Anton LaVey of the Church of Satan from Invocation of my Demon Brother. Remember,
all along, (Jew) Anton LaVey is in the Hollywood background, promoting his own
Satanic agenda. He was heavily involved with entertainers of the day for decades and
carried great influence with them.
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.”
Like the Freaks, the Turks became an immediate and constant
presence on the newly emerging Sunset Strip scene. And as with the Freaks,
their presence on the Strip was heavily promoted by the media.
Locals and tourists alike knew where to go to gawk at the
Freaks and, as an added bonus, quite possibly rub shoulders with the likes of
Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper and Warren Beatty, along
with their female counterparts like Jane Fonda, Nancy Sinatra and Sharon Tate.
Many of these young and glamorous Hollywood stars forged very
close bonds with the Laurel Canyon musicians. Some of them, including Peter
Fonda, found homes in the canyon so that they could live, work and party among
the rock stars (and, in their free time, pass around John Phillips’ wife to
just about every swinging dick in the canyon, including Jack Nicholson, Dennis
Hopper, Warren Beatty, Roman Polanski, and Gene Clark of The Byrds).
Some of them never left; Jack Nicholson to this day lives in a
spacious estate just off the portion of Mulholland Drive that lies between
Laurel Canyon and Coldwater Canyon. Not far west of Nicholson’s property (which
now includes the neighboring estate formerly owned by Marlon Brando) sits the
longtime home of Warren Beatty.
From the symbiotic relationship between Laurel Canyon actors
and Laurel Canyon musicians arose a series of feature films that are now
considered counter-cultural classics. One such film was 1967’s The Trip,
an unintentionally hilarious attempt to create a cinematic facsimile of an LSD
trip. Written by, of all people, Jack Nicholson, the movie starred fellow Turks
Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Bruce Dern.
Seated in the director’s chair was Roger Corman, who,
throughout his career, worked side-by-side with David Crosby’s dad on no less
than twenty-three feature films. Recruited to supply the soundtrack for the
film was Gram Parson’s International Submarine Band (Parson’s music, however,
was ultimately not used, though the band does make a brief on-screen
appearance). The house where most of the film was shot, at the top of Kirkwood
Drive in Laurel Canyon, was the home of Love’s Arthur Lee.
From the film "The Trip"
Another ‘psychedelic’ cult film of the late 1960s with deep
roots in Laurel Canyon was the Monkee’s 1968 big-screen offering, Head.
Also scripted by Nicholson (with assistance from Bob Rafelson), the movie
included cameo appearances by canyon dwellers Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson and
Frank Zappa. The music ~ performed, of course, by The Monkees ~ was a mix of
songs written by the band and contributions from Canyon songwriters like Carol
King and Harry Nilsson. And shockingly, some of that music is actually pretty
good. Even more shockingly, the movie overall is arguably the most watchable of
the 1960s cult films. It is certainly a vast improvement over, for example,
1968’s wretched Psych Out (starring Nicholson and Dern).
I do realize, by the way, that some of you out there in
readerland cringe every time that I mention The Monkees as though they were a
The reality though is that they were every bit as ‘real’ as
most of their contemporaries. And while the made-for-TV Beatles replicants were
looked down upon by music critics and fans alike, they were fully accepted as
members of the musical fraternity by the other Laurel Canyon bands. The homes of
both Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork were popular canyon hangouts in the late ‘60s
for a number of ‘real’ musicians. Also regularly dropping by Dolenz’ party
house were Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson.
The difference in perception between their peers and the
public was attributable to the fact that the other bands knew something that
the fans did not: the very same studio musicians who appeared without credit on
The Monkee’s albums also appeared without credit on their albums.
And then, of course, there was the fact that so many of Laurel
Canyon’s ‘real’ musicians had taken a stab at being a part of The Monkees,
including Steven Stills, Love’s Bryan MacLean, and Three Dog Night’s Danny
Hutton ~ all of whom answered the Monkees’ casting call and were rejected.
There were undoubtedly other future stars who auditioned for
the show as well, though most would probably prefer not to discuss such things.
Despite persistent rumors, however, there was one local musician who we can
safely conclude did not read for a part: Charles Manson.
Given that the show was cast in 1965 and began its brief
television run in 1966, while Charlie was still imprisoned at Terminal Island
awaiting his release in March of 1967, there doesn’t appear to be any way that
Manson could have been considered for a part on the show. And that’s kind of a
shame when you think about it, because if he had been, we might today remember
Charlie Manson not as one of America’s most notorious criminals, but rather as
the guy who made Marcia Brady swoon.
And, let’s be honest here, would that really have been any
worse than seeing her go ga-ga over the likes of Davy Jones? I mean, I could
have understood if she had gotten weak in the knees over, you know, a real man
like David Cassidy or Bobby Sherman. Now, I hope we can all agree that those
guys were cool … right? Is everyone with me on this? Anyone? … Anyone? …
You know, I’m thinking back right now as I sit here, and I can
actually picture in my mind the covers of a couple of Bobby Sherman albums that
I had in my personal coll … err, that we had lying around the house for some
reason, I’m not really sure why, and … come to think of it, I think there might
have even been a Bobby Sherman poster or two pulled from the pages of Tiger
Beat magazine, and, uhmm, I suppose I can see how that might seem a little bit,
uhhh, what’s the word I’m looking for? … ‘gay’ or whatever to a modern,
twenty-first-century-man-about-town, but I’m sure that, if you checked into it,
you would find that there were a lot of young boys back ‘in the day’ who just
really dug Bobby Sherman and those great songs like “Julie (Do You Love Me)”
and “Easy Come, Easy Go” and … uhmm … maybe this is a good time to get back to
where we left off.
Returning then to the counter-cultural films of the 1960s, the
most critically acclaimed of the lot, and the one with the deepest roots in
Laurel Canyon, was Easy Rider. Directed (sort of) by Dennis Hopper, from
a script co-written by him and Peter Fonda, the film starred Fonda and Hopper
along with Jack Nicholson (the only one in the movie who did anything
resembling actual acting).
Hopper’s walrus-mustachioed character in the film was based on
David Crosby, who was regularly seen racing his motorcycle up and down the
winding streets of Laurel Canyon (that motorcycle, by the way, had been a gift
from Crosby’s good buddy, Peter Fonda).
Fonda’s absurd ‘Captain America’ character was inspired either
by John Phillips’ riding partner, Gram Parsons, or by Crosby’s former band mate
in The Byrds, Roger McGuinn (depending upon who is telling the story.) That
very same Roger McGuinn scored the original music for the film. His
contributions were joined on the soundtrack by offerings from fellow Canyonite
musicians The Byrds, Steppenwolf, Fraternity of Man and Jimi Hendrix. And the
movie’s hippie commune was reportedly created and filmed in the canyons, near
Since Easy Rider had such deep roots in the Laurel
Canyon scene, we need to briefly focus our attention here on one other
individual who worked on the film: art director Jeremy Kay, aka Jerry Kay.
Before Easy Rider, Kay had worked on such cinematic abominations as Angels
from Hell, Hells Angels on Wheels (with Jack Nicholson), and Scorpio
Rising (Kenneth Anger’s occult-tinged homage to gay bikers).
In the mid-1970s, Kay would write, direct and produce a
charming little film entitled Satan’s Children. Of far more interest
here than his film credits though is his membership in the 1960s in a group
known as the Solar Lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis (or OTO), which found
itself in the news, and not in a good way, just after Easy Rider opened
on theater screens across America.
Two weeks after Easy Rider premiered on July 14, 1969,
police acting on a phone tip raided the Solar Lodge’s compound near Blythe,
California and found a six-year-old boy locked outdoors in a 6’x6’ wooden crate
in the sweltering desert heat. The young boy, whose father was a Los Angeles
County probation officer (as was Michelle Phillip’s father, by the way), had
been chained to a steel plate for nearly two months in temperatures reaching as
high as 117 F.
