Remembering “Rainbow Bridge” – Extended Mix

Mauifeed.com Bonus Material: Stuff that hit the cutting room floor and other items that may be of interest.

“I remember the day Jimi was leaving Maui. He looked at us with tears in his eyes and said, ‘You guys are so lucky. You get to stay,’” reminisces Mauian Les Potts, who spent three July weeks with Hendrix filming Rainbow Bridge, and was involved with the film’s production from its genesis. Shooting culminated with what was dubbed the “Rainbow Bridge Vibratory Color/Sound Experiment,” a storied concert on Baldwin family ranch land in Olinda, on July 30, 1970. Hendrix immediately went on to play at the Waikiki Shell on August 1. It was his last concert on U.S. soil. He died less than two months later.

***

Throughout the 40 years since his passing, a haze of controversy continues to gray the facts surrounding Hendrix’s September 18, 1970 death. Fueled by conflicting reports from witnesses and medical professionals involved, a slew of publications and TV programs push conspiracy theories that Hendrix’s untimely end was no accidental overdose. Most recently, in the 2009 book Rock Roadie, author James “Tappy” Wright claims that Hendrix’s manager Michael Jeffery admitted to him that Hendrix had been killed as part of an insurance scam. Jeffery himself died not long after Hendrix, in a plane crash in ’73, but Wright quotes him as having divulged in ’71 that “Jimi was worth much more to me dead than alive. That son of a bitch was going to leave me. If I lost him, I’d lose everything.”

In the time leading up to Hendrix’s passing, biographer Charles Shaar Murray [in Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and the Post-war Rock'N' Roll Revolution (1989)] writes that “(Hendrix) began consulting independent lawyers and accountants with a view to sorting out his tangled finances and freeing himself from Mike Jeffery,” unhappy with Jeffery’s management style, and Hendrix’s own dwindling net-worth, despite international popularity. “During the early part of 1970, Jimi was becoming increasingly distrustful of those around him,” writes Harry Shapiro [in Jimi Hendrix: Electric Gypsy (1990, 1995)], who is considered to be the preeminent Hendrix biographer. “(H)e believed that (Jeffery) would kill him rather than release material that (he) didn’t think was commercial enough,” Shapiro adds.

Hendrix’s final days were dark ones. He was having problems with his manager, Michael Jeffery, and, according to biographer Harry Shapiro, “was becoming increasingly distrustful of those around him.” At the same time, Hendrix was changing his sound—with mixed results. “Both his management and his audiences seemed determined that Hendrix should be content with simply repeating his former triumphs,” writes another biographer, Charles Shaar Murray. “Much to Hendrix’s disgust and despair [his] fresh material seemed to be merely tolerated.”

This “fresh material,” while beloved by enthusiasts today, embodied a bold new direction for Hendrix—jazzier, rolling compositions inspired by his camaraderie with Miles Davis as well as his repeat visits to the Hawaiian islands from 1968-’70 (Potts, among others, points to the tune “Pali Gap”). “He planned to release a double album with the working title of First Rays of the New Rising Sun, at the end of [1970],” writes Murray. But with that project left unfinished, “two posthumous albums released in 1971, Cry of Love and Rainbow Bridge… both betray their makeshift origins.”

The latter-named release is better known for the movie of the same name, principally filmed on Maui during the summer of 1970. Murray writes that Rainbow Bridge was a project “close to [Jeffery's] heart—an incoherent farrago of dope and mysticism.” (It might be more accurate to say it was close to Jeffery’s pocketbook—Potts says Jeffery personally sunk over $500,000 into it, plus $300,000 to Warner Bros. and $40,000 to the IRS—funds that weren’t recouped until the movie was sold in ’72 to Transvue Pictures Corp.) But the film is closer still to Mauians, especially those who were in it.

Sure, the flick’s incongruous plotline (if one even exists) coupled with misleading marketing (bootlegs and re-releases often try to pass it off as a straight concert film) make it a tough sell to even diehard Hendrix fans. But it remains worthy as a cinematic hippie relic; a portrait of a sect of youth—specifically youth on Maui—from that era, and includes a unique snapshot of one of music’s most revolutionary icons in what would be his final weeks.

