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New 'Mystic' is forward-looking

Don't mistake the artists' cooperative on South Coast Highway for the old counterculture icon of nearly the same name, which burned down in 1970.

February 04, 2014|By Michael Miller

"I think he was a little too willy-nilly on, you know, everyone taking LSD and stuff like that," he says. "I wasn't a proponent or an advocate of that. Nor did I join any brotherhood, nor did we have meetings, nor did I pay dues. It was actually: I got a job, literally."

Kelley also doesn't recall seeing much of what netted Mystic Arts World its more infamous reputation. While he remembers pot-smoking in the meditation room, he glimpsed little of the more extreme side of the store — which, according to Nicholas Schou in his book "Orange Sunshine," helped "transform Laguna Beach into the epicenter of Orange County's acid scene, where teenagers from as far away as San Diego and Glendale knew they could find the most powerful LSD anyone had to offer."

The tale of the Brotherhood would play out in court for years — the Orange County Grand Jury indicted 46 alleged members in 1972, with multiple convictions to follow — but the saga of Mystic Arts World ended June 4, 1970, when the shop burned down overnight. Sawdust veteran Dion Wright, whose "Taxonomic Mandala" painting hung in the meditation room, believes members of the right-wing John Birch Society lit up the building and even says the "ringleader" of the act once bragged about it to him, unaware of whom he was addressing.

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A resurrected scene

Mystic Arts may not be Mystic Arts World, but will a shop with such a similar name, situated next door to 670 S. Coast Hwy., cause the public to draw connections? Schou, who has covered the Brotherhood era for OC Weekly, suspects that it will.

"Along with Sound Spectrum, those are really the only two places you can point at that connect the Laguna of today to the Laguna of the 1960s," he says, referring to the record store that has been in business since 1967. "It could be something that spreads pretty fast. I already have people emailing me from as far as Montana asking about this shop."

It's unclear whether any resentments linger, but those who have pleasant memories of the old shop may find kindred spirits in the new one. Gourley once provided tie-dye artwork for Mystic Arts World, while Valentino used to ditch school to spend the day there with friends. Donna Jost, who moved to Laguna Beach as a teenager in 1966, would browse through the store with her sisters when she grew fed up with her job as a maid.

When she heard, five decades later, that her fellow artists were considering Mystic Arts for their boutique's name, she felt giddy.

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