Mindfuckers pp 277-290
Rolling Stone pp 50-51 [#99]
Owen deLong is a normally quiet, powerfully built man with a distinguished goatee and academic record. In various capacities he attended Harvard from 1957 through 1968, graduating magna cum laude from the department of philosophy in 1961 and earning his Master's degree from the department of government in 1965. While working on his doctoral dissertation, "The Ideological Origins of Pragmatism in US Foreign Policy," Owen was given 15 assignments as a Harvard teaching fellow in history and government.
He was a consultant on Western Europe and East Asia for the Arthur D. Little "think tank," a fund raiser for the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton and a volunteer speech writer for Senators Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy. Owen lists among his personal references Dr. Carl Kaysen of Princeton and Dr. Henry Kissinger.
So it must have been a bit humiliating when Melvin ordered him, as punishment for failing to commandeer Kay Boyle's San Francisco house in late 1970, to work as a waiter at one of the Frascati restaurants in West Hollywood. Oh well, it was a rich-mouth restaurant, and the fledgling Edinburgh Avenue community needed the money. Plus the job allowed Owen enough daytime off to look for better assignments. Particularly in the media.
First he sought out KCET, Channel 28, Los Angeles' educational television station.
"This was last November or December when Owen and George Peper visited the station," recalled Charles Allen, KCET program director. "They said they were working with a creative group of persons from Boston, and they had come out to see what kind of climate there was for the arts in L.A.
"Owen did 90 percent of the talking. He said Peper was an outstanding filmmaker, although Peper himself did not have much to say and I was unable to ascertain any specifics of his film background. At no time did either of them mention the names American Avatar or Mel Lyman."
On several occasions, said Allen, Owen returned to the station and talked at length on governmental and foreign policy. He even attended a party one night where he met most of the station's producers.
"He had a very outstanding resume, which was interesting to us because at that time we were getting into a great deal of news analysis. And Owen looked extremely brilliant on paper. He was articulate and seemed very, very bright."
Eventually, Allen said, Owen was not hired because funds for another news analyst's job did not come through. Also Owen had insisted that George be hired at the same time. "He was adamant that both work together, which was something we didn't take very seriously. I mean, normally when a filmmaker comes in looking for work, he has cans of film under his arm. But the silent Mr. Peper had nothing."
After that episode, Owen may have dropped out of sight for a while. We don't really know. In January of this year, United Illuminating Realty Trust bought the house on Sierra Bonita, and in April, "James Kweskin et al." purchased the Eastman mansion on Hollywood Boulevard. So perhaps deLong et al. were busy moving into those places.
But sometime in May Owen's resume finally worked and he was hired as program director for KPFK-FM, the liberal, politically oriented Pacifica radio station in Los Angeles.
"Then, I guess it was in late May or early June," Allen remembered, "I got a call from Marvin Segelman, the station manager at KPFK. Marvin said, 'Did you ever speak to a fellow named Owen deLong?' I said yes. And he said, 'Well, a peculiar thing has happened here...'"
So peculiar, in fact, that for two months afterward everyone at KPFK refused to talk about it. They were even reluctant to file police reports until, a week or two later, the FBI insisted on it. Finally, after receiving a promise of anonymity and a short lecture on the power of a free press, one witness, a man who had worked at KPFK for some time, agreed to discuss the matter, over the phone, long distance.
"Owen's a difficult person to describe," he began. "Superficially, he was very quiet. And he spoke very softly, and he moved very slowly, the sort of person one might describe in other circumstances as bookish, intellectual - withdrawn, perhaps. Certainly not outgoing or boisterous.
"One thing that clearly sticks in my mind was the first meeting that he had as Program Director with the programming portion of the staff here. He came in and he said, you know, 'I'm sure you all would like to know who I am and what I have in mind,' and started to give us a little speech about what his philosophy was for programming, which was extremely strange. I had no idea what he was talking about.
"I remember one thing. The National Lawyers Guild planned to hold here in Los Angeles a symposium similar to the Detroit Winter Soldier thing, and we wanted to broadcast it live. That sort of thing is exactly the stuff we put on because nobody else will put it on. And Owen was very negative about it. 'I'm not even sure that here at the station we want to have something which is what you've been calling public affairs.' And he got very mystical and said, 'People here in Los Angeles are searching for something. I don't know whether there's an answer, but I think we should try to find it and give it to them.'
