ALEX COHEN, host: MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeleine Brand.
Mr. FATHER YOD: I am the one known as wisdom and love.
BRAND: Yesterday, we introduced you to Father Yod. He was born Jim Baker. He was an ex-Marine who started a commune in the early 1970s in Los Angeles. Known as the Source Family, this commune spawned a band, Ya Ho Wa 13, and more than 100 devoted followers. The family grew out of a restaurant Baker started, called the Source. Our contributor, Jennifer Sharpe, became fascinated with this cult. Here's the second of her reports on the Source Family.
Ms. ISIS THE AQUARIAN (Source Family Member, Author): The Source restaurant, which is now called the Cabo Cantina.
JENNIFER SHARPE: Amidst the billboard clutter of Sunset Boulevard, Isis the Aquarian stood in the parking lot of a former health food restaurant once run by her long-disbanded spiritual commune.
Ms. ISIS THE AQUARIAN: This thing is about ready to fall down, but it still holds the vibration.
SHARPE: The restaurant had been opened in 1969 by her late guru, Father Yod, who'd held public meditations outside on Sunday mornings at 4 a.m.
(Soundbite of chanting)
Mr. FATHER YOD: God within you, waiting to get out. He's praying, express Himself eternally. Free, unbound by chains, man.
SHARPE: A tall man with long white hair, who looked a bit like a guru himself, stood next to Isis, pointing to the shrubby hillside behind the restaurant.
Mr. ELECTRICITY THE AQUARIAN (Source Family Member, Author): We had a tepee right there, and a bar that we hung upside down and did our exercises on. And our temple was in the back.
SHARPE: Realtor Jim Edmonds, also known as Electricity the Aquarian. Having just stepped off a plane from Hawaii, he'd come to help Isis promote the book they'd just published about their lives inside the Source Family.
Unidentified Woman: This is Raymond. He's been here since we sold the Source, and it was the Source...
SHARPE: An employee in the back still remembered them from when they'd sold the restaurant in the mid seventies.
Unidentified Woman: He stayed. He...
Mr. RAYMOND MULDANARO: I've been here, what, 30 years.
Unidentified Woman: He held the - he held the thread.
SHARPE: Raymond Muldanaro (ph) showed us up into the quirky back structure, originally built as their temple...
(Soundbite of creaky door)
SHARPE: But now used as the restaurant's alcohol storage area.
Mr. MULDANARO: Yeah, huh, huh, huh. I didn't want to come in here, and now I know why.
SHARPE: An air conditioner now obscures what was once their stained glass window.
Ms. ISIS THE AQUARIAN: We had a gong up there, and a beautiful carpet on the floor.
Mr. ELECTRICITY THE AQUARIAN: It was cosmic. It was awesome.
(Soundbite of singing)
Mr. FATHER YOD: Be kind. Be kind. Try to love everyone. It has been said unto you, love everyone. Try it. You can be kind to all, not hurt any thing. That ends it, sweetheart. You become part of that guardian world...
SHARPE: Back in 1959, before he'd been anyone's guru, Father Yod as Jim Baker had opened the first organic restaurant in Los Angeles, called The Aware Inn. And by 1969 ...
Mr. ELECTRICITY THE AQUARIAN: You can see how his philosophy as a business manager began to lead to a connection later on with the Family. Because he paid everybody the same amount. The head chef made the same ling that the juice man made, that the waiter made. There was no hierarchy. It was everybody was equal. And everybody cared, ultimately, for the success of that restaurant.
SHARPE: Standing in the restaurant's main room, now filled with inflatable beer bottles and murals of women in bikinis, Isis and Electricity explain that the restaurant had once been populated by Hollywood's creative elite.
Mr. ELECTRICITY THE AQUARIAN: John Lennon...
Ms. ISIS THE AQUARIAN: John Lennon, all the time; Warren Beatty, Paul Mazursky, all of them. And we didn't care. We thought we were more famous than them. They didn't even phase us when they come by.
SHARPE: As the restaurant staff began to galvanize into a spiritual family, Father Yod rented them an old mansion to live in together.
