By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Forcade paid his way the whole trip and took nothing from Warner Brothers. He is a rare and mysterious figure on the left at times he seems like a shadowy outlaw on inexplicable missions. Other times he is an above-ground spokesman and writer for the underground press and the White Panthers. Recently he went public and showed up at the hearings of the President's commission on obscenity, walked up to the chairman, and threw a whipped-cream pie in his face.
Forcade is a close friend of the imprisoned White Panther poet-revolutionary John Sinclair, and receives each week one of the three letters allows Sinclair to send out. Forcade recently moved to New York with the UPS office and has organized the Free Range tribe of the White Panthers in the city.
Still other times Forcade appears as a trouble-shooter/trouble-maker in the world of rock festivals and cultural revolutionaries. He has handled every aspect of the intricate rock festival scene, from financing to stage building, from putting on (Winter's End) to ripping off (Randall's Island).
Forcade is one of the few people in the left who has enough skills and intelligence to outwit the hip capitalists at their own media games, and enough sense of purpose to avoid getting lost for its own sake. He knows about the half-hidden webs which connect the underground with the above-groundhe's part of some of thembut he knows which side he's on.
Last year Forcade was part of the group led by Abbie Hoffman which manipulated the Woodstock promoters into thinking it would be in their own best interest to contribute $10,000 to the movement. Forcade at first thought it would be nice if the caravan or its promoters were to decide that some money out of the hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent on the trip might be given to movement groups. Realizing that conditions were different from the Woodstock actionthe promoters here were not nervous and desperatehe hoped to reach the 150 caravan people, and through them maybe with the help of Foreman persuade the studio to contribute to movement groups. He thought $50,000 would be reasonable.
But both Foreman and the leaders of the caravan didn't want any of it. Soon after he arrived, Forcade had a long face-to-face session with Tom Donahue, the unofficial wagaonmaster of the caravan, in Donahue's comfortably appointed Winnebago house trailer. Donahue is a huge Winnebago of a man himself, 350-plus pounds, one of the founders and first disc jockeys of San Francisco's "underground" radio scene.
Donahue is a strange combination of Falstaff and Big Brother and perhaps Kesey's Big Nurse. Reclining on a bed in the Winnebago, surrounded and served by several women, he seems to ingest large quantities of drugs, indulges his other appetites, and spends much of the trip immobile and spaced-out. Nevertheless, big brother-like, he seems to know everything that goes on the caravan, a spider sensitive to every filament in his web, Big Nurse in the psycho ward of "Cuckoo's Nest." He has very powerful eyes, more powerful it seems at first than Wavy Gravy's, although Wavy seldom opens his wide and reveals what's there. As co-producer he has considerable influence in shaping the caravan trip.
When he and Forcade first met, Donahue was snorting mescaline and told Forcade he wasn't interested in his kind of politics. Forcade played a brief power game with Donahue, attempting to inject heavy paranoia into his tripdisruption, the Mafia, outside money, a hidden web controlling the caravan without Donahue's knowledge. Donahue had to swallow hard but managed to digest it all.
Eventually Donahue offered Forcade the chance to make political speeches at some of the free concerts the caravan was to give. Forcade saw this as a trap. What it would be to isolate him as a "bad vibes, political person" on an ego trip, delaying the music for thousands of people for the sake of bullshit rhetoric. It would make politics seem like something alien to the people and the music, some bad medicine injected into a healthy body. In addition, anyone editing the movie could make any political speaker looked ridiculous with judicious inter-cutting.
Forcade told me later that he didn't want to "do politics" for the caravan but rather wanted the caravan people to start expressingand the movie to reflectthe politics already in them.
"Francois is just trying to make a movie which just shows one side of youth culture. He just wants the tribal customs, the nude swimming, the drugs, peace, and love. He doesn't realize that all of that is part of a much larger culture, which includes the movement against the war, against the draft, in support of the VC, political prisoners like John Sinclair and Bobby Seale. He doesn't realize it or he doesn't want it to show up, but it's there. Most of these people have been into politics like that before, why are they hiding it? I'm here to remind them that they can't just sneak across the country trying to look as harmless as possible. They've got to face that themselves if they really want to make it their movie."