Jan & Dean: Behind the Movie


Paul Morantz at Jan's Celebration of Life after Jan's death in 2004

Jan, Richard, Dean, Bruce at Coconut Grove
click on Jan, Richard, Dean, Bruce for video of all 4 singing at Coconut Grove in celebration of movie.

The following appears on the net and has been unfortunately incorporated into a book.  I somehow suspect Dean and I were in part sources, yet while spirit is on, it now stands as history, and  very little is actually correct..  So below is how the movie really came into existence along with my own story

First the internet wrong version:

Jan and Dean – History of Rock

In 1969  Paul Morantz, a young law student at the University of Southern California, met Jan Berry at a resort motel in Palm Springs, California. Morantz and Berry became instant friends. After listening to some of Berry’s stories, Morantz who dabbled in freelance writing, decided to write a feature story about Berry and his struggle against all odds.

The story first appeared in the University of Southern California Daily Trojan in a short-edited form. Later Morantz spent many months re-writing the article for a California magazine called West. Just about the time he was putting the finishing touches on the story West stopped publishing.

By this time Morantz had graduated from law school, was busy practicing law, and the story was shelved.

A couple of years later, Morantz dug out Berry’s story. Re-reading it Morantz realized that the story could easily be expanded to include the whole Jan & Dean story. At this point, Morantz called Torrence and they got together to discuss what had begun to take on the proportions of a larger project.

After many regular meetings and major rewriting Morantz and Torrence submitted the re-written story to Rolling Stone magazine, after it had first been turned down by all of the major general interest magazines on the ground that not enough people would remember Jan & Dean to justify its publication.

Rolling Stone accepted the story with tremendous enthusiasm, scheduling Jan & Dean to appear on their cover with the article given a major spread within. The publication date was September 12, 1974. But a funny thing happened on the way to the press, Nixon resigned and Nixon’s picture pushed Jan & Dean’s off the cover. But the story ran and was very well received. There seemed to be a renewed interest in Jan & Dean. Torrence and Morantz now decided that the story had all the elements of a feature film, so they started writing a screen play and started shopping the property all over town.

After two years of rejections a deal was finally made with CBS to make the movie for television.  Dick Clark Productions filmed “Deadman’s Curve” starring Richard Hatch (“Streets of San Francisco”, “Battlestar Galactica”), Bruce Davison and guest-starring Dick Clark, Wolfman Jack, Mike Love, and Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys was started in late 1977.

The very successful CBS-TV Movie “Deadman’s Curve” airing in prime time nationwide in both 1978 and 1979, chronicled Berry’s valiant fight to regain his ability to function normally.

HOW IT REALLY WAS

Growing up I dreamed of being a writer.

At first, I made up stories and just told them. And like a lot of young kids I wrote poems. In high school I think all my friends and teachers thought I would be a writer.

I did have a poem appear in an Arizona magazine while I was in high school.  And one of my friends who used one of my stories for his English class got an F because his teacher accused him of plagiarizing Edgar Allan Poe.

When I arrived in1965 at USC I wanted to be a part of the university and figured that what I could contribute might be writing. Fortunately, my high school friend and basketball mate Steve Harvey was sports editor. So I asked Steve if I could write sports for USC. Through him I met Hal Lancaster and they really both taught me how to write.  Hal and Steve were roommates and never cleaned.   Their apartment was marked by one month old newspapers and alligator lizards running amuck. Under there tillage I became sports editor in 1967.

I graduated in i968 and was convinced by many, including my girlfriend, I should go to law school as a backup. I think I did it for lack of confidence as a writer and also to stay in school with all the coeds for another 3 years.  My girlfriend then left me and married a lawyer. Law and I did not get off to a good start.

In my 2nd year, 1969  I vacationed in Palm Springs.   Lying next to me on a lounge was this strange figure with a handicapped body and a broken voice who kept singing smooth tunes.  A girl caring for him told me it was Jan Berry and we talked for a while.

It was sort of hard to believe.  My feelings towards Jan and Dean had always been love/hate.  Loved their songs.  But I was always jealous.  They were a few years older but it seemed they had everything one could want.  And they grew up in my era and my area, going to the high school not far from mine, University high school, where they were even members of the club “Barons” which also existed at my school, Hamilton High.

