Mary Pranksters,
I know how it goes being a prankster, it's a tough job being the only people in town that are fighting back against the system. The system that brought our current social system to its degrading standpoint. My friends and I are some of the only teenagers who realize the dream of having a social status that doesn't just look at how much money you have (not that that is not important), but also how much fun you have. We are the freedom fighters of our town, showing all those, TV watching, sweat stained undershirt wearing, "get me a beer", people out there. We show them that the human spirt is still alive. We are raiders of the night, the only ones who standup for the little injustices done to many that have nor the strength nor the will to fight against their assailants. Being a prankster is one of the most noble jobs of our time. It's time to get back to our roots where the just are not always the good guys. "After all we've been gone a long time".

My english 11 teacher is the one who has inspired me to look back at our history (the 60's) a Mr, Dave Fiore.

Thank you for your time, Joe Robbins


I am a college student from Long Island N.Y. I am learning about Mr. Kesey and the pranksters, as well as the psychedelic revolution in the 60's. I am writing a paper on Mr Kesey, and I am comparing him to a prophet, like Jesus. I would like to know, if you could tell me about how Mr. Kesey affected your life, and what was it about him, that special thing about him, that held you with him?

Kesey and I were best friends and as such shared in many a moment of mirth and sadness and highness and lowliness and interchanging of ideas and musical moments plus working together on many many projects over 43 years.

What was it that he did that was so appealing to the youth of the 60's?

Blew truth, brother.

Did he ever intend to harm anyone, or was he just a loving man who really believed that Acid was a way to unlock the inner most potential of humanity?

Never intended to harm anyone and was a loving man and knew LSD was a tool that could open doors to perception and helped out with finding depths of potential, yes.

What was LSD like, I mean did it open up some type of doorway, and make thinking a hundred times clearer?

It was like, powerful, opened all kinds of doors, took me on great adventures, roamed through time and the dna and blew out the garbage in the head.

Did you feel a closeness, a oneness with God?

What? Don't we all?

Did Kesey seem God like to everyone, or was he someone that everyone believed was in touch with God, and he would show everyone the way to Heaven?

Kesey was a person just like you and me, smart, hip, a wizard, as much in touch with God as anyone else and his job was not to show everyone the way to heaven but to do what he could to help save the world.

I would also like to know for the record if everyone believed that LSD was a religious drug, and if religion played a big part in the pranksters life.

No, LSD was not a religious drug to us but a tool to be used. Religion plays a part in life, of course.

LSD, do you have any regrets about using it, especially since it is now illegal?

The nice thing about it back in the day was it was legal. When it became illegal in California in 1966 we all went to Mexico. No regrets.

Do you object to the use of any and all psychedelic substances?

Any and all covers quite a barrage and my only objections are to mis-use. Don't confuse psychedelics with other drugs.

What do you consider to be the dangers of LSD? I mean, is it deadly, and is it bad for you? I know it has been proven that it is, but what is your take on this?

Gotta watch out you don't go wandering off in bliss and step over the edge of a cliff which is very bad for you and can be a deadly experience and my take on that is to take off and fly

Also, can you tell us about the bus Further, anything at all would be ok, like why did you choose that bus specifically, and what was it's symbolism?

When you put an apostrophe in the word, it's, it's a contraction for it is. We were going to Madhattan in 1964 and needed a rig for fourteen people and all our filming and taping equipment and Hagen spotted a revamped school bus in San Francisco that was for sale and the symbolism was we were on the road with a jug full of orange juice.

Also, I was wondering if you were with Mr. Kesey from the beginning when he first started his crusade. How did it begin?

We met at the stanford graduate school creative writing class in the fall of 1958 and the crusade took off from there, destination the stars.

I read Tom Woolfes The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, and I was wondering if it was the truth in that story, or if any of it was twisted.

It was Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing book that was twisted and Tom Wolfe blows swell truth.

What was Keseys exact words at the Vietnam rally? Did he really say "Fuck it", and play the harmonica?

Yes, and the song was Home On The Range and he turned his back to the audience when he played it.

Who was Owsley, and what exaclty was Owsley's Acid? Did he have anything against Mr. Kesey?

