Pubdate: Sat, 29 Nov 2014
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2014 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: John Mackie


Long-Lost Promoter Of Vancouver's First Hippie Club Returns With
Stories, And Some Amazing Posters

The saying goes that if you can remember the '60s, you weren't really

Jerry Kruz knows this all too well. At 66, his memory of the parties,
concerts and happenings he took part in during the hippie era are a
bit hazy.

But a marvellous thing happens when he looks back at his collection of
old psychedelic concert posters. The memories of the shows come
floating back, like a contact high.

And what memories those are.

 From 1965 to 1967, Kruz was the promoter behind The Afterthought,
Vancouver's first psychedelic club.

Kruz promoted gigs by '60s legends such as the Grateful Dead, Steve
Miller, and Country Joe and The Fish, as well as local acts like the
United Empire Loyalists, the Painted Ship and the Tom Northcott Trio.

To promote the shows, he commissioned artists like Bob Masse, Frank
Lewis, Bruce Dowad and Doug Cuthbert to create posters. They responded
with mind-bending visions filled with wild colours, beautiful women
and hairy men. The band names were rendered in psychedelic art nouveau
lettering that was so stylized that at times it was hard to decipher.

The Afterthought posters are now cherished collector items, and
internationally renowned. Bob Masse's 'exploding face' poster of a
hairy fellow was even used to illustrate psychedelia in the
coffee-table book The Art of Rock and Roll.

The image promoted a gig by the Steve Miller Blues Band, March 17 to
19, 1967, at the Kits Theatre at 4th and Arbutus, which is where many
of the Afterthought gigs were held.

If you were able to track down an original of the poster, you might 
have to fork over hundreds or even thousands of dollars. 
Alternatively, you can pick it up in Kruz's new memoir and art book, 
The Afterthought: West Coast Rock Posters & Recollections from the 
'60s (Rocky Mountain Books, $40).

All the Afterthought posters are there, in glorious colour - from a
crude 1965 poster for a coffee house where Kruz cut his promoter's
teeth, to the drug-friendly posters from '66 and '67 that got Kruz
into trouble with the cops.

One of these posters features a green-haired hippie goddess puffing
away on a hash pipe. Masse designed it for a March 3-4, 1967 gig with
Carnival, the Seeds of Time, and William Tell and the Marksmen.
Forty-seven years later, it became the cover of Kruz's book.

"Tommy Chong picked that, by the way," Kruz said over the phone from
his home in Victoria. "We sent him a couple of images and asked him,
'Which one do you like?' And he immediately went to that one. He said,
'That's the one that represents the time.' "

It does. But posters like this didn't sit too well with RCMP sergeant
Abe Snidanko, a 'narc' who Kruz said was constantly harassing him and
the hippies who came to his shows.

"(At one show) I walked out onto the street, onto Fourth Avenue, and
there were traffic barriers," Kruz recalled.

"I go 'Oh s---! The whole damn street is shut down! What's next?' And
I turn around and all of a sudden Snidanko is beside me. They come in
with a SWAT team and lined everybody up against the wall, including me
and my brother."

Kruz is of Ukrainian descent (he was born Jaroslav Krushelnyski). As
luck would have it, so was Snidanko.

Kruz's mother was selling tickets at the show and lambasted Snidanko
in her native tongue.

"She came out of the ticket booth and started yelling at Snidanko in
Ukrainian," Kruz said. "I still don't know how she knew he was
Ukrainian, because I didn't know he was Ukrainian. (But he still)
searched everybody. Not my mother, fortunately. I think she would have
bopped him over the head if he would have tried it."

Kruz became a promoter by accident. A minister at St. John's
Shaughnessy Church wanted to throw music gigs for a youth group and
asked Kruz if he would set it up.

The minister had mistaken Kruz for his older brother Terry, a
folksinger. But the 18-year-old didn't let on and on Nov. 6, 1965, the
Afterthought made its debut with the folk duo Al & Diane. Al was Allen
Garr, now a columnist for the Vancouver Courier.

"He was a straight Peter, Paul and Mary folksinger," Kruz said. "Good
folksinger, actually, him and Diane."

The show was a financial success and in a couple of months, Kruz moved
his shows from the St. John's Shaughnessy hall to the Pender
Auditorium downtown, and added rock 'n' roll.

The tipping point was a show by the Tom Northcott Trio on April 7,
1966. Frank Lewis designed a poster which featured flowers coming out
of the top of Northcott's head, which many took to be a drug reference.

