was instructive. In 1969, a few months before the Festival, I moved to Woodstock and opened a small boutique stocked mostly with craft items that I made. Later, I ran The Woodstock Transformation Center where many of the now-familiar New Age skills like meditation, Yoga, T’ai Chi, herbal lore, nutrition, Astrology, Tarot and related subjects were taught. Like the LSD Center, it was financially unrewarding, and when my money ran out, I learned to live on whatever I could find to support myself, including house cleaning, altering clothes, organizing craft shows, and so on. I led the lifestyle of the hippies, though I was not a hippie myself–more like a den mother. I saw them as my children, my friends, my teachers. They were so wise, these young ones–they had it all in their heads and hearts, but they had not yet learned how to live it.
RMN: Did you ever miss your former lifestyle?
NINA: Never. Not once. The lavish parties were behind me. I closed the door of that home with the lovely garden and swimming pool and never looked back. Looking back isn’t my style anyway. I’m generally not very interested in what happened in the past–too busy with what’s going on now!
DJB: So much has been written about the sixties, it is possibly the most overanalyzed decade of this century, and yet many people, even those who were a part of it, often find it hard to express what was going on. What do you think the sixties were about?
NINA: The main characteristic of the sixties was idealism. America’s youth in the Eisenhower years was dull and apathetic; all they wanted was to prepare for a safe, secure job. And then suddenly, only a decade later, youngsters who had lived in middle and upper middle-class homes were seeing that their parents in split-level homes with two-car garages were not very happy, so they said, “Screw it, I don’t want to live like that!” And they burst out of their suburban homes and landed in crashpads and huts and tents. The materialistic lifestyle of their parents made no sense to them. It was the same thing that had happened to me a decade earlier. As I see it, the sixties were the beginning of a quantum leap forward in human consciousness. Customs and beliefs that had long been taken for granted were challenged by a generation that did not blindly obey authority. And simultaneously, the heavens opened and showered down all the spiritual goodies that had for so long been the secret knowledge of the few. What followed was so threatening to the existing order that a backlash had to come. Nixon, Reagan, Bush, the greedy eighties. The forces of inertia do not willingly make room for the new.
RMN: How do you think your perspective was influenced by the fact that you were older than most of the people who were experimenting with consciousness change at that time?
NINA: I was 47 when I left my former lifestyle. Unlike the hippies, I’d had plenty of experience; my feet were firmly planted on the ground. I was enamored of the hippies, though it wasn’t easy to adjust to the irresponsibility that often went along with the idealism. Still, I felt more at home with them than I had ever felt before, and my years of esoteric studies helped me to help them see the spiritual path a little more clearly.
DJB: What did you think about the sexual revolution?
NINA: I deplored it. It was another male chauvinist ploy, though that term was still unknown at that time. It was a perfect example of male domination. Most of the young women I knew did not want to sleep with everybody who came their way. In the sixties, it was considered ill-mannered to refuse to get in the sack with anybody who asked. “We’re all one,” they said. The boys loved it, but few of the girls did. Besides, I don’t believe that freedom means license. Everybody was so interchangeable-bodies, bodies, playing musical chairs.
RMN: Tell us a little about your time at Millbrook, the psychedelic research center where you often stayed with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (now Ram Dass).
NINA: Well, I didn’t exactly stay with them, but I saw a good deal of them on my visits to the Millbrook mansion in upstate New York. As a setting for the exploration of the psychedelic consciousness, the vast estate could not have been more perfect. The sixty-four-room mansion and other outbuildings on the estate were in sufficient disrepair to lend a note of funky eeriness to the scene. Inside, the bizarre mingled with the sublime. It was a combination of research center, monastery, country club, mental hospital and testing ground for all the New Age methods of spiritual growth and physical healing. Add Indian music, jazz, incense, beautiful people clad in loose, lovely robes–that was Millbrook. The people who lived there took LSD together in the spacious living room. They lay on mats listening to music. You know, when people think of what went on in those group sessions, they think of orgies, wild, Dionysian revelries. I’m sure that these went on