The Gastronauts (appeared in Spin magazine)
by Chris Norris
THE GASTRONAUTS Imagine a world where disease is eliminated,
man and nature exist in perfect harmony, and life is a perpetual high. According to a sect
of dietary extremists known as rawf-oodists, utopia is just a chick pea smoothie away.
Juliano is definitely on something. He's bouncing around the
room in skater shorts and a cropped T-shirt--talking fast, gesturing broadly, suffused
with a seratonin glow rarely seen outside illegal warehouse parties.
"Dude, you gotta sleep outside," he says, over
blasting Crystal Method beats. "I always sleep outside on a picnic table. My bedroom
ceiling's higher than a millionaire's." As he talks, his eyes often grow wide with
wonder and amazement, usually at himself. "I swear, I'm an instrument," he says.
"I'm like the messiah to bring in the new world."
One would prescribe the chill-out room and plenty of water
for young Juliano, except we're in a kitchen, not at a rave, and Juliano doesn't drink
water. Hasn't since he turned 21, four years ago. "There's no reason for it," he
says of the substance many find handy for things like filling squirt guns and remaining
alive. The uni-named Juliano prefers to get his fluids--and much, much more--from fruit.
"An orange," he declares. "Perfectly made. You
can eat the package, the label is built-in, it's perfect in every way, shape, and form.
The orange was invented even before the color orange, you know? That's how good and
important oranges are to our existence. Before we needed to invent a color we needed to
invent a food. So we named a color after the fruit." He looks at me, laughing.
"That's kinda cool."
Some people are into God, some are into drum'n'bass, others
are into heroin, firearms, or white supremacy. But an increasingly avid number are
into--really into--what they eat. Or, more precisely, what they don't eat. In an era when
just about every substance has been ingested, experienced, and documented in a
best-selling memoir, saying "no"--to chemicals, toxins, beef, and other American
staples--is a radical act. Now, 150 years after a British society coined the term
"vegetarian" (from the Latin "vegetus," meaning whole, fresh, and
lively), the world of dietary extremists has grown to encompass as many subsets as
electronic dance music. The movements include one group that considers cooked food poison;
another that considers eating whole plants akin to murder; another that eats only sprouted
food; another that eats only liquid food; another that eats freshly killed animals; and
still another, predictably smaller group that claims to eat only air.
While the sects differ in specifics, the essential gospel is
as follows: By consuming only raw fodder--untainted by modern chemicals and full of the
nutrients that would be burned out by cooking--followers can attain a level of health
unknown to modern man. "When you take up the raw food diet, you become a new and
different and better person," promises the book Blatant Raw Foodist Propaganda!
"You don't just stay the same old person, only a little healthier.... The raw food
diet doesn't so much 'improve you' as 'replace you' with somebody better!" Not only
is this culinary abstinence said to yield an eradication of all illness from depression to
cancer, it's also supposed to render a change in one's essential being, to clarify
thinking, and--does this sound familiar?--to open the doors of perception.
Echoes of the late-'60s LSD gurus abound, but they're
mediated by a distinctly late-'90s, post-tech consciousness: better living through
heirloom tomatoes. The thinking actually has some currency in mainstream medicine.
"Raw-foodists are in touch with the fact our agricultural economy does reduce the
nutritious value of our food," says Dr. Mehmet Oz, heart surgeon, Irving Assistant
Professor at Columbia University, and author of the holistic-minded book, Healing From the
Heart. "The good part of what they're doing is raising awareness of how important
diet is to illness prevention."
Like LSD's champions, the raw-foodists have a sacrament, but
rather than a space-age synthetic, theirs is pure, undiluted Nature. Rather than Huxley-
and Castaneda-quoting psychonauts, they are Kulvinskas- and Wigmore-quoting food voyagers:
The participants are mostly outsiders--post-hippies,
ex-skinheads, cancer recoverers, Woody Harrelson--and the energy is classic subcult.
Citing scientific research or karmic law, believers pursue their regimes with Talmudic
diligence, the ideological menu ranging from neo-hippie utopianism to quasi-fascistic
purism. And there are a lot of them: Author and publisher Steve Arlin estimates sales of
the raw-promoting Nature's First Law at 300,000. "Among the youth," notes Dr.
Oz, "a concentration on nutrition is becoming the next wave of awareness. It's true
in Ayurvedic traditions, in Chinese traditions--what you eat is a very important part of
how you think. This is the West's attempt to catch up."
