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Dog days (Hungry)

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"Brandy" the pit bull steals the show in "Once Upon a Time In Hollywood."
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OKLAHOMA CITY – One of the standout performances in the compelling new Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon a Time In … Hollywood, is hungry pit bull Brandy, a likable pooch with a taste for Wolf’s Tooth brand dog food and a loyal companion to aging Hollywood stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).

After the film premiered in late July, Vanity Fair writer Laura Bradley wrote a piece about Brandy and her performance in this film set in the spring and summer of 1969:

Writes Bradley: “Like the larger-than-life hounds of yore, Brandy is both a friend and an ally in arms; the valiant pooch even plays an integral part in the film’s ultra-violent ending. Perhaps that’s why she won the film its only award at Cannes: the Palm Dog award. (Seriously.) Tarantino himself has praised her acting chops: “When I was editing the movie I realized, she’s a great actress,” he said of the pup when she won the honor. “I actually started seeing things in her face when I was cutting it together that I didn’t see on the day, so whatever little difficulties we had on set just really melted away when I saw what a great performance she gave.

A true showbiz dog, this Brandy. 

But what got my attention was the dog food itself. Whether in his trailer near a Van Nuys drive-in movie theater or watching the Cielo Drive home of his pal and cowboy actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), Brandy keeps guard and patiently waits for Cliff to plop the gloppy dog food which is described as “Good Food for Mean Dogs” (one style of food is “raccoon”-flavored; another is “rat”) in her bowl.

As I watched Cliff let the dog food plop into the bowl, something clicked. It was from those opening scenes in Back to the Future when Marty McFly drops by Doc Brown’s house and discovers neither Doc nor Einstein, Doc’s loyal dog, are around. An automatic dog-food dispenser has been plopping KalKan dog food in Einstein’s bowl all week, leaving a mess.

So, what syncs the two? Well, for me, 1985 – the year Back to the Future is set – and 1969, are linked forever in my mind.

That is because it was in 1985 that Canadian pop-rocker Bryan Adams had a big hit out, the catchy, nostalgic “Summer of ’69.” The song glamorized the year and made me wish I had been living at that time. I suddenly became obsessed with 1960’s pop culture, although I already was to some degree, due to all my favorite TV shows being from about 1964 to 1974, roughly that period of time associated with the “Sixties.”

And while the events in Back to the Future take place in the fall, those in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood take place, primarily, in the summer. But that's beyond the point. What the dog food references say to me is that things are going into an alternate reality. When Marty sees the dog food plopping in Einstein's bowl, he does not expect to embark on a crazy adventure through time, involving his family. And when Cliff Booth plops the Wolf's Tooth dog food in Brandy's bowl, little does he know - especially after that acid cigarette - that things are gonna get a little bit insane, but not in the way the maniacal Charlie Manson had hoped. But, as we all know, in our timeline, the Manson Family did commit murder and butchery in the Tate-LaBianca murder spree 50 years ago tomorrow. 

FANG

Dick Clark and "Fang." Not sure if he is checking his teeth or feeding him. (Wikimedia Commons)

Longtime bassist for Paul Revere & The Raiders, Phil Volk turned 40 years old on October 25, 1985, the same day that Marty arrives at Doc’s house, looking for both Doc and Einstein. Interestingly, Volk’s name in the band during the Raiders’ heyday was “Fang.” It was taped to the back of his bass guitar and he showed it to the audience when they performed.

Volk acquired the nickname “Fang” in 1965, when he joined the Raiders at the Pussy Cat A-Go-Go Club in Las Vegas. This was, in part, because of Volk’s prominent, toothy grin. Additionally, “Fang” is a known name for pet dogs, including the oversized Boarhound dog that belonged to animal-loving Rubeus Hagrid, the gentle giant in the Harry Potter books and films.

Interestingly, in Harry Potter lore, Fang is born in 1984 and named Fang in 1985, after Hagrid saves Fang, who was trapped in devil’s snare. A student suggests to Hagrid that the dog be named “Fang,” because “I’ve always liked that name for a dog.”

Fang Volk would become a popular member of the Revolutionary War-garb wearing Paul Revere & The Raiders, who not only have a chapter in my book, Rock Catapult: 1966 – The Launch of Modern Rock & Roll, where I call the band “essential” for that time period.

And so when I saw Once Upon a Time In Hollywood yesterday, I was pleased to see the emphasis placed on Paul Revere & The Raiders, with Sharon Tate playing the Spirit of ’67 album, the album that features “Good Thing,” the song that Tate listens to in the house she shared at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles.

That was the house that Doris Day’s son Terry Melcher owned, until Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate bought it and moved in. In the Tarantino film, Polanski and Tate’s neighbor is Rick Dalton, although this is a bit of fanciful fiction on Tarantino’s part. But it makes for compelling viewing, as much of the situations in the film – built around real events involving Charles Manson and his notorious, murderous “Family” – are fictional. But Brandy the pit bull, loves and protects her master - Cliff Booth - and attacks, brutally, when Cliff makes a certain sound. Brandy does her job well, particularly when attacking hippie cutthroats out to start a race war that they thought was triggered by the Beatles' "White Album." 

