Back Stage Passes


Occasionally Steve Kahn gave me back stage passes and asked me to provide libations to loosen up bands…  I had never seen Queen performed and the japanese are very sedate. The band must have realized that and played their hearts out, becoming one of my all time favorite shows. 

Following the Seed

Purple Paonia Paralyzer – The Best Ever

by Marcello Cabus

In 1971, despite being illegal, pot could be found nearly everywhere in the U.S. Some of it was good, but most of it was smuggled in from Mexico. Those of us involved in meeting the expanding demand for pot were always on the lookout for better product. Since the late ’60s, a trickle of hashish, the concentrated and potent resin, had begun to show up in places like Boulder, Colorado. So much more potent than pot, it was prized and celebrated when it showed up, coming from places like Nepal, Lebanon, and especially Afghanistan, where it had been cultivated for centuries.

Illegal growing operations had begun to flourish in remote rural places around the nation, and as any gardener or farmer will tell you, the quality of the plant begins with the seed and the climate in which is grown. Pioneering growers were beginning to turn out better quality product, but not having access to high quality, original, and native cannabis seeds hindered them.

I want to share with you the story of how a trip to Amsterdam to sell Orange Sunshine LSD led to my bringing back a stash of seeds that would help birth a legendary pot known as Purple Paonia Paralyzer in Paonia, Colorado.

In 1971, I owned the Cotangent, a small fashion-clothing store on the hill in Boulder, Colorado. That year, I traveled to Europe with my wife Rosie, our one-and-a-half-year-old son Mikeljon, and Marina, a Dutch Indonesian beauty as our nanny. We entered Holland with a brand-new Volkswagen bus and 30,000 hits of Orange Sunshine acid I planned to sell to the locals. Unfortunately, Amsterdam had turned sleazy by the time we arrived, and I had a bad trip there when some street thugs tried to rob me. That convinced me to leave Holland, Muy Pronto, for Copenhagen, Denmark.

While walking on Stroeget, the walking street of Copenhagen, I was suddenly seized and lifted up into the air. The villain was Otis Taylor, a dear old friend of mine from Denver, Colorado. Otis is a great blues performer. In 2004, Otis and Etta James were named the “Best Blues Entertainers by a Living Blues readers’ poll.” Otis had been living in Europe working on his music, and introduced me to the high end of Danish hip society—the musicians, the artists, shop owners and, of course, the drug dealers.

A week later, my small family and I were living on Bornholm, a Danish island that is a12-hour ferry ride from Malmo, Sweden. We had been invited by Jim Manning, an American who owned a leather store called the Bit Ov Sole in Copenhagen, to visit his farm. During the next few months, we went back and forth between Bornholm and Denmark. We eventually parked the VW bus in Christiana, the free city inside Copenhagen where hippies had completely taken over the former military buildings. Their commune’s central government allowed no police presence. Coffee houses, vegetarian restaurants and crash hostels occupied the buildings the commune had appropriated. It was complete harmony with one hand waving free.

Christiana was even more radical than my hometown of Boulder. While peddling my LSD in Denmark, I ended up at a house off Friedens Ark near Pusher Street where about 12 people, mostly girls, lived. The house was the end point of a smuggling operation by some Danes. Unloading their drugs from false-bottom suitcases and special-built vehicles, the traders unpacked, disassembled, and repackaged their psychic condiments mostly for sale to locals, but some were from Scandinavia and some big buyers came from Eastern Europe. At that house I met Pimm, a Danish smuggler, who also kept a house in a small village outside of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. A smuggler takes something of lesser value to a faraway place where it increases in value and creates a bigger profit. Pimm’s profitable business was walnuts. He would take apart walnuts in Afghanistan, replace the nut with a gram of hash, glue the shells back together, and export them to Denmark by the case. I appreciated his ingenuity, but I told him of a smuggling technique I had in mind that involved exotic animals and false-bottom cages.

Five days later, he and I flew to Kabul, Afghanistan. Pimm kept a vehicle in Kabul and we drove north to Mazar-i-Sharif. Two days later, we left for the Hindu Kush region near Pakistan. Pimm spoke Pashto and knew how to greet and pay baksheesh to the right tribal leader. We traveled unmolested through Afghanistan during that time with a photo of their leader on the dash of our car.

We met some mujahedeen and drank tea with them in their tents. They introduced us to a farmer/grower. Pimm bought hash from him and I traded my parka to the son for 10,000 Afghani Indica marijuana seeds. The Hindu Kush region compared to the high desert of Colorado — hot days, cool nights, crisp air, and the mountains that seemed so like Colorado’s that I came up with an idea to take the seeds back to my own hemisphere. The valleys of the Hindu Kush resembled the Paonia Valley on my side of the world.

