"The harm is in making susceptible young people think that to be rude and stupid is the only way to lead a successful life"
David Zack, "Chapter 11: The Wonderful Immortality Center of Oz," The BOOKlet of Oz, ed. Vittore Baroni (Near the Edge Editions, 2003): p. 24.
(go here for information on how to obtain a copy of this book)
The Zacks: David and Maija Zack were central figures in the experiment at Monte Capanno, and their contributions are discussed throughout the website. On other parts of Monte Capanno 1970 you will find David's approach to education to be analyzed; his conceptions of how to govern an anarchic community to be expressed; entries from his 1970 diary are available to be read; a prophetic poem from 1968 is provided; and some enticing insights into their later lives appear on the "Where are they Now?" page here at Monte Capanno 1970. His contribution to the experiment warrants reflection and comment. Write in and tell us what do you recall about David and his artistic wife, Maija? (And do any of the rest of us have pieces of art that Maija created like this one she gave to Mark Fissel?)
Views of David Zack in 1970: "There are only about 15 people here now which makes it a lot easier to function. David was really bumming out a lot of people. He and Maija have left for about a week and so things are really quiet and pleasant." (from Linda's letters, March 21, 1970, to read more please go here)
"Things around here have been really great, good weather, people getting along and just good vibes everywhere. David and Maija left for Yugoslavia for 2 weeks which makes everyone happy. He hasn't yet paid his portion of the rent ($480) and needless to say, people are bent." (from Linda's letters, April 1970, to read more please go here)
Views of David Zack from the perspective of 30 years later:
"David Zack, a.k.a. Monty Cantsin, the "organizer" (I use the term loosely) and ringleader of the Monte Capanno caper: where is he now? Holed up in Texas? Laid to rest?
Some more sympathetic views: John Dean: "I have no real clue as to what Dave actually thought he was doing (if anything) and as to his character I will lean on good old Uncle Oscar: "It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious." IMNSHO dave was mostly charming, as were you all.." (John Dean, April 2002)
"Maybe this is the place for a comment or two about an extraordinarily paradoxical man, who in many ways exemplified what was good, and not so good, about the '60s.
"Without Zack there would have been no Monte Capanno adventure. It was his idea. Or should I say, 'scam'? David was personable, funny, and a catalyst. He bought the 'Low Flying Whale' van that was so essential in transporting food from the open markets back to Monte Capanno. As the 'instructor of record' he didn't insist that we stay put at MC and read books. We could engage in "experiential" learning, roaming around Europe.
"On the other hand, he failed to pay his way. We all chipped in cash to pay for food & fuel, and David's bill remains outstanding as far as I know. Since he was in fact on salary during this journey (and the students were not), his refusal to contribute hard cash seems unconscionable. His disregard for convention and authority meant that he never got us registered with the Umbrian police, as immigration laws dictated, which led to the 'psychedelic police raid' one spring afternoon. Those present can describe that event.
"David also allowed his friends & acquaintances to exploit the student body. In at least one case one of David's buddies actually assaulted one of our ranks. David did not always tend his sheep with the greatest care, or keep the wolves at bay.
