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The Great Carpet Sweep
The First Light Show in the Pacific Northwest
Nov 5, 1966
A precursor to The Great Carpet Sweep occurred Aug 20, 1966. Tom Robbins describes "A Low-Calorie Human Sacrifice to the Goddess Minnie Mouse" in Tibetan Peach Pie ("Distractions").
And, Lorenzo described it in the essay in KRAB Guide Number 96:
The Kirkland Community Center is a great Gryphon of a building, the 1935 Cowshed School of Architecture, with one naked room, a bare stage, walls an offshade mucous green, basketball court lines all over the floor. It has that multipurpose, Community Center smell, too many sweating bodies, a dog show or two, what Duke likes to call the cheesy jockstrap sweat-house atmosphere.
Charlie insisted on dragging us out here because there was to be a Happening; and although I protested that the thought of a Happening happening in Kirkland was more than I could stand, and at this rate, we could expect a popart Festival at the Puyallup Fair this fall, Charlie insisted that his career as an artist was at stake, and if he didn't make an appearance, he would still be a messenger boy for the telephone company at age sixty-three, with flebitus, scurvy, and long black Supp-hose.
Getting there was a happening in itself, because Kirkland is just a continuation of Bellevue and Bothell, sort of a swipe of asphalt and fluorescent lights to jazz up the entire Eastern edge of Lake Washington, and no-one knew where the Community Center was, which is understandable; and after we got there, I had an incipient sense of failure, because although we were each given a foot-long picture of Minnie Mouse (saying "EECH" of course), the audience numbered about ten beards, and little else. Failure always brings hunger, so I left the others behind and decided to feed my face, which after 8 PM is a real trick in Kirkland. I finally found an A&W Root Beer stand, and after poisoning myself with two of their Daddyburgers, I crept back to the Happening.
My absence must have been significant: there was
a mob and even some action. All two hundred seats were full, and Tom Robbins was squatting at the front of the stage, eating a turnip. A turnip for Chrissakes. As if that weren't sufficient, at the conclusion of the turnip, this cheeky babe ate a whole orange. By herself. The PA system was turned over to Doris Day who sang "I'm in the Mood for Love" about twenty-five times, and by the time this troll came forward to eat some celery, the audience-cum-actors were more on the stage than not. There was an easel, to paint or put your arm through. There were eight hundred rubber stamps, twelve paper planes two custard pies, a plucked chicken, a wolf-hound, a link of sausage, and a gogo girl to throw at each other or the audience.
By the time of the eating of the banana, the painting of the easel had moved on to the painting
of the walls: pictures of stick-people, circles, genitalia with legs, and words: "ARF", "SLUG WOMAN
BUTTER", "FREE RUDOLF HESS." Tom Robbins had his shirt pulled off and a big free-form hand painted on his stomach and he was trying to wash under his arms with a mackerel. One of the audience? actors? participants-in-the-great-game-of-life? took off his Brooksbrothers suit and shoes and crawled in a sleeping bag---talking to the bare-breasted dancer all the while. I felt unnecessary. The plucked chicken was painted red, the link sausage painted green before being fed to the wolfhound. A crash-helmet and goggles with a people inside paraded back and
forth in front of me with a placard saying "PARIS DRAIN SEWERS." I always get nervous in these Pirandello things because I know they are going to shine a spotlight on me an innocent audience and make me go into my song-and-dance routine which I hate. I decided it was time to make tracks but Charlie was lost trying to find a scaffolding so he could paint "LOVE" all over the ceiling, and Rory was on stage lighting a pipe. I felt I would be far safer suffering over another Daddyburger and I was right, for as I slipped out the Kirkland police were slipping in, nervously fingering their clip-boards, eyeing the gogo girl, wondering how to arrest a whole Happening up to its knees in rubber stamps, pies, sausage, clothing and paper airplanes, but knowing that a bare breast in Kirkland was an offense against society and knowing as we all did, as we all must, that the next nakedly artistic apercu could Happen in Aberdeen, or Sequim, or Spokane even---but never happen again happening in Kirkland. Never.
* * * * * * * * * *
Maybe Lorenzo was wrong. Maybe the arts fans of Kirkland found Tom with his fruit, vegetables, and gogo dancer to their liking. Or maybe Lorenzo wanted another Daddyburger, because the next three program guides contained some subtle hints:
KRAB Guide Number 97, Sep 22 - Oct 5, 1966:
Charlie Krafft, artist, email 2015:
"The Union Light Co. was my idea. It's named after Lake Union where I was living on Lorenzo Milam's houseboat. KRAB fm was having a fundraiser in Kirkland. Jeremy Lansman and I came up with the idea of presenting a light show there."
