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Behind the curtain: Lady Gaga, Laurel Canyon and that growing sense of uneasiness in pop culture

Andrew W. Griffin
Red Dirt Report
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pop culture on life support?

OKLAHOMA CITY — Talking with my brother recently, the subject of modern culture and its rapid descent into mindless mediocrity, came up as it often does. As a teacher, my brother has a lot of interaction with teenagers, so when I asked him what his gauge was on the pop culture interests of the modern teenager, he sighed and said, “There seems to be a longing for something different, something real.”

And being the advisor to the school newspaper he said a student of his wrote a column on this very subject. The kids are all right, as it were, it’s just that the broader culture is failing them in every possible way. We at Red Dirt Report have been concerned about this for some time now. True talent, particularly in the realm of pop music, seems like a rarity these days. As a man nearing 40, some may say I am out of step and am living in the past. But there have been bad periods throughout the history of pop music, during the 20th and into the 21st century. Art, even, has gotten worse. TV and movies lack any real inspiration or anything that really touches the heart and addresses the human condition in a truly meaningful way.

And this brings to mind the bizarre and degenerate pop sensation Lady Gaga. As someone who monitors popular culture and pop music in particular, the Lady Gaga phenomenon has struck me as one of the more freakish ones to come down the line. Sure, Lady Gaga, singer of chart-topping tunes like “Telephone” and “Alejandro,” may merely be the latest star desperately trying to maintain interest in her personality. Yet, the sight of her at a recent awards show appearing in a dress made of raw meat makes one wonder, “What the hell is going on?”

I knew the larger culture was becoming aware of Lady Gaga when I saw and reported on members of that nutty Westboro Baptist Church, run by Fred Phelps, protesting Lady Gaga’s concert here in Oklahoma City. They wouldn’t travel so far if they didn’t believe the hype.

Writing at the fascinating Catholic news website Spirit Daily, author Michael Brown asks the question “Is Lady Gaga possessed?” Gaga herself allegedly claims a relative possessed her body as a baby. Is she under mind control? Some suspect artists like Miley “Hannah Montana” Cyrus are mind-control victims. The monarch butterfly imagery in her music and videos makes one wonder. The rock band Paramore also has some of this mind-control imagery. Furthermore, the whole pop music industry appears rife with occultic and mind-control imagery, stuff that makes the backwards masking and concerns over heavy metal lyrics that were common when I was a boy seem somewhat quaint.

Another site, called Vigilant Citizen, has thoroughly examined the occult overtones in much of pop music. Few pop/hip-hop artists escape Vigilant Citizen’s gaze. Lady Gaga (aka Stefani Germanotta) comes under particular scrutiny. And if you take a further look at that site, VC addresses growing interest in transhumanism and police state imagery. I witnessed this myself in the fall of ’09 when I caught the Black Eyed Peas opening up for U2. Hypnotic beats. Android imagery. Soulless lyrics. There’s a disturbing aspect to it all that goes beyond provincial concerns about kids i-Dosing.

Regarding that aforementioned Spirit Daily article, it links to a New York Post article about an up-and-coming pop singer named Lina Morgana who may have been ritually murdered so Lady Gaga could become a star. Reports say Morgana committed suicide in ’08, falling out of a building just as her career looked like it was about to take off. But in the a Henry Makow-penned article, linked at, it says that Gaga, who worked with Morgana, wanted a rival out of the way. A pretty harsh claim but one that should probably be investigated further.

I first became aware of Lady Gaga in June 2009 when the establishment music magazine Rolling Stone featured her naked on the cover, save for some bubbles, looking like some 1970’s-era disco slut. I found her oddly asexual appearance off-putting but I knew that Rolling Stone and the dark forces that have infiltrated the music industry were pushing and promoting this manufactured “entertainer.”

Cultural critic Camille Paglia wrote this weekend in the London Sunday Times that Lady Gaga may be the “icon of her generation” but that “Gaga isn’t sexy at all – she’s like a gangly marionette or plasticized android” who is “calculated,” “artificial,” “clinical” and “strangely antiseptic.”

Meanwhile, pop critic William Browning at  wrote in the days following Gaga’s “meat dress” appearance: “The difference between Lady Gaga and other controversial fashionistas in the music world is simple. Lady Gaga is the new Michael Jackson. She is an image, created by whoever it is behind the scenes, and her musical talent is only as good as her image presented to the public. The more controversial and  risqué Lady Gaga is, the better for her album sales.”

But is it that simple? Is this simply shock value being used to boost sales to a bored public? Vigilant Citizen’s insights  are astounding. As an “urban” music producer, VC has said he/she has witnessed the “darker aspects of the entertainment industry.”

