An Interview with John Sinclair and Leni Sinclair

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April 1, 2011 at Chrysler Arena and the Bentley Historical Library

On April 1, 2011, in anticipation of the 40th anniversary of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, AADL staff had the opportunity to interview John Sinclair and Leni Sinclair at both Chrysler Arena and the Bentley Historical Library. For more information, interviews, historical audio, photographs, and essays, visit Freeingjohnsinclair.org.

Length: 01:39:59
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library
Article Keywords:John Sinclair Freedom Rally
People:John Sinclair, Leni Sinclair
Media Categories:American Cultures
Media Type:Video

Transcript:

  • [00:00:00.00]
  • [00:00:01.49] [MUSIC PLAYING]
  • [00:00:00.00]
  • [00:00:25.35] INTERVIEWER: All right, Leni, what hit you first when you walked in?
  • [00:00:31.85] LENI: How small the place looks without all the people here. There was 15,000 people here. And you couldn't see them because it was dark. But when they did turn on the lights a couple times, it was just immense, 15,000 people screaming, and yelling, and letting John know they were here over the radio.
  • [00:00:55.94] INTERVIEWER: Yeah, what time did you get here? Were you here way before the performance?
  • [00:01:02.13] LENI: I have no idea. I don't remember.
  • [00:01:04.88] JOHN: She was pretty geeked up that day.
  • [00:00:00.00]
  • [00:01:10.41] INTERVIEWER: Another thing you mentioned was some of the uninvited guests that were in the audience.
  • [00:01:15.68] LENI: Oh, yes, we have reports from the police that were scattered among the audience watching the proceedings. And they wrote everything down, who was speaking, who was playing, they garbled some of the names.
  • [00:01:30.12] But they were sitting right there at the entrance. They said they had a very good view of the audience. But they couldn't really take down all the names because there was too many of them.
  • [00:01:42.70] INTERVIEWER: Right, a little overwhelming.
  • [00:01:44.82] JOHN: Although, I remember when you were working for the Red Squad File Release agency for Coleman Young. And I got mine. Detroit Red Squad took down on filed cards the license number of 15,000 cars. So the Detroit Red Squad had this on file. And then, of course, this was before computers. So they would match these with cards of people who attended Socialist Worker's Party lectures, and anti-war meetings and stuff. Yeah, 15,000 license numbers.
  • [00:02:29.04] INTERVIEWER: So they were parking lot attendants, too.
  • [00:02:31.37] JOHN: Yeah.
  • [00:02:32.98] INTERVIEWER: So John, how much of this were you aware of as far as preparations went, and leading up to the event?
  • [00:02:42.56] JOHN: I was pretty intimately involved in this, as with all our affairs, as much as one could be without being-- and, in the case of this, I was I guess you would have to say serviced by a young attorney in Ann Arbor named Dennis Hayes. He was either still in or just out of law school. And he was kind of my courier, because he was in Ann Arbor, and most of my lawyers are in Detroit.
  • [00:03:15.66] So Hayes would come to see me whenever they wanted me to know something or tell them something, which was every couple of days at that time because we were trying to make this big event. I was trying to get out of prison. I was doing my damnedest.
  • [00:03:31.49] INTERVIEWER: When did you get moved down to Jackson from up north?
  • [00:03:35.78] JOHN: Well, I did my first year in Marquette prison. And then I'm proud to say I was railroaded back to Jackson out of the maximum security prison for organizing inmates.
  • [00:03:51.65] INTERVIEWER: So you were saying this attorney kept you involved with the planning for the event?
  • [00:03:57.24] JOHN: Yeah, and also my defense. And my case had already been argued in the Michigan Supreme Court by that time. So we were waiting for the decision. At the same time, we were lobbying the legislature working with the Ann Arbor representative the great Perry Bullard to try and affect a change in the marijuana laws that would be reflective of the issues I brought up in my appeal, that marijuana was not a narcotic, that 10 years for possession of marijuana was cruel and unusual punishment.
  • [00:04:34.00] And that it had been named a narcotic without due process of law. Those were really my arguments. So we were trying to get the state legislature to reclassify marijuana, take it out of the narcotics and greatly reduce the penalty, which they did, ironically, on December 9th.
  • [00:05:01.78] Well, we had scheduled this event for December because the year before, the legislature had weaseled out of voting on this bill. So what it meant to me is I spent another year in prison in Jackson, the world's largest walled prison. I wanted to get out of there bad.
  • [00:05:24.15] So I said, well, this year we've got to do some kind of spectacular event in order to focus attention on the legislature and on the issue so that they can't just evade it this time. So it worked like a charm.
  • [00:05:40.73] Our friend Jerry Rubin in New York had become friends with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. And he had agreed to come and be part of this. And he said to them, why don't you come with me? And they thought it over. And they said, oh, not a bad idea.
  • [00:05:58.39] So that was the turning point. That was the key in the jailhouse door for me. But Leni, my brother David, and Peter Andrews who created this event, and many other people, worked day after day for two and a half years trying to get me out. So we had all did it together. John Lennon came and turned the key. And then there it was.
  • [00:06:23.50] INTERVIEWER: That's amazing.
  • [00:06:24.87] JOHN: Yeah, amazing.
  • [00:06:25.65] INTERVIEWER: I heard Pete Andrews wanted to charge a little more for the event. I think, what were the tickets, $3?
  • [00:06:33.72] LENI: $3.50.
  • [00:06:37.71] JOHN: Yeah, I always say when they ask, do you have any regrets? I said, yeah, I regret that I didn't listen to Peter Andrews and charge a $10 ticket. My whole life would have been different.
  • [00:06:49.71] LENI: Well, at $10 a ticket, we might not have gotten a lot of people, because until John Lennon signed up to headline the concert it was all Michigan bands. And the biggest act, the headliner, was gonna be Bob Seger. And so the prices at that time, it cost like $2.50 to get to the Grand Ballroom to see local bands. So we couldn't charge $10 to see Bob Seger here. We had to charge less.
  • [00:07:20.30] But we didn't sell a whole lot of tickets, and it could have been a big bust. I think we might have sold 300 tickets when the time came. And we might have had to cancel it. But then when John Lennon decided to come, the tickets stayed $3.50. And they get sold out in a couple hours, obviously.
  • [00:07:39.70] JOHN: Eight minutes.
  • [00:07:40.69] INTERVIEWER: Wow.
  • [00:07:42.18] LENI: That was before computers, too.
  • [00:07:46.87] INTERVIEWER: Now, Leni, you were photographing then, weren't you?
  • [00:07:48.65] LENI: Not really, I had all kinds of responsibilities. First of all, I had two babies, two small children to take care of. They were here. And we had a literature table, which was right over there in the second level where we tried to sell programs. We had printed programs for this event.
  • [00:08:11.35] And we tried to sell the posters. The posters of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally designed by Gary Grimshaw. We tried to sell those for $0.50 a piece. And now they cost $2,000 if you still can find one.
  • [00:08:27.23] And I was running back and forth between the literature table and the stage. I did manage to get a few shots. I got a couple of shots of Archie Shepp, Bob Seger, and John and Yoko. But the rest of them, I was too busy running around doing other things to photograph.
  • [00:08:51.34] INTERVIEWER: How as the place laid out? You mentioned literature tables. What else was being sold?
  • [00:08:55.88] LENI: There was a lot of different tables, different organizations had a booth. I don't know, the people's co-op.
  • [00:09:02.34] INTERVIEWER: Did the White Panther Party have a?
  • [00:09:03.48] LENI: Well, there was us, the White Panther Party. Well, at that time it was not called. We were The Rainbow People's party at that time. But it was the same people.
  • [00:09:18.25] INTERVIEWER: So, John, you're in this? Is this somehow piped into [INAUDIBLE]?
  • [00:09:26.09] JOHN: Well, Peter, David Fenton, whoever was in charge, organized a live broadcast on WABX. But when you work back from Monday when I was released from prison, or looking ahead from Friday, we had no idea I was going to be released. I had at least four more years to serve. So we were trying to make the maximum impact with this event. And they lined up a live broadcast.
  • [00:09:57.32] And, of course, when John Lennon announced that he would be here, everything changed. And then it became a celebrity event, which our media loves so dearly. So they just went nuts with this., much to my benefit.
  • [00:10:12.09] INTERVIEWER: What do you think led to the release so quickly after?
  • [00:10:18.36] JOHN: Well, one, the legislature on the ninth had voted in the new legislation that called for a one-year maximum sentence for possession of marijuana. I'd already served two and a half years. So I had been trying to get appeal bond granted for two and a half years. And they went so far as to rule I was a danger of society in the Michigan Court of Appeals.
  • [00:10:48.25] They wouldn't give me a bond, even though I was victorious in my appeal. Well, the law changed. John Lennon came to Ann Arbor. All the media attention was focused on this event. And, of course, the issue went on my situation.
  • [00:11:08.41] And it just became ridiculous, as a general feeling, I should think, throughout the entire state of Michigan, that this poor guy should be locked up for one more day. Get him out of there. Jesus Christ, you're making us look bad. The Beatles are here, you know.
  • [00:11:27.42] LENI: Yes, but I still would like to find out some day who in the state of Michigan government made the decision to give him bond three days later. They could have waited a week easily. But there was one person who thought it was important to let him out right after this rally, like three days later.
  • [00:11:48.62] JOHN: It would have been a Supreme Court judge.
  • [00:11:50.74] LENI: Well, Cavanaugh, and Swanson.
  • [00:11:53.37] JOHN: I don't know.
  • [00:11:53.82] LENI: Yes, I got the documents.
  • [00:11:56.21] JOHN: Oh, OK, former governor Swanson.
  • [00:11:59.06] LENI: There was only one dissension. One judge said, no, we have to see the new law in writing before we give him bond. And that was the dissenting judge. But all the other Michigan Supreme judges voted to allow John to get out on appeal bond three days later.
  • [00:12:15.19] INTERVIEWER: It was a long event. Do you remember some of the highlights for you? Or anyone that you talked to? Any of the presenters, speakers, the musicians, that you talked to during the time?
  • [00:12:30.13] LENI: Uh, no, I didn't talk to anybody. I don't think so.
  • [00:12:36.03] INTERVIEWER: What stood out for you?
  • [00:12:37.23] LENI: What stood out for you was Stevie Wonder. Stevie Wonder looking out at the audience, saying, this is to all the undercover agents in the audience, somebody's watching you.
