From psychedelic barnstorming to communal hog farming; from East Coast coffeehouse cool to stoned San Francisco sunshine; from the Beat Generation through the Me Decade and beyond: A conversation with the legendary clown-prince of the counterculture from the June, 1979 issue of High Times, written by Ron Rosenbaum. In honor of Wavy Gravy’s 85th birthday on May 15, we’re republishing the story below.
Wavy Gravy and Ron Rosenbaum
Wavy Gravy (born Hugh Romney) is one of the key figures in the evolution of the contemporary culture of getting high and getting together. He and his traveling commune, the Hog Farm, are perhaps best known to masses of Americans for their service at the “bad-trip freak-out tent” that was captured in the movie Woodstock.
But there is a smaller, more passionate group of Wavy Gravy fans across the country and the world who value him for a whole range of good highs and good deeds he’s inspired in his many guises and disguises over the years.
As a stand-up, free-form comedian in the early beatnik scenes of the ’50s. As a pioneer acid taker, dealer and trip guide in the formative years of the West Coast hip scene. As a purveyor of Electric Kool-Aid and incandescent vibes during the madcap, Owsley Purple acid, Merry Prankster/Grateful Dead days of mid-’60s San Francisco.
As a pioneer in communal living, group highs and “gong bongs” with his mobile, extended family, the Hog Farm, in the late ’60s. As a volunteer worker/entertainer in hospitals for brain-damaged children. As a good-humored peacemaker at all the major rock festivals and political demonstrations of the ’60s and ’70s.
As the clown-suited organizer of the hilarious “Nobody for President” campaign in 1976. As the visionary promoter of Earth People’s Park, Feed the Hungry and other utopian schemes that just might work for the ’80s.
This guru of giggles, clown prince of the counterculture has managed to stay high and keep other people high for more than 20 years. Last year he sat down with me and High Times founder Tom Forcade (an old friend and fellow traveler on trips with Wavy) and answered some questions about how he’s managed to do it.
High Times: How did you first get stoned?
Wavy Gravy: We were doing jazz and poetry on the East Coast in a joint in the basement of a pizza parlor called Pat’s Pebble in the Rock. It was around ’55, ’56. I heard that all these musicians were on the stuff. They were actually smoking the same grass that caused Robert Mitchum to be dragged off to jail, and I was horrified.
But we went to a coffeehouse in Kennebunkport, Maine, and I just weakened. I remember I was eating on this automobile that I had covered with shaving cream. I couldn’t stop laughing. I must’ve laughed for two or three days.
High Times: Who gave you the stuff?
Wavy Gravy: It was a drummer who came up to hang out. I was beating on the hood of the car with a can of shaving lotion, and when they tried to pull me off I said, “Wait, I’m sending telegram messages around the world.”
The second time I was turned on I was dragged into a closet by a drummer who was going to show me how to do it. This was back in the fierce ’50s when you really had to be careful. He took me in the closet and locked the door, and he put a towel on the floor where the door thing came out. He blasted out a little Glade, looked furtively in both directions, turned out the light and lit the joint.
High Times: When did you first get turned on to psychedelics?
Wavy Gravy: Absolutely the first guy that did that to me, I do believe, also was the guy that turned me on to grass. This conga drummer, a white dude. I remember getting a whole bunch of mescaline and going to the roller coaster at Coney Island and buying $10 worth of tickets for the front seat, and I just kept doing that.
High Times: Tell us some basic biographical information. Where did you grow up? How did you get to be a poet?
Wavy Gravy: I grew up in East Greenbush, New York, near Albany. My sign is slippery when wet. My first conscious memory was kicking the box out from under my friend, Mason Regan, who was hanging himself because …
High Times: You always had a sense of humor, huh?
Wavy Gravy: He turned blue, his father came and cut him down and then kicked the shit out of him because the kid had done doo-doo in a wooden box in our fort. So I’ve always been careful to conceal my shit. It taught me to stash well from the get-go. As far as poetry is concerned, I think I first got into it because it seemed like a romantic thing to get into at the particular time. I figured it would get me some nookie.
