May 8, 2008
"There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear"
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.
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
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
that Zappa was, by numerous accounts, a rigidly authoritarian control-freak and
a supporter of U.S. military actions in Southeast Asia, it is perhaps not
surprising that he would not feel a kinship with the youth movement that he
helped nurture. And it is probably safe to say that Frank’s dad also had little
regard for the youth culture of the 1960s, given that Francis Zappa was, in
case you were wondering, a chemical warfare specialist assigned to ~ where
else? ~ the Edgewood Arsenal.
Edgewood is, of course, the longtime home of America’s chemical
warfare program, as well as a facility frequently cited as being deeply
enmeshed in MK-ULTRA operations.
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.
ED: In official biographies the claim is made that Francis Zappa
was merely a mathematician.
manager, by the way, is a shadowy character by the name of (Jew) 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).
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”).
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
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
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 were underage runaways) to San
Francisco to create the Haight-Asbury phenomenon and the famed 1967 “Summer of Love.”
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
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 crime lord Mickey Cohen.
these folks gathered nearly simultaneously along the narrow, winding roads of
Laurel Canyon. They came from across the country ~ although the Washington, DC
area was noticeably over-represented ~ as well as from Canada and England. They
came even though, at the time, there wasn't much of a pop music industry in Los
Angeles. They came even though, at the time, there was no live pop music scene
to speak of. They came even though, in retrospect, there was no discernible
reason for them to do so.
would, of course, make sense these days for an aspiring musician to venture out
to Los Angeles. But in those days, the centers of the music universe were
Nashville, Detroit and New York. It wasn’t the industry that drew the Laurel
Canyon crowd, you see, but rather the Laurel Canyon crowd that transformed Los
Angeles into the epicenter of the music industry. To what then do we attribute
this unprecedented gathering of future musical superstars in the hills above
was it that inspired them all to head out west?
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
“He was great; he was unreal ~
really, really good.”
“He had this kind of
music that nobody else was doing. I thought he really had something crazy,
something great. He was like a living poet.”
[Today’s first trivia question: both of the above statements
were made, on separate occasions, by a famous Laurel Canyon musician of the
1960s era. Both quotes were offered up in praise of another Laurel Canyon
musician. Award yourself five points for correctly identifying the person who
made the remarks, and five for identifying who the statements refer to. The
answers are at the end of this post.]
In the first chapter of this saga, we met a
sampling of some of the most successful and influential rock music superstars
who emerged from Laurel Canyon during its glory days. But these were, alas,
more than just musicians and singers and songwriters who had come together in
the canyon; they were destined to become the spokesmen and de factoleaders 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
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
And in which interview, exactly, did
David Crosby and Stephen Stills disown the family values that they were raised
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
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
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
An exasperated (Jew) 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 that 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
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.
ED: As a member of the generation most affected by
the hippie movement, I like many million others was heavily influenced by the music scene. I found this
author’s first series on this topic to be thoroughly painful. One icon after
another bit the dust.
To know that such great songs as Buffalo Springfield’s “For
What It’s Worth” was preprogramming product of such people was very
disheartening. The social manipulation of my generation no longer shocks me,
but the calibrated ruin of our great energy for changing the world into a better
place could anger me greatly if I allowed it. What might we have accomplished
had our youthful energy and the power of our numbers not been so callously subverted? Free love, feminism, bachelorism, drugs, "God is dead", and so many more ~ all were part of the same multi-faceted attack upon us and the future of North America.
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.
ED: Tom Hayden was one of the Chicago Seven along
with Abbie Hoffman. He married into old Hollywood nobility with Jane
Fonda, another MK ultra victim.
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.
ED: Ah, yes, the place where pedophile Roman
Polanski seduced a young girl so many years ago, the affair that blew up just
three years ago and resulted in ALL of Jewish Hollywood stood behind him.
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.
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,
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.
ED: Just for the record, large breasts make one
buoyant. This is why in WW2 floatation vests were nicknamed “Mae Wests”.