  • [00:12:48.49] [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:12:51.48] And what was that other tune? Oh, he was just amazing. He said, there's a lot of things in this world that I don't understand, he said. But to give a man 10 years for a joint-- oh, how did he say it? You don't have to be blind to understand that is an injustice. He brought his whole band, his whole entourage of 40 people, and all their equipment, in time for the festival. And his own money. They paid for it all themselves just to be here.
  • [00:13:42.75] JOHN: He heard about the event. And he called and asked could he come?
  • [00:13:46.76] LENI: That's why Stevie Wonder's name is not even on the poster because he came by so late. And during the concept, Pete [INAUDIBLE] would have told this anecdote. But now I have to tell it. He said, Pete was backstage with John and Yoko when John Lennon found out that Stevie Wonder was here. He didn't know.
  • [00:14:10.56] He found out that Stevie Wonder was here. And he said, Pete, I gotta go out there. I gotta go out there in the audience. I got to see Stevie Wonder. And Pete said, no, that's too dangerous. You can't be among the crowd. They'll mob you.
  • [00:14:23.25] But Pete, you don't understand. Stevie Wonder is our Beatles. He had to go see Stevie. And he did.
  • [00:14:37.73] JOHN: The great American.
  • [00:14:38.85] LENI: And, of course, the other Commander Cody, and Bob Seger, and Teagarden, and [INAUDIBLE] singing god, love, and rock and roll. Just, you know, when you see the movie, there was some great music being made that night.
  • [00:14:52.66] INTERVIEWER 2: I wondered if you guys were privy to the fact that Stevie was come in advance?
  • [00:14:57.64] LENI: Yeah, we knew it a few days before. But not a few weeks.
  • [00:15:02.46] INTERVIEWER 2: Like Pete did.
  • [00:15:04.56] JOHN: They planned the event with Pete.
  • [00:15:06.63] INTERVIEWER 2: Right, no, but I think it was only like two or three people actually knew that Stevie was coming. But you were among them?
  • [00:15:13.20] JOHN: That would be her and my brother.
  • [00:15:16.30] INTERVIEWER: Were there any other surprise speakers?
  • [00:15:19.31] LENI: Well, the surprise was Bobby Seale from the Black Panther Party coming to support John Sinclair, the chairman of the White Panther Party when a lot of people thought we were not having the respect of the Black Panthers. But they did respect what we were doing.
  • [00:15:36.41] And Bobby Seale was just magnificent. Before he joined the Black Panther Party, he was a standup comedian. So his speech was really funny. But also very well accepted, powerful, the audience really responded to him.
  • [00:15:59.07] JOHN: They going to get down to nitty gritty, and we ain't gonna miss no nits or grits.
  • [00:16:06.61] INTERVIEWER: What stories over these last 39 years that people have related to you about their experience here, even though you weren't here? What are some of those that people have told you?
  • [00:16:21.25] JOHN: My favorite is when they told me it was what they call now festival seating, open floor. And they told me that people were gathered around blankets on the floor with pounds of weed broken out on the blankets. That exhilarated me.
  • [00:16:41.52] LENI: I didn't see that.
  • [00:16:44.35] INTERVIEWER: What other experiences did people tell you they had here once they were in the proper mood?
  • [00:16:51.71] LENI: Well, the main thing is that it lasted such a long time, that by the time John Lennon and Yoko came on, half the audience was asleep. Maybe no asleep, but it went on for like 10 hours.
  • [00:17:04.39] INTERVIEWER: People stayed.
  • [00:17:05.24] LENI: It was a long-- people stayed.
  • [00:17:07.03] JOHN: Well, Lennon hadn't come out yet.
  • [00:17:09.59] LENI: And then a lot of people were disappointed because he didn't have a good band. And he just played acoustic. And they just played four tunes. Nobody knew these tunes before. Like, they played I want to hold your hand, or nothing.
  • [00:17:26.03] INTERVIEWER: John, did you ever get to talk to him after that?
  • [00:17:29.24] JOHN: Yes, I did, both of us did.
  • [00:17:30.56] INTERVIEWER: What was that like?
  • [00:17:31.90] JOHN: Well, it was exhilarating for me. I had a chance to thank him for getting me out of prison. I was very grateful. And then we hit it off pretty well. And we were talking about doing things together in the future. And with Andrews we had this brilliant idea, Peter Andrews, to do a tour in the summer of 1972 headlined by Lennon.
  • [00:18:04.96] The show would be based on the Freedom Rally, with speakers, different kinds of music, not a rock show, but a culturally diverse, with black people, white people, politicals, bands, whatever, the model that we established here.
  • [00:18:22.79] And the idea was to-- and then Lennon would get different friends to join him. He's have the band. And then he'd get Eric Clapton at this one, and George Harrison-- that kind of thing. The thing that sells tickets. And we would follow Richard Nixon around the country during the re-election campaign and haunt him.
  • [00:18:47.18] If he was in St. Louis, John Lennon and the rock and roll show would be at the Kiel Auditorium. If you were in Chicago, they would be at the Avalon Theater, you know. Ending up with a three day free music festival outside the Republican Convention and schedule for San Diego.
  • [00:19:12.77] So this was really what triggered the government's attack on Lennon, and well-documented in the movie US Versus John Lennon, the lengths to which he went to try and prevent him from settling there. And actually the Republicans ended up moving their convention from San Diego to Miami, which I thought was a great outcome if nothing else.
  • [00:19:41.56] INTERVIEWER: Now, weren't you at the blues and jazz festival in '72.
  • [00:19:44.99] JOHN: Yes, I was the creative director. I got on December 13th, 1971, I was released from prison. Happiest day of my life.
  • [00:20:01.17] INTERVIEWER 2: I wondered when did you kind of wind that this just wasn't going to happen? And was it as a result of John, the FBI coming down on John and stuff like that?
  • [00:20:14.32] JOHN: Yeah, I don't know. It gradually became apparent because I think-- I can't remember. I was involved in so many things at that time. I think they just kind of froze on us. I think they kind of stopped taking the phone calls. And no more meetings were organized. And it became apparent that they weren't going to do this. I don't know.
  • [00:20:40.91] LENI: Well, we had actually organized. There was a committee to organize these events. And the committee met regularly. And Leni Davis from the Chicago Seven was kind of the main organizer of this group.
  • [00:21:03.53] And it turns out, one of the people of this group was an FBI agent and reported everything to the FBI to J. Edgar Hoover. That's when the FBI, immigration hauled him into court and ordered him deported.
  • [00:21:18.90] JOHN: Strom Thurman wrote the fateful letter. But also the first meeting we had, and the second one, were also covered by Rolling Stone. So it was totally open. We weren't talking about doing anything illegal, putting on some rock and roll concerts. Barely legal then, they hadn't figured out how to take it over. That was the next year.
  • [00:21:40.51] LENI: And then when they were ordered deported by the immigration people, they had to promise the government of the United States that they would not participate in any political activities in order to be allowed to stay in the United States.
  • [00:22:01.68] Now, I often think about that here, John and Yoko move from England to New York to be free because John Lennon was sick and tired of thousands of teenagers stalking him whenever he set foot out int the street. In New York, in the lower village, they could walk around, holding hands, walking down the street, and nobody would bother them.
  • [00:22:30.38] They had enough respect. They are just real people. And then to be told by the government to shut up, this was like fascism. I mean, how do you tell a working class hero you can't talk anymore about the issues, the issue of peace, the Vietnam War, that was very, very dear to John and Yoko, the Bed-Ins they had to draw attention to the war.
  • [00:23:04.83] They couldn't do that anymore. They couldn't do that anymore. They had to become private citizens, or else they had to leave. And I think that must have affected John Lennon psychologically, and ruined him-- I mean, it ruined his career--
  • [00:23:21.01] INTERVIEWER: Let's try and get back to the concert for a minute. What is your memory of the moment when John spoke to the crowd? About what time in the concert was that? And what is your memory of how that moment affected you?
  • [00:23:39.63] LENI: I don't really know. That's in the movie. I don't know like what time it came in the movie. John's mother spoke, too, on stage. Yeah, and I think it might have been right after that. I don't know.
  • [00:23:52.29] But at that time, John was allowed to make a phone call from Jackson to his family once a month. And somehow Pete Anders had hooked it up with the phone company that his call to his wife came to a phone here at Chrysler Arena.
  • [00:24:14.12] And I answered it. And it would broadcast over the loudspeakers in the whole arena. And so we just had a conversation. And--
  • [00:24:24.34] INTERVIEWER: And you didn't know this was going to happen?
  • [00:24:26.62] JOHN: Oh, no, I knew.
  • [00:24:27.85] LENI: It was arranged, yes. But, you know, we don't know if the prison officials were listening in on that. But they didn't stop it.
  • [00:24:37.01] JOHN: That's my part of the story. Again, it's Friday night. And you have no idea I'll be released in three days. I'm serving a nine and a half to 10 year sentence. Anders, through Dennis Hayes, revealed this plan to me. And I thought it was brilliant. So I took the number down. And it was Friday night. And I put in for for my call. So it must have been before 10 o'clock. I don't know. It couldn't have been real late. I was in a barracks at that time, I remember.
  • [00:25:09.50] And I went up to take my phone call, man said, oh, it's your turn. I went in the phone booth. And I was determined to make this call. And I was equally certain that they were bust in, stop the call, take me to the hole, basically, for violating this thing.
  • [00:25:31.13] And I didn't care. I said, if I don't do this, I'm a sissy. I said Anders has got this so I can address this whole auditorium full of people from the penitentiary. And if I don't do this, there's something really wrong with me.
  • [00:25:48.86] So you can hear in the conversation, the first half of it, I'm trembling. You can hear my voice shaking. Well, I'm terrified out of my wits because I think that when I open my mouth and they hear what I'm doing, and they hear the roar of the crowd, they're going to bust in that door. And they're going to take me our of there.
  • [00:26:10.61] So I'm just, OK, OK, I'm going to do this. But now I'm going right to the hole. And then I talked for a minute. And I looked. And these two guards are sitting outside. And they're listening to the ball game, talking, and they aren't even listening to my call.
  • [00:26:26.35] And you can visibly hear me relax. Because I knew what I was feeling at the time. When I hear this tape, it just blows my mind because I kind of relax. And then I start talking normal. And that's when I realize they weren't going to take me out.
