A Tribute to Hunter S. Thompson – God’s Own Outlaw Journalist

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I have recently had more than one occasion to quote from the inimitable Hunter S. Thompson, a favorite writer from back in the day who is recently deceased from a lethal overdose of harsh reality.

I was just a sprout when I read Hell’s Angels, Thompson’s first major commercial success.  I found the writing extremely entertaining, the author’s skill with language uncanny.  I had no idea that he was just getting warmed up for what would become a phenomenal gale of journalistic and literary hyper-excellence the likes of which the world had never seen.  By the sheer power of his writing he lifted himself into a whole new category in which he remains the sole member.  We’ll not likely see another like him.

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The only other important thing to be said about FEAR & LOATHING at this time is that it was fun to write, and that’s rare—for me, at least, because I’ve always considered writing the most hateful kind of work. I suspect it’s a bit like fucking —which is fun only for amateurs. Old whores don’t do much giggling. Nothing is fun when you have to do it—over and over, again and again—or else you’ll be evicted, and that gets old. So it’s a rare goddamn trip for a locked-in, rent-paying writer to get into a gig that, even in retrospect, was a kinghell, highlife fucking from start to finish… and then to actually get paid for writing this kind of manic gibberish seems genuinely weird; like getting paid for kicking Agnew in the balls. So maybe there’s hope. Or maybe I’m going mad…. In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile—and the rest of us are fucked until we can put our acts together: Not necessarily to Win, but mainly to keep from Losing Completely…. The Swine are gearing down for a serious workout this time around…. So much, then, for The Road—and for the last possibilities of running amok in Las Vegas… Well, at least, I’ll know I was there, neck deep in the madness, before the deal went down, and I got so high and wild that I felt like a two-ton Manta ray jumping all the way across the Bay of Bengal.

“Jacket Copy for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” THE GREAT SHARK HUNT (NY: Simon & Schuster 1979), pp 109-110

Though not a stereotypical hippie (or anything else), Hunter shared our outsider point of view and related to our alienation and disgust with society.  He found shelter, acceptance and friendship among the hippies and affirmation that he wasn’t the only one who saw the larger culture as hopelessly self-destructive and unsustainable, not to mention batshit insane.

The hippies, who had never really believed they were the wave of the future anyway, saw the election results as brutal confirmation of the futility of fighting the establishment on its own terms. There had to be a whole new scene, they said, and the only way to do it was to make the big move—either figuratively or literally—from Berkeley to the Haight-Ashbury, from pragmatism to mysticism, from politics to dope…. The thrust is no longer for ‘change’ or ‘progress’ or ‘revolution,’ but merely to escape, to live on the far perimeter of a world that might have been.

May 1967, “The Hashbury is the Capital of the Hippies,” from THE GREAT SHARK HUNT (NY: Simon & Schuster 1979), pp 392-394

Hunter was loved, admired and held in awe by the hippie community.  He loved us too.

“We were warriors then, and our tribe was strong like a river.”

Hunter S. Thompson

People of my generation speak a lot about the 60s and there are damned good reasons – especially now when they seem so instructive for the current times.  Here’s Hunter’s take on it.

It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run… but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant…. History is hard to know, because of all the hired bull, but even without being sure of ‘history’ it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened…. There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda…. My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour… booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turnoff to take when I got to the other end… but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: no doubt at all about that. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning…. And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply PREVAIL. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave…. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

“Genius Round the World Stands Hand in Hand….”, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Vintage, 1971), pp 66–68

At a time when I hated both politicians and politics Hunter turned me on to the necessity of paying close attention to the clowns in that arena.

“Politics is the art of controlling your environment.”

Hunter S. Thompson

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Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 (1973)

If the current polls are reliable… Nixon will be re-elected by a huge majority of Americans who feel he is not only more honest and more trustworthy than George McGovern, but also more likely to end the war in Vietnam. The polls also indicate that Nixon will get a comfortable majority of the Youth Vote. And that he might carry all fifty states…. This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it—that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes… understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon. McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose…. Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?

“September,” from FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL ’72 (Warner Books, 1973), pp 413–414

Hunter had a way of cutting straight to the heart of any matter and making complicated truths seem simple and plain.

In a nation run by swine, all pigs are upward-mobile and the rest of us are fucked until we can put our acts together: Not necessarily to Win, but mainly to keep from Losing Completely.

Gonzo Papers, Vol. 1: The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979)

For all the stir he caused Hunter was poorly understood by many.  He spent a lot of time explaining himself to those who lacked sufficient perspective to grok his genius.

Fiction is based on reality unless you’re a fairy-tale artist, you have to get your knowledge of life from somewhere. You have to know the material you’re writing about before you alter it.

Associated Press interview (2003)

But speaking of rules, you’ve been arrested dozens of times in your life. Specific incidents aside, what’s common to these run-ins? Where do you stand vis-à-vis the law?

“Goddammit. Yeah, I have. First, there’s a huge difference between being arrested and being guilty. Second, see, the law changes and I don’t. How I stand vis-à-vis the law at any given moment depends on the law. The law can change from state to state, from nation to nation, from city to city. I guess I have to go by a higher law. How’s that? Yeah, I consider myself a road man for the lords of karma.”

Salon interview (2003-02-03)

If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you’re going to be locked up.

BankRate.com Interview (2004-11-01)

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Now before I post this next excerpt let me just say that I do not believe that everyone should emulate Doctor Gonzo’s example and go hog wild on drugs.  I do believe however that we need to stop the insanity of prohibition and the horrendous and counter-productive ‘war on drugs’ as experience has shown that people have always used drugs and always will of the type and in the quantities that they so see fit and the laws, social admonitions and real-world consequences be damned.  Education, harm reduction and compassionate care make sense, none of the rest of it does.  It is just hypocrisy.  That being said, I do not believe that even Hunter S. Thompson could consume the drugs in the dosages and quantities he speaks of in his writing (though I do know he was legendary in this respect and even witnessed it to some extent).  To explain that last parenthetical, I once met the great Hunter S. Thompson and spent the better part of 24 hours with him and another friend known as Doctor John – but that is a book in itself and very much a story for another time.