The Hindu Kush region compared to the high desert of Colorado — hot days, cool nights, crisp air, and the mountains that seemed so like Colorado’s that I came up with an idea to take the seeds back to my own hemisphere.

I am not a very technical or scientific person. Taking the tea bag out of hot water is about my speed, but I had a feeling. Even so, I helped Pimm design and manufacture the cages to hold both animals and hashish. Pimm shipped my seeds with his walnuts in the cages. I left him in Kabul to his adventures and departed to my own adventure in Nepal. Before I left, I went to the local market and bought a sheepskin coat and bags of spices. I put about a hundred seeds in one cardamom spice bag. Rosie took the bags back with her to Colorado.

Six months later, I shipped the majority of seeds from Denmark back to Colorado inside a stuffed animal, along with two hardcover copies of Hans Christian Andersen stories. I sent it to a mailbox on Sugarloaf Mountain, an address of an old friend of mine who died in Vietnam. One of my staff lived across the road and he would pick up the package to complete their journey. Truthfully, the seeds were an afterthought, not on top of my priority list.. However, I knew nothing of genetics or growing. I was just a marketer, so I call the noble experiment that took place over the next three years “happenstance.”

I bought a farm with the Boogie commune, 20 acres outside of Hotchkiss where my family and the commune lived on Sunshine Mesa. The boogies made leather coats and I sold them in the Cotangent. I never spoke to anyone about the seed.

By now, commercial growers were moving into the area since the land was cheap and came with good water rights. The locals accepted the longhairs unconditionally. The cops used to post signs on the patches they busted that read, “This time your grass, next time your ass.” It’s my opinion that grow operators have a completely different mindset than others in the marijuana trade. They are little shifty and often flip the script and change the deal, maybe because of the long time it takes to go germination to counting Benjamins. If you touch, pamper, and talk to the plants and do those actions repeatedly in your mind, your perceptions change over the years.

Since I did not allow growing on my property, Rosie and our friend Monte grew the hundred seeds from the cardamom spice bag in several locations around Paonia and Hotchkiss. The only plants we personally grew came from those hundred seeds. I called the resulting pot, “Do not drive a motor vehicle.” I selected a group of growers, threw a party at harvest time, and invited that group. When the harvest came in the valley, it was a wondrous time. Everyone was blitzed.

The bulk of the seed was given away to growers from all over the country; it went to Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Indiana and all over the valley. It was always my hope that these giveaways would result in reciprocal trade, though sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn’t. I never realized the impact the seed had until I started working on my book, Pioneers of Leisure. Delta County where Paonia was known as one of the poorest counties in Colorado, but the seed changed the dynamics of the families. The families now made enough money to live for a year and what used to be a supplemental income became their primary income. One year a family might be living hand-to-mouth and next year they were buying acreage. Long-term local residents grew wealthy. Of course, as usual, along with the good came the bad—people riding along irrigation ditches looking to raid someone’s patches.

Paonia now is a destination for weed connoisseurs worldwide. The seed I had brought back from Afghanistan became known as Purple Paonia Paralyzer. Uncle Butch Eisenmenger, a Cannabis Cup judge, told me it was the strongest herb he had ever seen. The seed had taken on its own destiny. I have often thought if I had altered the natural flow, I would have destroyed the mystique it still enjoys. A legend was born.


Bill Graham’s Chopper Crash

Oct. 25, 1991, after a Huey Lewis concert, Bill Graham‘s helicopter was being piloted by Steve Kahn, a friend of mine from high school days. The chopper crashed into power lines during a storm and Steve, Graham, and his girlfriend Melissa Gold, died.

When Steve first got his pilot license, he flew Larry “Lorenzo” Hayes and me over the gold dome of the Colorado capitol and then to Aspen where we ate breakfast. Then we flew to Las Vegas for lunch, then we flew to San Francisco for dinner after flying Under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Articles about the crash:

Bill Graham, Rock Impresario, Dies at 60 in Crash

A tribute to Bill Graham: Memorial concert was a worthy goodbye

Heroin Dealer “Wanted” Poster, circa 1970

This is the first of two anti-heroin posters that were created in the 1970s, a time when Boulder rallied and took a lesson from Haight-Ashbury and chased the heroin dealers out of Boulder.

These posters signify one of the finest moments in the hip Boulder Community when it came together in love for each other. For the first time, this is the story behind the posters.

