- My Five Discordian Rituals
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- Adam Gorightly Gets Letters – From Kerry Thornley: Manson and RAW and the Process Church, oh my!
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- RAW Day: July 23, 2017
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Greg Hill relocated to New York from 1973—1975 and while there one of the Discordian projects he launched (under his Discordian persona of Rev. Dr. Occupant) was…
The Confusion Contest or ConCon.
As part of his official duties overseeing the Confusion Contest, Rev. Dr. Occupant issued the following report:
And drum roll please…
Here are the winners of ConCon 75!
One of the ConCon entries “came” courtesy of Discordian poetess and one-time lover of Kerry Thornley, Judy Abrahms.
Here’s another ConCon entry promoting “Hot finger-size Chicken Sandwiches.”
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.This installment of our
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.
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…”
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]
In the mid 1960s, Kerry Thornley joined The Gentle Way, “a sexually swinging psychedelic tribe” engaged in communal mate swapping, dope smoking, and LSD-tripping. Kerry worked for a while as The Gentle Way’s public relations envoy, publishing the Gentle Folk Bullsheet to promote the group’s extracurricular activities.
The Gentle Way was established by John Presmont (aka Brother Jud) who first came to the attention of the authorities in 1964 when he and seventeen of his free swinging followers were arrested in a communal compound in New York City where “a phonograph was playing soft music and marijuana cigarettes were strewn about… While the detectives were questioning the 17, Mrs. Barbara Sharif Bey, 22 years old, of 279 East Third Street, arrived with a pound of marijuana. The police went to her apartment, where they found her husband, John, placing two additional pounds of marijuana in bags… John Presmont, 45, a bearded occupant of the apartment, told the police the group believed in collective love and was trying to raise funds to buy an island in the Bahamas where it could set up a legal colony of marijuana users.”
Tired of being hassled by the NYC fuzz, Brother Jud and his mob of furry freaks moved to the sunny climes of Southern California where they became renowned for their “beautiful weekend orgies,” as Kerry fondly remembered. The group eventually changed its name from The Gentle Way to The Kerista.
Kerry authored a number of “case histories” based on his Kerista experiences for Monogram Publications, a Southern California erotica publisher. In 1966, the group’s newspaper changed its name from Kerista to Kerista Swinger, presumably to generate greater appeal from a new generation of hip sexual experimenters. The Kerista Swinger unabashedly pronounced itself the “Hippest Paper in the USA.” Kerry—calling himself “Young Omar”—wrote several articles for Kerista Swinger, including this snippet:
“Kerista is a religion and the mood of Kerista is one of holiness. Do not, however, look for a profusion of rituals, dogmas, doctrines and scriptures. Kerista is too sacred for that. It is more akin to the religions of the East and, also, the so-called pagan religions of the pre-Christian West. Its fount of being is the religious experience and that action or word or thought which is not infused with ecstasy is not Kerista. And Kerista, like those religions of olden times, is life-affirming.”
In Drawing Down The Moon (Amazon), Margot Adler observed that Kerry’s writings on Kerista signaled the beginnings of the Neo-Pagan movement in contemporary culture, which since the mid-60s has expressed itself in myriad forms, such as free love communes, Wicca practitioners, the back-to-nature movement, psychedelic experimenters and various other groups dedicated to spiritual growth and sexual freedom. In Drawing Down the Moon, Adler cited Kerry as the first person to actually use the word Pagan to describe past and present nature religions.
1986 Kerista essay by Kerry Thornley.
More on those krazy Keristas here.
Roger Lovin began publishing the first French Quarter underground newspaper. Initially titled Balls: The Ungarbled Word it later became known simply as The Ungarbled Word.In 1968,
The first issue was a rather crude, Xeroxed affair and although it came across as amateur in appearance, Balls featured top notch content including an excerpt from one of the first Discordian writings by Bob McElroy (aka Mungojerry Grindlebone) titled “The Gadfly’s Glossary.”
The third issue of Balls:The Ungarbled Word featured an excerpt from Greg Hill’s “Draftee’s Dictionary.” The full version, like Mungo’s “Gadfly’s Glossary”, is part of the Discordian Archives. Links to both are provided here and here.
Ungarbled Word occasionally ran Discordian recruitment advertisements, such as the following:
Sometime in 1958 or ’59 Lord Omar Khyyam Ravenhurst, K.C. was seized by a Mystic Fit. When he revived, he stammered, “How blind we have been. All of this confusion could not just have HAPPENED! SOMEBODY had to PUT all this discord here!” Whereupon Malaclypse the Younger, K.C. had a vision of Eris in which she gave him instructions quite incompatable with those received by Lord Omar, and the DISCORDIAN SOCIETY was born.