The fact remains, and should be born in mind, that Hunter, like many good writers, was given to embellishment and hyperbole – though with Hunter it’s hard to know just where to draw that line.  And it bears mentioning here that he was, of course, a mutant.

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971)

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive…” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”

No point mentioning those bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.

The sporting editors had also given me $300 in cash, most of which was already spent on extremely dangerous drugs. The trunk of the car looked like a mobile police narcotics lab. We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls. All this had been rounded up the night before, in a frenzy of high-speed driving all over Los Angeles County — from Topanga to Watts, we picked up everything we could get our hands on. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug-collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.

The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge. And I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon.

HST – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

As hilarious as that is, Hunter was at his best when he wrote about American politics.  No other subject was better suited to his switchblade wit, laser-vision and extraterrestrial wisdom.

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Welcome to the Big Darkness (July, 2003)

When I went into the clinic last April 30, George Bush was about 50 points ahead of his closest Democratic opponent in next year’s Presidential Election. When I finally escaped from the horrible place, less than three weeks late, Bush’s job-approval ratings had been cut in half — and even down into single digits, in some states — and the Republican Party was panicked and on the run. It was a staggering reversal in a very short time, even shorter than it took for his equally crooked father to drop from 93 percent approval, down to as low as 43 percent and even 41 percent in the last doomed days of the first doomed Bush Administration. After that, he was Bill Clinton’s punching bag.

Richard Nixon could tell us a lot about peaking too early. He was a master of it, because it beat him every time. He never learned and neither did Bush the Elder.

But wow! This goofy child president we have on our hands now. He is demonstrably a fool and a failure, and this is only the summer of ’03. By the summer of 2004, he might not even be living in the White House. Gone, gone, like the snows of yesteryear.

The Rumsfield-Cheney axis has self-destructed right in front of our eyes, along with the once-proud Perle-Wolfowitz bund that is turning to wax. They somehow managed to blow it all, like a gang of kids on a looting spree, between January and July, or even less. It is genuinely incredible. The U.S. Treasury is empty, we are losing that stupid, fraudulent chickencrap War in Iraq, and every country in the world except a handful of Corrupt Brits despises us. We are losers, and that is the one unforgiveable sin in America.

HST – Welcome to the Big Darkness

The following quotes are from the last four or five years of Hunter’s life.  Many of them address matters that are still very much with us…sad to say.

The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now— with somebody— and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.

“Kingdom of Fear” (2001-09-12)

It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy…. We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. Who knows?

“Kingdom of Fear” (2001-09-12)

This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed—for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now.

“When War Drums Roll” (2001-09-17)

The last half of the 20th century will seem like a wild party for rich kids, compared to what’s coming now. The party’s over, folks. . . [Censorship of the news] is a given in wartime, along with massive campaigns of deliberately-planted “Dis-information”. That is routine behavior in Wartime— for all countries and all combatants— and it makes life difficult for people who value real news.

“When War Drums Roll” (2001-09-17)

This blizzard of mind-warping war propaganda out of Washington is building up steam. Monday is Anthrax, Tuesday is Bankruptcy, Friday is Child-Rape, Thursday is Bomb-scares, etc., etc., etc…. If we believed all the brutal, frat-boy threats coming out of the White House, we would be dead before Sunday. It is pure and savage terrorism reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

“Domestic terrorism at the Super Bowl” (2002-02-11)

We are turning into a nation of whimpering slaves to Fear—fear of war, fear of poverty, fear of random terrorism, fear of getting down-sized or fired because of the plunging economy, fear of getting evicted for bad debts, or suddenly getting locked up in a military detention camp on vague charges of being a Terrorist sympathizer.

“Extreme behavior in Aspen” (2003-02-03)

It is hard to ignore the prima facie dumbness that got us bogged down in this nasty war in the first place. This is not going to be like Daddy’s War, old sport. He actually won, and he still got run out of the White House nine months later.. . The whole thing sucks. It was wrong from the start, and it is getting wronger by the hour.

“Love in a Time of War” (2003-03-31)

Three journalists have died in Baghdad…. American troops are killing journalists in a profoundly foreign country, under cover of a war being fought for savage, greed-crazed reasons that most of them couldn’t explain or even understand.

What the hell is going on here? How could this once-proud nation have changed so much, so drastically, in only a little more than two years. In what seems like the blink of an eye, this George Bush has brought us from a prosperous nation at peace to a broke nation at war.

“A Sad Week in America” (2003-03-10)

Why are we seeing George Bush on TV every two hours for nine or ten days at a time, like some kind of mutated Mr. Rogers clone? Something is dangerously wrong in any country where a monumentally-failed backwoods politician can scare our national TV networks so totally that they will give him anything he wants.

“The Bush League” (2003-09-09)

I have never had much faith in our embattled child President’s decision-making powers…. I know that is not what you want to hear/read at this time, especially if you happen to be serving in the doomsday mess that is currently the U.S. Army.
I take no pleasure in being Right in my dark predictions about the fate of our military intervention in the heart of the Muslim world. It is immensely depressing to me. Nobody likes to be betting against the Home team.

“Fast and Furious” (2003-10-14)

If we get chased out of Iraq with our tail between our legs, that will be the fifth consecutive Third-world country with no hint of a Navy or an Air Force to have whipped us in the past 40 years.

“Am I Turning Into a Pervert?” (2003-11-18)

This is no time for the “leader of the free world” to be falling asleep at massively-popular sporting events. . .Was [Bush] drunk? Does he fear the sight of an uncovered nipple? Was he lying? Does he believe in his heart that there are more evangelical Christians in this country than football fans and sex-crazed yoyos with unstable minds? Is he really as dumb as he looks and acts? These are all unsatisfactory questions at a time like this.
Is it possible that he has already abandoned all hope of getting re-elected? Or does he plan to cancel the Election altogether by declaring a national military emergency with terrorists closing in from all sides, leaving him with no choice but to launch a huge bomb immediately?. . . Desperate men do desperate things, and stupid men do stupid things. We are in for a desperately stupid summer.

“Bush’s Disturbing Sleeping Disorder” (2004-02-18)

The 2004 presidential election will be a matter of life or death for the whole nation. We are sick today, and we will be even sicker tomorrow if this wretched half-bright swine of a president gets re-elected in November.

