Laurel Canyon & The Psy-Op Sixties

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Bill Bean & I are back with another episode of Warrior Mode! This time out we discuss the riots in US cities before getting into the weird world of Laurel Canyon & its links into the military industrial complex.

Just how much of the swinging sixties & the summer of love a part of a giant social engineering experiment? We discuss how artists like Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa & too many to list here, had familial links into the military & alphabet agencies.

I have included the essay that Bill put together when researching information for the show. It makes a fascinating companion to the show itself.

Before getting into Bill’s writing, may i take this opportunity to give credit to the late Dave McGowan, author of Weird Scenes Inside Laurel Canyon, for all of the information he put together that we lean on heavily throughout the show. Any time you hear anything about the weirdness in Laurel Canyon, chances are that you have Dave to thank for bringing it to the surface.


Warrior Mode

Talking Points

Laurel Canyon

Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon, was written by Dave McGowan in 2008. He believed that  the 1960’s hippie scene was created by the CIA and used to brainwash the masses. I find that book to be a very important work, as McGowan did an outstanding job in connecting the dots. Maybe two good of a job because he was dead, less than a year after writing it.

Laurel Canyon is a mountainous neighborhood/canyon located in the Hollywood Hills region of the Santa Monica Mountains, in the Hollywood Hills West district of Los Angeles, California. It became a nexus of counterculture activity and attitudes in the mid-late 1960s and early 1970s, becoming famous as home to many of L.A.’s rock musicians, such as Joni Mitchell; Frank Zappa; Jim Morrison of The Doors; Carole King; The Byrds; Buffalo Springfield; Canned Heat; John Mayall; members of the band The Eagles; the band Love; Neil Young; Brian & Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys as well as James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Harry Nilsson, Mama Cass, John Phillips and also Micky Dolenz & Peter Tork of The Monkees. Tork’s home was considered one of Laurel Canyon’s biggest party houses with all-night, drug-fueled sleepovers, well attended by the hippest musicians and movie stars of the era. It was also frequented by Charles Manson and his followers.

But there actually was something a little more sinister in the Hollywood Hills. About five minutes out from Laurel Canyon, there was a secret fascility run by the U.S. Government called Lookout Mountain. Among other things, it was used as a film studio for the military and researched nuclear testing. Hollywood stars like Gregory Peck, Bob Hope, and Jimmy Stewart often narrated for these films and were sworn to secrecy.

“I think these days, especially in the States,

you have to be a politician or an assassin or

something to really be a superstar.” Jim Morrison

Before he was the Lizard King: US Navy Admiral George Stephen

Morrison and his son, James Douglas Morrison, on the bridge of the

USS Bon Homme Richard, January 1964.

Originally called Lookout Mountain Air Force Station (LMAFS) is a former defense site which today is a private residence. It’s currently owned by actor Jared Leto. The USAF military installation produced motion pictures and still photographs for the United States Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) from 1947–1969.

The 100,000 sq ft (9,300m) facility was built on 2.5 acres in 1941 as a World War II air defense center to coordinate Los Angeles area radar installations. When the studio was established in 1947, its purpose was kept secret. The studio consisted of one large sound stage, a film laboratory, two screening rooms, four editing rooms, an animation and still photo department, sound mixing studio, and numerous climate controlled film vaults. Using the latest equipment, the studio could process both 35mm and 16mm color motion picture film as well as black and white and color still photographs.

In 1953, the new Lookout Mountain Lab facility had an estimated value of $1,500,000

In the 1960s, Lookout Mountain, AFS was staffed by more than 250 military and civilian personnel. The studio employed many talented civilians as producers, writers, directors, cameramen, editors and animators. Many of these “old timers” had worked at Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Universal and RKO Pictures.” In addition, many of the producers and directors were veterans of Frank Capra’s World War II film unit, or had been with combat photo teams of the Army, Navy and Marines.

  1. Donn Hayes (1893–1973), who coined the name American Cinema Editors (ACE), was the past president of the Motion Picture Editors Guild and worked at Lookout Mountain as his last career assignment. Hayes had been in the film and television industries since 1916. Among his credits were Tarzan Escapes (1936), Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940), and Li’l Abner (1940).

Another Lookout Mountain editor, William “Bill” Holmes (1904–1978) had edited 54 feature films at Warner Bros. Holmes’ credits included: Ben Hur (1925), I Was A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (1932), Dark Victory (1939), They Died With Their Boots On (1941) and Sergeant York, for which he won the 1941 Academy Award for Best Editing.

