Read part two of The Legend of Cum-a-Lot here!
The Sandstone brochure was startling and straightforward. In part it read:
“The strength and lasting significance of the Sandstone experience lies in human contact divorced from the cocktail party context, with all its games and dodges and places to hide.
Contact at Sandstone includes the basic level of literal, physical nakedness and open sexuality. In these terms, the experience goes far beyond any attempt to intellectualize it.
This reality of action with its effect of accepting and being accepted in basic terms, without reservation, without cover, is the essence of the Sandstone experience.”
What Meg and I found at Sandstone then was a residential “intentional” community of ten persons – five open couples, with two being married – living this philosophy but not without trial and difficulty. While the interpersonal problems between 2 persons are often daunting, the prospect of 10 was staggering. We were soon to make it 12.
The community’s main source of support were the club and retreat programs through which everyone entered Sandstone. At first, we and 200 other couples paid $280 per year and $10 per visit, $20 for sponsored guests, breakfast included. Later, special Saturday night dinners and week-long residencies were added as concessions. Beer and wine were permitted as BYOB but drugs of any sort and insensitive, insistent or intoxicated behavior were strictly and unequivocally prohibited. The members were also occupationally diverse. We met factory workers, clerks, nurses, scientists, teachers, business executives, actors, a famous African explorer, a judge and no end of writers and film makers.
The brochure went on:
“The concepts underlying Sandstone include the idea that the human body is good, that open expressions of affection and sexuality are good. Members at Sandstone may do anything they like as long as they are not offensive or force their desires on others.”
Unfortunately, it was not that simple.
Meg and I discovered that we were not immune to that emotion that we commonly refer to as jealousy. Our first involvements were with Barbara and John, the founders of Sandstone, who were six and nine years older than we are. Barbara was bi-sexual and made demands on Meg, something she had not anticipated but came to embrace. I experienced anxiety for her welfare and for my own equanimity. She told me that she had had a feeling of frustrated possessiveness and a sense of separation or loss in seeing me make love with another woman. I felt the same way seeing her come to orgasm with another man right beside me.
These feelings illustrated for us the knowledge that we could never really own or belong to one another. After a few weeks of membership we backed off and went over what had happened to us. We were confused yet elated, more desirous of each other than we could imagine. Our ambivalence seemed not from the nature of the experience itself but from the heady newness of it. We decided that whatever happened, we were loving individuals in a special relationship that would always take primacy and remain inviolate.
We returned and talked at length with John and Barbara. We really liked them. Our conversations were warm and loving and we were warned against “head tripping” or trying to rationalize it too much. We were told just to give ourselves permission to change and accept the realizations of our fantasies as ultimately our option. The real understanding of what had happened would come with time and further exploration. Again, I could hear Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley talking, but also Abraham Maslow and Fritz Perls:
“I do my thing, and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations and you are
not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it’s
In the early 1960s, John Williamson, an inventor and self-made businessman, came to the conclusion that many of society’s ills existed because people were alienated from themselves, from those they supposedly loved, and from their social environment. Wanting to do something to address this perception, he and Barbara sold their homes and invested their life savings in rebuilding the seriously distressed Sandstone Ranch property.
The opening event, that blowout UCLA Halloween orgy in 1969, was described to us as a shock beyond even their wildest plans.
Meg and I visited often during the next few months and gradually became more involved with the people and the organization. In May, 1970, Barbara walked us over to a small slightly flood-damaged cottage near an edge of the property and asked us if we’d like to do a little work to fix it up and move in permanently. She offered that Meg would help her with the day-to-day management and I, due to my gregarious personality, would take over membership development and be the official spokesperson. Meg finished up at UCLA, I quit NCR, and we packed up and were living there by the first of June.
We became fully involved with all the problems and joys of having a large loving family of intelligent, dynamic individuals – plus. During long weekday evening conversations we learned the back story of Sandstone: John’s travels, former high-tech NASA career and prior marriage; Barbara’s Midwest upbringing and success selling life insurance; their tempestuous meeting and affair with one another and with another founding couple, John and Judy Bullaro, and other formative events and characters.
We also personally shared all the chores of keeping the place up. I enjoyed watering and pruning the vegetation and raking up truckloads of the constantly falling eucalyptus debris. As I was very good with the French knife, I volunteered to slice, dice and Julienne all the fruits, salads and veggies for the buffet. I may have invented the notion of cutting firewood with a chainsaw while in the nude and John taught me how to run the Caterpillar tractor we used to keep the trails open after storms and we all shared in the shopping.
Our official job was interviewing and signing up prospective couples for membership and collecting the fees. Being something of an audiophile, I managed the all-important music system and subtle lighting for the parties. Members would bring new hit records during the day and I would carefully program them to 90-minute cassettes for our automatic changer, alternating ballads with upbeat dance numbers. Knowing this sequence and the mood I had designed frequently aided me in my own seduction plans.
Read the fourth and final part of The Legend of Cum-A-Lot next week!