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Mindfuckers pp 291-298
Rolling Stone p 52 [#99]

The Lyman Family's Holy Siege of America

by David Felton

Part VI

Hosanna, Hosanna


Mere mention of the American Avatar community at community supported KPFK-FM radio station in Los Angeles causes shudders, talk of 'fearing for one's life,' and bewilderment. When I was to meet Avatar family members at the Troubadour to talk about their 'raid' on KPFK and then to visit their home, I was advised to cancel the meetings or take along a bodyguard. Yet after several contacts with Mel Lyman's friends in Los Angeles (I didn't cancel and I did go alone!) I found them cheerful, creative and very together people who I really liked."
-Editor Art Kunkin, "Is Mel Lyman God?" Los Angeles Free Press,
July 30, 1971

Dear Mel,
Glad to see someone defend the practice of insulting people for the sake of waking them up. Been my method all the time. But it would be advised: No, no - you'll only turn people off by trying to tell them what's wrong with them. Almost started feeling guilty.
Your judgments are usually correct. They usually match mine, that is. This is one of the correct ones.
Pull their hats down over their eyes, Mel. Spin them in circles, so they land with a rude bump on the tip of the spine. Enough bumps, and they smile, scratch their head, and say "Oh! ... Yeah!"
It's a good paper. Thank you. Did you think you had any Avatar-reading med students?

Paul Viola

"My feelings are very mixed about him. In one way he's like colossally evil and dangerous, and in another way he's like, you know, just the fact that he can gather all these people around him and make them believe in him so much means that there's something in him that's - unusual, for lack of a better word."

-Paula Press

"Spiritual hunger is a familiar enough theme these days. It is clearly in evidence here. It is too often forgotten, however, that there is also a very human and a very powerful desire to satisfy that hunger. It is Paul Tillich, in fact, who claims for man a certain primitive courage that almost compels him to make sense of a mad world and see purpose and meaning in his own life.
"Mel appeals to that courage. He arouses it. And because of this, it is more than likely that his cult will grow. To a spiritually starved generation he offers an explanation. He sees the meaning in life. He's sure he's right. He has all the dogmas, all the answers. He's the Avatar. Hell, he's God. And he's a groovy God. He talks hip. You can understand him."

-Anthony R. Dolan, "Do You Know the Courage Man?"
National Review, Dec. 3, 1968

"I fail him every day. I fail him all the time. And he puts up with me. As long as I can be of service to him, I can stay near him. And it is these things that are the most important thing in my life. I've given up, you know, making a name for myself, or making money, or my family. All those things I have put aside. Any personal gratification that I get from something, well, that's great, you know? But what does it have to do with mankind? What does it have to do with this planet, and with the world? And those are the things that he is concerned with. And they're obviously the most important things."

-David Gude

"In a funny way, though children are my life, I don't live for them. In other words, if you as a person have a greater purpose, you can't help but give your children a greater purpose. In my life here, at any moment I may be called away from my children. I was sent away from them this time last year. I had to leave 'em and go all by myself down to New York, and it was awful. But that was still more important to me, doing whatever Melvin tells me is still more important to me, you know, than even the children."

-Faith Franckenstein

"When I'm in the same room with Mel, I feel like a big dummy. I feel my own stupidity and my own heaviness, my own prides and my own ego and all the things that, you know, somehow I trick myself into believing aren't there. When he's around you just see it all, you just see yourself so freely. You can't help it.
"When he's angry, there's nobody that's ever angrier. When he's happy there's nobody that's ever happier. When he's sad, there's nobody that's ever sadder. When he's funny, there's nobody that's ever funnier.
"I think if I hadn't met Mel Lyman I would be dead."

-Jim Kweskin

What a waste it would have been, thinking how I came all this way and did not talk to Mel. But I sit here and I'm glad. Why am I glad? I am afraid to talk to him. I am timid to go in and say, "Hello, I'm Mike and I came to talk to you," with big exuberant exclamation points.
But I sit here all nervous and glad to retreat unnoticed to a corner.
There is greatness in the next room... too much for me to touch without getting burned bad, burned good. I never in my life met anybody who I did not feel as if I could crush, who I was better than... didn't need to listen to.
I can't touch Mel... I just listen to low talking in the next room.
This is so good. People rap about how Mel is on an ego-trip, blowing himself up with self-importance. He is important, but it's not for him that you say it. You say it for yourself... he doesn't need it.
He knows. We all need Mel.

