Venice Family Center

by Paul Morantz
(C) July 2010

I was a member of a club gym in a corner building on Robertson Boulevard near my old high school Hamilton High in the early 70’s. The bars and weights were left by old owner who didn’t make a go of it. It was a time before all the lifting machines filled work-out spas. Long before Nautilus. We all chipped in to pay for the rent and maintenance and in turn had the combination lock numbers. The steam bath was co-ed. One day when my kidnapping of skid row alcoholic-to sell to nursing home cases—to bill MediCal and steal social security checks case– was still going on a man entered the gym seeking donations for downtown skid row missions. He couldn’t understand my joking response: “I give at the office.”

And when that case was over in l976 I thought that was my charity, my gift to society. I would not do something like this again, live under death threats and obsess over one case to point of little private life. I would be a main stream lawyer. And I would continue to write. And I would have a family.

During the nursing home cases (see Escape From Golden State Manor) knowing nothing about cults, but looking for an expert to testify to abuse, I was recommended Dr. Lee Coleman from a non-disclosed Scientology front group on medical abuses. I would realize many years later ironically my photograph and statement on medical abuses would appear on a Scientology brochure. Not then did I know enough about Scientology to care. Just as odds-defying, the defense in the nursing home case on quest to challenge damages looked for an expert with some familiarity with alcoholics and picked Dr. Keith Ditman who in the 1950s experimented by giving LSD to alcoholics to see it could free dependency. One alcoholic who volunteered for the test was an AA fanatic named Charles Dederich who would thereafter claim that the insights he got from taking the drug led to his ideas of forming “Synanon” and the use of attack therapy and sleep deprivation to make a subject break from reality similarly as to LSD so people were primed to be convinced of new ideas. And naturally, it would be the publicity of my winning these skid row cases that led to my first Synanon case being dropped on my door. When I had deposed Dr. Ditman I had no idea I was questioning a man who had dropped a pill into a glass some 20 years ago that would change the course of my life, that my Dr. Coleman was an expert used by cults, and the case itself would bring me to Dederich.

As I said, my plans now were for return to normality. I wanted the Ozzy and Harriet life. I had decided as a goal I would marry an old college sweetheart Bonnie Lockrem. So I put money down earned in the case on a small house in Pacific Palisades and found a job as an attorney in a small law firm, the Law offices of Donald H. Cohen. There were 4 lawyers there, but Don was the manager, rarely the lawyer. There also was a personal injury paralegal and a Workmen’s Comp. paralegal. My job was the troubleshooter, i.e. when a case came in that required immediate action I was the one to game plan and put it into action.

I also had the good news of selling my script on Jan and Dean to CBS and was hoping to find time to work on another writing Project. I decided it was time to propose, I had security, but my ex, who never had any idea of my plan, called to seconds after I thought it was time to marry her to announce she met someone skiing several weeks earlier and was now getting hitched.

Upset, I left the office for home but stopped at a plant nursery near my house and that is where I saw Trudy and 2 kids, 13 and 8. Somehow, I wasn’t so brokenhearted anymore. I engaged in conversation with her and it came out that we had one common friend, Kathy Torrance, sister of Dean Torrance of Jan and Dean. I called her and she said “I know why you are calling.” She had just hung up with Trudy who wanted to make sure I knew she was not married.

At our first dinner I told Trudy of the nursing home case and how obsessive I was and how that if we had met during that case we would had just passed in the night; something unfortunately that would be ultimately proved. I remember that night thinking how I could kiss her and then she just walked by too close. She was in my arms and I was in love.


So against this backdrop of seeking normality and family, Ted Raines, who worked for Western Union at a time it sent messages, not e-mail, in l976, took a vacation to Georgia. He met Terry and before his trip was over he proposed. Terry had once suffered depression from a breakup with her prior boyfriend and a year later after losing her job she had unfounded fears about her parents being in trouble and that her husband was thinking about leaving her. She accepted and came back with Ted to Santa Monica. Neither could suspect that their chance meeting and falling in love would alter the course of history.

On June 5, l977 Ted’s best friend for 8 years Larry Bradley, they had met in Naples, came over to watch the Portland-Philadelphia NBA game at noon time. Watching sports together was a common bond they had. Both had witnessed a slow mental decline in Terry over the last month. Now she sat quiet, with tears. Ted and Larry decided to take her to UCLA for evaluation the next day when Ted returned from work. Ted reassured her he loved her.

