Copyright © 1995-1996, Paul De Rienzo, Dana Beal
and Members of the Project
All Rights Reserved
CHAPTER 4: Dana Beal
As Dhoruba said a few months later just before he embraced Nelson Mandela at 125th Street in Harlem, every movement needs a “symbol” to inspire it. The final unintended side effect of all those trials, all that political agitation by Dhoruba’s supporte rs, was that a single television image did escape from NewYork, even into the jail where Dana was sitting in Madison, Wisconsin: Black Panthers had tried to drive heroin out of Harlem with guns.
Dana was born in the same hospital in Ravenna, Ohio, where the dying students were later taken from Kent State. He counts among his formative experiences shaking hands with Jack Kennedy when he campaigned in East Lansing in 1960, and hitch-hiking in August ’63, at 16, to Washington, D.C. , in order to be near the foot of the Lincoln Memorial for the “I have a dream” speech. Two months later he organized his first demonstration of 2,000 people, in Lansing, when the Klan blew up four little Bla ck girls in a church on Birmingham Sunday.
The next year he did a brief stint in a state mental hospital because of his mercurial temper. Because he told shrinks he thought he was destined for something important, they said he was crazy. But that kept him from being drafted in January ’65, a month with the highest proportion of casualties in Viet Nam. He also became a lifelong critic of thorazine and prolyxin. He escaped, got a job in New York, saved his money, and legalized his status in late 1965.
On Christmas Day, 1966, after studying epistemology and metaphysics, he tried LSD for the first time. His reaction: Kant was right, it’s all phenomena. But after the first few times (including one session with a friendly psychologist who helped him plumb distressing episodes of his early childhood), he found that more and more of the acid had a speed base such as ritalin to gettwice as many hits out of a gram–thereby demonstrating the flaws of an underground market. People were no longer getting a genuine LSD effect. Reinforced by speed, the ego-structures wouldn’t let go.
Because of the furious controversy surrounding CIA sponsorship or involvement in psychedelics, speculation was rife that all this was deliberate–part of a program to keep the psychedelic revolution under control. When Dana got real LSD again, he had a vision:
“I flashed that all of us in the psychedelic movement were like voluntary guinea pigs in some kind of CIA experiment that had gotten out of control. The White Light was flashing across us like searchlights on a World War I no-man’s land. All around me, we were taking casualties. But some of us would make it to the other side; and someone would bring back something wonderful.”
He decided the first battle should be for the least threatening, most popular drug: marijuana. Inspired by a VOICE article on the Dutch Provos, he started the New York Provos with two friends, and called a smoke-in for Tompkins Square Park. The smoke-ins got bigger and bigger, and after a judge ruled a roll-your-own cigarette seen from a distance wasn’t grounds for arrest, the Feds moved in an informer who wheedled Dana’s personal acid stash out of him. When he was busted in late August of 1967, 3,000 people marched from a Fugs concert, across Fourteenth Street, to the federal holding pen on West Street. It was Dana’s first fifteen minutes of fame.
In October the Provos gave out four pounds of pot at the “Levitation of the Pentagon.” Then in December, the Provo Free Store on First Street was raided, and Dana was charged with a pot sale he didn’t do. Convinced he couldn’t get fair treatment, he fl ed to Mexico, then Canada, where he had to watch Chicago ’68 on television.
One day, sitting in a Vancouver community center, he read an ESQUIRE article on the early psychedelic movement by Tim Leary and Allen Ginsburg. What stuck in his mind, for years, was a passage about using psychedelics to cure heroin addiction. (Of course, LSD doesn’t stop withdrawal symptoms. If every junkie could kick with five dollars worth of acid, they’d do just that every time they wanted to cut back on their habits and start over. Ginsberg was thinking of it more as a substitute; he writes Leary that Burroughs said that it would only make withdrawals worse.) [See p. 37].
In April of ’69, Dana filtered back into the United States on a Canadian ID, where he came to rest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Unable to stay away from organizing for long, he became involved with the White Panthers, and , in a psychedelic manifesto (” Right on, Culture Freaks”), expanded on William Burrough’s insight that all forms of social control resemble addiction because the same “backbrain” reflex component involved in addiction underlies everyday work routine.