"Jeremy and I went to visit Grace and Jerry Slick in Tiburon at the end of the summer of 1965 in Tiburon where they treated us to an impromptu pot fueled pulsating strawberry jam light show projected on their apt wall"
KRAB Guide Number 98, Oct 6 - 19, 1966:
KRAB Guide Number 99, Oct 20 - Nov 2, 1966:
KRAB Guide 100, Nov 3 to Nov 16, 1966 is missing, so we don't know what exactly was in it.
But we do have the poster. . . . . with the wrong address?
Poster courtesy Scott McDougall
CJ Skreen, not one to be frightened off by a gogo dancer (Seattle Times Nov 4, 1966):
Ron McComb, Union Light Company co-founder, email 2016:
"As you probably know I was only one of the founding members of the Union light company. It wasn't called the Union Light Company in that event. I think it was called that afterwards for the next event, which was, as I recall, at the Fry Hotel for the graduation party for the senior class at the UW. Carol Burns, whom you may know, and, who has recently deceased, was actually more in touch with most of the people at Krab. She was really instrumental in making the benefit happen. I'm glad to meet one of the two guys who I well remember were keeping their hands on the breakers so they didn't blow. It's a wonder we didn't burn the place down. Anyway I was involved only because I had met a guy from Krab at a party where we were sitting around smoking a lot of weed drinking coffee and plotting revolution. I talked to him about some of the ideas I had about projected art. He seemed interested and we exchanged phone numbers. A few weeks later, I was intending to call a number that was in my little phone number book and I called his number by mistake which was right next to the number I wanted to call. He said he had lost my number and was glad to hear from me because Krab was putting on a benefit and they were looking for people with similar interests to mine to help put it together. He gave me Lorenzo's number and that's how it got started. Mis dialing that phone number changed my life. I wouldn't be where I am today had it not been so."
Carol Burns, Union Light Company co-founder, Helix Vol 1 Nbr 2, Apr 15, 1967:
"Our name Union Light Company was made up to put on the invitation to a KRAB benefit party last November. The idea of doing a light show had been talked about
around at least three kitchen tables and when KRAB announced that they were actually going to do one we all heard about it and came together. Only two of us had ever seen a San Francisco light show, but KRAB put out a call for slide projectors, a dying strobe bulb was found at the Naval Air Station, and we did a
The following is from KRAB Guide 101, Nov 17 - 30, 1966:
CJ Skreen in the Seattle Times summed it up like this (Nov 15, 1966):
Charles Reinsch, KRAB archivist, 2016:
"I had just started my senior year in high school, and was working at KRAB on Sundays and engineering and announcing on Friday nights. A friend and I went to the Carpet Sweep, where we mostly hung out at the top of the stairs near the closet in which the circuit breaker box was located. Downstairs the Excelsior Jazz Band was playing, and beer was being served to those of age. Upstairs where we were was the ballroom with scaffolding arrayed with overhead, slide, and film projectors. There were trays of water on the overhead projectors, and bits of theatrical lighting gel everywhere. Jeremy had added a second playback head to a tape deck, so he had prerecorded 4 track surround sound coming from the four corners of the room while projected protozoa were dancing on the walls and ceiling. Every once in a while a circuit breaker would go out, and I would reset it. Meanwhile Rory Funke had been eyeing a "light sculpture" I had constructed from a flip/flop circuit, a lantern battery, two light bulbs and a some coiled wire. It sat at the top of the stairs with the bulbs alternately flashing. He seemed mesmerized by it. Although we have not found documentation of the correct address of where the event was held, I believe it was at the Peter Kirk Building at 620 Market Street in Kirkland (click for larger image). The theatrical gel continued to be found everywhere in the Donut Shop for the next six years - until KRAB moved to the Firestation."
Ref, Carol Burns, Helix Vol 1 Nbr 2, Apr 15, 1967 "Being a true factual history of the Union Light Company"
Robin Oppenheimer (and Walt Crowley), HistoryLink
If you possess any souvenirs (program guides, tapes, or photos) or have a story about your experience with KRAB you are willing to share, please email email@example.com
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