Chapter Seven and a Half:
Canoe Races, Esalen, ETC
In my early days at Sacramento there were such old
school personalities as Unruh, Hugh Burns (conservative
Democratic Speaker Pro Tem in the Senate), and of course, on
the Republican side, Reagan, the Governor, who was not old
school in style but certainly one who sought to turn the
clock back in substance.
Actually Reagan was one who helped create political
opportunity for some newer forces. His punitive approach to
students at the University of California and State College
campuses created a Cause for the California student movement,
culminating in several marches on the Capitol. (Included in
the marching students were my eldest children Jill and
The student movement had first become big news in '64
with the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley. Although this
partially became confused with four-letter word frenzy, it
represented a major Youth Dissatisfaction with the power
structure of society, and changes were blowin' in the wind.
Reagan with his authoritarian dollar-minded tuition-increas-
ing attitude on funding higher education, formed an
opposition focal point for student energy to coalesce about.
The war in Vietnam was another.
I don't want to say that the student movement was a
dominant force in determining political decisions in the late
'60's and early '70's, even after the advent of the 18 year
old vote. But it did serve to bend things a bit.
During these years the male-dominated power structure
was also in transition at the Capitol ('old school' giving
way to facets of 'new school'). Before the '66 election there
was one female member of the Assembly, a conservative
democrat (originally elected to fill her deceased husband's
seat), Pauleen Davis.
In 1966 Pauleen was re-elected, along with, as I said,
two other democratic women, March Fong and Yvonne
Braithwaite, both of whom later became occasional participants
in 'Micemilk' (the customarily male, but only modestly macho,
liberal-leaning anti-authoritarian group founded by John Burton).
Black membership in the Assembly increased to five as a
result of the same election. By 1976 the people had elected the
first woman to the State Senate. Changes continued...
From 1970 til the early 1980's Democratic Assembly
leadership changed hands several times...'old school'
leadership seemed (on the surface at least) to be truly on
its way out. In the 1968 election the Republicans took
control of the State Assembly, and Jess Unruh had to take a
hard step down the ladder, from Speaker to Minority leader.
With changes taking place in personnel and thinking
patterns, changes in leadership style had been certain to
occur. Republicans capturing the majority in the Assembly
toppled Power Broker Unruh from the Speakership. As minority
leader he was still top Democrat in the Assembly, but Unruh
then gave up the minority leader's job to run for Governor.
The results of Unruh's race for governor against Reagan
were no surprise. Reagan won handily. Unruh later ran twice
unsuccessfully for mayor of Los Angeles, and finally was
elected State Treasurer, a personal benefit to him but it
carried no real power in the party or voice in State
Government. However, in 1970 a major Democratic leadership
fight in the Assembly followed in his wake--there was a
prolonged power struggle to determine who would replace him
as minority leader.
There were 39 of us; 17 supported conservative Democrat
Joe Gonsalves, 14 supported liberal Willie Brown, the rest of
us supported another liberal, Bob Crown. So as is not
unusual, the liberals had the majority of the votes but were
split on candidates. No one knew at this point that a few
weeks hence a majority of us would agree on an entirely
During the process of this month-long leadership fight,
Willie Brown happened to catch Alan Sieroty and I together in
the hall and solicited both of our votes at the same time.
"You know, I really don't want to be Speaker. I want to be
Mayor," he told us. I guess Willie thought we were afraid he
sought the Minority leadership as a logical step in the
direction of the Speakership. "Mayor", we understood, meant
Mayor of San Francisco, and I frankly hadn't even thought
about that. At the time, I knew Bob Crown better than
Willie--Bob had come to Vallejo to speak for me at a dinner
when I first ran in '66, and during my first term we had
adjacent offices (mine a modest cottage, his a minor castle
on "King's Row"). As far as I knew then, Crown and Willie
were of a similar stripe, but Crown was more traditional in
personal behaviour. Alan and I both liked Willie but trusted
Crown's approach more at the time. At the Capitol and in the
Press, Brown was known for his outspokenness, great sense of
humor, apparent fearlessness of convention, and for being
among the most well-dressed of the legislators...but you
can't really say 'best-dressed' because that implies a
standard set of values he didn't follow...or competition
within a category (he belonged to none). If asked what he WAS
following you'd have to say: he wasn't. (If Willie Brown was
following something I'll be damned if I know what it was).
