Change Partners and Dance
The time between notions continued to shorten, as if Dederich’s need for attention was correspondingly expanding, all increasing pressure constant pressure to sacrifice more or get out–as if Dederich had created a perpetual squeeze.
Dederich decided after Betty’s death to marry again and like “any Monarch of old” he invited women to interview for the position of his wife. He chose from the applicants, 31-year old Ginny Schorin who declared Dederich was the man of her dreams. Rumors soon developed Dederich was not always able to perform with his half his age bride. To put down that concept, Dederich declared he was practicing “Sexual Tension.” By withholding ultimate climax, one built future desire. Anyone could climax all the time, but being a true skilled lover he knew how to build anticipation through withholding. He then began to preach that everyone practice sexual tension. Latter, I was told by many former members this was one notion he didn’t appear to win over. Fortunately sex was assigned to game participation (at least not yet) so there was no group to verbally demand when the male should quit.
But another notion arising out of his taking his new bride was selling an all new version, or maybe a better word is “pervsion” of Love with the Proper Stranger. Dederich explained that love is the result of cherishing. You can’t just decide to love someone — the love muscle is involuntary. But if you go through certain cherishing motions of conversation, physical affection, and consideration, with another human being, love will come as the inevitable result. In fact there’s nothing you can do to stop it. He had proven this by choosing to cherish a stranger. To prove him right, everyone else was going to follow suit and do the same thing.
Dederich called it “Changing Partners,” he had done it and “misery love’s company.” The first two couples he got to split up and take strangers as new partners, Dederich said, were almost like “sacrificial lambs.” One of those sacrficed was his own daughter, Jady. Friends recommended Larry Akey, who Dederich thought had more executive ability then her current husband. In She said never on her own would she have chosen him.
Within days 230 couples filed for divorce and Synanon held separation ceremonies. There were auction blocks where people gathered in big rooms with names of not yet matched on a blackboard to pick from. Men were offering their wives. Those who secretly always wanted a younger woman were ecstatic but others were crying, whaling and moaning, but still complying. A man who lost his wife later said “we were bought and sold like so many porkers.” By December approximately 300 couples separated and took new partners.
Many rationalized it by saying any argument against the idea was a “negative box” and if everyone else was doing it, it must be for the best. After all the community was “moral,” and they had been taught “Act as If” and “Trust is another way of knowing.” No one wanted to let their friends down or leave under their friends shameful eyes. Dederich told Synanon’s favorite reporter, George Nevin of the San Rafael Independent Journal, “I thought, wouldn’t it be funny to perform some kind of emotional surgery on people who were getting along pretty well?” He bet the new couples stay together longer than those in the average American public. Nevin, a Remfield to Dederich’s Dracula, described the following mass divorce as a new nuclear chain reaction. He described them as going into “unknown.” Like everything else Synanon did, Nevin wrote about it like a kid eating cotton candy.
Dederich stated his new idea would prevent the losses of loved ones to death and divorce as he had experienced.
On television, Dederich explained: “We asked ourselves the question, ‘What would happen if people instead of separating at the bottom of their relationship when they are mad at each other, bitter and so on?’ Instead of doing it that way, what would happen if they would , um, divorce lets say, and separate, um, at the top of their relationship while they, ah , love each other…
“Ah., ah, and before they have destroyed this rather basic relationship in human beings. Um, let’s try it. We are an experimental society. We do not feel that this hurts anybody else. Ah, we have discovered that it hasn’t hurt anybody who tried it. Um, so we, we thought we would just do what everybody else does… see, what millions do any way, but do it at a different point in the relationship and see what happens.” Dederich said he was not surprised at the negative public reaction as people are always “terrified by anything that is strange. Now, I don’t know why this is, I don’t know why this is.”
“We went through emotional trauma, first hysterical sobbing then laughing,” said the now former Mrs. Dan Sorkin. Macyl Burke, head of ADGAP, offered his wife to a friend saying it was a deal of a life time. Lou Degaldo offered his wife to Burke. She overheard and said she liked the idea of going with someone she didn’t know even though at time of this break up her marriage was the best it had been. Sorkin’s wife went to Chuck’s son, Dede—arranged of course by the old man.
Not everyone went along. Bill Dederich, Chuck’s brother, and his wife Dolores, said they left because pressure to divorce was too strong and they still loved each other after 36 years of marriage. They moved to Hawaii.
Dan Ross and his wife Marion, said the same thing. On Christmas Day they took Marion’s mother Molly Lappin from Synanon, after being told they could no longer visit her, and put her in a private home. Ross, 56, one of the last of the lifestyers (live in, work out), was head electrician for the Johnny Carson show. He had sold his home and gave $25,000 to Synanon for his mother-in-law care two years earlier, a total contribution of $38,000. He also signed over her supplementary Social Security checks amounting to $300 a month and he was paying 1,000, a month for his family.
Previously when after refusing to donate more money to Synanon in a game, Ron Cook , despite the no violence in the game rule, ordered some people to pick him up and throw him out of the building, which they did. Dederich came on the wire and blasted Cook for going past the money, but later came on again and withdrew his criticisim.