***

Never mind the oft hard-to-follow ramblings of rawboned hippie waifs at “The Rainbow Bridge Occult Research Meditation Center” (i.e. Seabury Hall, rented out during the school’s summer vacation, Potts says, for a meager $3,000 for three months), where lead actress Pat Hartley is sent to investigate the experimental outpost of a man she meets in the Mojave Desert. Even the concert footage in Rainbow Bridge is frequently dismissed by Hendrix historians as not particularly memorable.

But sit down and screen the film with someone who was there—as we did with Potts recently, in his Napili home—and not only are the movie’s charms made more evident, but the texture of noteworthy brushstrokes from this portrait of our island’s history come clear.

“Forty years is a long time, and I bet if you talk to any of the other survivors, you’ll get a different story,” says Potts, who adds that most cast members have since passed. “But this is what I remember. At the time, we were just dumb, haole hippies, and back then, we weren’t really socially accepted at all. Our county government was gearing toward the fact that they wanted [Maui] to be a tourist place for rich people.” Pamphlets essentially saying “we don’t want you here, go back where you came from” were handed out to anyone at the airport with “a backpack and long hair,” says Potts.

The Maui News, then not yet our island’s ‘daily,’  announced “to go three weekly” in their August 12 issue and sold for just 10cents per copy.

A May 27, 1970 Maui News editorial titled “Forecast for a Troubled Summer” reflects a similar sentiment. “Young people here on Maui as throughout the state and across the nation will find summer employment hard to come by… [as] recruiters and businesses… have learned to pick and choose while being most selective,” reads the piece. “There might be a measure of satisfaction to be gained from this if the only ones to be hurt and frustrated were the radicals who have spent four years damning the establishment. There might even be some therapeutic value in discovering the world does not revolve around the desires of the young, and that it can be a tough old world to get along in.”

Potts points out that also at this time, hitchhiking became illegal (a law that remained until recent years), to thwart presumably money-less transplants (the term “trustafarians,” or urbandictionary.com for that matter, did not yet exist), and a June 24, 1970 Maui News brief headed “Hitchhiking Signs Needed?” confirms, saying, “(t)he Committee of the Whole of the Maui County Council wants the Administration to erect signs informing the general public that hitchhiking is prohibited in Maui County. The COW made this request after a resolution asking for review of the hitchhiking law was referred it by the Council.”

“That’s why we never had a bus system,” Potts says, of “squeez(ing) people” to use rental cars (and on a somewhat related note, Hendrix–notorious for his reckless driving—destroyed “another brand new sports car on the island of Maui,” in 1968, according to Shapiro).


Potts says he first met Jeffery at Lahaina’s Pioneer Inn, while having breakfast one morning. Potts and a friend were petitioning a potential investor for $10,000 in startup cash to open a surf shop, but things “weren’t really going anywhere.” It was a time when bogus rumors often flew about acts like Led Zeppelin coming to the isle. But when a man who’d earlier introduced himself, to Pott’s disbelief, as Hendrix’s manager interrupted, saying, “Ten grand? I’ll give you ten grand!” the direction of the conversation quickly turned to Jeffery.

Jeffery returned to Lahaina “six to eight months later with Michael Hynson” (who remains a close personal friend of Potts’s), and it was then that Potts learned of—and became involved with—plans to make a movie.

Cast member Melinda Merryweather, in a 1995 interview with Straight Ahead Magazine, says she approached Jeffery on Maui and told him about a guy named Chuck Wein, a protégé of Andy Warhol, who had an idea for a film.

Terrain, a mutual friend of Merryweather and Wein, had connected with Hendrix in Los Angeles because she was “decoding his music… every note (having) a color, and all the colors having different healing abilities attached to them… Jimi was very interested… (and) had told Terrain that he was from another planet located near an astroid belt off Mars. He came to Earth to show it’s people a new energy.”


“Anger he smiles towering shiny metallic purple armour / Queen jealousy, envy waits behind him / Her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground / Blue are the life giving waters taking for granted / They quietly understand / Once happy turquoise armies lay opposite ready / But wonder why the fight is on / But they’re all, bold as love… Just ask the Axis

My red is so confident he flashes trophies of war / And ribbons of euphoria / Orange is young, full of daring but very unsteady for the first go ’round / My yellow in this case is no so mellow / In fact I’m trying to say it’s frightened like me / And all of these emotions of mine keep holding me / From giving my life to a rainbow like you / But I’m a yeah, I’m bold as love…”

- “Bold as Love,” by Jimi Hendrix, from Axis: Bold as Love (1967) by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Wein’s vision, Potts says, was forward-looking, a precursor of what we now call reality TV. The concept was to take real-life personalities and subtly script mostly impromptu interactions. “He just took different people that were heavy into their trips, put them together and let the cameras roll,” says Potts of the “very, very loose script.”

