“Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”: Proposed New Movie Ressurects “LSD War” Between Kesey & the Beats

Artist Michael Bowen, who lived at Tunitas Creek and hung out at the Abalone Factory in Princeton, brought this colorful incident to my attention and I want to share it with you.

From “Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream” by Jay Stevens, pp. 324-325 (1987)

“The hippies wanted to believe this desperately. But what was Kesey doing putting down LSD in the pages of the Chronicle? And what did he mean when he talked about going beyond acid? Give it up altogether? That was the Establishment’s line and the Establishment had Kesey by the proverbial testicles, what with three felony counts. The Haight hummed with speculation, much of it paranoid. According to the leading paranoiacs, Kesey’s public statements were just a smoke-screen. What he was planning was a monster Acid Test, the biggeest and most powerful one ever, the gorup mind pushed to its omega point. And either the State would shatter or…There was always a long pause as the implications of that sank in. Everyone had heard rumors that the Acid Test had turned fascistic down in L.A. And hadn’t Kesey actually said on TV, when asked what his main message for the graduating acidheads would be, hadn’t he quipped: “Never trust a Prankster!” (9) What kind of a valedictory was that?

“The feeling grew that it was immaterial whether Kesey was correct or not about going beyond acid to the next step; the point was that the Acid Graduation might wreck the Haight, the Psychedelic movement, the private revolution, everything. And for the first time, Pranksters began to lose control of their movie. The Graduation was scheduled to take place October 31, Halloween, in Bill Graham’s Winterland, but at the last moment Graham, who had produced the Trips Festival, reneged: Kesey was another Elmer Gantry, he said. Graham made that statement because he had received a very serious call by a very serious Michael Bowen. Bowen did not want another disaster to occur. He had seen first hand in London in 1965 what an ego driven man, Michael Hollingshead, could do to unsuspecting people. At the Albert Hall in London Hollingshead had dosed an unknowing crowd with LSD. This resulted in a disaster. One person was killed in the confusion and many injured. What Kesey was planning was identical. Therefore, Michael, whose usual stance was to be as hidden as possible broke with that decision and called Graham. Bowen told Graham in clear terms that if he allowed the Kesey plan to go ahead at his premises Bowen would inform every newspaper and any other agency necessary to stop it. Graham understood clearly that his primary goal of making money and fame were threatened. He knew Michael Bowen well and he knew the artist meant what he said. The Graham part of Kesey’s lan was cancelled. The Pranksters raced around looking for another venue, but finally had to settle for an old abandoned pie factory down on Harriet Street. Few hippies turned up and most of those melted away before the finale, having come largely so that they could tell any future friends that, yeah, they made the Prankster scene once or twice. Kesey was there in ballet tights and at the end he pulled everyone in close, huddled them together, Faye, the kids, the Pranksters, some of the old Perry Lane crowd, and for one last time they synched up and tried to….Homo gestalt!”

From: “Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream” by Jay Stevens, pp 324-325.