Among the most colorful of Discordian characters we’ve covered on this website is Barbara Glancey Reid, the subject of our previous 2 part series, the main focus of which was Reid’s role in the Jim Garrison investigation boondoggle, not to mention her noteworthy involvement as one of the very first members of New Orleans branch of the Discordian Society.
Suffice it to say, we merely scratched the surface of this remarkable lady’s life, whose greatest claim to fame was her role in shaping the New Orleans music scene of the late 1950s and 1960s.
For those of you wishing to learn more about Barbara Reid, let me direct your attention to Richard Ekins’ exhaustive multi-part series on Barbara Reid, which can be found here on the La Croix Records website.
“Deep diving back into the New Orleans underbelly with noted author and crackpot historian, Adam Gorightly! We discuss his multipart article on the antics and associations of the shotgun toting Pastor himself.”
For some time now I’d been planning a multi-part series on Reverend Raymond Broshears, one of more colorful characters (among a clown car of colorful characters) who careened headfirst into Kerry Thornley, and the Garrison investigation.
A deep dive into Rev. Broshears branches off in a number of directions, including the JFK assassination, UFOs, Discordianism, and “Wandering Bishops”—not to mention Rev. Broshears’ involvement as a gay rights activist in San Francisco in the late 1960s to the early-80s.
The reason I’d been holding off on this series was because I’d discovered, a while back, a Rev. Broshears archive located at the GLBT museum in San Francisco that would no doubt enhance this effort. Finally—in February of this year—I scheduled a visit to the Broshears’ archive, and just prior to my visit was alerted to the following Newsweek article titled “The Most Dangerous Gay Man in America Fought Violence With Violence” by Eric Markowitz, which—as synchronicity would have it—was all about Rev. Broshears! It should be noted that Broshears falls into the category of an “obscure character”—the type of subcultural figure your present author is fond of writing about, but who is so far out of the mainstream that his appearance in Newsweek was about as predictable as Donald Duck becoming President. Markowitz’s article even cites yours truly as a source, quoting Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Oswald and the Garrison Investigation. Pick up your copy today before supplies run out!
Anyway, that’s the way the stars sometimes align themselves in a weird and wonderful way when researching Discordianism, and related subcultural currents. Without further ado, let us proceed…
Born Earl Raymond Allen in Centreville Station, Illinois, in 1935, our hero later adopted the last name Broshears (taken from his stepfather)00001 and in time became known to the world as the Rev. Raymond Broshears, or in some circles simply as “Reverend Ray.”
In the mid 1950s, Broshears served as a Navy medical corpsman before being discharged for what he later described as “medical reasons” resulting from a “serious injury to the head causing what was then thought to be a minor brain dysfunction.”00002
In the late 1950s, Broshears graduated from Lee Bible College in Tennessee, and later studied under the fire and brimstone southern Baptist preacher, Billy James Hargis. George Mendenhall of the Bay Area Reporter later discovered that Hargis excommunicated Broshears when he discovered his sexual proclivities. According to Eric Markowitz:
In the early 1960s, Broshears continued traveling and preaching. At that time, in his late 20s, he got involved in the civil rights movement. He joined the Congress of Racial Equality, which fought for desegregation. That fight got him in trouble. In 1965, he participated in a sit-in in Belleville, Illinois, to protest the mistreatment of African-Americans. The details are murky—and the Belleville police department could not locate records related to the incident—but Broshears was arrested for groping a 17-year-old boy. “It wasn’t child molesting or anything like it,” Broshears told a reporter in 1972. “I was arrested for ‘groping a minor.’ He was fully dressed, there was no other physical contact involved.” That boy, however—who was not named in any reports, likely because of his age—was apparently the nephew of Belleville’s mayor…
The incident was a local scandal, and Broshears was sentenced to six months in county jail…When he was released, in December 1965, news had traveled that Broshears was a sex offender, so he bought a ticket, headed west and left everything behind. “I came to San Francisco, the gay mecca,” he would later say, “to become a faggot.”00003
Before planting permanent roots in San Francisco, Broshears spent a couple of years in Long Beach, California, operating a ministry called “The Church of God of Light” that was “involved in helping ‘skid row’ bums, improving conditions in the ghetto, and publishing an outspoken newspaper called The Light and Understanding.”00004
During his Long Beach sojourn, Broshears came up on the radar of JFK assassination sleuths after an appearance on an episode of Tempo, a Los Angeles TV program hosted by Stan Bohrman.
According to an October 16, 1968, internal CIA memo:
“[Broshears] appeared as a last-minute guest on the Stan BOHRMAN television show in Los Angeles in August 1968. The program is in the format of receiving questions from outside telephone callers… In answer to questions from callers, BROSHEARS admitted he was homosexual and that he was a roommate of David FERRIE for a short time in 1965. BROSHEARS stated that FERRIE admitted being involved with the assassins of President KENNEDY and to being in Houston at the time of the assassination with a plane waiting to fly the assassins on a getaway trip, first to South America, then to South Africa. According to Subject, while FERRIE was waiting in Houston, the assassins fled in a light aircraft from Dallas trying to make their escape all the way to Mexico without stopping. The assassins died in a plane crash that afternoon on the coast of Corpus Christi, Texas.
“After the program, BROSHEARS was visited by Mark LANE who urged him to visit GARRISON in New Orleans to make a deposition. Subject spent six days with GARRISON and when he returned to Los Angeles, was again on the Stan BOHRMAN TV show. On this program, Subject discussed his interview with GARRISON stating that he told GARRISON about FERRIE’s work with the CIA and Subject’s first meeting with Clay SHAW who had been identified to Subject as ‘Bert’. BROSHEARS admitted that this was the first time he had disclosed that he knew SHAW. He said he was at first reluctant to become involved in the investigation but after talking to GARRISON, he is convinced GARRISON is leading a fight for ‘JUSTICE’. He accused the CIA, FBI and Secret Service of impeding the progress of the case.
“BROSHEARS admitted to having been taken into custody by Secret Service agents two years ago for threatening the life of President JOHNSON.”
One of Garrison’s investigators, Steve Jaffe, wrote an article for the August 9, 1968, Los Angeles Free Press in which he noted that Broshears’ TV appearance represented “one of significant historical importance.” According to Jaffee:
“Broshears, who has tried to escape harassment by ‘individuals from mysterious sources’ ever since his short association with Ferrie in 1965, told of the role which Ferrie had played in the plot…Since the time of his arrest by incident of his alleged threat on President Johnson (after which he was questioned and released without conviction or sentence) he has had to be in constant touch with Federal offices of the Secret Service and F.B.I. by order of the Federal government. Agents from those organizations have warned him ‘to keep his mouth shut’ or risk being committed to a mental institution…”00005
The aforementioned CIA memo stated that Broshears had been visited by JFK assassination researcher Mark Lane, who urged him “to visit GARRISON in New Orleans to make a deposition.” Apparently Lane and Broshears had been in contact prior to the Tempo television appearance, as documented in this letter dated July 27, 1968:
Suspicious of Garrison’s motives, Broshears was initially reluctant to provide a deposition, but soon received incentive via subpoena that in short order turned around his way of thinking.
Broshears recounted his meeting with Garrison and crew in the August 1968 issue of his self-published newsletter Light and Understanding:
“…I did not wish to go, for the very word ‘Garrison’, left a bad taste in my mouth. He had (according to establishment press) persecuted many of my ‘fellow-beings’, with whom I have great empathy and ties. I feared for my life (which later proved true), for I didn’t trust Garrison or the U.S. government or Clay Shaw’s friends. [Steve] Jaffee arranged to make the trip as secret as possible, which it was. But, now, after having met Jim Garrison, I am convinced that this is one of America’s truly great and sincere people. I trust Jim Garrison with my life. I was overwhelmed at the honesty and the simplicity at the District Attorneys Office. Mr. James Alcock, the assistant D.A. is a real ‘BRAIN’, for after having spent a couple of hours with Alcock, I was convinced, in Light of what I had been told by David [Ferrie], that Garrison had the ‘goods’ on Shaw. Later I met ‘Moo’ Sciambra, a ‘French Quarter resident’ also working on the case. And I met the Chief Investigator, a good cop, Mr. Louis Ivon. Ivon and Alcock are both articulate men, as is Mr. Garrison, whom I later met at his home, he having just had an operation.
“Mr. Garrison was not the ‘bad boogy man’ he has been portrayed to be. And he does not mince words. He says what is to be said, and looks you straight in the eye while he is talking to you…
“While in New Orleans, I ran into old ‘cold flames’ who didn’t seem too pleased to see me. But the most shocking thing that I discovered while there, was the fact that the government had removed almost all trace of my ever having been in that city. But they ‘slipped’ up, and a couple of cards were found in various agencies, and gave light to the fact I was indeed in Orleans and that I had indeed been involved in the ‘underground’ there.
“But things were different now. David had been murdered. Kerry was not in Orleans, but in Tampa, Kerry, you know, the one whos picture was on the cover of Life with Lee Oswalds head super-imposed upon it. Kerry had the little spider like hands and arms and narrow hips, not Oswald, just ask his wife…”
In New Orleans, Garrison and his team took Broshears under their wings, and among those that helped foster the good reverend’s cooperation was none other than Barbara Reid, who was an early member of the Discordian Society, and key witness against Kerry Thornley in Garrison’s investigation. At one time, Reid even claimed she was the Goddess Eris herself! (You can’t make this shit up.)
Among other mind-gobbling allegations, Rev. Broshears informed Garrison’s investigators that David Ferrie, Clay Shaw, Lee Oswald and Kerry Thornley (!) were members of a homicidal-homosexual cabal that conspired to kill Kennedy. According to Broshears, he was introduced to Thornley by Ferrie, and claimed he’d had sex with Kerry, and knew well “his slender hips.”
While it can’t be denied that Thornley indeed possessed slender hips, I’ve seen nothing to suggest he was gay or bisexual, although he was extremely open minded in regards to sexual experimentation.
Here is an excerpt from Broshears August 1968 deposition:
Q. Do you recognize this man in the picture here?
A. That is the man whom David Ferrie constantly referred to as Kerry Thornley.
Q. And this person here?
A. That is Kerry Thornley.
Q. Where did you meet him?
A. At Lafitte’s in Exile. And I don’t know what—he always maintained that he was not a homosexual… David [Ferrie] has told me numerous times that Kerry Thornley maintains he is not a homosexual. But I say he is and I say to the whole world if he is not a homosexual why was he in homosexual bars, why if he is not? And his resemblance to Lee Harvey Oswald is rather frightening…
To suggest a resemblance between Oswald and Thornley as “frightening” is a stretch. Unless, of course, Broshears based his observations of this supposed Thornley/Oswald likeness on Harold Weisberg’s set of fabricated photos.
Cafe Lafitte in Exile, it so happens, was a landmark French Quarter bar owned by Tom Caplinger, the father of Grace and Lane Caplinger. Grace and Lane were friends with Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley, and it was Lane—according to legend—who helped type the 1st edition of the Principia Discordia after hours at Garrison’s office when she worked there as a secretary in 1965. Her sister Grace later changed her name to Grace Zabriskie after launching an acting career in the late 1970s, and is most famously known for her wonderfully weird role of Sarah Palmer in Twin Peaks.
Although Broshears claimed he encountered Thornley in New Orleans in 1965, this timeline didn’t jibe with the period Thornley actually lived there—from March 1961 until early December 1963. Newsweek reporter Eric Markowitz placed Broshears in lockup at the Belleville County Jail from July through December ‘65 which was the same time Broshears was supposedly in New Orleans hanging out with Ferrie and having sex with Thornley’s “slender hips.”
