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Woody Allen Meets Tongue Fu

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[A small independent publisher, Ronin, has just released a new edition of my tale of a Japanese-American man who goes to a summer camp for gurus. Below is my preface to the book.]

In 1971, after reading Ed Sanders' book about the Charles Manson mini-cult massacre, "The Family," I began my own investigation to see if I could find any answers to the questions he raised. The complete story, "The Rise of Sirhan Sirhan in the Scientology," is the longest article in my collection, "One Hand Jerking: Reports From an Investigative Satirist," but in this context, I'll just quote an excerpt from my interview with Preston Guillory, a former deputy sheriff in Malibu who participated in the raid on the Spahn Ranch where Manson and his cohorts were arrested. Conspiracy researcher Mae Brussell put me in touch with him.

"A few weeks prior to the Spahn Ranch raid," he told me, "we were told that we weren't to arrest Manson or any of his followers. We had a sheaf of memos on Manson--that they had automatic weapons at the ranch, that citizens had complained about hearing machine guns at night, that firemen from the local fire station had been accosted by armed members of Manson's band and told to get out of the area. Deputies started asking, 'Why aren't we gonna make the raid sooner?' I mean, Manson's a parole violater, we know there's narcotics and booze. He's llving at the ranch with a bunch of minor girls in complete violation of his parole. Deputies at the station quite frankly became very annoyed that no action was being taken about Manson."

"What did you guys speculate the motivation behind that protection was?" I asked.

"My contention is this--the reason Manson was left on the street was because our department thought that he was going to launch an attack on the Black Panthers. We were getting intelligence briefings that Manson was anti-black and he had supposedly killed a Black Panther. Manson was a very ready tool, apparently, because he did have some racial hatred and he wanted to vent it. But they hadn't anticipated him attacking someone other than the Panthers. You have to remember that Charlie was on federal parole all this time from '67 to '69. Do you realize all the shit he was getting away with while he was on parole? Now here's the kicker. Before the Tate killings, he had been arrested at Malibu twice for statutory rape. Never got [imprisoned for parole violation]. Manson liked to ball young girls, so he just did his thing and he was released, and they didn't put any parole hold on him. But somebody very high up was controlling everything that was going on and was seeing to it that we didn't bust Manson."

So, did racism in the Sheriff's Department make them collaborators in a mass murder? I found myself gathering scary pieces of a mind-boggling jigsaw puzzle, without any model to pattern it after. Ultimately, in 1972, I experienced a bizarre freakout from information (and misinformation) overload. Then, in 1973, I wrote this New Age media fable, "Tales of Tongue Fu"--which served as a catharsis for me--and in 1974 it was serialized in Stewart Brand's "Co-Evolution Quarterly." I began only with the name of my protagonist, Tongue Fu (a man with a 15-inch tongue), as a takeoff on "Kung Fu," a popular TV series at the time.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Vietnam war was peaking, while back in America the counterculture was peaking on psychedelics. Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll was a slogan, but at the core of it there was a spiritual revolution, with young people abandoning western religions of control and experimenting with eastern disciplines of liberation. One of the threads in this book parodies the plethora of those who attempted to enhance and/or exploit that search for expanded consciousness.

Charlie Manson acted as a perverted version of such gurus. Indeed, a member of his family, Squeaky Fromme, who later attempted to assassinate then-President Gerald Ford, was the basis of the frizzie-haired hippie character in "Tongue Fu." This all took place before personal computers (I depend on mine), the Internet (I practically worship it), cell phones (I've adapted to one), the remote (I never touch my TV set any more), Web sites (paulkrassner.com), YouTube (I'm on it), Tivo (no need for it), and having to take your shoes off before you can get on a flight (kids growing up these days will think it was always that way).

Beverly Potter, my publisher at Ronin, suggested updating references--Alice Cooper could become Marilyn Manson, "Dating Game" could become "Love Connection" and underground publications could become zines, which have already become outdated by blogs (I do 'em)--to bring the time frame forward because many readers weren't born yet, but I felt that for the very same reason the book should remain as a "period piece," so that the climate then can be compared and constrasted with the climate now. For example, the members of Better Your Exit (BYE) in "Tongue Fu" are forerunners of the suicide bombers currently in Iraq. I originally got the idea for BYE from an interview I did with Woody Allen in 1965:

Q. "Are you concerned about the population explosion?"

A. "No, I'm not. I mean, I recognize it as a problem which those who like that area can fool around with. I doubt if there's anything I can do about the population explosion, or about the atom bomb, besides vote when the time comes, and I contribute money to those organizations who spend their days in active pursuit of ends that I'm in agreement with. But that's all. And I'm not going to set fire to myself."

Q. "But do you agree with the motivations of the Buddhist monks who set fire to themselves in Vietnam?"

A. "I don't think so. No, I think that they don't know what they're doing. I think they're nuts. That's not the answer. When all is said and done, it's not the answer. When you're home at night, and you say to yourself, 'Tomorrow morning I'll get up at eight o'clock and set fire to myself,' there's something wrong. I wouldn't do it that way. I can see dying for a principle, but not that way. At the very minimum, if you are going to die for something, you should at least take one of them with you. Go back to the Jews in Germany. If you have a loaded gun in your home, and the state comes to get you, you can at least get two or three of them. I'm not opposed to violence as a course of action in many instances. Sometimes passive resistance is fine, but violence in its place is a good and necessary thing. But setting fire to yourself is not the answer. With my luck, I would be un-inflammable."

Consider, then, this confession in "Tongue Fu":

"Recently I went and got programmed for forty days at Aripoff Center in Chile where there were some U.S. Army colonels hanging around. Then I went and got deprogrammed for forty nights at Exedrin Institute in Big Sur where I recognized those same colonels hanging around, only now they were generals. Well, one night I was soaking in the hot spring sulphur baths and I overheard them discussing a scenario that gave me the chills. They were talking about a squad of their personnel from Special Forces who plan to claim that they're revolutionary BYE terrorists and hold our whole government hostage with just a few home-made nuclear devices...."

One person's paranoia is another person's satirical prophecy.