By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
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At the end of the summer, Hodgson left Laguna Beach and returned to Colorado, where, inspired by the visions he’d experienced at the Church, he set about making a documentary about LSD. He hoped to interview Leary, Metzner and Alpert, who had been kicked out of Harvard for refusing to stop their LSD research. At a Sept. 19, 1966, press conference in New York City, Leary famously commanded everyone on the planet to “turn on, tune in and drop out.” The trio had also established a commune at the Millbrook, New York, mansion of William Hitchcock, the son of a millionaire oil magnate whom Leary befriended while at Harvard. A procession of beatnik luminaries such as Allen Ginsberg and Ken Kesey, plus jazz musicians such as Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus, dropped by Millbrook in a never-ending parade of LSD-popping poets, socialites and protohippies.
One day, Hodgson showed up with his camera crew. “Leary welcomed us and gave us a tour and befriended me like a great friend,” Hodgson recalls. “He wanted us to come into town the next day where he was giving a lecture on The Psychedelic Experience in New York City.” Hodgson filmed the lecture, and Leary asked him if he wouldn’t mind driving an ancient-looking Indian swami, a guest of his at Millbrook, back to the estate. “‘Just don’t let him stop at a liquor store,’” Hodgson says Leary warned. “They had to keep tabs on this swami because he liked to drink a lot. And sure enough, when he got in the car, the first words out of his mouth were ‘Could we stop at a liquor store, please?’”
After dropping off the alcohol-addled swami, Hodgson said goodbye to Leary and flew back to Laguna Beach to find Griggs, whom he regaled with tales of the defrocked Harvard professor. He asked his old friend if it’d be okay to take a few shots of the Church to use in the film. When he heard that Leary was onboard with the project, Griggs beamed with excitement and granted Hodgson his wish, giving him free rein to film whatever he wanted at the Modjeska Canyon house. Hodgson felt protective of Griggs and resolved to shoot only a few scenes that didn’t include closeups of anybody’s faces. “As I was packing up, Griggs took me into the living room,” Hodgson recalls. “And on the mantel of the fireplace was an open bowl, 14 inches across and 10 inches deep, full of 100 microgram capsules of LSD.” Griggs reached into the bowl with both hands and began to dump fistfuls of acid into Hodgson’s rucksack. “Do me a favor,” Hodgson says Griggs said. “Go turn on the East Coast.”
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Hodgson never saw Griggs again, and his documentary would never be completed. He returned to New York and distributed Griggs’ acid to everyone he knew. Then someone broke into his apartment and stole his film. In the previous few days, he’d received several telephone calls from the FBI, asking to see his footage. After the break-in, an agent hauled him into a field office, strip-searched him and interrogated him about Leary. Hodgson, who had finished college and was now eligible to be drafted for service in Vietnam, fled to Canada, where he remains today, 40 years later. He soon heard that Griggs and his friends in Modjeska Canyon had moved to Laguna Beach and helped usher in a flowering hippie scene that established the city as a Southern California version of Haight-Ashbury, luring countless flower children to overrun the resort town and fill its beaches, coves and canyons with the scent of marijuana and hashish and the wild sounds of the latest psychedelic-rock albums.
Griggs would eventually lure Leary himself to Laguna Beach.
Within days of his arrival, Leary was telling anyone who asked that Griggs was not only his good friend, but also his “spiritual guru” and “the holiest man who has ever lived in this country.” But Griggs was far more than Leary’s guru. He had his own legally registered church and used its tax-exempt status to establish Mystic Arts World, a metaphysical bookstore, hippie boutique and head shop on PCH. Through the store, Griggs and his friends helped transform Laguna Beach into the epicenter of Southern California’s acid scene, where teenagers from as far away as San Diego and Glendale knew they could find the most-powerful LSD anyone had to offer.
Griggs and his friends ran the biggest marijuana- and hashish-smuggling network in the United States. Each week, their cars and trucks, outfitted with special stash holes or carrying hollowed-out surfboards, crossed the border from Mexico and made their way to Laguna Canyon and a warren of clapboard houses and log cabins on Woodland Drive. The neighborhood became known as “Dodge City” because of the frequent police raids that took place there, a surreal skirmish with the local forces of law and order that did little to stop the flow of illicit drugs into and out of Laguna Beach. Also at Griggs’ command was an even bigger fleet of vehicles—Volkswagen buses, campers, Porsches and Land Rovers purchased in Europe and driven east, then sent home on container ships from India and Pakistan, laden with tons of hashish purchased in the exotic bazaars of Katmandu and Kandahar.