Synanon – The Early Years (The Night of The Great Cop-out)

Synanon –The Early Years (The Night of The Great Cop-out)
by Paul Morantz

By Paul Morantz
(C) 2009

Betty and Chuck Dederich

by Paul Morantz
(C) 2009

In October of l958 the Synanon Prayer and the Synanon Philosophy were written.

The prayer was based in part on the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

“Please let me first and always examine myself…Let me be honest and truthful…Let me seek and assume responsibility…Let me understand rather than be understood…Let me trust and have faith in myself and my fellowman…Let me love rather than be loved…Let me give rather than receive.”

The philosophy, based on Emerson’s Self-Reliance and Taoist and Buddhist writings, read:

“…there comes a time in everyone’s life when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must accept himself for better or for worse as is his portion; …the power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what it is that he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Bravely let him speak the utmost syllable of his conviction. God will not have his work made manifest by cowards…As long as he willingly accept himself he will continue to grow and develop his potentialities. As long as he does not accept himself, much of his energies will be used to defend rather than to explore and actualize himself…He will learn only if he wills to. Any other type of learning is temporary…and will disappear as soon as the threat is removed. Learning is possible in an environment that provides information, the setting, materials, resources, and by his being there. God helps those who help themselves.”

And in October of 1958 Synanon received its first publicity. Paul Coates mentioned in his newspaper column the new club in a run-down Bohemian neighborhood and then brought members on his TV show where he handed them bongos for a beatnik effect. Suddenly the storefront was a small celebrity and neighbors starting making donations of money, food and supplies. But as Coates’ bongos stuck, becoming part of the Synanon’s mystique, others living on the parameter complained of late night noise. Dederich refused to turn the volume down, sometimes calling Synanon the “Hostile House,” where bongos beat and Gray Thompson punched away on a bag.

The magazine Inside Detective followed with a Synanon story and in January of 1959 the Santa Monica Evening Outlook published a two part series. Soon, as Chuck would proudly say, they were coming through the Patient Door, a phrase one year later he would regret using when fighting in a courtroom for Synanon’s survival. Later he would know better how to label and how to “do it all with words.” But at the time the phrase seemed so fitting.

Most of the newcomers were not yet thinking of freeing themselves of their dreaded disease and learning to live like human beings. What most wanted was a temporary reprieve when their habit reached the $150.00 a day danger zone, fearing also that stealing to support it could lead to jail. Most did not stay clean more than a couple of weeks. They believed their drug addiction was not curable, even when this large fat man stood over them shouting it was.

Like lost children, addicts slept on the club floor. Candle stubs were melted down to make new candles when they fell behind on the electricity bill. What furniture and clothes they had were hustled from neighbors. For money, Coke bottles were collected on the beach and sold. Those, who like Chuck, were taught the magic of unemployment insurance, handed over their checks. When visitors dropped by a jar labeled “Discover the Joy of Giving” was passed around. They had a couple of old cars for transportation. Clothes were still a la Salvation Army. A pair of scissors saved the $2 cost of haircuts. Teeth were brushed with salt rather than toothpaste. A run down former auto-repair shop nearby was rented and converted into a men’s dormitory. A hose ran from the club window across the alley into the dorm so the men could shower. Women ironed and cooked. Meals were not plentiful, sometimes limited to one a day. A local baker, Izzy Cohen, began to regularly supply Synanon with his extra bread and a local dairy provided its ready-to-sour milk. Stale sandwiches and other leftovers contributed from catering trucks were put in what was called the perpetual stew pot. Out of this smorgasbord, Chuck would say, will come something delightful. “How much do you eat on the street,” Chuck said, “other than feeding your arm….”

Synanon, Chuck said, was in the People Business. Getting people was more important than getting money. Get the people here, he said, and the money will follow. Prosperity would be their future. “Somehow,” he said, AI promise, it will emerge. Have trust. Have faith…You will not regret it.”

Always, somehow, as if by magic, there were coffee, cigarettes–often “cheap & gt;tailor-mades” out of Bull-Durham and papers– and donuts. It seemed enough to keep most from returning to the streets. At least not right away.

Chuck, often dressed as the shoeless beach bum he came to California to be, was not only a Daddy for the first time, but he was Big Daddy.

Sometimes, behind his back he was “Fatso.” Those who imitated his every act and characteristic were called his trained seals.

The synanons were played Monday, Wednesday and Friday, an hour long modeled after a therapy session. The leader of each session was called the Synanist. Still not seeing the danger in words they used, they called it just that– a new form of therapy. One where the dark dirty secrets were peeled off in layers and exposed to the group. On Sunday mornings, instead of Church, Dederich held Emerson readings. His favorites were Self-Reliance and Power, which taught the virtues of drill.

Chuck felt he had something. It didn’t matter that the first dopers, Whitey Walker and his female friends split or that residents still found hiding places where they could chip and have sex behind his back. Sex drives hibernated by drugs rebounded following withdrawals and a man who lifted a few TV dinners at the local market made a good mark for hungry ex-prostitutes. Chuck allowed a little sliding. He had no choice. He would, as he later admitted, “kiss their asses; “ sex or whatever it took to keep them happy was fine. No matter what went wrong he was sure in the end it would be right. Morality, Chuck figured, could not be stuffed down the throats of people who had been ignoring rules for 20 years. It would take time. They would continue with a policy of no policy. In Synanon, he would say, they do wrong things just “to get them out of the way so we can do it right.”

Chuck knew this was his chance, maybe there wouldn’t be another. Up until this moment he felt he had never been successful in anything. He had not been an All-City halfback. He had never had a lot of money. He was not famous. Now was the time to show those that had given up on him. He needed followers. Those on the board who showed any resistance, as he later described, “popped out like pumpkin seeds. They quit or I fired them. There were some things I just couldn’t do until I had a board of directors composed of members who had crawled into Synanon on their hands and knees–people who picked up their philosophy from me, and not from AA, a Zen Buddhist or an armchair psychoanalyst. Children in which I could inspire love and loyalty because they had none before.”

Also in October Dederich gave what he would later call the Synanon Manifesto to the Southern California Parole Officers, hoping some might place paroled addicts in Synanon. He dressed up in a hustled not-so-fitting suit and stood in front of his audience as he would at AA and read from his prepared speech:

“We have a climate consisting of a family structure similar in some areas to primitive tribal structure, which seems to affect individuals on a subconscious level … A more or less autocratic family structure appears to be necessary as a preconditioning environment to buy time for the recovering addict.”

