stage, electric music, and with no time limitations was all ours. Without this unexpected turn of events the 'Happening' would have been a small, acoustic, one-day event. Thanks to long haired Larry (?) we, everyone, had a definite location for our celebration. That was the turning point. The long-haired guy turned out to be an undercover officer from Newport. Everything came to an end when the city said that no one gave permission to use the land and accused everyone of trespassing.
Happening Flyer, designed by Bill Ogden
Despite the ad hoc nature of the preparations, the Happening project continued along Reid’s vision. Logistic and legal aspects were ironed out by one Thomas Nagin, and dozens of enthusiastic young hippies helped out in various ways.
One Laguna Beach underground cluster who viewed the upcoming Festival with skepticism was the Brotherhood Of Eternal Love, the legendary LSD smugglers. Their operation had been rapidly expanding in the late 1960s, and in 1969 they had received some unwanted media attention after the arrest of Timothy Leary by a local Laguna police officer, Neil Purcell. Leary and his wife Rosemary had been on one of their regular visits with the Brotherhood up in their Laguna Canyon shack community to discuss strategies, and maybe try out some interesting new chemicals, when Purcell stopped their car and found a couple of joints in the car. “Big deal”, quipped Leary. As it turned out, it was. Later the same year he was sentenced to a long prison term, from which he famously escaped in 1970. At the time of the Laguna Beach Happening, Tim & Rosemary had become part of Eldridge Cleaver’s unusual exile harem in Algeria, from which he sent a taunting postcard to arresting officer Purcell.
Brotherhood Of Eternal Love founder John Griggs with
Rosemary & Tim Leary
Meanwhile in Orange County, the acid Brotherhood had been going through some changes. Their unofficial leader and spiritual guru John Griggs died in a tee-pee at the Brotherhood ranch in Mountain Center after taking some impure psilocybin, and the Mystic Arts head shop that had served as the original front for their LSD and hashish enterprise burned down. All the same, the drug money kept pouring in, the deals were getting bigger, and the smuggling techniques refined. The Brotherhood – originally a bunch of idealistic surfer kids from Anaheim – was turning into a global drug trafficking cartel, a development fuelled by the arrival of less psychedelic characters, such as the enigmatic Ron Stark.
As reported (somewhat inaccurately) in the standard work on the field by British journalists Stewart Tendler & David May, the Brotherhood Of Eternal Love did get involved in the Laguna Beach Happening. Despite misgivings about the organization and media attention, some posters for the event were signed by the Brotherood, whose brand name would give additional underground cred. As it happened in their own back yard, and many thousands of young heads were expected, the association seems inevitable. Apart from their unofficial support for the event, the Brotherhood delivered a spectactular touch to the Happening, as thousands of free doses of Orange Sunshine were distributed from a small airplane, and thus LSD literally fell from the sky – each pill attached to a small greeting card – onto the crowd.
Greeting card with LSD tab (no longer attached) dropped onto the
festival site from airplane by Johnny Gale of the Brotherhood Of Eternal Love
The Christmas Happening took place several miles up the Laguna Canyon, in a natural grassy bowl known as Sycamore Flats. Getting there wasn’t easy, as only one major road went through the area. Having protected the central parts of Laguna Beach from the mounting invasion, the police allowed the event to proceed, but the poor infrastucture meant jammed roads in a wide area, and the chaos became a major news event in Orange County. The freaks and hippies who made it up the valley didn’t seem to mind the gridlock much, probably knowing what to expect after Woodstock and similar festivals. Some also arrived in good time before the event, which was planned as a 1-day Happening on Christmas Day, but turned out to last several days.
Up on the main stage the “Laguna Greeter” MC (one Eiler Larsen) welcomed the crowd to “celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ”. About 25.000 people had managed to make the trek to the festival site, some via foot over the hills as their cars broke down or got stuck permanently outside road blocks. One guy had solved the transport problem by parachuting down onto the valley site. Local rock bands played and jammed, religious rituals and chants were performed, drugs were everywhere, homemade crafts were sold, and a baby or two was born. Due to the make-shift arrangements food and water supplies were running low, although Hare Krishnas provided macrobiotic meals best they could, and other locals brought turkey and hams in the spirit of the season. (Curtis Reid adds that: "Thousands of vegetarian meals were served. Large food donations came from many sources. The LA Times said, 'Free food was served several times a day--fresh fruit and vegetables, rice, wine brought by friendly residents and with money collected...'").