One such community of believers is thriving, fittingly, in
the onetime home to acid rock and Day-Glo schoolbuses: San Francisco. Here in the trendy
Inner Sunset District, the restaurant Raw Experience is a youthful nerve center of the
raw-food movement. The airy boîte was opened in 1995 under the name Raw by the
autodidactic chef Juliano, then 21. It soon drew the patronage of celebrities such as
Harrelson, Demi Moore, and Robin Williams, and is now to California rawness what CBGB was
to American punk rock. A quote from Einstein is plastered on its front window:
"Nothing will benefit health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth
as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." Inside, that evolution is being bumped up a
The white-walled space has exotic Middle Eastern curves in
the ceiling and framed color photographs of slender, tanned nude men and women lying by
streams or hugging rocks. T-shirts are for sale that say rawgirl and rawsome. The menu
offers nut-based "mylkshakes"--spelled in a culinary echo of the postfeminist
"womyn." Fliers about world-music concerts and veggie retreats cover a board
near the doorway. Soft shakuhachi flutes play on the CD player, giving way to Portishead.
Behind long wooden counters, young people in cargo pants, tie-dyes, and Teva sandals
bustle about not cooking.
The closest Raw Experience gets to an oven are its Excalibur
food dehydrators, which only go up to 105 degrees, above which enzymes begin to break down
and the food is no longer "live." The restaurant works ingenious variations on
established cooked dishes: Pizza, pasta, sushi, burritos, and even meat loaf find their
tasty if oddly colored equivalents made from chick peas, beans, squash, jicama. A row of
glass-fronted refrigerators display the store's essence: green apples, yellow peppers, red
cabbages, limes--a vivid advertisement of what Raw Experience's proprietor, Jeremy Safron,
calls raw food's "life force."
"You can see the power of a fruit whose auric field is
intact," he says. "My friend Freedom likes to talk about how the first bite is
the only one that matters. It's got its life force, you've got yours, you bite it, you've
broken its field and absorbed its essence. You can get rid of the fruit after that."
Right now, Safron's own auric field appears blissfully
intact. Serenely smiling, with a soul patch, braided ponytail, and roomy Chinese-style
hempwear, the 27-year-old is presiding over food preparation and fielding phone calls.
"Aloha!" he calls into the cordless. "Oh, hey, Sequoia. Hold on, my phone
is being crazed." Despite his blissed-out, neo-Deadhead
affect-"n-i-i-i-i-i-ce" is a frequent commendation--Safron has an imposing
knowledge of hard and not-so-hard science, with facts and figures at his fingertips about
everything from world religions to lymphatic functioning to Uri Geller. He took over the
restaurant from Juliano in 1997 and is in frequent contact with him, a Timothy Leary to
Juliano's Ken Kesey. Like Juliano, Safron is a raw educator and proselytizer, leading
retreats, publishing books, galvanizing the local scene with his energy and command of
nutritional research. Among the new generation of gastronauts, he is a leading light,
absolutely "100 percent raw," in the parlance of the community.
Raised in Manhattan by a vegetarian mom, Safron was an avid
science student--into physics and aeronautics--and by his early teen years, a serious
disciple of kung fu. After high school, a friend in Vermont introduced another arcane
world of discipline and lineage. "He was fasting and I was like, 'What's the deal
with fasting?' And he was like, 'Dude,' and he handed me Survival Into the 21st
Century." The book, by Viktoras Kulvinskas, is the Das Kapital of the modern raw-food
movement, outlining the forces in science and history that lead inescapably to the
uncooked diet. "I read the whole book that night. I stuck around with him and fasted
and learned all about live foods. I became very raw, about 95 percent. I really loved the
While on the kung fu teaching circuit--many of whose
participants were already vegan--Safron began preparing raw/food for his charges and
educating the open-minded. In addition to a spongelike capacity for absorbing facts and
recipes, he displayed excellent networking skills, parlaying his growing mastery of raw
cuisine into catering gigs and finally live-food restaurants in San Francisco and Maui. As
a sort of accreditation in the raw lineage, he even studied with the octogenarian raw-food
prophet Dr. Ann Wigmore shortly before she died in-surely some cosmic joke--a fire. He
became an author, educator, and guru of raw food, highlighted on the rawfood.com Web site
as one of the "Premier Raw-Foodists of the World."
