Friday, September 29, 2006

Kill the Music: Storybook Perils, Storybook Rescues

As his fame grew, Jimi Hendrix devoted more time and effort to political activism. In 1969, the Federal Bureau of Investigation began its Hendrix file, presumably because of his participation in the US civil rights movement and his financial (and vocal) support of the Black Panthers. He also played for free in a number of benefit concerts, among them one to raise money for the Chicago Seven defense fund.

But as a group of University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) students found out in 1979, the FBI’s interest in Hendrix went beyond passive monitoring. Pursuant to a FOIA request, the school’s newspaper asked the Bureau to release its Hendrix file in order to do a piece on his life. The Feds sent UCSB six pages, each one so heavily redacted as to make them useless. The Bureau cited Executive Order 11652, a Nixonian directive that required the suppression of material harmful to “the interest of national defense of foreign policy,” as the reason for the censorship. On appeal, the FBI reluctantly turned over seven more pages that revealed that the FBI had placed Hendrix on the Security Index.

The FBI’s Security Index was a listing of people whom the Bureau would illegally arrest in the case of national crisis--politically threatening people for whom the Justice Department had no legal grounds to prosecute. Hendrix’s appearance on this list meant that after extensive investigation, the FBI had nothing on him. Nevertheless, they thought of him as a threat to foreign policy, a particularly odd assessment since Hendrix, like most rock stars, had no involvement with US foreign policy.

The FBI almost had grounds to prosecute Hendrix in 1969. In February of that year, Toronto police arrested Hendrix for heroin possession after Pearson Airport security found the narcotic in one of his carry-on bags. Jimi explained that he had just received the drug from “a girl” (she’s never identified) whom he had just met in town. She gave it to him wrapped in a small bag claiming that she “put in something that’s good for colds,” which Hendrix had at the time.

Despite the unbelievable explanation, Toronto authorities bought it, and for good reason. First of all, Hendrix did not use heroin, and testing indicated this. Secondly, there were witnesses to the exchange. Toronto police allowed him to leave the country after posting a mere $10,000 bond, and a jury acquitted him that December.

Had Hendrix landed in the US with the heroin in his possession, the FBI would have then had jurisdiction for an arrest, and the heroin itself could have provided evidence for a successful prosecution. Yet, Hendrix never suspected the Bureau of planting the dope on him. He believed someone else set him up. As Monika Danneman (left) wrote in her banned 1995 biography of Hendrix:

In May 1969 Jimi was arrested at Toronto for possession of drugs. He later told me he believed [his manager, Michael] Jeffery had used a third person to plant the drugs on him—as a warning, to teach him a lesson.

Jeffery had realized not only that Jimi was looking for ways of breaking out of their contract, but also that Jimi might have calculated that the Toronto arrest would be an easy way to silence Jimi.... Jeffery did not like Jimi to have friends who would put ideas in his head and give him strength. He preferred Jimi to be more isolated, or to mix with certain people whom Jeffery could use to influence and try to manipulate him.
According to Michael Jeffery's father, sonny boy spent most of his military career in “civvies,” spoke fluent Russian, could rarely talk about his work with him, and moonlighted as a private investigator. One New York firm Jeffery associated with, Seingarten, Weeden & Weiss, had reputed ties to the Mafia. The alleged Mafia connection could explain how Jeffries managed to plant heroin on Hendrix from the other side of the Atlantic It could also explain one of the defining moments in Jimi’s life.

After finally firing Jeffery in August 1969, four men, whom Hendrix regarded as Mafiosos, kidnapped him in New York the following month. As he told his friend and former front man Curtis Knight:

Before I realised what had happened I found myself forcibly abducted by four men. I was blindfolded and gagged and shoved rudely into the back of a car. I couldn't understand what the fuck was going on as I lay there sweating with some one's knee in my back.

I was taken to some deserted building and made to believe that they really intended to hurt me. They never did tell me why they abducted me. The whole thing seemed very mysterious because after a while I realised that if they really had intended to hurt me they would have already done it by this time.

And the whole thing seemed even more mysterious when I was rescued by three men supposedly sent by the management. They really effected a story book rescue.

Hendrix’s rescuers then forced Hendrix, still strapped in a chair, to make peace with his ex-manager over the telephone. Jeffery told him that the kidnappers had sent him the ransom note, hence his calling in the commandos (so to speak). Jeffery then cryptically explained how Jimi’s career affected a number of anonymous people, and that it was paramount to retain his services as manager. Otherwise, without Jeffery there to protect him, Hendrix would be murdered.

After the kidnapping incident, Hendrix correctly predicted to friends that the next time he went home to Seattle, it would be in a pine box. After all, Jimi could see himself handing Jeffery another pink slip. In fact, Hendrix would fire Jeffery again...two days before he died.

To read later posts in this series, click here.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Kill the Music: Yameta Spy Experience

The year 1962 marked the beginning of a three-year odyssey in which Hendrix would network within the music industry. After his discharge, Hendrix drifted around Ft. Campbell for a few months while he waited for the discharge of a friend, bassist Billy Cox. During the summer and fall of that year, he and Billy performed together around the Nashville area. That winter, he returned to British Columbia to ocassionally sit in for Bobby and the Vancouvers guitarist Thomas Chong, later of Cheech and Chong fame.

During 1963, he worked mostly as a gofer or chauffer to other musicians. On some of the road shows headed by Sam Cooke, Hendrix tagged along, running errands for such stars as Dionne Warwick and the Crystals, all the while jeered when on the bus he relaxed by practicing his guitar.