Pressured by the larger than expected freak invasion, police had sealed off all roads to and from the entire Laguna Beach district and allowed only emergency traffic and local residents through. Various solutions including off-road adventures up and down the hills with supplies of rice and water were devised by the festival crew. A medical tent had been erected, equipped with two volunteer doctors, some stretchers, and little else. The LA Times reported that "A spokesman for the Laguna Beach Free Clinic said several hundred persons were treated for everything from snake bites to a broken leg and drug overdoses."
There was no Altamont-like violence, although the usual amount of freakouts and bad trips occurred. An amusing snapshot was offered when the MC announced from the stage:
- We got to have some Thorazine at the medical tent immediately, some guy drank a whole bottle of acid. I need some Thorazine up here too.
As Curtis Reid recalls it: "...There was no Altamont-like anything. Laguna was a total peace and love and good vibe event. It was everything that Altamont wasn't. What one destroyed, the other revived." The LA Times reported that "There were no problems with police, no violence, a minimum of bad drug trips[...] No arrests had been made at the festival by late Saturday [...] There were drug problems but most of them were mild and there were fewer than one would expect at a rock festival".
Unconcerned by the siege created by the Laguna Beach police (a planned operation named ‘Code Charlie C’), the Happening proceeded in good spirit. A female member of the festival crew announced from the stage that “the whole world is watching”, and repeated the need for water and supplies. People huddled closely in their tents as the temperature dropped into near-freezing zones over night. Bonfires were lit around the site, and blankets were distributed to those who forgot to pack.
The police allowed the sealed-off festival to continue for another day without interfering, but on December 27th, three days into the supposed 1-day event, Laguna Beach had had enough of road blocks and weirdos, and action to shut the Happening down was initiated. Uniformed cops moved into Sycamore Flats, greeted by chants of “Here comes Santa Claus” by the longhaired crowd. After some mild resistance, the crowd began dissipating, packing up and returning to their abandoned cars down Laguna Canyon Road. However, the vibes were so high that many hundreds remained at the festival site for yet another night; celebrating, getting stoned, and helping clean the area up.
The Laguna Beach Christmas Happening is fondly remembered by those who were there. The atmosphere was good and positive, even “magic”. In light of the improvised background and poor logistics, it could have gone really bad, like a number of post-Woodstock festivals did. But perhaps due to the special atmosphere of the region, and the clever strategy of the local law enforcement, the end result must have been pretty close to how Curtis Reid had originally envisioned it. Greg Nagin, who attended the festival with his rock band Sea & East Utopian Mission, remembers:
- It really was a spontaneous happening. Curt Reid made up these very colorful posters and spread the word. It was much much bigger than I had expected. My brother Thomas was the business man and was able to get the local utility company to install polls for the stage, a local lumber company to donate the wood for the stage, and a vegetarian resturant to donate free food. It was a magical event and there was a true love, created out of nothing, really just some posters before there was anything. A very positive vibe flowed with the guys that were putting it together. Like: build it and they will come.
One thing the Christmas Happening didn’t have was lots of major names in the forms of rock bands, gurus and agitators, and thus it wasn’t very media-friendly. Greg Nagin recalls:
- My brother tried to get some big names, but the event was thrown together in a very short time. There was talk and speculations of all the greats being there, even Hendrix coming back from the dead. There were rumors of George Harrison in the crowd and Crosby from Crosby Stills & Nash. I didn't see them though.
Another unlikely sighting that circulated was Bob Dylan moving through the crowd in the morning hours. A major name who definitely made it up the Laguna Canyon was Buddy Miles, who was photographed on stage, jamming with Greg Nagin’s band.
- Sea & The East Utopian Mission (my band) came from Florida to be in the festival and we donated our sound system. I was the drummer and was fortunate enough to play with Buddy Miles on stage while he played guitar, not his normal instrument.
The main stage, photo by Dion Wright
Curtis Reid remembers the East Utopian Mission well, and adds that "...East Utopia had once opened for Janis Joplin, and most of their instruments were hand me downs from the Doors".
Except for some Southern California news coverage, alarmed at the time, and nostalgic in retrospect, the Laguna Beach Christmas Happening went undocumented.
Or so it seemed.
