Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Electric Kool-Aid alone won't bring back Kesey's bus

via The Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

By JEFF BARNARD

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Dreams of getting author Ken Kesey's original psychedelic bus, Furthur, back on the road again have hit a pothole.

The Kesey family is looking for a new sponsor to finance restoration work and a television documentary after breaking things off with Hollywood restaurant owner David Houston, who had hoped to raise $100,000 to restore the bus made famous in Tom Wolfe's 1968 book "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" as a rolling LSD trip.

Stephanie Kesey, who is married to the late author's son Zane and is overseeing the project, said the bus has been cleaned up a bit, and singer Willie Nelson has offered to put in a biodiesel engine, but they don't want to do any major work until they have a restoration expert and a documentary deal lined up.

Nelson's publicist did not immediately return phone calls for comment.

"I want to make sure we do this right and get involved with the right people," Stephanie Kesey said. "This involves the memory of my father-in-law and I take that very seriously. We just want to work with people with the same ideas about the bus as we do. We want to be sure it's on display for the most people possible.

"We are not looking to commercialize this, and a lot of people are," she added. "A lot of people have their own agenda of what they want to do with the bus. We have to make sure we both have the same vision for the bus, and are not out to make money or make commercials.

"We want to make sure it stays pure."

Houston owns The Beanery, an old roadhouse in Hollywood, Calif. He did not want to discuss details of the breakup.

"I thought everything was in sync," he said. "We wanted to restore the bus and tell the story. I think some other things were going on, I guess.

"They are just going with somebody else at this point. It's unfortunate, because we were really excited about it."

This is the vehicle of which Kesey was famously quoted as saying, "You're either on the bus or you're off the bus," which became a way of saying someone was part of the psychedelic explorations of the 1960s or not.

Fresh from the stunning success of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Ken Kesey bought the 1939 International school bus in 1964 from a San Francisco Bay Area family that had fitted it as a motor home.

With a jug of LSD-laced juice in the fridge, Kesey pals known as The Merry Pranksters inside, and Neal Cassady, the driver in Jack Kerouac's "On the Road," at the wheel, the bus crossed the country from California to New York.

More than 15 years ago, Kesey put the bus into retirement in a swampy patch of woods on his farm in Pleasant Hill, and bought a newer one, which in typical Prankster style he tried to pass off as the original.

After being approached by Houston with the restoration plan, Zane Kesey and some of the Pranksters towed it out of the swamp last year.

"This is an icon of America," said Ken Babbs, a writer, Prankster and close friend of Ken Kesey. "It would be nice to see it back out on the road again to bring the reality of the '60s into the 21st century."

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