Filmmaker Turns Lens Toward '60s Surfer Smugglers of Orange County
The story of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love begins with an armed robbery in 1966. John Griggs and some friends had heard about a Hollywood movie producer with a stash of LSD, so they went to his house in Los Angeles and held him up at gunpoint. Falling back to the desert outside Orange County, California, Griggs and his friends took the stolen LSD, a lot of it, and it gave them deep spiritual revelations. A few years later, at its height, the Brotherhood had become the largest manufacturer and distributor of LSD in the world, an operation they funded by smuggling massive amounts of hash into the United States. But the Brotherhood didn’t become an international drug-running organization for money or fame. They did it to turn on the world. They did it to produce hundreds of millions of tabs of acid, which they gave away anywhere and everywhere for cheap, if not for free. They did it to change society. “If you knew us, we were holy men, spiritual warriors,” said core Brotherhood member Travis Ashbrook. “If you didn’t know us, we were a bunch of drug dealers. You know, we were both!” Those lines open the saga of the Brotherhood as told by filmmaker William A. Kirkley’s 2016 documentary, “Orange Sunshine.” And it’s that dichotomy — spiritual warriors/drug dealers — that structures the film’s narrative. “Orange Sunshine,” named after the group’s signature brand of acid, follows the transformation of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love from its humble beginnings as an experiment in communal living and psychedelic experience into the hub of a countercultural movement that swept up an entire generation. If you were alive in the late ’60s and early ’70s and smoked hash or took LSD, chances are it came from the Brotherhood. The group is…
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