"Everybody was slightly confused, but people here are pretty tolerant and we thought, OK, we'll give him a chance. But then things just got weirder and weirder. Something was wrong. Nobody could put their finger on it at the time, but everybody felt it."
"There was a growing uneasiness about him?"
"Oh yes, definitely. Let me tell you the specific thing which coalesced the staff's opinion and culminated in the assault. Every so often at the station we have open time, time scheduled on the air where for any variety of reasons no program is available. And it turns out that during this month there was an hour, I think once a week in the afternoon, that was free like this. And Owen said he had something he wanted to put in there. He said, 'I have these friends of mine who have produced a very fine and interesting music program, sort of a history of rhythm and blues.'"
"At this time had he said anything about American Avatar or Mel Lyman?"
"No, no. It had been known - I don't know how this came out - that Owen in fact had belonged to a commune back East. But for all we knew it was just a bunch of people who got together and cooked meals in a big pot.
"OK, so he brings in a tape, and after it was broadcast he complained that it wasn't broadcast at a loud enough level. And the person in charge of those details, the Production Director, said, 'OK, well, when you bring the next one in, I'll check it to make sure the board operator didn't foul up.'"
When Owen brought in the next week's tape, said the witness, he carefully pointed out that it was preceded by a test tone, a standard procedure for setting levels.
"The Production Director took the tape down personally, set it up on the tape machine, checked the test tone level, made sure it was absolutely perfect and ran the tape. Well, Owen came down while the tape was on and again started complaining that it wasn't loud enough. He wanted to turn the broadcast volume up. The board operator pointed out that if one turned the broadcast volume up, one risked the danger of overmodulating the signal and causing distortion and increasing the background hiss of the tape to an objectionable level."
According to the KPFK engineers, the tape itself was at fault "The Production Director had inspected the earlier tape and said he thought the basic problem was that the program material wasn't recorded loud enough on the tape. And you can't compensate for that. There's absolutely no question about this. Several people checked this, it was definitely below the norm. It was definitely below the quality of the stuff that we produce and broadcast regularly here.
"OK." Here the witness took a deep breath. "On the third program, a week later, about two minutes before it was over, Owen goes down to the broadcast studio, goes in, orders the person on duty at the master console to phase the program down and to give him a live microphone. Now this is strictly against every rule of operation here and probably even violates some FCC rules, I don't know. One does not interrupt programs for any reason unless it's some really dire emergency. Also, he did not identify himself. The point is, it was highly irregular.
"And Owen went on the air - the poor engineer is just sitting there with his mouth hanging open - and he said, 'This program is being taken off the air because it's not being presented properly, in the proper technical fashion.' And some other statement to the effect that it's a shame programs which are produced as well, artistically and technically, as this program can't be aired properly. And furthermore, if listeners have any concern about this radio station, they should call and write and complain about this.
"No sooner had he said this, I mean the words had hardly quit resonating through the room, than our telephone switchboard began to light up - ten or 12 calls. Which is automatically suspicious, because we've had any number of weird things go out over the air, real emergencies, disaster, what have you, and there is always a five-to-ten-minute lag before phone calls start coming in. And these calls came in instantly."
After several almost identical calls in, David Cloud, the station's associate musical director, told the switchboard he'd take the next one.
"David must have talked to this person at least seven or eight minutes, and he was just saying the same old thing, getting more and more berating. So finally David said, 'I hope you don't mind me asking, and you certainly don't have to answer this if you don't want to, but did someone ask you to call?' And the person said, 'No, I did it spontaneously.' And David said, 'OK, well, I appreciate your being honest,' and the guy finally hung up.
"So then David put the phone down and turned around... and Owen deLong was standing there. He'd been standing there for 30 seconds or so, and apparently heard the last part of the conversation. He had an absolutely ferocious look on his face and shouted at David, 'Come here. I want to talk to you!' He was quite clearly angry, and David was quite clearly frightened. And David said, 'I don't want to talk to you right now. I'll talk to you later.'
"At that point Owen rushed over, grabbed David's shirt and his arm, his left arm, grabbed him and pushed him a good ten to 12 feet against the sharp outer corner of this wall. There was an L-shaped metal brace on the corner, and it hit him right in the back, about an inch away from his spine. Owen grabbed his arm with such force that the imprint of four of his fingers was clearly visible for about a week; it had broken capillaries under the skin. And David had this huge bruise, six or seven inches long, up his rear end to where his kidneys were. He couldn't sit down for at least a day. He was almost picked up off his feet; he's very slight, about 6'3",", 140 pounds. And Owen's about a six-footer, 190 pounds.