About 25 years later, in the late 1990s, word was starting to spread among rare record specialists about a mysterious album titled “100% Unknown Fibers”. The record showed no track list or credits whatsoever, and from the rubber-stamped sleeve and old pressing it was assumed to be a bootleg, manufactured in the early 1970s. The problem was that noone could figure out who the artist being bootlegged was, as it didn’t sound remotely like anyone famous. As questions were asked, a few more copies of “100% Unknown Fibers” were identified in collections around the US; in total about a half-dozen were accounted for.
Stamped front sleeve without artistic embellishments
(some copies found are like this)
Oddly, each copy found of the album seemed to come with its own unique set of inserts, such as old newspaper clippings, handbills, or poorly xeroxed photos, in various combinations. From this paraphernalia it appeared that the mysterious LP was connected to the 1970 festival at Laguna Beach. Additional newspaper clippings dug up by a California musicologist at a local library provided details on the long-forgotten “Happening”, but still offered no clues as to what the actual music heard on the album was, or when or by whom it was released. An Orange County newspaper back in 1970 mentioned a few participating bands such as Sound Spectrum and Primal Scream, as well as the aforementioned Sea & East Utopian Mission, but gave no details of their performances.
As detailed below, the last track on side 1 is Sea & East Utopian Mission, and it appears that another track on the LP features a local band named Live Wire (see band member comment further down).
It must be mentioned that “100% Unknown Fibers” is a primitive recording with poor sound quality, even as private pressings go. It’s likely to be an audience tape, rather than from soundboard. The music is mostly jammy acid-rock typical of the era, predominantly instrumental workouts on Hendrix and Cream riffs, with lots of raw fuzz leads and some vocals. One track has a trancey folkrock feeling, including flute. All over it is reminiscent of some of the Yahowa 13 basement jams, like those heard on “I’m Gonna Take You Home”, minus Father Yod. There’s some nice grooves and feedback soloing here and there. It’s hard to determine how many different groups are featured on the album, but my guess is that it’s at least four different outfits, as the mixing and soundscapes differ, even while most of them are stylistically similar. A high point of the LP is the inclusion of several microphone raps from the Laguna Greeter and others, including the plea for Thorazine quoted above. One guy goes into a hostile rant about war, Nixon and Angela Davis, before being cut off with the reminder that the festival is about “love, not aggression”. The stage announcements combine with the crowd ambience, hovering police helicopters, and raw, improvised music to capture a moment in time, warts and all.
Beyond these immediate impressions, the release of the “100% Unknown Fibers” LP remained a mystery. According to an insert sheet, the music had been selected from “72 hours” of recordings, and the performers were “100% unidentified”. The newspaper articles, both old and recent, contained no references to any album release. The prevalent theory was that the record had been put together as a side-project by a local bootlegger, an industry which had its ground zero in the L A/Orange County area.
Recently, another ex-member of the aforementioned Sea & East Utopian Mission contacted me. Thanks to his recollections the 35-year old record enigma has been clarified, and he added some interesting info on the Happening as well:
- My name is Stephen Fisher, and I was the keyboard player in Sea & the East Utopian Mission, one of the acts at the Laguna event. Our band was living in the Fredericksburg, Va. area on a farm, playing primarily around the DC area. We previously lived in Florida, where we began, and where we first met Curt Reid. Wherever we moved, Curt would drop in from time to time -- often staying for extended visits. He was usually accompanied by Sharon (his partner) and often "Star" a fellow who attended most of the big festivals with a lamb, and a wand with a star, spreading the vegetarian message. Through their influence we all became vegetarians. We left VA in November of 1970, traveling across the country in a Pontiac station wagon and a delivery van-6 men, 4 women, a child, multiple cats, and two dogs... and our gear. The festival posters had been spreading around for at least 6 months. We knew (through Curt and others) that they had made it to Vietnam, Eastern Europe, and other far flung locales. It was a celebration of the end of the age, and the anniversary of the birth of Christ. Upon arrival in California, we basically lived on the street, and wherever we could find a bed, as the festival planning moved forward-it was a true community effort, and I could go on and on with details of it's genesis. All of the sound equipment was not ours, although all of ours was in use, and constituted a substantial part of the P.A.
Q: Are you familiar with the 100% Unknown Fibers LP?
