[This memorial is going to be expanded again and again, since not only was John Price Anderson the dearest friend of my life who had deep connections to both my hometown Livingston, MT and Missoula, MT, but I had known him almost 45 years and every moment I spent with him was a nonstop high, or at least, as he might say, a pleasant ho-hum.]
John P. and his sometimes inamorata and always friend Doug Bieri first cross my life without me being there. They were part of a crew starting a kind of countercultural business enterprise in Missoula that collectively would become known as the Butterfly Building. But John P. was from Livingston and so when he heard that my father, Dan Miles, had sold the Park Hotel and wanted buyers for the display counters and kitchen equipment, he and Doug were down there toot sweet.
My Dad had been mayor and so when the Chief of Police asked him one day, “What are those longhairs doing hanging around the Park Hotel? You want us to take care of them?” Dad replied, “You leave those longhairs alone, they’re doing business with me!” One of my fondest memories. My mother noted, “You should meet our son Milo — he looks like you!” (hippie hairboy)
Not long after the Park Hotel display counters were established in Doug and John’s operation called the Rishashay ((here is the current website) I did indeed meet the Butterfly Boys and became a member of the Missoula madcaps. A memorable moment came early on in our relationship during a mixed-university-and-street hippies dance party. John P. was out there gyrating and strutting, giving it his all and radiating his exuberant joy. One of my writing teachers was Ed McClanahan, one of Ken Keysey’s Merry Pranksters, and gaping at John asked, “WHO is that guy? He gives off the same energy as Jerry Garcia!”
PS: The original storefront Rishashay, in addition to John’s jewelry specialty, sold whimsical and attractive second-hand dresses and clothes and all sorts of offbeat do-dads (many collected by the Butterfly Boys on occasional trips to Mexico).
It’s hard to emphasize enough how ingrained homophobia was in 1970s Missoula. We used to say that a gay bar would be the only one to be burned down in town. And this goes a long way to explain John P.’s yearning-for mixed with alienation-from not only Missoula, but especially Livingston. The only hint about sexual identity I heard before I discovered pornography came from my mother whispering to a relative when she thought I could not hear “He’s all boy, I’m sure of that.”
So it was telling, one day walking next to John P., that he commented on a MIssoula campaign to end racial discrimination: “The theme is ‘Hate Hurts.’ Don’t I know it.”
John had one other unduplicated quality — the ability to fall into profoundly deep sleep the second he wished. And this is comatose sleep. You could shake him and yell at him, even slap, and the snores went on. One notorious John P. moment at riotous parties was that he would get close to a bed after he had had enough and say “You wanna see a neat trick?” fall over and instantly be out of it.
So here’s a story I should put here because so few know it any more. At on e point, John P. and Doug Bieri were rooming together while going to the U of M. John P. had a terrible time getting up promptly for classes. One winter, he had a crucial final test early the next morning, so he told Doug, “If you can’t wake me up, go outside and grab a bunch of snow and dump it on my chest to wake me up.”
Indeed, Doug could not stir him that day and followed the instructions. Big double-handful of snow right on the chest. John P. surged awake and fist-smacked Doug right in the face and promptly crashed back asleep. Couple hours later (blowing the test) John woke up and said to Doug who was facing away from him, “Doug I had the strangest dream — I dreamt I hit you.”
Doug turned around, exposing his enormous black eye: “You did.”
Watching TV in John P.’s house during social gatherings was a waste of your brain and senses. And while D and I stayed at his place (while he was away in Bali) many times, I can only remember snapping on the TV once and it was the last strangely mystical phenom that I attach to John P. and his environs. He would appreciate that it was outre and grotesque.
I watched a documentary about The North Hollywood Shootout, which somehow I had not heard of before. I enjoyed a mild but persistent thing puttering along about true-crime books, but had not engaged with true-crime TV, which I regarded as shallow and boring like cop and detective fiction series. But wow, this one was up there with the key footage (Hollywood, right?), the connivance of the crime and the huge law-enforcement consequences. Plus the perps were like right out of comic books.
Final odd note — I’ve never run across anything else about North Hollywood Shootout on TV since. Despite becoming a much more devoted true-crime watcher.
My last thought: all three of the Butterfly Boys — John P., Doug Bieri and my dear art-lover friend Bruce Lee (no relation) — are finally together again. The party in the afterlife — Paradise or the Inferno, it doesn’t matter — just got a lot crazier and more inventive. I don’t wish I was there, but I will be glad to join when the time comes.