In 1970, a heroin epidemic hit Boulder, Colorado. Large amounts of white H was coming into the country from Vietnam smuggled in the cadavers of US soldiers and making its way to Boulder. The cheap, good and plentiful dope was much stronger than the junkies were used to and as a result, there were many lethal overdoses on the hill.  I witnessed these events from the second-floor window in my store the Cotangent. In conversations with the beat patrol cops I suggested they come to the radio station KRNW where I worked and see what we could do together to form an anti-heroin campaign. At that meeting, the station agreed to put out public service announcements and disseminate information through the different disc jockeys. Great!

 I called old friends, Hank Schmidt to make the posters and Scott Coen to write the script. I asked the cops what was they could do for us if it we were successful and they asked what I had in mind. I told them no more walking patrols would be nice for it only caused tension among the street people. I also asked for no arrests for simple possession of an ounce or less of pot.

They agreed, we had a handshake deal, and the station went to work. The first poster printed the first name of all the heroin dealers on the hill with the promise of publishing their last names and photos in the next 10 days. It was a war of words. My windshield was broken and I received phone calls daily telling me not to f*** with the family. I replied that the “Boulder family” would not allow smack here.

Our plan worked.  The dope disappeared and the dealers split. In a couple weeks, the episode of the anti-heroin campaign soon faded away. More about the story will be in book.

PostScript— there is an interesting antidote involving Steve Stills. You can read about it in my forthcoming book. I won’t bash him for free but I will do it for money.


Dan Fong photographer.

Originally published at


BY James Pagliasotti
Copyright 2005

There are a lot of stories I could tell you about Dan Fong. In fact, he would pay me good money not to tell you some of them.

But I will tell you this: if you care about the time when rock & roll came of age, those days of Jimi and Janis and the Who and the Stones, then I can assure you Dan was there, camera in hand and sharp eyes focused.

I know because I was there, too. Dan and I grew up together in Denver in the 50s, 60s and 70s. We were there when Top 40 radio gave way to free-form, when singles gave way to albums, when wholesome and carefully coiffed performers gave way to all those long haired freaks with guitars.

We were there when Chet Helms brought the Family Dog to town and settled in on West Mississippi; when Barry Fey began producing shows at the Denver Coliseum; when Stuart Green’s Mammoth Gardens erupted in music uptown and Chuck Morris was booking Tulagi in Boulder. We heard it, we saw it, and we spent a lot of time with the people who made it happen. And, unlike many of the rest of us who were too stoned to function at the time, Dan got it all on film.

Most of his photos have never been seen before. Dan in those days was too busy to do anything but shoot them and store them away. Now he has this treasure trove to look through, and he’s finally making them available to the rest of us.

As I pour over these galleries, the memories come back like a tsunami. They will for you too if you were there, or if you only imagined you were, or even if you just wanted to be. These photographs capture memories, but they can make them, too.

It was a time unlike any other and there were indeed a lot of scenes to capture, and stories to be told. Let me tell you just one of them.

When the Stones toured in the summer of 1972, Barry Fey was promoting some of their shows. He’d started out in the business a few years before by putting on a concert of the Byrds at a D.U. fraternity party and thereafter kept getting bigger, both in personal girth and the size of his shows. After the Denver Pop Festival in 1969, he became very big indeed. And, now, success hanging on him like slabs of fat on a roast, he wanted to have the Stones to dinner.

Dan Fong not only was a helluva photographer, he also was a serious chef. He’d grown up in a community of fine Chinese restaurants and this boy knew how to cook.

So Barry hired Dan to cook dinner for the Stones. He’d already done a number of backstage catering jobs at Fey’s concerts, including both of the Stones’ Denver shows, so it was a slam dunk. Mick wanted him so Barry wanted him and that’s the way it was going to be. Barry then partnered up with all the freaks at KFML radio to give the evening some flavor, and before you knew it, it was becoming a rather auspicious event.

Keeping it a secret meant keeping it from the public. In the music business in Denver, everybody knew and everybody wanted to come, but not everybody could.

But then, that’s what being a kingmaker is all about and Very Big Barry doled out the precious invitations as he saw fit. All we could do was to keep the location secret and somehow we did.

About the only way you could squeeze in a friend was to get them a job on the work crew that was going to help Dan Fong with the serving and cleaning. He’d already recruited his family and his friends at Bilotti’s Pizza to help him prep and cook.

So, baby kingmakers that we were, we lined up the best looking girls that we knew to staff the party, figuring those were markers to be redeemed at a later time. I also got my friend Geitz Romo the job as bartender to the stars.

The party was held at Barry’s home in Cherry Hills, which was one of those enormous Jewish modern ranch-style houses on an acre of land on Quincy just east of University. The back yard was scattered with dozens of waist-high, multi-colored paper mache mushrooms. Long low tables were set among them luau like and lanterns provided the light.

