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Michael Randall (right) with J. Macon King, Sept. 11, 2019.

CONTINUED from SALON 2019: Interview with Michael Randall of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love by J. Macon King

1960’s HOODLUMS

MillValleyLit: And before that, John was a hoodlum. That is really quite the character arc. What we writers call that change or growth.

MR: We were all hoodlums.

MillValleyLit: He was in a bad-ass car club and raced around, picked fights, had motorcycles...

MR: He didn’t race cars. We were in a hotrodders car club called the Street Sweepers. But what happens when someone becomes somewhat famous, all of the sudden they did all these things that people just imagine and whatever. The real story is good enough. Grigg’s doesn't have to be a car or motorcycle racer, which he was not, I mean he probably has ridden motorcycles. I've known John Griggs since we were in high school. Though we went to different schools, we kept running into each other in all different kinds of places. Young guys know each other, especially when you’re with guys that are getting high, smoking weed. Smoking weed was like such a bad thing, such a taboo ---- and you were this clandestine little group of people that enjoyed smoking marijuana.

MillValleyLit: Right. It was supposed to be only musicians, black people, and people who wanted to go crazy that risked smoking reefer back then. Reefer Madness.

MR: And we were middle-class people in Orange County.

MillValleyLit: And Orange County was a very conservative area then.

MR: Yes, but somehow a little cluster of Spiritual Beings formed. We as the Brotherhood thought, and always had thought that we had incarnated together in previous lifetimes, maybe many times. Who knows? The trouble is, people keep trying to compare us to the Christians and John the Baptist and all that. I don't care for the comparison but I think that we had some previous lifetimes together where we explored the spiritual world.

MillValleyLit: Because you were very, very close-knit, right?

MR: Yes. The core of The Brotherhood of Eternal Love was less than twenty men and whatever women were there, and their wives. And those girls were sisters - just as important as the men. Sometimes they'd be riding shotgun with the baby to make it look good, when you were doing one of these things, because doing them just alone would look suspicious.

MillValleyLit: “Scams,” which the Brotherhood termed drug operations.

MR: Yes, scams. We always made plans to eliminate most danger before we ever got started. But you can't eliminate it all. On those times when you are just keeping a tight asshole and running the border. And hoping to God it works. And it did most all the time.

MillValleyLit: John Griggs. Without him, and the people who were drawn to him, the Brotherhood would probably not have happened. Probably not such an evangelical, spread LSD far and wide, phenomenon. And peace-and-love John Griggs started out robbing people at gunpoint. He got his first acid at gunpoint?

MR: That happened one time. It’s been over dramatized.

MillValleyLit: You weren’t there though, right?

MR: No. I wasn’t. I have been written into that. I wouldn’t have been there. I wouldn’t do that kind of thing. Not that I’m more moral or whatever. Johnny did not run around robbing people. That was a one-time thing. He was in the “Street Sweepers.” They were just about the baddest motherfuckers in Southern California. They had some people in there – Joel Ore. Heavyweight Champion of the Navy, comes out of the Navy and now he's just a fun-loving guy. Caroll Snow and a bunch of other people that we're really very famous street fighters. Especially Joel Ore. People would come from long distances to see him. There was a bar called The Stables in Anaheim where everybody hung out. People would show up from San Diego to see if they could whip Joel and that just didn't happen.

MillValleyLit: Like, I hear that dude’s the fastest gun in the West, but I’m gonna’ give him what fer!

MR: Pretty much. But it was fist fighting and no weapons allowed at all. When we were kids if somebody pulled a knife you were considered chickenshit. I mean, let alone guns, oh that was just unheard of. Those years was it was real men fight with thier fists and that if you crack a bottle – if there's a bystander someone will jump on you and take the weapon away, or whatever. But Joe was real, real handsome and women loved him. He was buffed and all, but he couldn't see that. He wasn't really all that big, but he was like the Muhammad Ali. He had a little thing, technique, and he could BING! and big guys would fall down and go to sleep and their feet would be twitching.

