Mad Dogs
by Paul Morantz
(c) May 2011

By 1967 Synanon had become a sub-society with its own language, customs, traditions laws and history. Dederich called it “a spoon full of yogurt in a box car of milk.”

But Synanon’s success was a matter of debate made practically unsolvable given the different types of people who entered, the many who chose to remain and the difficulty of tracking those who left. The results did lower. In the first few years older volunteers, tired of the streets and wanting a new life, joined and became immediately involved with the struggling organization. Many of the current newcomers were younger, not so tired of the streets and did not come with the same intent. Some were sent by Judges offering Synanon as a condition of probation as an alternative to jail. They saw Synanon as something temporary. The 60’s was at its peak, the age of sex, drugs and rock and roll, and concerned parents sent reluctant youngsters to Synanon who were not drug addicts but experimenters, having listened to pied-piper Timothy O’Leary, of acid, pot and coke. Synanon could run up clean days with these admitteds but most did not stay too long. Many were just hippies who would become yuppies. The average age of admittance dropped to 25 by 1963, ten year’s lower than the first couple of years.

In l967 73% of the new 900 character disorders split within one year. The lure of the streets was too strong and more often won before a conversion could take hold. But these were statistics Dederich kept under the table. Instead, he always talked publicly only in terms of clean days, adding up the total amount present on each day and multiplying it by the cost it was saving society per day for every alleged addict currently living in Synanon. But the number of splits was not to Dederich’s liking and he knew that many splitees once away from the environmental pressures and support of Synanon, in addition to not providing Synanon any financial support, were returning to drugs, especially when they returned to areas and triggers from which their addiction sprung or flourished. Similarly, in the fifties, only those converted Korean prisoners who found communist support upon return maintained their new beliefs. Others reverted without assistance usually in 90 days. They key for a splitee was what type of environment he went to when he left.

Locally, some of Santa Monica’s earlier fears were now becoming a reality. Splitees in the area were turning to crime. Narcotic thefts at doctors office had reportedly gone up 200 %. Synanon’s first donor doctor, Casselman, had started his own private practice but as he still gave Synanon volunteer medical care he often found his waiting room filled with members in the morning. Given the effect this had on his income he gave up his apartment and moved his bed into his office. But he found his office was often the first hit by splitees looking for dope as they knew his office from visits. He ended up putting special locks on his doors. New York addicts were being arrested in Santa Monica for theft and burglary.

What Dederich knew was that while in Synanon people adapted to its norms they were in, he said, a true “responsible society” with “responsible goals.” He knew how to teach people to lead excellent lives. So the answer was rudimentary. People should not graduate. The world was unholy and evil. Anyone in their right mind would prefer to live in Synanon. The Foundation no longer promised a cure and a return to society but only an environment where one could function effectively without recourse to drugs. For a dope fiend to leave was to return to drugs and certain death. And when it happened, notice of the same was pinned on the Synanon bulletin board. Their only hope for life was to stay. Thus started Synanon II, a cradle to grave society–Thoreau/Skinner’s Utopia.

Synanon had come close, maybe closer than even Dederich realized. Later many splitees would form their own support post group, The Network of Friends. And with that help Synanon may have been ultimately more successful than Dederich had believed or the critics claimed. There were also other alternatives. Synanon could have examined some of the suggestions of Dr. Casriel. It could have spread game clubs throughout the country so graduates could be reinforced. Counseling to deal with personal problems and readjustment to society could have been provided.

Arrangements could have been made with AA or similar groups for attendance. It can’t be said if Dederich considered these ideas but many claim Dederich chose the route he always had planned for. To be Skinner’s Frazier and build Walden 2 where he could experiment and construct a better life for his followers.

As a drug rehab Synanon could go only so far in the minds of the public and imitations had already sprung up making Synanon itself no longer unique. Instead of accepting this as a compliment and a spread of hope Dedierch denounced all copycats, saying that institutions that steal ideas and staff cannot teach honesty and without the Synanon Dynamic of constant change they all would stagnate.

Synanon’s battles with its adversaries were also becoming old news, but in building a better society for the benefit of all mankind, Dederich knew, would promote him far higher in history. And to do it, he needed labor. In Synanon, it was said, the only constant is change. And that’s what Dederich sought to implement. Synanon was not really a rehab place, but a social movement. So while the imitators, like Daytop, developed graduate programs, Synanon alone de-emphasized graduation. People do not graduate from movements.

The idea was not new, but the emphasis was. A year earlier Dan Garrett wrote an article “Synanon: the Communiversity” saying that Synanon was not primarily interested in curing drug addiction; that was only a side effect of what Synanon teaches. Synanon addresses “ignorance.” This, he said, is not intelligence, but the seeking of wisdom. People are not sick or bad but simply, “stupid.” Synanon’s goal was to attack behavioral problems, not just addiction.

There was also a great financial benefit to becoming a social movement. Addicts used up Foundation assets. Square Lifestylers on the other hand brought in assets. To live in Synanon each paid a portion or all of their salaries. Once in they would find they could obtain greater status without more donations. A gesture. This was a great deal of income to be paid for room and board. Dederich foresaw that the Lifestyler Business might become Synanon’s number one money maker. It brought in $67,000 in its first year. And these squares also had the necessary skills to build and run a corporate conglomerate and utopian empire. Trained addicts could do the blue collar jobs.

So Dederich would have more time to concentrate on the expansion of the movement, he held in February of l967 an information general meeting and announced Jack Hurst, who had become like a son to Dederich, was appointed the new President of Synanon. Hurst, 36, was now in charge of manufacturing clean days, something still needed to keep the tax-free status and something all old-timers genuinely wanted to do. Hurst was given his own office, secretary, meeting room and dogrobbers. “A United States Senator doesn’t have it much better,” said Dederich as he proudly showed Hurst off to the media as a home-grown former addict that had made it to the Foundation’s No. 2 position. Dederich still maintained the supreme title, Chairman of the Board.


