My harrowing encounter with the Moonies cult

Welcome to Moonieville.

We were talking about Jim Jones and the People’s Temple, and Rajneesh, and the Brotherhood of the Sun, and the other religious cults from back in the days. And I was reminded of an experience I once had with the Moonies — the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s cult — back when I was a young lad

Back in the 1970s the Moonies used to send these hot young Moonie chicks out on the streets of San Francisco trolling for converts. They’d flirt like hell with you to get you to come to dinner at their big Victornian house in SF. Then, after a very nice dinner, they’d do a big sales pitch — while the chick is sitting next to you stroking your thigh and looking at you with goo-goo eyes — to get you to go with them to their farm in Boonville and join the Moonies cult. And after the big pitch they had these big school buses all revved up and waiting to take the whole crew up to the farm in Moonieville. “Won’t you PLEASE come??” implores the chick as she gives your body one last impassioned rub.

Then when they get you up there they take all your money and your possessions (it’s now the collective property of the Moonie commune) and you’re virtually trapped up there in the middle of nowhere.

Oh and the chick that was flirting with you informs you that they’re forbidden to have sex until they’re personally married by Rev. Moon in this big mass wedding ceremony.

I almost fell for it once myself. I was 19 and as dumb as they come. And the Moonie chick was VERY attractive.

The Benjamin H. Swig Pavilion

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Back in 1976 when I first became homeless I used to hang out at the Benjamin H. Swig Pavilion with my crazy friend Fearless Frank. We used to eat lunch at St. Anthony’s Dining Hall with the other bums, then we’d walk a couple blocks to 5th and Market and hang out at the pavilion and watch the world go by.

There weren’t too many homeless street people in San Francisco back then. Believe it or not. And most of them got herded off to the couple blocks of skid row on 6th St. and the Tenderloin. So me and Fearless Frank stood out a bit as we sat there on a bench in our rags. Amidst the tourists waiting for the cable cars, and the business people from the financial district, and the rich people shopping at Union Square.

We were an odd pair, me and Fearless Frank. Because we didn’t have much in common. I was 19, he was 30. I was straight, he was gay. I was an acidhead and he was an alkie. But for whatever reason, we both hit it off. I think because we were both damaged. Even as Frank had given up on life and was going down. While i was still fighting to make something of my life and trying to pull myself up. But at that particular juncture we both intersected at the same level of damage. And that bonded us.

And we both had a weird, gallow’s humor, sense of humor about our plights. Both considered life to be absurd and ridiculous, and we could laugh about it, even when the joke was on us. We used to say:

“Would you like to adjourn to our luxury suite at the Benjamin H. Swig Pavilion?”

“Why surely. That strikes me as a simply marvelous and splendid idea.”

And we’d sit there on the bench — it was sort of like a balcony looking down on the plaza below —  like we had box seats to the latest grand opera. We’d watch all the people rush by. Talk about our lives. Gossip about the latest freaky scenes on the street scene. Just killing time basically. And we had plenty of that.

And it was an odd juxtaposition. Two bums at the bottom of San Francisco’s society sitting at a pavilion named after one of the richest movers-and-shakers at the top of San Francisco’s society. And it was like an inside joke between us how we’d always refer to it by its full name — “THE Benjamin H. Swig Pavilion” — in this very regal and stuffy tone. We’d imagine ourselves holding little umbrellas over our heads like uppercrust snobs, sipping on mint julips.

Life seemed so different to me back then at age 19. Like my life was mostly a blank canvas, with an endless expanse of time to fill it. As opposed to now at age 61, where the picture has mostly been painted, aside from little embellishments on the sides.

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