- The band playing the "Do you remember-can you recall-feel it, can you feel it" was Sea & The East Utopian Mission. I was there, playing. I have copies of the 100% Unknown Fibers album, and sure wish I could find the original recording. The album was given to me soon after the festival, by either our manager Gary Nagin, or Curt and Star... I don't specifically recall. We were indigent and itinerant at the time, and it wasn't until early '71 that we found a new band/commune house in L.A.
As an indication of the memorable nature of the Happening, I have now received e-mails from several other people who attended the event. Here's a recollection from Kathy S on Hawaii:
- How strange to happen on your description of the happening. I was there, age 17, and remember the postcards dropped with the tabs of sunshine and something like “as long as the grass grows and the wind blows and the sun shines may the great spirit watch over you”…we all knew they came from the brotherhood…heroin in red and green x-mas paper made the rounds too…and yes, it was a peaceful and mellow event…I remember making pancakes…getting high, just enjoying it... and being rudely roused by the orders to leave…as I was locked up for Woodstock and didn’t make it up north for the Stones, that and “EPOD” weekend in Connecticut were my only group psychedelic experiences…actually ran into friends from Connecticut there at the Christmas happening…sometimes seems like another life.
Greeting card #2 dropped from airplane with LSD tab (no longer
attached) by the Brotherhood Of Eternal Love
Another correspondent, Bob M, had similar memories:
- I enjoyed your article on the Laguna Canyon Happening 1970. I was 14 years old when I was there. We had walked from El Toro through the hills because of the road closures. I remember seeing a dude with long blond hair, no clothes with a small barrel strapped around his neck, a nail attached some baggies, the barrel was filled with pot and the sign said "Make your own Lid 10 Bucks" . Another scene I saw was , The first time I saw the Hessians Motorcyle Club, One skinny guy with a foxy girl friend pulled up on a chopper outfitted with his a greasy vest and chains, he got off his bike and reach down to get a little motor oil from
the bottom of his bike and proceeded to slick his hair back with the oil. These scenes made great impressions on a 14 year old hippie, I remember getting a christmas card with the acid. I kept it for years , but has long disappeared.
Helen in California was one of many teenagers at the Happening:
- I was almost 16 when I attended The Happening. I had recently moved to Lido from a New England colonial farm; my mother had died 10 months or so earlier and I came to that area from conservative Connecticut, where both of my parents had forever been Yale professors -- thus, everything is still pretty vivid because it was the opposite of everything I had ever done in my entire life. They would never have approved :-) Besides for the posted notices, it was also broadcast on the radio -- KPPC FM, I believe. At the site, I definitely remember Muddy Waters being there, as well as Buddy Miles. They were both flown in by helicopter on the 2nd day, but I believe they were the biggest names that arrived. There were a LOT of filler bands there, lots of local bands, mostly. Everyone was waiting for the big names to come, but pretty much they never did. I walked all the way up and down that road several times and always took my place on the left hill above the stage. It was cold outside. Geez, it was dirty there, but upon leaving the last time, I remember seeing the most gorgeous guy in my life and never, ever forgot him. It's like that elusive moment in time when everything makes complete sense; he totally blew my mind. In all that dirt and muck, he appeared to be staring at someone (else, of course); dark-blond, blue-eyed, blue jeans, work shirt -- perfection. I didn't even understand my own image of male perfection until I saw him and since then, I never forgot it. Walking up and down that road was long, long, looong. I remember the roadblocks, and I remember the police. Again, being from CT, I was unused to so many police officers needing to be gathered in a community. I felt younger than most of the people who went there. I wasn't really into drugs, so did a lot of observing. I recall a black guy dancing alone on the stage while the bands were playing and wow, he was SO GOOD. He was a pro & deserved to be up there. In my mind, I can still see him. I remember oranges being tossed from the stage. I remember the parachutist, never forgot that!! I remember Taco Bell and The Greeter. Didn't he have a pension from the city of Laguna? Anyway, I went to it with my cousin of the same age. The food was bland but filling, and it really was a long walk. But -- fun.