In September Dana travelled to Ann Arbor, where he was appointed Field Marshall of the WPP, based on his reputation from New York. That didn’t last after the White Panther Party and YIPPIE merged in December. (The Ann Arb or folks were really organizing to get John Sinclair out of ten years in prison for two joints.)
When, in the aftermath of Kent State, Abbie, Jerry and the Ann Arbor crew cancelled the first D.C. July 4 smoke-in, Dana got Rennie Davis to call it back on. Nixon, emboldened by reports of hard hats beating up peaceniks in NYC, had called his supporte rs to Washington for a July 4th “Honor America Day.” The smoke-in wound up with three times as many people as Nixon, and when Billy Graham saw 4,000 protesters marching up the Reflecting Pool in a spontaneous act of self-baptism, he stopped his sermon.
It took the 1971 July 4 smoke-in, though, where Beal and Forcade added a march against CIA/Vietnam heroin (and which got airplay on CBS Evening News) to motivate the authorities to snag Beal on his old warrant. Ten days later he was busted in Madison, Wisconsin. In September, 2,000 people held a smoke-in outside the jail, and Dana got his second fifteen minutes of fame.
Dana was not freed of his legal entanglements until five days before the ’72 Demcon. But he reached Miami in time to walk into the vicious split between the Yippies (Abbie, Jerry) and the Zippies (Forcade and the ex-White Panthers, minus Ann Arbor, who ‘d faded out since Sinclair was released). There, when McGovern sought to soften his stance against the war on the morning of his nomination, Beal was one of the leaders of the Zippies/SDS takeover of the lobby of the candidate’s campaign headquarters, at the Doral Hotel.
He fired the imagination of the counterculture by catching McGovern, hours before he was nominated, on live prime time, with a trick question. First he got McGovern to confirm the CIA and the Saigon regime were deeply involved in pipelining heroin into the U.S. from Vietnam. Then he asked the follow-up: “How can we protect 26 million Americans who smoke pot from all this heroin unless we ‘control’ pot like alcohol, by legalizing it and selling it over the counter?”
McGovern ducked the question!
For democrats, including Abbie’s people who were wooing the democrats, this was more like fifteen minutes of infamy than fifteen minutes of fame. Never mind it was the first mass media confirmation that hard drugs had fatally corrupted the U.S. Intelli gence Community–a view that had become conventional wisdom by the mid-’80s. Beal made McGovern look bad, on television. For a long time after that, everything he did after that had to draw its support from the street people. Twenty-five years later, he’s still blackballed in some quarters, because of that five-minute exchange.
Then, a year later, Abbie was busted selling three kilos of cocaine. When he went underground, the zippie wing took over. They did lots of things besides smoke-ins, most notably publicizing the pictures of Hunt and Sturgis in the grassy knoll–i.e., th e theory that a CIA/Mafia conspiracy coordinated by Richard Nixon killed Kennedy.* (At the end of the decade, YIPster TIMES staffers even worked closely with the House Committee on Assassinations, which concluded there had been a second gun.)
In reaction to the leadership style of Abbie and Jerry, Yippies were almost more concerned about their own faithful internal practice of formal democracy than what was happening in Washington, D.C. In July, 1974, as the Impeachment of Nixon unfolded, Dana spent weeks preparing a second issue with better comparison fotos of the tramps and Hunt and Sturgis, with story attached revealing for the first time of Nixon’s presence in Dallas until just hours before the assassination. Then he got on a plane to Washington–Washington state, where YIPs were having a conference at Spokane. On the plane he sat next to the only woman who looked aguely hip and showed her “House to Probe Nixon Death Squad.”
She surprised Dana by not only knowing of the story , but adding information with a personal twist—the focus of the conspiracy that killed JFK was a cell of high-level drug dealers in the Coast Guard, Customs, and the Office of Naval Intelligence. They were centered on Long Island and in Philadelphia. They could never be busted because the Navy, conveniently, was in charge of investigating itself. Their only Achilles heal was that people on the inside had access to huge quantities of dope, and sometimes became strung out. She herself was the daughter of an officer in the Navy or Coast Guard, and she was being shipped out to Spokane to dry out because she’d become totally addicted. Dana urged her to come to the conference, to tell her story to the other YIPs, but she was met at the airport and whisked away.
At the time Dana discounted her story, but years later, after seeing the autopsy scene in movie JFK, it came flooding back. It was very much on his mind, just two weeks before Nixon resigned, when everyone at the Spokane conference did ALD-52 (5-acet yl-LSD, which was represented to them as “LSD put through an additional step of purification”) in a Provo-style attempt to “get everyone on the same trip.”
