Spirit of 'Merry Prankster' Lives On in Event

  Spirit of 'Merry Prankster' Lives On in Event

Posted by CN Staff on September 30, 2002 at 07:45:12 PT
By Jennifer Hinkle, Athens News Campus Reporter  
Source: Athens News 

Ken Kesey pulled him into the bathroom, grabbed a vile of pills from the medicine cabinet, and slapped one into his hand. "Take this," Ed McClanahan recalls Kesey telling him. "We're going to the movies."A little while later, as the two sat in the front row of an opening of "West Side Story," Kesey's pill, packed with mind-altering psilocybin, started taking effect. Decades later, McClanahan remembers not the story, but the vivid colors and the charged musical numbers. 
"He told me afterward that I sat there like I was frozen," McClanahan says over a decaf in Perk's Coffeehouse on Friday. "I was afraid to move. I thought, 'Any minute now, the little men in white coats would show up to haul me away.' "When it finally said 'the end,' I thought, 'Whew! I made it,'" McClanahan says. "I'm not on the funny farm."That was Thanksgiving Day of 1962, as McClanahan's friendship with author and '60s icon Kesey was just beginning to blossom. Nowadays, McClanahan is one of the few people who recall a more intimate side of Kesey, who remembers more than The Furthur Tour and the "electric Kool-aid acid tests" that made Kesey an icon of the 1960s' counter-culture. "He was seeing things that you were missing," McClanahan recalls. "He made life a constant surprise."In Athens Friday, McClanahan shared these memories of Kesey during an afternoon reading and a "Still Kesey 2002" extravaganza that evening. About 120 people, many clad in imaginative costumes, gathered for the poetry readings, music and dancing at the Eclipse company town near The Plains. "What it looks like is the really early acid tests," McClanahan says of his surroundings Friday night. "Appropriately funky."The strange decor -- lights, colors swirling from a film projector, whimsical art -- as well as the bands, dancers and McClanahan visit, was largely organized by Ohio University history doctoral candidate Rick Dodgson. The event fell between the anniversaries of Kesey's birthday and day of death, celebrating the life that brought us LSD-spiked Kool-aid parties and the novels, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Sometimes a Great Notion." "Cuckoo's Nest" became the Oscar-winning film starring Jack Nicholson, while "Sometimes a Great Notion" resulted in a Paul Newman-directed and starring film.Kesey was the man who befriended Hell's Angels, stunned the eye with deft magic tricks, and in the 1960s led the Merry Pranksters on a drug-filled, chaotic trip across the country in a 1939 International Harvester school bus. "I have always been really sorry I didn't go," McClanahan says of the day in 1962 when he waved goodbye to the psychedelic Furthur bus pulling out of LaHonda, Calif. The two had been friends for some time -- they met though mutual acquaintances from Kesey's days at Stanford University -- but McClanahan had other obligations. He was a husband, a new father, and busy writing "The Natural Man," which wouldn't be published for 20 years. He also expected the Pranksters to get busted. In reality, the trip was as hard at times as it was entertaining, McClanahan says. They had little to eat, people lost money, and the school bus was hot, slow, uncomfortable and ill equipped for tripping on acid and smoking a lot of marijuana.But McClanahan didn't miss much of that decade's revolution. He partied with Kesey and the Pranksters, followed the Grateful Dead, and lived with Jerry Garcia