Hugh Holmes Norton,
Eleanor Katz, Elliott Macis,
Mary Sue Valenti,
INTERVIEW WITH MARY SUE PLANCK
INT: What attracted you to the whole scene in the sixties and brought you to San Francisco.
MARY SUE PLANCK: I came to San Francisco before I found out about the scene really, I didn't move to San Francisco because these was a scene here, and when I say San Francisco I'm talking about the whole bay area. I came here from back east via a few other stops and I moved to Berkeley actually first and because I was curious about the - in fact I thought Berkeley was part of San Francisco, I think I said I was moving to San Francisco and someone said what part and I said Berkeley, and went to Berkeley and did some pretty ordinary things like I got a job at the stock market and the stock exchange at San Francisco and commuted on a bus. Bart wasn't built yet, the subway, commuted on a bus across the bay, and then one day somebody came along, my room mate actually, I had two room mates, a couple a married couple and he brought home a sugar cube and said it was Sandos acid, and I had just heard about it a little bit, it had been in Time magazine or something you know, but I didn't even marijuana at the time so I didn't know much about drugs at all, but the two, the three of us split two sugar cubes, dissolved them in a glass of orange juice and then carefully divided the orange juice three ways and drank it, and had the greatest time I subsequently took hundreds of acid trips. This was 1963, or something like that, and it was the first one and it was absolutely the best, and there was the cosmic consciousness, there was being God, there was understanding it all now. And I became short order pretty impatient with the restful world, they're still having wars, they were doing stupid things, the Stock Market was absolutely appalling. One day I went in there and they were buzzing about a Peace Scare, which absolutely blew me away. That was one of the things I call my Epiphany. And it was a thing that absolutely put me in the anti-war activist category, that there could be such a term as a Peace Scare, that "Oh Lord they are going to take our money, instead of killing our children." So I was righteously indignant about that, still am to tell you the truth. But, at that time it was all very new up till then I had no thought that the Government lied to you, that they would be doing all these nefarious things, killing people willy nilly for money, for the military industrial complex and so forth. I did not know anything of that and I had a crash course - I suddenly was meeting all these people who had known it for a long time, people around Berkeley, people who were in various movements. My husband was in the Berkeley movement at the time, and we did not know each other then. But I met some other people who were in that, and so I started going with them on the peace marches, and this to me went hand in hand with taking LSD. Some weekends you would take LSD, other weekends I would go to a peace march. I did not do them together, LSD was not to me something to do partying, even though as I have said, one of the motivations for keeping, for taking it, was that it was fun, and that I was doing it because I enjoyed it. I also felt like I was learning something from it, it was making me a better person. Anyway I did not take it and go out to parties, or go out on demonstrations. Then I was sober, and straight and so forth. But I tied it together, in the fact that I thought the Cold War was certainly something I grew up, and then that hot War in Vietnam coming right then, and all the people talking about we were Communists because we did not support everything that the Government did, and things like that...I lost my train of thought...
INT: No, no that's fine. Tell me about the importance, in that case, to you of the whole Vietnam War, and what made you so angry and passionate?
MARY SUE: There now had..one of the things that is so important about the Vietnam war now, in retrospect, this is my theory. It is that the war was what it took to open up, open our eyes, that the Government would lie to you, that everything you had always been told isn't necessarily true. LSD showed me and I think a lot of other people that it did not have to be that way, that there were other alternatives. There was another way of looking at things, there was more to life, and sometimes I think there was a third thing which was the music. Although other times I think the music was a reflection of the other two things. But in any case, the combination of the war going on, the Cold War we had grown up with, the LSD to open our minds, and the music is what to me made the Sixties. What we call the Sixties, which is actually probably 63 or '64 through the first part of the Seventies that decade..
INT: Now you somehow starting taking LSD for fun, but it evolved into some sort of romantic revolutionary philosophy. Can you tell me what that was and where you stood on it?