So, Alan and I favored Bob Crown and had agreed to
support him, and we told Willie that.
He continued to make his bid, saying, as I've mentioned,
"There may be one thing you don't understand...I don't really
want to be Speaker....." (of course, some years later he
would willingly and ably take on that role).
The minority leadership fight of 1970 preempted most of
our energy for several weeks. It was not at all an Unimpor--
tant decision and I was staying at the Capitol several nights
in a row. One night after the Crown group had been meeting
(some 8 of us), I said I was gonna go talk to Willie so I did
at his office, for over an hour. Part of the time, he was on
the phone to other people, so our conversation wasn't really
that long, and I remember that once he said to whoever he
had on the line, "I have Mr. Dunlap here with me" just to let
people know he was talking to me and that that
I told Willie I certainly had no objection to a black as
minority leader for the democrats in the Assembly (though a
few democrats did). I said that his flambuoyance made him
possibly less effective for our purposes. In this position a
fighting Banty Rooster might well stir up more trouble, but a
staid Rhode Island Red would look better to the general
public and might in this case get more done. So I suggested
to him why didn't we compromise on John Miller, a black from
Berkeley. John Miller sat beind me my first term in the
Assembly, and so did Pete Wilson his seatmate. They used to
play chess when things in the chambers were going slowly.]
Miller was conservative in dress and spoke in a studious
manner. Politically, he and Willie had very similar views.
Willie didn't buy my suggestion at the time. However, a few
days later, that's exactly what happened. All but one of the
Crown supporters joined the original Brown supporters in
electing John MIller the only black minority leader of any
U.S. legislature at that time.
After another election in '70 (in which the democrats
won back control of the Assembly), Bob Moretti, backed by
Willie Brown, became Speaker. Then in '74 Moretti ran for
Governor and Leo McCarthy aced out Brown to succeed Moretti
as Speaker. As a Brown supporter at this time I was surprised
Willie had not 'sewn up' the votes for himself. McCarthy
remained Speaker until 1982 when he was succeeded by Brown in
a bloodless coup or 'deal'. McCarthy had been in trouble and
instead of being defeated threw his support to Willie.
The time when my friendships and legislative alliances
with Willie and Burton developed most was just after the 1970
election. Willie was Chairman of Ways and Means then, and
John Burton was Chairman of The Rules Committee. (The Rules
Committee in the Assembly wasn't as important as the name
implies. The Speaker had more power than the Rules Committee;
in the Senate, quite the opposite was true, the Rules
Committee ruled the roost.) Because Willie and Burton
recognized I had something on the ball, and agreed with my
basic policies, they prevailed on Moretti to put me on the
two committees. These positions gave me the opportunity to
get a few things done. I was also on the Education Committee,
and highly involved in conservation legislation. Within Ways
and Means I was Chair of the Natural Resources subcommittee,
which included the budget of State Parks and Recreation.
In this position I was able to do something for Natural
Resouce preservation. Reagan had a very aggressive Parks and
Recreation director who had some basic good public interest
values, but he was also for overdevelopment, as opposed to
preservation of parks in their natural state.
In one case, he planned to build a convention center at
Point Magu State Park. All in one day we (committee members,
our staff member Bob Connolly, Reagan's Park and Rec.
Director whose name was William Penn Mott, and a couple of
expert conservationists) flew by commercial airline to Los
Angeles, then went by car to Leo Carrillo State Park (a beach
park), and then from there we were picked up by two army
helocopters and flown north along the coast to Point Magu,
overviewing the park and landing in La Jolla valley inland
two miles from the coast. We looked over the valley's native
grasses and streams and studied the question of whether
putting in a road, necessary parking places, etc, would too
greatly change what the place had to offer in its more
natural state. We (the conservationist faction) were
successful in stopping the immediate overdevelopment of the
park. We won that round. Beyond that I'm not sure what
happened, as I became involved in too many other things to be
able to stay personally in touch with the details over a
period of years.
Another conservation issue was The Old Bale Mill, long a
historical landmark in Napa County. The Mill, though still
open to be viewed by the public, was deteriorating and
neglected, and I was able to have it transfered from the
County of Napa to the State Parks' far better-funded system.
