was very laid back in the Hollywood scene. The
girls went out on garbage runs every day, getting
perfectly good food that was tossed out into bins
behind Brentwood and Pacific Palisades supermarkets.
Eventually I started taking them on the runs in
my truck and I found out that before it was wrecked
they'd used Dennis' (the drummer of the Beach
Boys) Rolls Royce for their foraging trips to
We listened to a lot of music. The music was
always there, always going, singing and making
a world -- saying there was something beyond the
senses, something brighter, wilder, truer -- saying
that love was all that really mattered.
People came and went, a peculiar mix of young
dropouts like me, drug dealers, and people in
the entertainment business. It was a strange time
in Hollywood. It had become chic to play the hippie
game, and the children of the big stars partied
with gurus like Charlie Manson and listened to
them and bought drugs from them and took hippie
kids to bed and let them drive their expensive
cars and crash in their Bel Air mansions. Everybody
felt aware and free. After August 1969, all that
would change and those gentle children with flowers
in their hair and tabs of acid in their pockets
would suddenly seem menacing and dangerous. The
Beverly Hills-Hollywood circuit would snap shut
like a trap.
Now life was one big party. Rock musicians and
hopeful singers like Charlie, actors and hopeful
actors, girls who didn't do anything, producers
like Terry Melcher (Doris Day's son), talent people,
managers like Gregg Jakobson, and stars' children
would all come over to the house and it would
be a drug circus. Charlie always managed to show
up for the parties. And he did it well, playing
the free, spontaneous child, the holy fool, turning
his self-effacing charm on a pretty young celebrity's
daughter with twenty different kinds of pills
in her purse, giving her a ring and asking her
to come join his Love Family. She kept the ring
but drove home in her sports car with her boyfriend.
I'd been afraid of anything heavier than grass
since my experience chewing up rosewood seeds,
but seeing all these beautiful, sophisticated
people who could spend half their lives on one
kind of high or another made me think again.
I saw how crazy I'd been to turn my back on all
these good feelings, all this awareness and openness
and love, just because of one bad trip on the
seeds. I tried peyote, then mescaline, then speed,
then some synthetics you smoke with grass. Suddenly
the whole world opened up like a flower that I'd
never seen except as a bud. Colors came alive,
throbbing with energy; simple objects became fascinating
in their textures and shapes and mass; things
like the sky or a blade of grass or a girl's hair
could make you laugh for crazy joy. Time and space
suddenly weren't the constants they'd always been.
When you were on speed, time could race past you,
jerk to dizzy starts and stops, leap over itself
Solid objects could become fluid, dripping into
new forms like something out of a Surrealist painting.
Music wasn't just sound; it became a physical
thing, bathing you, rolling over you like breakers,
sweeping you up and carrying you with it while
you felt it inside as well, picking up the beat
of your heart until the music was truly "within
you and without you," just like the Beatles
During my first year in California, I'd managed
to drop out of college, give up my job, and turn
my back on my family. Hope in my country, in my
parent's way of life, and most importantly in
myself, slowly gave way to drugs and rock 'n roll.
Over a period of time, my so called Hollywood
friends went their own way, Manson's philosophy
turned out to be a lie, and drugs did not satisfy.
As I reflect back on what some would call the
"good old days," I see those days in
a different light. In reality, I'd been eating
out of garbage cans, running with the Hollywood
set, who also, had turned to music, drugs, and
to gurus like Charlie for answers. What offered
a quick fix (delusional at best), turned into
no future at all. My mood turned to hopelessness,
helplessness, and despair. Drugs no longer relieved
the pain, as all hope in the future vanished.
Why did I have so little hope in the future?
My parents wondered how this heartbreaking situation
could be possible. It seemed as if my very heart
and soul had been torn out of me. It would be
easy to blame the state of affairs in the country,
the Vietnam War, unemployment, disaster, disease,
world hunger, and in my case, music, drugs, Manson,
and brainwashing. But these were not the true
cause of my hopelessness and despair.