Owsley was the son of a senator so I heard and his acid was later on called owsley's purple and he said to Kesey, "If I told you you had a great body would you hold it against me?" and that was all he had against Kesey for they were always friends.

The last question on my mind is about how Mr. Kesey changed the world in the 1960's. I know he brought about the existence of The Grateful Dead, and he made Acid Rock popular?

We were doing the shows called the acid tests and the grateful dead was the band and we were a band, too, the merry band of pranksters, and they would set up at one end of the hall and we would set up at the other end and they would play and we would play and then we would both play at the same time while the bus movie was showing on the walls.

Up till the day of his passing, was Mr. Kesey still on his great quest of changing the world?

For sure.

Can you give me your opinion on Charles Manson and what you think went wrong with him?

Twisted and then some. Only time I saw him he had his black bus and we had our brightly painted bus and he came aboard and wanted to know if we would trade our women for his. Nuff said.

What was the one thing, if anything, you would want to go back and relive from your days as a Prankster?

The time on the bus in '64 when we stopped for ratburgers and when it came time to pay I only paid for ten instead of the 20 I ordered and Cassady saw me and years later when we were playing pool and he was jiving with some women instead of watching the game, he accused me of not making a shot, saying, "Babbs lies."

Do you still talk with Kesey and do things with him?

The answer lies in this tale: Poopedcorn by yours truly.

Kesey and Mike Hagen and I were sitting around the other evening shooting the breeze and I decided to make some popcorn, the easy kind, the kind you put in the microwave, but when I opened the kitchen cupboard I was surprised to find a big empty cavern where the popcorn always resides.

What the hell, I exclaimed, that daughter of mine must have cleaned out the stash, used it up with her buddies, for I could think of no other reason for the absence of said corn, and I began to berate the chile in her absence until Kesey said, You seeem to be fixated, and I said, I am fixated but I am not fixed and I won't be fixed until I get my popcorn fix, and I kept scrounging around in the cupboard and mixed in with some plastic sacks of beans and pasta I found a small sack of popcorn, the regular kind, that you cook in a pan on top of the stove.

There was a pan already on the stove. I pulled off the lid, poured in the popcorn and turned on the heat. Did the pan shaking thing. Nothing was rattling, nothing was popping, I looked inside and blunderbuss went kerplunk in the old brain pan for the stove pan contained some chile and the popcorn was agog with goo and popping was nil.

Compounding one failure with another I got out my trombone and Kesey cranked up his theremin and Hagen made moaning and mouthing noises into the microphone and we pummeled the blues until my lips were sore, the theremin was smoked out and Hagen was asleep.

There was an exorbitant kitchen mess to clean up before the wife and daughter got home and that pretty much took up the rest of the evening.

I thank you so much for your time Mr. Babbs. I hope that I can learn something from you, and I hope to hear from you as I am eagerly awaiting the info, so that I may add your knowledge to my paper. I appreciate it dearly.

Jason Van Loan


Hello! My name is Chris Stephens. I am a senior at Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
I have a current assignment in my English class, as we are reading The Electric Kook-Aid Acid Test.
Of course, like most papers, I have to have a thesis, etc...
I think my title to this paper may be: Kesey: Walking on Air in Black Shiny Shoes.
I'm thinking, from my reading, that I can argue that Kesey led a counterculture that in many ways resembled the establishment that was railed against.

-- Chris

Really? You mean materialistic, wasteful, thickskinned, uptight, money mad, sexist, racist, all that shit?

Maybe some members of the so-called counterculture went over to the dark side, but good old pranksters purty much stuck to the creed: be open, kind to others, have mercy, forgiving, and inwardly tough mothers for ya.

ask me what you will.


1) Have you read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test? If so, does Tom Wolfe portray
the Merry Pranksters acurately? If not, how does his version diverge from the
actual Merry Pranksters?

Yes, I read the book when it came out. Been in constant print since it was published in 1968. As Chief Bramden Stamper said in the book, Once Upon A Great Cuckoo, "It's all true even if it didn't happen." In divergence there is also convergence but where they meet is the meat of the question, but face it, books are illusions of reality and EKAT is now a huge part of the myth surrounding Kesey and the Pranksters. If the number of people who say they were on the bus were actually on the bus, the bus would be as big as Interstate 80, coast to coast.

