By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
“Chuck wanted to make a movie that was going to have surfing, healers, vegetarians, New Age people, even a space woman,” Merryweather says. “Jimi was going to play the music because he was at the top of his game, and Michael was going to surf because he was at the top of his game.” The result, 1972’s Rainbow Bridge, was billed as a Hendrix concert film because the concert Hendrix played in Maui provides the ending of the movie, much of which actually features surfing by Hynson and his friends, goofy-foot hotshot Dave Nuuhiwa and Leslie Potts. “Gale refused to be in the movie, because he didn’t want to have his face on camera,” Hynson recalls.
The film’s most notorious scene features Hynson and Potts ripping open a Rainbow Surfboard to reveal a stash of hash, a stunt that takes place under a Richard Nixon poster that reads, “Would You Buy a Used Car From This Man?” When the film opened in Laguna Beach, Hynson gave Gale all the tickets as a birthday present. Half of the audience was rumored to be narcs. “The room smoked up so much you couldn’t see the stage,” Hynson says. “We had all these Rainbow Surfboards up on the stage, and when the movie showed the board being opened up, it got the police crazy. They were constantly on our ass. Anybody who had a Rainbow Surfboard got pulled over.”
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A few months after Rainbow Bridge came out, a multi-agency task force arrested dozens of members of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love in California, Oregon and Maui, including Gale, who spent the next several months in prison. “He wasn’t in for long,” Hynson says. “He was like a rabbit.” But thanks in part to the Brotherhood’s legendary secrecy, the police never knew Hynson’s role in the group. Once Gale got out of prison, the two continued to sell surfboards and market the Rainbow brand by opening a Rainbow Juice bar in La Jolla with help from Merryweather. But the business folded after just a few years. “We didn’t shortchange anything,” Merryweather says. “We got an accounting firm and figured out we were paying people 25 cents to eat the avocado sandwiches.”
Meanwhile, Gale had become the biggest cocaine broker in California. Hynson says he didn’t know the full extent of Gale’s business dealings, but he does recall visiting his friend’s house one time when Gale suddenly remembered that a truck full of Colombian marijuana was on its way from Florida. He also recalls that whenever he rode in Gale’s car, someone always seemed to be following them. “Not for long, though,” Hynson says. “Gale didn’t stick around long enough for anyone to chase him.”
On June 2, 1982, Gale perished when the car he was driving, Hynson’s Mercedes, went off the road in Dana Point. Hynson remains convinced someone—either the cops or rival criminals—was chasing his friend. The tragedy ended Rainbow Surfboards (it’s recently been reincarnated under new ownership) and left Hynson financially strapped. “If you ever had a business project and you’re wondering whatever happened to it, it’s probably because the other guy is dead,” Hynson jokes.
Gale’s death devastated Hynson, says Merryweather. “I wasn’t with him at the time, but people told me they’d never seen Michael take anything so bad. He just really went sideways.”
Hynson spent the next two decades broke, strung out on coke and crystal methamphetamine, bouncing between jail and sleeping in alleys and garages in San Diego. “I got tripped up on my probation, you see,” he says, his voice trailing off as it often does when he attempts to make sense out of what happened to his life. “You know, it just snowballed. I hit rock-bottom, and then stayed there for a while.”
Hynson isn’t exactly sure how he finally managed to pull himself out of the downward spiral, although he credits ex-wife Merryweather and current girlfriend Carol Hannigan with being “angels” in his life. “It’s just been a gradual process of coming back to reality, and I haven’t stopped since,” he says. “One day, I realized I had a driver’s license with my own address and a telephone number. I even had a bank account. That’s when I realized I was back in society again.”
Thanks to the booming market for American-designed surfboards in Japan, Hynson is doing brisk business there. “There’s really no money in surfboards,” he says. “But thank God for the Japanese.” Meanwhile, Hynson hopes to sell the first 1,000 signed copies of his book for $350 each, which would raise enough cash to print many thousands of additional copies. Eventually, he wants to help publish art books by local artists such as Lance Jost and Bill Ogden, whom he’s known since his Laguna Beach days. “The more books we sell, the more the price goes down,” he says. “I don’t have any money right now, but I’m taking every cent I have, and we are just going to snowball this thing. If I can just get some juice, I’m going to have some fun.”
Nick Schou’s book Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World, is scheduled for release in March 2010 by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press.