(Soundbite of door chime)
Ms. JODI WILLI (Editor, Filmmaker): To the left here.
SHARPE: Along with Isis and Electricity's publisher, Jodi Wille, we visited that house the next day. To L.A. historians, the old brick mansion is known as the "Chandler House." At the turn of the century, it was the only house on the Griffith Park property back when L.A. Times founding family, the Chandlers, privately owned the land. But to the Source Family, it's always been known as the "Mother House."
(Soundbite of door opening)
Ms. ISIS THE AQUARIAN: Hello.
Ms. BARBARA MAHORE (Current Resident of the Mother House): Hi, I'm Barbara. How are you? Nice to meet you.
Ms. ISIS THE AQUARIAN: This is Jodi.
Ms. MAHORE: Hello, I remember you.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SHARPE: Barbara Mahore(ph) has lived there for 17 years now.
Ms. ISIS THE AQUARIAN: Barbara, this is Electricity.
Mr. ELECTRICITY THE AQUARIAN: Hi.
Ms. ISIS THE AQUARIAN: Behave.
Ms. MAHORE: Mr. Electricity ...
Mr. ELECTRICITY THE AQUARIAN: Yes?
Ms. MAHORE: How are you?
Ms. WILLE: We have a little gift for you.
Ms. MAHORE: Oh, it's the book! You finished it. Oh my gosh.
Ms. ISIS THE AQUARIAN: Anything you read go in the "Mother House," that was here.
SHARPE: In one photo, the robed Source Family looked like they're pouring out of the house's attic and spilling onto the lawn where a band is set up to play.
What was actually going on in this photo?
Ms. ISIS THE AQUARIAN: We'd invited Yogi Bhajan over.
SHARPE: Father Yod had studied with the popular Indian guru for nine months and was being primed to take over some of his ashrams, when he decided to split off on his own.
Ms. ISIS THE AQUARIAN: He came with his whole entourage, all in the Sikh headdresses. And they were the Sikhs, and we were the Aquarians.
SHARPE: In their one year at the Mother House, the family grew from roughly 30 members to nearly 200. When their lease wasn't renewed, they moved into the Father House in Nichols Canyon, where they had to build sleeping cubbies to fit.
Ms. ISIS THE AQUARIAN: That was the band room. They just opened up the wall.
Mr. ELECTRICITY THE AQUARIAN: Are you saying the garage is gone?
Ms. ISIS THE AQUARIAN: That's the garage.
Mr. ELECTRICITY THE AQUARIAN: I wondered why it was so big. I couldn't figure that out.
(Soundbite of music)
SHARPE: The family's rock band, Ya Ho Wa 13, formed at that house. After morning meditations, Father Yod would often head into the garage recording studio where he'd lead sessions of psychically channeled music with his kettle drum and gong.
Ms. BRIT KIRKOFF (Current Resident, The Mother House): I was sort of very astounded to find out that ABBA bought the house.
SHARPE: Brit Kirkoff (ph), a native of Sweden, who lives there now, was just as amazed as Isis and Electricity at the fact that the Father House recording studio went on to be used by a band whose name means father.
Mr. ELECTRICITY AQUARIAN: The connections are pretty uncanny.
Ms. ISIS THE AQUARIAN: Yeah.
SHARPE: But after having now spent days with Isis and Electricity, I'd started to become desensitized to all the magical coincidence punctuating so many of their stories. And yet, the very next day, as I followed Isis and Electricity's van to their first book signing, I found myself fumbling with my car stereo's iPod navigation and, in a complicated driving moment, let it go random.
(Soundbite of ABBA song, "Knowing Me, Knowing You" in Spanish)
SHARPE: At first, I didn't recognize the song that came on, but then realized it was ABBA, in Spanish. Clearly, I'd stepped into some kind of Source Family web. For NPR News, I'm Jennifer Sharpe.
(Soundbite of ABBA song, "Knowing Me, Knowing You" in Spanish)
BRAND: Tomorrow, the aging members of the Source Family gather for a rare reunion. We have lots of other stuff about the family, including photos and video. It's at our website npr.org