“The Big Finale Was a Big Disappointment” (2004-04-06)

Not even the foulest atrocities of Adolf Hitler ever shocked me so badly as these Abu Ghraib photographs did.

“Let’s Go to the Olympics!” (2004-05-18)

These horrifying digital snapshots of the American dream in action on foreign soil are worse than anything even I could have expected. I have been in this business a long time and I have seen many staggering things, but this one is over the line. Now I am really ashamed to carry an American passport.

“Let’s Go to the Olympics!” (2004-05-18)

Today, the Panzer-like Bush machine controls all three branches of our federal government, the first time that has happened since Calvin Coolidge was in the White House. And that makes it just about impossible to mount any kind of Congressional investigation of a firmly-entrenched president like George Bush. The time has come to get deeply into football. It is the only thing we have left that ain’t fixed.

“The pain of losing” Hey Rube, HST’s ESPN column (2004-11-09)

And finally some random quotes.

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.

Pray to God, but row away from the rocks.

The last train out of any station will not be full of nice guys.

Walk tall, kick ass, learn to speak Arabic, love music and never forget you come from a long line of truth seekers, lovers and warriors.

Myths and legends die hard in America. We love them for the extra dimension they provide, the illusion of near-infinite possibility to erase the narrow confines of most men’s reality. Weird heroes and mould-breaking champions exist as living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of ”the rat race” is not yet final.”

~ Hunter S. Thompson, 1937 – 2005

Any words one adds to his seem pitiful, anemic and undernourished.  Suffice it to say we were blessed with a rare genius and he will be missed profoundly by a world no longer good enough, true enough, big enough, or bold enough to contain him.

HST-When-the-fun-stopped

No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax — This won’t hurt.

~ Hunter S. Thompson’s Suicide note, February 20, 2005

Goodbye brother.  Rest in peace.

Mahalo.

Res Ipsa Loquitur.

HST-Too-Rare-to-Die

Jerry Garcia Family Launches Online Visual Art Collection

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Jerry Garcia Family Launches Online Visual Art Collection

March 02, 2017

Jerry Garcia’s family has announced the launch of a new online collection of visual art from the legendary Grateful Dead guitarist, offering up creations from throughout Garcia’s life alongside commentary from his daughter Trixie Garcia.

The Jerry Garcia Collection features both known work and some previously unseen art from the guitarist, who was an prolific visual artist along with his music career.

“I think it was just a way he was able to communicate with the world,” Trixie says in the introduction video, which can be seen below. “I always considered him kind of multilingual. He was fluent in all these different languages, and when words failed in one point, he had other options to express himself.”

Visit the gallery here and view some of the pieces below.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fjerrygarciaofficial%2Fvideos%2F993858477413866%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Read more: https://www.relix.com/news/detail/jerry_garcia_family_launches_online_visual_art_collection#ixzz4af3ds8PG

Hunter S Thompson Discovered Evidence Of Explosives in WTC on 9/11

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Hunter S Thompson Discovered Evidence Of Explosives in WTC on 9/11 Writer warned he’d be ‘suicided’ before mysterious death By: Jay Greenberg  |@NeonNettle on 4th February 2017 @ 11.55am © press Hunter S Thomson was writing about the 9/11 attacks when he died. American journalist and author, Hunter S. Thompson, was working on a story about the WTC collapse on 9/11 and had discovered evidence that the World Trade Center was brought down by explosives, and not planes, telling people that he would be ‘suicided’ right before his death.Speaking to an associate at the Toronto Globe on the night before he mysteriously died of a gunshot wound to the head in February 2005, he said that he had found “hard evidence” that the towers had been brought down by “explosives set off in the foundations” and that people were trying to stop him from publishing it.Thompson’s family had reported that he was happy before he died and that he hadn’t been depressed, suicidal, or in any sort of pain that would lead him to kill himself. Giant Solar Powered… Smartflower? Smartflower is a giant “sun flower” made of solar panels that generate energy for any home. Sponsored by Connatix According to the Toronto Globe: Hunter telephoned me on Feb. 19, the night before his death. He sounded scared. It wasn’t always easy to understand what he said, particularly over the phone, he mumbled, yet when there was something he really wanted you to understand, you did. He’d been working on a story about the World Trade Center attacks and had stumbled across what he felt was hard evidence showing the towers had been brought down not by the airplanes that flew into them but by explosive charges set off in their foundations. Now he thought someone was out to stop him publishing it: “They’re gonna make it look like suicide,” he said. “I know how these bastards think . . .” Prison Planet reports: Hunter S. Thompson … was indeed working on such a story.Now check out this February 25 Associated Press story about Thompson’s death. Sounds a lot like a professional hit with a silencer:”I was on the phone with him, he set the receiver down and he did it. I heard the clicking of the gun,” Anita Thompson told the Aspen Daily News in Friday’s editions.She said her husband had asked her to come home from a health club so they could work on his weekly ESPN column…Thompson said she heard a loud, muffled noise, but didn’t know what had happened. “I was waiting for him to get back on the phone,” she said.(Her account to Rocky Mountain News reporter Jeff Kass is slightly different: “I did not hear any bang,” she told Kass. She added that Thompson’s son, who was in the house at the time, believed that a book had fallen when he heard the shot, according to Kass’ report.)Mack White sums up the questions well:  Thompson’s family says he was not depressed, nor was he in enough to pain to kill himself. In fact, by all reports, he was quite happy. He was talking on the phone to his wife, getting ready to work on his column, when he decided it would be wise to kill himself, so that he could go out (we are told) while “still at the top of his form,” even though this would mean not finishing his column or his expose on 9/11 (potentially the most important thing he would ever write) (?)…This account says Thompson killed himself while sitting in a chair on his typewriter and yet the original account tells us that Thompson shot himself while talking to his wife on the phone in the kitchen. Why has the story changed and what is the significance of the word typed on the paper in light of the fact that Thompson said he would be ‘suicided’ before being able to release a major story on explosives bringing down the twin towers?

