Wing Turquoise Bird troupe worked in Los Angeles and Venice,
They were famous for their wide screen lightshows at the Shrine
Exposition Hall in Los Angeles in 1967 and 1968, and later
for their series of evocative multimedia performances at various
venues, most notably in the Cumberland Mountain Film Company
studio in the loft above the Fox Venice Theatre, 1970 - 1975.
They did lightshows for The Chambers
Brothers, Velvet Underground,
Grateful Dead, Big
Brother and The Holding Company, Pacific
Gas & Electric, Steve Miller
Band, Taj Mahal, Dr.
John, Sons Of Champlin,
BB King, The
Yardbirds, Pinnacle, Traffic,
and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
little write-up has changed several times and is bound to
change more since it is based on my own memories,. Fortunately
many members of the group are in touch again and they have
been helping to correct my faulty memories and to provide
their own experiences and memories of our collaboration.
were several people who co-founded the Single Wing Turquoise
Bird light show group so I don't think any one of them should
be "singled" out as the Founder. I certainly believe
Jon Greene to be equally responsible for the birth of the
group, and Peter Mays too - and Charlie Lippincott as much
as anyone since I believe his network of contacts made it
happen! Call him the brains of the group, along with David
Lebrun who made wonderful films and acted as business manager.
Jeff Perkins was certainly one of the original group.
when Charlie arranged the first gig they had to come up with
a name for the group fast for the first poster. He said one
of the group opened a book randomly and put a finger on the
page - and there was the Single Wing Turquoise Bird! Jeff
said he recalls it as a book of Vedic hymns and that he was
the one who pulled out the name.
are other important people whose names should be remembered
set in about the origins because quite some time later Gene
Youngblood wrote up the group in his book "Expanded Cinema"
and left many folks out. That was easy to do because so many
people made significant contributions but they tended to drift
in and out for various reasons. (To read Genes description
of the work of SWTB access the complete pdf of the book at
The first months a number of the Hog
Farm members were very active, then departed to go
on the road on their famous 1968 trek to the Democratic National
Convention. I joined the original SWTB troupe during the early
shows at the Shrine Exhibition Hall, and was responsible for
high intensity motion picture film projection equipment and
techniques, as well as later on arranging for early computer
generated imagery transferred to film.
to filmmaker David Lebrun of the Hog
Farm was his wife at the time, Helena, who worked liquid
projection. David prepared some incredible mandala-like film
loops for us which were one of our signature elements.
participants included Bob Maestri and Larry Janss, and I hope
we can encourage some of the others to come out of the woodwork
and describe their roles - everyone was important! It was
a wonderful group.
Gershfield contributed footage from his magnificent and award
winning UCLA student film "Now That The Buffalo is Gone,"
and he was a cheerleader for us all.
I recall one of our later standard equipment configurations
had 36 projectors of every kind imaginable, including a giant
xenon-arc film projector that I modified with asynchronous
color and strobe wheels and variable speed motors for everything,
Other troupe members provided 4 x 5 and 35mm slide projectors,
overhead projectors for fluids and stacked media, and a myriad
of other machines to paint light with, modified beyond all
recognition. It took about fifteen or more people, including
those we drafted as runners and assistants (some literally
bottle-washers), to do a big show.
The group moved around and did various presentations after
the Pinnacle concerts, including at the studio of Joe Funk
in Venice, artist Sam Francis' loft in Santa Monica, and for
a while an old ballroom in a hotel on the beach. Then in late
1969 or early 1970 I offered the troupe a more permanent home
in my Cumberland Mountain Film Company studio above the Fox
Venice Theatre in Venice, California, where we often presented
special light shows to select audiences of about a hundred
souls at a time. I had leased the big room the year before
to house my film postproduction activities, including editing
and showing work prints of films on interlock projection equipment.
Later several of us got together and secured a lease of the
entire building and took over the theatre, operating it under
the company name Cumberland Mountain Theatres, Inc. as the
Fox Venice Theatre from early 1973 to February 1979.
SWTB continued the light shows for some time in the studio
above. A feature length film called "The Baby Maker"
starring Barbara Hershey was shot there and has some Single
Wing Turquoise Bird light show footage as well as scenes of
us all "doing our thing" as a backdrop for the story,
set in the L.A. scene of the time. You can find it in the
video stores if you would like a small taste of what we did!
performance of the group was about 1976 at a 60's revival
show at the Fox called "Freak Night," featuring
all kinds of retro-60's activities, including a snake dance
led by Wavy Gravy (Hugh Romney). I recall Mexican filmmaker
Alejandro Jodorowsky climbing onto the projection platform
completely beside himself with enjoyment!
