I Just Happened To Be There
By John Molinari
I Just Happened To Be There is an unapologetic view of guiltless exploration with humor, and a passion so great that it almost consumed and destroyed.
Did you ever enjoy something so much that you wanted more? Did you ever wonder where enjoying endlessly would take you? What if you found out you were really seeking answers to something special but did not know what it was? How far would you go to find out?
Go no further than, I Just Happened To Be There, a collection of autobiographical stories about a journey, which took root during the social unrest of the 1960s, and evolved into a living-large lifestyle in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. A lifestyle that landed me front-and-center alongside some of the most famous, iconic figures of the times.
These personal explorations, which went to such extremes, took me to corners of the world that I never dreamed I would see, and always to the farthest depths of my mind and soul. With each exploration I came to a place where I could go no further, it was then that I would magically meet the icon that owned the genre. Whether the genre was the world’s greatest drinkers, experimental drug explorers, musicians, singers, actors, comedians, poets, writers, leaders of political movements, or assorted wiseguys, to Indian spiritual teachers at the top of their enlightened mountains, I managed to meet them. In I Just Happened To Be There, I share my encounters with icons like Jimi Hendrix, Timothy Leary, Abbie Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg, Robin Williams, Frank Sinatra, Gregory Peck, Underworld Figures, Indian Guru’s and many more. I did not start out to meet anyone or to discover any of life’s mysteries, it was simply the result of taking something, anything, and everything as far as one could go.
There are books about the sixties; it’s music, social unrest, drug experiments, and various alternative living lifestyles. There are also books on spiritual exploration, with journeys to India and other such epicenters, and books on life’s extreme pursuits, of pushing boundaries, and sharing what they learned.
However there has been no other book until now, that brings it all together under one umbrella, one person; one adventurous spirit at it’s most extreme. I Just Happened To Be There is a great love story told by one of life’s biggest fans to the love of his life.
GEE YOU ARE YOU. During a near-drowning incident as a child, a comforting vision appears to me—an omen of things to come, and a precursor to a life-long inner struggle between my over-adventurous, worldly spirit and my spirituality.
2. Coming Of Age, Or When Coming Is No Longer Enough
THE SIXTIES. Welcome to my generation – from sex, drugs, and rock & roll, to political turbulence and activism. Exciting times of exploration and unrest.
FOOTPRINTS IN THE SANDS OF TIME? CLOSE, BUT NO JOINT! My friendship with fellow explorers Timothy Leary, Abbie Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg, and others; Knocking on John and Yoko’s door, a close call with history.
JIMI. Tripping with the greatest rock guitarist in the world.
KEYSTONE JUNKIES. How far would you go to save your friends? A darkly humorous look at my attempt to rescue those I care about from the brink of heroin addiction.
THE PARTY’S OVER. Stanislavsky set the bar high, Ken Kesey pranked his way through it; Owsley’s LSD; Fast-tracking my search for spiritual bliss lands me in the hospital; No sympathy for the devil at Altamont.
CALIFORNIA OR BUST. Arrested for possession of pot in upstate NY; Pushing the legal envelope, I take my last trip in Toronto, catching the now-historic Festival Express concert tour; Going stir-crazy on probation, and longing for Berkeley, my friend and I hatch a plot.
RAG THEATER. Retail clothing and protest play out against the drama of People’s Park. We’re Mod and we’re not gonna take it anymore!
MY PASSAGE TO INDIA. Three months of magic and mysticism; studies of my Spiritual Path; Speaking to a crowd of 150,000 on universal harmony.
3. How I Fell Off The Spiritual Bandwagon And Landed On A Bar Stool
SITTING HERE IN LIMBO. Back from India, giving spiritual talks; struggling to balance my newfound clarity and the pull of the “real” world - my Spiritual Compass vs. my Inner Bad Boy; Weakening and rediscovering the joys of drink.
ALL-IN. The struggle continues, but fun sets in; On meditating and drinking; A change of role models – goodbye Grateful Dead, hello Rat Pack.
THE WOW. An old acquaintance becomes an instant drinking buddy; Debauchery, and Fear and Loafing in Las Vegas.
DO AS THE ROMANS DO. Working hard, playing hard, and drinking hard, sets the stage for a fall. After a doctor orders absolute abstinence and rest, what’s a Bad Boy to do? Head straight to the casinos of Lake Tahoe!
I OUGHT TO BE IN PICTURES. Nevada-bound and questioning the wisdom of the trip (and my new lifestyle); Pondering how life imitates art, in my case, the movies.