Leading me to the restaurant's back, Safron points to a
suspiciously luscious yard of spongy grass: wheatgrass. "We retilled the soil for
three days, added some algae and sea kelp, then sprouted seeds in buckets, and grew crops
of it," he says. "We've been cutting it and eating it and just hanging out. It's
really fun stuff."
Entering the raw-food world does seem to require a
recalibration of one's amusement quotient. After extolling the funness of wheatgrass,
Safron tells me that wild food "is a lot of fun because you're interacting with the
tree." He and his girlfriend and business partner, Annie Jubb--whose ex-husband,
David Jubb, is a New York--based raw-food educator and an alternative medicine healer--are
working on a book tentatively titled Dining From an Empty Bowl, a guide to 28 different
fasts: juice fasts, dry fasts, speech fasts. All of which make the book, as Safron puts
it, "a pretty fun thing."
Near the restaurant's doorway, Brian Lucas, a 27-year-old
taxi driver, and his partner, Whitney, are making one of their daily visits to Raw
Experience. Their son Zivu, 5, is racing around the store, while their curly-topped
daughter Inanna, 2, is rum-inating on a pacifier. The two kids are being raised raw. Soon
Zivu will be off to vegetarian kindergarten.
"It's really hard to transition kids to rawness,"
Lucas says. "They just freak out, you know? Whatever is the opposite of what we're
doing, they'll want."
Lucas was raised in an actual vegetarian faith, Seventh Day
Adventist. "But it was like schwag, gross, chemically induced vegetarian," he
says. "Their vegemeats basically have all these chemicals and preservatives. At
around 13 or 14 I rebelled and became a meat-eater."
At 18, after a few years of skateboarding and road-tripping,
he returned to the vegetarian fold. Rawness, though, was a whole new world.
"Everybody thought I was on speed," he says. "I got thinner and got a lot
"We're doing even better now," says Whitney.
"We're doing a lot more nuts. I was getting kinda spaced-out because I was doing so
much fruit. Nuts give me something to ground with."
Right now, the raw community provides a sort of anchor for
the family, who are going through some turbulent times. Lucas, who smokes medically
prescribed marijuana for a stomach ailment, says he was pulled over by unprogressive cops
when he happened to be carrying his year's supply. He is on probation and will have to
spend 17 days in jail, staying raw the whole time. Whitney is stripping to help pay the
bills. Both are optimistic, especially about rawness.
Zivu comes running up, a tanned, energetic youngster with
shaggy blond hair shading his bright blue eyes. "What do you think about raw,
Zivu?" asks Lucas. He shakes his head no. "What do you like? What's your
favorite food?" "Bananas!" "Well, that's raw. Hey, what's your raw
superhero name?" "Smoozie! And Colorboy!" Zivu looks up at me expectantly.
"You wanna be raw? You wanna be raw?"
"It is very difficult to explain something of this
majesty and glory to closed and indoctrinated minds" begins Nature's First Law: The
Raw-Food Diet; the tract's ecclesiastical tone is not uncommon in the raw-food movement.
With books on spirituality and diet the two main contenders on the best-seller list, it's
inevitable that a movement would combine the two strands: a yearning, inward-looking faith
organized solely around comestibles.
Gastronauts explain that the earliest raw-foodists were
animals, and that the first reference to the raw-food diet appears in the Dead Sea
Scrolls. Vatican archivist Edmond Bordeaux Szekeley is credited with translating the
Aramaic text into the Essene Gospel of Peace, in which Christ counsels raw vegetarianism
and gourd-administered enemas. Some even credit the hundred-year lifespans of Genesis
characters to the diet. As it says in Genesis, God gave humans for food "all plants
that bear seed everywhere on earth, and every tree-bearing fruit that yields seed."
The gospel of raw was taken up in more scientific form in the
late '50s by the aforementioned Dr. Wigmore, founder of the Natural Hygienics movement and
an early promoter of wheatgrass, and later by the likes of Kulvinskas, Gabriel Cousens,
and the Iranian-born Arshavir T. Hovannessian, whose book-jacket endorsements include the
statement, "You are the Christ!"
While today's raw-food activists talk about enzymes more than
Jesus, the community still has the squabbling sects and even excommunications of a
religion. On their Web site, Nature's First Law authors Stephen Arlin and David Wolfe
address the apostasy of the raw-food prophet T.C. Fry, who strayed from rawness and died:
"So long as human beings persist in consuming cooked food, there can be neither real
civilization nor lasting health on Earth."
