Segarini: Disneyland on Acid

The Family Tree Signs with RCA

There were a lot of great reasons to sign a record deal with RCA back in the mid ‘60s. Aside from the whopping ‘3% of 90% of wholesale’ deal, (and you think illegal downloading is ripping off artists? HA!), which was standard at the time, there were a pile of bonus goodies that came with the servitude.

For one thing, you got to record in RCA’s Hollywood studios, which were state of the art. It was there that I saw my first 8-track recording machine. Wow. 8 separate tracks. Oh my goodness.

You got to hob nob with huge stars that also recorded there. Sometimes, like in the case of the Monkees, you even got featured in the teen magazines. Somewhere out there is a magazine with myriad photos and a 5 page story about the Family Tree and the Monkees having a squirt gun fight that started with an armload of 25 cent squirt guns from a 5 and dime, and escalated to the point where we were throwing buckets of water at each other, and was brought to a halt when a couple of us ripped some fire extinguishers off the walls. The fight went on for about an hour all over the building until the security squad trapped us in a ground floor bathroom and made us stop.

We got to watch Tony Bennett, (or was it Sinatra?), record in the huge Studio A with a full orchestra. When we first started going down to L.A and went to RCA’s studios, we saw various Rolling Stones like Mick and Keith, an occasional glimpse of Andrew Loog Oldham, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman, Charlie, and the ego-maniacal engineer Dave Hassinger when they recorded ‘Aftermath’ there. Dave was pink, but I swear, the Brits were a very pale green. Weird.

Being part of RCA meant you were in the big time, Baby. Hangin’ with Harry Nilsson, on a first name basis with people like Cass Elliot, Papa John, the boys in Buffalo Springfield, and others…it was very cool for a bunch of hicks from little farm towns up North.

You got invited to lots of industry functions when you were with RCA, too. Parties, openings, record release get-togethers…this wasn’t chips, dip and beer tickets. These parties were done up right. Crab claws, shrimp, you name it. Most importantly…a full open bar.

My God, how this business has changed.

But the greatest perk that came with RCA was courtesy of NBC, RCA’s parent company at the time. NBC had a big slice of Walt Disney’s theme park, 27 miles away in Anaheim, and they were very generous with that connection.

One day, The Tree got called into Patty Farralla’s office and were each handed an envelope. Patty didn’t say a word. In the envelope was a letter from someone high up in the RCA hierarchy. It was a letter of introduction to the powers that be at Disneyland.

We were to be given a little red wristband when we presented the letters to the head of Public Relations at Disneyland.

That little red wrist band meant two things.

  1. You didn’t wait in line for a ride.
  2. You didn’t have to pay…for anything.

Well, you had to pay for trinkets like mouse ears, Donald Duck colouring books, and Tinkerbell bookmarks, but nothing else. Even lunch was on the Mouse. The coolest thing? That letter was good every time you went to Disneyland. All you had to do was remember to bring it.

Pig heaven…

=0=

It was 1967. We had done time in San Francisco at the Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom. We knew the Grateful Dead…and we knew Owsley.

Click on the map to enlarge it

We had a plan for our first trip to Disneyland. It was simple, yet perfect. We had done our homework and knew what to expect from the Security and Public Relations people. At the time, Disneyland was just one notch up from Jimmy Swaggart’s Church of the Fornicating Evangelist when it came to tolerance. Long hair was frowned upon, so baseball caps were used to tuck your hair out of sight. After you were in the park, you could lose the hat, it was just the border crossing that was, shall we say, ‘picky’. Once, a year later when I was in Roxy, Melanie Bray, Rand’s sweetie, wore a see through blouse to the Park. They refused her entry. Hey, man…Donald Duck doesn’t wear any pants and he’s in your park…and there are kids in there!

The only other part of the plan assured us of a fascinating day? Find a parking spot as close to the front gate as possible, drop a tab of Owsley’s famous acid, and enjoy Disneyland.

Not two days later, we piled into the Van and lit out for the Happiest Place On Earth.

We made it to Anaheim, passing Knott’s Berry Farm and the HollywoodWax Museum.

We exited at Ball Road.

We entered the gigantic mile-wide parking area.

We found a spot.

We put on our baseball caps.

We dropped the acid.

=0=

Crossing the border…

Looking back on this, the taking of the acid in the parking lot at Disneyland isn’t that strange considering the year, and the youth culture we were a part of. What boggles my mind is the ease with which we broke the law, the complete lack of concern for any consequences we might suffer, and the total joy of standing there if front of God, the Mouse, and the gawking couple and their 3 kids who looked like they just pulled in from Nebraska, watching us tuck our hair into our hats, (mine said “SNAFU” on it), and drop a Strawberry Double Dome, passing a warm Dr. Pepper around as a chaser.

We were fearless.

Dumb…

But Fearless!

=0=

The walk from where we parked (“Everyone remember, we parked in Goofy-24”) to Checkpoint Charlie was more of a hike than a walk. Halfway there, I wished we had saved some of the Dr. Pepper.

