of A.C.E. are seeking donations to memorialize and preserve the work of
Jeff Rosenbaum -- the guy who made Starwood and Winterstar happen year
after year, and the reason that many of us met. He didn't do it alone,
but if he hadn't been there, it wouldn't have been done. Now that he's
no longer with us, we want to make sure it still gets done.
Our goal is the preservation of Jeffs' home and life work. We want to
organize and make accessible the vast archives wherein are recorded an
astonishing amount of material from Starwood and other events, and we
want to keep Starwood going. With your help, Starwood can grow and
flourish as the festival Jeff worked so hard to create.
Keeping Starwood (and A.C.E.) going often entailed titanic efforts,
heroic efforts even, and as a hero Jeff went rather unsung while he was
alive. Although he was a prolific writer and a talented musician, he's
best known for bringing the most diverse weirdoes imaginable together,
and then herding those cats into making Starwood happen year after year.
That pagan hippie weirdo festival has impacted a hell of a lot of lives
in a very deep and core way for 35 years.
The rest of us are going to try to keep it going
for another 35 years!
was on his deathbed, and knew it, he just wanted to know one thing of
his close friends: "Are you guys gonna keep Starwood going?" Joe
Rothenberg assured him that we would and, praise "Bob", I think he
believed it, because he finally teared up and cried. That was the only
time we saw him do that throughout his whole torturous ordeal of
fighting brain cancer.
Above all, Jeff Rosenbaum was a REALLY NICE GUY. Nice is rare these
days, and he was unrelentingly kind, honest, understanding, forgiving,
and unbelievably generous. I can't count how many times he gave us rides
to the airport, or dropped off a bag of bagels, or found an excuse to
help us out when we didn't want to admit we needed help.
I personally owe Jeff as much as I owe any of my other influential
"heroes," such as Frank Zappa, MAD Magazine, Ray Harryhausen, Ken Kesey,
Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Crumb, even J. R. "Bob" Dobbs. Jeff invited
me to come to Starwood in 1990 to make fun of it! He even PAID me to
make fun of it! And, wouldn't you know it, I ended up literally married
to it! It may very well have saved my life! It certainly saved my Slack.
And I'm only one of hundreds, no, thousands of people that he very
directly affected that way.
Jeff was a complicated guy. He didn't fit any stereotypes very well, and
he became his own unique self-created stereotype: big jolly Jewish guy
who runs a festival of varied beliefs but doesn't himself believe in
much of anything supernatural. He sure did enjoy those varied beliefs,
though, and he did a fantastic job of mixing and matching them to see
what might come of the crazy combos.
He had an unusual relationship with the religion in which he was raised,
Judaism. Despite his professed disbelief, he couldn't stop singing its
praises and comparing it favorably to other religions. He knew Jewish
history and doctrine inside and out, and loved explaining it to anyone
interested. If Jews were into converting people, which they're not, he'd
have been very good at it!
He was a man of many complex qualities, but the one that shone through
the most, for me anyway, is that he was FUNNY. I know a lot of funny
people, and he was right up there with Woody Allen if it's deeply funny
quips you're looking for. Secondly, he was incredibly smart. His memory
seemingly contained EVERYTHING and he was like a living playback
machine. He could recite and/or describe numberless comic books, comedy
albums, sitcoms, commercials, cartoons, movies, books and radio plays.
Inside that brain was recorded every Firesign Theater album, every
Spiderman issue, every George Carlin one-liner, and damn near everything
about the counterculture in general.
His house was a museum of counterculture history, and we're trying to
keep it that way. His house is still there, owned by Chameleons, and his
stuff is still in it, or protected elsewhere. The protection is what
we're trying to raise money for.
The Starwood Center is gone, but the archives were moved to his house,
or in the case of media files, Regis Sedlock's collection. These
archives include (for instance) professionally recorded videos and audio
of most of the main acts that performed or speakers who spoke at
Starwood since the early days. We intend to make sure those videos and
recordings are sorted out and made accessible, perhaps on YouTube or
something similar. There is amazing history in there. Things happened at
Starwood that were so astounding and unforgettable that we might forget
them because, in retrospect, they don't even seem possible. They
couldn't have happened! -- and yet they did, and if we take good care of
the records we can prove it!
The Merry Pranksters were never a huge group, but they were memorialized
because a very talented writer made their wild trip comprehensible to
millions -- some of whom (like me) were sufficiently inspired by the
true story to pick up the ball and run with it, or at least try to.
The true story of Starwood is every bit as spectacular and inspiring
(and, frankly, INSANE) as that of the Merry Pranksters, and it very
directly affected many more people's lives over three decades.
Three decades! Wouldn't it be great if people could someday see those
three decades as the mere beginning? As a drop in the bucket of great
events that bring people together -- people who need to be together but
wouldn't be, otherwise.
There is no way I could thank Jeff enough for all he did for me and
probably half the people I know. He introduced me to my wife, Lisa
Lefkort, to my neighbor and brother Joe Rothenberg, to all my friends
associated with the Chameleon Club, and also to the weirdoes at WCSB who
became my radio SubGenius partners, Lonesome Cowboy Dave and the late
Just about everybody who knew Jeff and the Starwood scene has a similar
All of us have one thing in common -- Jeff Rosenbaum. He wasn't famous
for anything while he was alive because his real work was all behind the
scenes. He CREATED the scene but wasn't the focus of it; often he was
the main flack-catcher. Only in retrospect does his real achievement
become clear: he was a gracious host who invited everyone to his party,
and it was the most important party that many of his guests ever
He didn't set out to do that; it was just the inevitable result of what
seemed to him the natural thing to do.
Wikipedia wouldn't list him, or much of anything else pagan, as notable
-- which seemed very odd, until Jeff discovered that the reason for it
was one jealous, anonymous, disgruntled jerk with nothing better to do
than to discredit anything pagan, and especially Jeff Rosenbaum, in
Wikipedia. When that sneaky bastard's perfidy was revealed it opened up
a floodgate of pagan-related information that this one creep had managed
to suppress until Jeff did battle with him. Jeff's enemies were the
sometimes-powerful enemies of the whole consciousness scene.
There are still those who want to erase Jeff's memory and make it look
like they invented big pagan festivals. There are young people and
newcomers who are being taught that Starwood was a rip-off, and that the
copycat is the real thing.
His own family thought Starwood was a waste of time!
Talk about unsung!
We need to show Jeff's detractors WHAT FOR. Some of us remember how the
huge northeastern Ohio pagan scene developed, and we want to make sure
that history isn't obliterated by commercial concerns. We want future
generations of crazy hippies, weirdoes, intellectuals, disbelievers, and
authentic shamans, to know which giants' shoulders they're standing on.
It was not the company that rented out the party site. It was the people
who threw the party. Those guys were Jeff, Joe and the Chameleon Club.
Not everyone knows that Jeff's ass was on the line, financially, all
those years. Sometimes Starwood made money. Sometimes it lost money.
Guess who paid the bills and made up for the shortfalls out of his own
pocket, especially in recent years following the identity theft?
Let's pay him back.
When our friend Chas Smith died, Lonesome Cowboy Dave said, "If only we
could treat our friends as if they were already dead." You don't know
what you had 'til it's gone. Let's face it, Jeff wasn't perfect. He
talked too much, and loudly, and sometimes we kind of wished he would
shut up for a second.
Funny...now I miss hearing that loud voice lecturing on and on about Dr.
Strange comics or old TV shows or whatever. I wish I could hear that
loud voice again.