So, the Street Sweepers were kind of the bad boys. But they weren’t robbing banks. And some of these guys wearing sandals and very collegiate-like, were shooting dope. They chipped around with heroin. I did not. I don't know anybody other than that guy Bob - that guy I was warning you off about - that actually became a junkie. And by the way, most people that are alive today from the Brotherhood, they don't know who he is!

MillValleyLit: And he kind of tried to take over the BEL name. Weird.

MR: He can change it, do whatever he wants, you know. I'm not going to feed that dog. I am not going to get into a polemic with him. He's just not worth it, if anybody asks you about it - he said some really harsh things about my wife, Carol. The least of which was, “What does she know?” You know what? She knows a lot. She was right there with us, she was fucking side by side with me in those labs and doing all this stuff. My wife is one hell of a wonderful woman.

MillValleyLit: So, after LSD became the focus, the Brotherhood formed and soon everything the Brotherhood would do would become more legally risky, dangerous, and extraordinarily more ambitious. Your enterprise went way beyond more than anything most people can imagine. At that time, people were getting prison time for a little weed. Smugglers would be shot or put away in a hellhole forever, like the film Midnight Express, which was based on a real story. Did you have any idea what you were really getting into, this obsession and drive that would create a group of friends, Brothers, to do this - worldwide?

MR: First of all, we started smuggling way before this. I mean I'd been smuggling weed way before I took LSD. In high school, my junior year, I was I was working with people that were bringing kilos in. They were bringing weed across the border and I was selling it for them.

We started making a lot of money. I hardly knew what to do with it. I was just a kid in school. I took my girlfriends out to the finest restaurants. I've always been a cash spending person, but my friends and I had been doing things a long time. But what compelled us to do all that followed? We were more like gangsters a little bit. The way ---you're breaking the law, for no particular reason. Weed made you feel good. We knew it wasn’t bad for you, wasn’t harmful. I’d take Benzedrine, take bennies, you know, and now and then take Red Devils. I never did like those things much and didn't take heroin. We all stayed away, well, not everybody, but I personally stayed away from heroin. I didn't like cocaine, but that was not on the scene then. So, it was just a few drugs around and weed was my favorite. Most people didn't drink much and there were more potheads than drinking. And we were like the Stoners and then there was the football players that were beer drinkers, and loud and obnoxious.

MillValleyLit: The jocks. And the greasers were big back then.

MR: Yes. We never hung out with any of them. We had more in common with the Mexicans. They were always into the weed thing. By the time I was 18 years old, in the Barrio - the Mexican area - I was the weed connection. As this young white boy. And me and my friend Tito, and Tom Jones, we're running the border and I was selling to the Mexicans and I was the connection.

MillValleyLit: Wow. Orange County or L.A.?

MR: Orange County. It was actually probably Santa Ana. Probably city limits; it's like here, you don't know what city you're in. It was real close to my friend’s house. So, what inspired us to do this? On a larger scale, it was the LSD experience.

A RELIGIOUS EXERIENCE, DODGE CITY, GEORGE WASHINGTON DROPPED HERE

MillValleyLit: It made you believers?

MR: We found God. I don’t like that word much. It has so much weighty bullshit connected to it. I like the Creator as an idea. And I was a stone, flat-out, smartass atheist. And I found out I was wrong! And that there is a Creator, there is a divine presence, there is a unity. We became evangelists in our own way. LSD Evangelists. It was you find this thing that is so...

MillValleyLit: That's why some have made comparisons to John and the Apostles, or Jesus?

MR: I suppose. I don’t. We never made those comparisons. People read about them. It’s been misinterpreted. In The Sunshine Makers we almost had a falling-out, so they cut me out of scenes in the movie. Because I don't want to be associated with that. I said, you teased that out of me. I don't want the --- there's too much of it in the movie. I’m sitting there drinking beer, with somebody like you, and I say something like that. I could say to you that we turned on more people than Jesus, and it would be true.