While I was dark haired, they were blond and beautiful, smart, funny, athletic and successful singers; at such a young age and were living such a dream life.  Both had been football players as well, Jan a premed student and Dean an artist. They actually began the California sound before the Beach Boys.  Dean as many know,  sang the lead in Beach Boys’ Barbara Ann.  it wasn’t until decades later I would actually learn they didn’t surf.  But they were always holding a girl in one hand and a surfboard on another.  Jan even went out with Ann-Margret.

We talked the 2nd day and it led me to writing a story about it in the Daily Trojan. The opening lead to the Rolling Stone story about our meeting is taken from the Daily Trojan story.

When I graduated law school I wanted to write but also understood I didn’t have much experience in life to write about. When I read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood I was captivated and also saw that one could write about true stories that were even greater than fiction.

When I joined the Public Defender’s Office in l972 I was conflicted as I really wanted to write. I actually spent hooky the first two days to try to sell the idea of making a documentary on Jerry West, the basketball player.  A network said yes if we could come back with committed advertisers.  That was not possible so law it became.

Six months later approximately a chance appeared.  A long time public defender, Dave Vinje, who specialized ironically defending the worst crimes, was murdered in a small bar in Van Nuys named “Lola’s” during a robbery.

This was my chance to be Capote.  I contacted the family. I interviewed the police, the family, the bar owner and patrons who were there when the robbery was going on. I also interviewed public defenders on how they felt about the death penalty if the culprits were caught. Hal Lancaster edited the story.

It was my childhood dream to one day be published in Playboy Magazine.  Not because of the photos but because I believed then that the best writing appeared in Playboy. By law school another connection had occurred. I was dating an 18-year-old named Barbara Klein at UCLA when the next thing I knew she was the girlfriend of Hugh Hefner and renamed Barbara Benton.

Playboy rejected it but complemented it.  The editor in a letter recommended I submit it to West Magazine, a Los Angeles Times Sunday supplement.  So I did. West was so impressed they made it their cover story and wrote an inside piece about me.

The story was optioned for film but never made.  At 27 I was a known writer and felt it was a fairytale. At the same time, although I did not yet understood it, my legal career was formulating through an incident with a judge (see Pink Justice on this site).  I soon left  the office.  In 48 hours I wrote a screenplay “Trials of Billy G” about a fictional junior high super skilled black basketball player who dreams of playing for Johnny Wooden but the question was could he escape from forced participation in juvenile gangs and the juvenile system which was not very good in my opinion in determining  guilt or innocence. It was based upon my past experience as a lunch time playground aid in a black grammar school (if it gets written see the story on the day Martin Luther King died) and as a public defender in juvenile court.

TV movies were new then and most were about tits and ass. The idea of using it for a social statement had not yet appeared. When I showed the screenplay around I got rave reviews but no deal. Several well-known film companies said no to the project as it was too down and TV—they said– does not do serious social drama.  They offered me work on their projects but I turned it down still not having enough confidence. I was afraid to take someone’s money and then fail. I felt better working on speculation so only I could lose, and not someone betting on me. Beau Bridge met with me a lot.  He wanted to get the movie done. He and his wife had adopted a black child. Beau wanted to direct but it was not somewhere he could get.  Finally, a producer/writer of several TV movies  Stephen Karf, asked to try to produce it.  But when six months went by and he never got around to submitting it I got angry and asked for it back. Probably a mistake because at that time I dropped it, believing no one thought it could be made,  and the sad fate was Billy G. never even got submitted. Yet I had been sure it I would win the Emmy.   Ironically in the not distant future Television movies would switch over to social drama.  By then I was working on my 2nd social drama, Dead Man’s Curve.  I wanted to get Beau and Jeff Bridges to play Jan and Dean.

*                        *                                            *

Now how I got to Jan and Dean.  It was through a maze of ironies. In the summer of l968 before law school I was working side-by-side with Charles “Tex” Watson at Contessa Creation up by Melrose and La Cienega selling women’s wigs.  That is where I met Barbara Benton.    I would bet even today she has no idea what fame her salesman Mr. Watson soon would obtain, nor as to what would occur to me.  In 1969 at the direction of Charles Manson my friend Watson led the Helter Skelter murders.  One of those he murdered was Jay Sebring who had founded the concept of Men’s hair styling. Upon Sebring’s death one of his hairstylists, James O’Rourke, took over and at the time I met him as he was dating a close friend of a girl friend of mine, Donna Maltese, at U.S.C.