According to an FBI report, the box also contained a can
“partially filled with human waste and swarming with flies … The stench was
nauseating.” Before being put in the box, the child had been burned with
matches and beaten with bamboo poles by cult members. The leader of the cult,
Georgina Brayton, had reportedly told cult members that “when it was
convenient, she was going to give [the boy] LSD and set fire to the structure
in which he was chained and give him just enough chain to get out of reach of
the fire.” Killing the child had also been discussed (and apparently condoned
by the boy’s mind-fucked mother).
Eleven adult members of the sect were charged with felony
child abuse, the majority of them young white men in their early twenties. All
were brought to trial and convicted. In a curious bit of timing, the raid that
resulted in the arrests and convictions coincided with the torture and murder
of musician Gary Hinman by a trio of Manson acolytes.
Though it is, not surprisingly, vehemently denied by concerned
parties, various sources have claimed that Manson had ties to the group, which
also maintained a home near the USC campus in Los Angeles. There is no doubt
that Charlie preached the same dogma, including the notion of an apocalyptic
race war looming on the horizon. The massacre at the Tate residence occurred
less than two weeks after the raid on the OTO compound. Manson’s Barker Ranch
hideout would be raided a few months later, on October 12, 1969 ~ the birthday,
as I may have already mentioned, of Aleister Crowley, the Grand Poobah of the
OTO until his death in 1947.
Sorry about that little digression, folks. I’m not entirely
sure how we ended up at the Barker Ranch when the focus of this installment was
supposed to be on the Young Turks. So having now established that those Turks
were a fully integrated part of the Laurel Canyon/Sunset Strip scene, and also
that they played an important role in luring the public out to the new clubs to
check out the new bands, our next task is to get to know a little bit about who
these folks are and where they came from. Let’s begin with Mr. Bruce Dern, who
has some of the most provocative connections of any of the characters in this
From The Trip, the view from Arthur Lee's house
It is probably safe to say that Dern’s parents had rather
impressive political connections, given that baby Bruce’s godparents were
sitting First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and future two-time Democratic
presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson (he lost both times, in 1952 and 1956, to
Eisenhower). Bruce’s paternal grandfather was a guy by the name of George Dern,
who served as Secretary of War under President Franklin Roosevelt (for the
youngsters in the crowd, ‘Secretary of War’ is what we used to call the
‘Secretary of Defense’ in a slightly less Orwellian era). George had also served
as Governor of Utah and Chairman of the National Governors’ Association.
Bruce’s mother was born Jean MacLeish, and she happened to be
the sister of Archibald MacLeish, who also served under Franklin Roosevelt, as
the Director of the War Department’s Office of Facts and Figures and as the
Assistant Director of the Office of War Information. In other words, Archibald
MacLeish was essentially America’s Minister of War Propaganda. He also served
at various times as an Assistant Secretary of State and as the Librarian of
Congress. By far the most impressive item on his résumé, however, was his
membership in everyone’s favorite secret society, Skull and Bones (class of
1915, one year before Prescott Bush was tapped in 1916).
It would appear then that, even by Laurel Canyon standards,
Mr. Dern has friends in very high places. Let’s turn our attention next to the
guy being embraced by Dern in the photo above, Mr. Peter Fonda. Of course, we
all know that Fonda is the son of good ol’ Hank Fonda, lovable Hollywood
liberal and all-around nice guy. And certainly even a contrarian such as myself
would not be so bold as to suggest that Henry Fonda might have some skeletons
in his closet … right? Just for the hell of it though, there are a few chapters
of the Hank Fonda saga that we should probably review here.
We can begin, I suppose, by noting that Hank served as a
decorated US Naval Intelligence officer during World War II, thus sparing Peter
the stigma of being the only member of the Laurel Canyon in-crowd to have not
been spawned by a member of the military/intelligence community.
Not too many years after the war, Hank’s wife, Francis Ford
Seymour, was found with her throat slashed open with a straight razor. Peter
was just ten years old at the time of his mother’s, uhmm, suicide on April 14,
1950. When Seymour had met and married Hank, she was the widow of George
Brokaw, who had, curiously enough, previously been married to prominent CIA
asset Claire Booth Luce.
Fonda rebounded quickly from Seymour’s unusual death and
within eight months he was married once again, to Susan Blanchard, to whom he
remained married until 1956. In 1957, Hank married yet again, this time to
Italian Countess Afdera Franchetti (who followed up her four-year marriage to
Fonda with a rumored affair with newly-sworn-in President John Kennedy).
Franchetti, as it turns out, is the daughter of Baron Raimondo Franchetti, who
was a consultant to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. The countess is also the
great-granddaughter of Louise Sarah Rothschild, of the ever-popular Rothschild
banking family (perhaps you’ve heard of them?)
Before moving on, I should probably mention that Hank’s first
wife, Margaret Sullavan ~ who was yet another child of Norfolk, Virginia ~ also
allegedly committed suicide, on New Year’s Day, 1960. Nine months later, her
daughter Bridget followed suit. In 1961, very soon after the deaths of first
her mother and then her sister, Sullavan’s other daughter, Brook Hayward,
walked down the aisle with the next Young Turk on our list, Dennis Hopper.
For those who may be unfamiliar with Hopper’s body of work, he
is the guy who was once found wandering naked and bewildered in a Mexican
forest. And the guy who, after divorcing Hayward in 1969, married Michelle
Phillips on Halloween day, 1970, only to have her file for divorce just eight
days later claiming that Hopper had kept her handcuffed and imprisoned for a
week while making “unnatural sexual demands.”
Without passing judgment here, I think it’s fair to say that
Michelle Phillips has been around the block a time or two, if you catch my
drift, so if even she thought Hopper’s demands were a bit over the top,
then one can only wonder just how “unnatural” they might have been. For what
it’s worth, Hopper just recently told a journalist that he “didn’t handcuff
her, [he] just punched her out!” In his mind, apparently, that makes him
somewhat less of an asshole.
From Michelle to Dennis. Recently auctioned for $5 625. Go figger.
Most official biographies of Hopper would lead one to believe
that he was the son of a simple farmer. Dennis recently acknowledged, however,
that that was clearly not the case: “My mother’s father was a wheat farmer and
I was raised on their farm. But my father was not a farmer.” To the contrary,
Hopper’s dad was “a working person in intelligence” who during WWII “was in the
OSS. He was in China, Burma, India.”
Hopper has proudly proclaimed that his father “was one of the
100 guys that liberated General Wainright out of prison in Korea,” which might
be a little more impressive were it not for the fact that it was actually the
Red Army that freed Wainright and other prisoners; the US intel team just came
to pick them up, debrief them and transport them home … but that, I suppose,
isn’t really relevant.
After the war, according to Hopper, his dad carried a gun,
which I suppose is what most lay ministers in the Methodist Church do. The
family also left the farm in Kansas and relocated to San Diego, California,
home of the Imperial Beach Naval Air Station, the United States Naval Radio
Station, the United States Naval Amphibious Base, the North Island Naval Air
Station, Fort Rosecrans Military Reservation, the United States Naval Training
Center, the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot, and the Miramar Marine
Corps Air Station. And just north of the city sits the massive Camp Pendleton
Marine Corps Base. Other than that though, San Diego is just a sleepy little
beach town where Hopper’s dad ostensibly worked for the Post Office.
The modern version of Dennis Hopper, by the way, is wildly at
odds with the hippie image that he at one time tried very hard to cultivate.
Today’s Dennis Hopper is an unapologetic cheerleader for Team Bush who proudly
boasts of having voted a straight Republican ticket for nearly thirty years. He
could very well turn up on the campaign trail in the coming months with his
lips firmly planted on the ass of war criminal John McCain.
To briefly recap then, we have thus far met three of the
‘Young Turks’ and we have found that one of them is the nephew of a Bonesman,
another is the son of a Naval Intelligence officer who was once married to a
Rothschild descendent, and the third is the slightly deranged son of an OSS
officer. Come to think of it, we have actually covered one of the ‘Turkettes’
as well, since Jane Fonda obviously came from the same family background as her
younger brother, Peter.
As for the other female members of the posse, Sharon Tate was
the daughter of Lt. Col. Paul Tate, a career US Army intelligence officer, and
Nancy Sinatra is, of course, the daughter of Francis Albert Sinatra, whose
known associates included Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Sam Giancana, Carlo
Gambino, Goetano Luchese and Joseph Fishetti (a cousin of Al Capone).