MillValleyLit: I understand, because you remember what happened with John Lennon. Young people probably don't, but it was a huge deal. Lennon remarked in an interview, something to the effect that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Lennon had been reading a lot of religious texts at the time, and in Britian, people said, hmm, I get it, but then later, in the American press, it was taken out of context, and he got BLASTED. This led to a huge uproar, actually banning concerts and burning Beatles records.****

MR: And that’s what in The Sunshine Makers, the British guys, tried to expand on. I said that’s not really fair, Jesus is riding around on a fucking donkey, and we have jet airplanes, traveling around the world.

MillValleyLit: So, we'll move on. Speaking of technology, how did you guys stay in touch around the world? There were no cells, texts, barely faxes, or any of that.

MR: Amazing, isn't it? But we did. I'll meet you here or I'll call you from there. We used to have to call a place that we knew that somebody always would be at, maybe it was somebody's mom's house. We used people who were clean. People also might want to know, when we incorporated our church the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, who were the original signers on the docs? They were the people who had been in the least trouble with the police. A lot of them just drifted away. I don’t even know where they are. I was one of them. I hadn't been getting in trouble with the police.

MillValleyLit: You were the businessman of the group. John Griggs was like the go-for-it, more trouble-making, charismatic leader.

MR: I’m fairly charismatic myself I’ll let you know. I hold my own in the charisma realm.  

MillValleyLit: (laughs) Well, you did take over the group after John’s death, right?

MR: I was the college graduate. I was the businessman. Philosophy and religion is what I went to school for. Johnny was fine. But, I could be the communicator between us and, say, educational institutions. I mean people from UCLA studied us. We were one of the first groups that became an overt religion. We had a place in Modjeska Canyon in Southern California that was an old church that we had rented with lots of rooms. It still had the chapel. We started studying with the Roshi Zen Buddhists. With psychedelics you gravitate more toward the more non-anthropomorphic interpretations of God or the spirit, whatever, with which Eastern religion is about. So we became different, we started dressing different.

MillValleyLit: Do you think this was part of the Leary influence? He and Alpert had incorporated in New York with the League for Spiritual Discovery (LSD) church. (Ed. note: in 1966)

MR: This is all before Timothy Leary. Before we made that contact. And Alpert came to see us many, many times. I don't think Tim ever came to Modjeska Canyon, but Ram Dass did. Multiple times. We started having zendos and other spiritual events at the place. We went back there, not too long ago,with some of the movie people and we were looking at the house that used to be the church.

One evening, during filming the movie, an old lady came walking up the road. Someone asked, Do you know who the Brotherhood of Eternal Love is? And she said in this cheery voice, “Of course. Everybody around here knew them.”

While we were there we went to Laguna Canyon to “Dodge City.” What we called Dodge City, which was just right outside Laguna Beach. There's a canyon that runs right to the beach. If you start walking at the main beach on the road you could walk and be in Laguna Canyon in about 5 or 10 minutes. A lot of us lived there and it was kind of a small little neighborhood. That's where the Brotherhood lived.

MillValleyLit: Did your group designate it, “Dodge City?”

MR: The place just grew into it. Somebody found a house there. It was nice. Somebody else found a house there, not too far away, and pretty soon people realized, “this is a nice place to live.” It was only 120 dollars a month for nice little houses with two or three bedrooms. Pretty soon we realized our people are almost the only ones living here. There was a black community there, a very small black community. Eddie Coleman was our neighbor. We loved that man. He was a great guy. He loved us too. Roosevelt Lane - that's where it's was and it’s kind of historic now. Now, we’re famous enough, our movement is, they want to put historical plaques up.

MillValleyLit: Like Jack Kerouac Alley in North Beach? That’s so cool.

MR: Yes. And on certain places. Over in Richmond there was a LSD lab in a place there.