MARY SUE: The philosophy, the revolutionary philosophy that I ended up developing was certainly helped out a lot by taking LSD, because it literally does open up your mind, and it opened mine anyway. I could see things that I had not seen before. And feel things, and the very thought of some of the things I saw that we saw on our television set that were going on in the War, and then you would read about expenditures of money, or arguments that they would make on behalf of the Military, and just want to tear your hair out! I never would have done this myself, or really felt like this, but I had sympathy for the people who thought they wanted to just shoot everybody in power. It just seemed so clear that they were wrong, that they were bad, and the LSD I think made me believe in an evolution that was going to be very much speeded up, I used to say, there are more of us being born everyday, and there are more of them dying. And our children, at that time, our children all seemed like they were going to be hippies too, or believers. My son, strangely, turned out very apolitical, and certainly didn't turn into a straight Boy Scout or anything, but he couldn't be bothered to go on a demonstration...
INT: Are you talking about the mad land of LSD and the water in what....??
MARY SUE: Well, I had heard people talking about putting LSD in the water in Washington DC, and in other places too. Anytime let's say a politician was coming to town to speak somewhere people would fantasize about going down there and dumping a few hundred hits, or a few thousand hits, LSD is very small, and you could put enough to dose everyone in San Francisco in a package that you or I could carry. It does not take very much, a 100 micrograms, is a very little bit. I never actually tried to put any LSD in the water in Washington DC, I never went to Washington DC during that time, I have a feeling probably people did try it. In fact, I think I even remember reading that they go kind of paranoid and had guards at the water supply, I don't know whether that is true or not...I'm afraid I can't really tell you very much about people putting LSD in the water because I never knew anybody that did it. But I must say I thought it was a very good idea. The other thing is I have seen people put LSD or seen the result, in anything that anybody set down, at a public place, or a concert where the Grateful Dead were playing or something like that. The favorite trick of the pranksters that were doing it would be to put it in drink of a security guard, or somebody we all thought was much too straight, or much too uptight, and definitely needed to loosen up with an LSD trip! Of course, they would often end up screaming in the corner and that was not so good...I don't personally do not believe in giving somebody drugs against their will, I think it is kind of a mental rape, but if I really hated someone, I would not object at all to seeing someone dose Jesse Holmes, I think he deserved it just fine. But I would not do it to anyone I would not punch in the nose.
INT: Why the concentration of all these things in the Hyatt the musicians that came here in the park, I don't think you were here for the sort of ....I mean all this kind of activity that was concentrated here, and all the people which came over and joined it?
MARY SUE: The Summer of Love, was the summer of 1967, that is what most people agree and I was here for most of it. I wasn't here for the, for the Be In, the capital B capital E, Be In. I was living in Big Sir, at the time, I think that was in January of something and the Summer followed that. I was here for the whole summer, and that was, what I remember is free concerts in the park, Quicksilver, Messenger Service, the Grateful Dead of course, the Jefferson Airplane, almost every rock group, the San Francisco group anyway played free in Golden Gate Park. I have often wondered why San Francisco, why did this scene come here? We have talked a lot of us have talked about a ripple effect going from here, and spreading out throughout the country. Ideas, music, drug fads, fashion, going from here to there, and why that is the case I am not sure. Perhaps it was a combination of the fact that some of this music came from here, the weather, the fact that we're the left coast of the country,, San Francisco has always had a torn reputation going back to the Barbary Coast days. Berkeley of course, has got a major university in it, so maybe it was natural that those two places where the weather is mild, where people can come if they don't have a place to stay, and they won't die. It is unpleasant but you won't freeze to death, like you would in New York. So that could be why it was here, but why ever it was it certainly was, there was no question about this being the center of the universe, we really felt that way.
INT: And how important was the Pill to your life, it was obviously invented and people started taking it in the Sixties? Did it change your life?
MARY SUE: The pill certainly changed my life because it occurred right in the middle of the years where I was childbearing age. I had two children before the Pill was available, and the second one was in '63, lets see '62, I guess it was. And then shortly after that, my doctor gave me birth control pills and I guess I was very fertile because whenever I didn't have them I seemed to get pregnant. But I took them for several years until I decided to have my third child, I stopped taking the Pill, had a child, then took them forever after until I no longer needed them any more.