During the bought time, Dederich went on to explain, the patient was given a series of tasks to do until his verbal resistance at being “told what to do” dissipates. When that occurs the group concentrates efforts on injecting him with doses of Emerson’s Self-Reliance. Emotional experiences were shared in synanons, and improper behavior is torn apart, sometimes brutally, by a verbal haircut which seemed to “get people in line.”

The use of the word “patient” again would come back to haunt him.

Even with the media attention, the first winter was rough. The building, badly needing repair, barely held up and was difficult to heat. Cold air blew in from the Santa Monica beaches. They couldn’t afford an electrician so a dope fiend with some experience tried his best. Everyone kept waiting for him to blow the club up.

The police kept a watch on this gathering of dope addicts and criminals and one night Chuck Jr., then 24 and never a user or arrested, after visiting his father found himself angrily braced and frisked along the wall with other Synanon suspects. But others, more curious than afraid, tendered help. The Lions Club, American Legion, churches and schools offered speaking engagements that helped bring in some money. But they had problems getting presentable suits and had to share the two they had–one donated to Chuck and the other taken off of newcomer Jake the Snake Ross– until more could be hustled. Hank Anderson exchanged two dollars and an electric shaver at a pawn shop for a camera and became the official Synanon photographer.

A few addicts did a little contributing. Some did a boost (shoplifted). Chuck’s girlfriend, Adaline Ainlay, dipped into her nest egg. She turned her book collection into Synanon’s first library, with books by Emerson, Longfellow, Shakespeare, Oliver Wendell Holmes and a host of philosophical works. Another girl turned a few tricks and turned in the bread (money) before Dederich found out and stopped her with a haircut–a menacing verbal reprimand. Sixty-year-old Charlie Hamer offered to hold up a liquor store, his old profession, and 43-year-old Reid Kimball proposed to go get the gun under his mother’s porch and do a bank. For their proposals, each got a half-hour pull-up, another name for a verbal haircut. But Dederich was proud of them all. He marveled that they were willing to put themselves in harm’s way for Synanon.

The biggest task remained getting people fed. The Mormon Church helped out by delivering a truck full of gallon cans of homemade stew. Synanon solicited stale food that could no longer be sold from restaurants and markets. Cash and goods donated for the year were valued at $20,000. Six thousand went for rent, and $3,000 on cigarettes. Eight thousand paid for food and the balance was spread out on electricity, laundry, clothing, transportation and miscellaneous items. Keeping people occupied was another task. By Christmas just 15 residents remained and often they did nothing but sit around listening to the hi-fi, believing any day the club would fold. Dederich tried to shake things up, break routine and fight off boredom. Once a week, Dederich had his group put out all the old hustled furniture on the sidewalk and hose down the floor. They sat outside on the furniture waiting for it to dry inside and attempt to look arrogant for passersby. There was always talk by some of quitting, claims it was hopeless. The club would collapse and they would all return to the streets. Dederich used his personality and salesmanship to convince otherwise. He constantly made changes to ward off boredom and hung in the living room a life preserver with the words “S.S. Hang Tough” painted on it by a member who afterwards split and returned to dope.

Dederich stood over them like a barroom bouncer with all-knowing eyes, always promising, “It will emerge.”


They were the Poster Boys. Living proof it was really working. They had a triple magnetic affect of attracting more newcomers, the media and donations. They provided sincerity, a burning desire to convert others and were perfect role models for change to those on the streets that had known them in their earlier identities.

At the age of fourteen, Jack Hurst dropped out of Franklin High in Los Angeles during the 11th grade to care for his two-year old retarded brother. His parents had never been much help. His mother had several abortions administered by his father. Eventually his father died of the drinking disease, cirrhosis of the liver and his mother, addicted to pills, ended up institutionalized. And before all that, both parents regularly took their punches at him. When he got a job his parents took all his earnings. He ran away from home once but the police brought him back. Adult life for Jack was not much better so he tried marijuana and then heroin. He married a girl he got pregnant which made him feel tied down. So he got a motorcycle and a leather jacket, became “The Wild One,” and won races bringing him his only success in life.

He got his wife pregnant again which was dangerous at she had rheumatic fever. When she died following a legal abortion Jack was blamed by her parents for getting her pregnant and drowned his guilt in drugs. For work he became a hustler, dope smuggler, burglar and a pimp. His first burglary conviction was in 1953. The army got him temporarily but when he came out of withdrawal he slugged his sergeant. He remarried, had two children and became a successful carpenter, buying a $30,000 house. But eventually he lost it all to drugs, couldn’t even buy food for his family and wound up facing burglary charges. Once, while his wife Terri was in the hospital with labor pains, he stole her Demerol. In 1958, at age 30, Jack found his way to Synanon. There were 18 people living there at the time.

Jack Hurst would become the biggest symbol of Synanon success, ultimately its President. He resided in an environment that at last aided his removal from the drug world with a new family and a new love so strong that he told a reporter, “Can you imagine me standing by and seeing anyone tamper with Synanon? To the slightest degree? Not on your life.” What he never expected was one day he would fear for his own life and would go the authorities for help.

Reid Kimball, five years younger than Chuck, was born in Logan, Utah, and was the great-grandson of Herbert Kimball who had succeeded Brigham Young as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Like Chuck, his father was of German extraction and liked to drink. His family moved to Santa Monica where, while his parents fought a lot; he grew up admiring the carnies and pimps, drank and smoked pot, quitting school after the eighth grade. His first paying job was watching out for the cops at the amusement pier. Next he learned to float a crap game, finance drug deals and then to run a whorehouse.

A woman who ran two prostitution houses turned Reid on to opium. He moved on to heroin and an eventual three to four hundred dollars a day habit. He compared the craving to a body needing oxygen to breath. “You would do anything for it,” he explained. “Kill, burn, strangle. Ethics mean nothing.” He met a woman he liked, Yla, who danced at a nightclub. He turned her on to drugs and out as a prostitute. Together they became addicted to heroin. When money got tight, Reid would do an occasional hold-up.

Eventually, as sometimes happens to addicted couples, Reid wanted to try to kick but Yla did not. So Reid left her and tried some hospital cures. In 1957 she walked in to a bingo parlor in Vegas where Reid was working and at the sight of her he realized he loved her. That he would always love her. He wanted to marry her but was unable to shake the tough guy image and say it. He went out and bought a wedding ring for her but he concealed it and treated her indifferently lacking courage to not act the tough guy. He offered her his apartment to stay–as if it was no big deal–and she went back to Los Angeles to fetch her things. He planned to surprise her with the ring when she returned. But she never did, dying in Los Angeles of an intentional overdose.

