HOUNDS OF HELL
"The humblest citizen... when clad in the armour of a
righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of Error."
— William Jennings
As long as the Warren Report
stays on the books as the officially recognized "truth" about the JFK
case, there will be an open wound in the body politic that defies healing.
Assassination researchers are so virulent in scavenging the field in search of
any shred of evidence, they have come to be known as "The Hounds of
But there's another public cause
that has captured the imagination of the Hound mentality. Vote fraud. Consider
the strong emotional values that we Americans attach to the sanctity of the
U.S. ballot. The ballot is America's number one export. It is the hallowed
ground and shed blood often generations of "those who made the supreme
As with the JFK breed of Hound,
vote fraud trackers have the gut feeling that some fundamental outrage has
occurred and is being covered up in the highest levels of
One never knows the exact moment
of transition from common citizen to Hound.
After the the Reno-Rubin confrontation, the investigation
seemed pretty much over. Rubin wouldn't take our calls and there was no point
in pursuing him any further. We figured that whatever Reno told him in her
private chambers that day must have scared the hell out of him.
Jim said: "I can't imagine him
acting like that unless she had something on him."
"Well, I doubt that it's
political," Ken reflected. "Maybe she painted a really frightening
scenario, possibly threatening to expose him somehow, to embarrass his kids and
family you know what I mean? After all, we're not dealing in torts here. If
Reno called for a full investigation the lid could blow off the Establishment.
That's why Gerstein didn't want this case, so he gave it to Reno and she wasn't
about to bite the hand that feeds her."
"She must have torn into him
something fierce," Jim speculated, "like 'Ellis, if you pursue this
it could take down the entire structure, not only of the city, but possibly the
state. Do you want to do this for the Collier brothers?'"
"Sure," Ken nodded,
"but that look on his face, that stark blank stare... it was eerie... I
don't think just politics would do it. It had to be a personal
We were both in the midst of divorce proceedings. It
seemed like something in the stars was breaking everything apart. The Daily
Planet was going out of business. The public was more interested in the Bee
Gees than in revolution. DC Comics was threatening to sue over what they
claimed was the use of their Superman trademark, and The Underground Press
Service was turning into High Times magazine. During the Sixties the
suntan lotion business was the engine that drove our small financial empire,
but it required a full time effort and we just didn't have it in us anymore.
Politics is a strong drug and anger was replacing the drive we had to make
Back when we started Sunscrene,
Kennedy was in his second year as President, and the world seemed bright. Now
it was the Nixon-Ford era; we were growing older and there wasn't much
challenge left in selling suntan lotion to beach boys.
The five-year renewable leases on our
beach stores were coming due and without wives or kids to support, they just
didn't seem important anymore. Ken's wife was a millionairess who didn't want
child support, and she didn't want Ken around either, at least not as long as
he was willing to pursue Votescam. Jim's wife was twelve years his
junior, and after five years of a childless marriage and listening to
Votescam, she wanted some fresh air in California.
"If we give up
Votescam," Jim told Ken, "when we're old men we're going to
look back and ask why didn't we fight the bastards. We're going to add up the
plus and minus columns and all we'll have is money. I don't want to spend the
rest of my life with this seething anger because I know I let them get away
with it without going the last fucking inch."
"How are we going to
"Let's do a Siddhartha —
lets give it all up: the pool table, the cars, the townhouses, the
Ken took a long toke on the pipe Jimi
Hendrix had given him that night his concert got rained out at Gulfstream Race
It wasn't our concert, but the
promoters, Michael Lang and Marshall Brevitz (Lang was a co-producer of
Woodstock) had no way to refund the ticket money. So we invited Hendrix to
Thee Image, where we would throw open the doors to anybody who wanted to
walk in. Jim went on stage at Gulfstream and invited everybody to come to the
It was now about 8 o'clock on a stormy
We called all of our concession
people, the ice cream vendors, the chocolate cake sellers, hot dog guys, the
body painters, and asked them to come right down.
The body painters gave away Day-Glo
paint that lit up under black light, which was the big deal in concert lighting
at the time. Thee Image boasted a hundred blacklight bulbs.
Hendrix and his roadies and his band
turned up, as promised, for free, and started to set up on the stage. The club
already had a wall of Ampeg speakers with enough amps to blow out a window.
