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From Straight Ahead Magazine October/November 1995 Vol. 79/80
Interview By Steve Roby
When conducting research it doesn't matter how many articles you locate from various obscure print sources, what really counts is directly talking with someone who was involved on a first-hand basis. In the last issue of Straight Ahead we offered what we thought was a detailed accounting of the Rainbow Bridge movie project and how Jimi figured in. With a little bit of luck, or guidance from Jimi above, I was pointed in the direction of Melinda Merryweather. Melinda was directly associated with the making of Rainbow Bridge and shared some time with Jimi while he stayed on the island of Maui in 1970. Her insights and personal observations for this time period are essential as none of the current books on Hendrix document Jimi's whereabouts from August 1 - 14.
I would personally like to thank her for sharing this information with me and the readers of Straight Ahead. Also thanks go out to Rick Brand for steering me in Melinda's direction.
Can you give us some information on your background and how you got involved with the Rainbow Bridge film project?
I was a good friend of Chuck Wein, who was the director of Rainbow Bridge. I had known Chuck from the days when I was a model at Eileen Ford's in New York. Chuck had a friend by the name of Terrain. Terrain was a very interesting woman whom Jimi had heard about. She had a 300-page book of Jimi's music decoded with color vibrations and she was into color-sound healing. Jimi actually inquired and then found Terrain and Chuck through a vegetarian restaurant in Los Angeles called Help. I think Jimi was staying at the Beverly Rodeo Hyatt ...
Was this in 1970?
It was probably 1969 or early 1970. Jimi somehow got in touch with Terrain because he had heard that she was decoding his music ... every note has a color, and all colors have different healing abilities attached to them. At that point in time, Terrain was living on Orion street in the valley. She, Chuck, and Jimi all took acid together at that house and they talked about the decoding of his music. She would say this is the color yellow and then put on a bit of Strauss or somebody like that and the whole room would fill with yellow. I believe Beethoven was also into the correlation of colors and notes. Jimi was very interested in this and would write colors down first and then turn it into a notes. Jimi had told terrain that he was from another planet located near an astroid belt off Mars. He came to Earth to show it's people a new energy.
How did you get invovled with this scene?
I was a good friend of Chuck, and Chuck was interested in making a movie. I was with Chuck and some other people when Michael Jefferey came to Maui. Somebody pointed him out and said that's Jimi's manager. I knew Chuck had this concept for a movie. We were also interested in getting Jimi to write some music for this project... you'd watch somebody surf and then take the pattern of them surfing and turning it into music rather than just having some music used for the surfing segment... let the surfing actually create the music! So I saw Michael Jeffery and I introduced myself. I was fearless of him and I knew this project was meant to be. I then told him I have a friend I would like you to meet and we have this concept for a film and I understand Jimi's looking for a concept for a film, maybe we can merge this all together. The next thing you know we're going off to Hawaii and making this film. We made it at a place called Seabury Hall which was a private girl's school that was closed for summer vacation. The original house was a beautiful huge mansion and the guy that came to be our vegetarian chef, his grandparents used to own that house. It had dorms, tennis courts, and ponds ... and all sorts of things. We just descended on it to make this film. Jimi loved that place and he referred to it as The Cosmic Sandbox. He was with us for about two to three weeks. In your Rainbow Bridge article it was mentioned that he was there for one day when it reality it was weeks.
What was your involvement with the film?
I did the art direction and ended up being in most of the film.
Now who are you in the film and what scenes can we see you in?
I am just myself. If you are familiar with the movie you can see me riding up barefoot on a horse at the beginning of the film. I have long brown hair and I am riding a horse with just a blanket on it. In another scene I am the one who says "Hartley is coming to check on us and we better all get it together." There's another scene where I am on a surfboard inside a swimming pool getting my chart read. You can also see me in the scene where someone is trying convince me that if I smoke cigarettes - I'll never go to heaven. Also there's a segment where I am fencing with a rabbit. I am dressed all in white and the rabbit is in black.
Many of those scenes you described have been cut and the only way you can currently get the film is on a 74-minute video distributed by Rhino.
The original two-hour version of Rainbow Bridge was an incredible film. A lot of the political comments that certain people didn't want in it were chopped out. The film got taken away from us a couple of times. It was quite a procedure to finally get that film out there to the public. We spoke about our government's's total disregard for the environment. When that film first opened to the underground audience you couldn't even get in - people were standing in the aisles! I hope someday that the original version is redistributed.
I know what you mean. I first saw it when it was distributed to the theaters and the rap scene with Jimi, Pat Hartley and Chuck gave me goosebumps. I loved the film so much I sneaked a tape recorder in to re-live it.