By then various members of the group were moving off in different
directions. Jon Greene moved to San Francisco and did light
show work in a big studio there. Jeff Perkins worked at the
Fox Venice doing graphic design for a while then went to New
York City, where he is now working on a project chronicling
the work of longtime SWTB patron artist Sam Francis.
Scroggins helped at the Fox too and went to school at Cal
Arts and eventually ended up teaching experimental video there
- and he is still on the faculty. A nice bio of him is at
Peter lived in Topanga Canyon by day, making and editing his
films, and by night was a
projectionist at the Fox for a long time, and later at the
UCLA film archives. Lately he has been doing some very interesting
interactive work on the web.
Larry Janss was one of my partners at the Fox, then after
we sold the business made his way back to Thousand Oaks where
he helped found the beautiful performing arts center there,
and where his company produces various shows in it. He also
recently reopened an old classic movie theatre in Moorpark,
California, and plans to make it a "Fox Venice"
kind of eclectic venue. It is called the Theatre on High Street
and is absolutely incredible! Visit the neat website at http://www.theateronhighstreet.com
I served as President of Cumberland, learned to fly, went
to grad school at UCLA, did various things including setting
up the Museum of Flying at Santa Monica Airport, and have
worked in media, management, aviation, and nonprofit association
work ever since, currently for the Wolf Aviation Fund (for
more see my link at the end).
Charlie Lippincott was the group's initial promoter and he
soon got completely immersed in handling publicity, marketing,
and product development for Star Wars - certainly a revolutionary
film of the time! He was a VP for Lucasfilm and now resides
happily in New Hampshire.
Recently iotaCenter, a wonderful media preservation group
has collected SWTB materials for inclusion in a retrospective
of advanced multimedia work in the 60's. Jon Greene also very
recently left this earthly existence and so the troupe has
dedicated their piece in the iotaCenter traveling show to
the memory of Jon. The show is called Kinetica 4 and you can
read about it at http://www.kinetica.org/K4/
and see if it will be playing at a venue near you!
I'm not going to get into too many stories (or I'll never
get back to the work I'm supposed to be doing right now!)
but one interesting one is that the first big lightshow I
attended was for Jimi Hendrix at the Shrine Auditorium in
Los Angeles, a huge and beautiful theatre. I think it seated
6,000. Visuals were billed as provided by Thomas Edison Lights
and ACME, and Charlie projected films on a back-projection
screen behind Jimi and the band. At a very dramatic and magical
moment as a centerpiece for all the visuals he played a film
consisting of high contrast dual-mirror-imagery of Toni Basil
dancing in oriental/East Indian style - very iconic and beautiful
(symmetric double-printed high con footage from the film Breakaway
by Bruce Connor).
The story goes that apparently some Shriners didn't see it
the way the thousands of attendees did (she happened to be
nude although being in high-con it was actually very tasteful)
so they permitted no more Pinnacle shows in the auditorium.
Fortunately for the audiences of the late 60's, however, Pinnacle
Productions - the production company - was permitted to continue
doing shows in the exhibition hall next door, and since that
was a big open hall the audiences were able to dance, and
dance they did! We often projected images, including David's
loops, onto their masses of gyrating bodies.
The next Pinnacle show was the SWTB's official first show
- for the Cream, and in the next months the group was privileged
to project for a pantheon of the greatest 60's bands then
touring the country.
I think one of the high points of our concert work was the
Pinnacle Productions Grateful Dead concert at Shrine Exhibition
Hall, probably in late 1968 or early 69. At one point one
of the musicians looked around and spotted the drummer working
the beat furiously, bathed in a scintillating, flashing circle
of David Lebrun's flickering images of snowflakes, Indian
pottery, and seashell structures on a black background, surrounded
by a surging 60 foot wide sea of amazing imagery stretching
the entire width of the hall. Then he tapped Jerry Garcia
on the shoulder and pointed. Jerry looked around, then turned
around and put his back to the audience and continued as before,
gazing up at the expanse of imagery towering over him. Shortly
the others followed, and they played the rest of the set facing
the imagery - and we played with them. Real magic!
the new SWTB website at http://www.swtb.info
Words - Rol Murrow www.murrow.info/rol
Updated November 8, 2002
Additional corrections May 23, 2003