A fascinating article about Ted Markland...
Star has deep spiritual connection to park hill
July 10, 2005 - thedesertsun.com
Ted Markland is surrounded by reminders of his spiritual and material past as he sits in his Yucca Valley mobile home.
And he's scared.
Markland, 6 foot 4 inches tall and rugged-looking even at 72, is scheduled for quintuple bypass surgery this month.
And all of his books on Eastern and Native Indian religions don't give him solace. Nor do the many spiritual experiences he's had on an apparently supernatural hill in nearby Joshua Tree National Park.
"I left the path," he says forlornly. "I got real materialistic, working in movies, raised a family. I left the path, man."
The photos on his walls show Markland on his trail of fame. There are pictures of him horsing around with his late comedian friend, Lenny Bruce; with Jack Nicholson on the set of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," showing Nicholson as best man at Markland's wedding to his ex-wife, Deborah; and with '60s icons and pals Peter Fonda and Steve McQueen.
There also are photos of a handsome young Markland as a co-star of the '60s Western, "The High Chaparral," and in films such as "Wanda Nevada" and "Another 48 Hrs."
But Markland is best known in the high desert as a mind-expanding spiritual seeker.
Travis Cline of the Joshua Tree band Gram Rabbit recognized the name Ted Markland as "that guy who brings people out to that mountain where he has that chair?"
Markland has been called the man who introduced Gram Parsons to the high desert, launching the area's rootsy alternative music movement that inspired Gram Rabbit. Markland says he came to the high desert from Los Angeles with Parsons to make a film that wasn't released. He lost touch with him until Parsons overdosed in the Joshua Tree Inn. Their mutual friend, Phil Kaufman, asked him to help steal Parsons' body to burn it in Joshua Tree National Park, as Parson desired, but Markland said he declined to participate in that now legendary act.
Uniting Timothy Leary
In counterculture circles, Markland is known for the equally legendary wedding of Timothy Leary in Joshua Tree National Park, back when it was a national monument.
In its obituary of the LSD guru, obit.com says Leary married Rosemary Woodruff in 1967 and "Ted Markland of 'Bonanza' staged the wedding, as the guests dropped acid."
Markland, a guest-star on "Bonanza," quickly adds that he brought Leary to "his mountain," as he calls the hill in the western part of the park, for a spiritual experience.
"The reason I took him up there, as you're going up the mountain, you're going up physically, and you're going up mentally and spiritually," he said. "Whatever level you are at your consciousness, more comes in.
"I took him to a peyote meeting with the Navajos and said, 'What do you think, Tim?' He always had something to say, but he had nothing to say that night."
Actor John Phillip Law - Jane Fonda's co-star in "Barbarella" - said it was Markland, not Leary, Carlos Castaneda or any other '60s cult figure, who led experiments in the desert mixing Native American rituals involving peyote and mescaline use with Buddhist philosophy.
"He actually was the ringleader of that entire desert experience," Law said by telephone from L.A. "He was the guy who, one at a time, would take some friend and say, 'You really want to have an experience you didn't have before?' He would bring them into the group and we would go up (to the mountain).
"John Barrymore Jr. (Drew's late father) was a part of our gang, Harry Cohen Jr. (the late son of the Columbia studio chief), Warren Oates (the late actor), Dennis Hopper and an Indian named Grandfather Semu. But our context was we were very early spiritual explorers. It was the early days when Aldous Huxley was writing the book, 'Doors of Perception' about mescaline."
Mescaline is the major active component of peyote, which Indians of the Native American Church of North America have been using in religious ceremonies for thousands of years. The Mexican Huichol Indians call it the heart, soul and memory of their creator, Deer-Person, who supposedly reveals himself to shamans through his spirit, allowing them to cure diseases.
Markland said he didn't always use peyote or mescaline to facilitate spiritual experiences. But he said Huxley told him before his death in November 1963 he had heard about how much mescaline Markland had taken.
"I spent all afternoon with Aldous," Markland said, "and he went, 'Phew! You've got me beat. But it wasn't how much you took. It was sacred."
Markland grew up throughout the United States as the Catholic son of a conservative U.S. Army colonel, who also was a 32nd degree Mason. He studied drama at Los Angeles City College and did summer theater before breaking into TV and film.
He'd also go on stage at coffee houses and get laughs with his observations on life's absurdities.
"I never called myself a comic," he said. "I was a stand-up satirist. I was just standing up, to tell you the truth."
Markland immersed himself in spiritual studies, too. He rejected Catholicism in his early teens and began reading some Tibetan Buddhist books a friend gave him. He especially related to Milarepa, a Tibetan Buddhist who lived from 1040-1143.
