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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.”

Image
©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.”

Recognizing a counterculture icon Dylan wins Nobel Prize for Literature

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 counterculture icon

Nobel prize for Literature

  • Bob Dylan performing at a civil rights rally in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. Photo: Getty Images

     
  • Bob Dylan and singer Joan Baez in Embankment Gardens, London in 1963. Photo: Getty Images
    Photo: Getty Images

    Bob Dylan and singer Joan Baez in Embankment Gardens, London in 1963. Photo: Getty Images

     
Armed with a harmonica and a guitar, Bob Dylan confronted social injustice, war and racism

Bob Dylan, the surprise winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday, became an icon of the 1960s counterculture, but his voice has reached widely and evocatively into the American past.

The author of some of rock’s early anthems such as “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” the poet of pop tapped classic folk and gospel songs to rejuvenate defining US forms of story-telling.

Since early in his career, the 75-year-old singer has experimented with the intersection of the literary and the musical.

In the words of a reviewer in The New York Times, who saw the then 21-year-old perform solo at Town Hall theater in 1963, “Mr. Dylan’s words and melodies sparkle with the light of an inspired poet.”

One of his most celebrated songs, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” features a literary character based on a drummer Dylan knew from the clubs of New York’s Greenwich Village.

“Like a Rolling Stone” tore apart pop convention by going on for more than six minutes, with Dylan’s steady narration and a touch of R&B interrupted by the refrain, “How does it feel?”

“After writing that, I wasn’t interested in writing a novel or a play or anything, like I knew like I had too much. I wanted to write songs,” Dylan said later of the song.

“Desolation Row,” which closed his 1965 album “Highway 61 Revisited,” stretched on for more than 11 minutes and reached into biblical allusions, while referencing the growing tumult in urban America.

“Highway 61 Revisited” itself reflected an American journey, referencing the highway that stretches from Dylan’s home of Minnesota to New Orleans and the homes of the blues in the American South.

The album was part of a massive burst of creativity when in a two-year period Dylan put out three legendary albums, with the other two being “Bringing It All Back Home” and “Blonde on Blonde.”

Rise to stardom

The stardom is all a long way from his humble beginnings as Robert Allen Zimmerman, born in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota.

He taught himself to play the harmonica, guitar and piano. Captivated by the music of folk singer Woody Guthrie, Zimmerman changed his name to Bob Dylan — reportedly after the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas — and began performing in local nightclubs.

After dropping out of college, he moved to New York in 1960. His first album contained only two original songs, but the 1963 breakthrough “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” featured a slew of his own work, including the classic “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Armed with a harmonica and an acoustic guitar, Dylan confronted social injustice, war and racism, quickly becoming a prominent civil rights campaigner — and recording an astonishing 300 songs in his first three years.

His interest in civil rights has persisted and in 1991 he released “Blind Willie McTell,” one of the best-known songs of his late career in which Dylan reflects on slavery through the story of the blues singer of the same name.

In 1965, Dylan also was behind a symbolic turning point in music when he went electric at the Newport Folk Festival, turning on the amplifiers for a stunned audience.

As Dylan toured Europe afterward, he was met with hostility with an audience member in England even denouncing him as “Judas” over the betrayal of his folk roots.

When Dylan afterward played in France, the tensions had become so raw that he even held a news conference with a puppet, to which he would sarcastically put his ear as if seeking counsel to reporters’ questions.

Sound like a frog’

Despite his massive cultural influence, Dylan has remained an enigmatic presence. With his gravelly tone, he has long won acclaim in spite of rather than because of his voice.

“Critics have been giving me a hard time since Day One. Critics say I can’t sing. I croak. Sound like a frog,” Dylan said last year in an unexpected career-spanning speech as he accepted a lifetime award at the Grammys.

His relationship with crowds is borders on indifference to hostile, with Dylan steadfastly refusing to please audiences by rolling out his hits.

Performing Friday at the inaugural Desert Trip festival of rock elders in California, Dylan did not say a word to the crowd and kept his back turned, not allowing overhead footage of him for the majority of the audience that could not see. In one turn that surprised fans, Dylan — raised a secular Jew — became a born-again Christian in the late 1970s after taking up Bible study following his divorce from his first wife, Sara. Dylan soon played down the Christianity, saying his conversion had been hyped by the media that he was agnostic at heart. He raised controversy again when he played in 1985 at the Live Aid concerts for Ethiopian famine relief and told the crowd that he wished “a little bit” of the money could go to American farmers struggling to pay their mortgages. His quip quickly created momentum as Willie Nelson and other artists set up Farm Aid, a still-running US festival to raise money for farmers.

Dylan has remained active and toured regularly. In 2012, he released an album full of dark tales of the American past called “Tempest,” raising speculation it would be his finale, in an echo of Shakespeare’s last play of the same name.

But Dylan has kept up his prolific output. Earlier this year he released his 37th studio album, his second in a row devoted to pop standards popularized by Frank Sinatra.

#beatnikhiway.com#bob_dylan#dylan#nobel_prize#literature#counterculture#icon#musician#folk

HIWAY AMERICA- THE CHELSEA HOTEL -AND LEONARD COHEN’S CHELSEA. NYC

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chelsea

Dave Christy, my late husband and I regularly stayed at the Chelsea. We made many happy memories that I always will treasure.

Where The Walls Still Talk
Tales from the legendary hotel-slash-commune that housed Jackson Pollock, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, Bob Dylan, Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith, and Sid Vicious—told by residents like Rufus Wainwright, Betsy Johnson, R. Crumb, and Andy Warhol.
BY NATHANIEL RICHOCTOBER 8, 2013 12:00 AM

Anita! Soon this Chelsea Hotel

Will vanish before the city’s merchant greed,

Wreckers will wreck it, and in its stead

More lofty walls will swell

This old street’s populace. Then who will know

About its ancient grandeur, marble stairs,

Its paintings, onyx-mantels, courts, the heirs

Of a time now long ago? . . .

—“The Hotel Chelsea” (1936), Edgar Lee Masters

Today the halls of the Chelsea Hotel are salted with dust. The hundreds of paintings that adorned its walls have been locked away in storage. The doors to abandoned apartments are whitewashed and padlocked. Hotel operations ceased in 2011 for the first time in 106 years, and now the few remaining residents roam the echoing corridors like ghosts. They have watched workers haul out antique moldings, stained glass, even entire walls. Ancient pipes ruptured during renovations, flooding apartments, and neighbors returned home from work to find their front doors sealed in plastic wrap. The Chelsea’s new owners say that the building had fallen into dangerous disrepair, and they are restoring it to its original condition. Some residents believe that they are being forced out, and that the Chelsea as they know it—and as it was known to residents from Sherwood Anderson and Thomas Wolfe to Sid Vicious and Jasper Johns—will soon vanish before the city’s merchant greed.

Dystopias always begin as utopias, and the Chelsea is no different. Though in its current state it bears an unfortunate resemblance to Los Angeles’s Bradbury Building as transfigured in Blade Runner, the Chelsea was originally conceived as a socialist utopian commune. Its architect, Philip Hubert, was raised in a family devoted to the theories of the French philosopher Charles Fourier, who proposed the construction of self-contained settlements that would meet every possible professional and personal need of its inhabitants. After the stock-market crash of 1873, Hubert decided New York was ready for its own Fourierian experiment and devised a plan to build cooperative apartment houses in New York City. Tenants would save money by sharing fuel and services. Hubert’s creations—New York City’s first co-ops—were tremendously successful, and none more so than the Chelsea, which opened in 1884. Keeping with Fourier’s philosophy, Hubert reserved apartments for the people who built the building: its electricians, construction workers, interior designers, and plumbers. Hubert surrounded these laborers with writers, musicians, and actors. The top floor was given over to 15 artist studios. Hudson River School paintings hung in the common dining rooms, and the hallways and ceilings were decorated with natural motifs. At 12 stories, the Chelsea was the tallest building in New York. (For a full history of the Chelsea Hotel and its origins, see Sherill Tippins’ forthcoming Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel.)

But Hubert’s grand experiment went bankrupt in 1905, and the Chelsea was converted to a luxury hotel, which was visited regularly by guests such as Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, and the painter John Sloan. After World War II, as the hotel declined and room prices fell, it attracted Jackson Pollock, James T. Farrell, Virgil Thomson, Larry Rivers, Kenneth Tynan, James Schuyler, and Dylan Thomas, whose death in 1953 further enhanced the hotel’s legend. (“I’ve had 18 straight whiskies,” said Thomas, after polishing off a bottle of Old Grandad on the last day of his life. “I think that’s the record.”) Arthur Miller moved into #614 after his divorce from Marilyn Monroe. Bob Dylan wrote “Sara” in #211; Janis Joplin fellated Leonard Cohen in #424, an act immortalized in “Chelsea Hotel #2” (“you were talking so brave and so sweet/giving me head on the unmade bed”); Sid Vicious stabbed Nancy Spungen to death in #100. Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Chelsea, William Burroughs wrote The Third Mind, and Jack Kerouac had a one-night stand with Gore Vidal. In 1966 Andy Warhol shot parts of Chelsea Girls at the hotel. In 1992, Madonna, a former resident, returned to shoot photographs for her Sex book. Christo and Jeanne-Claude once stole the doorknob from their bathroom door for an art project; the doorknob is now in the permanent collection of the Hirshhorn Museum.
In its last half-century, the Chelsea was run as an informal artists’ colony. Artists traded paintings for rent, or lived for free, subsidized by the exorbitant rates paid by the troubled children of the hyper-rich—another demographic that has historically been drawn to the hotel. Tourists from all over the world paid for cheerless rooms and the opportunity to sit in the moldering lobby and gawk. The curator of this living museum, the gatekeeper responsible for deciding who should be allowed admittance and for how much, was Stanley Bard. His father, David, had been one of three partners who bought the declining hotel in 1943; Stanley assumed management in the early 1970s. An institution himself, he’s been called everything from “the best loved landlord in history” to “the biggest starfucker of all time.” But six years ago, he was forced out by the heirs of the other two ownership families, who wanted to sell the hotel against his wishes, and two years ago the Chelsea sold to the real-estate magnate Joseph Chetrit for approximately $80 million. Chetrit, who refused to talk to the press, has recently sold the property to King & Grove, a boutique-hotel chain, which is currently overseeing a $40 million renovation.

So far, the promised “re-invention” of the Chelsea has not gone well. Some of the building’s remaining tenants, alleging that Chetrit had tried to bully them into vacating their apartments, filed a lawsuit alleging hazardous living conditions and intimidation. The tenants’ efforts drew the support of former residents, architectural historians, and local politicians. That suit settled two weeks ago, but the building still resembles a construction site, and tenants who did not receive a settlement complain that little has changed. I set out to chronicle its history in the words of those who have lived, worked, caroused, and died there. This is the story of the Chelsea Hotel as told by its past and future ghosts.