Robert Goutarel, the father of Ibogaine research, says indole-alkalamines of the LSD series are fundamentally different from the iboga-harmala group–“clear and angelic” as opposed to oneiric (REM-generating). Nonetheless ALD-52 turned out to be ten or twenty times more psychedelic than LSD. That is, its effects lay far more in the direction of Ibogaine than a mere “fishbowl effect,” the “apprehension of the oneness of experience” often referred to as “seeing God.”
Philip K. Dick, writing about his own celebrated religious or Near-Death Experience (NDE) in early 1974, described the phenomena of “laminate personality,” of being several personalities millennia apart at the same time. Aron Kay, who took the ALD also, confirms that he had flashes of the same thing, the definite sensation of co-existing at several points of time simultaneously: 2,000 years ago, in the present, and some time up ahead in the future. It was Beal’s second vision:
“As we came down to the river,” says Dana, “it was like this other personality was in my mind with me, a dominant personality, who looked at the water, saw the twentieth-century pollution, and thought: `The water in this river is totally unacceptable f or performing Baptisms.’ And this other person was kind of daydreaming, not even conscious of the me there, until I looked at the litter along the streambank and thought–`But of course, they didn’t have non-biodegradable plastics back then.’–and the other personality kind of noticed I was there, and who I was, and thought: `Oh, a Baptist (I had attended Baptist Sunday School)…well, just make sure you don’t get your head cut off this time!'”
After puzzling it out (“Who was that masked man?”), Dana decided this meant he was supposed to avoid taking any unnecessary risks, until his mission, up in the unknowable future, was accomplished. Aron says they sat looking at that river for ho urs.
Dana consulted with Lotsof when he got back to New York. “Ibogaine was more psychedelic than that?”
“On Ibogaine, you would have visualized the other personality as sitting there talking to you,” was Howard’s cryptic reply.
The ALD affected the others who took it, Ben Masel, etc., similarly; it changed the political trajectory of YIP’s inner core. Right up to the Brink’s job fiasco in’81, various fringe elements continued to fall for the idea that membership in some kind of secret armed underground vanguard was hipper than a mass movement utilizing weapons of information and consciousness. In 1974, romantic attachment to the S.L.A. (the Symbionese Liberation Army, which kidnapped Patty Hearst and whose leader, Donald DeFr eeze, was probably a police provocateur) had seriously competed among the YIPS with the less glamorous organizing around Nixon’s impeachment. After Spokane that was never a problem.
Within three years the new generation of YIP leaders like Ben Masel had gotten into TAI CHI, the”passive” martial arts form based on throwing blocks, not striking blows–and on just not being in the way of your opponents’ blows. Typical of the time was the Yippie action the day after Carter’s inauguration, chaining themselves to the White House fence to draw attention to several hundred Nixon-era political prisoners still being held long after COINTELPRO was discredited. They were arrested. And Carter never extended his amnesty from draft dodgers to political prisoners–hundreds, including Dhoruba, continued to sit in captivity.
The YIPs really didn’t care if they were blacklisted in some circles, or dismissed as “the marijuana movement,” beecause HIGH TIMES was opening up access to millions of people. By July 4, 1977, they could assemble the same number of people in front of the White House–10,000–as laid seige to Chicago in ’68. All from a series of ads in HIGH TIMES. In early 1978, YIPPIE published the SOFT STRATEGY, a major course-correction. You could say it was based on the TAI CHI concept “soft on the outside, hard on the inside”–but what predisposed them to getting into TAI CHI in the first place?
Instead of the knock ’em, sock ’em, blow ’em up approach of the Weather Underground, they turned to the tough, self-disciplined task of maintaining a more ingratiating exterior while digging in for the long run. They even tried to make peace with the o ther wing of the Yippies, earning Abbie’s personal gratitude with the Felt Forum benefit, although not all Abbie’s people wanted to be friends.
When racial fighting dogged New York smoke-ins, it was only a hop, skip and a jump to start ROCK AGAINST RACISM. And RAR was something Howard and his Afro-American wife Norma Alexander could comfortably join. A veterans of the Free Speech Movement, the y’d always been a little too grown-up for the Yippies.