O’Rourke and I became friends, I even did publicity writing for him. After the West Magazine article came out, one of his stylists asked me what I was going to write next.  I said I didn’t know. He said people always loved stories about former celebrities and what happened to them.  I mentioned I had done a story like that in 1969 when I had met Jan Berry.   He replied, “I cut Jan’s hair.”

On the telephone when I called Jan pretended to remember me but I knew he didn’t. Still he was glad to meet me.  I spent a lot of time researching the story, contacting friends, family and following up leads. It was hard to get an interview with Lou Adler who didn’t know whether or not he wanted to waste his time talking to a writer writing on speculation. But after I informed him I was published, he agreed. I regret   I never could speak to Jill Gipson but she was then living in Europe. I have never met her.

Most of the time the Berry family portrait of Dean was not exactly flattering. In retrospect I believe there was some anger that Dean had tried to make an album for them without Jan’s agreement.  They felt Jan was the star.  And he had been. They were certainly estranged at the time and I have no doubt that it was my writing the story that ended up reuniting them.

I spent a lot of time at Jan’s house.  After my father passed away and my childhood home was sold I even spent some time staying at Jan’s house. I also ended up representing him in a criminal matter.  Jan’s bizarre behavior often got him arrested and I was able to get the case dismissed.

Finally, it was time to meet Dean.  From the first telephone call I recognized in Dean his uniqueness that he didn’t identify with being Jan and Dean and did not get excited about being interviewed or written about. But he was cooperative. When I arrived at his artistic design Co., Kitty Hawk, it was not important enough for him to stop working. He answered questions while working.  I remember the moment as he walked by me and I said “this is probably silly, but did you have anything to do with the Frank Sinatra kidnapping?”

He came back the other way, not looking at me, and said, “I was wondering when you were going to get to that.”

It’s a funny thing about journalism.  When you are on a story you get so close to you or subjects that you form bonds and become family with them.  You think it is forever, but then the story is done and the journalist moves on. I know this from both ends. I thought I would always be close to the Vinje family or other subjects of my stories.  And when I was the subject I thought my relationship with Connie Chung and other reporters that extended over 5 years would be forever. But they moved on to the next story. I found it true also in law. My clients became like my children and I thought I would protect them forever but when the case ended I moved on to new adoptions.  For 5 years my friends were mainly former Synanon members. For the next 5 they were ex members of the Center for Feeling Therapy, and so on.

Dean was the exception. I didn’t know it the day we met but this was the start of a relationship that would be lifelong.  Me…best buddies with the singer I was once so jealous of, now socialized together with women and played volleyball together at the YMCA. Dean was better than me indoors.   In frustration one day I challenged him to pick a partner and meet me on the beach where I played.  To rub it in I showed up with a girl and still kicked their butts.  And all the time all I could think of was all the time in high school that I would hear their songs on the radio and how I wished I could be Jan or Dean.

The story was again edited by my college ed. Hal Lancaster. I again submitted first to Playboy and the same editor called me and said great stuff, send it to Rolling Stone Magazine. I figured since he was right the first time I would take his advice the 2nd time. Rolling Stone loved it so much they flew me to San Francisco to attend a party in my honor.  It was to be the cover story in 1974 but was pushed off by the retirement announcement of Pres. Richard Nixon. Tricky Dick prevented us from being as a song was then sung “…On the cover of Rolling Stone.”

To be very clear, contrary to what has been written elsewhere, neither Dean Torrance or anyone else write a single word of the article. My lifelong friend Hal Lancaster, a professional writer and editor, edited it for me and Los Angeles times reporter Narda Zucchino gave suggestions. Many people were interviewed
and all has stories to tell which combine to make the story. Dean was a strong source, but was not an editor or writer. He did no writing of it. Nor did he participate in the submission. It was not turn down everywhere. It had only been submitted to Playboy which then recommended Rolling Stone. So there were 2 submissions only. The only rewriting of the article after Rolling Stone purchased it was a minor edit by the magazine. They flew me to San Francisco for party in my honor.

Coincidences were the story of my life.  When the David Vinje story came out I was dating a girl who was also dating Cary Grant.  She told me he liked to give her things to read and one day he gave her my story to read. I couldn’t believe that I had entertained Cary Grant. Now on the day of Rolling Stone’s release I ended up at a party where I did not know anyone and asked a girl to dance.  Not knowing her, or what to say, I asked her if anything exciting had happened that day.  She said no, then paused, and said, “well I did read this incredible story in Rolling Stone about Jan and Dean.”  I had to show her my driver’s license before she believed me.

