Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
by Dave McGowan
Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
May 8, 2008
"There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear"
Join me now, if you have the time, as we take a stroll down memory lane to a time nearly four-and-a-half decades ago – a time when America last had uniformed ground troops fighting a sustained and bloody battle to impose, uhmm, ‘democracy’ on a sovereign nation.
It is the first week of August, 1964, and U.S. warships under the command of U.S. Navy Admiral George Stephen Morrison have allegedly come under attack while patrolling Vietnam’s Tonkin Gulf. This event, subsequently dubbed the ‘Tonkin Gulf Incident,’ will result in the immediate passing by the U.S. Congress of the obviously pre-drafted Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which will, in turn, quickly lead to America’s deep immersion into the bloody Vietnam quagmire. Before it is over, well over fifty thousand American bodies – along with literally millions of Southeast Asian bodies – will litter the battlefields of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
For the record, the Tonkin Gulf Incident appears to differ somewhat from other alleged provocations that have driven this country to war. This was not, as we have seen so many times before, a ‘false flag’ operation (which is to say, an operation that involves Uncle Sam attacking himself and then pointing an accusatory finger at someone else). It was also not, as we have also seen on more than one occasion, an attack that was quite deliberately provoked. No, what the Tonkin Gulf incident actually was, as it turns out, is an ‘attack’ that never took place at all. The entire incident, as has been all but officially acknowledged, was spun from whole cloth. (It is quite possible, however, that the intent was to provoke a defensive response, which could then be cast as an unprovoked attack on U.S ships. The ships in question were on an intelligence mission and were operating in a decidedly provocative manner. It is quite possible that when Vietnamese forces failed to respond as anticipated, Uncle Sam decided to just pretend as though they had.)
Nevertheless, by early February 1965, the U.S. will – without a declaration of war and with no valid reason to wage one – begin indiscriminately bombing North Vietnam. By March of that same year, the infamous “Operation Rolling Thunder” will have commenced. Over the course of the next three-and-a-half years, millions of tons of bombs, missiles, rockets, incendiary devices and chemical warfare agents will be dumped on the people of Vietnam in what can only be described as one of the worst crimes against humanity ever perpetrated on this planet.
Also in March of 1965, the first uniformed U.S. soldier will officially set foot on Vietnamese soil (although Special Forces units masquerading as ‘advisers’ and ‘trainers’ had been there for at least four years, and likely much longer). By April 1965, fully 25,000 uniformed American kids, most still teenagers barely out of high school, will be slogging through the rice paddies of Vietnam. By the end of the year, U.S. troop strength will have surged to 200,000.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world in those early months of 1965, a new ‘scene’ is just beginning to take shape in the city of Los Angeles. In a geographically and socially isolated community known as Laurel Canyon – a heavily wooded, rustic, serene, yet vaguely ominous slice of LA nestled in the hills that separate the Los Angeles basin from the San Fernando Valley – musicians, singers and songwriters suddenly begin to gather as though summoned there by some unseen Pied Piper. Within months, the ‘hippie/flower child’ movement will be given birth there, along with the new style of music that will provide the soundtrack for the tumultuous second half of the 1960s.
An uncanny number of rock music superstars will emerge from Laurel Canyon beginning in the mid-1960s and carrying through the decade of the 1970s. The first to drop an album will be The Byrds, whose biggest star will prove to be David Crosby. The band’s debut effort, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” will be released on the Summer Solstice of 1965. It will quickly be followed by releases from the John Phillips-led Mamas and the Papas (“If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears,” January 1966), Love with Arthur Lee (“Love,” May 1966), Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention (“Freak Out,” June 1966), Buffalo Springfield, featuring Stephen Stills and Neil Young (“Buffalo Springfield,” October 1966), and The Doors (“The Doors,” January 1967).
One of the earliest on the Laurel Canyon/Sunset Strip scene is Jim Morrison, the enigmatic lead singer of The Doors. Jim will quickly become one of the most iconic, controversial, critically acclaimed, and influential figures to take up residence in Laurel Canyon. Curiously enough though, the self-proclaimed “Lizard King” has another claim to fame as well, albeit one that none of his numerous chroniclers will feel is of much relevance to his career and possible untimely death: he is the son, as it turns out, of the aforementioned Admiral George Stephen Morrison.
And so it is that, even while the father is actively conspiring to fabricate an incident that will be used to massively accelerate an illegal war, the son is positioning himself to become an icon of the ‘hippie’/anti-war crowd. Nothing unusual about that, I suppose. It is, you know, a small world and all that. And it is not as if Jim Morrison’s story is in any way unique.
During the early years of its heyday, Laurel Canyon’s father figure is the rather eccentric personality known as Frank Zappa. Though he and his various Mothers of Invention line-ups will never attain the commercial success of the band headed by the admiral’s son, Frank will be a hugely influential figure among his contemporaries. Ensconced in an abode dubbed the ‘Log Cabin’ – which sat right in the heart of Laurel Canyon, at the crossroads of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Lookout Mountain Avenue – Zappa will play host to virtually every musician who passes through the canyon in the mid- to late-1960s. He will also discover and sign numerous acts to his various Laurel Canyon-based record labels. Many of these acts will be rather bizarre and somewhat obscure characters (think Captain Beefheart and Larry “Wild Man” Fischer), but some of them, such as psychedelic rocker cum shock-rocker Alice Cooper, will go on to superstardom.
Zappa, along with certain members of his sizable entourage (the ‘Log Cabin’ was run as an early commune, with numerous hangers-on occupying various rooms in the main house and the guest house, as well as in the peculiar caves and tunnels lacing the grounds of the home; far from the quaint homestead the name seems to imply, by the way, the ‘Log Cabin’ was a cavernous five-level home that featured a 2,000+ square-foot living room with three massive chandeliers and an enormous floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace), will also be instrumental in introducing the look and attitude that will define the ‘hippie’ counterculture (although the Zappa crew preferred the label ‘Freak’). Nevertheless, Zappa (born, curiously enough, on the Winter Solstice of 1940) never really made a secret of the fact that he had nothing but contempt for the ‘hippie’ culture that he helped create and that he surrounded himself with.
Given that Zappa was, by numerous accounts, a rigidly authoritarian control-freak and a supporter of U.S. military actions in Southeast Asia, it is perhaps not surprising that he would not feel a kinship with the youth movement that he helped nurture. And it is probably safe to say that Frank’s dad also had little regard for the youth culture of the 1960s, given that Francis Zappa was, in case you were wondering, a chemical warfare specialist assigned to – where else? – the Edgewood Arsenal. Edgewood is, of course, the longtime home of America’s chemical warfare program, as well as a facility frequently cited as being deeply enmeshed in MK-ULTRA operations. Curiously enough, Frank Zappa literally grew up at the Edgewood Arsenal, having lived the first seven years of his life in military housing on the grounds of the facility. The family later moved to Lancaster, California, near Edwards Air Force Base, where Francis Zappa continued to busy himself with doing classified work for the military/intelligence complex. His son, meanwhile, prepped himself to become an icon of the peace & love crowd. Again, nothing unusual about that, I suppose.
Zappa’s manager, by the way, is a shadowy character by the name of Herb Cohen, who had come out to L.A. from the Bronx with his brother Mutt just before the music and club scene began heating up. Cohen, a former U.S. Marine, had spent a few years traveling the world before his arrival on the Laurel Canyon scene. Those travels, curiously, had taken him to the Congo in 1961, at the very time that leftist Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was being tortured and killed by our very own CIA. Not to worry though; according to one of Zappa’s biographers, Cohen wasn’t in the Congo on some kind of nefarious intelligence mission. No, he was there, believe it or not, to supply arms to Lumumba “in defiance of the CIA.” Because, you know, that is the kind of thing that globetrotting ex-Marines did in those days (as we’ll see soon enough when we take a look at another Laurel Canyon luminary).
Making up the other half of Laurel Canyon’s First Family is Frank’s wife, Gail Zappa, known formerly as Adelaide Sloatman. Gail hails from a long line of career Naval officers, including her father, who spent his life working on classified nuclear weapons research for the U.S. Navy. Gail herself had once worked as a secretary for the Office of Naval Research and Development (she also once told an interviewer that she had “heard voices all [her] life”). Many years before their nearly simultaneous arrival in Laurel Canyon, Gail had attended a Naval kindergarten with “Mr. Mojo Risin’” himself, Jim Morrison (it is claimed that, as children, Gail once hit Jim over the head with a hammer). The very same Jim Morrison had later attended the same Alexandria, Virginia high school as two other future Laurel Canyon luminaries – John Phillips and Cass Elliott.
“Papa” John Phillips, more so than probably any of the other illustrious residents of Laurel Canyon, will play a major role in spreading the emerging youth ‘counterculture’ across America. His contribution will be twofold: first, he will co-organize (along with Manson associate Terry Melcher) the famed Monterrey Pop Festival, which, through unprecedented media exposure, will give mainstream America its first real look at the music and fashions of the nascent ‘hippie’ movement. Second, Phillips will pen an insipid song known as “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair),” which will quickly rise to the top of the charts. Along with the Monterrey Pop Festival, the song will be instrumental in luring the disenfranchised (a preponderance of whom are underage runaways) to San Francisco to create the Haight-Asbury phenomenon and the famed 1967 “Summer of Love.”
Before arriving in Laurel Canyon and opening the doors of his home to the soon-to-be famous, the already famous, and the infamous (such as the aforementioned Charlie Manson, whose ‘Family’ also spent time at the Log Cabin and at the Laurel Canyon home of “Mama” Cass Elliot, which, in case you didn’t know, sat right across the street from the Laurel Canyon home of Abigail Folger and Voytek Frykowski, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here), John Edmund Andrew Phillips was, shockingly enough, yet another child of the military/intelligence complex. The son of U.S. Marine Corp Captain Claude Andrew Phillips and a mother who claimed to have psychic and telekinetic powers, John attended a series of elite military prep schools in the Washington, D.C. area, culminating in an appointment to the prestigious U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis
After leaving Annapolis, John married Susie Adams, a direct descendant of ‘Founding Father’ John Adams. Susie’s father, James Adams, Jr., had been involved in what Susie described as “cloak-and-dagger stuff with the Air Force in Vienna,” or what we like to call covert intelligence operations. Susie herself would later find employment at the Pentagon, alongside John Phillip’s older sister, Rosie, who dutifully reported to work at the complex for nearly thirty years. John’s mother, ‘Dene’ Phillips, also worked for most of her life for the federal government in some unspecified capacity. And John’s older brother, Tommy, was a battle-scarred former U.S. Marine who found work as a cop on the Alexandria police force, albeit one with a disciplinary record for exhibiting a violent streak when dealing with people of color.
John Phillips, of course – though surrounded throughout his life by military/intelligence personnel – did not involve himself in such matters. Or so we are to believe. Before succeeding in his musical career, however, John did seem to find himself, quite innocently of course, in some rather unusual places. One such place was Havana, Cuba, where Phillips arrived at the very height of the Cuban Revolution. For the record, Phillips has claimed that he went to Havana as nothing more than a concerned private citizen, with the intention of – you’re going to love this one – “fighting for Castro.” Because, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of folks in those days traveled abroad to thwart CIA operations before taking up residence in Laurel Canyon and joining the ‘hippie’ generation. During the two weeks or so that the Cuban Missile Crisis played out, a few years after Castro took power, Phillips found himself cooling his heels in Jacksonville, Florida – alongside, coincidentally I’m sure, the Mayport Naval Station.
Anyway, let’s move on to yet another of Laurel Canyon’s earliest and brightest stars, Mr. Stephen Stills. Stills will have the distinction of being a founding member of two of Laurel Canyon’s most acclaimed and beloved bands: Buffalo Springfield, and, needless to say, Crosby, Stills & Nash. In addition, Stills will pen perhaps the first, and certainly one of the most enduring anthems of the 60s generation, “For What It’s Worth,” the opening lines of which appear at the top of this post (Stills’ follow-up single will be entitled “Bluebird,” which, coincidentally or not, happens to be the original codename assigned to the MK-ULTRA program).
Before his arrival in Laurel Canyon, Stephen Stills was (*yawn*) the product of yet another career military family. Raised partly in Texas, young Stephen spent large swaths of his childhood in El Salvador, Costa Rica, the Panama Canal Zone, and various other parts of Central America – alongside his father, who was, we can be fairly certain, helping to spread ‘democracy’ to the unwashed masses in that endearingly American way. As with the rest of our cast of characters, Stills was educated primarily at schools on military bases and at elite military academies. Among his contemporaries in Laurel Canyon, he was widely viewed as having an abrasive, authoritarian personality. Nothing unusual about any of that, of course, as we have already seen with the rest of our cast of characters.
