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 Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation

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PostSubject: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 4:00 am

http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/nwsltr93.html



Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part I
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.”


To Be Continued …



* * * * * * * * * *



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.
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 4:01 am

http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/nwsltr94.html




Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part II
May 13, 2008





“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.”





[Today’s
first trivia question: both of the above statements were made, on
separate occasions, by a famous Laurel Canyon musician of the 1960s
era. Both quotes were offered up in praise of another Laurel Canyon
musician. Award yourself five points for correctly identifying the
person who made the remarks, and five for identifying who the
statements refer to. The answers are at the end of this post.]



In
the first chapter of this saga, we met a sampling of some of the most
successful and influential rock music superstars who emerged from
Laurel Canyon during its glory days. But these were, alas, more than
just musicians and singers and songwriters who had come together in the
canyon; they were destined to become the spokesmen and de facto leaders
of a generation of disaffected youth (as Carl Gottlieb noted in David
Crosby’s co-written autobiography, “the unprecedented mass appeal of
the new rock ‘n’ roll gave the singers a voice in public affairs.”)
That, of course, makes it all the more curious that these icons were,
to an overwhelming degree, the sons and daughters of the
military/intelligence complex and the scions of families that have
wielded vast wealth and power in this country for a very long time.



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
one of America’s bloodiest illegal wars? And why did Frank Zappa never
pen a song exploring the horrors of chemical warfare (though he did pen
a charming little ditty entitled “The Ritual Dance of the
Child-Killer”)? And which Mamas and Papas song was it that laid waste
to the values and actions of John Phillip’s parents and in-laws? And in
which interview, exactly, did David Crosby and Stephen Stills disown
the family values that they were raised with?



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 Southeast Asia and to the
prevailing social conditions of the time. ‘Conspiracy theorists,’ of
course, have frequently opined that what began as a legitimate movement
was at some point co-opted and undermined by intelligence operations
such as CoIntelPro. Entire books, for example, have been written
examining how presumably virtuous musical artists were subjected to FBI
harassment and/or whacked by the CIA.



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 Laurel Canyon. The first Vietnam
War ‘teach-in’ was held on the campus of the University of Michigan in
March of 1965. The first organized walk on Washington occurred just a
few weeks later. Needless to say, there were no ‘hippies’ in attendance
at either event. That ‘problem’ would soon be rectified. And the
anti-war crowd – those who were serious about ending the bloodshed in
Vietnam, anyway – would be none too appreciative.



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 Chicago in 1968 when so many people got injured, but on
the whole the movement activists looked on hippies with disdain.” Peter
Coyote, narrating the documentary “Hippies” on The History Channel,
added that “Some on the left even theorized that the hippies were the
end result of a plot by the CIA to neutralize the anti-war movement
with LSD, turning potential protestors into self-absorbed
naval-gazers.” An exasperated Abbie Hoffman once described the scene as
he remembered it thusly: “There were all these activists, you know,
Berkeley radicals, White Panthers … all trying to stop the war and
change things for the better. Then we got flooded with all these
‘flower children’ who were into drugs and sex. Where the hell did the
hippies come from?!”



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
Brady, who, as we all remember, once converted his dad’s home office
into a groovy bachelor pad.



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) California pols Tom Hayden and Jerry Brown. I even
had high hopes, oh-so-many-years-ago, for (am I really admitting this
in print?) aspiring First Man Bill Clinton.



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 Laurel Canyon. As readers of
Programmed to Kill may recall, Brown lived on Wonderland Avenue, not
too many doors down from 8763 Wonderland Avenue, the site of the
infamous “Four on the Floor” murders, regarded by grizzled LA homicide
detectives as the most bloody and brutal multiple murder in the city’s
very bloody history (if you get a chance, by the way, check out
“Wonderland” with Val Kilmer the next time it shows up on your cable
listings; it is, by Hollywood standards, a reasonably accurate
retelling of the crime, and a pretty decent film as well).



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 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon, just a couple miles to
the west of Laurel Canyon – had deep ties to the Laurel Canyon scene as
well.



As previously mentioned, victims Folger and
Frykowski lived in Laurel Canyon, at 2774 Woodstock Road, in a rented
home right across the road from a favored gathering spot for Laurel
Canyon royalty. Many of the regular visitors to Cass Elliot’s home,
including a number of shady drug dealers, were also regular visitors to
the Folger/Frykowski home (Frykowski’s son, by the way, was stabbed to
death on June 6, 1999, thirty years after his father met the same
fate.) Victim Jay Sebring’s acclaimed hair salon sat right at the mouth
of Laurel Canyon, just below the Sunset Strip, and it was Sebring,
alas, who was credited with sculpting Jim Morrison’s famous mane. One
of the investors in his Sebring International business venture was a
Laurel Canyon luminary who I may have mentioned previously, Mr. John
Phillips.



Sharon Tate was also well known in Laurel
Canyon, where she was a frequent visitor to the homes of friends like
John Phillips, Cass Elliott, and Abby Folger. And when she wasn’t in
Laurel Canyon, many of the canyon regulars, both famous and infamous,
made themselves at home in her place on Cielo Drive. Canyonite Van Dyke
Parks, for example, dropped by for a visit on the very day of the
murders. And Denny Doherty, the other “Papa” in The Mamas and the
Papas, has claimed that he and John Phillips were invited to the Cielo
Drive home on the night of the murders, but, as luck would have it,
they never made it over. (Similarly, Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, a
regular visitor to the Wonderland death house, had set up a drug buy on
the night of that mass murder, but he fell asleep and never made it
over.)



Along with the victims, the alleged killers also
lived in and/or were very much a part of the Laurel Canyon scene. Bobby
“Cupid” Beausoleil, for example, lived in a Laurel Canyon apartment
during the early months of 1969. Charles “Tex” Watson, who allegedly
led the death squad responsible for the carnage at Cielo Drive, lived
for a time in a home on – guess where? – Wonderland Avenue. During that
time, curiously enough, Watson co-owned and worked in a wig shop in
Beverly Hills, Crown Wig Creations, Ltd., that was located near the
mouth of Benedict Canyon. Meanwhile, one of Jay Sebring’s primary
claims-to-fame was his expertise in crafting men’s hairpieces, which he
did in his shop near the mouth of Laurel Canyon. A typical day then in
the late 1960s would find Watson crafting hairpieces for an upscale
Hollywood clientele near Benedict Canyon, and then returning home to
Laurel Canyon, while Sebring crafted hairpieces for an upscale
Hollywood clientele near Laurel Canyon, and then returned home to
Benedict Canyon. And then one crazy day, as we all know, one of them
became a killer and the other his victim. But there’s nothing odd about
that, I suppose, so let’s move on.



Oh, wait a minute …
we can’t quite move on just yet, as I forgot to mention that Sebring’s
Benedict Canyon home, at 9820 Easton Drive, was a rather infamous
Hollywood death house that had once belonged to Jean Harlow and Paul
Bern. The mismatched pair were wed on July 2, 1932, when Harlow,
already a huge star of the silver screen, was just twenty-one years
old. Just two months later, on September 5, Bern caught a bullet to the
head in his wife’s bedroom. He was found sprawled naked in a pool of
his own blood, his corpse drenched with his wife’s perfume. Upon
discovering the body, Bern’s butler promptly contacted MGM’s head of
security, Whitey Hendry, who in turn contacted Louis B. Mayer and
Irving Thalberg. All three men descended upon the Benedict Canyon home
to, you know, tidy up a bit. A couple hours later, they decided to
contact the LAPD. This scene would be repeated years later when
Sebring’s friends would rush to the home to clean up before officers
investigating the Tate murders arrived.



Bern’s death
was, needless to say, written off as a suicide. His newlywed wife,
strangely enough, was never called as a witness at the inquest. Bern’s
other wife – which is to say, his common-law wife, Dorothy Millette –
reportedly boarded a Sacramento riverboat on September 6, 1932, the day
after Paul’s death. She was next seen floating belly-up in the
Sacramento River. Her death, as would be expected, was also ruled a
suicide. Less than five years later, Harlow herself dropped dead at the
ripe old age of 26. At the time, authorities opted not to divulge the
cause of death, though it was later claimed that bad kidneys had done
her in. During her brief stay on this planet, Harlow had cycled through
three turbulent marriages and yet still found time to serve as
Godmother to Bugsy Siegel’s daughter, Millicent.



Though
Bern’s was the most famous body to be hauled out of the Easton Drive
house in a coroner’s bag, it certainly wasn’t the only one. Another man
had reportedly committed suicide there as well, in some unspecified
fashion. Yet another unfortunate soul drowned in the home’s pool. And a
maid was once found swinging from the end of a rope. Her death,
needless to say, was ruled a suicide as well. That’s a lot of blood for
one home to absorb, but the house’s morbid history, though a turn-off
to many prospective residents, was reportedly exactly what attracted
Jay Sebring to the property. His murder would further darken the black
cloud hanging over the home.



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. Walker though, like others who have chronicled
that time and place, treats these brutal crimes as though they were
unfortunate aberrations. The reality, however, is that the nine bodies
recovered from Cielo Drive and Wonderland Avenue constitute just the
tip of a very large, and very bloody, iceberg. To partially illustrate
that point, here is today’s second trivia question: what do Diane
Linkletter (daughter of famed entertainer Art Linkletter), legendary
comedian Lenny Bruce, screen idol Sal Mineo, starlet Inger Stevens, and
silent film star Ramon Novarro, all have in common?



If
you answered that all were found dead in their homes, either in or at
the mouth of Laurel Canyon, in the decade between 1966 and 1976, then
award yourself five points. If you added that all five were, in all
likelihood, murdered in their Laurel Canyon homes, then add five bonus
points.



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 8000
Woodrow Wilson Drive, on April 30, 1970 (Walpurgisnacht on the occult
calendar), was officially a suicide, though why she opted to propel
herself through a decorative glass screen as part of that suicide
remains a mystery. Perhaps she just wanted to leave behind a gruesome
crime scene, and simple overdoses can be so, you know, bloodless and
boring.



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 October 4, 1969. Au contraire,
she was with a gent by the name of Edward Durston, who, in a completely
unexpected turn of events, accompanied actress Carol Wayne to Mexico
some 15 years later. Carol, alas, perhaps weighed down by her enormous
breasts, managed to drown in barely a foot of water, while Mr. Durston
promptly disappeared. As would be expected, he was never questioned by
authorities about Wayne’s curious death. After all, it is quite common
for the same guy to be the sole witness to two separate ‘accidental’
deaths.



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 August 3, 1966, because, to be perfectly
honest, I don’t know too many people who don’t already assume that
Lenny was whacked. I’ll just note here that his funeral was
well-attended by the Laurel Canyon rock icons, and control over his
unreleased material fell into the hands of a guy by the name of Frank
Zappa. And another rather unsavory character named Phil Spector, whose
crack team of studio musicians, dubbed The Wrecking Crew, were the
actual musicians playing on many studio recordings by such bands as The
Monkees, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, and The Mamas and the Papas.





To Be Continued …





(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.)
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 4:02 am

http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/nwsltr95.html



Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part III
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 Laurel Canyon scene.





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:

*
Marina Elizabeth Habe, whose body was carved up and tossed into the
heavy brush along Mulholland Drive, just west of Bowmont Drive, on
December 30, 1968. Habe, just seventeen at the time of her death, was
the daughter of Hans Habe, who emigrated to the U.S. from fascist
Austria circa 1940. Shortly thereafter, he married a General Foods
heiress and began studying psychological warfare at the Military
Intelligence Training Center. After completing his training, he put his
psychological warfare skills to use by creating 18 newspapers in
occupied Germany – under the direction, no doubt, of the OSS.
*
Christine Hinton, who was killed in a head-on collision on September
30, 1969. At the time, Hinton was a girlfriend of David Crosby and the
founder and head of The Byrd’s fan club. She was also the daughter of a
career Army officer stationed at the notorious Presidio military base
in San Francisco. Another of Crosby’s girlfriends from that same era
was Shelley Roecker, who grew up on the Hamilton Air Force Base in
Marin County.
* Jane Doe #59, found dumped into the heavy
undergrowth of Laurel Canyon in November 1969, within sight of where
Habe had been dumped less than a year earlier. The teenage girl, who
was never identified, had been stabbed 157 times in the chest and
throat.
* Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, singer, songwriter and
guitarist for the Laurel Canyon blues-rock band, Canned Heat, was found
dead in his Topanga Canyon home on September 3, 1970. His death was
written off as a suicide/OD. Wilson had moved to Topanga Canyon after
the band’s Laurel Canyon home – on Lookout Mountain Avenue, next door
to Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash’s home – burned to the ground. “Blind
Owl” was just twenty-seven years old at the time of his death. A little
more than a decade later, Wilson’s former bandmate, Bob “The Bear”
Hite, who had once acknowledged in an interview that he had partied in
the canyons with various members of the Manson Family, died of a heart
attack at the ripe old age of 36.
* Jimi Hendrix, who reportedly
briefly occupied the sprawling mansion just north of the Log Cabin
after he moved to LA in 1968, died in London under seriously
questionable circumstances on September 18, 1970. Though he rarely
spoke of it, Jimi had served a stint in the U.S. Army with the 101st
Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. His official records indicate that
he was forced into the service by the courts and then released after
just one year when he purportedly proved to be a poor soldier. One
wonders though why he was assigned to such an elite division if he was
indeed such a failure. One also wonders why he wasn’t subjected to
disciplinary measures rather than being handed a free pass out of his
ostensibly court-ordered service. In any event, Jimi himself once told
reporters that he was given a medical discharge after breaking an ankle
during a parachute jump. And one biographer has claimed that Jimi faked
being gay to earn an early release. The truth, alas, remains rather
elusive. At the time of Jimi’s death, the first person called by his
girlfriend – Monika Danneman, who was the last to see Hendrix alive –
was Eric Burden of the Animals. Two years earlier, Burden had relocated
to LA and taken over ringmaster duties from Frank Zappa after Zappa had
vacated the Log Cabin and moved into a less high-profile Laurel Canyon
home. Within a year of Jimi’s death, an underage prostitute named Devon
Wilson who had been with Jimi the day before his death, plunged from an
eighth-floor window of New York’s Chelsea Hotel. On March 5, 1973, a
shadowy character named Michael Jeffery, who had managed both Hendrix
and Burden, was killed in a mid-air plane collision. Jeffery was known
to openly boast of having organized crime connections and of working
for the CIA. After Jimi’s death, it was discovered that Jeffery had
been funneling most of Hendrix’s gross earnings into offshore accounts
in the Bahamas linked to international drug trafficking. Years later,
on April 5, 1996, Danneman, the daughter of a wealthy German
industrialist, was found dead near her home in a fume-filled Mercedes.

* Jim Morrison, who for a time lived in a home on Rothdell Trail,
behind the Laurel Canyon Country Store, may or may not have died in
Paris on July 3, 1971. The events of that day remain shrouded in
mystery and rumor, and the details of the story, such as they are, have
changed over the years. What is known is that, on that very same day,
Admiral George Stephen Morrison delivered the keynote speech at a
decommissioning ceremony for the aircraft carrier USS Bon Homme
Richard, from where, seven years earlier, he had helped choreograph the
Tonkin Gulf Incident. A few years after Jim’s death, his common-law
wife, Pamela Courson, dropped dead as well, officially of a heroin
overdose. Like Hendrix, Morrison had been an avid student of the
occult, with a particular fondness for the work of Aleister Crowley.
According to super-groupie Pamela DesBarres, he had also “read all he
could about incest and sadism.” Also like Hendrix, Morrison was just
twenty-seven at the time of his (possible) death.
* Brandon
DeWilde, a good friend of David Crosby and Gram Parsons, was killed in
a freak accident in Colorado on July 6, 1972, when his van plowed under
a flatbed truck. In the 1950s, DeWilde had been an in-demand child
actor since the age of eight. He had appeared on screen with some of
the biggest names in Hollywood, including Alan Ladd, Lee Marvin, Paul
Newman, John Wayne, Kirk Douglas and Henry Fonda. Around 1965, DeWilde
fell in with Hollywood’s ‘Young Turks,’ through whom he met and
befriended Crosby, Parsons, and various other members of the Laurel
Canyon Club. DeWilde was just thirty at the time of his death.
*
Christine Frka, a former governess for Moon Unit Zappa and the Zappa
family’s former housekeeper at the Log Cabin, died on November 5, 1972
of an alleged drug overdose, though friends suspected foul play. As
“Miss Christine,” Frka had been a member of the Zappa-created GTOs, a
musical act, of sorts, composed entirely of very young groupies. She
was also the inspiration for the song, “Christine’s Tune: Devil in
Disguise” by Gram Parson’s Flying Burrito Brothers. Frka was probably
in her early twenties when she died, possibly even younger.
*
Danny Whitten, a guitarist/vocalist/songwriter with Neil Young’s
sometime band, Crazy Horse, died of an overdose on November 18, 1972.
According to rock ‘n’ roll legend, Whitten had been fired by Young
earlier that day during rehearsals in San Francisco. Young and Jack
Nietzsche, Phil Spector’s former top assistant, had given Whitten $50
and put him on a plane back to LA. Within hours, he was dead. Whitten
was just twenty-nine.
* Bruce Berry, a roadie for Crosby,
Stills, Nash & Young, died of a heroin overdose in June 1973. Berry
had just flown out to Maui to deliver a shipment of cocaine to Stephen
Stills, and was promptly sent back to LA by Crosby and Nash. Berry was
a brother of Jan Berry, of Jan and Dean. (Dean Torrence, the “Dean” of
Jan and Dean, had played a part in the fake kidnapping of Frank
Sinatra, Jr., just after the JFK assassination. The staged event was a
particularly lame effort to divert attention away from the questions
that were cropping up, after the initial shock had passed, about the
events in Dealey Plaza.)
* Clarence White, a guitarist who had
played with The Byrds, was run over by a drunk driver and killed on
July 14, 1973. White had grown up near Lancaster, not far from where
Frank Zappa spent his teen years. At least one member of White’s
immediate family was employed at Edwards Air Force Base. The driver who
killed young Clarence, just twenty-nine years old at the time of his
death, was given a one-year suspended sentence and served no time.

* Gram Parsons, formerly with the International Submarine Band, The
Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, allegedly overdosed on a
speedball at the Joshua Tree Inn on September 19, 1973. Just two months
before his death, Parson’s Topanga Canyon home had burnt to the ground.
After his death, his body was stolen from LAX by the Burrito’s road
manager, Phil Kaufman, and then taken back out to Joshua Tree and
ritually burned on the autumnal equinox (Kaufman had been a prison
buddy of Charlie Manson’s at Terminal Island; when Phil was released
from Terminal Island in March of 1968, he quickly reunited with his old
pal, who had been released a year earlier.) By the time of Gram’s
death, his family had already experienced its share of questionable
deaths. Just before Christmas, 1958, Parson’s father had sent Gram,
along with his mother and sister, off to stay with family in Florida.
The next day, just after the winter solstice, “Coon Dog” caught a
bullet to the head. His death was recorded as a suicide and it was
claimed that he had sent his family away to spare them as much pain as
possible. It seems just as likely, however, that “Coon Dog” knew his
days were numbered and wanted to get his family out of the line of
fire. The next year, 1959, Gram’s mother married again, to Robert Ellis
Parsons, who adopted Gram and his sister Avis. Six years later, in June
of 1965, Gram’s mother died the day after a sudden illness landed her
in the hospital. According to witnesses, she died “almost immediately”
after a visit from her husband, Robert Parsons. Many of those close to
the situation believed that Parsons had a hand in her death (very
shortly thereafter, Robert Parsons married his stepdaughter’s teenage
babysitter). Following his mother’s death, Parsons briefly attended
Harvard University, and then launched his music career with the
formation of the International Submarine Band, which quickly found its
way to – where else? – Laurel Canyon. Gram’s death in 1973 at the age
of 26 left his younger sister Avis as the sole surviving member of the
family. She was killed in 1993, reportedly in a boating accident, at
the age of 43.
* “Mama” Cass Elliot, the “Earth Mother” of
Laurel Canyon whose circle of friends included musicians, Mansonites,
young Hollywood stars, the wealthy son of a State Department official,
singer/songwriters, assorted drug dealers, and some particularly
unsavory characters the LAPD once described as “some kind of hit
squad,” died in the London home of Harry Nilsson on July 29, 1974
(Nilsson had been a frequent drinking buddy of John Lennon in Laurel
Canyon and on the Sunset Strip). At thirty-two, Cass had lived a long
and productive life, by Laurel Canyon standards. Four years later, in
the very same room of the very same London flat, still owned by Harry
Nilsson, Keith Moon of The Who also died at thirty-two (on September 7,
1978). Though initial press reports held that Cass had choked to death
on a ham sandwich, the official cause of death was listed as heart
failure. Her actual cause of death could likely be filed under “knowing
where too many of the bodies were buried.” Moon reportedly died from a
massive overdose of a drug used to treat alcohol withdrawal. Like Cass,
Moon had at one time been a resident of Laurel Canyon.
* Amy
Gossage, Graham Nash’s girlfriend at the time, was murdered in her San
Francisco home on February 13, 1975. Just twenty years old at the time,
she had been stabbed nearly fifty times and was bludgeoned beyond
recognition. Amy’s father, a famed advertising/PR executive, had died
of leukemia in 1969. Not long after, her half-sister had been killed in
a car crash. In May of 1974, her mother, the daughter of a wealthy
banking family, died as well, reportedly of cirrhosis of the liver.
That left just Amy, age 19, and her brother Eben, age 20, both of whom
reportedly had serious drug dependencies. Amy’s brutal murder, cleverly
enough, was pinned on Eben. Police had conveniently found bloodstained
clothes, along with a hammer and scissors, sitting on the porch of
Eben’s apartment, looking very much as though it had been planted. A
friend of Eben’s would later remark, perhaps quite tellingly, “If Eben
did kill her, I’m convinced he doesn’t know he did it.”
* Tim
Buckley, a singer/songwriter signed to Frank Zappa’s record label and
managed by Herb Cohen, died of a reported overdose on June 29, 1975.
Buckley had once appeared on an episode of The Monkees, and, like
Monkee Peter Tork (and so many others in this story), he hailed from
Washington, DC. Buckley was just twenty-eight at the time of his death.
His son, Jeff Buckley, also an accomplished musician, managed to remain
on this planet two years longer than his dad did; he was thirty when he
died in a bizarre drowning incident on May 29, 1997.
* Phyllis
Major Browne, wife of singer/songwriter Jackson Browne, reportedly
overdosed on barbiturates on March 25, 1976. Her death was – you all
should know the words to this song by now – ruled a suicide. She was
just thirty years old.

There are a few other curious deaths we
could add here as well, though they were only indirectly related to the
Laurel Canyon scene. Nevertheless, they deserve an honorable mention,
especially the Bobby Fuller and Phil Ochs entries; the former because
it is a rather extraordinary example of the exemplary work done by the
LAPD, and the latter because it just may contain a key to understanding
the Laurel Canyon phenomenon:

* Bobby Fuller,
singer/songwriter/guitarist for the Bobby Fuller Four, was found dead
in his car near Grauman’s Chinese Theater on July 18, 1966, after being
lured away from his home by a mysterious 2:00-3:00 AM phone call of
unknown origin. Fuller is best known for penning the hit song “I Fought
the Law,” which had just hit the charts when he supposedly committed
suicide at the age of twenty-three. There were multiple cuts and
bruises on his face, chest and shoulders, dried blood around his mouth,
and a hairline fracture to his right hand. He had been thoroughly
doused with gasoline, including in his mouth and throat. The inside of
the car was doused as well, and an open book of matches lay on the
seat. It was perfectly obvious that Fuller’s killer (or killers) had
planned to torch the car, destroying all evidence, but likely got
scared away. The LAPD, nevertheless, ruled Fuller’s death a suicide –
despite the coroner’s conclusion that the gas had been poured after
Bobby’s death. Police later decided that it wasn’t a suicide after all,
but rather an accident. They didn’t bother to explain how Fuller had
accidentally doused himself with gasoline after accidentally killing
himself. At the time of his death, one of Fuller’s closest confidants
was a prostitute named Melody who worked at PJ’s nightclub, where Bobby
frequently played. The club was co-owned by Eddie Nash, who would, many
years later, orchestrate the Wonderland massacre. A few years after
Bobby’s death, his brother and bass player, Randy Fuller, teamed up
with drummer Dewey Martin, formerly of Buffalo Springfield.
*
Gary Hinman, a musician, music teacher, and part-time chemist, was
brutally murdered in his Topanga Canyon home on July 27, 1969.
Convicted of his murder was Mansonite Bobby Beausoleil, who had played
rhythm guitar in a local band known as the Grass Roots. To avoid
confusion with the more famous band already using that name, the Laurel
Canyon band changed its name to Love. Beausoleil would claim that the
band’s new name was inspired by his own nickname, Cupid.
* Janis
Joplin, vocalist extraordinaire, was found dead of a heroin overdose on
October 4, 1970 at the Landmark Hotel, about a mile east of the mouth
of Laurel Canyon, where she occasionally visited. Indications were that
she had taken or been given a “hot shot,” many times stronger than
standard street heroin. Joplin’s father, by the way, was a petroleum
engineer for Texaco. And though it might normally seem an odd coupling,
it somehow seems perfectly natural, in the context of this story, that
Janis once dated that great crusader in the war on all things immoral,
William Bennett. Like Morrison and Hendrix, Joplin died at the age of
twenty-seven.
* Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, lead guitarist
and bass player for the Allman Brothers, were killed in freakishly
similar motorcycle crashes on October 29, 1971 and November 11, 1972.
Allman was the son of Willis Allman, a US Army Sergeant who had been
murdered by another soldier near Norfolk, Virginia (home of the world’s
largest naval installation) on December 26, 1949. In 1967, Duane and
his younger brother, Gregg, then billing themselves as The Allman Joys,
ventured out to Los Angeles. While there, Gregg auditioned for and was
almost signed by the Laurel Canyon band Poco, which featured Buffalo
Springfield alumni Richie Furay and Jim Messina, as well as future
Eagle Randy Meisner. Duane was killed when a truck turned in front of
his motorcycle at an intersection and inexplicably stopped. Just over a
year later, Oakley had a similar run-in with a bus, just three blocks
from where Allman had been killed. Following the crash, Berry had
dusted himself off and declined medical attention, insisting that he
was okay. Three hours later, he was rushed to the hospital, where he
died. Both Oakley and Allman were just twenty-four years old.
*
Phil Ochs, folk singer/songwriter and political activist, was found
hanged in his sister’s home in Far Rockaway, New York on April 9, 1976.
Throughout his life, Ochs was one of the most overtly political of the
1960s rock and folk music stars. A regular attendee at anti-war, civil
rights, and labor rallies, Ochs appeared to be, at all times, an
unwavering political leftist (he named his first band The Singing
Socialists). That all changed, however, and rather dramatically, in the
months before his death. Born in El Paso, Texas on December 19, 1940,
Phil and his family moved frequently during the first few years of his
life. His father, Dr. Jacob Ochs, had been drafted by the US Army and
assigned to various military hospitals in New York, New Mexico and
Texas. In 1943, Dr. Ochs was shipped overseas, returning two years
later with a medical discharge. Upon his return, he was immediately
institutionalized and didn’t return to his family for another two
years. During that time, he was subjected to every ‘treatment’
imaginable, including electroshock ‘therapy.’ When he finally returned
to his family, in 1947, he was but a shell of his former self,
described by Phil’s sister as “almost like a phantom.” Beginning in the
fall of 1956, Phil Ochs began attending Staunton Military Academy, the
very same institution that future ‘serial killer’/cult leader Gary
Heidnik would attend just one year after Ochs graduated. During Phil’s
two years there, a friend and fellow band member was found swinging
from the end of a rope (I probably don’t need to add here that the
death was ruled a suicide). Following graduation, Phil enrolled at Ohio
State University, but not before, oddly enough, having a little plastic
surgery done to alter his appearance (doing such things, needless to
say, was rather uncommon in 1958). In early 1962, just months before
his scheduled graduation, Ochs dropped out of college to pursue a
career in music. By 1966, he had released three albums. In 1967, under
the management of his brother, Michael Ochs, Phil moved out to Los
Angeles. Michael had begun working the previous year as an assistant to
Barry James, who maintained a party house at 8504 Ridpath in Laurel
Canyon. In the early 1970s, with his career beginning to fade, Phil
Ochs began to travel internationally, usually accompanied by vast
quantities of booze and pills. Those travels included a visit to Chile,
not long before the US-sponsored coup that toppled Salvador Allende. In
early summer of 1975, Phil Ochs’ public persona abruptly changed. Using
the name John Butler Train, Ochs proclaimed himself to be a CIA
operative and presented himself as a belligerent, right-wing thug. He
told an interviewer that, “on the first day of summer 1975, Phil Ochs
was murdered in the Chelsea Hotel by John Train … For the good of
societies, public and secret, he needed to be gotten rid of.” That
symbolic assassination, on the summer solstice, took place at the same
hotel that Devon Wilson had flown out of a few years earlier. One of
Ochs’ biographers would later write that Phil/John “actually believed
he was a member of the CIA.” Also in those final months of his life,
Ochs began compiling curious lists, with entries that clearly were
references to US biological warfare research: “shellfish toxin, Fort
Dietrich, cobra venom, Chantilly Race Track, hollow silver dollars, New
York Cornell Hospital …” Many years before Ochs’ metamorphosis, in an
interesting bit of foreshadowing, psychological warfare operative
George Estabrooks explained how US intelligence agencies could create
the perfect spy: “We start with an excellent subject … we need a man or
woman who is highly intelligent and physically tough. Then we start to
develop a case of multiple personality through hypnotism. In his normal
waking state, which we will call Personality A, or PA, this individual
will become a rabid communist. He will join the party, follow the party
line and make himself as objectionable as possible to the authorities.
Note that he will be acting in good faith. He is a communist, or rather
his PA is a communist and will behave as such. Then we develop
Personality B (PB), the secondary personality, the unconscious
personality, if you wish, although this is somewhat of a contradiction
in terms. This personality is rabidly American and anti-communist. It
has all the information possessed by PA, the normal personality,
whereas PA does not have this advantage … My super spy plays his role
as a communist in his waking state, aggressively, consistently,
fearlessly. But his PB is a loyal American, and PB has all the memories
of PA. As a loyal American, he will not hesitate to divulge those
memories.” Estabrooks never explained what would happen if the
programming were to go haywire and Personality B were to become the
conscious personality, but my guess is that such a person would be
considered a severe liability and would be treated accordingly. They
might even be find themselves swinging from the end of a rope. Phil
Ochs was thirty-five at the time of his death.