NICOLA L.(Artist, current resident): The first time I came to the Chelsea, I was invited to New York to perform at La MaMa in 1968. I remember the first floor was only prostitutes and pimps. One pimp had pink shoes. For me it was unbelievable. It made Paris look like the provinces by comparison. But prostitutes and pimps were a part of the package of the Chelsea. And artists—I will not say that they are prostitutes, but they are selling themselves.
Former longtime manager Stanley Bard, in the lobby of the Chelsea. He was known for his lax leasing system, which allowed struggling artists to live and work in the hotel for decades., By Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.
SCOTT GRIFFIN(Theater producer and developer, former resident): You had a constantly changing cast of residents, some of whom had been there for a hundred years, some who were only there for a month. There was an incredible cross-pollination of people of all ages, social classes, and levels of accomplishment. And it was all curated by Stanley Bard. It was a vibrant, dynamic place to be, particularly as a young person. You could go to one floor and talk about the theater with Stefan Brecht and go to another floor and talk to Arnold Weinstein about poetry and then have dinner downstairs with Arthur Miller. There aren’t many buildings in New York like that.
GERALD BUSBY (Composer, current resident): Stanley Bard had a sense of who was really an artist. He also had a sense for rich dilettantes. He himself was a dilettante who wanted to be part of the artistic scene and wanted to be identified with it. So he became the landlord daddy for artists. It was an astonishing role that he created for himself. His relationship with every tenant was personal. That was the way he behaved—he took everything personally.

MILOS FORMAN (Film director): I finished a movie in 1967, and I didn’t have any money. Somebody told me that Stanley Bard would let me stay at the Chelsea until I would be able to pay him back. At the time all I knew about the Chelsea was that some people in the hippie world were staying there. But I didn’t know that it had the slowest elevator in the whole country.

NICOLA L.: Anything could happen in the elevator. It was either Janis Joplin or the big woman from the Mamas and the Papas who tried to kiss me in the elevator. I can’t remember which. It was a crazy time.

MILOS FORMAN: Once I was going up in the elevator to my room on the eighth floor. On the fifth floor the door opened, and a totally naked girl, in a panic, ran into the elevator. I was so taken aback that I just stared at her. Finally I asked what room she was in. But then the elevator stopped and she ran away. I never saw her again.

And I remember in the floor above me there was a man who had in his room a small alligator, two monkeys, and a snake.

GERALD BUSBY: There were rooms kept aside for black-sheep children from rich families, who paid Stanley to babysit. The most auspicious of these was Isabella Stewart Gardner’s grandniece, who had the same name: Isabella Stewart Gardner. She was an excellent poet—a poet laureate of New York in the 70s—and married to Allen Tate. She was also mad as a hatter, a total masochist, alcoholic. She’d get drunk and meet someone and he’d take her up to her apartment and fuck her and beat her up and steal something, and then she was totally happy.

BOB NEUWIRTH(singer, songwriter, producer, artist): That was the period in which the Chelsea Hotel began to take on a tabloid character. It moved from the realm of a bohemian hotel to a kind of hot spot. Rock-and-roll people began to stay there. Andy Warhol and the people who hung out in the back room of Max’s Kansas City were discovering the place.

GERARD MALANGA (Poet and photographer): When Andy and I traveled, it was pretty much first-class, but then we weren’t actually “living” in those hotels. The Chelsea was different. It appeared a bit rough at the edges. Quite seedy. Paint peeling. Throw rugs needing a cleaning. I don’t recall if the maid ever turned up the sheets. But nothing I couldn’t live with.

Chelsea Girls was one of those divine accidents. When we first started filming, we had no title or concept in mind. We were shooting wildly, you might say. Somehow we found ourselves continually going back to the Chelsea to film. It was our instant set. Andy liked the idea of shooting “on location.” So that’s how the title for the movie pretty much evolved. Not all the sequences were shot there, but structurally when we pieced the sequences together, it gave the appearance that they were shot in different rooms.
BETSEY JOHNSON(Designer): I left a husband [John Cale] in 1969 and went to the Chelsea with a toothbrush. I meant to stay for a couple of days, and I stayed eight months.

I had a huge loft, and I was making costumes for the movie Ciao! Manhattan. I would dress up in them and sit in the lobby to see if they got any reaction. I sat there with cone ears, cone tits, cone knees, in a stretch black knit. I looked a little strange, but I can’t remember any laughing or harassment. It was no big deal.

MILOS FORMAN: One night, around two in the morning, a fire alarm went off. It was a few days after a horrible fire in Japan, and we’d seen on television people jumping to their death from a burning building. So I panicked. I ran into the corridor to see what was happening.

There were other doors opening and people asking questions, and suddenly I heard a bang: I had a window open and the draft closed my door. My key was inside, and I was naked in the corridor, which was beginning to fill with people.

Across the corridor there was a lady. I said, “Do you have any pants?” She said, “No, I don’t.”

I tried to call downstairs, but they just yelled back at me: “The building’s on fire, and you want us to bring you a spare key!” So this lady said, “Well, I can lend you a skirt.”

I put on the skirt. By this point I can see down the long spiral stairwell that everybody is going to the rails to see what’s happening. I was on the eighth floor, and we could see, on the fifth floor, that firemen had started to blast an incredibly powerful water cannon through the door of an apartment to extinguish the fire. From above we saw water running down the stairwell through the different floors, like a cascade. It was like a Niagara Falls.

Then we saw the firemen carrying out an old lady. We didn’t know if she was dead or not—to this day I don’t know if she was dead—but they had blasted her apartment with so much water that she might have drowned.

It seems cynical, but when they were pouring the water in, all of us on the floors above were just standing and watching, as on a balcony in a theater. A bottle of wine was passed around, and some joints, and everyone drank, smoke, talked, and watched the waterfall.

But when they brought out the body everything stopped. There was total silence except for the sound of the water running down the stairs. We all waited for the elevator—the slowest elevator in the world—to come up to the fifth floor. Finally it came, and the fireman took away the lady. And then, the moment the elevator door closed, bang: bottles of wine, joints, everybody talking, and the show went on.

JUDITH CHILDS (Current resident): Edie Sedgwick set her mattress on fire. She was staying across the hallway from our apartment. We had a very alert fellow at the desk that night, and he hadn’t liked the way she looked when she came in, so he went to check on her and found the fire. Later, after the firemen came, we were all in the lobby, mostly in our nightclothes. When the firemen said everything was O.K., we all went into the El Quijote [the Spanish restaurant on the hotel’s ground floor] and had a drink—in our nightclothes. Now that was very fine. That was the moment when we got to know a lot of the people in the hotel.

BETSEY JOHNSON: In those days, nobody was famous. Nobody was like whoa, except for Andy and Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger. Everyone else was on the same plane of having an idea, believing in it, and going for it. Needing to talk about it, needing support from other people in the same boat. It was a clique, but it was based on talent and passion rather than who you knew or how much money you had. It felt real homey and droll and addictive. I made handmade clothes for Nico. I was working with the Paraphernalia clothing boutique, and my fitting model was Edie Sedgwick, who also was staying at the Chelsea. That’s when, somehow or other, her room caught on fire. She was wearing my dress!

It was very comfortable because there was no scrutiny; there was no “you’re too weird for us.” Do you remember that Buñuel movie, where the dinner guests can’t leave the party—The Exterminating Angel? That’s what the Chelsea was like.

WILLIAM IVEY LONG (Costume designer): I moved to the Chelsea because I knew that Charles James lived there—the great Charles James, the Anglo-American couturier, designer, friend of Cecil Beaton’s, friend of everybody. He lived there in great squalor and never accepted assistants or interns.

Mr. James had two rooms in the Chelsea Hotel. There was peeling paint, maquettes of dresses hanging from the ceiling. He dyed his hair with shoe polish because it would drip like in Death in Venice. It probably wasn’t shoe polish, but I called it that. He had a dog, Sputnik, who had an infection and wanted to scratch his ear. So he wore one of those big Elizabethan collars.

I would do things like get him food or cook, and he would eat dinner at my apartment. I’d walk the dog. He already had an assistant, so I was just a gofer. I worked with him until he died, in ’78. I’ve known about five world-class geniuses. One of the traits of genii is they dare the world to understand them. Many of them are belligerent and stubborn and unpleasant. This is justified because the aura that they give off is so appealing, so compelling, that you’re drawn to them. It’s a little test because they’re aware of their special gifts. Charles James’s particular test was that he was an asshole to everybody.

BETSEY JOHNSON: Charles James! We used to send notes to each other. He was a private guy—I never saw him. I would invite him to the shows, and he’d write a note about how he loved my work but he wasn’t feeling well so he couldn’t come. It was an old-fashioned thing—you’d leave a note in his hotel mailbox. I wish I’d had the money to have him make me a gown.

RENE RICARD (Painter, poet, critic, current resident): Charles James was a dear friend of mine when I was a little boy—17, 18. He was mad as a hatter. I had no idea how famous he was. We used to go to Max’s together. One night Charles was at a booth with me in the back room and someone sent over a bottle of champagne with a glass. I don’t know who the person was, but Charles started shaking. He turned the glass over on the bottle and told the waiter to take it back. Everybody was trying to help Charles, and you couldn’t help Charles.

He spoke with a beautiful Mayfair accent, very much like Joan Greenwood in The Importance of Being Earnest. Which was rather interesting considering that he came from the Midwest.

GERALD BUSBY: I arrived here in 1977. Virgil Thomson was my mentor, and he called up Stanley Bard—the famous, outrageous, phenomenal creature that he was—and said, “Stanley, this is the kind of person you’re supposed to have here.” So that was that.

The Chelsea then was bizarre and wonderful and strange. It was just coming out of its super drug haze. I remember there was a guy who sold grass. He had a five-foot-high pile of grass in the middle of his living room with roaches running out. It has always been a place where, because of Stanley, you could do virtually anything short of murder, though that took place too. There used to be a murder, a suicide, and a fire every year. You’d go into the elevators, and you’d see a shoe and a sock. Somebody had committed suicide by jumping down the stairwell and, on the way down, lost a shoe.

My boyfriend and I lived across from an apartment that always had young married couples who fought bitterly, screaming and slamming doors. I came out one day and a man from one of the most vociferous couples was leaning against the wall, drinking a can of beer. He looked flushed and weird. He said, Hi. I said, Hello. I approached the elevators, and 20 policemen came rushing up and grabbed him. The man had just shot and killed his wife, you see, and he had been waiting for the police to come.

If you paid your rent and didn’t cause too much trouble with the manager, you could get away with almost anything. Many people became drug addicts here—including me for a period, when my partner died of AIDS—because you can do anything. The atmosphere encouraged outrageous adventures. That was because of Stanley.

JUDITH CHILDS: My husband, Bernard Childs, died here. The ambulance came. On that late afternoon, after I got back from the hospital, all of the neighbors visited, even those who didn’t know us, who weren’t personal friends.

Something else happened that I always will be grateful for. The housekeeper—at that time we still had maid service—came in and took away all of my husband’s underclothing. She changed the sheets and I never saw the underclothes again. That was a beautiful, incredible thing.

GERALD BUSBY: It was a perfect place for me mainly because of Virgil. He lived there like a graduate student. He had a wonderful, six-room apartment, in its original condition from 1884, but it had been part of an 11-room apartment. He got the part that didn’t have a kitchen. So he built a makeshift kitchen in the linen closet.

I met Virgil when I was working as a cook. After I had an experience cooking for him, I said, “Oh, Virgil? I’ve written a few pieces and I wondered if I could show them to you.” He said: “Not until I taste more of your food. I need to see if you can put things together and turn them into something else.”

He’d call when he held fancy dinners at his apartment—when he would entertain Philip Johnson and his sister, for instance. He would say, “Can you run up a crème brûlée?” And I’d run him up a crème brûlée. So our relationship was mainly about food.