The Chitlin’ Circuit, a collection of venues starring black artists, featured a number of rock’s biggest names, among them “Little Richard” Penniman, The Memphis Sound (the legendary band that starred in the Blues Brothers), and the aforementioned Sam Cooke, all of whom took a chance on the unknown, unproven player. Pretty soon, however, the young man whom many initially regarded as having “iffy” talent began to improve remarkably. As he did, he began to chafe under his role of sideman, often upstaging the fronting stars. Penniman told of how during the middle of a live performance, a surge of applause and screaming arose for no apparent reason. He turned to find the spotlight on Hendrix. As Little Richard would recall in later years, “We didn’t know he could play with his teeth.” (Listen to Sam Moore tell the story of how Hendrix upstaged him on NPR's Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me!)

In 1965, Hendrix finally drifted to Manhattan, where he formed his own band, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. While there, he jammed considerably with the likes of Richie Havens, Bob Dylan, John Hammond, Jr., and Chuck Berry, who nicknamed him “Superbrother.” He drew the notice of record producer Ed Chalpin, who recruited him as a sideman for Curtis Knight and the Squires. Hendrix, in turn, recruited Chalpin to manage him.

Linda Keith, girlfriend of Rolling Stones founder Keith Richards, brought her boyfriend to Greenwich Village to hear Hendrix at the Café Cheetah. Enthused, Richards brought Animals bassist Chas Chandler to hear him play. Chandler convinced Hendrix that stardom awaited for him in England, so off he went. Hoping more to go into the business side of rock, Chandler introduced him to bassist Noel Redding. After a nerve-racking audition, they selected drummer Mitch Mitchell, and together, the three formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Despite the fact that Hendrix already had a manager, Chandler and his manager, Michael Jeffery, muscled out Ed Chalpin to co-manage the Experience. Jeffery immediately set up the Yameta Corporation, an offshore company based in the Bahamas, to handle Hendrix’s financial affairs, and named Chandler, and Animals frontman Eric Burdon as co-principals.

Chalpin got along well with Hendrix, even after Jimi kicked him to the curb in favor of Jeffery. Despite the fact that he sued Hendrix for breach of contract, Chaplin loaned him $5,000 while the case still pended (they settled out of court). Chaplin even considered managing Hendrix again during the guitarist’s last few months of life.

Jeffery, however, hated Hendrix. Hendrix didn’t like Jeffery at all, and one can easily see why. Jeffery had to have been among the worst agent/managers (if not the worst) in the history of music. It was he who booked the infamous joint tour with the Monkees. His scheduling often left much to be desired. He would typically book Hendrix in San Francisco one day, Miami, FL the next day, and Los Angeles the day after that.

The incessant travel took its toll on the members, as did the constant bind for money. Jeffery and Chandler assured the band that the bulk of their earnings went to Yameta so that once the money stopped rolling in, Hendrix, Mitchell and Redding would have something to fall back on. Consequently, the Experience lived on a stipend--which for Redding, the lowest paid of the three, meant making do on £15 a week. (After Redding walked out, Yameta lured him back by upping his stipend to match Mitchell’s). After stealing one of Jeffery’s ledgers, however, friends of Hendrix showed the megastar that his manager had been ripping him off big time. Jeffery would typically tell the Experience that a gig for $50,000 was actually for $10,000, for example.

So the question would be why Hendrix spurned a manager whom he liked and admired greatly, one who had an ear for music, and had demonstrated competence as an artist manager in favor of the contemptuous and hideously incompetent Michael Jeffery. As it turned out, Hendrix had little choice in the matter. He tried many times to fire Jeffery, only to find that he couldn’t without great risk to life and limb.

You see, Jeffery’s screwups came about partially because of his inexperience. Before 1965, Jeffery did not have much to do with the world of rock and roll, for he made his living doing something else. He was a career soldier for the British Army, Intelligence Corps.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Kill the Music: The Left-Footed Soldier

Hendrix enlisted in the Air Force in May of 1961 at the age of eighteen. After basic training, he served as a supply clerk for the 101 Airbourne division stationed at Ft. Campbell, KY. He received a medical discharge in 1962, but until the summer of 2005, some of the important details of his dismissal were hazy. According to his family, he received a medical discharge after injuring himself in a parachute jump. But according to a portion of his military records released last year, he had actually received a less-than-honorable discharge for homosexuality.

Perhaps taking no chances, the Army added other issues to Hendrix’s discharge case, including insubordination, sexual perversion (masturbating in a latrine), and poor marksmanship. Sgt. Louis Hoekstra, his supervisor, swore (in an affadvit) that Hendrix was “a habitual offender when it comes to making bed check, having missed bed check in March, April and May.”

While many in the press smirked about how one of history's most infamous ladies’ men posed as gay in order to get out of the Army, they missed the potential importance of other parts of his military records. Hendrix’s dialogue with the base counselling service began in December 1961, after he told the base shrink that he had sexual fantasies about some of his bunkmates. From December to May of 1961, his superiors said that he could not focus or concentrate on tasks. In fact, he seemed to be spaced out on something. As Hoekstra explained:

At times Hendrix isn’t able to carry on an intelligent conversation, paying little attention to having been spoken to. At one point, it was thought perhaps Hendrix was taking dope and was sent to be examined by a medical officer with negative results [sic].
Specifically, the army cited Hendrix’s missed bed checks as the most damning evidence against him. On the surface, the bed checks fit the profile of a sad sack soldier, an image that Hendrix went out of his way to live up to. But on a deeper level, they could very well have some meaning in terms of his future life. The first missing bed check occurred on March 31, 1962. For this offense, the Army court-martialed Hendrix, and busted him down to the rank of E2. For the subsequent offenses, occurring April 14, and May 23 the Army ordered his confinement to Building #6781.