“We can establish a base camp here and make the peak sometime tomorrow”, says Kootch.

I come close to agreeing with him until I realize he’s kidding. Where the hell is the entrance to this place…and when is the acid going to kick in?

As it turns out, they both happen at exactly the same time.

Just as we reached one of the ticket booths, the Owsley entered our bloodstreams. A sweet, mellow rush, like a sudden cool breeze on a warm day, as gentle as a kiss on the cheek, but as disorienting as being spun around blindfolded.

The girl in the booth looked like Heidi, and about 18 years old. Her cheeks were glowing red and her hair was blonde and shiny, and she was beautiful.

We stood before her and her little booth, grinning like Cheshire cats and vibrating ever so slightly.

“Yes?” she said, in a voice like maple syrup.

We giggled.

“How many?” she asked.

Kootch again, “How many what?”

More giggling.

“How many in your party?” She managed, growing weary of us but still smiling that perfect smile.

“Party!” we shout in unison.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out my envelope.

“Letter” I said, waving it around like an idiot. I may have been drooling.  The other guys saw what I was doing and their eyes lit up. They each fumbled out their envelopes and started waving them at her.

“Letters” We all chimed again, like a remedial reading class on a field trip.

She grabbed one of the envelopes that was being waved in her face, opened it up, and saw the letter. Looking at us like we should be accompanied by at least one adult she said, “One moment please”, and picked up the phone.

I was still waving my envelope when a giant man in a grey suit came up to us out of nowhere and asked us to follow him. We passed through an arch and into a little building half hidden in a sea of bushes and trees.

He took our names, checked our I.Ds, glanced at the letters, and, when he was satisfied with everything, tied special little red ribbons around our wrists, smiled at us and said, “Have a great time, fellas”.

Fellas?

Not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Had he been on his game, we would have been on our way to jail instead of the Magic Kingdom…and today, it was really going to be magic.

=0=

Walking to the World of Tomorrow…

We found ourselves on Main Street USA, Uncle Walt’s replica of a Norman Rockwell Main Street that existed in every small American town from the 1900’s until the mid ‘50’s. In our altered state, it was as though we had been transported through time to a better place. It was perfect.

“This is perfect!”, I said.

“Too many kids”, Kootch snorted.

Well, duh…

We bought some taffy. Have you ever had taffy on acid? It tasted soooo good, but we must have looked like a pack of dogs with mouths full of peanut butter, jaws working, chewing, chewing, chewing…at least we couldn’t say anything stupid as long as we had the taffy. We couldn’t say anything, period.

As we reached the hub of the park that lead to Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland, and Tomorrowland, depending on which path you took, we slowed down and finished the taffy so we could discuss our next move.

“Where to”, somebody asked.

“Tomorrowland. We have to go to Tomorrowland first”, I volunteered.

“Why?” a chorus asked me.

“Because”, I said.

That seemed to do the trick.

=0=

Monsanto: Better Living through Chemistry…

There were lots of fun things to do in Disneyland, stoned or not. Over the course of our visits we managed to smoke a joint in Injun Joe’s Caves on Tom Sawyer Island, eat in a very posh restaurant hidden away on an upper floor in the building that housed the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, enjoy Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and the Peter Pan attraction where you sail over London on a miniature Pirate ship and on to Neverland, The Adventureland ride down the river where your tour guide shoots a hippo and scares the crap out of the little kids on the boat, enjoying a Monte Christo in the beautiful grotto restaurant that the Pirates of the Caribbean ride passed through and scream our way through multiple rides in and on the Matterhorn, sometimes straight, sometimes faced on smuggled flasks of whiskey, bourbon or vodka, but always, always, having a great time. The Matterhorn may seem tame compared to today’s roller coasters, but it was the first that ducked you in and out of an enclosed space…pretty wild at the time. The Matterhorn Ride.

=0=

That said, it was Tomorrowland that held the most pleasure for us when we visited Disneyland.

Sure, the Rocket to the Moon ride was fun, but ultimately kinda boring, the Autobahn and submarine rides were cool, (especially the sign at the end of the line-up that said you “have to be this high”, to get on the ride…hahaha), and the House of the Future was as close to being in the Jetsons as any of us would ever get.

But the ride of rides, the capo de capo of attractions, was something called Adventure Through Inner Space.

If there was ever a ride built solely for the pleasure of a bunch of goofs on LSD, this was that ride.

I’ll tell you what was amazing. After you walked through a great, cavernous room full of massive, moving light shows, you approached what looked like a HUGE piece of machinery. You noticed people getting into round cars that entered the machine from the left, and as they moved to the right, appeared to get smaller and smaller until they disappeared from view. An astounding optical illusion back in 1967, but that was just the beginning. Add to that a good hit of Owsley acid, and you got yourself an experience that you could not find anywhere else on Earth, then…or now.