Researcher David Blackburst interviewed Broshears in the 1970s and discovered further inconsistencies in his story. Although Broshears claimed to have been Ferrie’s roommate, another Ferrie roommate stated that he’d never heard of Broshears. When Blackburst questioned Broshears about the layout of Ferrie’s apartment, he was unable to describe it accurately, and was just as confused about the layout of the streets in the French Quarter. This suggested to Blackburst that Broshears never actually lived there.00006
Broshears claimed that on the night he first met Ferrie, the two men patronized a bar catering to the homosexual community, and it was there that Ferrie introduced Broshears to “one of the wealthiest men in New Orleans” who went by the name of Bert and/or Clara. According to Broshears, Bert/Clara was actually Clay Shaw, Garrison’s chief suspect.
Ferrie allegedly informed Broshears that he had worked as a CIA contract pilot, and that they (the CIA) had blackmailed him with films of “a sixteen year old boy engaged [with Ferrie] in a homosexual act.” This was presumably among the revelations of sexual impropriety that got Ferrie fired from his pilot gig at American Airlines.
Whatever the case, I’ve seen no documentation confirming Ferrie actually worked for the CIA. The initial source for this revelation was Victor Marchetti, a special assistant to CIA Director Richard Helms. Marchetti claimed that a colleague informed him that “Ferrie had been a contract agent… in the early sixties and had been involved in some of the Cuban activities.” Marchetti told author Anthony Summers that “…he observed consternation on the part of then CIA Director Richard Helms and other senior officials when Ferrie’s name was first publicly linked with the assassination in 1967.” Marchetti’s allegations were later contradicted by internal CIA memos, so I guess it’s a case of whom you choose to believe. Trust No One.
At the very least, Ferrie was involved in paramilitary training with anti-Castro Cubans in 1961, an operation either directly or indirectly funded by the CIA and funneled through Guy Banister’s detective agency. (Banister was another supposed plotter in the JFK dust-up.) This hornet’s nest of intelligence agents or assets based in New Orleans (such as Banister) speaks to a nebulous gray area surrounding the Garrison investigation. Garrison and his investigators did indeed stumble upon information pertaining to intelligence agency capers in New Orleans, some of which apparently overlapped with Banister’s op, but to make the leap that these activities were directly related to JFK’s assassination… is indeed a leap, although certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
In the same manner that Barbara Reid was the person most responsible for dragging Kerry Thornley screaming and kicking into the Garrison investigation funhouse, the same can be said of a fellow named Jack Martin (aka Edward Stewart Suggs) in his role of foisting David Ferrie into that very same fray.
Martin, like Reid, had a unique role in Garrison’s mad world; both were “witnesses” and at the same time both worked closely with Garrison’s investigators. Although Reid’s role was absent from Oliver Stone’s JFK, Martin was accorded lofty status, portrayed by Jack Lemmon as a sad sack two-bit private dick who inadvertently stirred up this aforementioned hornet’s nest inhabited by the likes of Ferrie, Banister, Shaw and other sinister and supposed spooks. Or at least that’s how it was romanticized in the film.
Martin first came to the attention of federal authorities just three days after the assassination, on November 25, 1965, when he was interviewed by the New Orleans FBI field office. At this time, Martin informed the feds that he was a private investigator, and had “…developed considerable information about FERRIE… particularly his homosexual tendencies and the fact that he formerly operated the Civil Air Patrol [squadron].”
Martin stated that Ferrie was an amateur hypnotist, and may have and “planted a post-hypnotic suggestion that [Oswald] kill the President.” Martin further alleged that he had visited Ferrie’s apartment and “saw a group of photographs of various Civil Air Patrol cadet groups and in this group he is sure he saw several years ago a photograph of LEE OSWALD as a member of one of the classes… he stated that FERRIE conducted military type drills with rifles… and he recalled that FERRIE claimed to have taught these cadets how to shoot. MARTIN stated that he observed in FERRIE’s home a number of foreign made firearms and it is his opinion that FERRIE could have taught OSWALD how to purchase a foreign made firearm or possibly have purchased the gun that was shown on television…”
In a follow-up FBI interview on 11/27/1963:
“…MARTIN further stated he considered FERRIE to be a completely degenerate person and it was his opinion that FERRIE is capable of any crime. If was for this reason that MARTIN suspected FERRIE of being involved in the killing of President KENNEDY… MARTIN advised that he considered the possibility that FERRIE had taught OSWALD to shoot a rifle and use a telescopic sight, in that he knew FERRIE taught military training to Civil Air Patrol Cadets and OSWALD was a Civil Air Patrol member…”
On November 28, 1963—the day after Martin’s FBI interview—the New Orleans field office reported that their investigation of “allegations against Ferrie stem from Jack S. Martin who was previously confined to the psychiatric ward of Charity Hospital, New Orleans, for a character disorder. Martin is well known to New Orleans office and is considered thoroughly unreliable.”00007
Martin later admitted that his allegations against Ferrie were “a figment of his imagination and that he made up the story after reading the newspapers and watching television.”00008 Martin blamed his false account on what he called “telephonitis” resulting from excessive alcohol intake followed by blabbing on the telephone.
At one time or another, Ferrie and Martin worked as private detectives for attorney G. Wray Gill, most well known for representing mob boss Carlos Marcello, who many have connected to the JFK assassination. Martin from all accounts was a hanger-on, who apparently both Gill and Ferrie considered a pest. In June 1963, at Gill’s direction, Ferrie bounced Martin out of Gill’s office in what was termed an “undiplomatic manner.” This altercation presumably started a beef between the two men which later resulted in Martin’s bout of “telephonitis.”00009
When Garrison launched his investigation in late 1966, Martin once again jumped the David Ferrie shark by trotting out his past claims including the allegation that he saw Oswald in Banister’s office “two or three times” in the company of Ferrie.
During the early stages of Garrison’s probe, Martin was a member of Big Jim’s investigative team, although Garrison and Martin later had a rift over paperwork Martin filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State entitled, “Articles of Incorporation of ‘Garrison-Intelligence-Agency.’” The intent behind these filings (according to a letter Martin sent to Garrison) was to establish an “independent intelligence force… to render and give aid to Jim Garrison, and to otherwise support him in his efforts…otherwise known as ‘Garrison’s Guerrillas’… just as we’ve talked about.”
Martin admitted in his letter that he “kited a couple of checks (cause we were broke) to get these papers filed.” In the upper right hand corner of Martin’s letter, Garrison wrote: “Spoke to J.M. [Jack Martin] 12/3/67. Must be abolished.” Reading between the lines, it can be assumed that Garrison instructed Martin to cease and desist with this Garrison’s Guerillas caper, then further distanced himself from Martin by kicking him off the JFK investigation team.00010
In On The Trail of the Assassins, Garrison described Martin “as a quick-witted and highly observant, if slightly disorganized, private detective.” However, Garrison confided to LIFE Magazine’s Richard Billings that Martin was “an undependable drunk and a totally unreliable witness.”00011
Martin’s view of himself was in a more heroic vein. He once described himself as an “Author, former newspaperman, professional soldier, adventurer, and philosopher.”
Martin, it turns out, had a long and checkered rap sheet that included the charge he was a back-alley abortionist in the early 1950s going by the name of Dr. Suggs. Martin’s criminal history is documented here by Dave Reitzes.
While the preponderance of Martin’s claims were sketchy as all get-out, his allegation that Ferrie and Oswald had been associated in 1955—to one degree or another—is one that stuck. In this regard, Ferrie and Oswald had been in contact on no less than four occasions during the period Ferrie served as Commander of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) squadron in New Orleans. How significant these meetings were, and how well the two men actually knew one another, is a matter of conjecture. A lot of assassination buffs got their panties in a perpetual twist when the photo below surfaced of Ferrie with Oswald and some other CAP cadets during training exercises in 1955.
Whether or not Ferrie was grooming Oswald to become a future assassin, he was indeed one sketchy dude involved in a number of hinky activities. One of these endeavors concerned a group of young men Ferrie organized called—of all crazy things—“Omnipotent.”
The existence of Omnipotent was revealed in a October 30, 1961, FBI memo forwarded to the U.S. Customs Service, and the U. S. Bureau of Narcotics, concerning an informant’s tip that Ferrie had organized a group of young men and had “been holding something over the heads of the boys in this group and…is keeping them doped up with narcotics, liquor and with hypnotism…”
The FBI memo went on to state that “the members of that organization [Omnipotent] had to swear allegiance and obedience to a 19-year-old or 20-year-old boy, and that the purpose of this organization was to train people concerning what they could do in the event of an all out attack against the United States…” Read the Omnipotent memo here!
It may appear I’ve gone a bit far afield with this Martin-Ferrie-Omnipotent rabbit hole, but I felt some background was necessary before launching off into our next Rev. Broshears installment that will feature, once again, Messrs Martin and Ferrie, along with a whole host of other curious characters that have been identified by author Peter Levenda as the “Wandering Bishops.”
Thanks to Carmine Savastano of the Neapolis Media Group for giving me a heads-up about David Ferrie’s Doomsday Cult!
00002 Eric Markowitz, “The Most Dangerous Gay Man in America”, Newsweek, February 2, 2018.
00004 October 16, 1968 CIA memo. FOIA document 1361-500)
00005 Jaffee, Steve. “Ferrie Confessed His Involvement In John Kennedy Assassination Plot. Los Angeles Free Press. August 5, 1968.
00007 Warren Commission Report page 208.
00008 Warren Report Page 202.
00009 Lambert, Patricia; Lambert, Patricia (2000-09-26). False Witness: The Real Story of Jim Garrison’s Investigation and Oliver Stone’s Film JFK (Kindle Locations 5732-5736). M. Evans & Company.
Before proceeding, I thought a short recap was in order.
Roger Robert Lovin was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on May 11, 1941—although there’s conflicting evidence which suggests that his birth name was actually Watlington, and that he later legally changed his name to Lovin. (More on that kink in the thread later…)
According to the bio page of Lovin’s Sci-Fi novel Apostle, he was “a minister of the Gospel at age 16,” although I certainly wouldn’t take Lovin at his word for that—but on the same hand I could totally see him doing the whole Marjoe Gortner teen preacher trip as a young lad growing up in Tennessee.
The first verifiable documentation we have on Lovin dates to 1962 when he was drummed out of Navy for stealing “a television set from a Naval Ammunition Depot in North Charleston, S.C.” Lovin later admitted to assassination researcher Harold Weisberg that he’d been “kicked out of the Navy for a homosexual offense.” Afterwards, Lovin moved to the New Orleans’ French Quarter and cultivated the image of a bohemian renaissance man who—at one time or another—was a performing musician, painter, writer, and all around raconteur. Lovin also claimed to be a soldier of fortune who had smuggled guns into Cuba.
Lovin managed a coffee house/art gallery in the French Quarter where he’d occasionally stage happenings and—as the beatnik scene segued into the hippie era—he adopted all the trappings of the times, growing long hair and dabbling in psychedelics and free love whenever the opportunity availed itself, which as we’ll soon see was frequently and in great abundance.
Lovin was married for roughly three years to a woman named Sandra Bankson, who I really haven’t found out a whole lot about, other than she was employed as a professional dancer.
In-and-around 1964 or 1965, Lovin became friends with Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley and—along with bohemian scene maker Barbara Reid—was one of the early members of the New Orleans’ Discordian Society, and after Hill and Thornley split New Orleans, Lovin became the official head of the Discordian Society’s French Quarter cabal.
In 1968, Lovin started the first New Orleans alternative newspaper, The Ungarbled Word, which pretty much brings us up to speed… So away we go!