The bed checks are curious for three reasons. First of all, Sgt. Hoekstra said Hendrix habitually missed them. Yet, there were only three, and they came late in his military career, all over the course of seven weeks. Secondly, I have yet to find out what building #6781 housed. One might assume that it was either the brig, or his quarters. But given Hendrix’s previous counselling, it might also have been a hospital facility.

What really screams at me is that the Army busted Hendrix down to an E2 for the first offense. His superiors didn’t bust him down to an E1, the rank he would have held when he entered the military, or bust him down again for the second offense. More important, in his discharge proceedings, the Army characterized Hendrix as the world’s worst soldier. Yet, at the same time, the army promoted him not just once, but twice within a span of seven months. True, that wouldn’t have surprised anyone had Hendrix proved himself an exceptional soldier. But the Army stressed quite the opposite. Furtheremore, he had earned his Screaming Eagle patch.

It’s possible that Hendrix simply didn’t like the Army after awhile, and decided to get out anyway he could. He might very well have screwed up on purpose hoping his superiors would eventually give up. Perhaps his superiors finally decided to oblige him by citing any reason they could to get rid of him.

But Hendrix’s confinement to this (at least for now) mysterious Building #6781 for a period of two weeks at a time reminds me of something similar that occurred to Lee Harvey Oswald. While stationed at Atsugi Air Force Base in Japan, Oswald took out a gun and deliberately shot himself in the foot in front of witnesses. He stayed for two weeks at the base hospital. Although he should have been court-martialed for the offense, he was not.

Ex-spy Frank Camper, in his 1997 book The MK/ULTRA Secret alleged that the Marines didn’t prosecute Oswald because Lee shot himself under orders. The ruse was a means by which Uncle Sam could then subject him to narcohypnosis, a form of mind control that combined drugs and hypnosis. (See the earlier post on Candy Jones)

Camper’s book is highly speculative in nature, so it should be taken with a pillar of salt. I would also caution you to regard any speculation regarding Hendrix’s possible subjection to narcohypnosis during his remand to Building #6781—perhaps as a measure to “cure” his putative homosexuality—as equally tenuous. Nevertheless, narcohypnosis would explain a lot about his life in the Army and afterwards. Sgt. Hoektra swore that he appeared to be on drugs. Drug tests on him turned up negative. However, if Jimi got spaced out on drugs used for narcohypnosis, most Army doctors wouldn’t know what to test for. Like Candy Jones, whose behavior had become erratic due to the constant triggering of layers upon layers of hypnosis, Hendrix flaked out quite a bit, and had difficulty concentrating—something else sworn to by Hoekstra and everyone else.

It would also explain one other thing. Under a narcohypnotic trance, the learning curve shortens drastically. Imagine passing state medical boards after only thirty-one hours of study, and you'll get the drift. Could Hendrix have accidentally gained or improved any skills that dramatically over a short period of time?

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Kill the Music: A Purple Haze

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Kill the Music: CHAOS

Sorry to give you another longer-than-Fatty's-arm post, but I'm swamped with the dissertation. Read a little each day while I make my limited cameo appearances in the blogosphere.

Imagine the following:

(1) Despite being one of the most highly regarded experts in your field, your boss fires you, but refuses to tell you why.

(2) You find items missing in your house, like your papers, your keys, your valuables. Your spouse and your kids insist that they didn’t take them, and you believe them.

(3) You find items in your house that do not belong to you. Your spouse and your kids insist they didn’t bring them in, and after awhile you believe them.

(4) Your spouse shoves a letter in your face claiming to be from the husband or wife of your boyfriend or girlfriend. Problem is, you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend.

(5) You’re a musician who’s just wowed them at a sold out gig. Giddy, and on top of the world, you suddenly feel like slashing your wrists.

(6) Your friends tell you that your Christmas cards look like they’ve been opened already.

(7) At a women’s meeting, somebody asks you when you expect your next period.

(8) You hear a clicking on the telephone every time you talk to someone, whether local or long distance.

(9) You see fingerprints on your walls in strange places….and you don’t have kids.

(10) Your parents believe that you’re strung out on every illicit narcotic known to man. They don’t believe you when you tell them that you’ve never had so much as a sip of beer, even though you’re telling them the truth.

(11) Your friends see what appears to be a check from the IRS sitting on your counter. You’ve never noticed it before, and you’ve already spent your refund. The check has your name on it, but you don’t remember ever seeing it. Neither does your spouse.

(12) A police officer fills you full of bullets as you lay asleep in bed.

In 1971, an activist group calling itself The Citizen’s Commission to Investigate the FBI broke into a Pennsylvania field office of the Federal Bureau of investigation and took files pertaining to a highly illegal domestic operation blandly named The Counterintelligence Program, or Cointelpro for short. Cointelpro’s mission was to disrupt dissident organizations in the US by infiltrating them, and giving their agents enough time to rise in the organization’s hierarchy. That way, they could serve as a disruptive or divisive presence, which would constantly egg on members to adopt the most violent course of action possible, thus giving the FBI and local police cause to arrest them, and discredit them in the eyes of the public.

