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Gentle Giant
Commitment to people, the arts have made Holden resident Tiny Stacy a valuable cultural resource in the area.

from WORCESTER MAGAZINE
January 24, 1990

  Sidebar:
Getting by with a Little Help from His Friends

 


 

"Greetings and hallucinations!" a maintenance man calls over to Tiny Stacy, who is occupying a corner booth at the Blue Plate in Holden.

Stacy has just returned from Western Massachusetts and a meeting with folk singer Arlo Guthrie, who is assisting in his Tibetan-relief efforts. He nurses a raspberry soda in the back of the establishment while his brother Michael, the Blue Plate manager, serves up coffee and patter to a group of working men who have dropped into the restaurant/tavern for a break.

So starts a new day at the Blue Plate, the gathering spot which has been a mainstay of Worcester County's entertainment scene for 55 years. And for at least the last 20 of those years Tiny Stacy has been at the heart of what has become an oasis for Worcester County intellectuals and rock 'n' rollers.

At this hour the place is quiet, the pinball machines and dart boards idle. The small stage awaits yet another big-name band, another poet of liberal persuasion, another performer with a political conscience. Study the stage and you start to see and hear the likes of Country Joe McDonald, Dave Guard and the New Riders of the Purple Sage warming up on a cold winter's night.

As "entertainment coordinator and crowd-control engineer," Tiny ostensibly plays backup to brother Michael and his mother, Rosemond, who serves as book keeper and assists with maintenance. The truth is that Tiny has become as much an institution as the Blue Plate itself.

Most people who hang around the fringes of the local rock 'n' roll scene are on a first-name, make that nickname basis with the large, gentle man who has helped promote Worcester-area groups like Zonkaraz. Literary types think of Tiny Stacy (born Paul) as the man who has brought 1960s icons like Lawrence Ferllnghettl to the Holden night spot. Aficionados of Buddhism and other  Eastern faiths know Stacy as the man who chauffeured the Dalai Lama through several American tours in the 1980s, and
who works religiously lo bring Buddhist ideals into his everyday life as regional director of the U.S. Tibet Committee.

If ever anyone has lived Timothy Leary's famous counterculture creed "Tune in, turn on, drop out" it's Stacy. Too much so. For Stacy almost became another statistic, another Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix consumed and destroyed by a drug addiction. But unlike those three, Stacy has managed to conquer his addiction and climb out of a pit of despair.

He credits the Dalai Lama, temporal and spiritual leader of Tibet, with his transformation. Not directly, for the Lama, who he first escorted throughout New England in 1979, never offered him personal advice. When an opportunity to serve as the Dalai Lama's chauffeur came up in the early 1980s, Stacy finally checked himself into a drug rehabilitation center and began the long, grueling climb out of oblivion.
 

Today's Stacy bears little resemblance to the young man whose main ambition in life between 1963 and 1968 was being a ski bum. There's little left either of the person who partied his way through the 1970s and early 1980s, eventually becoming so desperate for cocaine that he was willing to steal to support his habit.

A big bear of a man, 6 feet, 4 inches at last count, Stacy radiates love, goodwill and peace. Around his neck he wears a mali (similar to a Buddhist rosary) and tiny skulls on a string to remind him of the impermanence of life. A "Save Tibet" button is pinned to a white shirt, next to a button touting "Multi-Pure Water." Clean water is another one of his causes and he sells water filters for Multi-Pure, a Chatsworth, Calif., company, as a sideline.

Born on Groundhog Day, several months before D-Day in 1944, Stacy grew up in Holden. In those years he didn't spend much time at the Blue Plate, which his late father, Earle Stacy, ran along with working as a die sinker at Wyman-Gordon Co. Along with other junior high school friends he started abusing alcohol when he was 13. By the time Stacy enrolled at Worcester Junior College, he says he already was "obsessed with partying." Accomplishing little in school and heavily into "fun and frolic," he dropped out and moved to Sugarbush, Vt., to pursue a career as a ski bum.