SINCE THEN, membership has more than tripled, and the Society has been brought to dynamic Discordian perfection by Fang, the Unwashed, W.K.C., etc., and Mungojerry Grindlebone, C.T.E., etc.
THE DS is the hottest item to hit the holy market since Islam. If you have the wit, come join the gathering sages – If you have but half the wit, join somebody else’s flock and get fleeced.
Why the Discordian Society?
THE PURPOSE of the DS is to provide false, comforting answers to the otherwise unanswerable questions that plague mankind; to give metaphysical reasons for the disorder around us; to promote the unworkable principles of discord – In short, to provide the world with a workshop for the insane, thus keeping us out of mischief as Presidents, Priests, Ministers, or other Dictators.
How to Join
Membership in the Legion of Dynamic Discord is open to anyone who asks for it.
A Few Saints
Some of the major saints are St. Bokonon – see CAT’S CRADLE by Vonnegut; St. Quixote – DON QUIXOTE by Cervantes; St. Oberosia – see PENGUIN ISLAND by France; Sr. Yossarian – see CATCH-22 by Heller; and Jt. Pkflrmids – see YOUR EYE DOCTOR by tomorrow.
For more information contact:
The Discordian Society
P.O. Box 501 – Rayville, La.
After his Army discharge in 1968, Greg Hill returned to California and immersed himself in the burgeoning counterculture, penning a regular column called Happenings Westcoast published by Lovin in the August edition of The Ungarbled Word.
Happenings Westcoast became a regular feature in The Ungarbled Word and the title was soon changed to Etcetera Pacifica.
Hill produced the column for just a few months until December ’68 when he called it quits on account of his mounting frustration with anti-establishment militants.
In the next installment of this series, we’ll examine how Roger Lovin got caught up in the Jim Garrison investigation madness.
Mucho thanks to Tim Cridland (aka Zamora the Torture King) for his assistance to this and future installments of our Roger Lovin series.
Robert Anton Wilson and specifically the influence Cosmic Trigger Volume 1: Final Secret of the Illuminati (1978) had in piquing my interest in subjects like ufology, magick, Forteana, Discordianism, and the dreaded Bavarian Illuminati. I’m not sure which of these interests (or sometime obsessions) came to me solely through Cosmic Trigger, but after discovering the book it certainly dovetailed with a lot of high weirdness I was into—or things I would soon be into—and made me more aware, for instance, how synchronicity plays such an integral role in our lives—or more precisely in the lives of those who tune into it. (Whatever it is.) Of course, it’s not like I wasn’t into a lot of this stuff before discovering Cosmic Trigger, but it did make me feel I wasn’t alone in Crossing the Abyss, which many of us experience in our lives at one point or another. And so RAW ala Cosmic Trigger put a lot of things in perspective for me, or turned up my focus to arrive at a broader understanding about my own experiences, psychedelic and UFO-wise.I owe a lot to
I believe it was through Cosmic Trigger that I became aware of James Shelby Downard (maybe), although Downard might have first popped up on my radar via Adam Parfrey’s seminal anthology Apocalypse Culture (1987), which I probably read around the same time I first sunk my teeth into Cosmic Trigger in the late 1980s, and which did a similar number to my head.
During the period RAW was experiencing all of his Sirius synchronicities, a Fortean researcher named William Grimstad sent him an audio cassette series entitled Sirius Rising, a recording with James Shelby Downing that “…set forth the most absurd, the most incredible, the most ridiculous Illuminati theory of them all…[that] the Illuminati were preparing Earth, in an occult manner, for extraterrestrial contact…. The only trouble is that, after the weird data we have already surveyed [in Cosmic Trigger], the Grimstad-Downard theory may not sound totally unbelievable to us….”
At the time, Downard was an obscure and little known figure outside the small circle of Fortean/Conspiracy researchers who gravitated around him that included Bill Grimstad, Michael Anthony Hoffman II and Charles Saunders.
Due in some measure to Downard’s influence, Grimstad (under the non-de-plume of Jim Brandon) authored the Fortean classics Weird America (1978) and The Rebirth of Pan (1983). In the “Dallas, Texas” section of Weird America, Brandon presented the theory that JFK was a “ceremonial king-who-must-die” killed by modern age alchemists following an ancient druidic tradition, a hypothesis arrived at by a “certain body of opinion, undoubtedly the farthest out brain wave of assassinology yet.” No direct mention was made, at this time, as to the theory’s originator: James Shelby Downard.
It was through “King Kill 33°: Masonic Symbolism in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy” (featured in Apocalypse Culture) that Downard first came to the attention of conspiratologists and over time rose to the status of a mythic figure who traveled across the country in his famous airstream trailer investigating Fortean mysteries and battling Freemasonic adversaries at every turn, his trusty Colt 45 always at his side.Due to my own interests in Downardiana, I penned the 2008 mini bio James Shelby Downard’s Mystical War in which I listed a bibliography of his known works:
- “King Kill 33°: Masonic Symbolism in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy”, co-written with Michael A. Hoffman II, Apocalypse Culture, edited by Adam Parfrey, Amok Press, 1987.