  • [00:26:40.41] And then all weekend, I was sure once they heard about it, that on Monday, bam, I was going right to five block. That was a daring thing. I was so glad I did it.
  • [00:26:53.14] INTERVIEWER: Yeah, that's great.
  • [00:26:54.30] INTERVIEWER 2: Did you write down what you wanted to say before hand?
  • [00:26:57.04] JOHN: No, I just write my poems. All other speaking is extraneous.
  • [00:27:03.71] LENI: One thing, though, a few months after John got out, they had to release all the other prisoners who were in jail for marijuana only. And in one day, 128 prisoners were released. And we went to Jackson to greet them. You know, they hugged us.
  • [00:27:24.91] JOHN: That was a high point.
  • [00:27:26.98] INTERVIEWER: Well, John, you and I have known each other a long time, actually--
  • [00:27:29.66] JOHN: Long time.
  • [00:27:30.55] INTERVIEWER: Because I there myself.
  • [00:27:32.32] JOHN: See, I'm not surprised.
  • [00:27:32.96] INTERVIEWER: With Ken Hamlin from Channel 56.
  • [00:27:35.18] JOHN: Oh, you were on the 56 crew? You all taped the whole thing.
  • [00:27:38.36] INTERVIEWER: Yes.
  • [00:27:38.99] JOHN: When I got out, that week before we went to New York to see John and Yoko, they took me to 56 and showed me the whole thing. I watched the whole thing that you all had on tape before you edited it, the raw footage.
  • [00:27:59.04] LENI: All ten hours of it.
  • [00:28:00.58] JOHN: Yeah, we sat for a long time. It was so cool, though, to be able to see what had happened, especially from the perspective of having had it all work.
  • [00:28:11.77] INTERVIEWER: I recall there was quite a crowd there as you walked out.
  • [00:28:16.81] JOHN: Well, it was on the news. They granted the bond, I don't know, probably in the afternoon. My brother had to go and-- it wasn't very much money, $2,500. But he had to get the money together. And then he had to drive it up to Lansing, turn it over, get the papers signed by the judge, and then come back with the paper and present it to the prison.
  • [00:28:40.11] That was the red tape part. I think it was about 8:30 when it finally happened. What a thrill, man.
  • [00:28:49.62] INTERVIEWER: Do you know what happened to that footage from 56?
  • [00:28:52.93] JOHN: I don't know. Steve Gephart might know because he made the movie. He filmed the event. I'm sure he has fingers on any possible sources of footage.
  • [00:29:06.88] INTERVIEWER: Let me ask you, did the rally and everything that came out of it, justify your belief in rock and roll as revolution?
  • [00:29:16.00] JOHN: Well, at the time, yeah. Yeah, but they won that one, too. Pretty soon they found if you just gave these guys a few million dollars, they'd go away. There songs wouldn't be quite so stirring because they would now be written by millionaires instead of people like you and me.
  • [00:29:36.55] So pretty soon they had it well segregated. And then they kind of re-segregated the music after the Motown and Stax years. So when they had rock, rock was for white people, except for the honorary white person Jimi Hendrix, you know? And he was dead. So he wasn't going to be any more problem.
  • [00:29:57.08] Do you remember when they started MTV, for example? It had become so segregated by that time that Columbia Records had to threaten to pull all of their clips if they wouldn't run a Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson, he sold 38 million copies of that album. And they had to Bogart them to get them to play his clip.
  • [00:30:19.64] Yeah, so they turned everything we did in the '60s around. And they used the music as a fulcrum to do this. And that always galled me. But when The Eagles came in, I was kind of done with pop music. They said they took six months to make one tune. Well, Chuck Berry made four in three hours, repeatedly.
  • [00:30:49.67] INTERVIEWER: Is there anything else you want to say about remember that time, or this event? About being here today?
  • [00:31:00.88] LENI: Well, it was 40 years ago. And we have to count our blessings we're still here to talk about it and tell the tale. And bless all the people that came to our defense, because otherwise, who knows, John might still be in jail.
  • [00:31:18.96] JOHN: It could happen.
  • [00:31:21.66] INTERVIEWER: OK, thanks a lot.
  • [00:31:24.02] JOHN: Thanks.
  • [00:31:32.03] INTERVIEWER 3: I just want to play a little bit of tape for you. And just tell us what it makes you think of.
  • [00:31:38.03] TV ANNOUNCER: Mr. Sinclair, can we ask you your plans right now?
  • [00:31:40.47] JOHN: Oh, I'm going home, man.
  • [00:31:42.67] [CHEERS]
  • [00:00:00.00]
  • [00:31:47.28] JOHN: Now we got to get [INAUDIBLE]. Woo!
  • [00:31:53.17] TV ANNOUNCER: What are your hopes right now?
  • [00:31:55.99] JOHN: Oh, man, just to keep this going, man, this right here.
  • [00:32:00.07] TV ANNOUNCER: Are you confident of staying free? Do you think you're going to stay free?
  • [00:32:03.72] JOHN: I'm not going to say that again, man. I want to get my ring. Man, they take your wedding ring and shit in here.
  • [00:32:09.65] TV ANNOUNCER: After all the trouble you've gone through, Mr. Sinclair, how do you feel about marijuana now? Do you still feel?
  • [00:32:13.67] JOHN: I want to smoke some joints!
  • [00:32:18.52] [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:32:19.37] There's the good part.
  • [00:32:25.80] INTERVIEWER 3: Thoughts?
  • [00:32:28.04] JOHN: That was good. Then I got in the Bentley with Leni, Peter Andrews, my brother David, handed me a joint. And next we headed back to Ann Arbor.
  • [00:32:41.83] LENI: The Bentley he means the Bentley limousine.
  • [00:32:44.22] JOHN: Yeah, the limousine, not the library.
  • [00:32:48.63] INTERVIEWER 3: Now, your daughter, was she there?
  • [00:32:52.27] JOHN: Yes, both of them. I met my younger daughter for the first time.
  • [00:32:56.06] INTERVIEWER 3: I want to ask about that , kind of want to go chronologically. Any other thoughts?
  • [00:33:00.58] JOHN: Well, that was the happiest day of y life so far. Maybe when I enter heaven it will be a happier occasion. But I'm willing to wait to find out. That was as good as it's ever gotten for me.
  • [00:33:18.51] INTERVIEWER 3: All right, well I want to go back to the beginning. You guys were married in 1965.
  • [00:33:25.70] JOHN: That's right, June 12th.
  • [00:33:28.01] INTERVIEWER 3: Do you remember when you first met?
  • [00:33:31.64] JOHN: Oh, I don't know, '64 in the fall.
  • [00:33:35.36] LENI: Yeah, in the fall of '64, a Wednesday.
  • [00:33:40.04] JOHN: I lived in the building next to hers. I kind of fell in love with her when I'd see her at the Kroger store across the street. Old Charles Moore and I would be over there stealing our steaks.
  • [00:33:53.91] [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:00:00.00]
  • [00:33:58.79] INTERVIEWER 3: What do you recall, Leni?
  • [00:34:00.18] LENI: Well, I got caught the first time I ever tried to steal a stick of butter. And I got caught. And never did it again.
  • [00:34:09.10] INTERVIEWER 3: This was before you met , this butter stealing?
  • [00:34:11.42] JOHN: We were college students then.
  • [00:34:15.23] INTERVIEWER 3: You were a graduate student at the time?
  • [00:34:17.16] JOHN: Yes, sir.
  • [00:34:17.64] INTERVIEWER 3: Were you a student?
  • [00:34:19.47] LENI: I was an undergraduate student, yeah.
  • [00:34:22.59] INTERVIEWER 3: In these early days, were you interested in photography or did that come later?
  • [00:34:28.76] LENI: Well, I was only interested in it because I had a camera. And when I left Germany, I had a camera. And I took pictures. But I got real interested in taking pictures of jazz musicians, poets, and anything we work connected with. When we started the artist workshop then I got a little bit more serious because we needed pictures.
  • [00:34:52.73] JOHN: Bad, she got them, too.
  • [00:34:55.84] INTERVIEWER 3: There were some great shots. We will talk about the artist workshop. Were you guys very political in the mid-'60s when you first met? Or is that something that came later?
  • [00:35:05.72] JOHN: What do you mean by political?
  • [00:35:07.37] INTERVIEWER 3: Well, of course, you became--
  • [00:35:09.23] JOHN: Were we Republicans?
  • [00:35:10.16] INTERVIEWER 3: No, I mean, were your political views well-developed at that point? Because, I mean, some people kind of come along late on these things. I didn't know--
  • [00:35:19.82] JOHN: I'll let her speak first. She is a Communist.
  • [00:35:23.91] INTERVIEWER 3: OK, good, lets' hear that.
  • [00:35:24.78] LENI: Yeah, I'm a born Communist. When I first came to Detroit, I fell in with a group of beatniks. I was looking for beatniks. I was looking for people like that that I could connect with. And they said you have to go to college. No, they didn't say that. But most of the beatniks I met were college students.
  • [00:35:46.38] So I said, well, to be a good beatnik, you have to be a college student. And they said anybody can be a college student. So I applied to Wayne State University. And lo and behold, they accepted me. And so I became a student.
  • [00:36:02.21] In my second year at Wayne, I joined SDS in 1962. I still have my membership card signed by Thomas Hayden. And there was only one--
  • [00:36:18.05] JOHN: Former editor of Michigan Daily.
  • [00:36:19.63] LENI: There was only one other person in Detroit who was a member of SDS. And that was Peter Wilby who then became the editor of The Fifth Estate. And we would meet at SDS meetings and conferences in Ann Arbor regularly. And we would meet at the summer camp SDS had in the Catskill Mountains in New York.
  • [00:36:45.36] And I was a little infatuated by Tom Hayden at the time because I watched him operate. And, you know, I was always looking for a revolutionary to follow. I'm not a leader. But I sure am a good follower, you know?
  • [00:37:02.34] But anyway, that kind of fell by the wayside when I met John Sinclair because SDS was interesting. But jazz was more interesting. Because when I came to America, I thought there would be jazz on every street corner here like in New Orleans.
  • [00:37:23.11] I was only 19. I couldn't go to clubs. And so when I met John, he with the downbeat editor for Detroit-- correspondent. So he had to go to all the clubs and check out the happenings. And then write about it. And so I tagged along and started taking pictures of jazz musicians, really opportunistic.
