Richard Swartz held the world record for the fifty yard dash – on his hands. Richard was a member of Synanon, and was one of Chalres Dederich’s bodyguards that I learn from Wikipedia, were called the Imperial Marines.
After Richard lost his wife and two year old son, he entered Synanon. After crying about losing his child, they made him wear a dress to meetings. They got him into a weightlifting program to man him up.
One day, Richard made a break for it. He told me Dederich was ordering his bodyguards to beat people up.
“Did you beat people up?” I asked.
“Yes! But, then I was being asked to do more then that.”
When Richard and three other of Imperial Marines went shopping, they ordered to keep an eye on each other – because no one could be trusted now – Swartz ran out the back of the grocery store, and ran for his life.
“I ran as hard as I could for over a mile before I dare look back.”
I had met Richard in a neighborhood bar. In two months all my tough Oakland friends, who all drank Mexcian beer, told me to get rid of Richard, or I could no longer be their friend.
“I tried to get rid of him, but, he can’t take a hint. He sees himself as my bodyguard.”
When I saw the movie ‘My bodyguard’ I saw Richard. They look just alike. Richard and I looked alike, but who he really looked like, was my father. There was a dark and mean side to both of them that came out when they drank.
When my friend, Paul Drake, got the part of Mick in the movie ‘Sudden Impact’ as the No.1 bad guy, he told me he intimidated Clint when he entered the room, there just he and Clint, there. Paul told me he wanted to get into acting after seeing me in a bar, how I fucked with people, intimidated them, with a smile. But Paul, a tough Texan, had put Richard out of his mind, the time Richard came up to him at the bar, looked him in the eye, took his drink, and downed it with one gulp. Smiling at Paul, Richard asked;
“I took your drink. Now, what are you going to do about it? You say you are from Texas, and played football? Then I bet you you can handle yourself.”
When Richard did this to five people at another bar, they did nothing. Then, he kicked the bartenders dog that was lying on the floor, the old girl who looked like Lassie!
I believe I found a photo of Richard on the internet, the young man in overalls. Richard wore overalls most of the time. He is not as beefed-up as when I saw him. He looks – hopeful!
Hands down, for a little while, Dederich was the most interesting man in the world, and the most lethal man, to drink with. But, then, another bad-ass came along and took the title. I dare not take another drink – thank you!
to be continued
And although the Family was often accused of strong-arm tactics in dealing with neighbors and alternative-community groups, they certainly never killed anyone or even manifested serious homicidal intent.
However, in 1973, members of the Family, including Frechette, staged a bank robbery. One member of the Family was killed by police, and Frechette, sentenced to prison, died in a weightlifting accident in jail in 1975.
Alleged criminal activity
On March 20, 1978, a former member of Synanon was severely beaten (for being a “splittee”) during his honeymoon when he took his bride to show her where he had once lived at the Walker Creek Ranch.
Synanon is heavily implicated in the late-1972 or early-1973 disappearance of Rose Lena Cole, who was ordered by a court to enroll in Synanon before she disappeared. She has not been seen or heard from since.
During the summer of 1978, the NBC Nightly News produced a news segment on the controversies surrounding Synanon. Following this broadcast, several executives of the NBC network and its corporate chairman allegedly received hundreds of threats from Synanon members and supporters. However, NBC continued with a series of reports on the Synanon situation on the NBC Nightly News.
On September 21, 1978, ex-Synanon member Phil Ritter was severely beaten by two Synanon members, which fractured his skull and caused him to fall into a coma with a near-fatal case of bacterial meningitis.
Several weeks later, on October 11, 1978, two Synanon members placed a de-rattled rattlesnake in the mailbox of attorney Paul Morantz of Pacific Palisades, California. Morantz had successfully brought suit on behalf of a woman abducted by Synanon. The snake bit and almost killed him.
Six weeks later, the Los Angeles Police Department performed a search of the ranch in Badger that found a recorded speech by Dederich in which he said, “We’re not going to mess with the old-time, turn-the-other-cheek religious postures…our religious posture is: Don’t mess with us. You can get killed dead, literally dead…these are real threats,” he snarled. “They are draining life’s blood from us, and expecting us to play by their silly rules. We will make the rules. I see nothing frightening about it…I am quite willing to break some lawyer’s legs, and next break his wife’s legs, and threaten to cut their child’s arm off. That is the end of that lawyer. That is a very satisfactory, humane way of transmitting information. I really do want an ear in a glass of alcohol on my desk.”
Dederich was arrested while drunk on December 2, 1978. The two other Synanon residents, one of whom was Lance Kenton, the son of the musician Stan Kenton, pleaded “no contest” to charges of assault, and also conspiracy to commit murder. While his associates went to jail, Dederich himself avoided imprisonment by formally stepping down as the chairman of Synanon.
