Synanon III grows

Synanon III grows

by paul morantz
(C) May 2011

The population in l974 dropped to 1,300. The Foundation grossed 5.6 million. The Athens Club in Oakland became another Synanon house demolished in name of urban renewal. Tom Patton became the head of adult education programs at Tomales Bay and Dederich moved to Badger, making it the new “Home Place.” He wanted to be away from the newcomers and concentrate on being a philosopher and plan a new retreat for his family and 50 of his faithful. He had fallen in love with Badger, declaring, “We found ourselves dead smack in the middle of what very likely could be the most fantastic and spectacular recreation and vacation land in the world.”

Explaining his move to Badger he spoke of all the newcomers at Tomales. “Nobody in their right minds would want to sit around all the time with dumb 17 to 25 year old kids with absolutely no manners. I don’t want to live that way. I don’t want to be like some shoe clerk waiting on dingbats and strangers all day… Imagine the Chairman of General Motors spending his time hanging out on the assembly line… Or the president of Macy’s hanging out with the stock boys… It’s time for some of you monkeys to run the dopef iend business… I did it dam near all myself for 10 years.”

The nearby Fesno Bee welcomed The Old Man and began its love affair with Synanon writing an article on Camp Badger. It liked the idea of the hatchery and communal child raising.
It seemed almost unimportant at the time, but Synanon opened a shoe repair shop in Tomales Bay headed by 48-year old Carl Anderson a dope fiend who entered in l971 years ago to avoid prison. A strong black man, Anderson had learned the trade in the Marine Corps which he joined in l950 after serving in the Merchant Marines. He served in Japan, Korea, Mediterranean and Puerto Rico. After 17 years of Marine service he moved to New York, married and sired four children. He also became re-addicted to heroin.

By l976 Anderson repaired an estimated 5,000 shoes at a rate of 300-per month, entertaining his customers with exaggerated tells of bravado in his military career. It would become one more seed in the coming reign of terror.


Solomon Asch, born in Warsaw, moved to the United States in l920, received his Ph.D. from Columbia University, taught at Brooklyn College, the New School for Social Research, and Swarthmore College, held visiting posts at Harvard and MIT and in l957 served as president of the Division of Personality and Social Psychology of the American Psychological Association and as Chairman of its Committee on Academic Freedom. He was associate editor of Psychological Review from 1957 to 1962 and awarded the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association in 1967.

In 1951 and l952 he began experiments on conformity. He rigged a group having “confederates” unanimously and falsely give incorrect responses as to which of three lines matched a given line on an adjacent card. Having witnessed same one third of the subjects chose not to go against the group and selected the wrong line intentionally mis-chosen by the group. Asch observed that the more people that opposed the more difficult it was for a person to accept his own vision of reality. On the other hand, just having a single ally could aid group resistance.

One of his students, Stanley Milgram, born in New York in l933, worked with Asch at Princeton in l959 and later developed his own test in hope of understanding the reasons why obedience to an authority figure could include harming an innocent party. His research had been prompted by riveting testimony about the Holocaust at the Nuremberg Trials.

The latter began on November 20, 1945 when four prosecuting nations — the United States, Great Britain, France and Russia — proceeded to trial at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg against 21 Nazis for the systematic murder of millions of people carried out per Nazi master race policies under the belief that Germans were accordingly entitled to subjugate, dominate, or exterminate other races and peoples.

SS General Otto Ohlendorf testified as the head of “Einsatzgruppe D” he led a 500-man division that “liquidated” 90,000 people, primarily Jews, between June 1941 and June 1942. Men, women and children were taken from their homes, stripped, lined up at the edge of a tank ditch and shot by firing squads. Victims would fall into a ditch which would be plowed over to form a mass grave. Later Nazi commanders ordered only the men to be shot. The women and children, in groups of 15 to 25, were gassed to death in special vans on the way to the grave sites.

Testimony was given quoting Adolf Hitler as saying, “I shall give a propagandist cause for starting the war, never mind whether it be true or not. The victor shall not be asked later on whether he told the truth or not.”

Defendant Hermann Goering was unapologetic, comparing the Germany’s treatment of the Jews with the United States’ treatment of Native Americans. Defendant Adolf Eichmann supported his actions of genocide as simply following orders.

Rudolf Hess wrote poetry about the beauty of Auschwitz, the concentration camp he commanded. At peak efficiency, he testified, the camp had the capacity to “get rid of ten thousand people in 24 hours.” By the end of the war, the camp accounted for more than two million deaths.