Besides that, I had a nice time sitting down at the typewriter and writing words down. I didn’t really get into it until Boston, when we read in Time magazine about all this “beatnik” jazz and poetry. We were into jazz a little bit. I was hanging out with this other guy who was also a veteran. So I said, “Let’s write some poems…”
High Times: So it was actually Time magazine that turned you on?
Wavy Gravy: That’s right.
High Times: Did you actually get any nookie out of this?
Wavy Gravy: Yeah, I used to get lots of nookie out of reading—you kidding? I became the poetry director of the Gaslight Café back in the days when we used to line them up five deep around the block.
I began to write more and more and read the stuff, and as I tunneled into it, the poems got shorter and shorter until they eventually disappeared, because I had turned it into my life in my day in New York City, which was pretty fucking strange. Whenever I’d finish a poem everybody’d snap their fingers, because that’s how they did it in the Gaslight. Otherwise the Italians poured hot lead down the air shaft.
High Times: What happened to all those other poet characters? Or are you the only one who survived?
Wavy Gravy: It was interesting. Every year up in Oregon, Ken Kesey has this thing called the Annual Political Hoo Ha. Not only does he allow everybody that writes a poem to get up onstage and read it, but he brings in a lot of poets from all over the country. This year was Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Jack Micheline, Jimmy Lyons and a whole host of people that paraded through the Gaslight.
My poems got fewer and fewer, and the stuff in between the poems sort of stretched out, until finally one day Victor Mamutis came up to me and said, “How’d you like to just get rid of the poetry and talk about what you did during your day?” That’s what got me into being a stand-up comic.
Then this conga player and I drove to California in a Jaguar Mark VII. It blew me away. We got out at the old Renaissance that Dave Shapiro used to run in Hollywood. Walked inside and there was maybe the second drug I’d ever seen in my life filling up the whole place.
Elias Romero and Christopher Tree sitting there with a huge pile of peyote, eating peyote and hitting bells and chimes. And I thought that was the entire night life on the West Coast. I said, “Jeez, these guys are really advanced.”
High Times: Well, let’s jump to San Francisco. How did you get into that whole Kesey-Merry Prankster scene?
Wavy Gravy: Let me try and figure out how I ran into Kesey. First of all, I came to San Francisco to do the Phantom Cabaret. We had done it at the Living Theater with Moon Dog and Tiny Tim and then later with Sandy Bull. Moon Dog had started to say that he thought Tiny Tim was a sissy, and he didn’t like what I was saying about the president.
High Times: You guys were really like pioneering weird people back then, weren’t you?
Wavy Gravy: Yeah, it was at about that time that the acid started to break. I got very close to the Owsley and began to move it around. In other words, interspersed with my comedy stuff I began to be a dope dealer. We had business calling cards printed up. Dimensio Primo was the name of the organization, and my name was Al Denti, which was my code name. I got it off a box of spaghetti. I used to wear several costumes. I’d meet people at Coit Tower with shopping bags and stuff like that.
High Times: Tell us about early acid pills. Was “Owsley Purple” the first brand name, or was it Orange Sunshine?
Wavy Gravy: Purple is first in my mind. Purple is also the highest vibrational thing in the spectrum, and at that particular time Owsley only needed a small identifying label. Whereas nowadays you get dragonfly blotters and all kinds of business because you have to be more distinctive.
It was like at Woodstock when they started screaming over the mike, “Anyone who took the purple acid—you have just been poisoned. You have eaten some strychnine…” So suddenly I was working the freak-out tent at Woodstock, and I was buried in purple freak-outs and there were 37 different shades of it. In the early days a simple purple was enough to identify it.
I don’t touch anything unless I almost know the chemist at this point, because there’s so much weirdness out there. I have noticed a recent resurgence in excellent acid. But let me go back to the dope-dealing days, because they were great. I was the man on the street, and my partner John Bread went by the code name of Rudy Clopnick and used to do our mailings.
One of my stops used to be Margo St. James when she was a madam. I used to drop by on all the johns, get them whacked out, and I knew that I was doing kind of a good thing. We were picking up a few bucks, but we never made more than enough for taxis and to keep us high.