My position on Ways and Means made it easier to steer the
bill on this through the legislature and get the signature of
the Governor. There were other instances along these same
lines: like, the creation of an ecological preserve along the
banks of the Napa River, a "Linear Park" in Yountville where
right now one can play Bocce Ball on property formerly owned
by the highway department, and the biggest thing, laying the
groundwork for leasing from the state to the county the land
for "Skyline Park" (this became one of the only places close
to the town of Napa with developed hiking trails).
It was also during this period that I tried to be to
some extent effective in politics beyond my district (like
the McGovern campaign of 1972.) In 1971 John Vasconcellos and
I and Willie and Burton and Bob Crown and John Miller were
the first members of the California legislature to openly
come out for McGovern. In 1972 Speaker Moretti sent me to
Washington to testify at a committee meeting on the subject
of stopping oil drilling in critical areas. Senator Cranston
had a bill in relative to protection of coastal tidelands
from federal oil drilling leases in the ocean, and I was
testifying for the Speaker in favor of Cranston's bill (while
there I did visit McGovern, but our meeting was very brief--
more or less a courtesy on his part to me as a supporter in a
John Harrington (the Chair Tossing Expert I've
previously mentioned) became my legislative assistant in 1970
of this same session. As a rules committee member I got an
extra staff assistant. John was a Napa JC/Sonoma State
College graduate, originally from Texas. He had some of Clark
Gable's good looks (the mustache but not the height), a loud
but warm and articulate voice, and he originated the nickname
"Buns", for our second St. Bernard Gulliver. John was about
24 when he showed up at the Capitol. We put together our
first legislation on the subject of "Corporate
Responsibility", trying to restrict or inhibit agencies of
the state government from investing heavily in corporations
operating in and supporting apartheid government in South
Africa. "Apartheid Government" essentially means "Racist
Basically we were tilting windmills then, John and I,
because the only thing we got for our causes was a public
hearing. Our bills got scotched by all the committees,
including the ones that I was on. Burton and Brown, my
liberal friends on the Ways and Means Committee, weren't much
help. Although I'm sure they supported our objectives, they
weren't articulate about it. Of course, Willie did let us
have our hearings, which he could as Chairman have side-
tracked. They were an important initial step in developing a
favorable climate in public opinion--a necessity for later
I remember about this time at a Ways and Means committee
I had a minor clash with Willie...about the only time this
happened (except opposing him in favor of Crown for Minority
leader). As Chairman, he took the part of a landowner's
lobbyist, and forced an amendment of a parks bill by Senator
Arlen Grigorio. It appeared to me that Willie was doing a
favor for his lobbyist friend which I felt somewhat weakened
a good Open Space Preservation bill. At the Micemilk lunch
that week I complained to him about it when Vasco and Moretti
were both present and WIllie said, "Dunlap, how'd you get on
Ways and Means, anyway?" implying that he could get me kicked
off if he wanted to. I said something like, "Well, you said
you wanted me on Ways and Means because I was tough..."
implying that that was what I was being, when I challenged
him in committee. At this point the argument kind of fell
apart. I had made my point, Willie did not get Moretti to
kick me off Ways and Means...but Willie's will prevailed on
the substance of the Grigorio bill. My reason for bringing it
up at Micemilk in the presence of the others was to be sure
to get some kind of serious response from him. I also wanted
him to know I knew what he was doing.
As my opportunity for getting things done ("power")
increased, following the democrats regaining control of the
Assembly in 1970, so did that of other democratic friends.
Alan Sieroty became chairman of the Criminal Justice
Committee. John Vasconcellos also secured an important spot
on the Ways and Means Committee (John had been an early
supporter of WIllie Brown and was a good friend of Bob
We legislators did occasionally have time and opportunity
to help out in each others' campaigns. Attending a fundraiser
was one way. One of the problems candidates on any level or
advocates for any cause have in common is raising money.
There were all sorts of fundraising activities*, most of them
not highly entertaining. The most typical was the candidate's
dinner, where supporters paid from twice to ten or fifteen
times what the meal was worth, and also were bored listening
to speeches. There was plenty of food and plenty of booze and
everybody was (plenty) bored.
