In 1970 Oregon governor Tom McCall had a problem: An American Legion convention was descending on Portland in August of that year, with a potential visit by then-president Richard Nixon. A group called the People’s Army Jamboree promised to protest the convention and Nixon, and McCall wanted to avoid the possibility of urban warfare in his state’s largest city. His solution: Vortex One, a week-long state-sponsored music festival where attendees could enjoy sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll free from law enforcement interference. This, McCall thought, would lure potential protesters away from Portland.
This episode is an excerpt from Storied and Scandalous Portland, Oregon, my upcoming book about vice, transgression, and weirdness in the Rose City. If you’re in the Portland area, be sure to join me at Powell’s Books on Sunday, March 22nd at 7:30 for a live reading and book signing.