Jean Marie Stine (then known as Henry Stine, prior to changing gender identity) first encountered Lovin in New Orleans in early 1969. When Lovin learned that Stine was the author of Season of The Witch, he was exuberant with praise for the book, overwhelming Stine with his intensity and charm. A short time later, Stine heard that Lovin was the editor/publisher of The Ungarbled Word and made an appointment to discuss a writing gig.
After arriving at the scheduled time at Lovin’s French Quarter office, Stine was informed by Lovin’s secretary that, although Roger was in, he might be delayed a bit as he was presently ‘busy’ with a young woman there seeking a job. Lovin—the secretary explained—was quite the accomplished pick-up artist who successfully scored with every woman he ever hit on, and—due to the fact he inevitably hit on every attractive woman who crossed his path—it was likely that he and the young lady were having sex in his office at that very moment. An hour later, Lovin came out with the girl on his arm, and afterwards during their meeting confirmed that indeed he’d been doing the ol’ bump-and-grind while Stine waited patiently outside.
One night—while Stine and Lovin were making the rounds of various French Quarter bars—the subject of Jim Garrison came up and Lovin revealed that Garrison and his investigators were trying to build some sort of sketchy case against him using doctored evidence which included a photo that had been touched-up to make Lovin more resemble another suspect in the case.
Oddly enough, this scenario is strikingly similar to what occurred to Kerry Thornley when Harold Weisberg (using Garrison’s official District Attorney stationary) contracted a California artist to touch-up a photo of Thornley to make him more resemble Lee Harvey Oswald and bolster the theory that Thornley was one of the notorious Oswald doubles. When I mentioned this to Stine, she was quite taken aback and insured me that she wasn’t confusing or conflating the Thornley photo touch-up caper with what had occurred to Lovin, and that these were two separate incidents.
Early in 1969, a bookkeeper working for Lovin ran off with The Ungarbled Word proceeds. In order to keep things afloat, Lovin resorted to selling a stake in the paper to a couple of local characters who not long afterwards attempted a hostile take-over. Part of the plan of these interlopers was to install pre-gender-transition Hank Stine as the new editor/publisher, but when Stine clued Lovin into this planned coup, Roger immediately withdrew whatever Ungarbled Word funds were in the bank and along with Stine, and another writer named Alice Ramirez, (author of The Geek), the three high-tailed it out of town, eventually making their way to Los Angeles.
Shortly after arriving in L.A.—as Stine recalled—Lovin was literally starving, and to keep three square meals coming his way each day, he sweet-talked three waitresses (from three different restaurants) into bringing him food. One of the waitresses worked the morning shift; another work the afternoon shift; and a third, the night shift. And so—according to Stine—each brought meals to Lovin at different times—morning, noon and night—and, of course, Lovin would have sex with each of them during their visits.
A couple years later, Stine recalled visiting Lovin at his Hollywood apartment and was amazed to see a large chart Lovin had put up on the wall to keep track of all the women he was seeing, a system devised to schedule his revolving door of lovers. There have been some online estimates that Lovin bedded down somewhere in the area of around two thousand women. However, Jean Marie Stine suspects it was probably a far larger number, more in the range of ten thousand… and we’re not even talking about the under aged ones yet!
If there was ever someone destined to write a 1970s “How To Pick Up Chicks” book, it would have been Lovin. And who knows, he very well might have (under a pseudonym). During his Hollywood days (1969-1973), Lovin worked in the smut industry as an editor for American Arts, which had several different imprints, and it was through one such imprint he published his novel Eleven (1970), which included this cover blurb: “Eleven by Roger Lovin is an unnatural twist on the Lolita syndrome, the story of the love affair between a three-hundred-pound man and an eleven year old girl, a grotesque situation which Lovin handles with understanding…”
At the time—as Stine recalled during our recent interview—none of Lovin’s friends suspected he had a thing for underage girls, and most assumed Eleven was simply just his spin on a taboo subject. Later, it would become evident that the roots of Eleven were much more than a mere fictional flight of fancy and had real world implications.
Released as a Sports Illustrated selection of the month, it’s still considered by many motorcycle enthusiasts as a classic in the field.
My first inkling of Lovin’s illegal activities came by way of a news clipping (I’d stumbled upon in the Discordian Archives) from the science fiction fanzine Locus, the gist of which stated that Lovin had been arrested on “four counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, four counts of aggravated crime against nature, one count of carnal knowledge of a juvenile, and three counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile…” Lovin had been “released on $2,500 bond after being charged Oct.22  with possession of pornography…”
At the time, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of these allegations. Nor did I have any other background on Lovin, so it was hard to know how deeply he was really into any of this, or if it was simply an isolated incident of showing pornography to some kids, or perhaps an instance of poor judgment in regards to having sex with an underage girl.
My curiosity about Lovin persisted over the years, and when I’d occasionally stumble upon some item related to him in the Discordian Archives, it would inevitably lead to a web search. About ten years ago or so I happened upon this thread at ancestry.com where a woman—who suspected Lovin was her biological father—was seeking further information on him. The thread (from 2005) consists of around thirty entries, many from people who claimed to have known Lovin, some of whom said he had gone to prison for pedophilia.
A post from someone claiming to be Lovin’s sister (going by the name of “Freewind143”) stated that she and her other family members “were never made aware” of any criminal charges against her brother, and that Roger had been sterile and never fathered any children. Freewind143 noted that he “died in New Orleans on November 1, 1991.” Along with her post, Freewind143 shared a photo of Lovin with two of his sisters. The photo did indeed appear to be Roger Lovin—probably in his mid-to-late 40s—which would have put the timeframe the picture was taken around the mid-to-late 1980s.
My friend Tim Cridland (aka Zamora the Torture King) has been of immense help in untangling this twisted Roger Lovin web… a web which still may have a few tangles in it yet! Tim, like me, possesses an unnatural interest in many odd and arcane tributaries, and the people who inhabit many of these strange lanes, such as the colorful French Quarter characters associated with the New Orleans Discordian Society, including Kerry Thornley, Barbara Reid and Roger Lovin. In his role of Zamora, Tim travels around the world performing feats of wonder, and on his off hours often haunts local libraries and other repositories of ancient knowledge. While in New Orleans last year, Tim was able to lay his hands on some Roger Lovin related news clippings which provided further confirmation that Lovin had indeed been arrested and charged with the crimes mentioned in the Locus article.
According to October 25, 1979 edition of the Baton Rouge States-Times Advocate, “A self-styled preacher and part-time writer has been arrested in a raid at his apartment where thousands of pornographic pictures of young girls were seized….[Police information officer] Gus Krinke said the photographs depicted nude and partially nude girls, sometimes involved in sexual acts. He said most of the girls were runaways, but others came from fatherless homes in New Orleans… police said Lovin’s apartment was equipped with a darkroom enabling the film to be developed and printed there… Some of the girls may have posed for Lovin, officers said, after he convinced their mothers he simply wanted them for models.”
The October 25, 1979 New Orleans Times-Picayune stated that—following Lovin’s arrest—the police were “conducting a massive search for the identities of as many as 500 young girls who are believed to have been intimately involved with a man arrested here for possession of pornography” and that “Lovin may have been involved in a pornography network which stretches across the country… Lovin found many of his subjects by attending young people’s functions… police have proof he lured one of more of his victims away from a recent science fiction convention.” The article went on to state that Lovin was “originally from Tennessee” and “legally changed his name from Watlington to Lovin.”
According to the October 26, 1979 edition of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
One woman who took his course on “Writing for Kids” at the University of New Orleans, said he was an excellent teacher who never missed class.
“He was a very smooth talker,“ the woman remembered. “he gave the impression of being a very intellectual type person.
“He seemed to be a devil-may-care type of bachelor. But he was very balanced.”
The woman added, however, that it was obvious he wasn’t a run-of-the-mill type of person.
“Some of the things he said were a little strange,” she remembered. “But I wasn’t offended. Some of the older ladies were a little bit offended by his choice of words, but it was never anything serious.”
The former student said she wasn’t shocked when she heard the news, but was surprised that he could lead such a dual life.
“I got friendly with the man,” she said. “He didn’t seem like an absolute pervert. He just wasn’t like that.
“He made it clear several times that he wished he was in bed instead of in class because he had had too much to drink the night before. But he was always there.”
According to Jean Marie Stine, at the time of Lovin’s arrest he lived in an apartment complex at 1112 N. Rampart St., and in a room across the hall lived a friend of Lovin’s who was an illegal arms dealer—which brings legendary Science Fiction author Norman Spinrad briefly into the story. Spinrad—also friends with Lovin—took a cross country trip with him in the mid 1970s, and part of their travels included a stop-over in the French Quarter. It was there that Spinrad was introduced to Lovin’s neighbor (the guy with all the guns) and this fellow took Spinrad for a ride up in the woods where he demonstrated some sort of rocket launcher, which completely blew Spinrad’s mind. Anyway, this same fellow was later raided by the cops for unregistered firearms. During the raid—when Lovin attempted to intervene on behalf of his friend—the officers told him to back off, pushing Roger back into his own apartment, where they observed photos of nude young women (and very young girls) posted on the walls. In short order, the cops got a warrant and raided Lovin’s apartment, leading to his arrest.
To friends, Lovin presented his side of the story that, yes, he’d had sex with underage girls, many that were runaways from broken homes home to whom he’d provided shelter and a warm bed, and without his ‘guidance’ they would have been out on the streets hustling sex for drugs or money. Lovin further insisted that he had taken these wayward youth under his wing with the consent of their parents, who were well aware of his sexual proclivities. During this period, Lovin was passing himself off as a “minister” of some sort, which might have been yet another ploy he used to ingratiate himself with both the parents and their children. Most of these parents were the girl’s mothers, who Lovin presumably charmed with his notorious silver tongue.
Newspaper reports and other accounts I’ve come across alleged that some of the girl’s parents had given Lovin permission to use them as photographic ‘models.’ After Lovin’s arrest, police detectives tracked down a number of these parents and pressured them into signing a criminal complaint against Lovin or face being charged with child endangerment.
Another spin Lovin put on the story was that his arrest had been orchestrated to cover-up a deeper NOLA scandal related to government officials caught having sex with underage boys. The intent of this cover up—according to Lovin—was to create a media distraction while behind the scenes the officials were let off the hook with minor offenses, the details of which were buried in the back pages while Lovin’s arrest was the front page news.
Jean Marie Stine felt there might have been some measure of truth to Lovin’s conspiracy theory. At the time, Stine was living in Baton Rouge and remembered reading the initial news reports about this government-officials-in-bed-with-boys-scandal, but then suddenly it all but disappeared from the front pages and was apparently swept under the rug at the exact time Lovin was facing his own legal kerfuffle.
According to Stine, the story became ever more tangled after Lovin’s trial, which should come as no surprise given Louisiana’s long history of political corruption. As it turns out, Lovin never actually served time in prison, but was in lock-up at the city jail for a period of time awaiting sentencing. According to Stine’s sources, an anonymous Lovin supporter—who suspected that Lovin would probably never make it out the Louisiana prison system in one piece—offered a sizable sum to the judge presiding over the case in the form of a “political contribution.”
The judge—as the story goes—was seeking an office in a higher court, which was apparently an elected position, and ultimately the “contribution” was accepted. These negotiations took place over the course of several months, and in the meantime Lovin’s stay in city jail—while not as bad as prison—was no cake walk, either. In fact, the first few weeks proved to be pretty rough, until one day when he was approached by a member of the Louisiana chapter of the Hell’s Angels. As it turned out, the Angels were big fans of Lovin’s The Complete Motorcycle Nomad and—after discovering that HE was THE “Roger Lovin”— let him know they “had his back” and from that point forward nobody messed with Lovin during the rest of his stint in jail.
