Garden of Delights

 
 

In 1968 or ‘69, when I was 12 or 13 years old, I briefly made a pestering nuisance of myself as an assistant with the Garden of Delights Light Show.

At the time, they were based at the Sausalito Arts Center, which was located in a former public school just up the hill from Gates 5 and 6 and all the houseboats.

My mom, Pearl, had enrolled me and my sister Sabrina in a pottery class there while she took a dance class. During one of her classes, she heard music coming from the school’s multipurpose auditorium. There she found two musicians, a flute player named Yasos and a clarinet and piano player named Schawkie Roth.

My mom ended up singing jazz and traditional Middle Eastern tunes with them for a while, the high point being a performance for artist Jean Varda’s 60th birthday party, which was attended by several thousand well wishers.

That auditorium is also where I met the couple who ran Garden of Delights. I want to say that the guy’s name was Bob, and it may have been Bob Holt, but I cannot remember for sure.

I have no idea about the first and last name of Bob's girlfriend or wife. Another person who was involved with the light show (he was in charge of the overhead projector that illuminated the dish of the most flammable liquid we used in the liquid part of the light show) was a guy named Roger, who may have been Roger Hillyard.

My most vivid recollection of Roger is of him showing up one day with cuts on his face from a fight the night before. Roger was cool.

Garden of Delights stored their stuff, practiced, and performed at the Sausalito Arts Center—Bob and his girlfriend/wife may have even lived in a loft that had been built over the stage.

Their gear included three overhead projectors, a color wheel or two, a few 8mm or 16mm film projectors, and maybe a dozen slide projectors, some with carousels, others with horizontal cartridges of slides. They had cases and boxes for everything so that all the gear, including the glass dishes used on the overheads, could be safely moved from gig to gig.

During this period, Garden of Delights was, or had been, doing shows at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco, but I never worked any of those.

In fact, during the brief period when I hung around the light show, business was slow and money was obviously tight. Bob’s conversations with Roger always seemed to concern a guy Roger knew who worked for the Grateful Dead. That guy was going to get them a gig soon, really soon, hang in there, man. That sort of thing.

Probably because my mom sang jazz with Yasos and Schawkie, I was allowed to hang out with the light-show crew. My job was to move things around, clean the glass dishes after use on the overheads, and sometimes aim sheets of fabric attached to grids of mirrors onto a wall or rear-projection screen (in this case, obviously, the slide projector would be pointed backwards at me, away from the wall or screen).

I was mesmerized by all of their gear, as well as the fleeting compositions we’d create on a wall or rear-projection screen. As a preteen, I’m pretty sure I also enjoyed the slides of Bob’s girlfriend/wife naked.

I believe, but cannot be sure, that I helped out on the Varda birthday party, because I do remember working a show at the Sausalito Art Center when my mom was singing with Yasos and Schawkie. That said, it may have been a different event unrelated to Varda. My biggest gig with Garden of Delights was a trip to the Richmond Art Center across the bay for an afternoon event.

I think I was paid 10 dollars, which was almost certainly a greater share than I deserved of whatever meager pay they had probably received.

Ben Marks - March 2021

 
 

Thanks to Chicken on a Unicycle for use of their scans :-)

 
 
Garden of Delights Light Show

December 21st 1966 - Wildflower, Zuckerman Clapacord

 
 
Garden of Delights Light Show
 
 
Garden of Delights Light Show

November 1968

 
 
Garden of Delights Light Show
 

Rick Griffin's Aoxomoxoa 24th-26th January 1969, Avalon Ballroom

 
 
Garden of Delights Light Show

October 16th, 1969