Review: Weird Scenes Inside The Canyon by David McGowan

June 22, 2014


“Weird Scenes Inside The Canyon” by Dave McGowan has been a long time coming, as it was serialized first on the internet as Dave collected information and worked out the bugs. The intriguing subtitle is “Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops & The Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream”, eluding to a time of change in the youth and music culture that may not have been so “organic” and may have been engineered.
McGowen walks us through the lives of rock stars such as Jim Morrison, David Crosby, Steven Stills, Frank Zappa and others that have direct family ties to the U.S. intelligence services.
In this wild and well-researched romp, Laurel Canyon itself becomes both actor and stage for the drug-fueled communal yet confrontational existence of the actors, musicians and criminals that infest the hillsides. Mcgowan busts some myths about the competence of the musicians (Crosby, for instance could barely play guitar) and introduces us to characters I never knew about. These include the original freaks; Vito Paulekas, his wife Szou and sidekick Carl Franzoni. They practically patented the entire hippie-as-freak scene, down to the gypsy clothing and wild gyrating dance scenes. This sideshow was a welcome accompanying to the stage music, which was still on training wheels.
But it wasn’t all fun and games; the dark heart of Laurel Canyon also brings us the murderous intent of Charles Manson and his “family”, who quickly embedded themselves like ticks draining the lifeblood of various wealthy actors and musicians. Most people don’t know that Manson was talented enough to almost get signed to record labels, and was considered to be a near genius by the likes of Neil Young and others. McGowan reminds us that for a decade or so California was ground zero for serial killers, which triangulates neatly in the shadow of intelligence agencies and apparent widespread incest allegedly practiced by what seems to be the entire population of the canyon.

I myself loved the tale of Laurel Canyon as told by McGowan, but some details may offend sensitive readers. It also makes one wonder what the surviving members of those canyon years will think of McGowan’s interpretation (Moon Zappa, among others). No lawsuits yet, I hope.

I would only have two items to suggest that would have made the book more useful, if not readable. I want to see footnotes when possible, and while McGowan provides a bibliography of articles, books and videos it is impossible to follow a paper trail for further research or reference material. Secondly, while McGowan draws heavily from his previous book on serial killers “Programmed To Kill”, the book ends on a dark note – which may be altogether appropriate.
But just for the sake of “the good times” it would have been nice to steer the tour bus back to the music and the freaks.
“Weird Scenes Inside The Canyon” was a great read, and I’m sure it will echo in the memories (or nightmares) of the people who lived, played or died there.

Dave McGowan’s website is linked HERE

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12 Responses to Review: Weird Scenes Inside The Canyon by David McGowan

  1. Drew Carter on June 23, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    I love the Above Review’s Smarmy Comment: “No lawsuits by the survivor’s yet”.. No Lawsuits because the book is full of FACTS… Geesh.. just because it destroys every Whimsical, Serendipitous story you were ever told by the Military Industrial Complex – Doesn’t mean it’s liable or lienable! Grow up, stop reading Rolling Stone, 17, and Family Circle.. Do some research.. does Dave have to spoon feed you?

    • Tex on February 12, 2015 at 9:36 pm

      “FACTS” do not preclude a lawsuit from being filed, Drew Carter. Anyone who believes they do is sadly misinformed about civil jurisprudence in America!

      Perhaps more incredible is your insinuation that Rolling Stone is somehow similar to 17 or family Circle magazine…

      I’m thinking that maybe you are the one who needs to grow up and “do some research.” Especially before you spout off in public.

  2. Jay on July 30, 2016 at 12:55 am

    Manson was a programmed multiple done in China Lake. The process church he was a part of moved to Southern Utah where it operates ostensibly an animal sanctuary but more likely a satanic store/ supplier for sacrifices both human and animal widely practiced. Manson was never on the scene of the Sharon Tate ritual killing btw. Of course Roman Polanski, pedophile in exile, directed snuff films for the elite and is therefore untouchable not unlike the beloved Woody Allen and other elite directors.

  3. Fayez Abedaziz on February 5, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    Hello friends,
    I have read David’s book on the Canyon and the man tells it like it is.
    Having also done research on my own, particularly about the characters that lived there
    and their so-called influence on music, which was not much, and the mix of so many of these sleazy and dishonest people, there was indeed a darkness there.
    Booze, drug taking and dealing (see that phony asshole John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas and his non-punishment for illegal drug transactions) the use of under age runaway girls and on and on. Most of the ‘musicians’ there were lousy human beings.

  4. Tommy on December 7, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    Seems to all be true. If you read the wiki biographies of famous musicians, it’s amazing how many of them had parent(s) in elite media/government positions. If you’re a budding musician, I’m just not sure it’s possible to make it big unless you are tapped by the powers that be.

