by Dr. Derek Lamar
The Los Angeles Image, like underground newspaper Open City, was a colorful and certainly unique place to work. It had its own turbulence through the variety of personalities who worked there. But it should be made clear also that it wasn't all love and peace in the 1960's. The Baby Boomer generation was a very angry group of people. One evening after work I was walking up Laurel Canyon with our typesetter, Steve. He was in a tirade about his wife. I think he had just spoken with her on the phone. He was screaming as we walked through the canyon about how he would like to take a knife and cut off her breasts and kill her. A little overly dramatic but he was getting his emotions out and I didn't take it seriously.
Steve had a new girlfriend named Holly, anyway, so it wasn't like he was all alone and depressed. However Jamie might be all alone and depressed. Jamie was Holly's husband. And he worked at the Image as well!
Chris Bunch had a new girlfriend too: actress Jennifer Gan. Chris was busy dating her, interviewing her and, no doubt, photographing her for an article on "Naked Angels," a motorcycle movie which had little hope of being "Easy Rider" or even "The Naked Easy Rider." She was quite a looker with legs longer than Jean-Luc Godard's "Weekend". Story line? A motorcycle gang leader decides to set out and avenge himself on the thugs responsible for putting him in the hospital in the first place. It could have been one of those bad Polanski movies.
(Above: scenes from Women In Cages with Jennifer Gan, the sandy redhead towering above everyone else.)
If we had been playing some Bernard Hermann sound track music in the office you would've thought that this was a movie set we were working on. All we needed next would be Theodore Sturgeon to walk in with his weekly column, along with his wife: Wina Golden, with her pet squirrel on her shoulder.
(Right: Naked Angels poster starring Jennifer Gan)
It was around this time that publisher Ric Lowitz stormed across the office toward me yelling about scissors. He wanted to know what I did with the scissors. He was sure I had them, that I hid them, or something. I was slightly unnerved but laughing. This incensed him and he grabbed my shirt and began shaking me aggressively. Quite against my usual nature I raised my arm and landed one on his jaw and down he went. Just like that. Straight to the concrete floor like a losing ticket at the Belmont races. Everyone gathered around his body in a circle and in stunned silence we just stood there and stared at him. We should've drawn a chalk outline around his body. A couple of minutes later he came to, stood up, dusted himself off, avoided eye contact, and went to his desk. Someone turned up with the scissors and he apologized to me and we got along fine after that.
But this week was just one of those weird weeks which would seem crazier than most. It was August 8, 1969. Steve being angry at his wife wouldn't mean a lot to me until a few days later. I went on home and he continued up the canyon. I walked up Lookout Mountain, passed by Joni Mitchell's house, she and Graham Nash were often in the yard but not this day. It was "a very fine house" and it really did have two cats in the yard.
I made it up Wonderland Avenue and went in the house. Jim Martin, editor of Coast magazine, was there along with Michael Z. We watched some TV and later went to bed. That's all I remember until we were awakened by loud banging on our front door. It took awhile to get to the door because it was a three story house. You had to go two flights down to open the door. It was the police: several of them. Not something any of us wanted to see. They rattled off some story about a cop being kidnapped and they were doing a house to house search. They ignored the shoe box lid with the grass and rolling papers in it.
Almost as quickly as they arrived they left. What a way to wake up. They were definitely looking for something else. And they didn't continue up the block going door to door either. It wasn't a lot later that the phone starting ringing and the story was out: Sharon Tate was dead. Jay Sebring was dead. Abigail Folger was dead. 102 stab wounds are inflicted on four victims while a fifth victim is shot. Rumors were rampant and Hollywood was in shock and people were afraid.
Michael and I were walking down Hollywood Blvd. Just off Laurel Canyon Blvd. in the residential section that weekend and suddenly out of nowhere this unmarked car swooped up to the curb and we were asked for some identification. We complied and almost as soon as it happened they took off. We were getting pretty nervous at this point. It turned out that Jim Martin had been seeing this guy named Peter, that we called Verushka, who had gone to a lot of the Sharon Tate parties. She was known for having wild parties there on Cielo Drive. That's the only connection we could come up with.
Monday at work I spoke with Steve. I told him about what happened at our house. He was visibly shaken. "Do you believe that conversation I was having about my wife and knives and stuff?!? My God, is that weird or what?" I don't laugh at connections like that anymore. It is clear there are no accidents and shadows roll through the night like wolves looking for lost sheep.
As editor Chris Bunch said: "Steve was screwing Jamie's wife. Jamie walked in, found them in flagrante delicto, whipped out his .32 and blew a couple of rounds in their general direction. Steve came back to the office, somewhat shaken, and to show you the craziness of the days, I told both he and Jamie to stay clear of each other or I'd fire both of them, and give them a medium size set of lumps to boot." About two weeks later Chris got into it with Steve, and Lowitz (the publisher) shows up in the layout room to find Chris, as he recollects, "yomping up and down on Steve's chest while Jamie is leaning against the wall with a big grin saying, 'Nope, nope, can't get involved. Chris said I'd get canned if I did.'"
A month or so after this episode Steve began working for an underground rag called Tuesday's Child, which, ironically, was a big defender of Charles Manson. It took awhile to connect the Manson Family to the Tate/LaBianca murders. Steve went on to interview Manson and seemed quite taken by the opportunity as if he had shaken hands with the Angel of Death and lived. It's not smart to tempt fate when you live so close to the edge. It's nothing to lose your balance and find you have nothing to hold on to. And symbolism being the final weapon of a civilized society, why does Hollywood put out another movie on Helter Skelter but change the swastika in Charlie's head to that of a cross in their TV guide promos? "But there's a shop on the corner that's selling papier mache. Making bullet-proof faces, Charlie Manson, Cassius Clay." ~ David Bowie
Next issue the saga continues with a flashback: Sunset Strip Riot 1966. The bus is on fire for what it's worth.
© Copyright Derek Lamar 2004
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