GRETCHEN CARLSON (Current resident): My husband, Philip Taaffe, was living in Naples in 1989, and he wanted to move back to New York. A friend was living here, and she told us that Virgil Thomson’s apartment was going to be up for sale. He had just died. The idea was to leave the apartment in its original state. It’s one of the few apartments that wasn’t chopped up into little pieces when the hotel became a flophouse in the Depression. Virgil is present in this place. Like a benign, gentle ghost. He died right here.

WILLIAM IVEY LONG: I had this fabulous apartment in the front: #411. It proved to be very exciting, because it’s also the number that people dial for information. I was always answering people’s questions in some strange way. Sometimes, though, I would actually give them the number they wanted. I would look it up for them.

My next-door neighbor was Neon Leon. He had a white girlfriend and a black girlfriend and, I think, children with each. They would take turns fighting with him and setting fire to the mattress. I would take gaffer’s tape and tape around my door because the smoke would be coming in, but I would be too busy to evacuate. There would be foghorns and people yelling, “Everyone out!”

VIVA (Writer, painter, actor, dilettante): There were a lot of suicides out those windows. One night, a guy from a floor above us landed on a metal table in the courtyard—on his head.

The very next day another guy jumped out the window onto the synagogue next door. It was just after John Lennon was shot. But this man didn’t die—he was bloody but conscious. He was being carried down the hall on a stretcher. I asked him, “Why did you jump out the window?” He said, “Because John Lennon was shot.”

GERALD BUSBY: I was cooking dinner one night for Sam, and I noticed that the flame on the stove was turning a very strange color. The atmosphere was palpably different. You couldn’t quite define it. What was happening was that there was a fire on a lower floor and enormous billows of smoke were coming up the stairwell. When we opened the door, a black cloud of smoke came in. We ran to the windows to breathe. There were people outside shouting at us, “Jump!”

It turned out that a country-Western singer had a fight with his girlfriend. She poured kerosene all over his fancy shirts and set them on fire. He was asphyxiated, and the whole hotel was filled with smoke.

We went out on the fire escape and were rescued by cherry pickers from fire trucks.

ED HAMILTON (Writer, author ofLegends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with Artists and Outlaws of New York’s Rebel Mecca,current resident): I loved it immediately because it was my ideal of bohemian heaven. People left their doors open; they’d invite you in for a glass of wine. It had a vital energy. At the same time, it was a little bit scary because, in addition to the artists and writers, there were all these crazy characters, schizophrenics and junkies and prostitutes. Mine is an S.R.O. room, so it’s got no kitchen, and the bathroom, which is shared between four rooms, is next door. Junkies would break the lock and go in and shoot up all the time. That was the biggest problem. They’d stay there for hours because they would nod off on the toilet, and they’d leave needles and blood on the floor.

And the prostitutes—it doesn’t sound so bad that there would be prostitutes. But the way it works is that three or four of them rent a room and they take turns with their johns, a john every half an hour, so there’s a steady stream of people that you don’t know. When one of the prostitutes is working, the others have to hang out somewhere, so they usually go to the bathroom. They’ll stay in there for hours. I’ll ask them, “Why are you always in the bathroom?” And they’ll say, “I’m using the toilet. What’s your problem? If you need to use the bathroom, just knock.” But you get sick of knocking on the bathroom all the time to get rid of the prostitutes.

They also have a habit of hanging their underwear in the bathroom. There’s underwear hanging all over the mirror and the sinks and the tub and the shower rod. They have a lot of underwear, prostitutes do. That’s something I’ve noticed.
The lobby before renovations, which caused a huge uproar when the artwork was taken down and put into storage. Now only the girl-on-the-swing sculpture by Eugenie Gershoy remains., By Cindy Marler/Redux. © Hollandse Hoogte.
GERALD BUSBY: There were no leases. Stanley would let you get behind in your rent. If you were really an artist, you could get behind for a month or two or three. But he had this wonderfully bizarre sense of timing: you’d be alone in the elevator and just as the door was closing, he would dash in and you were stuck. Or he would yell after you in the lobby, to embarrass you. Viva used to have these loud, screaming arguments with him in the lobby. Stanley loved that. He liked confrontation. She would say, “You fucking asshole! I don’t know why you think I’m supposed to pay you any more rent!”

NICOLA L.: One day Viva decided that her apartment was too small. The room next door was empty, so she broke through—she made a big hole in the wall. There was a big duel with Stanley about that. She always chose the best moment to fight with him, like noon, when all the tourists were checking out.

ANDY WARHOL (diary entry, October 12, 1978): The police just arrested Sid Vicious for stabbing his 20-year-old manager-girlfriend to death in the Chelsea Hotel, and then I saw on the news that Mr. Bard was saying, “Oh yeah. They drank a lot and they would come in late. . . . ” They just let anybody in over there, that hotel is dangerous, it seems like somebody’s killed there once a week.

RENE RICARD: Sid Vicious was the sweetest, saddest boy. He didn’t know what happened to him. It was so sad. He was so sad.

WILLIAM IVEY LONG: I remember walking past a body. It was not the first body I had seen—when you live in an old S.R.O., which part of the Chelsea was, old people die. But they usually don’t sit in the lobby. A policeman was guarding it. When I asked about it, they said, “That’s that rock-and-roller’s girlfriend.”

Everybody said, “Oh, Sid Vicious killed her, slashed her throat.” But I didn’t see any blood. The body was on a gurney, covered by a sheet. A low gurney, I remember, knee-high. Not one of the ones they use for living people.

RENE RICARD: Stanley denied everything. “Killed his girlfriend in my hotel? Nobody ever killed his girlfriend in my hotel.” “Fire? Edie never had a fire.” He’s totally rewritten the history. I think that’s how he lives with himself.

EDDIE IZZARD (Actor and comedian): The first gig I ever did in America was in Memphis, around 1987. It was a street-performing gig, and a British woman there said, “If you’re ever going to go to New York, stay at the Chelsea Hotel. It’s crazy. You gotta go there.”

So I thought, “O.K., I’ll go there.” I hadn’t heard of it before.

The rooms were bonkers. The rooms were so bonkers. You’d go down a hall, which used to lead to a door, but they closed the door off, so it was just this bit of corridor that was useless. Every room had its own theme, but the themes were usually just whatever they’ve managed to get into that room. I remember staying there when I was performing Dress to Kill at the WestBeth Theater. I was walking around with makeup, dressed in heels, and I think I just blended right in. It was just odd, fucking odd, but I liked it.

LINDA TROELLER (Photographer, current resident): I moved in around 1993. I’d broken up with my French boyfriend, and my collector, who always stayed at the Chelsea Hotel, said, “Why don’t you see Stanley Bard?” I did, and he said that he happened to have something, but only if I moved in by two o’clock the next day.

It was room #832. He told me it was a writer’s room, that it had a big history. He showed me the bedroom and the bathroom, which was beautiful. Then he opened the closet and there was a huge black snake. It was rattling in a cage. Stanley closed the closet door. He said, “Don’t mind that. There were Goths staying here, but we’re getting them out!” He was a great salesman.

RENE RICARD: After September 11th, I was homeless. I was walking down 23rd Street, and just by coincidence I had $3,000 on me. Stanley Bard is standing outside the hotel. He says, “Rene, why don’t you move in?” Every time he saw me he’d ask me to move in. He’d come on with a big smile—you know, the host extraordinaire. But this time I said, “Sure, absolutely. Show me a room.”

He showed me the smallest, worst room they had. I ask how much it was, and it’s as if he could read what was in my pocket: “$1,500 a month,” he said. He says he needed one month’s rent and one month in advance. That’s $3,000. I just emptied my pocket and gave him the money. If you could see the old payment system, what the documentation looks like when you pay your checks—it’s incomprehensible. It’s state-of-the-art somewhere. Perhaps Romania.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT (Musician): I was at the Chelsea for about a year, writing my second album, Poses. I was gathering material and anecdotes and songs and boyfriends. I used to party a lot with Alexander McQueen there, and I fell in with Zaldy Goco, Susanne Bartsch, Walt Paper, Chloë Sevigny—that set. The nightclubbing, Limelight, club-kid culture. Those who had survived the 90s.

I felt that for the album I was writing, there was no better address to have in terms of communicating decadent, sad 20s esprit. I mean, you can’t talk about the Chelsea and not talk about drugs. I don’t do drugs these days, so it’s fine, but it was my last grasp at extreme youth, with all the trimmings: not just the drugs, but the alcohol, the sex, everything. I was approaching my Saturn return and things were starting to get a little darker and a little more sinister. There’s nothing like those high ceilings at the Chelsea Hotel to accentuate that—the phantoms up near the trellises. I couldn’t have asked for a better place.

ARTIE NASH (Author, activist, gadfly, current resident): Rene Ricard was the first person I met after I moved in. I woke up to someone singing opera in the shared bathroom. It might as well have been right outside my door. It was four a.m. He told me that a 15-year-old hooker had lived in my apartment before me, which was both sad and fun at the same time. He loved my room, he said. He assured me that only the best people had committed suicide there.

GRETCHEN CARLSON: That’s what they called the little rooms: suicide rooms. This was a place that drew people who’d hit bottom. For some reason, they had it in their mind that they should come here.

ED HAMILTON: Dee Dee Ramone was about the craziest person I’ve met at the Chelsea. He was staying next door from me, and I didn’t know it was him. There were construction workers upstairs, and he started banging on my wall, “Shut up, shut up!” Then he came to my door, dressed in just his jockey shorts and covered in tattoos. He said, “Shut up with that racket!” I said, “It’s not me, Dee Dee. It’s those guys upstairs.” He ran back into his room and threw open his window and started yelling at them, “You shut up, up there! Motherfuckers! I’ll come up there and kill you!”

Of course they deliberately made more noise, and that just drove him nuts.
Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his manager-girlfriend Nancy Spungen in 1978, the year he stabbed her to death in one of the hotel’s most famous murders (there were a few . . .)., By Chalkie Davies/Getty Images.
R. CRUMB (Artist): A bunch of really crazy people hung around the Chelsea. You could tell that people were going there just because of its reputation—poseurs with artistic pretentions or European eccentrics with money. There’d be poseurs sitting around the lobby. The lobby was really annoying.

I only started staying there about 10 years ago. It was always when somebody else paid for it. I never could afford to stay there—even 10 years ago, it was too expensive. Except for the old residents who clung desperately to their rooms and by some law were not allowed to be kicked out, the guests there were all arty-farty pretentious people with money who wanted to stay there because Sid and Nancy lived there. That was my impression, anyway. The whole thing seemed extremely self-conscious to me.

LOLA SCHNABEL (Artist, former resident): My father had always rented a room in the Chelsea. Guests would stay there, and collectors. He always dreamed of living in the Chelsea, but he was in a different part of his life, he had a family, so it just sat there. When I was 22, I got a scholarship to Cooper Union. My father figured I was on a good track and could come up with the rent, so I moved into the Chelsea. I would do my homework at the bar of El Quijote. I would always order a croquette, until one day, when I found a human tooth in my croquette. Then I stopped eating food there. But I still sat at the bar—it’s a great place to do homework.

ED HAMILTON: As the 90s moved into the aughts, Stanley started renovating the place. It needed it. It was run-down. They had fluorescent lights in the hallway, checkerboard linoleum.