- “The Call to Chaos: From Adam to Atom by Way of the Jornada del Muerto”, Apocalypse Culture: Expanded and Revised, edited by Adam Parfrey, Feral House, 1990.
- “Sorcery, Sex, Assassination and the Science of Symbolism”, Secret and Suppressed: Banned Ideas and Hidden History, edited by Jim Keith, Feral House, 1993.
- “Skullduggery”, Independent History and Research, 1998.
- The Carnivals of Life and Death: My Profane Youth, 1913-1935, edited by Elana Freeland, Feral House, 2006.
As for unpublished works, Michael Hoffman informed me several years ago that Downard’s “…niece, Robbie Smith, had in her possession at his death, Mr. Downard’s locked suitcase files which neither Mr. Grimstad, this writer or Charles Saunders had ever seen. She told me about some of the contents. I was desperate to buy them but could not meet her price. She admitted to destroying some of his materials after his death! I found her difficult. God willing, she has preserved something and someone will be able to purchase these from her one day. If it’s all lost, it’s a tragedy.”
This news that the last remnants of Downard’s literary legacy might have knowingly or unknowingly been tossed into a dumpster was certainly a disappointing prospect, which is what would have happened to the Discordian Archives had not Dr. Bob Newport intervened and rescued them from Greyfaced oblivion.
In the intro to The Carnivals of Life and Death, Adam Parfrey noted that Downard died before he could write the second part of his biography and so the general consensus seemed to be that we’d probably never see any further Downardian writings—that is, until NOW…
During the course of writing James Shelby Downard’s Mystical War, I corresponded not only with Michael Hoffman, but also Bill Grimstad, and stayed in touch with Bill over the last decade. At the end of 2015, Grimstad informed me that he’d come into possession of what appeared to be Part 2 of Downard’s biography(!) and inquired if I was interested in publishing the material. Hell, yes, I responded.
The caveat, though, was that the manuscript was in microfiche format (circa 1980s) and would need to be converted into tiffs. I agreed to split the costs for this process, and then afterwards began sorting through the material, which in itself proved a somewhat daunting task due to the fact that it consisted of a staggering 799 pages, a combination of biographical material as well as Downard hashing out his central themes and theories in a manner that only he could do.
Phase two of the project entailed converting the manuscript to PDF and getting it into proper chronological order, but this as well was somewhat challenging and was making my head hurt a bit; it seemed the only way to review it and make sure I had all the pages in correct order was to print out the beast, maybe a few pages at a time. After printing out a dozen or so pages, I realized that about 2/3rds of my black ink cartridge had been sucked dry due to the black margins on the pages that were a by-product of the microfiche conversion. A visit to FedEx-Kinko’s and $150 later, I had a printed version in my hot little hands, which was a lot less expensive than sinking several hundred dollars into black ink cartridges. (Yes, I realize this is a first world problem!)
The plan from there was to OCR the beast and just edit as I go. Unfortunately, the first test OCR revealed that each page would take more time correcting the OCR errors than it would take to just retype the whole enchilada fresh—which is exactly what I’m doing now, a few pages here and a few pages there—in between other projects I’m currently working on.
If there are any volunteers out there who would like to assist me in the typing drudgery, say 50 pages at a pop, drop me a line and this will allow you a sneak peak at a portion of Downard’s missing magnum opus—not to mention a gratis copy after it’s published!
To be continued…
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.To follow is a multi-part part series on
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!
Christian Greer has just posted a lengthy, incisive and quite wonderful essay at academia.edu entitled “Discordians Stick Apart”: The institutional turn within contemporary Discordianism.Religious scholar
The essay includes references to my books and this website:
“Through his blog, Historia Discordia, Gorightly continues to transform Discordianism’s material culture into a historical narrative of its past. Thanks to the participatory nature of the Internet, Gorightly’s narrative concerning Discordianism’s historical development has attracted a number of online collaborators. While the intermingling of older Discordians with new converts is not, ostensibly, the primary purpose of the blog, it is inseparable from the archive’s aim of creating a serialized history of Discordianism…”
As Greer notes, this website would not be possible without online collaboration, and so thanks to everyone who has assisted along the way, most particularly Groucho Gandhi, K.S.P., who maintains and is the brains behind the site.
Since some might have trouble accessing the link if they aren’t already signed up at academia.edu, Christian green-lighted reposting a PDF of his essay here, which originally appeared in Fiction, Invention and Hyper-reality From Popular Culture to Religion (Routledge Inform Series on Minority Religions and Spiritual Movements) by Carole M. Cusack and Pavol Kosná.