On in the morning of June 6, 1977 Terry dropped Ted off at work and then drove to the Venice Family Planning Clinic thinking she could get a tranquilizer to calm her down. But the counselor there, a Mrs. Shirley Goldstein, said they only were involved in family planning, not medicine. Terry appeared depressed, “spaced out” and spoke of unfounded fears something was happening to her parents. Mrs. Goldstein made a malpractice mistake referring her to Synanon for help. I say malpractice, because Synanon had no license to practice medicine thus could not lawfully treat her. Synanon was a permitted only as a place for people to go and kick drug addiction without use of drugs. But Mrs. Goldstein’s husband , Charley Goldstein, had been a donor dentist for Synanon members and the two squares (non addicts) were true believers in Synanon magic.

Terry went to Synanon in Santa Monica, what was the old Del Mar Club, later became Pritikin and is now the fancy Del Mar Hotel, Restaurant and Bar, which has little knowledge of the beatings and blood flow that once filled its basement.

Terry vaguely remembers someone warning her not to go in; that she won’t come back but she entered. She was taken upstairs for an interview led by Lowell Sigmund who thought she was “spacey” at the time. Present was Pete Hyman (Synanon muscle), Janet Rice and Ken Nielson. Terry asked no questions and her responses were short and low pitched. She was asked if she needed help and would she obey all rules. She said yes. She was told to always respond, “Yes, sir” or “No, sir.” In all, Terry was asked about a total of just five questions. The next thing she knew from behind at directions of Warren Katz they shaved off her waist length hair despite her protest, sending her into a semi-psychotic state. Katz said she would he helped by the Synanon lifestyle. Terry muttered to Sigmund she was concerned her husband knows where she was and that he would have a way home form work. He did not respond.

Her assigned buddy, Flossy Babb, witnessed Synanon members pulling on her arms trying to get her into the cafeteria. Babb could tell Terry was not in touch with reality and did not want to be there. In the dark of night Terry was dragged across the street into a Synanon Clump (apartment building) and locked in. She asked a member if she could leave and he said only person who could release her was asleep. She asked to call her husband and was told no. In a locked room with others, she stayed awake in fear. The others yelled at her to stop wandering about the room.

The next morning she was put to work chopping vegetables. When Terry resisted Flossy pulled her around by the wrist hard enough to caused a bruise. On the third day she was placed on a bus and sent to Synanon facilities in Tomales Bay, Marin, far away from husband and her environment. Mountainous and cold, she was placed in a tent. When she would ask for her husband she was told her husband knew where she was and did not want her; that Synanon was her family now. This of course was the worst thing Terry could hear as it gave credence to her unfounded fears. When she asked to see a doctor she was placed in a Synanon game where other members attacked her behavior to convince everything she did was wrong and she needed to learn from Synanon. She could sense that anyone resisting conformity was being attacked by the group. At times in Marin she blacked out. She was incapacitated. At times she believed it was true her husband did not want her—he had not come—and Synanon was now her home.


It had been known since studies on Korean prisoners of war that attempts at destructing self in order to brainwash can push people into a psychotic episode which makes brainwashing impossible. Out of reality they can’t grasp the dogma hurled at them. Terry went into a full psychotic episode; literally shutting down and not communicating. It probably saved her. Nor was she without sympathy. A few, like Ben Parks, saw her condition and suggested she not be there, but no one acted.

Ted received a phone call from Lowell Sigmund at Synanon saying Terry had joined and Ted should come get her keys. Ted said he wanted to come speak to her and Lowell said to see him instead. Ted said he wanted to take her to a doctor and Sigmund did not respond other that Ted could not speak to her and Terry had decided to “do something with her life.” Lowell never informed Terry her husband had called or came down with his friend Larry Bradley to demand her release.

When Ted and Larry arrived inside they saw Terry’s name on a blackboard. Ted asked for her release or to speak to her and soon they were surrounded by a group of males that forced them out. They were told Synanon rules of not allow communication with spouses and that Ted could not speak to her.