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 (Jew) Lenny 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 (Jew and proven murderer) 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.)
“I mean, fuck, he auditioned for
Neil [Young] for fuck’s sake.” ~ Graham Nash, explaining to author Michael Walker
how close Charlie Manson was to the Laurel Canyon scene.
During the ten-year period during which Bruce, Novarro, Mineo,
Linkletter, Stevens, Tate, Sebring, Frykowski and Folger all turned up dead, a
whole lot of other people connected to Laurel Canyon did as well, often under
very questionable circumstances. The list includes, but is certainly not
limited to, all of the following names:
~ Marina Elizabeth Habe,
whose body was carved up and tossed into the heavy
brush along Mulholland Drive, just west of Bowmont Drive, on December 30, 1968.
Habe, just seventeen at the time of her death, was the daughter of Hans Habe,
who emigrated to the U.S. from fascist Austria circa 1940. Shortly
thereafter, he married a General Foods heiress and began studying psychological
warfare at the Military Intelligence Training Center. After completing his
training, he put his psychological warfare skills to use by creating 18
newspapers in occupied Germany ~ under the direction, no doubt, of the OSS.
~ Christine Hinton,
who was killed in a head-on collision on September
30, 1969. At the time, Hinton was a girlfriend of David Crosby and the founder
and head of The Byrd’s fan club. She was also the daughter of a career Army
officer stationed at the notorious Presidio military base in San Francisco.
Another of Crosby’s girlfriends from that same era was Shelley Roecker, who
grew up on the Hamilton Air Force Base in Marin County.
~ Jane Doe #59,
found dumped into the heavy undergrowth of Laurel
Canyon in November 1969, within sight of where Habe had been dumped less than a
year earlier. The teenage girl, who was never identified, had been stabbed 157
times in the chest and throat.
~ Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson,
singer, songwriter and guitarist for the Laurel
Canyon blues-rock band, Canned Heat, was found dead in his Topanga Canyon home
on September 3, 1970. His death was written off as a suicide/OD. Wilson had
moved to Topanga Canyon after the band’s Laurel Canyon home ~ on Lookout
Mountain Avenue, next door to Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash’s home ~ burned to
the ground. “Blind Owl” was just twenty-seven years old at the time of his
death. A little more than a decade later, Wilson’s former bandmate, Bob “The
Bear” Hite, who had once acknowledged in an interview that he had partied in
the canyons with various members of the Manson Family, died of a heart attack
at the ripe old age of 36.
~ Jimi Hendrix,
who reportedly briefly occupied the sprawling
mansion just north of the Log Cabin after he moved to LA in 1968, died in
London under seriously questionable circumstances on September 18, 1970. Though
he rarely spoke of it, Jimi had served a stint in the U.S. Army with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. His official records indicate that he was
forced into the service by the courts and then released after just one year
when he purportedly proved to be a poor soldier. One wonders though why he was
assigned to such an elite division if he was indeed such a failure.
One also wonders why he wasn’t subjected to
disciplinary measures rather than being handed a free pass out of his ostensibly
court-ordered service. In any event, Jimi himself once told reporters that he
was given a medical discharge after breaking an ankle during a parachute jump.
And one biographer has claimed that Jimi faked being gay to earn an early
release. The truth, alas, remains rather elusive.
At the time of Jimi’s death, the first person
called by his girlfriend ~ Monika Danneman, who was the last to see Hendrix
alive ~ was Eric Burden of the Animals. Two years earlier, Burden had relocated
to LA and taken over ringmaster duties from Frank Zappa after Zappa had vacated
the Log Cabin and moved into a less high-profile Laurel Canyon home.
Within a year of Jimi’s death, an underage
prostitute named Devon Wilson who had been with Jimi the day before his death,
plunged from an eighth-floor window of New York’s Chelsea Hotel. On March 5,
1973, a shadowy character named Michael Jeffery, who had managed both Hendrix
and Burden, was killed in a mid-air plane collision. Jeffery was known to
openly boast of having organized crime connections and of working for the CIA.
