Pages from Michael Butler's Journal
CASTING FOR HAIR IN NEW MEXICO
Right after the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, we were really burnt out. There had been a summit at Oak Brook of our group of thinkers-- which is another story. In fact, HAIR's relation to the Convention is an interesting piece of history--for another time.
We were tired. We also had serious problems finding through the normal channels, new talent for the show. Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul, and Mary) came to Oak Brook from the convention. After our meetings he said that he knew a perfect place to go - New Mexico. The place was alive with talent and it was hippie talent to boot. I jumped at the chance to find some artists and get out of the storm of events. I called Fred Rheinglass, our Production Stage Manager, in New York and told him to fly to meet us in Albuquerque.
Peter and I met Fred at the airport. We chartered a plane to get to Santa Fe and from there hired a car. We set out to find Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farm. Peter said he knew of a group called The Jook Savages. We prowled around the mountains of Truchas. Truchas is famous as a mystical area, catering to paganism, shamanism, and extreme forms of Roman Catholicism such as the flagellates. I felt we were in a world so different from Chicago and New York that we could have been on another planet. We had a smoke which put us in the best of moods to motor the snaking roads of those mountains.
We found the Jook Savages camping out--buses, tents and a terrific teepee. They were preparing peyote buttons dipped in pscylociban. We joined right in, and soon we were bathing in the natural hot springs of the area. The evening progressed; the sun was setting as we had copious quantities of herbal tea. Lisa Law made me a wonderful necklace I treasure to this day. Lisa was the wife of Tom, the Jook Savage chief. Tom was a very severe and authoritative young man. He treated us in a very condescending manner to have us with his tribe. Night time came on; the trip was really beginning to take hold. We gathered together in the teepee; the fire was burning and we had more tea and sweets. I knew that I could never take any really heavy food. I wouldn't be able to keep it down. I was ravenous. The only time I ever felt like this was an evening in Morocco at a different time and circumstance: the evening just started. Sweets, particularly honey, herbal tea and fruit were the rapid fuel I need as I was quite aware that I was embarking on a voyage the likes which I had never been on before. During this time, the fire was making heavy smoke. We were cross-legged on the ground of furs and oriental carpets, an incredibly sensual physical vibration.
The wind began to softly blow and chanting began, with sparks and smoke of the fire rising out of the teepees wind chimney. I began to hallucinate as a tall, beautiful shaman rose from the smoke and, with the peyote fan and rattle, began a chant for the spirits who would respond to our call. At that instant, I fell in love and am, still now. The shaman was John Philip Law, the actor whom I had never seen before. His presence in normal circumstance was and is very imposing. In this place and time, he was an awesome presence to witness. I will never forget any aspect of that evening.
I knew I was immediately considered an interloper. Tom Law made it quite clear that he felt that I was a very real threat to his brother. I became very upset. I started to enter a bum phase of the trip. I was amazed that Tom would even consider that I could do anything negative to John. I was already too involved emotionally.
At this critical moment, I had the powerful urge to go outside in the waning night. Facing the mountain, I knew I had climb to top for the sunrise. Then I would know the mysteries of myself in this world. I started up. I realized right away this was no ordinary climb. What was nothing to a mountaineer became an expedition to the likes of myself. Notwithstanding the perils, I felt I was in, making the summit became a target which could brook no failure. I had to be on top by sunrise. I made it and the toughest climb of my life resulted in wonderous feelings on the top as the rays of the sun came over the surrounding peaks. I was in the presence of God.
Coming down, I knew I had passed over one of life's thresholds. I was very tired, happy, and well. I knew I was not a threat to John. If anyone was a threat, it was his brother, Tom. I knew that with John I had entered into a lifelong relationship. Now I needed to sleep.
We never got to Wavy Gravy and The Hog Farm.
On to another page in the diary - "A Letter from U Thant"
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