News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by A Martínez
Airs Weekdays 9 to 10 a.m.

'The Source Family' doc examines radical utopian living in 1970s Los Angeles

Isis Aquarian
Courtesy Drag City Film

Listen to story

Download this story 15.0MB

The Source Family was a group of about 140 folks who believed in the curative powers of marijuana and alfafa sprouts. They took on names like Isis and Electricity, they practiced mystical sex, and they   ran a famous vegetarian restaurant called The Source on Sunset Boulevard.

RELATED: Instant cult classic: 'The Source Family' documentary

The group (mostly made up of women) shared a communal home in the Hollywood House under the leadership of its founder, a man named Jim Baker or Father Yod as he was known. 
For years, The Source was one of the most successful restaurants in the city, serving up vegetarian fare to the likes of Goldie Hawn, John Lennon and Marlon Brando. Baker recruited new members at the restaurant, and through a rock band, which Baker fronted.

Now this eclectic group is the subject of a new documentary called "The Source Family": 

The Source Family (Trailer) from Eternal Now on Vimeo.

Filmmakers Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos join the show to tell us all about the Source family. 

Interview Highlights:


On how Jim Baker wound up becoming a spiritual leader in Los Angeles?
Jodi: "Well in the late '40s Jim had moved to Los Angeles, he actually left a wife and a small child behind, and hopped on an Indian motorcycle to come to LA to audition for the role of Tarzan. Instead  he fell in love with a woman named Elaine Baker, and they lived together in Topanga Canyon and he became friends with the bohemian nature boy scene out there. He ultimately started a couple of restaurants with her. These were restaurants that were very well known to the movie stars of the time, producers and also rock stars especially in the later '60s. They totally natural foods, honey sweetened items, which was revolutionary at the time. A lot of young actors would come in at the time and Jim baker would give them tabs and so they became friendly with him and avid customers." 

On Jim Baker's philosophies:
Maria: "He was a strict vegetarian and he believed that if you ate an animal you were eating the fear in the animal as it was caught, so he was very strict about that. Slowly over time his philosophies evolved and then when he started the family he had the commands for the age of Aquarius and that was kind of the basis for the group." 

On the "Aquarian family":
Maria: "Well he named himself 'Father' and actually Robin, his first wife, was 'Mother' in the family, so there was a father and a mother and as people started joining the family he would sit down with them and he would give them names. They had various names like Electricity the Aquarian, Omni the Aquarian, or Magus the Aquarian, but I think that you know he was inspired by some quality or some spark that he saw in each person and he would bestow them with a name that was a descriptive for that quality."

On the appeal of the family:
Marie: "Well, he was wildly charismatic and you know we interviewed over forty source family members and they all kind of say the same story which was they saw him and it was an instant feeling it wasn't something that evolved over time it was just like this gravitation toward the family. So I think Jim Baker himself had this great storytelling quality. He would give meditations early in the morning. A lot of family members talk about how those meditations were really the heart of the experience, that something happened in those meditations that just moved them and they were all unified in those moments."

On the dark side of the Family:
Jodi: "They kind of revelled in their outlaw ways. There were a lot of things that had dark aspects to the family, I mean it was a high risk social experiment. Jim Baker had an ego and he also liked the ladies, and the ladies really liked him. When he decided to deviate from one of his ten commandments which was, 'A man and his woman are one and nothing should separate them,' when he decided to just break that commandment himself he married between thirteen to fourteen different people. They were also doing a lot of things that were illegal at the time that at that point seemed crazy to some people but are now are mainstream like breastfeeding in public, homeschooling and things like that."

On the move to Hawaii:
Maria: "Well they were under a lot of scrutiny by the authorities at that point the Manson killings had occured, and a lot of people were checking out the restaurant and checking out the house, there was 140 people living in a three bedroom house so obviously they drew a lot of attention from the neighbors and the authorities.

Jodi: "Things were really rough in Hawaii, they ended up ultimately leaving Kawaii, going to San Francisco for three months, and they ended up back on the big island, and at that point the family members tell us that Father was really just exhausted. He seemed tired he kept asking people to leave he said, 'Listen I've taught you everything I know its time for you to go,' nobody would leave so he actually took his wives and moved to a glass house in Oahu with some hang gliding friends. One day he said in mediation class that he was going hang gliding. Everyone knew that he had never gone hang gliding before, so he went onto the highest cliff and jumped off the cliff and he went straight down and he dropped many of hundreds of feet. Then the family members took him back to the house where he laid for nine hours and he passed."  

On why the Source Family fell apart:
Maria: "I think they were doing something that was wildly experimental, was a social experiment right in the middle of Los Angeles, and they were doing something that  most people wouldn't take the risk to do. I think that because they were living in this very extreme way, they open described to us the life was like a roller coaster, things would change everyday it was as if in one year they lived an entire lifetime. One of the things that Jodi and I walked away with this film is that we realized that these kind of experiments are ways of looking at other ways of thinking and a lot of  the people who lived on communes during that period of time went on to be visionaries of our culture. Taking away from that they're able to move forward in their lives and really think in different ways."