Tulsa TV Memories      

Tulsa Counterculture of the 70s

Honest John's, Starship and Oz
By Wilhelm Murg, 9/22/2005

Webmaster: The old Starship location at 11th & Delaware was bulldozed in late 2005 to make way for further expansion of TU. Starship has reopened at 1241 S. Lewis (583-0638). See the original and new Starship in this photoset from Lost Tulsa.

Starship blog

Oz Outlet (home decor, lighting, candles) is still at 2627 E 15th St (712-1969).

Note: for the purpose of illustration, this page has special links to items available on Amazon.com via the TTM Gift Shop. If you feel like buying, I recommend a trip to Starship, or to Rob's Records for used records (see related article by Wilhelm). If your astral body is out of range of these stores, feel free to order via this page.

As Wilhelm says below: "Life has changed, but only slightly; now I look for releases on the web, then I call Starship to see if they have a copy in stock..."

I read G.W. Schulz's excellent article on the closing of Starship ("Next Flight Out" in Urban Tulsa Weekly) and I was reminded of the motto in the old Honest John's logo:

"Expose Your Self" (to Honest John's, ad circa 1972)
Expose Your Self (to Honest John's). Ad circa 1972

It all started in the glory days of the swinging seventies in Tulsa; KMOD started broadcasting progressive rock out to the oil fields, you could get a dirty magazine at any convenience store in town, the strippers were totally nude, cowboys were doing lines of cocaine off the bar at The Cain's (which was a BAD part of town at the time,) cops were sitting around clubs, on and off duty, enjoying "liquor by the wink," and race cars roared around the Tulsa Speedway in the center of the city like a heart that was about to blow. All that was needed was a center for the counterculture, where you could buy a bong... (and please note that I am neither endorsing nor condemning such bizarre and unusual behavior.)

Photo of Ray Crawford by Freddy Gaither, courtesy of Warren Vincent
Bill's T Records #45; photo by Freddy Gaither, courtesy of Racing From The Past

I came in a little after the beginning; Honest John's and Starship were already at their (soon to be late) current location at 11th & Delaware (as I remember Mazeppa saying at the end of their KMOD commercials) with Starship, the head...sorry, I mean "Gift Shop," already open for business (the tag lines I remember are "Tulsa's Inter Urban Mall" and the "Gift Shop," was referred to as "Tulsa's Head Keeper.")

Honest John's and Starship ad, late 1973, courtesy of John Moore, via Don Cook
Two caring gentlemen, Matt Bunyan and Honest John Foutz, from "The Tulsa Settler", Dec. 1973

The first time I heard about "Honest John's" was in the latter-daze (KTUL incarnation) of THE UNCANNY FILM FESTIVAL AND CAMP MEETING, when Mazeppa (the legendary Gailard Sartain) did strange pitches for records... all available at Greer's and Honest John's. The one I remember best is when he used the cover of the Faces' OOH LA LA, which was a rather complex die-cut job that allowed you to move the eyes and the lower jaw of a man pictured on the front by pressing down on the top of the cover. Mazeppa did the whole commercial with a close up of the cover that moved in synch with his pitch (it seems like he dropped the cover at one point and did some odd eye dances of his own). There were also record commercials that ran on the UNCANNY FILM FESTIVAL, like an animated version of the cover of Beach Boys' ENDLESS SUMMER collection to advertise its release...available at Greer's and Honest John's, of course.

Now that was psychedelic television! (So was MAINTAIN.)

My family was hardcore Bill's T patrons, because they had a classical section. But one day I was riding across town with my Grandmother and saw the multi-colored inter urban eyesore. She certainly didn't want to go in, so she dropped me off for a half-hour while she went to another store. The main thing I remember was the vast amount of hair everyone had, the dim lighting and the smell of all of the incense (they never burned any back then, Starship was permeated with all the smells -- back before the all the brands were hermetically sealed.)

Matt Bunyon of Starship Records & Tapes, courtesy of Mike BruchasAt the time, Matt had one of the most amazing selections of underground comix you could imagine; all the ZAPs, all the R.Crumbs, Harold Head, Cheech Wizard, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, YOUNG LUST...

I knew there was such a thing as underground comix, which offered adult entertainment, and that the mainstream was heading in that direction (like Marvel's HOWARD THE DUCK, or THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN trilogy that dealt with drugs, which did not get a comic seal of approval stamp,) but I had never seen one for sale, so I bought a Freak Brothers #3 (this is back when no one cared if you were an adult or not; watch DAZED & CONFUSED- I would have been the same age as "Mitch," Wiley Wiggins' character - the guy who keeps touching his nose). I also read HIGH TIMES (which I have written for on a few occasions since then) and attempted to read MOTHER EARTH NEWS, just because they were sold at the store.