Ted went to the police who responded Terry was over 18 and could do what she wanted. They refused to get involved. At home, Ted wrote letters to Senators, the President, the Govenor, the media all asking how this could happen. He had seen enough of Synanon to believe that his wife was being subject to brainwashing during her weakened condition and begged that someone would help save her.

That Sunday Larry Bradely took Ted to the beach for exercise where he met an old girlfriend with a new boyfriend. The new boyfriend, Rick Garrison, had lived next door to me during the nursing home case. He told Ted, “I know a lawyer that got a lot of skid row alcoholics out of nursing homes that were held against their will… he ought to be able to get your wife out of Synanon.”

So ended dreams of normality and family. But looking back I can’t blame it on Ted, or Rick, or fate; in some form it was going to happen.


Somewhere as Ted told me the story, crying on the telephone, I interrupted him and said stop crying, don’t worry, “I will get her back…I guarantee it.” I remember envying him for his unaltered commitment to his wife, something I had never yet managed to do in my life. I wondered what that was like.

I had assumed this would be easy. Synanon must be licensed I thought and all I have to do is call the Health Department and have them send someone to inquire. But in that call with Health Dept. I learned that Synanon was not licensed, no one could explain why, and worse, Synanon did not allow the health department inspectors on their property. The man I spoke to seem to speak of Synanon in hushed words as if fearing he would be over heard.

Surprisingly what I felt was relief and excitement. I knew I was going to be tied up again, that my obsessive nature would be released. Ordinary law, accident cases, contracts, business disputes bored me silly. It would only be a matter of time before I had just quit. I had thought I never wanted the agony of a major hidden crime case after the years I spent caring for the skid row alcoholics. But now I knew I missed it.

I further knew that while I did not know what exactly Synanon was and or what was happening, I knew it something was not right. That an evil was lurking. They took in a woman and moved her up North disallowing communication between her and her husband, and the state was unable to inquire. I knew that everything in my 31 years of life had led me to this moment and this was the moment I was born for, the reason for everything before it. I was not a lawyer by heart but a journalist with a pattern of doing stories about wrongs turned right or uncovered. I had looked for stories to write that I believed something was there to learn from. A lawsuit was just another way to investigate and tell a story. Trial would be the publication.

However, never in my dreams did I suspect what I would ultimately find, nor know of Synanon’s own in house member legal Department and its belief in its superiority resulting from recently bludgeoning the Hearst Corp in a defamation settlement. All I knew was we had to make a plan to get Terry out. And that was a lot more interesting than a fender bender or marital squabble.


I negotiated a telephone call with Synanon where Ted and Terry were to talk. It was clear Terry was not in reality. I told Ted to keep asking her over and over if she wanted to come home. Finally, she said, “yes” and I immediately jumped in and addressed the Synanon woman, saying, “You heard her, she wants out…we demand you bring her back to LA and release her.”

The Synanon woman and I then negotiated a deal. They would return Terry the next day on the bus to Santa Monica and we would sign a release freeing Synanon of any legal liability for any injury.

I told Ted not to worry about the release. First, there was the argument of duress forcing signing the contract. 2nd, Ted could not sign away Terry’s claims and probably she was not in the mental condition to do so either. Further, I said, having heard her speak it was more important to get her into a hospital as fast as possible and then worry about lawsuits later. Sign anything they want.

I made a plan. I would go up to the front desk and talk to the Synanon people and keep them occupied. When Ted saw his wife he would take her by her hand and forcibly move to the front and exit. He was to stop for nothing and nobody. Get in his Volkswagen and drive off slowly. Bradley was large and a veteran; he would fall behind him and screen off anyone who tried to approach them. As Ted exited with his wife and drove off his friend would then turn and signal me they were moving and leave himself. I in turn would flip the bird inside at those I was speaking with and walk out.

At 5 p.m. I arrived in my green l972 Volvo ES the first sports wagon made by any car manufacturer. When I walked in I felt like walking into a thrift shop. The place was clean, neat and a shrine to second hand rugs, chairs, fixtures, etc. I was ushered into a room at my left where I saw four men of almost identical figure, each in overalls with a bald head and facial hair stand up at the same time, each offering me their seat. I remember thinking, “trained seals.” They each offered me a business card saying, “Synanon, the People’s Business.”