Read more at: http://www.neonnettle.com/news/1875-hunter-s-thompson-discovered-evidence-of-explosives-in-wtc-on-9-11
© Neon Nettle

In Defense of Hippies

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(crossposted from the front page of My Left Wing)First of all, the stereotype for hippies is about as reliable as the stereotype for any other people, that is to say not at all.  Hippy culture was never monolithic.  It encompassed well over half of every kind of kid there was in the late 60s and early 70s, and spanned every socio-economic strata of American society.  If you weren’t a hippy in those days, what you know and think about hippies is probably wrong.  It’s not your fault.  The media has distorted the reality as a part of the conservative culture wars.  They are, and have always been, threatened by hippies who never had any trouble seeing straight through them and who consistently called them on their bullshit.  Progressivism (or enlightened thinking), started well before the age of the hippies, but for that one seminal decade, hippies were its natural home (though not exclusively of course).

 What do you think when you hear the term hippy?  Most likely you think of spaced out goofballs without anything more than a tenuous connection to reality, mildly dangerous dope fiends who blather endlessly about inane bullshit, or hippy-dippy airheads without an intelligent thought or coherent idea worth noting.  That kind of outrageous distortion is what a conservative and unprincipled media is capable of doing.  Were there people who approached the stereotype somewhat?  Sure – somewhat, although practically no one is that goofy or detached from reality.  Was that a majority?  No, not even nearly so in my experience.  It was at most a distinct minority, and again none of them were as goofy as the conservative propaganda has many believing.  It’s all a rightwing `big lie’, just like the one about liberals being idiots, or pacifists being pushovers.  No truth to it, just a big ugly lie told over and over to `catapult the propaganda’.

I have often encountered strongly biased attitudes toward hippies.  Most of the time there’s not much point in saying anything.  Too often people don’t want to be educated about hippies.  Hippies are beneath them, an object of scorn or derision.  I understand that it’s usually just rightwing propaganda having its way.  You can’t avoid it and if you’re insufficiently discerning, if you don’t have your bullshit detectors on, why almost anyone could end up believing it.  The other day I came across this comment in a thread about the lack of activism on the part of today’s young people, which BTW thereisnospoon did a fine job of debunking in his thread Where are the Youth? I’ll tell you where they are!

We’ve grown up being too afraid to rock the boat. Many of us grew up learning that although Vietnam was a mistake and a bad war, the protestors were even worse. “Dirty hippies who spit on soldiers” is the last thing we want to be compared with.~ anonymous young kossack

The rightwing noise machine has our kids right where they want them.  Afraid to rock the boat and of becoming no better than `dirty hippies’ (who spit on soldiers).  There were some goofy hippies and there were some dirty hippies (though most weren’t), but I never saw ANYONE spit on a soldier.  Most soldiers related well to us and vice versa – especially the one’s who had been to Nam.  They always came off the boats shooting peace signs at us, and us to them.  They hated the war and we did too.  We were natural allies.  There was no spitting.Seeing the horror and fucked-upedness of Vietnam showed people that the hippies were right all along – and that our government was strictly bad news, full of fucking liars and chickenhawks who were willing to let them die for nothing.  Well, the more things change the more they stay the same.  And the one thing I can tell you all is that it is high time to rock the fucking boat!

Also, let me point out that `dirty’ people (as bad as that sounds) are merely people with dirt.  Being clean doesn’t make you a better person – only cleaner.  I’d much rather associate with Jim S., the dirty homeless man my son and I had lunch with recently (Nam vet, former heroin addict, borderline alcoholic with a strong core of human decency that shone right through all the dirt and pathos) than to get anywhere near the spit-shined K Street crowd or the gleaming, buttoned-down, slicked-up, squeaky clean neocons out to destroy humanity.  Quaint homilies aside, cleanliness does NOT equate to human decency – or Godliness.

Another big slam on the hippies is about all the drugs they used.  First, let’s face the fact that on this issue, as with so many others, our overly conservative culture is shockingly hypocritical.  The fact is that people have always used drugs and always will.  It’s just a question of whose drugs are in and whose drugs are out at any given time.  You can’t smoke pot, but drinking yourself to death is just fine.  Alcohol, one of the very worst drugs, destroys millions of lives each year–and it’s perfectly legal.  Fancy that.  The next worst drugs after alcohol are crystal meth, heroin, pcp, and pharmaceuticals in general.  These substances are very destructive.  They attack the person who uses them.  My father is embroiled in a class-action lawsuit because the Vioxx he took for three years gave him a near fatal stroke.   Some pharmaceuticals are milder than others–but it’s all bad medicine.  The good medicines are organic: plants, fungi, cacti, which are often illegal.  Plants like cannabis, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and peyote are strongly outlawed in most countries these days, yet traditional peoples often viewed these substances as medicine as well as allies, friends and guides to assist them on their spiritual journeys.  Pharmaceutical companies hate medicines that people can grow themselves or find in the forest.  It cuts into their obscene profits from the poisons they push.  In 1971 Richard Milhouse Nixon declared the `War on Drugs’.  Tricky Dick had a pathological hatred of `drugs’, and yet swilled scotch like a drunken monkey.  His so-called `War on Drugs’ has caused irreparable harm to our society, torn families apart, ruined millions of individual lives, and overwhelmed our courts and prisons.  We should have listened to the hippies.  Drugs should be legal, rehab should be free, and education and harm reduction should be our focus.

There was a time when the pull to become a hippy was damn near universal for my generation.  When this simple song came out, it spoke directly to us all.

If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re gonna meet some gentle people thereFor those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
In the streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair

All across the nation such a strange vibration
People in motion
There’s a whole generation with a new explanation
People in motion people in motion

For those who come to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there

If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there

~ written by ‘Poppa’ John Phillips, recorded by Scott McKenzie

There really was a strange vibration all across the nation.  We all felt it – me and all of my friends, and millions upon millions of others.  You didn’t really have to decide to become a hippy, you either felt the vibe or you didn’t.

Most of the hippies I knew were extremely bright, full of intellectual curiosity and life – and were just a lot of fun to be around.  Think of college kids today, now imagine them as much more liberal (and progressive), much more keen to engage the larger world in a profound way, and inhabiting a time of great cultural and spiritual upheaval. Throw in some recreational drugs, a massive dose of primal rock-n-roll, an `establishment’ that stunk to high heaven and of which we wanted no part, the paranoia of a bloody shooting war in Vietnam and an active draft, and you begin to get a picture of what hippies were really like.  In school they were more often the smart kids than the dumb ones.  They tended to be intellectuals, or in some cases just different – although there was also room for the underachievers as we were pretty much equal opportunity employers (so to speak).