There is, however, an even more curious aspect to the Stephen Stills story: Stephen will later tell anyone who will sit and listen that he had served time for Uncle Sam in the jungles of Vietnam. These tales will be universally dismissed by chroniclers of the era as nothing more than drug-induced delusions. Such a thing couldn’t possibly be true, it will be claimed, since Stills arrived on the Laurel Canyon scene at the very time that the first uniformed troops began shipping out and he remained in the public eye thereafter. And it will of course be quite true that Stephen Stills could not have served with uniformed ground troops in Vietnam, but what will be ignored is the undeniable fact that the U.S. had thousands of ‘advisers’ – which is to say, CIA/Special Forces operatives – operating in the country for a good many years before the arrival of the first official ground troops. What will also be ignored is that, given his background, his age, and the timeline of events, Stephen Stills not only could indeed have seen action in Vietnam, he would seem to have been a prime candidate for such an assignment. After which, of course, he could rather quickly become – stop me if you’ve heard this one before – an icon of the peace generation.
Another of those icons, and one of Laurel Canyon’s most flamboyant residents, is a young man by the name of David Crosby, founding member of the seminal Laurel Canyon band the Byrds, as well as, of course, Crosby, Stills & Nash. Crosby is, not surprisingly, the son of an Annapolis graduate and WWII military intelligence officer, Major Floyd Delafield Crosby. Like others in this story, Floyd Crosby spent much of his post-service time traveling the world. Those travels landed him in places like Haiti, where he paid a visit in 1927, when the country just happened to be, coincidentally of course, under military occupation by the U.S. Marines. One of the Marines doing that occupying was a guy that we met earlier by the name of Captain Claude Andrew Phillips.
But David Crosby is much more than just the son of Major Floyd Delafield Crosby. David Van Cortlandt Crosby, as it turns out, is a scion of the closely intertwined Van Cortlandt, Van Schuyler and Van Rensselaer families. And while you’re probably thinking, “the Van Who families?,” I can assure you that if you plug those names in over at Wikipedia, you can spend a pretty fair amount of time reading up on the power wielded by this clan for the last, oh, two-and-a-quarter centuries or so. Suffice it to say that the Crosby family tree includes a truly dizzying array of US senators and congressmen, state senators and assemblymen, governors, mayors, judges, Supreme Court justices, Revolutionary and Civil War generals, signers of the Declaration of Independence, and members of the Continental Congress. It also includes, I should hasten to add – for those of you with a taste for such things – more than a few high-ranking Masons. Stephen Van Rensselaer III, for example, reportedly served as Grand Master of Masons for New York. And if all that isn’t impressive enough, according to the New England Genealogical Society, David Van Cortlandt Crosby is also a direct descendant of ‘Founding Fathers’ and Federalist Papers’ authors Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.
If there is, as many believe, a network of elite families that has shaped national and world events for a very long time, then it is probably safe to say that David Crosby is a bloodline member of that clan (which may explain, come to think of it, why his semen seems to be in such demand in certain circles – because, if we’re being honest here, it certainly can’t be due to his looks or talent.) If America had royalty, then David Crosby would probably be a Duke, or a Prince, or something similar (I’m not really sure how that shit works). But other than that, he is just a normal, run-of-the-mill kind of guy who just happened to shine as one of Laurel Canyon’s brightest stars. And who, I guess I should add, has a real fondness for guns, especially handguns, which he has maintained a sizable collection of for his entire life. According to those closest to him, it is a rare occasion when Mr. Crosby is not packing heat (John Phillips also owned and sometimes carried handguns). And according to Crosby himself, he has, on at least one occasion, discharged a firearm in anger at another human being. All of which made him, of course, an obvious choice for the Flower Children to rally around.
Another shining star on the Laurel Canyon scene, just a few years later, will be singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, who is – are you getting as bored with this as I am? – the product of a career military family. Browne’s father was assigned to post-war ‘reconstruction’ work in Germany, which very likely means that he was in the employ of the OSS, precursor to the CIA. As readers of my “Understanding the F-Word” may recall, U.S. involvement in post-war reconstruction in Germany largely consisted of maintaining as much of the Nazi infrastructure as possible while shielding war criminals from capture and prosecution. Against that backdrop, Jackson Browne was born in a military hospital in Heidelberg, Germany. Some two decades later, he emerged as … oh, never mind.
Let’s talk instead about three other Laurel Canyon vocalists who will rise to dizzying heights of fame and fortune: Gerry Beckley, Dan Peek and Dewey Bunnell. Individually, these three names are probably unknown to virtually all readers; but collectively, as the band America, the three will score huge hits in the early ‘70s with such songs as “Ventura Highway,” “A Horse With No Name,” and the Wizard of Oz-themed “The Tin Man.” I guess I probably don’t need to add here that all three of these lads were products of the military/intelligence community. Beckley’s dad was the commander of the now-defunct West Ruislip USAF base near London, England, a facility deeply immersed in intelligence operations. Bunnell’s and Peek’s fathers were both career Air Force officers serving under Beckley’s dad at West Ruislip, which is where the three boys first met.
We could also, I suppose, discuss Mike Nesmith of the Monkees and Cory Wells of Three Dog Night (two more hugely successful Laurel Canyon bands), who both arrived in LA not long after serving time with the U.S. Air Force. Nesmith also inherited a family fortune estimated at $25 million. Gram Parsons, who would briefly replace David Crosby in The Byrds before fronting The Flying Burrito Brothers, was the son of Major Cecil Ingram “Coon Dog” Connor II, a decorated military officer and bomber pilot who reportedly flew over 50 combat missions. Parsons was also an heir, on his mother’s side, to the formidable Snively family fortune. Said to be the wealthiest family in the exclusive enclave of Winter Haven, Florida, the Snively family was the proud owner of Snively Groves, Inc., which reportedly owned as much as 1/3 of all the citrus groves in the state of Florida.
And so it goes as one scrolls through the roster of Laurel Canyon superstars. What one finds, far more often than not, are the sons and daughters of the military/intelligence complex and the sons and daughters of extreme wealth and privilege – and oftentimes, you’ll find both rolled into one convenient package. Every once in a while, you will also stumble across a former child actor, like the aforementioned Brandon DeWilde, or Monkee Mickey Dolenz, or eccentric prodigy Van Dyke Parks. You might also encounter some former mental patients, such as James Taylor, who spent time in two different mental institutions in Massachusetts before hitting the Laurel Canyon scene, or Larry “Wild Man” Fischer, who was institutionalized repeatedly during his teen years, once for attacking his mother with a knife (an act that was gleefully mocked by Zappa on the cover of Fischer’s first album). Finally, you might find the offspring of an organized crime figure, like Warren Zevon, the son of William “Stumpy” Zevon, a lieutenant for infamous LA crimelord Mickey Cohen.
All these folks gathered nearly simultaneously along the narrow, winding roads of Laurel Canyon. They came from across the country – although the Washington, DC area was noticeably over-represented – as well as from Canada and England. They came even though, at the time, there wasn't much of a pop music industry in Los Angeles. They came even though, at the time, there was no live pop music scene to speak of. They came even though, in retrospect, there was no discernable reason for them to do so.
It would, of course, make sense these days for an aspiring musician to venture out to Los Angeles. But in those days, the centers of the music universe were Nashville, Detroit and New York. It wasn’t the industry that drew the Laurel Canyon crowd, you see, but rather the Laurel Canyon crowd that transformed Los Angeles into the epicenter of the music industry. To what then do we attribute this unprecedented gathering of future musical superstars in the hills above Los Angeles? What was it that inspired them all to head out west? Perhaps Neil Young said it best when he told an interviewer that he couldn’t really say why he headed out to LA circa 1966; he and others “were just going like Lemmings.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Before signing off, I need to make a couple of quick announcements for those of you who find yourselves thinking, “You know, I really need a little more Dave in my life. Reading the posts and the books is fine, I suppose, but I wish I could have a little something more.” If you fall into that category (and can’t afford professional counseling), then I have great news for you: mere days from now, on May 20, the DVD release of “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” will be available at a video store near you. And better yet, I have been awarded a regular monthly spot on the Meria Heller (www.meria.net) radio program, the first installment of which aired on April 20 (she picked the date, by the way, though it did seem perversely appropriate). Stay tuned to Meria’s website for upcoming show schedules.
And that, fearless readers, is what they call in Hollywood a “wrap.”Part II
“He was great, he was unreal – really, really good.”
“He had this kind of music that nobody else was doing. I thought he really had something crazy, something great. He was like a living poet.”
trivia question: both of the above statements were made, on separate occasions,
by a famous
In the first chapter of this saga, we met a sampling of
some of the most successful and influential rock music superstars who emerged
When I recently presented to a friend a truncated summary of the information contained in the first installment of this series, said friend opted to play the devil’s advocate by suggesting that there was nothing necessarily nefarious in the fact that so many of these icons of a past generation hailed from military/intelligence families. Perhaps, he suggested, they had embarked on their chosen careers as a form of rebellion against the values of their parents. And that, I suppose, might be true in a couple of cases. But what are we to conclude from the fact that such an astonishing number of these folks (along with their girlfriends, wives, managers, etc.) hail from a similar background? Are we to believe that the only kids from that era who had musical talent were the sons and daughters of Navy Admirals, chemical warfare engineers and Air Force intelligence officers? Or are they just the only ones who were signed to lucrative contracts and relentlessly promoted by their labels and the media?
If these artists were rebelling against, rather than
subtly promoting, the values of their parents, then why didn’t they ever speak
out against the folks they were allegedly rebelling against? Why did Jim
Morrison never denounce, or even mention, his father’s key role in escalating
In the coming weeks, we will take a much closer look at
these folks, as well as at many of their contemporaries, as we endeavor to
determine how and why the youth ‘counterculture’ of the 1960s was given birth.
According to virtually all the accounts that I have read, this was essentially a
spontaneous, organic response to the war in
Here we will, as you have no doubt already ascertained, take a decidedly different approach. The question that we will be tackling is a more deeply troubling one: “what if the musicians themselves (and various other leaders and founders of the ‘movement’) were every bit as much a part of the intelligence community as the people who were supposedly harassing them?” What if, in other words, the entire youth culture of the 1960s was created not as a grass-roots challenge to the status quo, but as a cynical exercise in discrediting and marginalizing the budding anti-war movement and creating a fake opposition that could be easily controlled and led astray? And what if the harassment these folks were subjected to was largely a stage-managed show designed to give the leaders of the counterculture some much-needed ‘street cred’? What if, in reality, they were pretty much all playing on the same team?
I should probably mention here
that, contrary to popular opinion, the ‘hippie’/’flower child’ movement was not
synonymous with the anti-war movement. As time passed, there was, to be sure, a
fair amount of overlap between the two ‘movements.’ And the mass media outlets,
as is their wont, did their very best to portray the flower-power generation as
the torch-bearers of the anti-war movement – because, after all, a ragtag band
of unwashed, drug-fueled long-hairs sporting flowers and peace symbols was far
easier to marginalize than, say, a bunch of respected college professors and
their concerned students. The reality, however, is that the anti-war movement
was already well underway before the first aspiring ‘hippie’ arrived in
As Barry Miles has written in
his coffee-table book, Hippie, there were some hippies involved in
anti-war protests, “particularly after the police riot in
As it turns out, they came,
initially at least, from a rather private, isolated, largely self-contained
neighborhood in Los Angeles known as Laurel Canyon (in contrast to the other
canyons slicing through the Hollywood Hills, Laurel Canyon has its own market,
the semi-famous Laurel Canyon Country Store; its own deli and cleaners; its own
elementary school, the Wonderland School; its own boutique shops and salons;
and, in more recent years, its own celebrity
reprogramming rehab facility
named, as you may have guessed, the Wonderland Center. During its heyday, the
canyon even had its own management company, Lookout Management, to handle the
talent. At one time, it even had its own newspaper.)
