Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
June 22, 2008
“As all halfway-decent managers in the rock era have done, [Jim] Dickson worked on 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.
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 ‘real’ band. 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 he 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 bandmate 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 Mulholland Drive.
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 story.
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.
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 affiliated projects.
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 Zachary Taylor.
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 buyers.
And that, my friends, is a snapshot of the sick society we live in … but here, perhaps, I have digressed.
Another view of 10066 Cielo Drive; now, as in the '60s, it is accessed via the private road that runs behind the stilt homes
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 1960s. 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 nothing.” 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. Exposed:
“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 …
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And now, faithful readers, allow me to address a couple common questions that have arisen, beginning with:
1. What is the subtitle of the series, “The Strange but Mostly True Story …” supposed to mean? Do you just make this shit up as you go along?
The subtitle alludes to the fact that when dealing with anything concerning Hollywood, there is almost always more than one version of the ‘truth.’ Much of what passes for truth in Hollywood is actually legend and mythmaking, and much of what is dismissed as rumor and legend is actually at least an approximation of the truth. I have endeavored to report this story as accurately as humanly possible by utilizing my finely-honed bullshit detector to separate fact from fiction. Most of the important details of the story, in any event, are not disputed.
2. Are you planning on ultimately publishing this as a book?
I doubt it. I considered putting it together as a book manuscript, but I ultimately decided to put it out on the Internet instead, for a couple of reasons, the first of which is that I wanted people to actually read it. And you people, if we’re being honest here, aren’t really into that ‘old school’ concept of buying and reading books. The reality is that, based on the traffic to my site of late, far more people have read this series in the couple of months that it was been in progress than have read my last book after four years in print.
The other reason that I chose to present this material via the Internet is so that all of you can help to insure that the story is told as accurately as possible. This is, in a sense, a collaborative effort. Though I am willing to do most of the heavy lifting, I am relying on all of you to point out any gaffes or omissions. In other words, this is very much a work in progress and I have already made some minor corrections in previous posts thanks to feedback from readers.
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.