It’s an innocent-looking photo, one many of us might have tucked away in a photo album: a fair-haired toddler pulling at the bow on a birthday present while Dad looks on and Mom snaps the shot.
Little did the 2-year-old know that Dad, sitting guru-style beside her, was stoned and that he, Mom and the family of “aunts” and “uncles” around her were wanted LSD-using and drug-smuggling felons.
The little girl was about to get an even bigger surprise, make that shock, when federal agents stormed the house and everyone scattered, leaving her standing at the windowsill alone. Minutes later, she was snatched up by protective services while her parents were hand-cuffed and hauled off to federal prison.
It’s one of several possible opening collages for a true-life, episodic docudrama about an unwitting drug cartel, the high-stakes drama and profitable adventures of the Laguna Beach-based Brotherhood of Eternal Love.
The Brotherhood’s hippie saga of the late 1960s has been written about, argued over, made into art, books and movies. But this time it’s different; the story is coming from the ones who witnessed it all from the inside out, the kids.
“There have been other documentaries on the Brotherhood of Love but this is a story people have never heard before, from the kids’ point of view,” said the project’s producer Doug Mirabello, an associate producer for “Star Trek: Enterprise” (2001) and senior vice president of development for reality shows “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and “Flipping Out.”
The kids, now all middle-age Gen-X’ers, are mad as hell, said Kali Bowyer, the little girl in the photo, now 46. Bowyer, a former journalist and promotions agent in Hollywood, is making it her mission to clear the haze (yes, there’s a connection to Hendrix) and reveal their story.
Six offspring have already signed contracts to expose the affluent, exciting, deceptive and dangerous LSD-worshipping commune they called home, said Bowyer.
“This is our story, and it’s not a pretty one,” she said in a telephone interview from Maui, where she was born. She grew up free-roaming in Laguna Beach, often living with family members other than her parents, Chester “Tiny” Bowyer and Mary Christine Marie (eventually Bowyer), now in their 70s. “I remember seeing my parents but it was through glass and bars.”
The Brotherhood took root in Laguna Beach in the late 1960s. Their mission was to create a utopian society of peace and love through a free-falling altered state with LSD—aka acid, Orange (as in Orange County) Sunshine—as the substance of devotion.
Instead, they made millions, sank it into other drugs and drug-smuggling travel, living a rock ‘n roll lifestyle of parties and celebrity friends as teenage pirates morphed into underground outlaws.
In the end, it became a story of excess, all played out behind a smokescreen of hippie earth-mommas and a gaggle of children. “I have fond memories of childhood, but my parents aren’t in them,” said Bowyer. “We were just decoys.”
The documentary, expected for release next year, will cover Timothy Leary’s questionable involvement, deadly overdoses, murder and a utopia cracking under cocaine, she said.
“Timothy Leary snitched on the Brotherhood,” Bowyer claims. “That’s going to blow some minds. He’s listed as an ‘informant’ on case documents.” The cases specifically mention the militant Weather Underground, which protested the Vietnam War during the Brotherhood era. “The Weathermen, the Panthers and the Brotherhood, they were all connected,” she said.
Shea Ackerly, son of Brotherhood members Bobby Ackerly and Pamela Leandro, doesn’t disparage his radical childhood. “I went to 28 countries, got to surf about 15 of them,” he said. “I would come home from high school and we’d have BB King or Eric Clapton or the Neville Brothers kicking back playing music with my dad.”
Ackerly now owns a personal-protection company that hires veterans and has worked for such celebrities as Demi Moore, Dr. Dre and Cameron Diaz. “After watching and living the smuggler’s life,” he said, “I’ve come full-circle. It’s pretty strange.”
Bowyer said her parents helped make the signed search warrant mandatory in California in Bowyer v People. “They smuggled hundreds of thousands of pounds of hash, weed and blow and yet they also changed laws,” she said. “These hippies, believe it or not, are the ones who put that into play. It wasn’t all dopey.” Her dad went on to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and practiced at the Betty Ford Center to right his karma by helping kids kick harmful substances, she said.
Bowyer, herself, ended up addicted to alcohol and cocaine for awhile. “It was no way to raise children,” she said of her upbringing. And she decided it was no way to raise hers. So she cleaned up and became what she describes as a hovering soccer mom.
But she’s not letting sleeping dogs lie either. Besides the film, she’s capitalizing on the reputation of the Brotherhood with a new business—baking medicinal-marijuana-loaded baklava, fudge and brownies with names like Maui Waui and Orange Sunshine. Her first order last month from a Los Angeles dispensary requested 6,000 munchies.
And she said she’s got a built-in clientele: the Brotherhood.