June 22, 2008
“As all halfway-decent managers in the rock era have done, [Jim] Dickson workedon seducing the in-crowd and creating a buzz around [The Byrds] … The timing was perfect … LA’s baby-boomers were mobile, getting around, looking for action. And now they were joined by the hip elite of Hollywood itself, from Sal Mineo and Peter Fonda to junkie comic Lenny Bruce.” ~ Barney Hoskyns, Waiting for the Sun
As important as the Freaks were to building an audience for the new Laurel Canyon bands, there was another group that played a key role as well: Hollywood’s so-called “Young Turks.”
Another ‘psychedelic’ cult film of the late 1960s with deep roots in Laurel Canyon was the Monkee’s 1968 big-screen offering, Head. Also scripted by Nicholson (with assistance from Bob Rafelson), the movie included cameo appearances by canyon dwellers Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson and Frank Zappa. The music ~ performed, of course, by The Monkees ~ was a mix of songs written by the band and contributions from Canyon songwriters like Carol King and Harry Nilsson. And shockingly, some of that music is actually pretty good. Even more shockingly, the movie overall is arguably the most watchable of the 1960s cult films. It is certainly a vast improvement over, for example, 1968’s wretched Psych Out (starring Nicholson and Dern).
There were undoubtedly other future stars who auditioned for the show as well, though most would probably prefer not to discuss such things. Despite persistent rumors, however, there was one local musician who we can safely conclude did not read for a part: Charles Manson.
Hopper’s walrus-mustachioed character in the film was based on David Crosby, who was regularly seen racing his motorcycle up and down the winding streets of Laurel Canyon (that motorcycle, by the way, had been a gift from Crosby’s good buddy, Peter Fonda).
The next Young Turk up for review is the one who went on to become arguably the most acclaimed actor of his generation, Mr. Jack Nicholson. The following is a biographical sketch of Nicholson as presented by Wikipedia:
“Bundy was born at the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont. The identity of his father remains a mystery … To avoid social stigma, Bundy’s grandparents Samuel and Eleanor Cowell claimed him as their son; in taking their last name, he became Theodore Robert Cowell. He grew up believing his mother Eleanor Louise Cowell to be his older sister. Bundy biographers Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth state that he learned Louise was actually his mother while he was in high school. True crime writer Ann Rule states that it was around 1969, shortly following a traumatic breakup with his college girlfriend.”
Nicholson was born at some indeterminate location to an underage, unwed showgirl. The identity of his father remains a mystery … To avoid social stigma, Nicholson’s grandparents John Joseph and Ethel Nicholson claimed him as their son; in taking their last name, he became John Joseph Nicholson, Jr. He grew up believing his mother June Francis Nicholson to be his older sister. Reporters state that he learned June was actually his mother in 1974, when he was 37 years old. By then, June had been dead for just over a decade, having only lived to the age of 44.
It appears then that there is no way to determine who Jack Nicholson really is. He has told journalists that he has no interest in identifying who his father was, nor, it would appear, in verifying his mother’s identity. What we do know is that the nucleus of the 1960s clique known as the Young Turks (and Turkettes) was composed of the following individuals:
the nephew of a Bonesman; the son of an OSS officer; the son of a Naval intelligence officer; the daughter of that same Naval intelligence officer; the daughter of an Army intelligence officer; the daughter of a guy who openly associated with prominent gangsters throughout his life; the son of a probable spychologist; and a guy whose early years are so shrouded in mystery that he may or may not actually exist.
We know that one subset of residents was a large group of musicians who all decided, nearly simultaneously, to flood into the canyon. The most prominent members of this group were, to an overwhelming degree, the sons and daughters of the military/intelligence community.We also know that mingled in with them were the young stars of Hollywood, who also were, to an astonishing degree, the sons and daughters of the military/intelligence community.And, finally, we know that also in the mix were scores of military/intelligence personnel who operated out of the facility known as Lookout Mountain Laboratory.
“The most infamous male madam [throughout LA’s sordid history] would have to be Billy Bryars, the wealthy son of an oil magnate, and part-time producer of gay porn. Bryars was said to have a stellar group of customers using his ‘brothel’ at the summit of Laurel Canyon. In fact, some have claimed that none other than J. Edgar Hoover, the founder and chief executive officer of the FBI, was one of his best clients … when Bryars fell under police scrutiny in 1973, allegedly for trafficking in child pornography, officers obtained a number of confessions from some of his hustlers, and some of them identified Hoover and [Clyde] Tolson as ‘Mother John and Uncle Mike,’ and claimed that they had serviced them on numerous occasions.”