One other thing that I should
add here, before getting too far along with this series, is that this has not
been an easy line of research for me to conduct, primarily because I have been,
for as long as I can remember, a huge fan of 1960s music and culture. Though I
was born in 1960 and therefore didn’t come of age, so to speak, until the 1970s,
I have always felt as though I was ripped off by being denied the opportunity to
experience firsthand the era that I was so obviously meant to inhabit. During my
high school and college years, while my peers were mostly into faceless
corporate rock (think Journey, Foreigner, Kansas, Boston, etc.) and, perhaps
worse yet, the twin horrors of New Wave and Disco music, I was faithfully
spinning my Hendrix, Joplin and Doors albums (which I still have, or rather my
eldest daughter still has, in the original vinyl versions) while my color organ
(remember those?) competed with my black light and strobe light. I grew my hair
long until well past the age when it should have been sheared off. I may have
even strung beads across the doorway to my room, but it is possible that I am
confusing my life with that of Greg
Anyway … as I have probably
mentioned previously on more than one occasion, one of the most difficult
aspects of this journey that I have been on for the last decade or so has been
watching so many of my former idols and mentors fall by the wayside as it became
increasingly clear to me that people who I once thought were the good guys were,
in reality, something entirely different than what they appear to be. The first
to fall, naturally enough, were the establishment figures – the politicians who
I once, quite foolishly, looked up to as people who were fighting the good
fight, within the confines of the system, to bring about real change. Though it
now pains me to admit this, there was a time when I admired the likes of
(egads!) George McGovern and Jimmy Carter, as well as (oops, excuse me for a
moment; I seem to have just thrown up in my mouth a little bit)
Since I mentioned Jerry
“Governor Moonbeam” Brown, by the way, I must now digress just a bit – and we
all know how I hate it when that happens. But as luck would have it, Jerry Brown
was, curiously enough, a longtime resident of a little place called
As it turns out, you see, the
most bloody mass murder in LA’s history took place in one of the city’s most
serene, pastoral and exclusive neighborhoods. And strangely enough, the case
usually cited as the runner-up for the title of bloodiest crime scene – the
murders of Stephen Parent, Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Voytek Frykowski and
Abigail Folger at
As previously mentioned,
victims Folger and Frykowski lived in
Sharon Tate was also well
Along with the victims, the
alleged killers also lived in and/or were very much a part of the
Oh, wait a minute … we can’t
quite move on just yet, as I forgot to mention that Sebring’s
As Laurel Canyon chronicler
Michael Walker has noted, LA’s two most notorious mass murders, one in August of
1969 and the other in July of 1981 (both involving five victims, though at
Wonderland one of the five miraculously survived), provided rather morbid
bookends for Laurel Canyon’s glory years.
If you answered that all were
found dead in their homes, either in or at the mouth of
Only two of them, of course,
are officially listed as murder victims (Mineo, who was stabbed to death outside
his home at 8563 Holloway Drive on February 12, 1976, and Novarro, who was
killed near the Country Store in a decidedly ritualistic fashion on the eve of
Halloween, 1968). Inger Steven’s death in her home at
Diane Linkletter, as we all
know, sailed out the window of her Shoreham Towers apartment because, in her
LSD-addled state, she thought she could fly, or some such thing. We know this
because Art himself told us that it was so, and because the story was retold
throughout the 1970s as a cautionary tale about the dangers of drugs. What we
weren’t told, however, is that Diane (born, curiously enough, on Halloween day,
1948) wasn’t alone when she plunged six stories to her death on the morning of
Art also neglected to mention, by the way, that just weeks before Diane’s curious death, another member of the Linkletter clan, Art’s son-in-law, John Zwyer, caught a bullet to the head in the backyard of his Hollywood Hills home. But that, of course, was an unconnected, uhmm, suicide, so don’t go thinking otherwise.
I’m not even going to discuss
here the circumstances of Bruce’s death from acute morphine poisoning on
(As for the trivia question, the person being praised, of course, was our old friend Chuck Manson. And the guy singing his praises was Mr. Neil Young.)
May 13, 2008
“I mean, fuck, he auditioned for Neil [Young] for
fuck’s sake.”---Graham Nash, explaining to author Michael Walker how
close Charlie Manson was to the
During the ten-year period during which Bruce, Novarro, Mineo, Linkletter, Stevens, Tate, Sebring, Frykowski and Folger all turned up dead, a whole lot of other people connected to Laurel Canyon did as well, often under very questionable circumstances. The list includes, but is certainly not limited to, all of the following names:
There are a few other curious deaths we could
add here as well, though they were only indirectly related to the
And with that, I think we can move on now from
the Laurel Canyon Death List. The list is not yet complete, mind you, since we
have only covered the years 1966-1976. Rest assured then that we will continue
to add names as we follow the various threads of this story. Some of those names
will be quite familiar, while others will be significantly less so. One of the
names from that era that has been all but forgotten is Judee
Judee was born in
Following Bud’s death, the family relocated back
Judee’s mother, Oneta, met and married Ken Muse,
an Academy Award winning animator for Hanna-Barbera who was described by Judee
as an abusive, violent alcoholic. At fifteen, Judee fled her violent home life
and lived with an older man with whom she pulled off a series of armed robberies
By 1963, Judee had cleaned herself up enough to enroll in junior college. In the early winter of 1965, however, Judee’s mom, her last surviving family member, died either of cancer or of complications arising from her chronic alcoholism (take your pick; the details of this story will likely remain forever elusive). Barely an adult, Judee was left all alone in the world, and thus began another downward spiral into drugs and crime, which culminated in her being arrested and possibly serving time on forgery and drug charges.
In the late 1960s, with her addictions apparently
temporarily curbed, Sill joined the
Though critically well-received, the album’s sales were disappointing, in part because the record was overshadowed by the debut albums of Jackson Browne and The Eagles, both released by Asylum shortly after the release of Judee’s album. Sill’s second album, 1973’s “Heart Food,” was even more of a commercial disappointment. Nevertheless, in 1974 she began work on a third album in Monkee Mike Nesmith’s recording studio. Prior to completion, however, she abandoned the project and promptly disappeared without a trace. What became of her between that time and her death some five years later remains largely a mystery. It is assumed that she once again descended into a life of drugs and prostitution, but no one seems to know for sure.
It is alleged that she was seriously injured when her car was rear-ended by actor Danny Kaye, causing her to suffer from chronic back pain thereafter, thus contributing to her drug addictions. According to a friend of hers, she lived in a home that featured an enormous photo of Bela Lugosi above the fireplace, a large ebony cross above her bed, and racks of candles. She is said to have read extensively from Rosicrucian manuscripts and from the writings of Aleister Crowley, to have possessed a complete collection of the work of Helena Blavatsky, and to have been a gifted tarot card reader.
What is known for sure is that, on the day after
Thanksgiving, 1979, Judee Sill, the last surviving member of her family, was
found dead in a
* * * * * * * * * *
It has occurred to me, as I have been working on these first posts of this new series, that a lot of this information will probably make more sense to those of you out there in Readerland who have successfully waded through my last book, Programmed to Kill. Those of you who haven’t done so may find yourselves pondering the significance of some of the references contained herein. Much of this material is tied in, to varying degrees, with material that is covered in the book, which last time I checked could be had in the E-version from www.IUniverse.com for the low, low price of just $6. And what else are you going to do with $6 – buy a gallon of gas?
May 19, 2008
The bridge of the USS Bon Homme Richard, January
1964. Just months later, the guy on the right would guide his ship into the
Until around 1913,
In 1913, Mann began operating what was billed
as the nation’s first trackless trolley, to ferry tourists and prospective
buyers from Sunset Boulevard up to what would become the corner of
Shortly after the Log Cabin was built, a department store mogul (or a wealthy furniture manufacturer; there is more than one version of the story, or perhaps the man owned more than one business) built an imposing, castle-like mansion across the road, at the corner of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and what would become Willow Glen Road. The home featured rather creepy towers and parapets, and the foundation is said to have been riddled with secret passageways, tunnels, and hidden chambers. Similarly, the grounds of the estate were (and still are) laced with trails leading to grottoes, elaborate stone structures, and hidden caves and tunnels.
With these two rather unusual structures
anchoring an otherwise undeveloped canyon, and the Lookout Inn sitting atop
uninhabited Lookout Mountain, Mann set about marketing the canyon as a vacation
and leisure destination. The land that he carved up into subdivisions with names
“Desirable people,” of course, tended to be wealthy people without a great deal of skin pigmentation.
As the website of the current Laurel Canyon Association notes, “restrictive covenants were attached to the new parcel deeds. These were thinly veiled attempts to limit ownership to white males of a certain class. While there are many references to the bigotry of the developers in our area, it would appear that some residents were also prone to bias and lawlessness. This article was published in a local paper in 1925:
Frank Sanceri, the man who was flogged by self-styled ‘white knights’ on Lookout Mountain in Hollywood several months ago, was found not guilty by a jury in Superior Judge Shea’s courtroom of having unlawfully attacked Astrea Jolley, aged 11.
“Wealthier residents were also attracted to
The author of this little slice of
And that, dear readers, is how we do things out here on the ‘Left’ Coast.
Before moving on, I need to mention here that, of
the eight celebrity residents of
Tom Mix died on a lonely stretch of
Harry Houdini died on Halloween day, 1926,
purportedly of an attack of appendicitis precipitated by a blow to the stomach.
The problem with that story, however, is that medical science now recognizes it
to be an impossibility. According to a recent book about the famed illusionist (The
Secret Life of Houdini, by William Kalush and Larry Sloman), Houdini was
likely murdered by poisoning. Questions have been raised, the book notes, by the
curious lack of an autopsy, an “experimental serum” that Houdini was apparently
given in the hospital, and indications that his wife, Bess, may have been
poisoned as well (though she survived). On
Houdini’s death, on
Not long after that, as fate would have it, Harry
Houdini was looking for a place to stay in the
On October 31, 1959, precisely thirty-three years
after Houdini’s death, and forty-one years after the unnamed party guest’s
death, the distinctive mansion on the corner of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and
Willow Glen Road burned to the ground in a fire of mysterious origin (the ruins
of the estate remain today, undisturbed for nearly fifty years). On
Far more compelling than the revelations about Houdini’s death, however, was something else about the illusionist that the book revealed for the first time: Harry Houdini was a spook working for both the U.S. Secret Service and Scotland Yard. And his traveling escape act, as it turns out, was pretty much a cover for intelligence activities. Just as, as I think I wrote in a previous newsletter, John Wilkes Booth used his career as a traveling stage performer as a cover for intelligence operations. And just as – sorry to have to break it to you – many of your favorite movie and television actors and musical artists continue in that tradition today.
The book, of course, doesn’t make such reckless allegations about any performers other than Houdini. I added all of that. What the book does do, however, is compellingly document that Houdini was, in fact, an intelligence asset who used his magic act as a cover. Not only did the authors obtain corroborating documentation from Scotland Yard, they also received an endorsement of their claim from no less an authority than John McLaughlin, former Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (who knew it was that easy? – maybe I should give John a call and run some of my theories by him).
It appears then that, of the eight celebrity
residents of Laurel Canyon listed on the Laurel Canyon Association website, at
least two (Novarro and Houdini), and possibly as many as four, were murdered.
That seemed like a rather high homicide rate to me, so I looked up a recent
study on the Internet and found that, on average, a white person in this country
has about a 1-in-345 chance of being murdered. Non-white persons, of course,
have a far greater chance of being murdered, but nowhere near the 1-in-4 to
1-in-2 odds that a white celebrity living in
Statistically speaking, if you were a famous
actor in the 1920s, you would have been better off playing a round of Russian
Roulette than living in
Anyway … two ambitious projects in the 1940s
brought significant changes to
What would become known as Lookout Mountain
Laboratory was originally envisioned as an air defense center. Built in 1941 and
nestled in two-and-a-half secluded acres off what is now
Over its lifetime, the studio produced some
19,000 classified motion pictures – more than all the
The facility retained as many as 250 producers,
directors, technicians, editors, animators, etc., both civilian and military,
all with top security clearances – and all reporting to work in a secluded
The existence of the facility remained unknown to the
general public until the early 1990s, though it had long been rumored that the
I think we can all agree though that there is nothing the least bit suspicious about any of that, so let’s move on.
In the 1950s, as Barney Hoskyns has written in
With the exception of Hopper, all of their lives
were tragically cut short, proving once again that
First there was that great American icon, James
Dean, who ostensibly died in a near head-on collision on
Next in line was Sal Mineo, whose murder on
The list of famous former residents of the canyon
also includes the names of W.C. Fields, Mary Astor, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle,
Errol Flynn, Orson Welles, and Robert Mitchum, who was infamously arrested on
marijuana charges in 1948 at 8334 Ridpath Drive, the same street that would
later be home to rockers Roger McGuinn, Don Henley and Glen Frey, as well as to
Paul Rothchild, producer of both The Doors and Love. Mitchum’s arrest, by the
way, appears to have been a thoroughly staged affair that cemented his ‘
Another famous resident of
Heinlein’s best-known work is the novel
Stranger in a Strange Land, which many in the
David Crosby was a big Heinlein fan as well. In his autobiography, he references Heinlein on more than one occasion, and proclaims that, “In a society where people can go armed, it makes everybody a little more polite, as Robert A. Heinlein says in his books.” Frank Zappa was also a member of the Robert Heinlein fan club. Barry Miles notes in his biography of the rock icon that his home contained “a copy of Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince and other essential sixties reading, including Robert Heinlein’s sci-fi classic, Stranger in a Strange Land, from which Zappa borrowed the word ‘discorporate’ for [the song] ‘Absolutely Free.’”
