ARCHIVE: Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick details trying to bring LSD into White House to drug Nixon

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Thursday, July 6, 2023
ARCHIVE: Grace Slick details trying to bring LSD into White House
In an interview with ABC7, Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick details how the band attempted to smuggle LSD into White House to drug President Nixon.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Illegal drugs brought to the White House? It has happened before. In one case, a band member with San Francisco Bay Area's Jefferson Airplane attempted to get drugs past security to get then-President Richard Nixon high on LSD.

ABC7 I-Team Reporter Dan Noyes sat down with band members in November 1999 to talk about the plot to drop acid in President Richard Nixon's tea.

In the 1970s much of the country didn't know what to make of the scene in San Francisco or all those young people who answered the call to "Turn on, tune in, drop out."

"Us and a whole lot of other people were in this swirling mass of San Francisco," said Paul Kanter of Jefferson Airplane. "Nobody knew what was going on, other than just we were enjoying it. I call it the golden age of f***ing, if you will, after birth control and before disease where our generation just got away with so much."

But the authorities were watching. Special agents from the FBI did their best to blend in.

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"If you looked like me, you couldn't do that, but some of the agents were able to disguise themselves in such a fashion that they could get away with it and have some success," said Rick Smith, a former FBI agent.

We showed him FBI files that show that J. Edgar Hoover and his agents were looking for threats to "internal security" from the "new left" - the movement against the Vietnam War, fueled by bands such as the Jefferson Airplane.

"Back then, did you have any idea the FBI was watching you?" asked I-Team Reporter Dan Noyes of former singer Grace Slick.

"No, no, because if you're going around singing songs, it doesn't occur to you that the FBI is nervous about it," said Slick.

The FBI trailed Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane to Woodstock, an impeach Nixon rally, and a visit to the White House. Slick had gone to the same college as the president's daughter, so she got an invitation for tea with other alumnae. Slick brought along two surprises, anti-war activist Abbie Hoffman as her date, and a pocket full of LSD.

"And I had about 600 micrograms of acid in my pocket which I had wanted to plant into Richard Nixon's tea, cause the stuff is tasteless, and send him to the moon," said Slick.

"They, for their mutual benefit, denied her entrance to the White House. Could have changed the history of the United States had Richard walked in and had some tea," said Kantner.

Grace Slick didn't make it past the front gate, and she never got into trouble for the LSD. But after the incident, the FBI checked into her background - including her private school days at Castilleja in Palo Alto. Agents wrote she was "an impulsive, thoughtless, rather wild, irresponsible young lady" who was "inclined to make a spectacle of herself."

The FBI also investigated members of the Grateful Dead for their ties to the Black Panther Party. And for their involvement with LSD. The drug is a well-documented part of Grateful Dead culture, but band historian Dennis McNally denies this FBI report from 1984, that "LSD originates from San Francisco. Through a renowned rock group known as Grateful Dead."

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Back in 1989, ABC7 looked into the drug issues impacting young men and women in the Bay Area.

"The notion that the Grateful Dead was in the drug business is just ludicrous. There was a lot of acid made in the general Bay Area, not with the Grateful Dead. We had a hard enough time functioning as a band," said McNally.

Mcnally resents the time and money the FBI spent investigating both bands, as threats to national security.

"Jefferson Airplane or the Grateful Dead couldn't organize a revolution in a teacup," said McNally.

"It's easy to look back and say that was a foolish type or unwarranted investigation, but I think you have to look at these things in the context of the times and I think it was justified at that time," said Smith.

"And they sort of failed trying to deal with us, the terrorist threat of Jefferson Airplane and the 60's, we just completely baffled them, as San Francisco has baffled people from time immemorial, and God bless us, everyone," said Kantner.