For instance, in his analysis of Lady Gaga’s darkly religious “Alejandro” video (Madonna’s 21-year-old “Like a Prayer” video comes to mind and seems positively tame in comparison) and Vigilant Citizen breaks it down showing Gaga transforming from a nun and into a wicked “Luciferian priestess” as she wears garb covered in inverted crosses.

Writes VC: “In non-Christian circles, however, the inversion of the cross represents the perversion and desecration of what it symbolizes. For this reason, inverted symbols are found in black magic and satanism.”

Not all is as it seems and, to quote an old chestnut – “There’s nothing new under the sun.” I have discovered this to be particularly true after reading all 17 installments (more to come) of investigative writer Dave McGowan’s “Inside The LC: The Strange But Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation.

I was introduced to McGowan’s investigations into mysterious Laurel Canyon, in Los Angeles, two years ago after writing a piece in The Norman Transcript on The Monkees’ psychedelic film Head, which incorporated a lot of Laurel Canyon figures. I have been hooked on McGowan’s work ever since.

For those not familiar with Laurel Canyon, this was a neighborhood in the Hollywood area where numerous stars of the 1960’s and 1970’s rock and pop music scene congregated and lived. You had members of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Monkees, The Association, The Turtles, The Mamas and The Papas and many more who ended up in Laurel Canyon, including numerous young-and-hip film stars, like Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Bruce Dern – aka “The Young Turks.”

And while that’s fine and good, McGowan’s research has revealed that many of these artists were not particularly vocal about the Vietnam War and civil unrest in America. McGowan posits that these wealthy-and-talented young people were used by “The Establishment” to marginalize the true anti-war movement that was starting to grow before drug-and-lifestyle “hippies” and “flower children” began to be promoted by “The Establishment.” How do you explain all these talented pop stars – perceived to be a threat to the status quo and the military-industrial complex – not getting drafted and shipped off to the war in Southeast Asia? And what of all the LSD that the hippies got thanks to CIA-connected counterculture figures like Timothy Leary and Owsley “Bear” Stanley, a figure connected with The Grateful Dead and the famous acid tests. Despite the thousands and thousands of tabs of acid they supplied the innocent hippies, they were never faced with decades in prison. Seems odd, doesn’t it?

For instance, Frank Zappa was a Laurel Canyon denizen and he had open contempt for hippies. Just listen to his scathing anti-hippie song “Who Needs the Peace Corps?” from 1968.

Anyway, young Zappa’s  father was involved in chemical and biological warfare research at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland. Young Frank lived there before relocating to California. And then there is the “Lizard King” Jim Morrison of The Doors whose father, Admiral George S. Morrison was involved in the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964. That was the manufactured incident that led to America’s full-fledged involvement in the illegal war in Vietnam. Strangely, Jim Morrison never openly denounced his father or the war itself. One has to wonder why.

This is probably a good place for me to say that I absolutely love the music of the 1960’s and 1970’s. It’s some of the best to have ever been written and recorded. I listen to music from that period more than I did when I was first introduced to it. In fact, as I write this, the Grateful Dead’s 1968 album Anthem of the Sun is playing. I dig this music and always will. I just wonder if all these musical giants were, perhaps unwittingly, used by “The Establishment.”

Could it be that Laurel Canyon, a place Morrison often haunted, was also the home of the Lookout Mountain Laboratory? What? Never heard of it?

Writes McGowan: “Over its lifetime, the studio produced some 19,000 classified motion pictures – more than all the Hollywood studios combined (which I guess makes Laurel Canyon the real ‘motion picture capital of the world’). Officially, the facility was run by the U.S. Air Force and did nothing more nefarious than process AEC footage of atomic and nuclear bomb tests. The studio, however, was clearly equipped to do far more than just process film.

There are indications that Lookout Mountain Laboratory had an advanced research and development department that was on the cutting edge of new film technologies. Such technological advances as 3-D effects were apparently first developed at the Laurel Canyon site. And Hollywood luminaries like John Ford, Jimmy Stewart, Howard Hawks, Ronald Reagan, Bing Crosby, Walt Disney and Marilyn Monroe were given clearance to work at the facility on undisclosed projects. There is no indication that any of them ever spoke of their work at the clandestine studio.”

Perhaps there were elements within the “intelligence community” who were orchestrating what was really going on in Laurel Canyon. Perhaps that’s why so many otherwise poor musicians and artists were able to afford to live in this remote corner of L.A. and drop acid and write and perform some of that era’s biggest hits.

And speaking of one of the biggest hits from that time, Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” viewed as an anti-war song, there may have been more to it.

Writes McGowan: “Another curious irony about the song is that it was authored by Stephen Stills, aka “The Sarge,” an authoritarian, law-and-order kind of guy if ever there was one. Stills himself later heaped derision on the very notion of a protest song: “We didn’t want to do another song like “For What It’s Worth.” We didn’t want to be a protest group. That’s really a cop-out and I hate that. To sit there and say, ‘I don’t like this and I don’t like that’ is just stupid.”