Not to be outdone, the Central Intelligence Agency launched a similar illegal op codenamed Operation CHAOS. The CIA had infiltrated a number of organizations on an ad hoc basis starting in 1959, when President Eisenhower used them to scout recent Cuban immigrants and to recruit them for what would turn out to be the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

In 1965, President Johnson named Admiral William Raborn as the Director of Central Intelligence, and Richard Helms as Deputy Director. But many within the Agency saw Raborn as a figurehead, and Helms, a venerable figure in US intel, as the real chief. When Johnson charged the CIA with providing security for CIA recruiters on college campuses, Helms went hog wild, creating Project RESISTANCE. RESISTANCE spent most of its resources spying on students in order to see who was politically active or not. The CIA then embarked on Project MERRIMAC, which spied on Americans to see who might have planned to take part of any demonstrations in the Washington D.C. Area. When officially named DCI in 1968, Helms combined RESISTANCE and MERRIMAC to create CHAOS.


The rationale given in both cases was that the Soviet Union was behind student activism, the civil rights and feminist movements, and later anti-war demonstrations. Yet the CIA and FBI both knew that as early as 1964 (if not earlier) the Soviet Union had nothing to do with Americans wanting peace, the right to play in parks that their taxes had paid for, the vote, or equal pay for equal work.

Johnson, and later President Nixon most likely knew that US protest movements were completely indigenous. Yet, despite winning their re-election bids in landslides, both men were politically insecure. Hence, according to the Church Committee’s investigation, both presidents used the intelligence apparatus of the US to control domestic political dissent.

Cointelpro spent some time infiltrating neo-Nazi and Klan organizations in the south, in large part to keep these groups from taking over rightwing politics. But it’s abundantly clear the FBI directed the lion’s share of its harassment efforts at what it called “The New Left.” Their methods were virtually unbelievable. Between the FBI, CIA, Army Intelligence and the NSA, Intelligence:

(a) intercepted mail;

(b) wrote letters to employers alerting them that one of their employees is a KGB agent;

(c) pretending to be an anonymous “concerned friend,” wrote letters to parents of student activists telling mom and dad that their baby is hopelessly strung out on heroin and is at death’s door;

(d) pretending to be “a concerned sister/brother,” wrote letters in pidgin ebonics to the spouses of white men and women involved in the civil rights movement telling the wife or husband that her man/his woman “be foolin’ with the brothers;”

(e) broke into the homes of law-abiding (and the Church Committee stressed the phrase “law-abiding”) citizens to rig bugging equipment, burglarize the joint, or plant evidence--what J. Edgar Hoover referred to as “black-bag jobs,”

(f) framed members of dissident organizations as FBI informants, so that activists could not trust each other—what the Bureau called “snitch jacketing,” and

(g) upon infiltrating a woman’s organization, collected data on members’ menstrual cycles in order to coordinate harassment campaigns around their periods.

While the CIA and FBI have confessed to breaking up marriages, estranging parents from their children, theft, illegal surveillance, and active harassment, there are some activities that they most likely engaged in, but never admitted to. For example, a CIA-sponsored American organization living in the Soviet Union invited singer Paul Robeson to a reception after one of his concerts. They treated him well, and he seemed to be happy. But he suddenly, and inexplicably felt the urge to slash his wrists, which he did. Soviet doctors saved his life, and after puzzling over what came over him, he and his son, Paul Robeson Jr., came to the opinion that someone in the group had spiked his drink with a mind control drug (in those days, the CIA used about forty, so the Robesons could only hazard a guess as to which one).

The FBI was caught red-handed sabotaging the career of actress Jean Seberg, an active supporter of civil rights, and a Black Panthers benefactor, by planting false and defamatory comments about her character in gossip columns all over the world. For nine years. Seberg endured harassment. She miscarried after taking too many sleeping pills to calm her nerves. Every year thereafter, she attempted suicide on the anniversary of her unborn fetus’s death, and finally succeeded in 1979.

Charles Bates, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Chicago field office, supervised an infiltration of the Black Panthers. Following the deaths of two local officers, Bates informed Chicago police that the Panthers had done it. Furthermore, he told them that the Panthers would use deadly force if officers tried to arrest them, so they couldn’t be taken in alive. Without investigation, and with no incentive to arrest him, a tactical unit entered the house where Panther organizer Fred Hampton (Sr.) visited overnight, and shot both Hampton and his bodyguard Mike Clark as the men lay sleeping.

No one can say whether or not Black Panthers actually murdered Officers Gilooley and Rappaport. But if they did, there would still be severe doubt that Hampton had any knowledge or complicity in the shooting, for previous snitch jacketing and harassment arranged by Bates had pretty much splintered the Chicago Panthers. Hampton simply wouldn’t have known what most of Pantherdom was up to.

While the documented accounts of illegal domestic operations are extreme and hard to believe, things would go even farther downhill after 1969. Hoover, long satisfied that leftist activism was not Soviet connected, began to curtail many of the FBI’s illegal activities after Nixon’s election, and officially withdrew the support previously given the other spy networks. Nixon, not at all satisfied by what he considered the limited intelligence on leftists through legal means, approved a plan drawn by twenty-nine year-old aide Thomas Huston, who developed it with the assistance of forty top intelligence officials.

The Huston Plan, as it came to be known, was essentially an unnumbered Executive Order stating that the Oval office would remove all restrictions on legal domestic surveillance and operations, and remove all restrictions on illegal operations in selective cases.