Dederich attempted some separation, moving into a castle-like home–The Tree House–on the outskirts of Beverly Hills. Built by movie mogul Hal Hayes for one of his female stars, the mansion above the Sunset Strip had a bomb shelter, a secret escape tunnel plus views of Los Angeles from sea to mountains. Chuck felt it was a residence befitting his rank and status. “We model ourselves after General Motors,” said Dederich. “Who the hell wants to be a colonel in the Salvation Army and get dressed up like a doorman and stand on the street corner beating a drum. Synanon is full of young men loaded with piss and vinegar who want to become executives or maybe even take away my job as Chairman of the Board. Of course, I’m not going to let them.”

A month later The Tree House was gone. Synanon had bought the house cheap, for $65,000 after the mogul and his star vacated due to a lovers quarrel. It had been for some time empty and non-cared for. Synanon hustled new rugs, cleaned it up and restored it. It then got an offer that gave Synanon a quick hundred and ten thousand dollar profit and Dederich used it and some contributions from foundation sponsors on April 28, l967 to buy a new 62-unit apartment complex with a swimming pool, the Cloverfield-Biltmore Apartments at 1959 Cloverfield Blvd. in Santa Monica. Synanon called it the Clump and filled it with two hundred and seventy-five residents. It provided much nicer housing to attract square recruits. In explaining the exchange to the public, Dederich announced while he loved the Beverly Hills trappings, his true desire was not to be rich in money but to be rich in people.

Internally, Dederich held another information general meeting to announce the Clump’s purchase and explain to the members the changes that would occur. Clumps were going to be purchased around all Synanon Houses for members to live in. He drew a wheel on the blackboard and explained Clumps would be the rim of the wheel with the Synanon Houses, such as the Armory in Santa Monica and the Seawall in San Francisco, in the center. The clubs would be for games, parties and dining. Also on the rim would be supply warehouses and industrial offices. The spokes were jitneys, 15 passenger vans, many donated by Claude Short Dodge, shuttling members from one Synanon location to another. Dederich promised Synanon’s population in l967 would double.

Synanon immediately gave 90-day notices to vacate to all tenants without leases and a couple of members were assigned to oversee their departures. To speed up departure of lessees, members went out of their way to make loud noises and laughter, play high-volume games and be obtrusive. As old tenants departed, Synanon put in a manger’s office, coffee shop, dormitories and an apartment each for Office of the President and Dederich. The Clump held its own morning meetings.

The changes caused the ex-addicts insecurity and some saw it as a drift from the rehab goals. Also the square game club moved into the Armory and many addicts did not want to integrate with squares. The split rate increased. Dederich countered by assigning remodeling and landscaping jobs, hoping to build pride in the new acquisition.


l967 was a peaceful time of co-existence with Santa Monica. The Sounds of Synanon begin to hit the road playing in clubs. It’s first gig was on June 26 in Sausalito at the Trident overlooking the San Francisco Bay waters. The band had reformed with residents Greg Dykes, trumpeter; Frank LaMarco, saxophone; Woody Travis, keyboard; Art Harrison, bass; and Bob brooks, drums. The vocalist was Ann Lombardo.

On August 16, my 22nd birthday, Murray Wilson, father of three of the Beach Boys and the group’s original personal manager, donated $5,000 to the Synanon Foundation Teenage Game Club in honor of the work it was doing. More than 150 teens were playing the game. Wilson handed over the check to 17-year old Jady Dederich at a noon conference at the Armory.

Jady’s role in accepting the check was a symbol of her taking her place in the Foundation. Synanon had not been something she was always interested in or proud of. One reason was time needed to recover from tragedy. After her parents divorced Ruth and Jady lived with Ruth’s mother who was glad Ruth was finally away from the goy and hoping her daughter would find a good Jewish man. Ruth did so, more for Jady sake, as she and her new husband did not get along. He owned a laundry, sold it, became an insurance salesman and sometimes he didn’t work at all. And he wasn’t very smart. Ruth often went down to Synanon just for companionship and to talk to Chuck.

Finally Ruth filed for separation and divorce against her second husband even though she was pregnant. After the baby was born Ruth in l961 took the new infant to the doctor’s office accompanied by ten-year old Jady. When they exited, Ruth carrying the baby in her arms, Jady saw her stepfather come rushing towards them down the hallway. In the parking lot she heard the shot, saw her mother fall and then people yelling. After Ruth died, Jady had to testify at a court hearing with her grandmother crying while being stared at by a defendant who to Jady looked like the devil. After three years in prison driving a laundry truck her step father was released on probation leaving Jady to grow up with a distrust for the legal system.

Ruth’s mother unsuccessfully fought Dederich for custody of Jady (after losing she later joined Synanon and died there). As she grew older, Jady didn’t like Betty and Daddy living together. She tired of old dresses and wanted normal parents. She had never been close to her father and her only memory of him was as a drunk. Even though he was now sober she remained scared of him as he was still so big and loud. When she saw him yell at some poor old addict she would crumble. As expected from such trauma she was insecure. At school she was the funny little fat kid with a temper and her grades were not commensurate with her intelligence. Herb Williams, a square supporter in the trucking industry, took her in with his family for a while. Herb had two daughters and Jady watched as they received affection from their father that she never had from her own. Dederich had been satisfied to have her raised off in Beverly Hills while he dedicated himself to building Synanon.

Jady was soon taken to the San Francisco Cliff House where she lost some weight and did better in school. But she never wanted her school mates to know about Betty. She never brought her friends to Synanon, nor the bungalow they called Wuthering Heights. Finally Chuck approached her and said that she was hurting Betty and pointed out her own mother sometimes had difficulty in New York finding work because she was Jewish. When they moved to Tomales Bay Jady kept her mother’s mezuzah under her dress. A change came when in the teenage games she was jumped on for being a snob. When she returned to Santa Monica she enrolled in Hamilton High, a school I had graduated from earlier. She then had a big talk with Betty and Jady kissed her for the first time. She followed by bringing her friends to Synanon. At Synanon she slopped pigs, learned to fly and to play the game.