and Mountain Girl. He graduated from Free University and devoted much of his life to writing. With four books out and one underway, McClanahan perches in a chair glowing from black light at Eclipse and considers the way drugs have shaped his life since his first acid trip in Palo Alto, Calif., some 40 years ago."I heard music for the first time, found myself looking at artwork differently, trying to make art," he says. "It probably changed my writing as well."Kesey's shadow was as big as his personality, the place where most of his followers ended up. "It may have been a problem for some people," McClanahan says. "At times it got annoying."By the time the acid revolution had made its way from the East Coast to the national mainstream, Kesey began urging his followers to move past psychedelics. He hosted an "LSD graduation" that drew national news attention. Later in life, Kesey preached to an Oregon congregation about the perils of drugs and alcohol, as captured on film and revealed Friday during "Still Kesey 2002." "Though we may not think of it, every drop of water is important, for without that multitude of drops all joining together, there would be no mighty river," he preaches in the film, raising his voice to the hymn, "We Shall Gather at the River."Kesey's sermon drew from Revelation 22, which describes the River of Life. "Friends and neighbors you know that when you drink whiskey, you are just doing the work of the devil," Kesey says. "And what are the wages going to be? The wages of sin are death. Are you going to work for wages like that?"In the film, Kesey tells the congregation that he's ready to be "called home." He wants his followers, some of whom had followed Kesey's trailblazing into LSD, psilocybin and peyote, to be ready as well. "You're not ready," he says. Just under a year ago, on November 10, 2001, Kesey died from complications of liver cancer. McClanahan visited his friend, Prankster and fellow writer in the hospital days before his death. He showed Kesey a book with pictures of the gang, and later, Kesey slipped into a coma. "A nurse told us he could hear, but I didn't believe it," McClanahan says. Kesey's brother Chuck was there, and they bid goodbye to the character who could "fill a whole room," McClanahan adds. "I stood by his bed, and I kissed him on his forehead. On his big, bald, beautiful forehead," McClanahan remembers. "I told Chuck, I didn't think he liked it much. He didn't kiss me back."After Kesey's memorial services, before he was permanently laid to rest in a psychedelic casket on his farm, McClanahan spontaneously placed an 1886 silver dollar in Kesey's shirt pocket. "I thought he ought to have something to amuse himself as he traveled," McClanahan says. For Kesey followers, the goodbyes haven't ended. Memorial parties like the ones at Eclipse Friday have been popping up on the East Coast and other parts of the country, confirms Dodgson, whose dissertation subject is Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. Before leaving the party Friday, McClanahan recited a second piece about Kesey. "The government says we should just say no," he reads. "But I think we should just say 'Thanks, thanks Kesey."Complete Title: Spirit of 'Merry Prankster' Lives On in Festive Eclipse Event Source: Athens News, The (OH)Author: Jennifer Hinkle, Athens News Campus Reporter Published: September 30, 2002 Copyright: 2002 Athens NewsContact: news athensnews.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Intrepid Trips Author Ken Kesey, 66, Dies; Led '60s Bus Ride Kesey, Novelist Dies at 66 Kesey, Checking In on His Famous Nest 