One of the more remarkable memories from Laguna comes from Tom Potts in Orange County, who has gone into the Happening chronicles as the Parachute Guy, after skydiving onto the festival location (mentioned above). Here's Tom's recollection:
- I was the skydiver who parachuted into the event because I had gone into town the night before to restock my film supply. I had left my cameras in my car, which was parked behind the stage. I had already made a couple of trips back and forth, and thought there would not be a problem, however when the police decided to block off the highway except for water and medical equipment, I had to find another way in. That night at the Pier 11 in Costa Mesa, I got a pilot to fly me over the site the following day, where I made a glorious drop into the very dropped out crowd. I landed directly behind the stage where a human chain encircled me and my parachute. Someone did a field pack on my chute, and I was quickly whisked up to the stage, where I spoke to a screaming crowd, and I have no idea what I said. I was reunited with my camera equipment, and later drove my car out. The circumstances surrounding this entire escapade is actually quite amazing and comical, and if anyone out there is interested, I would gladly give you the details. Thanks for keeping this alive, it was something I have discussed many time over the years, and usually people don't believe me until I produce the picture (which I still have) that was in the Daily Pilot as I was landing, and standing on the ground. I had relatives that were watching back in Kansas that saw me several times on various news channels.
Here are some more memories from the Happening, courtesy Denny F and his wife Melody:
- The police had a road block set up on Laguna Canyon road about a quarter mile from the festival site where they were stopping and searching everyone who was walking or riding a bike in (the road was closed to motorized traffic for I think 3 days). It was pretty cold and they had several 55 gallon drums set up with fires going in them and the cops were standing around these to keep warm. They weren't busting anyone if they found something, but if they did they just tossed it into the drums....you could smell the weed and hash smoke from those drums for about a mile and the police were standing there breathing it all in. We noticed that after a while these policemen started getting REALLY friendly....(smile). [Melody]
- I lived in Hidden Valley at the time across the street from Curt Reid and Sharon Kelly.......Curt was one of the most colorful characters I've ever met....I could tell you many stories about his adventures....ie: The limo riding camel in his restaurant "Love Animals Don't Eat Them" and the subsequent appearance (with the camel) at the Laguna Nigel courthouse. I have one vivid and amazing memory from the "Happening": I was shooting super 8 film (now lost) of the event during the three days. When they re-opened Laguna Canyon road the last day my friend Larry B and I drove out to the site in my VW to film the aftermath. Our timing couldn't have been better. Larry was standing on the front seat and filming through the sunroof. When we got to the site there were about fifty cops standing around the stage which they had lit on fire.We couldn't get into the site so we were pulled over on the side of the road and the burning stage was off in the distance. All through the festival there had been a life size statue of Jesus on the stage...the police did not remove this statue before lighting the fire. As we were filming this a cop comes into the scene (in close up,actually he's behind a fence so maybe 20 feet away) and tells us we can't stop and to get moving...of course there was no sound on super 8 so you can't hear Larry tell the cop to fuck off, you just see him gesturing to us to move on...then Larry starts yelling "fuck you " to the cop and flips him off so the cop flips us off and you can clearly read his lips as he yells "fuck you too". Right as this is happening, off in the distance the statue of Jesus topples into the flame and all the cops standing around the stage start jumping around and cheering....unreal.........maybe someday that film will turn up. Anyway........someone should really write a book about Curt and his adventures....his sparring with officer Neil Purcell (who I think later became chief of police in Laguna) was hilarious....Purcell was like a real life inspector Clouseau...ridiculous disguises and all...Curt loved to humiliate and embarrass him every chance he got (which was quite often). [Denny]
Here's how local Orange County resident and Live Wire band member Jim B remembers visiting and performing at the Happening, after getting in touch with me in late 2009:
- I remember having to go to down town Laguna Beach in the back of a van with the group and our manager to sign-up for entry into the scheduled venue list in order to play. Our group “Live Wire” was comprised of a group of 5 local OC teenage boys. We met with the organizer either Wednesday or Thursday night and signed up for this Christmas event to be held in the Laguna Canyon on that coming Friday the 25th. They gave us directions and a recommended time of arrival to check-in. We arrived with two vans of equipment and entourage early in the morning, so early that we had to help finish setting up. There were some technical delays related to the stage, power and changing of venues, etc. We basically helped and held up back stage and moved back and forth from the vans with the equipment that was going to be required for us to perform (Gibson LPs, Dan Armstrong’s and Ludwig/Zildjian, etc.) but some equipment was to remain on stage for everyone to use as appropriate and save as much time as possible to keep the show moving. The mood behind the stage was very hectic to say the least up until the first groups began to play. The mood in front of the stage was very laid back calm and from my viewpoint gentle and positive. As the crowd amassed we were getting excited to have our group name called to go on as we started to notice the other local performers and groups that we knew.