Reid tried to follow her. After recurrent dreams of her dancing, from which he sometimes screamed himself awake, he swallowed what he thought was enough pills to do the trick, but a hotel cleaning woman found him. The ambulance was on route to the morgue when an orderly spotted signs of life. Reid woke up in a hospital, thinking of Yla. Released, sitting on a park bench one day in April of 1959, wrenching with guilt, no longer caring about himself or a future, no longer even thinking of giving up drugs, he watched people in hand-me-down clothes scurrying in and out of a storefront club with a funny sign. He heard sounds emanating of records and bongos. He looked closer and recognized one of the guys from the streets. A connection, he thought, and wondered over, hoping to score some dope. Instead, his old friend looked up, smiled and said, “Welcome to Synanon.”

Reid ended up taking Gray Thompson’s place, becoming second in command and Chuck’s best friend.

Jimmy “the Greek” Georgelas lost the only legitimate job he ever had –at a defense plant–for organizing a crap game on company time. Afterwards he supported his heroin habit, an addiction that began at age 12, as a small time con artist selling phony artworks and jewelry. He hustled from city to city. On May 10, 1959, at age 48, after serving prison sentences totaling nine years he stumbled in to Synanon. At first he kept his bags packed planning to leave each next day. Then, to his surprise, he grew comfortable.

Jesse Pratt’s mother had worked hard for him, sometimes 12 hours a day, wanting her son to be educated and buying him a book each birthday and Christmas. But he became a narcotic addict for 16 years, graduating from weed to heroin, and had spent 10 1/2 years in penitentiaries for a life of burglary and other crimes. An epileptic, prior to Synanon he had never voluntarily abstained from drugs for more than 60 hours. He spent about a $100.00 a day on narcotics, stealing to get the money. His parole officer told him of Synanon and Pratt became the first black man to join, only then the label Negro, not black, was used. Joining Synanon was difficult for Pratt as he hated whites and there were lots of them running around in the storefront. The first time he entered he left when they started calling him insane and stupid.

But when he returned a second time Pratt was surprised they were glad to see him. Then Gray Thompson took him under his wing, having him empty his pockets in the “kitty” kept in a dresser drawer. Pratt almost left again when Dederich handed him a mop, protesting he wasn’t going to do any white man’s floors. Dederich didn’t back down. “Look here…I’m not the crazy one. You are. You will do as you are told. We don’t hire help. We do it ourselves…So do a good job. The toilet is not mine its everyone’s. And the next guy in…white or black…gets that mop.”

Pratt’s parole officer had found him a job but he became the first Chuck told to quit his employment and move in. He fell in love with the small Synanon library, a memory of a loving mother. In the first couple of weeks he read ten books. Chuck called him the first successful “cleaned-up dope fiend” and three months following put Pratt on the Synanon board of directors. A year later he had an outside job as an appliance salesman.

Charlie Hamer was the oldest to enter at age 60. He decided to live another life after one of drugs and robbery that started in 1922. He was sentenced for drugs, theft and forgery doing time in penitentiaries and the Federal Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. He was still using when he was with the Merchant Marines from 1943-1945 and continued until 1959 when a friend took him inside Synanon. Hamer was then dirty, confused, down to 118 pounds and skeptical. But he noticed guys he shot dope with in the past working as part of the service crew. He saw Jesse Pratt who he had known for 20 years but now could hardly recognize. Chuck said goodnight to him each night during his withdrawals because “I imagine you will be gone by the morning.”

When Hamer wasn’t, Chuck smiled and said, “God-dam–are you still here?” When Charlie was on his feet Chuck showed him trust by giving him money, which was sparse, to go purchase groceries for the club. In 1960 Hamer was appointed to the Synanon Board as Director of Welfare.

George the Turk, raised in Lebanon, ran haberdashery shops while dealing drugs and gun-running on the side. He began using drugs as a kid. Because he was a good organizer he became Dederich’s first executive officer. In 1960 he moved out and became successful in the clothing business.

Musicians came as music and drugs seemed almost inseparable parts of the profession. At first their instruments were removed as part of their past and not returned until they showed maturity. Bill Crawford, a bespectacled symphony clarinetist, became the youngest to join, falling in love with the place off the bat and deciding to make it his career. He told a reporter he couldn’t be “pried away with a crowbar.” With his youth he brought enthusiasm. He lead the “House” in applause for newcomers kicking cold turkey on torn couches while vomiting in nearby buckets. Eventually, he became the drummer for the house band, The Sounds of Synanon. Totally dedicated, he could not fathom the manner in which he would depart, stripped naked, two decades later.

Heroin caused Dave Allen, an economics major to drop out of Whittier College one semester shy of graduation. He played trumpet for his jazz combo until he pawned his horn for drugs. He tried federal narcotic hospitals with little result. At Synanon he began a new life as an accountant. Arnold Ross played piano with Glenn Miller before going to drugs and then Synanon. After rehabilitation he went on tour with actress/singer Jane Russell, played the Piano for Johnnie Carson and became a voice teacher for the stars. In 1961 Guitarist Joe Pass joined after 40 months in prison for heroin. Two years later he released several albums and went back on tour.

These men and others who joined were required to sever from what was labeled as their destructive past.

Dederich told Jack Hurst’s wife, Terry, a non-addict, she could not follow her husband in, although she would become a resident a year later. “Pretend Jack is dead,” Dederich said. “Seeing you is not going to get him cured.” Dederich reasoned that loved ones often were the cause of addiction and that their sympathy could cause relapse. Some loved ones might even supply dope rather than watch withdrawals. He called them Mother Lovers.

Unconditional love, as he had received as a child, was a source of downfall. “Character disorders,” Dederich said, “quite simply, are people who had too strong a dose of ‘mother love’ and were never properly housebroken by fathers.”

Dederich also didn’t want anything or anyone, like past loved ones, that might compete with the transference of love to the Synanon “Family.” The latter, he reasoned, was necessary to keep the person and buy time so that he might change.

However, there was one woman who was often called Mother. She was Chuck’s then girlfriend, Adaline Ainlay. She supplied rent money when needed and sometimes cuddled the addicts with unconditional love after Dederich gave them verbal haircuts. This frustrated Dederich told her that “Momma’s kisses” were not what was needed but instead a father’s love that had to be earned. It created a friction in their relationship and some division within the club.