In Honest John's, I found a cutout of a Charisma jam album (a lot of different artists got together, including Dr. John, Keith Emerson, Todd Rundgren, and others) I had always been interested in, MUSIC FROM FREE CREEK. While I never had a chance to buy the album, here it was, a double-LP gatefold cover for $2.99! Over the next few months every penny went to expanding my underground collection at Starship, and my progressive music collection at Honest John's. Some of the cutouts to be had for $1.99 included The Beatles' LET IT BE (recent research had led me to believe this was a bad pressing that was supposedly destroyed,) Pavlov's Dog's PAMPERED MENIAL, THE WORST OF JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, ANOTHER MONTY PYTHON ALBUM, MONTY PYTHON'S PREVIOUS RECORD, Firesign Theatre's DON'T CRUSH THAT DWARF HAND ME THE PLIERS and HOW CAN YOU BE IN TWO PLACES AT ONCE WHEN YOU’RE NOT ANYWHERE AT ALL, ERIC CLAPTON & THE YARDBIRDS, and many, many more... and that was just the cheap stuff. There were also import albums you couldn't get anywhere else, like Frank Zappa's LUMPY GRAVY, the U.K. versions of The Beatle's early albums, THE WORLD OF DAVID BOWIE, Fripp and Eno's discreet music albums, and Elton John's EMPTY SKY.

There were a lot of heavy concepts I learned by going to Honest John's/Starship. The most profound was that the record store did not deal in singles, only albums (remember, this is back when rock was really really really IMPORTANT!) There was a whole style to the album art; the minimalism of Robin Trower records, the acid drenched Hipgnosis Studio covers that grace the works of Pink Floyd, The Alan Parsons Project, and 10cc, the elegance of Fleetwood Mac and Yes's run in the seventies, and the endless parade of trippy one-shots, like Captain Beyond's SUFFICIENTLY BREATHLESS or Starcastle's eponymous unicorn magic images (Starcastle's hand prints can still be seen in Tulsa...webmaster). If KMOD played it, it was cool (this is a quarter a century ago); if KMOD didn't play it, and Starship had it, it was cooler. The underground comix only fueled the fire that first started in me with George Carlin, Cheech & Chong, and Richard Pryor records, television shows live SNL and Monty Python, and magazines like CREEM, MAD, and NATIONAL LAMPOON.

But with all of the personalities at the store, the only person I got to know to any degree was Matt, the stoned hippy sitting on the front porch of his head shop, hanging out with his dog (we bonded on our common interests for comix and canines). I'm sure I seemed absurd to him at the time, a teenage kid in snakeskin platform shoes who was interested in Crumb and Zappa, but what can I say, the underground thing seems to have worked out for me.

I remember when Matt appeared on the "Chug-Hole of the Week" segment on KOTV. He had worked all day to fill in the chug-hole in the (then unpaved) back parking lot to show he was doing his part for the cause.

One very distinct memory I had was when Jimmie Spheeris was coming to town; they had a circus-like banner hung between the two stores to advertise the show.

Jimmie was Penelope Spheeris' brother; she directed "Wayne's World" and "The Decline of Western Civilization, Parts I, II & III", among many other movies.

From a message board, here is a memory of an early Jimmie Spheeris concert in OKC.

I remember hearing his great song "I Am The Mercury" (from "Isle of View") on underground FM stations KTBA and KWGS in the early 70s. Didn't it close each broadcast day at KTBA? 4/17/2006: former KTBA DJ Don Cook said via email:

"I believe that Bob Edwards (Strider) made it a point to close his KTBA shows with "Mercury" by Spheeris."

A good account of his life is in the Editorial Review section of An Evening with Jimmie Spheeris...webmaster

(from Guestbook 170) Mitch Kelly said:

I can remember listening to KTBA when I was a kid of about 12-14. I went and bought King Crimson's "Larks' Tongues In Aspic" after hearing it late at night. The guy at Honest John's couldn't believe someone that young would want it. Happy to report that King Crimson and myself are still going strong!

(from Guestbook 170) David Bagsby said:

I think it was Honest John's and Starship...touted as the Inner City Mall that used the King Crimson "Easy Money" tune for their commercial. I remember it was a slide show and one of the pics was of guys wearing paper sacks over their heads holding a 5 or 6 foot bong. You only saw this ad late at night.

King Crimson: 'Easy Money' "Easy Money" from King Crimson's album, "Larks' Tongues in Aspic", 1973. This memorable excerpt was heard behind the commercials.

(from Guestbook 170) Mike Bruchas said:

Many moons ago - the late Honest John Foutz, his first wife Marilyn and I piled into his li'l green BMW 2002 and drove to OKC to see King Crimson play at the Fairgrounds. Good music - bad venue for a concert - I think it was not sold out. Can't remember much else - was not a King Crimson fan but any chance to see a major band on tour for free - I took! Can't remember if Blue Oyster Cult was on first or not that night...we got there about an hour late.

