Ann Walker bonked Lance Roth as he massaged Stacey Nemour's neck. Few of the thousands of people strolling through the crowded exhibition area of last weekend's Whole Life Expo seemed to notice.
Walker was demonstrating the flexible, wood-and-rubber "Bonkers" massage devices she had for sale in a booth across the isle. Nemour is a model, sent by her agency to the three-day event to pass out pink flyers for a travel firm. Roth was taking a break from selling Miss Pennyrich bras.
"They're designed to keep blood and lymph flowing through the breast tissue," he said, pinching the nape of Nemour's neck.
Nemour's face said, "Who is this guy?" Then her eyes popped wide open. "My God, he's got magic in his fingers," she said. "How'd you do that?"
Roth gave a mysterious smile.
Advising Nemour that Miss Pennyrich bras come with free fittings, Roth headed back through the crowded isles, leaving Walker to bonk another customer.
Nemour surveyed the pandemonium.
"When I first looked around, I just went, 'Oh my God,' at some of the things here," she said. "Contact with UFO's? Magic Crystals?"
Nemour's gaze shifted.
"She's a trance channel," she whispered, nodding at the booth next door, where a young woman who claims that spiritual entities speak through her sat gazing intently into the crowd.
Suddenly unable to restrain herself, Nemour put her hands over her face and whooped with laughter. "A trance channel!"
Bryce and Lisa Jackson of Agoura (along with partner Paul Andrews) bought the right to produce Whole Life Expo six months ago. The couple wouldn't say how much they paid. They did say that they expected 30,000--up from an estimated 10,000 last year--to attend the event, which ran through Sunday at the Pasadena Convention Center, and that their profits from the show will be "in the six figures."
Back in the early '70s, Bryce Jackson was a businessman, a computer programmer and a skeptic, he said. One day, out of curiosity, he read an astrology book. Four years later he opened a record and book store in Thousand Oaks, naming it Akashic--a Sanskrit word meaning "universal wisdom." Lisa was his first customer.
Gradually the two were drawn into what is widely known as the "New Age movement," a loosely defined blend of the holistic health and human potential movements, old and new mystical and metaphysical ideas, and now certain elements of the peace movement. After attending New Age-type fairs for years, the Jacksons decided to buy one themselves.
"We bought it to provide a vehicle for people to come and share viewpoints and experiences and for personal growth," said Bryce Jackson, 46.
In the dining area, long lines backed up behind each of the vendors, who sold vegetarian hot dogs, various juices and nectars, Tofutti ice cream and other natural foods. Mary Haack, 45, and Alicia Davis, 32, stood in a hallway before a glowing Pepsi machine, obviously relishing cold cans of distinctly non-natural root beer. Davis was smoking a cigarette.
"It's what's in the heart that counts," said Haack, looking only mildly guilty at being caught indulging in what might be seen as sacrilege by some at the Expo. "This is a smorgasboard event," she said. "It gives you the opportunity to inspect the full spectrum of ideas . . . with the opportunity to meet personally individuals you normally only read about."
Ideas and viewpoints were hardly in short supply. The 200 or so exhibitors offered everything from such allegedly sacred objects as healing crystals, cosmic color wands, and fetishes (such as small figurines), to the mundane: food dehydrators, toothbrushes, and vitamins.
The schedule of workshops and lectures listed more than 270 speakers, including such diverse celebrities as "New Age pioneer" Elizabeth Clare Prophet, motivational speaker Terry Cole-Whittaker, "life extension" advocates Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, and the host of KABC's "Open Mind" talk show Bill (Jenkins Man) Jenkins. The Expo schedule also mentioned:
A graphic arts designer who "experienced a physical UFO sighting which led to the channelings he presently provides"; a "former sugarholic"; a translator who has studied "alchemy, Rosecrucianism, Alice Bailey, Theosophy, Qabalah, ARICA, est, NLP, hypnosis, dowsing, healing, gemstones, auras, chakras, meditation, and psychic development"; and "a pioneer in the field of EEG biofeedback, negative ions, ELF, psychotronics, electronic flash, and non-linear electromagnetic fields and their effects on human behavior."
Others on the schedule included a marriage counselor-couple whose "ten year relationship/partnership began on their first date when they experienced ego transcendence during sexual union"; "an acknowledged expert in the field of foot, hand and ear reflexology"; a "nationally recognized expert on Firewalking and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)"; the developer of the "Professional Pollen tablet"; a "clairvoyant tarot reader"; a "master shaman"; the originator of "the Sun-Fire Gourmet Healing System for Eaters"; a "certified Crystal Energetics and Sacred Science Practitioner"; an "advanced Rolfer"; and a "channel for Spirit Teacher Soli and a group of dolphins."
Ed Brady, 33, lives in Valencia. An array of buttons and bumper-stickers were displayed on tables in the booth he manned. They bore such slogans as: "I Support Lyte Forces," and "The Ashtar Command Wants You."