While these recoveries were catching the public attention, not all stories were of success. Jimmy Cook came in after getting out of jail. He was so used to being loaded on heroin that he actually held down jobs as a cook and merchant marine while under constant influence. His knee was scarred from a broken bottle wielded by a dope dealer. But after he kicked in Synanon he went back to drugs, returned to Synanon but only to leave again. Many followed a similar pattern, usually splitting within 20 days. But Dederich kept the failures from discouraging others. And some who did leave later returned, as Whitey, the first addict, eventually did.

By the spring of 1959 the population had reached about sixty-five again but success was hard to evaluate. There were only nine who appeared to have stayed clean for close to a year. But publicity still came. Argosy in June of 1959 published an article by Emmet Arno about his kicking at Synanon called “Spike in my Arm.”

Dederich now had more managerial duties and less time to baby-sit. Each morning he rotated daily jobs. Those who stayed longer got better details. Work was necessary but it also kept them occupied, supplied a sense of being useful and kept away thoughts of leaving. To comply with Corporate law Dederich selected a board of directors, an honor position, careful to choose what he admitted were “dummies I could control.”

One night Dederich sat them all down in front of the fireplace. Standing before them, one leg propped up on red bricks, he set out to explain he offered hope and needed trust. He called it the Gathering of Souls. He knew dope fiends were very delicately balanced and easy to scare off. The world believed “once an addict always an addict” and no one believed it more than them. The best, all thought, was they could cut down.

So Chuck stood before them, his right eye in its eternal blink, and introduced a notion–they all could stop using all drugs for always.

“We can do this…all the so-called experts have said you can’t…but we can show them. If you will trust me, do as I say…it will happen. Just stay. We will build a castle…we will have three good meals a day, there will be new bed sheets for everyone…Feel the excitement around you…Stay and you won’t regret it…leave and you will. If you are going to do drugs you might as well live in prison.”

They listened but not all believed. Nothing in their experience said this could happen. Most were still cheating a bit. Lois Evans, ex-wife of Prince Wladyslaw Jerzy Bobuslav Rhadziwill of Poland, used her money to spread caps around to those who wanted and she liked. Kimball, after being nursed through pneumonia by Chuck, went out and shot some dope. Even old Charlie Hamer occasionally blew some pot. But there was something about this Old Man, something addicting, someone who in a single moment they both feared and respected. When Dederich caught someone and bellowed “knock it off…or we will throw your ass out of here” they would listen.

And during an evening on July 15, 1959 the most significant event in Synanon’s young history happened–The Night of The Great Cop-out.

Rules were broken. The gang thought nothing of a little dope here and there. So Hurst and Pratt formed the “Vice Squad.” To get their point across they grabbed a member, Kenny, who Oscar Camano saw stash something in the back alley on the way back from Chuck’s apartment and marched him in front of the group for questioning, a fireplace scene. Chuck taught them to give haircuts publicly so there would be a carom shot effect on the others. Their target was half-loaded but like a true dope fiend Kenny denied having any stash and said he had been out back looking for a girl.

Hurst tried to reason with him, “This is not a police interrogation…..We cannot lock you up…But what happens if this place is raided and the bulls find dope?…Synanon might never recover. With us the club comes first.”

Still Kenny remained silent. Reid Kimball was his best friend. They went way back, nearly 20 years, working together and together discovering morphine, smoking opium and sniffing heroin. Once while doing a job for Reid, Kenny got nabbed and did five years but never fingered Kimball. Reid was protective of him and didn’t want him thrown out. He took a shot at urging him to confess. “All that will happen is the truth gets out,” Reid promised. “We won’t give up on you.” But Kenny still refused to admit guilt and arrogantly started packing his suitcase. This was the Code of the Streets he had long lived by–never confess and never be a stoolie. Kimball then tried using friendship and guilt saying “You crazy son-of-a-bitch, if you’re going, I am going with you.” But Kenney kept on packing, telling Kimball to stay and claiming he wasn’t using. Kimball then made it clear if Kenny tried to get out the door Kimball would “kick his ass. ” Hamer, with all of his 60 years, took a stance next to Kimball. To leave Kenny would have to fight them both.

After the impasse, another member spoke out, “I got loaded the other day. Go ahead, admit it. Nothing wrong with admitting it. ” Then another said the same thing and then another. Even Kimball confessed to using. That broke Kenny. “You cocksucker,” he cried at Kimball. “It was with you that I used.”

The crisis ended, but the Vice Squad was not through. Hurst and Pratt went from member to member, around 25 in the room, demanding confessions. George the Turk was next to confess. Then Charlie Hamer said, “well, I’ve blown some pot and drank some turp.” Around the room they fell like dominoes. Hollering, chaos and confessions went on into early morning. And in the midst of it all, the whole house was gathered up, including the female members. Someone woke up Chuck.

The room went quiet when Dederich, in his typical beach bum look, cotton baggy pants and Hawaiian shirt, bare-toed, looking as one member described as an “unmade bed” entered. To the addicts he was “A Herd of One Elephant” and everyone knew what his temper was capable of. His verbal haircuts cut people in half and, if angry enough, he could toss someone out. Hurst briefed him as Chuck lit a cigarette. Everyone was copping to their sins. Dederich instructed that anyone not yet present be woken and brought in. Then he took over the interrogation of the entire house. “What drugs have you taken?” he demanded of each. Those who had confessed, confessed again. Those who had resisted confessing no longer resisted. That wasn’t enough. Chuck wanted to break loyalty contracts between individuals, agreements amongst friends to keep secrets from others. He wanted each to know that whoever broke a rule could not depend on anyone not to turn him in.

Chuck walked the room, stopping and addressing one person at a time. “With whom did you do drugs with?” he demanded. Anyone who didn’t confess and also name a co-conspirator Chuck, his eye-twitching, labeled a “lying mother-fucker.”

When it was over all had confessed and pointed fingers at others. Even Lois Evans eventually confessed and named who she was supplying dope to. Sobbing turned to laughter. Chuck asked for quiet and spoke. “So you all had your laugh…had a few chips and so on… some knee slapping…you know. You dope fiends proved you could outsmart the old alcoholic. I’m just a poor slob from Maumee… it was easy. I’m dumb…you see.”