MillValleyLit: Right. In Point Richmond. (CA)

MR Yes. And they were trying to find the house because they wanted to make it a historical monument. The house has been torn down as it turns out. The house in Windsor, where Nick and Tim had a lab, there’s already a plaque there. We’re a fucking part of history! And we didn’t ask these people to put a plaque up.

MillValleyLit: How about a statue? Of you about to swallow a tab of Orange Sunshine?

MR: The thought of this kind of recognition never crossed my mind. They're starting to happen around. It’s like, George Washington slept here.

MillValleyLit: Or, George Washington dropped here.

MR: Or, George Washington dropped here and screwed three women before the night was over. I mean really!

MillValleyLit: (laughs) This whole ambitious nature of the Brotherhood. Did it start really with the energy of John Griggs or do you think it was a synergistic mesh of everybody that was in it?

MR: I think it was both of those things. John Griggs was the first... to almost instantly understand. As I mentioned, I was an atheist when I first took acid.

SEND LAWYERS, no GUNS, AND MONEY

MillValleyLit: But you did believe in lawyers? (laughs)

MR: So, we're at Cannabis Cup in San Francisco. Michael Kennedy was my attorney who was 100% owner of High Times magazine. He puts on the Cannabis Cup. Michael's been at High Times for decades and decades, and over time people wanted out and Michael bought them out. He said, I never intended to own the whole magazine. I was mostly doing people a favor, a share for your share, I’ll give you what you want...

MillValleyLit: And he's featured in the movie Orange Sunshine. He owns High Times?

MR: Right. He owned it then. He’s dead now. He died six to eight weeks after that interview. When we went to the premier of The Sunshine Makers in New York. And while I was there, and I wanted to see my brother, my dear friend up from all my life, Michael Kennedy. His apartment was the whole 23rd floor of this apartment house on Central Park South, looking straight down Central Park. Michael’s done very well for himself. Very brave man, very, very brave man.

MillValleyLit: He got really harassed. (Ed. note: Attorney Michael Kennedy also represented such radical activist orgs as the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, and the Chicago Seven.)

MR: Harassed? They hated him. They hate lawyers that are as brave as him. That are willing to break the law, if that's what it takes. There's a lot about that I can't talk about with you right now today. I forget where we were. I get to rambling but that's just when you start getting good information.

WE GET DOWN TO IT: THE DROP ZONE

MillValleyLit: Ha! Seems like it. So next topic: you told me last time we met up, that you've done over eight hundred trips.

MR: I think that's about right.

MillValleyLit:Shouldn’t you be in the Guinness Book of World Records?

MR: No, there are others.

J.K: That have done more? Wow. Can you describe what your best trip was like?

MR: Acid tripping is almost impossible to describe. It just is. It is beyond words. I've never had a bad trip. I've had some trips that were kind of challenging. I've been arrested high on acid and that wasn't too fun. But it was funny.

MillValleyLit: Because a lot of people, like myself, have become very paranoid. I had a couple of trips that I got paranoid of being busted, over some minor legality, like my fake I.D. and trip out. You guys were doing massively illegal activities and you were also doing massive doses of acid. Cops were watching you and...

MR: Oh, those cops couldn’t find us most of the time. That’s for one thing. And they weren’t watching us that much.

MillValleyLit: It blows my mind, I just can’t imagine doing what you were doing, and drop all the time...

MR: Once you know, you realize that when you take acid enough, and we used to take really strong, stupidly strong doses...

MillValleyLit: What six or ten hits?

MR: More. Because a lot of time you’d be playing with the crystal and you might take fifty hits...

MillValleyLit: Shit. Fifty hits!!!

MR: I shouldn't do that. (laughs) I never did hurt anybody. I've never seen anyone do it but I’ve heard stories of people finding white crystal and thinking it was cocaine, and later on realizing they were snorting a line of acid, which is probably like three hundred hits.