There were also the two giant strobe lights with a slow to fast speed dialer
that made people look like they were moving very fast or very slow like a
haywire silent film.
Word had gotten out. Kids started
calling kids. By nine o'clock the parking lot was packed. So was Collins
Avenue, and there was a traffic jam down to Haulover Beach.
Jimi started playing about nine. He
began by using all of Thee Image's speakers and his own to produce wild
That got people's attention. Then he
jammed with the house band, The Blues Image, (Ride, Captain, Ride) in a
set that never stopped until after midnight. The audience, full of painted
bodies, mostly sat on the floor and listened, in various states of high, higher
and highest, while Jimi played rock guitar that was more dramatic than anything
most of the audience had ever heard. His guitar solos melted down and
re-formed, turned into vivid images and then into smoke.
It was a wild night of cheering. Then
the ice cream battle began.
Somebody brought Jimi an ice cream
cone with a ball of chocolate on it. Jimi threw the ice cream ball to somebody
in the crowd. That somebody threw it back at Jimi.
"Get me ten cones," Hendrix
He passed them out to everyone in the
band, and they began to throw ice cream balls at each other. Pretty soon
hundreds of members of the audience raced to the concession stand to buy scoops
of ice cream, forget the cone. In 15 minutes the air in the club, under the
Day-Glo lights, was filled with flying ice cream balls. They hit the walls, the
speakers, people's heads, hair and clothes. Then, when the ice cream ran out,
they all began throwing chocolate cake.
Meanwhile, Jimi and the band kept on
Then Jimi says: "Let's go
He left the stage without his guitar,
walked through the crowd and out the front door. Like a Pied Piper he walked
past the International House of Pancakes up to Collins Avenue, three to four
thousand kids dancing insanely behind him.
This was a few months before Jimi
played his irreverant [sic] Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock.
All those memories were attached to
Ken's pipe as he thought of leaving the security he'd always known.
For a couple of guys who were raised
middle class in the Middle West, giving up the easy life was truly radical.
We'd seen Tom Hayden live out of a sleeping bag as he fought his battles for
social equality in the Sixties, and we even housed him when he was worn out and
One time Tom came to New York
with his first wife Casey, and an old station wagon. He had the key to a
friend's empty apartment, so Tom and Casey took an old mattress off the street
and spread it on the floor. The next night they knocked on Jim's door on East
"We got bedbugs," Tom said,
lifting his pant leg and showing a track of bug bites.
Jim paid for a hotel room on 86th
Now Ken pondered the idea of living out of sleeping bags
on Miami Beach.
"Where do we put the sleeping
bags and how do we eat? And do we really want to do this?"
"Well, it's that or give it all
up and just be merchants. What's money gotten us but divorces and abject
"But what about Sunscrene,
we can't just drop it."
So we gave it all away to our top
salesman in Daytona Beach, named Ron Rice, and he changed the name to
In the fall of 1974 we were living in the sea grapes near
86th and Collins Avenue on Miami Beach. It was less than two blocks from the
Holiday Inn, but it was tropical and secluded. Sea grapes are trees that grow
about 15 feet high with leaves like large green pancakes. The leaves formed a
cathedral ceiling, screened the sun and provided some privacy from the public
on the beach. Foreign tourists had heard about this wild stretch and although
it was against the law to camp there, they had found the sea grape patch as
inviting as we had. We often had to roust a sleeping German, Frenchman or
Italian out of our favorite spot.
There were freshwater showers nearby
and a public bathroom. There was no place to cook, so we subsisted on fruit and
cheese. A high grassy jungle-like area hid the sleeping bags. When it rained,
which wasn't that often, we rolled up our bags, hid them, and ran for motel
From our refuge in the sea grapes, we
wrote, with pen and pencil, a rock opera entitled "Year One."
The title was based on John Lennon's concept, conceived at John and Yoko's
bed-in in Toronto in 1970. John said that we should label all our
correspondence Year One A.P. (After Peace), and that there should be a
new beginning. So the story was about the Children-at-Arms, a rock group from
the Center of the Galaxy, ordered to earth to reunite Sgt. Pepper's
We wrote the basic book and lyrics and
Gregory Scott Kimple wrote the music. Although the studio album wasn't bad (Lou
O'Neil, Jr. of Circus Magazine called it "one of the top ten albums
of the year"), we decided to re-record the album live and videotape the
Year One band at the Grand Canyon.