High Times: Did you ever try to fly?
Wavy Gravy: No, I was never inspired to do that, although I think Lenny Bruce almost did. That happened during that period too.
High Times: Someone gave him some DMT or something like that?
Wavy Gravy: I did that.
High Times: You did? A lot of people are claiming to be the one who dosed Lenny Bruce, but maybe you should definitively stake out this claim.
Wavy Gravy: Okay, let me tell you the story of that. I was doing Al Denti, and Lenny was in town. We used to spend a whole lot of time together. But this day, he was not in his hotel room. I left him some acid and DMT and wrote this note next to the DMT saying “Smoke it till the jewels roll out of your eyes.” And I folded it up.
So Lenny comes in, and first of all, I figured he’d give the two hits of acid to his friend. I didn’t think he would particularly go that way chemically, because we hung out a lot and he didn’t seem to be doing that at that time. Anyhow, he popped the acid and started smoking the DMT. Up till then he’d always be seen in blacks and whites and grays.
High Times: No colors?
Wavy Gravy: No color. Many people are that way, I’ve discovered. Suddenly following instructions, smoke till the jewels roll out of your eyes, everything broke into color for the first time. And the acid started coming on, and he was doing great. You know, jumping around, talking to Eric Miller, the guitarist who used to travel with him. He was standing on the ledge of the window of the Swiss American Hotel on Columbus Avenue and suddenly went backwards, not on purpose, but leaving an imprint.
Like Zorba the Greek in the window, or when you walk through the wall and say, “I have the strength of ten men,” and there’s your outline in the shattered wood. In the middle of the air he looked up at Eric and screamed, “Man shall rise above the rule!” Then he hit the street.
High Times: What do you think that meant, “Man shall rise above the rule”?
Wavy Gravy: I think that someday you won’t hit the street.
High Times: Did you ever use smack?
Wavy Gravy: I used to hang out with this gentleman junkie legend named Jimmy Porter. He would come in and steal things from me. You could recognize him because you’d see him walking sideways down the street with about four TVs in each hand. He was very strong. Six overcoats, five hats—looking slick. Walking sideways. A lot of people used to hang out with him.
He sort of adopted me; furnished our apartment when I got married by just getting in the cab with us one day, stopping the cab and taking us on this stealing sojourn. We were hitting the lobbies of apartments, and I just felt really silly because I’d never shot dope. I thought, well, maybe I should shoot some dope. So I said to Jimmy, “I want to try it.” And he says, “Get in the cab.”
We got in the cab, and he took me to the place Alexander Trocchi was hanging out. The first thing that happened as we got through the door, there was this lady named Tessa who had shaved her head and embroidered a French flag on her skull. Trocchi was knocking the shit out of this old lady, saying she had to turn a trick so he could get some more smack. She struck out and he was pissed at her.
High Times: Not the most flattering anecdote.
Wavy Gravy: While this is going on, this guy staggers out of the john with a wheez hanging off his dork…
High Times: A what?
Wavy Gravy: A spike off his…
High Times: Really?
Wavy Gravy: There he was. So Jimmy said, “You still wanna shoot some smack?” I said, “No, let’s get out of here.” We packed up. He did that on purpose. He just took me to that. I’ve had too many good friends die in my arms to do it. Death is nature’s way of telling us to slow down. We’ll get there soon enough. Life has been a great honor to me lately—I’ve been spending my life as a clown at the children’s hospital. I’m beginning to work with dying children. It’s been another life buster.
My first life buster came when I took acid one morning in Del Mar, California. I ended up sitting cross-legged in a pile of ashes while this guy played a raga to me on a guitar that he had tuned from a Brazilian magic book. It was like millions of bagpipers stalking around, and this light started. Snot started pouring out of my nose, tears in my eyes, and—all these jewels—while I kept thinking, I am not worthy. I left and I said I am not, and then I came back and I said I am.
And I’ve been weird ever since. I gave all my stuff away and went to live with the Hopi Indians for a while. After I left the Hopis I came back from L.A. to try and resolve my marriage. There was a secret indictment out for Al Denti, so we buried him at sea. One day Kesey showed up, and they brought me to see all the acid-test trip-to-New York footage.
