What Happened to Las Vegas?

I just read Johnathon’s informative and touching book about HAIR. In addition I have been perusing this site like crazy.

After spending a working lifetime out of touch with everything but my career and family, I recently retired, calmed down, bought a house in Las Vegas and began to do what all Senior Citizens (well, I’ll be 60 in June) seem to do. I’ve been thinking a lot about what is important, and what I have done in my lifetime that is truly meaningful.

Although I had a fantastic career — since 1973 — in politics, broadcast journalism, the arts, public relations and writing, traveled and lived all over the United States, and met and worked with some incredible — often famous people, I have decided that there are only a few things I have done that really have meaning.

One of those is my involvement with HAIR. I was a member of the original Hawai’i company. We were the Paka’lolo Tribe. After months of auditions and the elimination of seemingly thousands of wanna-be cast members, as well as the excitement about doing the show on our home turf, we were told at the final audition that we would not open in Honolulu — at all. Then, I think it was Jerry Combs who dropped the “bomb.” The show would open in October 1969 at the International Hilton in Las Vegas, Nevada — the “home” of Elvis, Ike and Tina, and Redd Fox, among others.

Well, I spent more than three years of my life involved with the Paka’lolo, Mercury and Rainbow companies. I deeply loved so many of the tribe members. But, some of the things that happened on the road, such as the tragic fire in Cleveland, were real lessons in life and, unfortunately, reality.

After all the cities, hotels, airplanes, buses and dressing rooms, I can honestly say that what happened to us in Las Vegas was astounding.

I guess because of this, and the fact that I live here now, I am sadly aware of the glaring omission of most information, photographs, and newspaper articles about the show and the cast on this site and in Johnathon’s book. I think many folks — even former HAIR cast members — might be interested in the conflicts we had with the hotel, police, the mob, the audiences and, yes, ourselves.

The deaths of Pohai, Patty, Kaipo, and so many others has grieved me deeply. I so often think about the many wonderful young people that were in the show. And I thank Michael Butler for influencing my life in a myriad of profound ways.

I only have a couple of pictures from the show which I would be happy to scan. I could check out the old Vegas newspapers, also. If anyone is interested in knowing more about this amazingly meaningful experience out here in the desert please let me know.

Aloha and Peace. Julie



This entry was posted on Thursday, September 14th, 2006 at 9:30 AM and filed under Uncategorized. Follow comments here with the RSS 2.0 feed. Skip to the end and leave a response. Trackbacks are closed.

7 Responses to “What Happened to Las Vegas?”

  1. Nina said:

    Hi Julie,

    First of all, it’s great to have you here. You are correct that we would be very interested in what you have to offer. I do have a bit more about the Vegas company in the physical archives than is on the web site (a couple of programs, for instance, and the photos in those programs) but I don’t have a lot. We are limited in what we can find, and what alumni donate to us, so please do email me at dayton3@rcn.com and we can talk about what you have and can scan/send/donate to us.

    We would love to have you write down your memories and experiences for us. One of the larger proijects that the Archives is involved with is called The Voices of the Tribe Project, which seeks to record the history of Hair and the times it came out of, by recording the oral histories of those of us who were there. Anything that you (or any other alumni reading this!) would be willing to write down for us would be deeply appreciated, and can be emailed to me at dayton3@rcn.com

    Look through the alumni section of the web site – there are lots of ways for you to help and support our work here, and to keep the spirit of Hair alive! Also, please make sure that I have all your current contact information for the alumni association (same email address as above) so that you get all of our mailings. I look forward to hearing more from you, and am glad you have joined us here.
    Love and Peace,

  2. Lyle said:

    A very special tribe – set apart by our non-mainland ways to endure and learn.

    The ‘Claude’ chosen had never heard of HAIR or the album when asked at his audition. Many of the actors were stage singers – we just loved too sing.

    The American Indian spirit, all around Vegas was slowly molding our core by allowing our tribe to awaken.

