Ye Olde Doublecross
As the summer of 1967 wore on, the Upper House turned into a
crash pad shared by all comers. On the night of August 14th, the
day before Lou was due in court to face charges of running an
organized camp, a motorcycle gang came roaring in shortly before
midnight. They stormed the Upper House armed with a rifle and a
shotgun, ordering the several Blacks sleeping there to get out
and emphasizing their demands with a few shots. Someone hitched
to the sheriff's department and seven deputies were sent out to
FRIAR TUCK: "I was the only one asleep in the Upper House
when the back door flew open and the cops rushed in, submachine
guns at the ready. Everyone else had split."
RAMON: "This is one of those incidents which I suspect
was foisted upon Morning Star by the police themselves. Often
groups of bikers camped out by the Russian River and the cops
would roust them. It was an obvious and easy ploy for a deputy to
suggest they sleep over at Morning Star. So up to the ranch would
come the Heavies, to drink wine, yell and scream, freak the
neighbors and generally live up to the county's worst
expectations. But then, when you fear the worst, that's usually
what you get."
The following day, neighbor Ed Hochuli appeared at the county
supervisors' meeting to complain of illegal campfires next door
and to suggest making smoking illegal at the ranch. A local
forestry official at the hearing was less concerned, saying that
"other areas in the county were worse." One of the
supervisors wondered out loud what the fire danger at Morning
Star had to do with them, and suggested to Hochuli that "if
you can't whip 'em, why don't you join 'em?"
But Hochuli was on a crusade, and the fire danger was the
least of what offended him. Nudity, drugs, laziness and sex
outraged his middle class sense of propriety.
On August fifteenth, which also happened to be Sri Aurobindo's
birthday, Lou appeared in court and through his attorney Richard
Wertheimer began to work out a deal with the District Attorney:
he would plead 'nolo contendere' or, in effect, guilty, in return
for a year's probation during which time he would try to bring
the ranch up to code. The trial date was pushed ahead into
September and Lou returned to the ranch confident that things
were working out. But Hochuli was not appeased, and continued to
gather signatures on the petition. It was this petition, later
used as the basis of injunctive action in the superior court,
that finally closed down Morning Star.
Dissension continued between Blacks and Whites at Morning
Star, a reflection of similar tensions in the Haight-Ashbury. In
early September some of the quieter people began to leave when
fighting erupted between some Blacks and another motorcycle
group. The sheriff's department began to receive complaints
regarding numerous violent incidents.
RAMON: "The racial tensions at Morning Star were
reflections of a general problem: the majority of Blacks who took
acid would bum out. They had been under the thumb of the White
Man for so long that the LSD only released all the bitterness and
negative feelings. The black man who dug acid was a rarity. They
were moving into the Haight-Ashbury angry at their exclusion from
the Summer of Love because they just couldn't cool out behind
psychedelics. 'Hey man, I'm here and I'm not getting off, and
just to show you how much I don't like it I'm going to rip you
off.' But that was just some of the men. Some of the sisters, on
the other hand, were very mellow."
On September 9th, Lou's attorney Richard Wertheimer visited
Morning Star with his wife in order to begin preparing Lou's
defense on the organized camp charge. He was positive he could
get Lou off if Lou showed a willingness to bring the place up to
code and cleaned it up.
"It's certainly not very clean," Mrs. Wertheimer
observed. "Somebody just handed me a piece of cake without a
plate or anything. I couldn't eat it. They're awfully nice, but
Later she had to use the bathroom. Since the toilets long
since had overflowed, there was no place but behind a bush.
Finally they left for Occidental and the facilities there.
On September 12th, Lou and Wertheimer arrived at the Sonoma
County courthouse to enter his plea. Lou walked into the patio
and stood beneath the full-sized statue of Luther Burbank. He
read the inscription beneath the feet of the famous Santa Rosa
horticulturalist: 'The Redwood Empire - so far as I have seen,
the most perfect spot on earth.' It reminded him of one of the
many letters which the Santa Rosa Press Democrat had published
regarding the Morning Star controversy:
"DR. GOTTLIEB COMPARED TO LUTHER BURBANK
"EDITOR: Open Letter to Dr. Gottlieb: It is indeed a sad,
sad day for this county when a person of your stature and great
heart and talent is harassed half to death by the press and the
bureaucrats and a handful of irate and self-righteous citizens of
this community. But might I remind you, Dr. Gottlieb, that you
are in good company, The same press and same petty bureaucrats
and same handful of irate and self-righteous citizens of the day
also harassed - literally to death - the greatest man this county
has ever produced - Luther Burbank.
