May 5 2013

 

 

 

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In the early 1970's, Shirley MacLaine was an important mentor to me especially when it came to understanding sexuality and liberation. She was very close to two sex therapists named Phyllis and Eberhard Kronhausen who, at the time, were well known for their sexual liberation views. The two sex therapist opened up an erotic museum in San Francisco and participated in a documentary film called 'Danish Blue". Perhaps they were best known for "The Compete Book of Erotic Art' which was a publishing success story.

One day Shirley and the Kronausen's took me to a place called "Sandstone Retreat" in Topanga Canyon outside of Los Angeles. There I met a charismatic man named John Williamson who was viewed as the leader of the sexual revolution in America at the time. Sandstone was a sexual Disneyland and retreat. Needless to say at that age I was a little overwhelmed and taken back by the openness. However it did have a lasting impact on my sexuality.

This week John Williamson passed away and NBC News covered his passing. Here is an excerpt from the story:

They were a young newlywed couple in 1968 when they bought a cluster of rundown buildings on 15 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean and turned it into the Sandstone Foundation for Community Systems Research.

It offered seminars on human bonding, relationships and sexuality, but its Sandstone Retreat, where as many as 500 people would gather on weekends to frolic in the nude, swap spouses and engage in group sex, quickly made its existence in the bohemian canyon notorious.

"We actually had open sexuality and nudity, but it was optional. Everything was optional," Barbara Williamson told The Associated Press on Thursday. "We provided a wonderful, wonderful environment in a natural setting, and that natural setting just sort of gave people permission."

As the retreat's frontman, Williamson became known as the "messiah of sex" — a title his wife said he always carried proudly.

Many celebrities were said to have paid quiet visits to Sandstone over the years, and Williamson joked Thursday that she probably "saw more naked Hollywood stars than any other woman."

Author Gay Talese has said he spent a substantial amount of time there, much of it naked, when he researched his 1981 book, "Thy Neighbor's Wife" on the sexual revolution. Sandstone was also the subject of a 1975 documentary.

It was reading Ayn Rand's book "Atlas Shrugged" that John Williamson said prompted him to quit a defense-industry job in electronics and move to California in the early 1960s. The book portrays a society in which people, fed up with government and industry controlling their lives, walk away from their jobs.

But Williamson continued to work in a mainstream job, running an electronics company, until he met his wife when she came by his office one day in 1966 to try to sell him insurance. A few weeks later they were married, and soon after they were planning Sandstone.

Although membership flourished, Barbara Williamson said, the retreat never took in enough money to pay the bills. They sold the property in 1972, and Sandstone closed a couple years later.

After an effort to build a tribal community in Montana foundered, the couple moved to the San Francisco Bay area, then to Nevada. There they began to take in big cats whose owners wanted to get rid of them.