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 Lynn Sill,
who was once favorably compared to such other Laurel Canyon
singer/songwriters as Joni Mitchell, Judi Collins and Carole King. By
the time of her death on November 23, 1979, however, she had been all
but forgotten, and not a single obituary was published to note her
passing.



Judee was born in Studio City, California, not
far from the northern entrance to Laurel Canyon, on October 7, 1944.
Her father, Milford “Bud” Sill, was reportedly a cameraman for
Paramount Studios with numerous Hollywood connections. When Judee was
quite young, however, Bud moved the family to Oakland and opened a bar
known as “Bud’s Bar.” He also operated a side business as an importer
of rare animals, which required him to spend a considerable amount of
time traveling in Central and South America. Such a business, it should
be noted, would provide an ideal cover for covert intelligence work. In
any event, Bud Sill was dead by 1952, when Judee was just seven or
eight years old. Depending on who is telling the story, Bud died either
from pneumonia or a heart attack.



Following Bud’s
death, the family relocated back to Southern California and Judee’s
older brother Dennis, still in his teens, took over the family
importing business. That didn’t last long though as Dennis soon turned
up dead down in Central America, either from a liver infection or a car
accident. The animal importing business, I guess, is a rather dangerous
one.



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 in the San Fernando Valley. Those
activities landed her in reform school, which did little to curb her
appetite for drugs, crime and alcohol. She spent the next few years
with a serious heroin addiction, which she financed by dealing drugs
and turning tricks in some of LA’s seedier neighborhoods.



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
Laurel Canyon scene, where she attempted to forge a career as a
singer/songwriter. Her first big break came when she sold the song
“Lady O” to The Turtles (yet another Laurel Canyon band to hit it big
in the mid-1960s; best known for the hit single “Happy Together,” The
Turtles were led by lead vocalist/songwriter Howard Kaylan, who
happened to be, small world that it is, a cousin of Frank Zappa’s
manager and business partner, Herb Cohen). The band released the song,
which featured Judee’s guitar work, in 1969. The next year, Sill became
the first artist signed to David Geffen’s fledgling Asylum record
label. The year after that, her self-titled debut album became Asylum’s
first official release. The first single from the album, “Jesus Was a
Crossmaker,” was produced by Graham Nash, whom she opened for on tour
following the album’s release.



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 North Hollywood apartment. The cause
of death was listed as “acute cocaine and codeine intoxication.” It was
claimed that a suicide note was found, but friends insisted that the
supposed note was either a portion of a diary entry or an unfinished
song. One of her friends would later note that, at some point in her
life, Judee began to realize that “there was a part of her that wasn’t
under her conscious control.” I’m guessing that Phil Ochs, and quite a
few other characters in this story, could relate to that.



To Be Continued …



* * * * * * * * * *



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?
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 4:03 am

http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/nwsltr96.html


Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part IV
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 Tonkin Gulf, and the young man on the left would begin a remarkable

transformation into a brooding rock god. The Bon Homme Richard, by the way, was launched on April 29,

1944, under the sponsorship of Catherine McCain, the grandmother of a certain presidential contender.





Until
around 1913, Laurel Canyon remained an undeveloped (and unincorporated)
slice of LA – a pristine wilderness area rich in native flora and
fauna. That all began to change when Charles Spencer Mann and his
partners began buying up land along what would become Laurel Canyon
Boulevard, as well as up Lookout Mountain. A narrow road leading up to
the crest of Lookout Mountain was carved out, and upon that crest was
constructed a lavish 70-room inn with sweeping views of the city below
and the Pacific Ocean beyond. The Lookout Inn featured a large
ballroom, riding stables, tennis courts and a golf course, among other
amenities. But the inn, alas, would only stand for a decade; in 1923,
it burned down, as tends to happen rather frequently in Laurel Canyon.



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 Laurel Canyon Boulevard
and Lookout Mountain Avenue. Around that same time, he built a massive
tavern/roadhouse on that very same corner. Dubbed the Laurel Tavern,
the structure boasted a 2,000+ square-foot formal dining room, guest
rooms, and a bowling alley on the basement level. The Laurel Tavern, of
course, would later be acquired by Tom Mix, after which it would be
affectionately known as the Log Cabin.



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.



Across Laurel Canyon Boulevard, the
grounds of the Laurel Tavern/Log Cabin were also laced with odd caves
and tunnels. As Michael Walker notes in Laurel Canyon, “Running up the
hillside, behind the house, was a collection of man-made caves built
out of stucco, with electric wiring and light bulbs inside.” According
to various accounts, one secret tunnel running under what is now Laurel
Canyon Boulevard connected the Log Cabin (or its guesthouse) to the
Houdini estate. This claim is frequently denounced as an urban legend,
but given that both properties are known to possess unusual, uhmm,
geological features, it’s not hard to believe that the tunnel system on
one property was connected at one time to the tunnel system on the
other. The Tavern itself, as Gail Zappa would later describe it, was
“huge and vault-like and cavernous.”



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
like “Bungalow Land” and “Wonderland Park” was presented as the ideal
location to build vacation homes. But the new inn and roadhouse, and
the new parcels of land for sale, definitely weren’t for everyone. The
roadhouse was essentially a country club, or what Jack Boulware of Mojo
Magazine described as “a masculine retreat for wealthy men.” And
Bungalow Land was openly advertised as “a high class restricted park
for desirable people only.”



“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 Laurel Canyon. With the creation of
the Hollywood film industry in 1910, the canyon attracted a host of
‘photoplayers,’ including Wally Reid, Tom Mix, Clara Bow, Richard Dix,
Norman Kerry, Ramon Navarro, Harry Houdini and Bessie Love.”



The
author of this little slice of Laurel Canyon history would clearly like
us to believe that the “wealthier residents” were a group quite
separate from the violent hooligans roaming the canyon. The history of
such groups in Los Angeles, however, clearly suggests otherwise. Paul
Young, for example, has written in L.A. Exposed of Los Angeles’ early
“vigilance committees, which stepped in to take care of outlaws on
their own, often with the complete absolution of the mayor himself.
Judge Lynch, for example, formed the Los Angeles Rangers in 1854 with
some of the city’s top judges, lawyers, and businessmen including
tycoon Phineas Banning of the Banning Railroad. And there was the Los
Angeles Home Guard, another bloodthirsty paramilitary organization,
made up of notable citizens, and the much-feared El Monte Rangers, a
group of Texas wranglers that specialized in killing Mexicans. As one
would expect, there was no regard for the victim’s rights in such
kangaroo courts. Victims were often dragged from their homes, jail
cells, even churches, and beaten, horse-whipped, tortured, mutilated,
or castrated before being strung up on the nearest tree.”



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 Laurel Canyon listed by the Association, fully half died
under questionable circumstances, and three of the four did so on days
with occult significance. While Bessie Love, Norman Kerry, Richard Dix
and Clara Bow all lived long and healthy lives, Ramon Navarro, as we
have already seen, was ritually murdered in his home on Laurel Canyon
Boulevard on the eve of Halloween, 1968. Nearly a half-century earlier,
on January 18, 1923, matinee idol Wallace Reid was found dead in a
padded cell at the mental institution to which he had been confined.
Just thirty-one years old, Reid’s death was attributed to morphine
addiction, though it was never explained how he would have fed that
habit while confined to a cell in a mental hospital.



Tom
Mix died on a lonely stretch of Arizona highway in the proverbial
single-car crash on October 12, 1940 (the birthday of notorious
occultist Aleister Crowley), when he quite unexpectedly encountered
some temporary construction barricades that had been set up alongside a
reportedly washed-out bridge. Although he wasn’t speeding (by most
accounts), Mix was nevertheless allegedly unable to stop in time and
veered off the road, while a crew of what were described as “workmen”
reportedly looked on. It wasn’t the impact that killed Mix though, but
rather a severe blow to the back of the head and neck, purportedly
delivered during the crash by an aluminum case he had been carrying in
the back seat of his car. There is now a roadside marker at the spot
where Mix died. If you should happen to stop by to have a look, you
might as well pay a visit to the Florence Military Reservation as well,
since it’s just a stone’s throw away.



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 March 23, 2007, an exhumation of Houdini’s remains
was formally requested by his surviving family members. It is unclear
at this time when, or even if, that will happen.



Houdini’s
death, on October 31, 1926, came exactly eight years after the first
death to occur in what would become known as the “Houdini house.” In
1918, not long after the home was built, a lover’s quarrel arose on one
of the home’s balconies during a Halloween/birthday party. The gay
lover of the original owner’s son reportedly ended up splattered on the
ground below. According to legend, the businessman managed to get his
son off, but only after paying off everyone he could find to pay off,
including the trial judge. The aftermath of the party proved to be
financially devastating for the family, and the home was apparently put
up for sale.



Not long after that, as fate would have
it, Harry Houdini was looking for a place to stay in the Hollywood
area, as he had decided to break into the motion picture business. He
found the perfect home in Laurel Canyon – the home that would, forever
after, carry his name. By most accounts, he lived there from about 1919
through the early 1920s, during a brief movie career in which he
starred in a handful of Hollywood films. A key scene in one of those
films, “The Grim Game,” was reportedly shot at the top of Lookout
Mountain, near where the Lookout Inn then stood.



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 October 31, 1981, exactly twenty-two years after the fire across the
road, the legendary Log Cabin on the other side of Laurel Canyon
Boulevard also burned to the ground, in yet another fire of mysterious
origin (some reports speculated that it was a drug lab explosion). And
twenty-five years after that, on October 31, 2006, The Secret Life of
Houdini was published, challenging the conventional wisdom on Houdini’s
death.



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
Laurel Canyon faces.



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 Laurel Canyon.



Anyway
… two ambitious projects in the 1940s brought significant changes to
Laurel Canyon. First, Laurel Canyon Boulevard was extended into the San
Fernando Valley, providing access to the canyon from both the north and
the south. The widened boulevard was now a winding thoroughfare,
providing direct access to the Westside from the Valley. Traffic,
needless to say, increased considerably, which probably worked out well
for the planners of the other project, because it meant that the
increased traffic brought about by that other project probably wasn’t
noticed at all. And that’s good, you see, because the other project was
a secret one, so if I tell you about it, you have to promise not to
tell anyone else.



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 Wonderland Park Avenue, the installation was hidden from view and
surrounded by an electrified fence. By 1947, the facility featured a
fully operational movie studio. In fact, it is claimed that it was
perhaps the world’s only completely self-contained movie studio. With
100,000 square feet of floor space, the covert studio included sound
stages, screening rooms, film processing labs, editing facilities, an
animation department, and seventeen climate-controlled film vaults. It
also had underground parking, a helicopter pad and a bomb shelter.



Over
its lifetime, the studio produced some 19,000 classified motion
pictures – more than all the Hollywood studios combined (which I guess
makes Laurel Canyon the real ‘motion picture capital of the world’).
Officially, the facility was run by the U.S. Air Force and did nothing
more nefarious than process AEC footage of atomic and nuclear bomb
tests. The studio, however, was clearly equipped to do far more than
just process film. There are indications that Lookout Mountain
Laboratory had an advanced research and development department that was
on the cutting edge of new film technologies. Such technological
advances as 3-D effects were apparently first developed at the Laurel
Canyon site. And Hollywood luminaries like John Ford, Jimmy Stewart,
Howard Hawks, Ronald Reagan, Bing Crosby, Walt Disney and Marilyn
Monroe were given clearance to work at the facility on undisclosed
projects. There is no indication that any of them ever spoke of their
work at the clandestine studio.





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 corner of
Laurel Canyon. Accounts vary as to when the facility ceased operations.
Some claim it was in 1969, while others say the installation remained
in operation longer. In any event, by all accounts the secret bunker
had been up and running for more than twenty years before Laurel
Canyon’s rebellious teen years, and it remained operational for the
most turbulent of those years.



The existence of the
facility remained unknown to the general public until the early 1990s,
though it had long been rumored that the CIA operated a secret movie
studio somewhere in or near Hollywood. Filmmaker Peter Kuran was the
first to learn of its existence, through classified documents he
obtained while researching his 1995 documentary, “Trinity and Beyond.”
And yet even today, some 15 years after its public disclosure, one
would have trouble finding even a single mention of this secret
military/intelligence facility anywhere in the ‘conspiracy’ literature.



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 Hotel California, Laurel
Canyon was home to all “the hippest young actors,” including, according
to Hoskyns, Marlon Brando, James Dean, James Coburn and Dennis Hopper.
In addition to Hopper and Dean, yet another of the young stars of
“Rebel Without a Cause” found a home in the canyon as well: Natalie
Wood. In fact, Natalie lived in the very home that Cass Elliot would
later turn into a Laurel Canyon party house. A fourth young star of the
film, Sal Mineo, lived at the mouth of the canyon, and the fifth member
of the “Rebel Without a Cause” posse, Nick Adams, lived just a mile or
so away (as the crow flies) in neighboring Coldwater Canyon.



With
the exception of Hopper, all of their lives were tragically cut short,
proving once again that Laurel Canyon can be a very dangerous place to
live.



First there was that great American icon, James
Dean, who ostensibly died in a near head-on collision on September 30,
1955, at the tender age of twenty-four. Next to fall was Nick Adams,
who had known Dean before either were stars, when both were working the
mean streets of Hollywood as young male prostitutes. Adams died on
February 6, 1968, at the age of thirty-six, in his home at 2126 El
Roble Lane in Coldwater Canyon. His official cause of death was listed
as suicide, of course, but as actor Forrest Tucker has noted, “All of
Hollywood knows Nick Adams was knocked off.” Nick’s relatives
reportedly received numerous hang-up calls on the day of his death, and
his tape recorder, journals and various other papers and personal
effects were conspicuously missing from his home. His lifeless body,
sitting upright in a chair, was discovered by his attorney, Ervin “Tip”
Roeder. On June 10, 1981, Roeder and his wife, actress Jenny Maxwell
(best known for being spanked by Elvis in “Blue Hawaii”), were gunned
down outside their Beverly Hills condo.



Next in line
was Sal Mineo, whose murder on February 12, 1976 we have already
covered. Last to fall was Natalie Wood, who died on November 29, 1981
in a drowning incident that has never been adequately explained. Before
being found floating in the waters off Catalina Island, Wood had been
aboard a private yacht in the company of actors Robert Wagner and
Christopher Walken. She was forty-three when she was laid to rest.



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 ‘Hollywood bad boy’ image and gave his career quite a
boost, but I guess that’s not really relevant here.



Another
famous resident of Laurel Canyon, apparently in the 1940s, was
science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein, who reportedly resided at 8775
Lookout Mountain Avenue. Like so many other characters in this story,
Heinlein was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and he
had served as a naval officer. After that, he embarked on a successful
writing career. And despite the fact that he was, by any objective
measure, a rabid right-winger, his work was warmly embraced by the
Flower Power generation.



Heinlein’s best-known work is
the novel Stranger in a Strange Land, which many in the Laurel Canyon
scene found to be hugely influential. Ed Sanders has written, in The
Family, that the book “helped provide a theoretical basis for Manson’s
family.” Charlie frequently used Strange Land terminology when
addressing his flock and he named his first Family-born son Valentine
Michael Manson, in honor of the book’s lead character.



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 together in Laurel
Canyon (one finds the words “serendipitous” sprinkled freely throughout
the literature). But how many peculiar coincidences do we have to
overlook in order to believe that this was just a chance gathering?



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 Laurel Canyon
Boulevard from you lives another guy who also recently arrived in
Laurel Canyon, and who also happens to front a band on the verge of
stardom. He happens to be married to a girl that you attended
kindergarten with, and her dad, like yours, was involved in atomic
weapons research and testing (Admiral George Morrison for a time did
classified work at White Sands). Her husband’s dad, meanwhile, is
involved in another type of WMD research: chemical warfare.



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 Laurel Canyon, just a mile or two from your house.
Just down a couple of other streets, also within walking distance of
your home, live two other kids who – wouldn’t you know it? – also
happen to front a new rock band. These two kids happened to attend the
same Alexandria, Virginia high school that you attended, and one of
them also attended Annapolis, just like your dad did, and just like
your kindergarten friend’s dad did.



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?





To Be Continued …
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 4:04 am

http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/nwsltr97.html




Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part V
June 6, 2008


"Call
them 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 Crosby’s life who are all but ignored in the lengthy
book. The names are casually dropped only once, and not by Crosby but
rather in a quote from manager Jim Dickson in which he describes the
scene at the Sunset Strip clubs when The Byrds played: “We had them
all. We had Jack Nicholson dancing, we had Peter Fonda dancing with
Odetta, we had Vito and his Freakers.”



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 of Crosby’s band. And the early success of Arthur
Lee’s band. And the early success of Frank Zappa’s band. And the early
success of Jim Morrison’s band. But especially in the early success of
David Crosby’s band.



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 Lowell, Massachusetts. From a young age, he
developed a habit of running afoul of the law. According to Miles, he
spent a year-and-a-half in a reformatory as a teenager and “was busted
several times after that.” In 1938, he was convicted of armed robbery
and handed a 25-year sentence following a botched attempt at holding up
a movie theater. By 1942, however, just four years later, he had been
released into the custody, so to speak, of the US Merchant Marine (a
branch of the US Navy during wartime), ostensibly to escort ships
running lend-lease missions.



Following
his release from the service, circa 1946, Vito arrived in Los Angeles.
What he did for the next fifteen years or so is anyone’s guess; there
is virtually no mention of those years in any of the accounts I have
stumbled across. What is known is that by the early 1960s, Vito was
ensconced in an unassuming building at the corner of Laurel Avenue and
Beverly Boulevard, just below the mouth of Laurel Canyon (and very near
Jay Sebring’s hair salon). At street level was his young wife Szou’s
clothing boutique, which has been credited by some of those making the
scene in those days with being the very first to introduce ‘hippie’
fashions. Upstairs was the living quarters for Vito, Szou and their
young son, Godot. Downstairs was what was known as the “Vito Clay”
studio, where, according to Miles and various others, Paulekas “made a
living of sorts by giving clay modeling lessons to Beverly Hills
matrons who found the atmosphere in his studio exciting.”



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 Hollywood
luminaries as Jonathon Winters, Mickey Rooney and Steve Allen.
Nevertheless, though Paulekas claimed to be a serious artist (a
painter, poet, dancer and photographer, in addition to a sculptor),
there is scant evidence that I have seen that supports such claims (I
am not, however, the most objective of art critics, as I am, as best I
can determine, apparently not cultured enough to ‘get’ the majority of
what passes for art).



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 Rutland,
Vermont. The family was brought from Italy, from the quarries in the
northern part of Italy, to cut the stone for the monuments of the
United States.” That would make his father, I’m guessing here, someone
of some importance in the Mason community, if Carl is to be believed.
By Franzoni’s own account, he grew up as something of a young hoodlum
in Cincinnati, Ohio, and later went into business with some shady
Sicilian characters selling mail-order breast and penis pumps out of an
address on LA’s fabled Melrose Avenue. As Franzoni remembered it, his
business “partner’s name was Scallacci, Joe Scallacci – the same name
as the famous murderer Scallacci. Probably from the same family.”
Probably so.



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 Karen Yum Yum.



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 (“America’s Sweethearts”). In 1966, Fowley
produced a record for Vito as well, billed as “Vito and the Hands.” The
7” single, “Where It’s At,” which featured the musicianship of some of
Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, came no closer to entering the
charts than did Fowley and Sloatman’s effort. Sloatman, by the way,
soon found work as an assistant and booking agent for Elmer Valentine,
who we will meet shortly.



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 upscale
Malibu, California, where he shared his childhood home with “a bunch of
actors and guys from the Navy.” At the age of six-and-a-half, Fowley
had an unusual experience that he later shared with author Michael
Walker: dressed up in a sailor suit by his dad and his Navy buddies, he
was taken “to a photographer named William, who took a picture of me in
the sailor suit. His studio was next door to the Canyon [Country]
Store.” Right after that, he was driven down Laurel Canyon Boulevard to
the near-mythical Schwabs Drugstore, where “everybody cheered and two
chorus girls grabbed my six-year-old cock and balls and stuck a candy
cigarette in my mouth.”



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 UK, but he had hastily returned
to the US due to pressure from, among others, promoter Don Arden. Known
none-too-affectionately as the “Al Capone of Pop,” Arden had a penchant
for guns and violence and he was known to openly boast of his
affiliation with powerful organized crime figures. In addition to being
a business partner of the equally nefarious Michael Jeffery, Arden was
also the father of Sharon Osbourne and the former manager of her
husband’s band, Black Sabbath … but here I have surely digressed, so
let’s try to bring this back around to where we left off.



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 Chicago vice cop named Elmer
Valentine opened the doors to the now world-famous Whisky-A-Go-Go
nightclub. Just over a year later, in spring of 1965, he opened a
second soon-to-be-wildly-popular club, The Trip. Not long before that,
near the end of 1964, the legendary Ciro’s nightclub began undergoing
extensive renovations. Opened in 1940 by Billy Wilkerson, an associate
of Bugsy Siegel, the upscale club had flourished for the first twenty
years of its existence, with a clientele that regularly included
Hollywood royalty and organized crime figures. By the early 1960s
though the Strip was dead, and the once prestigious club had gone to
seed.



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
March 23, 1970 at the age of forty-five, reportedly of lung cancer. His
ideological offspring, however, live on.







To Be Continued …




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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 4:06 am

http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/nwsltr98.html

Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part VI
June 6, 2008





“Vito
was in his fifties, but he had four-way sex with goddesses … He held
these clay-sculpting classes on Laurel Avenue, teaching rich Beverly
Hills dowagers how to sculpt. And that was the Byrds’ rehearsal room.
Then Jim Dickson had the idea to put them on at Ciro’s, on the basis
that all the freaks would show up and the Byrds would be their Beatles.”
Kim Fowley





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 303 Laurel Avenue: the ubiquitous Log Cabin. According to
Jack Boulware, writing in Mojo magazine, architect Robert Byrd and his
son built a new guesthouse (aka ‘the treehouse’) on the property in the
early 1960s, and “The following year, a communal family of weirdos
moved into the cabin and treehouse, centered around two underground
hipsters named Vito Paulekas and Carl Franzoni, organizers of freeform
dance troupes at clubs along the Sunset Strip.” By 1967, the dancers
were splitting “their rent with staff from the hippie publication The
Oracle. Retired journalist John Bilby recalls at least 36 people living
and partying at the Log Cabin and treehouse, including the band
Fraternity of Man. ‘Tim Leary was definitely there, George Harrison and
Ravi Shankar were there,’ Bilby says.”



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 CIA asset, and The
Oracle was a San Francisco-based publication with intelligence ties
that specialized in pitching psychedelic occultism to impressionable
youth.



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 8404 Kirkwood Drive, where Zappa had
met his new wife, Gail, and where Gail’s old kindergarten pal, James
Douglas Morrison, was known to occasionally pass the time. Ms.
Zarubica/Creamcheese was yet another member of Vito’s dance troupe.



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: �


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: �


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:

* The young boy was reportedly subjected to pedophilic treatment by his parents and others.
* The boy’s parents displayed a truly chilling indifference to the child’s death.
* Kenneth Anger had expressed an interest in filming the boy.
* Pamela DesBarres contends that the toddler died during a “wacky photo session.”
* Alban Pfisterer has claimed that the child was drugged.

* Bobby Beausoleil has said that some of Anger’s film projects were
for private collectors: “every once in a while he’d do a little thing
that wouldn’t be for distribution.”
* Finally, according to
biographer Bill Landis, Kenneth Anger was at one time investigated by
the police on suspicion that he had been producing snuff flicks.



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 Haiti that Vito appears to have fled to, and then to
Jamaica (which at the time had no extradition treaty with the United
States), accompanied by his wife Szou and their new baby daughter
Groovee Nipple (or possibly Gruvi Nipple; does anyone really care which
is the proper spelling?) According to Miles, this occurred in December
of 1968, though other accounts vary. Carl Franzoni, meanwhile, became
embroiled in some unspecified legal troubles of his own and went into
hiding, resurfacing in Canada by some reports. At around that same
time, Frank Zappa moved on to yet another location in Laurel Canyon, a
high-security home on Woodrow Wilson Drive.



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 on
Laurel Canyon Boulevard in the log cabin house once owned by
cowboy-actor Tom Mix. They lived there for a few weeks, in late 1968,
in a cave-like hollow in back of the residence.” According to Franzoni,
Manson also came calling at the Vito Clay studio on Laurel Avenue:
“Applebaum took over Vito’s place when Vito vacated at Beverly and
Laurel. So he inherited all the people that came after that … he was
the beginning of the Manson clan. Manson came there because he had
heard about Vito but Vito was gone.”



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:

* Vito appears to have spent a good portion of his
younger years in prisons and reform schools, as did, as we all know,
Charles Milles Manson.
* Vito considered himself to be a gifted artist and poet, as did our old friend Charlie Manson.
* Vito, according to Miles, “was something of a guru,” as was, quite obviously, Chuck Manson.
* Vito surrounded himself with a flock of very young (often underage) women, as did Manson.
* Vito was considerably older than his followers, and so too was Charlie.

* When Vito addressed his flock, they listened with rapt attention as
though they were being delivered the word of God, as was true with
Charlie as well.
* Carl Franzoni was known to wear a black cape
and refer to himself as “Captain Fuck,” while Manson was also partial
to black capes and declared himself to be “the God of Fuck.”
* Vito is said to have had a virtually insatiable libido, as did, of course, Chuck Manson.
* Vito’s flock adopted nicknames to aid in the depersonalization process, as did Charlie’s.

* Vito’s troupe included a Beverly Hills hairstylist named Sheldon
Jaman, while Charlie’s included a Beverly Hills hairpiece stylist named
Charles Watson.
* Vito believed in introducing children to
sexuality at a very young age, while in the Manson Family, as Sanders
has noted, “Infant sexuality was encouraged.”
* Vito apparently
liked to stage live sex shows for his followers, usually involving
underage participants, which was also a specialty of Charles Milles
Manson.
* Finally, Vito encouraged his followers to drug
themselves while he himself largely abstained, thus enabling him to at
all times maintain control, while Manson limited his own drug intake
for the very same reason.


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 Los Angeles.” Vincent
Bugliosi added, in his best-selling Helter Skelter, that in “1968 and
1969, The Process launched a major recruiting drive in the United
States. They were in Los Angeles in May and June of 1968 and for at
least several months in the fall of 1969.” The Processians, it should
be noted, were instantly recognizable on the streets of LA due to the
fact that they had a curious habit of donning black capes wherever they
went.



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 Cotati, California, with Carl Franzoni once
again at his side. The two were, by all accounts, treated like rock
stars in the funky little town, and they are to this day proudly and
prominently featured on the city’s official website. By some accounts,
Vito even served as mayor of the town, with Franzoni assisting as his
Director of Parks and Recreation. Paulekas also taught classes at
Sonoma State College, presumably in the art department. Szou eventually
split from Vito and went to work for an attorney, leaving the hippie
life (and hopefully the “Z” in her name) behind. Franzoni, meanwhile,
turned up now and then on that early version of America’s Got Talent
known as The Gong Show (apparently as one of the ‘Worm Dancers’).



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
CIA, and that while he was ostensibly serving as a chaperone to the
couples who had won trips on The Dating Game, what he was really doing
was carrying out assassinations. Kind of like, I guess you could say,
that Harry Houdini guy. One reader, by the way, insists that “Chucky
Baby” was at one time a resident of – guess where? – Laurel Canyon
(though I have not been able to confirm that).



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 October 31, 1981. Who
paid the rent is anybody’s guess – as is why such a prestigious
property seems to have been made available for dirt cheap to pretty
much any “communal family of weirdos” who wanted to move in.



Vito
Paulekas and Carl Franzoni appear to have remained in northern
California throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. Franzoni was still
milling about the area as recently as 2002. In February of this year,
the aging Freak, now reportedly 74, rode along on a tour of 1960s
hotspots offered by a local tour company and delighted the crowd by
reenacting his distinctive dance style in front of Vito’s former
studio. The tour operator billed Franzoni as “the King of the Freaks,”
a title formerly held by his mentor, Vito Paulekas. The original king,
alas, had died in October of 1992. His memorial service was held,
appropriately enough, on October 31, 1992.





More images of Paulekas and Franzoni can be found at the following locations:
http://www.radfilms.com/mondo_hollywood_photo_album.html
http://ci.cotati.ca.us/sections/about/history5.cfm ("Popup Exhibits" at the bottom of the page)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/richardschave/sets/72157603849459322/



To Be Continued …
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 4:07 am

Center for an Informed America
http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/nwsltr99.html
Several pictures on this page are not permissable. Go to the link to see them.

Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part VII
June 22, 2008




“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 Hollywood itself, from Sal Mineo and Peter Fonda to junkie comic
Lenny Bruce.”
Barney Hoskyns, Waiting for the Sun





As
important as the Freaks were to building an audience for the new Laurel
Canyon bands, there was another group that played a key role as well:
Hollywood’s so-called “Young Turks.” Like the Freaks, the Turks became
an immediate and constant presence on the newly emerging Sunset Strip
scene. And as with the Freaks, their presence on the Strip was heavily
promoted by the media. Locals and tourists alike knew where to go to
gawk at the Freaks and, as an added bonus, quite possibly rub shoulders
with the likes of Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Dennis
Hopper and Warren Beatty, along with their female counterparts like
Jane Fonda, Nancy Sinatra and Sharon Tate.



Many of
these young and glamorous Hollywood stars forged very close bonds with
the Laurel Canyon musicians. Some of them, including Peter Fonda, found
homes in the canyon so that they could live, work and party among the
rock stars (and, in their free time, pass around John Phillips’ wife to
just about every swinging dick in the canyon, including Jack Nicholson,
Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty, Roman Polanski, and Gene Clark of The
Byrds). Some of them never left; Jack Nicholson to this day lives in a
spacious estate just off the portion of Mulholland Drive that lies
between Laurel Canyon and Coldwater Canyon. Not far west of Nicholson’s
property (which now includes the neighboring estate formerly owned by
Marlon Brando) sits the longtime home of Warren Beatty.



From
the symbiotic relationship between Laurel Canyon actors and Laurel
Canyon musicians arose a series of feature films that are now
considered counter-cultural classics. One such film was 1967’s The
Trip, an unintentionally hilarious attempt to create a cinematic
facsimile of an LSD trip. Written by, of all people, Jack Nicholson,
the movie starred fellow Turks Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Bruce
Dern. Seated in the director’s chair was Roger Corman, who, throughout
his career, worked side-by-side with David Crosby’s dad on no less than
twenty-three feature films. Recruited to supply the soundtrack for the
film was Gram Parson’s International Submarine Band (Parson’s music,
however, was ultimately not used, though the band does make a brief
on-screen appearance). The house where most of the film was shot, at
the top of Kirkwood Drive in Laurel Canyon, was the home of Love’s
Arthur Lee.