The stage was set. In the early ’60s, when Howard tried to initiate an Ibogaine Project without a support structure in place, it came to nothing. It was like an egg fertilized at the wrong time, coming down the fallopian tube and finding the womb is not ready for it.
This time Howard had the support of his personal network as well as Dana, OVERTHROW, RAR, and the activist YIPPIE wing of the marijuana movement in practically every state of the Union. And somewhat in reaction to Abbie’s people siding with the SOHO WEEKLY NEWS, the younger generation of YIPS took a turn toward a more closed decision-making process, making it very hard to unseat the project once it got going.
In December 1980, Dana Beal was mad as hell, and he wasn’t going to take it anymore. He was willing to “pay any price, bear any burden” to win the war against addiction–including use of psychopharmaco-chemical weapons from the CIA’s closet.
But there ‘s a post script:
In September ’81, Dana was acquitted of felony assault at the SOHO WEEKLY NEWS after the judge ruled it was a firecracker, not a bomb, and the jury convicted him of recklessness, a misdemeanor which netted him thirty-five days on Riker’sIsland.
While he was waiting to be sentenced, Dana and Alice Torbush attended one of the first showings of PRINCE OF THE CITY (much of which was shot a few blocks away from 9 Bleecker on Mulberry Street). It’s the story of Danny Ciello, the narc who narked out the SIU (NYPD Central Narcotics Unit) in the early ’70s. The story had two morals:
1.) Even if police were 100 percent incorruptible, heroin can’t be wiped out, because to penetrate above the street level, agents must either deal it themselves or maintain a number of dealers as informers. But that gives a crucial edge to dealers with police connections; soon they dominate the trade. Organized crime consists of dealers who can buy a cop, an ADA, a judge, or secure protection from the federal intelligence community.
Cops themselves are damaged by this; in the movie Danny Ciello is moved to act because his own brother, strung out on smack (the methadone is not working), begs him for a connection. That night he returns to Manhattan to supply one of his own snitches after the smack he gave him earlier turns out to be bogus. So he has to go out in the rainy night, to rip off another junkie to take care of his informant.
2.) Drugs are impossible to prohibit, but police will not give up drug prohibition because junkie snitches are their eyes and ears in the community. Without snitches, they lose control. Moreover, by fostering constant rip-offs, addiction breaks down so lidarity, breeds paranoia, saps the community’s potential for social revolution. The Panthers were on to something, all right.
But if Black Panthers couldn’t stop heroin with machine guns, neighborhood support, and no need for search warrants, neither can the police with all the prisons, armed might and sophisticated technology of the State. (Nor can there be redress through t he courts, as shown later in the ’80s when the Christic Institute tried to sue elements of the Intelligence Community for bringing 500 tons of cocaine into the country to fund the contras. The federal judge finedthem $1.2 million for general chutzpah.)
As Dana and Alice left the theatre, another layer of reality fell into place:Fighting addiction with a War on Drugs is worse than useless. It’s misleading.
What we need is a cure, not a war.
Under Reagan, we got the war, not the cure. As the war dragged on, the proponents of the Dutch harm reduction approach were officially despised, their advice relegated to the sidelines of public discourse. Only when widespread doubt set in after revel ations of gross government complicity in the Contra arms-for-drugs affair was it possible for respectable opposition, beginning with Mayor Kurt Schmoke of Baltimore, to emerge.
The realcoup de grace was self-inflicted, as the Reagan boom collapsed, spectacularly, on Black Monday, Oct. 19, 1987. Four days earlier, just before noon on Thursday the 15th, Dana pulled together four yippie sympathizers to hold a banner in front of the New York Stock exchange that said “JUMP!” Dana and co were assailed by irate stockbrockers, but in the next three days, the market fell 650 points. Later he talked to someone who’d worked inside, who told him the crash was really just a matte r of the market’s collective coke habit catching up with it. In the picture on the facing page, Dana is second-from-the-left, head bent behind the banner (NEWSWEEK).
