Gentle Children, With Flowers In Their Hair
It began one night when I was driving out Sunset
Boulevard toward the beach, heading home to Malibu.
By then I'd sold my T-Bird and had an old 1935
Dodge pickup. Hitchhikers were pretty common on
Sunset, and I pulled over to pick one up. When
he told me his name was Dennis Wilson it didn't
mean anything to me, but when he said he was one
of the Beach Boys I was impressed. I remembered
all those surfing songs banging out of my brother's
room back in Copeville and grinned to myself,
wondering what he would think if he could see
me now-with Dennis Wilson taking a ride in my
truck and explaining how he'd wrecked his Ferrari
and his Rolls Royce so was having to use his thumb.
When we got to his house in Pacific Palisades
he invited me in. Rolling up the long driveway
to what had once been Will Rogers's mansion, I
played with the idea of what it would be like
to tell my brother about the time one of the Beach
Boys had me in for coffee. When we went inside
it was all I could do to keep my mouth closed.
I'd never been in a place like this before-it
was a long way from a three-bedroom frame house
The first thing I saw when we came into the kitchen
was a heavyset, bald-headed man with a big gray
beard pouring down his chest, sitting at the table
with a few girls. He introduced himself as Dean
Moorehouse. Over the next few months Dean and
I would become friends, despite the fact he was
twice my age. I was to find out that he'd once
been a Methodist minister, that up in Ukiah, California,
after the Family left San Francisco, he'd gone
after Charlie, ready to kill him for seducing
his daughter Ruth (the one the Family came to
call "Ouisch"). Instead of killing him,
though, he ended up worshiping Charlie as Christ,
after Charlie turned him on to LSD. Since then,
he'd given up whatever Christianity he'd once
held and become a kind of wandering guru, teaching
a lot of people in the film and music industries
that true "awareness" and real "religion"
came through opening yourself up with acid. When
people became aware, according to Dean, they could
be free to die to themselves, to die to their
egos. Then they would understand that Charles
Manson was the reincarnation of the Son of God.
Finding out all this came later, though. That
night in the kitchen he was just a fat old man
with a greasy beard, trying to look like a hippie.
Almost as soon as I came in he said there was
somebody I should meet in the living room. I followed
There he was-surrounded by five or six girls-on
the floor next to the huge coffee table with a
guitar in his hands. He looked up, and the first
thing I felt was a sort of gentleness, an embracing
kind of acceptance and love.
"This is Charlie," Dean said. "Charlie
There was a large ashtray full of Lebanese hash
sitting in the middle of the coffee table, and
pretty soon Charlie and Dean and Dennis and I
were lounging back on the oversize sofas, smoking.
Nobody said much. As we got stoned, Charlie started
playing his music, softly, almost to himself.
Here I was, accepted in a world I'd never even
dreamed about, mellow and at my ease. Charlie
murmured in the background, something about love,
finding love, letting yourself love. I suddenly
realized that this was what I was looking for:
love. Not that my parents and brother and sister
hadn't loved me, but somehow, now, that didn't
count. I wanted the kind of love they talked about
in the songs-the kind of love that didn't ask
you to be anything, didn't judge what you were,
didn't set up any rules or regulations-the kind
of love that just accepted you, let you be yourself,
do your thing whatever it was-the kind of love
I seemed to be feeling right now, sitting around
this coffee table getting zonked on some of the
best hash I'd ever had, with a rock star and a
fat old hippie and the little guy with the guitar
who just kept singing softly, smiling to himself.
It occurred to me that all the love in the room
was coming from him, from his music.
Suddenly the girls came out of the kitchen and
started serving us sandwiches they'd made-organic,
full of sprouts and avocado and cheese. It was
as if we were kings, just because we were men,
and nothing could make them happier than waiting
on us, making us happy. We all lay back and listened
to Charlie sing to us about love-make love to
us and for us with his music. I'd never known
Late that night at my truck as I was leaving,
Dennis smiled and told me to come by anytime,
take a swim in the pool, whatever I wanted. I
drove out to Malibu, knowing that whatever had
been going wrong in my life would be okay now.
I'd found what really mattered: love between people,
love that made all the old ideas about love as
romance-or love as your parents pushing at you-just
fade away. Charlie Manson was the first person
I'd met who really knew what love was all about.
I came back the next day to swim-and then the
day after that. It seemed I was always having
some reason to take Sunset into town, and on the
way back to Malibu I'd turn up that long driveway.
By day, the place was even more impressive-huge
ranch house, separate servants' quarters, an Olympic-sized
pool and bathhouses set in unbelievably lush tropical
gardens and surrounded by gigantic eucalyptus.
Gradually the peculiar domestic situation at the
house sorted out: Dennis leased it, but he spent
a lot of time away on tour. While he was gone,
Dean Moorehouse unofficially ran the place. It
turned out that Charlie didn't actually live there;
he spent most of his time out at Spahn Movie Ranch,
just coming into town every so often to see the
girls, go to parties, and promote his singing
career. Three or four Family women lived at the
house, along with several other girls who were
friends of Dennis's.
