The First Time I Said the "F Word"

I spent the last half of 1971 in an exclusive commune in the Hollywood Hills in a mansion at 3615 Shady Oak Road (view vicinity & inset) that was owned by Peter Tork of the Monkees. This is a famous house in rock & roll history. It had been rented by Stephen Stills during the making of Crosby, Stills & Nash's greatest album, Déjà-Vu (Crosby, Stills & Nash, Dallas Taylor & Neil Young). In fact, there were two rooms off of the pool that had been their rehearsal and recording studios and it was easy to imagine the likes of Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins and the entire Laurel Canyon rock & roll enclave hanging out there...

The house had been originally built by the father of Daryl Dragon (the Captain in The Captain & Tennille)  and was later bought by actor Wally Cox. Peter Tork bought it next and rented it out to various musicians, including the Rolling Stones when they were on tour in 1970. During my stint there in 1971, I met some of rock's greatest legends.

The commune was run by sci-fi writer Rick Strauss and his wife, fashion designer Simone Strauss, and we who were fortunate enough to be invited to join were all talented in some way. In fact, there was a kind of unofficial audition process during which the new inductee had to "show their stuff" after dinner as the entire family sat around the sprawling living room that overlooked the San Fernando Valley. This was informal, of course, and your "stuff" could either be a musical performance, a reading of poetry, a description of a film idea, a concert tour idea, or just a flow of creative thoughts that set you apart from the mainstream.

One of the people who lived there was Jeff Levin, who became my manager. He was a cold bastard with me, and I say that without reservation, but he got me booked at concerts at Venice Beach, Griffith Park, the Aquarius Theater, the Ashgrove, and on various television talk shows.

I don't remember what month it was, but the last gig I did through Jeff was a concert at Griffith Park. My friend Deni was there to see me perform and sometime that morning I got the big idea to have her join me on stage to sing "I Shall Be Released" (Bob Dylan). After my set, I left the stage and prepared to leave with Deni and her then husband to get something to eat. Jeff caught up with me in the parking lot and yelled at me for having Deni on the stage with me. I'd already had it with him; I'd found out that he'd been pocketing the money I was making, telling me that the gigs were all freebies, and I'd been waiting for the right moment to tell him to get lost. Because there'd been no contracts, it would be easy.

A verbal row ensued there in the parking lot and as he stormed away, I yelled over the cars, "Fuck you!" I'd never used the "F word" before because I hated it, but it felt really good to use it at that moment. Jeff looked a little stunned, but he walked away and I never saw him again.

Just another day in Hollywood.