Light Show Daze
“After Mime Troupe leader Ronnie Davis was arrested on obscenity charges during an outdoor performance, Graham organized a benefit concert to cover the troupe’s legal fees. The concert was a success and Graham saw a business opportunity.” Wikipedia
Bill, the Wolf, Graham acquired the old Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco in early ‘66 and the games began. Every weekend there was a line of freaks a block long to get into the shows. I was in the line with my trusty Bolex a couple of times and shot multiply exposed footage. Tony Martin was doing liquid projections from the rear balcony onto the wall behind the bandstand. Tony had a 16mm projector but just some stock footage so I started bringing last week’s footage and projecting it into Tony’s liquids. Because I was doing this, Graham started letting me and Sandra in free. I was one of few who did get a pass. Graham would go into battle fury half an hour before the box office opened and go around kicking out everybody he could. He eighty-sixth band members hangers-on, girlfriends, groupies, wives, everybody he thought inessential to the show.
Gene Estribou and Augustus Stanley Owsley III were early backers of the Grateful Dead and Graham kicked them out once before a Dead show. Gene told me that he and Owsley talked about having Graham killed. They knew someone who would do it for five grand. Luckily for Graham, their karma, and the whole scene they didn’t follow through.
In May of 1966, Graham presented Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable. This was a multi-media show headlined by Lou Reed and Nico. Graham had to put up plastic screens along the 100’ long side wall of the hall for Warhol to project his films on, and I knew that he was not going to take them down. I asked him to hire me to fill them the coming week and he agreed. My friend Roger Hillyard and I set up in the balcony opposite the screens and began trying to fill them with a couple of overhead projectors for liquids, one 16mm, one 8mm movie projector, and one Kodak Carousel slide projector. So began the Light Show Daze.
While Warhol was in town someone from the press set up an interview with Andy and his posse and myself, filmmaker Robert Nelson and poster artist Wes Wilson. When Nico made her entrance Warhol kidded her about whose leather pants she was wearing today. The west coast contingent talked about psychedelics, expanded consciousness, Buddhism, peace, love, and macrobiotics, and the east coast contingent about heroin. Compared to the tanned and healthy-looking San Francisco guys, the New Yorkers looked like pasty-faced zombies. For some reason, I didn’t bring my camera that day. It would have made interesting footage.
Anyway, Roger and I worked for Graham until the middle of the summer for $35.00 each a night. We had to supply our own equipment and materials. I still shot films and slides each week in the hall and on Haight Street during the week. The word had gone out that something was going on in San Francisco and freaks of all ages were beginning to arrive. I added images to my projections on a weekly basis.