Regarding the 100% Unknown Fibers album, Live Wire is the first group to play on the first part, we are like 1:00 min into the recording. We are covering Allman Brothers – Black Hearted Woman, and we were a little fast tempo, nervous I guess. I could hear myself at 57 sec mentioning using the energy of the crowd to the other band members and Tom S the drummer beating with nervous energy, etc., also the singing was Les G and he was not our regular lead singer, because the singer was absent and I was playing lead so the other guitar player could sing this song. Also that means I was incorrect with the amount of the band members in attendance we only had 4 members as the fifth was not able to attend because of family and it being Christmas and all. The only other member I did not mention was Jimmy R, who was in fact the bass player that always moved around freely (dancing) while playing, very high energy and the youngest of the quartet. Although the sound quality is not very good I can hear a lot because I was there and it brought back stronger memories while listening to all that was captured on these two parts.
Later suddenly over the shoulder of one of my band members I noticed a side-angle view of Big Buddy Miles speaking with one of the stage coordinators of the event directly behind the stage stairs. We did not speak with him until just before he was going to go on, he was upbeat and happy to be sharing in the event and offering to play with others and also to my surprise play other instruments…not the drums. We went on after Buddy and the group he was playing with. I recall after we played going out and speaking with my friends and other groups in the crowd that did not play and they recounting how they thought if the event continued wanted to be included next year/time. As the day pasted we all had a great time working and sharing with all that participated in this long ago faint memory but not forgotten Christmas.
While all of this was going on unbeknownst to me my wife and her family were trying to drive their usual route through the Laguna Canyon Road on their way to Emerald Bay in North Laguna to celebrate Christmas with the relatives. Years later when we discussed the Christmas event they were reminiscing/complaining how they had to make several alternative attempts to go around the Laguna Canyon event in order to get to their family Christmas.
I was happy to have been part of this special and very tranquil Christmas event in the SoCal cold December of 1970… [Jim B ]
LA Times ran a retrospective article on the Happening, which bears out much of the storyline given above:
"...But confusion and controversy lingered over why the peaceful, rock-studded canyon was chosen for the festival and who permitted its use-- if anybody. A spokesman for Great Lakes, Steponovich, said, however, that his company had never authorized use of the land. 'We gave no one permission,' he said. 'The Mayor said the sponsors told the city they had permission from Great Lakes to use the canyon property. If anything," he said, "the city kind of channeled them in that direction.' There was no explanation of why the city took two days to respond to Great Lakes request to have the property cleared. [...]
What had been no more than a invitation to come to Laguna Beach for a spiritual event at an unnamed location on a cold winter family holiday, without entertainment, suddenly exploded into a major event. A rebirth of Spirit transcending the tragedy of Altamont [...] A year after Altamont the L.A. Times headlined the Laguna event for four days, and called it 'Woodstock West', and said that the two days of peace and love more than merited the comparison."
So there it is: a successful, magical event from an idealistic era, preserved on audio via a crude vanity bootleg, destined to sit unplayed in attics and bargain bins for decades. And to further the irony: when a German record label decided to reissue (unauthorized) “100% Unknown Fibers” some years back, only 15 vinyl copies were pressed before the release was cancelled.
A documentary movie is being made about the Laguna Beach scene, the Brotherhood Of Eternal Love and the Laguna Beach Happening. Hopefully it will be finished during 2010. The director William Kirkley kindly provided me with a couple of images that have been added to the article. More recently (November 2009) I learned that one of his sources for the docu was busted by the police at a California airport, based on a very old arrest warrant. Seems some things never change...
THE END...FOR NOW
© Patrick Lundborg 2006-2009
An earlier version of this article was published in Shindig Magazine, 2007
P.S. The Laguna Beach event was covered in detail in early 1971 issues of the LA Free Press -- anyone able to provide scans of this? The main Happening organizer Curtis Reid tells me that "It was an illustrated front cover article originally published in the LA Free Press, that was reprinted in the Berkeley Barb and many other alternative news world wide. The LA Times also published it. It was written in the space now occupied by The Stand under the pseudonym of Daystar, also known as me."