Then he hit his stride, his face quivering like an earthquake:

“You assholes. Did you really think you could outsmart me? You only outsmarted yourselves… It’s Synanon you are shitting on… This is your club… In hospitals they don’t pick out patients to be turned into doctors or people in charge. Did you ever hear of such a thing? And in jail do they put prisoners in charge? There is only one Synanon in this world. One. You…You see? Do you get that? Synanon is Synanon. Do…you….get… that? Do I…I go around looking for college graduates? No. I pick from my nuts fresh out of jail. I clean you up, feed you, give you responsibility. Go…go ahead and piss on it. Spend your lives in jail or die in the gutter. Synanon will survive. .. It’s you who won’t. I don’t need you. I’ve got the press. There are drug addicts all over this country. Thousands. Really. I can find others. Hell, they’ll find me. It’s the other way…You need Synanon. You can’t find another Synanon.”

Then he laid down what was expected:

“It’s your duty to cop-out. On yourself and your best friend. Your best friend above all. Not because you hate him… because you love him. That’s…that’s how you save lives. And your own, too. We have the proof here tonight. Those who can’t see it will go and die, That’s the way it is. That’s the way it is.”

By the next morning Synanon had changed. It had emerged. The family had united with one purpose, there would be a Synanon for all time. Each had a common bond to make it, each feeling responsible for the other, each watchful of the other.

The Night of the Great Cop-Out became Synanon lore, the real day of it’s birth, not the day they moved in or the day of incorporation, to be eventually celebrated each year, the first Synanon holiday.

Everyone wore flip flops like the old man. If you took off your flip flops and put on your shoes you were spliting.

By that time Dederich had made an observation about dope fiends as workers. They couldn’t do anything right. They were nine-fingered. “If you asked one to sharpen a pencil,” Dederich said. “You must tell him to sharpen the end without the rubber on it.” And, he said, once you directed his nuts in a nut house to do something, “You can count on our nuts to go past the money every time. Every Goddamn time.” This meant they took it too far so as to override the intended positive goal causing some type of negative affect. Coping out, eventually, would go past the money.

No one thought en masse they could be all tossed into oblivion but in August of 1959 after numerous building code citations, the Ocean Park storefront was condemned and bulldozed into a parking lot. Some felt the site was picked just to get rid of the club. The fire department had visited and said they failed to meet regulations, the city said they lacked proper sanitation and police were always poking around.

Dederich now needed a new home and he decided he wanted out of the slums. These people had been there all their lives. It was time for rich trappings. And , as it always had, something or someone came through. This time it was a father of a boy helped by Dederich. While Synanon was temporarily relocated in “an old dump of a house”–also later to be condemned–this man convinced a dozen members of the Friars Club to advance first and last’s month’s rent and guarantee a $500.00 month two-year lease for an available old 3-story former National Guard Armory at 1351 Ocean Front, Santa Monica. In it’s earlier days it had been an American Legion Club. The owner, Ephraim Ralf, was desperate at the time as the property lacked sufficient parking space for such a big building. As a result there had been little demand for it despite the fact it sat along the ocean and bordered Pacific Coast Highway just south of many wealthy beach homes and the movie-star filled Malibu colony. Ralf had read about Synanon’s plight in the papers and contacted the club.

Many of the sixty-five members did not want to go. They desired just a club, not big business and were afraid of Santa Monica high society. They felt secure in their own “Tobacco Road” and liked their beatnik image. Chuck responded it was time to “grow out of your diapers…and learn to live like other people.” The AA holdovers were already all gone after what Chuck had called an attempted “palace revolt” by those claiming Synanon was breaking away from AA ideals. Chuck didn’t deny the charges. He was tired of the AA preoccupation with salvation and God. Chuck was now into science not serenity. What had hurt was that the leader of the insurgence was the man who Chuck once felt was his partner and best friend, Gray Thompson, who didn’t want to part with the fun time the club was having. Now he, too, was gone for good.

Dederich explained Gray’s leaving to the group by saying Thompson had been drinking again and once struck Jessie Pratt for which Dederich had to call the cops. Dederich said Thompson felt “I had turned rat.” The club, Dederich told those who remained, had to outgrow the departed. He said he didn’t miss the rebels as they had not been contributing much while consuming a lot of food. He said, “One has to decide to sink or swim with Synanon.”

For awhile Thompson visited the club and then stopped. He opened a bar in Venice but latter disappeared. Dr. Daniel Casriel, who wrote the first Synanon book, reporting finding him on a West Indies Island, dark with a gold earring, running a nightclub and living it up on the beach.

But now about a third of the population split rather than go to Santa Monica, still Dederich felt in the long run it would be good as it would allow the club to grow by taking in members wanting to go in his direction. He was now the sole leader.

And for the forty who followed Chuck threw a luau on the beach and laid out new edicts. He forbid love-making , carrying-on or foul language on the beach where everyone could see. When people came by they were to now watch their language. Then on August 18, 1959, two days after I turned 14, Chuck opened the doors and they got down to work as the building of “Bedlam Gothic” was old and in need of repair, filled with antique and dirty fixtures. First, a black and yellow “Synanon House” sign went up on the outside. Then the members hammered away, repainted inside and out and removed inches of grime from the kitchen appliances. There was no electricity the first night and they cleaned by candle light. A borrowed truck delivered their bags from Ocean Park.

The National Guard Armory had a punching bag, ping-pong table, two saw horses and a cutting saw for firewood, barber shop, showers, lockers, storage and steam baths in the basement. On the main floor was a girl’s dormitory consisting of four rooms with four beds and a dresser in each, a TV room and a long entrance that led to a reception desk where entrants were buzzed in. The second floor had a living room complete with a round table for magazines, bongos, hi-fi and piano; plus kitchen, dining room and library. On the third floor was a men’s dormitory, formerly a gymnasium/ballroom, now filled bunk beds for newcomers, cots for those with status and toilets. The bathroom was so large Dederich proclaimed here we “pee in line instead of line up to pee.” There was a legal office, business office, library and even a small theater “Stage One” for skits and plays. Visiting comedians like Buddy Lester had them laughing. The decor was plain “ugly.” The hustled couches and chairs were ravaged with loose springs and threads. The carpets were old and worn. There was so much smoking that visitors returning home often first hit the shower. But it was home. On a wall in the living room they hung the life preserver, “S.S. Hang Tough.”

The house assembled there in the morning at 7:45 with a reading of the Synanon Prayer. At 8: 15, while women fixed their hair and did their nails the Synanon Philosophy was read. Then general business was dealt with, announcements, new members, jobs and punishments.