2) Is it fair to say that Kesey was the leader of the Merry Pranksters? How did
that role emerge for him?

Kesey's dad said, "We can't always be right but we can be fair." And it's a fair assumption to say Kesey was the leader. He was a charismatic, theatrical, smart and creative guy who could do magic tricks and ventriloquism and could come up with ideas and hi-jinks that those around him happily joined in on. We did spontaneous eruptions of novels rapped out on the spot, we got up off of our asses and played out the parts, we started filming our made up dramas, next thing you know we were movie makers.

3) Where did you meet Kesey? You're often referred to as his "lieutenant". Is
that accurate?

We met in the graduate school writing class at Stanford in the fall of 1958 and became immediate friends and remained so for 43 years until he died. I was not only referred to as his lieutenant (although in 1964 when I got out of the Marine Corps, I was a captain), but as his Ed McMahon, his sidekick, his flunky, his hanger-on, and even according to one guy, his wife, but I never went along with that one.

4) Were there times that there really needed to be a leader, a point man per

Yes, like when we were stuck in the sand at the Wikkieup River and everyone was aimlessly wandering around, Kesey had to get us all together and remind us we were making a movie so get with it, get out the camera and the tape recorder and start doing something worth photographing.

I mean, if the point man wasn't Kesey, would you, or someone else have been able to carry the movement as it is portrayed that he did?

When Kesey faked his suicide and split for Mexico after being busted for weed, he left the whole lashup for me to take care of and I did for a while, then the core group bailed and went to Mexico, too.

If Kesey was the point man, what characteristics did he have that seemed to endear him to
people, to make them want to follow what he had going on?

Answered that earlier when I said: He was a charismatic, theatrical, smart and creative guy who could do magic tricks and ventriloquism and could come up with ideas and hi-jinks that those around him happily joined in on.

5) What are your fondest memories of those days, of the bus trip and all?

Those of being with friends, the pranksters and others, being able to trip with them, spend time with them, doing things with them and, over the years, continuing that friendship.

6) What was the most difficult/scary/fucked up encounter the Merry Pranksters

When we were doing a ritualistic ending to the making of the bus movie and we burned the shirts we all wore doing the making of the movie, burned them inside the bus and George Walker said, holy shit, we're right over the gas tank, and we all bailed out of the bus and stood around outside waiting for the bus to explode but the shirt fire petered out so we went back in and cleaned up the mess.

Was it Kesey that pulled the group through the difficulties or was it truly a group think mentality that allowed the group to progress?

Yes, both.

8) I'm really intrigued with "You're either on the bus, or off the bus." What is
your take on that and what did it mean to you and Kesey when he said it?

It's a great saying with double meanings. One, literally, which is what Kesey said when someone was gone, off the bus. Also a philosophical concept, meaning you are at one with the attitudes and values of us on the bus or you aren't.

9) To me, it's not very clear of any specific agenda the Merry Pranksters had,
you know like the civil rights movement was for rights..etc...Was there a
message that the Merry Pranksters were trying to convey to the rest of the
uptight United States? What was that message?

We were movie makers. We were going to Madhattan to the publication part of Kesey's book, Sometimes A Great Notion. We were also going to the 1964 World's Fair in Flushing, N.Y. We would film and tape the whole thing, with us as the characters, us mingling with the people and situations we encountered. We'd come back and edit the whole thing into a two hour movie that would be shown on the big screen. A movie like one never filmed before, a combination of made up stuff and actual stuff intertwined, neither fiction nor documentary, a revolutionary concept at the time, but pretty ordinary now. What happened to that movie, Kesey was asked. "We got arrested," he said. Our message is be yourself, groove with life, don't let not being a professional stop you from doing the things you love: painting, sculpture, dance, writing, music, hiking, biking, but riding those loud godawful contraptions burning gasoline and spewing noxious fumes and endangering everyone around you.

10) What ever became of all of the tapes and recordings made? Are they anywhere
that could be viewed?

It's all in the Kesey archives now, most of which is stored on the farm where he lived in Oregon. Hopefully, some day, there will be a Kesey Museum there where the films and tapes can be viewed and listened to, and even an interactive room where you can make your own DVD or CD from the material that is available.