Another
‘psychedelic’ cult film of the late 1960s with deep roots in Laurel
Canyon was the Monkee’s 1968 big-screen offering, Head. Also scripted
by Nicholson (with assistance from Bob Rafelson), the movie included
cameo appearances by canyon dwellers Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson and
Frank Zappa. The music – performed, of course, by The Monkees – was a
mix of songs written by the band and contributions from Canyon
songwriters like Carol King and Harry Nilsson. And shockingly, some of
that music is actually pretty good. Even more shockingly, the movie
overall is arguably the most watchable of the 1960s cult films. It is
certainly a vast improvement over, for example, 1968’s wretched Psych
Out (starring Nicholson and Dern).



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 Laurel
Canyon bands. The homes of both Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork were
popular canyon hangouts in the late ‘60s for a number of ‘real’
musicians. Also regularly dropping by Dolenz’ party house were Dennis
Hopper and Jack Nicholson.



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 Terminal Island awaiting his
release in March of 1967, there doesn’t appear to be any way that
Manson could have been considered for a part on the show. And that’s
kind of a shame when you think about it, because if he had been, we
might today remember Charlie Manson not as one of America’s most
notorious criminals, but rather as the guy who made Marcia Brady swoon.



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 Laurel
Canyon, was Easy Rider. Directed (sort of) by Dennis Hopper, from a
script co-written by he and Peter Fonda, the film starred Fonda and
Hopper along with Jack Nicholson (the only one in the movie who did
anything resembling actual acting). Hopper’s walrus-mustachioed
character in the film was based on David Crosby, who was regularly seen
racing his motorcycle up and down the winding streets of Laurel Canyon
(that motorcycle, by the way, had been a gift from Crosby’s good buddy,
Peter Fonda). Fonda’s absurd ‘Captain America’ character was inspired
either by John Phillips’ riding partner, Gram Parsons, or by Crosby’s
former bandmate in The Byrds, Roger McGuinn (depending upon who is
telling the story.) That very same Roger McGuinn scored the original
music for the film. His contributions were joined on the soundtrack by
offerings from fellow Canyonite musicians The Byrds, Steppenwolf,
Fraternity of Man and Jimi Hendrix. And the movie’s hippie commune was
reportedly created and filmed in the canyons, near Mulholland Drive.



Since
Easy Rider had such deep roots in the Laurel Canyon scene, we need to
briefly focus our attention here on one other individual who worked on
the film: art director Jeremy Kay, aka Jerry Kay. Before Easy Rider,
Kay had worked on such cinematic abominations as Angels from Hell,
Hells Angels on Wheels (with Jack Nicholson), and Scorpio Rising
(Kenneth Anger’s occult-tinged homage to gay bikers). In the mid-1970s,
Kay would write, direct and produce a charming little film entitled
Satan’s Children. Of far more interest here than his film credits
though is his membership in the 1960s in a group known as the Solar
Lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis (or OTO), which found itself in the
news, and not in a good way, just after Easy Rider opened on theater
screens across America.



Two weeks after Easy Rider
premiered on July 14, 1969, police acting on a phone tip raided the
Solar Lodge’s compound near Blythe, California and found a six-year-old
boy locked outdoors in a 6’x6’ wooden crate in the sweltering desert
heat. The young boy, whose father was a Los Angeles County probation
officer (as was Michelle Phillip’s father, by the way), had been
chained to a steel plate for nearly two months in temperatures reaching
as high as 117° F. According to an FBI report, the box also contained a
can “partially filled with human waste and swarming with flies … The
stench was nauseating.” Before being put in the box, the child had been
burned with matches and beaten with bamboo poles by cult members. The
leader of the cult, Georgina Brayton, had reportedly told cult members
that “when it was convenient, she was going to give [the boy] LSD and
set fire to the structure in which he was chained and give him just
enough chain to get out of reach of the fire.” Killing the child had
also been discussed (and apparently condoned by the boy’s mind-fucked
mother).



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 USC campus in Los
Angeles. There is no doubt that Charlie preached the same dogma,
including the notion of an apocalyptic race war looming on the horizon.
The massacre at the Tate residence occurred less than two weeks after
the raid on the OTO compound. Manson’s Barker Ranch hideout would be
raided a few months later, on October 12, 1969 – the birthday, as I may
have already mentioned, of Aleister Crowley, the Grand Poobah of the
OTO until his death in 1947.



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 America’s Minister
of War Propaganda. He also served at various times as an Assistant
Secretary of State and as the Librarian of Congress. By far the most
impressive item on his résumé, however, was his membership in
everyone’s favorite secret society, Skull and Bones (class of 1915, one
year before Prescott Bush was tapped in 1916).




It
would appear then that, even by Laurel Canyon standards, Mr. Dern has
friends in very high places. Let’s turn our attention next to the guy
being embraced by Dern in the photo above, Mr. Peter Fonda. Of course,
we all know that Fonda is the son of good ol’ Hank Fonda, lovable
Hollywood liberal and all-around nice guy. And certainly even a
contrarian such as myself would not be so bold as to suggest that Henry
Fonda might have some skeletons in his closet … right? Just for the
hell of it though, there are a few chapters of the Hank Fonda saga that
we should probably review here.



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 Laurel Canyon in-crowd to have not been
spawned by a member of the military/intelligence community. Not too
many years after the war, Hank’s wife, Francis Ford Seymour, was found
with her throat slashed open with a straight razor. Peter was just ten
years old at the time of his mother’s, uhmm, suicide on April 14, 1950.
When Seymour had met and married Hank, she was the widow of George
Brokaw, who had, curiously enough, previously been married to prominent
CIA asset Claire Booth Luce.



Fonda rebounded quickly
from Seymour’s unusual death and within eight months he was married
once again, to Susan Blanchard, to whom he remained married until 1956.
In 1957, Hank married yet again, this time to Italian Countess Afdera
Franchetti (who followed up her four-year marriage to Fonda with a
rumored affair with newly-sworn-in President John Kennedy). Franchetti,
as it turns out, is the daughter of Baron Raimondo Franchetti, who was
a consultant to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. The countess is also
the great-granddaughter of Louise Sarah Rothschild, of the ever-popular
Rothschild banking family (perhaps you’ve heard of them?)



Before
moving on, I should probably mention that Hank’s first wife, Margaret
Sullavan – who was yet another child of Norfolk, Virginia – also
allegedly committed suicide, on New Year’s Day, 1960. Nine months
later, her daughter Bridget followed suit. In 1961, very soon after the
deaths of first her mother and then her sister, Sullavan’s other
daughter, Brook Hayward, walked down the aisle with the next Young Turk
on our list, Dennis Hopper. For those who may be unfamiliar with
Hopper’s body of work, he is the guy who was once found wandering naked
and bewildered in a Mexican forest. And the guy who, after divorcing
Hayward in 1969, married Michelle Phillips on Halloween day, 1970, only
to have her file for divorce just eight days later claiming that Hopper
had kept her handcuffed and imprisoned for a week while making
“unnatural sexual demands.”



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 OSS.
He was in China, Burma, India.” Hopper has proudly proclaimed that his
father “was one of the 100 guys that liberated General Wainright out of
prison in Korea,” which might be a little more impressive were it not
for the fact that it was actually the Red Army that freed Wainright and
other prisoners; the US intel team just came to pick them up, debrief
them and transport them home … but that, I suppose, isn’t really
relevant.



After the war, according to Hopper, his dad
carried a gun, which I suppose is what most lay ministers in the
Methodist Church do. The family also left the farm in Kansas and
relocated to San Diego, California, home of the Imperial Beach Naval
Air Station, the United States Naval Radio Station, the United States
Naval Amphibious Base, the North Island Naval Air Station, Fort
Rosecrans Military Reservation, the United States Naval Training
Center, the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot, and the Miramar
Marine Corps Air Station. And just north of the city sits the massive
Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. Other than that though, San Diego is
just a sleepy little beach town where Hopper’s dad ostensibly worked
for the Post Office.



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 10050 Cielo Drive. Yet another client of Sebring’s was
the next Young Turk on our list, Warren Beatty, whose father, Ira Owens
Beaty, was ostensibly a professor of psychology. Young Warren, however,
spent all of his early years living in various spooky suburbs of
Washington, DC. He was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1937, after which
his father moved the family to Norfolk, Virginia, which I think I may
have mentioned is home to the world’s largest Naval facility (the
reason for that, by the way, is that Norfolk is the gateway to the
nation’s capital). The family later relocated to Arlington, Virginia,
home of the Pentagon, where Warren attended high school and where he
was known on the football field, as John Phillips (who attended a rival
school) remembers it, as ‘Mad Dog’ Beaty.



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
in Burlington, Vermont. The identity of his father remains a mystery …
To avoid social stigma, Bundy’s grandparents Samuel and Eleanor Cowell
claimed him as their son; in taking their last name, he became Theodore
Robert Cowell. He grew up believing his mother Eleanor Louise Cowell to
be his older sister. Bundy biographers Stephen Michaud and Hugh
Aynesworth state that he learned Louise was actually his mother while
he was in high school. True crime writer Ann Rule states that it was
around 1969, shortly following a traumatic breakup with his college
girlfriend.”



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 St.
Vincent’s Hospital in New York City, but there is no record of such a
birth at the hospital or in the city’s archives. As it turns out, Jack
Nicholson has no birth certificate. Until 1954, by which time he was
nearly an adult, he did not officially exist. Even today, the closest
thing he has to a birth certificate is a ‘Certificate of a Delayed
Report of Birth’ that was filed on May 24, 1954. The document lists
John and Ethel Nicholson as the parents and identifies the location of
the birth as the Nicholson’s home address in Neptune, New Jersey.
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 4:08 am

Hippie Generation
Part VIII
July 24, 2008



“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 streets of Los Angeles. His presence in
our home is surely missed.



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 Superior,
Colorado. Just 47 years old and an avid outdoorsman, rock climber,
mountain biker and hockey player, he leaves behind that which he
cherished most in his life – three young kids, the oldest of whom is
just 14. He was a good man and a good friend who touched many lives
during his relatively short stay here on planet Earth, and he will not
soon be forgotten.



It is, therefore, with a heavy heart that I return now to my position as self-appointed Laurel Canyon tour guide.



* * * * * * * * * *



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 RAND, which was founded more than 60 years ago by
the Air Force as a font of ideas on how that service might fight and
win a nuclear war with the USSR … Abella focuses on Albert Wohlstetter,
a mathematical logician turned nuclear strategist who was the dominant
figure at Rand starting in the early 1950s and whose influence has
extended beyond his death in 1997 into the current Bush administration
… Wohlstetter epitomized what became known as the ‘RAND approach’ -- a
relentlessly reductive, determinedly quantitative analysis of whatever
problem the independent, non-profit think tank was assigned, whether
the design of a new bomber or improving public education in inner-city
schools.”



Let me interrupt here for just a brief moment
to note that the RAND corporation is a lot of things, but “independent”
has never been one of them. Anyway, getting back to the Post’s timely
book review, we find that “it was not so much Wohlstetter himself as
his acolytes … who had a major impact in Washington.” Most of those
acolytes need no introduction, as the names should be instantly
recognizable to just about everyone: Richard Perle (who once dated
Wohlstetter’s daughter), Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Andrew
Marshall (“formerly a RAND economist, who, as promoter of the high-tech
‘Revolution in Military Affairs’ in Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense
Department, was dubbed the Pentagon’s ‘Yoda.’”)



In the
latter half of the 1950s and the early 1960s, while Wohlstetter was
with the RAND corporation and also a professor at UCLA (and while his
wife Roberta also worked as an analyst for RAND), Albert and his
followers – the men who now serve as the apparent architects of US
foreign policy – regularly met in a heavily wooded neighborhood in Los
Angeles known as … actually, I think I’m going to defer back to the
Washington Post’s book review and let journalist Gregg Herken tell you
how “those bright, eager and ambitious young men … had sat cross-legged
on the floor with their mentor at his stylish house in (drum roll,
please!) Laurel Canyon.”



The title of the Post’s book
review is “Dr. Strangelove’s Workplace,” which presumably is a
reference to the notorious RAND corporation. But I think that we can
all agree that the title could just as easily apply to Wohlstetter’s
stylish Laurel Canyon home. In fact, as the pieces of this puzzle
continue to fall into place, it is beginning to seem as though “Dr.
Strangelove’s Workplace” might be a good title for the entire damn
canyon. We now know that, in addition to hosting both a secret
military/intelligence facility and a call-boy/kiddy-porn operation
servicing prominent public figures, Laurel Canyon was also the
birthplace and meeting place of what we now know as the ‘neocon’/PNAC
crowd, as well as the home base of the guiding light of the Rand
corporation.



Thus far in our journey, we have
encountered Masons, the FBI, the OSS, the CIA, the secret society known
as Skull and Bones, the Rothschild family, military intelligence of
every conceivable stripe, the OTO, the RAND corporation, the ‘neocon’
cabal, and just about every other nefarious group that regularly pops
up in the ‘conspiracy’ literature – with one very obvious exception: we
have not yet met up with any member of the legendary Rockefeller clan.
Luckily though, we’re about to remedy that oversight.



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 February 23, 1948: “One morning last week, bespectacled Bryant
Bowden, editor of the weekly Okeechobee (Fla.) News, sauntered into the
Okeechobee courthouse and stopped to eye the bulletin board in the main
hall. Among the marriage-license applications, which, by Florida law,
must be publicly posted for three days before a ceremony, he saw
something which made him goggle. Winthrop Rockefeller, 35, of New York
– the fourth of John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s five sons and one of the most
eligible bachelors in the world – had stated his intention of marrying
one Eva Sears, also of New York.”



“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 in Jacksonville. A few hours later,
the whole U.S. journalistic horizon glowed a bright pink with the
fireworks he had touched off.”



“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 Hollywood
before moving to Paris and taking a job as a secretary at the U.S.
embassy? She appears to have gone by many names at different times in
her life, including Eva Paul, Eva Paul Sears, Barbara Paul, Barbara
Paul Sears, and “Bobo” Rockefeller. None of them, however, was the name
she was given at the time of her birth. As Time magazine noted so many
years ago, “Her parents were Lithuanian immigrants and she was born
Jievute Paulekiute in a coal patch near Noblestown, Pa.” Even that,
however, was not her real name – at least not by American custom and
tradition.



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 Arkansas.



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 Indiana farm.” I guess we
all have our priorities. Truth be told though, the Paulekas clan has a
somewhat different explanation: they were deliberately excluded from
the ceremony as it was felt they were a bit too uncultured to break
bread with the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and the
Marquess of Blandford.



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 Laurel Canyon scene.
And that, of course, made Laurel Canyon the ideal place for all the
rock musicians and hippies and flower children to hang out in the 1960s
and 1970s, even with the stench from all the dead bodies that kept
piling up. Speaking of which, let’s check in and see what names have
been added to the Laurel Canyon Death List since we last took a peek.



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
July 3, 1969, at the age of 27 (Jim Morrison would allegedly die
precisely two years later, also at the age of 27). Just three days
after Jones’ tragic death, the Stones, with the Hells Angels providing
security, played a previously-scheduled concert in Hyde Park, footage
of which appears in Kenneth Anger’s Invocation of My Demon Brother.
Despite his (disputed) claims of being the founder of the Stones, Jones
had been unceremoniously dumped by the group on June 9, less than a
month before his death. He was replaced just four days later by Mick
Taylor (who would later leave the group and be replaced by Ron Wood).
It would later be claimed that Jones was booted from the band due to
his grossly inflated ego and his chronic substance abuse problems.



“Fair
enough,” you say, “but what does any of that have to do with Laurel
Canyon? Clearly the Stones were not a Laurel Canyon band.” True enough,
but as Barney Hoskyns has written (in Hotel California), “In the summer
of 1968 the English band was flirting heavily with Satanism and the
occult … and spending a lot of time in Los Angeles.” A lot of time,
that is, in and around Laurel Canyon – and during that time, Mick
Jagger was involved in two occult-drenched film projects: Kenneth
Anger’s Lucifer Rising and Donald Cammell’s Performance.



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
Crowley’s notorious Boleskine estate on the shores of Scotland’s Loch
Ness. When ultimately released, however, the film featured a soundtrack
by neither Jagger nor Page, but rather one that was composed, recorded
and arranged inside a prison cell by convicted murderer Bobby
Beausoleil. The pre-prison footage that Anger had shot of Beausoleil,
meanwhile, ended up in a different film: the aforementioned Invocation
of My Demon Brother. Starring in Lucifer Rising, as Osiris, was
Performance writer and co-director Donald Seaton Cammell.



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 Tahiti, safe from subpoena. A few years later, on
April 14, 1995, 25-year-old Cheyenne was found swinging from the end of
a rope, her death unsurprisingly ruled a suicide. The next year,
Christian Brando was released from prison and promptly became involved
with a woman by the name of Bonnie Lee Bakley, who caught a bullet to
the head on May 4, 2001 while in the company of new hubby Robert Blake
(her tenth husband). Marlon dropped dead next, on July 1, 2004 (though
his death wasn’t particularly suspicious, given that he was getting on
in years). His home was promptly purchased by good friend and neighbor
Jack Nicholson, who immediately announced plans to bulldoze it,
declaring the structure to be decrepit. He never did though explain why
a man wealthy enough to own his own chain of Polynesian islands was
purportedly living in a derelict abode. A few years later, on January
26 of 2008, Christian Brando dropped dead at the relatively young age
of 49.



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 Laurel Canyon scene, collaborating with such
noted bands and artists as Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young, Crazy
Horse, Randy Newman, Michelle Phillips, The Turtles, Captain Beefheart
and Carole King. Nitzsche also worked with several of the people we
will be adding today to the Laurel Canyon Death List, including David
Blue, Ricky Nelson and Sonny Bono. And one guy who was already added to
the list: Tim Buckley.



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 that Laurel Canyon had one). One of
the musicians hired by Nitzsche to play on that soundtrack was Lowell
George, who we will also be adding to the Laurel Canyon Death List. For
now, let’s add Donald Cammell to the list, since on April 24, 1996, he
became yet another of the characters in this story to catch a bullet to
the head (need I add here that the wound was reportedly
self-inflicted?) Nitzsche died five years later of a heart attack, on
August 25, 2000. A few years earlier, he had made an appearance on
primetime television – as a gun-brandishing drunkard arrested on the
streets of Hollywood on Cops.



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 10050 Cielo Drive,
allegedly overdosed on barbiturates in late November of 1969, some
three-and-a-half months after the Manson murders. In the days and weeks
following those murders, Brandt had placed numerous phone calls to the
LAPD. Those calls became increasingly frantic in nature, and Brandt
became increasingly fearful that his own life might be in jeopardy. He
soon decided to put some distance between himself and LA, so he headed
for New York City. On the night of his death, according to Phillips’
autobiography, Brandt attended a Rolling Stones concert at Madison
Square Gardens, where he attempted to run on stage but was repelled and
beaten by a security guard. He then went home and, according to
official mythology, overdosed.



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 Laurel
Canyon. Blue was born Stuart David Cohen on February 18, 1941; shortly
thereafter, his father was deployed overseas. According to David, his
dad “came hobbling home on crutches and stayed depressed all his life”
(not unlike, it seems fair to say, the family situation of our old
friend Phil Ochs). David and his slightly older half-sister, Suzanne,
endured a hellish existence consisting of alternating periods of rages
and silences. Suzanne got out first, only to end up busted for
prostitution in New York City in 1963. Suzanne’s next stop, just a few
months later, was at the county morgue.



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
Laurel Canyon stars who never quite shone as brightly as they should
have. And also like Sill, Blue was one of the first few acts signed by
David Geffen’s fledgling Asylum label. Finally, as with Judee, David
was long forgotten by the time of his death, on December 2, 1982, when
the forty-one-year-old Blue dropped dead while jogging in New York’s
Washington Square Park. The former rising star (and occasional actor)
lay in the morgue for three days before anyone noticed that he was
missing.



To be continued …



* * * * * * * * * *



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.
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 4:09 am

http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/nwsltr101.html

Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part IX
August 10, 2008



“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 Laurel Canyon scene at the tail end of the 1960s



(Some
of the images in this edition were originally slated for inclusion in
an earlier installment 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 Hollywood
career as a child actor. He was the son, as everyone surely knows, of
America’s favorite 1950s TV mom and dad, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson.
Ricky began his rock ‘n’ roll career in 1957, when he was just
seventeen. By 1962, he had scored no fewer than thirty Top 40 hits,
trailing only superstars Elvis Presley and Pat Boone.



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 Laurel Canyon.



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 best Hollywood
pals – a couple of young roommates and Canyonites named Dennis Hopper
and Nick Adams. In later years, Presley’s backing musicians –
considered to be among the best session musicians in the business –
were in high demand among the Laurel Canyon crowd. Elvis’ bass player,
for example, can be heard on some of the Doors’ tracks. The entire band
was recruited by “Papa” John Phillips to play on his
less-than-memorable solo project. Mike Nesmith’s critically-acclaimed
post-Monkees project, the First National Band, featured Presley’s band
as well. Gram Parsons also hired Elvis’ band to back him up on the two
solo albums he recorded at what proved to be the twilight of his life
and career.



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 Washington, DC,
primarily in Woodbridge, Virginia – which happens to be the home of an
imposingly large Army ‘research and development’ installation known as
the Harry Diamond Laboratories Woodbridge Research Facility. In other
words, Emmylou Harris fit right in with the rest of the Laurel Canyon
crowd.



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 connections to
Laurel Canyon, I guess I don’t really have much more to say about
Elvis, other than that he reportedly died on August 16, 1977, the
victim of a drug overdose at the young age of forty-two. As with
Morrison, however, there have been persistent rumors that Elvis didn’t
actually die at all, but rather reinvented himself to escape from the
fishbowl.



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 Laurel Canyon but rather in one
of the many neighboring canyons, but he and his band were very much a
part of the early country-rock scene that included Laurel Canyon bands
like The Byrds, Poco, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the First
National Band.



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 Mulholland Drive and had a sprawling home built to his
specifications. According to Laurie Jacobson and Marc Wanamaker,
writing in Haunted Hollywood, the mansion featured “several mysterious
secret passageways, and more than a few peepholes.” The home appeared
to have been designed to allow for surreptitious observation of guests
in the home’s numerous bedrooms. It is claimed that Flynn incorporated
the unusual design features so that he could satisfy his own
voyeuristic impulses. Researcher/writer Charles Higham, however, has
cast Flynn as a Western intelligence asset (and Nazi sympathizer). And
if Flynn was an intelligence operative, then it is far more likely that
the home was built not so much for Flynn’s personal pleasure, but
rather as a means of compromising prominent public figures (much like
the home of, for example, Craig Spence).



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 noted, “Laurel Canyon would burn and burn again,
targeting with uncanny precision the homes of its seemingly enchanted
rock demimonde.”



(One exception was the Laurel Canyon
home of blues-rocker John Mayall, which burned down to its foundation
in a ferocious wildfire on September 16, 1979; that wildfire also
claimed the home of Whisky owner Elmer Valentine. It was from Mayall’s
Bluesbreakers, by the way, that the Rolling Stones recruited guitarist
Mick Taylor, who I regrettably disparaged in the initial version of the
last installment of this series. Taylor was actually quite an
accomplished guitarist whose work with the Stones was frequently
uncredited and who was underutilized by the band. My apologies to all
the fans of the Rolling Stones that I offended.)



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 Roswell would make a name for itself and become
something of a tourist destination. But that is not really our focus
here today, though it should be noted that Henry John Deutschendorf,
Sr. might well have known a little something about that incident, given
that he was a career US Air Force officer assigned to the Roswell Army
Air Field (later renamed the Walker Air Force Base), which was likely
the origin of the object that famously crashed in Roswell.



After
spending his childhood being frequently uprooted, as did many of our
cast of characters, Denver attended Texas Tech University in the early
1960s. In 1964, he apparently heard the call of the Pied Piper and
promptly dropped out of school and headed for LA. Once there, he joined
up with the Chad Mitchell Trio, the group from which Jim McGuinn had
recently departed to co-found The Byrds. By November 1966, Denver was
front-and-center at the so-called ‘Riot on the Sunset Strip,’ alongside
folks like Peter Fonda, Sal Mineo and a popular husband-and-wife duo
known as Sonny and Cher.



A
decade later, in the latter half of the 1970s, Denver could be found
working alongside a spooky chap by the name of Werner Erhard, creator
of so-called ‘EST’ training. After graduating from the ‘training’
program, Denver penned a little ditty that became the organization’s
theme song. In 1985, Denver testified alongside our old friend Frank
Zappa at the PMRC hearings. Twelve years later, in autumn of 1997,
Denver died when his self-piloted plane crashed soon after taking off
from Monterey Airport, very near where the Monterey Pop Festival had
been held thirty years earlier. The date of the crash, curiously
enough, was one that we have stumbled across repeatedly: October 12.



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 Hollywood career as a lieutenant for reclusive murder
suspect Phil Spector. In the early 1960s, Bono hooked up with an
underage Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPierre to form a duo known first as
Caesar and Cleo, and then as Sonny and Cher. The pair were phenomenally
successful, first on the Sunset Strip and later on television. Bono, of
course, ultimately gave up the Hollywood life and found work in a
different branch of the federal government: the U.S. House of
Representatives.



On January 5, 1998, Sonny Bono died
after purportedly skiing into a tree. At the time, Bono occupied a seat
on the House Judiciary Committee, which was about to come to sudden
prominence with the investigation and impeachment of President Bill.
The ball was already rolling by the time of Bono’s death, and on
January 26, 1998, just three weeks after the alleged skiing incident,
Clinton held the now-notorious press conference in which he uttered the
fateful words: “I did not have sexual relations with that skank, by
which I mean that the executive penis did not, at any time, penetrate
her womanly parts, though it is possible that she may have taken a few
puffs on the presidential cigar, if you fellas know what I mean. Does
anyone else have a question?” By that time, of course, Bono’s seat on
the panel had been set aside for his robowife (who was, perhaps, more
willing to act out the charade).



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
May 28, 1998. That much is not in dispute. Decidedly less clear is the
answer to the question of who it was that actually shot and killed
Hartman. The official story, of course, holds that it was his wife
Brynn, who shortly thereafter shot herself – with a different gun,
naturally, and reportedly after she had left the house and then
returned with a friend, and after the LAPD had arrived at the home.
There is a very strong possibility, however, that both Phil and his
wife were murdered, with the true motive for the crime covered up by
trotting out the tired but ever-popular murder/suicide scenario.



In
most people’s minds, of course, Phil Hartman is not associated with the
Laurel Canyon scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s. But as it turns
out, Hartman did indeed have substantial ties to that scene. To begin
with, during the time that Jimi Hendrix lived in LA (in the spacious
mansion just north of the Log Cabin on Laurel Canyon Boulevard),
Hartman worked for him as a roadie. Soon after that, Phil found work as
a graphic artist and he quickly found himself much in demand by the
Laurel Canyon rock royalty. In addition to designing album covers for
both Poco and America, Hartman also, believe it or not, designed a
readily recognizable rock symbol that has endured for nearly forty
years: the distinctive CSN logo for Crosby, Stills and Nash.



Hartman
had ties to the darker side of Laurel Canyon as well. He was, for
example, a high school chum of Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who would
later find herself living alongside Charlie Manson at the infamous
Spahn Movie Ranch. In bygone years, by the way, that very same Spahn
Movie Ranch was frequently used as a filming location by western star
Tom Mix, who was, as we all know, the man whose name was forever tied
to the Log Cabin. Curiously enough, the Log Cabin’s guesthouse (aka the
Bird House), which is still standing, was designed and built by
architect Robert Byrd, who also, according to one report, designed the
house at 5065 Encino Avenue where Phil Hartman was murdered, and the
house at 10050 Cielo Drive where Sharon Tate and friends were murdered.



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 July 1,
1981, all by bludgeoning, and all at the same location: 8763 Wonderland
Avenue in Laurel Canyon. All were members of a gang that trafficked
heavily in cocaine and occasionally in heroin. The leader of the group
was Ron Launius, who reportedly embarked on his criminal career, and
established his drug connections, while serving for Uncle Sam over in
Vietnam, which is also where he began to build his carefully-crafted
reputation as a cold-blooded killer. At the time that he became a
murder victim himself, Launius was a suspect in no fewer than
twenty-seven open homicide investigations. He was also a drug supplier
to various members of the Laurel Canyon aristocracy.



Victim
Billy Deverell was Launius’ second-in-command, and victim Joy Miller
was Billy’s girlfriend as well as the renter of the Laurel Canyon drug
den. Victim Barbara Richardson was the girlfriend of another member of
the gang, David Lind, who conveniently was not at the home at the time
of the mass murder. That could well have been due to the fact that Lind
was, according to various rival drug dealers, a police informant for
both the Sacramento and Los Angeles Police Departments. He was also a
member of the ultra-violent prison gang known as the Aryan Brotherhood
(as is, by several accounts, a guy that we have bumped into several
times during this journey: Bobby Beausoleil). Lind, who met Launius
when the two had served time together, is alleged to have overdosed in
1995, though it is widely believed that he actually went into the
federal witness protection program.



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 Laurel Canyon band but they did
have close ties to the scene. The group was formed by Terry Kirkman and
Jules Alexander; Kirkman had formerly played in a band with Frank
Zappa, while Alexander was fresh from a stint in the US Navy. Jerry
Yester, a guitarist and keyboardist with the band, was formerly with
The Modern Folk Quartet, a band managed by Zappa manager Herb Cohen and
produced by Byrds’ manager Jim Dickson. Guitarist Larry Ramos had
formerly been with the New Christy Minstrels, which also produced Gene
Clark of The Byrds.



On June 16, 1967, Cole and his band
were the first to take the stage at the Monterey Pop Festival, followed
by such Laurel Canyon stalwarts as The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and
the Mamas and the Papas. Five years later, on August 2, 1972, Cole was
found dead in his Los Angeles home. The cause of death was reportedly a
heroin overdose. Cole was one month shy of his thirtieth birthday at
the time of his death.



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 Hollywood movie studios. Lowell’s first foray into the music
world was with a band known as The Factory, which cut some demos with a
guy by the name of Frank Zappa. The Factory evolved into the Fraternity
of Man, though without George, who had left to serve as lead vocalist
for The Standells. George returned, however, to join the band in the
studio for the recording of their second album. By that time, as we
have already seen, the Fraternity of Man had taken up residence in the
Log Cabin, alongside Carl Franzoni and his fellow Freaks.