PLAYING THE FIELD. Low on funds at Harrah’s, I throw caution to the wind. Call me irresponsible, but Lady Luck is on my arm.
YO-LEVEN. Riding the emotional roller coaster of high-stakes dice and conspicuous consumption; Hitting rock bottom - a stone’s throw from salvation.
BEHIND BARS. Making the move to Los Angeles to chase a dream; Exploring the glamorous history of Tinseltown’s drinking establishments; Getting some golden advice from a star of the silver screen.
THE ROCHESTER CONNECTION. Hooking up with some boys from the hood, old and new; An eerie visit to the scene of one of L.A.’s most brutal and highly publicized crimes.
THE DAY I MET MY MARX BROTHER. A chance meeting with Bob Marx turns into a great friendship, and opens the door to the Hollywood fast lane.
OFF BASE. How I ended up at the wrong end of Gregory Peck’s baseball bat.
YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL. Meeting the Fifth Beatle, Billy Preston.
ROCKIN’ ROBIN AND THE LIVING LEGEND. Standing at the crossroads of Robin Williams, a past friend, and Frank Sinatra, a friend-to-be, on the set of the TV revival of Laugh-In.
COME FLY WITH ME. An invitation from out of the blue to join Barbara Marx, Bob’s mom, and his step-dad, a blue-eyed guy named Frank; The one and only Jilly.
5. Speaking Frankly
HEY, BUDDY, THE BAR IS OPEN. Treated to a weekend at the Fairmont Hotel; Meeting my hosts – Frank and Barbara Sinatra.
BERKELEY REVISITED. With our armed bodyguard at the wheel, Bob and I run loose through the old stomping grounds. He looks up a friend, Patty Hearst.
FREE RADICALS. Bob’s offer to bring the former fugitive to Camp Sinatra doesn’t sit well; At Fisherman’s Wharf, Mrs. S gets a health lecture on shellfish, and Jilly mussels in.
POT SMOKING SINATRA. Feeling like family, I treat the clan to a pizza fest; Frank tries to dodge a few bullets – and a few headlines.
THE MILLIONAIRE. The truth about Frank’s philanthropy.
AS TIME GOES BY. Dinner with the Hearst sisters makes me late for a very important date; an Oakland Raider rushes me through the streets of San Francisco.
WHO’S AFRAID OF TINA SINATRA? After Frank’s show, his outspoken daughter and I are properly introduced. Fasten your seat belts.
WHATEVER GETS YOU THROUGH THE NIGHT. Pulling an all-nighter with Ol’ Blue Eyes, one-on-one, where there is no such thing as Last Call.
ONE FOR THE ROAD. Jilly, the old road warrior, needs to pop his cork.
6. Hollywood Ending
SIDE BY SIDE. Back to the reality of my life in L.A.; Meeting Helen, my soul-mate; Discovering the New York transplant; Armand Hammer and I conduct the Billionaire’s Glee Club and Chorus Line.
NOTHING COULD BE FUNNIER OR FINER THAN THE WEDDING OF A REINER. Best Man at a best friend’s wedding; a tale of two families – Matzo meets Ritz Crackers.
CHUTZPAH UNDER THE CHUPAH. The hysterical trials and tribulations of a dual-faith ceremony; Carl Reiner can’t get a laugh; the General’s family lands in the clink.
THE LAST AUDITION. After a series of setbacks and rejections, a part on the hit show Happy Days is mine, until the contractual height clause of its stars nixes my chances - size does matter! Disillusioned on the Paramount lot, passing the Mork & Mindy sound-stage, and running into its star, pal Robin Williams - but do I have the heart to face him?
7. And Now Just Leave Me Alone With My Ravioli
CHANGE OF LIFE. Scoring in the magazine business moves us back to my beloved NYC. My wife and I turn a new leaf.
HIGH ANXIETY IN NEW YORK. A long overdue reunion – clearing the air somewhere over the Rainbow Room.
BRONX CHEER. Sparks fly at a mobbed-up birthday party, and not from the candles on the cake.
FATHER FIGURES. My fascination with wiseguys started young, tempered by my father’s guidance; An unusual job interview leads to a lucrative proposition – but is it an offer I should refuse?
THE KEY. A mysterious gift is bestowed at my father’s wake.
EPILOGUE. Some closing thoughts about why I decided to tell my story. But, hey, it ain’t over till it’s over!