Much of the violence by Synanon had been carried out by a group within Synanon called the “Imperial Marines.”
The Point Reyes Light, a small-circulation weekly newspaper in Marin County, received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1979 in recognition of its coverage of Synanon when other news agencies avoided reporting on it.
Synanon struggled to survive without its leader, and also with a severely tarnished reputation. The Internal Revenue Service sued for $17 million in back taxes, and all of its properties were confiscated and sold.[when?] Synanon formally dissolved in 1991.
Charles Dederich, a reformed alcoholic and a member of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), was said to be an admired speaker at A.A. meetings. Those suffering from addictions to illegal drugs, besides alcohol, were considered to be significantly different than alcoholics, and therefore were not accepted into A.A. Dederich decided to create his own program to respond to their needs. He was said to have coined the phrase “today is the first day of the rest of your life” During 1965, Columbia Pictures produced a movie, Synanon, which was directed by Richard Quine, and starred Edmond O’Brien as Chuck Dederich, and also Chuck Connors, Stella Stevens, Richard Conte, and Eartha Kitt.
Synanon purchased the Club Casa del Mar, a large beachside hotel in Santa Monica, and this was used as its headquarters and as a dormitory for those undergoing anti-drug treatment. Later on, Synanon acquired a large industrial building, which had been the home of the Oakland Athletic Club, in Oakland, California, and then transformed it into a residential facility for Synanon’s members. Outsiders were permitted to attend the “Synanon Game” there as well. Children were reared communally in the Synanon School, and juveniles were often ordered to enroll in Synanon by California’s courts.
Synanon II Utopian Society 1967-1973
Dederich concluded in l967 that the program was not a success, and ended the concept of “graduation.” Without continued peer pressure, most ex-addicts reverted on leaving, as did the Korean prisoners of War (giving up Communism) in 90-days. (Robert Jay Lifton, Coercive Persuasion, the Psychology of Totalism). As full recovery for graduates was not happening sufficiently, Dederich proclaimed no one should ever graduate. Remain forever and they could build a Utopian world designed by Dederich. Dederich was familiar with “Walden’s Pond” and the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and B. F. Skinner. The organization developed a business that sold promotional items, a successful enterprise that eventually generated roughly $10 million per year of revenue. Synanon enterprises would run gas stations, pottery making, apartment buildings and other income businesses without having to pay workers or taxes. Dederich bought and sold real estate. ( Dederich tapes on Synanon history; Tony Lang, Synanon, Guy Endore, Synanon, Gerstel Paradise, Inc)
Babies were taken from the parents and raised in the “Hatchery.” Mothers who wanted to see their kids too much were called “head suckers.” Children were reared communally in the Synanon School where eventually they wrote essays on Dederich telling everyone what to do, Syndo (karate) “changing partners,” childliness, and fighting the “Holy War.” (Casriel, So Fair a House, Yablonski, The Tunnel Back: Guy Endore, Synanon; Charles Dederich tapes on history of Synanon; Dederich, “Childiness; Time Magazine l977).
Synanon instituted “containment” which was disallowing contact with outsiders. One was to participate only in Synanon. Synanon’s goal, Dederich said, was to lead the world into the 21st Century and “anything less than changing the world is Mickey Mouse.” (Morantz archives on Synanon, Gerstel, Paradise Inc.”)
Dederich experimented with environmental manipulations so as to recreate the heightened awareness and inner discoveries he experienced while taking LSD. To recruit needed non addict club members, Dederich created The Trip, forerunner of Werner Erhard’s est training, which was a combination of group psychotherapy, coercive persuasion, mysticism and old fashion spiritual revival. (Tony Lang, Synanon, Morantz archives on Synanon).
Dederich designed an efficient program of individual emotional breakdowns followed by a mass group euphoria all designed to re-educate individuals into the Synanon II philosophy and lifestyle. It was first offered to the selected few as an honor, but the entire population was eventually targeted. Dederich called it an “insight producing” experience.
Dederich said: “At the end of this rainbow, there will be a pot of gold. Through dissipation, or long hours of activity without very much sleep, we hope to bring about in you a conscious state of inebriation… we want to get you loaded without acid.
“You will learn more about yourself, your fellow man, the world, the nature of reality in one weekend than you would in four years. “Let your ego go…let things happen to you. It’s a feeling of closeness to each other we are after, the death of the ego. A reference point for the rest of your life. You may change your value system, notions about life and viewpoints about people. It will produce a new breed of human beings with greatly expanded potentials. If you do your best, you can’t fail.” (Tony Lang, Synanon, Morantz archives on Synanon).