Janus High, 49, store owner, 'original' hippie

September 20, 1998|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Janus High, a well-known Fells Point resident and former drug addict who owned a popular vitamin and herbal store there, died Tuesday of an aneurysm at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was 49.

Ms. High, who owned and operated the Off Broadway Cafe during the 1970s and early 1980s, opened the Fells Point Vitamin and Herbal Co. on Aliceanna Street several years ago and worked there at the time of her death.

"She was one of the original hippies," said longtime friend and writer Megan Hamilton of Highlandtown.

"She was a very bright and generous spirit who had tremendous empathy for AIDS sufferers, the homeless and the disenfranchised," said Ms. Hamilton, founding editor of Link: A Critical Journal of the Arts, which is published in Baltimore.

Ms. High was born in Baltimore and raised in Linthicum, where she graduated from Landover High School, now Northeast High School. She attended the University of Maryland, College Park and the Maryland Institute, College of Art. Like many in the restless generation of the 1960s, she bought a used car and crisscrossed the country.

"I was doing what it seemed like everybody else in my generation was doing, trying to find different ways to change my consciousness," she told Harry, a Baltimore alternative newspaper, in a 1991 interview.

"She really had blue-chip hippie credentials," said Ms. Hamilton, who said Ms. High and several Baltimore hippies traveled across the country in a renovated bus like the legendary Ken Kesey, whom she met in Oregon. Kesey wrote "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," and his Merry Pranksters were among the more visible groups of the turbulent 1960s.

Ms. High started experimenting with LSD in 1966 and, in 1986, was convicted of conspiring to sell LSD from her Fells Point restaurant and sentenced to six years in prison. She told the judge that "being busted saved my life."

During her 26 months in the Federal Women's Penitentiary at Alderson, W.Va., she was influenced by social activists Liz McCallister Berrigan, Ann Montgomery of the Harrisburg 7 and Jean Gump.

"Prison is an extraordinary experience. It takes you out of your ordinary consciousness. It's no business as usual. For me it was a spiritual experience, especially because of the women I was with," Ms. High said in the interview.

She returned to Fells Point and immersed herself in the community. She was known for her long, flowing dresses, reddish hair and slightly throaty, warm speaking voice.

"Janus managed to keep alive a lot of the best ethics of the '60s. She was open-minded, nonelitist and a very nurturing person. She really was in so many ways an earth mother, always worried about other people and their problems," said Ms. Hamilton.

Ms. High's marriage ended in divorce. A memorial gathering will be held at 7: 30 p.m. Friday at Bertha's Dining Room, 734 S. Broadway in Fells Point.

She is survived by her mother, Mary High of Baltimore; a stepbrother, Charles S. Tourtellot Jr. of Albuquerque, N.M.; and a niece, Aeri Tourtellot of Singapore.

Memorial donations may be made to Beans and Bread, 402 S. Bond St., Baltimore 21231.

Pub Date: 9/20/98

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