(from Guestbook 170) Edwin said:

The "Easy Money" cut was & still is used by so many that I can't recall who hasn't used it. Also, MB-- I too went to that KC concert at the OKC fairgrounds. While I don't think there were very many there...I'm not sure due to all those dang things in the air blocking my view! I recall sitting on the stage & how good Gentle Giant was, but as I said, having to brush away those dang patterns & blobs in my way...t'was hard to tell if the fans were humans or those imposters that still hound me to this very day!

(from Guestbook 149) Mike Bruchas said:

Honest John (the late John Foutz) - often hosted Cain's talent on unofficial visits to the Rock Shop. Met Eddie Money about 3 times after Cain's appearances. Had lots of the guys from King Crimson come by - but can't remember whom else.

There was a brief period in the late-seventies or early-eighties when the ownership changed hands and Honest John's was changed to Starship. It was also the same time that my age group came of legal age and mystical art rock had given away to punk, new wave, and industrial music. Starship was there at the cutting edge, offering music you didn't even know existed; they were also the first store I knew of that started selling Beta an VHS tapes of music (I remember a Lou Reed concert and compilations of Kate Bush and The Residents going from $25 to $100 per tape,) back when only a few people could afford a player.

The main things I remember from that period was when there was a change in the law and pot leaves were no longer allowed on smoking devices, and I walked in saw Matt with an exacto-knife, scrapping a pot leaf off of a tobacco pipe. One time I looked at a key chain, then noticed a clip on it, but no price. I asked the man at the counter "How much is this roach clip?" Matt came running out of the back screaming "IT'S NOT A ROACH CLIP, IT'S A CIGARETTE HOLDER!" then changed his tone to "Oh, it's you. The roach clip is $3." Then the local law enforcement officers started cracking down on underground comix, so they disappeared, along with HIGH TIMES and MOTHER EARTH NEWS. To me, that period ended with the invention of CDs and the opening of Mohawk Records by a renegade group of former employees (which, sadly, closed with a whimper in the early part of this century).

Matt Bunyan
Matt Bunyan on sound for the KTUL Talent Show at the Tulsa State Fair.  (courtesy Mike Bruchas)

When I finally moved to Tulsa fulltime in 2000 Starship was still there, and I am still a customer to this day. Life has changed, but only slightly; now I look for releases on the web, then I call Starship to see if they have a copy in stock, but my front room is a temple of black light, donning 12 posters from Starship. Now I am more apt to buy a DVD of a favorite group rather than a record (though many are still in stock.) As I write this I am burning Gonesh Incense #6, which I bought there last week (Matt threw in three incense sticks in my bag in 1975 - I liked them and came back to buy some, but he didn't remember what he gave me, however I remembered that the sticks were pink, which meant they were Gonesh, and I have probably bought over $1000 worth of the stuff in the years since; now that's what I call salesmanship!) I'm also listening to my 2-CD Styx Collection as I write this, bought... you know where.

One day (now) Chief Jim Gray of the Osages came over to my place. He looked around, laughed, and exclaimed, "I doubt that the owner of Oz even lives like this!" I don't know the owner of Oz, but if he's not living like this, he's missing out.

Oz ad
Oz ad from from free newspaper "Osmosis", Nov. 1972

Leon NewtonLeon Paul Newton graduated from Edison High in Tulsa. He received a Marketing degree from OSU in 1969.

In June of that year, he opened the first Oz store on 15th (Cherry) St. By 1978, he had established Oz in Tahlequah and Fayetteville, Arkansas.

He also owned Emerald City Waterbeds, and produced his "Uncle Leo" commercials from 1982-84. He was a member of the Air Force Reserve for six years.

He passed away March 1, 2004.

Emerald City Waterbeds logo
From the 1978 June Marquee Magazine

I have shopped in every other "gift shop" in town, and I am a big fan of Oz, Sassy's (who actually keep "vases" with flowers in them that look suspiciously like those things we used to call bongs,) and Broken Arrow Gifts and Novelties (when I'm in Sapulpa I even by my gas at the East Indian owned convenience store that had a mini-head shop at their counter and a porn rack in the back.) I like to support the rebels, but my heart will always be with Starship. A new location might be a slight jolt, but the tradition will go on. I'm around a lot of people who are 15 to 20 years my junior, and I have taken each one to Starship, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

I was in Rob's Records the other day (which just moved next-door to Laserquest in the old Boman Theatre) and picked up an old Rolling Stones record. There on the plastic sleeve was the sticker we all know so well: "Starship Import."

Just last week a young friend I took to Starship for the first time a few months ago called me to see if I was home. I told him to come on over. He said he would arrive in about an hour, he had to stop by Starship to look for a poster.

A lot of my peers have "grown up" ("given up" might be a better term for it,) but I know a good thing when I see it. Every time I notice a windfall profit in my finances I turn into a fifteen year old again and go down to Starship. All I can say to Matt is "Rock on, Brother, rock on."

(Printed by permission, © 2005, Wilhelm Murg. All rights reserved.)

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