High Times: How accurate was Tom Wolfe’s book about Kesey, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test?
Wavy Gravy: He got me in big trouble.
High Times: Oh, did he? How?
Wavy Gravy: He said I put the acid in the Kool-Aid at Watts. Eight people committed themselves, for heaven’s sake. Mothers all over the country were after me at one particular point.
High Times: Did you?
Wavy Gravy: No, no, no! I spent the whole night saying to people, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your friendly invisible man here to inform you that the Kool-Aid on the right is Electric Kool-Aid, get it? Electric KoolAid.” Because that was the night that LSD became illegal, the night of the Watts acid test.
High Times: Who did put the acid in the Kool-Aid?
Wavy Gravy: The same people that always did.
High Times: Okay, fine.
Wavy Gravy: But it was the night that I passed the acid test.
High Times: What does it mean to pass it?
Wavy Gravy: Well, it’s different every time. First of all, Owsley used to get after us. He’d say, alright, how does the group brain work or something. Owsley’s so kicked back and together. We were all so intense in those days. We would take all that acid together. We did it hundreds and hundreds of times, and we would just move into one another’s genes, into one another’s blood. We would surrender ourselves to this thing that wanted to happen. It would move us like marionettes.
High Times: Really?
Wavy Gravy: Because the feeling was so pure, you would surrender to it and let it do you.
High Times: But Tom Wolfe said that you blew it, that the group thing didn’t work.
Wavy Gravy: So let me tell you about it.
High Times: Go ahead. This is the big acid-test night in Tom Wolfe’s book?
Wavy Gravy: Right. Suddenly there’s a lot of people, and they’ve been dancing for hours to the Grateful Dead. They don’t give a fuck what Kool-Aid they’re drinking. After maybe 100 micrograms the floor started to melt, and you couldn’t very well leave. Whacked out on acid in the center of Watts—you gotta stick together. And this woman freaks out. She goes, “Woah, the LSD—1964”—it was classic. I model all my acid-test freak-outs after her.
Babs, a Merry Prankster, gets the microphone in place, and we were operating under some surreal sound system that Owsley put together called Super Sound. All these platforms, tiers and dials. People would be up there whacked out of their minds moving buttons. Babs just took the best mike we had and rammed it down the woman’s throat; she was screaming.
It was such torture—the whole human race writhing in the pit, following the thin red line. I crawled to a microphone, I was so whacked. I said, “Let’s find this girl and ask her if she’s coming apart. We’ll glue her together. How many people would like to do that?” Suddenly there were about 15 folks, Pranksters and others, who slowly began to put a circle around this girl. She stopped screaming and started flashing on and off. We held hands in a circle and everybody disappeared.
That, to me, is when you pass the acid test. When you’re at the very bottom of the human soul, and you get off your trip of sinking, seeing that somebody is sinking a lot deeper than you are, and reach down and give them a pull. At that moment, you both go. The sky’s the limit. And I don’t even know if that’s true.
It was “Never trust a Prankster.” We would never drive away and leave somebody at a gas station where their sleeping bag was rolled up against the gas tank just because they stepped out to take a leak and the group mind decided it was time to move on. If you knew those were the ground rules and decided to play the game, that was okay.
High Times: Tell me how the Hog Farm started, how you started traveling around in buses and how you ended up working for rock festivals.
Wavy Gravy: Kesey, first of all, was in Mexico. Babs and a bunch of people went to join him, sneaking off in the bus while everybody else was posing for photographs for Life magazine. They all stole the bus. Also, a lot of people came to live with me, in this little cabin about 35 minutes outside of Hollywood, in the woods. We had goats.
Various people from the acid test that were left behind, incredible beings like Paul Foster and different people, started showing up and living till there was a whole bunch of us in this one-and-a-half-room cabin in the woods. The owner came by and freaked. He said, “Twenty-four hours, get out.”