"Luther Burbank dared, as you are doing, to be an
individual. His great mind refused to follow the sheep of his day
- the conformists, the self-righteous, the ignorant, the
prejudiced, and the intolerant. For this sin against society he
was publicly denounced, ridiculed and harassed. The whole story
is on microfilm at the Santa Rosa Public Library... in copies of
The Press Democrat, starting about February, 1926. It makes very
interesting reading. A few excerpts, out of context, of course.
Mr. Burbank on the subject of youth: 'Children should be
permitted to grow up like flowers and plants, without scolding or
"And during the controversy that raged around Burbank's
own religious philosophy, a leading Santa Rosa citizen: 'Mr.
Burbank, in a time when the youth of the land is jazz-crazed and
breaking away in too large number from religious restraint,
should not give voice to such foolish utterances.' And the
controversy raged on and on. He was branded infidel, heretic, and
a few other things.
"The world does not even remember that 'leading
citizen's' name. And now, of course, Burbank is hailed as the
great local hero. But a few months before his death, the same
element that is attacking you now, was attacking him then. In the
country and city he literally put on the map, he died a
"So take heart, Dr. Gottlieb. You walk in good company,
and there are many of us who walk with you.
RAMON: "Burbank was persecuted for his belief in natural
selection and other Darwinist views, and now Lou was on trial for
his belief in 'divine selection,' that God should select his
The Morning Star tribe made a mind-blowing contrast to the
usual sterile vibrations of the courtroom. Bare feet, bells and
strange clothing bulged the eyeballs of the bailiffs. The judge
turned an even deeper shade of his usual irate crimson.
Wertheimer conferred in the judge's chambers with the District
Attorney and emerged smiling. The deal was all set. Lou pleaded 'nolo contendere' and promised to bring the ranch up to code, for
which the county promised to lay off for a year.
"Of course you'll have to clean up the place a bit,"
Wertheimer whispered to his client.
Lou was delighted. His plea seemed a mere formality which
would allow Morning Star to survive another year.
"I pleaded guilty because I felt it was beneath the
dignity of the court to try a case involving an outhouse,"
he told a reporter afterwards. "The majesty of the law has
moved on its traditional course. I'll be on probation for a year,
and then we'll be in good shape. My plea will have no effect on
my guests; they can come and go as they please... We're in a new
stage - my probation officer will help us run Morning Star for a
year. That's good... It will take ten to twelve thousand dollars
to being Morning Star up to code and I don't have it. I'm not
working. Does anyone need a bass player?... The county officials
have been wonderful, beautiful, excellent - use any superlative
you want. I've had wonderful cooperation... If this is
bureaucracy, let's have more of it."
At Morning Star, Lou was met by a crowd gathered to hear the
results. Relief was evident on their faces as they heard that
they had a year's grace period.
"My probation officers are coming out this
afternoon," Lou cautioned everyone. "I want you to be
polite to them."
Later that day, the probation officers rolled into the front
parking lot. They were met by Mystery, a formidable black man
wearing only a feather in his natural and a pink ribbon around
his huge penis. He was known as having a terrible temper.
"We're looking for Mr. Gottlieb," one of the
officials said, trying to appear businesslike.
"He may be upon the hill somewhere," Mystery
replied. "But all cars have to stay down here."
The crewcut official repeated his request, and Mystery
"Yes, we know you have your rules here, but we'd just as
soon speak to Mr. Gottlieb." Finally they drove away in a
cloud of dust.
"Wow, those guys sure respect law 'n order," Mystery
The officials reentered the ranch via the back driveway which
allowed them to park right next to Lou's shed. Lou greeted them
warmly. They asked questions about the number of inhabitants in
both houses. Lou explained that the population varied from day to
day, and they suggested that some sort of regulation might be
"No, that's what's new about this place," Lou
replied. "The Divine is in charge. Perhaps you'd like to
help Him run Morning Star for the next year?"
Lou treated them to a lecture on the values of Morning Star,
quoting from Robert Theobald's economic theories about the
abundance created by the Machine Age, and the necessity of
enforced leisure and utopian communities.
"Gentlemen," Lou continued, gesturing over the
relaxed naked bodies and piles of garbage. "Here is Utopia.
You thought you would never see it? Well, if you know of a better
way, tell me and I'll try it."
"Are we ready for you yet, Mr. Gottlieb?" one of the
probation officers wondered out loud.
"Gentlemen, make yourselves at home," Lou invited.