Hippies attracted kids who were offbeat or not readily accepted in other cliques, kids who looked a little strange or thought a little differently.  Why?  Because hippies were tolerant and accepting people who would try to love you even if the reasons why they should were not abundantly apparent.  Love, peace, and kindness were our highest ethics.  Almost anyone could find a home with the hippies as long as they were non-violent.  That’s what made the hippy sections of large cities so damned interesting – the sheer variety of colorful characters who felt at home there.  Hippies were welcoming and generous people.  They cared about humanity for humanity’s sake.  You didn’t have to be an important person, a successful person, wealthy, accomplished, learned, or whatever.  You could be any of those things or none of those things.  It was enough to be a person.  The idea was to be a good and decent person, an authentic person, a person unlike those who thought it was okay to drop bombs on people.

Plastic people, ooh baby now, you’re such a drag!  ~ Frank Zappa

`Plastic people’ was what we called those who were so superficial and lame that they never questioned anything they were told by the `authorities’ – the same sort of folks sometimes referred to as sheeple these days.  Hippies were different – we questioned everything.  We believed that everyone should think for themselves.  Contrary to popular belief, virtually all of the best and brightest of our generation were hippies.  If you were between the ages of 15 and 30 between 1965 and 1975, and you were smart and had a soul, you were most likely a hippy.

It was fun being a hippy.  We were like a large extended family.  We sheltered each other, fed each other, and helped each other.  We raised money to pay for free clinics, food co-ops, and bail funds for busted hippies.  We acted as a real and unusually caring community.  There were crash pads if you needed a place to stay, free food was generally available, and people took care of each other as the need arose.

As a hippy you could go into any large city, find the hippy part of town, and instantly connect to like-minded brethren – though all were strangers.

Let me acknowledge that I am generalizing somewhat because hippies were not all alike by any stretch of the imagination – yet we tended to have certain things in common, certain philosophies.  We opposed war, the one in Vietnam that was ongoing at the time, and all others as well.  We believed it was possible for civilized people to work things out without resorting to violence.  We believed in tolerance, acceptance, and compassion.  We advocated peace, love, and understanding.


What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding?

~ Nick Lowe

The hippies I knew and respected most were among the most serious people I would ever meet.  They were radically curious and unwilling to accept false or facile answers to tough questions.  We were very serious young people who took our responsibility to understand the world accurately and to act upon it in a profoundly positive way very seriously indeed – much more seriously than a majority of our non-hippy peers I dare say.

But mostly we were brothers and sisters embracing an ethic of gentleness and kindness, and who felt a deeply human and humane connection to one another.  My closest friends, hippies all (or freaks as we came to call ourselves), as I look back on them in all their joyful idealism, were among the noblest creatures to ever grace this planet.

1967 is the year the hippy movement took root in the USA, though it had been building for years.  I turned 15 that year and was already dialed in.  I knew all about Timothy Leary (turn on, tune in, drop out), had read all about pot and couldn’t wait to start smokin’ it.  I worshipped the Beatles and the Stones and all the other rock gods.I was a hippy waiting to happen, and when the wave came I caught it.  I smoked, dropped acid, and took mescaline.  I left home, dropped out of school, and hit the road hitchhiking across the country to get a realeducation.

Everywhere I went I had an instant connection to other hippies.  We all instantly recognized each other (most of us were sort of hard to miss 😀 ).  Flashing a peace sign was like showing ID.  It said `Hey!  I’m one of the cool ones!’  Most hippies were generous and kind to a fault.  Most anybody you met would offer you a place to stay for a day or two, and treat you like an honored guest whilst you were amongst them.

Hippies would always pick me up hitchhiking, and usually get me stoned, feed me, whatever.  There was a powerful sense of brotherhood between hippies.  It was a trip…like having family you never met in every city.  There was a ton of goodwill between us.  We all believed in peace and love after all.

The height of my hippy career was Woodstock in August of 69…three days of peace and music…I can still feel the love.  🙂  I haven’t felt a sense of brotherhood like that since those days went by the wayside.

Though I don’t much look like it these days, I will always think of myself as a hippie.  It was the best damn thing I ever was.

~ Easy Livin’, coolest hippie I ever knew

Hippies had a major impact on the broader culture.  For all of those who hated us, others were inspired by us – people such as artists, musicians, and intellectuals.  Popular art was strongly affected by the counter culture.

We also influenced the fine art of the day – or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that we shared influences.

Our numerous wonderful and colorful influences on American culture were appreciated by many, but not all.  Conservatives, whom the culture was trying desperately to break away from, hated us.  We saw them for what they were and we called a spade a spade.  We called them pigs because that’s what they were (and still are).  They didn’t much like that – or us for that matter.  They hated the truth about themselves or about anything else – and they hated us for telling it.  Because of their grip on the propaganda machine, their voices dominated and we faced horrible discrimination as a result.  Ironically, this only served to strengthen our bonds with black Americans, Native Americans, gay Americans and all others who experienced the same sort of treatment.  We embraced Truth, Love, and Peace.  Nothing is more threatening to those who live on Lies, Hatred, and War.  We preached against materialism while their whole world ran on it.  Greed and materialism was what they were all about and we told them so.  We filled them with fear and loathing, and they were merciless towards us.

The legacy of the hippies:

– There’s nothing funny about Peace, Love, and Understanding.
– Peace is better than War, Love is better than Hate, and Understanding is better than Ignorance.
– An opened mind is a useful approach to life.
– People deserve to be loved, accepted, and cared for.
– Drug warriors and laws against drugs do infinitely more harm than drugs themselves.
– People should be totally free as long as they aren’t hurting or causing harm to anyone.
– We should all have more respect, empathy, and concern for one another.
– War and violence suck and have no place in civilized society!
– Our government lies like a fucking rug and must be restrained by the people.
– The excesses of capitalism must likewise be restrained by the people.
– It is easier to mock, scorn, or trivialize than it is to understand, but understanding is worth the effort.

