Segarini: A Story for a Monday Afternoon – How Charlie Manson Harshed Our Mellow

Charlie passed today.

This is what it was like when he held sway over the L.A Basin.

Look for News of the Whirled on Friday….

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On July 25th, 1969, Music teacher Gary Hinman is murdered in his Topanga Canyon home. On August 8th, 1969 Steven Parent, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, Sharon Tate and Sharon Tate’s unborn child are murdered in her home on Cielo Drive. On August 9th, 1969 Leno and Rosemary LaBianca are murdered in their Los Feliz home. 

All the murders are brutal, and horrific.

It is the official end of the innocence…

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It was the Summer of 69. Bryan Adams was learning how to play guitar, the Woodstock Nation was about to change the course of pop culture, and Roxy were having the time of their lives in Hollywood, California.

Contrary to popular belief, Hollywood is a county, not a town or a city. Fifty years earlier, it was just miles of Orange groves and nothing more. In 1969 it was considered ‘Ground Zero’ for entertainment and all things cool. Roxy was in the center of it all. We were recording for the best label, living in Laurel Canyon, and hob-nobbing with either established rock and roll icons, or about-to-be rock and roll icons.

No waiting in line or paying to get into the Whiskey or the Troubadour. Randy and I were on good terms with Mario and Elmer at the Whiskey, and Doug Weston at the Troub. We knew everybody, and damn near everybody knew us.

We dined regularly at Denny’s on Sunset, the Hamburger Hamlet, Pink’s, and Ben Franks. Tiny Naylor’s on the corner of Sunset and La Brea was our drive-in of choice, Cantor’s and Barney’s for ethnic diversity, Duke’s for steak sandwiches, Pioneer Chicken for take-out, and Pizza Man pizza for watching Cal Worthington and Chick and Storm on the tube in the wee hours, until we opened the box one night and noticed a cockroach the size of a computer mouse was holding up the lid instead of that little round plastic deal-y.

Free pizza for a month.

If you think we were foodies and traveled on our bellies, you would be half right. We also drank a bit, and traveled in Rand’s brand new Volkswagen Squareback.

During the summer of ’69 we had yet another favourite eating and drinking establishment…Le Figaro.

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The Fig was on Melrose Avenue, just East of where Melrose and Santa Monica Blvd. merged. It was located a half a block South of the Troubadour, and half a block East of  Beverly Hills. It was a vast, upscale, beer-hall of a place, but centered around high end cuisine, (for rockers, anyway), and the best sangria I have ever had. It was not a hip place, nor was it a musician magnet or industry place of coolness. It did, however have one huge attraction for us. One of our roadies, Dennis Lopez, worked there three days a week, and on Mondays, he was not only a waiter, but the manager. Dennis and I on his porch in the Canyon.

On Mondays…we ate and drank for free.

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One Monday night, Randy, Jim DeCocq, David, (a friend from a band called the Velvet Chain visiting from Lake Tahoe), and another visitor, this one from Stockton, John McKenzie, and I went to Le Figaro to partake in what had become a tradition that summer: Eating huge wooden bowlfuls of salad brimming with the finest and freshest California produce, and topped with a variety of cheeses and julienned meats, and served with the best house made dressings and loaves of fresh bread straight from the Fig’s ovens….and to wash it all down? Pitchers, and I mean, pitchers, of perfectly made, accurately concocted Sangria. There were sliced limes and oranges floating on the top, and just the right amount of brandy mixed in, an important ingredient in sangria, sadly missing in most bars recipes.

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Like most hard news in those days, those of us in Hollywood felt very little connection to any of it. The ongoing series of murders that were screaming headlines in every paper and newscast, however, were local, and it was just coming to light that someone named Charles Manson was connected to all of them. At this point in time, Manson’s connections to the Beach Boys, Doris Day’s son, Terry Melcher, and other local musician types known to us, had not yet surfaced, but by August 11th, everyone knew that the killers could be described as a family. A family of long haired hippies.

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It is a rowdy Monday night at Le Figaro. The weather is perfect, tourists are everywhere, and the Fig is packed with Monday night regulars and folks from Smallville, USA. Everybody is having a great time. Why wouldn’t you? It’s a beautiful summer night, the sangria is flowing like Rapunzel’s hair, and this is Hollywood, Baby…top of the world!

By midnight we had long since finished our bowls of salad and loaves of bread, and cheered when Dennis brought another 3 pitchers of sangria to the table. Setting two of then down on the sturdy hand hewn redwood surface, he refilled our wine glasses, (and the one he had brought to the table for himself), proposed a toast to the band, and we all took a hefty swig of the addictive wine and set about refilling our glasses again.

Between cracking wise, and bursting into song, (to much applause, I might add), occasionally, we busied ourselves with round after round of sangria until we arrived at our usual destination, pouring glasses of the stuff over each other’s heads.