So we were despondent. But this guy drove by in a car. He lived up the road, and he said that Old Sol just had a stroke on the top of the mountain, and his job was open for caretaking 70 hogs. We drove up there, I remember going up. I stood up in this knoll to take a better look around and this big black pig stood up and started walking, objecting to me standing on his roof.
Early in life I learned never to turn your back on a hungry hog. Forty-eight hog farmers a year are devoured by their charges. There was a lot of vandalism, it was a wrecked-over kind of house, but people started arriving from everywhere. We got up to over 40 or 50 folks, I guess, living around, under boards.
We began to do energy gigs at the Shrine with the Cream and the Dead and the Airplane. We did these breathing exercises that I began developing in the acid-test days. On Sundays we’d have a kind of open house—everybody in the Los Angeles area would ask what’s the theme? We’d say bring a kite, dress like kids. Once Tiny Tim came and we built a theater for him and had a hog rodeo. That was when we painted up the pigs and rode around on them.
High Times: When did you decide to take the whole Hog Farm on the road?
Wavy Gravy: I don’t think we decided. It was just an energy that kept building week after week. Eventually we were running a gas station called the Rocket Station. We were giving invisible green stamps and all kinds of weird stuff, spacing out. A couple of the guys were mechanics at the gas station, and they secretly saved up some money.
On Christmas morning they drove up the hill in this old yellow-white school bus. Right away that became a focus and people started painting on it. We were thinking about taking some kind of show on the road. Meanwhile the buses just moved off the farm and hit the road. We went to this place in New Mexico, then moved from campsite to campsite.
High Times: It was a kind of pioneer utopian traveling community. Did you think of it like you were creating a new kind of society? A new kind of family?
Wavy Gravy: Yeah, we thought expanded families and sharing and things like that were part of what it was about. We’d go into a college and become sponsored by the interfraternity council and the SDS. Then we’d fill in the holes. We had a whole lot of sponsors, and with them we’d get a big place to do something. We’d empty out the audiovisual department and the art department and the music department and get all these local bands involved, and we’d just have this incredible amount of equipment and go to the football field on a Saturday around noon.
A lot of kids would start to come up to the buses. We’re probably asleep or pretending to be, and they start beating on the side of the bus. We were trucking with 60-foot and 30-foot geodesic domes. The 30-footer was totally enclosed, and the 60-footer had these big triangles that we could project light shows on. We said, “You know, we’re all brain damaged— but we’ve got all this stuff. If you guys just give us a hand, we could put it together.’’
Next thing you know everybody’s got wrenches and screwdrivers. We get a little soundtrack going, and by the time the music starts it was everybody’s show, which was what our total game was. To point out that everybody was the show. And try and dissolve a lot of those theater concepts.
High Times: I remember one show—you always involved that breathing exercise as a way of getting high.
Wavy Gravy: We have two breathing exercises. One is called a gong bong. In fact I always say to people if they don’t get stoned on that, they can kick the shit out of me and smoke it. There hasn’t been much damage, a few gashes and a chipped tooth, but the guy that had the tooth problem said he didn’t care if he lost his whole mouth.
High Times: What is the gong bong, for readers who haven’t experienced it?
Wavy Gravy: It’s a hyperventilation high. It just raises the energy of the group or your own body energy. Everybody breathes a whole bunch of times, takes the last breath and holds it. We’re all holding hands at the time. Then you stand up with your arms over your head, and whatever sound is inherent in the breath, you let it out and aim at something, at different people or the band that’s about to perform. So they can reflect the energy.
High Times: Do you think it’s more than a chemical high? Is it a rush of communion or something strange?
Wavy Gravy: Uh-huh. I just feel that it’s everybody’s energy going around in a circle real fast. I don’t know how to explain it, except that it feels very positive, and that’s how I know anything is good. I just follow the hard-on of my heart.
After people have been dancing for an hour and a half, we do this other trip called the circle joke. If you liked the gong bong you’ll love the circle joke, which is when everybody sits in the circle and starts mirror stuff. As I said to the mirror the other morning, it’s all done with people. And if you hear a sound, you can mirror that sound. If you feel like starting a different sound, then start a different sound and maybe everybody will mirror that, until eventually nobody is leading and everybody is following, but there’s these sounds moving around.