Later, when Dederich would declare Synanon a family business, she would become heir apparent.


In June of l967, Synanon, assisted by game player Ed Siegel, owner of Reliable Mortgage, began secret negotiations with Al Epstein to buy the six-story, 3.6 million Del Mar Club Dederich had long fantasized about. It was roughly five times the size of the Armory. Built in 1926 during the economic boom to be an exclusive white, rich Protestant exclusive club it had a peak membership of 3,000. But it only had three short years of such status before the 1929 stock market crash turned it into a white elephant. In 1942 the Air Force took over the club using it for rest, recreation and debriefing. The club returned post war in 1946, and, with wartime savings, had parties reminiscent of the age of Gatsby only with skimpier bathing suits. In the 50’s the DMC reflected the postwar good living and fashion style. One member had been there since it opened, having met his wife there in 1927. But the last few years were not golden and the once restricted club was now open to anyone white who could pay 8 dollars a month. Lockers, food and drinks were extra but many people brought their own six packs and picnic bags to the beach. And some freeloaders came as “buddies”– enough times to became familiar, pass as members and pay no dues at all. Its membership was now just 300 and it was miserably maintained and in need of repair. But those who ran it still had a nostalgic view of it as an elegant seaside community for the bourgeoisie.

Located at 1910 Ocean Front, where Pico Blvd dead-ends at the ocean, it had a fence running 100 feet and ten feet high parallel to the shoreline providing it with a separate private portion of the beach with several paddle tennis courts and a snack bar, what the Del Mar brochure called, “the most beautiful private beach in the world.” A brick terrace separated the sand from the hotel. There was an Olympic sized swimming pool, sauna baths, locker rooms, a large living room, huge dining room, a ballroom, 3 bars– one with a majestic view of the Pacific– and 120 upper residential suites and rooms. It had no elevators.

Dederich had tried to get a federal grant to help buy it but was turned down on the grounds Synanon was too isolated from the rest of the community. Synanon raised the money itself aided by another buy-fix-resale property deal that made $50,000 ( Dederich boasting his real estate ventures made Synanon more money then all their industries combined), sponsors and the first of an annual street Synanon Festival in San Francisco that earned $75,000.

When the press inquired about rumors of a sale, Synanon denied it fearing Santa Monica’s reaction might end negotiations. On July 16, Dederich held a press conference in the ballroom to announce the purchase. He would not release the terms but stated Synanon had a lease with an option to purchase. It now had a 2.2 million position in the property and while the lease ran for 25 yeas he expected Synanon would own it outright in the seventies. Monthly payments were $12,500 a month. In response to a reporter’s question, Dederich, hoping to put out fires before they started, stated, “I don’t anticipate any hostile reaction from the community as the lunatic fringe that opposed Synanon in the past has largely disappeared.”

Dederich held a party at the Armory the night they moved in. At midnight he formed a hoopla line and Synanon members danced the few blocks to their new headquarters, waking up their new neighbors as they passed by with laughter and screaming. Hugging each other they walked inside and found the first floor littered with debris, liquor bottles, stale food and cigarette butts. “So this is the gift from the Del Mar people?” Dederich said. “Aah, wouldn’t we love to have a game with those cocksuckers?” He immediately put everyone to work and the place was clean by noon the next day.

The building had deteriorated over the years and was badly in need of repair. Shifts of 200 Synanon volunteers scrapped off thick accumulations of dirt from windows, walls and floors. Old-timers and administrators moved in first, then a special crew to setup game rooms and dormitories. The population was split between Del Mar and the Clump. Synanon attempted to rent some Del Mar rooms for pilots and stewardesses from Los Angeles airport but this venture ended as it was causing too much friction. Dederich had two rooms and a bath at Del Mar.

The Armory was destined to be taken over by Nichiren Shoshu, a Japanese religious sect that believed by chanting to a gohanza all good things will come. No longer having need of six residence halls at 1331 and 1337 Pacific Coast Highway leased in August of l964 for $1,500 a month, Synanon vacated claiming the building was unsafe and unhealthy, leaving behind an unpaid $1,435 plumbing bill. The landlord filed suit, calling Synanon’s charges a subterfuge as it didn’t complain until it bought the Clump and Del Mar.

The move once again broke the comfort zone of the addicts. Forty split right away and twenty more in one week, although many returned within a few days, accepting demotion to swabbing toilets and mopping floors with heads shaved as a sign of penitence. Chuck tried to halt the exodus but what he said may have caused even more anxiety. In asking for their trust Dederich described the Del Mar purchase as the first “great mutation” of Synanon. A metamorphosis, he said, was beginning and will proceed so rapidly that in five years it will be hard to imagine what “we were originally.” He said, “We may, in half a decade, be so far removed from our present drug addict business that it will be difficult to believe that is where we got our start.”

Dederich explained that when drug addicts stopped using dope in Synanon they thought it was their work but now he realizes no person should think he can cure a dope fiend. What they were actually doing was “building a new kind of society, a society that is in absorption machine.” He told them it was the squares forcing their way into Synanon that began to “make us realize what we were accomplishing here… One-day the entire human race may be a member of Synanon. This absorption machine prevents people from using dope and brings happiness and understanding. Synanon will break down the barriers between addicts and squares because both groups when they enter must leave behind their past. The Synanon lifestyle will handle the problems of all people.”

Synanon members moving in to Del Mar were an odd sight to the DMC members. Clothes, hair and tattoos made the old and new easily distinguishable. DMC members found the club now a strange new world, witnessing the violence of verbal haircuts by Dederich in the main lobby and then the serenity of The Sounds of Synanon, dressed in dark suits and sun glasses, performing on the terrace to an audience of cheerful bathing suits. Instead of gin and tonic at the bar they were served coffee or kool-aid by former “dregs of society.” Ice cream substituted for cold beer. And daily they heard from people walking around proclaiming Chuck Dederich had saved their lives, that but for him they would have died long ago shooting dope. They saw people living with no privacy and doors open. Members of RAND corporation walked along side dope fiends. The Del Mar younger set fantasized over youthful women in bathing suits who appeared innocent and virtuous but who they knew had a sinful past. A reporter wrote it looked like Folsom prison opening up to high society visits on weekends.