MillValleyLit: 300 hits!? I can’t imagine.

MR: I can’t either. But, these people, three or four days went by they were just like normal. I have taken probably 30 hits on purpose at one time.

MillValleyLit: Uh, no thanks.

MR: And if you're feeling paranoid...when’s the last time you took some acid? Besides your beer I just put some in?

MillValleyLit: (laughs) It’s been a long time.

MR: You ever hear of microdosing?

MillValleyLit: Yes.

MR: You should microdose. You’ll like it.

MillValleyLit: I’m kind of afraid to now. I like my brain the way it is. And myself. I feel lucky to have escaped my escapades.

MR: You shouldn’t be afraid. That's why you want to microdose. That’s why I said microdose. If you take 10 to 15 micrograms, you're not going to get scared of anything. It's not enough to scare you. It's enough to sort of make you realize, “Well, there's more to this than I realized. Whoa.” I have never had anybody... I've told quite a few people to try micro-dosing.

MillValleyLit: This would be an eighth of a hit, a tenth?

MR: A normal hit would be around a hundred micrograms. A microdose would be around 10. So, one tenth. I have turned on a lot of people to consider that, who have never taken acid. They’ve smoked weed. You smoke weed?

MillValleyLit: I have.

MR: What am I going to do with you? I'm going to have to... now you're in trouble. I’m going to have to be after you. Weed is a psychedelic you know. And sometimes people come up with, “weed makes me paranoid.” It's because it's expanding your mind and you just need to relax and let it do that. But microdosing is real gentle. The people who believed me, and found some, and tried it out for the very first time - even older people, every single time - if they took, say 10 micrograms, they’d say, “I want more next time. I want to know more, this is interesting, I want to know more about it, I want more.” And you would say the same thing.

MillValleyLit: I lived in the Haight Ashbury for ten years, mostly in the seventies. Believe me, I’m not unfamiliar with the drug scene and the effects. How about what we called in the Haight, “acid casualties,” “acid burnouts?” That happens, right?

MR: Listen. Acid burn outs. Yeah, there's people that did things that are probably less than intelligent and ---- I would love to know how many of those acid casualties were also fucking around with speed or other things. I would like to know that, because I think there wouldn't hardly be any acid casualties if they were taking acid out in nature, in a quiet place...

MillValleyLit: Like Golden Gate Park or Mt. Tam.

MR: ...not on some dirty street corner, and not snorting or doing other things. You start doing that shit, you start mixing it with bad drugs and doing it in bad situations, things can happen.
Jack Daniels causes a lot more problems than that, you know.

MillValleyLit: True. But not everybody sees God, either. And I’m a Christian. Always have been. I took acid recreationally and it never happened with me. I never had some “spiritual awakening,” saw a burning bush, or anything. I had a number of mind-expanding experiences, and I did have quite a few long-lasting epiphanies.  

MR: We took it recreationally, maybe at the very, very beginning, but we never thought it was a recreational drug. And paranoia, when you become used to tripping you can become aware of the tricks of the mind. It's almost like a separate thing that wants to get you to stop... it wants to make you think, it wants you to do something, anything, but don't be still. It's like it's afraid of that, and that's how the concept of the devil, I think came about. The mind is a controlling mechanism in your brain that likes the comfort of repetition. And knowing that this is all going to be here tomorrow. We all have this little program.

MillValleyLit: I didn't know about that, so I could have used the book you gave me, your psychedelic guide. I didn’t even have the Leary and Alpert books. I would do crazy stuff, drop by myself, hang out with drunk friends, play ping pong, go to Disneyland, ride my motorcycle in Tuna Canyon...

MR: How can you still your mind when you're doing those things? No wonder you never did... So this is what paranoia can be - this little trick of the mind to get you into: “Oh, this is important. You need to stop what you're doing and think about this.” Well you don't either. You need to discard that and continue to let your consciousness unravel, unfold. What you're doing, is your nervous system is starting to work on a higher level. And if you get in the way by thinking - you're not going to let your nervous system ascend to a consciousness - that I don't know how to describe in words. I just really seriously don't.