Frank Sinatra was also a client of hairdresser-to-the-stars
Jay Sebring, as was Henry Fonda, who also at one time, strangely enough, lived
in the guesthouse at 10050 Cielo Drive. Yet another client of Sebring’s was the
next Young Turk on our list, Warren Beatty, whose father, Ira Owens Beaty, was
ostensibly a professor of psychology. Young Warren, however, spent all of his
early years living in various spooky suburbs of Washington, DC. He was born in
Richmond, Virginia in 1937, after which his father moved the family to Norfolk,
Virginia, which I think I may have mentioned is home to the world’s largest
Naval facility (the reason for that, by the way, is that Norfolk is the gateway
to the nation’s capital). The family later relocated to Arlington, Virginia,
home of the Pentagon, where Warren attended high school and where he was known
on the football field, as John Phillips (who attended a rival school) remembers
it, as ‘Mad Dog’ Beaty.
Ira Beaty’s relatively frequent relocations, and the fact that
those relocations always seemed to land the family in DC suburbs that are of
considerable significance to the military/intelligence community, would tend to
indicate that Warren’s dad was something other than what he appeared to be ~
though that is, of course, a speculative assessment. But if Ira Beaty was on
the payroll of some government entity, working within the psychology
departments of various DC-area universities, then it wouldn’t require a huge
leap of faith to further speculate about what type of work he was doing, given
the wholesale co-opting of the field of psychology by the MK-ULTRA program and
The next Young Turk up for review is the one who went on to
become arguably the most acclaimed actor of his generation, Mr. Jack Nicholson.
The following is a biographical sketch of Nicholson as presented by Wikipedia:
“Bundy was born at the Elizabeth Lund Home for
Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont. The identity of his father remains a
mystery … To avoid social stigma, Bundy’s grandparents Samuel and Eleanor
Cowell claimed him as their son; in taking their last name, he became Theodore
Robert Cowell. He grew up believing his mother Eleanor Louise Cowell to be his
older sister. Bundy biographers Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth state that
he learned Louise was actually his mother while he was in high school. True
crime writer Ann Rule states that it was around 1969, shortly following a
traumatic breakup with his college girlfriend.”
Uhhm … hang on a minute … I think I might have screwed up.
Something doesn’t seem quite right, but I’m not exactly sure what …. Oh, shit!
I see what I did wrong! I accidentally cut and pasted ‘serial killer’ Ted
Bundy’s bio instead of Jack Nicholson’s. Sorry about that. This is how Jack’s
bio is supposed to read:
Nicholson was born at
some indeterminate location to an underage, unwed showgirl. The identity of his
father remains a mystery … To avoid social stigma, Nicholson’s grandparents
John Joseph and Ethel Nicholson claimed him as their son; in taking their last
name, he became John Joseph Nicholson, Jr. He grew up believing his mother June
Francis Nicholson to be his older sister. Reporters state that he learned June
was actually his mother in 1974, when he was 37 years old. By then, June had
been dead for just over a decade, having only lived to the age of 44.
It is said that Nicholson was born at St. Vincent’s Hospital
in New York City, but there is no record of such a birth at the hospital or in
the city’s archives. As it turns out, Jack Nicholson has no birth certificate.
Until 1954, by which time he was nearly an adult, he did not officially exist.
Even today, the closest thing he has to a birth certificate is a ‘Certificate
of a Delayed Report of Birth’ that was filed on May 24, 1954. The document
lists John and Ethel Nicholson as the parents and identifies the location of
the birth as the Nicholson’s home address in Neptune, New Jersey.
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.
I should probably also mention here that Henry Fonda scored
his first acting gig through Dorothy “Dodie” Brando, the director of a local
theater and the mother of Jack Nicholson’s future neighbor, Marlon Brando.
Being the small world that it is, Marlon’s mom happened to be a good friend of
Hank’s mom, Elma Fonda. Truth be told, the families had likely had close ties
for a long time. A very long time. The ancestors of both Marlon Brando
and Henry Fonda, you see, arrived in New York at nearly the same time, roughly
three-and-a-half centuries ago.
Marlon Brando is in a direct line of descent from French
Huguenot colonists Louis DuBois and Catharine Blanchan DuBois, who arrived in
New York from Mannheim, Germany circa 1660 and promptly founded New Rochelle.
Other descendents of DuBois include former U.S. Senator Leverett Saltonstall,
former Massachusetts Governor and CFR member William Weld, current California
First Lady Maria Shriver, and quite likely U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and
Henry Fonda, on the other hand, is a direct descendent of
Jellis Douw Fonda and Hester Jans Fonda, Dutch colonists who arrived in New
York circa 1650 and settled near what would become Albany. The Fondas had
sailed out of Friesland, Netherlands on a ship dubbed the Valckenier,
which happened to be co-owned by a very wealthy Dutchman by the name of
Jan-Baptist van Rensselaer.
And Mr. van Rensselaer, as those who have been paying
attention in class will recall, happened to be from the bloodline that would one
day produce a guy by the name of David van Cortland Crosby.
It would appear then that Peter Fonda kind of owed Crosby that
Triumph motorcycle that he gave him back in the ‘60s, what with David’s
ancestors having been cool enough to give Peter’s ancestors a lift over to the
New World and all.
One other thing we could note here about Hank Fonda before
wrapping up this installment: on September 28, 1919, when Henry was just
fourteen years old, he bore witness to a crime so brutally sadistic and
depraved that one wonders what such an event would do to a young boy’s psyche.
According to an account published at the time, a young black
man named Will Brown, accused of raping a white girl, was beaten unconscious by
an angry mob. His clothes were then torn off and he was hanged from a lamppost.
Though quite dead, his corpse was then riddled with bullets, after which he was
cut down and dragged behind a car. His body was then doused with fuel and
burned. Following that, Mr. Brown’s charred, battered, bullet-ridden corpse was
proudly dragged through the streets of downtown. To commemorate the event, the
lynch rope was cut into small pieces that were sold for 10 cents each to eager
And that, my friends, is a snapshot of the sick society we
live in … but here, perhaps, I have digressed.
Let’s wrap up this installment with a quick review of what we
have learned about the people populating Laurel Canyon in the mid-to-late
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.
I got to tell you here folks that, given the relatively small
size of Laurel Canyon, I’m beginning to wonder if there was any room left over
for any normal folks who might have wanted to live the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.
But even so, I’m sure that there are still some hardcore ‘coincidence
theorists’ in the crowd who will still see all of this as “much ado about
I am committed though to helping those folks see the light, no
matter how much it might hurt their sensitive eyes, so I am going to toss one
more provocative element into the Laurel Canyon mix, courtesy of Paul Young’s L.A.
“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.”
It appears then that the top law-enforcement officials in the
nation were also a part of the Laurel Canyon scene in the late 1960s and early
1970s, along with various other unnamed persons of prominence. And we also
find, not too shockingly at this point, that Laurel Canyon was a portal of
child pornography, which of course goes hand-in-hand with the reports that we
have already reviewed of organized, multi-perpetrator child sexual abuse. And
lest we forget, we also have that long and bloody Laurel Canyon Death List,
which, in the next installment, is going to get even longer, and even bloodier.
Stay tuned …
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.
By far the most interesting information to surface concerns
young Godo Paulekas. Born on December 1, 1963, Godo died on December 23, 1966,
having just made it past his third birthday. December 23 was, curiously enough,
the winter solstice (or very close to it). And it wasn’t just any winter solstice,
mind you, but specifically the first winter solstice in the Age of Satan (as
declared by Kenneth Anger’s buddy, Anton LaVey, on April 30, 1966). The date of
his death also means that young Godo died less than 48 hours before Christmas
morning, and yet his parents still thought it a good time to go out dancing.