Normally, spy organizations always break the laws of other nations. After all, spying’s their job. Spying is illegal virtually anywhere you go. But the Huston plan called for the breaking of US laws, something that the intelligence agencies had already been doing. Intercepting mail is illegal. So are black-bag jobs, defamation, and assassinations.

Assassinations. Political murder. Forgive me, selective political murder.

Nixon deeply feared the counterculture. Icons of the counterculture were frightening to Lyndon Johnson as well. Subsequently the vast majority of prominent persons, including rock musicians, were investigated, whether or not they realized it at the time. Some were put on the FBI’s Security Index, an illegal listing of people to be arrested without warrant or cause in case of a national emergency. Some, like the Beatles, received an extraordinary amount of attention from Intel, John Lennon in particular.

But Nixon had something that Johnson did not. Nixon had the Huston Plan, a doctrine stating that he would deliberately violate the law. Of course, Dick didn’t see it that way. As he told interviewer David Frost after his resignation, “When the President does it, it’s not illegal.” To be fair, Nixon approved the Huston Plan, but rescinded it five days later. Yet, the Church Committee found that under the aegis of the White House, many of its directives were carried out and implemented long after that five-day period.

None of this proves that the CIA or the FBI actually embarked upon killing rock and rollers. But the Church Committee demonstrated that US intelligence agencies ran amok during the 1960s and early-1970s, running bizarre schemes that hindered, and sometimes devastated the lives and livelihoods of countless numbers of people. The committee also showed that Intel often lied about it’s intent, justifying its behavior on a Red Menace it knew didn’t exist—and all at the expense of the actual intelligence required for national security. We found that Intel, often by dint of executive direction, but sometimes on its own, broke the law, and that their only concerns weren’t about the illegality of their actions, but of getting caught. We also know that Intel had an executive directive to suspend lawful activity, and that nothing in that directive explicitly prohibited murder, especially of its enemies in the brewing cultural war.

As you read on, or if you are curious enough to pick up a copy of Alex Constantine’s well-written (but miserably edited) book The Covert War Against Rock, you will see that the death of many counterculture heroes and heroines had irregularities. Sometimes, as in Janis Joplin’s case, the irregularities weren’t extremely severe. But in the case of some rock legends, the irregularities went way beyond severe, and even past the point of incredulity.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Kill the Music: Case No. 70-10463

Dr. Noguchi went to room #105 of the Landmark Motel to get a better understanding of how Janis Joplin died. The police sealed off the room long before he arrived, and assured him that (a) no unauthorized personnel had entered; and (b) after a thorough search, they found a fix, but no drugs of any kind. The coroner went directly to a trashcan and immediately pulled out a balloon filled with heroin.

Joplin allegedly died alone. The police insisted that they had searched that wastebasket at least three times hoping to find something. But they didn’t. Noguchi grilled the policeman standing guard. Eventually, the cop confessed that one of Joplin’s friends came by after the police had sealed the room.

Someone from Joplin’s entourage might have taken the drug from her room, but why? The autopsy would reveal that she died from a heroin overdose, so it wasn’t like her friends could hide that fact. Worse yet, having Joplin’s heroin stash might constitute incriminating evidence—contraband at that—had the police decided to search the rooms of everyone she knew. Assuming the person who removed the drug away from the scene did so because he himself needed to feed his own addiction, then you would have to figure that he’s a pretty hardcore junkie since he’s taken it from a friend who has just OD’d on it.

John Cooke’s explanation of finding the body might raise suspicion in regards to the initially missing heroin. He said that he left the Landmark, with two others, saw Joplin’s car in the driveway, and reckoned that she had just gotten in. He then went straight to the desk to get the key to her room. If I expected a friend to have just come back to her hotel room, I think I might try knocking on her door first. If she didn’t answer right away, then I would go to the desk to get the key, or call hotel security.

Then again, if Cooke or anyone else took drugs out of Joplin’s room, one would have to wonder why he brought them back. He’d be taking a huge risk walking into a room crawling with cops. He’d be taking an even bigger chance taking the balloon out of his pocket to put in the garbage can, which the police would, most likely, search. They could tie him to the illegal drugs, if nothing else.

One would also have to ask why the police would allow a civilian into a potential homicide scene (after all, the police were investigating because they weren’t sure how Joplin died at that point). Would they allow him to contaminate or remove evidence? Or in this case, plant evidence?

Reading accounts of Dr. Noguchi’s service to Los Angeles County, and his dedication to seeking and telling the truth, even at the peril of his career, would impress just about anyone of the man’s honesty. Yet, he only “knows” that a musician friend of Joplin’s came in because a police officer told him. No follow up questioning was ever mentioned of this supposed musician friend.

So we could speculate (and I stress this is speculation) that the officer at the scene initially told Noguchi the truth, but then realized that if only other law enforcement officers were in the room, then they must have planted the balloon. So, he told Noguchi something that would satisfy the good doctor’s curiosity, and at the same time not spill the beans about a misdeed by one of his peers. Even if a “musician friend” did enter the death scene, we have no explanation of where he went. For all we know, someone could have peeked his head in the door wanting to talk to the cops, only to be told to wait outside. And even if this anonymous person were in the room, no one could say he planted anything.

Whatever happened to make that heroin disappear and then reappear, the anonymous “musician friend” whom nobody checks out further sounds a little like the “invisible man” from off the street that little kids blame broken lamps on. For if the officer could not blame the irregularity on a hippie, then he or a fellow cop must have planted the heroin—-unless, the balloon had legs and crawled into the wastebasket all by itself, or Scotty beamed in there from the Enterprise.