"I see it as the first psychedelic poster of the era," Kruz said. "If
you talk North America, they say the Charlatans in the summer of '65
(in Virginia City, Nev.) was the first one. But I say (the Northcott
show) was the first one because there was an actual light show
attached to it. And (the poster had) the flowers coming out of the
hair, out of his head.

"The police and the city gave me trouble, because they said I was
suggesting to people that they get stoned. All that did is just sort
of trigger me to do farther-out things."

The poster called the show an Arty Musi Opti Happening and included
the name Sam Perry, although it didn't say why. Perry was integral to
the Afterthought because he did the psychedelic light show.

"He just appeared in the Pender Auditorium. He said, 'I've got this
idea from New York' - not San Francisco, New York. He said, 'People
were throwing paint on the walls, and it was called a Happening. I can
do the same thing with projection.'"

Perry was one of the casualties of the '60s in Vancouver - he
committed suicide Nov. 14, 1966, when he was just 26. But Kruz said he
was brilliant.

"He was way ahead of his time. He was a genius," he

"Sam was doing things that were just out there in lighting effects, in
liquid projection, in screens and movie creations, all that. (And) he
was responsible for the first Trips festival in Vancouver."

The Trips festival was a psychedelic wonder imported from San
Francisco in the summer of 1966, with acts like Jefferson Airplane,
Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead.

Kruz hit it off with Jerry Garcia of the Dead and asked Garcia if the
band would like to stay around Vancouver and play the Afterthought the
following weekend.

"He said, 'Sure,' " Kruz said. "So they hung out for a week, and a lot
of craziness happened."

The Dead played their first free show, impromptu, on the bandstand at
Alexander Park on Beach Avenue in the West End. But the real craziness
was Aug. 5, 1966, at the Kits Theatre (now the Russian Hall) at 4th
and Arbutus, where Kruz had moved his shows.

At the time, the Grateful Dead's soundman was Owsley Stanley, who
Rolling Stone dubbed "The King of LSD."

"Owsley, during the concert, literally went around dropping acid in
everybody's mouths," Kruz said. "It was a very high concert, to put it

It was also very successful. Kruz thinks capacity at the Kits Theatre
was 400 to 500, but there were probably 1,000 people when the Dead

"It was ridiculous. They were (crammed) in there like sardines. It was
shoulder to shoulder."

The Grateful Dead show "without question" was the best Afterthought
gig. But Kruz also has fond memories of a Country Joe and The Fish
show where Country Joe exhorted the audience to smoke dried banana

Kruz's book reads like an oral history - he tells little stories
related to each Afterthought gig, along with stories of his journey in
early 1967 to San Francisco to check out bands.

Janis Joplin hit on him at a tiny but legendary San Francisco club
called The Matrix.

"I spent a whole evening with her. I can't get into details of that or
my wife will shoot me," he said with a laugh. "But yes, she was a very
beautiful, wonderful lady. She really wanted to come back to Vancouver
after playing at the Trips Festival. I was fortunate to spend an
evening with her at The Matrix, watching her and drinking Southern

He didn't book Joplin, but did book Steve Miller after seeing him at
The Matrix. Miller convinced him to put "from Chicago" on his
Afterthought poster because Miller thought it would bring in more
people than "from San Francisco."

Unfortunately, just as Kruz's career was getting into high gear, on
Oct. 28, 1966, he was busted with two joints and sentenced to three
weeks in jail. There, he became hooked on methadone and when he came
out, got into heroin. He was busted for possession of pot again and
sentenced to 18 months in Oakalla, which he said was

"I still get flashes. I had a nightmare just two nights ago, because I
watched a TV show and there was a jail scene. And the jail scene
flashed me back to when I was in jail. Those are the realities of what
happens - it's called post-traumatic stress."

While he was in jail, the psychedelic movement exploded.

"It crushed me," he said. "I was the promoter (in town), I had it all
happening, you know? (My former partner) Roger Schiffer picked up the
torch and opened up the Retinal Circus (on Davie Street). There was
obviously a lot of resentment (about that)."

After his release from jail, Kruz couldn't get a business licence to
promote shows because he had a criminal record. So he wound up moving
to Vancouver Island and going into social work. At one point, he even
worked at the Wilkinson Road prison in Victoria.

Kruz is now retired. A few years ago, he started reproducing and
selling some of the old Afterthought posters. The owner of Rocky
Mountain Books saw his Grateful Dead poster, contacted him and
convinced him to do a book.

He has had a ton of fun reconnecting with old pals he hasn't seen for
decades, noting, "There are people who thought I was dead. A lot, actually."

But Jerry Kruz is very much alive - and thanks to his new book, so is
the legacy of the Afterthought.  
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D