"Thirty years on, and now that we have uncovered some of the scattered record of David's post-Monte Capanno career, we can afford to be forgiving. But we will have to be somewhat ambivalent in assessing David's contribution to the experiment. I last spoke with David in 1971. Somehow I got his phone number, in rural Calgary. It was a pleasant chat, and as he was alone at sunset in his darkening cabin, he commented on how surreal it was to hear from me. Everything involving David Zack was surreal, I am tempted to say." (by Mark Fissel, November 2000)
Sandee (White) Stoltz: "David Zack:... This is my view of our professor and his creative wife. He was the disciple of William Blake and seemed to only speak of Blake with those who knew about him. Notice that he never requested that we read Blake nor did he have any of his books and artworks available to the rest of us. At least, that is how I remember it. Blake is a vague word that Zack did not define to us, but spoke of in strange stupors of religious explosions of "Zack visions." I never saw David Zack's (same first name as my [life partner] David!!!) drawings or poems or journals, but I always had the distinct feeling that we were the guinea pigs of his experiment in Blake's ideals of the "experience" of life as it plays out in human instinctual actions and he (Zack) was recording how we, as the elite upper middle class, would handle "survival" at its base level on foreign land with common people. I do feel that Blake was ahead of his time in his "visions." I am not sure of Blake's status as a mystic, after actually being in the presence of a few in our time. I can see the attraction to Blake's ideas if one is torn between that of heaven and hell / good and evil. I see Zack as having an inner torment with God and these concepts much like Blake did, but also that he saw through this to the other side of it and countered the traditional Christian views of pleasure vs. pain / love vs. fear... But if you ever actually get to read some of Blake's poems, they seem dark and full of depression and some delusions. Interestingly enough, we got to "experience" a little of Blake's world by living in a stone castle, a stone farmhouse that did not have plumbing, heating or electricity before we arrived. We had to light our nights sometimes with candles, warm ourselves by sitting in the stone fireplace or huddled together in a blanket. We were isolated and at the same time "communal." Some of the time the dreariness got to us down deep inside. Our individual fears expressed themselves with contention and disputes over triffles, such as food, wood, money-who had it and who didn't. We seemed to follow the natural course of an unguided course in survival. Something I believe Zack enjoyed. But as a result of this course, and at the hand of our "John and Yoko," we reaped the greatest benefits that we would have never gotten otherwise. Zack gave us what other professors could never have given us - the right to be ourselves no matter what! He put no constrictions on us to become what we wanted to be at that time. Our true natures came out, naked and raw before each other without condemnation. It was our own inner turmoils that hurt us. (This may be true today!) The beauty of all of this and Monte Capanno is that we didn't know we were so liberated!!! (or maybe we did!)... We stepped back in time when we went to live in Perugia. We found an 'experience' there that is/was unique. We were not a 'commune' based on a religious belief with a 'prophet' as a leader of the group. David Zack, for all we thought he lacked and for all we may have disdained, pulled off an amazingly great job of taking nearly 30 students - impressionable - and allowing us to be ourselves unconditionally... We were given an opportunity so wonderful and so simple, like no other. I just didn't think we were going to be "thrown into the water to sink or swim" the way David Zack did! I didn't know we were on the "survival" TV show, did you? Zack helped us prepare our way to the future - I found bliss in London!!! I would not trade these experiences for anything. Every moment was good. I think I was living in the idea of the Tao/Zen at that time because I savored the moment and let it go. (This is otherwise known as bend over and let it fall out the top of your head!) " (by Sandee, November 2000).
Zack as "Villain," as recalled by Jan Hammond Gentes: "Re. David Zack, I do recall a spring meeting we all had with him at MC. Our message was, 'Pay up NOW'! Emotions were running high. David's response was (and I remember this quite clearly) 'You're a bunch of spoiled middle-class brats who have never experienced a villain in your life. Well, I'M going to be that villain'! This delivered as if it were the greatest gift to us. And in David's mind (what was left of it after 30 straight days of LSD by his admission) I imagine he felt it was. Perhaps an unkind way to remember one who has left this earth but I felt a little balance was needed as other writers seemed on the verge of cannonizing the guy. Bottom line, not a guy to be admired." (Sepember 2001).
Darrell Jones on Zack: "I was surprised at how much energy I had about the man and the situation after all this time. Of all the people I have met in my life, he triggered about as many warning bells as I can remember.
"While I was indiscreetly spouting off about DZ to the Contessa's son, he told me in lowered voice that DZ was 'a bad man' and if I understood correctly, intimated that the arrangement for the villa was done under some duress of blackmail, relating to some unnamed indiscretion of one of the family (I suspect him) while studying in the US. I still can't for the life of me figure out what that could be. I still find it a bit baffling; I don't believe anybody else was privvy to this information, but if somebody was it would certainly be of interest, long ago though it was and dead though the man is.