Dederich’s hope of the transition not upsetting Santa Monica was quickly distilled. His offer to honor all memberships or return dues to any who wanted was to no avail. The majority of DMC members were angered. Many complained over the once social elite club falling into the hands of addicts. Some even complained of fakery, they weren’t even dope addicts. They had stopped using drugs. A few feared using telephones believing they were tapped. One member went to a lawyer to talk about suing but the lawyer said not to as he thought Synanon was potentially violent, what he called sort of a Santa Monica Mafia.

Santa Monica felt it lost an icon. Worse, it lost it to Synanon. The sale cost 60 employees their jobs. A group of faithful DMCs opposed Synanon with an almost religious passion. When news of the sale became public, Mrs. Louise Gardner, a DMC member for two generations, headed up a citizens committee, which included some local businessmen, to investigate the situation and to try to raise money to buy the club back. They took their complaints to the Santa Monica Evening Outlook which published them. Gardner did her homework and told the City Council Synanon didn’t have any permits from the Medical Board. They were operating illegally. The Council said it would do something and Councilman Kenneth Wamsley, then serving as the Pro Tem Mayor, asked anyone who had information that Synanon was breaking any laws to turn it over to the police. Hearing this, a paranoia grew in Synanon, a trepidation that the “enemies of Synanon” were planting spies in the Foundation. It was a paranoia that would remain forever.


The first incident involved Barbara Magruder, a thirtyish respectable house wife, illustrative of the type of person Synaon members were supposed to emulate. Mrs. Magruder thought of herself as pretty liberal for a Goldwater Republican having brought the only black guest to DMC. But she wasn’t ready for the Synanon take over of her beloved club. She approached a beach hut and asked the boy in charge for a beach umbrella. The boy, who had tattooed arms, told Magruder she would have to wait five minutes as Mr. Dederich had asked him to set up some tables on the sand. She said she could not wait and grabbed an umbrella. The boy grabbed it, too, and they tussled for it. Magruder won, largely because the boy did not know what to do, but with her prize ran into a group of Synanon big shots who then took it from her. When she protested. “I am a member of Del Mar Beach club and I have a right to a beach umbrella,” she was told, “There is no Del Mar club.” The big shots called her an animal and a thief and then called the police to have her arrested for trespass. The police refused, irritating the big shots. Synanon then developed a plan to surround her blanket with a dozen ex-dopefiends passing and dribbling a basketball. She left and Synanon victoriously broadcasted the events to a beach full of sun bathers over the p.a. system.

Another lady wanted to put her own canvas backrest in the beach hut but the attendant said it would then become property of Synanon. Finding the thought of lying on the rest after ex-addicts used it intolerable, she chained and padlocked it to the fence. That was no problem for Synanon. It had a hacksaw and an abundance of people who knew how to use one. This event too, was broadcast over the p.a. system, declaring to all in earshot: “Synanon does not believe in chains or locks. We don’t believe in barbed wire or putting numbers on People’s arms.”

When Ms. Gardner, the head of the citizens committee opposed to Synanon owning DMC, showed up to play paddle tennis, Dederich stopped her game and ordered her off the property. DMC members were being reminded to watch their manners and DMC children who picked flowers were yelled at by ex-dope fiends. So were their parents for not yelling at their children.


On September 13, the City Council said it would ask State Attorney General Thomas Lynch to investigate Synanon’s non-profit tax status after residents complained that the Foundation’s businesses had an unfair advantage. The Evening Outlook reported on September 14 the city planned to regain control of beach south of the club that it had leased to Epstein. The lease provided Epstein notify the city of any proposed assignment to make sure all conditions could be fulfilled by any proposed assignee. Because Dederich wanted the negotiations a secret, even denying rumors of a pending sale so as not raise community opposition, Epstein did not do this. City Attorney Cockins advised therefore the land automatically reverted back to the city when the sale was completed. City Manager Perry Scott, who I had just interviewed as part of a USC Journalism School assignment on Santa Monica government, told the Outlook the city would take every step necessary to reclaim the land leased to Del Mar before purchased by Synanon.

What Scott didn’t say was that because the city did not want another protracted legal fight with Synanon a simple plan was made. A coup d’etat.


On Friday September 15, 1967, the city delivered to Synanon a letter signed by Scott notifying the Foundation of the city’s intention to take immediate steps to repossess the beach unless Synanon immediately surrendered it. If what followed, as some believed, was the start of a war, it was not Synanon that fired the first shot.


It was 7:15 a.m. Saturday Morning, September 16, l967, and Bernie Kolb, who had seen a lot in his life, couldn’t believe what he was seeing now. He had come to the window to view what was causing the commotion. Having been in Synanon a little longer than those immediately around him he remained a little calmer.

Born August 4, l933 in New York, after his father died when he was five Kolb was raised by a socialite mother who taught him he would never do anything worthwhile. She gave him a carton of Lucky Strikes with a Zippo lighter one Christmas and then sent him away to a private school because she was having problems with her new husband. Bernie completed the 11th grade then enlisted in the Army in 1950 at age 17.

He was sent to the Korean war where a sergeant took him under his wings and taught him how to survive. The sergeant died in Kolb’s arms leaking blood and brains. After that Kolb had to survive alone against great hordes of Orientals convinced they would spend eternity in Paradise if they died in combat, some charging without weapons hoping to grab one off of a corpse. After nine months of seeing the killing of many of the 50,000 people who would die in the war, Kolb’s knee cap was torn off by shrapnel from incoming artillery. He was injected with morphine for the pain and for the first time felt a warm glow that he would fall in love with. Something that took away pain, depression and bad memories. It was the beginning of 15 years of “chasing the dragon.”