Even before its publication it found its way into the hands of an agent who wanted to be a producer and who wanted to make a movie on it. I was in England seeing a girl that I had met in in 1970 while hitchhiking the summer in Europe.  Upon this news I returned and would start to work on the script with the agent. There was a lot of interest but what we wrote together was not very good. Eventually, we split and I got the film rights back.  A client, Pat Rooney, read the magazine story and said he wanted to produce.  His big credit  was Hell’s Angel’s 1969.  He was a good friend of Las Vegas legend Del Webb who had been a key to film financing.

Pat was turned down.  The project was turned down for two years.  Once I called Dean and said this is too good of a  story not to be made. I think it’s been turned down because I am unknown as a film writer (by then I was a successful as a magazine writer and could call any magazine to suggest a story). I offered to drop out and that he take it to an established film writer. Dean told me to “stick with it.”

I began to write a new treatment. The movie itself eventually opened with Jan and Dean and Arnie at a Burlesque house seeing stripper Jennie Lee of whom they wrote their first song.

But that was not my opening scene originally.

One of my desires I had then was that in addition to this great story I was writing about the duo I was capturing what it was alike to be a teenager in my own times; in my own era. This had not been done before. I had thought about it once before at a U.S.C. film class when I came up with an idea about a series based upon high school kids kids in the early 60s.   I had written a fiction story of a bunch of 16 year old’s weekend adventure. Of course, I never submitted the idea and much later lamented when Happy Days hit the air following American Graffiti.  Who would believe I had the idea first?

With that theme in mind my film screenplay originally opened early evening, dark, a 57 Chevy driving slowly down the street (I owned one in high school) slowing down alongside two high school girls walking along a sidewalk in a residential area. Dean is the driver and Arnie is in shotgun and Jan in the back cannot be seen. Dean asks the girls if they know where any parties are and they keep walking. Dean says they could go somewhere and start a party. Again, no reply. Finally Dean says, “you know Jan Berry is in the back seat… you know our quarterback…. thinks you two are cute.”

At Jan’s name, the 2 girls look at each other, smile and then approached the back seat to look inside. As they do, up against the glass comes pressed Jan’s bare ass.  The girls react and back off and Dean hits the gas. The next shot is from the rear of the car driving off as credits role while voice over we hear Dean say amongst the laughter, “Jan, they are gone now you can pull up your pants.”

Instead, we hear a giant fart let out….

Karf who wanted to do trials of Billy G. knew I was working on the Jan and Dean story and took me to a private showing of American Graffiti pre-release.  When I saw the bare ass scene done in the car I died.  I was distressed and took it out of mine and also realized that I had been beaten by a young George Lucas to the idea of doing a film that involved growing up in my era and about those times.

Dead Man’s Curve would not have been made but for the fact that the CBS head of movies retired and was replaced temporarily by a film writer in control until a new CEO could be picked. Not being part of that system requiring  having to be sold before you can sell he had CBS purchase the Jan and Dean story.  Pat Rooney had to agree to co-produce with EMI and I had to agree to others re-writing.  The screen writer chosen for re-write was a coincidence.  At USC my best friend Kimi Peck (see Kimi’s Video) and I had dreamed of being writers.  She wrote the film “Little Darlings” and Darlene Young was hired to do the rewrite.  Ms. Young’s next assignment was Dead Man’s Curve and I couldn’t believe the coincidence, although she didn’t seem to be excited about it.

She did a fine job– particularly making it more tight– but others participated in success of it as well.  Dir. Richard Compton did his own rewrite as he filmed and he got a lot of ideas and input from Dean and me being on the set.  Richard Hatch’s amazing performance for which he should have won the Emmy was in large part to Jan coming to the set and thus Richard being able to watch him walk and speak.

On Monday following the movie’s Friday night premiere a young woman Gail Rubio interview with me to be my secretary. I didn’t know really what to ask so I asked how was her weekend and she said the only thing remarkable was watching with her daughter Dead Man’s Curve on television. The interviewed ended and she was hired.