"I am a bit gratified by your use of the term 'asshole' [in correspondence with the webmasters about Zack] ... While I certainly could be one of those, I thought DZ was in another league, an interesting combination of charisma, banality, and evil. A childhood playmate's sister was lost in Jonestown, and you may well be grossed out by my drawing any sort of parallel -- and would probably be right -- but I found the Monte Capanno situation scary-abusive-manipulative." (Darrell Jones, April 2002)
Gordo weighs in: In Spring 2002, after corresponding with one of David's children for several months, I was asked by another of his offspring, Rose, what sort of man her dad was. I told her the following, which is my considered view: "Hi again Rose,... We are having a reunion of the people who lived with David on the farm in Italy in 1970 in late June up in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. Some substantial focus to that will be talking about David, the curious and contradictory things we have found about his 'death', etc. The existence of you and (your sister) and the others also will come up, I am sure. Thanks for OKing me sharing your email (firstname.lastname@example.org ) with them. If anything concrete about your dad emerges there, or ever, it will certainly be posted on the website, but I also will remember to keep you informed directly, too.
"You had asked what kind of guy he was. Enigmatic is the word that comes to mind. Hard to figure out. When first Linda and I met him he was a very charismatic young professor, living in this wildly artistic house in the middle of an all black neighborhood (Fillmore District) of San Francisco with this truly strange oil painter, Maija. They took us in as few professors do with their students, and there we met other artists who later I came to realize were pretty famous people. We cooked meals together, partied ... and generally had a great time. So it was natural that when we sought to organize a semester abroad, he was the guy we wanted to lead us. I would say more than being his student, at this point he and I were friends. San Francisco was a very countercultural city at that time, and having a base to land at his house was homey, welcoming, and an introduction to the bizarre world of the arts there.
"The house itself was a work of art. (It is pictured on our "where are they now" page at the website). Painted the colors of the rainbow on its exterior and sitting incongruously amid a drab urban ghetto, the interior was equally wild. Maija's art then (and now) featured 'beasties', which are anthropomorphized creatures. Some rooms were one continuous mural of this stuff. Others were covered with paisley like fabric. There were odd sculptures around: latex rocks that would move a few inches on their own every five minutes or so; bowls that appeared to be full of water in which porcelin frogs periodically would come up and burb, etc. All in all, a world unto itself, four stories high, was the Zack home called 'Rainbow House'. One could wander about and delight in the colors, the odd stuff, and the still odder people who came around. Zack himself played many stringed musical instruments and amused people with them, playing a range from classical to rock with various friends who stopped by. It was a counter-cultural center, and he lived the life of a man very at ease with all this.
"I believe he had diabetes even then, but I never saw him shoot illicit drugs with his syringes that he used to treat his condition. ...[He enjoyed] psychedelics ..., and Maija was SO STRANGE that it was never clear if she was on them, or just had never come down from an earlier trip. His relationship with her I later learned was pretty volcanic.
"In time, David and I had a falling out over in Italy; I think I was ...a bit more conventional than I realized at the start of all this; he on the other hand was a genuine Bohemian, a beatnik more than a hippie, an artist in the true sense of the word. The particulars of the falling out are dealt with elsewhere on the website; ultimately money was at the heart of it, a rather shallow thing to come between friends, I must admit. If I saw him now I would brush all that aside and simply want to hear about the long strange trip he has been on.
"I know. He is supposed to be dead. And yet, the death certificate we found, or whatever it is, seems to be dated April Fools Day. Zack was a jokester, great at understatement, and never one to give a straight answer. He may still be in the wings of all this, laughing. I realize that the role he seems to have played in your lives hardly is funny. Fitting these parts of the puzzle together for you has a more bittersweet edge, to be sure. But you asked what kind of guy he was, and I wanted to be honest with you.