"Mr. Democrat" in Sonoma County, Bob Trowbridge, offered
a refreshing alternative in the 'canoe ride' fundraiser. He
owned a canoe rental outfit on the Russian River, and in both
my '74 and '78 elections gave a 'free day', turning the
*See pages ___ for more examples.
operation over to the politicos, the profits for the day to
go to the campaign coffers. It made for good publicity (and
was widely pre-publicized, to bring in a large--paying of
course--political crowd), made some money, and was just plain
fun for all involved (well, usually, as we shall see). Some
of my fellow legislators participated in the Canoe Day--
Willie Brown, for instance, came and brought his kids.
The first Trowbridge Canoe Day/Political Outdoor Get-
Together I attended was not for my own campaign. It was in
1972, when George McGovern had won the California
presidential primary...The McGovern campaign was faced with a
problem of how to finance convention attendance for its
delegates, may of whom were too poor to easily afford air
fare to, let alone food and lodging in, Miami. Usually
convention delegates are relatively well-off people who can
afford to pay their own way. Trowbridge, a Hubert Humphrey
supporter in the primary, was generous enough to donate his
canoes for a day to support the McGovern delegates' travel
fund. So, many of us McGovern supporters were on the Russian
River early in July of 1972, including legislators George
Moscone, John Burton, Willie Brown, and myself.
We all rented the canoes at their usual price. The
turnout was good. It was an unusual day on the river, where
usually your chances of knowing the people in the canoe on
your left were about as good as knowing the driver in the car
next to you in commute traffic. We floated on down the river
with family and friends and after we had all made the trip,
changed our clothes for the picnic. I had been wearing a
swimsuit and changed to clean shirt and jeans. Others,
including Willie Brown, were now dressed more fashionably. We
were standing around at the barbecue by the beach when some
fellow with the Sacramento Press Corps suggested there be a
canoe race between the legislators, and pitted the Big Guys
against the Little Guys, Willlie and I (at 5'7" and 5'8´")
versus Moscone and Burton (both ex-basketball players
somewhat over six feet tall).
It was to be a short race of only a few hundred yards,
starting from the water's edge, going out around a float,
downstream around another float, and back to the beach.
Willie had misgivings, because he was now quite dressed up
(maybe to go somewhere else after the barbecue), but the idea
of the contest was too much for any of us to resist. As we
walked to where the canoes were moored I was hoping my
canoeing experiece would do us some good but I couldn't
really figure out how.
Recognizing that we the 'little guys' might well be
the losers, I complained to Burton, "Don't you
big six-footers feel ashamed at such an unequal contest?"
"Oh, we're not feeling so sure of ourselves, John," he
said. "You've got two big advantages: you're obviously a
seasoned old Napa River Rat (just masquerading as a country
lawyer), and. . . . .Willie Brown's ego."
"In this venue I'll take the term 'River Rat' as a
compliment", I told him, "but...it takes more than Ego to
propell a canoe though the water."
At this point Willie immediatly interjected, "The hell
it does, Dunlap--just watch me!!"
Willie and I were placed on the upstream side, which
would place us on the outside of the first turn, and I could
see that we were sure losers unless we got to the current
first--the river was calm closer to the bank; the current was
where you could get some speed up. I pointed this out to
Willie and we took our seats; he took the rear seat where
more of the steering was done, and I took the prow. We got a
fast start and Willie cut in front of them and we got out
into the current first and they never had a chance to catch
After we got ahead, Willie, knowing we were winning,
wanted me to quit paddling so hard because it was splashing
him. He kept yelling, in a tone between entreaty and command,
"Dunlap, slow down, we're winning! They're way behind..! You
can slow down!!" I pretended not to hear, and went on
paddling with all my might. It really only splashed a little,
but the harder you paddle, the more apt you are to splash.
Willie complained for the next six months about my throwing
paddle water on him--mostly in jest, however.