I only recently watched the film myself and now it is hard for me to even remember what scenes and words are mine. I remember writing the Army officer at the draft boards saying, “if we can take Elvis, we can take you.”

I remember the corn fields.  Most of all the ending which I think was what made the film so remarkable. A teacher once told me she used the film in the classroom to teach the moral of the story.  The ending (see video) I wrote from 2 events that really happened. Both are described in the Rolling Stone article.

One, was a surfer music revival held at Hollywood Palladium where the feature performers were the reappearance for the first time of Jan and Dean since the accident. Amongst those present were such groups as the Safaris and Deltones.

Dean did not think that Jan could sing well enough so he decided that he should lip sync.  He also thought the crowd would be aware of it so he would make a joke of the it. There would be a part during the song where they would stop playing while the song continued and they would joke around on stage. When this part occurred the crowd became angry and started booing so loudly that the song was shut down and Jan and Dean had to leave the stage.  I was in the audience up in the balcony to the left, angry that no one would come to the microphone and explain  why they were lip synchronizing and about Jan’s accident. I fought through the crowd to do it myself but could not reach the stage before they were gone.

Later I was told Jan was in the audience in Las Vegas when the singer performer recognized him and asked him to come up on stage and sing a song. The crowd saw a limp Jan, arm hanging, struggling to the microphone. In a broken voice he explained to the audience, as no one had done at the Palladium, “that long ago I had an accident and I do not sing very well.” He then sang the prophetic song of his life– Dead Man’s Curve.

Dead Man’s Curve ended up with one of the top audience ratings of any TV movies ever made both times it was shown.  It was released theatrically in Europe and on VHS but never on DVD, though pirated versions can be found.  A year ago I saw it on the Satellite True stories station but could not Tivo it as it was part way through when I saw it on.

Wikepedi on doing a story on Richard Hatch called the movie a “cult” classic, which I get a kick out given my legal career would be to fight cults.  Fandango wrote: “The film’s most powerful scene occurs when the still-shaky Jan attempts a concert comeback, only to be booed offstage when the audience realizes that he’s lip-synching.”  The ending scene is on the net per You Tube and here.  As of this writing it has been viewed 10,655 times.

The movie brought back the careers of Jan and Dean and they put on shows until Jan’s death in 2004. There were some bad times too, as many got close to Jan by supplying free drugs. The l980’s were a lot of fun for me because I would go to their local shows which were like big parties and would be introduced on stage.

Looking  back upon Jan’s  death, Rolling Stone wrote, “In 1974, attorney Paul Morantz published a landmark article about Jan Berry’s recovery in Rolling Stone magazine.

 

In 1991 the story’s plot was re-written as Regarding Henry starring Harrison Ford. At least that is my opinion.  But really there can be little doubt? A lawyer is mean to family and dishonest and then is shot in head and becomes an aphasia victim like Jan.  During recovery he learns values he never had and returns as loving husband, wife and honest attorney.

That’s Hollywood.   I took it as a compliment.

Around l998 VH1 Behind The Music used me, Lou Adler and Jill Gipson to narrate the Jan and Dean story.  I had to reread my story to refresh my memory.  I was happy they identified me as a writer, not an attorney. And gave me credit for causing their come back. I am referred to as the author, no one is claimed to have done rewrites,

In 2006 a Jan and Dean fan club put up an Internet blog reprinting word for word the Rolling Stone article, under the title, “Thank You, Paul Morantz.” (posted here)

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Jan died on Mar 29, 2004–30 years after Rolling Stone and I attended his Celebration of Life at the Roxy where I used to hang in my youth.  I reunited with Dean who I had at time not spoken to in a long while.  At first I refused a request to come on stage and speak as I was not prepared. Then I looked at Dean, got an idea, and said yes. The first thing I said was “how good it was to see my old friend Dean Torrance and find that he has 2 young daughters and finally discovered there was something to do with young girls besides date them.”

Apparently everyone there knew Dean well and started roaring.  Dean’s face turned red and his wife made a face.  A year later we went to a UCLA U.S.C. football game together.

I also told the Roxy crowd the Clown Princes of Rock and Roll belonged in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Dean  still does not revile on his past and his daughters now in college know little of his career.  One of his daughters is a dynamite singer. The other is a volleyball star.