Now in a game Ross defiantly overcame the shouts and ridicule and said that they had raised three kids and that he wouldn’t give up his wife for 10 of their prettiest girls. He spoke out, despite the verbal attack that would surely follow, as he remembered it was important part of Synanon ‘s earlier philosophy to speak the “truth to the utmost syllable of your conviction.” Now out, and with Ms. Lappin, while Synanon had their money, The Ross’s came to me. I filed suit on their behalf.
Ben Parks was already having concerns about the violence, particularly when, as a member of the Synanon National Guard, he was told they would have to be prepared to go off property and physically attack the enemy. Now Ben and wife Dottie Parks did not want to separate. When Dederich found out, he announced on the wire that they were to be taken at gunpoint in a truck and dumped in a ditch. The order was carried out, they were driven off in a truck with guns pointing at them with Dottie being knocked into the mud. Ben was furious, and decided he wanted to do something about it. He did. He called me.
Bill Crawford, who did the year annual reports without blinking at the fact that he was reporting the yearly increase in intentional violence, and wife Sylvia Crawford, of 18 years, did not want to separate. He had been a long time loyal resident, being one of the original Sounds of Synanon musicians.
Crawford tried to leave graciously and called CED. Dedeich said “so long but after he hung up he went on the wire and ordered the Crawfords be stripped, searched and not allowed to leave with anything “but the clothes on their back.” They were then skin searched by a dozen residents. Once outside they were followed. Crawford got a teaching job at private school. The employer received a letter outlining Crawfords’s sexual indiscretions. Another stated if action is not taken against Crawford the Dept. Of Health would be notified. Synanon “investigators” circled Crawford’s new neighborhood asking merchants and school officials if they knew what kind of people the Crawfords were. When Crawford visited his daughter she asked why he was being called a pervert.
The news caused former members, silent to this point, to talk to the press. Al Bauman, once Synanon’s president until he left in 1976 said the public needed to know how much Synanon had changed. The county probation department said it no longer recommend Synanon, which was not a change of policy. The change was to advise don’t go there.. Bob Deal said Synanon has a philosophy if you’re not for them you are against us (similar to Pres. Bush, Jr.) and that people should not leave. He said he received a letter from Synanon directors saying unless he came back as a lifestyler he was not to hang around. Jerry Newmark said, in affect they had gone mad.
On Dec 16 good old George Nevin of San Rafael Independent Journal wrote a letter to Kaiser saying too bad UPI rewrote its negative Changing Partner piece on Dec 3-4 . He asked how things were, to be sure to contact him for a story, and to give his regards to “Skip, Chuck, Dan and all the folks down in Badgerland.”
Nevin called CP a social phenomena. A fun emotional surgery. “I sent up a flare like any monarch of old times would have done., I let them know I was available.
The County Probation office announced they not only would not send people to Synanon, they would actively recommend against anyone going.
On December 15th 1977 Dave Mitchell wrote in the Point Reyes Light that Synanon still had not produced the master plan for growth promised to Marin in 1975. Last week, Synanon, he wrote, told County planners the master plan is still along way off. Mitchell responded that with “230 couples changing partners, it is no wonder the more mundane details of existence — — such as master plans — — tend to get put off.”
Synanon meanwhile worked on a pamphlet editing Chuck Dederich’s words on the subject entitled “Change Partners and Dance.”also, Synanon began using a tape duplicating equipment to provide copies of Dederich speeches and place is records on microfilm. The CED Fellowship School came into existence for the advance study of Synanon. The first 6 full-time resident Fellows were Steve Marksx, Dean Ray,Alan Silverman, Joan and Dennis Speert and said Finkelstein. He
Doug Brew a reporter for Time Magazine came for an interview which excited Chuck. Already he was trying to have himself nominated for a Nobel Prize, now he was expecting to be named Time Magazine’s Man of the year.
Time accurately described changing partners and then pinioned the once respectable drug rehab was now just another Kooky cult. Dederich became more furious than he ever had at anything. Synanon sued, saying it suffered damages, such as losing a contract with Alaska to advise on drug rehab and that people will die who never come.
Dederich was co-plaintiff again which would mean like the suit against Hearst he could take personally ½ of any settlement. Impatient, he decided to scare Time Magazine into settling, warning on TV that “bombs” might go off in the homes of clowns responsible as so many people love Synanon.
When Connie Chung asked if the guns related to Time, Chuck, who lavished fantasies about meeting her, said, “Not at this time” but added, if Time was to send people to do them harm “we would harm them first.”
Demonstrations against Time were planned in New York. Letters were sent to Time Board members boasting bad things were going to happen to them. The Holy War was now the biggest occupation in Synanon. And the majority of members, wanting to prove loyalty, let it be known they were willing to serve the cause in any way.
I was no longer public enemy no. 1. With their attention diverted, it became easier for me to investigate. I felt with their backs turned I would build proof of the Synanon conspiracy to attack its perceived enemies.
It was more than representing my clients; the donors, purchasers, state officials, dopefiends, minors, needed to be protected. The people had to know.