On 7/7/77 we produced the first free
rock concert ever performed live in the Grand Canyon. Rolling Stone Magazine
wrote ahead of time that six million people would turn up for the concert
(to hear "The Year One Band"). The Interior Department,
concerned for the ecosystem and crowd control, cancelled the event. Now for the
first time in our lives we had no mama, no papa, no businesses, no money —
but we did have George.
By the grace of George, our friend and
chess master, Ken flew out to Arizona and talked the park ranger into letting
us stage the show. To make it hard on whatever crowds might want to show up,
the ranger restricted the concert to the West Rim, which is off limits to the
general public. Nonetheless, about a thousand people hiked overland and got to
the site to watch us film the sun coming up over the East Rim, an event almost
never seen by anyone other than an American Indian. We shot through the day,
catching the full sweep of the sun to the West. Songs were sung at different
hours as the sun produced different moods. And as the sun was setting, we taped
two lovers standing atop a mega wall of amplifiers against a purple haze. The
band sang: "Champion, Where Are You?"
After the concert we drove back to New
York with Satan, who taught Kiss how to eat fire.
For awhile we lived in a radio-TV commune on 14th Street
and Second Avenue in a building called The U.S. Senate. The commune owned the
old Second Avenue Yiddish Theater, then called The Phoenix, where Ann Corio
held court while doing "This Was Burlesque." When she left,
the theatre folded until two off-Broadway actors bought it. They fed and housed
us in the U.S. Senate, while two blocks down on 12th street they were
remodeling the theater.
Because most of the people working on
remodeling were performing artists and not real tradesmen, at least not the
kind who should be reupholstering 499 seats, someone gave the order to unscrew
every seat in the house and stack them up in the foyer.
Then they had us rip all the staples
out of all the seats, take off all the Naugahyde, and pull out all the
It was our job, that is, us and Satan,
to put those seats back together, restuff them, recover them with Naugahyde,
and use that plier device to stretch and restaple. The color was orange. The
job tooks [sic] weeks, eight hours a day.
Then the time came to put the seats
We started with the first row, but
none of the seats fit Nobody had bothered to mark the seats as to where their
original places were. Thus we had 499 seats and not the foggiest idea where to
As we sat around with the rest of the
crew, understanding what purgatory was, Satan, who had a rock band on Bourbon
Street in the Sixties, started picking up the seats, studying them, and
separating them into size piles. Some of the seats were minutely bigger than
others. After the sorting he took the largest seat off the first pile and
walked around looking for the largest empty hole. It took him four days, but he
put every single seat back in its exact spot. We know that because when we got
down on the floor we had to turn thousands of screws into thousands of holes.
They all fit.
The new theater with the bright orange
seats opened with "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" in its
On June 23, 1978, Jim's 39th birthday, we raised the money to produce a
live rock concert, called "Rock Wars," on the highest man-made
stage in the world: the helicopter pad atop the South Tower of the World Trade
Center in Manhattan.
Every rock star who had nothing better
to do that night was at the party. The Year One Band and For Shakes
Sake from Brooklyn played from dusk until midnight. People brought their
own everything, and down on the 107th floor the Trade Center opened a sumptuous
bar and smorgasbord. It was an incredible, perfectly clear night with a full
moon and a grand piano. People called the radio station that was broadcasting
the live performance and said, "We can hear it over here in Staten
Island," and somebody else said they could hear it all the way into New
The next day the New York Daily
News said: "The World Trade Center was made for three things: The
Wiz, King Kong, and the Rock Wars party held last
Ken met an artist at the 14th Street commune who called
herself Shakti. She was a medical doctor from Australia who was tall, blonde
and beautiful. She had painted murals on the walls of the theater we worked in,
so Ken asked her to illustrate the story we had written about rock and roll,
where the Children-at-Arms come from the Center of the Galaxy to reunite the
Beatles. For the next fourteen months we, including Satan, lived and worked
together on the Rock Wars storyboard. It eventually turned into a
96-page, full-color Doubleday Dell trade paperback that sold 42,000 copies
before John Lennon was shot and killed at The Dakota.
Rock Wars died with the most
intelligent man in rock.
Ken wrote an epitaph for Lennon and it
was reprinted in Billboard Magazine and in The Washington Post
(see it in the back of this book). Yoko Ono wrote Ken a letter telling him that
she had hung a copy on her wall.
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