"Go anywhere, ask questions and look around. I must return
to my practice session." He settled himself at the piano and
a Bach fugue floated across the landscape.
Suddenly a whole new procession of county cars drove up,
officials popping up everywhere. The judge was seen climbing over
Hochuli's fence, a supervisor walking up the driveway. The
sheriff appeared along with five deputies, reporters,
photographers, building inspectors, health officials and juvenile
officers. Altogether a small army of thirty or more descended on
the ranch. Their mission: to close down Morning Star once and for
"Welcome!" Lou called, once more emerging from his
studio. "Gentlemen, welcome to Morning Star!"
The sheriff minced no words in getting down to business.
"Mr. Gottlieb, we are here to tell you that you must vacate
your property of its guests in twenty-four hours or you and they
will be subject to arrest."
Lou was flabbergasted. Only three hours had passed since he
was assured Morning Star would have an unmolested year to pull
"I haven't even been probated yet," he complained.
"I'm beginning to wonder if I had the best attorney in
Juvenile officers fanned out over the property looking for
underage kids. They found two sixteen-year-old girls whom they
took into custody. Undercover agents wandered about trying to
look inconspicuous but giving themselves away by the big grins on
their faces. One policeman took a photo of Mystery and his
"Hey! That's obscene!" another shouted.
"Hell no, it's art," the photographer answered in
his own defense.
In spite of the prevailing carnival atmosphere, the officials
continued to do their jobs. As the building inspector readied his
'condemned' signs, cigarettes were handed out to the 'natives'.
This house is deemed unsafe for human occupancy
He posted all the buildings except for Lou's studio (renovated
by Lou's carpenter friend Pete, it more or less satisfied the
code). Morning Star was now officially condemned. Other notices
announced that everyone had to vacate the premises within
twenty-four hours. The deputies threatened the ranchers with
arrest for all kinds of misdemeanors if they stayed.
"It will be extremely difficult to comply with all these
regulations," Lou told a reporter. "I don't know
whether it isn't better to go to jail."
The probation officers began to pressure Lou into making an
announcement that everyone had to leave, threatening to revoke
his probation if he didn't comply.
"I can't do that," Lou replied. "I've never
denied anyone access to this land. It's like the Indians - it's
land held in trust for everyone to enjoy."
"Lou, what should I do?" one Morning Star rancher
"It's up to you, baby," Lou replied, and began
singing 'Let My People Go' to express his frustration.
A reporter asked the assembled officials what they would do if
the people refused to leave.
"We'll have to take them off by the truckload," one
of the supervisors answered.
At last the county cars left, and a meeting was called to
decide upon a course of action.
"Can they take our children?" Pam Read asked, with
Adam Siddartha on her lap.
It was agreed that the county could. Parents and children
should obviously leave. This depressed everyone, and there was a
moment of silence.
"Let's have a party," a voice suggested to cheers
and universal agreement. What else was there to do?
On September 14th, Lou returned to court. Charging he had been
doublecrossed by the prosecution, he wanted to change his plea.
"Mr. Gottlieb misunderstood what was said," the
District Attorney argued. "We never gave him a year to clean
his place up. We can't allow anyone to violate the law for a
The judge took Lou's motion under advisement, saying that no
public agency at that time had the authority to close the ranch.
"Just because a public health officer rules that the
buildings on the ranch are uninhabitable, that doesn't mean they
are. This must be determined through litigation. At this time,
the only person who can tell anyone to leave Morning Star Ranch
is Mr. Gottlieb."
"Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the party was gaining
momentum. Two rock groups, Almond Joy and The Steve Miller Blues
Band, set up and began blasting in all directions. About three
hundred and fifty people gathered to boogie. One resident flutist
hooked into an amplifier to jam with the musicians. Food, grass
and beer was in abundance, the latter a supposed cover-up for the
considerably more potent chemicals being passed around. Shel
Silverstein reporting for Playboy appeared on the scene, taking
notes for an article on communes.
By mid-afternoon, the police showed up. They were welcomed by
a naked Near who danced up and put flowers under their windshield
wipers. They left quickly, perhaps afraid their presence would
precipitate a riot. The orbiting consciousnesses at that
gathering floated far beyond their sphere of influence.
On September 16th, a superior court judge, on the basis of
affidavits from the building and health departments plus Lou's
own 'nolo contendere' plea, issued a temporary restraining order.
Mr. Gottlieb and his friends were told to stop doing all the
things which Mr. Hochuli thought horrendous. Copies of the order
were passed out to anyone the deputies found on the ranch.