"So then David broke away from him, ran down the hall, and Owen was chasing him, shouting and screaming. And he had this absolutely maniacal look on his face. I have never seen a look like that on the face of any human being before. An absolute and total contrast to any state I had seen Owen in before, a complete Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde transformation. David was terror-stricken, he was afraid for his life. He ran toward the back part of the building where some other staff members, who had been alerted by the switchboard operator, ushered him into the lounge part of the women's restroom. And everybody's asking, you know, 'What happened, what happened?'
"And then Owen comes to the door of the lounge, opens the door, comes in, closes the door behind him, puts his back to the door, holding the door closed, blocking it, saying:
"'I want to talk to you! David, you have to talk to me! David, YOU ARE IN MY POWER!" That's an exact quote. 'DAVID, YOU WORK FOR ME! I'M RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU!'
"And all David said was, 'Owen, I don't want to talk to you. Please go away and leave me alone.' Several people pushed Owen out of the way, and David ran outside the building, onto the sidewalk, where he was finally able to regain his senses."
Actually, what he did was run up to two KPFK production people more or less for protection. They were standing in front of the building, a few feet from Cahuenga Boulevard West, and David starting chatting with them, as casually as he could, gradually catching his breath. A few moments later the door opened and out walked Owen deLong. Slowly he approached the three.
He was completely different," said the witness. "He was very calm, not aggressive or violent, and he had this absolutely dazed look on his face - you know, staring straight ahead, looking at somebody but not seeing them, that sort of thing. He looked as if he were really spaced out on acid. He didn't even acknowledge David's presence."
When Owen started speaking, the words were almost inaudible blending with the low, rhythmic rush of cars from the nearby Hollywood Freeway.
"He kept mumbling and saying things to himself. Things like, 'The fellow who produced this program will never produce another program for us again. It was such a good program. Too bad the program won't be on. The fellow who produced this program will never...'"
* * *
In the meantime someone had phoned station manager Marvin Segelman, who was at lunch. He returned, took Owen out for coffee, talked with him for a bit and fired him. "Owen said he was only trying to wake David up," recalled Segelman. "I said that's fine, but no touching, no hitting, you know?" He also fired Joey the Janitor, a member of the Lyman Family who had been hired by Owen and who had built, at the Family's suggestion and expense, a fine set of shelves in the record library. KPFK agreed to pay for the shelves, said Segelman, but no bill had been presented.
That night a meeting of the KPFK board and staff, about 40 people, was scheduled in the station's auditorium upstairs. Owen asked Segelman if he could attend and give his side of things, and Segelman, a fair-minded liberal to the end, said OK. The following is from an edited tape recording of that meeting, also attended by Mark Frechette:
Marvin Segelman: One of the issues involved in recent days which I think has manifested itself as something which must be dealt with by us is the question of Owen, and his position as program director. Owen has asked to express himself and his ideas to us, and I think that possibly the best opening for this meeting is at this point to listen to Owen and to react to him and then have an opportunity to relate to each other as best we can.
(As Owen speaks, he struts dramatically about the room, punctuating his remarks with loud boot stomps, long silences and cold stares inches from the faces of individual staff members. No one interrupts.)
deLong: We had a program on today called "Wake Up." (Stomp, stomp, stomp.) I took it off the air, to try to make the listening audience wake up. (Stomp, stomp, stomp.) I grabbed David in the hall to try to make David wake up, to wake the whole staff up. (Stomp, stomp, stomp.) Everybody here is aware, in one way or another, that this station is about to die. Somehow each of you ultimately resists the spirit. (Stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp.) You didn't even want to talk to me, after what I had done to David. You wanted me to leave the building. I was dangerous. Something might change. (Stomp, stomp.) Well, I'm leaving. And I don't know whether anything will change or not. And I think the only thing I've been able to do, and it's all that I had hoped to do, is to provide the opportunity for all of you to change. (Stomp, stomp stomp.) If you can. (Stomp, stomp, stomp.) But that's the only thing that will save this station. And I don't know whether the spirit will ever come again or not. And I don't know if you'll recognize it when it comes.
