When underground comics (or, “comix” as they were referred to so that they would be differentiated from mainstream, “establishment” superhero and “funny animal” books) were first being published by companies like Rip Off Press and Last Gasp, they were truly underground. They could not be found on the local Rexall Drug comic book spinner racks, nor would you see them on the outside newsstands of the day. With few exceptions, the only place that one could find comix was at those colorful little alt-businesses called Head Shops.
Now, the Head Shop was the place Hippies went for everything from pipes (the kind for smoking dope, not plumbing) to paisley-print shirts and blouses and any other kind of counterculture pop paraphernalia – including underground comix.
So, where did I get mine? There were a few Head Shops around the San Fernando Valley in those halcyon days of love and bell bottoms, but the one I preferred was a tiny little converted house on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City called “The Third Eye”.
|The Third Eye, Encino, CA ca 1968.|
|Rick Redus behind the counter.|
When my sister wasn’t letting me tag along with her to stop and buy papers (and I don’t mean the ones with newsprint on them), I would make the five-mile-or-so trek on my bike (I was a few years away from driving). After dutifully locking up my wheels I would go inside and wonder at the fantasyland provided by Alabaman proprietors Kit Sandidge and Rick Redus and their respective old ladies. Of course, the smell that always greeted me was that of the obligatory patchouli and sandalwood and sometimes the faint odor of another, more potent “herb”. But I was just there for the comix, man.
|The Third Eye matchbook found for sale on eBay. Mine still|
has the matches in it.
The Third Eye opened in 1966 and fast became the hippie merchandise mecca of the area during the time when the term “far out” and the word “groovy” were active in the American Lexicon. Besides the fare being offered inside, they also staged outdoor concerts. I remember one weekend afternoon, my sister and I showed up at the “Eye” and there was a band playing a cover version of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused”. Far out and groovy, man.
Back to the comix; I bought a run of Robert Crumb’s ZAP COMIX starting with the now-expensive “#0”, as well as one of the funniest of the lot, Gilbert Shelton’s FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS. And, when 1970 rolled around, I bought the first issue of SKULL COMICS there, too.
Later, I would buy cinnamon incense and other cosmic tchotchke’s and gaze with wonder (with my newly acquired and more “mature” awareness of the universe) inside the closet-sized black light “poster room”. But I still bought the comix and, to this day, I retain my coveted collection of hippie funny books.
So, what happened to the The Third Eye, you ask? Well, as all things go, Kit and Rick eventually moved out of the Encino location and set up shop elsewhere in the Valley. The building was torn down (and the squares and straights probably salted the earth) and built the Town and Country Shopping Center. You might go so far as to say, they “paved Paradise and put up a parking lot”.
[Photo source: Encino-Tarzana Patch]