Jimi's Rainbow: Live, From The Asteroid Belt

Chuck Wein discusses 'Rainbow Bridge,' his new movie that includes an appearance from Jimi Hendrix

'Rainbow Bridge'
Everett Digital
'Rainbow Bridge'
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NEW YORK – The Wizard, an Aquarius, leaned back, exposing a split seam along the right leg of his deep purple satin trousers. He was relaxed as he reminisced about a departed friend. He had lived with him, explored the universe with him and toward the end recorded him on film. A Sagittarius with Capricorn rising and moon in Cancer: Jimi Hendrix.

"Jimi started getting into the occult because it was a mirror of what he was experiencing around him. A month before we started filming in Hawaii I introduced him to a chick who was into color-sound healing. She was also an Arabian horse costume designer. In fact, she bought a horse with Jimi that is never to be ridden, who is called AXIS BOLD AS LOVE, and has a purple haze for a third eye. She trained the horse to respond to color and sound.

"And she helped us plan the concert in the film. Everyone at the concert at Olowalu Volcano Crater was seated by their astrological signs so that Jimi could tune in on pockets of their energy. This chick helped me get it together with the colors and she got the shirt Jimi was wearing which was a turquoise and black medicine shirt from the Hopi reservation. She carried around a 300-page book of decoded Jimi Hendrix music. By that I mean she was into the molecular structure of the sounds.

"She and Jimi would get together and talk about beaming out sounds over 5000 square miles and what effect it would have on people's consciousness. He told her that he felt he had come from an asteroid belt off the coast of Mars, and that he was tuning people to energy that had just arrived here."

* * *

Upon first encounter the Wizard appears unstuck in time. A living, breathing piece of late-Sixties Southern California acid strip memorabilia, landed unscathed (except for the ripped satin seam) in New York's neurotic nouveau fall of '72. Slowly the presence of this characterization fades, leaving the Wizard simply unstuck, as if from no particular time at all. His name is Chuck Wein, and his trade is directing and sometimes being in movies. Why he is called the Wizard is one of a number of questions he leaves unanswered, in the film called Rainbow Bridge, which he completed shooting in the summer of '70, five weeks before Jimi Hendrix, who appears in the film, died. On the strength of that alone, Rainbow Bridge has become the most notable of the four films for which he has received a director's credit. (The first three, My Hustler, Poor Little Rich Girl, and Prison, were done by Andy Warhol's Factory.)

"'There was no time at which I had a script in my back pocket, no point at which I said, 'I can get Hendrix to do this and Molly Bee to do that, and then all I have to do is go out to Old Mo Ostin [of Warner Reprise] because he's a sucker for Hendrix and wants a little more music so he can make another million dollars, and Alan Jeffries [executive producer] won't say no because he wants to make another million dollars, and Jimi won't say no . . .' because, well, if you read the old Jimi Hendrix song book where they ask him what his favorite color was and all that, he says what he wants to do is be on the silver screen. What he wanted from Rainbow Bridge was to be in the film without his guitar. He was like a little kid about that, sometimes saying, 'Oh you just want me for my guitar.'

"I had known Jimi from New York and The Scene and I was living with [Pat] Hartley and Devon, who was Jimi's girlfriend and the real Dolly Dagger. I was into reading Tarot cards and one night over at Jimi's apartment I read the cards for Jimi and Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox: Jimi started to tell me about being from an asteroid belt off the coast of Mars, so I said, 'Stop and I'll tell you about it because it's a place I've seen three or four times clear as a bell.' And that's the point that the deal got on, which was that there was something manifesting that had to be worked out. And that something eventually became Rainbow Bridge."

Even a wizard, if he happens to be a filmmaker, needs front money to work out manifestations. Wein admits that having Hendrix doing the sound track helped. But there was more to be done.

"A group of people meditated together for many months and traveled out of our bodies to many people who we wanted to contact to support the venture, and we prayed that they would realize the purpose of it and join in the activity. And this worked on the inner plane and spiritual level. Then when we went to see them we didn't have that physical plane and emotional opposition. Our lower selves seemed to be transmuted, and theirs did too. Things went smoothly; people just popped up all over the place."

Warners popped up to the tune of $450,000. They were pleased with the sound track, but not with the picture. The Wizard remembers. "Warners was expecting some kind of political revolution and they wanted to be the documentors of that. They were pretty spaced out on that and it was hard for us to express what we were doing. A major purpose of ours was to remove the mass paranoia against the arrival of the Space Brothers, who are very universal beings, they're totally loving, they would rather disintegrate their own form than change anything by force on Earth. But Warners wasn't listening and so eventually we had to make a deal where we could own the film by getting them the front money back and letting them have the album."

This was accomplished for the most part from $250,000 given by Buzzy Bent, a La Jolla surfer and vegetarian who had worked himself up from busboy to the owner of a chain of surfer restaurants which specialize in meat dishes.