And that, fearless readers, more or less brings us to the Laurel Canyon era that we are primarily concerned with, the wild and wooly 1960s, which we will take a closer look at in the next chapter of this saga.
So what, if anything, have we learned today? We have learned that murder and random acts of violence have been a part of the culture of the canyon since the earliest days of its development. We have also learned that spooks posing as entertainers have likewise been a part of the canyon scene since the earliest days. And, finally, we have learned that spooks who didn’t even bother to pose as entertainers were streaming into the canyon to report to work at Lookout Mountain Laboratory for at least twenty years before the first rock star set foot there.
One final note is in order here: we are supposed
to believe that all of these musical icons just sort of spontaneously came
Let’s suppose, hypothetically speaking, that you
are the young man in the photo at the top of this post, and you have recently
arrived in Laurel Canyon and now find yourself fronting a band that is on the
verge of taking the country by storm. Just a mile or so down
This other guy’s business partner/manager is a
spooky ex-Marine who just happens to have a cousin who, bizarrely enough, also
fronts a rock band on the verge of superstardom. And this third
rock-star-on-the-rise also happens to live in
Though almost all of you hail from (or spent a substantial portion of your childhood in) the Washington, D.C. area, you now find yourselves on the opposite side of the country, in an isolated canyon high above the city of Los Angeles, where you are all clustered around a secret military installation. Given his background in research on atomic weapons, your father is probably familiar to some extent with the existence and operations of Lookout Mountain Laboratory, as is the father of your kindergarten friend, and probably the fathers of a few other Laurel Canyon figures as well.
My question here, I guess, is this: what do you suppose the odds are that all of that just came together purely by chance?Part V
freaks, the underground, the counter-culture, flower children or hippies – they
are all loose labels for the youth culture of the 60s …"
Barry Miles, author of Hippie
“This is how I remember my life. Other folks may not have the same memories, even though we might have shared some of the same experiences.”
So begins David Crosby’s autobiography, Long
Time Gone (co-written by Carl Gottlieb). As it turns out, quite a few other
folks seem to remember some people in
Following that brief mention by Dickson, Gottlieb
briefly explains to readers that, “Vito and his Freakers were an acid-drenched
extended family of brain-damaged cohabitants.” And that, in an incredibly
self-indulgent 489-page tome, is the only mention you will find of “Vito and his
Freakers” – despite the fact that, by just about all other accounts, the group
dismissed as “brain-damaged cohabitants” played a key role in the early success
As Barry Miles noted in his biography of Frank Zappa, “The Byrds were closely associated with Vito and the Freaks: Vito Paulekas, his wife Zsou and Karl Franzoni, the leaders of a group of about 35 dancers whose antics enlivened the Byrds early gigs.” In Waiting for the Sun, Barney Hoskyns writes that the early success of The Byrds and other bands was due in no small part to “the roving troupe of self-styled ‘freaks’ led by ancient beatnik Vito Paulekas and his trusty, lusty sidekick Carl Franzoni.” Alban “Snoopy” Pfisterer, former drummer and keyboardist for the band Love, went further still, claiming that Vito actually “got the Byrds together, as I remember – they did a lot of rehearsing at his pad.”
And according to various other accounts, The Byrds did indeed utilize Vito’s ‘pad’ as a rehearsal studio, as did Arthur Lee’s band. More importantly, the Freaks drew the crowds into the clubs to see the fledgling bands perform. But as important as their contribution was to helping launch the careers of the Laurel Canyon bands, “Vito and his Freakers” were notable for something else as well; according to Barry Miles, writing in his book Hippie, “The first hippies in Hollywood, perhaps the first hippies anywhere, were Vito, his wife Zsou, Captain Fuck and their group of about thirty-five dancers. Calling themselves Freaks, they lived a semi-communal life and engaged in sex orgies and free-form dancing whenever they could.”
Some of those who were on the scene at the time agree with Miles’ assessment that Vito and his troupe were indeed the very first hippies. Arthur Lee, for example, boasted that they “started the whole hippie thing: Vito, Karl, Szou, Beatle Bob, Bryan and me.” One of David Crosby’s fellow Byrds, Chris Hillman, also credited the strange group with being at the forefront of the hippie movement: “Carl and all those guys were way ahead of everyone on hippiedom fashion.” Ray Manzarek of The Doors remembered them as well: “There were these guys named Carl and Vito who had a dance troupe of gypsy freaks. They were let in for free, because they were these quintessential hippies, which was great for tourists.”
If these folks really were the very first hippies, the first riders of that ‘counter-cultural’ wave, then we should probably try to get to know them. As it turns out, however, that is not such an easy thing to do. Most accounts – and there aren’t all that many – offer little more than a few first names, with no consensus agreement on how those first names are even spelled (“Karl” and “Carl” appear interchangeably, as do “Szou” and “Zsou,” and “Godot” and “Godo”). But for you, dear readers – because I apparently have way too much time on my hands – I have gone the extra mile and sifted through the detritus to dig up at least some of the sordid details.
By all accounts the troupe was led by one Vito
Paulekas, whose full name is said to have been Vitautus Alphonsus Paulekas. Born
the son of a Lithuanian sausage-maker circa 1912, Vito hailed from
Following his release from the service, circa
1946, Vito arrived in
According to most accounts, it wasn’t really the
Mayan-tomb decor of the studio that many of the matrons found so exciting, but
rather Vito’s reportedly insatiable sexual appetite and John Holmesian physique.
In any event, Vito’s students also apparently included such
As for his erstwhile sidekick, Carl Orestes
Franzoni, he has claimed in interviews that his “mother was a countess” and his
father “was a stone carver from
Franzoni, born circa 1934, hooked up with the
older Paulekas sometime around 1963 and soon after became his constant sidekick.
As previously mentioned, the group also included Vito’s wife Szou, an
ex-cheerleader who had hooked up with Paulekas when she was just sixteen and he
was already in his fifties. Also in the troupe was a young Rory Flynn (Errol
Flynn’s statuesque daughter), a bizarre character named Ricky Applebaum who had
half a moustache on one side of his face and half a beard on the other, most of
the young girls who would later become part of Frank Zappa’s GTO project, and a
lot of other oddball characters who donned ridiculous pseudonyms like Linda
Bopp, Butchie, Beatle Bob, Emerald, and
Also flitting about the periphery of the dance
troupe were a young Gail Sloatman (the future Mrs. Zappa, for those who have
already forgotten) and a curious character on the LA music scene by the name of
Kim Fowley. The two were, for a time, closely allied, and even cut a record
together as “Bunny and the Bear” that Fowley produced (“
Fowley, as with so many other characters in this
story, has a rather interesting history. He was born in 1939, the son of actor
Douglas Fowley, a WWII Navy veteran and attendee of St. Francis Xavier Military
Academy. According to the younger Fowley’s account, he was initially abandoned
to a foster home but later taken back and raised by his father. He grew up in
Nice story, Mr. Fowley. Thanks for sharing
It’s probably safe to assume that childhood experiences such as that helped to prepare Fowley for his later employment as a young male street hustler, a profession that he practiced on the seedy streets of the city of angels (by Fowley’s own account, I should probably add here, just as it was James Dean himself who claimed to have worked those same streets with Nick Adams). Following that, Fowley spent some time serving with the Army National Guard, after which he devoted his life to working in the LA music industry as a musician, writer and producer – as well as, according to some accounts, a master manipulator.
Around 1957, Fowley played in a band known as the Sleepwalkers, alongside future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston. At times, a diminutive young guitarist named Phil Spector – who had moved out to LA with his mother not too many years earlier, following the suicide of his father when Phil was just nine – sat in with the group. During the 1960s, Fowley was best known for producing such ridiculous yet beloved novelty songs as the Hollywood Argyles’ “Alley Oop” and the Rivington’s “Papa Oom-Mow-Mow,” though he also did more respectable work, such as collaborating on some Byrds’ tracks and having some of his original songs covered by both the Beach Boys and the Flying Burrito Brothers.
In 1975, Fowley had perhaps his greatest success when he created the Runaways, further lowering the bar that Frank Zappa had already set rather low some years earlier when he had created and recorded the GTOs. The Runaways featured underage versions of Joan Jett and Lita Ford, whom Fowley tastefully attired in leather and lingerie. As he would later boast, “Everyone loved the idea of 16-year-old girls playing guitars and singing about fucking.” Especially, I would imagine, their mothers and fathers. Some of the young girls in the band, including Cherie Curry, would later accuse Fowley of requiring them to perform sexual services for he and his associates as a prerequisite for membership in the group.
Prior to assembling the
Runaways, one of Fowley’s proudest accomplishments had been producing the 1969
album “I’m Back and I’m Proud” by rockabilly pioneer Gene Vincent, featuring
backing vocals by Canyonite Linda Ronstadt. Just two years later, Vincent – a
Navy veteran raised in that penultimate Navy town, Norfolk, Virginia –
permanently checked out of the Hotel California on October 12, 1971 (there’s
that date again), due reportedly to a ruptured stomach ulcer. Not long before
his death, Vincent had been on tour in the
One other accomplishment of Fowley’s bears mentioning here: he received a guest vocalist credit on the Mothers of Invention album “Freak Out,” as did both Vito Paulekas and his sidekick, Carl Franzoni, to whom the song “Hungry Freaks, Daddy” was dedicated (some sources claim that Bobby Beausoleil also provided guest vocals on Zappa’s debut album, though his name does not appear in the album’s credits).
By at least as early as 1962, not long before Carl Franzoni joined the group, the Freak troupe was already hitting the clubs a couple nights each week to refine their unique style of dance (perhaps best described as an epileptic seizure set to music) and show off their distinctively unappealing, though soon to be quite popular, fashion sense. In those early days, they danced to local black R&B bands and to a band out of Fresno known as the Gauchos, in dives far removed from the fabled Sunset Strip – because, Franzoni has said, “There were no white bands [in LA] yet,” and “There were no clubs on Sunset Boulevard.”
That, of course, was all about to quickly change.
As if by magic, new clubs began to spring up along the legendary Sunset Strip
beginning around 1964, and old clubs considered to be long past their prime
miraculously reemerged. In January 1964, a young
Ciro’s reopened in early 1965, just before The Trip opened its doors and just in time, as it turns out, to host the very first club appearance by the musical act that was about to become the first Laurel Canyon band to commit a song to vinyl: The Byrds. By 1967, Gazzaris had opened up on the Strip as well, and in the early 1970s Valentine would open yet another club that endures to this day, The Roxy. Smaller clubs like the London Fog, where The Doors got their first booking as the house band in early 1966, opened their doors to the public in the mid 1960s as well.
The timing of the opening of Valentine’s first two clubs, and the reopening of Ciro’s, could not have been any more fortuitous. The paint was barely dry on the walls of the new clubs when bands like Love and The Doors and The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield and the Turtles and the Mothers and the Lovin’ Spoonful came knocking. The problem, however, was that the new clubs were not yet well known, Ciro’s had been long left for dead, and nobody had the slightest idea who any of these newfangled bands were. What was needed then was a way to create a buzz around the clubs that would draw people in and kick-start the Strip back to life, as well as, of course, launch the careers of the new bands.
The bands themselves could not be expected to fill the new clubs, since, besides being unknown, they also – and yeah, I know that you don’t really want to hear this and I will undoubtedly be deluged with letters of complaint, but I’m going to say it anyway – weren’t very good, at least not in their live incarnations. To be sure, they sounded great on vinyl, but that was largely due to the fact that the band members themselves didn’t actually play on their records (at least not in the early days), and the rich vocal harmonies that were a trademark of the ‘Laurel Canyon sound’ were created in the studio with a good deal of multi-tracking and overdubs. On stage, it was another matter entirely.