The second canoe campaign ride in which I was involved
was two years later in '74, when I ran for a senate seat
which included a large part of Sonoma County. Bob Trowbridge
was a supporter of mine and donated his canoes to the cause
once again. I was running against Bill McPherson, an attorney
from Vallejo who lived in Napa County, a well-financed and
articulate guy. It was looked on as being a 'Democratic Year'
because of Watergate and we were pretty confident about
winning, though working hard and not really taking anything
When Janet and I joined the party at the beach after the
canoe ride, we were sitting and saying hello to people as
they came (floated) in, and I remember a lawyer/friend of
ours climbing up the beach theatrically exaggerating his
fatigue and saying to us, "I now know that Dunlap's Canoe
Ride is McPherson's Secret Weapon." After 10 miles on the
river and possibly turning over a few times he was fairly
bedraggled; his forehead was covered with mud and he had a
dazed look (which might have been part of his act, or due to
the fact that he ordinarily wore glasses and had left them in
some overhanging willow branches along the bank some miles
Most people were elated about the trip, though a couple
of our older friends, actually no older than I except
apparently in spirit, seemed to have been done in by it.
Trowbridge's brochures described it in rather idyllic
language, without going into detail about possibly getting
stuck on sandbar islands out in midriver, or toppled by cross
-currents/rapids, or dragged under a bramble of overhanging
willows/blackberry bushes. One couple had failed to plastic-
bag their camera, and in addition had lost a paddle and were
going to have to pay for it. Sunburn and exhaustion were not
missing from the picture. That's part of "adventure", though.
The '74 Canoe Day was also well-attended, and a memorable
event for all, as a 'different' sort of political activity.
The "countercultural" movement of the 60's cast waves
which became more of a political force in the '70's,
promoting a culture of its own (one which became to a degree
part of the current mainstream). New ideas seemed to be in
the air ("the answer, my friend, is Blowin' in the Wind"); at
least they were more On The Air. "Humanism" became a term
which had meaning to many people, from politicians to
"working people" to students. Some students were a-political,
and some were turned off to the point of not voting even
after the 18 year old vote became effect in January of 1970.
Others, however, found themselves aligned with liberal
Democrats who shared their beliefs relative to personal
freedom, environmental protection, and the Vietnam War.
Although Willie Brown wasn't what you'd call a
"Humanist", he did have a leadership style involving a
combination of humor and candor, which was appealingly --
"human". I can remember on one occasion his making a strong
pitch against a bill. Speaking to Doubting Thomas middle-of-
the-roaders, he said, "Don't vote against this bill because
Willie Brown says Vote No, vote against it because Bud
Collier" (a conservative Republican on the Education
committee) "is enthusiastically supporting it." This is the
kind of thing Willie did, part of his style. He demeaned
himself, acknowledging that others were suspicious of his
openly liberal style, as if to say he too would be suspicious
of Willie Brown if he didn't happen to BE Willie Brown. As he
downplayed or demeaned himself, he played on their known
distrust of a Bogeyman on the other side.
Willie pioneered some educational legislation which
recognized that children were people (promoting "Children's
Rights"). He also authored the sexual freedom bill
eliminating certain anachronistic (and "Human Rights"
violating) sections of the California Penal Code which made
felonies of certain private sexual acts.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull--I remember Willie carrying
the book around with him for a while. It had a "Human
Potential" theme. A seagull is a bird that has
limits...usually. I relate the book a little to Willie's own
ambition, or to his discovery of his unlimitedness (most of
us don't find this out). I've described how he had it in the
coffee room just off the Assembly floor and was showing it to
excerpt from book
or title page or cover
I've used the term Humanist (or "Humanist Movement")
without doing much to define it. Mostly it was not an
organized force, but just something that happened. Partially
it resulted from excesses of a dollar-driven lifestyle. My
own contact with Humanism came about through my close
friendship with John Vasconcellos, the fact that I couldn't
help but learn something from my children, and from Janet's
activities as a psychology student at Sonoma State College--
the hugging school--as she called it.
When we were married, as I look back on it now, I was
kind of a stuffed shirt pretending to be an intellectual. I
tended to believe in political causes more than people. I had
a lot to learn, some of which I learned from Janet.
The great legislative bridge (in my experience) to
students and Humanists and many other ideas from unusual
sources was John Vasconcellos. John had friends on a number
of college campuses, both students and teachers. In 1968 he
organized a series of legislative tours of several colleges.
I participated in those at UC Davis, UC Berkeley, and SF
State. These were some of his inroads to learning and change.
John was (as I've mentioned) also close to Willie Brown and
Bob Moretti, and without real Direction modified their
tendency toward Authoritarianism (almost inevitable to come
to the surface coincident with a lot of power).