The Alcyone Releasing Company was set up to distribute the Antahkarana Production, and over the last 18 months Rainbow Bridge has had spot showings in 15 cities. Reaction has been unusual. In Los Angeles 300 members of the Laguna Mystic Arts Brothers showed up for a screening and cheered and danced through the movie until the end when the cast visits a woman who has been in contact with the Space Brothers. She advises the cast to quit using LSD. The Laguna Arts Brothers jeered and staged a walkout. The next night they picketed the film as being anti-psychedelic drugs, but came in to watch the first 100 minutes, cheered and danced, then walked out again during the last ten. And in Houston, a lightning storm blacked out only the theater at which it was showing.

Now it's playing weekend midnight shows on New York's Upper East Side to mixed responses. (A number of people are miffed by the fact that Hendrix's image doesn't appear on the screen until the second hour.) And the Wizard is in New York, letting himself become unstuck to float back and recall Jimi Hendrix' involvement with Rainbow Bridge and the Space Brothers.

* * *

"Even before Jimi came out to Maui, if you looked at his bookshelf it was Secret Places of the Lion, Spacemen in the Ancient East, Secrets of the Andes, an underlined copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Or look at his early lyrics, like 'Bellybutton Window' where he says,

'I'm looking out my bellybutton
window,
And all I see are frowns,
I guess people don't want me
around.
Well I'm going back to the Spirit
in 200 days,
Give or take a few
And I'm gonna rest up a little
longer before I come down the
chute again,
Because they're still talking about
me from the last time'

Well, that's the most profound statement about incarnation in rock that I've seen.

"When you sat down with him, you didn't have to say, 'Hey, are you into this or that?' His favorite way of communicating was to have you empty your subconscious of astral thought at him. If he thought he could get you into it, he would say to you – 'Hey, have you ever been on a spaceship' – or – 'Hey you must be from Pluto.' Jimi had seen a number of ships. They had a sighting at Woodstock.

"He saw himself as a Gypsy in the Egyptian sense. Pyramidology. As a gypsy prince. He wanted to remove himself from the parochial racial attitudes and stuff like that. He wanted to get behind spiritual black social events, but there were a lot of people hitting on him. Trying to use that. And maybe where they were coming from wasn't such a groovy place. But remember Jimi said, 'I've been around this planet for a couple of thousand years. Maybe that's why I'm so concerned.'

"When we were getting ready to shoot the scene with Jimi and Hartley and me, the I.A. Union crew was set up for six hours before we got there. And everytime we would start up there Jimi would say, 'Let me get my guitar' and I would say, 'No, man, you said you wanted to do this without your guitar.' We went through every kind of why-are-we-here riff until finally Jimi and Hartley get into an argument and I say. 'Listen the crew's been up there for eight hours. We have to do this now.' So Jimi says, 'Well OK, you do it then.' So Hartley and I went upstairs ourselves, because we felt there was something crucial about it. We were really down, but we started the camera rolling, and Jimi comes walking down the aisle with a bottle of rose wine in his hand.

"I asked Jimi if he had been doing any astral traveling and he said, 'Yes, I went down to the Oasis of Souls. There's a lot of wrath going on there but not much emotion. And next thing I know I'm on a battlefield in Vietnam helping up a Viet Cong soldier, but it's not a body, it's another vibe, another soul. It's crystal clear, bright as day. And then I'm back at the Oasis of Souls, and they turn the page and I'm down the side of the page with all the sankes and all the night social workers with knapsacks on their backs yelling, "Curb service, curb service, get your dollar bills, curb service," and then the third eye was right in the middle of the pyramid, and then next thing I know I'm walking across the desert, all alone on my way home – but then I see Cleopatra.'

"'Actually,' he said, 'then I was Cleopatra. Cleopatra was there demanding fetishes of me. "Give me this or that or I'll kick your ass." And then I say, "Hey, Cleo, let's get together. You're a woman, and I'm a man." She was there with her raven hair, lying there, and I said, "Let's get together and buy a meal on the side of Vesuvius and raise grapes," and I choked on the wine.'

"And you know," continued the Wizard, "that's like Dionysus, choking on the wine. That's exactly what happened to Jimi five weeks later. He choked on wine. Somebody put acid in some wine and when he was trying to come down from it and, uh, lying on his back on his bed he started to vomit and choked on his own vomit.

"The day after Jimi died, I was lying on Huntington Beach and all the kids had transistors and all his music was being played on the radio. And I heard Jimi's voice saying, 'Hey, that's my music, they're still playing my music.' And I tried to communicate to him in my thoughts. 'Yeah, they're still playing your music, it's just that you're not in the physical anymore.' A lot of people who die do not know that they are dead, and hang around the scene of the accident or whatever." Said the Wizard.

This is a story from the October 26th, 1972 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 120: October 26, 1972