Saturday, June 1, 2013

The ultimate hippie commune

And I thought I knew just about everything of the 1960s/70s hippie counterculture movement. Little did I know. The Source Family. What the hell is that? Maybe because I wasn’t living in L.A. at the time (or ever!) or didn’t read enough back issues of the LA Free Press. But The Source Family was an institution, if that sounds ironic, along the Sunset Strip in the early 1970s. This was a hippie cult par excellence and this documentary by Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos of the same name presents a highly fascinating depiction of it. It started with the Source Restaurant, which had its origins in the early 1960s along the same strip, and reputed to be the first vegetarian resto in the US. It was started by James Baker, an ex-WW II marine and Jujitsu expert with a charismatic personality, to say the least. Influenced by the beats, natural lifestyles and vegetarianism, he created the restaurant, which soon became the in spot for Hollywood celebrities like Goldie Hawn and Steve McQueen. There’s a spoof of it in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977). Baker was also influenced by eastern religion. But anyone who had any recollection of the era – intimate or at arm’s length – would know that the entire hippie experience encapsulated reverence for eastern spiritualism as well as western mysticism and of course sex drugs & rock ‘n’ roll. The Source commune grew into hundreds of people passing in and out of the family's houses in the Hollywood Hills. There were tons of other hippie communes in that era but what took this further was the almost cult like devotion of members to Baker’s Father Yod persona. He was indeed adopted as their spiritual father and ended up marrying numerous female followers, which led the more sceptical to label him simply a “dirty old man.” But this wasn’t a religious cult like Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple or the Children of God or Scientology. There seemed more openness and a less rigid structure as befit the go-with-the-flow hippie mentality. This cult had it all. Religion, vegetarianism, collective living, natural healing, orgy-like sex and of course beatific smiles on the faces of all these gentle flower children. And did I mention, a rock and roll band that recorded dozens of albums, now highly valued collectors’ items as artifacts of high psychedelic music?…..This film will be screened next week at the Cinetopia festival in Ann Arbor and Detroit. It’s absorbing and the best doc I’ve seen in quite a while. Go to

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