At age 20, after receiving a purple heart, he was discharged on August 9, 1953 and attempted to live with his mother on Palm Island in Miami. He drifted away and found other veterans also hooked. Together they started committing burglaries including stealing from his Uncle’s home and department store. Bernie stole his grandmother’s morphine when she was dying of cancer and replaced it with saccharine. Then he and his friends became braver and pulled off a series of 23 robberies with an unloaded gun. When Kolb was finally caught in l954 he was facing 10 years. His mother, using money and influence, got him out on bail and into the Miami Medical Center, a private mental institution for the wealthy. A Judge allowed him to be put in another private institution for the wealthy, Baldpate, in Georgetown, Massachusetts for treatment and continued his case to see if he improved until the case faded away.

After that came a series of arrests, hospitalizations, jails and time on a South Carolina chain gang. There were two failed marriages and two suicide attempts. Once he cut his wrists with a pocket knife. In 1959, loaded, he threw himself in front of a car on South Dixie Highway in Miami, Florida. He badly injured both legs.

In l966 he was released from the Federal Penitentiary/ Public Help Service Hospital for drug addicts at Lexington KY. His Uncle then showed him a magazine clipping about Synanon and he arrived in Santa Monica on May 16th, 1966. He entered Synanon the same time as Matt Beard, a long time heroin user, who as a child played Stymie in the Little Rascals. Beard would spend a lot of time watching his old shows on television surrounded by Synanon kids.

Kolb didn’t come to stay for life, but six months later when law-enforcement came to get him for other crimes Reid Kimball convinced them Bernie had come a long way and could grow into a decent citizen if left there, maybe even an asset to humanity. Reid was the first person to go to bat for Kolb and Bernie felt real love for Kimball and a powerful conversion to Synanon.

His first job was as part of the service cleaning crew. But Kolb was spotted for his intelligence, even fought over by big shots, and was quickly promoted. He had helped coordinate the move of 300 people from the Armory to Del Mar and the Clump. He would become Director of Transportation responsible for 300 vehicles and a guide for Synanon Trips. In 1968 he would be sent to help close down the Seawall and to open the new Northern Division in Oakland. He was rewarded with a beautiful room in the Athens Athletic Club with a fantastic view of all the bridges and splendor, if one ignored the surrounding ghetto. He was to be promoted to a big shot in charge of all transportation vehicles, job changes and housing assignments north of Fresno. When the first Synanon wife he would marry left with their three month old child Bernie chose Synanon over them, staying with the first friends who gave him respect in life, crying as his family left. His career would cover all facets of Synanon, from ADGAP to Tomales Bay to the legal team to Synanon’s demise. One day, with my help, he would fight to get his daughter out.

But at this time he was a merely an expediter, the coordinator job renamed after Dederich’s role at Curtiss-Wright, for those in command at the Del Mar Connect, a central desk where assignments and cars were handed out, and he awaited orders over the now apparent crisis. He was impressed at the job Hurst and Kimball were doing keeping the newcomers composed, getting up in each of their faces and assuring them everything would be okay and no one should run out the door.

Outside the window, however, it appeared as if the D-day all had feared had finally come. The invasion. The City of Santa Monica was attacking, armed with giant bulldozers surrounded by what looked like storm troopers.

Several bulldozers, earth-moving equipment and two trucks were coming down the beach towards the club. Walking alongside was about 30 men, their worker helmets shining in the suns glare making them to appear as a squad of riot-equipped policeman advancing on the beach. They were not police but city workers. The police were nearby, about 20 officers in seven cars waiting for a signal of trouble. Led by City Beach Superintendent Elmer A. Sandling, Santa Monica Public Works employees were there to take back the beach by force. Already they had begun tearing down umbrellas, storage rooms, cabanas and any structures on “city” property.

Since it was Saturday and so early in the morning there was no way to call any city official to demand they stop. Hurst got on the telephone with Dederich who was in Tomales Bay. After getting his orders, and knowing Dederich was leaving for Santa Monica immediately, Hurst assigned Kolb to get everyone out of bed and send them to the beach. Hurst directed 100 members to block the earth moving tractors from pulling down the fences around the paddle tennis courts by forming a human shield. They went out and lined along the courts and then sat down like a Berkeley sit-in. Several members grabbed Sandling, cursed him and ejected him. That was the signal for the police to enter the scene.

Santa Monica Lt. James Keane demanded the demonstrators disperse by bullhorn. Ron Silva, the Foundation’s Director of Planning and Engineering, said they didn’t have to disperse. They had the right to sit on their own property. Keane then told Hurst he would be arrested if his people didn’t move. Hurst responded, “You can’t arrest me…I have my lawyer Norman Herring right here.” So Keane arrested Hurst and Herring along with Kimball, now 49, for unlawful assembly (the beach was now city property). Walker D. Ray, Vincent D. Tessitore, Bill Crawford, Andrew J. Moore and Dave Behar were arrested for unlawful assembly and resisting arrest.

The bulldozers moved on and down went the Synanon fences. The paddle tennis courts were half on the leased beach front so workmen used jackhammers, waking up the entire neighborhood, to drill post holes in paddle tennis asphalt for a new fence representing the correct line between club and city property. They put up a new wire mesh fence attached to upright poles set in wet concrete, bisecting the courts and extending some 50 yards into the beach taking over an acre of sand. The police departed with their arrested in paddy wagons, leaving a few sentries on guard. By noon the workers were finished.


Big shots got on the telephones and called celebrity and media friends and those who had political influence. Ben Gazzara and his wife Janice Rule were amongst the first to arrive. So was Sue Lyons, a game club square who had a bout with drugs following her success as a teenage seductress in Lolita. Synanon members gave media interviews and claimed their attorney Herring, who was almost totally blind, wore dark glasses and carried a cane, was hit in the face, knocked to the sand and dragged off. Mike Kaiser, the former Columbia Pictures ad man who was now head of Synanon public relations, said the city had given no warning. He called it “Mississippi Law led by armed dingbats.” Lt. Keane told the media Synanon had been told Friday was the deadline for self-removal. Of course, the letter had been delivered that Friday.