My parents were wonderful, raising me with lofty
goals in mind. Both my brother and sister were
college graduates, so it couldn't have been the
climate of my upbringing. But some way, because
of my own rebellion, I had problems in forming
positive attitudes. As a result, I didn't have
the determination and hope necessary for facing
the future. My lust for things made me easy prey
for the high life, rock groups, and cults, while
knowing little about the history of man and less
about the great promises of God. Slowly, I'd succumbed
to a suffocating, hope-robbing pessimism, and
as a result, I became angry at the world.
After the crime, I realized I'd committed one
of the most hideous crimes of the century, ending
up on death row. My attorney gave me hope that
it would never be carried out. In 1972, the death
penalty was abolished, declared unconstitutional,
cruel and unusual punishment.
I was transferred to California Men's Colony.
It was like moving from the basement to the penthouse.
I'd been given a second chance. Hope came alive.
I was given a job, and signed up for wood hobby,
making toys. Friends and family visited me regularly.
People were even friendly. But still, I didn't
know true peace, love, and hope, which didn't
come until Jesus Christ came through the Holy
Spirit to live in my heart in 1975.
In the past, my dark side was seen; hate, greed,
pride, lust, and destruction. I'd been filled
with low self-esteem, guilt, and frustration,
leading to despair and hopelessness. But now,
from my innermost being flow love, faith, hope,
and courage. I'd truly moved from the basement
of life to the penthouse.
Instead of believing Manson's lie of the end
times, Helter Skelter, hope was revived in the
return of the true Jesus Christ who says, speaking
of the last days, "And then if anyone tells
you, 'Look, here is the Messiah,' or, 'There he
is,' don't pay any attention. For false messiahs
and false prophets will rise up and perform miraculous
signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible,
even God's chosen ones...However, no one knows
the day or hour when these things will happen
(Jesus' coming), not even the angels in heaven
or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. And
since you don't know when they will happen, stay
alert and keep watch" (Mark 13:21,22,32,33
NLB). The Scriptures encourage us to be joyful,
optimistic, hopeful, and to believe the best.
Over the years, as a penthouse person, I've learned
to live above the petty and discordant levels
of life, that we don't have to wallow in negativism
and despair. I've learned that we don't have to
let our inner conflicts create havoc in life,
and that we can live victoriously.
I've learned from my experience, but it takes
a wiser person to learn from the experiences of
others. I am not a role model, but I pray for
people to be saved from unnecessary mistakes and
conflicts and for the Lord to lift them up in
Do you realize we have more penthouse people
to draw from than any other people in history?
These are people we utterly trust and admire,
and to whom we can reveal our dark sides, knowing
we will be loved and prayed for. This is part
of what the church of Christ is all about.
I hope I'm a penthouse person, giving hope. I
desire to be a penthouse voice. There are enough
spreaders of gloom and doom. We don't have to
buy into the despair of our day.
God gives hope. Hope is not wishful thinking.
Hope is knowledge that the wonderful promises
of God are true. There are numerous promises God
has made to us. Read them for yourself. Start
with Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes
everything to work together for the good of those
who love God and are called according to his purpose
for them" (NLB).
Or how about Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know
the plans I have for you," says the Lord.
"They are plans for good and not for evil,
to give you a future and a hope" (TLB).
Or consider Isaiah 41:10, "Fear not, for
I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your
God! I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you;
yes, I will uphold you with My vindicating right
Or look at Psalm 34:19, "Many are the afflictions
of the righteous; but out of them all the Lord
delivers him" (MLB).
Today, we need hope to face an uncertain future.
The situation does not look good right now, but
as we encourage one another in faith to face the
future, we will be prepared and will do well.
We must give one another confidence, courage,
moral strength, and a sense of responsibility.
But we cannot give each other these priceless
assets without hope -- the sure knowledge that
God exists, that He loves us and that His promises
Let us encourage you, as a dispenser of hope,
and help you along in life. I guarantee you that
it really pays off to be a penthouse person, free
from basement living. Let's grow together, and
become more like Christ, the ultimate penthouse