He replaced the lighting and the linoleum. There was a lot of pressure on him from the board to make more money. Some of the marginal characters got edged out, especially the junkies and the prostitutes who didn’t pay their rent. The people in the tiny rooms got squeezed out, and the rooms were combined for people who could pay more. It was the same story all over New York.

JUDITH CHILDS: Some people say it was all over long before Stanley Bard left in 2007, but it wasn’t.

When the Chetrits came in and fired everyone who worked here, the whole staff, we went through a mourning period. They were part of our family. The day that happened, everybody was hugging and crying in the lobby. It was shocking. Then they closed the hotel. And finally they took down all the paintings. We were unbelievably sad. It was like the Panzer Division moving into Poland. And they know that we feel that way.

LOLA SCHNABEL: It’s sad to see the bare walls and to walk in the lobby and see an unfamiliar guy at the desk who doesn’t even say hello. The staff used to look out for you. If you were breaking up with your boyfriend, they’d give you a pat on the back and say, “It’s only a setback.” They would help you if you were carrying too much stuff—they don’t do that now. The doormen used to always give me comments about my outfits. I have this one pair of boots that I can’t take off by myself, and it was nice when the old management was there, because I had someone to help me take off my shoes.

ED HAMILTON: They took down all the art and put it into storage.

ED SCHEETZ (Founder, King & Grove [new owner of the Chelsea]): The art has not disappeared. It’s all stored, catalogued, and being taken care of so it doesn’t get damaged during the renovation. It’s not sold, it’s not gone, nothing.

As a hotel person, I’m involved with a lot of hotels, including iconic ones like the Delano in Miami. The Chelsea is a dream deal for someone in my career. It’s a fantastic investment, but it’s also just a lot of fun to help shape its future and its renaissance. Some people say, “Don’t change anything. You’re ruining the Chelsea!” That’s Luddite. It’s ridiculous. Are we destroying the spirit of the Chelsea? No. It was not destroyed, but it was trampled on for many decades, and we’re trying to bring it back. I think we will successfully do that.

We’re going to have $130 million or something invested in this building, plus all this time and energy. People act like it’s in our interest somehow to destroy it. Even if you say, like everybody does, that we’re just greedy developers, well, the best way for us to make money, and create something that is long lasting, is to do the right thing. That’s what is going to attract guests, people to the restaurants, visitors, tenants. That’s what’s going to make the most money. There is no incentive for us to do a bad job or make it into shiny glass condos. Staying true to the spirit of the Chelsea is not just the right thing—it’s the most profitable thing.

SCOTT GRIFFIN: The thing that is very hard to grasp about the Chelsea is that it’s all about the mix. It doesn’t matter whether people are paying a lot or a little, it’s about the mix, and the minute the Bards walked out that door, that mix was gone. Without that mix, the building just doesn’t work. If the new owners can quickly grasp the importance of the building’s history, if they can think outside of the box, as all smart people do, and learn to embrace the many eccentricities and unusual opportunities that this building presents—if so, they could be great landlords.

But in the last two years, the building has continued to deteriorate. I moved out in April—I feel it’s dangerous to be there now. The workers are routinely causing flooding, shutting off power. They’re destroying the building.

ED SCHEETZ: I understand that the renovations are disruptive and aggravating. But it’s a short-term inconvenience for a long-term permanent improvement. The building is a mess right now. It’s amazing they even allow people to live there. It is not complying with fire codes. It’s not complying with electrical codes. It does not comply with anything. It’s not safe; it’s not modern; it doesn’t have air conditioning; it doesn’t have working, functioning plumbing and heating. When you put in plumbing and air conditioning and modern electrical systems and comply with fire codes, yeah, that’s a pain. But it needs to be done, and it’s for the benefit of everybody, including the current residents. And we’ve done everything that anybody has asked us to do to minimize the intrusion. If they say, “Hey, a pipe broke and it leaked. Can you clean my apartment?” We say, “Sure.”

R. CRUMB: At a certain point you just give up on Manhattan. What can you do to stop it? Nothing, unless the whole fucking economy collapses. Manhattan is going to keep pushing in that direction, more and more expensive condos, apartments, hotel rooms. Then again, it’s always the end of some era in New York. They’ve been saying that about New York since before the Civil War.

MILOS FORMAN: These things are unstoppable. And it’s a pity. Greed is overwhelming.

GERARD MALANGA: Whenever friends planning a trip to New York would ask me about the Chelsea, I’d recommend they reserve a room at the Gramercy Park. In fact, until 15 years ago, the Chelsea rates were higher than those of the Gramercy Park. I have no sentimental attachment, none whatsoever to the Chelsea. I think the best thing that can be done with it—and I say this with the hope that its architectural integrity be preserved—is that some hotelier take it over and transform it into the luxury hotel it’s begging to be.

WILLIAM IVEY LONG:I’m very sentimental about it. Stanley Bard and the Chelsea Hotel saved my life. He certainly saved my artistic life. Stanley accepted the Bohemian biorhythm. This biorhythm is endangered. Stanley was determined that he wasn’t going to be the one to put the lid on anyone’s career. The people who could pay, did pay. The rich Italian tourists paid. The even richer rock-and-roll people paid. The people who couldn’t, he supported them. I had some depressive moments there. But Stanley was one of the few people in New York saying, “You can do it.” His belief in talented people will be his legacy.

ARTIE NASH: I’ve lived here since late 2005. I’m the last resident to get a lease under Stanley Bard. I live in Dylan Thomas’s old apartment. For a year or two, when Stanley was still here, it was as nurturing an existence as you could hope for. I’ve heard it described as a vortex. People do their best work here. But the spirit of the place, what inspired people to live here, has been drained.

MICHELE ZALOPANY (Painter, current resident): It’s a tomb now. There’s no life anymore. The human energy has changed completely. I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone.

ED HAMILTON: It’s hard to say where I’d end up if I had to leave the Chelsea. This place is synonymous with my experience in New York. Certainly I wouldn’t be able to find another place for $1,100. Not in Manhattan—probably not in Brooklyn, either. And I’d never find a place like this where everybody’s an artist. There are no places like that. Yeah, it’s a shame. This is the last outpost of bohemianism in New York.

 LEONARD COHEN’S CHELSEA HOTEL AT MIDNIGHT

or Somewhere In The Suburbia Of Manhattan

The Story of a Legendary New York City Hotel

Text and photos by Christof Graf

For some, they are the odd spots of boredom, for others havens of relaxation. For some they mean necessary evil, others use them as roadside rests on a long journey. Then again others use hotels and make them the center of their living.The Chelsea Hotel even became an oasis within the breeding grounds of New York’s Beat Generation.New York City is the biggest concert arena, the largest open air festival on earth and it’s not long-haired hard rockers or skinny techno freaks who are the main actors but the canyons of houses, the skyscapers and the frantic pace of a postmodern society that is setting the trends for the rest of the world. This is the center of the universe, this is where it all starts. Arts, culture and commerce. Pure Rock ‘n’Roll. New York, New York is swinging, jazzing, rocking and rolling.

Who’s talking ‘New York’ actually mostly talks about Manhattan, although the other parts of N.Y., The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island are accounting for most of its space and population. But Manhattan is like nothing else. Nowhere else, you are so stunned and impressed by people and architecture, technics and art, speed and rhythm. This city is a child of Rock’n’Roll in every way, the constant “Walk On The Wild Side” that Lou Reed used to sing about. This is equally true for stock brokers, businessmen or visitors as for writers, painters or musicians.

One of the crucial points is to find one’s own natural rhythm which for europeans also means to turn back the clock six hours upon arriving at Kennedy Airport, which is located about 90 minutes outside of downtown New York.

Beginning at this point, you’re irritated by a fact that happens to bewilder most first time european visitors in the U.S., that is that you’re adressed very friendly by people completey unbeknownst to you, telling you about their friends and family and all kinds of things. Some of them tell you things you would’t even want to tell your friends back home about.

You might think, what a friendly crowd and might want to offer your heartfelt friendship. But what Europeans are getting wrong is that Americans are very well able to distinguish between openness and frienship ,that they just have a different understanding of what, and how much to tell strangers. What one is saying is not necessarily what the other is understanding. What’s happening is that Americans are surprised to learn how easy Europeans offer their friendship, thinking of them as rather superficial. Got the picture ? OK then, let’s start our trip to Manhattan because we will encounter this situation again, masterfully re-created by Woody Allen in his movies again and again. The second, everlasting impression of the city is equally impressing: everything is bigger, brighter, louder, no matter if it’s day or night. It is ‘The city that never sleeps’.

For those who can deal with all those impressions, who are swinging with the rhythm of the city, who are playing their own Rock’n’Roll instead of getting the blues, their first won’t be the last visit in New York. He’s addicted from now on. The city becomes most beautiful if you let yourself float with the stream. It’s the only way to discover the real New York City away from the sightseeing trips and tourist attractions and to get in some sort of pioneering spirit.

A sightseeing tour for free is offered by the Staten Island Ferry crossing the river between Staten Island and Manhattan. Every half an hour it brings a stream of busy people to and fro at free of charge. Those who also want to enjoy the long, sand beaches of Staten Island should reckon about half a day for this trip. Back in the buzz of the Urban Jungle it is useful to take the same points of orientation as the drivers of the famous yellow cabs. The southside of Manhattan is consisting of the Financial District, including Wallstreet and the World Trade Center.

Then, next to Tribeca (the Triangle Below Canal Street), we have Chinatown and SoHo, Little Italy and the Lower East Side heading up north. After this we’re getting to Greenwich Village and Chelsea, the bohemian and artists quarters. It’s here that the characteristic rectangular system of streets begins. It exists since 1811 and it reaches way up to even include 155th Street.

Fifth Avenue is, besides Park Avenue, not only a very glamourous avenue, but it also divides East and West in the city (From right -West- to left -East- we have First to Eleventh Avenue, from bottom -South- to top -North- we have First to 155th Street). By the way, Central Park starts at 59th Street.

If you want to check out the trails of the Beat Generation in nowadays New York City, you can’t avoid to visit Greenwich Village and Chelsea. The ones who are looking for Rock’n’Roll history, searching for the spirits of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Jim Morrison, Nico or Patti Smith are likely to find some of it within the red brick walls of the Chelsea Hotel, located at 222, West 23rd St. between Seventh and Eight Avenue, where in the past many a famous song has been written.

Greenwich Village is one of the very few areas of Manhattan that does neither have the rectangular street pattern nor is part of his numbering system. Here, the streets still bow and bend at will and also, there still are a lot of green surroundings everywhere. People were living in Greenwich Village long before the decision was made to pave ways and build houses up to 155th Street. This is why the european character of the ‘Village’ is still intact in spite of the skyscrapers up north. But building modern Manhattan has threatened to destroy the quarter.

Only thanks to the imigration of artists, creative and critical spirits to the Village around the turn of the century, its charme could have been preserved. In the fifties, the Village became attractive for the beatnicks. In the sixties, the hippies came. In the seventies and eightees, it was the Rock’n’Rollers and everybody who wanted to be hip who made Greenwich Village and neighboring Chelsea symbols of the New York way of life. One of the particular spots is the Chelsea Hotel, meanwhile under national protection. This place is talking more about popular culture and its artists than any other spot in the Village.