"He was unique. He greatly influenced my life. Why else would I be doing all this 32 years later?" (Gordo, May 2002)
John Dean's girlfriend, Cindy Rippey: "I knew Zack at The San Francisco Art Institute in 1968 or 9. He was my English teacher. I was just what you all were in Italy. I was straight from the suburbs,rich parents,and brighter than the average. I was his anti-heroine. I asked banal questions from the framework of the unenlightened cloistered youth. By the time I got to MC I had been around with some people who had given me a little more insite. I'm afraid Zack was right, you were spoiled brats. You weren't suppose to be waiting for anything from him. Griping wasn't going to get you what you wanted. Mom and Dad weren't there. The experiment was to find out how the the cream of society would survive. Can they survive? Can they survive well? Has society gotten too decadent to survive?David also left his impact on others, after the experience on that Italian farm. Mark Bloch wrote us in 2001 and included a picture of David and he in the 1980s.
"I was John Deans girl friend from SF. I was an add on. John supported me. He had supplies. I'm living in Sacramento, working at the State of CA. I draw for the architects.
"John just got in touch with me recently. He's living in Spain. Read about the lives of Artists and you'll understand John and Zack. Mysterious? I don't think so. Don't we all pee in the morning?" (Cindy [Rippey] Dangles, May 2002)
Accounts concerning the "death" of David Zack:
"Glad to see that I'm not the only one who has reservations about David Zack´s 'disappearance/ death'. I have been reading accounts of it from 1994 on that are each different. The Mexican prison seems a constant as does some sort of ¨bad paper¨. His ¨crime¨ has been described variously as welfare fraud ,living off his dead parents' retirement checks, claiming dependent children that didn't exist, and failure to pay spawn support for some who did. Sounds like simple fraud or forgery or somthing like that. Would Mexican courts have any jurisdiction or interest in American Social Security, Welfare, or Aid to Dependent Children? So why all these different and incredibly seedy stories?
"One report claims that after his release he hobbled across the border into a Texas nursing home to die . (What nursing home? Any death records?) Another states that one of his legs had been amputated in a Mexican dungeon. 'Here' he died in ´85 but 'there' in ´95 ...huh?...
"In 1968 when I was a student of Dave´s at S F A I and his neighbor on Stiner Street we sat in the front room at Rainbow House and he told me about the curious disappearances of Arthur Cravan, Ambrose Bierse and B. Travan. THEY had all disappeared in Mexico without a trace. Stories still circulate about them. Seems a very literary way to go, all romantic and mysterious. There is also a reference to the Cravan, Bierse, Travn disappearances on that incredibly dense, link heavy and anti-semantic ¨9 by 9 squares¨ URL that shows up if one runs Zack´s name into Google . What about his life extention center and this Marty Cantsin fellowS? curiouser and curiouser.
"Certainly no one consistent version of his alleged disreputable demise. He may well be beastlydead. Still, Dave was a prankster and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he pops up again some time. If not perhaps tabloid rumors may surface : AGE´D PROFESSOR THOUGHT TO BE DEAD FOR 20 YEARS FATHERS BRITNEY´S LOVE CHILD !!! To me that doesn't sound any more bizarre than the rest." (John Dean, May 2002)
Views of Maija (Zack) Peeples: "Maija's obsession with "beasties" seems to me now to be a way of "taming" ... inner fears. I don't know if this is true, but I see it this way. Maija was child-like and knowingly innocent. She had an inner strength of sorts to wear her "beastial" art all over her body including her nylons! Her art is childish and humorous... I was also struggling with my inner "beasties" and wasn't appreciative of Zack's view points or Maija's art until much later. But I find so much irony in much of how all our lives have played themselves out. " (by Sandee, November 2000).
"[A]t Rainbow House, but at Monte Capanno, too, Maija taught me a lot of what I know about how to cook, especially how to feed big groups. Especially important was her instruction to saute certain vegetables such as onions and celery before putting them into the broth of a soup, to prevent gas. My minestrone has always employed this touch, and it is a popular meal I serve to my oil painting friends prior to our evening classes. In several ways, Majia continues to both inspire and improve us." (by Linda, October 2000)
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(note: if this list is not complete, create your own topic and submit information/comments on it to: email@example.com , or post your memories here and we'll figure out where they fit).The Genesis of the Trip
The Trip to Perugia
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Governance: did Anarchy work?
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