Life was very laid back in that Sunset scene.
The girls went out on garbage runs every day,
getting perfectly good food that was tossed out
into the bins behind Brentwood and Palisades supermarkets.
Eventually I started taking them on their runs
in my truck and I found out that before it was
wrecked they'd used Dennis's Rolls Royce for their
foraging trips to the dumpsters.
We smoked dope a lot, we lay around, and we listened
to 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 Dean and Charlie 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.
Eventually Rich and I realized we weren't going
to be able to keep paying rent on the Malibu house.
We hadn't sold anything, grass or wigs, in months.
When we had an opportunity to sublet the place,
we did-and after a couple of weeks of staying
with a dope dealer I'd gotten to know in Westwood
Village, I piled all my clothes and stereo and
tools and wigs into the back of my truck and moved
into Dennis's house. Everything looked good: I
didn't have to pay any rent, I had my own room
in a mansion, and the girls took care of the men
as if they were princes. It was hard to believe
that six months ago I'd been on the verge of going
back to Texas with my tail between my legs.
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 with the 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.
The first thing I tried was cannabanol, a synthetic
hash. This time there was no blue fog, no sense
of things collapsing on me, no violence welling
up from inside; this time it was all love, a tremendous
physical feeling of oneness and caring. It was
what I'd felt that first night listening to Charlie
sing, only more. It was love that flowed through
your body like thick syrup in your veins, warming
wherever it went, making you so "one"
with the person you were with that you'd have
laid down your own life for him or her, and it
wouldn't have mattered because you were so "one"
that the distinctions between the two of you hardly
existed anymore. It was a kind of connection even
deeper and better than sex.
I saw how crazy I'd been to turn my back on all
this good feeling, all this awareness and openness
and love, just because of one bad trip. I tried
peyote, then mescaline, then speed, then some
synthetics you smoked 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
all together sometimes. 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 sang.
Dean Moorehouse took me on my first acid trip.
Now it wasn't just the external world I saw differently.
It seemed the LSD opened me up to what was inside
me as well. Suddenly I saw myself as I really
was, all the elements, all my past and hang-ups
and fears and attitudes laid out in the searing
light of truth. Again, there was no fear, no violence,
just letting myself go with the changes, letting
things slip away like glass beads falling slowly
through my fingers. You could be at peace because
nothing had to be hassled anymore, nothing had
to be fought. It might hurt to let go of some
of that past conditioning, some of what you'd
been, but it would heal in the wash of what you
could be free to become.
When I started taking acid, Charlie was not an
important figure in my life, not personally. But
Dean talked about him constantly, was practically
an evangelist for the "gospel according to
Charlie," and the Family girls carried on
the theme. They said that each one of us has an
ego, a desire to assert ourselves and our existence
as something separate and cut off from the rest
of life around us. We hang on to that ego, thinking
that independent self is the only thing that lets
us survive, thinking without it we'd perish. But
the truth is that we all are one, all part of
the same organic whole, no separate me or you,
just ripples in the one wave that is life. True
freedom means giving up ourselves, letting that
old ego die so we can be free of the self that
keeps us from one another, keeps us from life
itself. "Cease to exist," Charlie sang
in one of the songs he'd written. "Cease
to exist, come say you love me." The girls
repeated it, over and over-cease to exist, kill
your ego, die-so that once you cease to be, you
can be free to totally love, totally come together.
They kept urging me to join the Family, the life
they had together with Charlie. Charlie, they
said, had died more completely than anyone, not
only in this life but long before, on a cross.
In becoming one with him, in dying to ourselves
so we could really unite with him, we could become
one with love itself, with "God." Every
trip Dean and I took together, it all made more
and more sense. But I still clung to my ego, my
sense of self-sometimes in fear, sometimes in
stubbornness. I wanted the love they were talking
about, but I wasn't sure I could pay the price.
When Charlie came around, it almost seemed possible.
When he looked at you and saw everything there
was inside of you and loved you anyway, it seemed
worth the risk. One day, when he'd driven down
to the house in a school bus he and the Family
had decorated with hanging silks and beads and
a huge wall-to-wall bed, I walked up to him and
gave him the keys to my truck and said that it
and everything else I had were his. For years
I'd struggled to accumulate all I could: the right
cars, the right clothes, the right things that
would somehow complete what I thought was missing
inside me. Now I gave all that, everything I had,
to Charlie. Suddenly I felt very free. There was
nothing tying me down, nothing I had to be responsible
for. Charlie's girls had been right; material
things imprisoned us, poisoned us, kept us going
in the false sense of self that took away our
freedom to die.
By this time, more of Dennis's friends had moved
into his house, including Gregg Jakobson, who'd
recently left his wife. One night on the way to
a party two of them gave me my first sniff of
cocaine. At first all it did was make my gums
and nose numb, like going to the dentist, but
then the rush came and once more life was better,
"with a little help from my friends."