State Senator Anthony C. Bielsenson came to the scene. “This is not the way civilized municipalities act, “ he said to the media, “nor would they act this way toward any other lease-holders…This is not the way you settle legal disputes. You settle them in courts.”

In three hours the arrested were bailed out by donor lawyers and returned to the club for a press conference in the ballroom where people sat in leather chairs on top of a decadently beautiful rug surrounded by french windows. Dederich had arrived and stood tall, like Yestlin would one day on a tank, and complained Synanon members were being treated like second hand citizens and criminals. The Santa Monica police were being used as a private army for special interest groups, and, as if he knew what the inevitable outcome would be, he referred to Santa Monica as “my city.”

“It is quite possible,” he told a captivated audience of members, stars, politicians and media, “that my city has fallen into the hands of mad dogs. I don’t know who they are. But we will flush them out in court….We will take every city official connected with this into court. Synanon will sue…and Synanon members will bring their own separate suits. Maybe as many as 200 or 300…it’s gone beyond simple police harassment. How can 30 or 40 policemen cross our sand and arrest law-abiding ex addicts? We call it armed aggression.”

Afterwards Dederich ran a tape recorder and had the arrested tell their stories. There for support were Leonard Nimoy and Ben Gazzara. A lunch was served and then they began to plan the lawsuits for which donor lawyers were lining up to volunteer their services.

In the following two week two burglars were apprehended with keys to the Del Mar Club and Synanon vehicles and a bomb threat to the club was made. Dederich blamed both incidents on the hysteria created by Santa Monica. Synanon members became more fearful of “those who would destroy them.”

On October 19 the Synanon Eight, represented by Raul Marquis of the ACLU, were arraigned in front of Synanon’s old friend, Judge Hector Baida. They asked to have the trial moved as they could not get a fair trial in Santa Monica. This was set for hearing and Baida, at their request, disqualified himself as the judge. Outside the ACLU told the press that even if the defendants were not on Synanon property there could be no unlawful assembly on a public beach.


The civil claim was filed on Oct 23 for illegal destruction of property. Synanon claimed damages of $56,755, $4,755 for fences, paddle tennis courts and cabanas and a business loss of $52,000. It claimed it was losing another $250 worth of business each week. Al Epstein joined as a claimant.

Perry Scott called the claims ridiculous. Councilman Kenneth Wamsley tried damage control but put Santa Monica in a deeper hole by actually admitting Santa Monica was trying to avoid Synanon having legal recourse. After explaining that legally the beach had reverted to the city because Epstein had not notified the city of the sale, Wamsley told the press the city wanted to prevent Synanon legally from delaying the return of the beach property. In a similar case, he explained, when the city served notice on 32 beach property owners that illegally fenced off about 32,000 square feet the owners got an injunction against fence removal until the case was resolved. By erecting its own fence now, Wamsley said, the city was making the beach public during the litigation. In interesting argument from a city that before had said no one would go to a beach near living addicts and felons when Synanon took over the Armory in l960. Wamsley also tried a spin that the act was really against Epstein because he was the one who broke the lease. He said, “it only looks like the city appears to be harassing Synanon.”

But the action was against Synanon. It had purchased the lease.

Dederich made the perfect response, pointing out that when the POP amusement park owed $17,000 in back rent the city went to court to evict without attacking fish, ferris wheels, roller coasters and concession stands with bulldozers and Jackhammers.

The public’s view was represented by Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty. On his television show he invited Synanon to leave Santa Monica and move into Los Angeles City.

Two stories appeared in West Magazine, a Sunday insert in the Los Angeles Times for which I would write a story for five years later, concerning Synanon in the Dec. 3, l967 issue. Carolyn See wrote about the incident and Synanon fan and Times reporter, Art Berman, wrote of Synanon history, saying but for the fame of the zoning trial, “Synanon might have dried up and blown away.” Berman, who had written several favorable columns on Synanon before, queried, “Is Synanon curing narcotic addicts as it set out to do? Or is Dederich, who heads an ever-expanding corporate structure, more interested in building an empire?” He concluded “the evidence indicates Dederich has stopped a good many from taking drugs” and harnessed “addict power” into a “dazzling demonstration of capitalism that should make Birchers, if not Santa Monica bourghers, stand up and cheer.”

In the September 27, l967 issue of the Synanon Scene quoted Rev. Scott Beach of Synanon in San Francisco as stating “Santa Monica’s lunatic fringe may have made one of the most valuable contributions the Foundation has ever had. For they have provided the fuel for a fire that will surely burn the name of Synanon more deeply than ever into the structure of American life.”

The in-house tabloid was full of graphic headlines: “Beach Battle Hour-By-Hour”… “Santa Monicas’ Private Army Attacks Synanon in Force”…. “Synanon will Survive and Vanquish its Enemies.” In the Evening Outlook, managing editor R. D. Funk, who I had also interviewed for my college Santa Monica journalist project, wrote the Synanon Scene rhetoric scared him with its “unbelievable venom along with distortions of truth.” Funk said Synanon was using its underdog role of being picked on to the hilt in order to build an empire. He commented that Jack Hurst said “no” on television when asked “Aren’t you building an empire on human misery?” Funk wrote he wondered.