When all was said and done, Lovin was granted a suspended sentence, which consisted of something in the area of five years probation. The terms of the probation dictated that he could neither leave New Orleans nor have any contact with juveniles. Lovin managed to stay on the straight and narrow for the court-ordered term, and after his probation ended—somewhere in the mid-to-late 1980s—he started making frequent trips to Belize where he could have sex with underage girls and not worry about the consequences. According to Jean Marie Stine, Lovin eventually ended up living fulltime in Belize and the last she heard was that he’d died sometime in the early 1990s.
A while back, Tim Cridland came across Lovin’s Social Security number on an old FBI memo. When Tim ran it through the online Social Security Death Index, it come up with no results for Roger Lovin… or any one named Watlington, for that matter. Tim hunted for death notices and obits in the Louisiana newspapers—as well as searching local cemetery records—but was unable to find any confirmation of Lovin’s death. The only thing definitive we had in that regard was the statement by “Freewind143” (on the Ancestry.com forum) who claimed that her brother had “died on November 1, 1991.”
However, some of Freewind143’s other comments didn’t quite jibe with the known facts, including her claim that neither she nor other family members were aware of criminal charges. Freewind143 also noted that “Roger Lovin” was her brother’s real name, which contradicts the NOLA newspaper articles that reported Lovin had been born with the last name of Watlington and later legally changed it to Lovin. Lovin first mentioned his name change to Clarence Doucet of the New Orleans Times-Picayune in a January 13, 1974 interview. An October 25, 1979 article in the Times-Picayune confirmed that “Records show Lovin is originally from Tennessee. He had his name legally changed from Watlington to Lovin.”
Given these discrepancies, Tim started entertaining the notion that perhaps Lovin had never actually died. I also began to suspect that Tim might be on to something, and that “Freewind143” may have been intentionally muddying the waters. Going out even further on this limb, the thought entered my mind that maybe Roger Lovin himself was posting as Freewind143!
Freewind143 noted that her brother had been sterile, this in response to the woman on the thread who was trying to figure out if Lovin was her biological father. Assuming Lovin had already changed his name once before, I began to wonder if this was yet another instance of creating a new identity to distance himself from the past, and that Lovin’s move to Belize was also part of this disappearing act.
Like her brother, Freewind143 is a writer, and using the pen name of “Freewind Gingerblaze” has authored three fantasy titles.
Freewind’s books could be considered in Lovin’s literary wheelhouse, as he was an author of one Science Fiction title, Apostle, and had written a couple more Sci-Fi/Fantasy manuscripts that were never published. Could these “Freewind Gingerblaze” titles have been the previously unpublished Lovin novels?
Another web search revealed that Freewind Gingerblaze’s real name is Molly Bressette, formerly Molly Annis Lovin. (On the Ancestry thread, Freewind143 noted that some of her family members call her Ann because her middle name is Annis.)
Googling “Molly Annis Lovin” led to a couple pertinent links here and here that appear to confirm her story.
Of course these findagrave.com entries could have been easily fabricated, but it seems like a lot of effort to go through (concocting an entire family tree) unless someone was really intent on faking their own death. Not that I wouldn’t put it past Mr. Lovin, who always seemed to have something up his sleeve. With all that being said, I’d wager that the name change switcheroo—from Watlington to Lovin—may have been Lovin pulling the leg of reporter Clarence Doucet back in 1974, and later this name change story was repeated (without fact-checking) during the Times-Picayune’s reportage of Lovin’s arrest in the fall of 1979. Just the same, it certainly seems curious that Freewind143—and other Lovin family members—“were never made aware” of her brother’s criminal history.
THE END. (MAYBE…)
Thanks again to Tim Cridland for his invaluable contributions to this craziest of all stories. Check out Tim’s Off The Deep End blog for more related madness, including his evolving series on Rev. Raymond Broshears.
Also, check out my interview with Jean Marie Stine about Roger Lovin embedded into this web page below, or, you can listen on your preferred new fangled whatever SoundCloud podcast harvester via my new podcast show called Radio Gogo with Adam Gorightly.
Follow me on SoundCloud, you’ll deliciously regret it!
Also, Millennials, share with your parents via Facebook, Instagram, whatever is hip now, they desperately want to understand what you’re into, so throw them a curve-ball that will not only educate but also confuse them!
This installment of our Roger Lovin series is where things start taking a turn for the weird (relatively speaking!) as we’ll examine how Lovin became an unwilling participant in Jim Garrison’s JFK assassination dance party.
As anyone who frequents this site is well aware (or has bought my books—yes, please buy my books!), Garrison targeted Kerry Thornley as part of a supposed sinister assassination cabal centered in the New Orleans’s French Quarter. The key witness against Thornley—in this regard—was Early (and squirrelly) Discordian Barbara Reid, who most likely imagined or confabulated or conflated her claims against Thornley as a means to launch herself into Garrison’s orbit.
Our previous series on Barbara Reid can be found here and here for those with a need to get up to speed on Reid. (See what I did there?)
In his March 1969 column in The Ungarbled Word (the underground French Quarter newspaper Lovin published), he wrote this about Reid:
“Prominent among Garrison’s self proclaimed informers is one Barbara Reid… a self-proclaimed witch who maintains a “Voodoo” altar in her French Quarter home. She has a long history of two-faced dealings, and has been known to sell information in return for “favors.” She is, she claims, Jim’s ear in the quarter…”
The key figure investigating Lovin’s supposed connections was assassination researcher Harold Weisberg whose skullduggery we’ve previously examined in great depth here, here and here.
Weisberg for awhile was hooked at the hip with Barbara Reid, and it was Reid who no doubt steered Weisberg in Lovin’s direction. Part of their suspicions concerned Lovin’s association with an outfit called the Modern Language Institute that apparently held occasional meetings at the Ryder Coffee House, a beatnik hangout promoting integration and free speech which we talked about in our first installment of this series.
The Ryder Coffee House was a meeting place for all manner of groups, primarily left leaning bohemian types, however its doors we’re open to all, which explains the presence there of the Modern Language Institute (MLI), an organization affiliated with anti-Castro Cubans and other right wingers—or perhaps these right wing elements had infiltrated the MLI, possibly using it as a front organization, or as a means of recruitment into clandestine anti-Castro (possibly CIA funded) activities… I know, it gets deep. And a lot of the information surrounding all of this is ancient and murky. But hang with me.
It was Garrison’s contention (ala Weisberg and Reid) that Lovin and Thornley had attended meetings of the MLI at Ryder Coffee House along with the MLI’s manager, an anti-Castro Cuban named Arnesto Rodriquez. (In some of Weisberg’s memos, he even suggests that Lovin managed the Ryder Coffee House at one point during this period.)
In regards to the MLI, Garrison was all over the notion that anti-Castro elements had been part of a JFK assassination hit team in cahoots with rogue CIA agents and that the likes of Arnesto Rodriguez and Kerry Thornley and Roger Lovin were all wrapped up in these alleged clandestine activities and that MLI served as some sort of cover for covert operations. I tend to doubt there’s much to these theories—at least in relation to Thornley and Lovin—but as anyone knows who has looked into this arcane history, nothing is cut-and-dried, and both Thornley and Lovin indeed had some curious connections with many of the shadowy figures who inhabited the French Quarter during those wild and wooly days. Whether, ultimately, these connections had any direct bearing on JFK assassination conspirators is still a matter of vast conjecture and conspiratorial fodder.
Harold Weisberg described Lovin as a “beatnik-type painter from Slidell, LA… who had run guns to Cuba for profit.” Weisberg was informed by Arnesto Rodriguez that he “was moving his school [Modern Language Institute] from across 6th street at the end of July 1963 and early August, that [Rodriguez] did not immediately finish up the back room, and that he agreed to a Lovin proposition that, in return for fixing it up, Lovin be given the use of the space for a studio. Arnesto says that on an unexpected return to the suite on a Sunday he found a naked Lovin convorting [sic] with a naked girl and thereupon terminated the arrangement for the space…”
As we learn more about Lovin, this anecdote is perhaps the first instance (in this series) of pulling back a curtain that will reveal much more about his veracious sexual appetite.
According to another memo by Harold Weisberg:
“LOVIN was connected with an organization known as Services Unlimited, care of the Bourbon House Bar in New Orleans, La. The Organization will allegedly do anything for money: i.e., fly a plane, steal property, paint a house, surveil individuals…Lovin claims to have been in jail in the state of Georgia for smuggling arms to Fidel Castro in the Sierra Mountains of Cuba prior to 1959. Source advised LOVIN claims to have done smuggling for FIDEL CASTRO in 1958 for a few weeks, but is not known to have returned since that time. He is allegedly now anti-Castro.”
In regards to the charge that Lovin was running guns, this claim apparently came from Lovin himself, and scant evidence exists to support this allegation, other than the real possibility that Lovin made it all up to create an aura around himself as that of a secret agent renaissance man who dabbled in the arts and literature on one hand while at the same time working as a soldier of fortune engaged in covert activities. On the other hand, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that Lovin might have been involved in clandestine capers, as he was indeed a man of many talents, some of which pushed the envelope toward criminality. Just the same, the so-called “Services Unlimited” yarn seems somewhat far-fetched, and sounds like something Lovin might have cooked up over beers at the Bourbon House one night with his friends.
There was also the allegation (once again courtesy of the Harold Weisberg-Barbara Reid tag team) that Lovin and Lee Harvey Oswald had been roommates, this allegation coming (allegedly) from an informant named Bernard Goldsmith. But once again, this sounds like Lovin possibly yanking someone’s chain, or Barbara Reid conflating one thing she heard with another.
The Lovin-related info passed along to the FBI was sourced from a couple interviews Harold Weisberg conducted in 1967 and 1968. According to a Weisberg memo from April 12th, 1968, Lovin admitted that he’d been “kicked out of the Navy for a homosexual offence that he said was isolated but mixed up in another and major case…” This episode might be related to another FBI memo that states: “LOVIN was alleged to have stolen a television set from a Naval Ammunition Depot in North Charleston, S.C. sometime in February 1962.”
In his column from Feb 20th, 1969 edition of The Ungarbled Word, Lovin had this to say about his interactions with Garrison’s investigators:
“I am, and have been, a close friend of Kerry Thornley. Kerry served in the Marine Corps with Lee Oswald, and Garrison contends that he (Thornley) met and had dealings with Oswald here in New Orleans. In the early days of the investigation, during the initial questioning of everybody even vaguely connected with anybody else, I was asked to come answer questions at Garrison’s office. Louis Ivon, one of Garrison’s investigators, informed me that he had information to the effect that I had, 1. Roomed with Oswald, 2. Sold him a rifle, and 3. Was part of the alleged conspiracy.
“I pointed out that, during the time in question, I wasn’t even in the city and could prove it. Ivon didn’t seem to want to hear that. When I offered to submit to a lie detector test, he was also less than anxious to listen.
“Later, I was twice visited by Harold Weisberg, a writer who represented himself as being from Garrison’s office. He made tapes of the two conversations, took my photo scrapbook, and vanished. He was since written two books on the assassination, both of which have been panned by critics as being far from factual. A year ago, Weisberg sent a letter on Garrison’s stationary to Fred Newcomb, an artist requesting that he retouch a picture of Kerry Thornley to make him look more like Oswald. Newcomb sent Weisberg’s request to the D.A., and got an answer declaiming any connection with Weisberg. Bother letters, Weisberg and the D.A.’s were on official stationary, and appeared to have been typed by the same secretary.