Bars stopped serving at 1:30 in those days, and you had to be out the door by 2:00 am. The Fig had an interesting way of breaking up the party.

Mounted on the walls were at least a half a dozen Airport runway landing lights. These suckers were not only big, they were brighter than the sun when turned on. If Le Figaro’s patrons were having too much fun and were reluctant to leave, as we, and many others, were this night, the Fig turned those lights on at 5 minutes before closing to assure a hasty retreat. To add insult to the injury achieved by the blinding light, they also fired up a tape at a level that could shatter glass. Normally, this would not necessarily be a bad thing.

Except, it was a tape of bagpipe “music”.

Loud, badly played bagpipes.

We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Time to go home, but first we had to drop David off where he was staying in the East end. That meant driving through downtown Hollywood, then circling back down Sunset and up Laurel Canyon to our Casa on Horseshoe Canyon Blvd. Hell, we’ve done this plowed a 100 times. No problem.

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As Los Angeles law enforcement frantically tried to find Manson and his followers before more murders were committed, they uncovered more facts about Manson and the family.

They linked the current events to a failed musician who had briefly been a part of Arthur Lee’s “Love”, Bobby, “Bummer Bob” BeauSoleil, who had been arrested on August 7th, after being stopped in a car owned by Gary Hinman. While police pieced the facts together, the media had pounced on the story, and rumors as well as facts, were constantly being updated on television, the radio, and in the papers.

One thing was crystal clear. These heinous crimes were being committed by what the mainstream media was calling a family of hippies. Soon, what had once been obscure locales and harmless pop culture references and slang, would enter the mainstream consciousness. The Spahn Ranch. Helter Skelter. Little Piggies. An obscure musician and self-proclaimed prophet named Charles Manson would come to be considered an Evil of Hitler-esque insanity. A plot to create a Race War would be uncovered, and the population of Southern California would take to locking it’s doors, and  looking suspiciously at the growing number of long haired boys and straight haired girls…and the police?…the police would be desperately trying to restore calm and order and reassure the frightened  people who feared the worst. That this terrible outbreak of violent and unthinkable behavior was just beginning, and could only get worse.

Every Southern California Police Department was on the alert, including the Hollywood Sheriff’s Department.

This reign of terror would not stand.

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Finding Randy’s car was no mean feat. We forgot where we parked. Several gallons of sangria can do that to you. Once we found the VW, (it was parked around the corner, near the Troubadour), we crammed ourselves inside the little clown car, and headed up to Sunset.

I wanted to stop at Tiny Naylor’s and get a cheeseburger. Someone else agreed. However, Randy thought it prudent to drop David off and head home. That’s when the argument started.

We were headed north on La Brea when Tiny’s came into view, but Rand didn’t stop. He headed straight up to Hollywood Blvd. and signaled a right. As we were going around the corner onto Hollywood, I reached over and took the keys out of the ignition and tossed them out the window.

Randy and I were yelling at one another and some of the guys were laughing when the red lights flooded the interior of the car.

Shit. The cops.

It was 2:20 am, August 13th, 1969.

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August 13th, 1969 2:21 am

I have done a million stupid things when I’ve been drunk or high, and just as many when I was sober, but the instant I pulled Rand’s keys out of the ignition and tossed them out the window as we turned the corner off of Highland onto Hollywood Blvd, I knew this was one of the dumbest moves I had ever made.

As if to drive the point home, we were suddenly bathed in the flashing red light available only from the roof of a police car, or, in this case, a sheriff’s car, which mysteriously loomed up behind us like the Reliant behind the Enterprise, Khan behind Kirk…and there was bound to be wrath.

I may have thought, “shit”, when I realized what was happening, but the five of us managed to say “FUCK!”, in unison…like a drunken cheer at a high school football game. There was, at that moment, no one dumber than me in the entire L.A. Basin.

Still, thanks to a few gallons of Sangria courtesy of Dennis Lopez and Le Figaro, we couldn’t help but giggle uncontrollably. An unrehearsed chorus of “Hooray for Hollywood”, filled the Volkswagen as we coasted to a stop, Rand fighting the lack of power steering all the way to the curb.

By the time we came to a complete stop, the lone squad car was joined by three more that came from both directions on Hollywood Blvd. They hemmed us in on all 3 sides, as if not having the keys weren’t bad enough. We were now neck deep in a kettle of fish Laurel and Hardy would be proud of…and yet, we continued to giggle like school girls. Except Rand, who was glaring at me like I had just killed a box of puppies.

Time seemed to stand still…then…a bullhorn squawked to life from behind us.

“Please exit the car with your hands clasped on the top of your heads. Exit the car NOW, one at a time.”