    Never mind the numerous deaths in the desert by the mob, we had a task to do. The tribe was not the ‘hippie’ tribe, not the most loved on the Las Vegas strip or for that matter; we had no following like the other tribes.

    We maintained our focus by attending to each other. For security, we were told to stay with our own.

    We were threatened repeatedly by a Sheriff and his jackboots. Several suits and incarcerations followed. Our houses were watched and raided. Driving at night; we were followed.

    When gamblers were too drunk, the hotel sent them to go and watch HAIR.
    The riots in the theater, spurred by southern bigots happened because of this. They yelled, “Get them fuckin’ niggers away from them white girl’s”. I heard the slur, I felt the snap.

    Some early morning or afternoon shows had twenty people in attendance, if that. Our peace flag on stage was shredded with a knife.

    Our tribe was scared, lonely, but kept on giving it out – peace and love – then MB came and helped us. We felt, we had been tried through the fire, momentarily saved, yet some of us would still ultimately leave the show.

    Our ‘Hud’ left because he had dreams that hurtful people would soon attack him.

    Other tribe members from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Florida came to join; they too had to adjust to this very spiritual tribe that witnessed ‘hate’ and the power of ‘love’ on stage as we morphed into ‘Mercury’ and ‘Venus’ Tours.

    We were a special, powerful tribe that sang, “Let the Sunshine In.” © 2006 Lyle K’ang

  3. JulieWinnMcKay said:

    You are right, of course. We were powerful and spiritual — and still are.

    Thanks, Lyle for the thoughts. I am attempting to complile all collateral materials I can find as well as asemble some of my own recollections. Do you have any photos to pass along to Nina?

    I got a chuckle out of the pics of the traveling day of the Mercury company — you holding the case containing the beautiful Guild guitar you bought for me in Pennsylvania — the one that Doug Rowell so lovingly carved on the bridge with his dentist drill.

    And my apologies. I goofed. I referred to the Rainbow tribe when I really meant Venus. Just old age…I guess.

    I read your chapter in Jonathon’s book, but was disappointed that it did not contain more of the gritty emotion of the time. Anyway, thanks for making the submission. You were the only Pakaloloan who contributed.

    Aloha from the desert.

  4. Lyle said:

    I don’t know if you have this for Doug (Berger) Rowell: http://www.carverdoug.com/

    Dennis Brown – Real Estate Business (206) 686-3188 (Pakalolo and New York– Margaret Meade) who hung around Noline Fowler has boxes of paraphernalia from the shows. I also, have several boxes of precious, young looking pictures of a naïve bunch of great people, my friends. These pictures were a gift to me from a professional photographer (Peggy). All she wanted was that I use them in anyway I saw fit – and give her credit. So, when I send them Nina – perhaps Jonathon and Julie can name these many beautiful and angelic faces.

    As far as the brief writing for Jonathon’s, well written and informative; “Good HAIR Days”, I was asked, of course, and I was honored to do so. No problem. It is his book and he and MB collaborated and decided to name it and project manage the structure – I kept my addition to his (Jonathon’s) point of view; “Good HAIR Days”.
    Yes, there are a million stories and I believe a good time for any cast member to write their memoirs – no time but the present.

    The Internet is a wonderful selling media tool; http://www.ebookmall.com/ebook/115344-ebook.htm

    Or hardback / paperback; my favorite, http://www.trafford.com/

    We can offer our own twists and turns. Who knows, maybe a virtual collaboration of writing can start here, on line. Let’s keep it to two (2) volumes. Each volume about 500-900 pages. Someone could volunteer to edit as we go along. MB could start or end it or not go for it – it’s his blog! Tribe members do their own inserts; anywhere. I’m talking about everyone who has experienced HAIR – the tribes. Call the book; appropriately so; “Where Do I Go?”