The Chelsea was famous even back at a time when Mark Twain was living in one of its rooms. Thomas Wolfe and Arthur Miller have been living and writing there. Miller, who stayed six years at the Chelsea described the famous artist’s hotel like this: This hotel does not belong to America. There are no vacuum cleaners, no rules and shame…it’s the high spot of the surreal. Cautiously, I lifted my feet to move across bloodstained winos passing out on the sidewalks–and I was happy. I witnessed how a new time, the sixties, stumbled into the Chelsea with young, bloodshot eyes.

Until 1884, the Chelsea Hotel was the highest building in New York City. Today it is burried somewhere in the suburbia of Manhattan. The glamor of ancient time has been nagged away by the destruction done by the years. Only the main entrance with its memorial plates is reminding us of the great past of the hotel. The lobby is resembling an art gallery consisting of objects that sometimes were kept by the hotel management in lieu of payment for a rent long overdue.

The reception desk looks like straight out of an old black & white Hollywood movie. Both lifts seem to move in slow motion up and down the ten-story building. Sometimes, the inside of the hotel looks like a barracs. But holes in the floors, sqeeking waterpipes or breathing heatpipes only add to the ambiente of the hotel. Nonchalance is being cultivated in this place. Luxury is unwanted. Usefulness, atmosphere and non-conformism are dominating.

Pompousness is looked down upon, nonetheless there is tidyness all over the place. In the last five years, a lot of money has been spend upon the restauration of the victorian-gothic building with its many oriels.

Even today, only 100 of the Chelsea’s 400 ‘units’ are available to ‘normal’ New York visitors, the rest of them is occupied by permanent residents. The most beautiful of all (# 600) is a luxury suite which has a marble floor and a bronze fireplace and is currently rented to the gay couple writing love stories under the moniker “Judith Gould”. If you want to stay at the Chelsea, you’d be better adviced to book at least two months ahead, even if it’s only a ordinary room. You rather pay for the famousness of the hotel than for the rooms themselves. You can get a room facing the street at about $ 140 and the Chelsea is highly recommended for people who love something special.

Every room at the Chelsea tells its own story. In # 205, welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who reputedly inspired young Zimmerman to change his name to Bob Dylan, fell into a fatal coma after having 18 whiskies in a row. # 100 was once occupied by Sid Vicious, bass player with The Sex Pistols, and his girlfriend Nancy Spungeon. On the morning of October 11, 1978 Spungeon was found in the bathroom, stabbed to death.

Viscious, arrested under suspicion of murder, died shortly thereafter of a heroin overdose. Jimi Hendrix lived, loved and experimented here, with drugs and other things. Janis Joplin did not only have a love affair with Southern Comfort but also had a short liaison with Leonard Cohen. The canadian rock poet, too, loved the hotel: It’s one of those hotels that have everything that I love so well about hotels. I love hotels to which, at four a.m., you can bring along a midget, a bear and four ladies, drag them to your room and no one cares about it at all.

His song Chelsea Hotel is not only a remembrance of past loves with the likes of Janis Joplin or Nico, it’s also a declaration of love towards the hotel:I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel/ You were taking so brave and so free/ Giving me head on the unmade bed/ While the limousines wait in the street/ Those were the reasons and that was New York/ I was running for the money and the flesh/ That was called love for the workers in song/ Probably still is for those of us left.

The list of Big Names of literature, music or the arts scene who stayed at the Chelsea is seemingly bottomless: Jane Fonda, Jackson Pollock, Brendan Behan, Sarah Bernhardt to name but a few. They all encountered tragedies and comedies. They wrote short stories, movie scripts and novels and painted their pictures. They completed their movies within their heads, long before the actual shooting took place. Some of them had fatal endings…

For many, the Chelsea was a hideout or regular adress for many years, remembers Stanley Bard, who’s been the hotel manager for almost 40 years now. Some of them lived here over decades. It was only recently that punk-icon Patti Smith moved out.

Stanley Bard appears to be friendly but keeps distance, on the other hand he’s happy about reminicing every once in a while and he points out the bookcase in his office. I’m collecting every book that has been written in my hotel, he says taking out Thomas Wolfe’s novel You Can’t Go Home. Many things have happened here, he continues. Jim Morrison, Hendrix and Janis Joplin were having their drug parties here. Today, there’s a ‘No Smoking’ sign in the hotel lobby.

For many years, Bob Dylan used to live in suite # 2011, # 411 was Janis Joplin’s suite. Over the years, Leonard Cohen has lived in many rooms. I like to think of him, back then. He was one of the very few calm ones in these tumultous times. But perhaps his restlessness was better hidden than that of the others. Most of his time in New York in the sixties he was living at # 424. Long after this, Jon Bon Jovi wrote the song and shot his video for ‘Midnight At Chelsea” in suite # 515.

But Bard refuses to talk about the mysterious Viscious/Spungeon murder case. That’s a different story, he says but he’s proud of Andy Warhol’s love for the hotel. In the 60s, Warhol and Nico have done a movie, Chelsea Girl, at the hotel. All in all it has been a turbulent time back then, Stanley Bard resumes and wistfully finishes, I don’t want to have missed any moment in the life of the Chelsea Hotel.

There’s hardly been an artist who has lived in the Chelsea that was not in some way captured by its flair, says Patti Smith. Of course, Leonard Cohen is amongst them and with his song Chelsea Hotel No.2 he not only remembers his former lover Janis Joplin but also puts up a monument to his former hunting trails.

Nonetheless, the song has not been written at the Chelsea. I wrote this for an American singer who died a while ago. She used to stay at the Chelsea, too. I began it at a bar in a Polynesian restaurant in Miami in 1971 and finished it in Asmara, Ethiopia just before the throne was overturned. Ron Cornelius helped me with a chord change in an ealier version, Cohen remarks in the liner notes ‘Some Notes On The Songs’ of his 1975 Greatest Hitscompilation.

Cohen recorded the song in the studio as late as 1974 at the sessions for his album New Skin For The Old Ceremony but premiered the song live on March 23, 1972 at the third show of his London, Royal Albert Hall residency.

Chelsea Hotel No.2, yes, but is there a Chelsea Hotel No.1 ? The answer is No, at least where Cohen’s ‘official’ records are concerned. But, like Bob Dylan, who is varying his set list at every show to keep in fans constantly on their toes, Cohen, too, not seldomly presents radically different versions of his songs, changing lines or adding whole verses. The following version, differing from the officially released one, is commonly known as Chelsea Hotel No.1 and is featured in Tony Palmer’s 1972 tour-movie Bird On A Wire. Cohen also performed this version at his show in Frankfurt on April 6, 1972.

The Chelsea Hotel in 1998
222, West 23rd St, New York City,
Manhattan

Lobby of Chelsea Hotel…

Some details in the lobby *)

Art in the lobby *)

…and the foyer

Leonard Cohen singing
“Chelsea Hotel # 2”

Bob Dylan lived in
the hotel (in room # 205)…
in the Sixties

Joan Baez

Jon Bon Jovi’s movie
“Chelsea At Midnight” was
inspired by the well-known
New Yorker Hotel

Photos © by Christof Graf.
Photos marked with *
by Dick Straub & Lizzie Madder.
Used by permission.
And thanks to Lizzie
for the postcard.

Visit the website of the Hotel

Chelsea Hotel # 1

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
You were taking so brave and so free
Giving me head on the unmade bed
While the limousines wait in the street

(And) Those were the reasons and that was New York
I was running for the money and the flesh
That was called love for the workers in song
Probably (It) still is for those of us/them left

But You got away, didn’t you baby
You just threw it all to the ground
You got away, they can’t pay you now
For mailing your sweet little song

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
In the winter of sixty-seven
My friends of that year they were all trying to go queer
And me I was just getting even
And me I was just getting even
And me I was just getting even

(And) those were the reasons and that was New York
I was running for the money and the flesh
That was called love for the workers in song
Probably (It) still is for those of us/them left

But you got away, didn’t you baby
You just threw it all to the ground
You got away they can’t pay you now
For making your sweet little sound

© by Leonard Cohen.
Reprinted with permission.

Chelsea Hotel # 2

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
you were talking so brave and so sweet,
giving me head on the unmade bed,
while the limousines wait in the street.

Those were the reasons and that was New York,
we were running for the money and the flesh.
And that was called love for the workers in song
probably still is for those of them left.Ah but you got away, didn’t you babe,
you just turned your back on the crowd,
you got away, I never once heard you say,
I need you, I don’t need you,
I need you, I don’t need you
and all of that jiving around.

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
you were famous, your heart was a legend.
You told me again you preferred handsome men
but for me you would make an exception.
And clenching your fist for the ones like us
who are oppressed by the figures of beauty,
you fixed yourself, you said, “Well never mind,
we are ugly but we have the music.”

Ah but you got away, didn’t you babe,
you just turned your back on the crowd,
you got away, I never once heard you say,
I need you, I don’t need you,
I need you, I don’t need you
and all of that jiving around.

I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best,
I can’t keep track of each fallen robin.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
that’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.

© by Leonard Cohen.
Reprinted with permission.


Christof Graf is the author of three books on Leonard Cohen:
So long, Leonard, (Germany 1990)
Partisan der Liebe, (Germany 1996
Leonard Cohen – Eine Hommage/Un Hommage, (Germany 1997)

 

COOL PEOPLE -Stevie Nicks on Secret to Fleetwood Mac’s Longevity, Touring Like Prince

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Stevie Nicks on Secret to Fleetwood Mac’s Longevity, Touring Like Prince

Ahead of 24 Karat Gold solo tour, singer-songwriter talks set lists, “sex, rock & roll and drugs” songs, and more


Steve Nicks discusses how her solo career helps keep Fleetwood Mac stable, and why she can no longer write “sex, rock & roll and drugs” songs. Kristin BurnsSTEVIE NICKS IN CONCERT 1982https://youtu.be/w9fuzSWRqP0Stevie Nicks – Timespace – The Best Of Stevie Nicks (Full Album)https://youtu.be/7e2Z8fXjD1M

Stevie Nicks has been having trouble sleeping. The Fleetwood Macvocalist wrapped up a year-and-a-half long tour with her band last November, but even as she’s begun rehearsing for a solo tour in support of 2014’s 24 Karat Gold that will launch in October, Nicks has yet to find herself on a better schedule

“I’ve gotten into the habit of not going to sleep until somewhere between five and seven, and when I’m not working I can sleep until four [in the afternoon],” she reveals, blaming the tour routing schedule that had the band jumping between cities and time zones every other day. “I wish I had worked harder on it because now it’s gonna be harder for me to, but I’ll figure it out because I always do.”

Even though she doesn’t necessarily need to, the legendary vocalist and songwriter felt determined to get back on the road even after touring for so long with the Mac, who reunited with Christine McVie after a 16-year break. Just before McVie’s return, Nicks had finished recording 24 Karat Gold, based on a collection of demos from throughout her career that she had personally cut from the various Fleetwood Mac and solo albums they were originally intended to be on. She spent two and half months in Nashville with friend and producer Dave Stewart recording the songs, and the same day she turned the album into Warner Bros., she entered a rehearsal room with one of rock’s most iconic, formerly tempestuous line-ups.

“I didn’t walk through the doors at the Fleetwood Mac rehearsal with Christine McVie sitting there after not having her in the band for 16 years and say, ‘Oh, would everybody like to stay up and listen to my new record?'” she recalls with a laugh. “So never a word was ever spoken about it for the entire year and a half that we were on the road, so I never even got to listen to this record until we got back.”