“Also last year, a young girl who was a part-time beer salesman on Bourbon St. and who said she was working for Garrison, tried to pump me for information on Oswald. I laughed at her, and she said “You had better talk. We’ve got a case on you and have ways of making you talk.”
As for the scrapbook (taken by Harold Weisberg) that Lovin mentions in his article, this contained, among other stuff, a sheaf of Discordian material that was enough of a head scratcher to get Weisberg imagining that the Discordian Society was somehow part of his JFK assassination conspiracy wet dream, a nutty notion I covered in some depth in a previous article entitled “Was The Discordian Society A CIA Front?”
But, weirdly enough, the JFK assassination wasn’t the only political assassination that Lovin became associated with—however obscurely. According to another odd FBI memo, in 1964 Lovin had taken dance lessons at the Continental Dance Studio in New Orleans—with the intent of becoming a dance instructor himself—and Lovin’s then wife, Sandra Lovin (né Sandra Bankson), was also involved with the studio as an instructor.
The gist of this FBI memo concerned visits to the Continental Dance Studio (also in 1964) by an individual going by the name of Eric Stavros Galt, which—it turns out—was an alias for James Earl Ray, the (alleged and convicted) assassin of Martin Luther King Jr.
Apparently, Ray had used the Galt alias during the period he received his series of dance lessons, and a couple weeks after MLK’s assassination—on April 19, 1968—the Feds tracked down different people associated with the dance studio to learn what they knew about Ray’s activities. To this end, Lovin and others associated with the dance studio (including his wife, Sandra) were questioned, and it doesn’t appear anything too monumental came out of this, other than the fact that the owner of Continental Dance Studios, Marlin C. Myers, did indeed confirm that Ray (under the alias of Galt) had attended some dance lessons there.
This inquiry seemed to be triggered by an earlier interview that Lovin had with Garrison’s investigators, and as they were showing him different photographs, apparently one of the James Earl Ray/Eric Stavros Galt mug shots was passed to him, and though Lovin didn’t recognize the photo, he said the Stavros part of the name sounded familiar, but that he might have been conflating it with a novel he had read. It all gets a bit convoluted, to say the least, but here’s the memo below, if you wish to get even more confused.
Thanks to Tim Cridland (aka Zamora the Torture King) for unearthing a lot of this information and making my head spin trying to explain it all.
COMING SOON: the Final Installment of this Series (at least I think it will be the Final Installment) which will be a bit of shocker to some, [whisper]containing some rather delicate revelations, as well as an audio interview I conducted a while back with Jean Marie Stine who found herself in the thick of a lot of Lovin’s adventures in New Orleans and later in Los Angeles in the early 1970s.[/whisper]
To follow is a multi-part part series on Roger Lovin, one of the more mercurial characters of the Early Discordian scene. Lovin’s story does indeed have a dark tinge to it, as the subtitle suggests, all of which will be unveiled in our final installment with an audio interview of Jean Marie Stine recorded June 24, 2016… but let us begin at the beginning.
Born Roger Watlington in Knoxville, Tennessee on May 11, 1941, he later changed his name to Roger Lovin which would prove apropos in terms of the footloose and fancy free lifestyle he later adopted.
In the early 1960s, Lovin managed a French Quarter coffee house called The Gryphon, which doubled as a bohemian art gallery and hangout for French Quarter beatniks. In this regard, a curious news article appeared in the Oct 12, 1964 The Times-Picayune about a smoke bomb attack at The Gryphon that caused minor damage and one injury.
It’s unknown if the bombing was in any way directed at Lovin, although that wouldn’t come as a surprise as he was always a somewhat controversial character fond of ruffling the feathers of the squares. However, I suspect this incident may have had something to do with the bohemian clientele that frequented The Gryphon and a certain conservative element in New Orleans that was probably none too thrilled about it. As noted in the news article, a similar smoke bomb attack went down at the Quorum Coffee House (also known as The Quorum Club), another establishment with deep Discordian ties. A Wikipedia entry describes The Quorum as “a coffee house in New Orleans, known as a model for multicultural exchanges in the politically and racially charged atmosphere of the 1960s. It became a frequent target of segregationist harassment in New Orleans after it opened to persons from all racial backgrounds in 1963. In 1964, police raided The Quorum and arrested 73 people on charges such as ‘playing guitars out of tune.’”
Although The Quorum was a multicultural beatnik mecca, Kerry Thornley returned to New Orleans in the summer of 1964 and delivered a decidedly un-beatnik type lecture there on Ayn Rand and Objectivism—but that was typical Thornley: an iconoclast who reveled in tweaking people’s sensibilities on either side of the cultural or political spectrum. It’s also important to note that Kerry’s last meeting with the notorious Gary Kirstein (aka Brother-in-law who supposedly lured him into the JFK assassination) took place on the back patio of The Quorum (cast in creepy shadows) following Kerry’s lecture there that night.
Another Early Discordian, Barbara Reid (the main witness against Kerry in the Jim Garrison fiasco), became known as a “den mother” to a group of hippie kids that hung out at The Quorum, so the Discordian connections ran deep and weird. Apparently, there’s a film documentary about The Quorum called, appropriately enough (yes, you guessed it), The Quorum, which speaks to the influence this coffee house had on French Quarter culture. The website for The Quorum film describes how it was started in 1963 “by an idealistic group of individuals most of whom had met at the Ryder, an earlier, short-lived, racially integrated coffee house on Rampart Street in the New Orleans French Quarter. When the Ryder was shut down by city officials on the pretext of needing the space to construct a hotel, approximately twelve of the former Ryder patrons banded together to establish a similar sort of establishment with a similar purpose….”
As it so happens, the defunct Ryder coffee house (mentioned above) became of interest to Jim Garrison during his JFK assassination investigation as a supposed meeting place where Thornley had met with Lee Harvey Oswald and other suspected diabolical doings went down, which I previously covered in this post. But I digress…
The Quorum and Gryphon smoke bombings occurred during the same period Jim Garrison rolled out a campaign to “clean up” the French Quarter, and the specific targets of this campaign were strip clubs and establishments catering to the homosexual community. This is not to suggest that Garrison was in any way responsible for the smoke bomb caper, but what these events spoke to was the tension and unrest brewing across the cultural landscape, particularly in the French Quarter which had always been a fertile breeding ground for freaks and free spirits to flourish.
This period is covered in Plot Or Politics?: The Garrison Case and Its Cast (1967), authored by award winning New Orleans States-Item reporters Rosemary James and Jack Wardlaw, who covered the Garrison investigation from its very beginnings. Plot Or Politics? also covers, albeit briefly, the rise of Garrison’s political career and provides an intimate snapshot of what was brewing behind the scenes with the Garrison investigation before it became a thing. Plot Or Politics? is also of interest because it devotes a couple pages to none other than Kerry Thornley regarding his interactions with Oswald in the Marines. This section on Thornley is noteworthy because it appeared several months before Garrison painted a target on Thornley’s back.
In regards to Garrison’s campaign against “vice,” pages 21 and 22 of Plot Or Politics? informs the reader that:
Almost as soon as he took office, Garrison took aim at the city’s sin strip—“The Street”, Bourbon Street. Former New Orleans newsman Bill Stuckey recalls:
“Shortly after he became district attorney in 1962, [Garrison] launched a crackdown on homosexuals in New Orleans, raiding ‘gay bars’ frequently, arresting ‘gay kids’ on the streets of the French Quarter. After one such arrest, the New Orleans States-Item sent me to the police station to see what the formal charges were. There, on paper, probably was one of the strangest charges in U.S. legal history: ‘Being a homosexual in an establishment with a liquor license.’ The drive died down after several weeks. One benefit of it may have been the creation of a body of homosexual informants for the district attorney’s office—informants possibly involved in his Kennedy plot investigation.”
It probably appears like I’m once again digressing, but I wanted to lay out the cultural landscape of the period—a culture in which Lovin was knee deep—and the conditions that precipitated the crackdown on the homosexual community, all of which might have attributed to the coffee house smoke bombings, and a cultural sea change which was only then just beginning to make waves…
When Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley moved away from the French Quarter in the mid-60s, they left the New Orleans branch of the Discordian Society in the capably chaotic hands of Mr. Lovin, whom Thornley described in the Illuminet Press intro of Principia Discordia as “a dashing, talented and handsome con artist who was too shallow to settle into any one thing. But for years and years after he read the Principia, under his Discordian name of Fang the Unwashed, he consistently and with unswerving devotion to the task excommunicated every new person any of the rest of us initiated into the Discordian Society.”
Kerry wasn’t just lightly tossing around the assertion that Lovin excommunicated new Discordian initiates, as revealed in this December 2, 1964 letter from Greg Hill (aka Malaclypse the Younger) to pilgrims Judy Gates and Bob Yeager.
The Early Discordians become infamous for these types of humorous letters, and one of the funniest I’ve come across was composed by Lovin dated December 17, 1964, addressed to Greg Hill (who appears to have been staying with Bob Newport in Chicago at the time):
All Hail Discordia!!!!!?!!!!!!!
To: MALACLYPSE (THE YOUNGER), K.C.: OMNIPOTENT POLYFATHER OF VIRGINITY IN GOLD AND HIGH PRIEST OF THE HERETIC FRINGE AND PROTESTANT PERSAUSION
FROM: FANG (THE UNWASHED), W.K.C.: LIBERATOR OF THE THIRD EYE, PROTECTOR of the WESTERN WORLD, EXALTED LAMA of the NEW ORLEANS CABAL, and L.L.L.L.L.L. (Lovin’s Licentiously Liberated Lightning Lechers)
Concerning thy recent epistle of Excommunication: Screw Thee. Thou wilt understand, of course, that it isn’t the humble Fang; but FANG, W.K.C.: L.T.E., P.W.W., E.L.N.O.C., and L.L.L.L.L.L. and wilt therefore realize that naught of a personal nature is meant… dig?
Wouldst do me the favor of communicating Lord Omar’s current whereabouts to me in the swiftest mode. This One is plagued with constant uncertainties and apprehensions due to an extreme dearth of information concerning That One. I fear me ever that the Foul Forces of Light and Reason have fallen upon him unaware and smotten (wow!) Him severely about the shoulders and intellect. Thou wouldst earn thyself everlasting gratitude and a mention in the evening maledictions by such an action. Also; if you don’t, I’ll kill you.
As to the progress of the New Orleans Cabal: The first Temple of Eris in New Orleans was formally defecated on Nov. 3, 1964, at 519 Decatur St. (which, oddly enough, is also my home address.) It occupied a converted broom closet. Admittedly, that is rather humble quarters for such a large and far-flung organization; but in the short space of one month we have more than doubled our area. This noble word was accomplished chiefly through the untiring efforts of our noble leader, FANG, W.K.C.: L.T.E., P.W.W., E.L.N.O.C., and L.L.L.L.L.L. and his noble assistant, Charles Noble. They single-handedly (one hand, three hooks) formed K.R.U.D. (Kollectors of Revenue Under Duress) and saw to the raising of funds. Our membership already includes two beatniks, one wasp, a hunchbrain, and a genuine, card carrying square who has 2.7 kids and a wife with a cloth coat. Therefore, be of good cheer. Today New Orleans, tomorrow the Catacombs – with some scattered showers in the evening.
As I am naturally curious about what sort of person would spend his time on such drivel as this, kindly send me some data about yourself. Send also a copy of HYMN. Barring the feasibility of a picture, send a piece of fingernail and some hair…..
In closing, let me say: MARY CHRISTMAS, SAVIOR MONEY!!!
As the beatniks morphed into hippies, Lovin went right along for the ride. On December 9, 1966, he hosted a “psychedelic happening” billed as an “LSD trip without LSD” that certainly sounded Discordian in nature, as documented in the December 10, 1966 States Time Advocate news article below.