Vito and Sueanne divorced in Northern California in March of
1975. Before doing so, they produced several more children, each given
increasingly ridiculous names. Gruvi Nipples Paulekas was born on June 23,
1967, exactly six months after Godo’s death and, therefore, very near the
summer solstice. Bp Paulekas was born on December 29, 1969, just days after the
third anniversary of Godo’s death. Bizarrely enough, Sky Paulekas was born on
December 1, 1971, on what would have been Godo’s eighth birthday. Last but
certainly not least, Phreekus Mageekus Paulekas was born on January 28, 1974, a
little over a year before Vito and Sueanne divorced. According to one report,
Gruvi has joined Godo in the great beyond, a victim of her voracious appetite
for drugs and alcohol.
As for Carl Franzoni, there were indeed a couple of brothers
named Franzoni who were brought over from Italy in the early 1800s to carve the
Masonic monuments of Washington. According to Ihna Thayer Frary’s book, They
Built the Capitol, Guiseppe Franzoni (and his brother Carlo) “had
especially good family connections in Italy, he being a nephew of Cardinal
Franzoni and son of the President of the Academy of Fine Arts at Carrara.” Also
shipped over were Francisco Iardella, a cousin of the Franzoni brothers, and
Giovanni Andrei, a brother-in-law of Guiseppe Franzoni. Thus far, I have been
unable to verify that Carl Franzoni is in fact descended from these men, but it
seems quite likely given that Carl would probably not be aware of such an
obscure chapter of American history were it not for a family connection.
One final note: I looked it up and it turns out that Bobby
Sherman ended up becoming a sheriff’s deputy. For real. Unlike his late-1960s Here
Come the Brides co-star, David Soul, who later became fake bad-ass cop
‘Hutch,’ Bobby became a real bad-ass cop. So I guess he was pretty cool
after all. Except for, of course, the hair. And the clothes. And the sappy
songs. And the bad acting. And …
Let’s just forget that I ever brought it up.
Jim Morrison's old house on Love Street
here gets out alive”
Sometimes pieces of the puzzle just seem to fall from the
heavens. I don’t really know why that happens ~ and to be honest, I find it
somewhat disconcerting at times. On Sunday, July 6, the venerable Washington
Post, in a most timely manner, generously provided a new piece of the
puzzle that even I, your jaded host, find rather remarkable.
It seems that a former reporter and novelist by the name of
Alex Abella “has written a history of RAND, which was founded more than 60
years ago by the Air Force as a font of ideas on how that service might fight
and win a nuclear war with the USSR … Abella focuses on Albert Wohlstetter, a
mathematical logician turned nuclear strategist who was the dominant figure at
Rand starting in the early 1950s and whose influence has extended beyond his
death in 1997 into the current Bush administration … Wohlstetter epitomized
what became known as the ‘RAND approach’ ~ a relentlessly reductive,
determinedly quantitative analysis of whatever problem the independent,
non-profit think tank was assigned, whether the design of a new bomber or
improving public education in inner-city schools.”
Let me interrupt here for just a brief moment to note that the
RAND corporation is a lot of things, but “independent” has never been one of
them. Anyway, getting back to the Post’s timely book review, we find
“it was not so much Wohlstetter himself as his
acolytes … who had a major impact in Washington.”
Most of those acolytes need no introduction, as
the names should be instantly recognizable to just about everyone: Richard
Perle (who once dated Wohlstetter’s daughter), Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay
Khalilzad, and Andrew Marshall, “formerly a RAND economist, who, as promoter of
the high-tech ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’ in Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense
Department, was dubbed the Pentagon’s ‘Yoda.’”
In the latter half of the 1950s and the early
1960s, while Wohlstetter was with the RAND corporation and also a professor at
UCLA (and while his wife Roberta also worked as an analyst for RAND), Albert
and his followers ~ the men who now serve as the apparent architects of US
foreign policy ~ regularly met in a heavily wooded neighborhood in Los Angeles
known as … actually, I think I’m going to defer back to the Washington Post’s
book review and let journalist Gregg Herken tell you how “those bright, eager
and ambitious young men … had sat cross-legged on the floor with their mentor at
his stylish house in (drum roll, please!) Laurel Canyon.”
The title of the Post’s book review is “Dr.
Strangelove’s Workplace,” which presumably is a reference to the notorious RAND
Corporation. But I think that we can all agree that the title could just as
easily apply to Wohlstetter’s stylish Laurel Canyon home.
In fact, as the pieces of this puzzle continue
to fall into place, it is beginning to seem as though “Dr. Strangelove’s
Workplace” might be a good title for the entire damn canyon. We now know that,
in addition to hosting both a secret military/intelligence facility and a
call-boy/kiddy-porn operation servicing prominent public figures, Laurel Canyon
was also the birthplace and meeting place of what we now know as the
‘neocon’/PNAC crowd, as well as the home base of the guiding light of the Rand Corporation.
Thus far in our journey, we have encountered Masons, the FBI,
the OSS, the CIA, the secret society known as Skull and Bones, the Rothschild
family, military intelligence of every conceivable stripe, the OTO, the RAND
corporation, the ‘neocon’ cabal, and just about every other nefarious group
that regularly pops up in the ‘conspiracy’ literature ~ with one very obvious
exception: we have not yet met up with any member of the legendary Rockefeller
clan. Luckily though, we’re about to remedy that oversight.
This next contribution comes from deep within the archives of Time
magazine, from an article entitled “The Bride Wore Pink,” published six decades
ago on February 23, 1948: “One morning last week, bespectacled Bryant Bowden,
editor of the weekly Okeechobee (Fla.) News, sauntered into the Okeechobee
courthouse and stopped to eye the bulletin board in the main hall. Among the
marriage-license applications, which, by Florida law, must be publicly posted
for three days before a ceremony, he saw something which made him goggle.
Winthrop Rockefeller, 35, of New York ~ the fourth of John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s
five sons and one of the most eligible bachelors in the world ~ had stated his
intention of marrying one Eva Sears, also of New York.”
“Editor Bowden had a bitter moment ~ his paper would not be
published for two days. Then he remembered that he was the Okeechobee
correspondent for the Associated Press. He telephoned the AP office in
Jacksonville. A few hours later, the whole U.S. journalistic horizon glowed a
bright pink with the fireworks he had touched off.”
“While the first headlines blazed (and while Manhattan gossip
columnists scrambled to assure their readers that they had known all about the
romance for months), herds of reporters were dispatched to find an answer to
the question: Who is Eva Sears? Hearst’s Cholly Knickerbocker (Ghighi Cassini)
haughtily announced that she was Mrs. Barbara Paul Sears of the fine old
Philadelphia Pauls and thus a society girl of impeccable pedigree. He was
Indeed he was. So who was this mystery woman ~ this woman who
had once had a brief career in Hollywood before moving to Paris and taking a
job as a secretary at the U.S. embassy?
She appears to have gone by many names at different times in
her life, including Eva Paul, Eva Paul Sears, Barbara Paul, Barbara Paul Sears,
and “Bobo” Rockefeller. None of them, however, was the name she was given at
the time of her birth. As Time magazine noted so many years ago, “Her
parents were Lithuanian immigrants and she was born Jievute Paulekiute in a
coal patch near Noblestown, Pa.” Even that, however, was not her real name ~ at
least not by American custom and tradition.
In her parents’ homeland, I am told, “Paulekiute” is the
feminine version of a surname we have previously encountered: “Paulekas,” which
was her parents’ surname. Eva Paul’s father, as it turns out, just happened to
be the brother of Vito Paulekas’ father (a fact verified by ~ and brought to my
attention by ~ a member of the Paulekas family.)
Above: Jievute Paulekas, aka 'Bobo' Rockefeller, on the cover of Life Magazine
I’m no genealogist, but I’m pretty sure that that means that
the self-styled "King of the Hippies" was a first cousin of
"Bobo" Rockefeller, and a cousin-in-law (or something like that) of
Winthrop Rockefeller himself. Vito was also a cousin of the couple’s only
child, Winthrop Paul Rockefeller, who would later serve as the Lieutenant
Governor of the state of Arkansas.
The Paulekas family, alas, missed the couple’s day of
celebration. According to Time, “Bobo’s mother and stepfather … were
unable to attend the ceremony because they were making a batch of Lithuanian
cheese on their Indiana farm.” I guess we all have our priorities.