In the past few weeks, following a well-deserved break after Fleetwood Mac’s trek around the world, Nicks realized that the window was closing for the appropriate time to promote the album. “These are the glory songs,” she asserts. “These are the sex, rock & roll and drugs songs that I’m actually not really writing right now, and these are the songs I could never write again.”

As Nicks explains it, her solo career acts as a crucial counterweight to her band activities. “I feel really blessed to be able to be the Gemini that I am and be able to hop back and forth between my solo career and Fleetwood Mac. My solo career is truly the reason why Fleetwood Mac is still together because I get bored easily,” she says. “That’s why every time I go to work on my solo career, I try to make it as different from Fleetwood Mac as I possibly can so that it really is two worlds. When I feel ready to go back to Fleetwood Mac when we do our next tour in a year and half, I’ll be ready to go back to Fleetwood Mac, and it’ll be good.”

The “Wild Heart” singer’s love of contrast is something she embraces in her daily life, too. “I always think an environment change will fix anything, so if I get depressed, I’m gonna leave my apartment and go to my house for a couple of days,” she explains. Sometimes she’ll do the same in hotels, too, needing to leave a beautiful suite for a room just down the hall. “All it takes is a new living room and bedroom for Stevie and she’s a new person.”

As she excitedly runs through plans for her upcoming tour, Nicks speaks with the infectious energy of a teenager preparing for their first gig. She first mocked up a list of 31 songs for the show, and when she presented it to musical director and guitarist Waddy Wachtel, he asked for her to cut it down. She’s now at 30. “I’m like, ‘OK, that’s it. I’m not cutting these songs out,'” she says, noting that everyone will learn all 30 for rehearsals. “You never know which songs are gonna really work, so I can’t make that decision, and I’m standing by my statement that I cannot choose the songs until we go into rehearsal.”

Alongside 24 Karat Gold tracks, many of which she’s debuting, she’s thrilled to try “Wild Heart” live for the first time, as well as the title tracks off Bella Donna and Trouble in Shangri-La. “Gold Dust Woman,” “Edge of Seventeen,” “Dreams” and “Stand Back” are secured on the list, as well. She even has plans to connect 2001’s “Sorcerer” to the newer “Belle Fleur,” two songs that come from the same poem. “I don’t really get tired of my songs,” she says. “I’m lucky.”

Even as she works on getting herself in bed by 10 p.m. – “which is totally ridiculous for me,” she scoffs at her own suggestion – Nicks is looking forward to taking on another schedule that will keep her up late at night. “We’re gonna go on for like two hours then we’re gonna go and do what Prince would, which is then go find a club and play the other 14 songs,” she says with a laugh, alluding to the inevitable cuts she’s making to her set list. “It’s all a lot of fun.”

Bringing up Prince, who played on the original recording of Nicks’ 1983 solo hit “Stand Back,” puts the singer in a reflective mood. “I feel really sad that Prince’s journey didn’t continue until he was 95,” she says. “Just so devastated, but I think that for most of us, we’re all gonna live to be in our nineties. So a lot of this creativity and all the things I want to do when this part of my life starts to go away a little bit, then I’ll be sitting down at an old typewriter that I’ll dig out of my storage unit in Phoenix and I’ll start writing stories. I’ll start working on movies. There’s so many things I want to do that this is just a part of it all. That’s all I can tell you.”

Stevie Nicks has announced a 24 Karat Gold Tour with the Pretenders starting in October. 

#stevie_nicks#beatnikhiway.com#music#fleetwood_mac#ana_christy

51 Genius Quotes That Prove George Carlin Was A Modern Philosopher

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1 Genius Quotes That Prove George Carlin Was A Modern Philosopher

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In many ways, the comedian has the ability to be the philosopher of our era, a social critic and theorist whose words have the ability to shape public thought. As we saw from my piece on Louis C.K. a few weeks ago, comedy — at its best — pushes our buttons and challenges our ways of thinking. To me, no person is a better example of that than George Carlin, a savage satirist and brilliant thinker who was just as much of a writer and a philosopher as he was a comedian. His medium was stand-up, but he touched on issues of race, class, politics and American life — saying the kinds of things no one else dared.

Carlin got famous for his bit about the “words you can’t say on television,” but his legacy speaks of so much more, wisdom and wit that deserve to live on through the ages. Here are 51 quotes from the late comedian that show him at his best — hilarious, irascible and never satisfied with the state of society.

  1. I don’t have pet peeves. I have major psychotic fucking hatreds.
  2. The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, “You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.”
  3. By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth.
  4. And what can we do to silence these Christian athletes who thank Jesus whenever they win, never mention his name when they lose? Not a word. You never hear them say “Jesus made me drop the ball.” “The good lord tripped me up behind the line of scrimmage.” According to these guys Jesus is undefeated, meanwhile these assholes are in last place. Must be another one of those “miracles.”
  5. The real reason that we can’t have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse: You cannot post “Thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and “Thou shalt not lie” in a building full of lawyers, judges, and politicians. It creates a hostile work environment.
  6. It’s the old American Double Standard, ya know: Say one thing, do somethin’ different. And of course this country is founded on the double standard. That’s our history. We were founded on a very basic double standard: This country was founded by slave owners who wanted to be free.
  7. Isn’t it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do “practice?”
  8. How can [God] be perfect? Everything He ever makes dies.”
  9. If you take five white guys and put ’em with five black guys, and let ’em hang around together for about a month, and at the end of the month, you’ll notice that the white guys are walking and talking and standing like the black guys do. You’ll never see the black guys going, “Oh, golly! We won the big game today, yes sir!” But you’ll see guys with red hair named Duffy going, “What’s happenin’?”
  10. Cloud nine gets all the publicity, but cloud eight actually is cheaper, less crowded, and has a better view.
  11. Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.
  12. Here’s another question I have: How come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelet? Are we so much better than chickens all of a sudden? When did this happen; that we passed chickens in goodness? Name six ways we’re better than chickens. See, nobody can do it! You know why? Because chickens are decent people. You don’t see chickens hanging around in drug gangs, do you? No. You don’t see a chicken strapping some guy to a chair and hooking up his nuts to a car battery, do you? When’s the last chicken you heard about came home from work and beat the shit out of his hen, huh? Doesn’t happen. Because chickens are decent people.
  13. People who say they don’t care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don’t care what people think.
  14. Electricity is really just organized lightning.
  15. We’re so self-important. So arrogant. Everybody’s going to save something now. Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save the snails. And the supreme arrogance? Save the planet! Are these people kidding? Save the planet? We don’t even know how to take care of ourselves; we haven’t learned how to care for one another. We’re gonna save the fuckin’ planet? And, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with the planet in the first place. The planet is fine. The people are fucked! Compared with the people, the planet is doin’ great. It’s been here over four billion years The planet isn’t goin’ anywhere, folks. We are! We’re goin’ away. Pack your shit, we’re goin’ away. And we won’t leave much of a trace. Thank God for that. Nothing left. Maybe a little Styrofoam. The planet will be here, and we’ll be gone. Another failed mutation, another closed-end biological mistake.
  16. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.
  17. Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky, who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer and burn and scream until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you and He needs money.
  18. The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.
  19. Catholics and other Christians are against abortions and they’re against homosexuals. Well who has less abortions than homosexuals? Leave these fucking people alone for Christ’s sake. Here is an entire class of people guaranteed never to have an abortion and the Catholics and the Christians are just tossing them aside. You’d think they’d make natural allies. Go look for consistency in religion.
  20. If honesty were suddenly introduced into American life, the whole system would collapse.
  21. Capitalism tries for a delicate balance: It attempts to work things out so that everyone gets just enough stuff to keep them from getting violent and trying to take other people’s stuff.
  22. So about 80 years after the Constitution is ratified, the slaves are freed. Not so you’d really notice it of course; just kinda on paper. And that of course was at the end of the Civil War. Now there is another phrase I dearly love. That is a true oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one: “Civil War.” Do you think anybody in this country could ever really have a civil war? “Say, pardon me?” (shoots gun) “I’m awfully sorry. Awfully sorry.”
  23. When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front-row seat.
  24. So maybe it’s not the politicians who suck; maybe it’s something else. Like the public. That would be a nice realistic campaign slogan for somebody: “The public sucks. Elect me.” Put the blame where it belongs: on the people. Because if everything is really the fault of politicians, where are all the bright, honest, intelligent Americans who are ready to step in and replace them? Where are these people hiding? The truth is, we don’t have people like that. Everyone’s at the mall, scratching his balls and buying sneakers with lights in them. And complaining about the politicians.
  25. Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.
  26. I’m completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. These two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death.
  27. I don’t like ass kissers, flag wavers or team players. I like people who buck the system. Individualists. I often warn people: “Somewhere along the way, someone is going to tell you, ‘There is no “I” in team.’ What you should tell them is, ‘Maybe not. But there is an “I” in independence, individuality and integrity.’” Avoid teams at all cost. Keep your circle small. Never join a group that has a name. If they say, “We’re the So-and-Sos,” take a walk. And if, somehow, you must join, if it’s unavoidable, such as a union or a trade association, go ahead and join. But don’t participate; it will be your death. And if they tell you you’re not a team player, congratulate them on being observant.
  28. They say rather than cursing the darkness, one should light a candle. They don’t mention anything about cursing a lack of candles.
  29. Boy, these conservatives are really something, aren’t they? They’re all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you’re preborn, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re fucked.
  30. Some people dream of things that never were and ask, “Why not?” Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that shit.
  31. I don’t understand why prostitution is illegal. Selling is legal. Fucking is legal. Why isn’t selling fucking legal? You know, why should it be illegal to sell something that’s perfectly legal to give away? I can’t follow the logic on that one at all! Of all the things you can do, giving someone an orgasm is hardly the worst thing in the world. In the army they give you a medal for spraying napalm on people. In civilian life you go to jail for giving someone an orgasm.
  32. Comedy is filled with surprise, so when I cross a line, I like to find out where the line might be and then cross it deliberately, and then make the audience happy about crossing the line with me.
  33. There are over seventeen thousand golf courses in America, they average over one hundred and fifty acres a piece. That’s three million plus acres, four thousand, eight hundred and twenty square miles. You could build two Rhode Islands and a Delaware for the homeless on the land currently being wasted on this meaningless, mindless, arrogant, elitist, racist, there’s another thing; the only blacks you’ll find at country clubs are carrying trays. And a boring game. A boring game for boring people. You ever watch golf on television? It’s like watching flies fuck!
  34. I am perfectly willing to share the room with a fly, as long as he is patrolling that portion of the room I don’t occupy. But if he starts that smart-ass fly shit, buzzing my head and repeatedly landing on my arm, he is engaging in high-risk behavior.
  35. And you might have noticed something else. The sanctity of life doesn’t seem to apply to cancer cells, does it? You rarely see a bumper sticker that says: “Save the tumors.” Or “I brake for advanced melanoma.” No, viruses, mold, mildew, maggots, fungus, weeds, E. Coli bacteria, the crabs. Nothing sacred about those things. So at best the sanctity of life is kind of a selective thing. We get to choose which forms of life we feel are sacred, and we get to kill the rest. Pretty neat deal, huh? You know how we got it? We made the whole fucking thing up!
  36. Have you ever wondered why Republicans are so interested in encouraging people to volunteer in their communities? It’s because volunteers work for no pay. Republicans have been trying to get people to work for no pay for a long time.
  37. Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.
  38. When fascism comes to America, it will not be in brown and black shirts. It will not be with jack-boots. It will be Nike sneakers and Smiley shirts. Germany lost the Second World War. Fascism won it. Believe me, my friend.
  39. Here’s some bumper stickers I’d like to see: “We are the proud parents of a child whose self esteem is sufficient that he doesn’t need us promoting his minor scholastic achievements on the back of our car.” “We are the proud parents of a child who has resisted his teachers’ attempts to break his spirit and bend him to the will of his corporate masters.” “We have a daughter in public school who hasn’t been knocked up yet.” “We have a son in public school who hasn’t shot any of his classmates yet. But he does sell drugs to your honor student. Plus he knocked up your daughter.” “We are the embarrassed parents of a cross-eyed little nit-wit who at the age of ten not only continues to wet the bed but also shits on the school bus.”
  40. People are fucking nuts. This country is full of nitwits and assholes. You ever notice that? Nitwits, assholes, fuckups, scumbags, jerkoffs, and dipshits. And they all vote. In fact, sometimes you get the impression that they’re the only ones who vote.
  41. Ever notice that anyone going slower than you is an idiot, but anyone going faster is a maniac?
  42. Rights aren’t rights if someone can take them away. They’re privileges. That’s all we’ve ever had in this country, is a bill of temporary privileges. And if you read the news even badly, you know that every year the list gets shorter and shorter. You see all, sooner or later. Sooner or later, the people in this country are gonna realize the government does not give a fuck about them! The government doesn’t care about you, or your children, or your rights, or your welfare or your safety. It simply does not give a fuck about you! It’s interested in its own power. That’s the only thing. Keeping it and expanding it wherever possible.
  43. The IQ and the life expectancy of the average American recently passed each other in opposite directions.
  44. When it comes to God’s existence, I’m not an atheist and I’m not an agnostic. I’m an acrostic: the whole thing puzzles me.
  45. The things that matter in this country have been reduced in choice, there are two political parties, there are a handful insurance companies, there are six or seven information centers, but if you want a bagel there are 23 flavors. Because you have the illusion of choice.
  46. Those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music.
  47. Let me get a sip of water here…you figure this stuff is safe to drink? Actually, I don’t care, I drink it anyway. You know why? Because I’m an American and I expect a little cancer in my food and water. I’m a loyal American and I’m not happy unless I let government and industry poison me a little bit every day.
  48. Here’s all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.
  49. Religion is nothing but mind control. Religion is just trying to control your mind, control your thoughts, so they’re gonna tell you some things you shouldn’t say because they’re…sins. And besides telling you things you shouldn’t say, religion is gonna suggest some things that you ought to be saying; “Here’s something you ought to say first thing when you wake up in the morning; here’s something you ought to say just before you go to sleep at night; here’s something we always say on the third Wednesday in April after the first full moon in spring at 4 o’clock when the bells ring.” Religion is always suggesting things you ought to be saying.
  50. I have certain rules I live by. My first rule: I don’t believe anything the government tells me. […] I look at war a little bit differently. To me, war is a lot of prick-waving! OK? Simple thing. That’s all it is. War is a whole lot of men standing out on a field waving their pricks at one another. Men are insecure about the size of their dicks, and so they have to kill one another over the idea. That’s what all that asshole jock bullshit is all about. That’s what all that adolescent, macho, male posturing and strutting in bars and locker rooms is all about. It’s called “dick fear!” Men are terrified that their pricks are inadequate and so they have to compete with one another, to feel better about themselves, and since war is the ultimate competition, basically, men are killing each other in order to improve their self-esteem! You don’t have to be a historian or a political scientist to see the bigger-dick foreign policy at work. It sounds like this: “What, they have bigger dicks? Bomb them!” And of course, the bombs and the rockets and the bullets are all shaped like dicks. It’s a subconscious need to project the penis into other people’s affairs. It’s called “fucking with people!”
  51. If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.

