“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.” ― Marcel Proust
While I should have been thinking of my future stability and putting a roof over my head, I was just floating in the flow a half century ago, when the planet seemed upside down. Two iconic heroes had been assassinated, revolution was in the streets, we couldn’t comprehend our nightly news, filled with images of war. Hope was smoldering and the closest I could come to any truth were images I saw through a lens.
The Beatles were also the rage and seemingly a tonic for absorbing what we couldn’t understand. Hard Day’s Night was part of our revolution that put the Beatles front stage, changed music and film in the same moment. Hundreds of filmmakers placed their bets on the next break out Rock group, hoping to match or exceed Richard Lester’s break through films ‘Help’ and ‘Hard Day’s Night’.
I was caught up in the undertow of the era and worked as a production manager and sound person on a film two years earlier to promote the spirit of the Bi-Centennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence. Naturally the producers used a promising new Rock band, ‘Webster’s New Word’, with Beverly Ann, to juice up the film and gain the interest of young people. We all lived close for two weeks, and during those times it seemed that boundaries disappeared within the first day or two. The group took a liking to me and we saw ourselves at comparable junctures of age and beginning a creative life. One of the members named their first child Paul, after me, and we remained in contact for years. Beverly Ann broke from the group and had a hit on the charts. The group never got that far but kept trying.
Christmas Eve, 1968, found me driving to a farm 60 miles south of the City. It was a very cold and mystical night, as I was glued to the radio in our tinny, freezing little Peugeot 403 listening to the updates of Apollo 8 beginning its circumnavigation of the moon. It would be the first time in the existence of our planet that any human being would be completely out of touch with civilization as they travelled to the far side of the moon. That sense of singular isolation had me transfixed, perhaps even more than the journey to the moon in itself. Would they make it back? How would they feel so disconnected to the upheaval back at planet Earth?
‘Webster’s New Word’ rented or just homesteaded an abandoned farm to write music and survive and to think up new gigs, one of which they wanted to involve me in. In was Christmas eve and I had no other place to be, so was delighted with the adventure and the prospect of a break-out in my budding passions around filmmaking.
The band was high when I arrived, we had a gay time. I was always a laggard in pop culture and had no idea who or what Apple was when they claimed they could get backing from Apple for their proposed project. Apple was the Beatles’ corporation for funding their music and productions. I didn’t quite follow the proposal, but it was based on a prediction that on a certain date in March, California was going to fall off from the continent, and they wanted to film it and perform along the split up. Psychedelic cultures was already permeating the society and I thought the proposal was probably some kind of metaphor I was yet not groovy enough to understand.
“Sure, I could film it and get a crew,” I was at the very inauguration of my career as an independent filmmaker, and knew enough to say “yes” to any and all proposals. I was still two years away from producing my first film, but hoping this might be it. They asked if I had any questions. I realized this was getting serious, so I explained it would take me a week to come up with a budget. That was fine with them. We discussed whether we would need to post sync playback, where they would lip sync music they recorded in a studio, or whether we should try recording live. We agreed that the crunching of the continent breaking up might make live recording difficult, so finally agreed to do lip-syncing.
As our conversation became serious, my anxiety increased. I was not cut out to be a hero like Borman, Lovell, and Anders, who were now on the far side of the moon. With some concern I blurted out, “I think we should film on the side of the split that stays with California.” What seemed sane to me ended in another half hour of conversation about which side would give us the more dramatic footage.
Apollo 8 landed back on earth safely, the war raged on, California remained whole, (and so did we!).