Life flowed on through a long easy summer. Then,
in August, while Dennis was away on tour again,
Dean started putting pressure on some of the women
in the house to go to bed with him. Word got back
to Dennis, and pretty soon his manager told us
that the lease was due to expire and we'd all
have to be out. When Dennis returned to L.A. he
avoided us, moving into a place at Malibu with
Gregg, not far from the beach house Rich and I
I had nowhere to go, so when Dean told me he
had to drive up to Ukiah for trial on an LSD charge
I decided to go along. Until the problem with
the women, Dean had continued to be a sort of
spiritual advisor to Dennis, and he apparently
still had that status with Terry Melcher, because
he told me that Terry was loaning us his Jaguar
XKE and a credit card for the trip north.
We picked up the car one morning at Terry's house
in Benedict Canyon, a rambling ranch-style place
at 10050 Cielo Drive. It was the first time I'd
been to the house, but it would not be the last.
Everywhere we stopped on our way up the coast
there were "flower children." San Francisco
may have soured, and the flowers may have been
turning to plastic in Los Angeles, but that didn't
stop the kids. We'd talk to them about Charlie
and love and tell them to stop by Spahn Ranch
anytime they came south. I'd never driven anything
like Melcher 's XKE and, roar ing past Atascadero
on the freeway several hundred miles north of
L.A., I was pulled over and ticketed. As we drove
on I crumpled up the citation and tossed it out
the window. I never planned to be anywhere near
Atascadero again. Two years later I'd be back,
though-as an inmate of the state mental hospital
there, nearly dead.
Dean's trial lasted only two days and then he
was released on appeal. We were staying with a
family he knew in Ukiahall of them freaks: parents
and kids-and while we sat around turning on together
I thought that this was what a real family should
be like. The parents were laid back, sharing their
dope with their children-everybody easy and no
hang-ups. More and more, I identified my own family
with only the negative things I'd felt were holding
me down; more and more I forgot the love and caring
that had been there, maybe never talked about
much, but always there.
It seemed a shame to waste the car on such a
short trip, so we stayed on for a few weeks, driving
all over the Bay area, visiting friends of Dean's.
I remember one night especially, making love to
the Indian wife of a guru friend of his in the
car and then driving back home with her to Dean
and her husband and children to spend the night.
While we were in Ukiah, Charlie and some of the
girls brought up the bus and it broke down on
the way to San Francisco. It was around this time
that several murders took place in the area. As
intriguing as the connection might seem, however,
no one in the Family was involved; we didn't even
hear about them, as far as I can remember. All
we knew at that point were love and Charlie and
dope. The only death we cared about was dying
to ourselves, inside.
Apparently I hadn't died enough, because when
Charlie sent some of the girls to me to suggest
I give him Terry Melcher's credit card so the
bus could be repaired, something from my Texas
past about honesty nagged at me enough that I
wouldn't let him use it. Charlie wasn't happy-this
proved I wasn't dead yet; I still had the delusion
it was possible for anyone to own anything.
When we finally got back to Los Angeles, dropping
acid all the way, Dean and I went to see Dennis
at his place on the beach. He was still furious
that Moorehouse had tried to seduce the women
at the Sunset house and somehow, even though I
hadn't been involved, being Dean's friend was
enough to turn Dennis off to me as well. It was
beginning to look like Charlie had been right-just
because a person dressed like a hippie or did
dope, it didn't mean he wasn't still part of the
uptight American dream world of things and money
and rules, still locked into ego, still undead.
Dean and I started looking for a place to stay.
While I was gone, Rich Carson had moved back
into our place in Malibu with some friends of
his, but they had no money for the next month's
rent and were going to have to move out themselves.
Charlie didn't want us at Spahn Ranch. I still
had too much ego, he said, and he didn't want
a horny old man like Dean going after his young
Suddenly I felt very alone, and somehow Charlie
seemed like the only hope I had. I had to prove
myself to him. Finally I had him come down from
Spahn with the bus, and he and I and the girls
completely cleaned out the Malibu house, not just
the rest of my possessions that were stored there
but all the furniture I'd rented with the house.
Driving back to the Valley we passed out things
to anyone we met-I made a present of a two-hundred-dollar
camera to a young hitchhiker we picked up-finally
leaving most of the busload with an Eastern religious
commune in the hills above the movie ranch.
Charlie still didn't want Dean and me with his
people. Finally he gave us a tent and told us
we could stay down by a creek below the ranch
itself. But we were on our own, he said; we were
no part of his Family. It was a long way from
a mansion on Sunset Boulevard, but it was all
that seemed left for me-I had no place else to
go. The Family let us eat with them occasionally,
and once or twice Charlie and the girls came down
to our tent in the evenings and sang.
Then Dean had to go back to Ukiah for another
trial and I was left by myself in the little tent
by the muddy creek. At night, alone in the stillness,
I could hear the sounds of laughter and singing
and love drifting down from the Western sets on
(Will You Die For Me? Copyright 1978, by Ray
Hoekstra. Published by Cross Roads Publications,
Inc. All Rights Reserved.)