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Ken Kesey Merry Pranksters collection, (bulk 1964-1969).
Collection 21
Collection Overview


Ken Kesey Merry Pranksters collection, (bulk 1964-1969)
Home movies. Ken Kesey. Merry Pranksters


Kesey, Ken., creator


The bulk of the collection contains home movie footage taken during The Merry Pranksters cross-country road trip on the day-glo painted school bus nicknamed Further. The footage consists of The Merry Pranksters painting the bus at Kesey's home in La Honda, California, the bus leaving La Honda in June 1964, down into Berkeley, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Big Sur, through Arizona, the Southwest, Louisiana and New Orleans, through Pensacola, Florida and up the East Coast into New York City, in which the Pranksters are seen arriving by way of the New Jersey Turnpike in July 1964. Featured are the numerous wild adventures inside the bus, including Neal Cassady at the wheel. There is also footage of the Pranksters' arrival on the bus Further (without Kesey) to the 1969 Woodstock music festival, acid tests at the Kesey home in La Honda and other California venues backed by music played by the Grateful Dead (before LSD became an illegal substance in 1966). Participants featured in these tests include the Hell's Angels. There is footage of Further and the Pranksters at Lake Tranquility in Canada, footage associated with the Springfield Creamery in Oregon (owned by Ken Kesey's brother, Chuck and his wife, Sue), Yellowstone National Park, Oregon beaches, "Wikkicup," footage taken at Easter, and a bullfight in Tijuana, Mexico. There are also home movies of the Kesey family and a promotional film labeled "Red Cross footage--James Stewart," a CD titled "Best of William S. Burroughs," and a reel-to-reel audiotape of the music from the Broadway production of West side story.


1964 (issued)


Kesey, Ken -- Archives
Authors, American -- 20th century -- Archival resources
Cassady, Neal
Hippies -- Travel -- United States
Bus travel -- United States
La Honda (Calif.)
New Jersey Turnpike (N.J.)
Manhattan (New York, N.Y.)
LSD (Drug) -- Physiological effect
Grateful Dead (Musical group)
Hell's Angels.
Woodstock Festival (1969 : Bethel, N.Y.)
Kesey, Ken -- Family


Originals not available for research use. Inquire at the Archive Research and Study Center for further information (arsc@ucla.edu).
Materials entirely in English.
Ken Kesey (1935-2001) was born in La Junta, Colorado to Edward and Dulce Kesey on September 17, 1935. Later he moved with his family to Springfield, Oregon. A champion wrestler in both high school and college, he eloped with his high school sweetheart, Faye Haxby, right after they both graduated from high school and before Kesey entered college. They had three children, Jed, Zane, and Shannon. Kesey had another child, Sunshine, in 1966 with Carolyn Adams. Kesey attended the University of Oregon's School of Journalism, where he received a degree in speech and communication in 1957. He was awarded a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship in 1958 to enroll in the creative writing program at Stanford University, which he did the following year and where he studied under Wallace Stegner (1909-1993). While at Stanford, Kesey volunteered to take part in a CIA-financed study named Project MKULTRA at the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital on the effects of psychoactive drugs, particularly LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and DMT. Kesey wrote many detailed accounts of his experiences with these drugs, both during the Project MKULTRA study and in the years of private experimentation that followed. His role as a medical guinea pig inspired Kesey to write One flew over the cuckoo's nest in 1962. The success of this book, as well as the sale of his residence at Stanford, allowed him to move to La Honda, California, in the mountains south of San Francisco. He frequently entertained friends and many others with parties he called "Acid Tests" involving music (such as Kesey's favorite band, The Warlocks, later known as the Grateful Dead), black lights, fluorescent paint, strobes, and other "psychedelic" effects, and, of course, LSD. These parties were noted in some of Allen Ginsberg's poems and are also described in Tom Wolfe's The electric kool-aid acid test, as well as Hell's Angels: the strange and terrible saga of the outlaw motorcycle gangs by Hunter S. Thompson. In 1964, Ken Kesey took a mythic trip from the West Coast to New York City to celebrate the publication of his book, Sometimes a great notion. He was joined by a group of men and women called The Merry Pranksters (Neal Cassady, Carolyn Adams aka "Mountain girl," Ken Babbs, Ron Bevirt aka "Hassler," Betsy Flagg, George Walker, Chuck Kesey, Dale Kesey, John Babbs, Steve Lambrecht, and Paula Sundstren aka "Gretchen Fetchin"). In a 1939 bus painted in psychedelic colors and steered by Jack Kerouac's fabled companion, Neal Cassady (1926-1968), Kesey and the Pranksters set out on the ultimate road trip: an undercover mission in broad daylight that would take them through time, space, and the limitless magical landscape of the imagination. Their quest would be fueled by powerful potions of spiked orange juice, mixed by Kesey, with a brand new secret ingredient pinched from the laboratories of the Central Intelligence Agency--LSD. Not long after the legendary bus trip, Kesey was arrested for possession of marijuana in 1966. In an attempt to mislead police, he faked his own suicide by having friends leave the Merry Pranksters' truck on a cliffside road near Eureka, California, along with a suicide note that said, "Ocean, Ocean I'll beat you in the end." Kesey fled to Mexico in the back of a friend's car. When he later returned to the United States, Kesey was arrested and sent to jail for five months. Upon his release, he moved back to the family farm in Pleasant Hill, Oregon in the Willamette Valley, where he was to spend the rest of his life. He died on November 10, 2001 following an operation for liver cancer.
Copyright has not been assigned to the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
Inventory list available. Inquire at the Archive Research and Study Center.


motion picture
Home movies and video.

Physical Description:





Collection 21



Copyright Note:

Originals not available for research use. Inquire at the Archive Research and Study Center for further information (arsc@ucla.edu).
Copyright has not been assigned to the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Related Item:

Promotional film. Red Cross. With Jimmy Stewart