#george_carlin#quotes#beatnikhiway.com#ana_christy

 

 

 

 

 

COOL PEOPLE-PROCOL HARUM

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Artist Biography by Bruce Eder

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Procol Harum is arguably the most successful “accidental” group creation — that is, a band originally assembled to take advantage of the success of a record created in the studio — in the history of progressive rock. With “A Whiter Shade of Pale” a monster hit right out of the box, the band evolved from a studio ensemble into a successful live act, their music built around an eclectic mix of blues-based rock riffs and grand classical themes. With singer/pianist Gary Brooker and lyricist Keith Reidproviding the band’s entire repertory, their music evolved in decidedly linear fashion, the only major surprises coming from the periodic lineup changes that added a new instrumental voice to the proceedings. At their most accessible, as on “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and “Conquistador,” they were one of the most popular of progressive rock bands, their singles outselling all rivals, and their most ambitious album tracks still have a strong following.

Procol Harum‘s roots and origins are as convoluted as its success — especially between 1967 and 1973 — was pronounced. Pianist Gary Brooker (b. May 29, 1945, Southend, Essex, England) had formed a group at school called the Paramounts at age 14, with guitarist Robin Trower (b. Mar. 9, 1945, Southend, Essex) and bassist Chris Copping (b. Aug. 29, 1945 Southend, Essex), with singerBob Scott and drummer Mick Brownlee. After achieving a certain degree of success at local youth clubs and dances, covering established rock & roll hits, Brooker took over the vocalist spot from the departed Scott, and the group continued working after its members graduated — by 1962, they were doing formidable (by British standards) covers of American R&B, and got a residency at the Shades Club in Southend.

Brownlee exited the band in early 1963 and was replaced by Barry J. (B.J.) Wilson (b. Mar. 18, 1947, Southend, Essex), who auditioned after answering an ad in Melody Maker. Nine months later, in September of 1963, bassist Chris Copping opted out of the professional musicians’ corps to attend Leicester University, and he was replaced by Diz Derrick. The following month, the Paramounts demo record, consisting of covers of the Coasters‘ “Poison Ivy” and Bobby Bland‘s “Farther on up the Road,” got them an audition at EMI. This resulted in their being signed to the Parlophone label, with their producer, Ron Richards, the recording manager best-known for his many years of work with the Hollies.

The Paramounts’ first single, “Poison Ivy,” released in January of 1964, reached number 35 on the British charts. The group also got an important endorsement from the Rolling Stones, with whom they’d worked on the television show Thank Your Lucky Stars, who called the Paramounts their favorite British R&B band. Unfortunately, none of the group’s subsequent Parlophone singles over the next 18 months found any chart success, and by mid-’66, the Paramounts had been reduced to serving as a backing band for popsters Sandy Shaw and Chris Andrews. In September of 1966, the Paramountswent their separate ways; Derrick out of the business, Trower and Wilson to gigs with other bands, and, most fortuitously, Gary Brooker decided to develop his career as a songwriter.

This led Brooker into a partnership with lyricist Keith Reid (b. Oct. 19, 1945), whom he met through a mutual acquaintance, R&B impresario Guy Stevens. By the spring of 1967, they had a considerable body of songs prepared and began looking for a band to play them. An advertisement in Melody Maker led to the formation of a band initially called the Pinewoods, with Brooker as pianist/singer, Matthew Fisher (b. Mar. 7, 1946, Croydon, Surrey) on organ, Ray Royer (b. Oct. 8, 1945) on guitar, Dave Knights (b. June 28, 1945, London) on bass, and Bobby Harrison (b. June 28, 1943, London) on drums. Their first recording, produced by Denny Cordell, was of a piece of surreal Reid poetry called “A Whiter Shade Of Pale,” which Brooker set to music loosely derived from Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Air on a G String from the Suite No. 3 in D Major.

By the time this recording was ready for release, the Pinewoods had been rechristened Procol Harum, a name derived, as alternate stories tell it, either from Stevens‘ cat’s birth certificate, Procol Harun, or the Latin “procul” for “far from these things” (hey, it was the mid-’60s, and either is possible). In early May of 1967, the group performed “A Whiter Shade of Pale” at the Speakeasy Club in London, whileCordell arranged for a release of the single on English Decca (London Records in America), on the companies’ Deram label. Ironically, Cordell‘s one-time clients the Moody Blues were about to break out of a long commercial tail-spin on the very same label with a similar, classically-tinged pair of recordings, “Nights in White Satin” and “Days of Future Passed,” and between the two groups and their breakthrough hits, Deram Records would be permanently characterized as a progressive rock imprint.

Cordell had also sent a copy of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” to Radio London, one of England’s legendary off-shore pirate radio stations (they competed with the staid BBC, which had the official broadcast monopoly, and were infinitely more beloved by the teenagers and most bands), which played the record. Not only was Radio London deluged with listener requests for more plays, but Deram suddenly found itself with orders for a record not scheduled for release for another month — before May was half over, it was pushed up on the schedule and rushed into shops.

Meanwhile, the prototypal Procol Harum made its concert debut in London opening for Jimi Hendrixat the Saville Theater on June 4, 1967. Four days later, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” reached the top of the British charts for the first of a six-week run in the top spot, making Procol Harum only the sixth recording act in the history of British popular music to reach the number one spot on its first release (not even the Beatles did that). The following month, the record reached number five on the American charts, with sales in the United States rising to over a million copies (and six million copies worldwide).

All of this seemed to bode well for the band, except for the fact that it had only a single song in its repertory and no real stage act — literal one-hit wonders. The same month that the record peaked in the United States, Royer and Harrison were sacked and replaced by Brooker‘s former Paramountsbandmates Robin Trower and B.J. Wilson on guitar and drums, respectively.

Procol Harum

The “real” Procol Harum band was now in place and a second single, “Homburg,” was duly recorded. Reminiscent of “Whiter Shade of Pale” in its tone of dark grandeur, this single, released in October of 1967 on EMI’s Regal Zonophone label, got to number six on the British charts. The group’s debut album, entitled Procol Harum, managed to reach number 47 in America during October of 1967, based on “A Whiter Shade of Pale” being among its tracks (which included the first version of “Conquistador”) — but a British version of the LP, issued over there without the hit, failed to attract any significant sales. The single “Homburg,” however, got no higher than number 34 in America a month later.

Shine on Brightly

On March 26, 1968, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” won the International Song of the Year award at the 13th Annual Ivor Novello Awards (sort of the British equivalent of the Grammys). The group’s newest single, “Quite Rightly So,” however, only reached the number 50 spot in England in April of that year. A new contract for the group was secured with A&M Records in America (they remained on Regal Zonophone in England), and by November, a second album,Shine on Brightly, highlighted by an 18-minute epic entitled “In Held ‘Twas I,” was finished and in the stores, and rose to number 24 in America but failed to chart in England. The next month, they were playing the Miami Pop Festival in front of 100,000 people, on a bill that includedChuck Berry, Canned Heat, the blues version of Fleetwood Mac, and the Turtles, among others.