"Milarepa and all his people from the Kargyupa sect," Markland said. "Their teachings came from 'ear-whispered truths.' They tied in right from the source."
He became interested in all things metaphysical, including Nation Indian spirituality and flying saucers.
Flying with the saucers
He learned some Indians used peyote as a sacrament at all-night prayer meetings. He was given some in 1958 and decided to try it in the wilderness, like the Indians.
The late George Van Tassel was having a flying saucer convention near Landers, and Markland had a friend whose uncle had a cabin in Joshua Tree. So they decided to go the flying saucers convention and take the peyote in the national monument.
"I just took a little bit and I was playing my guitar and I had a flute and a bell and the chipmunks were eating my food," he said. "All of a sudden, I felt this spirit over my spine and I started crying. I was in ecstasy. I realized I had everything. The sky was blue, there were birds and I was alive. I said, 'I'd better say thank you.' I couldn't think of The Lord's Prayer, so I went, 'Our Father,' and I started thinking what it means. And I said, 'Thank you.' All of a sudden, 'Oww-ooo-owwwww.'
"I thought, 'Cops?' I looked around and there were no cops. There were no roads! I looked up and there was a mother-of-pearl sort of round light with energy coming from it.
"I heard this sound and I looked up and I knew it was there because these little animals were getting away. And it went, 'You're welcome.'"
A photo his friend took of him after coming down from the mountain explains his sensation better than any words.
"You can't tell a person how an orange tastes," he said. "I can't tell you what it's like to be up in those mountains in an advanced consciousness or awareness."
Markland felt compelled to turn on friends to his mountain experience, including fasting, cleansing and/or peyote or mescaline use. Law soon became a disciple.
"Those psychedelics were always a very religious spiritual experience for me," Law said. "It's not something you do as a party drug. I treated these things more like the Native American Church Indians. Peyote was their sacrament, like the Catholics eat the wafers. This was manna from God, these peyote buttons."
Arizona holy land
Markland sought the source of his religious experience while shooting "The Hallelujah Trail" with Burt Lancaster in 1965 in Gallup, N.M. He went across the border to Window Rock, Ariz., where some Navajos were holding prayer meetings with peyote. The result was a religious experience similar to the ones he'd had in Joshua Tree.
"The ground is all mandalas," he said. "It's all geometric, perfect, and the sage brush is going 'shwew.' And the Indian dog sees this light and runs real fast into this teepee and I went, 'This guy's driving a pickup truck. But that's not a pickup truck.' And it went, 'Oww-ooo-owwwww.' I went, 'Oh, wow.'"
He eagerly asked the Navajos who the entity was.
"I was expecting a name like Christ, but they said, 'We never asked their name.'" Markland laughed. "I went, 'I didn't get their IDs either.'"
Markland took dozens more friends to his mountain.
"He had this old chair up there that was there for years," Law said. "You could just sit up in that chair and do a 360 (degree view of the monument).
Some favorite experiences:
"With John Barrymore, we're looking at the mountain and we say, 'Let's say thank you again,'" Markland said. "I said, 'Thank you dear heavenly father, whoever you are.' And this rock started moving. It turned around and looked at us! We both saw the same thing! After a half an hour John went, 'Rock Hudson?'"
"I took a Jewish friend up there, a publicist in Hollywood." We didn't have much that day. I said, 'Let's say thank you and we'll go down to the car,' which was going to take five hours. I grab his hand and say, 'Oh Great Spirit, we are known as Ted and Dave. Thank you.' All of a sudden this sound came out and this golden thing with wings came down upon us and just disappeared. And do you know what (Dave) said? 'Do it again!' Like I do this all the time!"
"I was sitting on my chair with this old Indian medicine man. I said, 'Did you ever hear anything about the buddhas?' He says, 'No, but the guy you're talking about I think is behind you.' I turned around. There was a big cloud, 15 miles long. It had a face. I kept looking at it. It was there for about 20 minutes. He goes, 'That's probably going to be there all day. Let's go down and get an enchilada.'"
But the journeys took a big toll on Markland. They might have led him off the spiritual path.
"To come down is a big comedown," he said. "My highs have been so high, but the lows are really bad. I realized I couldn't be a monk sitting up there. I just got more and more work and I got away from it."
Law thinks other things, like "too many Tequilas," might also have sidetracked him. But Markland has another Tibetan explanation.
"They say there are three hindrances to a yogi," he said: "A son, a wife and fame. I don't know. I just got off the path."
But, as Markland ponders his surgery, he's pleased he's had a huge impact even on people who have been icons of pop culture.
"I took so many people up the mountain and they all had the best day of their life," he said. "The best day of their life! My God."