Part of this intensity of belief comes from the idea that
rad-ical diets do seem to have saved lives. Nutritionist Roe Gallo says that at age 25 she
reversed a potentially fatal asthma condition with a juice fast. She claims to have since
healed others of illnesses ranging from diabetes, to lupus, to cancer. Her book The
Perfect Body is filled with recovery stories from people saved by a diet Gallo--now a
sinewy 49--practices every day. She is a fruitarian, subsisting on four or five pieces of
fruit a day, her diet based on simple principles of physiology that she says are
overlooked by medical doctors and actively debunked by the drug, beef, and dairy
"There's only one disease," she says.
"Toxicity. Everything else is a symptom of that disease." According to Gallo's
research and experience, raw organic fruit--both toxin-free and nutrient-rich--is the
human animal's natural food, what our systems are designed to consume. This elegant
philosophy is an undeniable balm after mainstream medicine's constantly vacillating
statements about antioxidants and free radicals. Even the skeptical must admit Gallo's is
at least a reasonable-sounding argument. Her fruitarianism is primarily physical rather
than philosophical. Others, though, tend to take the grapefruit and run with it.
"Fruit is love," says Safron. "Fruitarians
consider fruit the birth child of the plant. It's the seed that it puts all its life
energy into, and it wants it to be as beautiful and tasty as possible, so that you can
come along and eat it and throw the pit somewhere. We are the foster parents of the
plants." Safron mentions Dr. O.L.M. Abramowski as a fruitarian founder. "He's
very into papayas."
Fruitarianism is the most highly evolved form of veganism
possible, an ethically driven practice so benign and low-impact it doesn't even consume an
entire plant. Gradations of this mentality run throughout raw-foodism, often a seamless
blend of science and post-vegan principles. One notable wing, however, enjoys a much less
cuddly relationship with its fodder.
Instinctive--or "instincto"--eaters believe in
eating raw animals, wherever and whenever they find them. Led by people with names like
Zephyr and Aajonus Vonderplanitz, they are about as viscerally anti-vegan as you can get.
Zephyr, as Safron puts it, "likes to talk about eating a spider out of its web, or
catching a mongoose on the highway and biting into it, or biting a chicken's head
off." Zephyr's community lurks in Hawaii, and other instincto groups have sprung up
in California and, tellingly, Germany, where Teutonic myth provides a fitting backdrop for
outdoorsy activities such as tree-climbing and chipmunk-noshing.
But this crowd of food radicals has nothing on the
breatharians. "I have no real need to eat," says Jasmuheen, phoning from her
home in Australia. "I can go years without eating and there's no problem for my
body." Jasmuheen, an author of several books about spirituality, is a blond,
fortysomething mother of two who is either insane, playing a great practical joke, or
about to evolve into a higher lifeform. She says she subsists on prana, or light.
"For yogis, the knowledge of living on prana is very common," she says.
"There are thousands of people around the world who know they don't need food. These
people are nourished directly from the god force within. They have simply cut out the
middleman, which is food." Jasmuheen says she has gone two years at a time without
the middleman, although she will occasionally have a cup of tea at a restaurant just to be
social. "It's just so alienating to people when you're never eating or
drinking," she says.
While other raw-foodists tend to respectfully distance
themselves from her, Jasmuheen's rhetoric meshes surprisingly well with that of other
gastronauts. Like a Pynchonesque Thin Thighs in Thirty Days, her book Living on Light
presents a 21-day "conversion process" to food-free living. It lists the
benefits of living on light, inclu- ding "increased clairvoyant and clairaudient
abilities; amazing lightness of being; limitless energy; sleep requirements halve or
disappear." It sounds wonderful.
Unfortunately, a former college professor died of
malnutrition some years ago in an attempt to make such a conversion, under the auspices of
the Temple Beautiful, a proto-gastronautic sect in Philadelphia that promised harmony of
the body and soul by dietary means. "Fasting, austere diets, enemas are all
consistent with the psychological needs of health neurotics," says William Jarvis,
Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at California's Loma Linda University.
"This 'giving up' notion, this asceticism--'If I just give up one more thing'--this
is where you get into the neurosis of it." Happily, Jasmuheen does caution followers
not to just jump into breatharianism, but to begin with vegetarianism and meditation.
"We just say, 'How 'bout you hook into this lifestyle?'" she says. "Prove
to yourself that you don't need food. If you wish to eat for pleasure you can, and if you
don't, you can do that too."
