Stay in the Loop
BSR publishes on a weekly schedule, with an email newsletter every Wednesday and Thursday morning. There’s no paywall, and subscribing is always free.
Drugs, alcohol, and group sex: Meet Jack Parsons
BSR Scripts and Sips: David Lee White’s ‘Rocket Sex Magic’
In 1947, Jack Parsons came up with a plan to change the world using rocket ships, ancient sorcery, and group sex.
If you want to take a deep, deep dive down an internet rabbit hole, google the name “Jack Parsons.” His full name was John Whiteside Parsons and the name on his birth certificate is “Marvel.” Parsons was one of the first U.S. rocket scientists. Born into wealth, then raised in poverty by a single mother in California, Parsons spent his childhood shooting off toy rockets in his backyard. With his childhood friend Ed Foreman, Jack set up a lab at CalTech, landed himself a government contract, and founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratories. He eventually created the rocket fuel and jet units that allowed us to send a rocket to the moon.
But that’s the least interesting thing about Jack Parsons.
He was also an acolyte of pansexual writer and libertine Aleister Crowley. After taking charge of Crowley’s California chapter of the Ordo Templi Orientis, Parsons held weekly masses in the living room of his Pasadena mansion that included drugs, alcohol, and group sex. Along with infamous con man and cult leader L. Ron Hubbard, Parsons set out to raise the goddess Babylon as a way to overthrow Christian patriarchy and bring about the birth of a moon child. Somewhere along the way, he also managed to write numerous essays advocating for women’s rights, civil rights for racial minorities, and sexual freedom. And he did it all before dying in a mysterious explosion at the age of 37.
If there’s a ground zero for the psychedelic weirdness of the ‘60s, it might be the home of Jack Parsons. In a life that lasted less than four decades, he managed to anticipate the occult boom, liberal progressivism, libertarianism, free love, and the moon landing.
So, what’s the play about?
Windom (Winnie) Wayland is a psychoanalyst living on a desert military base near Pasadena, California with his wife Betty. He struggles with marital strife, a suicidal patient, and the desire to live a more “normal” life. His world is turned upside-down when the military asks him to evaluate Jack Parsons — a rocket scientist with dreams of space travel who's responsible for some major technological breakthroughs. After his first meeting with Parsons, Winnie gets whisked into a world of the occult, mysterious phenomena, and sexual promiscuity that threatens to redefine the world he thought he knew.
Some of it is fiction, but all of it is true. This is to say, I made up the normal parts, but not the unbelievable parts — the play is a combination of fact and fantasy. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which is which. Seriously, do some Googling. You’ll be surprised.
The Moonwalk, of course: 1 oz. grapefruit juice, 1 oz. orange liqueur, and 3 drops of rose water. Top with a splash of champagne.
Click below for the Rocket Sex Magic script
Sign up for our newsletter
All of the week's new articles, all in one place. Sign up for the free weekly BSR newsletters, and don't miss a conversation.