Truth be told though, the Paulekas clan has a somewhat
different explanation: they were deliberately excluded from the ceremony as it
was felt they were a bit too uncultured to break bread with the likes of the
Duke and Duchess of Windsor and the Marquess of Blandford.
We will be revisiting Vito Paulekas in an upcoming edition, to
review other new information that has come my way. For now, we will just note
that we can add the Rockefellers to the list of folks connected to the Laurel
Canyon scene. And that, of course, made Laurel Canyon the ideal place for all
the rock musicians and hippies and flower children to hang out in the 1960s and
1970s, even with the stench from all the dead bodies that kept piling up.
Speaking of which, let’s check in and see what names have been added to the
Laurel Canyon Death List since we last took a peek.
Major Rock n roll royalty ~ Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix
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.
The pool in which Brian Jones was
John Lennon reads
“Fair enough,” you say, “but what does any of that have to do
with Laurel Canyon? Clearly the Stones were not a Laurel Canyon band.” True
enough, but as Barney Hoskyns has written (in Hotel California), “In the summer
of 1968 the English band was flirting heavily with Satanism and the occult …
and spending a lot of time in Los Angeles.”
Right: Cammell and Jagger
A lot of time, that is, in and around Laurel Canyon ~ and
during that time, Mick Jagger was involved in two occult-drenched film
projects: Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising and Donald Cammell’s Performance.
Jagger was the first musical superstar tapped by Anger to
compose a soundtrack for his Lucifer Rising project, which at the time
was to star Mansonite Bobby Beausoleil (who had, as we all remember, replaced
Godo Paulekas). Anger would later solicit a soundtrack for the long-delayed
film project from Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, the proud owner of one of the
world’s largest collections of Aleister Crowley memorabilia, including
Crowley’s notorious Boleskine estate on the shores of Scotland’s Loch Ness.
Filmshot from Lucifer Rising, Satanist Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Crowley in the mirror.
When ultimately released, however, the film featured a
soundtrack by neither Jagger nor Page, but rather one that was composed,
recorded and arranged inside a prison cell by convicted murderer Bobby
Beausoleil. The pre-prison footage that Anger had shot of Beausoleil,
meanwhile, ended up in a different film: the aforementioned Invocation of My
Demon Brother. Starring in Lucifer Rising, as Osiris, was Performance
writer and co-director Donald Seaton Cammell.
Donald Crammel, Osiris, Lucifer Rising
Donald Cammell was the son of Charles Richard Cammell, who
happened to be a close friend and biographer of notorious occultist and British
intelligence asset Aleister Crowley. Donald himself was the godson of the Great
Beast. Cammell’s decidedly Crowleyian film was originally to star his good
friend Marlon Brando, but the role ultimately went to actor James Fox. Brando
and Cammell, by the way, once wrote a novel together ~ a novel so horrifyingly
bad that I dare not mention its title here for fear that some of you may
purchase it out of curiosity and then blame me for any trauma you endure while
attempting to actually read it.
Speaking of Brando, by the way, have I mentioned yet the
curious string of deaths that began eighteen years ago, on May 16, 1990, when
Marlon’s son Christian gunned down Dag Drollet, the father of his sister
Cheyenne’s unborn child, in Marlon’s Laurel Canyon-adjacent home?
Though convicted, Christian got off with a rather light
sentence, thanks primarily to Marlon having had his own daughter, the
prosecution’s potential star witness, locked away in a mental institution in
Tahiti, safe from subpoena.
A few years later, on April 14, 1995, 25-year-old Cheyenne was
found swinging from the end of a rope, her death unsurprisingly ruled a
suicide. The next year, Christian Brando was released from prison and promptly
became involved with a woman by the name of Bonnie Lee Bakley, who caught a bullet
to the head on May 4, 2001 while in the company of new hubby Robert Blake (her
Marlon dropped dead next, on July 1, 2004 (though his death
wasn’t particularly suspicious, given that he was getting on in years). His
home was promptly purchased by good friend and neighbor Jack Nicholson, who
immediately announced plans to bulldoze it, declaring the structure to be
decrepit. He never did though explain why a man wealthy enough to own his own
chain of Polynesian islands was purportedly living in a derelict abode. A few
years later, on January 26 of 2008, Christian Brando dropped dead at the
relatively young age of 49.
Never far away, the Krays
Returning now, after that brief digression, to our discussion
of Donald Cammell’s Performance, we find that Mick Jagger was cast to
play the role of ‘Turner,’ a debauched rock star (which, obviously, was a real
stretch for Mick). Fox played ‘Chas,’ a violent organized-crime figure. He was
trained for the role by David Litvinoff, a real-life crime figure and associate
of the notoriously sadistic (Jewish) Kray
brothers. Litvinoff reportedly sent Fox to the south of London for a couple of
months to hang out with his gangster buddies; when he returned, according to
various accounts, Fox had literally become the violent character he portrayed
in the film.
Recruited to create the film’s soundtrack was Bernard Alfred
“Jack” Nitzsche, an occultist and the son of a supposed ‘medium.’ Nitzsche,
along with Sonny Bono, had begun his music career as a lieutenant for
gun-brandishing producer Phil Spector (Nitzsche was one of the architects of
Spector’s famed “wall of sound”).
Nitzsche was also a familiar presence on the Laurel Canyon
scene, collaborating with such noted bands and artists as Buffalo Springfield,
Neil Young, Crazy Horse, Randy Newman, Michelle Phillips, The Turtles, Captain
Beefheart and (Jew) Carole King. Nitzsche also
worked with several of the people we will be adding today to the Laurel Canyon
Death List, including David Blue, Ricky Nelson and Sonny Bono. And one guy who
was already added to the list: Tim Buckley.
Nitzsche’s Performance soundtrack was composed,
according to author Michael Walker, “in a witch’s cottage in the canyon” (I’m
not exactly sure what a “witch’s cottage” is, but it’s nice to know that Laurel
Canyon had one). One of the musicians hired by Nitzsche to play on that
soundtrack was Lowell George, who we will also be adding to the Laurel Canyon
For now, let’s add Donald Cammell to the list, since on April
24, 1996, he became yet another of the characters in this story to catch a
bullet to the head (need I add here that the wound was reportedly
self-inflicted?) Nitzsche died five years later of a heart attack, on August
25, 2000. A few years earlier, he had made an appearance on primetime
television ~ as a gun-brandishing drunkard arrested on the streets of Hollywood
Before moving on, there is one other thing I need to mention
about Cammell’s film: John Phillips once stated that Performance was
about estranging one’s self from society in order to create a new, better
“With really intelligent people,” according to
Phillips, “it’s almost a matter of inbreeding at this point.”
I don’t know about all of you readers out there,
but when I first stumbled upon that quote, it suddenly dawned on me that one
element that was previously missing from this story was a pro-eugenics comment
from one of our flower-power icons, so I’m glad that we were able to squeeze
Bobby Beausoleil from Invocation of my Demon Brother
Since we now seem to have segued onto the topic of John
Phillips, let’s go ahead and add his good friend Steve Brandt to the Death
List. Brandt, who was also a close friend of the victims at 10050 Cielo Drive,
allegedly overdosed on barbiturates in late November of 1969, some
three-and-a-half months after the Manson murders. In the days and weeks
following those murders, Brandt had placed numerous phone calls to the LAPD.
Those calls became increasingly frantic in nature, and Brandt became
increasingly fearful that his own life might be in jeopardy.
He soon decided to put some distance between himself and LA,
so he headed for New York City. On the night of his death, according to
Phillips’ autobiography, Brandt attended a Rolling Stones concert at Madison
Square Gardens, where he attempted to run on stage but was repelled and beaten
by a security guard. He then went home and, according to official mythology,
It seems obvious that if someone had information that
desperately needed to be made public, and if it was the kind of information
that authorities had, say, willfully failed to act upon, and if the information
was of the type that could not, needless to say, be taken to the mainstream
media, and if the year was 1969 and the mass communication technology that we
now take for granted did not yet exist, then grabbing the mike at a Stones
concert at Madison Square Gardens might just be one of the most effective means
of disseminating that information.
Brandt failed in what may have been an attempt to do just
that, and he turned up dead just hours later. Shit happens, I guess.