Meanwhile, Hochuli called a meeting of irate neighbors at the
local Harmony Union elementary school. Public officials as well
as Morning Star residents were invited. It seemed a bit
anticlimactic, inasmuch as the most recent court order was in
effect an eviction notice, but Hochuli decide to go ahead with
the meeting "so that other areas of the county can learn
from what happened to us."
At 10 a.m., some two hundred and fifty 'straight' neighbors
and fifty of the Love Generation filed into the sunny school
courtyard. Anyone wearing a knife was asked to leave it outside.
The Morning Star people formed a circle, holding hands to
"pray that we make it." Their adversaries looked on
with a mixture of curiosity and disgust. "Hypocrites,"
muttered one old man. Others saw the hippies as alien creatures,
spacemen from another planet. Still others saw them as
untouchables, dirty and diseased. The culture shock reverberated
on both sides. For many neighbors, this was their first close-up
view of the ranchers. They saw a great deal of hair and colorful
assemblages of rags, bells and beads, jeans, blankets,
embroidered and patched shirts, all with a distinct odor of
country funk and often barely modest.
It brought to mind early confrontations between the Europeans
and the indigenous inhabitants of this continent. The white men
saw only dirty, smelly savages who obviously had no right to the
land where they had lived for so many generations.
Hochuli got up and recited his list of grievances: bad
sanitation, dangerous fire conditions, theft, trespassing,
threats to local citizens, gunfights, harboring of juveniles and
criminals, nudity, obscene behavior and heavy traffic on the
county roads. Finally, he lambasted local officials for their
sloth in dealing with the situation.
"Grow your hair long and don't take a bath," he
sneered. "Then you don't have to obey the health laws and
you can set a fire anywhere you want."
A health official took the podium in his own defense. He
traced his department's activities at Morning Star, concluding
that "It's our feeling that we have done everything we can.
We have not operated on a double standard, and as of this Friday
morning, a restraining order has closed Morning Star Ranch."
This brought loud applause from most of the audience. Next it
was the District Attorney's turn.
"I think my office has taken an aggressive stand on this
thing, and we will continue to do so. If they don't comply with
the restraining order, then they are in contempt of court."
A round of still louder applause broke out.
A woman asked why the hippies could walk through town wearing
miniskirts or bedspreads. The District Attorney suggested this
was a question of fashion rather than a legal one.
The sheriff stood up. "We'll certainly do everything we
can to protect law and order."
The same supervisor who earlier that week had suggested that
the hippies might have to be carted away by the truckload took
the podium: "The right of private property is a sacred
constitutional right. However, with these rights certain duties
are implied... My only regret is that the present situation is
costly to you and me as taxpayers. Our many county departments
have spent time and effort - effort that could and perhaps should
have been spent on more creative projects."
Finally Lou was given a chance to speak.
"One thing I don't want to do is to make anyone afraid of
what's happening," he began.
Taunts from the audience interrupted him. The moderator then
asked him to keep his comments short. So Lou began again by
saying that four years earlier he developed a "terrible
allergy to the rat race."
"Get him outta here!" someone yelled form the back
of the crowd.
"Let him speak," a few others replied.
For a third time he launched into a discussion of Morning
Star's alternate life style. "It's a kind of religious
revival. Let me have the year that the Probation Department was
going to give me. Everything will be brought up to code... Relax,
let go, folks. I'm telling you, things are getting tenser and
tenser. Three days at Morning Star is better than a three-month
vacation in Las Vegas."
Several people complained about articles stolen from their
"Whatever it is, I'll pay for it right now," Lou
Another complained that he had sold his home in the
Haight-Ashbury "to get away from the hippies, the colored
people and (making motions with his hands) the fairies."
"I won't point him out," one lady said. "But
one of these gentlemen from Morning Star is wearing my husband's
Lou asked her to identify him, but she refused. At last
Hochuli made some concluding remarks.
"The restraining order is a reasonable conclusion to a
dangerous and perilous situation. Though Morning Star is now
officially closed, it is important that other areas (of the
county) learn from our experience, so that they will know what to
do when it happens to them.
"Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that we
are in a struggle for our children's minds. They must not be
exposed to such an obscene floor show. Look at Mr. Gottlieb. Look
at these people!"
The front row of Morning Star residents stood up, laughing.
"Take a look. Are these the people you want to guide your
The audience chorused a big 'No!'
"I don't want to guide your children, anyway," said
a bearded young man.
The meeting broke up, the neighbors having
something to talk about for the next week or two.