  • [00:37:49.60] INTERVIEWER 3: Bonded through jazz, now did you have much interest in rock music at the time? Or was it jazz?
  • [00:37:58.64] LENI: Well, I was interested in a little bit of jazz, didn't know much about it. And I learned about The Beatles from my friend George Tisch, who was a poet. And he was one of the founders of the artist workshop. Well, he one day took me to see A Hard Day's night because he was infatuated with The Beatles and anything European.
  • [00:38:29.04] He was from Poland. He was Polish. So we had something in common there. We were from the continent. And so he turned me on to The Beatles. But then even The Beatles fell by the wayside when we got really deep into avant garde jazz. I missed the whole Motown era, too, because I wasn't listening to the radio and no popular music at all.
  • [00:38:51.55] JOHN: We thought that was bubble gum music.
  • [00:38:53.29] INTERVIEWER 3: Motown stuff?
  • [00:38:55.03] LENI: No, we were into Archie Shepp, and Cecil Taylor, and John Coltrane, and people like that.
  • [00:39:00.91] INTERVIEWER 3: Why don't you talk about Detroit Artist Workshop because you were writing about these jazz musicians then. And why don't you talk about the formation of that and who was involved in the early?
  • [00:39:10.20] JOHN: Well, I was going to go back a step, if you don't mind.
  • [00:39:14.18] INTERVIEWER 3: Go for it.
  • [00:39:14.91] JOHN: And respond to the earlier question. My political orientation was I was a follower of Malcolm X. And before that, I was a follower of the honorable Elijah Muhammad When I was a freshman in college, I read the great book by C. Eric Lincoln titled Black Muslims in America.
  • [00:39:40.51] And I thought Elijah Muhammad had the best analysis of anybody I'd seen yet, except as a white person I thought he didn't really realize how heavy this prejudice was. Only a white person knows how really prejudiced white people are. I thought he had about half of it.
  • [00:39:59.80] And his series about black separation, starting your own, having your own nation, having your own newspaper, growing your own food, having your own businesses, this all appealed to me. And I was, at the same time, trying to fit it into a framework that was basically constructed around the concept of beatniks. And dropping out of mainstream society completely.
  • [00:40:38.33] So I spent, mentally, I was trying to reconcile these two things. Malcolm X, I thought he was the only political figure in America I had any feeling for at all. I thought John F Kennedy was a fascist. I thought he was the guy who presided over the Bay of Pigs. I was a big fan of Fidel Castro.
  • [00:41:02.86] But I had no background in Communism, left wing, SDS, socialism. I just didn't have any interest in any of that at that time. I was a bohemian. I was a flaming bohemian.
  • [00:41:18.29] INTERVIEWER 3: Where were you guys seeing eye-to-eye politically? Or what was that not necessarily essential to either one of you, to have a common?
  • [00:41:26.66] JOHN: Our politics, as it evolved, was about living our political beliefs, and our spiritual, to living them, to creating a daily life that was based on these things that we believed in. And the idea of a-- I don't know. I thought of daily life as your ultimate demonstration because so many people in the movement-- as a bohemian, as a person who wanted to be a beatnik. That was my role model. I wanted to be a beatnik bad.
  • [00:42:00.39] LENI: Like Allen Ginsberg.
  • [00:42:02.23] JOHN: Yeah, Jack Kerouac. I read their things. And I wanted to be like that. So I was trying to figure out how. At the same time, I was in Flint, Michigan. So they didn't have much of a bohemian tradition there.
  • [00:42:20.82] So I just found I was looking for among black people in the ghetto in Flint, Michigan. I grew up listening to rhythm and blues music on the radio. And I was a fanatic of rhythm and blues. And I used to go to all the R&B shows at the Flint IMA Auditorium, every one from 1955 to 1960.
  • [00:42:41.30] INTERVIEWER 3: Can you name some of your favorites?
  • [00:42:43.40] JOHN: Yeah, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddly, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Amos Milburn, Wynonie Harris, The Clovers. You can listen to my radio shows on my internet radio station. And you can here all the stuff I like.
  • [00:43:04.26] INTERVIEWER 3: Did you want to start talking about Detroit Artist Workshop and--
  • [00:43:07.45] JOHN: I'm sorry.
  • [00:43:08.34] INTERVIEWER 3: Well, no, no.
  • [00:43:10.32] JOHN: I got kind of a unique political background for a white American from the middle class.
  • [00:43:14.82] INTERVIEWER 3: No, it's fascinating. If you want to stay on that subject and your early politics, we can. Does anybody else have a question related to his early?
  • [00:43:20.74] JOHN: Not very many white people can even stand Elijah Muhammad if they ever even heard about him. I read their paper every week for years.
  • [00:43:30.88] INTERVIEWER 3: Pretty far left for a white boy at the time.
  • [00:43:33.72] JOHN: Yeah, well, left culturally, at least, yeah.
  • [00:43:39.93] INTERVIEWER 3: Did you want to talk about Detroit Artist Workshop?
  • [00:43:44.15] JOHN: Sure, let her start. Shut me up.
  • [00:43:46.41] INTERVIEWER 3: Because the workshop gets into applying a lot of these ideas.
  • [00:43:50.35] JOHN: That's where we started.
  • [00:43:52.03] INTERVIEWER 3: You apply all these ideas that you've already been discussing. So can you get into what your ideas were behind the Detroit Artist Workshop?
  • [00:43:59.14] JOHN: Well, to have a place of our own where we could whatever we wanted artistically. There wasn't any place for us, the group of us that were friends, that basically smoked weed together, and talked about art, and played music, and wrote, and took pictures, and had a couple people making experimental films in the Stan Brakhage, Bruce Connor tradition.
  • [00:44:29.58] And there were just wasn't a place we could go and hang out, even. Let alone do a poetry reading or play some jazz that wasn't related to standard tunes and stuff. And the guys in our set, Charles Moore, Danny Spencer, Ron English, Larry Nozero, they'd go to the sessions that they had around town, the established jazz sessions. And they didn't want to let these young guys play. And they thought they were too weird, and all this kind of stuff.
  • [00:45:07.06] So from my perspective, we wanted to have a place that was ours. We could go there. We could practice. We could have workshops. If they wanted a dark room, maybe they put a dark room.
  • [00:45:20.60] It was ours. We all chipped in and paid the rent. And then we didn't have to charge money for art. We had a Sunday afternoon basically poetry and jazz session. We can hang our paintings and our pictures on the walls.
  • [00:45:38.29] So that was what it was. It was a place to work. The idea was work, get your work in.
  • [00:45:44.64] INTERVIEWER 3: Can you talk about that a little bit, Leni?
  • [00:45:46.97] LENI: Well, that's where I come in. Our first magazine was called Work. And ever week, we published something called The Worksheets. And then the artist workshop was all around work. It was all--
  • [00:46:12.01] JOHN: We were from Detroit. We didn't know any better.
  • [00:46:17.83] LENI: We studied poets all over the country. And had exchanges with musicians from Chicago, and New York. We were nationally famous, more than even in Detroit. And it put Detroit on the map, culturally, what we did there.
  • [00:46:34.93] INTERVIEWER 3: Do continue. I'd like to get more of your thoughts on that.
  • [00:46:39.18] LENI: Well, John was a man of letters. He was a writer. And John carried on correspondence with people all over the country constantly. We sent our magazines to them. And we got like 500 magazines from other cities, or little books of poetry.
  • [00:46:56.23] And when we first started, a lot of my friends and people that started the Artist Workshop were students at Monteith College, that was the experimental college as part of Wayne State University. But they allowed their students so much freedom it was just geared to a more liberal education than liberal arts.
  • [00:47:21.56] And they gave the students a building on campus. The students and the Monteith students, and a building that the students could use for film showings, for just hanging out. And they gave them a mimeograph machine. And all the paper they could use. So the Monteith students started putting out a magazine called The Monteith Journal.
  • [00:47:44.71] And it had poetry, and drawings, all kinds of things students produced. And the last issue of The Monteith Journal, when you read the table of contents, it was all the people that were in The Artist Workshop. It was almost like the workshop was a continuation of the journal.
  • [00:48:03.08] JOHN: Except it also included my wing, which was not connected with the college, per say, like that. It was interesting, confluence, guys like yourself, Robin Eikely, George Tisch, people who were students at Monteith. And the I came there from Flint. I had no campus life connection at all.
  • [00:48:29.61] And then Charles Moore came from Alabama. He didn't go to Monteith. But he hung out there. And then brought in Ron English, and guys like that, Danny Spencer from Lansing. And so we merge with these people on the campus at Wayne State. It was pretty interesting.
  • [00:48:49.12] LENI: And then it also helped that I was a student assistant to Professor doctor Arthur Feinstein, who was one of the founders of Monteith College. And he had a national magazine at the time called New University Thought, which was for liberal professors in the academic world.
  • [00:49:14.98] I was handling subscriptions for him. But he let us use anything we wanted to. He was kind of, was he our faculty advisor? I don't know. But he helped us get started in the Artist Workshop by giving us access.
  • [00:49:33.22] After a while, though, we got our own mimeograph machine. And then after a while, we got an electric mimeograph machine so you didn't have to hand crank it all the time. And then we got a machine that printed in different colors.
  • [00:49:50.08] Gary Grimshaw designed some fliers that are in three different colors, which meant the paper had to be run through the mimeograph machine three times. Each time you had to change the ink.
  • [00:50:01.56] JOHN: We maximized the technology.
  • [00:50:04.26] LENI: We did some amazing things before the computer age.
  • [00:50:07.59] JOHN: And before the Xerox machine.
  • [00:50:10.96] INTERVIEWER 3: Can you talk about Gary coming into the picture? How did he get on the scene here?
  • [00:50:17.12] LENI: I don't exactly remember. But he had been in the Navy. He got discharged in San Francisco. He went on a peace march in San Francisco. I don't know how long he stayed there. But that was the beginning of the Avalon, and Fillmore Ballrooms. And he walked around. And he saw all these posters in all the windows and stuff.
  • [00:50:39.02] JOHN: And he wanted to make one.
  • [00:50:41.07] LENI: And so when-- his family was from Detroit. So when he came back to Detroit, he hooked up with the same people that he wanted to be part of, what was going on. The Grande Ballroom was starting. And he was called to design the first poster for the Grande Ballroom by Uncle Russ.