Moving on, I couldn’t help noticing that when I mentioned (Jew) David Blue a few paragraphs back, a lot of you
scratched your heads and asked, “David Who?” Allow me then to quickly introduce
you to another of the forgotten talents of Laurel Canyon. Blue was born Stuart David
Cohen on February 18, 1941; shortly thereafter, his father was deployed
overseas. According to David, his dad “came hobbling home on crutches and
stayed depressed all his life” (not unlike, it seems fair to say, the family
situation of our old friend (Jew) Phil Ochs).
David and his slightly older half-sister, Suzanne, endured a
hellish existence consisting of alternating periods of rages and silences.
Suzanne got out first, only to end up busted for prostitution in New York City
in 1963. Suzanne’s next stop, just a few months later, was at the county
David, meanwhile, had gotten out of the house as well, by
dropping out of school and joining the US Navy at the age of seventeen ~ just
as Lenny Bruce had done. Like Jimi Hendrix, Blue was purportedly booted out of
the service, after which he decided to become a folk singer. His first album
was released in 1966; a later effort was produced by Graham Nash, who also, as
everyone surely recalls, produced a record for Judee Sill, with whom Blue had
much in common (you people had better be paying attention because ~ I’m warning
you! ~ there will, at some point, be a quiz on all this shit, and if you miss
too many questions on that quiz, you will be locked out from further access to
Just kidding!! I don’t even know how to set that shit up! But
if I did, I would totally fucking do it! Anyway, let’s get back to our story …
Like Judee Sill, David Blue was one of the Laurel Canyon stars
who never quite shone as brightly as they should have. And also like Sill, Blue
was one of the first few acts signed by David Geffen’s fledgling Asylum label.
Finally, as with Judee, David was long forgotten by the time of his death, on
December 2, 1982, when the forty-one-year-old Blue dropped dead while jogging
in New York’s Washington Square Park. The former rising star (and occasional
actor) lay in the morgue for three days before anyone noticed that he was
If you haven’t done so already, or haven’t done so lately,
pull up a chair and work your way through “Celluloid Heroes, Part II: The
Tangled Web of Charlie Manson” at: http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/wtc13.html.
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
were a lot of weird people around. There was one guy who had a parrot called
Captain Blood, and he was always scrawling real cryptic things on the inside
walls of my house ~ Neil Young’s too.” ~ Joni Mitchell, describing the Laurel
Canyon scene at the tail end of the 1960s
(Some of the images in this edition were
originally slated for inclusion in an earlier installment of this series, but
my computer was not very cooperative at the time so they were left out. All of
the images contained in this chapter, by the way, and all other images in this
series that are not otherwise credited in the captions, are my own original
Like Brandon DeWilde, Kenneth Anger, Mickey Dolenz
and Van Dyke Parks, Ricky Nelson began his Hollywood career as a child actor.
He was the son, as everyone surely knows, of America’s favorite 1950s TV mom
and dad, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson. Ricky began his rock ‘n’ roll career in
1957, when he was just seventeen. By 1962, he had scored no fewer than thirty
Top 40 hits, trailing only superstars Elvis Presley and Pat Boone.
That reminds me that, before I forget, I need to
add Elvis to the death list as well. And before you send me letters of protest,
let me assure you that I do indeed know what a lot of you are thinking: “But
Dave, Elvis isn’t dead! I just saw him the other day at the 7-11 right around
the corner from my house. And, sure, he was looking a little bloated, but he
was definitely alive. I mean, unless you’re going to try to convince me that I
watched a dead guy put away a 1/4 lb. Big Bite.”
Oh wait … that might not be right … what you are
probably really thinking is: “Elvis?! The King?! You can’t be serious!
How the hell does The King figure into any of this? What are you going to tell
us next ~ that comedians John Belushi and Phil Hartman belong on the death list
Uhmm, have you been peeking at my notes or
something? Because I actually am, as a matter of fact, going to include Mr.
Hartman on the list (and I could include Mr. Belushi as well, since he did die
at the Chateau Marmont Hotel, which happens to lie at the mouth of Laurel
Canyon). But we’ll get to Phil Hartman later; for now, let’s talk a little bit
about Mr. Presley and his admittedly tangential connections to Laurel Canyon.
Elvis arrived in LA in 1956, to begin what would
prove to be a prolific film career that would continue throughout the 1960s and
would result in the inexcusable creation of nearly three dozen motion pictures,
each one arguably more appalling than the last.
In the early years of his film career, Elvis
reportedly spent his off-hours hanging out with his two best Hollywood pals ~ a
couple of young roommates and Canyonites named Dennis Hopper and Nick Adams. In
later years, Presley’s backing musicians ~ considered to be among the best
session musicians in the business ~ were in high demand among the Laurel Canyon
crowd. Elvis’ bass player, for example, can be heard on some of the Doors’
Elvis' TCB Band were studio musicians for many LC bands due to their extreme talent and can be heard backing the Doors among others.
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
Those two solo efforts by Parsons, by the way,
prominently featured the voice of a young singer/guitarist named Emmylou
Harris, a relatively late arrival to the canyon scene. Harris is the daughter ~
brace yourselves here for a real shocker, folks ~ of a career US Marine Corps
As with so many other characters in this story,
she grew up in the outlying suburbs of Washington, DC, primarily in Woodbridge,
Virginia ~ which happens to be the home of an imposingly large Army ‘research
and development’ installation known as the Harry Diamond Laboratories
Woodbridge Research Facility. In other words, Emmylou Harris fit right in with
the rest of the Laurel Canyon crowd.
But here I seem to have digressed from our
discussion of Elvis (which was, if I remember correctly, itself a digression
from our discussion of Ricky Nelson). Given though that he had only peripheral
connections to Laurel Canyon, I guess I don’t really have much more to say
about Elvis, other than that he reportedly died on August 16, 1977, the victim
of a drug overdose at the young age of forty-two. As with Morrison, however,
there have been persistent rumors that Elvis didn’t actually die at all, but
rather reinvented himself to escape from the fishbowl.
As for Nelson, in the mid-1960s he successfully
shed his ‘teen idol’ image and emerged as a respected pioneer of the
country-rock wave that Canyonites Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles
would soon ride to dizzying heights of commercial success. One future member of
the Eagles, Randy Meisner, played in Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band. As the name of
the band would seem to imply, Nelson did not live in Laurel Canyon but rather
in one of the many neighboring canyons, but he and his band were very much a
part of the early country-rock scene that included Laurel Canyon bands like The
Byrds, Poco, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the First National Band.
Nelson was killed on New Year’s Eve, 1985, in a
rather unusual plane crash. According to Nelson’s Wikipedia entry,
original NTSB investigation long ago stated that the crash was probably due to
mechanical problems. The pilots attempted to land in a field after smoke filled
the cabin. An examination indicated that a fire originated in the right hand
side of the aft cabin area at or near the floor line. The passengers were
killed when the aircraft struck obstacles during the forced landing; the pilots
were able to escape through the cockpit windows and survived.”
I can’t be the only one here who is pondering the
obvious question: exactly when was it that the pilots were able to escape
through the cockpit windows? I assume that they did not parachute out when the
aircraft was still at altitude, leaving the passengers to crash and die. And
they certainly couldn’t have bailed out and survived while the aircraft was
coming in for a landing.
So was it after the plane touched down? If so, exactly
how much time was there between when the plane touched down and when it
impacted the fatal obstacles?
How long was this ‘escape window,’ as it were? I
would think it was mere seconds, if even that, which wouldn’t seem to be enough
time to execute an escape. And if the plane was going fast enough on the ground
that the impact killed all aboard, what are the odds that anyone would survive
such an escape attempt? I think maybe the NTSB needs to take another look at
For the final eight years of his life, Nelson
lived in a rather unusual home. In 1941, swashbuckling actor Errol Flynn had
purchased an eleven-and-a-half-acre chunk of the Hollywood Hills just off
Mulholland Drive and had a sprawling home built to his specifications.