The piece de resistance was the Stones’ newly minted lips and tongue logo in a sculpture some 5 feet tall, which was connected to a machine that was supposed to send clouds of bubbles out of the mouth. Unfortunately, the machine malfunctioned and all night long, this gelatinous goo kept pouring out of it, looking like nothing so much as puke.

So, the court gathered in advance of the stars. There was Barry, of course, and Cyndy, his wife at the time. Tall, blond, ice-blue-eyed Jerry Kennedy, the head of Denver’s Vice Squad and Barry’s security crew, was there in his captain’s uniform, keeping tabs, one supposes.

There was Max Floyd of KMYR and Joe McGoey of KFML and assorted other business types that Barry wanted around. And there was Sandy Phelps and Thom Trunnell, Bill Ashford and Judy Roderick, Buffalo Chip and Reno Nevada and Brian the Super Warthog, David Shepardson and Ronnie Katz, Herb Neu and all the rest of the KFML gang, and Marcello Cabus, and me and the girls, and a host of other pseudo-celebrities.

And, behind a wall of grills and ovens, towering flames and truly huge mounds of food, was Dan Fong and his family, cooking their hearts out, while all of us awaited the Rolling Stones.

That night in those long ago times when things took place that today are actually hard to imagine, let alone to believe, Dan Fong cooked and served a 14 course sit down dinner for 100 people. And it was awesome! There was a little of this and a lot of that and oysters and duck and a roast pig the size of a small Mercedes cooked over an open pit. There were intoxicants of every sort, beer and wine, tequila and whiskey, and all sorts of other stuff, too; and there was that most ethereal of drugs: the bending of elbows with real celebrities, the once and future royalty of rock & roll.

You can bet Dan had his trusty camera handy. And somehow, in the midst of the flames and the grease and the chemistry of fine cuisine, he got some incredible shots, as he always did.

The Stones and their entourage arrived fashionably late, but well ahead of dinner. Mick was dressed in a baby blue jacket with feathers that trimmed the collar, the cuffs and the hem, which was cut off at the bottom of his ribs. It covered a sparkling silver shirt of some sort that also bared his midriff. His pants were dark blue tights and his shoes were satin slippers. His eyes were made up with sparkles and mascara. He seemed to be perfectly comfortable.

Keith was a bit out of it in those days and moved through the crowd somnambulistically, supported by two very tall Nordic women who drugged him and dragged him from place to place. Also very tall Mick Taylor was a friendly pile of blond curls, smiling and chatting and as nice as could be. Bill Wyman was sharp-faced, dark and intense, and good ol’ Charlie Watts was just a regular guy.

I was sitting with him on a couch near the window, talking about jazz, and Mick was posing nearby, when Geitz the bartender yelled at me in a very loud voice: “Hey Smooth Dog! Tell that little faggot in the ballerina costume his drink is ready.” Mick barely seemed to notice and smiled at me vaguely when I handed him the glass. Charlie laughed so hard that he fell on the floor.

It was one of those nights that kept unfolding like waves in the ocean, one image lapping in after another. We sat on the lawn at the long luscious tables of food and drink, with the lanterns bouncing light off faces that you knew and faces you only had imagined or seen at a distance or maybe on film. The mushrooms seemed to sway in the glow and the puke kept gurgling from the mouth of the Rolling Stones logo. Beautiful women served platters of indescribably delicious food and looked into your eyes for just a moment as though you were all they ever had dreamed of, and just as quickly they were gone in pursuit of any excuse to get close to Mick.

People that you worked for were passing out in the aisles and others that you barely paid attention to were waxing eloquent. Everybody it seemed got turned around completely and then had to reconfigure their bearings. And everybody went home happy.

Everybody, that is, except Dan. All of us first nighters and all of the staff, those beautiful girls and sharp tongued bartenders, everyone it seemed had wandered off into the night. And Dan Fong was left with a pile of pans and dishes and debris and detritus that defied the imagination of the average man among us. And having no other choice, he spent the night with all the crap and all of his equipment. And the next day, he and a couple of his cousins cleaned it all up, packed it away and took it home.

There among the equipment and the trash was his camera and his bag of lenses and film, and a couple of hundred shots he had taken that night that someday he would develop. The day that followed blended into the next and the next thereafter, and Dan Fong kept shooting pictures of the megastars and the lesser lights and some of the rest of us who peopled the portrait of rock & roll.

It was our story, and it was a helluva story, and all we needed was someone to record it. A good photographer is hard to find and so is Dan Fong. But, lucky you, you’ve found him.