A defiant woman: Who said the station's about to die? I don't think anybody here feels that. I don't think anybody here feels the station is about to die.
Frechette: That's what wrong. There isn't one person here, besides Owen, who feels that.
A low-voiced, slightly pompous man: That's quite a presumption for anyone to make.
Frechette: It's also the truth.
Pompous man, scornfully: The spirit? Station dying? Come off it.
(deLong and Frechette stomp out of the auditorium. There is a pause, then the entire staff breaks out in laughter and cynical giggling.)
A frightened woman: Marvin, could I interrupt for a second? have a terrible... I'm afraid. Could I just say something? I have an awful premonition... a maybe foolish fear... of an explosion or a bomb or something.
Pompous man: I don't think so. What we have heard, it seems to me, is something that I've heard many times before. But I don't think... that we have any cause for fear. At all. If I were to deliver myself of any opinion in terms of what we have just heard I would spell it P ... I ... T ... Y. It's terribly unfortunate but I don't think that any of us ought to react in any spirit of any kind of fear at all. If anything, that man needs compassion it seems to me, of every person in this room, irrespective of what we may think, either in a personal way or as a result of actions that took place here in this building this afternoon. It's quite obvious, at least to me, that that man needs help. And I think if any of us here are in a position to give it to him, we ought to try and do so.
* * *
"It was so fine and efficient," said George Peper, shoving a recent forkful of pancakes into his beaming mouth. "Jessie and I were living out in L.A. at the time, and we were just talking about KPFK that morning. And we got a call from Mel in New York.
George wiped some syrup from his chin. "Mel called, and we were mobilized in half an hour. Three cars full in half an hour!"
Three cars full, ten people speeding east on Sunset Blvd. in the afternoon sun. Mark Frechette, George, Owen, David Gude, the whole crew. Mark sitting in the back, adjusting his grip on the crowbar, slapping it into his other hand, thinking about what Owen said the night before, "station's about to die, station's about to die."
At Highland the cars turned left, heading north past the Hollywood Bowl to the northbound lanes of the Hollywood Freeway, then off at Lankershim, left on the overpass to Cahuenga Blvd. West, up a service alley to the rear of a modern, two-story, brick and concrete building, KPFK.
"We were all sitting around in the hallway, drinking coffee," Marvin Segelman said later. "You know, there's kind of a reception area there and we were just sitting around. And they came in the front door. They were armed with hammers and screwdrivers and crowbars.
"They announced they were gonna take back their shelves. And, well, I told 'em they could do that. We were going to pay for them, they were beautiful shelves. But I said they could have them back. I wasn't about to stop them.
"They stationed people at the front and back. Half of them went to the music library and started ripping out the shelves, and the other half went to the doors. I just told everyone to keep working and not say anything.
"But then our chief engineer went to leave, and they wouldn't let him. They sort of shoved him back, not hard, they just wouldn't let him leave."
Apparently that was the door manned by Mark Frechette. "I was just the back door man, that's all," Mark recalled, chuckling. "I just played the big Nazi part, you know. There's plenty of room to play the Nazi part around here. The guy wanted to go through and I just told him to go ask someone else. 'My orders are no one goes through.'
"I was mad. And the thing that got me mad was there was nothing to get mad at. They all just kept working. We thought there was gonna be resistance, you know? I mean, when there's no opposition, there's no change."
David Cloud was quietly working in the music library when four men he'd never seen before suddenly stormed in and started demolishing the new shelves with crowbars. "Hey, what do you guys think you're doing?" he shouted. A female employee grabbed David and led him from the room, cupping her hand over his mouth. "I'll explain it to you later," she said. Segelman told him to "go to my office and lock yourself in."
Meanwhile, said Segelman, some of the Lyman people were going up to employees at their desks, particularly secretaries, and verbally intimidating them, yelling at them to "wake up," or silently staring at them bug-eyed.
"Finally, one guy who works for us on our Folio, a big guy simply bolted out the front door and called the cops."
KPFK Operations Director Paul Fagan also was in the reception area when the Lyman forces marched in. "It appeared to be a fairly well-executed paramilitary operation," he said later. "No instructions were given. Each person seemed to know exactly where he was supposed to go.
"The effect was to terrorize the entire station, just by their numbers and strangeness. They stared, they followed people; they stared, you know, with that kind of vacant stare of controlled rage."