Two things happened in 1968 which were destined to change Stacy's life. A broken back forced him back home to Holden to recuperate. At roughly the same time he visited a friend and heard a recording of Tibetan monks chanting. Reminded of the semiconscious state we achieve right before sleep, Stacy became entranced with the notion of altered states of consciousness. He read everything he could find that Carlos Castaneda, the Mexican anthropologist and pop culture guru, had to say on the subject.

Stacy was then 24 years old. Motivated to study for the first time he could remember, Stacy read all he could about the Dalai Lama, Buddhism, martial arts and Japanese culture. To survive financially, he tended bar at the Blue Plate.

His interest in mysticism and enlightened consciousness accelerated when he attended Woodstock in the summer of 1969 and "partook of psychedelic substances," as he now delicately calls his plunge into experimentation with LSD. Finding the universe "drastically altered" while under the influence of the drug, Stacy began a three-year search to determine "how the universe works."

From today's perspective, Stacy now feels it's unfortunate that he believed he could find enlightenment "through substances. They let me know there was a possibility of other dimensions, of heightened awareness or living more fully for the moment." Now he believes that drugs can be destructive, that they "cloud things."

After many years of gradual addiction to "booze and cocaine," Stacy sees a "funny line between controlling drug use
and having it control you. I was misguided in thinking that I could gain happiness from an outside substance. That I could avoid pain to feel good. That I could win enlightenment sooner."

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Although he was sinking deeper into addiction, Stacy continued his exploration of Buddhism. An exploration which would eventually save him from his drug habit. Music was another avocation and in the early 1970s, in the years immediately following Woodstock, Stacy set about bringing live rock music to the Blue Plate the start of his interest in entertainment promotion.

Local musicians Paul Vouna, Ricky Porter and Joanne Barnard had just formed a group called Zonkaraz. Later to become the Worcester area's most popular group. Zonkaraz performed at the Blue Plate regularly during those years. Promoting musical acts "felt natural" to Stacy who was "heavy into the party scene and more obsessed than ever with substances." One of his early coups was attracting the then-popular Holy Modal Rounders to the Holden night spot.

Stacy continued in this vein doing drugs and alcohol, playing music promoter, experimenting with altered consciousness throughout the '70s. If anything embodies the spirit of this period in his life it's a photo showing Stacy's head rising above the crowd at Sir Morgan's Cove while a sweaty Mick Jagger performs on the stage above.

As a sign of how warped his thinking had become on a steady diet of drugs and rock 'n' roll, he now confesses that he never shot up heroin because he didn't want to become a junkie. As if what he had become someone who was willing
to resort to stealing to feed a cocaine habit was somehow superior to someone hooked on heroin.

In 1979 the Dalai Lama, who was operating a provisional government from India, was visiting the United States on a lecture tour. One of his stops was Amherst College. Stacy caught his talk and was so impressed with the Dalai Lama's "wisdom and humor" that he saw him the next night at Harvard University. To Stacy there was nothing mystical about the Tibetan ruler. "He exuded a warm, sincere feeling. He represented someone who had fulfilled their potential, a total human."

If the encounter with the Dalai Lama was inspirational, it didn't prove enough to push Stacy off his downward path. Over the next two years he became more depressed than ever. Suicidal from substance abuse, he ruined an eight-year relationship with his girlfriend. Looking back with some sadness, he says "substances were more important than being honest with her."

Then in the spring of 1981 Stacy heard the Dalai Lama was making another American tour. With a great deal of effort, he sobered up for a day and visited tour sponsors Robert and Nina Thurman in Amherst. The three got along well and it was agreed that Stacy would serve as bodyguard and chauffeur for the Tibetan ruler.

Now what? It had been a "major achievement" for Stacy to be sober for one day. He was well aware of the Dalai Lama's strictures against drug abuse. The thought of missing out on this opportunity was so great that Stacy pulled himself together and checked into Beech Hill Hospital in New Hampshire, a special facility for victims of substance abuse.