I wandered into this place after getting separated from the rest of the guys after we got off the TWA Rocket to the Moon thingy. Basically, I followed a hot redhead who was wearing short-shorts and mouse ears into the place because she was the most interesting landmark I could focus on. Once I was inside the building, my attention was diverted by a gigantic, moving snowflake that must have been 3 or 4 stories high. No light show at the Fillmore had ever looked so impressive. I realized that I was in a line, slowly moving toward the round cars lined up at the entrance to the machine. I noticed the red wristband and remembered its magic powers. Raising my hand in the air like a spastic answering a question in high school, I worked my way through the line up until I was standing next to one of the cars.

“This thing work in here?” I said, pointing to my upraised wristband.

“Yep”, said the kid in charge of the cars. “Have a seat”.

He threw back the retaining bar and shoved me into the waiting car, where I was joined by a large woman in a Mumu carrying a 4 foot Mickey Mouse plush toy. Where the hell was the redhead?

Giant woman looked at me like I was going to rob her. I smiled and said, “Wow. Big Mickey”. She looked at me again, this time with a look of tolerance for the mentally challenged.

“Yes”, she intoned slowly, like I was 4 years old, “It’s a big Mickey Mouse. Do you like Mickey Mouse? Well of course you do”. Then she patted me on my hat. What the hell.

“Nice lady”. I said in my best Slingblade voice, then I patted her and Mickey on their respective heads. This seemed to make her feel motherly and appreciated. She looked at me with a wan, affectionate, smile usually reserved for wet kittens or a child that’s just tied his own shoes for the first time. “Aren’t you sweet”, she cooed.

“Yes, Ma’am”, I answered.

The car started to move. We were on our way into the shrinking process.

It got very dark. Then it appeared to snow. Snow was falling all around us while a voice coming out of speakers in the little round car started telling us what was happening. As we traveled further into this environment, I noticed the snowflakes getting larger and larger until they were bigger than the car we were riding in. “Holy shit”, I thought, “we are shrinking”.

We continued to get smaller and smaller, the snowflakes looming over us until we passed through one that must have been several stories high. The voice telling us that we have passed into the very heart of this particular snowflake. A light show resembling a cross between the aurora borealis and a good lightshow at the Fillmore starts to form out of the dark and swirling mist. I am peaking. We shrink smaller still. The voice says we are about to enter an atom in the snowflake, that all the lights are molecules moving around us faster and faster as we reach a size so small as to be able to enter an atom…and then…we do!

Electrons start racing around us at great speed. Our car must be suspended in a large chamber because these whirling lights are everywhere. Above us, below us, everywhere. I hear Giant woman speak. “Don’t be frightened”, she says. Frightened? Fuck no, lady, I am in the middle of the greatest acid trip, ever!

The voice says we are now leaving the atom and will be returned to our normal size. Sure enough, the lights get hazy again, and soon, you can see the snowflakes as they slowly get smaller and smaller. Then…the piece de resistance. We come across the business end of a gigantic microscope. You can’t help but look up the large, metal tube. There, at the other end, is a GIGANTIC eye! Staring at us as we pass by! What a rush! And then…the GIGANTIC eye BLINKS!

Whoa…

Then, we start to grow rapidly back to normal, the snow stops, and we pop back out into the massive lobby.

Walt Disney is responsible for this?

Man, he must have been wasted.

Giant woman asks me where the rest of my group is, meaning the special class I must have been with. I tell her I don’t know, but I’ll be fine without them. I don’t tell her I have the keys to the van, or that the ‘group’ I’m with plays rock and roll music and are all tripping on acid in the Trippiest Place On Earth.

I also don’t care where they are at that moment. All I care about is getting back on this ride again, and again, and again.

Which is exactly what I did.

And after the guys found me about to get on the ride again, we all did it again and again and again until we left when they closed the park. Thanks Uncle Walt, you twisted old freak…and I mean that in a good way.

=0=

Eventually, The Family Tree did a photo shoot at Disneyland. Here are two pictures from that day. The first is from The Michael Ochs Collection and is part of Getty Images, and the second is a picture of our bass player, Kootch on Tom Sawyer’s Island. And yes…

…we were on acid again.

=0=

If you’ve got a tab of Owsley acid hidden away somewhere, go find it, take it, wait 20 minutes, and check this out. Here’s the story behind the ride, and some highlights from the ride itself. Again, it seems tame now, but on a hit of acid in 1967, this was an experience like no other. Adventure Through Inner Space.

Segarini’s regular column appears here every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

3 Responses to “Segarini: Disneyland on Acid”

  1. ugh, i love disneyland. dying to go again as a grownup. ps love the outfits in the pics.

  2. melanie pickrell Says:

    Hey Bawb,
    yes I wore many a see through top back in the good old daze. However, it was not me that got banned from Disneyland for wearing a tit revealing outfit. It was Corinne Brosket, one of the many women Randy dated before me. She was in Hair at the time. Roxy did go to Disneyland all together once, you and Cheryl and Randy and I were living together then. I remember this because You and Randy told me not to wear a see through shirt and to put on a bra, because Corinne had been kicked out of Disneyland the last time you tried to go.

  3. Miss Butters passed away…

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