Fagan's first reaction was to protect the master control room, the station's nerve center, and he rushed to the rear of the first floor where it was located. Just in time; David Gude had already taken his position inside.
"I told him to leave," said Fagan. "He wouldn't, so I grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him out. He just stood there with this look of glee on his face, because, I guess, I was forced to touch him."
The control room door was then locked, and Fagan started patrolling the halls looking for trouble. "I mean, they walked in with hammers and crowbars. There was no way to tell what they intended to do. If any of us had lost control and started slugging, it would have been a Donnybrook."
At one point Fagan tried to escape through the front door, but Owen grabbed him from behind and demanded, "What's going on, Paul?" Fagan jerked free and said something sarcastic about oh nothing, just a bunch of guys roaming around with crowbars.
Owen stared at him fiercely and repeated, "No really, what's going on?"
Then, said Fagan, Owen lunged forward as if he was going to strike him. Paul recoiled, pointing his finger and shouting angrily, "Don't do that again!"
Owen smiled and acknowledged Fagan's hand. "What's that?" he asked, teasing.
"Uh... it's my finger."
"No it's not, it's a gun. Would you kill me?"
Fagan stuttered. "I, uh... I don't know, I..."
"Well, I would kill you."
Fagan pushed deLong aside and continued his patrol. "I walked into the music room where a group of them were taking down the shelves. It was really bizarre, like some strange kind of church service. They all stopped what they were doing and began this strange litany."
The litany, recalled Paul, consisted mainly of single words chanted in ominous tones.
"Afraid," said one.
"Not real," said another.
According to Fagan, "When I asked one of them, 'What do you mean?' another would answer, 'No spirit,' something like that. Then one guy pointed at my hair and said, 'I hear the hair continues to grow after the body's dead.'
"'Are you going to kill me?' I asked, and one of them said, 'We would if we wanted to, but you're dead already.'
"Finally, after they finished dismantling the shelves, one of them - I guess it was David Gude - came up with his crowbar and began slowly moving it around my head and my body.
"'You and David Cloud better watch out,' he told me. I said 'For what?' and he said, 'You'll find out soon enough.'"
This sort of thing, Fagan recalled, was going on all over the building. "It was eerie: individually they weren't much, but you could really feel the power of the group as a whole.
"I don't know if 'terrorizing' is the right word, exactly. What they were doing was, they were mindfucking us, you know?"
As the police arrived the last of the shelves were being removed and carried outside to the three cars in the alley.
The police checked the IDs of the invaders and took down their names. But when KPFK refused to file an official complaint, the made no arrests, simply waited until the shelves were removed and the building cleared. Later, agents from the FBI advised Segelman to file a report, "just to get it on the record."
"I remember one person shouted, 'This place is dead, we might as well go ahead and blow up the building,'" said our earlier witness. "That was the thing that made us feel there perhaps was some danger to the staff members."
As a precaution, Segelman hired a private guard to protect KPFK for a week.
Somewhere in all this was a lesson, and Mel Lyman figured it should be taught to more people than just the staff at KPFK.
A few days later he wrote a little sermon and asked the editors of the Los Angeles Free Press to print it. For some reason they consented, without even a proof read. Headlined THE WORLD IS DYING, the item attacked "all those empty faggots and KPFK," and concluded with these words:"You know what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna get up an army of all the people in this world who still have enough balls to fight this creeping decay and we're gonna go around raiding all you creeps, and there ain't nothing you can do about it, just sit on your beards and wait for us to come. It will probably take me a long time but there's nothing else to do. I don't give a damn about my life anymore because I'm a living, feeling, dedicated human being all alone on a big dead planet. I don't want to do God's Will. God is angry at you, I know, he tells me so. You killed Him. You stuck a joint in his mouth and put him out to pasture, you palmed him off on your friends as "peace and love. You made a mockery of His Great Strength. You crucified Him in HIS NAME. But he'll get you, he ain't that easy to lay aside, he's inside you right now and mad as hell. You forgot about His Wrath. He'll make a Big Earthquake and swallow you all up, ideas and all. And He's inside ME! He makes my heart pound He's so big inside me. He's coming back, and not like you thought he would, he's coming back Mad. He is the great destroyer."War and Hate,
* * *
HOME Intro 1 2 3 4 Karma 5 6 7 Epilogue