A California native, Potts was behind the scenes during filming in So. Cal. in the Spring of 1970 (though he needed to keep off-screen as he was to be in Hawaii shots), and points out the many locations seen early in the film. During the opening sequence, when a group of young people approach actress Hartley with rapid-fire testimony, Potts says, “those are real Jesus freaks.” Later, during a scene where Hartley is hassled by two police officers, Potts quips, “those are real cops—and, frankly, some of the better actors in the movie.” And, in a scene where Hartley imagines marching off to war with a band of young men lead by a barking drill sergeant, “those poor suckers” were really off to Vietnam.

Potts cringes during the movie’s long, opening monologue—a canned voiceover set to a black screen. “This is a little thick, this guy’s rap.”

“Thick” though it may be, it sets up movie’s intended themes—themes that aren’t necessarily upheld in any organized manner.

Opening Monologue (transcribed especially for you, by yours truly):

“The film Rainbow Bridge, which you are about to see, was not made from a script nor from fiction. It is a living view of the harsh and sometimes beautiful truth of what tomorrow may bring to human kind. It is the answer to Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock. It was made from blood and sweat and tears. The trinity that helped propel another war in another time.

Have you heard of the Mystical Population? Have you ever met anyone from this enigmatic section of the land? Do you know their mission? Their destiny? Do you know that the space people have already established regular routes to the U.S. and the makers of this film who are energized with them are already in contact with them, at will?

The world is in the throes of accelerating chaos. The ever growing dysfunction  is dehydrating the mind of man and woman. And what are you doing as society disintegrates? Who will pick up the pieces? The burnt out torch to finish the relay to a better, saner world. And what are the new young, the new old doing, as the earth dissolves beneath their feet? Are the new young, the new old, anonymously working on something to postpone the prophecy of Armageddon?

Jimi Hendrix one of the stars of rainbow bridge, reminded us in a song a few days before his death, that the messenger is coming, and the world is not ready for its final event. Or IS now the time?

The new young wish to help make a better world. They don’t want to inherit the pieces. Peace. World peace forever is within reach. The messenger has said so. And the new young, the new old believe. But you are skeptical. Lean back. Be joyfully shocked and enlightened that other eyes and minds are seeking a better way. A way out. An escape from a frozen world into a flexible sphere, where there’s more of singing and laughing than crying and dying. Worlds of ressurection. Worlds of reincarnation.

The new young, the new old know the answer is not drugs nor other hallucinatory concoctions. There is an answer, a solution. Together, we must find it.

Perhaps it can be found in a spiritual form never envisioned by human kind. But, it will not be found in war. When it comes, we will know because the pattern will be wrapped in peace and love.

The new young wish to dedicate their lives to something more constructive than dying on a battlefield, a main street, or in an alley.

Rainbow Bridge offers some of the answers. We pray you will think of others.”


“Chuck Wein wanted to produce a program to relieve mass paranoia against the arrival of extraterrestrials,” says Potts. “[He] was talking about UFOs because he believed that evil power monopolies ran the planet, along with the military industrial complex, and UFOs were powered by electromagnetic energy. If this were to come out, it’d be a bigger revolution than the Industrial Revolution, because electromagnetic energy would replace oil electricity. We went into a lot of detail about that, but most of it was not in the film.”

The opening monologue, meanwhile, croaks, “Have you heard of the Mystical Population? Have you ever met anyone from this enigmatic section of the land? Do you know their mission? Their destiny? Do you know that the space people have already established regular routes to the U.S. and the makers of this film—who are energized with them—are already in contact with them at will?”

Shapiro’s Hendrix biography expands on this: “Wein claims that a group of people meditated for several months and traveled astrally to visit those with sufficient funds to finance the venture. The record books fail to show whether Mo Ostin of [Warner Bros.] received an occult visitation, but he did get a call from Mike Jeffery.”

“At the time, we were having a lot of UFO activity [on Maui] because they were doing Star Wars testing up at the crater,” says Potts.

Even a May 9, 1970 Maui News piece titled “Ghost Lights Over Maui,” by Jeanne Booth Johnson describes a “funny kind of meteor [that] was reported by a whole lot of folks in Honolulu, including government officials, Air Force and FAA personnel. A spokesman for the latter said ‘the object was not like any object missile or satellite’ he’d ever seen… All our islands have mysterious lights seen in odd places… in the sky or on the ground.”