In the middle of that I do a thing where I move this energy all the way up the body to the top of my head, and everybody takes that energy and focuses it in a ball in the center of the circle. That’s the highest most beautiful thing that we do. We learned that from an old man named Remington Stone. He was kind of like Jake LaMotta into Spencer Tracy or something. He was the adviser of this Zen abbot in Los Angeles that married my wife and me.
When the John Birch Society blockaded us because of the American flag with the pigs, they sent him a hate note. So he phoned up and asked us to see it. We ran the blockade to go see the Zen abbot. He said, “I can show you how to spread peace to your valley.” We said, “Far fucking out!”
He came to our place and taught us this exercise, and we aimed it at the John Birch Society and everything. Coincidentally, after we did that, things began to lighten up a lot. Just a creature of coincidence.
High Times: Did the Zen guy originate this?
Wavy Gravy: He developed it in a group in Hawaii. Something to do with—it’s called the horna.
High Times: It’s originally a Hawaiian thing?
Wavy Gravy: Yes. But it’s been halfway hogged and Gravified. Like, I do the funny mantra by myself. It’s the divine dodo of the first church of fun…
High Times: What’s the funny mantra?
Wavy Gravy: Okay—[makes Bronx cheer noise] —except you do it with a bag over your head. If you get the right bag—this is, I promise you, the truth—it’s something to go for. The readers of High Times will like this.
It’s the incredible buzz. If you get the right bag and you do the funny mantra your whole body turns into a living kazoo. And if you can get a whole bunch of people in a circle with bags over their heads doing the funny mantra, I think it’s just as powerful if not more powerful than the horna.
High Times: Did Earth People’s Park evolve out of your rock-festival work?
Wavy Gravy: The exquisite thing about the rock festivals was that people got to stay together for three days, four days maybe. And after the first day, a change began to transpire as people began to get more involved in the life show and the life-support show and the survival show. The music became background to that, and it seemed like changes in consciousness were taking place. It felt like we were on the track of something.
There was a meeting called of all the various folks that had worked on festivals by Tom Long. We discussed how there should be something left after these occurrences that’s enduring, like the land that the thing be held on be turned over as public domain.
It was out of those meetings that the concept of a people’s park was born, which is a devious plot that I’m still involved in. To buy back the earth and give it away. So it will never be for sale again. So far we’re about $10,000 light of the first purchase. It’s only a matter of five years.
High Times: Where is this land?
Wavy Gravy: It’s quite a mama. The land, for those of you who have been taking notes, is located at the last left-hand turn in America—the north of Vermont. In those troubled times a border made sense. This is exactly on the Canadian border. Norton, Vermont—ask anybody where Earth People’s Park is, they’ll tell you where it is. But be sure to duck.
High Times: Why?
Wavy Gravy: Because the people that live there and settle the place each spring are met with an onslaught of vacationing speed freaks. At one particular point some group came in from Cambridge—a 35-year-old dude and some 18-year-old lad—and had a quarrel as to where they were going to put up their pup tent.
One guy banged him into the other side of the house… and we were trying to make friends with the community. Suddenly they’re having these incidents, and with the 40-below winters, a lot of good people have been driven out. But there’s a couple of rivers that are just about drinkable. There’s a fuck of a lot of pine trees.
High Times: How about mosquitoes and flies?
Wavy Gravy: No shortage, plenty. I think that colonies are established on this kind of place. I’ve been hanging out with this guy named Peter Keegan who won the U.N. award for habitat in Vancouver for a structure that is totally self-sufficient. Like the land, being free. To be really revolutionary, you wouldn’t have to go to the man for food or heat or power. You just turn on your house and eat it.
Which is how this works. You grow your own fish, you have hydroponics and solar heating and all that stuff. And when you do it for an expanded family, the structure is called an ark. You can probably put one together for $70,000. For a collective, that makes a bit of sense.
I think it would be neat to buy back the earth and give it away. You establish an address they know is going to be used to buy back more land. I haven’t given up on that one. If any of you folks want to help buy back the earth, just send your dollars to Wavy Gravy care of Earth People’s Park, 1600 Wolsey Street, San Francisco, California 94703, cash, check or money order.