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,
Lowell left embittered by Zappa’s dictatorial approach to making music
and his condescending treatment of his bandmates. During his time with
Zappa, George helped Frank out in the studio with the GTOs’ first (and
only) album, as did Brits Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart (who, readers of
Programmed to Kill will recall, was one of the last people known to
have been in the company of a pair of underage girls before they became
victims of a ‘serial killer’ in June 1980).



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 June 29, 1979 at George Washington University
in support of that album, George was found dead in an Arlington,
Virginia hotel room, very near the Pentagon. Cause of death was said to
be a massive heart attack, though George was just thirty-four years old
at the time.



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. Lowell would often
swing by and entertain the likes of Brian Wilson or Harry Nilsson.”
Nilsson and his regular drinking buddy, John Lennon, were frequent
guests at this “den of debauchery.”



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 Laurel Canyon alumni whose cause of death is
acknowledged to have been homicide. The ex-Beatle, of course, never
lived in the canyon, but he was a fixture on the Sunset Strip and at
various Laurel Canyon hangouts, frequently in the company of Harry
Nilsson. And as readers surely recall, he was gunned down on December
8, 1980 – purportedly by Mark David Chapman, but more likely by a
second gunman.



Lennon was, as everyone knows, murdered
in front of New York’s Dakota Apartments, which had been portrayed by
filmmaker Roman Polanski in the 1960s as a den of Satanic cult activity
(in his film Rosemary’s Baby). Not long before Lennon’s murder, Chapman
had approached occult filmmaker Kenneth Anger and offered him a gift of
live bullets. Just days after Lennon was felled, Anger’s long-delayed
final cut of Lucifer Rising made its New York debut, not far from the
bloodstained grounds of the Dakota Apartments. And not long after that,
the ‘Reagan Revolution’ began to transform America.



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 December 29, 1980, Hardin was just thirty-nine years old.



Eight
years later, on July 18, 1988, singer/songwriter/keyboardist Christa
Paffgen, better known as Nico, died of a reported cerebral hemorrhage
in Ibiza, Spain under unusual circumstances. After achieving some level
of fame as a vocalist with the Velvet Underground, Nico had left the
Warhol stable and migrated west to Laurel Canyon, where she formed a
bond with a then-unknown singer-songwriter named Jackson Browne, who
contributed a few songs to Nico’s 1967 debut album, Chelsea Girl (so
named for New York’s Chelsea Hotel, from where Devon Wilson took a
dive, and where the persona of John Train murdered the persona of Phil
Ochs). Also contributing a song to Nico’s solo debut was Mr. Tim Hardin.



On
December 4, 1993, some five years after Nico’s curious death, Frank
Zappa died in his Laurel Canyon home of inoperable prostate cancer.
Some have speculated that the cancer could have developed as a result
of the chemical agents Zappa was exposed to throughout his early
childhood at the Edgewood Arsenal.



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
Laurel Canyon saga.



Until then …
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 4:10 am

http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/nwsltr102.html

Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part X
August 29, 2008



“By
the time Manson shifted base from Rustic Canyon to an old ranch in
Chatsworth, he’d begun formulating the notion that he and his followers
had to prepare themselves for a race war with Black America.”

Barney Hoskyns (in Hotel California, his take on the Laurel Canyon/Sunset Strip scene)





In
this outing, we will be temporarily leaving Laurel Canyon. But don’t
worry; we won’t be traveling far, and we’ll be returning soon enough.



Today
we will be exploring Rustic Canyon, which lies about nine miles west of
Laurel Canyon. It was there, in Lower Rustic Canyon, that Beach Boy
Dennis Wilson lived in what Steven Gaines described in Heroes and
Villains as “a palatial log-cabin-style house at 14400 Sunset Boulevard
that had once belonged to humorist Will Rogers.” The expansive home sat
on three landscaped acres of gently rolling hills.



In
the summer of 1968, as is fairly well known, Charlie Manson and various
members of his entourage moved in with Wilson. “Tex” Watson, curiously
enough, was already living there. As many as two-dozen members of
Manson’s clan spent the entire summer there, with Wilson picking up the
tab for all expenses. The Mansonites (mostly nubile young women)
regularly drove Wilson’s expensive cars and demolished at least one of
them. Dennis didn’t seem to mind; he was busy recording Manson in his
home studio and inviting fellow musicians, like Neil Young, over to the
house to hear Charlie perform (Young was so impressed that he urged Mo
Ostin to sign him).



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
Rustic Canyon residence.




At
some point in time, Wilson had a change of heart and decided that maybe
he did indeed know a little something about the murders. “I know why
Charles Manson did what he did,” said Dennis. “Someday, I’ll tell the
world. I’ll write a book and explain why he did it.” Needless to say,
that book was never written and Wilson’s story, if indeed he had one,
was never told. Instead, Dennis Wilson drowned under questionable
circumstances on December 28, 1983, in the marina where his beloved
ship was docked.



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 that America’s black
population would prevail over whitey, but that, having won the war, the
victors would be incapable of governing themselves. And that, alas, is
when Charlie and his retinue would emerge from the shadows to take
command.



According
to Barney Hoskyns, Manson began formulating his race war theory during
his stay in Rustic Canyon. If true, then Charlie appears to have been
following in the footsteps of a former Rustic Canyon guru – one who
preceded him by a few decades, and who, like Charlie, had a certain
fondness for swastikas.



Just to the north of Dennis
Wilson’s old home is a vast wilderness of undeveloped canyon lands.
Lower Rustic Canyon soon gives way to Upper Rustic Canyon, and all
signs of human civilization abruptly vanish. The land remains wild and
undeveloped save for an old fire road that winds along the summit
between Rustic Canyon and a neighboring canyon. That road is closed to
the public and vehicle traffic is nonexistent. Aside from an occasional
hiker wandering in from nearby Will Rogers State Park, there is nary a
human to be seen.



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 Los Angeles. In its
fall splendor, the canyon looks nothing like the Los Angeles that I
know and don’t quite love. It is beautiful, serene, pastoral. And yet,
filled with mist and heavily overgrown, it is also vaguely ominous.



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 Rustic Canyon, and fewer still
know the history of those ruins. Every now and then though, a local
reporter will pay a visit and the story will make a one-time appearance
in a local publication, briefly casting some light on a bit of the
hidden history of Los Angeles. In May 1992, Marc Norman of the Los
Angeles Business Journal was one such reporter (“Hermit Chic – Rustic
Canyon”).



According
to Norman, “County records show ‘Jessie Murphy, a widow,’ purchasing
50-plus acres north of [Will] Rogers’ property in 1933, but the owners
were actually named Stephens – Norman, an engineer with silver-mining
interests, and Winona, the daughter of an industrialist and a woman
given to things supernatural. Local lore has it that Winona fell under
the spell of a certain unnamed gentleman …” This trio, along with
unnamed others, began “a 10-year construction program costing $4
million … starting with a water tank holding 375,000 gallons and a
concrete diesel-powered generator station with foot-thick walls – both
of which are still visible. The hillsides were terraced for orchards,
an electrified fence circled the boundaries and a huge refrigerated
locker was built into a hillside … The one thing Murphy/Stephens
couldn’t seem to get right was their main house. The first architect
hired was Welton Becket, but there are also sketches by Lloyd Wright,
and in 1941, Paul Williams drafted blueprints for a sprawling mansion
with 22 bedrooms, a children’s dining room, a gymnasium, pool and a
workshop in the basement.”



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): “Southern California has been the cradle
to many odd cults, credos, utopias and dystopias. Among the most
mysterious are the ruins of a Rustic Canyon enclave once known as
Murphy Ranch … on [Rustic Canyon’s] secluded and woodsy floor stand the
eerily burned-out and graffiti-scarred remains of concrete and steel
structures, underground tunnels and stairways leading from the top of
the canyon to the bottom … Behind the locked and rusted wrought iron
entrance gates and flagstone wall stand the traces of a small community
that had the capacity to grow its own food, generate its own
electricity and dam its own water … The hillsides were terraced with
3,000 nut, citrus, fruit and olive trees, and fitted with water pipes,
sprinklers and an elaborate greenhouse. A high barbed-wire fence
discouraged intruders … research indicates that it could have been home
to up to 40 local Nazis from about 1933 to 1945 … armed guards
patrolled the canyon dressed in the uniform worn by Silver Shirts, a
paramilitary group modeled after Hitler’s brownshirts … A man known
through oral histories only as ‘Herr Schmidt’ supposedly ruled the
place and claimed to possess metaphysical powers.”



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.”



Sound familiar?



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 Los Angeles was home to a
secret, militarized Nazi compound that was in operation both before and
during World War II. Remnants of that blacked-out chapter of LA history
can be seen to this day, though few make the trek. The purpose of the
decaying compound was to ride out an anarchic, apocalyptic war, so that
the chosen few could emerge as the rulers of the new world.



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
Mecca for Charlie, and yet he apparently knew nothing of its existence.
It seems somehow disrespectful that the Family didn’t choose to set up
camp here rather than at, say, Barker Ranch. At the very least, they
should have paid a visit.



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 Music
Center. In 1973, the property once known as Murphy Ranch was purchased
by the city of Los Angeles. As far as I know, the city has no plans to
reopen the facility.





* * * * * * * * * *



“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 Laurel Canyon, and slightly to the east of Coldwater
Canyon, lies a large estate known as Greystone Park, home of the
long-vacant Greystone Mansion. The home, and the grounds it sits on, is
said to be, to this day, the most expensive private residence ever
built in the city of Los Angeles. Constructed in the 1920s, the home
and grounds carried the then-unfathomable price tag of $4,000,000 (by
way of comparison, the Lookout Inn, built a decade-and-a-half earlier,
was projected to cost from $86,000-$100,000; in other words, the
single-family residence cost at least 40 times what the lavish 70-room
inn cost – and the inn required bringing infrastructure and building
materials to a remote mountaintop).



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 on February 16,
1929. Near him lay the lifeless body of his assistant/personal
secretary, Hugh Plunkett. Both men had been shot. Despite persistent
rumors of an inordinately long delay in reporting the deaths, and of
the bodies having been moved to re-stage the crime scene, no formal
inquest was ever conducted and the case was written off as a
murder/suicide arising from a gay lovers’ quarrel. Plunkett was said to
be the triggerman and the media quickly went into a frenzy playing up
the scandalous homosexuality angle and portraying young Plunkett as
positively demented.



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 Harding-era Teapot Dome
scandal, which the Doheny family, as it turns out, was very deeply
immersed in. The murder/suicide scenario was then trotted out because,
as we all know, if the alleged perpetrator is already dead, it pretty
much eliminates the need for things like investigations and trials.



Some
forty years after those gunshots rang out in the opulent Greystone
Mansion, a new Ned Doheny, scion of the very same Doheny oil clan,
would join the ranks of the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters club. Like
Terry Melcher and Gram Parsons, Doheny was viewed by some as a
‘trust-fund kid.’ His closest circle of friends included
country-rockers Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther and Glen Frey. In addition
to recording his own solo albums (his self-titled debut was released in
1973), Doheny contributed to albums by such Laurel Canyon superstars as
Don Henley and Graham Nash.



Strangely enough, New York
City once had a large estate known as Greystone as well. That Greystone
was donated to the city as parkland, and it thereafter became known as
Untermyer Park – the same Untermyer Park identified by Maury Terry as
one of the two principal ritual sites used by the Process Church
faction behind the ‘Son of Sam’ murders. The other site used by the
cult was Van Cortlandt Park, named for Jacobus Van Cortlandt, a former
Mayor of New York and one of David Van Cortlandt Crosby’s forefathers.
Another of Crosby’s forefathers lent his name to Schuyler Road, which
happens to run along the western boundary of the Greystone Park in the
Hollywood Hills.



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 Laurel Canyon characters who we
haven’t yet met, and who would attain a certain amount of fame, though
not in the entertainment industry.



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.



During Laurel Canyon’s glory years, Jerry
Brown resided in a home on Wonderland Avenue, not too many doors down
from the Wonderland death house (and from the homes of numerous
singers, songwriters and musicians). His circle of friends in those
days, as some may recall, included the elite of Laurel Canyon’s
country-rock stars, including Linda Ronstadt (with whom he was long
rumored to be romantically involved), Jackson Browne and the Eagles.



Another
figure making the rounds in Laurel Canyon during the same period of
time was a gent by the name of Mike Curb. At various times, Curb worked
as a musician, composer, recording artist, film producer and record
company executive. He also had the notable distinction of serving as
the musical director on the notorious documentary feature Mondo
Hollywood, which ostensibly chronicled the emerging Laurel
Canyon/Sunset Strip scene. Filmed from 1965 through 1967 (well before
the Manson murders), the film featured representatives from the Manson
Family (Bobby Beausoleil), the Manson Family’s victims (Jay Sebring),
the Freak troupe (Vito, Carl, Szou and Godo), and Laurel Canyon’s
musical fraternity (Frank Zappa and his future wife, Gail Sloatman). It
also featured acid guru Richard
“Babawhateverthefuckitwasthathecalledhimself” Alpert.



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 Germany. The
very next year, he produced, directed, edited and narrated a
documentary short entitled Inside Red China. Two years later, he wore
all the same hats for a documentary entitled Inside East Germany. A few
years later, he put together another documentary entitled Three Cubans.



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 Cuba (and likely the
others as well), he did so under the sponsorship of the U.S. State
Department. Mr. Cohen would like us to believe that he undertook these
projects as nothing more than what he outwardly appeared to be – an
independent filmmaker – but I have a hunch that few readers of this
site are naïve enough to believe that a private citizen not working for
the intelligence community could land such assignments.



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 discussion of Laurel Canyon’s dynamic duo
of Jerry Brown and Mike Curb. In addition to his work on Mondo
Hollywood, Curb also served as ‘song producer’ on another key
countercultural film of the era, Riot on the Sunset Strip (which,
despite its title, had little to do with the actual event). In
addition, Curb scored a slew of cheaply-produced biker flicks,
including The Wild Angels, Devil’s Angels, Born Losers, The Savage
Seven and The Glory Stompers. Along the way, he worked alongside many
of Laurel Canyon’s ‘Young Turks,’ including Peter Fonda and Dennis
Hopper.



It is unclear whether the paths of this odd
couple crossed during Laurel Canyon’s glory years, but as fate would
have it, they were to cross in 1979 in Sacramento, California. Mike
Curb, you see, after being encouraged by Ronald Reagan to venture into
politics, was elected to serve as Governor Jerry Brown’s
second-in-command. And so it was that these two men, both veterans of
the 1960s Laurel Canyon scene, came to sit side-by-side in the
governor’s mansion, one sporting a “D” after his name, and the other an
“R.”



Governor Brown, however, had little time to spend
on actually governing the state of California. Tossing his hat into the
presidential ring, he spent much of the first half of his second term
out of the state, working the campaign trail. This allowed Lieutenant
Governor Curb, as acting governor of the state, to sign into law a
withering array of reactionary legislation that was far removed from
what the people had in mind when they elected ‘Governor Moonbeam.’ This
arrangement allowed the nominal liberal of the Laurel Canyon tag-team,
Jerry Brown, to keep his hands clean even as his administration moved
far away from its originally stated goals – and even as he made little
effort to rein in his wayward underling.



These days,
Jerry Brown maintains little of his liberal façade. As California’s
Attorney General, he works hand-in-hand with the state’s Nazi-loving
governor, Ahhnuld Schwarzenegger. Of course, if his carefully-crafted
image is to be believed, Schwarzenegger is practically a liberal
himself. The truth however, is something much different … or maybe not.
Given that we are living in an era when a straight-faced media can
routinely describe Bill and Hillary and Barry O as liberals, then I
suppose Jerry and Arnie have as much right to wear that label as
anyone. But then again, so do George and John.






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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 4:12 am

http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/nwsltr103.html


Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part XI
November 13, 2008



“By
that, I mean, ‘Get me a lead singer. He’s got sort of an androgynous
blonde hair, very pretty. We need a guitar player, sort of
hatchet-faced, wears a hat, plays very fast, very dramatic. He must be
very dramatic. Get me a pound of bass player, pound of drummer …
they’re making little cardboard cutouts. They hire a producer, they
hire writers … And in the current stuff now, they don’t even bother
getting people to play. Don’t bother with that guitar player, bass
player, drummer – nonsense … The people in those bands can’t write,
play, or sing.”

David Crosby, describing the synthetic, manufactured nature of today’s rock bands



“David
was obnoxious, loud, demanding, thoughtless, full of himself – of the
four of them [David Crosby, Steven Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young],
the least talented.”

David Geffen





First
of all, before getting back into the Laurel Canyon scene, I need to say
that some of you people really need to mellow out on the visits to my
website. Seriously. This isn’t a crack-house, for fuck’s sake, so just
chill out a little bit. I mean, I’ve grown accustomed to the fact that
you feel free to drop in unannounced at all hours of the day and night,
but maybe, just maybe, you could consider doing it a bit less
frequently. Is that so much to ask?



Don’t get me wrong
here – I’m flattered by the attention. I really am. The problem though
is that you have overloaded my now-overworked website, causing it to
spontaneously disappear on, of all days, the morning of September 11,
2008. And to add insult to injury, the generic, no-frills page that
popped up instead, proclaiming that my site was under house arrest for
the crime of exceeding its bandwidth allocation, was arguably more
attractive than my actual homepage.



Luckily, this
problem was quickly brought to my attention by a few alert readers and
I was able to liberate my site by digging deeply into my pockets to
come up with the bail money that the jailers were demanding (I think
they referred to it as “adding resources” to my site, but I wasn’t
really fooled by that. And I didn’t, by the way, really dig that deeply
into my pockets. But that’s not the point. No, the point is that my
site is – and I’m sure that there are many of you who do not know this
– primitive by design. It is my belief that the ‘retro website’ look
will soon be all the rage, and I want to be at the forefront of that
movement. Everything old will someday become new again, and the ‘net
has been around for long enough now, given our collectively short
attention span, that a return to basics – to those first tentative
baby-steps some of us took in creating one of those newfangled things
called ‘websites’ – is all but guaranteed. My site, needless to say,
will become the template that will be followed by everyone who wants to
run with the in-crowd. I will, of course, be regarded as something of a
visionary. Unfortunately though, I will ultimately be revealed as a
fraud when, a few years down the road, legions of fans suddenly realize
that, long after the fad has passed, my site is still retro.
Self-righteous critics will denounce me as a poser, a charlatan – they
may even invoke that most demeaning of future slurs and label me a
‘Palin.’ But before that happens, the brief time during which I shall
have basked in the limelight will have made it all worthwhile. Of
course, none of that has much to do with purchasing additional
bandwidth for my site, so I guess it does come down to the money issue
after all. Because if your behavior continues, I fear that the
situation could soon spiral completely out of control, forcing me to
come to you, like every other asswipe on the Internet, with hat in
hand. Before long, I could be spending all of my time organizing annual
fundraising drives, with the word ‘annual’ defined here, as it appears
to be elsewhere, as ‘every twelve days.’ And no one really wants to see
that happen. And yes, by the way, I do realize that I am likely
contributing to the problem by including lots of large color photos in
the posts, which presumably hog up lots of bandwidth [that’s
techno-speak that I am throwing in here to make me sound really smart,
when the reality is that any attempt that I might make to define the
word ‘bandwidth’ would sound a lot like the governor of Alaska
attempting to explain the strategic significance of that frozen state:
“You may not know this, but I have been told by a real scientist – I
think he was an archacologist – that at one time there was a land
bridge between Alaska and Russia that some cavemen or dinosaurs or
something came across. Supposedly that was way back in olden times,
like even before John McCain was born. But as everyone who goes to my
church knows, ‘olden times’ wasn’t really that long ago, since the
Earth is only about 438 years old. That’s why Todd and I believe that
that bridge is still up there somewhere, and if the Russians find it
before we do, then we could be in some serious gosh darn trouble.
That’s why I wanted all that earmark money for the ‘Bridge to Nowhere,’
because that was really a secret codename for ‘the bridge to Russia.’
Once it is found and fully restored, my husband Todd is going to lead a
special commando team on snowmobiles – he’s been training for it for
years, you know – and they’re going to sneak across Siberia and kick
Russia’s little behind. I’m not supposed to talk about any of that
though, so try to keep it on the down-low. We don’t want to give
President Gorbachev the heads-up, if you know what I mean … by the way,
are we on TV right now?”], but I prefer to place the blame on all of
you. So try to mellow out just a little bit.)



And yes,
I do realize that the preceding passage might have been a bit more
topical had I actually gotten it posted when it was written, a couple
of months ago. But let’s not dwell on that; instead, let’s get back to
our little story, shall we?



At the very beginning of
this journey, I noted that Jim Morrison’s story was not “in any way
unique.” As it turns out, however, that proclamation is not exactly
true. It was a true enough statement in the context in which it
appeared – which is to say that Morrison’s family background did not
differ significantly from that of his musical peers – but in many other
significant ways, Jim Morrison was indeed a most unique individual, and
quite possibly the unlikeliest rock star to ever stumble across a stage.



Morrison
essentially arrived on the scene as a fully-developed rock star,
complete with a backing band, a stage persona and an impressive
collection of songs – enough, in fact, to fill the Doors’ first few
albums. How exactly Jim Morrison reinvented himself in such a radical
manner remains something of a mystery, since before his sudden
incarnation as singer/songwriter, James Douglas Morrison had never
shown the slightest interest in music. None whatsoever. He certainly
never studied music and could neither read nor write it. By his own
account, he never had much of an interest in even listening to music.
He told one interviewer that he “never went to concerts – one or two at
most.” And before joining the Doors, he “never did any singing. I never
even conceived of it.” Asked near the end of his life if he had ever
had any desire to learn to play a musical instrument, Jim responded,
“Not really.”



So
here we had a guy who had never sang (apparently not even in the shower
or in his car, which seems rather odd to me), who had “never even
conceived” of the notion that he could open his mouth and makes sounds
come out, and who couldn’t play an instrument and had no interest in
learning such a skill, and who had never much listened to music or been
anywhere near a band, even just to watch one perform, and yet this guy
somehow emerged, virtually overnight, as a fully-formed rock star who
would quickly become an icon of his generation. And even more
bizarrely, legend holds that he brought with him enough original songs
to fill the first few Doors’ albums. Morrison did not, you see, do as
any other singer/songwriter does and pen the songs over the course of
the band’s career; instead, he allegedly wrote them all at once, before
the band was even formed. As Jim once acknowledged in an interview, he
was “not a very prolific songwriter. Most of the songs I’ve written I
wrote in the very beginning, about three years ago. I just had a period
when I wrote a lot of songs.”



In fact, all of the good
songs that Morrison is credited with writing were written during that
period – the period during which, according to rock legend, Jim spent
most of his time hanging out on the rooftop of a Venice apartment
building, consuming copious amounts of LSD. This was just before he
hooked up with fellow student Ray Manzarek to form the Doors. Legend
also holds, strangely enough, that that chance meeting occurred on the
beach, though it seems far more likely that the pair would have
actually met at UCLA, where both attended the university’s rather small
and close-knit film school.



In any event, the question
that naturally arises (though it does not appear to have ever been
asked of him) is: how exactly did Jim “The Lizard King” Morrison write
that impressive batch of songs? I’m certainly no musician myself, but
it is my understanding that just about every singer/songwriter across
the land composes his or her songs in essentially the same manner: on
an instrument – usually either a piano or a guitar. Some songwriters, I
hear, can compose on paper, but that requires a skill set that Jim did
not possess. The problem, of course, is that he also could not play a
musical instrument of any kind. How then did he write the songs?



He
would have had to have composed them, I’m guessing, in his head. So we
are to believe then that a few dozen complete songs, never heard by
anyone and never played by any musician, existed only in Jim Morrison’s
acid-addled brain. Anything is possible, I suppose, but even if we
accept that premise, we are still left with some nagging questions,
including the question of how those songs got out of Jim Morrison’s
head. As a general rule of thumb, if a songwriter doesn’t know how to
read and write music, he can play the song for someone who does and
thereby create the sheet music (which was the case, for example, with
all of the songs that Brian Wilson penned for the Beach Boys). But Jim
quite obviously could not play his own songs. So did he, I don’t know,
maybe hum them?



And
these are, it should be clarified, songs that we are talking about
here, as opposed to just lyrics, which would more accurately be
categorized as poems. Because Jim, as we all know, was quite a prolific
poet, whereas he was a songwriter only for one brief period in his
life. But why was that? Why did Morrison, with no previous interest in
music, suddenly and inexplicably become a prolific songwriter, only to
just as suddenly lose interest after mentally penning an impressive
catalogue of what would become regarded as rock staples? And how and
why did Jim achieve the accompanying physical transformation that
changed him from a clean-cut, collegiate, and rather conservative
looking young man into the brooding sex symbol who would take the
country by storm? And why, after a few years of adopting that persona,
did Jim transform once again, in the last year or so of his life, into
an overweight, heavily-bearded, reclusive poet who seemed to have lost
his interest in music just as suddenly and inexplicably as he had
obtained it?



It wasn’t just Morrison who was, in
retrospect, a bit of an oddity; the entire band differed from other
Laurel Canyon bands in a number of significant ways. As Vanity Fair
noted many years ago, “The Doors were always different.” All four
members of the group, for example, lacked previous band experience.
Morrison and Manzarek, as noted, were film students, and drummer John
Densmore and guitarist Robby Kreiger were recruited by Manzarek from
his Transcendental Meditation class – which is, I guess, where one goes
to find musicians to fill out one’s band. That class, however,
apparently lacked a bass player, so they did without – except for those
times when they used session musicians and then claimed that they did
without.



Anyway, the point is that none of the four
members of the Doors had band credentials. Even a band as contrived as
the Byrds, as we shall soon see, had members with band credentials. So
too did Buffalo Springfield, with Neil Young and Bruce Palmer, for
example, having played in the Mynah Birds, backing a young vocalist by
the name of Rick “Superfreak” James (Goldie McJohn of Steppenwolf,
oddly enough, had been a Mynah Bird as well). The Mamas and the Papas
were put together from elements of the Journeymen and the Mugwumps. And
so on with the rest of the Laurel Canyon bands



The
Doors could cite no such band lineage. They were just four guys who
happened to come together to play the songs written by the singer who
had never sung but who had a sudden calling and a magical gift for
songwriting. And as you would expect with four guys who had never
actually played in a band before, they pretty much sucked. But don’t
take my word for it; let’s let the band’s producer, Paul Rothchild,
weigh in: “The Doors were not great live performers musically. They
were exciting theatrically and kinetically, but as musicians they
didn’t make it; there was too much inconsistency, there was too much
bad music. Robby would be horrendously out of tune with Ray, John would
be missing cues, there was bad mike usage too, where you couldn’t hear
Jim at all.”



As luck would have it, I have heard some
audio of a young and quite inebriated Jim Morrison at the microphone,
and I would have to say that not being able to “hear Jim at all” might
have, in many cases, actually improved the performance. But sucking as
a band, of course, does not really set the Doors apart from its
contemporaries. Another thing that was unusual about the band, however,
is that, from the moment the band was conceived, the lineup never
changed. No one was added, no one was replaced, no one dropped out of
the band over ‘artistic differences,’ or to pursue a solo career, or to
join another band, or for any of the other reasons that bands routinely
change shape.



It
would be difficult to identify another Laurel Canyon band of any
longevity that could make the same claim. After their first two albums,
the Byrds changed line-ups with virtually every album release. Frank
Zappa’s Mothers of Invention were in a near-constant state of flux.
Laurel Canyon’s country-rock bands were also constantly changing shape,
usually by incestuously swapping members amongst themselves.



But
not the Doors. Jim Morrison’s band arrived on the scene as a
fully-formed entity, with a name, a stable line-up, a backlog of
soon-to-be hit songs – and no previous experience writing, arranging,
playing or performing music. Other than that though, they were just
your run-of-the-mill, organic, grass-roots rock-and-roll band – with a
curious aversion to political advocacy.



Jim Morrison
was, by virtually all accounts, a voracious reader. Former teachers and
college professors expressed amazement at the breadth and depth of his
knowledge on various topics, and at the staggering array of literary
sources that he could accurately cite. And yet he was known to tell
interviewers that he �

Valentine
was ultimately indicted for extortion, though he managed to avoid
prosecution and conviction. Venturing out to LA circa 1960, he soon
found himself running PJ’s nightclub at the corner of Crescent Heights
and Santa Monica Boulevards (which, as you may recall, was co-owned by
Eddie Nash and was the favored hang-out of early rocker/murder victim
Bobby Fuller). It wasn’t long though before Valentine had his very own
club to run – the legendary Whiskey-A-Go-Go, where numerous Laurel
Canyon bands, including the Doors in the summer of 1966, served their
residency.




Valentine obviously had considerable
financial backing to launch his business enterprise, and it wasn’t much
of a secret on the Strip where that backing came from. Frank Zappa once
cryptically referred to Valentine’s backers as an “ethnic
organization,” while Chris Hillman of the Byrds simply noted that,
“whoever financed Elmer, I don’t want to know.”



Valentine
received far more than just financial backing to launch the Whisky; he
got a generous assist from the media as well. As Vanity Fair noted,
“Within months of the Whisky’s debut, Life magazine had written it up,
Jack Paar had broadcast an episode of his post-Tonight weekly program
from the club, and Steve McQueen and Jayne Mansfield had installed
themselves as regulars.” During that very same era, it should be noted,
Mansfield was also a high-profile member of the Church of Satan, with
close ties to founder Anton LaVey, who in turn had ties, as we have
already seen, to the dance troupe led by Vito Paulekas, which, as we
have also seen, had close ties to Laurel Canyon’s very first band, the
Byrds.



How was that for a segue?



As a
fledgling band, the Byrds had any number of problems. The first and
most obvious was that the band’s members did not own any musical
instruments. That problem was solved though when Naomi Hirschorn, best
known for funding such other quasi-governmental projects as the
Hirschorn Museum in Washington, D.C., stepped up to the plate to
provide the band with instruments, amplifiers and the like. But that
didn’t solve a bigger problem, which was that the band’s members, with
the exception of Jim (later Roger) McGuinn, didn’t have a clue as to
how to actually play the instruments.



Cast to play the
bass player was Chris Hillman, who had never picked up a bass guitar in
his life. As he candidly admitted years later, he “was a mandolin
player and didn’t know how to play bass. But they didn’t know how to
play their instruments either, so I didn’t feel too bad about it.” On
drums was Michael Clarke, who had never before held a set of drumsticks
in his hands, but who bore a resemblance to Rolling Stone Brian Jones,
which was deemed to be of more significance than actual musical
ability. As Crosby co-author Carl Gottlieb recalled, “Clarke had played
beatnik bongos and conga drum, but had no experience with conventional
drumming.”