On October 16, 1968, Lovin appeared on TV program called Hotseat revealing “The Truth About Hippies.” It was around this time that he started the first underground newspaper in New Orleans, The Word (later to be known as The Ungarbled Word.) While all of this was going on, Lovin became a suspect of sorts in the Garrison investigation, all of which will be discussed in more detail than you can possibly imagine in future installment of this series!
As Discordian history instructs, Reid claimed that she saw Kerry Thornley and Lee Harvey Oswald together in New Orleans in September 1963, although Thornley denied this accusation, insisting that the last time he’d been in contact with Oswald was at El Toro Marine Base in 1959.
According to Jim Garrison in On The Trail of the Assassins (Amazon):
“From his own admission, as well as from the statements of Barbara Reid and a number of others, we learned that Thornley had been in New Orleans in 1963, finally leaving the city only a few days after Kennedy’s murder. Reid, a long-time French Quarter resident who had known both Thornley and Oswald, described seeing them together on several occasions. One of them was in early September 1963 at the Bourbon House, a combination bar and restaurant in the French Quarter. Thornley, who usually wore his hair extremely long, had just returned from a trip out of town. This time he was wearing his hair unusually short and closely cropped, as Oswald invariably did. Reid recalled having said to them, “Who are you guys supposed to be? The Gold Dust Twins?
“We were eager to talk to Kerry Thornley, but he was not an easy man to locate. It took us a lot of legwork and more than a year to do it. We had investigators going to every place in the French Quarter until we learned what had been his main hangout—Ryder’s Coffee House. Except for occasional visits to the Bourbon House on Royal and Bourbon Streets, Thornley seldom went anywhere else.” 00001
Inside the span of two mere paragraphs, Garrison was able to stuff a staggering amount of misinformation. His claim that Barbara Reid knew Oswald has no factual basis, as Reid’s only encounter with Oswald (or someone she thought was Oswald) occurred during her supposed sighting of Oswald and Thornley at the Bourbon House in September 1963.
How Garrison came up with the notion that Reid actually knew Oswald is another head-scratcher. Reid never claimed that she knew Oswald. In her 1968 affidavit, Reid recalled “associating a sense of familiarity with this individual who had received some publicity as a Communist because of his earlier activity of distributing Fair Play for Cuba leaflets in front of the International Trade Mart in New Orleans.”
Garrison further states that Reid saw Thornley and Oswald together on several occasions. However, Reid never said anything of the sort. The only time Reid claimed she saw Thornley and Oswald together (according to her affidavit) was at the Bourbon House.
Reid’s claim that she told Oswald and Thornley they looked like “the Gold Dust Twins” is another little nugget that didn’t appear in her 1968 affidavit, suggesting that Reid later spiced up her story (during her 1978 interview with the House Select Committee on Assassinations) to fit with Garrison’s theory that Thornley was one of the notorious Oswald doubles.
Garrison’s claim that Thornley “wore his hair extremely long” has no substance. Thornley—as was the style of the day—let his hair grow long in the late 1960s, but the claim that he sported a new haircut to more resemble Oswald in 1963 is just another among Reid and Garrison’s impossible-to-prove-allegations.
I suspect the reason Garrison glommed on to the notion that Thornley sported long hair may have been on account of a July 1967 memo (posted below) from Assistant District Attorney Jim Alcock documenting his interview with Clifford Wormser, owner of Cliff’s Junkyard in New Orleans.
According to Wormser, he was visited in September 1963 by Lee Oswald, his wife and baby, along with two other men, one a Latin looking fellow and the other a Caucasian with long blond hair. At the top of the memo, Garrison scribbled ‘Kerry Thornley’ indicating his suspicion that Thornley was one of the individuals accompanying Oswald during this junkyard visit.
Late September 1963 was the time-frame when Lee Oswald and Kerry Thornley were both in New Orleans during a 2 to 3 week period, which evidently led Garrison to theorize that the long blond haired fellow identified by Cliff Wormser was actually Thornley, and that Kerry cut his hair shortly afterwards. One of the problems with this scenario was that Thornley had brown hair, not blond.
Whatever the case, the apparent intent of Thornley cleaning up his act with this fresh new haircut (once again according to Garrison’s convoluted theory) was due to his recurring role as an Oswald double, which begs the question: If Thornley was masquerading as an Oswald double why would he have allowed himself to be seen in the company of Oswald? Wouldn’t that have potentially compromised the whole Oswald double caper?
Garrison’s assertion in On The Trail of the Assassins that Thornley left New Orleans a few days following the assassination was also inaccurate, as it was actually three weeks after the assassination that Thornley moved to Arlington, Virginia on December 13th, 1963. This might seem like splitting hairs to some, but it only goes to illustrate how—when it came to Thornley—Garrison never got anything exactly right, and more often got it totally wrong.
To suggest that Thornley was difficult to locate was another fallacy perpetrated by Garrison to create the aura around Kerry as someone always in hiding or on the lam. At the time, Thornley was married with an infant child and held down dozens of menial jobs, while living at a few locations, in California and later Florida. He was also doing a lot of writing during this period, and his articles appeared in numerous publications. That Garrison encountered such difficulty tracking down Thornley says more about Big Jim’s dubious investigative skills than it does Thornley’s supposed elusiveness.
Garrison’s claim that the Ryder Coffee House had been Thornley’s main French Quarter hangout is also inaccurate. Kerry noted in his writings over the years that the Bourbon House—not the Ryder Coffee House—had been his main base of operations where he spent his idle hours writing or shooting the bull with other patrons. In recent correspondence with your humble author, Thornley’s French Quarter friend, Grace Zabriskie (formerly Grace Caplinger), confirmed that the Bourbon House was indeed Kerry’s main French Quarter hangout, and to a lesser degree, Carlos Castillo’s Mexican Restaurant.
In regards to the Ryder Coffee House, Barbara Reid claimed she had evidence of Oswald and Thornley both signing the guestbook belonging to Jack Frazier, the manager of Ryder’s. In a memo from Harold Weisberg to Garrison, Weisberg noted that “several names may be disguised in this book, for example, Thornley’s in the ‘Discordian’ language on the ninth page. You have the Discordian files that I obtained on a previous trip. These will reflect which Omar Khyam is who….” 00002
Make of this what you will, but apparently Weisberg thought he was hot on the trail of a diabolical Discordian conspiracy and provided Garrison with copies of Frazier’s guestbook as evidence of this perceived diabolism. A review of the guestbook reveals that Thornley did indeed sign it using his Discordian moniker of Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, which indicates that Thornley visited Ryder Coffee House on at least one occasion. However, there’s no evidence that Oswald—using his real name or an alias—ever signed the guestbook.
Robert Karno—who in the absence of Jack Frazier managed Ryder Coffee House during the relevant timeframe—stated in an interview with Asst. D.A. Jim Alcock that he thought he met Oswald at Ryder’s on one occasion, although he didn’t sound completely positive: “Well, I—I believe I did. I’m almost sure I did…” As for Thornley, Karno remembered meeting him there only once, as well, and said nothing about having seen Thornley and Oswald together. 00003
A second supposed witness to the Oswald/Thornley Bourbon House meeting was a French Quarter bookie named Peter Deageano. According to Deageano’s affidavit:
“It was between 2:00 and 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon either in August or September of 1963. I was sitting at a table in the Bourbon House eating a hamburger. There weren’t too many people in the Bourbon House and as I looked around I noticed Kerry Thornley, Jeanne Hack, and (Oswald) sitting at a table close to me, I looked at them and said hello and either Kerry Thornley or Jeanne Hack introduced him to me. I cannot remember how he was introduced or any of the conversation that we may have had as it was a very casual meeting. However, I remember thinking to myself that he might be related to Kerry Thornley as he resembled him quite a bit.
“After the assassination of President Kennedy a picture of Lee Harvey Oswald appeared on television and I immediately recognized him as being identical to the person that I saw sitting in the Bourbon House with Kerry Thornley…”
Although it’s not indicated in Deageano’s affidavit—which happened to be unsigned—he was in Barbara Reid’s company during this alleged Oswald/Thornley sighting. That Deageano’s affidavit remained unsigned speaks volumes (perhaps) to the methods of Garrison and his staff. Nowhere else in Garrison’s files does an actual interview with Deagano appear, and it’s my suspicion that Reid and/or the D.A.’s office drafted the affidavit, but when they presented it to Deagano he refused to sign it, assuming it was ever shown to Deagano at all.
For more about Barbara Reid and the Dealey Plaza Irregulars read Caught In The Crossfire: Kerry, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation (Amazon) .
The Truth Shall Set You Confused… in 2,500 words or less!
2015 (or 3181 on the Discordian calendar) marks the 50th anniversary (maybe!) of the first edition of Principia Discordia, or How the West was Lost, published in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1965, consisting of a mere five copies that—according to Discordian co-founder Greg Hill—“were mostly lost.”
The details surrounding this rare 1st edition are enshrouded in as much myth and mystery as the JFK assassination itself, which—it so happens—will be forever linked to Discordianism due to its association with Discordian Society co-founder Kerry Thornley who served with Lee Harvey Oswald in the Marines.
Curiously enough, Thornley was writing a book based on Oswald three years before the Kennedy assassination and afterwards testified before the Warren Commission and was later accused (ridiculously so) by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison as being part of a JFK assassination conspiracy.
“A search through the Discordian Archives revealed that the earliest of the Discordian holy books—How the West Was Lost, by Malaclypse the Younger (Greg Hill) — was originally printed on the Xerox machine of D.A. Jim Garrison, in summer 1963. (Greg’s girlfriend was Garrison’s secretary.)”
Thus was birthed the legend of how this mostly missing 1st edition was copied on a Xerox machine belonging to the very same man, Jim Garrison, who would later link Kerry Thornley to a shadowy cabal that allegedly orchestrated Kennedy’s awful offing.
Although RAW was partly correct regarding Jim Garrison’s association with the 1st edition Principia Discordia (PD), it appears that he might not have had his facts quite right. In the Loompanics edition of PD, Greg Hill added an afterword in which he corrected RAW’s claim about the Garrison copying machine caper:
“…Bob [RAW] says that when Oswald was buying the assassination rifle, my girlfriend was printing the first edition of Principia on Jim Garrison’s Xerox. It wasn’t my girlfriend, it was Kerry’s; it wasn’t the First Ed Principia, it was some earlier Discordian thoughts; it wasn’t Garrison’s Xerox, it was his mimeograph; and it wasn’t just before Kennedy was shot but a couple of years before that… The First Ed Principia, by the way, was reproduced at Xerox Corp when xerography was a new technology. Which was my second New Orleans trip in 1965. I worked for a guy on Bourbon Street who was a Xerox salesman by day.”
Afterwards, Hill received further clarification from Kerry Thornley, which he added as a footnote to his Loompanics afterword:
“I checked this further with Mr. Thornley. He says that the woman in question was not his girlfriend, she was just a friend, and it wasn’t a couple of years before Kennedy was shot but had to be a couple of years after (but before Garrison investigated Thornley).”
To confuse matters more (Hail Eris!), Thornley’s introduction to the IllumiNet Press edition of PD states:
“…the First Edition of Principia rolled off District Attorney Jim Garrison’s mimeograph machine (without his knowledge) in New Orleans in 1964. That was the work of Gregory Hill and of Lane Caplinger, a Discordian typist in the DA’s office.”
During the course of researching The Prankster and the Conspiracy: The Story of Kerry Thornley and How He Met Oswald and Inspired the Counterculture (2003 Amazon), I exchanged email correspondence with Lane Caplinger’s sister, actress Grace Zabriskie. For some reason, it’d never dawned on me to ask Grace about the legend of the 1st edition—probably because Grace, by her own choosing, was never really part of the Discordian scene.