Barry Shipman (1912–1994), one of Lookout Mountain’s writers, had written serials for Universal Pictures including Dick Tracy (1937) and Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe (1940), and had written for such TV series as Lassie, Ramar of the Jungle, Adventures of Wild Bill Hicock and Death Valley Days.

So we have a state of the art Military installation on the top of Lookout Mountain, which employed some of the top stars of the time to assist them. Then the hippie counter-culture movement began, originating in San Francisco, with Laurel Canyon in LA becoming the episcenter. Lookout Mountain was one of many Military fascilities around the country, being used for researching MK-Ultra mind control (via Nazi scientists) and testing LSD on innocent people.

Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa, Stephen Stills, and David Crosby were all sons of extremely high-ranking military officials. They were also members of the Laurel Canyon hippie community and were incredibly popular among the Youths of America. The government was testing mind control on unsuspecting innocents. John Phillips, Gail Sloatman Zappa and Sharon Tate also came from elite families with highly decorated and illustrious family members.

Not only did the Manson family murders take place there, but many other murders as well, including the Blck Dahlia case and the four on the floor case too.

Movie stars were horribly murdered; musicians died under suspicious circumstances. Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Clarence White of the Birds, actor Sal Mineo – these were just a few people who died in or around Laurel Canyon. It’s worth noting that Elvis frequented the area when he was making movies. The Beatles and Rolling Stones were also regular visitors to Laurel Canyon as well.

During the early years of its heyday, Laurel Canyon’s father figure is the rather eccentric personality known as Frank Zappa. Though he and his various Mothers of Invention lineups will never attain the commercial success of the band headed by the admiral’s son, Frank will be a hugely influential figure among his contemporaries. Ensconced in an abode dubbed the ‘Log Cabin’—which sat right in the heart of Laurel Canyon, at the crossroads of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Lookout Mountain Avenue—

Zappa will play host to virtually every musician who passes through the canyon in the mid- to late-1960s. He will also discover and sign numerous acts to his various Laurel Canyon-based record labels. Many of these acts will be rather bizarre and somewhat obscure characters (think Captain Beefheart and Larry “Wild Man” Fischer), but some of them, such as psychedelic rocker shock-rocker Alice Cooper, will go on to superstardom.

Zappa, along with certain members of his sizable entourage (the Log Cabin was run as an early commune, with numerous hangers-on occupying various rooms in the main house and the guest house, as well as the peculiar caves and tunnels lacing the grounds of the home; far from the quaint homestead the name seems to imply, the Log Cabin was a cavernous five-level home that featured a 2,000+ square-foot living room with three massive chandeliers and an enormous floor-toceiling stone fireplace), will also be instrumental in introducing the look and attitude that will define the ‘hippie’ counterculture—although the Zappa crew prefers the label ‘freak’. Nevertheless, Zappa will never really make a secret of the fact that he has nothing but contempt for the hippie culture.

Danny Hutton party house featured a room all in black

Stuart Copeland family connection and work for the CIA.

In 1965, Captain Beefheart had formed the Magic Band, which would release thirteen albums between 1965 and 1982, albums on which Don Van Vliet would play harmonica and saxophone as well as provide his distinctive lead vocals. The first of those albums was Safe as Milk, released in 1967, followed by Strictly Personal in 1968. The band’s third album, 1969’s

Trout Mask Replica, was released by Zappa’s Straight Records and is considered to be Beefheart’s signature work. To this day, the disc is regarded by some as one of the greatest rock albums of all time, though others have described Vliet’s work in considerably less flattering terms.

Whether Vliet was the musical genius some view him as is a topic for others to debate; what is of far more interest here is how that music was created. Trout Mask Replica was recorded in a tiny two-bedroom house with blacked out windows in Woodland Hills. It was there that Beefheart’s band members were essentially held prisoner for eight months, with the Captain in total control of everything, including the band members’ eating and sleeping schedules. The drummer, John French, has described the atmosphere in that house as “cultlike” and has made ominous references to “brainwashing sessions.”

The musicians were restricted from leaving the house and were forced to rehearse for fourteen hours every day. They were subjected to both sleep deprivation and food deprivation, and they were actively encouraged to physically attack each other. Beefheart would frequently utilize physical violence to keep the others in line; French wrote in his memoirs of being “screamed at, beaten up, drugged, humiliated, arrested, starved, stolen from, and thrown down a half-flight of stairs.”

They lived in poverty and squalor, with public assistance the band’s only income. For one full month, the abused musicians had to survive on a single cup of beans each per day.