The giggling stopped. Someone said, “How can we open the doors if our hands are on our heads?” The giggling started again.

The bullhorn resumed its spitting and squealing.

“Exit the automobile NOW. Hands clasped on the top your heads. This is the Hollywood Sheriff’s Department.”

The giggling stopped again.

Rand opened his door and slowly got out of the Volkswagon, I opened the passenger door and did the same, followed by Jim, David, and John. We all looked at each other. Yep. Hands clasped on the top of our heads. McKenzie said, “Pirouette?”

The giggling began anew…until we noticed eight giant guys, each of whom looked like a cross between Randolph Scott and John Wayne. I don’t think one of them was smaller than 6’3” and 230 pounds. There couldn’t possibly be enough donuts…

Four of them stood back, hands on their holsters. The other four approached us slowly, herding us away from the street towards the front of the nearest building.

“Turn and face the wall, hands against the building and spread your legs, barked John Randolph Scott Wayne. We did as we were told. Looking up, we realized we weren’t leaning against a wall. It was the front window of a retail store we had all heard of.

It was all we could do not to burst into laughter.

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As drunk as we are, this latest turn of events has everyone perplexed. How could four drunk musicians and a just as drunk cameraman be worthy of all this attention from eight candidates for either Nick Fury’s S.H.I.E.L.D, or The Village People, depending, just for tossing a set of keys out of a car, when real crimes were being committed, and people like Charlie Manson were…that’s it! Manson! Hippies. Long hair…holy shit, we’ve been profiled! This wasn’t about the key tossing hijinx…this was about the on-going murders.

And that is exactly what this turned out to be.

If we would have been paying attention to the reign of terror Manson and his minions were paralyzing the Basin with, we probably wouldn’t have…hell…probably wouldn’t have been such a ‘tard had I considered the mood of the public and the hair-trigger stance of the police that had swept the area in the last few days. I mean it was nuts.

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So now, were leaning against the window at Frederick’s, our noses pressed up against the glass, inches away from mannequins wearing nylons and garter belts and crotchless panties, and a field of vibrators and other accoutrement’befitting the establishment, while a couple of giant people patted us down and another half dozen of the behemoths stood watching us to make sure we didn’t flame on or turn green and rip our trousers.

We very quietly launch into a whispered chorus of ‘Hooray for Hollywood’ again. The absurdity of this has become surreal.

McKenzie decides he has had enough of this ridiculousness, and turns away from the window and starts to take a step. One of the ever vigilant cops whips out his nightstick and swings it at John so hard, it cracks his oversized belt buckle in half in mid-stride. John immediately turns back to the window and resumes the position. So much for quietly leaving the scene.

The search for contraband and weapons concludes. Now, the officers have separated us and are asking us questions to ascertain whether or not we are a coven of psychotic hippies and part of the city wide murder spree, or something even worse.

We are still, undeniably, insanely, drunk.

I stand weaving in front of my cop-buddy. He looms over me like an awning. He looks down at me and says, “Do you see God?”

What?

“Are you on the LSD?”, he continues.

“Look at me”, he says sternly,

“Do you see God?”

I try desperately to focus.

“Man”, I slur, “I can barely see your hat.”

He is not amused.

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After an hour of this stuff, the police finally decide that we are more a threat to ourselves than to the public, and reluctantly conclude we are not the ‘droids they are looking for, give us a short, but very intense lecture on the evils of drugs, and depart, leaving us standing on the sidewalk like a bunch of hicks on shore leave.

Not once did they comment or question us about the fact that we were completely shit-faced.

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It took us about 45 minutes to find Rand’s keys, and another 30 minutes or so to drop off David and get home to the Canyon. In the ensuing weeks, the police hassled long haired folks at every opportunity. I remember coming home from buying a pack of Lark cigarettes, and being stopped by an officer who questioned me as to what I was doing out at 4 in the afternoon, and when I told him I had just bought a pack of smokes, took them out of my pocket and broke each cigarette in half until they were all gone. When I asked him why he did that, he said he was looking for drugs.

The pack was still sealed when he took them.

It wan’t until years later I realized that the Manson murders weren’t just a vile and unconscionable act of heinous proportions. It was the end of the hope and promise of a generation…my generation, that just wanted peace, music, and the right to dress any way they wanted, dance any way they saw fit, and wear flowers in their hair.

We were pretty simple, really. Respect others, be mellow, dig the music, and peace, brother, peace.

Naïve? Sure. But better than the shit storm we find ourselves in the middle of now.

What happened to us? How did the sincerity of that movement get so horribly twisted? How did some of my generation go from the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers to destroying the economy in the name of smart business? Aw, nuts.

Fuck you, Charlie.

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Segarini’s regular columns appear here whenever nobody dies on an episode of Walking Dead.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7giphyBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

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