In Milgram’s experiment in l974 two subjects “A” and “B” would arrive at a testing center simultaneously. The instructor appeared as an authority figure displaying necessary credentials as a professor and scientist. “B” was strapped in a chair to prevent movement and an electrode was placed on his arm. “A” was taken to an adjoining room where he was instructed to read a list of two word pairs and ask “B” to read them back. If “B” got the answer correct, “A” would then move on to the next set of words in the series. However, if the answer was wrong “A” was informed by the instructor that he was required to press a button administering shock to “B.” These shocks first started at 15 volts and increased by 15 volt increments for each incorrect response, ultimately to 450 volts which the panel displayed in a red danger zone. “A” was told the purpose of the experiment was to learn of man’s ability and limitations for simple recall under extreme stress. “B,” “A” was told, had agreed to be so subjected. It was explained to “A” he was needed read the words and push the button so the scientists could focus solely on observing. As the shock level increased, “B” continued to answer wrong, scream loudly and beg “A” not to push the button again. What “A” didn’t know was that he, not “B,” was really the subject of the test. “B” was not being shocked, was faking his screams and answering incorrectly on purpose. Every time “A” hesitated on pushing the button, believing it would torture “B,” the professor and other “scientists” in the room would exhort “A” to continue, reminding “A” that “B” had volunteered and the purpose of this experiment was to better mankind and the world. And “A” was further told what he was doing was providing needed discipline.

Milgram’s findings indicated that “two-thirds” of “A’s” fell into the category of “obedient” and punished the “B’s” to the maximum 450 volts. When an “A” was seated between two others who showed no qualms in administering potential lethal dosages 92 per cent went along. Moreover, “A’s” were not drawn from society’s fringe but from typical working, managerial, and professional classes.

_ Milgram publised papers on his experiments in l963 and published his book Obedience to Authority in l974. He used his findings to explain the 1969 Mi Lai massacre where American soldiers opened fire and killed over 350 defenseless civilian men, women, and children in a small Vietnam village. The period of military basic training, Milgram stated, is largely used to breakdown concepts of individualism and replace it with a cohesive unit. Soldiers are disciplined, he stated, and virtually brainwashed into following orders without question, the very function of a soldier. Political differences were used for the justification of actions. The soldiers involved with this massacre felt that they were simply following orders and it was their duty to do so because it was dictated by their “authority” figure.

Milgram concluded people so instructed by an administrative figure are following the administrative outlook and not necessarily their own moral code. Responsibility is shifted to the authority figure. He wrote:

“The results, as seen and felt in the laboratory, are to this author disturbing. They raise the possibility that human nature, or, more specifically, the kind of character produced in American society cannot be counted on to insulate the citizens from brutality and inhumane treatment at the direction of malevolent authority.”

The American Association for the Advancement of Science awarded Milgram for his life’s work in the area of obedience. One of his biggest fans was Charles Dederich.


My story on Jan and Dean sold to Rolling stone in 1974. It was to be the cover story but was bumped for Richard Nixon when he announced his resignation. The photos I took were not used either, the magazine preferring its own photographer, a young Annie Leibowitz. I then did a story published in Coast Magazine about William DePalma, a catering truck driver and father of three daughters, who served several years in a federal prison for a bank robbery he didn’t commit. A crime lab technician who framed people he believed were guilty had planted Depalma’s finger print on a teller counter and a witness had picked his photo from an old mug shot. A private investigator named appropriately John Bond ultimately proved the frame and won Depalma’s release. At the time DePalma was represented by the Federal Public Defenders and in doing the story I met the head of the office a young start-up public servent I was impressed with, John VandeKamp.

A producer optioned the film rights and promised to give me a shot and the screenplay but Depalma decided he wanted no more publicity. I had made an oral agreement with his attorney Robert Talcott, who I had met as a public defender in my first case over a pornography ring, that I wouldn’t make a film deal without Depalma’s permission. I kept my word.

I decided to do a book. An agent actually got be a job to write a r book about USC football coach John McKay who had led USC to four national titles, fine-tuned the I information and created student body right. A man of wisdom and great wit, and one who I had admired and felt made me grow up some at college, it seemed like a good deal. But I was afraid to be typecast further in sports.

I started feeling melancholy. When I was alone, and that was a lot, I had worries, fears, feelings of failure. I was 29 years old, without significant income, no particular writing project and a feeling of not knowing where my life would go. I couldn’t really decide what to do. My only solace was that I knew my predicament was shared by many. I continued to hope for the story that would be my break to beyond magazine features.

Then a high school classmate of my brother, Myron Rosenaur, called my brother in June of l974 and my life changed forever.

Myron ran a downtown liquor store at 5th and Los Angeles. This was in the middle of skid row and Myron looked after the old street alcoholics, even keeping their social security money for them so they couldn’t lose it being rolled. In turn he got their business. He called my brother to tell of the strange call he got from one of his patrons, a man named T.B. Renfroe.

Called “Arky” by his friends because he was from Arkansas, Renfroe , 57 years old, was a thin little guy, just 5 ft 3 inches, who spoke with a southern drawal filtered through few remaining teeth. Like most of his brethren he lived proudly in the downtown streets of Los Angeles, though rarely sleeping on the streets themselves. He had a room at an old hotel, paid for with social security, often drinking in the TV room, passing time joking with his friends. If he went to long without alcohol he would get the dt’s and then sometimes he thought he was conversing with the Queen of England.

Renfroe had called Myron only when a night nurse at a light locked mental ward, Golden State Manor, broke the rule prohibiting the alcoholic inmates from making a phone call, a rule that itself was illegal. “Help,” said Renfroe to Roenauer, “I am being held against my will in a nursing home.

Myron called my brother, who called me. Soon I had a law case tha took me awway from writing