  5. Tony Arioli on December 3, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    An interesting read, but I question some of McGowan’s research – most notably the assertion that the Lookout Mountain compound was a top secret facility. I have in my possession two street maps of the Los Angeles area dated 1953 – one distributed by Texaco Oil and the other by Union 76 Oil. Both these maps show the complex as a little navy blue square and clearly marked “Lookout Mountain.” This feature wasn’t drawn in; it was printed onto the maps. If this complex was so hush-hush, why is it indicated on a map that any Tom, Dick or Harry could pick up at any one of these gas stations – for free then, yet?

    • JT on December 4, 2020 at 1:57 am

      Agreed, Dave may have stretched some things a bit.
      As far as Lookout, they may have had pretty good security.
      Also, more mundane elements may have been produced there.
      Thanks for the ideas,

    • john stokes on February 26, 2021 at 7:56 pm

      ‘Lookout Mountain’ tells you nothing about what it is. Its called hiding it in plain sight. if there was a rectangle that had no tag it would attract attention.

  6. Fayez Abedaziz on December 17, 2020 at 3:13 am

    Well Tony, what would be the use of not having a structure, a sizable one, not appear on a city map, such as the ones used by the police, fire, engineering and on and on of other departments?
    The streets leading to that place and just that fact that exists is not something to hide. How do you hide those?
    Once inside such a complex, that would be, mostly secretly kept.
    Some movie stars were there as part of government propaganda, but they were not given privy to whatever else was going on there.
    Plus, people were always told, when taking part in any supposedly ‘national interest’ program/s, that this is patriotic stuff and they signed papers not to talk of certain things.
    David didn’t claim to be a historical scholar working with primary and other sources and that he was a ‘textbook’ social historian: he pointed out facts that are, well, facts. He writes where he is talking with the reader and asking questions and inviting the reader to speculate with him as to the quite weird ‘circumstances’
    of what was going on, among the music and other people in Laurel and nearby places.
    One example: why were those phonies, the ‘musicians,’ none of ’em drafted? Every person in the US, in the late 60’s knew one or more guy that received a draft notice. Why was a hole John Phillips not jailed for big drug law violations? And more. Dave was definitely on to something and I suspect, strongly, that some people had him, somehow killed by some biological poison means. Think about it.
    Just for y’all to know: in the years 1967 to at least, 1970, I was aware that there were informers for the FBI that sat with myself and friends in student centers and cafeterias in colleges in Denver and Boulder, Colorado. They took our pics and reported what we said.
    I even know the name of at least one guy that informed on us as we talked politics (Vietnam protests and so on).
    Yeah, there were creepy facts to do with Laurel Canyon.
    I went there once and I felt creepy as hell. And actually insecure/scared. There no one cared what you did. Check out the later ‘Four On The Floor Murders’ case and there were more crimes that were hidden. Know what I’m saying here? Or something

    • JT on December 17, 2020 at 4:32 pm

      Have you also read “CHAOS”, about the Manson killings and the intel connections?
      I reviewed it, it’s on the front page of the blog

      • Tony Arioli on June 25, 2023 at 1:21 am

        Sorry for the extra late reply. No, I haven’t read that book, but my brother was staying at the Log Cabin in Laurel Canyon in January,1969 , and my mother and I drove down there from Palo Alto to try to fish him out of there. Once we were inside the place, he showed me a one lane bowling alley downstairs in the cellar that had a pathway that led towards a darkened passageway. I asked him: “Where does that go?” He said: “I dunno; under the street (Laurel Canyon Blvd.) I guess.” When we went back upstairs, there were several girls that looked to be in their late teens or early twenties going in and out of shadowed rooms never uttering a sound – I suspect these were the Manson girls that McGowan wrote about.

    • Tony Arioli on June 25, 2023 at 1:39 am

      Hi – so sorry for the extra late reply. Yes, I was aware of FBI infiltration in not only the anti-Vietnam War groups, but the Black Power groups, most notably, the Black Panthers (COINTELPRO). In July or August of 1968, I was visited by an FBI agent by the name of James Thaw who wanted to know what I knew about Alan Cranston (who was running for US senator that year), particularly about his eldest son, Robin (evidently, there had been some rumors floating about that Robin had been slipping LSD to Playboy Bunnies). The Cranston family had been our next door neighbors in 1957 and 1958, and had remained friends throughout the 1960s. As I was a minor at the time (age 15), I had nothing to say, so he asked where my mother was, and told him she was at work and where she worked. Mr. Thaw went to her place of employ to interrogate her, and her supervisor (president of a junior college) got so upset over the incident that he fired her.

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