Gene Clark, though by far the most gifted
songwriter in the band and a talented vocalist as well, could play the
guitar, but not particularly well, so he was relegated to banging the
tambourine, which was Jim Morrison’s (and various non-musically
inclined members of the Partridge Family’s) instrument of choice as
well. David Crosby, tasked with rhythm guitar duties, wasn’t much
better. Crosby himself admitted, in his first autobiography (does
anyone really need to write more than one autobiography, by the way?),
that “Roger was the only one who could really play.”



The
band had another problem as well: with the exception of Gene Clark, who
was good but not terribly prolific, the group was a bit lacking in
songwriting ability. To compensate, they initially played mostly
covers. Fully a third of the band’s first album consisted of covers of
Dylan songs, and nearly another third was made up of covers of songs by
other folk singer/songwriters. Clark contributed the five original
songs, two of them co-written with McGuinn. As for Crosby, who emerged
as the band’s biggest star, his only contribution to the Byrd’s first
album was backing vocals.



Carl
Franzoni perhaps summed it up best when he declared that “the Byrds
records were manufactured.” The first album in particular was an
entirely engineered affair created by taking a collection of songs by
outside songwriters and having them performed by a group of nameless
studio musicians (for the record, the actual musicians were Glen
Campbell – yes, that Glen Campbell, who also briefly served as a Beach
Boy – on guitar, Hal Blaine on drums, Larry Knechtel on bass, Leon
Russell on electric piano, and Jerry Cole on rhythm guitar), after
which the band’s trademark vocal harmonies, entirely a studio creation,
were added to the mix.



As would be expected, the Byrds’
live performances, according to Barney Hoskyns in Waiting for the Sun,
“weren’t terribly good.” But that didn’t matter much; the band got a
lot of assistance from the media, with Time magazine being among the
first to champion the new band. And they also got a lot of help from
Vito and the Freaks and from the Young Turks, as was previously
discussed.



We shall return to the Byrds, and to our old
friend Vito, in the next outing. For now, I leave you with this curious
little story about Byrd Chris Hillman’s initial arrival in Laurel
Canyon, as told by Michael Walker in Laurel Canyon: “In the autumn of
1964, a nineteen-year-old bluegrass adept and virtuoso mandolin player
named Chris Hillman stood at the corner of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and
Kirkwood Drive contemplating a FOR RENT sign on a telephone pole across
from the Canyon Country Store … It didn’t take him long to find [a
place to stay], and, in the canyon’s emerging mythos of enchanted
serendipity, one presented itself as if by magic. ‘This guy drives up
and he says ‘you looking for a place to rent?’ Hillman recalls. ‘I said
yeah, and he said. ‘Well, follow me up.’ It was this young guy who was
a dentist. It was his parent’s house, a beautiful old wood house down a
dirt road – and he lived on the top, and he was renting out the bottom
part. I just went, ‘Wow, perfect.’ The guy ended up being my dentist
for a while … It was the top of the world, a beautiful, beautiful
place. I had the best place in the canyon.”



In Los
Angeles, you see, it is quite common for a very wealthy person to offer
exquisite living accommodations to a random, scruffy vagrant. I know
this to be true because it happened to Charlie Manson on more than one
occasion. In any event, no one will ever guess what happened to Chris
Hillman’s mountaintop home, so I’ll just go ahead and tell you: it
burned to the ground on what Walker described as a “hot, witchy day in
the ‘60s.” According to Hillman, “Crosby was at my house an hour before
the blaze. I can’t connect it yet–where the Satan factor came into play
with David–but I’m working on it.”



I think maybe I will work on that as well.




* * * * * * * * * *



In
unrelated news, I recently stumbled upon a childhood artifact that,
because I am a giver, and because I made you all wait so long for this
installment, I am going to share with each and every one of you. So
remember this the next time that I am running a little late due to the
fact that, you know, I have a life and all, and you find yourself
feeling inclined to pen me an e-mail pleading in vain for the next
chapter. Without further ado then, take a look at this series of
images: www.davesweb.cnchost.com/cover.html



For the curious, here is the line-up of aspiring young artists: www.davesweb.cnchost.com/Wray.html.
To prove that I really am a giver, I am prepared to offer a free
subscription to this newsletter to the first reader who can correctly
identify me in that photo … oh, yeah, this is a free newsletter, isn’t
it? … I forgot there for a minute, probably because the way some people
complain about the timeliness of these posts, you’d think they were
actually paying for this shit … but anyway, I guess there won’t
actually be a prize given away, other than the reward of knowing that
you have successfully completed the challenge. Good luck.
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 4:12 am

http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/nwsltr104.html

Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part XII
November 27, 2008


“I’d
have to say that, personally speaking, Crosby was worse for the good
feelings of [the local] rock’n’roll [scene] than Manson was.”
Terry Melcher

“I had been to Terry Melcher’s house on Cielo Drive many times.”

David Crosby





I’m
not going to sugarcoat this at all: you people really suck when it
comes to picking me out of a photo lineup. And I’m not talking about
sucking just a little bit here, folks – no, I’m talking about totally
sucking ass. And it wasn’t even a particularly difficult task, to be
perfectly honest. After all, I provided you with twenty-one composite
sketches of what I looked like circa 1966, and yet only one of you –
just one! – could correctly identify me. So to give the rest of you a
sporting chance, I’m going to narrow it down for you: I’m one of the
three wise men – which is to say, the three hairless kids – in the top
row.



Anyway, I believe we were discussing the Byrds
when class was last convened, so let’s now meet a formidable
behind-the-scenes player and the band’s first producer, Terry Melcher.
It is fairly well known that Melcher was the son of ‘virginal’ actress
Doris Day, who was just sixteen when impregnated and seventeen when
Terry was born. Melcher’s father was trombonist Al Jorden, who
reportedly regularly beat Day, and likely Terry as well. Jorden wasn’t
around for long though; his death, when Melcher was just two or three
years old, was naturally ruled a suicide.



After an
equally short-lived second marriage, Doris Day married her agent and
producer, Marty Melcher, who was universally regarded as one of the
biggest assholes in Hollywood – and that’s not an easy title to attain,
given the fierce competition. Like Jorden, Melcher was well known to be
a tyrannically violent and abusive man. He also reportedly embezzled
some $20 million from his wife/client. On the bright side though, he
did adopt and help raise Terry, who took his name.



Terry
Melcher was arguably one of the most important figures lurking about
the periphery of the Laurel Canyon saga, by virtue of the fact that he
had deep ties to virtually all aspects of the canyon scene, including
the Laurel Canyon musicians, the Manson Family, the Vito Paulekas dance
troupe, and the group of young Hollywood actors generally referred to
as ‘The Young Turks.’



As it turns out, Melcher first
met Vito Paulekas when Terry was still in high school in the late
1950s. As Melcher later recalled, “Vito was an art instructor. When I
was in high school, we’d go to his art studio because he had naked
models.” A half-a-decade or so later, these two would, each in his own
way, become key players in launching not just the career of the Byrds,
but the entire Laurel Canyon music scene, as well as the accompanying
youth counter-cultural movement.



Also while still in
high school, Melcher befriended Bruce Johnston, the adopted son of a
top executive with the Rexall drugstore chain. While growing up on the
not-so-mean streets of Beverly Hills and Bel Air, the two recorded
together as singing duo Bruce and Terry. Johnstone also played in a
high school band with Phil Spector, who, it will be recalled, shared
with Melcher (and various others in this story) the distinction of
having lost a parent to an alleged act of suicide.



As I
probably have already mentioned, it would be Spector’s crack team of
studio musicians, dubbed The Wrecking Crew, who would provide the
instrumental tracks for countless albums by Laurel Canyon bands. Bruce
Johnston, meanwhile, would go on to become a Beach Boy, replacing
Wrecking Crew member Glen Campbell, who had briefly replaced Brian
Wilson after Brian abruptly decided that he no longer wanted to perform
live. Brian’s little brother Dennis, meanwhile, famously forged a close
bond with Terry Melcher, as well as with Gregg Jakobson, a would-be
actor and talent scout who was married to Lou Costello’s daughter.
Costello’s only son, by the way, Lou Jr., drowned in the family pool on
November 4, 1943, just before reaching his first birthday.



The
trio of Wilson, Melcher and Jakobson, who dubbed themselves the “Golden
Penetrators” (Wilson referred to himself rather subtly as “The Wood”),
famously forged a close bond with a musician/prophet/penetrator by the
name of Charlie Manson. In 1966, Melcher, along with Mark Lindsay of
the band Paul Revere and the Raiders, leased and moved into the
soon-to-be infamous home at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon
(Lindsay would later have the dubious distinction of also living for a
time in the other infamous canyon death house, on Wonderland Avenue;
Lindsay was also a regular visitor to the Log Cabin). The two were soon
joined by Melcher’s girlfriend, actress Candace Bergen. Melcher and
Bergen remained in the home until early 1969, frequently entertaining
numerous high-profile guests from both the music and film industries.



During
the summer of 1968, when Charlie Manson and numerous members of his
entourage, including Charles “Tex” Watson and Dean Moorehouse, were
shacking up with Melcher’s best buddy, Dennis Wilson, Tex and Dean were
known to regularly visit the Melcher/Bergen home on Cielo Drive.
Charlie Manson is known to have visited the Melcher home on several
occasions as well, and to have occasionally borrowed Melcher’s Jaguar.
Just after Melcher and Bergen vacated the home, Jakobson reportedly
arranged for Moorehouse to live there briefly, before Tate and Polanski
took possession in February of 1969. During Moorehouse’s stay, Tex, who
would later be portrayed as the leader of the Tate and LaBianca hit
squads, came calling regularly. His address book would later be found
to contain a phone number for a former Polanski residence.



Watson
had moved out to LA from Texas in 1966 after opting to drop out of
college, which those who knew him viewed as being wildly out of
character. By the spring of 1968, when Charles Watson met Charles
Manson at Dennis Wilson’s home, Tex was the modish co-owner of Crown
Wig Creations on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Rodeo Drive
in Beverly Hills. Through that business enterprise, he had developed
extensive Hollywood contacts – contacts that came in handy when he
began handling large drug transactions and large piles of cash for
Charlie Manson. Tex Watson soon grew so close to Manson that, according
to Ed Sanders, he was known to complain at times “that he actually
thought he was Charlie.”



According to Vanity Fair, Tex
Watson was also “a regular patron of the Whisky,” which isn’t too
surprising given that Elmer Valentine’s club was well known to be a
major drug trafficking site during the late 1960s. Watson’s frequent
sidekick Dean Moorehouse, by the way, hailed from Minot, North Dakota,
identified by Maury Terry as the longtime home of a Process Church
faction with deep ties to Offutt Air Force Base. Though it is purely
speculation, it seems entirely possible that Moorehouse served as a
handler for both Charlies – Manson and Watson (perhaps tellingly,
disinformation-peddler Vincent Bugliosi mentions Moorehouse only once
in his nearly 700-page treatment of the Manson case, in much the same
way that David Crosby ignores Vito Paulekas in his wordy autobiography).



In
the spring of 1969, the trio of Wilson, Melcher and Jakobson got close
to Bobby Beausoleil as well. Jakobson made at least two trips to the
Gerard Theatrical Agency to hear demo tapes that Bobby had recorded.
The agency, headed by Jack Gerard, specialized in supplying topless
dancers to seedy clubs, and actors and actresses for porno film shoots.
Beausoleil’s primary job with the agency was to deliver carloads of
girls to the clubs; more than a few of those girls were members of
Charlie’s Family. In March of 1969, just months before he was arrested
for the torture-murder of Gary Hinman, Bobby had signed a songwriting
contract with the agency and begun recording demos.



Beausoleil
also accompanied Melcher and Jakobson on at least two trips out to the
Spahn Movie Ranch, once in May of 1969 and then again the next month.
Jakobson was a frequent visitor to Spahn and was known to boast of
having held over 100 hours of conversations with the all-knowing
prophet known as Charles Manson. Gregg also lobbied NBC to shoot a
documentary film about the Manson Family’s ‘hippie commune,’ and the
network was for a time quite interested in the project. Along with
Dennis Wilson, Jakobson also arranged for Charlie to record at an
unnamed studio in Santa Monica; that session was also attended by Terry
Melcher, Bobby Beausoleil and several of the Manson girls.



Lest
anyone think otherwise, by the way, the Manson Family certainly had no
shortage of talented musicians. Convicted murderer Charles Manson, of
course, was widely viewed by his contemporaries in the canyon as a
talented singer/songwriter/guitarist. So too was convicted murderer
Bobby Beausoleil, who had jammed with Dennis Wilson, played rhythm
guitar for the pre-Love lineup known as the Grass Roots, knew Frank
Zappa and had visited the Log Cabin, and later composed and recorded
the film score for Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising. Convicted murderer
Patricia Krenwinkle was an accomplished guitarist and songwriter.
Convicted murderer Steve “Clem” Grogan was a talented musician as well;
he later played in the prison band assembled by Beausoleil to record
the Lucifer Rising soundtrack. In addition, Family members Brooks
Poston and Paul Watkins were accomplished musicians, and Catherine
“Gypsy” Share was a virtuoso violin player as well as being a singer
and occasional actress (see, for example, Ramrodder, costarring Bobby
Beausoleil and filmed partially at – where else? – Spahn Movie Ranch).



Catherine
Share is notable in other ways as well, including her unparalleled feat
of raising the bar so high on parental suicides that no one else, even
in Laurel Canyon, is likely to be able to clear it. Orphaned as a child
when both biological parents purportedly committed suicide, Gypsy was
adopted by a psychologist and his wife. Her adoptive mother then
allegedly committed suicide as well, leaving her to be raised by her
adoptive father. Share is also notable for being the oldest of
Charlie’s girls, nearly twenty-seven at the time of the murders (most
of the others were under twenty-one, and many, including Dean
Moorehouse’s daughter Ruth Ann “Ouisch” Moorehouse, were minors). Gypsy
lived with Bobby Beausoleil before meeting and living with Manson, and
she seemed to serve as a recruiter for both of them.



According
to Ed Sanders, Gypsy Share also “arranged for Paul Rothschild, the
producer of The Doors, to hear the family music.” It seems as though
just about everyone had an opportunity to hear the Family’s music. Some
of it was recorded in Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s state-of-the-art home
recording studio. Some was recorded by Terry Melcher and Gregg Jakobson
at Spahn Ranch using a mobile recording studio. Some was recorded in
Santa Monica. By some reports, some was recorded by a major Hollywood
studio. Other recordings were likely made as well, though nobody really
likes to talk about such things. Gregg Jakobson recorded many of his
marathon conversations with Charlie, but as with the demo recordings
made by Dennis Wilson, everyone likes to pretend that such recordings
were lost or destroyed or never existed.



The Family was
filmed at Spahn Ranch by Melcher as well. Family members also shot an
extensive amount of film making ‘home movies,’ which many witnesses
have claimed included Family orgies and ritualized snuff films. A vast
amount of NBC camera equipment and film was found to be in the
possession of Charlie’s motley crew, all of which was claimed to be
stolen. It seems likely, however, given the network’s known involvement
with the Family, that the equipment was provided to them so that they
could film their exploits.



When not hanging out with
Charlie and Tex and Bobby, Terry Melcher also found time to produce the
records that first catapulted the Byrds to fame: “Mr. Tambourine Man”
and “Turn, Turn, Turn.” The first, recorded in January 1965 and
released a few months later, was the record that announced to the world
the arrival of a new breed of music: folk-rock. It was created, simply
enough, by borrowing from the songbooks of folk legends (primarily Bob
Dylan and Pete Seeger) and then playing those songs on amplified
equipment. Dylan himself followed suit not long after, at the Newport
Folk Festival in July 1965, much to the consternation of the gathered
crowd of folkies.



In Hotel California, Barney Hoskyns
writes that the Byrds were, from the very outset, “conceived as an
electric rock and roll group.” What Hoskyns doesn’t really clarify
though is who exactly it was that initially conceived of this hugely
influential band in those terms. Surely it wasn’t the band members
themselves who decided that they were going to pioneer a new musical
genre, since they probably had their hands full with just learning to
play their instruments.



It would probably be slightly
more accurate to say that the Byrds appear to have been initially
conceived as an electric folk-rock group. By July of 1966, however,
when the band released its third album, featuring the Gene Clark-penned
“Eight Miles High,” it had morphed into something different and by
doing so helped pioneer another genre of music – psychedelic rock. With
the later addition of Gram Parsons and the growing influence of Chris
Hillman, the Byrds would next morph into a country-rock band, thus
helping to spawn that genre of music as well.



According
to rock ‘n’ roll legend, the first two Byrds to get together were James
Joseph McGuinn III and Harold Eugene Clark. McGuinn hailed from
Chicago, the son of best-selling authors James and Dorothy McGuinn. Jim
had played with Bobby Darin, the Limeliters, and the Chad Mitchell
Trio, and he was considered to be a talented guitarist. In 1962, he
left the Chad Mitchell Trio and worked for a time in New York City as a
studio musician – before hearing the call that so many others seemed to
hear and making his way to Los Angeles. Once there, he wasted no time
hooking up with Gene Clark.



Clark had been born in
Tipton, Missouri, the second oldest in a family of thirteen siblings.
An undeniably talented songwriter and vocalist, Clark cut his first
record with a local rock ‘n’ roll combo when he was just thirteen years
old. He later joined the New Christy Minstrels, a vocal ensemble known
during his tenure primarily for the hit song “Green, Green.” Like so
many others, however, Gene soon found himself packing his bags for –
where else? – Los Angeles, where he met up with the recently-arrived
Jim McGuinn. The newly-formed folk duo soon added a third voice to the
mix – our old friend David Crosby, who had formerly been a vocalist
with Les Baxter’s Balladeers.



Crosby brought in manager
Jim Dickson, with whom he had done some solo sessions in 1963. The year
before that, Dickson had produced a self-titled album for a band known
as the Hillmen, featuring a young mandolin player out of San Diego
named Chris Hillman. Hillman had cut his first album, with a band known
as the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers, while still in high school. He was
a highly regarded young bluegrass musician and was generally considered
to be a virtuoso mandolin player – which I guess is why Jim Dickson
cast him to play the part of the bass player in the world’s first
folk-rock band. And as we already know, Hillman had just lucked upon
luxurious living accommodations right in the heart of what was to
become the music community’s epicenter, so he was all set to become a
rock star.



Raised on a ranch in San Diego, Hillman had
traveled alone to Berkeley when he was just fifteen, ostensibly to take
private Mandolin lessons. At about that same time, his father had –
wait for it – reportedly committed suicide. Those two closely aligned
events would have, I would guess, had a profound impact on the young
musician.



Hillman would ultimately become a skilled
bass player and a major figure in the Laurel Canyon-spawned
country-rock movement. Like many others of that bent, Hillman had been
a huge fan of Spade Cooley during his formative years and he later
cited Cooley as a major influence on his own musical direction. I’m
guessing that most readers are not familiar with the story of the “King
of Western Swing,” which is kind of a shame because as stories go, it’s
a pretty good one, so let’s digress here briefly and meet the man who
was frequently cited as one of the forefathers of country-rock.



Throughout
the 1940s and 1950s, Donnell Clyde “Spade” Cooley was a popular local
musician and bandleader. His weekly shows at the Redondo Beach Pier
(which was close enough to my childhood home, by the way, that my
friends and I occasionally rode our bikes there) could draw as many as
10,000 appreciative fans, few of whom knew of his alcoholism, violent
temper, or prior arrest for attempted rape. His popularity ultimately
landed him his own local television show, The Spade Cooley Hour. His
career, however, came to an abrupt end on April 3, 1961, when he
tortured and murdered his young wife, Ella Mae Cooley, while forcing
his fourteen-year-old daughter to watch in horror.



According
to court transcripts, Ella Mae had been spending a considerable amount
of time in the company of two men, identified as Luther Jackson and Bud
Davenport, both of whom worked in the sprawling, CIA-infested medical
research facility at UCLA. On the day of her death, Ella Mae had made
the rather bold decision to inform Spade that the two men had initiated
her into a ‘free love’ cult and that she had decided to give up her
family and all her possessions to join the group, which was in the
process of buying land near the ocean to build and operate a private
compound.



Spade Cooley’s response to his wife’s
declaration was to brutally beat, stomp and strangle her to death, but
only after repeatedly burning her with a lit cigarette. All of this was
witnessed by daughter Melody, who had been told by her father that “now
you’re going to watch me kill this whore.” After doing just that, Spade
then asked his daughter if she thought that Ella Mae was really dead,
adding, “Well, let’s see if she is.” He then proceeded to burn her
lifeless body repeatedly with another lit cigarette, until he
apparently was satisfied that she was indeed dead.



Unlike
so many other celebrity homicide suspects, Cooley was convicted of
first-degree murder and sentenced to serve a life sentence. He was sent
to the rather notorious Vacaville facility where he served eight years
before being offered early parole. Just before his scheduled release,
he arranged a November 23, 1969 comeback concert in Oakland for which
his captors had agreed to release him on a three-day pass. The concert
was reportedly a huge success and it looked as though Cooley’s star was
about to shine once again upon his pending release from prison. But
that’s not quite how this story ends; instead, Cooley walked back to
his dressing room right after the show and promptly dropped dead, thus
ending the saga of Spade Cooley and allowing us to return to where we
left off …



… actually, let’s take one more quick detour
here and note that not long after Spade Cooley was scheduled for
release, another peripheral character in this story decided that it
might be a good idea to whack his wife as well. “Humble” Harve Miller
was a popular DJ on LA’s #1 pop music station during that era, KHJ on
the AM dial. During the latter half of the 1960s, Miller was yet
another of the players who helped launch the careers of the Laurel
Canyon bands, by getting their new singles on the radio. But then he,
like Cooley, killed his wife and was sent to prison. Also like Cooley,
he was granted early release. But unlike Spade, Miller successfully
resumed his career. And now, at long last, we can return to our story …



By
mid-1964, the nucleus of what would become the Byrds had formed with
the bonding of McGuinn and Clark. Between the two of them, they would
provide the band with its signature 12-string guitar sound, its two
lead vocalists, and (in the early years, at least) its best
songwriters. Along then came David Crosby, who added little more than
harmony vocals, at least on the first two albums, but who seems to have
largely hijacked the band with the help of manager Jim Dickson, who
added fake bass player (but real musician) Chris Hillman. Crosby then
rounded out the band by adding fake drummer Michael Clarke.



Clarke
had been born Michael Dick in Spokane, Washington. At seventeen, Dick
ran away from home and hitchhiked to the land of enchantment known as
California, apparently becoming Michael Clarke along the way. The year
was 1963. According to rock history as told by David Crosby, Clarke and
Crosby met in Big Sur, which coincidentally happens to be the location
of the notorious Esalen Institute (where CSNY would play some years
later). A year later, the vagrant teenager with no drumming experience
would find himself cast to play the role of the drummer in the band
designed to be America’s answer to the Beatles. According to Crosby,
Clarke’s first LA address was the home of Terry Melcher.



The
band, now complete, first dubbed themselves the Jet Set and then the
Beefeaters, even recording a less-then-memorable single under the
latter moniker, before finally settling on the Byrds. Before the end of
1964, Jim Dickson had signed the band to a deal with Columbia Records.
As Barney Hoskyns recounts in Waiting for the Sun, “The obvious
ineptitude of Michael Clarke and shakiness of most of the others was
still a problem when Jim Dickson got the band signed to Columbia in
November. [They were] Assigned to staff producer Terry Melcher …”



That
assignment, it would seem, was a rather fortuitous one given that the
fledgling band’s rehearsal space just happened to be in the very same
basement studio that Melcher snuck off to while in high school. Just
two months after signing with Columbia, the band, or rather its
surrogates, were already in the studio recording “Mr. Tambourine Man,”
at the insistence of Jim Dickson. Despite the objections of various
band members, Dickson reportedly pushed hard for the song to be the
band’s first single. On March 26, 1965, just two months after
pretending to lay down the instrumental tracks for “Mr. Tambourine
Man,” the Byrds played their first real live show, as the first act at
the refurbished and reopened Ciro’s nightclub.



I
obviously wasn’t there so I can’t say for sure, but I’m going to go out
on a limb here and guess that a band whose entire rhythm section was
just learning to play their instruments probably did not put on a very
compelling performance. The Byrds apparently played one other live show
before the Ciro’s opening, though the nature of that show appears to be
in dispute (or perhaps there were two previous shows). According to Jim
Dickson, “The Byrds first public gig was booked by Lenny Bruce’s
mother, Sally Marr. She got them a job at Los Angeles City College,
noon assembly, for a half hour.” According to Carl Franzoni and various
others, however, it was Vito Paulekas who booked the Byrds’ first live
show, at a rented hall on Melrose Avenue just a day or two before the
show at Ciro’s.



In
any event, “Mr. Tambourine Man” was released about a month after the
band had its big public debut at Ciro’s and the LA music scene would
never be the same again. Before long, clubs big and small were popping
up all along the fabled Sunset Strip and bands were spilling out of
Laurel Canyon to play them. As Terry Melcher recalled, “kids came from
everywhere. It just happened. One day you couldn’t drive anymore. It
was, like, overnight – you couldn’t drive on the Strip.”



That
would soon change though. By the summer of 1967, the mythical Summer of
Love, the club scene on the Strip was quickly dying. It had been
killed, deliberately or not, by some of the key players who had created
it: Terry Melcher, producer of the scene’s first band; Lou Adler,
business partner of club owner Elmer Valentine; and John Phillips,
leader of The Mamas and the Papas and composer of such ditties as
“California Dreaming” and “If You’re Going to San Francisco.” It was
the Monterey Pop Festival, you see, held on June 16-18, 1967, that
killed the Sunset Strip scene. The bands that had filled the clubs
became, literally overnight, too big to play such intimate venues. Over
the course of the next decade, Laurel Canyon bands quickly moved from
clubs to concert halls to massive sports arenas. But here we are, I
suppose, getting ahead of ourselves.



As for the Byrds,
they carried on for a good many years, albeit with numerous personnel
changes. First out was the man who many feel was the most talented
member of the group, Gene Clark, who dropped out in March of 1966, just
one year after the band had first taken the stage at Ciro’s. Clark was
also the first original Byrd to pass away, on May 24, 1991, at just 46
years of age, reportedly due to a bleeding ulcer. Two-and-a-half-years
later, on December 19, 1993, Michael Clarke died as well when his liver
failed. Both deaths were attributed to chronic alcoholism.



Jim
McGuinn, who remained a Byrd through numerous band lineups, joined the
Subud religious sect in 1965. Two years later, upon the advice of the
cult’s founder, he changed his name to Roger. A decade later, he became
a born-again Christian. In a similar vein, Chris Hillman became an
Evangelical Christian in the 1980s, but then later switched to the
Greek Orthodox faith. Hillman played in various Byrds lineups, with
Gram Parson’s Flying Burrito Brothers, and in David Geffen’s failed
second attempt at creating a supergroup, this one known as Souther,
Hillman, Furay. David Crosby, of course, left the Byrds and became 1/3
of David Geffen’s first supergroup, Crosby, Stills & Nash. These
days he primarily spends his time inseminating lesbians and
occasionally reuniting with former bandmates.



Jim
Dickson and Terry Melcher continued to work with some of the Byrds,
particularly Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman. Melcher formed a
particularly close bond with his fellow ‘trust-fund kid,’ Gram Parsons,
as did Melcher’s sometime sidekick, John Phillips. Both Melcher and
Phillips, of course, knew Charlie Manson (Melcher raved about him to
Ned Doheny), whose former prison buddy, Phil Kaufman, was Parsons’ road
manager (and cremator). I’m pretty sure though that I already mentioned
that, but what I haven’t yet worked into this narrative is that the
Doors’ road manager, Bill Siddons, was once a paramour of Mansonite
Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme.



The Family’s fingerprints, as always, can be found in nearly every nook and cranny of the Laurel Canyon scene.
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 4:14 am

http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/nwsltr105.html

Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part XIII
January 26, 2009



“No one could recall ever seeing or hearing about Gram being involved in a protest of any sort.”

Author Ben Fong Torres, who interviewed scores of people close to Gram Parsons while researching Hickory Wind





Timing
is a curious thing. When I first started this series in May of 2008,
the fact that Jim Morrison’s father had served as the commander of the
ships involved in the Gulf of Tonkin ‘incident’ had gone virtually
unreported for some four-and-a-half decades. Readers were shocked –
shocked, I tell you! – when I began this series by trotting out that
revelation. Some even accused me of making it up, or of somehow
twisting the facts.



But as fate would have it, as
December of 2008 rolled around, the mainstream media was suddenly awash
with reports of the unusual Morrison family connection. On December 8,
for example, the Los Angeles Times carried a report on Admiral George
Stephen Morrison, described therein as “a retired Navy rear admiral and
the father of the late rock icon Jim Morrison.” According to the Times
report, “Morrison had a long career that included serving as operations
officer aboard the aircraft carrier Midway and commanding the fleet
during the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, which led to an escalation of
American involvement in Vietnam.” (emphasis added)



The
very next day, on December 9, the New York Times followed suit with a
report by William Grimes: “George S. Morrison, who commanded the fleet
during the Gulf of Tonkin incident that led to an escalation of the
Vietnam War and whose son Jim was the lead singer of the Doors … Aboard
the flagship carrier Bon Homme Richard, Mr. Morrison commanded American
naval forces in the gulf when the destroyer Maddox engaged three North
Vietnamese torpedo boats on Aug. 2, 1964. A skirmish and confused
reports of a second engagement two days later led President Lyndon B.
Johnson to order airstrikes against North Vietnam and to request from
Congress what became known as the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, allowing him
to carry out further military operations without declaring war.”
(emphasis again added)



Mr. Grimes has penned a rather
charitable account of the Tonkin Gulf incident, to be sure, but what is
of far more interest here is the fact that the media is talking about
the Morrison/Tonkin Gulf/Doors connection at all. What makes it okay to
do so now, it would appear, is the fact that Admiral Morrison exited
this world on November 17, 2008, at the ripe old age of 89. His death
was reportedly due to unspecified injuries sustained in a fall.
According to his obituaries, his distinguished career included raining
bombs down on Japanese civilians and Pacific Islanders during the final
year of World War II, and serving as “an instructor for secret
nuclear-weapons projects in Albuquerque.”