  • [00:51:04.30] And he designed some of the colors for the Artists Workshop. And he did the lettering to a lot of books of poetry that we published. And then he started living with us commune style. From then on, he was living with us.
  • [00:51:20.76] INTERVIEWER 3: We he around in the Artists Workshop period? Or did he not come around?
  • [00:51:24.58] JOHN: Late.
  • [00:51:25.75] LENI: The late Artists Workshop.
  • [00:51:26.73] JOHN: He and Rob Tyner were best friends Lincoln Park High School, and a third guy named Emil Bassila. And both Grimshaw and Tyner told me they used to come to the Artists Workshop on Sundays when they were still in high school.
  • [00:51:46.33] And then he went in the Navy and he came back. That would have been '64. He came back in '66. I remember seeing his first-- it wasn't even a poster, his first poster design.
  • [00:51:59.59] INTERVIEWER 3: Do you remember what it was for?
  • [00:52:01.58] JOHN: it was like a blues player or something. And then Russ Gibb came to see the MC5. And he wanted them for the main band. And then Tyner probably told him, well Grimshaw could do the artwork for you. And he did.
  • [00:52:21.97] INTERVIEWER 3: And he also want up to Ann Arbor with you as well, correct?
  • [00:52:27.47] LENI: He didn't always live with us because he had to go underground. He had a very stupid marijuana charge in Traverse City. I think it was like there was five guys sitting around smoking a joint. And they left a roach in the ashtray. And then when the police came to bust them, all five of them were busted for possession of marijuana. And Grimshaw had to leave the city.
  • [00:52:55.07] JOHN: [INAUDIBLE].
  • [00:52:58.21] LENI: He first moved to Boston, where he was active in the macrobiotic movement. And he even designed a beautiful poster for zen macrobiotics.
  • [00:53:11.16] JOHN: Michio Kushi.
  • [00:53:12.11] LENI: Yeah, and we kind of went macrobiotic ourselves for a lot of years. I mean, to this day, 40 years later, I eat brown rice. Some things stuck from those days.
  • [00:53:28.84] JOHN: James [INAUDIBLE] was a devotee. Actually the Artists Workshop Press published the first book about macrobiotics in the United States, Michio Kushi's book. I saw it the other day with an introduction by John Denver. I said, gee, he came along way from [INAUDIBLE] to John Denver. Same book, though. Well, probably the same. How many times can you retell the same story?
  • [00:54:02.44] INTERVIEWER 3: Let's talk through Grimshaw, if anybody has anything they want to ask about Gary. Can you comment on these posters particularly? Do you remember these shows?
  • [00:54:14.66] LENI: Oh yeah.
  • [00:54:17.57] INTERVIEWER 3: It's hard enough to read right side up. I'm trying to read it upside down.
  • [00:54:20.55] LENI: The MC5, Charles Moore Ensemble, and the Spike Drivers, and the SEE. The SEE, what was it short for, the mystic nights of?
  • [00:54:32.64] JOHN: The Mistral Knights of the Sea Lodge Hall, S-E-E.
  • [00:54:36.95] INTERVIEWER 3: Talk about that venue.
  • [00:54:39.25] JOHN: It was a former village theater where Billy Lee and the Rivieras first came to fame. On Woodward Avenue, about half a block from the Socialist Worker Party headquarters.
  • [00:54:54.49] INTERVIEWER 3: There's a poster over there--
  • [00:54:56.40] JOHN: It's addressed 3929.
  • [00:54:57.49] INTERVIEWER 3: It's got Velvet Underground and Amboy Dukes. I want to see if John or Leni remember much about that.
  • [00:55:03.33] JOHN: Amboy Dukes in their only appearance at the Grande Ballroom.
  • [00:55:06.21] INTERVIEWER 3: If that what this is? Let's see if we can't find that one.
  • [00:55:08.59] JOHN: That jive motherfucker.
  • [00:55:10.44] INTERVIEWER 3: Yeah, this is a lineup. I'm going to shift this.
  • [00:55:15.51] JOHN: Well, this was our own club that we opened when we thought the Grande was not going in the right direction.
  • [00:55:22.24] INTERVIEWER 3: Oh, so [INAUDIBLE] is after?
  • [00:55:24.99] LENI: No, in between, we tried to break away from the Grande.
  • [00:55:28.50] JOHN: We succeeded.
  • [00:55:29.46] INTERVIEWER 3: Why don't you talk about that. Why?
  • [00:55:32.92] LENI: Because Russ Gib was stingy with the MC5 and with the light show. He would start paying bands, national bands like Cream, like thousands of dollars, $2,000. And MC5 was still playing for $125 a night.
  • [00:55:49.16] JOHN: Until January of 1969, we played for $125 a night.
  • [00:55:54.41] LENI: And the light show, there was at least--
  • [00:55:57.63] JOHN: When we made our album at the Grande Ballroom, we were still working for $125 a night, for five guys.
  • [00:56:04.03] LENI: And the light show, there was Gary Grimshaw, Robin Summers, and myself, and two and three other people working on the light show. And we were getting $25 a night, all of us together. And we worked all week on this light show to make a new presentation, make new slides, make two gels and everything. We worked hard. And I think I our--
  • [00:56:28.17] JOHN: Uncle Russ was kind of like your Dutch uncle.
  • [00:56:33.68] INTERVIEWER 3: Talk about him a little bit if you don't mind.
  • [00:56:36.16] JOHN: Oh, no, that's OK.
  • [00:56:37.37] INTERVIEWER 3: I wouldn't mind talking about the Grande specifically, getting a little bit more into how you hooked up with him.
  • [00:56:44.13] JOHN: Well, he opened the Grande Ballroom. We were the hippies. If you wanted to have a hippie ballroom, we had to be part of it because otherwise you wouldn't have any hippies. Everybody else was high school basically, wouldn't you say?
  • [00:57:03.59] It's like when bands came in, if it was a hippy band like the Grateful Dead, they had to come to our house. There wasn't anywhere else they could go to get high, hang out.
  • [00:57:13.25] INTERVIEWER 3: Did Russ Gibb come to you? He found you?
  • [00:57:15.56] JOHN: Yeah, he came to the Artists Workshop to audition the MC5. I can see him now pulling up in his little Thunderbird. He was a school teacher from Dearborn, which at the time didn't even let colored people in there, let alone Arabs. Orville Hubbard was the mayor of Dearborn. Anyway, look him up here. He was kind of the Adolf Hitler of the Detroit area.
  • [00:57:48.99] INTERVIEWER 3: This kind of a lineup, you read this lineup right here. You have P-Funk, Amboy Dukes, which is Ted Nugent's band, The Velvet Underground. I mean, that's quite an array. Maybe from a perspective back then it wasn't. Comments on that a little bit. Those kind of lineups were kind of common. This wasn't a Detroit show.
  • [00:58:07.96] JOHN: They were just brands, Chris. They weren't like you all look at them now like they were icons walking the earth. They were just fucking bands trying to get a gig. And some people were insightful enough to hire them for $125. Or if they had to come from somewhere else $200. I bet The Velvet Underground didn't make more than $500 on this gig. I don't know, but just from what I know about that time.
  • [00:58:37.09] INTERVIEWER 3: What did you think of the Amboy Dukes?
  • [00:58:40.24] JOHN: Well, I liked the Amboy Dukes. I never could stand Ted Nugent. Ted Nugent's one of the biggest assholes in America. He always has been. And he always will be. I saw he just came to Michigan to meet with Governor Snyder. There's a well-matched pair.
  • [00:58:56.60] INTERVIEWER 3: Leni, do you remember the Amboy Dukes at all, or Ted Nugent at all?
  • [00:59:01.81] JOHN: We knew the guys in the band really well. One of them had a weed bag, John Drake, used to cop from him.
  • [00:59:07.77] LENI: I liked the journey to the center of the mind OK.
  • [00:59:12.63] JOHN: Ted didn't even know what that song meant. He was just playing his big dick guitar. Oh, I can't stand that guy.
  • [00:59:22.49] LENI: But Ted Nugent always talks about the MC5, and how great they are. And he talks about the Detroit scene.
  • [00:59:31.09] JOHN: Well, he grafts himself on to him. But everybody hated him. They didn't play at the Grande. They had a gig in Southfield at a summer theater place called The Mump. That's where the Amboy Dukes played.
  • [00:59:45.44] They were squares. Well, Ted was. The guys in the band were great guys. They came to the Grande a lot. Ted didn't. Ted didn't even get high.
  • [00:59:57.90] INTERVIEWER 3: Thoughts on our Parliament Funkadelic in the early days? Do you have any memories of that?
  • [01:00:04.41] JOHN: Well, I remember when the MC5 met the Parliaments in the airport at Newark, there were these hippies here. That was us. And then there were these flaming negroes over here with processes and colorful clothing. And then there was the airport full of squares.
  • [01:00:26.38] And so we kind of sighted each other across the room. And then we met. And we found out they were the Parliaments. They had our favorite record of 1967, I Just Want To Testify. And we were the MC5. And they loved the MC5. George Clinton liked them even then. We've been friends ever since.
  • [01:00:51.09] LENI: I don't know if that's in the collection here. I have a poster that's a benefit for John Sinclair. Headlining The Up with the supporting act being Parliament Funkadelic. They supported John then.
  • [01:01:06.51] INTERVIEWER 3: Well, they sure claimed a heavy influence on what you guys were doing.
  • [01:01:10.24] JOHN: Any fool can see that.
  • [01:01:10.58] INTERVIEWER 3: Parliaments were kind of a square looking band in a lot of ways. And then a few years later.
  • [01:01:14.16] JOHN: They were a vocal quartet.
  • [01:01:15.47] INTERVIEWER 3: They got pretty freaky with it. And I'm sure it had a lot to do with a lot of the things you guys were doing, wouldn't you think?
  • [01:01:21.54] JOHN: Well, yeah, and they were taking that acid. You can't discount that. Negroes on acid was a pretty potent combination in America in the '60s and '70s. It wasn't what they had in mind at all.
  • [01:01:40.47] INTERVIEWER 3: When did the acid thing kick in in Detroit? Was that something in the early?
  • [01:01:44.13] JOHN: 1965, I remember the first delivery, sugar cubes Stanley Owsley.