It was in the living room where newcomers kicked cold turkey, several at a time, while members went about their business around them as if they were not there, down playing the withdrawals–an act believe to mitigate the experience. For two weeks, while shaking off the drugs, the newcomers were treated to hot baths, eggnog, vitamins, back rubs, all while looking out the front windows, seeing the Pacific Ocean, feeling the breeze, hearing the distant surf; realizing a new life was possible. The only medicine was sympathy and an occasional medicine. Dederich believed the willingness to go cold turkey was a commitment by the addict to get the monkey off his back.

The system, Dederich admitted, was developing through trial and error. Synanon had, he said, a policy of no policy. Its way would be found. For now when a drug addict came off the street he would appear first before the Synanon Board of Directors for an interview and would be questioned concerning his past criminal records, medical history and sexual life. A sit-watch was organized on a 24-hour basis to watch the new member. A new addict would be stripped bare, all clothing and possessions searched, including the insertion of a finger into the rectal tract inspecting for narcotics. Dederich was called “Dad, “ a title he felt he was finally deserving. The addicts were called “patients” and “children.” They could not leave the building unless escorted by older members. Wizards, old-timers with status and privileges, were role models. During the day lectures and study groups were held so people could learn, as Hurst would say, that there exists more vocabulary than just the word “stickem-up.” Those who hung around long enough to earn some trust were given WAM–Walking Around Money–consisting of $2.00 a week. Each day there was a morning meeting at 10:30 where jobs and assignments were dispersed.

Getting things done was difficult and slow as the labor force was primarily dope fiend. If they were lucky a new washer could be put on a faucet. If a person had a skill, like a woman who could type, he or she would be fought over.

The key to rehabilitation and success, they believed was the synanons. Six to 10 members regularly formed a circle led by a Synanist who was the group leader and a former addict further along the recovery process, sometimes just a few weeks removed from his own withdrawal and often known by newcomers when he had been using on the streets. The Synanist was a role model the newcomers could aspire to imitate. Before each synanon commenced they would chant the Synanon Prayer.

They referred to these synanons as “therapy,” and psychotherapy terms such as negative transference, Oedipus complex, Electra complex, emotionally immature, projecting, identifying and hostility were used. Dederich described the process as a “catharsis, the purging of guilt.” No one foresaw that the use of such terms, as no one was licensed to practice therapy, might lead to the club’s early end. Each person, probed by the group, was forced to delve into his childhood, recall incidents, disturbing or otherwise. The Synanist and other members questioned the newcomer and the more irritating the questions the more that topic was explored. “In synanons we snatch the covers off of dirty little secrets,” one member described, “then we stand there naked for everyone to see.” Some members left hysterically crying from the room. The synanons were also used to deal with poor performance. Those not satisfactorily contributing were often indicted for sucking on Synanon’s tits. Outside of these groups, the verbal haircut was used to criticize and ridicule someone who disobeyed rules. “As a result of my vicious haircuts,” Dederich proclaimed, “people seem to grow before my eyes.”

Husbands and wives who entered together were separated into male and female dormitories and could not have sex unless they received permission from the Board. When sex was allowed they could reserve 2 hours in the TV room, which was approximately 12 feet by 15 feet and had a carpet, draperies, couch, king-size bed and a TV set with no tubes. People caught in unauthorized sex or sex elsewhere were given a verbal haircut. The worst offense occurred during an ad hoc synanon in the library in which Jessie Pratt locked the doors and commenced what became known in Synanon folklore as The Orgy in the Library, an event some say angered the Old Man for a decade. Chuck continued to use sex to keep a person’s mind off of narcotics suggesting a recovering addict pick another member for a mate. If a person refused Dederich reached into his own past to explain the rejection saying it was because the suggested mate reminded the newcomer of his or hers “mother or father.”

On Wednesday nights a special men only meeting was held, the impact and importance of which was lost on the addicts and those experts who would come to Synanon and shout its praises. Chuck, of course, led these meetings but they may have been more therapy for himself than others. He had decided the basis for his problems no doubtfully was likewise the cause for others. He entitled these sessions Oedipus Complex meetings. Reading passages on this topic, Dederich discussed how this phenomenon happened to each as an infant thus preventing them from growing up. All were all still in love with their mothers. Lots of money was spent on cigarettes,to keep people happy, but sometimes to save money “Tailor – mades” were self rolled.

To Dederich it was all snobbery. No one had complained when they were in Ocean Park but now they were in ritzy Santa Monica. Local citizens were holding meetings, fearing a gathering of dope fiends in their community. It was all right for Synanon to exist, they said. Best wishes. But not in their neighborhood. Their children might be raped, sold drugs. Santa Monica Police Chief Otto Faulkner was afraid Synanon might attract criminals who would roam the neighborhood. Doors and windows were locked-up. The Santa Monica Beach Taxpayers League warned property values would go down. Hotels and motels feared guests would not come. More than 50 beachfront residents protested before the Santa Monica City Council. “Is our beautiful beachfront a place for felons or narcotics addicts,” asked Mrs. Sheldon Penn. The council ordered city attorney Robert Cockins to investigate.

That would turn out to be a poor selection.

Dederich’s “therapy” boasts now became chickens returning to roost. On August 28, 1959, two years from the day he first took LSD, one month following the Great Cop Out and just ten days after moving to Santa Monica, Charles Dederich and Synanon directors Adaline Ainlay and Jesse W. Pratt were arrested for operating a hospital without a license and out of zone. Santa Monica Municipal Code 9105 did not allow buildings to be used as a hospital or sanitarium in an R-4 District. “Apparently,” Dederich told the media, “we are now saving lives on the wrong side of town.”

Chuck proclaimed the city’s action “moronic and ironic.” He never went to jail for being a substance abuser but now they were trying to put him there for cleaning people up. Santa Monica was prejudiced, he announced, like his childhood neighborhood was, against blacks living with whites. Nineteen blacks now resided in Synanon. It was a spin worthy of modern times. And a choice that was topic, capable of putting the accusers on the defensive. The Civil Rights Movement had escalated earlier that year when President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock High School in Arkansas to aid nine African-American children blocked by angry crowds from entering. In Los Angeles courts had struck down covenants on real property sales restricting houses from being sold to Negroes.

In March of 1960 the trial, which would go on for two months, began in front of Santa Monica Municipal Court Judge Hector Baida. It was a curious choice of Judges given that when his son Robert Baida was in the city attorney’s office the previous August the younger Baida had drawn up the charges against Dederich and the others. The defendants were represented for free by attorney Vincent Cavenaugh, a tall thin former addict who had began using in high school.