"She's either delusional," says Professor Jarvis,
"or she's a liar."
Los Angeles is a tough place to live on air. Here, you really
want to have a little water and maybe even some food once in a while, just to help hydrate
and detox. Still, few cities in the world have taken nutrition and diet in such
avant-garde directions. This is where the breatharian Wiley Brooks shepherded a flock of
believers before he was busted at a 7-Eleven with empty containers of chicken pot pie.
("We all feel tricked and deceived," one follower lamented to the Los Angeles
Times.) This is where Permanent Midnight author Jerry Stahl would follow up his mainline
dose of heroin with a shot of wheatgrass and a morning run. And this is where Juliano has
landed; specifically, he has set up shop at "The Living Lighthouse," the
hopefully titled, one-story community center in Santa Monica. It houses a modest raw-food
kitchen--juicers, dehydrators, refrigerators-and hosts raw potlucks and vegan seminars.
The clapboard-fronted cottage is either the front lines of a global-consciousness
revolution or a dietary Ruby Ridge.
Currently, the house is having a minor insurrection.
"I'd rather not talk too much about David," says the house's soi disant
"managing director," Dennis Knicely, 46. "It's just that he kind of got
into a whole different...venue of raw foods."
David Karas has fallen under the sway of the
"instincto" movement and Knicely, consequently, has asked him to move out.
"When somebody comes in our house and they have carcass breath, we don't feel like
they're properly representing our program," Knicely says.
Not yet vacated from the small shack behind the Living
Lighthouse, Karas sits working at a computer. A friendly 60-year-old with white-blond
shoulder-length hair, a full beard, a small frame, a bulging stomach, and missing
teeth--the remnants of a car accident he had in his teens--Karas is wearing shorts and is,
as always, barefoot. He hasn't shampooed his hair in 18 months. "I just live as
naturally as I can," he says. In the '60s, Karas was a computer programming grad
student at UCLA, involved in developing a precursor to the Internet. Here in his small
room--with flies buzzing around, bare lightbulbs, and yes, a vague whiff of something
gamy--the word "Kaczynski" does come to mind.
Karas had been into rawness ten years when he encountered
Aajonus Vonderplanitz, a man who preached the gospel of raw meat. "Aajonus said that
he hadn't exercised in 18 years and he was just solid. He'd had cancer and diabetes and
now at age 50 was completely healthy. It was his encouragement that really got me to try
Karas, who had once been a vegan activist, started with raw
fish and then had his first raw mammal, lamb. Soon he was eating raw mammals at least four
times a week and, he says, turning yet another corner in health. "First, I put on
about 20 pounds and virtually all of it was muscle. I also noticed how much easier it was
to stand up, how my body was more coordinated. I realized this is the way I'm meant to
Because this is L.A. and not the forest primeval, Karas makes
a few compromises. Rather than kill the animals, he purchases their organically raised
bodies from health-food stores such as Wild Oats or Whole Foods. "Some people I know
have talked about buying a goat and slaughtering it and eating it fresh," he says.
"But I think we're all pretty much scavengers. I'm not killing, but I'm going to this
fresh kill. Instead of driving the owner away with rocks or throwing spears at him, I'm
showering him with these green pieces of paper. If I give him enough then he lets me take
As the late afternoon sun sets, Karas returns to one of his
two raw-food Web sites and the Living Lighthouse is quiet for a few hours. Then, that
night, the supernaturally shiny face of rawness arrives.
Juliano is striking in the manner of rock singers and
indie-film stars. A tall, lithe surfer-dude/club-kid, he has an elfin face and long blond
hair bunched atop his cranium in a top-knot, lanyards hanging down the back. He wears
yellow knee-length Boss shorts, his tanned, taut midriff bared by a Real skateboards
half-tee with flowers in the logo. ("I just like it 'cause it says REAL and has
flowers on it," he says. "It's like 'real food.'") He and his sister
Valerie, 24, come bursting into the Lighthouse at around 11 p.m., bearing bushels of
oranges. Joined by Piter Caizer, 40, introduced as "the wheatgrass messiah,"
they set right to juicing.
"Somebody drink this juice," Valerie calls out.
"I can just see the vitamins flowing out of it." The two have just gotten back
from a weekend in Ojai, California, where they were operating in a state of extreme
"Everything we ate today was picked directly off a
tree," says Valerie. "We had mulberries all day. I feel like I could run ten
"Look at that dog, Natasha," Juliano says, pointing
to a black lab lying in the corner. It looks up at me glumly. "That's a raw food dog.