High Times: Was it on that acid trip that you decided that you wanted to be a clown or wander for the rest of your life, or did it just evolve?
Wavy Gravy: Just one thing led to another. After a while you learn to appreciate the feeling of a thread. Like I believe in synchronicity, in coincidence. I almost worship it. I’d been in the hospital for years and years because of my back. I’ve worked with children for years and years because of my heart. Being a clown used to be my therapy—saved my life for real.
Coming in to fool with the kids, well I’d been a fool for about ten years, got my ass kicked and got my back fucked up. Suddenly I had this red nose on and it’s all okay. Because you don’t hear a bunch of hard hats getting together and saying, hey, what are you doing tonight? Well, let’s go kill a few clowns.
I guess it’s just a short jump from a fool to clown, but it’s an abyss if you keep falling into it. That’s what I did, until I grabbed the other side. There’s something very divine about that archetype of clown. From a pasto-rubber round Italian nose that I used to slip on, I have evolved a molded, red rubber Ringling Bros, nose and two-foot shoes, and all this costume.
High Times: Are there other young clowns like you on the way up?
Wavy Gravy: You see more and more people with red noses. San Francisco clowns, juggling, it’s good clean cover, man.
High Times: Do you think acid will make a comeback as a high?
Wavy Gravy: I think there’s going to be a lot of good acid around real soon, and real cheap, and I think that people are going to start taking acid again.
High Times: Why?
Wavy Gravy: Instead of coke. Just in little tiny doses. It makes universal sense to me.
High Times: Why do you think that people will start taking acid again?
Wavy Gravy: Because of all this turning inward and all these movements and disciplines that people have put themselves through. It will be just right to start taking acid again to use whatever we’ve developed over the last five years like experimenting with meditations. When everybody first took the acid they had very little yoga to go on.
High Times: Will people who are still mainly into coke and ’ludes relate to acid?
Wavy Gravy: Depends on what the acid takers are doing. If they’re having more fun than the kids taking the ’ludes, the kids will start taking the acid.
High Times: What was your last acid trip like?
Wavy Gravy: I had this little bottle of liquid stuff, and it was up at Mt. Shasta. I want to have a kid’s camp up there called High Camp, and maybe we could do it next summer. I said to Jahara, who is my wife, that I was going to do it that day, and I’d been saving it all summer. She took Howdy, my little boy, and went to Sun Lake. I took what must have been 150 micrograms. But I couldn’t resist putting some water into the Murine bottle, swishing it around and taking the rest.
This was at the Stuart Mineral Springs, where the water tastes as good as Baden-Baden. I was scheduled to go in there and have my bath. I think whatever was in this Murine bottle was close to 900 micrograms. The whole place, the walls melted. I’ve been where the walls melted before. I was full. Suddenly this voice said, “Your bath is ready.” So I headed toward the voice.
You lower yourself into this water with a rope. And then I just left. I just left. I went back to nobodyville. Zero. It was one of the most amazing things that ever happened to me. I was never scared. I just kept letting go and letting go. My nose was sticking out. The next thing I remember it was 20 minutes later, and the voice says, “All right?” The little dinger went off, and I don’t know how I got up or into my little robe. Down the hall they have this room with a wood stove, and they wrap you in blankets.
So into the hot room with high expectations. All that slime that had been reduced to some kind of black soup was now beginning to harden up, and I was starting to be aware of my skeleton and my body. All the while I kept up the in breaths and out breaths, thinking about all the things I’d like to do. Like, be whole, perfect, strong, powerful, loving, harmonious, rich, young, all that shit.
You can just ram something into your subconscious and become whatever that thing is. You feel yourself actualizing the spirit of those affirmations. Then I was really ready to go out into the world. I walked down the street and started doing my yoga and my breathing exercises.
When I get to a certain level of high, I become that guy who is that guy who takes the acid. Then I do the highest prayer I know—the Buddhist one. “May all life have sustenance. May all beings be peaceful. May all beings be blissful. May all beings be happy.” And I do the Lord’s Prayer.