On December
7, the day before George Morrison’s name turned up in the LA Times’
obituaries, another key name from the Laurel Canyon saga appeared there
as well: Elmer Valentine, co-owner of the hottest clubs on the Strip in
the late 1960s and early 1970s – the Whisky-A-Go-Go, the Roxy, and the
Rainbow. Valentine died of unspecified causes on December 3, 2008, at
the age of 85. On December 9, the New York Times ran his obituary right
alongside that of Morrison. Valentine was therein characterized as “a
self-described crooked cop who fled Chicago to start a new life on the
Sunset Strip.”



Some scribes, I suppose, would find it a
bit disconcerting to find that some of the characters in their
work-in-progress had suddenly started dropping dead. After all, the
cause of death in both cases is a bit fuzzy, and Morrison dropped just
four days after Part 11 was posted and Valentine followed suit 6 days
after Part 12 went up. But they were both quite elderly, of course, so
maybe it was just their time to go.



Anyway, the real
focus of this chapter is singer/songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist Gram
Parsons, and the Gram Parsons story, as it turns out, is essentially a
microcosm of the Laurel Canyon story. Most of the classic elements are
present and accounted for: the royal bloodlines, the not-so-well-hidden
intelligence connections, the occult overtones, the extravagantly
wealthy family background, an incinerated house or two, and, of course,
a whole lot of curious deaths. Without further adieu then, let’s get to
know a little more about Mr. Parsons.



First of all,
let’s begin with the obvious: Gram Parsons was far from being the
biggest star to emerge from the Laurel Canyon scene. In his short
lifetime, he failed to achieve any significant level of commercial
success. None of his albums, whether recorded solo or with the
International Submarine Band, the Byrds, or the Flying Burrito
Brothers, climbed very high on the sales charts. But to many fans and
musicians alike, he is considered a hugely influential and tragically
overlooked figure.



It is safe to say that Parsons does
not have nearly the number of fans that, say, David Crosby or Frank
Zappa have. Compared to contemporaries who died during the same era and
at roughly the same age – artists like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and
Jimi Hendrix – Parsons is all but unknown. But the fans that he does
have tend to be particularly rabid ones, and if you happen to be one of
them, you might want to skip this chapter. And the next, actually,
because this is kind of a long story.



We begin back
about, oh, a thousand years ago, with Ferdinand the Great, the first
King of Castille on the Iberian Peninsula. It is to him that the
wealthy Connor family claims their family lineage can be traced. Also
in the family tree was King Edward II of England, son of Edward I and
Eleanor of Castille. According to some sources, Eddie II was murdered
by having a red-hot iron rod shoved up his ass, though most of his
loyal subjects probably didn’t shed many tears. Bringing the royal
bloodline to America was one Colonel George Reade, born in the UK in
1608 and married in Yorktown, Pennsylvania sometime thereafter.



Reade’s
offspring would ultimately spawn Ingram Cecil Connor, Jr., a well-to-do
gent who settled in Columbia, Tennessee. Like his father before him,
Cecil attended Columbia Military Academy. In May 1940, at the outset of
World War II, he then enlisted in the US Army Air Force as a 2nd
Lieutenant. In March of 1941, Cecil, who during the war would become
known as “Coon Dog,” though no one seems to remember why, was shipped
off to Hawaii. Nine months later, of course, Pearl Harbor came under
attack by Japanese bombers.



Not to worry though – Cecil
was never in harm’s way, having opted to forgo living in officer’s
quarters on the military base in favor of staying at a luxurious,
massive estate near Diamond Head owned by uber-wealthy heiress Barbara
Hutton. Hutton, for those who don’t know, was the granddaughter of
Frank Woolworth, the founder of the Woolworth’s five-and-dime store
chain. She was also the daughter of Franklyn Laws Hutton, a co-founder
of E.F. Hutton, one of the nation’s most prestigious brokerage firms
until it ran afoul of the law for such crimes as check kiting, money
laundering and mail fraud. Barbara was also the niece of Marjory Post
Hutton, the daughter of C.W. Post, founder of what would become General
Foods.



Like so many of the other characters who have
populated this story (including Gram Parsons), Barbara was traumatized
in childhood by the alleged suicide of a parent. According to news
reports, it was 5-year-old Barbara who discovered her mother Edna’s
lifeless body in May of 1917. An empty bottle of strychnine was
reportedly recovered by police from a nearby bathroom. There was no
autopsy performed and no official inquest was ever conducted, as would
be expected when an extremely wealthy person dies under questionable
circumstances.



In 1930, just after the onset of the
last Great Depression, Barbara was thrown a lavish debutante ball
attended by those at the very top of the food chain, including members
of the Astor and Rockefeller families. The next year, she inherited a
fortune estimated to be worth the equivalent of $1 billion today. She
was just nineteen at the time. Two years later, she received further
inheritance that raised her net worth to an estimated $2-$2.5 billion
(in today’s dollars). Much of the rest of the country was busily
wallowing in abject poverty.



Ms Hutton lived a very
troubled life, with numerous failed marriages and relationships. One of
her many paramours was Phillip van Rensselaer, who later penned a book
about her life which he entitled Million Dollar Baby. Van Rensselaer,
it will be recalled, was from the same family tree as Laurel Canyon’s
own David Crosby – the man whom Gram Parsons would briefly replace in
the Byrds. And that, boys and girls, brings us back to our
man-of-the-hour.



(I almost added “after that brief
digression” to the preceding sentence, but then I remembered that,
though I rarely read commentary on my work on the web, I did stumble
across something the other day. The review was positive overall, though
it did note that my website design was, uhmm, I think the word was
“atrocious,” and that I had (this may not be an exact quote) “an
unnatural fondness for the word ‘digress.’” I could, I suppose, mount a
spirited defense against the charges, but the evidence appears to be
overwhelming. But here I really have digres ... let’s just get back to
our story, shall we?)



As World War II drug on, Ingram
Cecil Connor, Jr. worked his way up the chain of command to the rank of
Major. In the Pacific theater of operations, he was a decorated hero
and a squadron commander who flew numerous combat missions. After the
war, he continued to serve in the Air Force at a base in Bartow,
Florida, very near the Snively family home in Winter Haven. On March
22, 1945, the spring equinox, “Coon Dog” Connor married Avis Snively.



The
Snively clan had first come to America circa 1700, about a century
after the arrival of the man who spawned the Connor clan. According to
historical records and genealogical charts, Johann Jacob Schnebele, a
Swiss Mennonite, was born in 1659. When in his late 50s, around 1715 or
shortly thereafter, he ventured across the Atlantic and settled near
Cornwall, Pennsylvania. Johann died and was buried in 1743 near
Lancaster, Pennsylvania.



Brought over with him to
America was his son Jacob, born on the winter solstice of 1694, and his
daughter Maria, born in 1702. In 1724, in Mannheim, Pennsylvania, Maria
Schnebele married the son of immigrants Hans Hersche and Anna Geunder.
That son had Americanized his name and become known as Andrew Hershey.
The Schnebele name was likewise Americanized to Snavely (or Snively).
The Hershey and Snavely clans would continue to happily intermarry,
ultimately producing, in 1857, Milton Snavely Hershey, the son of Henry
Hershey and Fanny Snavely.



Milton S. Hershey, of
course, would go on to found the world’s largest producer of chocolate
confections. Less well known is that Hershey failed miserably in his
first several attempts to launch a candy company, in Philadelphia,
Chicago and New York City. All of those ventures were financed with
Snively/Snavely family money. Hershey ultimately succeeded in launching
the successful Lancaster Caramel Company in 1883. In 1900, he sold the
caramel company to focus exclusively on chocolate confections. With
proceeds from that sale, he purchased 40,000 acres of undeveloped land
and built not only the world’s largest chocolate facility, but an
entire company town.



The moral of this story, in case
you missed it, is that without the Schnebele/Snavely/Snively family
fortune, there never would have been any such thing as a Hershey bar or
a town known as Hershey, Pennsylvania.



As for Maria’s
brother, Jacob Schnebele, he died in August of 1766 in Cumberland
County, Pennsylvania, but not before fathering an astounding nineteen
children. One of those was son Andrew, who himself fathered fourteen
kids. From that branch of the family tree would emerge John Andrew
“Papa John” Snively, born in 1888, who headed off to Florida in the
early 1900s to seek his fortune. By the 1950s, Snively Groves was the
largest shipper of fresh fruit in the state of Florida.



Avis
Snively, who exchanged vows with Ingram Cecil Connor, Jr., was the
daughter of Papa John. On November 5, 1946, Coon Dog and Avis gave
birth to their first child and only son, Ingram Cecil Connor III, later
known as Gram Parsons. Soon after, the family relocated to Waycross,
Georgia, where, as with Winter Haven, the Snively family owned a
massive amount of land devoted to citrus fruit production. It was there
that young Ingram “Gram” Connor was raised.



The Connor
family home in Waycross, as would be expected, was large and luxurious,
and there were numerous servants in attendance, all of whom had
considerably more skin pigmentation than did the Connors. Coon Dog and
Avis entertained frequently, and both were well known to be heavy
drinkers; there were hushed rumors that they were ‘swingers’ as well.
As Gram’s younger sister, known as Little Avis, would later recall,
“Things were mighty strange around the house.”



In
September of 1957, when Gram was not yet eleven, he was sent off to
attend the Bowles School, a combination prep school and military
academy in Jacksonville, Florida. On his entry questionnaire, he was
asked for his top three college choices; Gram chose Annapolis, West
Point, and Georgia Tech. While attending Bowles, he became a member of
the Centurions, the school’s version of an elite fraternity.



The
following year, just before Christmas 1958, Ingram Cecil “Coon Dog”
Connor, Jr. was found sprawled across his bed in the family home, a
bullet hole in his right temple. A .38 handgun was found nearby. There
was no note to be found. Cecil’s brother Tom had visited just the month
before, around Thanksgiving, and Coon Dog had told him that he’d never
been happier and that life with Avis was wonderful. Curiously, his
death was initially ruled to be accidental.



Just ten
months before Cecil’s death, Papa John Snively, Avis’ dad, had also
died, and now she found herself with both of the men in her life gone.
And yet, according to a family member, she never appeared to grieve and
she displayed a “total lack of remorse” over anything she may have done
to drive Coon Dog to allegedly commit suicide (by some reports, she had
been having an affair).



Some six months after Cecil’s
death, Avis, Gram and Little Avis boarded a train for a cross-country
trip. They were gone the entire summer. Not long after returning, the
family moved from the house that Cecil had died in and Avis soon met
Robert Ellis Parsons, who owned a business that ostensibly specialized
in leasing heavy construction equipment. Parson’s clients, curiously
enough, happened to be in Cuba, then under the brutal hand of Batista,
and in various South American countries that were also under the thumb
of US-installed dictators



It is unclear, by the way,
where the “Ellis” in Parsons name comes from, so it would probably be
irresponsible to mention the Ellis family that is an intermarried
branch of the Bush family, but with the Cuba connection and all, it’s
hard for the mind not to wander there.



The Snively clan
took an immediate dislike to Parsons, who was described by one family
member as a “greedy son of a bitch.” Nevertheless, Avis quickly married
him and Bob Parsons quickly took control of her life. One of his first
moves was to adopt Gram and Avis, even going so far as to have new
birth certificates drawn up listing him as their biological father (how
exactly does one go about doing that, by the way?) He also promptly
impregnated Avis and convinced her to file a $1.5 million lawsuit
against her brother, John, Jr., and her sister, Evalyn. The suit was
settled out of court, with Avis receiving an unspecified number of
citrus groves, but the real repercussions would be felt some fifteen
years later with the bankruptcy of much of the family business in 1974.



In
1960, just a year after marrying, Bob and Avis added daughter Diane to
the family. Also added was eighteen-year-old babysitter Bonnie, whom
Bob immediately began an affair with, which apparently was not a very
well-kept secret. What was a somewhat better kept secret is that, in
the early 1960s, following the Cuban revolution, Robert Ellis Parsons
became involved in the ‘Cuban cause,’ which is to say that he had very
close ties to the leaders of an exile group that was being trained in
Polk County, Florida to overthrow the Cuban government.



On
one occasion (or at least one occasion that is acknowledged), he
brought young Gram along to visit the group’s training camp. As luck
would have it, a team from Life magazine happened to also be there that
day and Gram – wouldn’t you know it? – was photographed at the camp.
When Avis was informed of that development, she worked quickly to
insure that those photos were never published. To this day, they have
never surfaced.



During that same era, Bob Parsons
converted a downtown warehouse that he owned into a teen nightclub to
showcase the talents of his ‘son,’ Ingram “Gram” Parsons, who sang and
played keyboards and the guitar. Circa 1963, Gram got a folk combo
together that was known as the Shilos. During the summer of 1964, the
summer before Gram’s senior year of high school, the band spent a month
in New York. During that brief time, Parsons met and bonded with
Brandon DeWilde, Richie Furay, and John Phillips, then of the
Journeymen. He would meet up with all three again a couple years later
in Laurel Canyon.



Despite his early preference for
Annapolis or West Point, Gram applied to Harvard and Johns Hopkins.
Despite decidedly unimpressive grades and test scores, he was accepted
by Harvard, purportedly due to an essay he submitted that he likely
didn’t actually write. During his last year of high school, Gram and
the Shilos booked an hour gig at the campus radio station at Bob Jones
University … yes, that Bob Jones University.



At his
high school graduation in June of 1965, Gram was in his cap and gown
and all set to proceed with the ceremonies when he was pulled aside and
informed that his mother Avis had suddenly passed away. Seemingly
unaffected, he chose to participate in the ceremonies. A classmate and
friend has said that there was no sign that anything was troubling Gram
that day as he went through the graduation rituals.



Avis
had died in the hospital, reportedly of alcohol poisoning, right after
Bob Parsons had smuggled her in a bottle of scotch. Gram’s mother was
just forty-two at the time of her death. His father, Coon Dog, had only
made it to the age of forty-one. Neither of their kids, Gram or Little
Avis, would make it even that far.



Soon after his
mother’s death, Gram received a draft notice from the Selective
Service. Not to worry though – Bob quickly got him a 4-F deferment and
Gram happily went off to Harvard, enrolling in September of 1965. By
February of 1966, just five months later, Gram had had enough of
Harvard and he withdrew. According to some sources, he never really
went to Harvard at all, but rather spent all his time taking in the
folk music scene in Cambridge and putting his own band together.



Gram
arrived at Harvard a few years too late to catch the peak of the folk
music scene in Cambridge. In the early 1960s, the college town had been
one of the cradles of the resurgent folk movement, hosting such
luminaries as Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Bob Neuwirth, Tom Rush, Pete
Seeger, Richard and Mimi Farina, Geoff and Maria Muldaur, Eric Andersen
and Joni Mitchell.



The epicenter of the Cambridge folk
scene was the legendary Club 47, opened in 1958 as a jazz and blues
venue. A very young Joan Baez, whose reputedly CIA-connected father
worked at nearby MIT, was the first folkie to take the stage, not long
after the club opened. Dylan reportedly first performed there in 1961,
taking the stage between the billed acts. The scene hit its peak in the
summer of 1962, which was the Cambridge equivalent of the Haight’s
Summer of Love.



The Cambridge scene, and others in
Greenwich Village and elsewhere, were necessary precursors to the
Laurel Canyon scene. The canyon scene was essentially created by taking
the music of that earlier scene, particularly the work of Dylan and
Seeger, and mixing it with the instrumentation being utilized across
the pond by a band known as the Beatles. It is entirely fitting then
that, as with Laurel Canyon, the Cambridge scene came complete with its
own resident psycho killer.



In addition to the folk
scene hitting its peak in the summer of 1962, something else newsworthy
happened in Cambridge that summer: a lot of women started turning up
dead – six of them in that first summer alone, and seven more over the
next couple of years. And as Susan Kelly noted in The Boston
Stranglers, one of those victims was killed right across the street
from Club 47: “Just across the street from [victim Beverly Samans’]
apartment, a very young and not yet famous Joan Baez and an equally
youthful and unknown Bob Dylan were playing to reverently hushed
audiences at the Club 47.”



As the title of Kelly’s book
implies, there actually was no such person as the Boston Strangler, but
that didn’t stop authorities and the media from pinning all the murders
on one Albert DeSalvo, far better known as the Boston Strangler. And so
it was that just as Laurel Canyon would have Charlie Manson as its
unofficial mascot, the earlier scene in Cambridge had Albert DeSalvo.
And neither of them, curiously enough, appear to have actually
committed any murders, though a whole lot of people certainly did get
murdered.



Folkie Richard Farina, by the way, was the
husband of Mimi Baez, Joan’s younger sister. Farina had attended
Cornell University as an engineering major. Cornell also happened to be
where Joan and Mimi’s dad, Albert Baez, conducted classified research.
Albert Baez tended to move around a lot, popping up for varying periods
of time at Stanford, UC Berkeley, Cornell, and MIT, all of which have
been repeatedly identified as hotbeds of MK-ULTRA research.



Albert
Baez also traveled abroad, to France, Switzerland, and, in 1951, to
Baghdad, Iraq, where he spent a year purportedly teaching physics and
building a physics laboratory at the University of Baghdad. 1951 also
happened to be the year that Mossadegh was duly elected in neighboring
Iran and the CIA immediately began planning a coup to oust him, but I’m
sure that that is just a coincidence.



Anyway, Farina
married Mimi when he was twenty-six and she was just seventeen. The two
of them, along with Joan, became stars of the Cambridge folk music
scene, which they were introduced to when their dad moved the family to
Boston in 1958 when he went to work at MIT. Richard and Mimi’s marriage
was a short one, alas, as Richard Farina was killed in a motorcycle
accident in Carmel, California, on, of all days, April 30, 1966. On
that very same day, in nearby San Francisco, Anton Szandor LaVey
declared it to be the dawn of the Age of Satan.



But perhaps I’ve gotten sidetracked here …



During
Gram’s brief time at Harvard, he began gathering together what would
become the International Submarine Band. When he dropped out in early
1966, he and his new bandmates moved to the Bronx in New York, where
Gram rented an 11-room party house where marijuana and LSD flowed
freely. One unofficial member of his band was
child-actor-turned-aspiring-musician Brandon DeWilde, known in the
1950s as “the king of child actors.” Parsons and DeWilde worked
together on demo tapes during their time in New York.



In
November/December 1966, nine months after leaving Harvard for New York,
Gram ventured out to California. While there, he met a certain Nancy
Ross, who at the time was living with David Crosby. In Ben Fong-Torres’
Hickory Wind, Ross provides some interesting biographical details: “I
grew up with David Crosby here in town … I was thirteen when we met.
David and I were part of the debutante set … My father was a captain in
the Royal Air Force of England … I married Eleanor Roosevelt’s
grandson, Rex, at sixteen, seventeen. I was still married to Rex when I
was with David … The marriage lasted a couple of years. I got an
apartment and started designing restaurants for Elmer Valentine of
Whisky-a-Go-Go.”



At age nineteen, Ross went with Crosby
“up to his little bachelor apartment, where I drew pentagrams on the
wall.” Soon after, Crosby bought a house on Beverly Glen and Ross moved
in with him. That is where Gram Parsons found Nancy Ross and stole her
away from David Crosby: “Brandon DeWilde, who was a good friend of
David’s and Peter Fonda’s, brought Gram up to our Beverly Glen house
one Christmas time.” According to Nancy, Gram quickly stole her heart.



Shortly
after, in early 1967, Parsons permanently relocated to Los Angeles with
his band in tow. According to Fong-Torres, Gram – who received up to
$100,000 a year from his trust fund, a considerable amount of money in
the mid-1960s – “found a house for the rest of the band on Willow Glen
Avenue, off Laurel Canyon Boulevard and just north of Sunset.” He and
Nancy found an apartment together nearby.



Meanwhile,
back home, Bob Parsons had married Bonnie shortly after the death of
Avis, and the newlywed couple had then moved with Little Avis and Diane
to New Orleans. Back in Waycross, the Connor family home that had been
abandoned after Coon Dog’s (alleged) suicide had been occupied since
1960 by the family of Sheriff Robert E. Lee. In late 1968, on the eve
of the election that put Richard Nixon in the White House, the stately
home exploded from within and caught fire. The cause of the explosion
was never determined.



To be continued …
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 4:15 am

There's many more chapters, I'll post them soon...
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 10:38 am

wow. This is something else, ramallamamama!
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 1:34 pm

Thanks so much for posting this. The music industry has become a tool for these guys. McGowan's work totally exposes the ruse.

Let's just say that I listen to a lot more classical music now.
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Mon 26 Oct 2009, 3:21 pm

My pleasure, ScoutsHonor and Ronne! Enjoy...

I'll post the whole series, moving forward.

Ronne, (intuitively) I started listening to Jazz a few years back.

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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Wed 28 Oct 2009, 12:25 pm

I read all of this about a year ago and I don't look at anything the same way anymore.
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Wed 28 Oct 2009, 3:06 pm

Me too LLS.

Welcome to the board.
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Wed 28 Oct 2009, 3:50 pm

Thanks Smile

Do you know if Dave is writing somewhere else? I enjoy his style of writing and he's very insightful. He's one of the only people I know of that gave any thought whatsoever to Bush's pretzel mishap and the other oddities from the very beginning of that administration. The official stories about that never really worked for me.
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Thu 29 Oct 2009, 3:55 am

Hi LLS,

I'm not sure about Dave's other writings. You're right he is a fun read. If you have a chance PM me a link to what he said about the pretzel incident.
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Thu 29 Oct 2009, 4:04 am

Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part XIV
March 17, 2009



Oh, and as I watched him on the stage

My hands were clenched in fists of rage

No angel born in hell

Could break that Satan’s spell

And as the flames climbed high into the night

To light the sacrificial rite

I saw Satan laughing with delight

The day the music died

Don McLean, American Pie




(... continued from Part XIII )

Once
ensconced in the hills above Los Angeles, Gram Parsons and his band
began recording what would prove to be their only album, Safe at Home,
which some pop music historians regard as the first country-rock album,
but others regard as a straight country album performed by guys who
look like they should be playing in a rock band. Whatever the case, by
the time the album was released, in 1968, Gram had disbanded the
International Submarine Band and unofficially joined the Byrds,
replacing the recently departed David Crosby, who had determined that
there wasn’t quite room in the band for both he and his ego.



Parsons’
time with the Byrds was rather brief, just four to five months, after
which he was replaced by virtuoso guitarist Clarence White, who had
been part of the Cambridge folk scene. Despite his brief tenure,
Parsons is credited with having a major influence on the album that the
band produced during that period, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, which is
also regarded by some music aficionados as the first true country-rock
album.



Soon after leaving the Byrds, Parsons ran into
Richie Furay, who was casting about for a new band after the breakup of
Laurel Canyon’s own Buffalo Springfield. Gram and Furay considered
working together but quickly realized that they wanted to go in
different musical directions, so Furay went to work putting Poco
together while Parsons assembled the Flying Burrito Brothers. By 1969,
Gram’s new band had taken shape, with Gram supplying lead vocals and
guitar, Chris Hillman also on guitar, Chris Etheridge on bass, and
“Sneaky Pete” Kleinow on pedal steel guitar. With various other local
musicians sitting in, the band recorded and released The Gilded Palace
of Sin, which is probably also regarded by some as the first true
country-rock album. Byrd Michael Clarke would later join the band, as
would soon-to-be-Eagle Bernie Leadon.



Also in 1969,
late in the year, 23-year-old Gram hooked up with 16-year-old Gretchen
Burrell. His new love interest was the daughter of high-profile news
anchor Larry Burrell, who was very well-connected in Hollywood. Before
long, Gretchen had moved into Parsons’ place at the notorious Chateau
Marmont Hotel, with her parents’ blessings – because most wealthy
parents, I would think, want their teenage daughter living in a
debauched rock star’s drug den. Another guest at the hotel at that same
time, incidentally, was Rod Stewart (at whose home, readers of
Programmed to Kill will recall, one of the victims of the so-called
Sunset Strip Killers would later be last seen).



At the
tail end of 1969, Parsons and his fellow Burrito Brothers had the
dubious distinction of playing as one of the opening acts at the
Rolling Stones’ infamous free show at Altamont. Gram had become a very
close confidant of the Stones, particularly Keith Richards, and he
would later be credited with being the inspiration for the country
flavor evident on the Stones’ Let it Bleed album.



Parsons
had first met up with the Stones when they were in Los Angeles in the
summer of 1968 to mix their Beggar’s Banquet album. Also hooking up
with the Stones around that same time was Phil Kaufman, a
recently-released prison buddy of Charlie Manson. Kaufman initially
lived with the Manson Family after being released in March of 1968, and
he thereafter remained what Kaufman himself described as a “sympathetic
cousin” to Charlie. He also went to work as the Rolling Stones’ road
manager for their 1968 American tour, which is the type of job
apparently best filled by ex-convict friends of Charles Manson.



In
late summer of 1969, following the probable murder of Brian Jones in
July, the Stones were back in LA to complete their Let It Bleed album
and prepare for yet another tour. According to Ben Fong-Torres, writing
in Hickory Wind, “Mick and Keith stayed at Stephen Stills’s [sic] house
near Laurel Canyon … Before Stills, the house had been occupied by
Peter Tork of the Monkees.” (For the record, other reports hold that
the Peter Tork house was in, not near, Laurel Canyon.)



Hell's Angels part the crowd at Altamont.


On
December 6, 1969, temporary Laurel Canyon residents Mick and Keith,
along with permanent Laurel Canyon residents Crosby, Stills, Nash &
Young and the Flying Burrito Brothers, all gathered at a desolate
speedway known as Altamont to stage a free concert. By the time it was
over, four people were dead and another 850 concert-goers were injured
to varying degrees, mostly by members of the Hell’s Angels swinging
leaded pool cues.



The Angels had, of course, been hired
by the Stones to ostensibly provide security. That decision is almost
universally cast as an innocent mistake on the part of the band, though
such a claim is difficult to believe. It was certainly no secret that
the reactionary motorcycle clubs, formed by former military men, were
openly hostile to hippies and anti-war activists; as early as 1965,
they had brutally attacked peaceful anti-war demonstrators while
police, who had courteously allowed the Angels to pass through their
line, looked on. It was also known that the Angels were heavily
involved in trafficking meth, a drug that was widely blamed for the
ugliness that had descended over the Haight.



Perhaps
less well known was that more than a few of those biker gangs had
uncomfortably close ties to Charlie Manson, particularly a club known
as the Straight Satans, one of whose members, Danny DeCarlo, watched
over the Family’s arsenal of weapons. At least one of the performers
taking the stage at Altamont, curiously enough, also had close ties to
the motorcycle clubs; as was revealed in his autobiography, Crosby “had
friends in every Bay Area chapter of the Hells Angels.”



frame in which Hunter can purportedly be seen holding a gun


The
death that the concert at Altamont will always be remembered for, of
course, is that of Meredith Hunter, the young man who was stabbed to
death by members of the Hell’s Angels right in front of the stage while
the band (in this case, the Rolling Stones) played on. The song they
were playing, contrary to most accounts of the incident, was Sympathy
for the Devil, as was initially reported in Rolling Stone magazine
based on the accounts of several reporters on the scene and a review of
the unedited film stock.



Most accounts claim that
Hunter was killed while the band performed Under My Thumb. All such
claims are based on the mainstream snuff film Gimme Shelter, in which
the killing was deliberately presented out of sequence. In the absence
of any alternative filmic versions of Hunter’s death, the Maysles
brothers’ film became the default official orthodoxy. Of course,
someone went to great lengths to insure that there would be only one
available version of events; as Rolling Stone also reported, shortly
after the concert, “One weird Altamont story has to do with a young
Berkeley filmmaker who claims to have gotten 8MM footage of the
killing. He got home from the affair Saturday and began telling his
friends about his amazing film. His house was knocked over the next
night, completely rifled. The thief took only his film, nothing else.”



Contrary
to the impression created by Gimme Shelter, Hunter was killed not long
into the Stones’ set. But as the film’s editor, Charlotte Zwerin,
explained to Salon some thirty years later, the climax of the movie
always has to come at the end: “We’re talking about the structure of a
film. And what kind of concert film are you going to be able to have
after somebody has been murdered in front of the stage? Hanging around
for another hour would have been really wrong in terms of the film.”
What wasn’t wrong, apparently, was deliberately altering the sequence
of events in what was ostensibly a documentary film.






One
of the young cameramen working for the Maysles brothers that day,
curiously enough, was a guy by the name of George Lucas (it is unclear
whether it was Lucas who captured the conveniently unobstructed footage
of the murder.) Not long after, Lucas began a meteoric rise to the very
top of the Hollywood food chain. Also present that day, and featured in
the film gyrating atop a raised platform near the stage, was the King
of the Freaks himself, Vito Paulekas.



Many of the
accounts of the tragedy at Altamont include the demonstrably false
claim that Hunter can unmistakably be seen drawing a gun just before
being jumped and killed by the Angels (some accounts even have Hunter
firing the alleged gun). The relevant frames from the film are included
here for your review. What can certainly be fairly clearly seen is the
large knife being brought down into Hunter’s back. But a gun being
brandished by Mr. Hunter? If you can see one, then you either have far
better eyes than I, or a far more active imagination. Or both.



The
Angel who was charged with the murder and then ultimately acquitted,
Alan David Passaro, was found floating facedown in a reservoir in March
of 1985 with $10,000 in his pocket. Despite a widespread belief to the
contrary, Passaro’s acquittal was not based on the jury having been
convinced that Hunter had drawn a gun, but rather on the fact that the
knife wounds that killed Hunter were apparently upstrokes, which meant
that they were not the wounds inflicted on-camera by Passaro. He and/or
someone else continued to stab Hunter after he was down, and it was
those wounds, which the cameras didn’t clearly record, that killed him.



Passaro brings the knife down towards Hunter's back


About
one year after Altamont, otherwise obscure singer/songwriter Don McLean
penned the lyrics to what was destined to become one of the most iconic
songs in the annals of popular music: American Pie. Those lyrics are
essentially a chronological recitation of various tragedies that shaped
the world of popular music. Not long after a reference to the August
1969 Manson murders and their connection to the Laurel Canyon music
scene (Helter Skelter in a summer swelter, The birds flew off with a
fallout shelter, Eight miles high and falling fast), and just before a
reference to the October 1970 death of Janis Joplin (I met a girl who
sang the blues, And I asked her for some happy news, but she just
smiled and turned away, I went down to the sacred store, Where I’d
heard the music years before, but the man there said the music wouldn’t
play), can be found a verse, reproduced at the top of this post, in
which McLean characterizes the death of Hunter as a ritualized murder.



I, of course, would never make such a wild and reckless claim.