SOME RARE PHOTOS FROM HISTORY

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MORE RARE PHOTOS FROM HISTORY

History is fascinating and it seems like we’re uncovering more of it every day.  Here is yet another collection of photos you may have never seen before.

 


Miss America 1924.

http://i.imgur.com/n58Idgh.jpg
Vikki “The Back” Dougan, 1957. She was the inspiration for the cartoon femme fatale, Jessica Rabbit.


Annie Oakley.


For the 50th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1985, 300,000 people crossed it on foot.  The weight caused the bridge to sag by five feet.


The blood-stained gloves that Lincoln was wearing when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater.

http://i.imgur.com/YXxZTUc.jpg
Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1969.


Helen Keller meets Charlie Chaplin.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2050/2170742902_b434352462_o.jpg
The first aerial photograph of Lower Manhattan taken in 1924.


From 1924, this is Belva Annan.  Her murder trial records inspired the musical “Chicago.”

http://i.imgur.com/AYsDIPG.jpg
A Plexiglas “ghost” car in 1940.

Amy Johnson was one of the first women to gain a pilot’s license and won fame when she flew solo from Britain to Australia in 1930.  Later she flew solo to India and Japan and became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic East to West.  Johnson volunteered to fly for The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in World War II, but her plane was shot down over the River Thames and she was killed.

http://i.imgur.com/UdLfyzE.jpg
14 inch shells on the deck of the USS New Mexico in 1944.


Victorian sideshow performers.

http://i.imgur.com/V5ORAaA.jpg
Mountain climbing in questionable attire near Chamonix in the 1890’s


An x-ray of Hitler’s skull.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/18/Rip_Dicken_Medal_Dog_IWM_D_5937.jpg
Rip, a rescue dog who found one hundred victims of air raids in London between 1940 and 1941. He received the Dickin Medal for bravery in 1945.


A very young Lucille Ball.


Atlanta, Georgia in 1864.


Jessie Tarbox, a photojournalist in the 1900’s.

http://i.imgur.com/y7EOXme.jpg
Proving to the public that London’s double-decker buses are not a tipping hazard in 1933

MORE RARE PHOTOS FROM HISTORY

History is fascinating and it seems like we’re uncovering more of it every day.  Here is yet another collection of photos you may have never seen before.

 


Miss America 1924.

http://i.imgur.com/n58Idgh.jpg
Vikki “The Back” Dougan, 1957. She was the inspiration for the cartoon femme fatale, Jessica Rabbit.


Annie Oakley.


For the 50th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1985, 300,000 people crossed it on foot.  The weight caused the bridge to sag by five feet.


The blood-stained gloves that Lincoln was wearing when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater.

http://i.imgur.com/YXxZTUc.jpg
Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1969.


Helen Keller meets Charlie Chaplin.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2050/2170742902_b434352462_o.jpg
The first aerial photograph of Lower Manhattan taken in 1924.


From 1924, this is Belva Annan.  Her murder trial records inspired the musical “Chicago.”

http://i.imgur.com/AYsDIPG.jpg
A Plexiglas “ghost” car in 1940.


Amy Johnson was one of the first women to gain a pilot’s license and won fame when she flew solo from Britain to Australia in 1930.  Later she flew solo to India and Japan and became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic East to West.  Johnson volunteered to fly for The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in World War II, but her plane was shot down over the River Thames and she was killed.

http://i.imgur.com/UdLfyzE.jpg
14 inch shells on the deck of the USS New Mexico in 1944.


Victorian sideshow performers.

http://i.imgur.com/V5ORAaA.jpg
Mountain climbing in questionable attire near Chamonix in the 1890’s


An x-ray of Hitler’s skull.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/18/Rip_Dicken_Medal_Dog_IWM_D_5937.jpg
Rip, a rescue dog who found one hundred victims of air raids in London between 1940 and 1941. He received the Dickin Medal for bravery in 1945.


A very young Lucille Ball.


Atlanta, Georgia in 1864.


Jessie Tarbox, a photojournalist in the 1900’s.

http://i.imgur.com/y7EOXme.jpg
Proving to the public that London’s double-decker buses are not a tipping hazard

Volkswagen Re-Releasing Classic Hippy Van As New Electric Version

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Volkswagen Re-Releasing Classic Hippy Van As New Electric Version

POSTED ONAPRIL 16, 2016LIFE 384001
vw

Are you looking for a way to get back to the good old days in one way or another?  This classic hippy van is a way to do it without compromising your values over the things that are important to you.  Most people understand that gas guzzlers are a thing of the past, but not everyone is ready to flow into the confined market of electric cars because there is not enough personalization to enjoy it.  Now, Volkswagen is introducing a brand new model of its beloved hippy van and enjoy all of the benefits that come from enjoying a modern vehicle.

The exciting part of this van is that it maintains the authenticity of the hippy van that we all love and cherish while making sure that is has all of our modern needs in terms of fuel/power as well as things like AC and a powerful engine that will take you all over the world with no carbon footprint to speak of.  This is sure to get heart pumping, I can imagine.  It’s a modern piece of history come back to us at last, and we couldn’t be more excited.

#hippie-van#volkswagen#electric#beatnikhiway.com#ana_christy

World Map Reveals What Different Countries Are Best At

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World Map Reveals What Different Countries Are Best At

Did you know that Rwanda has the most women in parliament in the world? Or that no country has as many pizza eaters as Norway? David McCandless from InformationIsBeautiful.net has put together a map that reveals what countries are best at and it will definitely raise a lot of eyebrows.

The data has been collected from the World Bank, United Nations, and other sources. It was then divided into 9 categories (commodity, psychology, ecology, gastronomy, economy, nicety, humanity, technology, and nasty) and assigned to each individual state (excluding the very small ones). It’s also worth mentioning that the values are either “mostly per capita” or “% of the population”. So which No.1 shocked you the most?