John Barisoff, one of the first Synanon board members and former Treasurer, testified for the prosecution after making a deal where he was dropped as a co-defendant. Barisoff, who had done time in a federal penitentiary for possession of narcotics but had not used for over seven years, testified that he resigned a month after his arrest because of a disagreement with Dederich who had broken away from the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous upon which the TLC Club and Synanon were founded. He believed the new psychiatric-oriented form of treatment was causing many great mental damage. During his 14-month association, he estimated more than 200 persons roomed and boarded and that 75% who came in off the street were under the influence or were in the beginning stages of withdrawals. He saw 20 new narcotic addicts come in at the Santa Monica location. He testified to the supervised cold-turkey withdrawal, treatment, use of therapy terms and sex.

And even though not directly relevant to the issue of whether unlawful medical treatment was being provided, Barisoff also added his own personal opinion. More and more, he said from the stand, Dederich was using Synanon to control people and satisfy his own ego. 2

In response, outside the courtroom, Dederich said Barisoff never had the guts to be a real hype –to take a full load– but was a dirty cotton boy using only leftover drops by boiling the cotton; real addicts draw their solution through into the needle to guard against impurities.

Thelma Neville testified next. She became associated with the TLC club after first meeting Dederich at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. She became a secretary to the corporation as well as personal secretary to Dederich. She had never been addicted to drugs or narcotics but believed that Synanon had held hope for addicts. She testified members were required to recall painful childhood memories and repressed feelings for group discussion and identification.

She stated 10 new members a week would join Synanon, usually under the influence at arrival. The males had to quit jobs if employed and could not leave except in groups of 4 or 5. They could not make or receive telephone calls without permission. New addicts were segregated from old. There were afternoon meetings where Dederich read from psychiatric books and called members “patients.” She personally performed internal searches of female members. Addicts were called “medical” cases for 90 days. She said Dederich often said, “The greatest emotional outlet for mental health is sex — this is a place for mental health.” Dederich told the addicts, she said, that they were mixed up and confused because their parents were rigid in their sex training, making sex out as a bad thing and as a result they had developed sexual blocks. Dederich, she said, encouraged a number of affairs so that people would become less tense.

She testified that once she told Dederich that some members were shooting dope and Dederich remarked, “Let them die; we need statistics — just let the reporters spell my name right.” She testified she tried to get Dederich to return to principles of AA but as she was without success she resigned on June 20, 1959.

She was followed by Robert Arcane, a member from May of 1959 until leaving on October 10, 1959, a nineteen pre-anniversary of the date that it would all ultimately unravel. Arcane, who had been addicted to morphine and pills for about 6 months before joining also testified to the withdrawal procedure and therapy. He, himself, had been counseled that his sex life was off, he was a latent homosexual, had an Oedipus complex and a transference with some girl for whom he should prepare and condition himself for his first act of sex by guarding against premature ejaculation. When he found a girl he wanted to have sex with, and she consented, he secured permission from the Board after Ainlay thought about it for a day. After the 2 allowed hours passed in the TV room a receptionist said their time was up and they had to leave. Arcane testified to the Oedipus meetings and to being told about a half dozen times that he suffered from the complex. People were told, he stated, which of their early childhood experiences they should identify with. Arcane said he left Synanon in a worse mental condition than when he entered.

People, Arcane testified, were told they could freely leave Synanon but if they did so without permission they would not be allowed to return. On cross-examination he acknowledged the Oedipus meetings ended about a month before he left.3

Kimball later claimed Arcane was loaded while on stand and he that evening appeared at Synanon, apologized and said he was forced to do it and sought re-entrance to Synanon.

Dr. Jerome Kummer, first President of the Southern California Association of Psychiatrists, testified that he was an expert on narcotic addition which he defined as a psychiatric medical problem. Addicts, he claimed, are mentally ill and successful treatment requires supportive physical therapy to combat the usual existing poor health, supportive psychological therapy to reassure patients with gradual withdrawal from narcotics and/or substituting other non-narcotic drugs. He testified that Synanon was “medically” treating addicts but that the method was “the blind leading the blind,” there was no professionally educated medical doctor participating and that “cold turkey” was inappropriate particularly without physical restraints during a time when the addict is expected to have cravings. Psychiatry, he stated, used principles of love and understanding, not shock and ridicule as used by a Synanist.

Dederich’s manifesto previously delivered to the Parole Board wherein he referred to “patients” and “therapy” was received in evidence.

Dr. Bernard Casselman testified for the defense. A graduate from a Peru medical school in 1956, a roundish gay man, he had explored Synanon after reading about its fight with Santa Monica. He became impressed with the vitality and hooked after Dederich gave him a haircut for bringing his dog inside the club. After he opened a free clinic inside the Synanon House for its members his employer Ross-Medical Group fired him. Casselman would later describe his role with pride as Synanon’s “family doctor.” He became an expert at removing tattoos which had been used to hide needle marks. He had no other medical practice. On the stand he stated there was no standard method of treating narcotic addicts and that cold turkey was a medically accepted and approved method.

Putting Casselman on the stand proved not wise. The issue before the court wasn’t whether Synanon was conducting a good medical practice, but was it so practicing at all as it was not licensed. His testimony backing Synanon only supported the prosecution’s case. On cross-examination, Casselman admitted he was an authority figure in Synanon and that Dederich was a “father figure.” When asked if he treated any other diseases at the Synanon location, he took the physician privilege. He admitted treating patients at Synanon and to seeing somewhere between 50 to 150 persons under the influence come into Synanon. He brought the house rubber gloves so that Synanon members could use them while dilating rectal tracts searching for narcotics.

The defense did no better with it’s next witness, Charles Feldman, from the Department Of Public Health, who testified that after a few weeks following Synanon moving into Santa Monica he inspected the Armory and did not believe it was a hospital within the meaning of the Health & Safety Code. But on cross-examination it appeared to the court Feldman was a victim of a snow job. Feldman admitted he was taken on a “tour” by Dederich, Ainlay and Pratt and that they gave him the description of the Synanon mode of operation that he was now testifying to. He also testified he was told residents did not come to Synanon while under the influence and only came to Synanon for room and board, statements by then the court knew were untrue. Feldman also did not know members were undergoing withdrawal at Synanon. He thought it was just a place for discussion groups. His inspection lasted only 2 hour and it was during the day. He acknowledged the Health & Safety Code defines hospital as a facility in which there is care and/or treatment of a human illness in which the person may be admitted for an overnight stay or longer.