MillValleyLit: That’s profound, Michael. And you’re right, you are charismatic. I wish I would have met you when I was 20. Do you meditate?

MR: A little.

MillValleyLit: That helps me free up the mind. Quiet down those little monkeys chattering in there.

MR: Those are the ones you don’t want. Meditation does help. One of my favorite lines from the Tao Te Ching, translated by Timothy is, “Stillness is the master of agitation.” It's just very simple and it's really, really true. Stillness is the master of agitation. So, most meditation is to still  the mind so that you can turn off the monkey mind and - see the sunlight. To feel the breeze. To smell things. So that you become this this wonderful organism of senses.

MillValleyLit: And we are.

MR: That’s right. And we’re fairly limited in that, too.

MillValleyLit: Yes. We don't have the dog sense of smell or the cat sense...

MR: Right, exactly. And we know there’s things you can smell, but there’s things you can't smell. We know that there is light you can see, but there is light you cannot see. So, our whole conception of the world is based on the limitations of this flesh that we're in. Will LSD and psychedelics take you beyond that flesh that you're in? The nervous system that is working, the thirteen billion cell computer inside your head - you’re never using but a tiny fraction of it. They have brain scans where they can show the brain lit up from psychedelics. The scans show the difference between a regular person’s brain and the same person’s brain after taking psychedelics - and the brain is lit up in a completely different way. It’s amazing.

 

At this point Michael’s lovely wife Carol joined us. Carol was the wife of Brotherhood leader and guiding spirit, John Griggs, before he sadly passed Aug. 3, 1969. Later she wedded Michael Randall. Her appearance during the interview led to an interesting chat off the record.

**** https://www.pophistorydig.com/topics/burn-the-beatles-1966/

Carl Macki 60's style poster art, 2019. See credits for more info.

 

Case Closed on Hippie Mafia Smugglers. Dec 03, 2009 by Nick Schou
 
The strange case of the so-called “Hippie Mafia,” the longest, most surreal saga in the annals of American counterculture, is finally over. On November 20, 2009, Brenice Lee Smith, the last remaining fugitive from the legendary band of outlaws known as the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, pleaded guilty to a single charge of smuggling hashish from Afghanistan to Orange County. Brenice Lee Smith was arrested at San Francisco International Airport after four decades on the run. He was arrested on two, nearly 40-year-old warrants related to the sale and possession of drugs ....the prosecutor handling the case, Jim Hicks, is the son of DA Cecil Hicks, who presided over the 1972 conspiracy case against the Brotherhood, and who is said to be retiring next March, meaning this case could be his last hurrah.(Condensed from Nicholas Schou's article in OCWeekly.)

    Meddle by Pink Floyd, 1971. "One of These Days..." This album will trip you out even without psychedelics. Wa,wa,wa.

 

 

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Sidebar: oil by Marcy Levine

Carl Macki bio: I was born in Chicago and grew up there and in northern Minnesota, between the Iron Range and the Boundary Waters. In my twenties, I was influenced by a close friend, the artist and musician Ed Balchowsky, who worked as a porter at the Quiet Knight in the Windy City. I traveled with gypsies tinning bowls in the Upper Midwest. Moved to SF to join author Gerald Nicosia on a writing project; was a partner of a punk rock club and columnist for a weekly free paper in The City; and presented live concerts at a movie theater in Novato. I am a poet, a promoter, a graphic artist, a blogger, web designer/developer, multimedia editor; occasional music journalist and freelance writer; active in 100,000 Poets for Change, Petaluma Poetry Walk, and a poetry and music series in Bolinas; board member of ewastecollective.org, a Bay Area e-waste recycler and environmental charity. I live in the Deer Park neighborhood of Fairfax, California.

Uncredited non-ad photos by J. Macon King.

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.