So why is Dean so cavalier about his past?  Could it be because Jan was the driving force?  He would be first to admit it.  Or the sadness?  But I think the answer lays in a story he once told me. He was working for a label that sent him to get a contract signed with the Everly Bros. He said the one he spoke to was depressed over the end of their careers and asked how Dean could be so cheerful?  Dean told me he said he believed that the difference was that the Everly Bros. like most artists of those days had to go through a depressing period of fighting against a slow decline in popularity as they aged until finally it was just over.

In Dean’s case he was saved from that.  His career was at the top of the wave and at crest it was just “wiped out.”

Still the Jan and Dean second career keeps performing. Dean does solo or is matched with former Beach Boys or some other group.  He is always traveling.

When we reunited on Jan’s death it appears to be forever. I was just at the start of an illness that is dragged on now for 6 years. And every couple months for those 6 years Dean calls to see how I am.  He lives a good distance, particularly with traffic, but he has come to see me several times. And we e-mail.

I find it strange in some way that he has chosen me for a lifelong friend and keeps in touch. In some ways we are the odd couple– he the former blond blue eye God and  me a dark haired jealous fan who in high school wished I could be him.

*                  *                      *

As another coincidence  a former Louisiana TV newscaster I knew was best friends with Frank  Sinatra Jr.  She reported the singer was always depressed from the kidnapping believing the defense accusation that it was all set up to get Frank Jr. publicity cost him his singing career. Since it was Dean at the trial who took the stand and told the story that the kidnapping was real I suggested it might be good for Frank Jr.  to meet with Dean after all these years. But Frank Jr.  was not interested.

Richard Hatch went on to Battlestar Galactica fame and became a tabloid regular and teenage  idle. One day at his birthday party I found him in his bedroom sad and he told me his series was canceled. I told him to be happy and he asked why? I said because the series made him a teen idol but now he could break free and make movies with the acting ability he displayed in Dead Man’s Curve.  But that never really happened for Richard. Like many other actors, he was just too identified with his role in the series.

Bruce Davison went on to an award winning career.  Some years ago I saw him on the street in the city and honked.  At first he didn’t recognize me, and then came to the car and spoke.   He called me later to reminisce.  Last year on a plane an actor and I started up a conversation and suddenly he mentioned Richard Hatch. Another coincidence.  I told him how I knew Richard and gave him a card and asked if he would ask Richard to call me. I never heard from him.

I saw Hal Lancaster and Steve Harvey last August.  Steve became a sports writer and won fame for creating the “Worst 20” a weekly football poll parody of top twenty polls, but that celebrated the losers.  Hal has retired from being Dallas Bureau Chief for Wall St. Journal. Like the Rolling Stone article, he edited my book Escape: My Lifelong War Against Cults.”
* * *
I didn’t like the new Star Wars movies and could not believe the dialogue George Lucas used.

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With success of the movie it would seem the writing career I had always dreamed of was now a reality.  But truth was my personality did not mix well with Hollywood and the idea of being dependent upon the decision of others as to whether something is done or not did not sit well. I still had anger on Trials of Billy G.   While filming Dead Man’s Curve I was in the midst of fighting Synanon and tried to bring to the producer—Roger Gimble– attention the idea of doing a film about cults. No one listened. Other than some role as an advisor, I was never involved in a film again even though I would write some magazine articles and option  other stories.

The events that would be the end of my film writing career actually started the year the Rolling Stone article appeared, I just didn’t know it. First,  producer Martin Davidson wanted to make a movie on The Finger Print That Lied story that is on this site.  As part of the deal I would be hired to write the first draft.   Davidson would go on to produce Eddie and the Cruisers (one of my favorite movies).   Problem was the story’s subject—a man  framed by a police crime lab officer and spent several years in prison for a bank robbery he did not commit– would not agree to a film.  He wanted it forgotten.

The second was a bizarre set of circumstances leading to my brother being called by an old friend, a liquor store operator downtown,  to say something was fishy concerning a skid row alcoholic he knew being held in a nursing home against his will (story to be written). I used my journalistic ability to research and  came up with a conspiracy to kidnap skid row alcoholic’s and sell them to a nursing home chain for $125 a head as part of a MediCal/Medicare fraud.  Suddenly I had gone from Capote to a Capote character; from writer to subject.  I became newsworty for my crusade which ended up with criminal prosecutions, licensing actions and my civil lawsuit.  Television cameras now surrounded me. I found that my investigation and true story presentation skills translated to a courtroom stage where actual injustices could be stopped or prevented.