Feldman said he thought Synanon might be excluded as the care of the insane, mentally ill or other mentally incompetent persons, which he thought Synanon was treating, was outside his department’s jurisdiction. He concluded by saying, however, he felt someone should license and regulate Synanon.

As the case neared conclusion Dederich became restless, knowing it had not gone well. He substituted Cavenaugh with another volunteer, Beverly Hills attorney Fred Nicholas, who then asked the case be reopened so Dederich could address the court. Chuck was, in the end, after all, a salesman and he surmised his own best defense. The court agreed to hear him.

Chuck took the stand, raised his hand and promised to tell the truth. From his seat he argued the need for Synanon’s existence. The club was organized, he said, to effect a possible solution to the problem of narcotic addition which has been considered by all experts to be unsolvable. Thus, he claimed, Synanon needed to be flexible and allowed to formulate its methods by trial and error, free of any license restrictions or requirements. As to allegations of therapy he stated what they did was only to provide an environment where ex-addicts could read literature on psychology, philosophy, religion, sociology and kindred subjects and discuss problems with other ex-addicts.

No one was permitted or allowed to use alcohol or narcotics, Chuck proudly stated. And the paper that he had prepared for the California State Adult Authority Parole Officers only used a few common psychological, sociological and religious terms that were as such known to the average educated layman. The word usage was not a prescription of a course of treatment, but merely a statement of what seemed to be evolving within Synanon.

“I do not consider myself a psychologist or expert on drug addiction,” he said to the judge. “Just a layman attempting to do something about what is generally considered to be the most serious problem confronting our society today. No member of our board receives any remuneration for their services and Adaline Ainlay hasspent many thousands of dollars of her own monies.”

On cross-examination, Dederich testified no medication of any kind was ever administered under his direction. He said the TV room was used for private meetings and could be used for sex but that he “had no such knowledge of it occurring if it did.”

Payments received from “inmates” are exchanged for everything Synanon furnishes. He stated Synanon was a family structure but admitted they took case histories and encouraged discussion of childhood forward experiences.

Ainlay also took the stand and said she never administered any narcotics. On cross-examination she admitted she had been psychoanalyzed herself, having once been committed to Camarillo State Hospital, and that she used some of the same methods in her dealings with Synanon members; that she had recommended against certain persons indulging in sexual activities as such could be harmful to drug addicts. She admitted she herself had once been a drug addict and used to steal narcotics out of the bag of her husband who was a doctor.

Jesse Pratt testified to what Synanon had done for him and about 54 others who had now abstained. On cross-examination he acknowledged that 50 of the 54 still lived at Synanon and knew of only 4 who had moved away and were still clean. He recognized names of 6 to 8 others who had left but had since been arrested for narcotic offenses.

After the defense rested, Dederich, still upset, asked to take the stand a second time. He looked at the Judge, the attending media and then spoke a single sentence: “Synanon has had great success in curing drug addicts.” There was no cross-examination.

Judge Baida took the case under submission on February 18 and on March 21 he looked at Dederich and said what he was doing may or may not be right, but it was against the law. All were guilty–they had no hospital license and were out of zone. Dederich was given probation, rather than jail, a condition of which that Synanon leaves Santa Monica.

Dederich was not defeated. When he left the courtroom he found support groups waiting. Losing had made him even more of a hero, a modern day Spartacus leading of a band of dope fiends fighting against Santa Monica oppression for their right to exist. Making their way to the sea. The perfect media story. Reporters, like AA members before, and now drug addicts, loved to hear Dederich speak. He could be counted on to provide a good spin and always get a laugh. He didn’t blame his opponents, he told the media. “I don’t want to live with junkies or degenerates either.” The media was captivated by his ability to use original analogies without repeating them, creating new ones each time he spoke.

Art Berman wrote a four-part series on Synanon in the Los Angeles Mirror and the Los Angeles Times followed with its own series. National magazines, Downbeat, The Nation and Time published their own reports. Time said Synanon was 80% successful.

The Friar Club members who had backed the armory purchase withdrew their support, causing Synanon members to take jobs outside and fork over the earnings, but this was offset by thousands of dollars in goods and services donated within weeks of the verdict. Local dentists began volunteering to fix teeth long not cared for.

Hollywood followed the press scent and discovered Synanon. At first celebrities came down to see what the fuss was all about. Then they were invited to participate in synanons. Soon it became the in thing for the lifestyles of the rich and famous to become Saturday nights players and do group-therapy swapping trauma stories with dope fiends while drinking coffee, eating donuts and making donations. Around thirty would attend each week. Dope fiends learned squares— as the non addicts were called–had problems of their own.

Fund-raising events popped up sponsored by entertainers such as Steve Allen and Mort Sahl. Allen, despite concerns from his sponsors to avoid controversy, publicly called Synanon “wise and valid,” continually visited the club and had Dederich on his television show. Allen believed addiction arose from insecurities arising out of unhappy homes and that Synanon provided the necessary stability and family to lead to maturity. He expounded the idea a movie should be made about Synanon to spread its message through the nation’s movie theaters. Returning from a hunting trip Allen donated a freezer full of antelope steaks. Residents were given $2 a week WAM (walking around money) by 1962.

Santa Monica was denounced by Walker Winslow, author of “The Menninger Story,” writing in the Nation. Winslow had lived in Synanon for a year. The Santa Monica Evening Outlook did a five part series on Synanon. The little Santa Monica trial that was supposed to put an end to the movement instead was making the word “Synanon,” as Dederich had predicted it would become, as popular as “Coca-Cola.”

On July 7, 1960 the IRS officially recognized Synanon as a charitable tax-exempt corporation.


The synanons continued. Dederich learned the street talk of the criminals and addicts and outdid them with expletives, obscenities and blasphemous expressions. There was a verbal violence to the group, but eventually–after a woman threw her high heel at her clergy-man husband–a rule was made that became the cornerstone of their growth, a guarantee that uninhibited speech and verbal attack could flourish without fear of reprisal. There could be no physical violence or the threat of it. Even a threat of violence could curtail the free environment to speak out or cause an event that might lead to the end of it all. Knowing Santa Monica’s attitude towards them no one wanted the police called. In the ultimate final of this tale the latter desire would prevail, the former policy would not.