Furthermore, since there is no way to establish whether the balloon represented Joplin’s actual stash, we don’t know for sure if this 50% heroin was the actual stuff she took because of a disruption in the chain of the custody of evidence. A toxicology report showed that she had lethal levels of the drug in her body, but did not establish the purity of the heroin she ingested.

Dr. Noguchi found, however, that Joplin was legally drunk at the time of her death, so Joplin would not have necessarily needed a hot shot to do her in because of how alcohol interacts with heroin. And speculation and irregularities aside, there is not sufficient evidence to establish either murder or suicide occurred here. So, more than likely the official version of Joplin’s death is the correct one.

Yet, if she were murdered, the question would be by whom, and for what purpose.

The previous month, Joplin performed at a Berlin concert with Jimi Hendrix and the band Canned Heat. Canned Heat left the US for Berlin the previous day after a frantic and unsuccessful search to locate their leader and founder Alan Wilson (left), who, like Hendrix, was a friend of Joplin’s. Skip Taylor, the band’s manager, told them that he would find Wilson and send him on a later flight. But when the group arrived at their hotel in Berlin they received word that Wilson had been found dead in an open field that fellow band member Bob Hite had already searched before taking off. Fifteen days later, Hendrix died.

The suspicions about Joplin’s death have more to do with timing than anything else. After all, within the span of thirty-one days, three major rock stars had died. Famed conspiracy theorist Mae Brussell took note of the high number of rock star fatalities and near-fatalities and began to suspect that a number of US intelligence agencies were responsible for them. Later, Alex Constantine hypothesized that US Intelligence had indeed conducted a covert war against rock and roll.

While those suspicions might sound like far-fetched paranoid delusions, they had a basis in documented reality. During the 1960s, at least one faction of government, namely the Federal Bureau of Investigation, conducted illegal operations against various people and organizations in order to destroy what it termed “the new left.” As the Church Committee would prove, the FBI received assistance from the CIA, NSA and Army Intelligence for these efforts. Even more chilling, a proposal brought to the desk of President Richard Nixon gave considerable credence to the possibility that someone actively sought to kill rock and roll by killing its standard bearers.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Kill the Music: Uncultured Pearl

Kill the Music: Hunting Cool

Media theorist and cultural historian Stuart Ewen described some of the early attempts made by advertisers and public relations firms to gain access and/or control of the counterculture movement in his book All Consuming Images: The Politics of Style in Contemporary Culture. He noted that during a time when youth were actively seeking a non-materialistic way of life, advertisers latched onto the symbols used by the counterculture in an effort to induce the the wayward young back into a life of consumption: In order to do this, admen first had to divorce the symbols from their meanings. Ewen gives, as an example, the case of a 1960s advertising trade journal advising its readers to join the hunt for what's cool:

Early in 1967, as a radical ‘youth culture’ was capturing international attention, Daniel Moriarty (editor and publisher of Madison Avenue, ‘The Magazine for New York Advertising’) published a sixteen-question quiz for admen over twenty-five, designed to familiarize them with ‘what’s happening with the Now Generation.’ In the glib patter of his introduction, it is clear that Moriarty saw the ‘youth culture as both an antiestablishment challenge and a potential resource to be mined...
Ewen then quotes Moriarty's introduction to this pop trivia quiz:

This quickee quiz may seem as irrelevant as hell; but there are millions of teeny-boppers, hippies and Harvard sophs in Fat City with bread in their jeans and a lot of ways to spend it. You’d better know what they’re talking about--or you may find yourself out of the gang. As America’s great-folk-poet-philosopher [actually, a New York disc jockey] Murray the K tells us, attitudes are everything, baby.
This leads Ewen to conclude:

From the questions asked in the quiz, however, it is clear that ‘what they’re talking about’ or their ‘attitudes’ were of little concern. The primary focus was on stylistic elements of the ‘Now generation,’ codes that could be deciphered and transformed into merchandising know-how and phrase book fluency.
Arguably, the most threatening symbol of the counterculture was its rock and roll soundtrack. This is evident in the history of right-wing attacks on rock in the 1950s as an affront to racial order, in the early-1960s as a promoter of decadence and communism, and in the late-1960s as a threat to law and order. Before the dominant culture could wean out any undesirable influence that the music had, it first had to separate it from its roots, and in doing so turn it into just another style.

Rock and roll would do precisely that, but not without a lot of corporate help. The previous generation of pop hits, performed by stars the likes of Perry Como and Andy Williams, relied on certain production methods and codes of professionalism. Rock changed all that, because its composition and performance were quite different. If the major corporate players wanted a stake in the rising market that this music represented, they would either have to adapt business procedures to an Aquarian production code, or re-introduce older codes of professionalism.

What do I mean by Aquarian production codes? Legendary record executive Clive Davis told of how, when he signed Big Brother and the Holding Company to a contract with Columbia Records, their lead singer, Janis Joplin, insisted that they cement the deal by having sex on his desk.

So, perhaps you can understand the desire to establish a new code of professionalism. Nevertheless, the industry would have to find some way to deal with the counterculture element within rock in order to control it.