Enter then the wildly flamboyant and colorful Freak squad, who were one key component of the strategy that was devised to lure patrons into the clubs (the other component of the strategy, hinted at in one of the quotes near the top of this post, will be covered in installment #7). Vito and Carl’s dancers were a fixture on the Sunset Strip scene from the very moment that the new clubs opened their doors to the public, and they were, by all accounts, treated like royalty by the club owners. As John Hartmann, proprietor of the Kaleidoscope Club, acknowledged, he “would let Vito and his dancers into the Kaleidoscope free every week because they attracted people. They were really hippies, and so we had to have them. They got in free pretty much everywhere they went. They blessed your joint. They validated you. If they’re the essence of hippiedom and you’re trying to be a hippie nightclub, you need hippies.”
As the aforementioned Kim Fowley put it, with characteristic bluntness, “A band didn’t have to be good, as long as the dancers were there.” Indeed, the band was largely irrelevant, other than to provide some semblance of a soundtrack for the real show, which was taking place on the dance floor. Gail Zappa candidly admitted that, even at her husband’s shows, the real attraction was not on the stage: “The customers came to see the freaks dance. Nobody ever talks about that, but that was the case.” Frank added that, “As soon as they arrived they would make things happen, because they were dancing in a way nobody had seen before, screaming and yelling out on the floor and doing all kinds of weird things. They were dressed in a way that nobody could believe, and they gave life to everything that was going on.”
For reasons that clearly had more to do with boosting attendance at the clubs than with any actual talents displayed by the group, Vito and Carl seem to have become minor media darlings over the course of the 1960s and into the 1970s. The two can be seen, separately and together, in a string of cheap exploitation films, including Mondo Bizarro from 1966, Something’s Happening (aka The Hippie Revolt) from 1967, the notorious Mondo Hollywood, also released in 1967, and You Are What You Eat, with David Crosby, Frank Zappa and Tiny Tim, which hit theaters in 1968. In 1972, Vito made his acting debut in a non-documentary film, The White Horse Gang.
Paulekas reportedly also popped up on Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life, and Franzoni made an appearance on a 1968 Dick Clark TV special. The golden child, Godot Paulekas, was featured in a photo in Life magazine circa 1966, and the whole troupe showed up for an appearance on the Tonight Show. According to Barry Miles, Vito also “appeared regularly on the Joe Pyne Show and in between the bare-breasted girls in the late fifties and early sixties men’s magazines.”
Joe Pyne, for those of you too young to remember
(myself included), is the guy that we have to thank for paving the way for the
likes of Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Don Imus,
Morton Downey, Jr., Jerry Springer and Wally George. For Mr. Pyne, you see, was
the guy who pioneered the confrontational interview style favored by so many
gasbags today. The decorated Marine Corps veteran debuted as a talk-radio host
in 1950 and quickly became known for insulting and demeaning anyone who dared to
disagree with him, guests and listeners alike. In 1957, he moved his show to LA,
and by 1965, he was nationally syndicated both on the radio and on television.
His favored targets, as you may have guessed, included hippies, feminists, gays,
and anti-war activists, and his interviews frequently ended with his guest
either walking off or being thrown off the stage. Nearing the peak of his
popularity, Pyne died on
“Vito was in his fifties, but
he had four-way sex with goddesses … He held these clay-sculpting classes on
Recruits for Vito and Carl’s dance troupe weren’t
likely hard to come by, given that, according to Miles, Vito operated “the first
crash pad in LA, an open house to countless runaways where everyone was welcome
for a night, particularly young women.” By the mid 1960s, the group had expanded
into a second communal location in addition to the basement studio at
For those who may not necessarily be ‘in the
know’ about such things, the Fraternity of Man were best known for the novelty
song, “Don’t Bogart Me,” Tim Leary was best known for being a painfully obvious
According to Barry Miles, “Franzoni’s commune
ended in May 1968,” as that was when The Oracle moved out and our old friend
Frank Zappa moved in. The lead Mother “had visited Karl at the log cabin on a
previous trip and realized it was perfect for his needs.” And it was an easy
move for Frank, since he was already living in the canyon at the home of Pamela
Zarubica (aka Suzy Creamcheese) at
As multiple sources remember it, Miles is mistaken in his contention that Franzoni’s commune came to an end; Frank Zappa took over as ringmaster, to be sure, but Franzoni and all his cohorts stayed on. Carl had a room in the basement, where he was known to bowl, usually naked and intoxicated, in the middle of the night. The doomed Christine Frka had a room down there as well, as did other future GTOs. Various other members of the dance troupe occupied other nooks and crannies in both the main house and the guesthouse/treehouse. Indeed, as Miles noted correctly, the Freak dancers became so closely associated with the Mothers of Invention that “they got dubbed as ‘the Mothers Auxiliary’ and Karl Franzoni, in particular, was included in a lot of group photographs.”
And that, my friends, is the story of Vito’s Freakers – or at least a sanitized version. Because there is, as it turns out, a very dark underbelly to this story. And much of it is centered around that angelic hippie child that the readers of Life magazine met in 1966, and who we now must sadly add to the Laurel Canyon Death List. For young Godot Paulekas, you see, never made it past the age of three (by most accounts). The specifics of the tragedy are all but impossible to determine, unfortunately, as there is little agreement in the various accounts of the event. Left unclear is exactly how the child died, when the tragedy occurred, and what age the boy was.
According to Barry Miles, “Vito and Szou’s three-year-old son Godo had fallen through a trapdoor on the roof of the building and died.” Michael Walker tells of a “two or three” year old Godot “fall[ing] to his death from a scaffold at the studio.” An article in the San Francisco Weekly had it as “a 5-year-old boy” who died when he “fell through a skylight.” Super-groupie and former Freak dancer Pamela DesBarres agreed with the skylight scenario, but not the age: “Vito’s exquisite little puppet child, Godot, fell through a skylight during a wacky photo session on the roof and died at age three-and-a-half.” Alban Pfisterer of the band Love recalled a much darker scenario: “[Vito] got married, had a baby, gave it acid, and it fell off the roof and died.”
When Robert Carl Cohen recently digitally
remastered his notorious Mondo Hollywood for
The details of the incident that can be ascertained are, to put it mildly, rather disturbing. We know, for example, that a musician and writer named Raphael told writer Michael Walker that, before the child’s death, he had been present one evening at Vito’s place when Godot was brought out: “They passed that little boy around, naked, in a circle with their mouths. That was their thing about ‘introducing him to sensuality.’” We also know that Vito and Szou had a rather odd reaction to the death of their first-born son and only child, as recounted by Ms. DesBarres: “I was beside myself with sorrow, but Vito and Szou insisted on continuing our plans for the evening. We went out dancing, and when people asked where little Godot was, Vito said, ‘He died today.’ It was weird, really weird.”
That it was, but perhaps even weirder is the full
text of the quote from the San Francisco Weekly that I earlier presented
you with an edited version of: “[Kenneth Anger’s] first candidate to play
Lucifer, a 5-year-old boy whose hippie parents had been fixtures on the
And so it was that the soon-to-be convicted murderer replaced the cherubic hippie child as the face of Lucifer. But what was it, one wonders, that drew Anger’s twisted eye to the young boy? And how close a relationship did Anger have with Paulekas and Franzoni? And most importantly, how did Godot Paulekas really die? We will likely never know for sure, but let’s just quickly review some of the factors that might come into play when searching for a solution to this mystery:
You all will have to draw your own conclusions on this one. As a responsible journalist, I obviously cannot indulge in any reckless speculation here, and I think we can all agree that I have not tried to lead you in any specific direction, but have merely laid the facts out on the table for your review. Moving on then
Pamela DesBarres shed further light on the dark edges of the Freak troupe with this description of a scene that Vito had staged one evening in his studio: “two tenderly young girls were tonguing each other … everyone was silently observing the scene as if it were part of their necessary training by the headmaster, Vito … One of the girls on the four-poster was only twelve years old, and a few months later Vito was deported to Tahiti for this very situation, and many more just like it.”
It was actually
Also at around that same time, according to
author Ed Sanders, the Manson Family came calling at the Log Cabin: “One former
Manson family associate claims that a group of four to six family members lived
It does not appear as though Vito was actually deported, by the way, but rather that he fled the country in a very Mike Ruppertian fashion to avoid likely prosecution. In any event, it makes perfect sense, in retrospect, that Charlie Manson and his Family came calling just as Vito fled the scene, and that a Mansonite replaced the Freak child as the embodiment of Lucifer. For the truth, you see, is that, in many significant ways, Charles Manson was little more than a younger version of Vito Paulekas. Consider, if you will, all of the following Mansonesque qualities that Vito (and to some extent, Carl) seemed to share:
Franzoni and Manson were not, by the way, the only folks on the Laurel Canyon/Sunset Strip scene who developed a fondness for black capes in the latter half of the 1960s. As Michael Walker noted in Laurel Canyon, during that same period of time David Crosby had “taken to wearing an Oscar Wilde/Frank Lloyd Wright-ish cape wherever he went.”
In unrelated news, Ed Sanders notes in The
Family that, “Around March 10, 1968, a convoy of seven Process automobiles
containing thirty people and fourteen Alsatian dogs journeyed toward
In other news, it appears as though Frank Zappa also displayed some of the same less-than-admirable qualities shared by Manson and Paulekas. As DesBarres observed, “Vito was just like Frank, he never got high either. They were both ringmasters who always wanted to be in control.” And as Barry Miles noted in his Zappa biography, Frank’s daughter Moon “recalls men with straggling beards, body odour and bad posture who crouched naked near her playthings …” Also, the “Zappa children watched porn with their parents and were encouraged in their own sexuality as soon as they reached puberty. When they became teenagers, Gail insisted they shower with their overnight guests in order to conserve water.” Because, you know, apparently the Zappas were having a hard time paying their water bill.
By the early 1970s, Vito Paulekas had resurfaced
up north in
The Gong Show,
of course, was the brainchild of Chuck Barris, who famously claimed that during
the days when he appeared to be working as a mild-mannered game show producer,
he was actually on the payroll of the
Anyway, during those same 1970s, “The cabin and
treehouse scene,” according to Jack Boulware, “grew creepy.” Actually, it had
always been pretty creepy, it likely just became a little more openly creepy.
Eric Burden of the Animals moved in after Zappa vacated and the property
continued to be communally occupied. In fact, it appears to have remained
something of a commune throughout the 1970s, quite possibly right up until the
time that it burned to the ground on
Vito Paulekas and Carl Franzoni appear to have
remained in northern
More images of Paulekas and Franzoni can be found at the following locations:
http://ci.cotati.ca.us/sections/about/history5.cfm ("Popup Exhibits" at the bottom of the page)
“As all halfway-decent managers in the rock
era have done, [Jim] Dickson worked on seducing the in-crowd and creating a buzz
around [The Byrds] … The timing was perfect … LA’s baby-boomers were mobile,
getting around, looking for action. And now they were joined by the hip elite of
Barney Hoskyns, Waiting for the Sun
As important as the Freaks were to building an
audience for the new
Many of these young and glamorous
From the symbiotic relationship between
Another ‘psychedelic’ cult film of the late 1960s
with deep roots in
I do realize, by the way, that some of you out
there in readerland cringe every time that I mention The Monkees as though they
were a ‘real’ band. The reality though is that they were every bit as ‘real’ as
most of their contemporaries. And while the made-for-TV Beatles replicants were
looked down upon by music critics and fans alike, they were fully accepted as
members of the musical fraternity by the other
The difference in perception between their peers and the public was attributable to the fact that the other bands knew something that the fans did not: the very same studio musicians who appeared without credit on The Monkee’s albums also appeared without credit on their albums. And then, of course, there was the fact that so many of Laurel Canyon’s ‘real’ musicians had taken a stab at being a part of The Monkees, including Steven Stills, Love’s Bryan MacLean, and Three Dog Night’s Danny Hutton – all of whom answered the Monkees’ casting call and were rejected.
There were undoubtedly other future stars who
auditioned for the show as well, though most would probably prefer not to
discuss such things. Despite persistent rumors, however, there was one local
musician who we can safely conclude did not read for a part: Charles
Manson. Given that the show was cast in 1965 and began its brief television run
in 1966, while Charlie was still imprisoned at
And, let’s be honest here, would that really have been any worse than seeing her go ga-ga over the likes of Davy Jones? I mean, I could have understood if she had gotten weak in the knees over, you know, a real man like David Cassidy or Bobby Sherman. Now, I hope we can all agree that those guys were cool … right? Is everyone with me on this? Anyone? … Anyone? …
You know, I’m thinking back right now as I sit here, and I can actually picture in my mind the covers of a couple of Bobby Sherman albums that I had in my personal coll … err, that we had lying around the house for some reason, I’m not really sure why, and … come to think of it, I think there might have even been a Bobby Sherman poster or two pulled from the pages of Tiger Beat magazine, and, uhmm, I suppose I can see how that might seem a little bit, uhhh, what’s the word I’m looking for? … ‘gay’ or whatever to a modern, twenty-first-century-man-about-town, but I’m sure that, if you checked into it, you would find that there were a lot of young boys back ‘in the day’ who just really dug Bobby Sherman and those great songs like “Julie (Do You Love Me)” and “Easy Come, Easy Go” and … uhmm … maybe this is a good time to get back to where we left off.