More info: informationisbeautiful.net (h/t)

international-number-ones-statistics-world-map-2016-1

North America

South America

Europe

Asia

Africa

Remembering the Challenger Disaster

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On January 28, 1986, the American shuttle orbiter Challenger broke up 73 seconds after liftoff, bringing a devastating end to the spacecraft’s 10th mission. The disaster claimed the lives of all seven astronauts aboard, including Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from New Hampshire who had been selected to join the mission and teach lessons from space to schoolchildren around the country. It was later determined that two rubber O-rings, which had been designed to separate the sections of the rocket booster, had failed due to cold temperatures on the morning of the launch. The tragedy and its aftermath received extensive media coverage and prompted NASA to temporarily suspend all shuttle missions.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A BUSY BUSINESS MAN: SEE HOW INTEL® POWERED RETAIL SOFTWARE HELPED

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In 1976, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) unveiled the world’s first reusable manned spacecraft, known as the space shuttle. Five years later, shuttle flights began when Columbia traveled into space on a 54-hour mission. Launched by two solid-rocket boosters and an external tank, the aircraft-like shuttle entered into orbit around Earth. When the mission was completed, the shuttle fired engines to reduce speed and, after descending through the atmosphere, landed like a glider. Early shuttles took satellite equipment into space and carried out various scientific experiments.

Challenger, NASA’s second space shuttle to enter service, embarked on its maiden voyage on April 4, 1983, and made a total of nine voyages prior to 1986. That year, it was scheduled to launch on January 22 carrying a seven-member crew that included Christa McAuliffe, a 37-year-old high school social studies instructor from New Hampshire who had earned a spot on the mission through NASA’s Teacher in Space Program. After undergoing months of training, she was set to become the first ordinary American citizen to travel into space.

The mission’s launch from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, was delayed for six days due to weather and technical problems. The morning of January 28 was unusually cold, and engineers warned their superiors that certain components—particularly the rubber O-rings that sealed the joints of the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters—were vulnerable to failure at low temperatures. However, these warnings went unheeded, and at 11:39 a.m. Challenger lifted off.

Seventy-three seconds later, hundreds on the ground, including the families of McAuliffe and the other astronauts on board, stared in disbelief as the shuttle broke up in a forking plume of smoke and fire. Millions more watched the wrenching tragedy unfold on live television. Within instants, the spacecraft broke apart and plunged into the ocean, killing its entire crew, traumatizing the nation and throwing NASA’s shuttle program into turmoil.

Shortly after the disaster, President Ronald Reagan appointed a special commission to determine what went wrong with Challenger and to develop future corrective measures. Headed by former secretary of state William Rogers, the commission included former astronaut Neil Armstrong and former test pilot Chuck Yeager. Their investigation revealed that the O-ring seal on Challenger’s solid rocket booster, which had become brittle in the cold temperatures, failed. Flames then broke out of the booster and damaged the external fuel tank, causing the spacecraft to disintegrate.

The commission also found that Morton Thiokol, the company that designed the solid rocket boosters, had ignored warnings about potential issues. NASA managers were aware of these design problems but also failed to take action. Famously, scientist Richard Feynman, a member of the commission, demonstrated the O-ring flaw to the public using a simple glass of ice water.

After the accident, NASA refrained from sending astronauts into space for more than two years as it redesigned a number of the shuttle’s features. Flights began again in September 1988 with the successful launching of Discovery. Since then, the space shuttle has carried out numerous important missions, including the repair and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope and the construction of the International Space Station. On February 1, 2003, a second space shuttle disaster rocked the United States when Columbia disintegrated upon reentry, killing all aboard. While missions resumed in July 2005, the space shuttle is slated for retirement in 2011.

Ten years after the Challenger tragedy, two large pieces from the spacecraft washed ashore on a Florida beach. The remaining debris is now stored in a missile silo at Cape Canaveral.

#challenger#tragedy#explosion#Christa McAuliffe#beatnikhiway.com#ana_christy#Cape Canaveral#January 28, 1986##astronuats##space_shuttle#Kennedy Space Center

The big top comes down: Ringling Bros. circus is closing after 146 years. Hiway America.

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Ringling Brothers

barnumandbaileytop

 Charles and John Ringling, along with their brothers Albert and Otto, founded the Ringling Bros. Circus in 1884, in Baraboo, Wisconsin. By the 1930s, the Ringling brothers were among the most famous American entrepreneurs, and were known throughout the world. By that time, they had bought out their biggest competitor, the Barnum & Bailey Circus, and were operating as the largest circus in the United States.

The big top comes down: Ringling Bros. circus is closing

circus-barnum-french-laroche-ball-tagged-1poster-for-the-barnum-and-bailey-circus1995844

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circusjposter-for-the-barnum-and-bailey-circus1995844circushcircusfcircusecircusdcircusc

 Circus Ringling Bros.Barnum & Bailey Kings of the Circus

Ringling bros and barnum bailey circus Atlanta 2016 final

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train and Union Pacific 3985
History was made today when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train and Union Pacific Railroad’s “Challenger,” No. 3985, joined together, literally, between Speer, Wyo., and Denver, Colo., to celebrate U.S. railroad heritage. Challenger pulled the mile-long circus train, packed full of international performers, exotic animals, and all the equipment needed to present the all-new Ringling Bros. Circus, Barnum’s FUNundrum!SM, which makes a two-week stop in Denver. Union Pacific’s No. 3985 continues on a six-state tour from Cheyenne, Wyo., to Gorham, Ill.
“We are proud that No. 3985 pulled the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train into Denver. A record was set when Challenger pulled a 65-car train that is more than 6,000 tons and nearly 6,100 feet long, the most for a steam locomotive in the 21st century,” said Dick Hartman, Union Pacific’s director of public affairs for Colorado and Wyoming.
The combined trains arrived shortly after 10:00 am and were met by over 500 excited fans at the intersection of York Street and East 47th Avenue. A welcome celebration followed that featured Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson and performers from Ringling Bros., officials from Union Pacific, and Denver city auditor, Dennis Gallagher, who presented a proclamation from the Mayor of Denver.
“Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is excited to be part of this railroad heritage celebration; we’ve been riding the rails for the last 140 years, so we are a part of railroad history,” said Johnathan Lee Iverson, Ringmaster for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Barnum’s FUNundrum!SM, is a monumental, once in a lifetime show, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of the legendary P.T. Barnum, and can only be experienced at The Greatest Show On Earth, Barnum’s living legacy! Ringling Bros. will be performing in Denver through October 10, 2010 and then will continue on its two-year tour.
For more information about Ringling Bros., visit http://www.Ringling.com.
For more information about Union Pacific or No. 3985, visit http://www.up.com.
Stock Footage – CIRCUS PEOPLE, 1950

Ringling Bros. Circus Chooses First Female Ringmaster in Its 146-Year History

History of the Circus Sideshow / Freakshow

A visit to Ringling Brothers Circus Museum in Florida

Tamara Lush, Associated Press
Associated PressJanuary 15, 2017

ELLENTON, Fla. (AP) — After 146 years, the curtain is coming down on “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus told The Associated Press that the show will close forever in May.