McGowan notes that Stills, who was the product of a military family, may have been to Vietnam even before the war started. Perhaps he and the Springfield weren’t as anti-war as they seemed.

And as McGowan notes, Laurel Canyon, while beautiful, is a pretty spooky place with a long and bloody history. It’s a canyon over from where the Manson “family” lived and butchered. Many have written about Manson and his desire to be a pop star. The house his “family” targeted, according to many, had been previously occupied by producer Terry Melcher, who also happened to be the son of actress Doris Day, who some claim died around 1959-60 and was replaced by an impostor. Melcher was sharing the home with Mark Lindsay, singer for Paul Revere and The Raiders, a group Melcher produced, in addition to the manufactured Byrds. It is suggested that Manson wanted to kill Melcher or the occupants of that home so as to get revenge on Melcher for rejecting him and his music.

Perhaps that was the motivation.

And who introduced Manson to Melcher? Some say it was musician and former Byrd David Crosby. Crosby has long-played a role in some of the weirder aspects of the Laurel Canyon scene. Have you ever heard his atonal freak-poem song “Mind Gardens” on The Byrds’ ’67 album Younger Than Yesterday? Crosby (who happens to share my birthday) has always been a weird cat and someone who many say should have died years ago. While he seems to be more mellow these days, back in the Sixties, Crosby’s connections and behavior were seen as bizarre.

There is a weird incident from 1966 where The Beatles are being filmed for a press conference in Los Angeles. While Paul McCartney is answering a question, Crosby pokes his head from behind a curtain. As one person has noted in the comment section of YouTube, where the video can be found, the crazed smile Crosby gives is not unlike that of David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz. It’s really spooky. And what’s even weirder, is that some reports say some of the “Son of Sam” murders back in ’76 and ’77 were orchestrated during satanic ceremonies in New York’s Van Cortlandt Park. David Crosby, it should be noted, is a descendant of the Van Cortlandt family and Crosby’s middle name is Van Cortlandt. Coincidence?

I’m not saying David Crosby ever did anything wrong. I am a huge fan of his work and find him to be a fascinating personality. In fact, I wish his musical contributions were appreciated more than they already are. But some of these connections are hard to overlook once you dive into the rabbit hole.

And speaking of spooky, session musician Jerry Cole, part of the famous Wrecking Crew, said in an interview in the 2007 British documentary The Byrds: Under Review, that he and other Wrecking Crew players were told by “Wall of Sound” producer Phil Spector  told to do some work on some Charlie Manson songs. Cole recalled Manson as “spooky” and could “look holes through you.” You would think Melcher, Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys and others who palled-around with Manson would pick up on his scary nature.

Cole also notes that Spector was in a way a rather scary person, even in those days.  When the Wrecking Crew was screwing around one day, Spector came in wearing a top and tails and got their attention by shooting a handgun into the ceiling. Spector was obsessed with firearms and had a creepy, violent streak. Spector is now serving 19-years-to-life in prison in Corcoran, Calif., after being found guilty in the shooting death of Lana Clarkson. Ironically, he is held in a facility next to the prison where his old pal Charles Manson is housed.

But that discussion is for another time. Many others, far more educated on Manson than I, have written about the weirdness surrounding Manson and his associates.

And when talking about Laurel Canyon one cannot overlook the satanic and black magic aspects that came forth. The Process Church folks (now under cover in Utah working as the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary) and followers of Crowley, Lavey and other wicked leaders who came out of the mid-1960’s. As McGowan has noted in his fascinating “Wagging the Moondoggie” series, there may be a connection between the activities at Laurel Canyon and NASA’s controversial Apollo Moon program (1969-72). Authors Richard C. Hoagland and Mike Bara addressed this is Dark Mission: The Secret History of NASA. This book, which I reviewed a while back, suggests that NASA has an obsession with ancient Egyptian gods, is on Masonic missions and has covered up the truth about an ancient lunar civilization. Some Laurel Canyonites allegedly had similar obsessions.

And as a believer in synchromysticism, I found it interesting that within a matter of weeks this summer I had the opportunity to interview two important Laurel Canyon-connected musicians – drummer Johny Barbata (The Turtles, Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, etc.) and fiddle player Byron Berline (The Dillards, The Byrds, etc.). Both men, talented to the nth degree, live in Oklahoma and worked and performed with key Laurel Canyon figures. While we didn’t go into detail about the things they may or may not have observed, it is likely there is much Barbata and Berline know that they are probably reluctant to talk about. I will post those interviews here in the near future.

Also, I hope to follow up with both of them soon. Perhaps they will provide a little more insight into what was really going on in those days.

In the meantime, we here at Red Dirt Report will continue to keep our finger on the pulse of what is going on in the culture at large, both here in Oklahoma and beyond our borders.

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