According to Laurie Jacobson and Marc Wanamaker, writing in Haunted
Hollywood, the mansion featured “several mysterious secret passageways, and
more than a few peepholes.” The home appeared to have been designed to allow
for surreptitious observation of guests in the home’s numerous bedrooms.
It is claimed that Flynn incorporated the unusual
design features so that he could satisfy his own voyeuristic impulses.
Researcher/writer Charles Higham, however, has cast Flynn as a Western
intelligence asset (and Nazi sympathizer). And if Flynn was an intelligence
operative, then it is far more likely that the home was built not so much for
Flynn’s personal pleasure, but rather as a means of compromising prominent
public figures (much like the home of, for example, Craig Spence).
After Nelson’s death, the palatial home stood
vacant until a curious incident took place; referring once again to Jacobson
and Wanamaker, we find that “A gang broke in and murdered a girl in the living
Then a mysterious fire burned half the house. The ruins were torn down.”
Shit like that has been known to happen to folks foolish enough to leave their
expensive canyon homes sitting vacant … well, except for the part about the
“gang.” As far as I know, the canyons have never had much of a “gang” problem.
In the Hollywood Hills, the words “crime” and “gang-related” never show up at a
party together. And when was the last time anyone ever heard of a “gang”
kidnapping a girl and then taking her to a remote, isolated mansion to murder
All things considered, I’m thinking that perhaps
what the authors meant to say was that “a group of people broke in and murdered
a girl …” But that, of course, raises the question of exactly what sort of
group of people jointly commit a premeditated murder?
Other than death squads,
the only such groups that come to mind are generally referred to as “cults,”
which I’m guessing are far more common in the canyons than are “gangs.”
In addition to having a fondness for
multi-perpetrator murders, it appears as though cults also like to start fires,
oftentimes because fires are a really effective way of destroying evidence.
Some of you may, however, be thinking that since the Hollywood Hills are
plagued by wildfires on a more or less annual basis, then there is nothing
particularly unusual about the fact that Nelson’s home, and more than a few of
the other homes in this story, were destroyed by fire.
For the most part
though, the fires that destroyed these structures were not natural wildfires
but rather fires of mysterious origin that seemed to target specific buildings.
As Michael Walker noted, “Laurel
Canyon would burn and burn again, targeting with uncanny precision the homes of
its seemingly enchanted rock demimonde.”
(One exception was the Laurel Canyon home of
blues-rocker John Mayall, which burned down to its foundation in a ferocious
wildfire on September 16, 1979; that wildfire also claimed the home of Whisky
owner Elmer Valentine. It was from Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, by the way, that the
Rolling Stones recruited guitarist Mick Taylor, who I regrettably disparaged in
the initial version of the last installment of this series. Taylor was actually
quite an accomplished guitarist whose work with the Stones was frequently
uncredited and who was underutilized by the band. My apologies to all the fans
of the Rolling Stones that I offended.)
Moving on then to the next new name on our list,
we find that on December 31, 1943 ~ precisely forty-two years before the plane
crash that would claim the life of Ricky Nelson ~ Henry John Deutschendorf,
Jr., better known as John Denver, was born in Roswell, New Mexico.
A few years later, the town of Roswell would make
a name for itself and become something of a tourist destination. But that is
not really our focus here today, though it should be noted that Henry John
Deutschendorf, Sr. might well have known a little something about that
incident, given that he was a career US Air Force officer assigned to the
Roswell Army Air Field (later renamed the Walker Air Force Base), which was
likely the origin of the object that famously crashed in Roswell.
After spending his childhood being frequently
uprooted, as did many of our cast of characters, Denver attended Texas Tech
University in the early 1960s. In 1964, he apparently heard the call of the
Pied Piper and promptly dropped out of school and headed for LA.
Once there, he joined up with the Chad Mitchell
Trio, the group from which Jim McGuinn had recently departed to co-found The
Byrds. By November 1966, Denver was front-and-center at the so-called ‘Riot on
the Sunset Strip,’ alongside folks like Peter Fonda, Sal Mineo and a popular
husband-and-wife duo known as Sonny and Cher.
A decade later, in the latter half of the 1970s,
Denver could be found working alongside a spooky chap by the name of Werner
Erhard, creator of so-called ‘EST’ training. After graduating from the
‘training’ program, Denver penned a little ditty that became the organization’s
theme song. In 1985, Denver testified alongside our old friend Frank Zappa at
the PMRC hearings. Twelve years later, in autumn of 1997, Denver died when his
self-piloted plane crashed soon after taking off from Monterey Airport, very
near where the Monterey Pop Festival had been held thirty years earlier. The
date of the crash, curiously enough, was one that we have stumbled across
repeatedly: October 12.
The next name we need to add to the list is one
that has already worked its way into this narrative a time or two: Sonny Bono.
As previously noted, Bono began his Hollywood career as a lieutenant for
reclusive murder suspect Phil Spector. In the early 1960s, Bono hooked up with
an underage Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPierre to form a duo known first as Caesar and
Cleo, and then as Sonny and Cher. The pair were phenomenally successful, first
on the Sunset Strip and later on television. Bono, of course, ultimately gave
up the Hollywood life and found work in a different branch of the federal
government: the U.S. House of Representatives.
On January 5, 1998, Sonny Bono died after
purportedly skiing into a tree. At the time, Bono occupied a seat on the House
Judiciary Committee, which was about to come to sudden prominence with the
investigation and impeachment of President Bill. The ball was already rolling
by the time of Bono’s death, and on January 26, 1998, just three weeks after
the alleged skiing incident, Clinton held the now-notorious press conference in
which he uttered the fateful words:
“I did not have sexual relations
with that skank, by which I mean that the executive penis did not, at any time,
penetrate her womanly parts, though it is possible that she may have taken a
few puffs on the presidential cigar, if you fellas know what I mean. Does
anyone else have a question?”
By that time, of course, Bono’s seat on the panel
had been set aside for his robowife (who was, perhaps, more willing to act out
And now, as promised, let’s turn our attention to
Phil Hartman. As everyone likely remembers, Saturday Night Live alumnus
Hartman was murdered in his Encino home on May 28, 1998. That much is not in
dispute. Decidedly less clear is the answer to the question of who it was that
actually shot and killed Hartman.
The official story, of course, holds that it
was his wife Brynn, who shortly thereafter shot herself ~ with a different gun,
naturally, and reportedly after she had left the house and then returned with a
friend, and after the LAPD had arrived at the home. There is a very
strong possibility, however, that both Phil and his wife were murdered, with
the true motive for the crime covered up by trotting out the tired but
ever-popular murder/suicide scenario.
In most people’s minds, of course, Phil Hartman is
not associated with the Laurel Canyon scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
But as it turns out, Hartman did indeed have substantial ties to that scene. To
begin with, during the time that Jimi Hendrix lived in LA (in the spacious
mansion just north of the Log Cabin on Laurel Canyon Boulevard), Hartman worked
for him as a roadie. Soon after that, Phil found work as a graphic artist and
he quickly found himself much in demand by the Laurel Canyon rock royalty.
In addition to designing album covers for both
Poco and America, Hartman also, believe it or not, designed a readily
recognizable rock symbol that has endured for nearly forty years: the
distinctive CSN logo for Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Right: Home of Jimi Hendrix
Hartman had ties to the darker side of Laurel
Canyon as well. He was, for example, a high school chum of Lynette “Squeaky”
Fromme, who would later find herself living alongside Charlie Manson at the
infamous Spahn Movie Ranch. In bygone years, by the way, that very same Spahn
Movie Ranch was frequently used as a filming location by western star Tom Mix,
who was, as we all know, the man whose name was forever tied to the Log Cabin.
Curiously enough, the Log Cabin’s guesthouse (aka the Bird House), which
is still standing, was designed and built by architect Robert Byrd, who also,
according to one report, designed the house at 5065 Encino Avenue where Phil
Hartman was murdered, and the house at 10050 Cielo Drive where Sharon Tate and
friends were murdered.
While we’re on the subject of the Bird House, I
should mention that you can find numerous photos of the guesthouse and the
grounds of the property at this website: http://crosbyentertainment.com/own_a_piece_of_hollywood_history.htm.
