John Law: The San Francisco Suicide Club

John Law joins us again to talk about the origins of the San Francisco Suicide Club and how he first discovered the group that would go on to become legendary in the San Francisco subculture in the early 80s up to the 90s.

John Law in the 1997 Cacophony Society “Meat Parade”

Much has been written about the group and its amazing mind expanding events which spawned out of the Communiversity movement, itself sprung from the free speech movement in the tumultuous 60s in California’s college crowd. This short extract from Wikipedia does it no justice whatsoever:

The Suicide Club was probably best known at the time for its bridge climbing exploits. The Club, though secretive during its lifespan, influenced many future cultural and artistic endeavors. The Billboard Liberation Front began as a Suicide Club event hosted by Gary Warne in 1977. Author Don Herron’s Dashiell Hammett Walking Tour, the longest lived literary tour in America began in the Suicide Club in 1977. The Chinese New Years Treasure Hunt was created by Gary Warne and Rick Lasky in 1977 and continues (albeit in a different form) to this day. John Gilmore, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation was a Suicide Club member. Sexologist Dr. Susan Block was also a member. The Cacophony Society was founded by ex Suicide Clubbers in 1986. Members of the Cacophony Society organized San Francisco’s first SantaCon, adopted later and spread throughout the world by the Cacophony Society. There are now Cacophony Societies throughout the world. The Burning Man Festival was influenced by Cacophony and many former Suicide Club members were crucial organizers in the early days of the desert event. The “leave no trace” mantra of Burning Man was borrowed from the Suicide Club and the philosophy of Warne.

It had a profound influence on American counter-culture, culture-jamming, and culture in general.

Their stunts were legendary in the San Francisco area. The idea was to expand your comfort zone, to cut out the programming imposed onto you by society.

This episode is surely the longest, but sit back and listen to John’s amazing stories and I guarantee you you’ll wish you were part of the amazing times back when the Suicide Club was in action. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from making a Suicide Club of your own.

Suicide Club webpage:

In 1986, ex-members of the then defunct Suicide Squad formed the Cacophony Society:

The Billboard Liberation Front:

One of the first billboards from the Billboard Liberation Front:


Hear another collaborating account of the wild first billboard improvement and John being in the gorilla suit!

Here’s a short film made by Suicide Club member Steve Mobia in conjunction with the Suicide Club. You’ll see a very young John Law in it too (absolutely NSFW and contains female copulation with a liquor bottle):

Listen to John’s previous episode here:

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