If anybody has never been in his presence, I sincerely believe that scene in the attic is one of the most precious scenes. It shows a very real side of Jimi.
Where was that attic?
That attic was in Seabury Hall and was it filmed before the concert and not on the same day as described in your article. If you recall, all those people were rowing that boat in that same attic. Also, when Jimi pokes his head out of the window he doesn't say "Put that in your hat" he says "Get back on your God damn heads!" That whole scene was Jimi's idea.
Was that in the school house?
They say it was in the school house, but it was actually in one of the rooms at the original house. The original house has the living room, a kitchen and a large dinning room. The minister and the people around the school lived in the big house and all the school rooms were attached on the side with the dorms.
How did the word get out to the people on Maui about this free unscheduled concert?
We didn't let everybody know until about a few days before, and then we just put it through the coconut wireless. (laughs) No ... just tell somebody and before the end of the day everyone will know . You can see in that concert how absolutely magical it all was. I had the flags flapping the background designating the end of the Picean age. At the front of the stage you can see the full rainbow spectrum wrapped in silk. This all took place on the side of a volcano called Haleakala, which translates from Hawaiian to House of the Sun.
I've read that those who attended the concert were supposed to sit near their respective zodiac flags. Is that true?
Yes. Every sign of the of the zodiac has a certain color and we had everyone sit next to their particular sign. Some people did say to us things like - "But I'm a Scorpio and I came with a Cancer" and we told them - hey, you're going to get to see Jimi on the side of a crater for free, and take part of a concert you'll never forget... just go along with it. When Jimi got up on stage and started he actually played each color. For example if you were a Scorpio you could feel the red.
As a collector, I've always heard the rumor of a third set that was played, yet all we have" are tapes of two sets. Was there a third?
Yes, he played three 45-minute sets. In between sets we all played in this sacred Hopi tent we had next to the stage. I wish I knew where a lot of that footage was today. Somebody else asked me that. There was only one concert, but as I remember it there were three sets. I don't know if you can see on the current video tape, but everyone Om'd before Jimi went on stage. Jimi then played a note for each zodiac sign and then he merged them altogether. People were literarily crying when the concert started. It sounded like cellos, then it sounded like violins, and then it sounded like a harp. It rose and then it fell like a full orchestra. Then out of nowhere comes Billy with this slow funky bass. Jimi then walked up to the mike and started signing "Hey gypsy baby ... " The power of the music was incredible! He was in unbelievable form that day. He loved the whole thing. The concert was a full-blown, three-dimensional, no-one-gets-out-without -being-touched performance. Jimi was and still is the master without a doubt.
Wasn't there an opening act too?
There was two beautiful twin sisters dressed in rainbow colored silk with a guy playing guitar. They played music while everybody was filing in and finding their designated zodiac spots. I made these huge silk flags on bamboo poles that had all the zodiac symbols on them.
You were really involved with this project, weren't you?
It was an opportunity to do all the things you ever wanted to do to create the most amazing concert and the people at Warner Bros. said - "go ahead, do what you want to do." I'll never forget when Chuck first threw the concept at them ... one guy turned to the other and said, "I don't know what the hell he's talking about, but give him the money. We had the best music ... Jimi's ... We were going to film on the most spot on Earth ... We invited the most outrageous people from every walk of life to represent their lifestyle... Has smugglers, psychic color healers, coke heads, acid heads, priests, nuns, gays, groupies, environmentalist, and Venutions who worked for Werner Von Brown. Chuck got the most energized people from all of these lifestyles and meshed them all together. Warner Bros. later called us and said, "we need to see footage." We desperately went through reels of film and said, "oh my God, what can we send them? They won't understand any of this!" If you look back at this film years from now it will be an incredible documentary of those times.
Was the local paper accurate when it said there was about 700 to 800 people attending?
Yes. The next day in the newspaper there were reports of people seeing flying saucers and hearing music coming from rocks. People were even calling the radio stations wanting to know what was going on. There were UFO sightings down by the harbor and near the volcano. One of the camera at the concert fell of his stand when he saw through his lens what he swears was a flying saucer. The funny thing about it, when he first arrived, he thought we were the ones out of our minds.
Did he capture any film of it?
Chuck says there is a piece of film with something strange on it. At one on the original version of the film, Jimi looks up and says, "there go my friends."
What did Jimi think about the Hawaiian islands?
Jimi told me on the day we drove over to see the concert sight that he would like to live in Hawaii. He wanted to grow grapes on the side of the crater and make wine. I can remember that day. It felt like we were children on our first picnic. He also told me that same day he thought that they would eventually be able to cure cancer with sound.