As was the custom with big events in the mid to late-1960s,
particularly in the northern California area, Altamont was drenched in
acid. And as was also the custom at that time, that acid was provided
free-of-charge by Mr. Augustus Owsley Stanley III, also known as The
Bear. At the so-called “Human Be-In” staged in January of 1967, for
example, Owsley had kindly distributed 10,000 tabs of potent LSD. For
the Monterey Pop Festival just five months later, he had cooked up and
distributed 14,000 tabs. For Altamont, he did likewise.



Passaro buries the knife in Hunter's back

The
1960s were, you see – and you can look this up if you don’t believe me
– the era of brotherly love. So if someone happened to have, say, a
cache of acid with a street value of $20,000-$30,000 (a considerable
amount of money in the 1960s), he was naturally expected to hand it out
for free to thousands of random strangers. Of course, probably the only
person who routinely had such vast stockpiles of LSD was the premier
acid chemist of the hippie era, Augustus Owsley Stanley.



No
one – not Ken Kesey, not Richard “Babawhateverthefuckhecalledhimself”
Alpert, not even Timothy Leary – did more to ‘turn on’ the youth of the
1960s than Owsley. Leary and his cohorts may have captured the national
media spotlight and created public awareness, but it was Owsley who
flooded the streets of San Francisco and elsewhere with consistently
high quality, inexpensive, readily available acid. By most accounts, he
was never in it for the money and he routinely gave away more of his
product than he sold. What then was his motive? According to Martin Lee
and Bruce Shlain, writing in Acid Dreams, “Owsley cultivated an image
as a wizard-alchemist whose intentions with LSD were priestly and
magical.”



To be sure, Owsley is revered by many as
something of an icon of the 1960s counterculture – a man motivated by
nothing more than an altruistic desire to ‘turn on’ the world. But then
again, the trio listed in the preceding paragraph are revered by many
as well, so you’ll excuse me if I’m a bit hesitant to embrace Owsley as
some sort of anti-hero – especially given his rather provocative
background and family history.



the Angels appear to be quite pleased with the murder of Hunter


Augustus
Owsley Stanley III is the son, naturally enough, of Augustus Owsley
Stanley II, who served as a military officer during World War II aboard
the USS Lexington and thereafter found work in Washington, D.C. as a
government attorney. He raised his son primarily in – where else? –
Arlington, Virginia. Young Owsley’s grandfather was Augustus Owsley
Stanley, who served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from 1903 through 1915, as the Governor of Kentucky from 1915 through
1919, and as a U.S. Senator from 1919 through 1925. Senator Stanley’s
father, a minister with the Disciples of Christ, served as a judge
advocate with the Confederate Army. His mother was a niece of William
Owsley, who also served as a Governor of Kentucky, from 1844 through
1848, and who lent his name to Owsley County, Kentucky.



During
Owsley III’s formative years, he attended the prestigious Charlotte
Hall Military Academy in Maryland, but was reportedly tossed out in the
ninth grade for being intoxicated. Not long after that, at the tender
age of fifteen, Owsley voluntarily committed himself to St. Elizabeth’s
Hospital in Washington, D.C.. St. Elizabeth’s, it should be noted, had
a far more sinister name upon its founding in 1855: the Government
Hospital for the Insane. He remained confined there for, uhmm,
‘treatment’ for the next fifteen months. During that time, his mother,
in keeping with one of the recurrent themes of this saga, passed away.



Owsley
apparently resumed his education following his curious confinement, but
he had reportedly dropped out of school by the age of eighteen.
Nevertheless, he apparently had no trouble at all gaining acceptance to
the University of Virginia, which he attended for a time before
enlisting in the U.S. Air Force in 1956, at the age of twenty-one.
During his military service, Owsley was an electronics specialist,
working in radio intelligence and radar.



Jagger at Altamont

After
his stint in the Air Force, Owsley set up camp in the Los Angeles area,
ostensibly to study ballet. During that same time, he also worked at
Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which was undoubtedly the primary
reason for his move to LA. In 1963, Owsley moved once again, this time
to Berkeley, California, which just happened to be ground-zero of the
budding anti-war movement. He may or may not have briefly attended UC
Berkeley, which is where he allegedly cribbed the recipe for LSD from
the university library.



Owsley soon began cooking up
both Methedrine and LSD in a makeshift bathroom lab near the campus of
the university. On February 21, 1965, that lab was raided by state
narcotics agents who seized all his lab equipment and charged Stanley
with operating a meth lab. As Barry Miles recounted in Hippie,
“Berkeley was awash with speed and Owsley was responsible for much of
it.” Nevertheless, Owsley walked away from the raid unscathed, and,
with the help of his attorney, who happened to be the vice-mayor of
Berkeley, he even successfully sued to have all his lab equipment
returned. He quickly put that equipment to work producing some
4,000,000 tabs of nearly pure LSD in the mid-1960s.



Also
in February of 1965, Owsley and his frequent sidekicks, the Grateful
Dead, moved down to the Watts area of Los Angeles, of all places, to
ostensibly conduct ‘acid tests.’ The group rented a house that was
conveniently located right next door to a brothel, curiously
paralleling the modus operandi of various intelligence operatives who
were (or had been) involved in conducting their own ‘acid tests.’ The
band departed the communal dwelling in April 1965, just a few months
before Watts exploded in violence that left thirty-four corpses
littering the streets.



Owsley had been with the Dead
from the band’s earliest days, as both a financial backer and as their
sound engineer. He is credited with numerous electronic innovations
that changed the way that live rock music was presented to the masses –
and likely not in a good way, given that his work as a sound technician
undoubtedly drew heavily upon his military training.



In
1967, Owsley unleashed on the Haight a particularly nasty hallucinogen
known as STP. Developed by the friendly folks at Dow Chemical, STP had
been tested extensively at the Edgewood Arsenal as a possible
biowarfare agent before being distributed to hippies as a recreational
drug. Owsley reportedly obtained the recipe from Alexander Shulgin, a
former Harvard man who developed a keen interest in psychopharmacology
while serving in the U.S. Navy. Shulgin worked for many years as a
senior research chemist at Dow, and later worked very closely with the
DEA.



In 1970, Owsley began serving time after a
conviction on drug charges. That time was served, appropriately enough,
at Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution, the very same
prison that had, just a few years earlier, housed both Charlie Manson
and Phil Kaufman. A few years later, it would also be home to both
Timothy Leary and his alleged (but not actual) nemesis, G. Gordon
Liddy. After his release, Owsley continued to work as a sound
technician, eventually graduating to a new medium: television.



After
that rather lengthy digression, we return now to our regularly
scheduled program: the Gram Parsons saga. Along with Mick and the boys,
Gram made a hasty exit from the chaos at Altamont via the Stones’
private helicopter. The next year, his Flying Burrito Brothers released
their second album, Burrito Deluxe, which was produced by Jim Dickson,
the man who played such a pivotal role in shaping Laurel Canyon’s first
band, the Byrds. By June, Parsons had been booted out of the band,
reportedly due to chronic alcohol and drug abuse. He quickly signed
with A&M Records and was partnered with our old friend Terry
Melcher.



Gram became a regular visitor to Melcher’s
Benedict Canyon home, where the self-destructive pair worked on songs
together, with Gram on guitar and Melcher on piano. John Phillips
became a close associate of Parsons at this time as well. Meanwhile,
sister Avis had been institutionalized back in New Orleans. She had
gotten pregnant, after which Bob Parsons had moved quickly to have her
committed and to have her marriage annulled. Little Avis reached out
repeatedly to big brother Gram for help, but got none.



In
late October of 1970, Gram went to A&M and signed out the master
tapes of ten songs that he had recorded with Melcher; those tapes were
never seen or heard again, as seems to happen from time-to-time with
recordings made with Melcher. During roughly that same period of time,
Parsons was busted with a briefcase full of prescription drugs. As
would be expected, however, the charges were quietly dropped and Gram
walked away unscathed.



There are many who claim, by the
way, that the musicians under examination in this series were
relentlessly persecuted by agents of the state, ostensibly to silence
their voices of protest. But if that is true, then why is it that on
more than one occasion when the state seems to have had solid evidence
of crimes that could bring prison time, no action was taken? Our old
friend David Crosby, for example, has candidly acknowledged that “the
DEA could have popped me for interstate transport of dope or dealing
lots of times and never did …” And John Phillips, busted for wholesale
trafficking of pharmaceuticals, was, by his own account, “looking at
forty-five years and got thirty days.” He began serving his sentence on
April 20, appropriately enough, and served just twenty-four days – in a
minimum security prison that offered “residents” such activities as
“basketball, aerobics, softball, tennis, archery, and golf,” and that
featured a “delicious kosher kitchen, an elaborate salad bar, and a
tasty brunch on Sundays.”



Sorry, but we seem to have
drifted off course once again. I’ll try to stay focused on the Gram
Parsons story for the rest of this post.



In 1971, Gram
married Gretchen Burrell. The lavish affair was held, curiously enough,
at the New Orleans home of step-dad Bob Parsons, a fact that has left
Gram’s chroniclers somewhat puzzled. Bob Parsons was, after all, the
man who had – at least in the eyes of many family members – terrorized
and institutionalized Gram’s younger sister, carried on a scandalous
affair with the family’s babysitter, murdered Gram’s mother and
subsequently married that babysitter, and repeatedly looted the family
coffers. And yet it was Bob Parsons, of all people, whom Gram trusted
to host his wedding, suggesting a bond between the two that would seem
to defy conventional explanations.



That same year, Gram
spent some time in France, hanging out once again with the Rolling
Stones. The following year, he was signed to Reprise Records by Mo
Ostin and he and Gretchen moved back into the Chateau Marmont, where
Gram and Emmylou Harris began working on the songs that would make up
his first solo album. Emmylou, as Fong-Torres notes, had been raised on
“various military bases around Virginia,” so she quickly fit right in
with the Laurel Canyon crowd.



In 1973, with his first
solo album, entitled simply GP, due for release, “Gram and Gretchen
finally moved out of the Chateau Marmont and found a cozy brown
wood-shingled house on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, which wound its way
north from Hollywood through the stars’ favorite canyon.” Working once
again with Emmylou, Gram began working on tracks for what would be his
posthumously-released second solo album, Grievous Angel.



As
July of 1973 rolled around, a series of tragedies befell Parsons and
the people around him. In July of the previous year, Gram’s friend
Brandon DeWilde – who had introduced Gram to Peter Fonda, Dennis
Hopper, Bruce Dern and Jack Nicholson, resulting in Gram’s involvement
in The Trip – had been killed in a traffic accident. A year later, on
July 15, 1973, Gram’s friend and fellow musician, Clarence White, was
hit by a car and killed. According to Fong-Torres, “Around the same
time that Clarence White was killed, Sid Kaiser, a familiar face in the
Los Angeles rock scene, a close friend of Gram’s and, not so
incidentally, a source of high-quality drugs, died of a heart attack.”
Just after those two deaths, “In late July 1973 … [Gram’s] house in
Laurel Canyon burned down.”



Other sources, for the
record, have placed that house in Topanga Canyon rather than Laurel
Canyon. Whatever the case, Gram was home when the house caught fire and
was briefly hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Having lost their home
and all their possessions, Gram and Gretchen “moved into Gretchen’s
father’s spacious home on Mulholland Drive in Laurel Canyon.” Because
the Burrells, naturally enough, also lived in everyone’s favorite
canyon.



Gram wouldn’t live in the Burrell estate long
though; on September 19, 1973, Ingram Cecil Connor III died in a
nondescript room at the Joshua Tree Inn. His death is usually
attributed to a drug overdose, but toxicology reports suggest
otherwise. Parsons’ death received minimal press coverage, partly
because, as fate would have it, singer/songwriter Jim Croce went down
in a blaze of glory the very next day, on September 20, 1973. But
though the media had moved on, the Gram Parsons story wasn’t quite over
yet.



Parsons had been a regular visitor to Joshua Tree
National Park, where one of his favorite pastimes was said to be
ingesting hallucinogenic drugs and then searching for UFOs. Sometimes
he would take friends, such as Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones,
along with him to help with the search. I’m no expert, to be sure, but
it seems to me that if your goal is to succeed in spotting UFOs, then
the dropping-acid strategy is probably a pretty good approach. But
again, that’s not really my area of expertise.



In
September of 1973, Gram was accompanied to Joshua Tree by his personal
assistant, Michael Martin, Martin’s girlfriend, Dale McElroy, and
Parson’s former high school sweetheart, Margaret Fisher. As the story
goes, the group soon ran out of pot and quickly dispatched Martin back
to LA to pick up a fresh supply. He was, therefore, officially not
there at the time of Gram’s death, though why he hadn’t returned has
never been explained, especially given that his job was, specifically,
to keep an eye on Gram and monitor his drug intake.



How
Gram Parsons died is anyone’s guess. There are as many versions of the
event as there were witnesses to it. Actually, that’s not quite true –
there are more versions than there were witnesses, because some of
those witnesses have told more than one story. Officially, Parsons died
of an overdose, but forensic testing revealed no morphine or
barbiturates in his blood. Morphine showed up in his liver and urine,
but as experts have noted, those toxicology results indicate chronic,
but not recent, use.



Police seem to have had little
interest in getting at the truth and made no apparent effort to
reconcile the various conflicting accounts. Details of the incident –
such as how long Gram had been left alone, whether he was still alive
when discovered, who made that discovery, etc. – were wildly
inconsistent in the accounts of Fisher, McElroy, and Frank and Alan
Barbary (the Inn’s owner and his son, who were also witnesses, and
whose accounts conflicted both with each other and with the girls’
accounts).



At the hospital, police spoke briefly with
the two girls and then released them. Within two hours, Phil Kaufman
was on the scene to pick up Fisher and McElroy. Bypassing the police
and the hospital, Kaufman went directly to the Inn, which the girls had
returned to, and quickly hustled them straight back to LA. Police never
spoke to either of the women again, despite the conflicting accounts
and the open question of what exactly it was that killed Gram.



On
the autumnal equinox of 1973, Kaufman and Martin, driving a dilapidated
hearse provided by McElroy, arrived at LAX to claim the body of Gram
Parsons. Apparently no one, including the police officer who was
nearby, found it at all unusual that two drunken, disheveled men in an
obviously out-of-service hearse (it had no license plates and several
broken windows) had arrived without any paperwork to claim the body of
a deceased celebrity. In fact, according to Kaufman’s dubious account,
the cop even helped the pair load the casket into the hearse – and then
looked the other way when Martin slammed the hearse into a wall on the
way out of the hangar.



Kaufman and Martin then drove
the body back out to Joshua Tree, doused it with gasoline and set it
ablaze. Local police initially speculated that the cremation was
“ritualistic,” which indeed it was, but such reports were, and continue
to be, scoffed at.



On September 26, LAPD detectives,
led by anchorman Larry Burrell, came knocking on Kaufman’s door with
warrants to serve. Bizarrely enough, director Arthur Penn was there
with a full crew shooting scenes for the film Night Moves with star
Gene Hackman (because when you’re a friend of Charlie Manson’s, it
would appear, everyone in Hollywood wants to hang out with you). While
the crew continued working, Kaufman was taken in, but he was back just
a few hours later. In the end, he and Martin were fined $300 each plus
reimbursement for the cost of the coffin.



In January
1974, four months after his death, Grievous Angel was released to
critical acclaim and public indifference. Later that year, Gram’s
adoptive father, Bob Parsons, died as well, reportedly of
alcohol-related illness. He had apparently been making moves aimed at
gaining control of the deceased musician’s estate. In keeping with
family tradition, Bob failed to make it to the age of fifty (Gram’s
real dad, Coon Dog, had died at forty-one, his mother at forty-two, and
Gram at just twenty-six).



By sheer coincidence, no
doubt, the deaths of Gram and Bob Parsons were followed by the
bankruptcy of much of the Snively family business, which also occurred
in 1974. Around that same time, Little Avis gave birth to daughter
Flora. Sixteen years later, both were killed in a boating accident in
Virginia. Avis had made it all the way to age forty.
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Thu 29 Oct 2009, 4:44 am

Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part XV
June 6, 2009

original article

The
Byrds were the very first folk-rock band to take flight, and the one
that achieved the greatest fame, but to many discerning ears, Laurel
Canyon’s other folk-rock powerhouse, the Buffalo Springfield, was the
more talented band.



In the literature chronicling the
1960s music scene, few stories are repeated more frequently than the
legend surrounding the formation of what would later be regarded as
perhaps the first ‘supergroup.’ All such accounts unquestioningly
retell the story as though it were the gospel truth, seemingly
oblivious to the improbability of virtually every aspect of the legend.
And curiously, virtually every version of the story contains some form
of the word “serendipity,” as though everyone has been copying off the
same kid’s homework.



As the story goes, Stephen Stills
and Richie Furay, formerly of the Au Go-Go Singers, had recently
transplanted themselves to Los Angeles after the breakup of the
manufactured folkie group. Stills had been the first to relocate, in
August of 1965. Furay flew out to join him in February 1966, after
spending a little time working at defense giant Pratt & Whitney,
and the two set their sights on putting together a folk-rock band.



Meanwhile,
up in Toronto, Neil Young and Bruce Palmer were playing in a band known
as the Mynah Birds – a band fronted by an AWOL Navy man known as Ricky
James Matthews, who would later morph into funkmeister/torturer/rapist
Rick James, but whose real name was James Ambrose Johnson, Jr.. The
Mynah Birds broke up in March of 1965, just after authorities came
calling on Matthews and tossed him in the Brooklyn Brig. Now in search
of a new band, Young made the curious decision to head out to LA, for
no better reason than that he had what Palmer described as “a hunch, a
feeling that … Stephen Stills was in LA.”



Of course,
Young had no clue if Stills was in fact there, nor did he know anyone
else in LA. And you would think that he would have realized that, even
if Stills was there, there was virtually no chance of finding some
random person in a city of millions, especially when the person doing
the searching had no idea how to get around the city. But no matter.
Neil had a calling, so he jumped into an old hearse, of all things,
recruited Palmer to ride shotgun, and the two set off on the lengthy
trek to Los Angeles.



They arrived, the legend tells us,
on April 1, 1966 – April Fool’s Day, appropriately enough – and began
the search for Stills. Several days of searching yielded no results,
however, and on the afternoon of April 6, the frustrated pair decided
to head off to San Francisco in the hopes that maybe they would have
better luck finding Stephen there. Perhaps they were going to go on a
tour of all the big cities in America, in the hopes that somewhere
along the way they might find Stephen Stills.



But as
fate would have it, just as they were about to head out of town,
Stephen Stills found them. As Barney Hoskyns tells the story in his
Hotel California, “Early in April 1966, Stills and Richie Furay were
stuck in a Sunset Strip traffic jam in Barry Friedman’s Bentley. As
they sat in the car, Stephen spotted a 1953 Pontiac hearse with Ontario
plates on the other side of the street. ‘I’ll be damned if that ain’t
Neil Young,’ Stills said. Friedman executed an illegal U-turn and
pulled up behind the hearse. One of rock’s great serendipities had just
occurred. Young, a lanky Canadian, had just driven all the way from
Detroit in the company of bassist Bruce Palmer. They’d caught the bug
that was drawing hundreds of other pop wannabes to the West Coast.”



The
pair had actually driven out from Toronto, not Detroit, and the hearse
was a 1959 model by most accounts, and Stills and Furay were in a van
rather than a Bentley, but such inconsistencies are typical of all
Hollywood legends. In any event, John Einarson, in For What It’s Worth,
supplies a somewhat longer, and more hyperbole-filled, version of the
legend: “What transpired next is no longer considered simply a chance
encounter. Transcending mere fact, the events of the next few minutes
have taken on mythic proportions to become, in the annals of popular
culture, legendary. More than pure luck, coincidence or serendipity, at
that very moment the planets aligned, stars crossed, everyone’s karma
turned positive, divine intervention interceded, the hand of fate
revealed itself – whatever you subscribe to in order to explain the
unexplained. Though each of the five participants in that moment in
time tell it slightly differently, the fact remains that the occupants
of the white van, individually or collectively, depending on who’s
retelling it, noticed the black hearse with the foreign plate heading
the other direction. Once the light of recognition came on, the van
hastily pulled an illegal, and likely difficult in rush hour, U-turn,
maneuvering its way through the line of northbound cars, horn honking
frantically all the while, to pull up behind the hearse. One of the
passengers leapt out, ran up and pounded on the driver’s side window of
the strange vehicle, yelling to the startled travelers inside who had
taken no notice of the blaring car horn directly behind them. ‘Hey
Neil, it’s me, Steve Stills! Pull over, man!’ The drivers of the two
vehicles managed to find curb space or a vacant store parking lot,
again depending on whose version is being related, and the five piled
out to embrace and introduce one another … On April 6, 1966, in that
late afternoon line of traffic, the course of popular music was altered
forever.”



Anyone who actually lives and drives in LA
likely knows that “difficult” is not really the word to describe the
feasibility of making an impromptu U-turn in rush hour traffic on the
Sunset Strip; the correct word would be “impossible,” which is the same
word that accurately describes the likelihood of that van “maneuvering
its way through the line of northbound cars,” or of it finding “curb
space” on Sunset Boulevard. But let’s just play along and assume that
Neil Young and Stephen Stills, each of whom, for some reason, had been
dreaming about forming a band with the other, had a random, chance
encounter on Sunset Boulevard. In that brief moment in time, a band was
formed – or at least 4/5 of a band.



Retiring to the
home of Barry Friedman, who would later legally change his name to
Frazier Mohawk, the quartet of musicians quickly decided that their
newly-formed band would only perform original material. With no less
than three singer/songwriter/guitarists on board (Furay, Young and
Stills), along with a bass player (Bruce Palmer), all that was needed
was a drummer. Three days later, on April 9, 1966, they acquired one,
in the form of Dewey Martin, formerly with the Dillards.



The
Dillards, as it turns out, had just decided to go back to their
acoustic bluegrass roots, so they no longer needed a drummer. They also
apparently had no further need for a whole bunch of new electric
instruments and stacks of amplifiers, so Dewey, according to legend,
brought all of that with him. Because the Dillards, you know, were just
going to throw it all away anyway. So now, with the stars all properly
aligned, the band was not only complete but they each had shiny new
electric instruments to play – and it all had magically come together
in just 72 hours.



There was still much work to be done,
of course. For one thing, they all had to learn to play those shiny new
electric instruments. And they all had to learn to play together as a
band. And they had to build up a repertoire of original songs. And they
had to rehearse and polish those songs. But not to worry; they had, as
we’ll see, at least a couple of hours to work on each of those things.



Unlike,
say, the Byrds, the members of the Buffalo Springfield were, by all
accounts, talented musicians from the outset. Stills and Young were
both skilled lead guitarists and songwriters, though Young’s vocals
were, to be sure, an acquired taste. Furay was an accomplished rhythm
guitarist and songwriter, as well as being the group’s best lead
vocalist. Bruce Palmer was a respected bass player who, shockingly,
actually had experience playing the instrument. And Dewey Martin,
several years older than the rest of the crew, had drummed for such
rock and country legends as the Everly Brothers, Charlie Rich, Roy
Orbison, Patsy Cline, and Carl Perkins.



None of that,
however, explains the absurdly meteoric rise of the Buffalo
Springfield. On April 11, 1966, just five days after the quartet had
purportedly first met, and just two days after they had added a drummer
and instruments, the band played its first club date at one of
Hollywood’s most prestigious venues: the Troubadour. Four days later,
on April 15, they played the first of six dates around the southland
opening for the hottest band on the Strip: the Byrds. That mini-tour
was followed almost immediately by a six-week stand at the hottest club
on the Strip, the Whisky. That gig wrapped up on June 20, 1966.



A
month later, on July 25, the band landed the opening slot on the most
anticipated concert of the year – the Rolling Stones show at the
Hollywood Bowl, sponsored by local radio station KHJ. The station, by
the way, had just been launched the previous year, in May of 1965, just
a few weeks after the Byrds had taken the world by storm with the
release of Mr. Tambourine Man and sparked a folk-rock revolution. Just
as new clubs had magically appeared along the Sunset Strip in
anticipation of the about-to-explode music scene, so too did a radio
station magically appear to promote those new clubs and the artists
filling them. Such things tend to happen, as we know, rather, uhmm,
serendipitously.



Three days after the Stones concert at
the Bowl, Buffalo Springfield released its first single, the Neil
Young-penned Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing, which failed to connect
with the record-buying public. Several months later, the band would
release what was to be its only hit single, and what would become the
most recognizable ‘protest’ song of the 1960s. But before we get to
that, let’s start back at the beginning … actually, let’s veer off on a
tangent first, and then start back at the beginning.



As
was duly noted in the last installment of this series, the law
enforcement community had ample opportunity to silence the muses of the
1960s counterculture. That the state consistently chose not to utilize
that power says much about the legitimacy of that counterculture. For
if these iconic figures posed a demonstrable threat to the status quo,
then why would they not have been silenced? Why, for example, were
three members of the Buffalo Springfield – Neil Young, Richie Furay and
Jim Messina, along with Eric Clapton, Furay’s wife, the band’s road
manager, and nine others – arrested in a drug bust at a Topanga Canyon
home, only to then walk away as if nothing had happened? Why was this
case, and so many others like it, not aggressively prosecuted?



The
state had other means to silence young critics, of course, one of the
best being the military draft. As Richie Unterberger noted in Turn!
Turn! Turn!, “Most folk rockers (if they were male), like their
audience, were of draft age.” But curiously enough, “Very, very few had
their careers interrupted by the draft.” Actually, Unterberger appears
to just be playing it safe with the “very, very few” wording; after
reading through both of Unterberger’s books and numerous other tomes
covering similar ground, I have yet to read about any folk rocker whose
career was affected by the draft in the 1960s.



What you
will find in the literature are numerous mentions of various people
receiving their draft notices, but those are invariably followed by
amusing anecdotes about how said people beat the draft board by
pretending to be gay or crazy. Of course, if it were really that easy
to fool the draft board, then Uncle Sam probably wouldn’t have been
able to come up with all those bodies to send over to Vietnam.



Hundreds
of thousands of young men from all across the country were swept up and
fed into the war machine, but not one of the musical icons of the
Woodstock generation was among them. How could that be? Should we just
consider that to be another one of those great serendipities? Was it
mere luck that kept all the Laurel Canyon stars out of jail and out of
the military during the turbulent decade that was the 1960s?



Not
likely. The reality is that ‘The Establishment,’ as it was known in
those days, had the power to prevent the musical icons of the 1960s
from ever becoming the megastars that they became. The state, aka
corporate America, could quite easily have prevented the entire
countercultural movement from ever really getting off the ground –
because then, as now, the state controlled the channels of
communication.



A real grass-roots cultural revolution
would probably have involved a bunch of starving musicians barely
scratching out a living playing tiny coffee shops in the hopes of maybe
someday landing a record deal with some tiny, local independent label
and then, just maybe, if they got really lucky, getting a little
airplay on some obscure college radio stations. But that’s not how the
‘60s folk-rock ‘revolution’ played out. Not by any stretch of the
imagination.



As Unterberger duly notes in his
expansive, two-volume review of the folk-rock movement, “much folk-rock
was recorded and issued by huge corporations, and broadcast over radio
and television stations owned for the most part by the same or similar
pillars of the establishment.” Right from the start, in fact, it was
the largest record labels leading the folk-rock charge. The very first
of the folk-rock bands, the Byrds, signed with Columbia Records – whose
name, in case you were wondering, is derived from a little place known
as the District of Columbia, where the label was founded and
headquartered some 120 years ago.



Laurel Canyon’s other
folk-rock powerhouse, the Buffalo Springfield – the band that was
supposed to be as big as the Byrds and the Beatles and the Beach Boys –
signed with Atlantic Records. Atlantic had been founded in 1947 by
Ahmet Ertegun and dentist/investor Herb Abramson. Born in Istanbul,
Turkey in 1923, the year the Turk Republic was established, Ahmet was
the son, and the grandson, of career diplomats/civil servants. His
father was named the first Turkish representative to the League of
Nations in 1925 and thereafter served as the Turk Republic’s ambassador
to Switzerland, France, and England. In 1935, he was named the first
Turkish ambassador to the United States and he promptly relocated the
family to – where else? – Washington, DC.



From about
the age of twelve, Ahmet grew up along DC’s Embassy Row, attending
elite private schools with the sons and daughters of senators,
congressmen, and spooks. In 1947, three years after his father died,
Ertegun founded Atlantic Records. At first, the label was home to jazz
and R&B artists, including Ray Charles, the company’s first big
star. In the late 1950s, Ertegun took on his first assistant: a guy by
the name of Phil Spector, who, rumor has it, was recently convicted of
blowing a hole in Lana Clarkson’s head. Atlantic soon shifted focus and
rock luminaries like Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones
would later join the label’s stable of talent.



It would
appear then that the two record labels that signed and launched Laurel
Canyon’s first two folk-rock bands were not only major record labels,
they also just happened to be corporate entities that had deep ties to
the nation’s capitol and power center.



It was the major
record labels, not upstart independents, that signed Laurel Canyon’s
newly-formed bands. It was the major labels that provided them with
instruments and amplifiers. It was the major labels that provided them
with studio time and session musicians. It was the major labels that
recorded, mixed and arranged their albums. It was the major labels that
released and then heavily promoted those albums. And so as not to be
left out, the corporate titans of all three branches of the mainstream
media – print, radio and television – did their part to help out the
titans of the record industry.



Unterberger notes that
“AM radio (and sometimes prime-time network television) would act as a
primary conduit for this countercultural expression.” Conservative,
corporate-controlled AM stations across the country almost immediately
began giving serious airplay to the new sounds coming out of Southern
California, and network television gave the rising stars unprecedented
coverage and exposure: “prime-time variety hours were much more likely
to showcase rock acts than they would be in subsequent decades. New
releases by the Byrds were often accompanied by large ads in trade
magazines that simultaneously plugged the records and upcoming TV
appearances.”



The boys in the Buffalo Springfield, for
example, managed to find themselves appearing as guests on an
impressive array of network television shows, including American
Bandstand, The Smothers Brothers Show, Shebang, the Della Reese Show,
the Go Show, the Andy Williams Show, Hollywood Palace, Where the Action
Is, Joey Bishop’s late night show, and a local program known as Boss
City. They also made guest appearances, curiously enough, on primetime
hits like Mannix and The Girl From Uncle.



