alternative oscars

On the edge of the south-eastern Mojave Desert, near Giant Rock, reportedly the largest free-standing boulder in the world, lies the compound of the Integratron, which I have just had the privilege of experiencing for the first time during this weekend of gratitude in the 60th year since its conception. The Integratron is a large white domed structure in Landers, CA, finished in 1959 by George Van Tassel, an L. Ron Hubbard-type who believed the structure’s design would generate forces that would aid in rejuvenating human cells, time travel and levitation (there are several Wizard of Oz references on site).

Despite this supposed purpose and the fact that the structure was built according to the instructions of visiting Venusians in 1953, Van Tassel presented well enough to succeed in getting significant assistance and financial backing, from the likes of none other than Howard Hughes (for whom he had tested planes), as well as others including UFO enthusiasts.This year is the 35th anniversary of his death in 1978, and his building and compound is now run for visitors in the know, hosting creative happenings and frequent group “sound bath” therapy sessions on quartz bowls, while also seeming to serve as a staging point for ATVs headed to check out Giant Rock.

If this interesting juxtaposition appeals, I suggest a pilgrimage, as well as a film you may enjoy. Supervan (1977) captures just that same vibe that emanated out of the late ‘70s, creative hedonism meeting science and a healthy reverence for the cosmos. Bob Stone, writer of the music for many of the songs in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), as well as Cher’s hit “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” kicks off this picture with the mellow-moog-fueled “Ridin’ High,” while a convoy of sweet ’60s and ’70s Ford vans stretch to the highway horizon.

Stone would contribute or collaborate on several more songs in the film, notably “Milestone,” sung by one Debbie Hyde over the air-brushed credit shot. The cast oozes with psychotronic connections: Lead Katie Saylor would appear in Fantastic Journey that same year  with Roddy McDowellJared Martin (Westworld) and Ike Eisenmann(Escape From Witch Mountain) in a TV series that from it’s synopsis sounds like prototype for J.J. Abrams’ LostSupervan‘s co-lead Mark Schneider would later appear inBabylon 5; and timeless establishment cool-sleaze Morgan Woodward came from similar roles in Star Trek, Cool Hand Luke,and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and  would go on to similar roles in Hill Street Blues and Dallas.

Throw in crazy comic actors like Len Lesser (Seinfeld’s uncle), a Charles Bukowski uncredited cameo as “Wet T-shirt Contest Waterboy”, and great cinema verité Ozark vanner footage and you’ve spun trash into gold. The scene that resonates still with me is that of the title vehicle (a ‘solar-powered’ van worthy of the best Hot Wheels design) tearing down the interstate emitting it’s pursuit-thwarting electro-drone, while driver Schnieder steals glances of Saylor calmly reading in the back with a tome.

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For more information about visiting the Integratron click here.

You might also like:
Gotta Watch–Holiday football edition: The Black Six (video)
Gotta watch for Thanksgiving: Jive Turkey, aka Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes
Gotta Watch, Saturn edition: The Music of Sun Ra

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