Returning then to the counter-cultural films of
the 1960s, the most critically acclaimed of the lot, and the one with the
deepest roots in
Since Easy Rider had such deep roots in
Two weeks after Easy Rider premiered on
Eleven adult members of the sect were charged
with felony child abuse, the majority of them young white men in their early
twenties. All were brought to trial and convicted. In a curious bit of timing,
the raid that resulted in the arrests and convictions coincided with the torture
and murder of musician Gary Hinman by a trio of Manson acolytes. Though it is,
not surprisingly, vehemently denied by concerned parties, various sources have
claimed that Manson had ties to the group, which also maintained a home near the
Sorry about that little digression, folks. I’m not entirely sure how we ended up at the Barker Ranch when the focus of this installment was supposed to be on the Young Turks. So having now established that those Turks were a fully integrated part of the Laurel Canyon/Sunset Strip scene, and also that they played an important role in luring the public out to the new clubs to check out the new bands, our next task is to get to know a little bit about who these folks are and where they came from. Let’s begin with Mr. Bruce Dern, who has some of the most provocative connections of any of the characters in this story.
It is probably safe to say that Dern’s parents
had rather impressive political connections, given that baby Bruce’s godparents
were sitting First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and future two-time Democratic
presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson (he lost both times, in 1952 and 1956, to
Eisenhower). Bruce’s paternal grandfather was a guy by the name of George Dern,
who served as Secretary of War under President Franklin Roosevelt (for the
youngsters in the crowd, ‘Secretary of War’ is what we used to call the
‘Secretary of Defense’ in a slightly less Orwellian era). George had also served
as Governor of Utah and Chairman of the National Governors’ Association. Bruce’s
mother was born Jean MacLeish, and she happened to be the sister of Archibald
MacLeish, who also served under Franklin Roosevelt, as the Director of the War
Department’s Office of Facts and Figures and as the Assistant Director of the
Office of War Information. In other words, Archibald MacLeish was essentially
It would appear then that, even by
We can begin, I suppose, by noting that Hank
served as a decorated US Naval Intelligence officer during World War II, thus
sparing Peter the stigma of being the only member of the
Fonda rebounded quickly from
Before moving on, I should probably mention that
Hank’s first wife, Margaret Sullavan – who was yet another child of
Without passing judgment here, I think it’s fair to say that Michelle Phillips has been around the block a time or two, if you catch my drift, so if even she thought Hopper’s demands were a bit over the top, then one can only wonder just how “unnatural” they might have been. For what it’s worth, Hopper just recently told a journalist that he “didn’t handcuff her, [he] just punched her out!” In his mind, apparently, that makes him somewhat less of an asshole.
Most official biographies of Hopper would lead
one to believe that he was the son of a simple farmer. Dennis recently
acknowledged, however, that that was clearly not the case: “My mother’s father
was a wheat farmer and I was raised on their farm. But my father was not a
farmer.” To the contrary, Hopper’s dad was “a working person in intelligence”
who during WWII “was in the
After the war, according to Hopper, his dad
carried a gun, which I suppose is what most lay ministers in the
The modern version of Dennis Hopper, by the way, is wildly at odds with the hippie image that he at one time tried very hard to cultivate. Today’s Dennis Hopper is an unapologetic cheerleader for Team Bush who proudly boasts of having voted a straight Republican ticket for nearly thirty years. He could very well turn up on the campaign trail in the coming months with his lips firmly planted on the ass of war criminal John McCain.
To briefly recap then, we have thus far met three of the ‘Young Turks’ and we have found that one of them is the nephew of a Bonesman, another is the son of a Naval Intelligence officer who was once married to a Rothschild descendent, and the third is the slightly deranged son of an OSS officer. Come to think of it, we have actually covered one of the ‘Turkettes’ as well, since Jane Fonda obviously came from the same family background as her younger brother, Peter. As for the other female members of the posse, Sharon Tate was the daughter of Lt. Col. Paul Tate, a career US Army intelligence officer, and Nancy Sinatra is, of course, the daughter of Francis Albert Sinatra, whose known associates included Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Sam Giancana, Carlo Gambino, Goetano Luchese and Joseph Fishetti (a cousin of Al Capone).
Frank Sinatra was also a client of
hairdresser-to-the-stars Jay Sebring, as was Henry Fonda, who also at one time,
strangely enough, lived in the guesthouse at
Ira Beaty’s relatively frequent relocations, and the fact that those relocations always seemed to land the family in DC suburbs that are of considerable significance to the military/intelligence community, would tend to indicate that Warren’s dad was something other than what he appeared to be – though that is, of course, a speculative assessment. But if Ira Beaty was on the payroll of some government entity, working within the psychology departments of various DC-area universities, then it wouldn’t require a huge leap of faith to further speculate about what type of work he was doing, given the wholesale co-opting of the field of psychology by the MK-ULTRA program and affiliated projects.
The next Young Turk up for review is the one who
went on to become arguably the most acclaimed actor of his generation, Mr. Jack
Nicholson. The following is a biographical sketch of Nicholson as presented by
Wikipedia: “Bundy was born at the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers
Uhhm … hang on a minute … I think I might have screwed up. Something doesn’t seem quite right, but I’m not exactly sure what …. Oh, shit! I see what I did wrong! I accidentally cut and pasted ‘serial killer’ Ted Bundy’s bio instead of Jack Nicholson’s. Sorry about that. This is how Jack’s bio is supposed to read: Nicholson was born at some indeterminate location to an underage, unwed showgirl. The identity of his father remains a mystery … To avoid social stigma, Nicholson’s grandparents John Joseph and Ethel Nicholson claimed him as their son; in taking their last name, he became John Joseph Nicholson, Jr. He grew up believing his mother June Francis Nicholson to be his older sister. Reporters state that he learned June was actually his mother in 1974, when he was 37 years old. By then, June had been dead for just over a decade, having only lived to the age of 44.
It is said that Nicholson was born at
It appears then that there is no way to determine who Jack Nicholson really is. He has told journalists that he has no interest in identifying who his father was, nor, it would appear, in verifying his mother’s identity. What we do know is that the nucleus of the 1960s clique known as the Young Turks (and Turkettes) was composed of the following individuals: the nephew of a Bonesman; the son of an OSS officer; the son of a Naval intelligence officer; the daughter of that same Naval intelligence officer; the daughter of an Army intelligence officer; the daughter of a guy who openly associated with prominent gangsters throughout his life; the son of a probable spychologist; and a guy whose early years are so shrouded in mystery that he may or may not actually exist.
I should probably also mention here that Henry
Fonda scored his first acting gig through Dorothy “Dodie” Brando, the director
of a local theater and the mother of Jack Nicholson’s future neighbor, Marlon
Brando. Being the small world that it is, Marlon’s mom happened to be a good
friend of Hank’s mom, Elma Fonda. Truth be told, the families had likely had
close ties for a long time. A very long time. The ancestors of both
Marlon Brando and Henry Fonda, you see, arrived in
Marlon Brando is in a direct line of descent from
French Huguenot colonists Louis DuBois and Catharine Blanchan DuBois, who
Henry Fonda, on the other hand, is a direct
descendent of Jellis Douw Fonda and Hester Jans Fonda, Dutch colonists who
It would appear then that Peter Fonda kind of
One other thing we could note here about Hank
Fonda before wrapping up this instalment: on
And that, my friends, is a snapshot of the sick society we live in … but here, perhaps, I have digressed.
Let’s wrap up this installment with a quick
review of what we have learned about the people populating
I got to tell you here folks that, given the relatively small size of Laurel Canyon, I’m beginning to wonder if there was any room left over for any normal folks who might have wanted to live the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. But even so, I’m sure that there are still some hardcore ‘coincidence theorists’ in the crowd who will still see all of this as “much ado about nothing.” I am committed though to helping those folks see the light, no matter how much it might hurt their sensitive eyes, so I am going to toss one more provocative element into the Laurel Canyon mix, courtesy of Paul Young’s L.A. Exposed:
“The most infamous male madam [throughout LA’s
sordid history] would have to be Billy Bryars, the wealthy son of an oil
magnate, and part-time producer of gay porn. Bryars was said to have a stellar
group of customers using his ‘brothel’ at the summit of
It appears then that the top law-enforcement
officials in the nation were also a part of the
Stay tuned …
* * * * * * * * *
And now, faithful readers, allow me to address a few common questions that have arisen, beginning with:
1. Where the hell are the freakin’ photo captions? How am I supposed to know what I am looking at?
Sorry about that. I meant to include a note with the last two posts instructing readers that the photos have pop-up captions; if you let your cursor hover over the images, the secrets should be revealed.
2. What is the subtitle of the series, “The Strange but Mostly True Story …” supposed to mean? Do you just make this shit up as you go along?
The subtitle alludes to the fact that when
dealing with anything concerning
3. Are you planning on ultimately publishing this as a book?
I doubt it. I considered putting it together as a book manuscript, but I ultimately decided to put it out on the Internet instead, for a couple of reasons, the first of which is that I wanted people to actually read it. And you people, if we’re being honest here, aren’t really into that ‘old school’ concept of buying and reading books. The reality is that, based on the traffic to my site of late, far more people have read this series in the couple of months that it was been in progress than have read my last book after four years in print.
The other reason that I chose to present this material via the Internet is so that all of you can help to insure that the story is told as accurately as possible. This is, in a sense, a collaborative effort. Though I am willing to do most of the heavy lifting, I am relying on all of you to point out any gaffes or omissions. In other words, this is very much a work in progress and I have already made some minor corrections in previous posts thanks to feedback from readers.
Thanks to one particularly helpful reader who has
By far the most interesting information to
surface concerns young Godo Paulekas. Born on
Vito and Sueanne divorced in
As for Carl Franzoni, there were indeed a couple
of brothers named Franzoni who were brought over from
One final note: I looked it up and it turns out that Bobby Sherman ended up becoming a sheriff’s deputy. For real. Unlike his late-1960s Here Come the Brides co-star, David Soul, who later became fake bad-ass cop ‘Hutch,’ Bobby became a real bad-ass cop. So I guess he was pretty cool after all. Except for, of course, the hair. And the clothes. And the sappy songs. And the bad acting. And …
Let’s just forget that I ever brought it up.Part VIII
“No one here gets out alive”---Jim Morrison
My apologies to readers for the long delay in
getting this post up. These past several weeks have not been easy ones for your
fearless host. Things started going south near the end of June, when our beloved
family cat was taken ill and died upon arrival at the local vet’s office. To
many readers, this may seem a rather insignificant loss, but I have to say, in
all honesty, that Thomas just may have been the coolest cat to ever prowl the
Not too long after Thomas’ passing, my computer became quite ill as well. At first, it looked as though there was little hope of saving her. My tech buddy had all but pronounced her DOA when he unexpectedly detected a faint spark of life and a will to live. She could be saved, he proclaimed, but it would take some time and money. Given her advanced age (2 in human years, which is about 137 in computer years), he suggested I might be better off buying a new model. But then, of course, I would find myself face-to-face with the dreaded abomination known as Windows Vista. Also, I didn’t really need the headache and tedium of setting up a new machine, transferring everything over, etc.
So I decided to wait it out, and for several days I found myself completely lost in the world. My computer and my cat, you see, were my two very best non-human friends. They were also, more importantly, my research assistants. I am a night-owl by nature and it is in the wee hours of the morning, when the wife and kids are fast asleep, that I create literary masterpieces (like the one you are reading right now). My two trusted and loyal companions in those endeavors have long been my computer and my cat. And now they were both gone. Fuck.