The print
media did its part as well to raise awareness of the new
music/countercultural scene. In September 1965, the nation’s premier
newsweeklies, Time and Newsweek, “ran virtually simultaneous stories on
the folk-rock craze,” just months after the first folk-rock release,
the Byrd’s Mr. Tambourine Man, had climbed to the top of the charts.
The country’s biggest daily newspapers chimed in as well, providing an
inordinate amount of coverage of the emerging scene. By the end of
1967, the movement had its very own publication, Rolling Stone
magazine. Initially designed to look as though it were a product of the
underground press, it was, without question, very much a corporate
mouthpiece.



Another avenue of the print media provided
the scene with considerable exposure as well; as Einarson notes, many
of the Laurel Canyon stars, particularly members of the Buffalo
Springfield and the Monkees, were “the darlings of the California teen
magazines,” including Teenset, Teen Screen, and Tiger Beat.



As
the story is usually told, the 1960s countercultural movement posed a
rather serious threat to the status quo. But if that were truly the
case, then why was it the “pillars of the establishment,” to use
Unterberger’s words, that launched the movement to begin with? Why was
it ‘the man’ that signed and recorded these artists? And that heavily
promoted them on the radio, on television, and in print? And that set
them up with their very own radio station and their very own
publication? And insured that new clubs sprung up like mushrooms along
Sunset Boulevard so that all the new bands would have venues to play?



There
are some readers, no doubt, who will say that this was simply a case of
corporate America doing what it does so well: making a profit, off of
anything and everything. Blinded by greed, the naysayers will claim,
the corporate titans inadvertently created a monster. “Move along now
folks, there’s nothing more to see here …”



The question
that is begged by that explanation, however, is why, after it had
become abundantly clear that a monster had allegedly been created, was
nothing done to stop the growth of that monster? Why did the state not
utilize its law enforcement and criminal justice powers to silence some
of the most prominent countercultural voices? And why did the draft
board – in every known case, without exception – allow those same
voices to skip out on their military service?



It’s not
as if the state would have had to resort to heavy-handed measures to
silence these allegedly troublesome voices. Being that the vast
majority of them were draft-age males who were openly using and/or
advocating the use of illegal substances, they were practically begging
for the powers-that-be to take action. And yet that never happened.



And
now, while you ponder all of that, I’ll circle back around and tell the
Buffalo Springfield story from the beginning, starting in 1945 when
Stephen Arthur Stills was born to William and Talitha Stills. As John
Einarson recounts in For What It’s Worth, Stephen’s “roots are firmly
planted in Southern soil. His family traces its history back to the
plantations of the rural antebellum South. After the Union armies laid
waste to much of the Southern farm economy, the family relocated to
Illinois.”



Einarson describes William Stills as
“somewhat of a soldier of fortune, an engineer, builder, and dreamer
who frequently uprooted the family to follow his dreams and schemes.”
That is, I suppose, as good a definition as any for what he actually
appears to have been: a military intelligence operative who was
frequently on assignment in Central America. Stephen’s childhood was
spent in Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and various parts of
Central America, including Costa Rica, El Salvador and the Panama Canal
Zone.



At a fairly young age, he attended the Admiral
Farragut Military Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida. In later years,
his authoritarian manner and military bearing would earn him the
nickname “The Sarge.” He joined his first band, the Radars, as a
drummer. In his next band, the Continentals, he played the guitar,
alongside another young guitarist named Don Felder, who would later
turn up in Laurel Canyon as a member of the Eagles, but we’ll get to
that later.



According to Einarson, “An unfortunate
incident with the administration at his Tampa Bay high school resulted
in Stephen’s dismissal in 1961, after which he joined his wayward
family then settled in Costa Rica.” What that “unfortunate incident”
may have been has been left to the reader’s imagination. In any event,
Stephen’s next few years are rather murky. Some reports have him
graduating from a high school in the Panama Canal Zone. Others have him
shuffling back and forth between Florida and Central America. Stills
himself has at times claimed that he served a stint in Vietnam.
Whatever the case, in March of 1964 he surfaced in New Orleans with his
sights set on a career in music.



By the summer of 1964,
he had drifted to New York’s Greenwich Village, where he became fast
friends with folkie Peter Torkelson, who was, like so many others in
this story, a child of Washington, DC. The two played together briefly
as a duo before Torkelson “migrated to Connecticut then Venezuela.”
Nothing unusual about that, I suppose. Torkelson would soon show up in
Laurel Canyon, as Monkee Peter Tork. Stills would also audition for the
show, but his bad teeth and thinning hair would render him unfit for a
leading role on prime-time TV.



In July 1964, Stills
found work as one of the nine members of the Au Go-Go Singers, the
newly-formed house band for New York’s famed Café Au Go-Go. Singing
alongside of Stills was a young Richie Furay, the son of a pharmacist
who had run a family drugstore in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Furay’s father
died when Richie was just thirteen, as tends to happen from time to
time in this story.



By November 1964, the Au Go-Go
Singers already had an album out. But trouble soon arose, due primarily
to the fact that the band was under contract to Morris Levy, a known
organized-crime figure who would soon be indicted on an array of
criminal charges. The band soon broke up and Furay headed off to
Connecticut where a cousin got him a job at Pratt & Whitney. While
working there, he took a little time off to audition for a slot in the
Chad Mitchell Trio, but he was beat out by a military brat from Roswell
named John Deutschendorf, later to become John Denver.



Stephen
Stills, meanwhile, hung out in New York for a while longer before
heeding the call of the Pied Piper and heading out to LA in August of
1965. That was the summer, according to Einarson, that “the epicenter
of American rock’n’roll shifted coasts, Los Angeles replacing New York
as the power base of the music industry.”



Richie Furay
apparently soon found himself missing Stills but didn’t know how to
reach his former bandmate, so he sent a letter to Stills’ dad in El
Salvador, according to legend, and William Stills forwarded the message
to Stephen. And what exactly, you may be wondering, was the elder
Stills doing in El Salvador circa 1965/66? Details aren’t readily
available, but as William Blum has duly noted in Killing Hope,
“Throughout the 1960s, multifarious American experts occupied
themselves in El Salvador by enlarging and refining the state’s
security and counter-insurgency apparatus: the police, the National
Guard, the military, the communications and intelligence networks, the
coordination with their counterparts in other Central American
countries … as matters turned out, these were the forces and resources
which were brought into action to impose widespread repression and wage
war.”



Meanwhile, up in Canada, Neil Young and Bruce
Palmer were handling guitar and bass duties for the Mynah Birds. Neil
Percival Kenneth Ragland Young was born on November 12, 1945 in Toronto
to Scott Young, a sportswriter and novelist, and Edna “Rassy” Ragland,
a Canadian television personality. Scott Young had spent a considerable
amount of time abroad during World War II, first as a journalist and
then as a member of the Royal Canadian Navy. Scott’s father (Neil’s
grandfather), like Richie Furay’s, had been a pharmacist/drug store
owner.



As Einarson recounts, “Neil Young and Stephen
Stills had more in common than music. Both had grown up in transient
families, Neil’s journalist father Scott uprooting his mother Edna
‘Rassy,’ Neil, and older brother Bob several times during Neil’s first
15 years.” Novelists, I’m guessing, need to move around a lot.



Just
after his seventeenth birthday, Neil formed his first band, the
Squires, and began playing local gigs. It was during those early years,
according to legend, that Young and Stills first briefly crossed paths
up in Canada. That meeting would, a couple years later, allegedly send
Young and Palmer – also born in Toronto, to a violinist father and
artist mother – off on a cross-country quest to find Stephen Stills.



The
Mynah Birds, by the way, also at one time featured Nick St. Nicholas
and Goldie McJohn, both of whom defected to a rival local band known as
the Sparrows. The Sparrows, after a lead singer replacement, would
morph into Steppenwolf. And Steppenwolf, like the other band spawned by
the Mynah Birds, would migrate to – guess where? – Laurel Canyon.
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Thu 29 Oct 2009, 4:46 am

http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/nwsltr108.html


Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part XVI
June 13, 2009



(... continued from Part XV )

At
the time of the ‘serendipitous’ encounter on Sunset Boulevard, Stills
was living at the home of Barry Friedman, a former circus clown,
fire-eater, TV producer, and freelance publicist. To say that his home
was a bit odd would probably be an understatement. According to folkie
Nurit Wilde, “It had a bathtub in the middle of the living room and a
secret room behind the bathroom where people carried on liaisons.” The
massive bathtub sat right in front of the equally massive fireplace. As
Friedman himself would later acknowledge, “This was a very strange
house.”





Not
strange by canyon standards, perhaps, but strange nonetheless. Stranger
homes can certainly be found, such as in the Holly Mont neighborhood
near the base of nearby Beachwood Canyon. One such home, pictured
above, is described in the book Haunted Hollywood. The house isn’t
actually haunted, of course, but it does contain some rather unusual
features, as a past owner discovered: “the house’s most startling
feature – a secret passageway behind a built-in bookshelf he’d
discovered during remodeling. It connected to a series of subterranean
tunnels linking several houses on the hillside … While exploring the
tunnel beneath his house, Grey found a makeshift grave. The headstone
read ‘Regina 1922.’”



Nothing weird about that, I
suppose. Nor about the fact that the house pictured below, which sits
right next-door, is also linked through the underground tunnel complex.




Anyway
… as I was saying, Friedman had taken both Stills and Furay under his
wing, providing them with a place to live and rehearse, doling out
spending money, and introducing them to music industry contacts.
Friedman was there when the fabled meeting took place, and it was to
his home that the group adjourned after stopping on the Strip. It was
also Friedman who found them their drummer, Walter Milton Dwayne
Midkiff, otherwise known as Dewey Martin.



Friedman, as
it turns out, was working for Byrds’ manager Jim Dickson, who also
managed the Dillards. Dickson hooked Friedman up with Martin, and with
a full slate of electric instruments, just as he had set the Byrds up
with instruments and a bass player. Dickson and Friedman would soon
become neighbors when Friedman moved from his odd house on Fountain
Avenue to a home on Ridpath in – all together now! – Laurel Canyon.





That
home, on 8524 Ridpath, would become a rather notorious party house. As
Jackson Browne, who Friedman later took under his wing, recalled, “It
was always open house at Paul Rothchild’s and Barry Friedman’s” (Paul
Rothchild, for those who have forgotten, was the producer of the Doors,
and in case I hadn’t mentioned it before, an ex-convict). Barney
Hoskyns writes in Hotel California that “Friedman … orchestrated scenes
of sexual and narcotic depravity that soon spun out of control.” Among
the regular visitors was “a gaggle of girls who mainly lived at Monkee
Peter Tork’s house” – which was also, as we all know, in Laurel Canyon.



Just
a few doors down from Friedman, at 8504 Ridpath, lived Barry James, who
also played a behind-the-scenes role in the success of the Byrds.
Michael Ochs, brother of folk legend/self-professed CIA operative Phil
Ochs, worked as James’ assistant. A very young Jackson Browne, fresh
from the “imposing Browne family home in the tony, old-money
neighborhood of Highland Park,” lived with James for a year, during
which time Friedman worked to build a band around Browne. Toward that
end, he recruited someone else who came from “old-money,” a kid by the
name of Ned Doheny.




Most
members of the Springfield also took up residence in our favorite
secluded canyon. Richie Furay initially moved in with Mark Volman of
the Turtles, who already had a place on Lookout Mountain Avenue. After
marrying in March of 1967, Furay got his own place right on Laurel
Canyon Boulevard. Neil Young, ever the recluse, found himself what has
been described as a “shack” at 8451 Utica Drive. And Stills eventually
moved into Peter Tork’s home, also on Laurel Canyon Boulevard. It is
unclear whether Palmer and Martin took up residence in the canyon.





Martin
was older than the rest of the band, having been born on September 30,
1940 in Ontario. In the very early 1960s, he served a brief stint in
the U.S. Army, though he appears to have been, like Young and Palmer, a
Canadian citizen. Go figure. Following that, as previously noted, he
played with many country and rock legends before briefly joining up
with the Dillards. With him added to the Springfield, the band was
complete.



It wouldn’t stay that way for any length of
time, however. Bruce Palmer had a habit of getting himself arrested on
a regular basis, usually on drug charges. Some of those arrests led to
deportations, since both he and Young were in the country illegally. He
never seems to have had much trouble getting back into the country,
however, and needless to say, none of his crimes seem to have actually
been prosecuted in any meaningful way. But he did go missing on a
fairly regular basis. During the band’s two-year run, Ken Koblun, Jim
Fielder (formerly of Zappa’s Mothers of Invention), and Jim Messina all
filled in on bass for varying lengths of time. And Doug Hastings filled
in for a sometimes absent Neil Young, who had a habit of occasionally
quitting the band, primarily due to ego clashes with The Sarge.



The
band’s second single, recorded and mixed on December 5, 1966, and
written just a couple weeks before, was released locally in December
1966 and nationally in early January 1967. It would be the group’s only
hit single and it is remembered today as the quintessential protest
song of the 1960s. That song, of course, is For What It’s Worth, the
opening lines of which kicked off this series.



As a
protest song, it must be said, it doesn’t quite measure up. First of
all, despite what is commonly believed nowadays, the song is not a
commentary on Vietnam War protests. Far from it. The event under
consideration was the so-called Riot on the Sunset Strip, which
involved about 1,000 kids who were demonstrating against the imposition
of a curfew and the announcement that a popular club – Pandora’s Box,
at 8118 Sunset Boulevard – was slated to be closed.





Pandora’s
was a small coffee shop that featured poetry readings, folk music … and
Laurel Canyon bands like Love and Buffalo Springfield. This caused a
bit of a problem though, as the club sat on a traffic island at the
intersection of Sunset and Crescent Heights (the gateway to Laurel
Canyon), and overflow crowds would spill out onto the boulevard,
blocking traffic. Even before the problems began, the building was
scheduled to be demolished as part of a planned road-widening project.





Nevertheless,
the announcement of its closing sparked a demonstration, and on the
night of November 12, 1966, 200 cops squared off against perhaps 1,000
kids. The LAPD, being the LAPD, began cracking heads and arresting
everyone in sight. Protestors responded by throwing rocks, setting a
car ablaze, and attempting to ignite a bus. One month later, a song
commemorating the event would be blaring from car radios across the
city. Eight months after that, Pandora’s would be bulldozed.





Even
if the song had been about anti-war protests, it still would be an odd
choice for a protest song. Lyrics such as “Singing songs and carrying
signs, mostly say hooray for our side,” seem to largely dismiss the
concerns of protestors. And the line “nobody’s right if everybody’s
wrong” seems to suggest that protestors are no better than that which
they are protesting against.



Another curious irony
about the song is that it was authored by Stephen Stills, aka The
Sarge, an authoritarian, law-and-order kind of guy if ever there was
one. Stills himself later heaped derision on the very notion of a
protest song: “We didn’t want to do another song like For What It’s
Worth. We didn’t want to be a protest group. That’s really a cop-out
and I hate that. To sit there and say, ‘I don’t like this and I don’t
like that’ is just stupid.”



Writing insipid pop ditties about Judi Collins, I suppose, was a much smarter course of action.



While
For What It’s Worth is now the best-remembered ‘protest’ song of the
1960s, the most successful one at the time was Barry McGuire’s
recording of P.F. Sloan’s The Eve of Destruction, which was also a
curious choice for a ‘protest’ song, for reasons best explained by Paul
Jones of the band Manfred Mann: “I think that Barry McGuire must have
been paid by the State Department. The Eve of Destruction protests
about nothing. It is simply a ‘Thy Doom at Hand’ song with no point.”



Yet
another curious ‘protest’ song of the 1960s was Glen Campbell’s
rendering of Buffy St. Marie’s anti-war standard, Universal Soldier.
The very same Glen Campbell told Variety magazine that draft card
burners “should be hung … If you don’t have enough guts to fight for
your country, you’re not a man.” A young Bob Seger, meanwhile, penned
and recorded Ballad of the Yellow Beret, a vicious put-down of draft
dodgers, but that might be a bit off-topic.



Returning
then to the Buffalo Springfield, I think it is safe to say that, to
most music fans, there is a world of difference between a band like the
Springfield and a band like the Monkees. That perception, however, is
not necessarily accurate. As Unterberger has written, “there was not
nearly as much gauche commercialism separating the Monkees and the bold
Sunset Strip vanguard as is commonly believed. The Byrds, Buffalo
Springfield, and Barry McGuire might have been landing hit records with
social protest both gentle and incendiary, but they were tethered to a
corporate media establishment in order to deliver those messages. On
television’s Where the Action Is you could see the Byrds lip-synching
The Bells of Rhymney in front of vacuous, grinning beach bunnies and
muscle men cavorting on diving boards and plastic inner tubes. When
Buffalo Springfield mimed to For What It’s Worth on The Smothers
Brothers Show, they suffered the insertion of a shot of Tom Smothers
pointing a gun at the camera during the line ‘there’s a man with a gun
over there,’ to a burst of uproarious canned laughter.”



The
ties between the bands actually ran far deeper than their mutual
fondness for cheesy television appearances. Stephen Stills, it will be
recalled, auditioned to be a Monkee, as did singer/songwriters Harry
Nilsson and Paul Williams, and Danny Hutton of Three Dog Night. Stills
and Tork remained close friends and frequently jammed together. Indeed,
both Tork and fellow Monkee Mickey Dolenz joined the Springfield on
stage at various local events. And Stills, Young and Dewey Martin all
sat in on Monkees recording sessions.



On July 2, 1967,
guitarist extraordinaire Jimi Hendrix played the Whisky and reportedly
blew the roof off the place (figuratively speaking, that is). Shortly
thereafter, he moved into Peter Tork’s house in Laurel Canyon. By the
middle of July, Hendrix had joined the Monkees tour as their opening
act. He was dropped after just a few dates, however, due to the fact
that Monkees fans couldn’t quite wrap their heads around Jimi’s brand
of music.



Throughout the summer of 1967, Stephen and
Dewey’s Malibu home became the site of informal jam sessions involving
Stephen Stills, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Miles, David Crosby … and Monkee
Peter Tork. Stills played bass, deferring lead guitar duties to
Hendrix. All of them ultimately ended up living at Tork’s Laurel Canyon
spread, which, as previously mentioned, featured a gaggle of young
groupies who spent an inordinate amount of time lounging around the
pool in various states of undress.





Those
jam sessions, both in Malibu and Laurel Canyon, were undoubtedly fueled
by massive amounts of LSD. According to an anonymous insider
interviewed by John Einarson, “Owsley [editor’s note: remember him?]
used to give Bruce [Palmer] baggies full of acid, a thousand tabs of
purple. Somehow he befriended Bruce so we [the band and various
hangers-on] never lacked for LSD.”



There was yet one
more curious tie between the Monkees and the Springfield: while
together in Chicago, unnamed members of both bands were allegedly
immortalized by the notorious Cynthia Plaster Caster. Our old friend
Frank Zappa would soon take Cynthia under his wing and relocate her to
LA to continue her, uhmm, work, just as he had taken the nubile young
women who would become the GTOs under his wing. It could reasonably be
argued, I suppose, that Zappa did more than anyone to create one of the
more peculiar artifacts of the 1960s: the super-groupie.



Ahmet
Ertegun, by the way, played a key role in launching the career of Mr.
Zappa, so much so that Frank named one of his sons after him.
Meanwhile, Zappa’s shady manager, Herb Cohen, “was involved with the
[Buffalo Springfield] financially … Stephen knew Herbie from New York,”
according to Einarson. The Laurel Canyon crowd, to be sure, was a
close-knit group – all the more so because so many of them seem to have
known one another before arriving there.



Just a couple
of weeks before Jimi’s Whisky debut, he had dazzled the crowd at the
Monterey Pop Festival, where the band under review today, the Buffalo
Springfield, had also played – though by most accounts, not very well.
Neil Young was taking one of his leaves-of-absence from the band and
Doug Hastings filled in on second lead guitar. In addition, Stills
brought his buddy David Crosby out on stage to join the band, which by
many accounts was a rather poor decision on Stephen’s part.



In
For What It’s Worth, Einarson provides the following evaluation of
Crosby’s performance: “His profile was so low key many took no notice
of him there save for his ever-present black cowboy hat, and his
musical contributions, both instrumentally and vocally, were barely
audible.” Some of those who had been on stage with Crosby had a
somewhat less charitable view. According to bassist Bruce Palmer,
“Crosby stunk to high heaven. He didn’t know what he was doing … he was
all ego. He came on for forty minutes and embarrassed us.” Guitarist
Hastings agreed, explaining that Crosby’s “problem was that he couldn’t
play rhythm guitar very well, though he thought he could … that was one
of the reasons why we sounded so bad at Monterey.”



Has
anyone noticed, by the way, that I am not a huge fan of David Crosby
and that I seem to relish tossing in gratuitous quotes questioning his
talents?



After spending the ‘Summer of Love’ jamming
with members of both Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys and the Monkees, the
Buffalo Springfield hit the road in November 1967 to begin a tour
opening for the Beach Boys, a pairing nearly as odd as the Monkees and
Jimi Hendrix. Bruce Palmer, whom we have already learned was not one to
mince words, had this to say about the Beach Boys as a performing band:
“They were real lousy musicians but they had terrific harmony and a
name. They were a studio group. On stage it was like the Monkees. They
would spend weeks and months in the studio with Brian Wilson perfecting
harmonies and overdubs, but you put them on stage and they stunk.”



That
tour included a stop, curiously enough, at West Point Military Academy,
which is, as we all know, a regular stop on most rock tours. While on
the road, the members of the Springfield formed a close bond with
Dennis Wilson, a bond that would be built upon in April of 1968 when
the Springfield again went out on tour with the Beach Boys. That tour
was launched on April 5, almost two years to the day from the fabled
meeting that allegedly forged the band. It was the last major tour the
group would undertake.



Just after returning from the
1968 tour, Dennis Wilson bonded with another local musician, a guy by
the name of Charlie Manson. When Dennis introduced his new friend
Charlie to his buddies in the Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young in
particular was quite smitten – so much so that he reportedly went to
record mogul Mo Ostin and recommended that Ostin sign Charlie right
away.



How many of you, by the way, were getting a
little worried that Manson wasn’t going to make an appearance in this
chapter of the Laurel Canyon saga?



On April 28, the
band began playing its last series of local venues. On May 5, at the
Long Beach Arena, the Buffalo Springfield played together as a band for
the last time. They had been scheduled to play two shows that day, the
first at a venue in Torrance (your fearless scribe’s hometown), but
that earlier show never materialized.



The band released
their third and final album, Last Time Around, some three months later.
As with albums by the Byrds and the International Submarine Band, the
Springfield’s final album is often cited as being a pioneering effort
in the creation of the country-rock genre. It appears, by the way, that
there wasn’t actually a single album that could be considered the
‘first’ country-rock album, since the three albums most frequently
singled out for that distinction – the Byrd’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo,
the International Submarine Band’s Safe at Home, and the Buffalo
Springfield’s Last Time Around, were all released, curiously enough,
within days of each other in July of 1968.



That was
just one curious shift that occurred in the local music scene. The
folk-rock movement, you see, didn’t really last very long in its
original incarnation. It quickly splintered into three distinct new
genres: country-rock, psychedelic rock, and the ‘introspective
singer-songwriter’ school of folk-rock most closely associated with
former mental patient James Taylor. None of these musical genres,
notably, posed the slightest threat to the status quo. The navel-gazers
eschewed social concerns in favor of focusing on tales of personal
anguish, the acid rockers largely preached the mantra of ‘turn on, tune
in, drop out,’ and the country-rockers largely stuck to traditional –
which is to say, quite conservative – country music themes.



Following
the breakup of the Buffalo Springfield, Richie Furay and sometime
bassist Jim Messina went on to form the band Poco. Through various
formations, the band was critically acclaimed but never had a great
deal of commercial success. Jim Messina ultimately left to become half
of Loggins and Messina; his replacement, Randy Meisner, went on to
become an Eagle. A guy by the name of Gregg Allman, who played briefly
with Poco during its formative days, went on to front the Allman
Brothers.



Poco debuted at the Troubadour, which served
as the breeding ground for the country-rock movement, in November 1968.
Their first album, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, hit the shelves six months
later, three months after the release of the debut album by
country-rock rivals The Flying Burrito Brothers, formed by former Byrds
Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman.



Byrd David Crosby,
meanwhile, teamed up with the Springfield’s Stephen Stills and
ex-Hollie Graham Nash (who had arrived in Laurel Canyon in December
1968 – and soon after moved in with Joni Mitchell) to form a band first
known as the Frozen Noses, a name inspired by the trio’s fondness for
cocaine. By the late 1960s, the drug that would later become the drug
of choice of the disco crowd had already begun pouring into Laurel
Canyon. As glam-rocker Michael DesBarres recalled, “Every drug dealer
was in Laurel Canyon.” Along with the drugs came lots of guns and huge
piles of cash. Before long, according to Laurel Canyon chronicler
Michael Walker, “cocaine became a pseudo-currency, like cigarettes in
prison.”



A decade later, the world would catch a
glimpse of that dark canyon undercurrent when four battered bodies were
bagged and removed from a house on Wonderland Avenue … but we’ve
already covered that.



The newest Laurel Canyon band, of
course, was quickly renamed Crosby, Stills & Nash, and by the
summer of 1969, they had the top selling album in the country. It would
remain on the charts for an unprecedented two years. When the band got
ready to hit the road though, there was a little problem; given that
Stills was the only serious musician in the band, and it was he who had
played virtually all the instruments on that debut album, it was going
to be difficult, as Barney Hoskyns noted, “to translate their layered
studio sound to the stage.” The solution was, as Einarson has written,
to bring Neil Young on board, “to provide more umph to their live
sets.” And so it was that by the end of the year, CSN had become CSNY.



Now
the band just needed a rhythm section. Dallas Taylor, who had played on
sessions for the first album, was recruited as a permanent drummer.
Stills and Young summoned Bruce Palmer to come down from Canada to
handle bass duties. According to Palmer, however, that didn’t work out,
primarily because once he got to LA and “started rehearsing at
Stephen’s house with Crosby and Nash, it became real evident that they
were nothing but backup singers. They didn’t like it and decided to
change it. They couldn’t take that; they thought they were too big, too
famous, too talented. They weren’t talented, they were backup singers …
It looked to them as if it was Crosby and Nash backing up Buffalo
Springfield, being nothing more than harmony singers for Stephen, Neil,
myself, and Dallas Taylor.”



According to Palmer, the
first CSN album was “95 percent Stephen doing everything and he’s got
his backup singer boys with him. He’s been dragging them around with
him for 25 years.” Considering that Stills composed the majority of the
material, played most of the instruments, and produced and arranged the
album, Palmer’s assessment seems a reasonable one. In any event, CSNY
didn’t last too long, dissolving after their 1970 tour. Stills next
recruited the ubiquitous Chris Hillman to form Manassas, which also
proved to be short-lived. Not long after, David Geffen teamed Hillman
with Richie Furay and J.D. Souther to create the Souther, Hillman,
Furay Band, which was supposed to be the second coming of CSN but which
also proved to be short-lived. During the band’s brief tenure, our old
friend Phil Kaufman was on hand to serve as road manager.



Crosby,
Stills and Nash was not the only Laurel Canyon band to release a debut
album in 1969. Three Dog Night, mentored by Beach Boy Brian Wilson,
released their self-titled debut in January, and in June, a psychedelic
rock band from the LC issued its first LP. Throughout 1968, the band,
then known as Nazz, was a regular presence on the Sunset Strip, where
they gained a reputation for being heavy on the theatrics but light on
the musicianship.



The band was fronted by Vincent
Furnier, the boyfriend of Miss Christine of the GTOs. Miss Pamela, aka
Pamela Des Barres, described Furnier as “a rich kid from Phoenix.” A
staunch supporter of the colonial occupation of Vietnam (isn’t it time
we stopped calling these things ‘wars’?), Vince would later become a
golf partner of uber-conservative Senator Barry Goldwater.



Furnier
would soon change his own name, and the name of his band, to Alice
Cooper, after deciding that he was the reincarnation of a witch who
purportedly lived in the seventeenth century. Our old friend Frank
Zappa signed the band and its debut album, Pretties For You, was the
first release on Zappa’s Straight label. After transforming into a
shock-rock band, the group would hit it big a few years later with the
release of School’s Out.



Cooper had a curious
connection to another rather eccentric canyon character: Brian Wilson
of the Beach Boys. In later years, both Cooper and Wilson would receive
‘treatment’ from a certain Dr. Eugene Landy, whose handling of Wilson
would become quite controversial. According to various sources close to
Wilson, Landy quickly took control of virtually all aspects of Brian’s
life.



On October 19, 1978, academy award-winning actor
Gig Young and his fifth wife, Kim Schmidt, were found shot through the
head in their New York City apartment. The 64-year-old Young – raised,
as would be expected, in Washington, DC – had just married the young
art gallery worker three weeks earlier. There was no note found and no
one close to the pair could come up with a motive for either to commit
suicide, so the incident naturally was written off as a murder/suicide.
Young had just taped an episode of the Joe Franklin television show
that day and he presumably had given no indication that anything was
amiss. The show never aired.



One other curious side note: at the time of the murder/suicide, Young was receiving ‘treatment’ from Eugene Landy.



As
for the original members of the Buffalo Springfield, Stephen Stills and
Neil Young are still known to perform at times. Richie Furay founded
the Cavalry Chapel near Boulder, Colorado, where he still serves today
as senior pastor. Bruce Palmer died of a heart attack on October 1,
2004. And Dewey Martin was apparently found dead by his roommate just a
few months ago, on February 1, 2009. No published reports have given a
cause of death. He had been living, curiously enough, in an apartment
in Van Nuys, California, just a fifteen-minute drive from the home of
your favorite scribe.
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PostSubject: Re: Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Thu 29 Oct 2009, 9:29 am

ramallamamama wrote:
Hi LLS,

I'm not sure about Dave's other writings. You're right he is a fun read. If you have a chance PM me a link to what he said about the pretzel incident.

http://www.swans.com/library/art8/dmg001.html

Quote :
On top of that, he has appeared in public no fewer than three
times now with noticeably large bruises/contusions on his face. First
there was the enormous bandage he sported in the dark days of the 'hanging
chads.' Then there were the obvious contusions late in the year that would
have gone without mention were it not for a reporter's question; only then
did the White House hurriedly issue a claim that Bush had had lesions
removed from his face.


And then we were treated to the sublimely comical story that our
fearless leader lost consciousness while snacking on a pretzel and fell
face-first into a coffee table (I could make a cheap joke here about the
'leader of the free world' being unable to watch TV and chew pretzels at
the same time, but will refrain from doing so). And we were told that this
is actually a very common occurrence.


Say what? In what parallel universe is this a common occurrence?
What exactly is going on behind closed doors on Pennsylvania Avenue?
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