After Jimi’s death, it was discovered that Jeffery
had been funneling most of Hendrix’s gross earnings into offshore accounts in
the Bahamas linked to international drug trafficking. Years later, on April 5,
1996, Danneman, the daughter of a wealthy German industrialist, was found dead
near her home in a fume-filled Mercedes.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Cass, Moon had at one time been a resident of Laurel Canyon.
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
“If Eben did kill her, I’m
convinced he doesn’t know he did it.”
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
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:
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 Lynn Sill
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
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
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 (Jew) Howard
Kaylan, who happened to be, small world that it is, a cousin of Frank Zappa’s
manager and business partner, (Jew) Herb
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 s he 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
I rarely comment on the various sites I frequent, preferring just to lurk and observe.ReplyDelete
I just spent an entire Sunday recently reading this complete series on Dave's website. Compelling is too mild a word. As another aging boomer, I remember most of this stuff first hand. As the son of a career Army intelligence type, it REALLY hits home.
When you're done reading and digesting all this, take a few days to let it all sink in, then read Dave's series titled "Wagging the Moondoggie". You'll need a few strong drinks afterward.
Something else I was reading about Joan Baez sticks to my mind, and expresses erfectly how I feel about all of this, being of a generation before that of the baby boomers. It comes from Sandra Barr's article "Dylan, Baez and the Social Engineering of a Generation" an excellent piece of writing. In it she says:ReplyDelete
"I felt compelled to write this article because the study of history helps us form a better understanding of our current reality. In the 60’s they controlled the anti-war movement, the Hippy generation, civil rights etc etc. this years I have endeavoured to understand the truth of our reality, I have come to the conclusion that near all the current purveyors of truth are actually controlled by them, Wikileaks, Anon, Occupy, Russell Brand and the rest!
They create all social situations, they are masters in the manipulation of the mass social psyche, they know in advance how we will react to the situations they create, and they have leaders already trained up from childhood for us to follow when we become dissenters to their system. They see us all as blind sheep that will aimlessly follow whatever Shepard they present to us. The said Shepard’s may speak some truth, they may voice what we are thinking, but they will do as they are trained to do, and they will not lead us in a direction that will end their system of control, they will guide us all to places that their masters are prepared for, ie: taking to the streets, they have at their disposal the entire military and police, they are well prepared to slaughter us all if need be.
Last year, 2012, I examined in depth the mass rituals that they played out on the world stage, the Olympics, Sandy Hook, Aurora etc, this year I have been observing more than churning out work, I have taken time out to assess the bigger picture. I now recognise that my entire life I have been paying homage to the heroes they created, who were not heroes at all, just players in their game put forward to influence me and others. For now I feel very disillusioned that everything I believed to be real was in fact just actors, acting out parts that they were programmed to perform. I guess this too is part of their overall plans, that should anyone figure it all out in its entirety, they would be left feeling desolate and disillusioned.
Bar myself and my closest family and friends I trust no one. I sure don’t have any answers, stop con-summing, don’t be a hostage to their banking system, don’t get into debt, love your family, build bonds with family and friends, stop complying, be true to yourself…..maybe the only way forward is for us all to get to where I am now, the total realisation of how we have been conned has to be the first steps to achieving real social change.
I most certainly do not want to put myself in any Shepard’s shoes, real change has to be effected from within each one of us, for thousands of years they have indoctrinated us all to believe some Messiah character will come along and save us all, it aint gonna happen…YOU HEAR ME! Stop looking for a saviour, your only saviour is yourself. The Galactic Federation of bullshite, Russell Brand nor no one else is going to come along and fix everything.
Our only hope is if every one of us truly wakes up and sees how we have all been had, and how we are still being had…stop playing their game and buying into their system.
And with that thought I will leave you all."
That pretty much sums it up for me too Noor. God Bless us as we try to muddle our way through the rest of it.
So Hendrix was employed by the U.S. government for a year?!ReplyDelete
So Hendrix was employed by the U.S. government for a year?ReplyDelete