Author Peter Collier also wondered as he wrote an article “The House of Synanon” in the October 1967 edition of Ramparts Magazine. Unlike other investigators/writers he had observed but not subjected himself to the process. He noted some critics claim Synanon was “fascist,” uses “brainwashing,” and that everyone there seems to talk and think alike. He quoted a saying in the organization that “Synanon was the greatest addiction of all” but no one, he wrote, saw the irony of it. He saw in Synanon a “totalitism” and “absolutism” that leads “to what one reluctantly thinks of as Stalinism.” He was disheartened by the disappearance of the three stage system that led to graduation. He stated while Synanon’s “clever press campaign sold the establishment,” making it easy to hustle donations, the Future of Synanon was no longer addicts forgetting narcotics, but a social movement which Synanon calls of “immense significance.” He quoted Hurst as saying, “Synanon is aleady part of the responsible community, so why should we send people back to society?”

Collier believed the squares would become Synanon’s future. He wrote these people seemed to have a need for a community-directed environment, a “passport out of their ambiguous circumstances–the condition of modern American life.” He recognized an element of truism in the concept modern man faces an “absurd situation he can neither control nor adequately deal with.” To Collier, the squares would come not so much for the reward of being part of a “social movement of immense significance,” nor per manipulation of middle class guilt in a Synanon game, although these would be factors, but mainly from a desire to escape. He wrote:

“Those who seek out involvement in Synanon are participants in the mass exodus from freedom characteristic of our time; they are looking for at least the skeleton of order and restrictive structure, something whose bones they can flesh out with their own hard effort….

“All revolutionary movements suggest that their reformation of what is defective will be quite thorough, but by the indirect technique of providing alternate cultural models. And in each of them there is an element of nobility. But they are sometimes also corruptible; they can build the greatest illusions of all. And often, these movements manage to evaporate, leaving magnificent catacombs for social archeologists, but having managed to affect the here and now hardly at all.”


There were provisions in the city beach lease that could allow an assignee to take it over. Epstein was supposed to notify the city of any sale so it could safeguard its interests. Even if Epstein did not give notice, Synanon claimed it was entitled by contract to notice of any city rescission and an opportunity to comply with the provisions of the agreement. Cockins began to realize a mistake was made. On May 10, l968 another peace treaty was signed. Synanon dismissed all claims arising out of the incident and in return kept the lease of the beach. All criminal charges were dropped. Herring said, “I have only praise for a city administration that recognizes when it is wrong in some basic concepts….The single most important facet of the agreement is the city recognizes Synanon as a substantial citizen.”

The fight was over. Santa Monica had waved the white flag forever. There was a new sheriff in town and his name was Charles Dederich. Chuck felt like he had been given the keys to the city. To Synanon it was equal to the victory in l967 by Israeli forces who wiped out an Arab alliance and took control of The Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, West Bank and Golan Heights. Dederich was a modern day Spartacus, a successful one, who led ex-captives safely and freely to the ocean. The arrested residents were all new heroes. Like Dederich, they had been willing to risk jail. They brought Synanon once again publicity, financial support, sympathy from the outside and solidarity within. Addicts and squares had now together faced a common foe. September 16, Mad Dog Saturday, became Synanon’s second annually celebrated holiday.


It was time for dreams to move on. Dreams far more ambitious than Thoreau’s or Skinner’s. And unlike the philosopher and the scientist, Dederich would build his castles out of air. Santa Monica was conquered. His to do as he pleased. Dederich’s attention would go now to the change over from Synanon I, the rehab, to Synanon II, the utopian society. First he would focus on the continued building of Synanon City in Tomales where he envisioned 5,000 happily living lives, free of any police force or jails, that he would design. Then a dozen cities more sheltering 30,000 each, maybe 40,000. Since l966 the Synanon Construction Crew had been clearing, grading and trenching land in Marin in preparation for buildings now going up. A cottage had been remade into a cultural center with a library, meeting rooms, a very equipped sound and video taping studio and the Synanon Archives were moved into the basement. Synacruisers, two brand-new purchased $65,000 Greyhound buses made specially for Synanon, transported members to and from Tomales Bay. The buses, Synanon now having traded beatnik jargon for current hippy lingo, had signs saying “far out,” “out of sight,” and “pluto or bust.” The goal was no less than to surpass the society that had rejected them. To be innovative and leapfrog ahead. As Dederich would say, “to show them all how to live in the 21st Century.” He had the courage to be that planner, to guide people to a cheerful fulfilled existence, to do, as Skinner’s Frazier stated, “wield the science of behavior for the good of mankind.”


The preoccupation was making money. Fewer dope fiends were admitted without a large initial fee. Instead emphasis was put on recruiting more squares with money. One woman, a widow donated $50,000 for the privilege and made Dederich executor of her estate. A Street fair in San Fransisco raised $92,000. Square game players were being indicted in games for taking from Synanon and not giving, encouraged to donate more money and service. Dederich brilliantly dropped monthly game dues for squares to a penny-a-month so he could better accuse them of being free-loaders who ought to contribute more. Old timers with status were given the best jobs; dog-robbers drove sleek cars and wore donated $300 Louis Roth suits.

Synanon now owned 5 million dollars worth of Santa Monica Property and Dederich boasted it may become in ten years the largest landlord in the United States. The California Department of Rehabilitation was now paying Synanon $100,000 a year for teaching skills to ex-dope addicts. Their skills were developed on Synanon construction and working in Synanon kitchens. About $3 a day plus goods and services was spent on each resident. WAM was now up to $5 a week. One day, it was said, Synanon might be so efficient it would surrender its tax-free status and have its own political candidates. Already Marin County feared its sizable voting block. The adage “God helps those who help themselves” was appended to the Synanon Philosophy read each morning.

One Dederich prediction had already come true. The Synanon Santa Monica population doubled. It added more than four hundred residents and five hundred non-residents. 823 resided in all facilities. For better control the population was divided into Tribes of about 70 each with names like the Huns, Crusaders, Zen. Proven veterans served as Tribe Leaders responsible for their own families which would include dope fiends and square game players. They partied, played games together and competed against other Tribes in sports and accomplishing Synanon goals. Tribes held their own Symposiums where a psychological, political or other topical concept is placed on the blackboard for group debate. Those who it was felt needed improvement were placed in the Shits Tribe.