Meanwhile, in the commodity marts of Chicago, Richard Dennis was also betting the m arket would crash. The difference was that Dennis, a gay libertarian with a strong belief in drug legalization, walked away with market futures profits variously estimated from $40 to $400 million. He teamed up with Arnold Trebach and Kevin Zeese of the Drug Policy Foundation to make a serious drive to legalize drugs. In autumn of 1988, there were hearings in front of Congressman Charles Rangel’s Select Sub-committee on Narcotics, and ABC NEWS convened the most American of institutions, an electronic to wn meeting:
…Getting the Last Word–
The Ted Koppel Town Meeting on Drug Legalization, Sept 8th, 1988:
Cong. Rangel: I’m asking you–you say that the 13-year-old can’t get it, as if you have some scheme as to who can get it. Would you have to be an addict to get it?
Hugh Downs: Anybody can get drugs now.
Cong. Rangel: I’m asking–under legalization–would the pharmacist be able to give it? Would you have to go to a doctor to get it?
Hugh Downs: Wouldn’t he be able to do the same kind of thing as with liquor, and determine somebody’s age
Cong. Rangel: You’re asking me questions. I’m asking–what kind of control would it be?!
I would think that the first thing to do would be to make marijuana legally available–and fairly readily available.
Ted Koppel: To everyone…
E. Nadelman: To adults. Like alcohol and tobacco, but with stricter controls. We know right now that sixty million Americans in this country have smoked marijuana. Between twenty and thirty million are smoking it right now. We have zero ove rdose deaths. We know that the vast majority of people who smoke marijuanahave not gone on to harder drugs…
Cong. Rangel: Get to cocaine.
E. Nadelman: Last week the Administrative Judge of the DEA, in a suit which asked whether or not marijuana should be made legally available for medical purposes to deal with chemotherapy-
Cong. Rangel: What happened to crack cocaine and heroin?
E. Nadelman: You know the polite thing to do would be to let me at least finish what I’m saying.
Cong. Rangel: You’ll be for legalizing cigarettes next.
E. Nadelman: Listen– everybody on this panel that’s opposed to legalization is opposed to legalizing marijuana. Now the DEA Judge said that compared in toxicity to aspirin, marijuana is overwhelmingly safer.
Bob Stutman: It’s foolish to legalize marijuana.
E. Nadelman: He said that marijuana is perhaps one of the safest psycho-active substances ever known to man.
Outburst in the audience!
Ed Koch: Everybody believes–
E. Nadelman: When Mayor Koch talks about throwing users in jail, when Mayor Koch says that sixty million Americans…
Ed Koch: Everybody believes that the drugs that have to be addressed now are cocaine and heroin and crack, and when we’ve addressed those, even though most of us believe that marijuana ought to not be legalized, that’s the last one on the list…
Outburst in the back of the hall!
Cong. Rangel: He didn’t answer the question!
Ed Koch: “…and what he has done is to dodge the issue.
E. Nadelman: Ted, it’s the first one. You start with marijuana. Marijuana of all the illicit drugs is the safest…
Ted Koppel: Hold it! Just all of you hold it one second–turning to the audience, calling on the source of the outburst— the gentleman behind you who was yelling…
Dana: My name is Dana Beal, I’ve been…
Ted Koppel: I don’t care what your name is, what were you yelling about?
Dana: Okay. The exact quote from the Federal Judge was “the safest, therapeutically active substance known to mankind.” That means safer than caffeine, safer than aspirin…
Ted Koppel: Yeah–
Dana: That means you’re putting people in jail for basically doing something that’s completely harmless.
Ted Koppel: Let me turn to–
Dana: How can you talk about locking people up in work camps? How can you talk about taking people’s…
Ed Koch: We’re talking about cocaine and heroin.
Dana: …taking people’s homes away from them, evicting people in New York City. Why don’t you want to go after the worst first? And this is the real point–how can you justify a situation where you’ve eliminated pot, but crack–an d heroin–are four times more available, four times cheaper than at the beginning of the Reagan War on Drugs. All you’ve done, is design a system that gets rid of marijuana, leaving hard drugs! That’s all you’ve done.
Ted Koppel: I think…
Dana: And that’s to the guy from the DEA.
Ted Koppel: …if we can cut that mike over there for a minute now, Dr. Jaffee, you are one of our most distinguished experts here. … I would like to address the question to you, when that Judge—I must confess I didn’t read the decision, I rea d reports of the Judge’s the decision–true? marijuana really the safest– what was the phrase–“therapeutic drug, the safest therapeutic drug?”
Ed Rosenthal: The safest therapeutically active substance known to humankind.
Ted Koppel: What do you think Doctor?
Jerome Jaffee: I think it’s nonsense.