Teen Girl Runnin’ Wild – read the second part of Erica’s most vulnerable period –
from Acid Tests on the Sunset Strip to a Federal Bust!
Young Erica’s early flirtation with the fast lane as a teenager included participation in the drug experiments associated with author Ken Kesey. Having previously participated in a government drug research program that helped inspire his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Kesey expanded his explorations into LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs, most dramatically when his Merry Pranksters drove cross-country to New York in their day-glo painted bus in 1964.
In the summer of 1965, Kesey began hosting Acid Tests at his home in La Honda, sometimes with the Hell’s Angels in attendance. Erica did not take part in those events, but in something closely related.
“Someone would rent or lease a club for one night and it would be called The Acid Test. A week later the club might be in a totally different place, usually around Sunset Boulevard or Melrose, but it would be the same people and the same scene.
“You paid at the door and everyone inside would be high on LSD—they handed out tabs of pure acid manufactured by a doctor. Different movies would be showing on every wall, with psychedelic purple and green strobe lights or lasers flashing, and hypnotic music like the Grateful Dead blasting away on tape.
“I went once every week or two weeks for about six months, not long after I finished high school.” Erica recalls Timothy Leary attending at least one of the sessions, but never met Ken Kesey, and doesn’t know for sure if the Acid Tests were the author’s events—although they certainly bear every trademark of the Kesey sessions.
“I was taking a lot of LSD, almost everyday, and I wasn’t coming down. Someone must have told my mom, and she came to where I was living in Laurel Canyon. I was huddled in a corner. I hadn’t changed my clothes in maybe a week. The guy Id been living with had moved out and I just stayed. I remember her sweeping me up and taking me to UCLA Psychiatric in Westwood. I was in there for about 40 days. I was diagnosed with LSD psychosis and they put me on a major thorazine medication. I guess you could say I had a little bit of a troubled growing up.”
Erica had left home when she seventeen, after graduation from high school. It was shortly after leaving home that she had met a young man while taking a summer course at Hollywood High. Bob Gavin was his name; he was an artist who painted.
It would be a short-lived relationship. A close friend of Bob’s named Dennis (who would pop up again in Erica’s life a few years later) was a drug dealer, and Bob agreed to help him. This led Bob to associate with other dealers who were less loyal than Dennis. “He was set up not by the police, but by the federal agents. This guy had already been busted, so he set up Bob so he’d be cut loose. He showed up and said someone would pay big money to get a load of of pot and hashish out of the country. We’d been living with his mother in Hollywood, and had just gotten our own apartment. The day we moved in, and were just still getting our phone installed, is when these people called.
“The next day, Bob went out to meet this guy who’d been selling pot for years. Not long after that, at 7:30 in the morning, there a knock on the door. The guy was looking for Bob, and I knew it was trouble. I closed the door, and started grabbing whatever there was to get rid of it. When I got to the bathroom, they broke in and shoved me on the couch.
“I was crying. It was a nightmare. They took me to jail until they got Bob. The federal bust was technically not about drugs, but on tax evasion—you have to pay taxes on what you sell, even if it’s marijuana. It was on the advice of our lawyer that we get married, so that I wouldn’t have to testify against him. So we got married [sometime around the Fall of 1965], but unfortunately he was convicted, and he got seven years in jail, although he didn’t serve the full sentence. I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do.”
–by Steve Sullivan
excerpted with kind permission from Glamour Girls