    Life’s challenges and human trails (a path or track, especially one that has been beaten through a wild area) which we leave behind are rich in legacy. Sometimes the emotion is too much, so perhaps after 37 long years we should see the World’s HAIR tribe pen many fractured – cohesive – unstructured, deliberately offensive master manuscripts; just like HAIR.

    We do remember two Japanese young men in ‘Mercury Tour’, during the Little Rock, AR arrival; one gets hammered and develops his own mystery of dysfunctional psychotic behavior; he clobbers his ‘brother’ with a full, unopened bottle of beer. The clobbered one receives stitches and a concussion; the ‘one who went off his rocker’, leaves the show, (fired) – ashamed. We cried together as a tribe but never really understood why we were so vulnerable; no time to examine each other, not even my own feelings; until many years later – back then it was always; the show must go on!

    Or, we may see just the opposite style of writing; after experiencing a turning point in our individual and social fabric, we dared to venture towards the unknown. We visited Oraibi, Arizona and Chief Frederick White Bear and his ‘white’ wife. MB told Maurice (then GM –Pakalolo Tribe) that he was saddened for not being able to attend. He told me later that he loved the Indian people when he was a small boy. He grew up near them, and I believed then that an understanding through the osmosis of transference; he became the ‘Silver Indian’ long before his time.

    Afraid of only our shadow, yet sensitive enough to distinguish are own darkness as “heavy art’, some blamed the lack of ‘smoke’, that night. Not being ‘high’ enough because some could not fully grasp the primordial depths of ceremonious simplicity of a Kachina dance; the smell of burning wood as incense and heavy laden smoke – dancing entities circling; adorned full of pine wreaths – really a parallel of other structures which await us, when we are ready to understand.

    When the stars came out and one’s thoughts could be seen traversing through the planes; never mind about the vehicles; mushrooms, Church of Peyote or grass. It was my friend, ‘Hud’ who was freaked, a former disk jockey for an FM station on the island of O’ahu. He decided to stay in the bus, to care for another wandering spirit while he dismantled his abilities to comprehend nature as a spiritual man. What took hold that night was his dissimilarity and divergence.

    I’ve seen that many times in the ‘Vegas desert, at night. Man, especially a city man will develop a fear in the desert for the unknown; but to hold back nothing, to trust and let flow our new found power, at that time, was a common solution. I tried to help him to let go, to release and relax. Las Vegas and its exaggerated greed for power – sucks electricity which establishes vast amounts of radiation from the intense field that neon distributes through the air waves. I felt better too camp away from this, in the desert, in my converted school bus.

    In the Oraibi, we ventured to the universe and communed within the mother womb, deep inside the Kiva. The ‘Invisible’; a power, an entity, surely not a God, but Prophets and Teachers; Leaders of the Devine, yet without fully understanding our universal human kinship, weaknesses and profound human spirit which we shared amongst ourselves, our brethren, the Original tribesman, looked at us as though we were just ‘babes in the woods’, which we blessed as LOVE!!! We had to start somewhere. … And somehow, we were changed and never the same again. Try doing a show after that.

    Was it a murmuring or a reality? Did I hear correctly when someone told me that our new General Manager was ‘skimming from the top’? Why was he acting so ‘Queen like’ and firing people if they looked at him cross-eyed? Or being overly stressed out because of the ‘Vegas situation which existed, and because no vacations were honored for over a year after starting the show in Las Vegas? No one said anything, no one offered! People were crying all the time because they were being let go and were fearful.

    I thought this was HAIR – you know; Peace and Love – I heard this non-stop for weeks, as tribe member came to me to fix a wrong. I failed them – I couldn’t do this alone. I had the show to do. Overwhelmed, I did pass it along to MB.

    On a trip and short vacation away from Las Vegas, I went as MB’s guest to visit the recent takeover of Alcatraz by the indigenous peoples, MB went in as a curious diplomat; to sense and take in everything. What I saw were manned posts with American Indians standing with fully loaded firearms; waving us on to come inside. It looked like a movie; then briefly interrupted as we were hurried down into the ground. We passed chains that were hanging from the stone cave faces which were a reminder of times long past, yet so delicately unstable as reminders that man can commit such atrocities in the name of a God he worships.