-from a letter in Avatar

Mel,
I know you from some other time. Remember? I'm the little sensitive guy that used to listen to you when you spoke to the crowds by the river. You looked at me once, and you knew. It's great to see you again. I'm living now Mel. I picked up an Avatar in Boston and saw your name. I knew. I would break an arm to sit and talk through the night with you Mel. I think you have The Key and I will need it to unlock the door.... how do I find you? I'm not familiar with the Boston area but I'll find you somehow. That will be fun too. Someday soon I'll walk in and say, "Hi Mel" and you will know. Wow, we have some great things to talk about.

Hitch-hiking-feeler-bum-thinker-doer-that is me

Wayne Hansen to Harry Duncan, editor, the Blue Bus:

"Dear Harry,
"We were all pleased to see that you have been using Mel's stuff in The Blue Bus but I'd like to caution you. Mel is a totally conscious person, and when he writes, he is a totally conscious writer. That makes it absolutely impossible to edit his stuff or to leave any typos in it ... Mel's stuff can be used as an example and a standard for perfection. Recently many people have commented to me about how clean the paper is, how carefully we must work to keep it looking so good. Well, that result comes from constantly striving to keep Ol' Mel happy."

"By any standards whatsoever, Mel Lyman is the best writer alive on this planet today. That is such a small thing in the face of what Mel is that it almost makes me laugh to say it, it's like saying Mel knows more about contemporary football than anyone else around (also true), but I say it because I know it will surprise a lot of you when you finally realize I mean what I say in that first sentence, I feel it from the bottom of my heart and every inch of the way up, and that's the purpose of this essay, to let you know what Mel's writing is to me and to help you realize that Mel's words contain more of the magic ingredients that fill emptiness than any other product on the shelves. When you reach for printed matter, reach for Melvin."

-Paul Williams, essay on Mel Lyman prepared for Crawdaddy

"His voice nasal and off-key, is most readily compared to Woody Guthrie's, but where Guthrie sings extroverted 'hey-hey-hey's' between verses, Lyman moans, often throughout entire songs. Lyman knows that his voice is awful but for his kind of performance, It makes no difference. His gentleness, honesty, and warmth pervade the Orleans; the audience becomes noticeably kinder by the end of the evening than it was at the beginning."

-Linda Kalver, "Lyman Happens at Orleans,"
Boston After Dark, May 11, 1966

Dear Mel,
I called Boston today and talked to Maria at Avatar and she gave me your address. I always feel so close to you in my mind and heart it jolts me when I realize that years have passed since we have seen each other.
That day I came home from the mental hospital. Walking into you house and seeing you there with tears in your eyes. No one has ever cried for me, Mel. No one but you. And then kneeling in front of you and you took my hands and held them and the shadows that were in front of our eyes came down for that moment and we looked at each other and really, really saw, and there is just nothing else to say. You are in my heart, you have and always will be. You know I love you for I do, and you, therefore, know it. It doesn't even require you being near. It is just there, lying soft and quiet and warm, a little thing deep inside, like a glow. I don't even get curious about it. I just accept it. How nice and how comforting that it has always been there.
I love you Mel, and if love keeps one safe, your protection is immense.

My love and happiness to you,
Janie O'Dell

Dear Mel,
I can't seem to not write this letter to you. I have tried, but I keep ending up here in front of the typewriter. I even tried writing this letter to someone else - it must be because I read the book all the way through the completed version last night for the very first time.
For me to approach the book to read it is already an awesome responsibility. I stand in awe of its greatness and purity - I can't believe it. It's full of miracles and its greatest miracle is its reality. It really is the new bible, born to be read and read again, inexhaustible in its capacity to teach. Sometimes I come to a passage I've read before and I say 'oh no, I can't read that one again, I couldn't stand it,' but I read it and it's not what I remembered at all, it's something new each time.
I want to take Mirror at the End of the Road and wave it in front of every face in America and shout "Read this!" I can't wait until it's printed so I can go and do just that. Nowhere, ever, has such an opportunity as this book been made available to people. I want to make sure they don't miss it. They can't afford to lose out, and I can't afford to let them.
I want to go on and on, but this book is of the Spirit, and it beggars praise or criticism or personal opinion. In the past Christian martyrs died for the Spirit and Christian crusaders killed for it, but you make the greatest sacrifice of all, you LIVE for it.