“Of course, this is all theoretical,” admits Potts, “[but] this is what we were talking about at the time. I’m not talking about little green men, I’m thinking more like the book Chariots of the Gods?” he adds, referring to the 1968 book by Erich von Daniken.

Potts has a few key scenes in the movie, including an infamous one where he and others cut open a surfboard to reveal a large bag of smuggled psychoactives—which in reality, Potts says, was chocolate cake mix. Another takes place at Lahaina’s Banyan tree. There, Potts really interviews two young Mauians about a UFO sighting they’d had, where a vessel came out from the valley above Lahainaluna.

Potts says that, in all, they filmed 43 hours of 35mm tape, “ridiculous” by today’s standards and part of the reason they racked-up “$300,000 in lab fees with Warner Bros.” Some of the footage consisted of “a giant cigar with a blue ball around it, right above Lahaina Harbor.” When the footage returned from Warner, he says it was wiped clean, but audio interviews of “people freaking out on Front Street” remained, though those too were lost 20 years ago to TV news reporter John Yoshimura, when Potts provided his insight for a 20-year anniversary Rainbow Bridge story for KHON2. “John, if you’re out there,” Potts says, “I want that tape back.”

None of the UFO themes—which are clearly what resonate with Potts four decades later—are evident until the very end of the film (and even then, they require explanation).

After the famed “Rainbow Ridge” Olinda concert with the Jimi Hendrix Experience (newly reformed, featuring Hendrix, drummer Mitch Mitchell and, replacing Noel Redding on bass, Billy Cox), the final scenes of Rainbow Bridge are of primary cast members (Potts included) romping barefooted through the Haleakala crater to the Holua cabin, where they sit enraptured by Charlotte Blobe, who was “the closest thing we had to an actual UFO contact,” according to Potts. Blobe was the personal secretary to George Adamski, famous for his claims of meeting with Nordic “Space Brothers” (a term also used in Rainbow Bridge). Then, credits roll over shots of a highly-active Kilauea.

A July 30, 1970 Maui News article titled “Who Visits Haleakala—Maui’s Scenic Wonder,” by Selma Cattell, says “People arrive at the Park from every corner of the mainland and every country in the free world… It is even possible to guess the age of the visitor from what he writes [in "Remarks and Comments") for only a member of the "now" generation would write "Cool man!" and "Outa sight, man."

A May 9, 1970 Maui News article titled "Directions for Hiking in Haleakala Crater," each of the three cabins [Kapalaoa, Paliku and Holua (featured in film)] was once “equipped with water, wood-burning cookstove, firewood, kerosene lamps, cooking and eating utensils, triple-tiered bunks, matttresses, mattress covers and blankets (pillows and sheets not included),” and rates were just “$2.00 per night for each adult, and $1.00 per night for each child age 12 or under.”

Today, according  to http://www.nps.gov/hale/planyourvisit/wilderness-cabins.htm, “there is a flat fee per night per cabin which accommodates up to 12 people… early reservations (> 3 weeks) $75.00 per night [and] reservations (< 3 weeks $60.00 per night).” And, “(a) $10 service fee per reservation night is charged for any changes to the reservation. Cancellations made more than 3 weeks in advance of reservation date will be refunded less the $10 service fee per night. Changes to reservations within 3 weeks is not permitted and any cancellations are non-refundable.”

“Holua Cabin, the closest cabin, lies at 6,940 feet (2,115 meters) in the shrubland near Koolau Gap, 3.7 miles down the Halemauu Trail or 7.4 miles down Keoneheehee Trail. Visitors staying at Holua can enjoy day hikes into the central Wilderness Area. The landscape around Holua supports a native shrubland which colonized the lava flows. There is also a campground at Holua.”

***

Need a recap? Us too. A chick from the Mainland shows up on Maui and yaks with a bunch of haole hippies (save one Honolulu girl billed as “Hawaiian Susanne” in the credits) who have an array of competing “trips,” and duke it out with feverish pitch in an “Occult Research Meditation Center” otherwise known as Seabury Hall in the summertime. One of the greatest guitarists of all time shows up, speaks but briefly, and plays a concert Upcountry for a few folks who subsequently run up to the top of the mountain and talk to an alien lady. Then there’s an eruption.