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Comment #15 posted by afterburner on September 30, 2002 at 18:29:43 PT:
DdC bad. Missed it somehow. I guess my blood sugar was too low. Sorry about that.
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Comment #14 posted by DdC on September 30, 2002 at 17:02:58 PT
Posted right before this one AB
High Priest of Pot' Waged War in Courts
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Comment #13 posted by afterburner on September 30, 2002 at 15:48:51 PT:
Ian Hunter, marijuana activist
Another "prankster" from Canada: Ian Hunter, not directly related to Ken Kesey:Search this siteHigh PriestGo
'High priest of pot' waged war in courts
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on September 30, 2002 at 15:32:39 PT
Just a Note
I don't care if you talk about music. I don't feel it should be my responsibility to control what anyone is saying unless a post starts getting really offensive or is attacking another person. If a comment doesn't look right after posting because of a too long url I will remove that too. It just isn't my job. If it is my job I don't want it.
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Comment #11 posted by FoM on September 30, 2002 at 13:33:04 PT
That's what the Bus is all about. We have friend in another state and when we went to see them the teenage daughter showed me her room and it was full of all the things from the past that we loved about the 60s. The Bus is still going on down the road. 
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Comment #10 posted by canaman on September 30, 2002 at 13:25:43 PT
This bus is 'on track'
that's why a driver is unnecessary.This bus has no reverse because it's NOT going backwards!This bus stops for all caring people with open minds.This bus drives straight thru roadblocks! Leaving nothing but enlightenment in it's wake.This bus expands to accommodate all who wish to ride. Don't forget the live music and dancing in the back. Or relax under the stars on the deck!This bus relies on the riders to work together to keep it rolling. But charges no fare.This bus has no fixed destination because it is the journey that counts!ALL ABOARD??!! To points Furthur on down the road.......
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on September 30, 2002 at 12:47:09 PT
I still have it!
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Comment #8 posted by DdC on September 30, 2002 at 12:43:22 PT
The BUS is on autopilot...
Ya just gotta get on board and go...I remember a pic you posted years ago of a VW van and a group of people on top and I thought you were one of the hippy chicks. I came upon a child of God He was walking along the road And I asked him, "where are you going?" And this he told me I'm going on down to Yazgur's farm I'm gonna join in a rock 'n' roll band I'm gonna camp on the land And try and get my soul freeWe are stardust, we are golden And we've got to get ourselves back to the gardenThen can I walk beside you I have come here to loose the smog And feel to be a cog in something turning Well maybe it's just the time of year Or maybe it's just the time of man I don't know who I am, but you know life is for learningWe are stardust, we are golden And we've got to get ourselves back to the gardenBy the time we got to Woodstock We were half a million strong And everywhere there was song and celebration And I dreamed I saw the bombers Riding shot gun in the sky And they were turning into butterflies above our nationWe are stardust, billion year old carbon We are golden, caught in the devils bargain And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden...WOODSTOCK Joni MitchellFurthur!!! God for Hippies
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on September 30, 2002 at 10:01:34 PT
canaman & DdC
I didn't think we needed a driver. The Bus has it's on destiny.DdC, Remember my first page I made? I never asked permission to use their banner and no one has ever contacted so I guess it's ok. I hope.
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Comment #6 posted by DdC on September 30, 2002 at 09:53:22 PT
We Have a Ken Kesey Day Proclaimation in SC
The mayor declared a day back in the early 90's. in August I believe. When Ken was traveling and doing his childrens story telling. That was when I met and talked with him. I was able to get up to Eugene this summer. Nice hot springs and a Saturday Fair for the tyedyed to sell their crafts. Never made it to the bus though. But I did pass the acid test long ago. You don't have to be on a bus, to be on the bus and just cause your on a bus doesn't mean your on the bus. As a previous bus owner I can only say the trip is gonna be a strange one, even without the kool aid. If anyone has a great notion to get a bus, don't ever forget your toolbox.Peace, Love and Liberty or
DdCTo be just without being mad (and the madder you get the madder you get), to be peaceful without being stupid, to be interested without being compulsive, to be happy without being hysterical. . . . smoke grass." Ken KeseyKesey Gets On The Bus With Movie KESEY wrote an article about 9-11, it's at: about Ken Kesey & the Merry Pranksters Kesey Born: Sept 17, 1935 
Place of Birth: La Junta, Colorado Key-Z Productions
755 Polk Street 
Eugene, OR 97402 
Phone: (503) 484-4315
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Comment #5 posted by canaman on September 30, 2002 at 09:27:06 PT
What... NO DRIVER!
Maybe we can all take turns at the wheel. Or maybe the nature of this bus doesn't require a driver at all. In that case I'll just sit back and enjoy the ride. And encourge everyone else to do the same.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on September 30, 2002 at 09:17:43 PT

Driving The Bus
Woo that's really heavy! LOL! I don't want that responsibility. I like just coming along for the great ride! 
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Comment #3 posted by canaman on September 30, 2002 at 09:13:39 PT

FoM, I think you're the driver on this cyberbus...
It was Timothy Leary who talked about computers, virtual reality and cyberspace being the ultimate mind altering experiance!
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on September 30, 2002 at 09:02:44 PT

I'm on the bus! I sure am!
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Comment #1 posted by canaman on September 30, 2002 at 08:53:42 PT

Either your on the bus or you're not!
Kesey used to say. And a large part of a generation was 'on the bus'. The halcyon days, a bus called Furthur, Neal Cassidy at the wheel and Kesey the leader of the Merry Pranksters on a 'road trip'. This article begs for the background music of the era by the band that wrote the soundtrack...That's it for the Other One (Grateful Dead) Skippin' through the lily fields I came across an empty space,
It trembled and exploded, left a bus stop in it's place.
The bus came by and I got on, that's when it all began,
There was cowboy Neal at the wheel of the bus to never ever land.The rest of the lyrics at's_It_For_The_Other_One.txtThanks for coming 'round my neighborhood and the "long strange trip" Ken. You WILL be missed!
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