There is a scene in the movie where Jimi is at the beach. He is talking with Pat Hartley and the sun is setting in the background. I noticed Jimi's foot is bandaged. What happened?
He cut his foot on some coral. Jimi was supposed leave Maui and to return back to the London on the 14th, but someone sent them a note back saying he cut his foot while surfing. He did go to the hospital for it, but they just bandaged it. The next day he was walking with a cane, which was really just a huge piece of driftwood. When we were walking over the rocks it was like being with this old wise man who was taking me on a tour of his domain. He then asked me to sit down on the couch. It was the perfect spot etched by nature in the rocks ... a nature made couch. He turned to me and said, "Mable is whipping up some clouds to cool us off." What a wonderful experience. There are very few men who will play those wonderful games in life to get the most out of simple moments. I know why he jumped out of airplanes when he was in the service. I loved this man so much!
Tell us about some of your personal experiences with Jimi.
Jimi was always searching for a higher cosmic consciousness. Chuck had given him some great books like The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and Jimi asked him for more. Chuck then gave him The Secret Places of the Lion. He loved to explore, learn and pull more in. Jimi was the most humble, polite, brilliant, funny, and sexy man I've ever known.
What can you tell us about Chuck?
Chuck is very intelligent. He graduated from Harvard when he was 18. He speaks many languages and is terribly bright and interesting. He did a lot of Andy Warhol's original work.
Not much is known about where Jimi went after the Honolulu show on August 1. Did he return to Maui?
Yes, he returned to Rainbow Bridge. He had a place to stay at Seabury Hall. In fact that place where he pokes his head out of the window is in the hallway where his room was. Jimi also had a rented house just outside of the town of Lahina. He played guitar everyday for hours while he was in Maui. .. like someone who was learning. You know, like when you see kids in the backroom learning the notes and experimenting. He just couldn't get enough.
Did Jimi seem to be under any pressure about his next album he was working on or any upcoming tours?
One day I told him it was his turn to choose what we were going to shoot. Chuck kind of ran the film with the philosophy - what ever the most energy of the day was directed what we did that day. So I told Jimi it's your day, what do you want to shoot? We were sitting in his room and he said, " I'm gonna die and leave here." In my heart at that second I knew it was the truth. We stared at each other for that second, that seemed like forever, that it was really real. It was like we both knew it was real, but we couldn't respond to it. Then he started to laugh that really cute little laugh of his, and put one finger by his mouth and said, "now let's just play some music." That day we also played ping pong together and I won the shirt off of his back. You can see that same shirt on loan and in full display at the Hard Rock Cafe in La Jolla.
He was a great guitarist, but lousy at ping pong?
Well, neither was I. One day we were driving around Maui together and somebody had given Jimi some great Maui Wowie. We were bragging about our best pot stories ... you know, I have the best pot... no I have the best pot... The sun was getting ready to set and Jimi asked me to roll joints and I told him 1 couldn't. Most of my life it seemed like somebody always rolled it for me. So I told him, "I'll drive the car, you roll." He said, "No I can't rolL" We laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes. I don't know how the car stayed on the road. We did finally pull over and managed to pull it off. The sun was setting in Maui in the summer of 1970 - all was good!
When was the last time you saw Jimi?
It was on a typical magical Hawaiian afternoon in Maui ... a little rain, a little sun all mixed to gether with these three-dimensional clouds and wonderful fragrance in the air. We were standing by a private plane that would take him to Oahu. (Editor's Note: Most direct flights returning to the mainland depart from the island of Oahu.) Jimi asked me to come back with him, but 1 told him we had all this shooting left to do. I said that I would come and decorate Electric Lady Studios for him in September. He then looked me right in the eye and said, "I won't be here." Not I won't be there, I wont be here. It was like that moment we shared in his room and I knew it was the absolute truth. We looked in each others with such strength and hugged the hug of life. He got on the plane and took the seat with the window facing me. The engine started and he put his face close to the glass. Jimi then gave me a nod and a gesture with those beautiful hands of his, like a pilot would who was heading out on a dangerous mission. 1 blew him a kiss and he pointed behind me. I turned around and there was this most incredible rainbow that streamed for miles. The plane taxied off and I knew I would never see Jimi on this earth again.
Can you leave with us with any closing thoughts about Jimi?
When I later met Jimi's father, Al Hendrix, at Electric Lady Studios and at Jimi's funeral, 1 could see where Jimi got his gentleness and his kindness from. His father is the most gentle, kind, sweet person that emanates this graciousness. Jimi was so cordial to people it was unbelievable ... and what a wonderful mixture with all that power! The kindness and gentleness combined with all that power he drove out of the guitar it was amazing!