By Araceli Cruz
By Tessa Stuart
By Anna Merlan
By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Village Voice staff
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
September 10, 1970
ON THE ROAD, Middle America Thursday afternoon, Chan, who was from "the caravan of love," went slightly berserk and tried to stick a knife into David Peel, after a shouting match on top of Captain Bad Vibe's Cadillac limousine in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
A few hours later, while the other caravan members sat in a solemn circle and the cameras rolled, Chan stood out and introduced himself with Jimmy Stewart's self-deprecation as "the guy who almost stabbed David Peel today." Dozens of caravaneers laughed and applauded affectionately: not many of them liked David, he was too . . . New York . . . bad vibes. He didn't belong in this movie. Only Bonnie Jean and Wavy Gravy of the Hog Farm had anything good to say about David.
Friday evening at the free rock concert given by the caravan, two (different) Hog Farmers were overheard plotting to stick a dose of acid into David and hinder him harmless. If it turned out to freak him out of his mind, well, the Hog Farm was a specialist in handling bad trips, wasn't it?
The knife attempt and its aftermath was one of the few experiences that threatened to puncture the collective placidity of the caravan, the holy San Francisco ethos: get high on whatever happens, neutralize people on bad trips with benign acceptance, drown with sweet Wavy Gravy. Even the mountain men of the "STP family" who threatened to tear up the hippie caravan, hippies and all, the way they claimed to tear up bears with their hands, failed to pierce the serenity.
The STP family came down from the mountains with bear traps, knives, and various parts of bears hanging from them. Some of the men apparently liked to slash women as well as bears. One STP girl is said to have wandered into the caravan's medical trailer on the night of the Boulder, Colorado concert, asking for treatment from knife slashes across her vagina. Nothing unusual for the STP family, and she left shortly to rejoin her old man and his knife later that night.
Meanwhile, outside in the night, one of the mountain men with a heavy paint habit (eating as well as sniffing) staggered around sniffing and eating some gold paint. Gold paint smeared his lips.
"Oh wow, look at his lipsthey're glowing," one girl from the caravan murmured, "far out." That's the caravan for you.
The David Peel incident and its curious aftermath may be cut from the finished version of the movie being made of the caravan's trip or perhaps made light of. It was typical, but it was there. See if you can get high off of it.
The caravan: a hand-picked group of 150 freaks, rock musicians, Hog Farmers, bus trippers, groupies, dealers, beautiful people, and media manipulators, which by now completed a three-week trip across America in 20 buses, Winnebago trailers, and U-hauls. As they traveled, giving free rock concerts and living their communal life style, a swarm of cameramen followed along, recording their spontaneity minutely.
The whole journey-movie is a strange combination of pilgrimage and public relations stunt. Each aspect is a somewhat legitimate front for the other, as things often are in the mirrored worlds called "country-culture" and "hip capitalism." The people making the pilgrimage believe they are using the hip capitalists for their own ends: making a dynamite, consciousness-raising movie that will turn on straight America with its energy and love, you know the line. The people financing the movie, a very large Hollywood studio, want to make another "Woodstock," in other words another $50 million on an investment of just $1 million. The underground media call this "ripping off our culture and selling it at a huge profit without returning anything to the community" and "pandering our visions and dreams for cash."
Most of the filming is being done by a large French camera crew, which speaks little or no English. The crew is directed by Francois Reichenbach, who won an Academy Award for his documentary "Rubinstein." Francois and his men seem to have had little direct experience with American drug-rock culture before this movie. (They had no real experience with drugs until the night in Albuquerque when a studio man slipped some acid into their drinks and they ended up shooting miles of footage of the starry sky, and Francois was heard saying, "Quiet please, God is speaking to me.") Francois' vision of America seems to be created from a lot of 1967 Haight-Ashbury snapshots and some picture postcards of "Hair." He came with a pre-conceived movie of America and he'd often go to great lengths to get it on film: in Kearney, Nebraska, Francois had Joni Mitchell (flown in from L.A. to casually drop in and sit around the camp fire and sing for the cameras) go through countless choruses of "Get Together" while he constantly exhorted the people around the camp fire to sing louder and with more feeling, all the whole asking a girl with an attractively tanned bare midriff to move closer to Joni so the camera would catch some skin.
Then there was the concert at Antioch when a 30-foot diameter peace symbol strung with Christmas tree bulbs was hoisted up on a tower behind the stage as a background for the rock groups, and lit it up during big numbers. Peace love and music, you know.