I've never seen a dog like that in my whole life. The dog is transformed by the energy of
Juliano first saw the light at the age of 15. "I had
grown up in front of a TV in Las Vegas and I'd never seen nature. Then my dad moved and he
brought me to Palm Springs, and I was blown away. Just out the back door--hills, rivers,
snowcapped mountains. Every day I went into this magical, mystical place called Tahquitz
Canyon. Just sliding around the waterfalls, playing in the water. That's what made me
appreciate nature. I knew that was the right path to take."
At 19, he became a vegan. Then, for reasons he still doesn't
understand, he decided to fast on raw foods. "I just came up with it on my own,"
he says. "I did it and I never went back."
This was his conversion to a higher plane. "I felt so
great," he says. "Two hours' sleep a night. I thought I had insomnia. I kept
thinking, 'Wait, What's up? I went to sleep at midnight and it's 2:30 in the morning.'
After a week of sleeping a couple hours a night and feeling great and having tons of
energy, jogging, and getting so much more done--because you have an extra six hours a
day--I was like, 'You know what? I'm never having that shit again.'"
The conversion to raw food brought about more than health
changes. In some mystical way, it bequeathed upon Juliano a mastery of cuisine that the
San Francisco Chronicle's famously picky food critic, Michael Bauer, praised, saying,
"In a city known for its innovative cooking, [Juliano's restaurant] beats them
all...." It's this talent that is currently turning Juliano into the toast of
Hollywood-somewhere between a chef and a guru.
"Okay, here's the corny story," he says. He stops
and looks at me. "Dude, I'm an instrument and there's a higher power working through
me!" He breaks up laughing, his expression saying he knows how ridiculous it sounds,
but it's true. "I swear! I don't know why I was selected, how come no one invented
raw pizzas, raw bur-ritos, raw cheeseburgers."
"It's so weird," Valerie agrees. "When we were
vegan we both cooked and I knew all his recipes and they were okay. But as soon as he went
raw he just exploded with these recipes. I don't know what happened. They just came
pouring out of him."
At 22, when his peers were building bongs or perfecting their
ollie, Juliano was opening a restaurant. He had come to San Francisco to be a yogi, but
found he was a bit too cutting-edge. "They hated me at the yoga place 'cause I was
raw," he says. "They were were like, 'Ayurvedic is 5,000 years old' and I'd go,
'Well, raw is before, you know, fire, man.' So I was like, 'Later,'"
He found ravers to be more receptive. His first restaurant
operated out of a deli, after-hours. While kids were blasting music and tweaking on E,
Juliano was going mental with chick peas, jicama, and shredded zucchini--confecting a
hallucinogenic cuisine that fit the scene perfectly. Soon he was catering to outdoor
raves, whose participants aren't commonly thought to have tremendous appetites. "But
raw foods are really light, and raves last for days," Juliano insists. "People
were loving us. You could have like five-star food at a rave. This went way beyond a
In L.A., he is a luminary of a scene in which natural highs
are in vogue. His friend Woody Harrelson has just opened an "oxygen bar," called
O2, where, because oxygen is a controlled substance in the state of California, they serve
"oxygen-enriched air"--nearly pure O2 in flavors such as "Clarity,"
"Energy," "Joy," and, er, "Lemon"--along with herbal elixirs
("Headwaters" is Harrelson's favorite), fresh-squeezed juice, and food prepared
by raw chef John Wood. Wood was a roommate of Juliano's in Hollywood, "where I
continued his training," says Juliano. "Make sure you put it like that."
Juliano also caters to universe masters like Michael Milken
and Steve Jobs. "I get these outcalls all the time," he says. "People pay
me a thousand bucks for three hours. Those are great." He is currently negotiating
with Fox for his own raw food TV cooking show, which will doubtless make the hyperkinetic
Emeril Lagasse's seem quaint. He has a book of raw recipes due out from HarperCollins this
spring. Rawness has provided Juliano with a spiritual shift that, in a very '90s way,
proves perfectly at home in late-century capitalism. But this only makes sense, because
raw is the solution to everything.