  • [01:01:52.84] LENI: Owsley, who just passed away.
  • [01:01:54.83] JOHN: August 1965, surely you remember that.
  • [01:01:59.97] LENI: He died in a car crash in Australia.
  • [01:02:04.46] INTERVIEWER 3: Let's move into Trans Love period. Leni, can you talk about, because obviously Trans Love was a tribal living scenario. What motivated you moving out of the workshop culture into this? Maybe that's a crummy question. But you probably know what I mean. Worded poorly.
  • [01:02:27.96] LENI: Well, I think what happened after John-- John was in jail in 1966 for six months, in [INAUDIBLE] the Detroit House of Correction. In those six months, the world changed around us so rapidly that by the time he got out, it was a whole different scene.
  • [01:02:48.07] It wasn't just us few people there listening to jazz. It was people had--
  • [01:02:53.61] JOHN: Hippies.
  • [01:02:54.46] LENI: Heard about what was going on in California, in San Francisco, even Life Magazine had a big spread of hippies. And all of a sudden, there was hundreds of hippies in this area looking for where it's at. They were coming downtown. The only plate that was the Artists Workshop because that's where the beatniks were.
  • [01:03:17.04] It with the beatniks in San Francisco's that started the whole hippie movement with their first love in, Allen Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, and those people.
  • [01:03:25.52] JOHN: Gary Snyder.
  • [01:03:26.11] LENI: We were the beatniks in Detroit. So we wanted to do the same thing.
  • [01:03:31.08] JOHN: Amen.
  • [01:03:33.42] LENI: And so all of a sudden, the Artists Workshop became part of something much bigger. And this much bigger we had to give a name. It was like an umbrella organization that pulled together various hip organizations.
  • [01:03:51.88] JOHN: Manifestations.
  • [01:03:52.62] LENI: And businesses, mixed video was one. There was a store run by Barry Kramer who started Creem magazine. There was the bands, the MC5, the Psychedelic Stooges, and The Up. There was a light show. There was a newspaper we started called The Warned for Son. All these things were loosely under the umbrella of Trans Love Energy.
  • [01:04:16.38] We did incorporate as a Michigan nonprofit corporation. When we first started thinking of the name, we were going to call it Trans Love Industries. See the work ethic coming? I And industry sounded too commercial so we named it Trans Love Energies. But the name comes from the Jefferson Airplane song, fly Trans Love Airways. It gets you there on time.
  • [01:04:43.07] And the vehicle that we were driving was an Opel. John's Dad--
  • [01:04:49.23] JOHN: Worked for Buick.
  • [01:04:50.77] LENI: As distribution manager for Opel. So our first car was an Opel. And Gary Grimshaw pained on the side and on the back, Trans Love Airways, gets you there on time. And that was our motto. We were always late. But we were always on time. Because when we got, we got there on time.
  • [01:05:11.76] And it was used a lot to transport people-- well, that and then Emil Basilla's VW bus, which became the transportation for the MC5's equipment, and the MC5. That had Trans Love Airway painted it on it too.
  • [01:05:29.65] And we used it a lot to pick up bands from the airport and take them back. And pick up people like Timothy Leary, bring them back to Detroit. So it was the airline bus.
  • [01:05:41.57] JOHN: We took The Who to the airport one time, although we couldn't afford to go to there show. It was $3.50.
  • [01:05:53.47] INTERVIEWER 3: Can you talk a little bit, John, about the early Trans Love period that was going in Detroit. Eventually you moved to Ann Arbor, but can you talk about that early period? And then I want you guys to talk about this photo.
  • [01:06:06.03] JOHN: Trans Love Energies, like she was saying, is more of an outgrowth of the Artists Workshop. And it was really an effort by the Artists Workshop to expand with the times and to respond to what was going on around us. And, of course, we were all on acid. So it wasn't hard to stretch your mind because it was being stretched for your from inside.
  • [01:06:36.67] But I think Rob Tyner and I probably dreamed this up when I think back about it. I've been thinking about it because my partners in Detroit today have formed a compassionate care center from marijuana patients. And they named it Trans Love Energies in honor of our efforts 45 years ago.
  • [01:06:59.64] So I was trying to remember, where did this-- I can't remember. Me and Rob Tyner used to sit up all night ranting, and raving, and getting high, and talking about the way things should be, and what a band should be like, and all this. This was the development of the MC5 came out of this.
  • [01:07:20.33] He would take the band in the studio. And they would work their ideas out. And then I would try to make it possible for this to happen in real life as the manager.
  • [01:07:34.37] Well, I guess this was before I was their manager. Tyner and I were very, very close. And he was a very highly developed being in terms of this culture. And I would say, you know, I always get the wrap of being some kind of left wing Svengali who took these poor, innocent rock and roll kids from Lincoln park and made them have a political identity.
  • [01:08:04.81] But the truth is I learned as much from Rob Tyner as he did from me. And we both had exactly the same orientation. Later, he altered his. I never have. Nobody held a gun to him to make him do this stuff.
  • [01:08:22.81] INTERVIEWER 3: Tyner's in this photo.
  • [01:08:23.53] JOHN: Sure he's in there.
  • [01:08:24.96] LENI: Yeah, right here.
  • [01:08:26.21] JOHN: You couldn't have Trans Love Energies without Rob Tyner.
  • [01:08:28.74] INTERVIEWER 3: What are some of your thoughts on Tyner, Leni? What do you remember?
  • [01:08:34.06] LENI: Well, I don't really know how to put it. But I really wasn't into rock and roll. And to this day, I'm not a rock and roll person. People think of me as a rock and roll photographer. But the most pictures I ever took in my life of a band was the MC5, because the MC5 was just different than other rock bands because they kind of try to emulate John Coltrane instead of Paul McCartney.
  • [01:09:12.05] They tried to transfer that energy. See, Rob was into jazz. When John met the MC5, Rob was on the verge of breaking up the band and starting a jazz trio. In fact, he even changed his name. His name was Robert Derminer, and he changed it to Rob Tyner in honor of McCoy Tyner, the pianist for John Coltrane Quartet.
  • [01:09:37.87] So and that also formed the relationship, that they both were deep into jazz. And then instead of breaking up the band, John could see that they were making money. They got gigs. They got paid. So instead of breaking up the band--
  • [01:09:56.82] JOHN: There was no making a living in jazz.
  • [01:10:00.07] LENI: But then they incorporated a lot of the jazz things, like a Sun Ra tuned on the first album and stuff. And their signature tune was called Black to Comm, which sometimes went on for half an hour. And there was avant garde jazz. There was saxophones.
  • [01:10:20.44] JOHN: It was improvised, different every night.
  • [01:10:25.58] LENI: It wasn't really like rock and roll anymore.
  • [01:10:28.56] JOHN: You know, they also have the rap of being the fathers of punk rock. But really, the MC5 was about as far from a punk rock band as you could possibly imagine. They were very skilled players, first off, if we could draw that distinction.
  • [01:10:46.27] INTERVIEWER 3: I think it's probably just the brutality of it is probably.
  • [01:10:48.60] JOHN: It was the idea that we were opposed. We were fiercely oppositional. But at the same time, we did something about it. I don't know. I'm not a punk rock fan.
  • [01:11:02.03] INTERVIEWER 3: During his Trans Love period, you guys have a daughter. Can you talk a little bit about that? That was in '67 when your first daughter was born, correct?
  • [01:11:11.15] LENI: Oh, yeah, in fact I just wrote something about the festival of people. The day after John got out of jail from Dehoco, we organized a festival to welcome him back. And it was a daylong affair with poets, and exhibitions, and dance recitals, all kinds of stuff.
  • [01:11:33.84] And at the end of the night, a band played. And all these years, for the last 40 years, I've been telling people that I don't know how this band got to play there. I didn't know. I thought I was organizing this affair. And then I just recently read a column and I wrote in The Fifth Estate before the festival of people. And the last sentence was, at the end of the evening, there will be some music for your dancing pleasure.
  • [01:12:06.47] So I knew it was going to be a band, a dance band. But when the MC5 started playing, they were so damn loud. And we were right next to this--
  • [01:12:16.31] JOHN: And they'd waited. And it was 3 o'clock in the morning.
  • [01:12:19.19] LENI: Yeah, very late at night. And our building was very close to our neighbor, who was not too fond of hippies and had a shotgun. Anyway, I tried to tell him, tune down. Tune down. No, I couldn't tell them because it was too loud. So I pulled the plug out on them.
  • [01:12:41.52] And, of course, they were pissed at me for years. But it's a nice-- out of that, they had a confrontation with John. And out of the confrontation about this incident, came a friendship. They really respected each other. And they long forgave me for pulling the plug on them.
  • [01:13:05.93] But when I wrote about it, about the festival of people, I said, and the other significant thing that happened at night was that I got pregnant. Because nine months to the day, Sunny was born in 1967, May 4th. And that was our first daughter. She was born in Harper Hospital in Detroit. And then I became a hippie mother.
  • [01:13:34.49] INTERVIEWER 3: Why don't you talk about that a little bit. At that time, '67, you were in Detroit. Trans Love was going on in Detroit. Was it a communal scenario? Or did that not happen until later? Was it a commune environment?
  • [01:13:48.17] LENI: Well, do you remember? First, when John got out of jail, we got the job of managing the bookstore for the Fifth Estate on Plum Street. So we moved into the building and the attic apartment above the bookstore.
  • [01:14:10.94] JOHN: Grimshaw, that's where we knew Grimshaw. Grimshaw was laying out the Fifth Estate across the hall. And at night, he would sleep on the floor under the layout table. And that's where we met Rob Tyner and Frank Bach because they came to our apartment one day. Well, they came to The Fifth Estate to protest something I had written.
  • [01:14:38.35] And then they said, well, he's right there. So they knocked on my door. And that's when I met Rob Tyner and Frank Bach.
  • [01:14:45.88] INTERVIEWER 3: Now, Frank Bach had children as well around the same time didn't he?
  • [01:14:49.18] LENI: Not yet.
  • [01:14:50.49] JOHN: His daughter and our second daughter were born at the same time.
  • [01:14:54.40] INTERVIEWER 3: Can you talk a little bit about parenting at that time and the environment that you were in?
  • [01:15:00.28] LENI: Well, we were pretty much ignorant of what it took to be parents. We were hippies and we thought everything would just happen naturally.
