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Book Excerpts

Red Nelson on his after-hours parties . . .

I was the guy with the parties. That was a big social mark for me, and I worked at it. By so doing, I became part of those ingredients in that little secluded niche. And that’s what worked. Not just me. Not just the musicians. Not just the bikers. Not just the professors. Not just the students. I became one of the ingredients, but I got to look at it and enjoy it. I made lifelong friends.

Papa John is one, Jeff Espina—I could name dozens. Koerner, Hugh Brown, and Judy Larson—all of them. We traveled together. The scene extended from the Fat Black Pussycat in Greenwich Village. Dave Ray used to live behind No. 90, a red door on Christopher Street. We used to visit Greenwich Village, and Copley Square, Boston. We’d go to Seattle, but there wasn’t much there in those days. But we’d go to San Francisco, and North Beach was stunning. We’d go to L.A.—Ash Grove and places like that. Then Tucson, where a friend of mine, Carl Boltz, and I helped build the first Shakey’s Pizza.

And so the scene was insane. It wasn’t mean. There was very little drug addiction. It changed rather dramatically one day when Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters rolled in front of the Scholar with LSD. That didn’t help anybody. Some say it added to it. It was a real hazard for anybody that wasn’t 22 or over, because they weren’t fully formed yet and then they’d get tossed into a psychic abyss and couldn’t find their way out of it. The drugs played a very low profile in it. We used to drink beer. An occasional guy would have a hardcore something. In fact we used to salvage all the little half-pints and pints around, pour them into a giant five-gallon jug and when we got it full, we had a free party! This mixture we called, “Ye Olde Misanthrope.” You drank that over ice, and let me tell you, you were a real good singer at around 2 o’clock in the morning.