Aspects of Demise: The Whole Earth Demise Party

This video documents the Whole Earth Catalog Demise Party held at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Creator Stewart Brand organized the event to debate the best use of the twenty thousand dollars profit held by Whole Earth. Various individuals lobby for serious and satirical causes, including Paul Krassner. Followed by a segment with Brand on the Dick Cavett Show.

00:00Copy video clip URL This tape begins with a blue screen.

00:26Copy video clip URL Inside the Exploratorium, the chaos is immediately apparent. A musician screams at those in attendance from atop the stage. “Focus your fucking energy! You’ve got nine million suggestions! They’re all good! Pick one!” This is followed by footage of a belly dancer performing for the audience. As Middle Eastern music plays in the background, a stack of money is counted.

02:38Copy video clip URL Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog, comments on some of the larger decisions that have to be made at this event. “We need to find what can get us to all feel right about doing a thing. It’s not to exclusion of anything else. It’s just where we’re going to plant this particular seed. If we plant it well, the chances are wonderful that other foundations will try the same format to generate ideas, to generate new ways of applying money in ways that work.”

03:58Copy video clip URL Another speaker addresses the crowd about the indecision plaguing their efforts. Stacks of money are passed back and forth randomly among attendees. Brand also continues to address the crowd.

05:45Copy video clip URL Television footage from the Patricia Nixon wedding broadcast of the bride walking with her father, Richard Nixon.

06:20Copy video clip URL A man states that they should burn the money in the fireplace, then Paul Krassner comments on the plight of Native Americans during the country’s rise. He also comments on the lack of oil left in the world and the pollution caused by drilling. “Now the only responsibility we have as children of white middle class America is to the people we ripped off, and that was the Indians.” Several more speakers make suggestions as to what to do with the money. As the suggestions are made, they are put to a vote by the crowd.

08:38Copy video clip URL A man urges those in attendance for a consensus. “The thing that bugs me is, somebody already mentioned it, that we’ve got boards and boards full of good ideas in competition with each other. Children in competition with the Indians, starving Indian people in competition with high rise buildings in San Francisco–we have all of these ideas in competition with each other and you have the problem along with me and everybody else of deciding what to do with this goddamn money.” Shortly afterward, another speaker makes a suggestion as to what to do with the money.

09:44Copy video clip URL CBS coverage of the Patricia Nixon wedding. Dan Rather reports in front of the White House.

10:18Copy video clip URL Paul Krassner addresses the crowd and tries to take a vote. Appalachian novelist Gurney Norman suggests that the group take a thirty minute break for music. Brand then asks the crowd if anyone objects to the break. This is followed by footage of a musical performance and dancing.

12:37Copy video clip URL Doug Michels offers a suggestion that they turn the debate into a game where for every five minutes that no decision is made, the money is split in half and divided between two more groups. Another man calls for a vote on the “saving trip,” which is a plan for the money to be retained to host additional meetings of this sort to debate on its use. This ends up being the ultimate decision on what to do with the remaining $15,000 (the rest having been distributed during the meeting).

14:49Copy video clip URL Cut to a Bay area news report on the demise of the Whole Earth Catalog, describing the event as a bizarre countercultural Yippee demonstration on the pointlessness of money. The segment includes an interview with Stewart Brand at the Whole Earth headquarters. Brand comments on the process of determining how to use the $20,000, and how the process had unintended benefits. “Every single idea that came up, there was sort of a commitment got made to it, and I have a strong suspicion that some people who came up and spoke for an idea and went away without the money still went away with the idea.” Brand also states that it was a “strong seminar on money and responsibility.” He goes onto talk about a point in the meeting when Michael Kaye began to hand out one hundred dollar bills to people near the front of the stage. The footage cuts back to the meeting, where Paul Krassner suggests that the money be used to film a movie called “The Parts That Were Left Out of The Magic Christian.”

17:21Copy video clip URL The segment closes with more footage of the musical performance and dancing.

17:58Copy video clip URL Stewart Brand on The Dick Cavett Show. The audio is fairly poor throughout this portion of the tape. Cavett says a few words about the Whole Earth Catalog before inviting Stewart brand out onto the set. The two sit down and have an intriguing conversation about the cessation of the Whole Earth Catalog. Brand: “So much of the practice now is that you have to fail with an institution to stop. And the idea of succeeding completely and then stopping with an institution seems more healthy to us.” Brand says that, as a nonprofit, their goal was always only to break even, yet despite lowering the price of the magazines on many occasions, they still ended up with unwieldy surpluses.

21:16Copy video clip URL Musical interlude for commercial break.

21:39Copy video clip URL Cavett skims through one issue of the magazine and asks Brand about its creation. The two go on to talk about the “Demise Party” and the $20,000 they gave away. Brand states that the person who received the money, Fred Moore, did so out of sheer perseverance, being one of the few to make it through the all-night debate and emerge coherent. He states that the initial group was as large as 1,500 people, but it quickly filtered down to about 100. He says that Moore will use the money to throw a new party to decide what to do with that money. Shortly afterward, Brand pulls out a few items found in the catalog. He grabs two “boppers” from behind his seat. He, Cavett, and guest Woody Strode battle each other with the inflatable devices, while the other guest, Ethel Merman, hides under the table. Later in the show, Brand advises Cavett to smear a bit of “Kama Sutra Oil” on his hand. Hilarity ensues. This lasts for the remainder of the tape.

32:00Copy video clip URL Tape ends.


1 Comment

  1. Allan Mann says:

    I’d like to see this video since I was there, with Earthlight. We were performing at Project Artaud & Stuart invited us.
    I tried Control+C but nothing happened.


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