    Sometime during those weeks or months of turmoil, he asked if I would sit in on the auditions as we took on new people and act as his liaison and communicate to them the stresses and difficulty of living the show and later, the road, if one were to be successful with the principles and chorus members in the show.

    After a short time had past; in San Francisco, MB told me that the tribe missed me and asked if I was going back to them. I suppose that in my rush to leave ‘Vegas, I did not think of the tribe; I was none responsive, numb, and near collapse. When a person hears that people need you, something inside them changes – and conformity to that extra mile was taken by me; I can do it!!

    Upon my arrival at McCarran Airport, several uniformed cops were starring at me, dressed in a flowing full length Arabian robe of white with large flowing black ribbons. I carried a wooden staff, given to me by Julie Winn. Actually it was a real snake stick. What with all my walking around in the desert, it was a good gift and well intentioned thought. It had a ‘Y’ at the end for snagging a snakes head. After hanging bells and beads from it, it made a perfect piece for my new Jesus’ or Moses ensemble look. At least, a New York cast member who joined the show; Steve Lynch (Margaret Mead) thought so.

    What I thought… was not on those lines but more modern, freer; I could literally go anywhere. I was universal now, besides it was a special and shocking gift in more ways than you know. I walked on tables in the lounges at 1:30 a.m. and the maitre’d overflowing with interpersonal skills, would help me get down. I was a walking publicity for HAIR. I never tipped the door, because I wasn’t rich. I made $256.00 a week and paid for hotels and meals but somehow I was always treated with respect.

    Mr. Osorio promised us a key of weed for all our hard work but it never materialized. I came through the airport carrying about 15 bags for the tribe – just whisked off – never a thought – just friends, you know – my tribal buddies, insane or otherwise. My gift to my O’hana…

    … Continued
    © 2006 Lyle K’ang

  5. CorinneAct said:

    Hi Julie

    Just reading your post, and you were not wrong. We first went on the Road as Rainbow, the name was changed after Cincinnati, when they sent us all in different directions.

    I remember Vegas being the most loving company of all. The closeness and real brotherhood it what compelled me to join it during it’s last summer.

    Lyle I love your writing. You may not remember me, I came with Robert Mandolph from LA that summer, and quickly fell in love with Chris Comer (asm) we moved into the Pleasant Road House.

    Where is SheShe? We need her.


  6. Lyle said:

    Hi Corrine -thank you for your kind words. Chris Comer eh! Don’t tell anybody, I fell in love with you too –

    OK-Rainbow; then National Tour, then Mercury, then Venus. Then some of us went to NY for the last show – right?

    SheShe was an extraordinary women – you know she held her own; through all the crap, she remained dignified and yes, a lady.

    Thanks for the memories Corrine.

  7. lafn1 said:

    What a flash from the past to find this blog. I’m Steve G. I came in from the Los Angeles auditions at the same time as Doug (he to understudy Berger, me to understudy Claude). I’m so sorry to hear about Kaipo. All of a sudden he stopped communicating and I was afraid something terrible had happened. I’m so sorry to hear about Pohai and Patty too. I had heard about Pohai’s accident in nyc, but not about sweet Patty. I think I have an original playbill from the LV company somewhere in my stack of “things I can’t throw away”. I have so often wondered what happened to Lyle, Pohai, Kaipo, Julie, Corrine, SheShe, Paula, Michael, Chris Comer, etc. It’s great to see your names again. I wonder what ever happened to Allan the dresser? He took me to see Ella and and Sarah Vaughan one night. Both on the same night and to meet them both backstage! It was one of the highlights of my life. What great memories. I went on to do a lot of jingles and vo’s but I always remember Hair! and all of you. Thanks for the memories. Steve

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