The iconic American spectacle was felled by a variety of factors, company executives say. Declining attendance combined with high operating costs, along with changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups all contributed to its demise.

“There isn’t any one thing,” said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment. “This has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family.”

The company broke the news to circus employees Saturday night after shows in Orlando and Miami.

Ringling Bros. has two touring circuses this season and will perform 30 shows between now and May. Major stops include Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and Brooklyn. The final shows will be in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7 and in Uniondale, New York, at the Nassau County Coliseum on May 21.

The circus, with its exotic animals, flashy costumes and death-defying acrobats, has been a staple of entertainment in the United States since the mid-1800s. Phineas Taylor Barnum made a traveling spectacle of animals and human oddities popular, while the five Ringling brothers performed juggling acts and skits from their home base in Wisconsin. Eventually, they merged and the modern circus was born. The sprawling troupes traveled around America by train, wowing audiences with the sheer scale of entertainment and exotic animals.

By midcentury, the circus was routine, wholesome family entertainment. But as the 20th century went on, kids became less and less enthralled. Movies, television, video games and the internet captured young minds. The circus didn’t have savvy product merchandising tie-ins or Saturday morning cartoons to shore up its image.

“The competitor in many ways is time,” said Feld, adding that transporting the show by rail and other circus quirks — such as providing a traveling school for performers’ children— are throwbacks to another era. “It’s a different model that we can’t see how it works in today’s world to justify and maintain an affordable ticket price. So you’ve got all these things working against it.”

The Feld family bought the Ringling circus in 1967. The show was just under 3 hours then. Today, the show is 2 hours and 7 minutes, with the longest segment — a tiger act — clocking in at 12 minutes.

“Try getting a 3- or 4-year-old today to sit for 12 minutes,” he said.

Feld and his daughter Juliette Feld, who is the company’s chief operating officer, acknowledged another reality that led to the closing, and it was the one thing that initially drew millions to the show: the animals. Ringling has been targeted by activists who say forcing animals to perform is cruel and unnecessary.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a longtime opponent of the circus, wasted no time in claiming victory.

“After 36 years of PETA protests, which have awoken the world to the plight of animals in captivity, PETA heralds the end of what has been the saddest show on earth for wild animals, and asks all other animal circuses to follow suit, as this is a sign of changing times,” Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote in a statement.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, acknowledged the move was “bittersweet” for the Felds but said: “I applaud their decision to move away from an institution grounded on inherently inhumane wild animal acts.”

In May of 2016, after a long and costly legal battle, the company removed the elephants from the shows and sent the animals to live on a conservation farm in Central Florida. The animals had been the symbol of the circus since Barnum brought an Asian elephant named Jumbo to America in 1882. In 2014, Feld Entertainment won $25.2 million in settlements from groups including the Humane Society of the United States, ending a 14-year fight over allegations that circus employees mistreated elephants.

By the time the elephants were removed, public opinion had shifted somewhat. Los Angeles prohibited the use of bull-hooks by elephant trainers and handlers, as did Oakland, California. The city of Asheville, North Carolina nixed wild or exotic animals from performing in the municipally owned, 7,600-seat U.S. Cellular Center.

Attendance has been dropping for 10 years, said Juliette Feld, but when the elephants left, there was a “dramatic drop” in ticket sales. Paradoxically, while many said they didn’t want big animals to perform in circuses, many others refused to attend a circus without them.

“We know now that one of the major reasons people came to Ringling Bros. was getting to see elephants,” she said. “We stand by that decision. We know it was the right decision. This was what audiences wanted to see and it definitely played a major role.”

The Felds say their existing animals — lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas — will go to suitable homes. Juliette Feld says the company will continue operating the Center for Elephant Conservation.

Some 500 people perform and work on both touring shows. A handful will be placed in positions with the company’s other, profitable shows — it owns Monster Jam, Disney on Ice and Marvel Live, among other things — but most will be out of a job. Juliette Feld said the company will help employees with job placement and resumes. In some cases where a circus employee lives on the tour rail car (the circus travels by train), the company will also help with housing relocation.

Kenneth Feld became visibly emotional while discussing the decision with a reporter. He said over the next four months, fans will be able to say goodbye at the remaining shows.

In recent years, Ringling Bros. tried to remain relevant, hiring its first African American ringmaster, then its first female ringmaster, and also launching an interactive app. It added elements from its other, popular shows, such as motorbike daredevils and ice skaters. But it seemingly was no match for Pokemon Go and a generation of kids who desire familiar brands and YouTube celebrities.

“We tried all these different things to see what would work, and supported it with a lot of funding as well, and we weren’t successful in finding the solution,” said Kenneth Feld.

#barnum_bailey_circus#circus#ringling_brothers#the-big-top#the-greatest-show-on-earth#wisconsin#beatnikhiway.com#ana_christy#anachristy#entertainment

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

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Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation Part 1

Frank Zappa
©Unknown
Frank Zappa: Pro-war, authoritarian, and what else?

“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 pro-war, rigidly authoritarian control-freak, 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 was no music industry in Los Angeles. They came even though, at the time, there was no live 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, Memphis 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.”

“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.”

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©Steven Johnson

[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.) “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.”

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©Steven Johnson

[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.

(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.)

* * * * * * * * * *

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.
“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.

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©Geffen

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.

* 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.

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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.”

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Lookout Inn

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.

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Laurel Canyon Map

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.

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Houdini House

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.

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Lookout Mountain Laboratory

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.

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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?

Comment: Continue to parts V & VI

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 http://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?
And that, fearless readers, is what they call in Hollywood a “wrap.”

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