The computer ultimately made a full recovery and
returned home ready for action. Thomas, unfortunately, would not be coming back,
so we would have to soldier on without him. But then, alas, came news of a far
greater tragedy: a friend of 20+ years had succumbed to injuries sustained in a
rock-climbing accident near his home in
It is, therefore, with a heavy heart that I
return now to my position as self-appointed
* * * * * * * * * *
Sometimes pieces of the puzzle just seem to fall
from the heavens. I don’t really know why that happens – and to be honest, I
find it somewhat disconcerting at times. On Sunday, July 6, the venerable
Washington Post, in a most timely manner, generously provided a new
piece of the puzzle that even I, your jaded host, find rather remarkable. It
seems that a former reporter and novelist by the name of Alex Abella “has
written a history of
Let me interrupt here for just a brief moment to
note that the
In the latter half of the 1950s and the early
1960s, while Wohlstetter was with the
The title of the Post’s book review
is “Dr. Strangelove’s Workplace,” which presumably is a reference to the
Thus far in our journey, we have encountered
Masons, the FBI, the OSS, the
This next contribution comes from deep within the
archives of Time magazine, from an article entitled “The Bride Wore
Pink,” published six decades ago on
“Editor Bowden had a bitter moment – his paper
would not be published for two days. Then he remembered that he was the
Okeechobee correspondent for the Associated Press. He telephoned the AP office
“While the first headlines blazed (and while Manhattan gossip columnists scrambled to assure their readers that they had known all about the romance for months), herds of reporters were dispatched to find an answer to the question: Who is Eva Sears? Hearst’s Cholly Knickerbocker (Ghighi Cassini) haughtily announced that she was Mrs. Barbara Paul Sears of the fine old Philadelphia Pauls and thus a society girl of impeccable pedigree. He was wrong.”
Indeed he was. So who was this mystery woman –
this woman who had once had a brief career in
In her parents’ homeland, I am told, “Paulekiute”
is the feminine version of a surname we have previously encountered: “Paulekas,”
which was her parents’ surname. Eva Paul’s father, as it turns out, just
happened to be the brother of Vito Paulekas’ father (a fact verified by – and
brought to my attention by – a member of the Paulekas family.) I’m no
genealogist, but I’m pretty sure that that means that the self-styled "King of
the Hippies" was a first cousin of "Bobo" Rockefeller, and a cousin-in-law (or
something like that) of Winthrop Rockefeller himself. Vito was also a cousin of
the couple’s only child, Winthrop Paul Rockefeller, who would later serve as the
Lieutenant Governor of the state of
The Paulekas family, alas, missed the couple’s
day of celebration. According to Time, “Bobo’s mother and
stepfather … were unable to attend the ceremony because they were making a batch
of Lithuanian cheese on their
We will be revisiting Vito Paulekas in an
upcoming edition, to review other new information that has come my way. For now,
we will just note that we can add the Rockefellers to the list of folks
connected to the
The first new name I see is Mr. Brian Jones of
the Rolling Stones, who purportedly drowned without assistance in his home
swimming pool on
“Fair enough,” you say, “but what does any of
that have to do with
Jagger was the first musical superstar tapped by
Anger to compose a soundtrack for his Lucifer Rising project, which
at the time was to star Mansonite Bobby Beausoleil (who had, as we all remember,
replaced Godo Paulekas). Anger would later solicit a soundtrack for the
long-delayed film project from Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, the proud owner of one
of the world’s largest collections of Aleister Crowley memorabilia, including
Donald Cammell was the son of Charles Richard Cammell, who happened to be a close friend and biographer of notorious occultist and British intelligence asset Aleister Crowley. Donald himself was the godson of the Great Beast. Cammell’s decidedly Crowleyian film was originally to star his good friend Marlon Brando, but the role ultimately went to actor James Fox. Brando and Cammell, by the way, once wrote a novel together – a novel so horrifyingly bad that I dare not mention its title here for fear that some of you may purchase it out of curiosity and then blame me for any trauma you endure while attempting to actually read it.
Speaking of Brando, by the way, have I mentioned
yet the curious string of deaths that began eighteen years ago, on May 16, 1990,
when Marlon’s son Christian gunned down Dag Drollet, the father of his sister
Cheyenne’s unborn child, in Marlon’s Laurel Canyon-adjacent home? Though
convicted, Christian got off with a rather light sentence, thanks primarily to
Marlon having had his own daughter, the prosecution’s potential star witness,
locked away in a mental institution in
Returning now, after that brief digression, to our discussion of Donald Cammell’s Performance, we find that Mick Jagger was cast to play the role of ‘Turner,’ a debauched rock star (which, obviously, was a real stretch for Mick). Fox played ‘Chas,’ a violent organized-crime figure. He was trained for the role by David Litvinoff, a real-life crime figure and associate of the notoriously sadistic Kray brothers. Litvinoff reportedly sent Fox to the south of London for a couple of months to hang out with his gangster buddies; when he returned, according to various accounts, Fox had literally become the violent character he portrayed in the film.
Recruited to create the film’s soundtrack was
Bernard Alfred “Jack” Nitzsche, an occultist and the son of a supposed ‘medium.’
Nitzsche, along with Sonny Bono, had begun his music career as a lieutenant for
gun-brandishing producer Phil Spector (Nitzsche was one of the architects of
Spector’s famed “wall of sound”). Nitzsche was also a familiar presence on the
Nitzsche’s Performance soundtrack
was composed, according to author Michael Walker, “in a witch’s cottage in the
canyon” (I’m not exactly sure what a “witch’s cottage” is, but it’s nice to know
Before moving on, there is one other thing I need to mention about Cammell’s film: John Phillips once stated that Performance was about estranging one’s self from society in order to create a new, better social order. “With really intelligent people,” according to Phillips, “it’s almost a matter of inbreeding at this point.” I don’t know about all of you readers out there, but when I first stumbled upon that quote, it suddenly dawned on me that one element that was previously missing from this story was a pro-eugenics comment from one of our flower-power icons, so I’m glad that we were able to squeeze that in.
Since we now seem to have segued onto the topic
of John Phillips, let’s go ahead and add his good friend Steve Brandt to the
Death List. Brandt, who was also a close friend of the victims at
It seems obvious that if someone had information that desperately needed to be made public, and if it was the kind of information that authorities had, say, willfully failed to act upon, and if the information was of the type that could not, needless to say, be taken to the mainstream media, and if the year was 1969 and the mass communication technology that we now take for granted did not yet exist, then grabbing the mike at a Stones concert at Madison Square Gardens might just be one of the most effective means of disseminating that information. Brandt failed in what may have been an attempt to do just that, and he turned up dead just hours later. Shit happens, I guess.
Moving on, I couldn’t help noticing that when I
mentioned David Blue a few paragraphs back, a lot of you scratched your heads
and asked, “David Who?” Allow me then to quickly introduce you to another of the
forgotten talents of
David, meanwhile, had gotten out of the house as well, by dropping out of school and joining the US Navy at the age of seventeen – just as Lenny Bruce had done. Like Jimi Hendrix, Blue was purportedly booted out of the service, after which he decided to become a folk singer. His first album was released in 1966; a later effort was produced by Graham Nash, who also, as everyone surely recalls, produced a record for Judee Sill, with whom Blue had much in common (you people had better be paying attention because – I’m warning you! – there will, at some point, be a quiz on all this shit, and if you miss too many questions on that quiz, you will be locked out from further access to these articles!)
… … … … Just kidding!! I don’t even know how to set that shit up! But if I did, I would totally fucking do it! Anyway, let’s get back to our story …
Like Judee Sill, David Blue was one of the
* * * * * * * * * *
One final note to readers: early on in this series, when I urged readers to pick up a copy of Programmed to Kill, I neglected to add that there is an older post on this website that you should read as well. If you haven’t done so already, or haven’t done so lately, pull up a chair and work your way through “Celluloid Heroes, Part II: The Tangled Web of Charlie Manson” at: http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/wtc13.html.Part IX
“Everybody was experimenting and taking it all the way. It opened up a negative force of energy that was almost demonic.”---Frank Mazolla, editor of the film Performance
“There were a lot of weird people
around. There was one guy who had a parrot called Captain Blood, and he was
always scrawling real cryptic things on the inside walls of my house – Neil
Young’s too.”---Joni Mitchell, describing the
(Some of the images in this edition were originally slated for inclusion in an earlier instalment of this series, but my computer was not very cooperative at the time so they were left out. All of the images contained in this chapter, by the way, and all other images in this series that are not otherwise credited in the captions, are my own original photos.)
Like Brandon DeWilde, Kenneth Anger, Mickey
Dolenz and Van Dyke Parks, Ricky Nelson began his
That reminds me that, before I forget, I need to add Elvis to the death list as well. And before you send me letters of protest, let me assure you that I do indeed know what a lot of you are thinking: “But Dave, Elvis isn’t dead! I just saw him the other day at the 7-11 right around the corner from my house. And, sure, he was looking a little bloated, but he was definitely alive. I mean, unless you’re going to try to convince me that I watched a dead guy put away a ¼ lb. Big Bite.”
Oh wait … that might not be right … what you are probably really thinking is: “Elvis?! The King?! You can’t be serious! How the hell does The King figure into any of this? What are you going to tell us next – that comedians John Belushi and Phil Hartman belong on the death list as well?”
Uhmm, have you been peeking at my notes or
something? Because I actually am, as a matter of fact, going to include Mr.
Hartman on the list (and I could include Mr. Belushi as well, since he did die
at the Chateau Marmont Hotel, which happens to lie at the mouth of Laurel
Canyon). But we’ll get to Phil Hartman later; for now, let’s talk a little bit
about Mr. Presley and his admittedly tangential connections to
Elvis arrived in LA in 1956, to begin what
would prove to be a prolific film career that would continue throughout the
1960s and would result in the inexcusable creation of nearly three dozen motion
pictures, each one arguably more appalling than the last. In the early years of
his film career, Elvis reportedly spent his off-hours hanging out with his two
Those two solo efforts by Parsons, by the
way, prominently featured the voice of a young singer/guitarist named Emmylou
Harris, a relatively late arrival to the canyon scene. Harris is the daughter –
brace yourselves here for a real shocker, folks – of a career US Marine Corps
officer. As with so many other characters in this story, she grew up in the
outlying suburbs of
But here I seem to have digressed from our
discussion of Elvis (which was, if I remember correctly, itself a digression
from our discussion of Ricky Nelson). Given though that he had only peripheral
As for Nelson, in the mid-1960s he
successfully shed his ‘teen idol’ image and emerged as a respected pioneer of
the country-rock wave that Canyonites Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and the
Eagles would soon ride to dizzying heights of commercial success. One future
member of the Eagles, Randy Meisner, played in Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band. As
the name of the band would seem to imply, Nelson did not live in
Nelson was killed on New Year’s Eve, 1985, in a rather unusual plane crash. According to Nelson’s Wikipedia entry, “the original NTSB investigation long ago stated that the crash was probably due to mechanical problems. The pilots attempted to land in a field after smoke filled the cabin. An examination indicated that a fire originated in the right hand side of the aft cabin area at or near the floor line. The passengers were killed when the aircraft struck obstacles during the forced landing; the pilots were able to escape through the cockpit windows and survived.”
I can’t be the only one here who is pondering the obvious question: exactly when was it that the pilots were able to escape through the cockpit windows? I assume that they did not parachute out when the aircraft was still at altitude, leaving the passengers to crash and die. And they certainly couldn’t have bailed out and survived while the aircraft was coming in for a landing. So was it after the plane touched down? If so, exactly how much time was there between when the plane touched down and when it impacted the fatal obstacles? How long was this ‘escape window,’ as it were? I would think it was mere seconds, if even that, which wouldn’t seem to be enough time to execute an escape. And if the plane was going fast enough on the ground that the impact killed all aboard, what are the odds that anyone would survive such an escape attempt? I think maybe the NTSB needs to take another look at this one.
For the final eight years of his life, Nelson
lived in a rather unusual home. In 1941, swashbuckling actor Errol Flynn had
purchased an eleven-and-a-half-acre chunk of the Hollywood Hills just off
After Nelson’s death, the palatial home stood vacant until a curious incident took place; referring once again to Jacobson and Wanamaker, we find that “A gang broke in and murdered a girl in the living room. Then a mysterious fire burned half the house. The ruins were torn down.” Shit like that has been known to happen to folks foolish enough to leave their expensive canyon homes sitting vacant … well, except for the part about the “gang.” As far as I know, the canyons have never had much of a “gang” problem. In the Hollywood Hills, the words “crime” and “gang-related” never show up at a party together. And when was the last time anyone ever heard of a “gang” kidnapping a girl and then taking her to a remote, isolated mansion to murder her?
All things considered, I’m thinking that perhaps what the authors meant to say was that “a group of people broke in and murdered a girl …” But that, of course, raises the question of exactly what sort of group of people jointly commit a premeditated murder? Other than death squads, the only such groups that come to mind are generally referred to as “cults,” which I’m guessing are far more common in the canyons than are “gangs.”