Stacy feels that there was  nothing mystical about the decision. For him, the Dalai Lama "made sense when nothing else made sense." After spending 28 days in the facility he returned to the world feeling "good, but afraid." A group of recovering alcoholics offered support and Stacy saw "a glimmer of hope."

Although he had shed his physical habit, mentally he still believed there was no life without substance abuse. "I was convinced there would be no enjoyment in life, but I was willing to accept that because there was no choice. I don't think I could have done it without this contact with the Dalai Lama. I would have been history."

Stacy had 10 beatific days with the Dalai Lama that August. He will never forget picking up the diminutive spiritual leader at a monastery located in the pastoral Adirondacks. During the ride to Boston he remembers the Dalai Lama questioning him about his life in America and insisting they stop at a Howard Johnson's for lunch so he could test and taste western culture.

While in the presence of the Tibetan spiritual master, Stacy says he "felt total acceptance. By being who he is, he allows us to be who we are. His total acceptance is the blessing. You feel safe, open."

The experience was especially blissful coming at a time when Stacy had so recently been released "from hell." After escorting the Dalai Lama to his plane, Stacy stopped at a bus station. "The reality of the world" hit him and he almost became physically ill. Stacy knew then he would have to find some way of integrating the Dalai Lama's teachings with a world filled with pain, hatred and anguish.

With the help of his recovering alcoholic support group and meditation, Stacy has rediscovered that the world can be a  beautiful, warm place when viewed sober. Thankfully, he says, the desire for drink is gone. He's put his restless energy into social service projects which range from collecting clothes for the homeless to assisting emigrating Tibetans.

Stacy is far happier talking about Buddhism and helping others than discussing his contacts with renowned members of the '60s counterculture who are still out on the lecture or music circuit. In recent years, through contacts he's made over his years in the rock music scene, he has been able to turn the Blue Plate into a virtual Cambridge West, enticing spiritual leaders, poets and famous folk rock musicians to perform at his club. Ram Dass was in Holden in 1986, Ann Waldman in 1987 as was Ferlinghetti, to name a few of the '6Os icons who passed through town.

Don't ask Stacy for anecdotes about these famous folks. It goes against his sense of humility to admit they might have stopped in for a night to please him. He chalks it all up to "karma." And perhaps he's too aware of their desire for privacy to tell tales to nosy journalists.

Breaking down somewhat, he admits having high-callber artists and performers at the Blue Plate has provided its special moments. "I've enjoyed watching the whole thing happen. The performers, the energy, I was tremendously proud to be a part of it. To watch people leave smiling.

"I've always felt different. I always felt and enjoyed things most people didn't. I'm glad there are things in life I can share with others and I'm grateful to be in a position to make this kind of alternative experience possible, along with enjoying myself."

Stacy suggests we head over to Barre for lunch at one of his favorite places, a former monastery which now houses the Insight Meditation Society. Before pulling out, he opens his trunk where he's stashed some Tibetan carpets and enough paperback books lo create an annex of the Holden library. He offers a Noam Chomsky book on illusions for perusal before closing the trunk again.

As we drive down tree-lined Route 122, he explains why he puts so much energy into Tibetan relief at a time when he could very well pick causes closer to home. Why, for instance, he's lobbying hard for a bill in Congress to allow 1,000 Tibetans to emigrate to the United States. And why he sells Tibetan rugs to finance the cause.

Well aware that the earth is riddled with poverty and need, much of which exists in his own backyard, he says he picks causes "from my heart. The inspiration from the Dalai Lama saved my life. I want to help him with the struggle with Chinese atrocities that have occurred over the last 30 years."

We approach a brick mansion and enter a world where silence is filled with music. In the enforced peace of IMS, Stacy seems at ease though not diminished in spirit. He insists that meditation and Buddhism are not an escape.

"Your attention is focused, whole-hearted. Meditation," he explains, "helps you bring awareness and caring into each action and moment. It gives you a chance to deepen your awareness. It led me to direct my life more toward service with less concern for myself."