Thanks to one particularly helpful reader who has access to California’s Birth, Death, Marriage and Divorce Indexes, as well as U.S. Census information, we now know a little more about the Paulekas clan than we did before. Vitautas Alfonso Paulekas was born on May 20, 1913 in Massachusetts, the son of John and Rose Paulekas. He had one older sister, Albena, and two younger brothers, Bronislo and John. Vito married Szou (real name Sueanne C. Shaffer) on July 7, 1961, when he was 48 and she was just 18. If they met when she was 16, as seems quite probable, then Vito was 46 at the time, rather than in his fifties as previously reported.
July 24, 2008
Sometimes pieces of the puzzle just seem to fall from the heavens. I don’t really know why that happens ~ and to be honest, I find it somewhat disconcerting at times. On Sunday, July 6, the venerable Washington Post, in a most timely manner, generously provided a new piece of the puzzle that even I, your jaded host, find rather remarkable.
“it was not so much Wohlstetter himself as his acolytes … who had a major impact in Washington.”Most of those acolytes need no introduction, as the names should be instantly recognizable to just about everyone: Richard Perle (who once dated Wohlstetter’s daughter), Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Andrew Marshall, “formerly a RAND economist, who, as promoter of the high-tech ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’ in Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Department, was dubbed the Pentagon’s ‘Yoda.’”In the latter half of the 1950s and the early 1960s, while Wohlstetter was with the RAND corporation and also a professor at UCLA (and while his wife Roberta also worked as an analyst for RAND), Albert and his followers ~ the men who now serve as the apparent architects of US foreign policy ~ regularly met in a heavily wooded neighborhood in Los Angeles known as … actually, I think I’m going to defer back to the Washington Post’s book review and let journalist Gregg Herken tell you how “those bright, eager and ambitious young men … had sat cross-legged on the floor with their mentor at his stylish house in (drum roll, please!) Laurel Canyon.”
The title of the Post’s book review is “Dr. Strangelove’s Workplace,” which presumably is a reference to the notorious RAND Corporation. But I think that we can all agree that the title could just as easily apply to Wohlstetter’s stylish Laurel Canyon home.
In fact, as the pieces of this puzzle continue to fall into place, it is beginning to seem as though “Dr. Strangelove’s Workplace” might be a good title for the entire damn canyon. We now know that, in addition to hosting both a secret military/intelligence facility and a call-boy/kiddy-porn operation servicing prominent public figures, Laurel Canyon was also the birthplace and meeting place of what we now know as the ‘neocon’/PNAC crowd, as well as the home base of the guiding light of the Rand Corporation.
The first new name I see is Mr. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, who purportedly drowned without assistance in his home swimming pool on July 3, 1969, at the age of 27 (Jim Morrison would allegedly die precisely two years later, also at the age of 27).
Just three days after Jones’ tragic death, the Stones, with the Hells Angels providing security, played a previously-scheduled concert in Hyde Park, footage of which appears in Kenneth Anger’s Invocation of My Demon Brother. Despite his (disputed) claims of being the founder of the Stones, Jones had been unceremoniously dumped by the group on June 9, less than a month before his death. He was replaced just four days later by Mick Taylor (who would later leave the group and be replaced by Ron Wood). It would later be claimed that Jones was booted from the band due to his grossly inflated ego and his chronic substance abuse problems.
Right: Cammell and Jagger
“With really intelligent people,” according to Phillips, “it’s almost a matter of inbreeding at this point.”
Since we now seem to have segued onto the topic of John Phillips, let’s go ahead and add his good friend Steve Brandt to the Death List. Brandt, who was also a close friend of the victims at 10050 Cielo Drive, allegedly overdosed on barbiturates in late November of 1969, some three-and-a-half months after the Manson murders. In the days and weeks following those murders, Brandt had placed numerous phone calls to the LAPD. Those calls became increasingly frantic in nature, and Brandt became increasingly fearful that his own life might be in jeopardy.