In addition to having a fondness for
multi-perpetrator murders, it appears as though cults also like to start fires,
oftentimes because fires are a really effective way of destroying evidence. Some
of you may, however, be thinking that since the Hollywood Hills are plagued by
wildfires on a more or less annual basis, then there is nothing particularly
unusual about the fact that Nelson’s home, and more than a few of the other
homes in this story, were destroyed by fire. For the most part though, the fires
that destroyed these structures were not natural wildfires but rather fires of
mysterious origin that seemed to target specific buildings. As Michael Walker
(One exception was the
Moving on then to the next new name on our
list, we find that on December 31, 1943 – precisely forty-two years before the
plane crash that would claim the life of Ricky Nelson – Henry John
Deutschendorf, Jr., better known as John Denver, was born in Roswell, New
Mexico. A few years later, the town of
After spending his childhood being frequently
uprooted, as did many of our cast of characters,
A decade later, in the latter half of the
The next name we need to add to the list is
one that has already worked its way into this narrative a time or two: Sonny
Bono. As previously noted, Bono began his
And now, as promised, let’s turn our
attention to Phil Hartman. As everyone likely remembers, Saturday Night Live
alumnus Hartman was murdered in his Encino home on
In most people’s minds, of course, Phil
Hartman is not associated with the
Hartman had ties to the darker side of
While we’re on the subject of the Bird House, I should mention that you can find numerous photos of the guesthouse and the grounds of the property at this website: http://crosbyentertainment.com/own_a_piece_of_hollywood_history.htm. Notice that among its other amenities, the house features a rather medieval-looking dungeon, because one never knows when a dungeon might come in handy for, uhmm, storing roots or something. Notice also that what was built as a ‘guesthouse’ probably makes your own home look like it belongs in a shantytown, which would tend to indicate that the property’s main residence, the Log Cabin, was a decidedly opulent dwelling.
One more curious factoid that I feel compelled to toss out here, since I did reference the Spahn Movie Ranch, is that during the days of the Manson clan’s stay at that now infamous former film set, there was a similarly dilapidated movie set that was located right across the road from Spahn. It’s name, in case you were wondering, was the Wonderland Movie Ranch.
Speaking of Wonderland, let’s turn our
attention next to four individuals whose names will probably not be familiar to
most readers: Ronald Launius, Billy Deverell, Barbara Richardson and Joy Miller.
All died on
Victim Billy Deverell was Launius’
second-in-command, and victim Joy Miller was Billy’s girlfriend as well as the
renter of the
The next name to go on our list is that of
Brian Cole, bass player for The Association, an LA folk-rock band known for the
hit songs “Along Comes Mary” and “Never My Love.” The Association was not a
Another new name on the Laurel Canyon Death
List is Lowell George, the founder and creative force behind the
critically-acclaimed but largely obscure band known as Little Feat. George was
the son of Willard H. George, a famous furrier to the
George next joined up with Frank Zappa’s
Mothers of Invention, though his tenure there was destined to be a short one;
like so many others,
After parting company with Zappa, George
formed Little Feat, a band composed mostly of musicians from the Fraternity of
Man sessions. Lowell, who is credited with being a pioneer of the use of slide
guitar in rock music, served as singer, songwriter and lead guitarist for the
band, which released its debut album in 1970. Though well regarded within the
industry and by critics, the band’s albums failed to sell and George ultimately
announced the demise the band and recorded a solo album. After playing a show on
According to Barney Hoskyns (writing in
Hotel California), “A regular social stop-off for George was a Laurel Canyon
house on Wonderland Avenue belonging to Three Dog Night singer Danny Hutton. A
drop-in den of debauchery, the Hutton house featured a bedroom with black walls
and a giant fireplace.
Former Beatle John Lennon is, to be sure, one
of the most famous names to be found on the Laurel Canyon Death List. Lennon
also has the distinction of being one of the few
Lennon was, as everyone knows, murdered in
Exactly three weeks after Lennon’s death, Tim
Hardin – Canyonite, folk musician, close associate of Frank Zappa, author of Rod
Stewart’s “Reason to Believe,” onetime tenant in Lenny Bruce’s Laurel
Canyon-adjacent home, and former U.S. Marine – died of a reported heroin and
morphine overdose in Los Angeles. At the time of his death, on
Eight years later, on
And so it goes. In the next installment, we
will add two more famous names to the death list, and we will use them as
springboards to launch into two rarely-told stories that will add new levels of
complexity to the
Until then …Part X
“By the time Manson shifted base from
In this outing, we will be temporarily
Today we will be exploring
In the summer of 1968, as is fairly well
known, Charlie Manson and various members of his entourage moved in with
Dennis would later claim that he had
destroyed all the Manson demo tapes, that he remembered almost nothing of his
time with Charlie and the Family, and that he certainly knew nothing about the
Tate and LaBianca murders, which were committed in the summer of 1969, about a
year after the Family had vacated the
At some point in time,
But this story isn’t really about Dennis
Wilson; it’s about Charlie Manson and his alleged motive for allegedly ordering
the Tate and LaBianca murders. According to the ‘Helter Skelter’ scenario
popularized by lead prosecutor/disinformation peddler Vincent Bugliosi, Manson
was hoping to spark an apocalyptic race war. It is said that Charlie believed
According to Barney Hoskyns, Manson began formulating his
race war theory during his stay in
Just to the north of Dennis Wilson’s old home is a vast
wilderness of undeveloped canyon lands.
The farther in one hikes, the more wild and untamed it
becomes. Along with the sights of the city, the sounds and the scents quickly
disappear as well. Within a very short time, it is surprisingly easy to forget
that one is still within the confines of the city of
If one knows where to look, there is a narrow concrete stairway that is accessible from the fire road. This stairway descends down to the floor of the canyon, and it is a very, very long descent. Five hundred and twelve steps long, to be exact. As one makes the descent, this stairway, which seems to go on forever, seems wildly out of place. With time to kill on the way down, one finds oneself pondering (actually, most people probably wouldn’t, but I did) how many man-hours it took to set forms for 512 poured concrete steps, and how truckloads of concrete had to be poured out here in the middle of nowhere.
Reaching the canyon floor, one finds that, though the native flora has struggled mightily to reclaim the land, remnants of a past civilization can be seen everywhere. Some structures remain largely intact – a nearly 400,000-gallon, spring-fed reservoir serving a sophisticated potable water system; a concrete-walled structure that once housed twin electrical generators capable of lighting a small town; more concrete stairways hundreds of steps long, each snaking its way up the canyon walls; weathered livestock stables; professionally graded and paved roads; countless stone retaining walls; an incinerator; concrete foundations and skeletal remains of former dwellings; the rusting carcass of a Mansonesque VW bus; and, at the former entrance, an imposing set of electronically-controlled, wrought-iron security gates.
It is the kind of place that seems tailor-made for Charlie and his Family – remote and secluded, yet accessible by the Family’s custom-built dune buggies; with just enough crumbling infrastructure to provide rudimentary shelter for the clan; and with elaborate security provisions, including sentry positions and a formerly-electrified fence completely encircling the 50-acre compound (as well as, by some reports, an underground tunnel complex). And it was located just a short hike up the canyon from the place that Charlie Manson called home in the summer of 1968.
While exploring this place, obvious questions begin to come to mind (they would, that is, if I didn’t already know the answers, but try to work with me here): who developed this remote portion of the canyon? And why? Why here, in what feels like the middle of nowhere? The goal appears to have been to create a hidden and completely self-sustaining community, and an extraordinary amount of money was invested in infrastructure development … but why?
Very few Angelenos know of the curious ruins in
Thirteen years later, in September 2005, Cecelia
Rasmussen of the Los Angeles Times added a few details to the story
(“Rustic Canyon Ruin May Be a Former Nazi Compound,” September 4, 2005): “
Herr Schmidt, needless to say, was the gentleman whose spell Winona Stephens fell under. According to Marc Norman, Schmidt “convinced her that the coming world war would be won by Germany, that the United States would collapse into years of violent anarchy and that the chosen few (read: the Stephenses, the certain gentleman and other true believers) would need a tight spot in which to hole up, self-sufficient, until the fire storm had passed. Then they could emerge not only intact but, thanks to the superiority of their politics, rulers of the anthill and, not incidentally, the origin of its new population.”
Murphy Ranch also reportedly featured a 20,000-gallon diesel fuel tank, livestock stables, and dairy and butchering facilities. Along both sides of the compound “rise eight crumbling, narrow stairways of at least 500 steps each,” as the LA Times noted. Those stairways apparently led to sentry positions high on the canyon walls (for the record, they are not actually crumbling, though most are overgrown with impenetrable vegetation). During Murphy Ranch’s years of operation, nearby residents reportedly complained of late-night military exercises and the sounds of live gunfire echoing through the canyons.
To summarize then, it appears that the city of
It was all so very Mansonesque, and, ironically enough,
Manson and his crew spent an entire summer camped out at a home that was within
a two-mile hike of this curious place. It should have been something of a
In the late 1940s, after the close of the war, Murphy
Ranch was reportedly converted into an artist’s colony. Architect Welton Becket,
who designed several of the structures at the ranch, went on to design two of
LA’s landmark structures: the Capitol Records building and the
* * * * * * * * * *
“Van Cortlandt and Untermyer functioned as outdoor meeting sites for the cult.”---Maury Terry, referring to the cult behind the ‘Son of Sam’ murders (from The Ultimate Evil)
Just to the west of
The massive, 46,000 square-foot edifice sits amid 22 lavishly landscaped acres of prime Hollywood Hills real estate. This rather ostentatious home was built by uberwealthy oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny as a wedding present for his son, Edward “Ned” Doheny, Jr.. If that plotline sounds vaguely familiar, it is probably because Edward Doheny was the inspiration for Upton Sinclair’s Oil, and thus for the homicidal Daniel Plainview character in There Will Be Blood (some of the interior shots near the end of that film, of expansive, marble-floored rooms, could very well have been shot in the real Greystone, though the exterior shots certainly were not)
Upon the home’s completion, in September 1928, young Ned Doheny and his new bride moved into the humble abode. Within months, the home would be bloodstained; soon after, it would be permanently abandoned.
Poor Ned, you see, was found dead in the cavernous home
It is anyone’s guess whether or not the two really were
gay lovers, but it matters little; the rest of the story was almost certainly a
work of fiction. In reality, both men were likely murdered as part of the
massive cover-up/damage-control operation that followed the disclosure of the
Some forty years after those gunshots rang out in the
I have no idea what, if anything, any of that means, but I thought it best that I toss it into the mix.
* * * * * * * * * *
Before wrapping up this installment, this seems like as
good a time as any to introduce you all to a couple of
One of the two, whom we’ll call Jerry, had a decidedly conservative upbringing. Born into a politically well-connected Republican family, Jerry devoted his early years to pursuing a career in the Jesuit priesthood. His father, an active Republican Party operative, was an aspiring politician who initially had no luck in getting himself elected to office. Ultimately though, he succeeded in capturing the coveted California Governor’s seat in 1959, and he did it by employing a simple gimmick: he merely changed the “R” after his name to a “D.” He held the seat for two terms, through 1967, and then was replaced by a fellow who had employed a similar trick: replacing the “D” after his name with an “R.”
That gentleman, of course, was Ronald Wilson Reagan, who would govern the state through 1975, when he handed the reins over to Jerry, who, like his dad, had decided that he was a liberal Democrat. In fact, according to the media, Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, Jr. was an ultraliberal extremist whose politics fell somewhere to the left of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
Another figure making the rounds in
Mondo Hollywood, as I mentioned in a previous
installment, was the creation of filmmaker Robert Carl Cohen, who, as it turns
out, has an interesting background for a guy whose destiny was to capture on
film the emerging 1960s countercultural scene. In 1954, Cohen served in the U.S.
Army Signal Corps. The following year, he was on assignment to NATO. Following
that, he served in Special Services in
Cohen has proudly proclaimed that he was the first (or at
least among the first) Western journalists/filmmakers allowed to enter and shoot
footage in each of these countries. In the case of
Have I mentioned, by the way, that Cohen is not a fan of this website? I know this because he sent a few e-mails my way in which he denounced my site as being “based on slander and third-party hearsay,” or some such gibberish, and he followed that up by issuing some empty legal threats. As it turns out though, I don’t much give a fuck what Robert Carl Cohen thinks of my website.
And now, after that brief digression, we return to our
It is unclear whether the paths of this odd couple
Governor Brown, however, had little time to spend on
actually governing the state of
These days, Jerry Brown maintains little of his liberal