Synanon also started taking in juveniles, many pot-head youngsters from middle class families that could make donations. Marin County and other counties started paying for taking in juvenile probationers as in alternative to state-run programs. Parents joined Mama and Pampas Tribes and were encouraged to participate, join and contribute. “We took in your sniveling brats when you and no one else wanted them and what do you do?” Dederich would say in a game. “Sending us your pittance that doesn’t buy us toilet paper.” Once, he jumped up and said to a couple, “I’m just a rube from Ohio so I will make it simple. No negotiations… Just one and final offer.” They paid .

A teen-age dormitory was formed and the school was expanded to meet legal requirements. Claiming that 25 Synanon youngsters could not emotionally handle school life at Santa Monica High school, the Foundation got the school district to send teachers to Synanon. Educational programs from nursery level to college level were provided. A room at the Del Mar was remodeled into a teen dance hall– The Woodshed.

The youngsters were subject to similar punishments as adults: shaved heads, signs, sitting in highchairs, barking like a dog, etc. Synanon believed pampering was what got them there. Many ran away. If they were caught the probation departments in San Franciso and Santa Monica recommended their return even though Synanon was not licensed as a foster home for delinquents by the State Board of Social Welfare and admitted Santa Monica had not, wishing to save taxpayers’ money, conducted any studies to determine if it was a suitable environment for disturbed children.

The Santa Monica police department, however, held a different view, recommending to courts against return. Chief Earl Reinbold argued they should trust that the kids were unhappy there “as we have no way of knowing how these youngsters are treated, what kind of counseling they’re getting, whether in fact, Synanon is good or bad for the kids.”


Dissipations, named for the goal of having one’s self- perception dissipate, began with a thirty hour session followed by another twelve hours after a sleep break. A Conductor led a group of 10 to 14 in probing the feelings, child-hood traumas and attitudes of the participants. Attacking or defending was not allowed. Eventually it was found that the participants would become giddy and key words could be repeated that would cause hysterical laughter lasting five to fifteen minutes each time spoken. Dederich was succeeding in reproducing his LSD trip for his followers without the use of the drug. Members experienced a euphoria, quasi-hallucinations and feelings of indiscriminate love. Near the end an Ouija board, a fad in Synanon, was used to have famous deceased persons answer questions, always saying Synanon was the ultimate solution. The board often refused to Chuck as “Moses.” Dederich believed these peak experiences released and canceled all defenses allowing information to seep into deep levels of consciousness. Some Dissipations were run as long as 72 hours.

Dederich remained careful with the words. Endore wrote a pamphlet saying the the game was not really, despite what had been said before, a “verbal street fight,” nor “attack therapy,” but just a sport where all were participating gladiators stretching their cerebral muscles and helping them “grow up.” Any therapeutic benefit was only “incidental,” like one might gain from a good tennis match.

In November of 1967, Dederich, assisted by Yablonsky, Hurst, Garrett and Endore, taught an intensive weekend course at UC Berkeley’s Education Extension on Synanon. The course was designed to “explore the philosophical foundations of Synanon as a social movement.” One hundred persons enrolled. Most of them were teachers.

* …………………………………. *………………………………………………….*

1967 was a great year for me also, maybe my best. I had been a USC fan since I was 8 and my dream of going to USC was like that of Rudy going to Notre Dame. My high school grades had not been good which made my homeroom teacher irate because of my high scholastic testing scores. I had gone into the Army Reserve for six months out of high school in hopes never to be drafted and sent to Vietnam. On return I went to Santa Monica City College to work on my grades. I found there professors who made learning fun and was fascinated by classes on the history of Western Civilization. I also had a class on group discussions where we studied different types of group methods of solving problems (The game was not one of them). Like Rudy, I was ecstatic on my acceptance to USC after a year of all A’s and one B+.

But rather than becoming a tackling dummy for the football team like Rudy I lived my fantasy by becoming Co- Sports Editor of the Daily Trojan. In this my last year, as a protest, I ran a repeat of a Los Angeles Times story following a road game in the school paper. We couldn’t write our own, I wrote, because we were not there. It resulted in the school giving in and for the first time sending reporters to away games. USC was everything I expected– A Wonderland where we sat around a statue of Tommy Trojan in the middle of the campus and watched mini-skirted girls ride by on bicycles and the biggest problem in life was whom you were taking out on Saturday night. Noticing my interest in the latter fellow DT staff members dubbed me “The Wolf.”

We had a great tailback that year that came from San Francisco and I had the honor of being the first reporter in Los Angeles to do a story on him when he arrived on campus. I remember he didn’t want me to write that he had a fiance up north and later when he had married he tried to hit on my date once. But none of it mattered as I can still remember that day, the after parties on Fraternity Row, dancing in a midnight rain, my date, when USC and UCLA, No.1 and No. 2. in the nation, met in the season final playing for the national championship, the only time this ever happened in their cross down rivalry. And with just minutes left and USC six points behind the tailback ran around through and beyond the Bruins 64 yards to victory and the nation’s title. The next day I brought him a 16×20 photo of him on that magical run and asked him to sign it. “O. J.,” I said, “the one day this photo will be worth a lot of money.”

On Dec. 7, fellow DT staffers also gave me an idea what it would be like to go to war. A radio station was replaying the original broadcasts of Pearl Harbor. Knowing I was in the reserves, they brought in a radio and told me the broadcast was a current attack. They told me all reservists were to report immediately. When I finally realized I was being put on I let out my emotions by smashing a chair over a table.

It was also that year that I turned in my class journalism story on Santa Monica’s government. My lead dealt with an odd city ordinance I found which prohibited bongo drums from being played on the Santa Monica beaches. When I interviewed the police officer in charge of beach patrol he explained the law was passed because there was a something about the sun and bongos that drove young people into wild frenzies. I asked if guitar playing on the beach was legal and he said yes unless you flip it over and beat on the back of it. Looking back, I sometimes wondered if this law was really just Santa Monica doing its anti-Synanon thing.