By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
In addition to Francois' film crew, there is a two-man UCLA camera crew to make a film of the filming itself. Many of the people on the buses had their own cameras to filmalmost in self-defensethe movie-making. People hardly outnumbered cameras on this tour, inspiring a fantasy of a perfect situation in which everyone is given an all-seeing all-hearing camera-sound machine to carry around and film everyone else. At that critical mass level of media technology, the unnatural will be absolutely natural, all filming will in effect cancel itself out, and we will be back to being again.
Reichenbach will edit his footage and turn a negative over that Hollywood studio for first release rights and possible release next spring. The identity of the studio has become a big issue to people inside and outside the caravan. I shall call it 'Warner Brothers.' I was asked not to mention a name in this article, but the name has grown from open secret to openly debated issue. (The Antioch radicals were able to chant "Fuck Warner Brothers" at the caravan without my giving them the name.) I should confess that the studio paid0 for my flight out to and back from the caravan for the week I spent with them and may fly me to England with the caravan after they reach the East Coast, so keeps your eyes open for corruption in these lines.
Nobody on the caravan has been paid an official salary by the studio for participation in the movie but, in return for signing releases, all expenses, food, medical supplies, every necessity, and several luxuries are picked up by the studio. In addition, caravan members were promised all-expense-paid trips to England and the Isle of Wight Festival if they stuck with the movie all the way across country.
Two studio accountants followed the caravan across country in a huge station wagon. Mornings they would leave their motel, drive to the campsite, and sit in the rear of their wagon with an adding machine and a cashbox, ministering to a long line of picturesque hippies each with a fistful of receipts. One caravan member bought some cocaine for himself and some friends and handed the accountant a slip of paper with the purchase price and the words "coke for everyone" written on it. The figure was tapped out on the adding machine and paid.
Because of the "Woodstock movie rip-off," well publicized in the underground press, Warner Brothers has become the Dow Chemical of the media, and getting money from Warner Brothers to make them a profitable movie is considered as bad as doing drug commercials for Dow. But some elements of the alternate culture believe media institutions like Warner Brothers can be captured from within by a combination of acid and manipulation.
A strange conjunction of this sort presided over the birth of the caravan movie. The story goes that some months ago a very high-level studio executive was introduced to the Hog Farm by mutual friends in the netherworld between the media capitalists and hip underground. The Hog Farm, it is said, introduced the studio executive to acid and they all took several trips together. Subsequently, he moved to the West Coast. Out there the idea for some kind of cross-country caravan had been floating around for a long time, and through the intersection of several different webs of people and influence the magic caravan became a reality backed by a rumored $1 million budget.
Since the Merry Pranksters' original cross-country bus tripand Tom Wolfe's booka whole bus trip life style has grown up in the West. Scores of communes, freak and rock groups have made the painted shell of a renovated bus the interface between their group consciousness and the public world of thruway America.
A whole series of legends have grown around certain bus trips, each new legend building upon the concepts of the earlier ones. No one wants merely to repeat Kesey's trip (which of course was also a movie): once a game has been well played out, you've got to think up a new version or re-play it on a more complex level, parody it, parody yourself, make a film of the filming, get into complex hoaxes, put-ons, and games with those outside the bus, make it a missionary trip, a communal trip, a freak-the-straights trip. A mystique grows up around certain roles on bus trips: drivers, pranksters, omnicompetent mechanical geniuses, holy men, mad men, and lovers.
Andy, a veteran bus tripperan omnicompetent driver, Magic Christian film-maker of a bus trippertold a group of us about the great new fantasy of the bus tripping world. He and Kesey were talking, he said, of the ultimate bus trip, a "great bus race," a cross-country supergame with a $10,000 prize to the winner. Only the winner won't be necessarily be the bus that gets there first. The winner will be the bus which is most skillful, most holy, most clever, which most/successfully makes the whole bus race their movie.
This bus trip sensibility is reached by people who have dissolved their irony in acid. They see the world as webs of games, but have gone beyond staring at the webs in mute stunned appreciation or despair. They have graduated from tripping over everything, to a recognition that action and creativity still have meaningin the process of creating new and more intricately beautiful games of their own to play.