In December 2012, I contacted Grace via email with some follow-up questions for my then book in the works Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation (Amazon) and at that time asked: Was the Garrison copying machine caper “truth, legend, or a combination of both?” Grace passed on my query to her sister Lane who replied, quite simply: “Legend. I recall occasional Discordianism reading and giggling only.”
Lane’s response now leaves us in a quandary and seems to put the kibosh on this whole wonderful mythos that the PD was created right under Jim Garrison’s nose by a diabolical Discordian conspiracy.
But wait, let’s not be in a hurry to dismiss the Garrison mimeograph legend. If we examine each of the seemingly conflicting stories regarding the origins of the 1st edition PD, I think in the final analysis there’s some measure of truth to each story, or as the old Discordian saying goes:
All statements are true in some sense, false in some sense, meaningless in some sense, true and false in some sense, true and meaningless in some sense, false and meaningless in some sense, and true and false and meaningless in some sense.
In the IllumiNet Press introduction to PD, Kerry Thornley identifies 1964 as the year of the publication of the 1st edition and that Greg Hill and Lane Caplinger were the culprits.
Thornley moved to Arlington, Virginia in late 1963 through 1964. Meanwhile, Greg Hill returned to New Orleans in 1964 and was there until mid-1965, which was the relevant period when the 1st edition was published.
My working theory is that Lane Caplinger did indeed run off some mimeograph copies of letters and writings by Hill and Thornley that later found their way into the first edition PD. However, it’s my impression that Lane had but a vague idea at best of what she was involved with—other than just copying some material for a couple of friends who were tinkering around with a joke religion called Discordianism.
As Greg Hill noted, only five copies of the 1st edition Principia Discordia were produced, most of which were lost. Later iterations of PD departed greatly from that long ago 1st edition, evolving into a collaborative art project that included the involvement of such notables as Robert Anton Wilson (Mordecai the Foul), Robert Shea (Josh the Dill), Camden Benares (The Count of Fives), Robert Newport (Rev. Hypocrates Magoun), Bob McElroy (Dr. Mungojerry Grindlebone)—and, of course, Thornley and Hill.
I first became involved in researching this craziness in the late-90s when I was overtaken with an obsession of writing a biography of Kerry Thornley, who had captured my imagination not so much due to my interest in Discordianism (that would come later) but because of all the other high weirdness surrounding his life.
In 2001, I initiated a Freedom of Information Act request for any Kerry Thornley related documents in the CIA and FBI files. Shortly after I was informed by the Feds that these Thornley FOIA materials had been previously released and were available through the National Archives. In short order, I obtained the materials, most of which had been assembled during the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1977 and released to the public in 1992 through the Assassination Archives Research Center (AARC.)
In this Kerry Thornley-National Archives package were documents related to Jim Garrison’s investigation, including 36 Discordian related pages which didn’t mean a whole lot to me at the time as I was more interested in getting to the bottom of Thornley’s alleged Kennedy assassination associations than I was all of this Discordian doo-dah. If I’d been paying closer attention, I would have noticed that these Discordian related materials appeared to be the first edition of Principia Discordia, Or How the West Was Lost—or at least a collection of writings from the early days of The Discordian Society. These same materials were later identified in 2006 as the 1st edition PD by a fellow named Karl Musser, who came across the material during a visit to the National Archives.
At the time, Musser shared these documents with Discordian historian Dr. Jon Swabey who afterwards transcribed this apparent 1st ed. PD and posted it on the Internet via Creative Commons.
At the time, I was unaware that the Musser/Swabey tag team had brought to the Discordian world this apparent 1st edition PD. A couple years later, Dr. Robert Newport passed on to me Greg Hill’s Discordian Archives, consisting of all 5 editions of PD. However, the discovery of these different PD editions wasn’t immediately apparent and it took me some time to sift through the Discordian Archives and identity exactly what was what. The most amazing discovery of all was an actual honest-to-Goddess copy of the first edition of Principia Discordia, Or How The West Was Lost, numbered one of five, written in Greg Hill’s own hand.
My discovery of the Holy Grail of Discordianism led to a period of intensive research into the history of PD. After a review of the Musser/Swabey/National Archives version of PD, I initially arrived at the conclusion (which I now consider erroneous!) that the National Archives version was a later and incomplete reproduction of the 1st edition PD. However, more recently I’ve come to suspect that the National Archives version is actually an early draft of PD.
For sake of clarity, I’ll henceforth refer to these two different versions of Principia Discordia, Or How The West Was Lost as: 1) the National Archives (NA) version, and, 2) the Discordian Archives (DA) version.
Although there are similarities between these two versions—the NA and DA—there are also a number of differences, one of which is the type font. Secondly, the NA version numbers only 36 pages while the DA version comes in at a whopping 60 pages including a number of illustrations that do not appear in the NA version.
My reasoning behind this theory—that the NA version is an early draft of PD—is based, in part, on the handwritten address on the front cover:
5326 85th Street
At first glance, I was a bit befuddled by this address because Thornley’s Warren Commission testimony stated that he’d moved to Arlington, VA in late 1963 and lived there until late 1964. But after giving it some thought, I remembered correspondence in the Archives where Thornley noted that he’d stayed for a period of time—in late-1963/early–1964—with his friend Robert McDonald in Maryland before his Arlington move. This provides further evidence that the NA version actually predated the DA version, and that some of the content in the NA version (as my theory goes) were pages Lane Caplinger ran off on Jim Garrison’s mimeograph machine.
Additionally, my colleague Grouchogandhi pointed out that on the title page of the NA version the author is listed as “Malaclypse the Younger, H.C.” The curiosity, in this instance, is the title of “H.C.” In subsequent editions of the PD—including the 1st edition in the Discordian Archives (DA)—Malaclypse is referred to as “K.C.” (Keeper of the Chao) and in later editions as “K.S.C.” (Keeper of the Sacred Chao).
The third page of the NA version consists of a Legion of Dynamic Discord (LDD) certificate awarded to early Discordian Barbara Reid. Conversely, this certificate does not appear on the third page of the DA version. However, there is a blank LDD certificate on page 55 of the DA version, which suggests that the NA version was sent from Kerry Thornley (aka the Bull Goose of Limbo) to Barbara Reid in 1964 and included a signed LDD certificate as confirmation of Reid’s ordination into the Discordian Society.
So how, pray tell, did this early Principia Discordia draft wind up in the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HCSA) files? My guess is that Barbara Reid provided the document to the HSCA in the late-70s when she testified before the committee regarding her claims that she saw Kerry Thornley in the company of Lee Oswald in New Orleans in September of 1963. However, another person who might have submitted this document to the HSCA was assassination researcher Harold Weisberg, who worked closely with Barbara Reid during the Garrison Investigation period and entertained the notion, at one time or another, that the Discordian Society was some type of CIA front organization involved in the Kennedy Assassination dance party.
Hail Eris, indeed!
Adam Gorightly presents a brief introduction to the 1st edition of the Principia Discordia, courtesy of Brenton Clutterbuck of Chasing Eris.
Adam Gorightly presents the 1st through 5th editions of the Principia Discordia.
Early Discordian Barbara Reid was a familiar figure in New Orleans bohemia of the 1960s. Known in the French Quarter as “Mother Witch,” she was an avid voodoo practitioner, claiming to have learned the craft from an Orleanian Creole who was a spiritual descendent of Marie Laveau. According to Reid, she was the only Caucasian to whom this knowledge was passed on.00001
Reid worked as a writer and producer for New Orleans television station WDSU and made occasional appearances on local radio, including a 1970 episode of The American Legion Hour on WTIX-AM called “Witches and Metaphysics.” She frequently appeared in newspaper stories, such as a June 1969 Times-Picayune article about Friday the 13th superstitions in which Reid informed the reporter: “I am not a witch, but I’ll show you what a witch can do if you make me out as a kook.”
A Times-Picayune story from September 1964 concerned the closing of Kerry Thornley’s favorite French Quarter hang-out, The Bourbon House. To mark the event, a mock funeral procession was staged, which—along with jazz band accompaniment—included Barbara Reid in a coffin “…clad in her usual all-black garb and sporting a black beret and cigarette holder.”
Known for its rag-tag collection of beatniks, poets and jazz music aficionados, many of the Bourbon House regulars—at the urging of Barbara Reid—began staging informal jazz sessions in the early-60s at Larry Borenstein’s art gallery, an institution that would eventually be renamed—and gain international acclaim—as Preservation Hall, the legendary French Quarter music venue still in operation.
Preservation Hall officially opened its doors on June 10th, 1961, an enterprise launched by Reid and her partner in the venture, Kenn Mills. These activities—with Reid at the helm—led to a revival of the traditional jazz scene in New Orleans. However, Reid’s participation in the early days of Preservation Hall has been mostly expunged from the historical records due to a falling out she had with Larry Borenstein, the owner of the venue.
Reid was instrumental in recording many of the local jazz musicians of the era and—according to her husband, Bill Edmiston—helped integrate the two New Orleans musician unions that had previously segregated blacks and whites.
If all that wasn’t enough, Reid was one of the first members of the New Orleans branch of the Discordian Society, claiming at one time or another to be the reincarnation of Goddess Eris herself! Whatever the case, Reid certainly brought a high degree of chaos into Kerry Thornley’s life during the Jim Garrison investigation period when she placed Kerry in the company of Lee Oswald in September of 1963, a couple of months before JFK’s assassination.
According to Discordian Society co-founder Greg Hill, Barbara Reid was an aspiring politician, pot dealer and former lover of Jim Garrison:
“When Barbara ran for City Council [in 1964], Garrison was absolutely against it and, she told me, repeatedly warned her to stop playing around where she might get hurt. And that, of course, made her all the more anxious to run. I was going to be her Campaign Secretary, but the draft caught up with me and off I went Ft. Polk. When I returned for a day, 8 weeks later, the election was all over with and she placed #3 out of four (not bad, considering). She was pushing for the black vote, and had some kind of lowdown on corruption with the Fed Housing section of the city. She also had the bohemian vote; her posters depicted a caricature of her, all glasses, beret and cigarette holder. It was during this time that she told me that Garrison was an ex-lover of hers and that his warnings to her were as a friend to a friend (though later I got the impression that he was pretty exasperated with her). Like everything else she told me, I didn’t know if I should believe it or not and so, like everything else she did and said, I just enjoyed the circus and didn’t bother believing or disbelieving. I think she said that the affair was sometime ago before Garrison became prominent. She spoke of him with fondness, though annoyed with his not backing her attempted sojourn into city politics.
“I left before Barbara was busted for pot (curiously enough, I felt that the Quarter was being very uncool narc wise, and predicted a giant bust by October—but nobody took me very seriously. I missed the mark by about a month, I think. Many people got it bad, according to what I heard later.). Anyway, she once spoke of not being too concerned with being busted because she ‘could take care of it.’ At the time I wondered if she meant Garrison, but didn’t press the delicate subject…”00002
According to the New Orleans States-Item, Reid was arrested on April 10th, 1966 following a six month investigation when narcotics officers seized a large quantity of marijuana from her apartment. Reid—identified as an “unsuccessful candidate last November for District C”—told officers that she was a “den mother” at the Quorum Club, a bohemian coffee house in the French Quarter where she presided over a gaggle of hippie kids. Evidently, the Quorum Club was at the center of this six month investigation. Curiously, Reid’s arrest record for the pot bust identifies her as a “fugitive from Arizona.” These charges were later dropped.