So what about Hendrix? Isn’t he the point? Are criticisms of Rainbow Bridge as a misrepresented concert DVD, or Hendrix-centric movie, true? Yes and no. Hendrix’s music is indeed the movie’s audible cornerstone and his concert its visual climax, but Hendrix himself is little to be found other than in a rather voyeuristic interview conducted in Seabury’s rafters and in perhaps the film’s most fascinating scene, where a grinning Jimi assassinates Barron Bingen from a window at the school’s Cooper House, as he gives a speech next to a green American flag.

Potts shares some insider knowledge about that intriguing and (as with everything else) incongruous scene—the only violence in the movie. “That was all Jimi’s idea,” Potts says, as he shows me a framed photo from an old California newspaper (see below), of him standing next to Hendrix. “We were standing there [outside of the Cooper House] and Barron was giving his speech. Then, he just runs up there, grabs that gun—which he must have seen up there at some point—and just did that.” Potts says Hendrix told him, over the course of their time spent on Maui and “having breakfast every morning for three weeks,” that he was under a lot of pressure from the Black Panthers to step to the forefront of the civil rights movement. That, Potts guesses, was likely the root of his motivation for the scene.

It was a rare moment of spotlight-hogging for the famed guitarist; Potts says Hendrix was incredibly shy throughout the shoot. In fact, every time they’d commence shooting, Jimi would “freak out.” Finally, before the attic “interview”—which reveals an obviously drunk but very clever and cool-tongued Hendrix—Jimi, then still refusing to do the scene, talked with Potts, who’d escaped to the furthest reaches of the campus and was listening to recordings from Hendrix’s famous Fillmore East concert from New Years’ Eve 1969. Potts says Jimi questioned why he would listen to that, saying it was “imperfect,” and so Potts replied, “Well, it may be imperfect to you, but it’s genius to me.” They downed a few Miller High Lifes, and Hendrix was sufficiently calmed—and inebriated—to do what fans consider the most important and insightful part of the film.

It may be in Potts’s words to Hendrix that we find the best summation of why Rainbow Bridge—chaotic plotting, crazy hippies and UFOs aside—matters. Because when all is said and done, in art as in life, nothing is faultless and everything is brilliant. – Anu Yagi, MauiTime.

So, Les said that there was a big headline in The Maui News, something about “Hippies Take Over Seabury Hall.” Awesome. Had to have it. I sat for hours scouring Maui News microfilm for the summer of ’70—without the luxury of indeces*, mind you— and the only thing I found pertaining specifically to Rainbow Bridge was this photo and caption.

“PRODUCER–Richard Chase is a producer for a major Hollywood film being quietly shot on Maui. He is a former newspaper reporter from southern California now producing “Rainbow Bridge,” a story revolving around the conflict between the younger and older generations in America today.”


*Then, I got an e-mail today from my good friends at the Maui Historical Society, which both thrilled me to death and made me scream audibly, pulling at my hair:

For Immediate Release – Maui Historical Society presents “A Community in Transition: Maui from 1951 to 1973 As Recorded by The Maui News”

J. Walter Cameron Center Auditorium, September 16, 2010, 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

August 25, 2010, Wailuku – To celebrate the just-published Index to the Maui News 1951-1973, there will be a presentation and panel discussion at the J. Walter Cameron Center Auditorium on September 16 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.  Gail Ainsworth will moderate.  The panel members, all people who lived on Maui during that era, will discuss what Maui was like and how it changed over that time.  Significant events changed Maui forever:  Statehood, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the development of Kihei and Kaanapali, and the influx of immigrants from the mainland.   Audience discussion will be encouraged.  Free admittance and refreshments.

This is the third volume of the Maui New Index, which together allow family and community researchers to find information in The Maui News covering the years 1900 to 1973.  The books are available at the Bailey House Museum Shop and all proceeds benefit the Maui Historical Society.  Access via the Web will be discussed.

The Maui Historical Society was founded in 1951 and is the oldest historical and preservation society on Maui.  Its mission is to Collect, Preserve, Study, Interpret and Share the History, and Heritage of Maui.  As a 501(c) 3, donations to the Maui Historical Society are tax deductible to the fullest extent of existing law.  Your gift ensures that the past is there for future generations.

For more information, call Bailey House Museum at 244-3326, fax 244-3920, e-mail baileyhousemuseum@clearwire.net.  Website: www.mauimuseum.org