Notice that among its other amenities, the house features a rather
medieval-looking dungeon, because one never knows when a dungeon might come in
handy for, uhmm, storing roots or something. Notice also that what was built as
a ‘guesthouse’ probably makes your own home look like it belongs in a
shantytown, which would tend to indicate that the property’s main residence,
the Log Cabin, was a decidedly opulent dwelling.
Entrance to the Log Cabin Walk
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.
Speaking of Wonderland, let’s turn our attention
next to four individuals whose names will probably not be familiar to most
readers: Ronald Launius, Billy Deverell, Barbara Richardson and Joy Miller.
All died on July 1, 1981, all by bludgeoning, and
all at the same location: 8763 Wonderland Avenue in Laurel Canyon. All were
members of a gang that trafficked heavily in cocaine and occasionally in
heroin. The leader of the group was Ron Launius, who reportedly embarked on his
criminal career, and established his drug connections, while serving for Uncle
Sam over in Vietnam, which is also where he began to build his
carefully-crafted reputation as a cold-blooded killer. At the time that he
became a murder victim himself, Launius was a suspect in no fewer than
twenty-seven open homicide investigations. He was also a drug supplier to
various members of the Laurel Canyon aristocracy.
Victim Billy Deverell was Launius’
second-in-command, and victim Joy Miller was Billy’s girlfriend as well as the
renter of the Laurel Canyon drug den. Victim Barbara Richardson was the
girlfriend of another member of the gang, David Lind, who conveniently was not
at the home at the time of the mass murder. That could well have been due to
the fact that Lind was, according to various rival drug dealers, a police
informant for both the Sacramento and Los Angeles Police Departments. He was
also a member of the ultra-violent prison gang known as the Aryan Brotherhood
(as is, by several accounts, a guy that we have bumped into several times
during this journey: Bobby Beausoleil). Lind, who met Launius when the two had
served time together, is alleged to have overdosed in 1995, though it is widely
believed that he actually went into the federal witness protection program.
The next name to go on our list is that of Brian
Cole, (Pictured Left) bass player for The Association, an LA folk-rock band known for the hit
songs “Along Comes Mary” and “Never My Love.” The Association was not a Laurel
Canyon band but they did have close ties to the scene. The group was formed by
Terry Kirkman and Jules Alexander; Kirkman had formerly played in a band with
Frank Zappa, while Alexander was fresh from a stint in the US Navy. Jerry
Yester, a guitarist and keyboardist with the band, was formerly with The Modern
Folk Quartet, a band managed by Zappa manager Herb Cohen and produced by Byrds’
manager Jim Dickson. Guitarist Larry Ramos had formerly been with the New
Christy Minstrels, which also produced Gene Clark of The Byrds.
On June 16, 1967, Cole and his band were the first
to take the stage at the Monterey Pop Festival, followed by such Laurel Canyon
stalwarts as The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and the Mamas and the Papas. Five
years later, on August 2, 1972, Cole was found dead in his Los Angeles home.
The cause of death was reportedly a heroin overdose. Cole was one month shy of
his thirtieth birthday at the time of his death.
Another new name on the Laurel Canyon Death List
is Lowell George, the founder and creative force behind the
critically-acclaimed but largely obscure band known as Little Feat. George was
the son of Willard H. George, a famous furrier to the Hollywood movie studios.
Lowell’s first foray into the music world was with a band known as The Factory,
which cut some demos with a guy by the name of Frank Zappa. The Factory evolved
into the Fraternity of Man, though without George, who had left to serve as
lead vocalist for The Standells. George returned, however, to join the band in
the studio for the recording of their second album. By that time, as we have
already seen, the Fraternity of Man had taken up residence in the Log Cabin,
alongside Carl Franzoni and his fellow Freaks.
George next joined up with Frank Zappa’s Mothers
of Invention, though his tenure there was destined to be a short one; like so
many others, Lowell left embittered by Zappa’s dictatorial approach to making
music and his condescending treatment of his bandmates. During his time with
Zappa, George helped Frank out in the studio with the GTOs’ first (and only)
album, as did Brits Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart (who, readers of Programmed to
Kill will recall, was one of the last people known to have been in the
company of a pair of underage girls before they became victims of a ‘serial killer’
in June 1980).
Zappa, he pops up everywhere!
After parting company with Zappa, George formed
Little Feat, a band composed mostly of musicians from the Fraternity of Man
sessions. Lowell, who is credited with being a pioneer of the use of slide
guitar in rock music, served as singer, songwriter and lead guitarist for the
band, which released its debut album in 1970. Though well regarded within the
industry and by critics, the band’s albums failed to sell and George ultimately
announced the demise the band and recorded a solo album. After playing a show
on June 29, 1979 at George Washington University in support of that album,
George was found dead in an Arlington, Virginia hotel room, very near the
Pentagon. Cause of death was said to be a massive heart attack, though George
was just thirty-four years old at the time.
According to Barney Hoskyns (writing in Hotel
California), “A regular social stop-off for George was a Laurel Canyon
house on Wonderland Avenue belonging to Three Dog Night singer Danny Hutton. A
drop-in den of debauchery, the Hutton house featured a bedroom with black walls
and a giant fireplace. Lowell would often swing by and entertain the likes of
Brian Wilson or Harry Nilsson.” Nilsson and his regular drinking buddy, John
Lennon, were frequent guests at this “den of debauchery.”
Former Beatle John Lennon is, to be
sure, one of the most famous names to be found on the Laurel Canyon Death List.
Lennon also has the distinction of being one of
the few Laurel Canyon alumni whose cause of death is acknowledged to have been
homicide. The ex-Beatle, of course, never lived in the canyon, but he was a
fixture on the Sunset Strip and at various Laurel Canyon hangouts, frequently
in the company of Harry Nilsson. And as readers surely recall, he was gunned
down on December 8, 1980 ~ purportedly by Mark David Chapman, but more likely
by a second gunman.
Lennon was, as everyone knows, murdered in front
of New York’s Dakota Apartments, which had been portrayed by filmmaker Roman
Polanski in the 1960s as a den of Satanic cult activity (in his film Rosemary’s
Baby). Not long before Lennon’s murder, Chapman had approached
occult filmmaker Kenneth Anger and offered him a gift of live bullets. Just
days after Lennon was felled, Anger’s long-delayed final cut of Lucifer
Rising made its New York debut, not far from the bloodstained grounds of
the Dakota Apartments. And not long after that, the ‘Reagan Revolution’ began
to transform America.
Exactly three weeks after Lennon’s death, Tim
Hardin ~ Canyonite, folk musician, close associate of Frank Zappa, author of
Rod Stewart’s “Reason to Believe,” onetime tenant in Lenny Bruce’s Laurel
Canyon-adjacent home, and former U.S. Marine ~ died of a reported heroin and
morphine overdose in Los Angeles. At the time of his death, on December 29,
1980, Hardin was just thirty-nine years old.
Eight years later, on July 18, 1988,
singer/songwriter/keyboardist Christa Paffgen, better known as Nico, died of a
reported cerebral hemorrhage in Ibiza, Spain under unusual circumstances. After
achieving some level of fame as a vocalist with the Velvet Underground, Nico
had left the Warhol stable and migrated west to Laurel Canyon, where she formed
a bond with a then-unknown singer-songwriter named Jackson Browne, who
contributed a few songs to Nico’s 1967 debut album, Chelsea Girl (so
named for New York’s Chelsea Hotel, from where Devon Wilson took a dive, and
where the persona of John Train murdered the persona of Phil Ochs). Also
contributing a song to Nico’s solo debut was Mr. Tim Hardin.
On December 4, 1993, some five years after Nico’s
curious death, Frank Zappa died in his Laurel Canyon home of inoperable
prostate cancer. Some have speculated that the cancer could have developed as a
result of the chemical agents Zappa was exposed to throughout his early childhood
at the Edgewood Arsenal.
And so it goes. In the next installment, we will
add two more famous names to the death list, and we will use them as
springboards to launch into two rarely-told stories that will add new levels of
complexity to the Laurel Canyon saga.
Until then …
Found this very informative
Gee70 years people live and die ..that's earth shattering.ReplyDelete