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Paper: Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT)

Friends, Music, Butterflies Pay Tribute to '60s Activist

Date: May 6, 1991

The bluegrass music that filled Memory Grove on Sunday was quite natural for a memorial honoring the late Charles Artman, folk musician.

But the butterflies that fluttered everywhere through the park lent a symbolic touch of lightness and color to a ceremony remembering the man better known in Salt Lake City as Charlie Brown, a '60s hippie and social activist who preached love, followed a guru, drove an old bus and lived at times in a tepee.

Charlie Brown died April 15, at age 52, in a California convalescent home of chronic hepatitis. He contracted the disease, one friend said, shooting heroin to prove to a chronic user that the drug's "high" was no better than the natural high he obtained from meditation.

"He was open, pure hearted," said Danna Whitney, whose long, straight blond hair is a throwback to the days when Charlie Brown's distinctive appearance turned people's heads.

Salt Lakers often would gawk or sneer at the sight of him wearing a black cape on his shoulders and a large cross on his chest, driving his bus or riding his bike through city streets. Or flying a kite or playing music in Reservoir Park.

"He was so far out of context I'm sure he scared people," recalled old friend Jim Sorrels. "But he was just a loose, free soul … a very easy person. If you would take a few minutes to talk to him he was really comfortable and easy to talk to. But back in those days, even if you wore a beard it scared people."

Photographs of Charlie Brown in front of the old Dodge school bus were set up on a table next to pictures of his spiritual mentor, the Guru Maharaj Ji.

"Who is this guy?," two men in their early 20s asked Ms. Whitney, pointing to a picture of Charlie Brown bordered with the admonition "Discover the Sunny Kingdom Through Meditation."

"He aspired for very high goals in peoples' spiritual lives," she responded, explaining that meditation helps one "go inside oneself.

The purpose is not to stay in the '60s," but to find truth internally.

Ron Booth, whose graying hair still flows to his shoulders and is held back by a headband, approached the photo stand minutes later.

"I've been in that bus," he said gregariously. "Came back from Houston together after we saw the guru. Twenty-seven hippies …

" His recollection ended abruptly. "Oh my God, Amelia's here.

Where have you been the last six years?," he said, exchanging a full embrace with a woman whose hair also bears streaks of gray.

It was that kind of day in Memory Grove. A day for hugging friends not seen for some time. For smelling incense. For lying on the grass and listening to strains of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and "Amazing Grace" sung by Charlie Brown's old friends. Good friends, bad singers.

Charlie Brown made an imprint during his decade here, albeit in a small circle. "He didn't want to be in the limelight," Ms. Whitney said. "He was called. A lot of people were. There was something going on on the planet."