August 10, 2008
“Everybody was experimenting and taking it all the way. It opened up a negative force of energy that was almost demonic.” ~ Frank Mazolla, editor of the film Performance“There were a lot of weird people around. There was one guy who had a parrot called Captain Blood, and he was always scrawling real cryptic things on the inside walls of my house ~ Neil Young’s too.” ~ Joni Mitchell, describing the Laurel Canyon scene at the tail end of the 1960s
Like Brandon DeWilde, Kenneth Anger, Mickey Dolenz and Van Dyke Parks, Ricky Nelson began his Hollywood career as a child actor. He was the son, as everyone surely knows, of America’s favorite 1950s TV mom and dad, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson. Ricky began his rock ‘n’ roll career in 1957, when he was just seventeen. By 1962, he had scored no fewer than thirty Top 40 hits, trailing only superstars Elvis Presley and Pat Boone.
The entire band was recruited by “Papa” John Phillips to play on his less-than-memorable solo project. Mike Nesmith’s critically-acclaimed post-Monkees project, the First National Band, featured Presley’s band as well. Gram Parsons also hired Elvis’ band to back him up on the two solo albums he recorded at what proved to be the twilight of his life and career.
“the original NTSB investigation long ago stated that the crash was probably due to mechanical problems. The pilots attempted to land in a field after smoke filled the cabin. An examination indicated that a fire originated in the right hand side of the aft cabin area at or near the floor line. The passengers were killed when the aircraft struck obstacles during the forced landing; the pilots were able to escape through the cockpit windows and survived.”
How long was this ‘escape window,’ as it were? I would think it was mere seconds, if even that, which wouldn’t seem to be enough time to execute an escape. And if the plane was going fast enough on the ground that the impact killed all aboard, what are the odds that anyone would survive such an escape attempt? I think maybe the NTSB needs to take another look at this one.
Other than death squads, the only such groups that come to mind are generally referred to as “cults,” which I’m guessing are far more common in the canyons than are “gangs.”
For the most part though, the fires that destroyed these structures were not natural wildfires but rather fires of mysterious origin that seemed to target specific buildings.
As Michael Walker noted, “Laurel Canyon would burn and burn again, targeting with uncanny precision the homes of its seemingly enchanted rock demimonde.”
A decade later, in the latter half of the 1970s, Denver could be found working alongside a spooky chap by the name of Werner Erhard, creator of so-called ‘EST’ training. After graduating from the ‘training’ program, Denver penned a little ditty that became the organization’s theme song. In 1985, Denver testified alongside our old friend Frank Zappa at the PMRC hearings. Twelve years later, in autumn of 1997, Denver died when his self-piloted plane crashed soon after taking off from Monterey Airport, very near where the Monterey Pop Festival had been held thirty years earlier. The date of the crash, curiously enough, was one that we have stumbled across repeatedly: October 12.
“I did not have sexual relations with that skank, by which I mean that the executive penis did not, at any time, penetrate her womanly parts, though it is possible that she may have taken a few puffs on the presidential cigar, if you fellas know what I mean. Does anyone else have a question?”
The official story, of course, holds that it was his wife Brynn, who shortly thereafter shot herself ~ with a different gun, naturally, and reportedly after she had left the house and then returned with a friend, and after the LAPD had arrived at the home. There is a very strong possibility, however, that both Phil and his wife were murdered, with the true motive for the crime covered up by trotting out the tired but ever-popular murder/suicide scenario.
Right: Home of Jimi Hendrix
One more curious factoid that I feel compelled to toss out here, since I did reference the Spahn Movie Ranch, is that during the days of the Manson clan’s stay at that now infamous former film set, there was a similarly dilapidated movie set that was located right across the road from Spahn. Its name, in case you were wondering, was the Wonderland Movie Ranch.
Lowell’s first foray into the music world was with a band known as The Factory, which cut some demos with a guy by the name of Frank Zappa. The Factory evolved into the Fraternity of Man, though without George, who had left to serve as lead vocalist for The Standells. George returned, however, to join the band in the studio for the recording of their second album. By that time, as we have already seen, the Fraternity of Man had taken up residence in the Log Cabin, alongside Carl Franzoni and his fellow Freaks.
Former Beatle John Lennon is, to be sure, one of the most famous names to be found on the Laurel Canyon Death List.