When it was over the publicity from it eventually brought me to Synanon’s door and from there it was no turning back.

Hard to believe Synanon’s murder attempt on me (see Synanon on this site) happened just 8 months after Dead Man’s Curve first appeared on television. I remember coming out of the hospital and  seeing Hatch and Davison and how happy they were to see me alive.

Dean presented me with a framed picture of a Rattlesnake coming out of a mailbox, saying, “hi Paul, how was your day at the office… want to see your mail?”

Four years later ABC was making a movie on me and Synanon and the producer was the same Roger Gimbel who had not listened to my cult idea during the Jan and Dean filming.  But ABC because of Synanon litigation propensity eventually cowarded out dropping the project after the miniseries was written.

In 1998 after Synanon Founder Charles Dederich had died Showtime decided to make the story and I worked very hard on that script with the assigned writer. It was greenlighted for 4 years but was constantly delayed and then the private networks dropped making movies and went to series instead following the success of The Sopranos.  I believe at Showtime I was replaced by Dexter of all things.  Vanity Fair did a story on me and Synanon but canceled it when 911 happened and the magazine temporaily shrunk.

I probably should have written a book on it all.  Back in the 1980s Bantam books asked me to do so but I declined because the trials were still going on.  To my surprise he  had read the articles I had written including Jan and Dean.  When Showtime agreed to make the movie on Synanon I finally started to write the book and spent a long time on it.   I quit in the middle when to my horror a small inaccurate book on Synanon was published using my same title I planned.  It did not sell well and I knew my market was now destroyed.   After all these years I have put up chapters I wrote as articles on this website which are the only truly accurate recitation of Synanon’s history.  That was the reason originally for this site– To preserve the real history of Synanon and to not let the work I did go in vein. I have now written two books and have published more articles.

For a year I have worked occasionally on a script on Davey Crockett.  I hope  to finish it. There had been some interest from those who have read what I have written so far.

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In  1995 Greil Marcus  wrote the book Dustbin of History.  A famed film critic, his book was about films that best reflected a time period.   A client of mine brought it to me.   Marcus wrote a chapter on Dead Man’s Curve, describing the movie scene by scene and lauding its authenticity, story and actor performances. He wrote, to my pleasure:

“George Lucas’s teen-dream epic, American Graffiti, opened the door for Dead Man’s Curve: the story of Jan and Dean — — a made-for-tv movie that ran on CBS—and  that may be the best thing to be said for it. Lucas’s movie left me feeling depressed, cheated and unsettlingly distant from my own past. Set in Northern California in 1962, American Graffiti jammed a whole summer into one night before two characters, Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss, were to leave for college. I’d gone to a high school much like theirs at the same time; I cruised many of the same roads in the same spirit and took heart from the teenage urban legends Lucas’s kids actually got to act out — — in real life, the kid who changed the rear axle of the common car always left school a year before he got there. But I didn’t recognize much of what Lucas put on the screen.”

Marcus added Lucas’ kids were more about myths than playing what high school was all about in that era.  He then added:

“ Dead Man’s Curve made history by evading what passes for it. What was so liberating about this little movie was that it took for its subject the career of 2 of the myth– makers themselves — — Los Angeles surf and hot rod music princes Jan Berry and Dean Torrance — — and let the story tell itself as if it were real itself: that is, as if it had a claim on the public’s attention regardless of whether or not the adventure of 2 middle-class white youths from Southern California provided a clue to the legacy of the 60s, generational identity, the sexual revolution, or anything else bigger than themselves.

Marcus discussed Jan and Dean’s career and music and noted “Jan and Dean made surf, cars, and simply being between the ages of 13 and 18 seem like a mid-60s version of God’s grace.  There might be more to life than this, one felt but it could wait… He added:

“Based in a subperb Rolling Stone story by Paul Morantz, Dead Man’s Curve followed his basic outline…… The result was a pop culture that because it was about character, dissolved the myths that have become so encrusted around the pop artifacts of the last 25 years: Myths of freedom, folly, excess, and weird clothes.  What you could feel with Dead Man’s Curve was a naturalness of pop culture: not its Significance, or its appeal as a Version of the American Dream, or its Basic Shallowness, but pop culture as a good context in which to live one’s life — — obvious, energizing, and limited.”

Sorry George Lucas.  Eat your heart out.