  • [01:15:08.78] JOHN: It was a beautiful thing.
  • [01:15:12.09] LENI: And John's parents helped me a lot. They helped me a lot. In fact, for the first two weeks after Sunny was born, I got real, real sick. And they nursed me back to health with the baby. And then as we-- OK, after Plum Street, we moved into this building on the cost of Warren and the John C. Lodge Silver Star. There used to be a dentist's office. And the dentist had moved to Highland Park. And we rented the whole second floor.
  • [01:15:53.61] At first, just a couple rooms because all the low rooms were still filled with dental equipment. So whenever somebody needed another room, like [INAUDIBLE], like Gary, like Jeanie, we just would the dentist chairs and put it in the next room. And have people sleep in there, until all the rooms were taken up. And that was the beginning of the commune.
  • [01:16:19.44] JOHN: That's right. We had one room that still had the dentist chair. And it looked out over the expressway. And I used to like to take acid and go sit in the dentist chair and watch the cars go back around the expressway for hours.
  • [01:16:32.22] LENI: All the Grateful Dead tried out that dentist chair in our living room. It was funny.
  • [01:16:40.11] JOHN: Not everybody had a dentist chair.
  • [01:16:45.22] INTERVIEWER 3: You end up in Ann Arbor not long after this.
  • [01:16:48.85] LENI: Oh, long after that.
  • [01:16:50.65] INTERVIEWER 3: Oh, so what year did Trans Love get going?
  • [01:16:53.13] JOHN: January '67.
  • [01:16:55.83] LENI: In fact, that's when this picture was taken, on New Year's Eve, I think, when everybody went up on the roof after all night. That was in the morning after staying up all night.
  • [01:17:04.67] JOHN: Up all night, I tried like hell to get Peter Ruby in that picture and they wouldn't come.
  • [01:17:11.45] INTERVIEWER 3: Any thoughts on anybody in that picture?
  • [01:17:13.56] LENI: Oh my God, going down memory lane.
  • [01:17:18.78] INTERVIEWER 3: You could probably spend an hour talking.
  • [01:17:20.76] JOHN: You know, the other thing about Trans Love Energies that I just remembered for the first time, is that, partially, it was a response to the big raid on January 24, 1967 that gave me my case that I went to prison o. And we were determined-- they were determined to make an example of us. And I was equally determined to make an example of them, that this was the wrong message, what they were doing.
  • [01:17:55.66] And we had a benefit planned at the Grande Ballroom for the week we got busted, whatever days they were. And they canceled it. Remember that? And Russ was trembling. And everybody was trembling because they had swooped down on our neighborhood and they arrested 56 people in a lightnight campus dope raid.
  • [01:18:27.89] And I was the only one who really ever got anything bad out of it. But it was in the papers. The mayor himself, they alleged, had ridden along on the raid. It was a media thing. They had tipped off the papers. Like they do now. This was early on.
  • [01:18:48.42] So we were determined, Tyner, myself, and those in our inner circle, were determined to not take this lying down. And to bounce back up. And to continue with what we were doing. And we thought it was very important to do this.
  • [01:19:04.48] And there was a brilliant Grimshaw poster for the benefit that didn't take place. It was called Guerrilla Love Fair. Alan Van Newkirk came out with publishing our first tabloid called Guerrilla, a newspaper of cultural revolution. We were trying to move from mimeograph to tabloid after the Fifth Estate came out. That was a great inspiration.
  • [01:19:32.97] Anyway, all this was in that period around the end of the year of '66. I gave the two joints to the undercover policewoman on December 22nd, they say. I was busted on January 24th.
  • [01:19:49.40] And then we scheduled our event. We had to have it on the Wayne State campus. Remember that? It was in the building on [INAUDIBLE] by where Alvin's is now. Alan Ginsberg came. Diane di Prima was there. I think Jarman was there. But Russ wouldn't let us have it at the Grande because he was afraid.
  • [01:20:15.82] So we were trying to defy the police. And we thought we had to band together people that were in the target population. We needed to band together so they wouldn't be able to stop us individually. So that was part of what Trans Love Energy was as well.
  • [01:20:33.97] INTERVIEWER 3: Leni was getting ready to ask you about some of the people in this photo. Do you mind taking a look at that?
  • [01:20:39.31] LENI: I don't know who this is in the corner. Do you know?
  • [01:20:45.49] JOHN: I can't see.
  • [01:20:49.05] LENI: OK, I identified most of them, except this guy's not identified. That's Jerry [INAUDIBLE]. That's Ronald Frankenburger. That's Barry Kramer. That's Joe and Roseanne Malton. And this was Emil Basillos girlfriend. Do you know what her name was?
  • [01:21:07.08] JOHN: No.
  • [01:21:07.99] LENI: And that is Larry Kaplin.
  • [01:21:10.89] JOHN: Wow, no shit.
  • [01:21:12.82] LENI: And that's Barry Winer. And that's Rita Cole. You, me, Michael McLetchie. Grimshaw, [INAUDIBLE], and who's that? Dave Carlin. And these are unidentified. I remember his face. I remember what he looked like. And then Rob Tyner. And then Grace and Tom Mitchell, and Don Moye.
  • [01:21:43.40] Don Moye changed his name to Don Famoudou And he was a drummer for the Art Ensemble of Chicago for many years.
  • [01:21:55.20] JOHN: Zeke the Greek was a pal of mine from the house of correction.
  • [01:21:58.96] LENI: Oh, yeah, and Emil Basilla.
  • [01:22:01.10] INTERVIEWER 3: Who was the last person you named?
  • [01:22:03.99] LENI: Emil Basilla. He's the one that had the VW bus that carried the MC5 for a while.
  • [01:22:08.81] JOHN: He was in the Trans Love light show. He and Grimshaw and Rob Tyner were best friends in high school at Lincoln Park. We're on a time pinch here, do you want to start talking about the son, get to that, or should we not?
  • [01:22:25.21] INTERVEWIER 4: Yeah, and while we're taking this moment for a second, I have to leave to go pick up my son. Eli has the checks for you. And I'll be in touch.
  • [01:22:32.23] JOHN: Eli, we're with you.
  • [01:22:34.90] LENI: Good luck. Thank you, Amy.
  • [01:22:39.64] JOHN: Nice seeing you, Amy.
  • [01:22:42.14] LENI: This picture here, I wanted to tell you.
  • [01:22:45.03] INTERVIEWER 3: Please do. Talk about any of this stuff that you want to talk about.
  • [01:22:48.48] LENI: This picture here was taken by Stanley Livingston, the photographer who just passed away last year or--
  • [01:22:57.27] INTERVIEWER 3: Which one was taken?
  • [01:22:58.85] LENI: This one here of me and Sunny. And this is me and Celia, when Celia didn't have any hair for about a year. We called her Nikita.
  • [01:23:08.71] INTERVIEWER 3: Can you talk about her birth and the circumstances? Talk about that. Talk about the birth of your second daughter, if you don't mind.
  • [01:23:17.02] LENI: OK, is the tape running? We still have tape? Um, yes, when during John's trial in August of '69, our lawyer told the judge that John's wife is pregnant to ask for leniency in sentencing. And the judge said, didn't believe him, thought it was just a ploy to get a lighter sentence. And I had to produce a doctor certification saying that I was pregnant to the judge.
  • [01:23:59.27] And then she was born in January. So, obviously, I was pregnant by August. So she was born here in Ann Arbor. There was a doctor in Ann Arbor that took care of us hippies for almost no money. For years, he treated our children. He treated u. He treated anybody that we brought him, Dr. Pierce.
  • [01:24:25.42] JOHN: Ed Pierce.
  • [01:24:26.49] LENI: Ed Pierce.
  • [01:24:27.56] JOHN: Great American.
  • [01:24:28.79] LENI: The Summit Medical Clinic. Later he ran for state representative.
  • [01:24:32.51] JOHN: Wasn't he a mayor at one time?
  • [01:24:34.32] INTERVIEWER 3: Yeah, he was the mayor.
  • [01:24:36.03] JOHN: Great American, Ed Pierce.
  • [01:24:37.48] LENI: Well, he nursed the children while we lived in Ann Arbor. And his partner, I forgot his name, but his partner in the practice was who delivered Celia.
  • [01:24:51.09] INTERVIEWER 3: And where was John at that time?
  • [01:24:54.10] LENI: Well, John, at the time he was in Marquette. First they sent him to Marquette for a whole year. That's way up in the Upper Peninsula, about 500 miles from here. And then after a year, they kicked him out of Marquette and moved him to Jackson. But Celia was born.
  • [01:25:15.99] JOHN: I got run out of the maximum security prison, I'm proud to say.
  • [01:25:20.06] LENI: You got to talk about that, too, but Celia was born January 17th. And like two weeks later, we were allowed two weeks per month in Marquette. And like two weeks later, we drove up to Marquette in the middle of the winter. John's parents drove usually. And I had the little baby with me. And he met with her.
  • [01:25:40.00] And then we had to pick out a name. Or how did that happen?
  • [01:25:44.69] JOHN: I don't remember.
  • [01:25:46.43] LENI: Do you want to talk about the names?
  • [01:25:49.13] JOHN: Sure, go ahead. You do it.
  • [01:25:52.39] LENI: Well, like most males, John was sure it was going to be a son.
  • [01:25:58.80] JOHN: No sense in me lying. That's true.
  • [01:26:01.02] LENI: So the name he picked out for our first son was John Coltrane Sinclair. When it turned out to be a girl, he had to think of some other name real fast. And he came up with Marianne for our friend Marianne Brown. And Marianne is both male and female name. And Sunny, and Sunny was the Sun Ra, same way, male or female.
  • [01:26:29.40] JOHN: It was a little incessive.
  • [01:26:33.61] LENI: So that's how Sunny got to be named, after two great jazz musicians.
  • [01:26:41.94] JOHN: Celia, however, was named for the female member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, Celia Sanchez. And her middle name was Mau. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:00:00.00]
  • [01:27:01.43] LENI: That was given to her by Ken Kelly.
  • [01:27:04.71] JOHN: I'm not surprised, the late Ken Kelly.
  • [01:27:07.63] LENI: I came up with Celia Sanchez.
  • [01:27:09.92] JOHN: Very good, good work.
  • [01:27:11.73] LENI: Celia Sanchez was Fidel Castro's partner in the mountains. And after the evolution, she became minister of education. And was responsible, for me anyway, of having the highest literacy rate in this hemisphere, more than the United States. Yes, that was Celia Sanchez.