Love, Wayne
-Preface, Mirror at the End of the Road

Dear Mel,
I had never heard of Avatar till a friend gave me no. 9. Now I shall never be without it. I was a strange blend of straight and hippie, and I was lonely. I didn't really fit in with either. But now I am not alone anymore, for you have reached out and touched me.

Thank you so much,
Lizz

Dear O'pa,
When I came to Boston - to the hill, I saw you as my goal - as my Christ - and I wanted to crawl into your body and see the world through your eyes and mind and body. But I couldn't so I settled for listening to your every word and becoming one of your faithful followers. Yet I feel that I've lost a part of you - I know that I will gain so much more. I cannot continue any longer - my mind is blank and my emotions are taking over. So I end this letter half finished - only to say that I hope you understand that this is all one foolish child can say to her Christ,

Love,
Eva (the little Virgo-Aquarius)

Dear Mel,
I just finished reading a book called Siddhartha, and while I was reading it I had a weird, familiar feeling - I knew Siddhartha. You are Siddhartha. How much you must know - how much you must have lived - how hard it must have been.

Love from your little sister and
disciple, Aurora

Dear Mel,
I never got the last issue of Avatar, but I just bought No. 22. It's 3:00 A.M. and I just found out that you're leaving. I'm so shook, I can't sleep - now and I'm scared of the dark anyway.
Mel, I love you! I need you so bad! In 3 days I'll be seventeen (yes, only a mere child). Maybe I don't matter to you, but I've always felt that you loved us all, no matter what. I may not have made it this far if not for you. I've learned too much too fast and am terrified by it. Twice I tried to cop out and both times I made it back in time. I won't go into detail because it's not important now. Anyway you have been my greatest help in times when I can't trust myself. I may even become a stable person after all, but for now I'm afraid again. Oh Mel, you are the best thing in my grey little life. Everything is so dull. But I love the sunshine and I love you! Oh, baby, please don't go! Help me! I need you! I'm begging! I'm crying!
I've been telling myself I'll go to Boston in the summer and see you but I m broke and Mom will worry etc. I will leave right now if I can catch you and worry about other things later.
Do you know watt I was going to do when I got to Boston? I was going to scream with joy and run all the way to 37 Rutland St. and when I found you I was going to kiss your feet. I adore you.
Can I still come? Where are you going? Will you answer me please? I'll do as you say whatever you say.
Oh Mel, I'm so afraid! I'm afraid of the dark and of being alone now. I'm crying in big sobs now and can't write much more! Please don't leave me! I love you! Please, please, don't leave me all alone!!

Love,
Kathy (Aries)

"God I love him; how the hell will I weasel out of this one?"

-Paul Williams, essay on Mel Lyman

Mel,
I LOVE you, Mel, I love you all. Christ, am I going QUEER, loving people with names like Mel and Wayne and Brian and Skip? And Eben? But no, I still play with myself occasionally; I still give chicks the eye; no, maybe I'm bisexual. No, dammit. Maybe - just maybe - I'm finally shedding all my hangups and finally beginning to LOVE.
Keep it coming. No, on second thought, take it easy - I don't know if I can take it. NO. On third thought, KEEP IT COMING - and I'll write you again when I become anti-matter.

Rhino

Max Lefcourts on Madison Avenue has always wondrous shoes. One pair indeed was shaped somewhere in Italy especially for Mr. Lyman. It took the passionate Latin soul to shoe Christ.... Once shod, Mel became a perfectly perfect Twinkle-Toes and danced straight out of the shop with Owen deLong and over to the CBS building where I awaited. He said, "Owen bought me some shoes. How do I look?" "Like Mel Lyman," I said. Which was true and which made him happy.

-Brian
(Under a picture of Mel's shoes in the Avatar, Third Cycle-Second Issue)

Mel,
I never believed in God before I heard of you, but I do now; you are my God. Thank you for being. Even though it probably makes you sick, I love you.

King Fag

Dear Mel,
You are so great I can hardly stand it, I would rather read your words than anything that has ever been written, the world has been waiting for a man like you to come along for a long time now, thank God you're finally here.

Love Mel

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