Friday, August 27, 2010

The Cosmic Aeroplane

Crossposting from Bibliophemera, this ephemeral piece of paper seemed a natural fit for this blog, too.

Here's a relic from those heady (pun intended) counterculture days of the 1960s-70s when headshops appeared on the scene. I remember one close to where I grew up that was called a record shop, but it was a headshop, too. As a teenager circa 1969-1972, my memories of that place were incense, paraphernalia that had nothing to do with music (or perhaps it did in an enhancement kind of way), hippie-looking staff and patrons, and some really cool records. I got introduced to the music of Townes Van Zandt there with his 1972 album, The Late Great Townes Van Zandt. But I digress.

Getting back to that other headshop... In a Salt Lake magazine article by John Pecorelli, a brief history of the Cosmic Aeroplane credits Stephen Jones with opening the business in 1967 as a headshop (the first in Salt Lake City, I'm sure). According to the article, the Cosmic Aeroplane developed a loyal counterculture following:
While Jones’ Cosmic Aeroplane was a good place to find out about bands coming Utah and purchase “imported beads and bells from San Francisco,” the shop, originally located on 900 E. and 900 S., provided a rallying point for Utah’s expanding consciousness until its closure in 1991. Books, used records, underground comix and dope paraphernalia were available, and with a move to larger digs, the Aeroplane opened an experimental theater in back (the Human Ensemble, then featuring KSL news fixture Shelley Osterloh). The larger space also accommodated a draft counseling center run by Hal Sparck, who had frequent legal wrangles with the Selective Service as a result, but always prevailed.

I don't know if books were part of the mix when the place opened, or if they were gradually introduced into the shop's inventory, but in 1977 two new business partners ensured its legacy as a bookstore. Bruce Roberts and rare book dealer Ken Sanders provided an infusion of cash and expertise in books to help the shop blossom into a million-dollar business (at least one year reportedly).

This trade card or business card may be from the Roberts-Sanders era, as the address given is 366 South West Temple and the original location, stated in the quoted passage above, was elsewhere. Regardless, its ancestry boasts of vintage 1960s. But nothing lasts forever. By 1991 the Salt Lake City icon of counterculture and subversive literature and music met its demise, reported here in the Deseret News.

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