I backed out of the room instead and went to desk and inquired about Terry. She had not been placed on first bus and the next bus was not coming until 7:30 p.m. Larry,Ted and I spent 2 ½ hours at Sambos. Ted had to be calmed down after learning she missed first bus. We came back and Terry was brought into lobby looking like a zombie. Ted took her hand and headed towards the door. Larry followed 15 yards behind. The Synanon woman asked me if I had brought the release. I had expected the Synanon legal Department to have prepared one. A mistake. I immediately offered to write it for them and penned that Ted released Synanon from all liability for removing Terry from Synanon. It mentioned nothing of relieving liability for their taking her. Larry singled me Ted’s car with Terry in it was moving so I flipped the bird and walked out.

It seemed a little dramatic, later I would say childish and foolish. Much later I learned how dangerous this plan actually was. It worked probably because I was doing Synanon a favor. While normally Synanon would fight to keep its members, it is doubtful they wanted Terry in her psychotic state. She was of little value, and a burden. Often Synanon newcomers, I later understood, did go psychotic after exposed to the attack of the game and Synanon often took them to hospitals and left them. Taking in Terry had been a mistake, but members had been taught to believe anyone could be cured by living the Synanon lifestyle and obeying its rules. Even a person in a psychotic episode.

Back at Ted’s apartment Terry was catatonic; barely speaking.

Two days after my flipping the bird, Synanon would read in the Los Angeles Times it was being sued for kidnapping, false imprisonment and attempted brainwashing.

Inside Synanon the legal Department became furious over who had made a mistake in not getting the release they wanted prepared and signed. And on the wire– Synanon’s Big Brother broadcasting system, Charles Dederich’s voice bellowed through the speakers throughout the foundation’s 3 cities, Santa Monica, Tamales Bay and the Badger mountains:

“Who is this guy Morantz….Why didn’t someone break his legs?”


Almost a month later I received a telephone call from Terry from a hospital in Long Beach. Her voice was completely different, calm and real. She thanked me for saving her life. I asked her why she thought I saved her life and she said, “because I would have become one of them.”

Her response startled me. And so I began to search for books on brainwashing. I began to look for former Synanon residents who would help me understand what had happened and why. I got quick results speaking to Don Silver and Jerry Newmark, long time squares who left because Synanon was becoming nothing but an extension of Dederich craziness. Several were afraid to talk and that communicated a lot in of itself. Those who did speak, had a lot to speak about. About a home and place that once helped them and others, but now had changed, changed drastically, changed for the worse. One that had a rule of no violence, that now had a violent state of mind. All were afraid.

The Old Man was helping my education. His wire tirades about me told frightened Synanon members who to go to when they left. Because the wire was a “broadcast” some driving by could hear it on their car radios. One woman came in, her head still bald, and explained to me there was a hit force called the Imperial Marines that reported to the Synanon legal Department, Dan Garrett and Howard Garfield, which reported to Charles Dederich and that this elite trained hit squad had attacked and beaten many individuals. After she left, I sat with Don Cohen in his office and said, “you will never believe the crazy story I just heard. They must have some real nut cases in there.”

Two fresh ex-members told me I had no chance. Synanon had a staff of free lawyers, unlimited resources, and they destroyed opposing lawyers by tying up all their time in court on motions so that they would be unable to practice law and meet their overhead. Indeed, in those days, when it could take 5 years to get a trial date in Los Angeles due to backload, there was definitely exposure to havoc by suing a wealthy evil adversary, let alone one with free member lawyers, fanatics who would work day and night.

Fortunately, this case was filed in the Santa Monica Superior Court which designated back then a single courtroom to hear all motions for all cases and only on Fridays. The judges were sharp—Laurence Rittenband, Raymond Choate—and Synanon could not keep me coming to court every day. I called my secretary into my office and told her to cross out every Friday morning on my calendar for the next 3 years. One of the Synanon former members said is that so you can be in court to respond to Synanon’s motions. I said, “No, that is so Synanon can be in court every Friday to respond to my motions.”

And so the war began.

As to understanding Ted’s commitment to his wife, I grew to feel that way about Trudy. Alone in my car I would sing, “For once in my Life…”

A year and a half later my dreams of marrying Trudy ended. My writing career was gone. Soon I would be known as the cult fighter and would be for 30 years.