John was one of the first members of the Assembly I got
to know. Between the election of November 1966 when we were
both elected and our taking office in January of '67, the
Assembly leadership conducted two lobbyist-financed trips.
Newly-elected legislators from northern California toured
southern California for about four days, and newly-elected So
Cal legislators toured northern California. John (he
represented the San Jose area in northern California) and I
were the only two democrats on the tour of L.A. and San
Diego. We roomed together and got to know each other.
Although he was ten years younger than I, I found him
comfortable to be with and recognized we shared similar
values. Of those I knew involved in the legislative process I
admired most and felt closest to John. He 'evolved' in the
job and grew personally. He had and still has (see his
current website regarding "The Politics of Trust") an open
personality. He speaks his thoughts and his feelings and
listens to others, including their reactions to him. To
associate with John is to grow and to help him grow. There is
Originally I remember him as pretty religous, like
showing up on the floor of the Assembly, dressed in his then
usual conservative suit, on a day in March in 1967, with a
big black smear on his forehead. I asked him what he had run
into and he explained to me without embarrassment, "Ash
Wednesday." From my agnostic viewpoint John then appeared to
be an almost traditional catholic but that view changed, and
he's now far from that. Both John and his religon changed
over the years but it remains, I think, an important part of
John is highly honest and conscientious. I remember us
discussing running for reelection for only our second term.
He said, "If we don't do more and can't do more for people
I'm not sure I want to come back." In other years he said
similar things, but here we are in 2003 30 some years after
that first election, and John has been in continous sevice
the entire time (I believe he has been doing 'More').
Like Willie Brown John had his Un-Traditional side
(and like Willie he appeared rather fearless). During part of
the time we served in the legislature he took to dressing
very casually, in a manner similar to a student taking a
course in parapsychology. John was I think making a statement
as to the stuffiness of our society (and the monotony of the
business suit attire of his 'legislative fraternity'
brothers) ...although it also fits that he was just "being
himself" and dressing comfortably.
The above picture shows John and I, and Professors
Roland and Molina, with Governor Jerry Brown at a "bill
signing" in 1977. I was the author of the bill prohibiting
the use of chloro-fluorocarbons as propellants in aerosol
cans. The professors had pioneered research establishing that
these propellants were gradually destroying the protective
ozone layer in our stratosphere. Later they were awarded
Nobel Prizes in chemistry. John was co-author of my Senate
bill, handling it in the Assembly.
John's personal dress code ("no coat and tie") later got
him in trouble with the hidebound Senate Rules Committee,
which at one point refused to let him walk onto the floor of
the senate to speak to a senator, a customary privilege which
each house allowed members of the other. John retaliated for
this insult by persuading the Assembly Ways and Means
committee to table all Senate bills before it--this caused a
stopping of all committee business, amid a general hullaballoo
which was finally resolved by the returning to him of his rights.
John had made his point.
In 1975 John organized a weekend at the Esalen Institute
(famed as the original home of "Sensitivity Training") at Big
Sur, for some of his Capitol friends. It involved some
Encounter Group types of things, and other things like nude
co-ed hot tubs, and sharing personal and political problems
on an intimate basis.
One Encounter Group technique was to challenge each
other verbally in perhaps a very direct, or an experimental,
way--another might be to wrestle: "let's see if we can hold
this guy" (and he fights physically to get free).
I was in the Senate then--the others on the trip were
either in the Assembly or otherwise closely connected to the
Capitol crowd. I was the oldest of the group, the others my
junior by ten years at least. Will Shutz, author of 'Joy' among
other books, was our Facilitator. There was a sort of
'confidentiality rule'--what you learned here was not for
publication or outside discussion--issues of a sensitive
nature were entrusted to the group only. For this reason I
don't feel that even now I should discuss what went on as we
traded thoughts, feelings, and sometimes challenged each
other. It was a worthwhile experience and I think we all
The Esalen Weekend was an exhilarating and "different"
experience for me. Without Vasconcellos's presence and
inspiration it (and many other things too) never would have
happened. John was a bridge between ideas and between
persons..a trellis or a footbridge possibly, but a bridge
doesn't have to be the Golden Gate to be effective or
If you asked John 'how are you', which is a common thing
for people to ask without actual curiosity, John would be
inclined to answer it, telling you what might be making him
feel good or troubling him (he of course did this with some