A strapping man with blonde hair, Brady explained that he is a channel for an entity known as Lord Michael, and a member of the Ashtar Command, "which is assigned to protect planet Earth.
"What we're doing is making the transition from the 3rd to the 4th dimension," Brady said. "We're here to make sure all the forces who want to disrupt this event (the transition) won't be able to do so."
David Picone, a long-haired young man in a Judas Priest T-shirt, wasn't singing. A volunteer had just addressed the crowd on the steps of the convention center, trying to explain why the The Theatre for the Future, which was touted as a "Joyous, Entertaining, Moving Theater Event--Music Drama Sounds and Lights Woven Into A Tapestry of Hope and Love!" was running almost an hour late.
"Now we're going to sing a song together so that we'll be in the right space to begin the future," the volunteer said.
As the audience--largely well-dressed, middle-aged men and women--haltingly sang "Row Row Row Your Boat" and "On a Clear Day," Picone, his brother John, 21, and Tony Ulmer, 20, explained why they had come to Whole Life Expo.
"Hopefully we're going to pick up on some New Age chicks," said Ulmer.
'But we need some New Age techniques," said David.
In the meantime, the young men--who said they are active in peace activities and open to new ideas--explored the Expo.
They had each paid $15 for the conference, and only later learned that the evening event was another $25.
If they made it to that session, they would have been informed that the multi-media extravaganza was actually "a work in progress," and a spokesman would have asked their "patience and indulgence."
The audience did its best to indulge the production, which included a "Peace Child Choir," an American flag with rainbow stripes, and a slide-show history of life from the Big Bang to the present, with slogans such as "Evolution is a consciousness raising experience."
Vaudeville to Poetry
The audience saw a "stargirl" arrive from the future on a riser draped with aluminum foil, they watched a didactic vaudeville routine, and heard a voice on a sound-track lecturing about war and pollution. They heard a performer play a grand piano and sing "Inside me, is the thought that the world could be one democracy," and witnessed Jon Cypher of "Hill Street Blues" reading William Butler Yeats' "Second Coming."
And that was before the intermission.
"I think it showed a lot of potential," Barbara Marx Hubbard said of the show the next afternoon. The driving force behind Theater for the Future and a "renowned futurist," Hubbard and several panelists had just finished a morning in-depth workshop called Discovering Your Chosen Work 101--" . . . An Experience of Resonation in Which We Will Connect With Others of Similar Vision and Discover Ways That We Can Bring Our Personal Dreams to Reality."
The workshop and the Theatre were part of a new project called Heal Our World, which Hubbard co-founded.
"Heal Our World is a new kind of nonprofit organization designed to link up individuals and groups who are already working from a spiritual base and who are interested in continuing to a more positive future," Hubbard explained, as an assistant made up her face for a videotaping.
Hubbard said her group has a computer network to link such groups, and that its next step will be "a Harmonic Convergence" similar to the mass prayer activities for world peace held last New Year's Eve. "It will be a global media event to celebrate harmony. . . . We're asking for three billion people to participate--it's the next step after Live Aid," she said.
Like many people at the Expo, Kevin Blank and Yuan Zhi Fu, of Santa Monica, wore red heart-shaped stickers saying "I'm making love work," and Polaroid photographs of themselves on their shirts. Someone had stuck the stickers on them, and they didn't know what it meant, they said. They had paid $10 apiece for the photos, which clearly showed colorful auras around each of their heads.
'Free Aura Analysis'
"They came with a free aura analysis," Blank said. "It was better than the Osterizer demonstration across the hall."
One of the top draws at the Expo was Dr. Peebles. Oddly enough, Peebles -- "an entity of Scottish descent, who lived last in the United States and died in the first part of the century" -- is patient with the nay-sayers who scoff at the New Age.
The long - dead Peebles gave a telephone interview before the Expo. His voice, if one choses to accept it as such, comes through Thomas Jacobson, 38, of Palos Verdes Estates, a former salesman who now earns his living as a trance medium for Dr. Peebles.
It's OK to be skeptical about certain aspects of the New Age movement, Peebles said, in a pleasant Scotch Brogue. ". . . There are those people (within the movement) who in their excitement are exaggerating their experiences, and there are people coming forward as teachers who have not completed their studies," he said.
Peebles also advised that the power of crystals is exaggerated, and that while UFO's are real, "I do not suggest they are of significant concern."
Overall, though, Peebles thinks that the current channeling craze is a good thing. He does not feel that he and the many other entities speaking from other dimensions are being ripped off by the self-proclaimed prophets who use them for material gain in the here and now.
"I believe in profit!" he said. "I believe that all human beings should have the need as well as the right to receive and manifest profit. Profit is increased self-love. . . . Abundance is a necessary experience towards the state of enlightenment."