During the early-1970s, the counterculture found itself reeling from the sudden passing of three of its major figures within the space of a few months. The three would be forever linked by the proximity of their deaths, but they also shared other common traits. First of all, these were true counter-cultural icons, artists whose opus contained very few hit records, but instead rested upon the consistent performance on the inner tracks of their albums. Secondly, all three deaths were linked to drug usage. Most importantly all three died under conspicuously suspicious circumstances. In two of these cases, the decedent had links to a nebulous underworld inhabited by occultists and spies.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Pillow Semiotics

Back in early-June of this year, Bellarosa won the last contest held on The X-Spot, a JFK Assassination quiz. Her prize: a post on any subject of her choice. After about a month, she finally picked one. So here it is.

Psychodynamic pioneer Sigmund Freud made one of his stronger contributions to science by shedding light on how dreams function as symbolic representations within the unconscious mind. In an example given in his book The Interpretation of Dreams, he cited a number of experiments where a researcher rang a bell while the subject slept. Sure enough, the sleeper would then incorporate the bell into his or her dream. Yet, not all dreamers would interpret it in the same way. Some dreamt about a doorbell ringing. Others dreamt of school. A number of people even dreamt of sleighs and wintertime.

Even if dreams were nothing more than random neurological discharges, or reactions to the physical conditions surrounding the dreamer, the fact that different people would interpret the same stimulus in a variety of matters intrigued Freud.

Dreams use a highly abstract language full of metaphors, wordplay and symbols. The images are sometimes archetypical, meaning that all humans use them to represent more or less the same things (e.g., rising to signify intellectual activity). Some of them are cultural. In the west, the color white represents purity. In many Far Eastern countries, white represents death. Some are nationalistic in origin. The term ‘bangers’ would mean one thing to an American, and another to a Brit. Other symbols would only have meaning to smaller groups of people. Families often share experiences that are unique to them, and they may have developed associations symbolized by things that would make no sense to anybody else. Then, of course, there’s personal semiology, associations with signs that only we alone could understand. Using myself as an example, it seems that when I hear the David Essex song “Rock On” on the radio, good things happen to me. Were I to hear that song in a dream (which I do on occasion), it would most likely symbolize expected success, or good fortune.

I personally view dreams as a means by which the unconscious mind communicates with the relatively slow and stupid conscious mind. Some reckon that the unconscious processes information at around seven times the speed as the conscious. Others do not believe that the unconscious exists, and use the term “cognitive unconscious,” “adaptive unconscious” and “dumb unconsciousness” to describe that part of the mind, which executes automatic tasks below the threshold of awareness. Whatever the case, dreams offer the chance to become aware of something greater, so long as we have an ear for bad puns (e.g. camping out at the banks of the Maumee River as it turns into an ocean would render your dream location as Maumee Beach—possibly calling to mind the words ‘mommy’ and ‘bitch’), and an eye for symbols.

There are a number of online dream dictionaries that offer various interpretations of symbols. There are also a number of hard copy dream dictionaries that you can buy at your local bookstore. Some of them are more augury, soothsaying and con, in which your every dream seems to indicate that you’re about to win the lottery. I prefer those that focus more on semiotics, the study of archetypical and other symbols. I own several, but am particularly fond of Tony Crisp’s Dream Dictionary: An A to Z Guide to Understanding Your Unconscious Mind, which delves into a good deal of the Freudian and Jungian psychology behind the symbols. My only problem with it is that it’s oh-so-incredibly British. So it’s not much help if I have a dream about baseball. And I have to keep reminding myself to look up ‘lift’ instead of elevator, ‘bonnet’ instead of hood, ‘crisps’ instead of chips, and ‘chips’ instead of fries.

That reminds me of a song from My Fair Lady.

Just kidding, CJ.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Reality Fiction: Answers

I used a pretty lax scoring system, giving credit for answers that are generally in the ballpark. Below is an explanation of what's true, false, and exaggerated, with the names of those who guessed correctly in parentheses.

1. The name of the place was not ‘Dirty Dan’s.’ (Mayden)

2. The bar was not located on 9th and St. Marks, but rather 2nd and 13th. Because of that, we took the N or the R train to Union Square, not the 6 train to Astor Place.

3. My best friend is an amateur musician, but not of zydeco music. Furthermore, she never performed in that bar. But I did. (Schaumi)

4. The Monday night, when we encountered the mighty runt, we sat at the bar, not a booth.

5. The bar did not employ waitresses. We always got our own beers.

6. I said, “Would you be so kind as to take your sorry ass somewhere else,” not ‘she.’

7. The blonde did not ask for permission to sit with us. She simply stood at the table talking to me, with her back facing ‘her,’ and then later sat down across from me, despite the fact that no one asked her to.

8. I made no specific request for the blonde to speak English, for she was already speaking English when she approached our table. She did make suggestive asides to me in German, however.

9. ‘She’ did not excuse herself to go to the bathroom. The blonde talked about “spies being everywhere tonight” in front of her. The blonde also did not take my hand.

10. I did not exit the men’s room because I heard a crash. That was just a way to shift from one of the subplots to the other.