Beefheart also assigned new names to all the band members, “loosening,” as Barry Miles wrote, “their hold on their old identities.” John French, for example, became Drumbo. So strong was Vliet’s hold on his bandmates that though a couple were able to escape the deplorable conditions, they ultimately returned to an environment that was, according to a friend of the band, “positively Mansonesque.” For their efforts, the musicians were paid little or nothing. And Beefheart claimed sole credit for composing and arranging the album, though it was in fact a collaborative effort. Later albums would follow much the same patterns.

There certainly doesn’t appear to have been any shortage of “Mansonesque” characters populating Laurel Canyon circa 1969, and they mostly seem to have been clustered around Frank Zappa.


The following was written by Nick Bryant as the foreword for David McGowan;s Book. Laurel Canyon was the fountainhead for the peace, love, and brown rice vibes that overflowed America’s airwaves as the Vietnam War raged, but lurking beneath its tie-dyed and florid veneer was an exquisite darkness of drugs, unbridled debauchery, full-tilt depravity, and shocking carnage. When readers of this book are delivered to Laurel Canyon’s blood-drenched tapestry of murder and mayhem, they will have to decide whether or not those sinister synchronicities are uncanny coincidences, conspiracies—or perhaps a kaleidoscopic blending of both.

Sprinkled throughout these pages is the ominous specter of the military/intelligence complex, and perched quite literally atop Laurel Canyon was the top-secret Lookout Mountain Laboratory, which seems to be McGowan’s grand metaphor for Dr. Strangelove having a bird’s-eye view of the nascent hippie movement, treating it as though it were a petri dish brimming with a lethal biological weapon that could be unleashed in meticulously monitored increments. Indeed, many of Laurel Canyon’s rock ’n’ roll idols had former incarnations steeped in the world of military/intelligence operations.

Jim Morrison, aka “the Lizard King,” was one such example. Mr. Mojo Risin’ didn’t much like to talk about his parents and was even known to tell reporters that his parents were dead. But as it turns out, Lizard King, Sr. was not only alive and well, he just happened to be the commander of the US warships that allegedly came under attack by North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin, sparking America’s napalm-fueled bloodbath in Vietnam.

Frank Zappa, another major mover and shaker of the Laurel Canyon scene, was certainly the raddest of the rad, so surely he couldn’t have had any connections to the military/intelligence complex… right? Not exactly. According to various accounts collected by McGowan, Zappa was a pro-military autocrat who didn’t really resonate with the counterculture’s peace and love vibe. Like the Lizard King’s dad, Zappa, Sr. was a cog in the intelligence community’s dark machinations; Francis Zappa was a chemical warfare specialist with a top security clearance at Edgewood Arsenal near Baltimore, Maryland. Some readers might recognize Edgewood as the location of ominous mind control experiments conducted by the CIA under the rubric of MK-ULTRA.

Guilt by familial association has the potential to be an ill-fated formula for speculation, but McGowan relates accounts of Laurel Canyon luminaries whose own hands were possibly awash in the blood of the military/intelligence complex. Consider, for example, “Papa” John Phillips, who penned the smash hit San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair), imploring thousands of runaways to make bacchanallaced pilgrimages to the City by the Bay. The son of a Marine Corps captain, Phillips was among the more prominent fixtures of Laurel Canyon who had a particularly interesting interrelationship with the military machine.

Rock superstar Stephen Stills was the cofounder of two Laurel Canyon dynamos—Buffalo Springfield, and, of course, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Surely then hippie icon Stills couldn’t possibly be enmeshed in the military-intelligence complex? Maybe, maybe not. The progeny of yet another military family, Stills spent chunks of his childhood in El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama.

David McGowan has sifted through accounts of Stills actually confessing to running around the jungles of Vietnam in the early 1960s—anecdotes generally dismissed, as the author notes, as drug-fueled delusions. Tales of drugs, unbridled debauchery and full-tilt depravity are often populated by ethical eunuchs whose elite deviance yields to particularly malignant appetites, and the people calling Laurel Canyon home were no exception.

McGowan introduces us to aging beatnik Vito Paulekas and his “Freaks,” a dance troupe of Dionysian goddesses who accompanied Vito to the LA nightclubs where the fledgling Laurel Canyon bands were playing their early gigs. In addition to saturating the dance floors with sultry young nubiles for emerging bands, Vito was also a purveyor of teenage girls for the up-and-coming rockers. McGowan also comments on Vito’s swift exodus to Haiti, for reasons explained herein.