Perhaps what Reid meant by taking “care of it” was that—because of her inside track to Jim Garrison—she could either blackmail or bribe her way out of the charges. Contrary to popular mythology, Garrison was not immune to this type of corruption. In 1970—following a performance by The Grateful Dead at a New Orleans venue called “The Warehouse”—the band’s hotel rooms were raided by police and several members were arrested on drug charges, an incident recounted in their song “Truckin’” and the line: “Busted down on Bourbon Street…”00003 Afterwards, The Grateful Dead tour manager was able to bribe Garrison to take the bust off the records.00004>
In February 1965, Reid was arrested with members of the Hell’s Angels and charged with “bringing the Hell’s Angels to New Orleans.”00005 A February 25th, 1966 New Orleans States-Item article stated that the charges against Reid (identified as “Barbara Reed” in the arrest report) had been dropped, although the four Hell’s Angels “would be held as possible fugitives…”
Ed Sanders claimed that The Process Church had a “baleful influence” on Manson and his minions, while Maury Terry alleged that the group was implicated not only in the Tate-LaBianca murders, but the Son of Sam slayings, as well, and that Process Church leadership oversaw a vast Satanic network dealing in drugs, pornography and ritual murder.
In correspondence with this author, Kerry Thornley wrote that he “…first encountered the Process Church in New Orleans in Feb. ’68 when I was there to testify, reluctantly, to the Grand Jury. Barbara Reid, the principal witness against me, and a friend (!) of mine, was said to be ‘up to her ass’ in The Process, which, indeed, maintained a coffee house half a block from Barbara’s apartment. I went over there with Slim (Brooks)… and saw pamphlets about Satan On War and Lucifer on War and Jehovah on War—which I found confusing because I thought Satan and Lucifer were both the same guy, until then, (of course—heh-heh)… A bunch of pale, thin zombies were sitting around in this place. I was telling very funny Garrison stories but nobody was laughing…”
In the next installment we’ll explore Barbara Reid’s involvement with Jim Garrison’s investigation and her role as a Dealey Plaza Irregular.
To read the whole crazy story pick up my book Caught In The Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation (Amazon) while supplies last!
Thanks to Tim Cridland for unearthing many of the materials used in this post.
An excerpt from my latest book Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation, available at Feral House and Amazon.
Among Jim Garrison’s more colorful unofficial investigators (otherwise known as the “Irregulars”) was Allan Chapman who subscribed to the theory that the JFK assassination had been orchestrated by the Bavarian Illuminati, that infamous secret society much ballyhooed in the annals of conspiracy lore.
After catching wind of Allan Chapman’s Illuminati theory, Kerry Thornley—with the support of some of his fellow Discordian Society pranksters—initiated what became known as Operation Mindfuck (OM), a campaign designed to screw with Garrison’s head by sending out spurious announcements suggesting that he (Kerry) was an agent of the Ancient Illuminated Seers of Bavaria (AISB). Among the culprits who helped perpetrate OM was none other than Robert Anton Wilson. As Kerry later noted:
Wilson and I founded the Anarchist Bavarian Illuminati to give Jim Garrison a hard time, one of whose supporters believed that the Illuminati owned all the major TV networks, the Conspiring Bavarian Seers (CBS), the Ancient Bavarian Conspiracy (ABC) and the Nefarious Bavarian Conspirators (NBC).
Another of the “Irregulars”—assassination researcher Harold Weisberg—was also on the business end of OM communiqués as demonstrated in the following anonymous letter authored by Robert Anton Wilson:
The above letter is unfathomable unless one is familiar with the Discordian antics that Thornley and his cohorts were engaged in during this period. Wilson’s prank letter to Weisberg mentions someone named Homer Ravenhurst, another named Hassan Saba X, in addition to Simon Moon and the Illuminat Eye. In Discordian lore, Kerry Thornley’s pseudonym was Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, and so Wilson’s mention of a “Homer Ravenhurst” was a playful way of messing with Weisberg’s mind. As for Simon Moon, this was Wilson’s sometime alias and a character that later appeared in Wilson and Shea’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Hassan Saba X (or Hassan-i-Sabbah X) was a fictitious black militant character that Thornley and Wilson created to propagate the Illuminati mythology, later to be immortalized in a put-on letter planted in the April 1969 issue of Playboy during the period Wilson was an editor at the magazine. As for the Illuminati Eye mentioned in the Weisberg letter, this was an obvious wink and nod to that aforementioned all-seeing secret society from Bavaria. No telling what Weisberg thought of this letter; however, he found it important enough to place in his files for future researchers to ponder.
These OM communiqués led Garrison to suspect that the Discordian Society was a CIA front organization involved in the JFK assassination. As outlandish as this all sounds, those of a conspiratorial bent might find some merit to this theory, due to the fact that—among the handful of people involved in the New Orleans Discordian Society—each of them was, in one way or another, connected to the Garrison investigation as either a witness, suspect or correspondent.
According to legend, the first edition of the Discordian bible, The Principia Discordia: Or How The West Was Lost, was reproduced after hours on a mimeograph machine in Jim Garrison’s office, of which only five copies were produced. This clandestine copying operation predated Garrison’s investigation by nearly two years, and was allegedly perpetrated by a typist in the District Attorney’s office named Lane Caplinger, who was friends with Discordian Society co-founder Greg Hill. (Lane just happened to be the sister of a French Quarter poet named Grace Caplinger who was friends with both Thornley and Hill. Grace later ventured to Hollywood and changed her name to Grace Zabriskie, and has made numerous Movie and TV appearances, including the role of Laura Palmer’s mother in Twin Peaks.)
As for Greg Hill, his association with Garrison’s investigation was minimal, consisting of a letter he wrote to Garrison in support of Thornley. Garrison, most likely having already made up his mind as to Kerry’s guilt, probably placed said letter immediately upon receipt into his round file.
While it’s a given that Hill and Thornley were both in possession of the first edition of The Principia Discordia, what is not commonly known is that Roderick “Slim” Brooks—another key player in the New Orleans Discordian Society—also received a copy of this rare first edition.
Slim Brooks—as it turns out—was the first person Thornley met when he moved to New Orleans. In early 1961, Slim and a shadowy character named Gary Kirstein—referred to as “Brother-in-law”—engaged Thornley in conversations about how to kill a president, and in particular, JFK. Thornley later suspected that he’d been manipulated into these conversations by Brooks and Kirstein with the intent of setting him up as a JFK assassination patsy.
It appears quite likely that Slim Brooks was actually Jerry Milton Brooks, a former Guy Banister employee and member of the Minutemen, a far-right anti-communist militia organization active during the 1960s. According to former Minutemen national spokesman R.N. Taylor:
The fellow mentioned as Slim Brooks, I think he was either Jerry Milton Brooks, or Jerry’s brother… If it was Jerry, that was one of the most bizarre individuals I have ever encountered. One of a kind. For better and worse. I know he spent some time down there with Banister and that crowd in the sixties. He was a walking card reference file of names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. Had a very photographic mind, quite amazing at times. Never knew re¬ally what side he was on. He will forever remain an enigma to me.
It can also be assumed, with some degree of certainty, that the other recipients of The Principia Discordia first edition were Barbara Reid and Roger Lovin, both New Orleans Discordian Society members. In fact, a Discordian Society business card from 1965 lists Lovin as head of the New Orleans Discordian chapter.
Lovin—known in the Discordian Society as Fang the Unwashed—was identified by Garrison witness Bernard Goldsmith as being connected to Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans, as well as allegedly involved with the Bay of Pigs invasion. Whatever the case, Lovin had a reputation as a charming con man who, for all we know, might have been pulling Goldsmith’s leg about his connections to Oswald and the Bay of Pigs.
Perhaps the single most curious member of the New Orleans Discordian Society was Barbara Reid, the person most responsible—other than the District Attorney himself—for dragging Kerry, screaming and kicking, into Jim Garrison’s three-ring circus. Reid claimed to have seen Oswald and Thornley in New Orleans during September of 1963, an allegation Kerry denied, insisting that the last time he’d been in contact with Oswald was at El Toro Marine Base in the fall of 1959. Curiously enough, Reid became one of Garrison’s “Irregulars” and often accompanied Harold Weisberg during his rounds questioning French Quarter witnesses.
Among the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) files related to Kerry Thornley (now residing in the National Archives) one will find excerpts from the first edition of The Principia Discordia. It seems unlikely that Kerry would have provided these documents to the HSCA, unless he was trying to make a case that the Discordian Society had been infiltrated by the intelligence community, a theory he entertained upon occasion, particularly during the period in the late seventies when his paranoias ran high.
However, I suspect that it may have been Barbara Reid who provided these Discordian documents to the HSCA, as included among the HSCA files is a Discordian Society membership certificate awarded to Reid and signed by none other than the Bull Goose of Limbo (a.k.a. Kerry Thornley) dated September 18th, 1964. Reid also claimed, at one time or another, to be the incarnation of Goddess Eris, which would certainly explain the unbridled chaos that entered Thornley’s life during the Garrison investigation period.
Another way these Discordian documents might have found their way to the HSCA files was through Harold Weisberg, who noted in an interview he conducted with Roger Lovin, that Lovin “…acknowledged his membership in the Discordians. Today he gave me his files on that outfit…” It could then be assumed that Weisberg copied these files and later submitted them to Garrison and/or the HSCA. That Weisberg was willing to entertain the notion that a religion worshipping the Greek Goddess of Chaos and Confusion was somehow involved is certainly one of the wilder theories in JFK assassination lore, right alongside such other Garrison mainstays as the homosexual thrill kill theory and the involvement of the dreaded Bavarian Illuminati. As Robert Anton Wilson observed in Cosmic Trigger:
Try to picture a jury keeping a straight face when examining a conspiracy that worshipped the Goddess of Confusion, honored Emperor Norton as a saint, had a Holy Book called “How I Found Goddess and What I Did to Her After I Found Her,” and featured personnel who called themselves Malaclypse the Younger, Ho Chi Zen, Mordecai the Foul, Lady L, F.A.B., Fang the Unwashed, Harold Lord Randomfactor, Onrak the Backwards, et al….
Allegations that Thornley and Oswald met at Ryder Coffee House came courtesy of Barbara Reid, who claimed she had evidence backing this up in the form of a guest¬book belonging to the manager of Ryder’s, Jack Frazier, that both Oswald and Thornley had allegedly signed. In a memo Harold Weisberg sent to Garrison, he noted that “several names may be disguised in this book, for example, Thornley’s in the “Discordian” language on the ninth page. You have the Discordian files that I obtained on a previous trip. These will reflect which Omar Khyam is who….” Make of this what you will, but apparently Weisberg thought he was hot on the trail of a Discordian conspiracy and provided Garrison with Frazier’s guestbook as evidence of this. A review of the guestbook reveals that Thornley did indeed sign it using his Discordian persona of Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, which indicates that Kerry visited Ryder Coffee House on at least one occasion. However, there’s no evidence that Oswald—using his real name or an alias—signed the guestbook. (Sometime Discordian conspirator Lane Caplinger’s name appears elsewhere in the guestbook, which provides further incontrovertible evidence of the Discordian Society’s sinister role in JFK’s assassination!)
Robert Karno—who in the absence of Jack Frazier was managing Ryder Coffee House during the relevant time frame—stated in an interview with Garrison investigator James Alcock that he thought he met Oswald at Ryder’s on one occasion, although he didn’t sound completely positive: “Well, I—I believe I did. I’m almost sure I did…” As for Thornley, Karno remembered meeting him there only once as well, and said nothing about having seen Thornley and Oswald together.
Thanks to Tim Cridland for unearthing the Robert Anton Wilson letter to Harold Weisberg.
Purchase Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation from Feral House and Amazon.