I’m just trying to hit all the bases. I usually start out with a whole bunch of Rams and all until “May all beings have food. May all beings have shelter.” Then I kind of say, “Hi, here I am again, punching in. What’s going on?”
High Times: What kind of answer do you get?
Wavy Gravy: I got an incredible rush to do this dying center up by Mt. Shasta. And a kids’ camp.
High Times: What went wrong with acid consciousness, or why did it disappear? If these truths are available, it would seem to be a precariously held view. Did acid lose out, or is it something about human nature that resists?
Wavy Gravy: It’s a lot of work. Just living together in a club is a lot of work. You know you’re going against what has been built into the genes for 150 million years. It is man who goes through life with the idea that the main thing is to get your pile and to get as big a pile as you can. What we’re saying is, let’s put our piles together and make it a really big pile. So everybody has something to eat and somewhere to lay down.
For at least three quarters of the time they were alive, everybody could realize groovy things. The other quarter they could put energy in to see that everybody else realized groovy things.
High Times: What do you feel about Quaaludes? Do you feel that the emotions under Quaaludes are genuine or deluded?
Wavy Gravy: I think it’s one of those doors, but I think it’s a dumb door. Like I think coke is a dumb door. I don’t do coke unless I’ve got to go into the trenches. Some big demonstration and I haven’t slept in two days and here come 25 cops, I’d probably grab a hot spoon in about two seconds. But otherwise it makes my back hurt.
High Times: Why are Quaaludes a dumb door?
Wavy Gravy: It’s rubberville. You shut stuff out instead of letting stuff in. A lot of the stuff that wants to get in is really good stuff. You just cook it in your own juice. But it’s fun for a diversion. I’m into limitation on limitation. I got that from the Chinese.
High Times: You were a specialist in behavior groups, in a way.
Wavy Gravy: Sure. We’re still into it. We decide everything major in the quality of our life by group process; everybody that is considered a member of the family has to vote on it.
High Times: Do you have to be unanimous?
Wavy Gravy: Yes, yes. I believe that the affinity groups are pretty close to that.
High Times: That’s been causing them problems too, the unanimity thing.
Wavy Gravy: I believe that the process is righteous, and it takes time to get a little more loose and free and to move around and have more fun at the meetings, to pass the energy smoother. There were 250 of us in the jail after the Rocky Flats antinuke demo, and it took about three and a half hours for everybody to agree that we would all stick together until everyone was out without bail.
High Times: Every affinity group also has to be unanimous with the other affinity groups.
Wavy Gravy: Yes. Well, they each pick spokespeople, and they form another circle, and they hassle it out and then come back to the affinity groups. And hassle that out. It’s hot stuff.
High Times: How do groups go bad?
Wavy Gravy: After you get the survival danced out, which you can have a lot of fun with, it’s what comes next. Suddenly you’re sitting on some stuff, and you start to get bored. There’s nothing to focus on.
High Times: So people need a goal besides just living together and surviving?
Wavy Gravy: I’ve always found that it is more fun to have something to be doing. You’ve got to have something to do. When you run out of that, then something to do that you believe in, feel good about. I think a lot of people feel good about there being no nukes.
High Times: How do you get high these days?
Wavy Gravy: I like to smoke grass. I eat some mushrooms, but not very often. I’ll eat a half of one or something like that. I stay high because my life is feeling good, what I’m doing. I mean, I work on my golf also [laughter]. I’m just getting into golf. What a thrill. Where is this strange path going to take me? Who knows what’s next?
High Times: You should go out to a few of the big pro tournaments.
Wavy Gravy: I will. But first I gotta play a couple of times. What I’d like to do, to go into another line of work besides answering the telephones and being a clown, is to start some kind of very strange resort where people could come and recharge and cool out. It could be happening on many, many levels. I mean, Esalen is exquisite, but $325 a month to come there and wash dishes—people of just middle income can’t even aspire to that.
I would like to set up some kind of place where they could do that for reasonable bucks. Also have it be like a road house and a place for healing stuff. It could even incorporate facilities for dying, and a birthing place. All that—and a golf course…