  • [01:27:35.64] And when Celia went to Cuba, and met ordinary citizens, and got invited for dinner by Cubans, they all revere Celia Sanchez, but not Fidel.
  • [01:27:48.79] INTERVIEWER 3: Now, again, we have limited time. I want to get into the Ann Arbor Sun. Can you guys talk about, because I know came out of what you were doing in Detroit. Can you talk about the Ann Arbor Sun a little bit? We;ve got a few of them in front of you. Go ahead , and any random thoughts, go.
  • [01:28:05.97] LENI: Well, the forerunner of the Detroit Sun was the Detroit Sun, the Warren-Forest Sun in Detroit. Just like Haight-Ashbury formed this place in San Francisco, we had the Warren-Forest. We lived between Warren and Forest in Detroit.
  • [01:28:23.46] So we thought the Fifth Estate was a little bit stodgy. We wanted to have more hippie-oriented paper. So we started our one tabloid called the Warren-Forest son. And we started out in Detroit. And only seven issues ever came out. And every issue was printed in a different format or by a different printer, because either they didn't want to touch it again, or we didn't pay the bill.
  • [01:28:53.87] And the last issue had to be mimeographed. But these issues they are so real, and so exquisite. When you study them, it was almost as if Gary Grimshaw could foresee the computer page because the layout of the page is every layout, every page could be a poster. It was just beautifully designed.
  • [01:29:15.59] JOHN: Also deeply influenced by the San Francisco Oracle too.
  • [01:29:19.69] LENI: Well yeah, and so the Warren-Forest Sun, when we moved to Ann Arbor in '68, we put out the Ann Arbor Sun. At first it was just mimeographed sheets, one sheet, two sheet, until we got it together to start printing a real newspaper again.
  • [01:29:42.73] INTERVIEWER 3: Do you mind maybe flipping through one of these? It would be nice to see you guys flip through one of these, see if anything, any thoughts.
  • [01:29:49.53] JOHN: I just don't want to get started. I might have to stay here for several days.
  • [01:29:52.82] INTERVIEWER 3: Well, some of this would be good though to get, I think.
  • [01:30:00.31] LENI: These are the later issues. The original issues were folded over and just had the cover. And there's a lot of beautiful designed covers. This nice. But this really didn't appeal to me.
  • [01:30:19.22] INTERVIEWER 3: Yeah, that's a later on.
  • [01:30:19.90] LENI: It didn't appeal to me aesthetically as much as the earlier ones.
  • [01:30:24.49] INTERVIEWER 3: The early ones are-- these are all later ones.
  • [01:30:30.51] LENI: I understand the public libraries digitized all the Suns and is putting them out?
  • [01:30:37.27] INTERVIEWER 3: Yes, that's what we'd to get some of your thoughts.
  • [01:30:40.96] LENI: Oh my God. People can really what it was like. It was like a hotbed. Ann Arbor has always been a hotbed for new ideas and new movements.
  • [01:30:53.20] JOHN: Wow!
  • [01:30:54.53] LENI: The [INAUDIBLE] festivals in Ann Arbor started the whole revolution in music. And so, anyway, when you read the papers, you can tell there was a lot of energy with a lot of things going on. Yeah, that's how we did the Sun, with our mimeograph machine.
  • [01:31:14.88] INTERVIEWER 3: Those are some of the earl ones. Are those in Ann Arbor? Yeah, that's by the time you're in Ann Arbor.
  • [01:31:21.37] LENI: Oh my God, MC5 attacked by police. Yep, oh my God.
  • [01:31:34.46] INTERVIEWER 3: John, can you talk about some of the cast of characters involved in the Ann Arbor Sun. Grimshaw was involved, of course.
  • [01:31:43.85] JOHN: Yeah, it was their collective. Same people, and then, I don't know, We evolved so organically from the Artists Workshop, to Trans Love Energies. When we came to Ann Arbor we were Trans Love Energies. There was about 30 of us.
  • [01:32:01.52] I don't know. It's too long of a story for this afternoon. Really a story on the White Panther Party and the Rainbow People's Party would start with the communal organization. We were any number of people from 15 to 35, including three children, that was organized as a commune.
  • [01:32:28.12] The individual members had no separate economic identity, where all the money that was earned by anybody for any reason went to pay the bills for everybody, the rent, the food, whatever, car upkeep, instrument repair, strings for the guitars, oil for the light show. Really a very evolved form of economic development. And we made it work for quite a while.
  • [01:32:59.94] But that was the basis of it. And people had different things to do within our overall scheme for world domination. Some people were in bands. Some people carried equipment, moved the equipment, set it up. Some people did the posters. Some people took the pictures. Some people put out the newspaper, et cetera.
  • [01:33:27.47] And then some people didn't have any. They were assigned political duties. And their job was to attend the meetings of all the community groups that were providing services to people of our persuasion, like drug help, and there was a house for runaways. And there was a free medical clinic, food co-op.
  • [01:33:50.99] We had people from our party that were assigned to these. That was their job, was to do whatever was needed to be part of this group, or that group, to contribute, materially, to what they were doing. So it was really crazy when I think about it, it was really an interesting construct, especially in America.
  • [01:34:12.60] And it was the people who were active also lived together. It was hard for police, or other authorities, to infiltrate this group because you had to sleep with them. You had to take acid.
  • [01:34:27.34] LENI: Didn't keep them from infiltrating.
  • [01:34:29.07] JOHN: Well, yeah, but that was when people accepted them into their beds like [INAUDIBLE].
  • [01:34:34.81] INTERVIEWER 3: Why don't you talk about that real quick. We've got five minutes. Can you talk about that infiltration?
  • [01:34:38.72] JOHN: Sorry about that.
  • [01:34:39.51] INTERVIEWER 3: This is an interesting story, actually. Are you willing to talk about that?
  • [01:34:44.80] JOHN: I wasn't there, I don't think.
  • [01:34:48.00] LENI: Yes, we took great precautions. We knew the house was bugged. We knew the phones were bugged. So when we had to have important meetings, we would go to the park and can have our meetings under a tree at [INAUDIBLE] Park or somewhere.
  • [01:35:05.97] And then years later, when I was working on the Red Squad files, I discovered that there was somebody right among us that reported to the FBI on our activity. Somebody that was actually living in our house. To this day, we don't know who it was. There was a guy--
  • [01:35:25.22] JOHN: Then we found in Detroit, like Bill Rowe, who was the accountant for all of the movement groups, including ours, was an FBI informant. So when he'd figure out your taxes, he'd file them with the FBI first, the mother fucker. Excuse me.
  • [01:35:43.58] LENI: And he even advertised in the Fifth Estate.
  • [01:35:48.75] JOHN: He was the Fifth Estate's accountant!
  • [01:35:51.79] LENI: If you need an accountant of like the peace movement.
  • [01:35:56.71] JOHN: Movement accountant!
  • [01:35:57.61] LENI: Yes, that's right. So everybody used him for their accounting. The FBI knew damn well that nobody had any money.
  • [01:36:07.63] JOHN: That was the one good part.
  • [01:36:09.17] LENI: Because he could see the tax returns.
  • [01:36:11.13] JOHN: He could can see there was no flim flamming going on.
  • [01:36:15.59] LENI: But it seems there was somebody living with us. And we don't know.
  • [01:36:19.33] JOHN:You don't know, who, huh?
  • [01:36:20.62] LENI: At one time a guy came to live with us from California. And his name was Dennis Martell.
  • [01:36:26.66] JOHN: That guy, that's the one I was referring to.
  • [01:36:28.69] LENI: No, it was somebody else.
  • [01:36:30.16] JOHN: I thought he was from Texas?
  • [01:36:31.95] LENI: No.
  • [01:36:32.75] JOHN: That was Freddy Brooks.
  • [01:36:34.16] LENI: And he told us that he was coming to stay with us in order to help the White Panther Party become more, training us in weapons, for self defense, of course. But he said he had just come from a camp in the mountains in California where he trained Black Panthers in ammunition, and weapons, and stuff. And then he came to the White Panthers.
  • [01:37:00.36] And he lived with us. He lived with Jeanie for a while, [INAUDIBLE] was underground. And, really, he called himself Deputy Minister of Defense because [INAUDIBLE] was the Minister of Defense. But he was underground. So when Dennis Martell came to take his place in Jeanie's bed as well as on the central committee, then we had a meeting. And he got told because he was accused of being a pig.
  • [01:37:33.76] Now, that's on the police file. We didn't call him that. The police said, he was accused of being a pig.
  • [01:37:42.46] JOHN: That's good.
  • [01:37:44.42] INTERVIEWER 3: Is that a wrap? I wish we had five more hours to get through this.
  • [01:37:52.08] JOHN: We got them.
  • [01:37:53.36] INTERVIEWER 3: There's so much stuff that we didn't touch on, like the White Panther stuff, and the Rainbow People's Party, which is so essential to the story. But I guess that's all we've got for time.
  • [01:38:03.32] JOHN: You know, these are after we left Ann Arbor. That's why they look so stiff.
  • [01:38:09.62] INTERVIEWER 3: It's too bad we don't have any of the Grimshaw ones.l
  • [01:38:12.81] LENI: You have them?
  • [01:38:14.82] INTERVIEWER 3: Yeah, we do, but not here. There's a trillion boxes back there. They wouldn't let them bring them all in.
  • [01:38:20.80] JOHN: Good for them.
  • [01:38:21.96] LENI: How in the world did you digitize them all? Did you have a scan and go page by page?
  • [01:38:27.59] INTERVIEWER 3: Yeah, we have a vendor that does that. And they have a camera and go page by page.
  • [01:38:31.85] JOHN: What a thrill that was , to have them digitize our paper.
  • [01:38:35.90] LENI: I can't believe. Now I can throw away my old copies.
  • [01:38:39.91] INTERVIEWER 3: Don't do that.
  • [01:38:41.87] LENI: I'm just kidding. No, but I might sell them.
  • [01:38:47.40] JOHN: When we wanted to do a rock and roll dance on campus, with the MC5 and the Stooges, which now they would get their arms and their legs to have been there, we had to sue the university to be able to rent their fucking ballroom, you know? Every time.
  • [01:39:07.86] [MUSIC PLAYING]


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