A Salty Dog

In March of 1969, David Knights and Matthew Fisher exited the lineup shortly after finishing work on the group’s new album, A Salty Dog, preferring management and production to the performing side of the music business. Knights‘ departure opened the way for bassist Chris Copping to joinProcol Harum (thus re-creating the lineup of the Paramounts), playing bass and organ. Another American tour followed the next month, and in June of 1969 A Salty Dog was issued. This record, considered by many to be the original group’s best work, combined high-energy blues and classical influences on a grand scale, and returned the band to the U.S. charts at number 32, while the title song ascended the British charts to number 44. The album subsequently reached number 27 in England, the group’s first long-player to chart in their own country.Despite the group’s moderate sales in England and America, they remained among the more popular progressive rock bands, capable of reaching more middle-brow listeners who didn’t have the patience for Emerson, Lake & Palmer or King Crimson. Robin Trower‘s flashy guitar quickly made him the star of the group, as much as singer/pianist Brooker, and he was considered in the same league with Alvin Lee and any number of late-’60s/early-’70s British blues axemen. Matthew Fisher‘s stately, cathedral-like organ had been a seminal part of the band’s sound, juxtaposed with Trower‘s blues-based riffing and Reid‘s unusual, darkly witty lyrics as voiced by Brooker. Following Fisher‘s departure, the group took on a more straightforward rock sound, but Trower‘s playing remained a major attraction to the majority of fans.

“Whaling Stories” was an example of quintessential Procol Harum, a mix of 19th century oratorio that sounds like it came out of a Victorian-era cathedral, with fiery blues riffs blazing at its center. And being soaked in Reid‘s dark, eerie, regret-filled lyrics didn’t stop “A Salty Dog” from becoming one of the group’s most popular songs.

Broken Barricades

It was a year before their next album, Home, was released, in June of 1970, ascending to the American number 34 and the British 49 spot. This marked the end of the group’s contract with Regal Zonophone/EMI, and on the release of their next LP in July of 1971, they were now on Chrysalis in England.Broken Barricades reached number 32 in America and 41 in England, but it also marked the departure of Robin Trower. The founding guitarist left that month and subsequently organized his own group, with a sound modeled along lines similar to Jimi Hendrix, which had great success in America throughout the 1970s.Trower‘s replacement, Dave Ball (b. Mar. 30, 1950), joined the same month, and the lineup expanded by one with the addition of Alan Cartwright on bass, which freed Chris Copping to concentrate full-time on the organ. The group returned to something of the sound it had before Fisher‘s departure, although Trower was a tough act to follow. It was this version of the band that performed on November 18, 1971 in a concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the DaCamera Singers in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada — the concert was a bold and expansive, richly orchestrated re-consideration of earlier material (though not “A Whiter Shade of Pale”) from the group’s repertory, and, released as an official live album in 1972, proved to be the group’s most successful LP release, peaking at number five and drawing in thousands of new fans.

Procol Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

In England, Procol Harum Live: In Concert With the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra only rose to number 48 in May of 1972, but it was competing with a reissue of the group’s debut album (retitled A Whiter Shade of Pale, with the single added) paired with A Salty Dog, which outperformed it considerably, reaching number 26. A single lifted from the live record, “Conquistador,” redone in a rich and dramatic version, shot to number 16 in America and 22 in England that summer. Soon after, the U.S. distributor of the debut album, London Records, got further play from that record by re-releasing it with a sticker announcing the presence of “the original version of “Conquistador.”

Grand Hotel

Amid all of this success, the group’s lineup again was thrown into turmoil in September when Dave Ball left Procol Harumto join Long John Baldry‘s band. He was replaced by Mick Grabham, formerly of the bands Plastic Penny and Cochise. The band’s next album, Grand Hotel, was a delightfully melodic and decadent collection (anticipating Bryan Ferryand Roxy Music in some respects) that featured guest backing vocals by Christianne Legrand of the a cappella singing group the Swingle Singers. That record, their first released on Chrysalis in America as well as England, peaked at number 21. Six months later, A&M released the first compilation of the band’s material, Best of Procol Harum, which only made it to number 131 on the charts.

Exotic Birds and Fruit

The group’s next two albums, Exotic Birds and Fruit (May 1974) and Procol’s Ninth (September 1975), the latter produced by rock & roll songsmiths Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, performed moderately well, and “Pandora’s Box” fromProcol’s Ninth became one of their bigger hits in England, rising to number 16. July of 1976 saw a departure and a lateral shift in the group’s lineup, as Alan Cartwright left the band and Chris Copping took over on bass, while Pete Solley joined as keyboard player.

Something Magic

By this time, the band’s string had run out, as everyone seemed to know. A new album,Something Magic, barely scraped the U.S. charts in April of 1977, and the band split up following a final tour and a farewell concert at New York’s Academy of Music on May 15, 1977. Only five months later, the band was back together for a one-off performance of “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” which had taken on a life of its own separate from the group — the song was named joint winner (along with “Bohemian Rhapsody”) of the Best British Pop Single 1952-1977, at the Britannia Awards to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, and the band performed it live at the awards ceremony.

No More Fear of Flying

Apart from Trower, Gary Brooker was the most successful and visible of all ex-Procol Harum members, releasing three solo albums between 1979 and 1985. No More Fear of Flying (1979) on Chrysalis, produced by George Martin, attracted the most attention, but Lead Me to the Water (1982) on Mercury had some notable guest artists, including Eric Clapton and Phil Collins, while Echoes in the Night (1985) was co-produced by Brooker‘s former bandmate Matthew Fisher. During the late ’80s, however, Brooker had turned to writing orchestral music, principally ballet material, but this didn’t stop him from turning up as a guest at one of the annualFairport Convention reunions (Procol Harum and Fairport had played some important early gigs together) at Cropredy, Oxfordshire, in August of 1990 to sing “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”Still, Procol Harum had faded from the consciousness of the music world by the end of the 1980s. The death of B.J. Wilson in 1990 went largely unreported, to the chagrin of many fans, and it seemed as though the group was a closed book.

Then, in August of 1991, Brooker re-formed Procol Harum with Trower, Fisher, Reid, and drummerMark Brzezicki. An album, Prodigal Stranger, was recorded and released, and an 11-city tour of North America took place in September of 1991. Although this lineup didn’t last — Trower and company, after all, were pushing 50 at the time — Brooker has kept a new version of Procol Harum together, in the guise of himself, guitarist Geoffrey Whitehorn, keyboardman Don Snow, and Brzezicki on drums, which toured the United States in 1992.

#procol_harum#musicians#whiter_shade_of_pale#progressive_rock_band#beatnikhiway.com#ana_christy

COOL PEOPLE -Woody Harrelson

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Woody Harrelson

GIFD

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Animal Rights Activist, Film Actor, Television Actor (1961–)
QUICK FACTS

NAME
Woody Harrelson
OCCUPATION
Animal Rights Activist, Film Actor, Television Actor
BIRTH DATE
July 23, 1961 (age 54)
EDUCATION
Hanover College
PLACE OF BIRTH
Midland, Texas
FULL NAME
Woodrow Tracy Harrelson
ZODIAC SIGN
Leo
SYNOPSIS
EARLY LIFE
RISE TO FAME
CONTINUED SUCCESS
CITE THIS PAGE
Woody Harrelson is an actor known for his long-running role on TV’s Cheers, film roles and his breakthrough work on True Detective.

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Synopsis

Woody Harrelson’s big break came in 1985, when he was cast as sweet, dim-witted bartender Woody Boyd on the wildly popular sitcom Cheers. His performance earned him five Emmy nominations and a win for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Harrelson moved into film and has had an impressive run, in films such as Natural Born Killers, The Thin Red Line and No Country for Old Men. More recently, Harrelson won accolades for his role on the HBO crime series True Detective.

Early Life

Woody Harrelson was born Woodrow Tracy Harrelson on July 23, 1961, in Midland, Texas, to parents Charles and Diane Harrelson. Harrelson’s father went to prison on a murder conviction when Harrelson was only seven, leaving Woody’s mother, a legal secretary, to raise him and his two brothers in Lebanon, Ohio. Harrelson was raised with a strong, spiritual foundation, which helped him earn a scholarship to Hanover College, a Presbyterian institution in Indiana.

In 1983, Harrelson earned a bachelor’s degree in English and theatrical arts, after which he headed to New York City to pursue acting. His career began as an understudy in the Neil Simon play Biloxi Blues and as an extra in various films and television shows.

Rise to Fame

Harrelson’s big break came in 1985, when he was cast as sweet, dim-witted bartender Woody Boyd on the wildly popular sitcom Cheers, which was in its fourth season. Woody was an instant hit with viewers, as well as with critics, and he stayed on with eight seasons. His performance earned him five Emmy nominations, including a 1989 Emmy win for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.

While still on Cheers, Harrelson also continued his work as a stage actor, appearing in the James Brooks play Brooklyn Laundry in 1991, as well as the drama Furthest From the Sun (1993), a play he both wrote and directed. Harrelson also took on some supporting and cameo film roles in films such as Wildcats (1986) and L.A. Story (1991), as well his first starring role in the comedy White Men Can’t Jump, co-staring Wesley Snipes. But his film career didn’t take off until after Cheers was over and he starred with Demi Moore and Robert Redford in 1993’s Indecent Proposal. After the success of Indecent Proposal, Woody landed the lead in Oliver Stone’s controversial movie Natural Born Killers (1993), with co-star Juliette Lewis.

After starring roles in 1996’s The Sunchaser and the Farrelly Brothers’ comedy Kingpin (1996), Harrelson sparked controversy in the biopic The People vs. Larry Flynt. But once the controversy faded, Harrelson’s sympathetic portrayal of adult-film mogul Larry Flynt earned the actor Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor. The film was lauded by critics, and his performance boosted Harrelson to A-list actor status.

After that, Harrelson landed a series of more serious film roles, including the war movie Welcome to Sarajevo (1997), the political satire Wag the Dog (1997) and the award-winning war film The Thin Red Line (1998).

Continued Success

Harrelson earned the attention of critics again in 2007 for the Coen brothers drama No Country for Old Men. The film won Harrelson a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Cast, along with Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin and Kelly Macdonald. In 2008, Harrelson appeared in several films, including the comedy Semi-Pro with Will Ferrell and the drama Seven Pounds (2008) with Will Smith. In 2009, he co-starred in the horror comedy Zombieland and the dystopian apocalypse film 2012. His role that same year in the critically acclaimed drama The Messenger earned him several award nominations, including Golden Globe and Academy Award nods.

Harrelson made his next big splash, and it might be his biggest to date, on January 12, 2014, the day the series True Detective premiered on HBO. Harrelson played Detective Marty Hart opposite Matthew McConaughey, and both actors served as executive producers. The show, a dark and atmospheric crime drama, was an instant critical darling and pulled in a whole new crop of fans for Harrelson. It also earned the actor an Emmy nomination for Best Actor.

In addition to acting, Harrelson has been an outspoken advocate for the environment. His activism includes efforts for preserving the California redwoods, involvement in the American Oceans’ Campaign and legalization efforts for the use of industrial hemp. Harrelson challenged the constitutionality of the Kentucky state law that does not distinguish between industrial hemp and marijuana by planting several hemp seeds. He won the case, and became an advisor for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

Harrelson was briefly married to Nancy Simon, the daughter of playwright Neil Simon, in 1985 during a trip to Tijuana, Mexico. They planned to annul the marriage but divorced instead in 1986. On January 11, 1998, Harrelson married longtime girlfriend and former assistant Laura Louie in a private ceremony in Costa Rica. Louie is currently a partner in their production company, Children at Play, and co-owned their health-food restaurant and oxygen bar, 02, which was located in Los Angeles. They currently reside in Maui, Hawaii, in a self-sustained community with their two children, Deni Montana and Zoe Giordano.

A&E Television Network

#woodie_harrelson#actor#no_country_for_old_men#cheers#natural_born_killers#ana_christy#beatnikhiway.com

 

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