Lights by Dr. Zarkov,



In 1967 six of us formed the Light Show show in Berkeley, California and we operated in the San Francisco Bay Area with a few appearances in the Pacific NW and SW.

We started out with four Kodak Carousels, two special effects projectors, two Bessler Overheads and one Bell and Howell 16mm and evolved into :

  • 8 Carousels.
  • 3 special effects projectors.
  • 3 Bessler overheads.
  • 1 Bell and Howell 16mm.

Most of our slide projectors were Kodak Carousels (we never used the carousel feature since the mechanical slide changer broke too many of our glass slides).

We liked the ease of making a slide change (hand over lens, hit eject and the current slide pops out, release the eject and drop the new slide into place. We had a couple of one off's that we used with our special visual effects machines.

We used Bessler overheads because of the optics in the head. We modified the object base with optical lenses to increase the lumens through the liquids. The increase in lumens was enough to boil black ink which we used as on of the special effects that was unique to our show. The added heat also meant we needed to boost the airflow through the box.

We used a Bell & Howell 16mm projector for our film loops.

All of our projectors except for the B&H were on rheostat dimmers.

We used low voltage selsen motors to drive all our color wheels and other motion effects motors.

We used a light table to sort our slides. The slides were kept in standard slide boxes with groupings for each type of slide - stars, geometric patterns, people, etc.

We also created something called the Comcentrum Ray - shine a projector into it and it created interference patterns dependant on the focal length of the projector lens and the distance from the lens to the Comcentrum Ray.

We could add in a stand alone warped plexiglass to bring the entire image into and out of focus.

We also used a cracked mirror on a variable speed motor to replicate a single image in motion on the screen. We used a projector with a very long lens to keep all the images in close proximity on the screen.

The Light Show quite quickly went from six people to three people and was running until the early 1970's.

Influence and of course inspiation for the name was Dr. Zarkov from the Flash Gordon TV Series.

Our first shows were really us trying out new ideas and new media approaches in the unfinished theater space in Wurster Hall, College of Environmental Design. The School unofficially traded use of the space for us giving free performances to the students.

As previously mentioned, the show evolved to just three of us. We each had our specialty but as with all Light Shows, we could step in and do the work of the other artists when needed.

We played lots of local venues from Jr. Colleges to the Fillmore West and Winterland working with The Grateful Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage and Procol Harum.

During this time we got to collaborate with Optic Illusion & Little Princess #109.

Our two big out of town events were the Sky River Rock Festival hosted by Dancing Bear and a political show produced by David Lloyd Jones that we toured around the country and got written up in the Washington Post when we did the show for a summer intern orientation.

A Story from the road:

We got a gig in Houston to do a political Light Show (material created by David Lloyd Jones),

I knew my VW bus was not up for the trip so we bought a used mail truck. Before we got out of California we needed to replace tires, then in Arizona it was the alternator and then in lonely West Texas the engine just stopped on a long downhill and we coasted into a small town (at least a small town by West Texas standards) looking for someone to work on the engine.

After walking to every service station and backyard auto shop, no one would help us till the following week. We had less than 48 hours to get to Houston. If we didn't make the show, we would not be paid and if we didn't get paid we would not have had the money to get back to California.

In a fit of frustration we kicked (yes kicked the engine with our feet). Tried to start it one last time and it started. We piled in and drove straight through, never turning off the engine, arriving in Houston the morning of the show.

The organizers found some couches we could crash on and at 8pm we had the show ready to roll as the back up act to Kenny Rodgers. This is Texas after all.

By the early 70's we were getting most of our money from doing special effects and inserts for television show - shows that wanted to look hip by using the visuals from rock events.

That led us to doing a pilot TV show.

Following Dr. Zarkov's dissolution after our TV show pilot I started another Light Show called Earthlight and it was around for about a year or so.

It consisted of my wife Wendy Menes and my step brother Nick Weddle.

The name come from the light reflected from Earth when you are in space.

We used most of the gear from Dr. Zarkov. The other members took a few things that they really wanted - mostly the artwork they had personally developed and a couple of projectors.

Our biggest show was at Fillmore West in 1971 featuring Taj Mahal.

Not much more to say about that show.

I then moved full time into directing television programming in the early 70's and directed a daily national PBS show for 6 seasons starting in 1977.

I then spent a few years doing relief directing at KGO in San Francisco and then moved to single camera directing.

I currently run a cottage industry editing Zoom programs for archival purposes.

I know you asked for photo's but sorry, all that great stuff got eaten by rodents in the recent past !

Vince Casalaina - February 2021

Vince Casalaina was also on the Light Show Guild Negotiating Team.

Vince Casalaina

Vince Casalaina 1969

Lights by Dr. Zarkov

Sons of Champlin, Phoenix, Ace Of Cups, Bycycle Dementia, Morning Glory, Indian Gold - June 8th 1969, Unitarian Center, San Francisco

Lights by Dr. Zarkov

Sons of Champlin, Phoenix, Ace Of Cups, Bycycle Dementia, Morning Glory, Indian Gold - June 8th 1969, Unitarian Center, San Francisco

Lights by Dr. Zarkov

Procul Harum 1970 (David Singer)

Lights by Dr. Zarkov


Lights by Earthlight

Earthlight - Taj Mahal at The Fillmore West 1971


Press articles from the 'Political Light Show' mentioned above - Courtesy Vince Cassalina

Lights by Dr. Zarkov 'Political Light Show'

July 1970 (Click for bigger version)

Lights by Dr. Zarkov 'Political Light Show'

July 1970

Lights by Dr. Zarkov 'Political Light Show'

April 1970