Laguna Beach CA, an artsy colony since the ‘20s, was accustomed to oddball characters but by the mid-‘60s, the town had become epicenter of the Southern California psychedelic scene and home to the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the biggest Afghan hashish-smuggling operation in the United States, and America’s largest distributor of “Orange Sunshine,” a particularly potent home-brew brand of LSD
Laguna Beach’s tiny police department had its own three-man “hippie squad,” said to generate more narcotics raids per capita than any other city in California, but even with county and federal help, they were smotheringly outnumbered. A particular problem was the hippie-infested ramshackle neighborhood along Woodland Drive, so disruptive that it was called “Dodge City.” Thanks to the success of 1967’s “Summer of Love” festival in San Francisco, Laguna’s hippies, and their umbrella-organization church, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, planned a three-day musical Happening, over Christmas of 1970. Ten thousand posters were circulated via head shops and the hippie underground. In early December, the migration to Laguna Beach began—from all points of the compass came VW buses, love vans, rattletrap old Porsches, and Flower Children afoot.
Out in Laguna Canyon a big wooden stage began to rise. Hordes of hippies hit Laguna like an ocean wave. Laguna’s little police department went on tactical alert. Neighboring police agencies were briefed. By Christmas day, 25,000 counterculturists were at Sycamore Flats. Vehicles abandoned everywhere. The CHP shut down Pacific Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon—which were choked with chaotically parked hippiemobiles. Laguna Beach (population: 14,550) became essentially closed. A plane flew overhead, dropping Christmas cards, each with a tab of Laguna-made Orange Sunshine acid, compliments of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love
Whether from the law-enforcement presence, cold temperatures or the failure of big-name bands to show up (the Grateful Dead was said to have been turned away at a police roadblock), the Great Laguna Hippie Happening of 1970 was quickly over
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