Outside again, in temperatures that feel spring-like, there's hope in the air. At first Stacy is reluctant to talk about the future. He then tosses out the observation: "If you want to see the past personally, look at yourself right now. If you want to see the future, look at your mind right now."

Perhaps he senses that this answer would be fine for the Dalai Lama, but not quite adequate for him. Glancing down at his large physique, he admits that getting healthy, "getting my obsessive overeating under control," is one of his prime goals right now. To this end he's joined a weight-reduction program and started swimming with a mask and snorkel, which he says aids meditation.

He sees himself continuing with Tibetan-relief efforts. For example, Blue Plate regulars are currently sponsoring 25 Tibetan children and he's looking for additional funds to sponsor more. Then there's selling water-purification equipment to raise "extra income to do meditation retreats." And, poet Allen Ginsburg may be making a Blue Plate appearance soon.

Despite his love for retreats, Stacy is no recluse and he has no desire to become a Buddhist monk. He feels the "tougher the situation in daily life, the more challenging, the better opportunity I have to put into practice what I've learned in Buddhist studies. Our adversaries can be our greatest teachers. They force us to use the tools we're learning in real-life situations. The greater the adversary, the greater the opportunity."

 

Amy Zuckerman
from WORCESTER  MAGAZINE
January 24, 1990

 


 

Getting by with a Little Help from His Friends
 

Arlo Guthrie first met Tiny Stacy a couple of years ago when his son Abe was about to play a gig at the Blue Plate.

Stacy had met Guthrie's wife at a gathering in Worcester, learned about Abe's ambitions, and offered the young Guthrie a chance to perform at the Holden club.

"My son came in and said 'there's this neat guy who owns a club in Worcester,'" Guthrie recalls, "I didn't think any more about it. And then Tiny came up here to talk to Abe and I found we have a lot in common. He's one of the few people who 1 can associate with and know that every time I see him we'll have a wonderful time together."

The union of Stacy and Guthrie, son of fabled folk troubadour Woody Guthrie and the composer of "Alice's Restaurant," has proved fortuitous for the cause of Tibetan relief. Chuckling, Guthrie relates over the phone that he guesses he and Stacy "are sort of related spiritually."

One of the folk star's first conversations with Stacy centered around the Dalai Lama and concern for Tibetans. Before he knew it, Guthrie had agreed to buy some of Stacy's Tibetan rugs along with a "few other items to support the effort. We started up a friendship over mutual interests."

Out on the road performing for about nine months of the year, Guthrie devotes the rest of his time to Rising Son Records in Washington, Mass., a company he formed in 1983. Although he considers assisting in Tibetan emigration a "wonderful" idea, he's not as involved as Stacy in that effort.

"It's a fabulous thing that through unfortunate circumstances we get to learn more about the Tibetan culture. I support the effort to keep their culture alive around the world and especially in this country, and that we can afford to do that. 1 hope someday these people will be able to return freely to Tibet."

As for Stacy, Guthrie says from the day he first met him "he was one of those people you sometimes meet and feel you've known for a long time. He was one of those guys for me. And those times are few and far between."

Buzz Bussewitz, a member of the Insight Meditation Society community, feels Stacy's had "a very huge impact on the center." Whenever Stacy visits in Barre he "creates a feeling of ease, of joy, of well-being and better human relations. When there are issues going on, an uptightness, when people aren't happy speaking to each other, he helps dissipate that negativity."

Anyone who knows a little about Buddhism will understand when Bussewitz says Stacy represents "a kind of Mahayana energy," which has an emphasis on the heart, on giving and generosity. Heartiness and giving, he says, is as much at the core of Buddhism as developing one's inner being in a solitary way.

"For me," Bussewitz adds, "it's a little hard to imagine what type of place IMS would be without Tiny making his presence."

 

Amy Zuckerman
from WORCESTER  MAGAZINE
January 24, 1990

 

 

last modified: May, 2010

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