As the hour grows late, my cooked-food diet obliges me to
sleep. Before I pass out, Juliano offers a prediction. "This will change the world in
a couple of years," he says evenly. "Not even a couple of years, maybe
The next morning, I wake up on the Living Lighthouse floor,
groggy and disoriented. Juliano has been up for hours. Right now, he's in the kitchen
making Bryan Adams's lunch--throwing together a lavish spread while acid-house thumps on
the boom box. "Jicama garlic bread, falafel, an amazing salad with an amazing
dressing," he says, rattling off the ingredients. "Persian mulberries, dates,
pasta marinara made out of shredded zucchini, fresh-squeezed orange juice." He adds
nasturtium garnishes. "This is all his for $300," he says. "I was gonna ask
for more, but the girl who hooked me up is too hot to haggle with."
Half an hour later, we're at the front gates of Paramount
Pictures, where Adams is shooting a video. Inside, dream-making is in full swing. Lighting
rigs are everywhere. Jim Carrey is running around with a paper bag over his head, in
character as comedian Andy Kaufman. Extras mill about in either flared '70s wear or rustic
Gold Rush duds. But Juliano is the one getting the stares.
Bearing a circular platter of interplanetary fare, he looks
like some kind of cyber-jungle food-sprite: his hair down in a blond mane and his lean
frame set off by a skin-tight, psychedelic silk-screen shirt, shiny green vinyl pants, and
purple Doc Martens with green laces. Members of a civilian tour group stand behind a
fence, one of them pointing at Juliano, asking a friend who he is. "I look like a
Star Trek character!" Juliano says to me. A few minutes later, Worf, the Klingon from
Next Generation, walks by, seeming to concur.
We get to Adams's trailer and find the Canadian rock star
shirtless, in black pants and makeup. He marvels as Juliano presides over the dish,
running down the exotic ingredients.
"Do you have any idea how much I love this?" Adams
asks. "How'd you like to come on tour? For a year. Let me know if you want to open up
a restaurant in London, where I live."
The food is spectacular--lush, colorful, and tactile. But it
seems Juliano himself is at least half the attraction. He is more than a chef here; he's
an inspiration. "He's like an E.T.," says Harrelson. "He's from another
planet. I mean that in the best sense. People see his energy and they're like, 'I want
some of that.'"
As it happens, not everyone is so enchanted with Juliano.
Jeremy Safron and Annie Jubb, for instance, were less than thrilled when, in October,
Juliano abruptly seized control of the San Francisco restaurant (for which they still held
the operator's lease), changed its name to Organica, and replaced them with raw taxi
driver Brian Lucas. Details are murky, but Jubb has apparently acceded to this usurpation.
"The laws of karma are really strong," says Jubb. "And I don't feel that
you have to take action on something like this." Juliano shrugs it off in a manner
that a non-vegan might describe in terms of needing to break eggs to make an omelette.
"Every business owner has had to fire some bad waitress. You know, there's some
people in San Francisco that hate me. It's no big deal."
But it's hard to imagine what would truly faze Juliano. In
fact, his What, me worry? vibe may be the most seductive part of the raw promise.
Potential litigation? No problem, dude. End of friendships? Whatever. Eternal life through
raw foods? Totally! Gastronauts have given us the most breathless expression of the Prozac
myth to date: one magic switch that will permanently remove all angst and trauma from
life. Just because the world is toxic, doesn't mean you have to be.
Back in L.A., Juliano walks away from Adams's video set and
on through the promenade of alternative realities: postwar New York street corner,
Parisian thoroughfare, Old West ghost town. "I can't wait to be working here,"
Juliano says. "It's only a matter of time."
An aspiring film director, Juliano tells me about the three
screenplays he's written. "One of them's an action sci-fi adventure," he says.
"It's totally just brand-new. Amazing. It's about the death and rebirth of the
planet. Sorry I can't tell you more, but it's so rad. It's just gonna blow people's
Another film is about animal experimentation. "I want
Demi Moore to play the lead," Juliano says. "I don't like anybody else for the
role. She's 80 percent raw, 100 percent vegan, and doesn't wear leather, so I know she'll
be into it. I have direct access to her because my friend knows her personal
The third screenplay is a little closer to home. It's a sort
of verite treatment of Juliano's own experiences in L.A. "It's, like, Hollywood
101," he says. "It's just about all the shit I do in Hollywood."
As we walk toward Paramount's exit, the merry prankster of
raw breaks out laughing. "My life, it's basically a movie every day," he says.
"The shit I do, the shit I pull. It's fuckin' hilarious, dude."