The truth about the ’60s is jarring, but valuable

May 21, 2004


Andrew Scot Bolsinger


I start the conversation with Gerry Jones about his book, “Ginny Good,” by telling him that I just finished it and passed it on to my 17-year-old daughter to read.

He groans, “There’s bad stuff in there. Bad things happen.”

Which is exactly why I wanted her to read it. Jones’ memoirs are so down and dirty true that it strips away all the fantasy, glory and magic of lives utterly turned inside out by drug use, physical and emotional abuse, rampant sex and all that was once simply known as “The ’60s.”

“It ended up being exactly the way I wanted it to be,” Jones says.

He likens it to the American classic, “In Cold Blood,” which tells the tale of a brutal Midwestern murder in the form of a novel.

“Ginny Good,” Jones says, is a “non-fiction novel. That’s all there is to it. It’s got all the narrative arc and all that junk you are supposed to have as a novel.”

But above all that is that Jones simply has a story to tell, about his life and those he came in contact with during the ’60s and early ’70s, mostly in San Francisco.

It’s all too true, which makes reading it pretty important.

Fun and games

Jones is right when he says “there’s bad stuff in there,” but the book is not heavy or sad. Jones approaches the tell-all story with a light and witty hand.

The stories come in a matter-of-fact way that accentuates their humor and clarity. The sadness behind some of the stories sneaks up on you.

“The people who were screwed up were the ones that didn’t have families,” Jones says. “They were all just damaged.”

Including the star of the book, Jones’ ex-lover Ginny Good, a genuine enigma who radiates through her own dysfunction.

Jones calls her “a compelling force in that hippie thing.” Good’s sister, who Jones points out became infamous for her association to the Manson gang, “was sort of drab,” compared to Ginny.

Even more compelling than Ginny is the clear-eyed look at the drugged up world of the ’60s. All the icons of the era make cameos in the book, including The Grateful Dead, Ken Kesey and Timothy Leary.

Jones and Ginny moved in the same circles, saw the same events unfolding. But modern interpretation of these colorful times is what Jones hopes to correct with his book.

“[The ’60s] wasn’t the way it’s cracked up to be,” Jones says today from the Ashland home he shares with his mother. “They got it wrong, it wasn’t like that. It was like real people, living their regular lives. It wasn’t just dancing in the park and taking drugs. That just wasn’t the point.”

Moving ahead backward

Crisp writing moves the first half of the book along back to the ’60s, as it uncoils like a huge slinky through four decades of memories, only to recoil forward to present day Ashland in the second half.

In the middle is the climactic moment, according to Jones – what he simply calls “the acid chapter.”

“That was it. That was the point. That was the ’60s, that was the revolution if you will. I think I did a good job depicting it.”

After the acid chapter, the inevitable decline ensues. Fate takes its toll. The ’60s close, another era moves on.

“In terms of what is indelible of a person’s life is when they are 18 to 28,” Jones says, “which is what the book is for me.”

Now, with the perspective of many years, a silver lining emerges from the sadness.

“I finally figured out what it was about, and it was about family stuff,” Jones says. “Just somehow having to do with family value kind of stuff.”

As our conversation winds down, Jones admits that giving the book to my daughter probably wasn’t a bad idea. His own grandkids will read it too, he says. Because for whatever the book “Ginny Good” is, it’s true.

And the truth really does set you free.

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