11. Nobody threw any pool balls at me.

12. My companion was not the target of the mighty runt’s wrath. He directed his ire at another, much smaller (about 5’2” tall) woman. (Reflextion)

13. The bar had no bouncers. The part about him beating up a man weighing twice as much and fifteen inches taller never happened. (Reflextion)

14. The mighty runt did not die at the cube. He died around the corner.

15. Seamus is now a paramedic, but in 1993 he was an electrician.

1. The biggest exaggeration is that I’ve conflated the events of two nights into one so that I could tell this in a single chapter. The mighty runt happened one March Monday in 1993. The “spies everywhere” part happened forty-eight hours later on the following Wednesday. (SJ, Angie)

2. The bar was a little rough, but not that rough.

3. The room was not that crowded, so the blonde did not have to push through it. She simply walked up to me. (Schaumi, Dale)

4. The mighty runt accidentally took a swig from my beer, but didn’t drink it completely. (JohnB, Rayke)

5. ‘She’ did not take fifteen seconds to go to the bathroom. This is kind of a reverse exaggeration, for in real-life she only spent three to five seconds on average in the ladies’ room per visit. I repeatedly timed her at a bar that had a big clock with a sweep second hand. I added the extra time because I knew no one would believe this. I can only guess that when drinking, she wore a diaper, and did something else in the ladies’ room. (Mayden)

6. The blonde did not mention “kinky sex” in ‘her’ presence. Instead, she waited until I went to the bathroom. On my way, she asked me to walk her home for her own safety, and promised to reward me with “kinky sex” if I did. I continued towards the men's room. (K9, John B, Rayke)

7. The blonde did not enter all the way into the men’s room. As I walked, she followed me in an attempt to talk me into kinky sex. I excused myself, went through the men’s room door, and she came right in after me. I looked at her and asked, “What are you doing?” She saw the urinals and realized that she was in the wrong bathroom, and quickly exited. I deduced her actual kink from something I didn’t mention in the story (as Mayden said, that part was “gross” enough, and I wanted to tone it down). When she first spoke to me, I could smell the unmistakable aroma of ammonium, sulfur and ureic acid on her. That’s right. I had no intention of going anywhere with this woman. (Shaumi)

8. I exaggerated the strength of the mighty runt, but only slightly. He pushed and dragged about ten people in his quest to beat the holy hell out of this petite woman. He knocked a couple of them down with one fist, while using his other hand to manhandle the mob. Only when I joined the fray were we able to push him back.

In case you’re wondering how such a small man could generate that much power, I explained that later in the novel. There were a number of designer street drugs that flooded Manhattan between 1990-1995, and many of them had almost identical characteristics:

“Have you ever heard of the La Reina Blanca?” asked Tris.

Scanning my memory drew another blank. “Sorry, Tris, but I’ve never heard of that one either.”

“Neither have I,” said Janet.

“I’m not surprised,” he said. “It didn’t really become very popular, especially since it killed 75% of its first-time users, and just about all of its second time users.”

“What did it do?” Janet asked.

“It released all of these chemicals, the ones your body uses when there’s some type of emergency or danger. Your heart rate increases, you got endorphins going all over the place, and you get this huge adrenaline rush that makes you real strong. “

“Like when a ninety pound woman lifts a car to free a trapped kid,” I thought out loud.

“Right. So once you know you’re super strong and can’t feel pain, you also get super violent. Problem is, your body is just as vulnerable as it’s always been, and it can’t take staying in crisis mode that long. You’d die of a stroke or a heart attack if somebody didn’t shoot you first.” (Schaumi)
9. My companion and I did not witness the death of the mighty runt. Nor did we know of his passing that Monday for he collapsed after we had left. We heard about it Wednesday from some of the regulars, many of whom viewed the corpse and watched the paramedics’ efforts to save him. It was definitely the hot topic of conversation for some time there. (SJ, Reflextion)

1. I did love that bar. ‘She,’ however, hated it. (Enemy, JohnB)

2. She insisted that we go to the bar those two nights, despite the fact that she hated it. (Enemy)

3. I’ve actually heard a polka band play “Beat It” in all seriousness. (Enemy, K9, JohnB)

4. The account of the shaven-headed man is quite literal. The conversation was verbatim as I remember it. My brief exchange with ‘her’ right after was verbatim as I remember it. (Mayden, Enemy, JohnB)

5. The conversation with the blonde was verbatim as I remember it. I could tell right away that the woman was from the former East Germany because of her accent. (Schaumi, Enemy, JohnB, Rayke)

6. ‘She’ was quite upset about the blonde talking to me. (Enemy, JohnB, Dale)

7. ‘She’ and I sat in a booth on the second night, and talked about hiking and taking a canoe trip together (Enemy).

8. The blonde talked about being happy to be in New York, and of her visit to touristy places. (Schaumi, Enemy)

9. The blonde blurted out that there were spies everywhere, and that she was in danger. She asked ‘her’ and me to help her for she assumed that we were American spies. When we told her we weren’t spies, she complimented us both on how well we maintained our covers. She later promised "kinky sex" in exchange for walking her safely home (Enemy).

10. ‘She’ mocked the blonde, who spoke a mile-a-minute. Finally, she shot up and snapped, “I think I’ll be goin’, since you two look like you wanna spend some time alone together.” I then politely asked the blonde to leave (Enemy).

11. ‘She’ seethed about how my “body language” drew the woman to me, and the we argued about it (Enemy).

12. About ten other bar patrons actually threw their bodies between the mighty runt, and the woman he wanted to beat up, and they only slowed him down a little (Enemy).

13. ‘She’ actually laughed upon hearing of the mighty runt’s death. It was no nervous reaction. She joked about his death for about a year in our conversations and correspondence (Enemy).

14. ‘She’ is a female, and she is from the South (Enemy).

15. The southern belle and my best friend were two different women. (Anonymous, Mayden, Enemy)’

So where does that leave us in regards to the score? In third place, Mayden. Second place goes to Schaumi. And for choosing simply to accept everything as true, the grand prize goes to Enemy of the Republic. Congratulations, Enemy!

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Ganesh Map
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