Vito Paulekas certainly isn’t a household name, but he was far from being a fringe player on the Laurel Canyon scene, where he and his Freaks mingled freely with rock ’n’ roll’s burgeoning royalty. McGowan collects anecdotes suggesting that Vito may have played a key role in the formation and early success of the Byrds—though his name is conspicuously absent from the autobiographical tome of Byrds co-founder David Crosby. We also find Vito in a string of low-budget films, and in a cameo appearance on one of rock’s first concept albums: Zappa’s Freak Out!

Vito’s parental skills, however, left a lot to be desired, as evinced by the very mysterious and bizarre death of his young son, Godo. Further excavating the idolatry of his youth, McGowan encounters Laurel Canyon fixture Billy Bryars, a male madam and gay porn entrepreneur. Bryers was investigated for trafficking child pornography in the 1970s, whereupon his stable of male hustlers began coughing up the names of frequent flyers at his bordello, the most notable among them being super freak G-man J. Edgar Hoover and partner Clyde Tolson.

The 1960s was a “revolutionary” epoch not only in music but also in Hollywood, and McGowan discusses the symbiosis between the Laurel Canyon music scene and Hollywood’s “Young Turks,” with the box office phenomenon Easy Rider providing a salient nexus between Laurel Canyon rockers and Hollywood upstarts. Many of those upstarts, including Warren Beatty, Peter and Jane Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Candice Bergen, Marlon Brando, Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, Peter Lawford, Dennis Hopper, Ryan O’Neal, Mia Farrow, Peter Sellers, and Zsa Zsa Gabor, were among Papa John and Mama Michelle Phillips’ circle of friends.

Also making the rounds in Laurel Canyon was America’s favorite psychopath, Charles Manson. And Charlie and his “Family” weren’t just a peripheral flock of crazed killers among the Laurel Canyon sovereigns; to the contrary, the Family mingled with many of the Canyon’s rock stars.

Manson even laid down tracks in Brian Wilson’s home studio, stunning the likes of Neil Young. “He had this kind of music that nobody else was doing,” said Neil of Charlie. “I thought he really had something crazy, something great. He was like a living poet.” Charlie also impressed Terry Melcher, the Byrds’ first producer and a major force in sculpting the Laurel Canyon music scene. Melcher also recorded Manson, finding him to be a much more amicable character than David Crosby. Manson’s homicidal lieutenant Bobby Beausoleil also had some impressive moves as a guitarist—and an occultist.

Beausoleil played in a number of forgotten bands that had an occult topspin, one of which even opened for Buffalo Springfield. Bobby eventually landed a gig as a rhythm guitarist for the Grass Roots, which later transmuted into the Laurel Canyon band Love.

McGowan also touches on the grisly “Four on the Floor” or “Wonderland” murders, which left notorious drug dealer Ron Launius and three of his gang bludgeoned to death on the floor of a house on Laurel Canyon’s Wonderland Avenue. Launius dealt drugs to Laurel Canyon’ aristocracy, as well as to porn star John Holmes, then in the twilight of his career. Holmes also befriended LA crime boss/club owner Eddie Nash, who he then betrayed, with fatal consequences.

Truth be told, the Manson and Wonderland Murders were merely spatters on Laurel Canyon’s blood-drenched tapestry. In the pages of this fascinating book, McGowan chronicles tale after tale of suicide and murder, while delivering readers to a web of sinister synchronicities.

Ultimately, it is up to the reader to decide whether Laurel Canyon, in its heyday, was the counter-culture haven portrayed by other chroniclers of the era, or whether it was the epicenter of intrigues whose ripple effects are like the aftershock of a nuclear bomb.

Side Note : North Hollywood Shootout (inspired the movie Heat)

On the morning of February 28, 1997, after months of preparation, including extensive reconnoitering of their intended target – the Bank of America branch located at 6600 Laurel Canyon Boulevard – Phillips and Mătăsăreanu armed themselves with a semi automatic HK-91 and several illegally converted weapons: two Norinco Type 56 S rifles, a fully automatic Norinco Type 56 S-1, and a fully automatic Bushmaster XM15 Dissipator.

The robbers filled a jam jar with gasoline and placed it in the back seat with the intention of setting the car and weapons on fire to destroy evidence after the robbery. Phillips wore roughly 40 pounds (18 kg) of equipment, including a Type IIIA bulletproof vest and groin guard; a load bearing vest with multiple military canteen pouches for ammunition storage; and several pieces of homemade body armor created from spare vests, covering his shins, thighs, and forearms. Mătăsăreanu wore only a Type IIIA bulletproof vest, but included a metal trauma plate to protect vital organs. Additionally, each man had a watch sewn onto the back of one glove, in order to monitor their timing.

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