But what is not  fictional is the fact that Melcher liked Fang and his clever, rockin’ bass-playing style, and would work to bring his bass lines up in the mix, as you will note on “Good Thing” and “Hungry,” both of which are highlighted in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood.

And what Tarantino is saying with the emphasis on Paul Revere & The Raiders is that singer Mark Lindsay was living at the same house with Melcher. As the Wiki entry notes, on Phil Volk: “Volk's favorite Raider song was the last big hit of "Spirit of '67". "Good Thing" was credited to the writing team of Melcher, Paul Revere and Mark Lindsay.

However, Volk states that (“Good Thing”) was written at the Cielo Drive home of Melcher, in the Beverly Glen section of Los Angeles. It was later to become infamous as the home where Sharon Tate and her friends were murdered by Charles Manson. Some of the band members, including Volk, were spending a great deal of time there poring over ideas and jamming. Someone in the group said something like, "This is a good thing". After putting together some more lyrics with the others who were present and coming up with some chords for the song, Volk thought he would get partial writing credit, along with Jim "Harpo" Valley, Raider guitarist while Drake Levin was in the service. But neither Volk nor Valley got any credit for helping to create the record.[7] "Good Thing" peaked at #4 on the Billboard charts in December 1966.”

Another "dog" reference, is brief, but notable and syncs with '66 is the bubblegum novelty song "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron" by The Royal Guardsmen. It was a minor hit in November 1966, right before "Good Thing" would be a big hit. It is "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron" (a dog fighting a German - just as loyal American Rick Dalton did in the Nazi-killing film 14 Fists of McCluskey, where Rick gets to use a flamethrower - a weapon that comes in handy after Brandy does her best to take chunks of flesh off of the Manson Family monsters). Rick is listening to "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron" on headphones in his pool before things get hairy. All the while, Brandy is hungry. When will Cliff feed her again?

So, what about this dog angle? Well, in regards to Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, the climax of the film – August 8-9, 1969, take place in the “dog days of summer.” In the film, Sharon Tate is very pregnant and it is very hot in Los Angeles. She is uncomfortable in the heat, and says as much to her friends – friends who will also be (or will they?) victims of the Manson Family.

It was also hot in England on August 8, 1969. The date that the Beatles crossed Abbey Road in what is the most iconic album cover in rock history. Paul McCartney claims he didn’t wear shoes that day because it was so hot. Although going barefoot on hot asphalt on a “dog day afternoon” in London, sounds somewhat painful …

SIRIUSLY

Those hot days of August, the "dog days" are when madness is said to be at a peak. The ancients - who admired Sirius, the "Dog Star" - felt that this time period on the calendar, when the heat took over much of the northern hemisphere, was bad luck. Dogs were said to go "mad." Recall that Marty McFly's nemesis, Biff Tannen, has an ancestor in the Old West Hill Valley known as "Mad Dog" Tannen. I note this in my post "Goodbye stranger," from last month.

As I wrote on Feb. 13, 2015: “But there’s also a video of The Beach Boys in about 1968 on a variety show, performing a reworked version of a Charles Manson original called “Never Learn Not to Love” and a studio version of another Manson song – “Cease to Exist.” When asked in an earlier interview about whether Machines of Loving Grace cover anyone elses songs, Benzel said “Never Learn Not to Love.” It’s one that has a dark history.

All this syncs and brings me to a couple of recently-posted articles at Dangerous Minds. The first is about Manson Family murder victim Sharon Tate. The piece notes that Tate allegedly had “a prophetic dream about her brutal murder by members of the Manson Family at least two years before the tragic incident took place.”

The information came to the Dangerous Minds writer via a May 1970 issue of Fate magazine. Reporter Dick Kleiner said he interviewed Tate in 1968 on a movie set and he asked her if she had ever had a psychic experience. Apparently she had. This is what Tate told Kleiner:

“Yes, I have had a psychic experience – at least I guess that’s what it was – and it was a terribly frightening and disturbing thing for me,” she said. “It happened a year or so ago (1967). Maybe you can explain it.

Continuing, I concluded: "Indeed. She goes on to say when she was staying at her lover Jay Sebring’s house (who would also be murdered, along with Tate in 1969), she had a “premonition” of a murderous event taking place, shortly after seeing a “small man” scurrying around the otherwise empty house in L.A.’s Benedict Canyon.

Did Sharon Tate sense that time was short? She would break up with Sebring soon after and later marry Roman Polanski, who was working on Rosemary’s Baby around that time. Very strange and eerie things were going on in Hollywood/Laurel Canyon in those days.

Was this “dream” a premonition?”

I will close with a reference to "crackpot historian" Adam Gorightly's 2001 book The Shadow Over Santa Susana: Black Magic, Mind Control and the Manson Family Mythos. It's my favorite book on the subject.

As I wrote in my review of Gorightly's book back in 2015: “We get the backstory. Charlie's sad tale of imprisonment and later hanging out with Hollywood celebrities and befriending the Beach Boys and other rockers of the era. Collecting acolytes, particularly women, along the way. They would do his bidding. The spawn of Spahn Ranch. Charlies' outlaw attitude was actually masquerading as "peace, love and communal hugs," he writes. A monster was coming into his own, and the Fab Four (or Fab Three, depending on where you fall on the whole "Paul is Dead" trip) helped trigger Manson's "actions," (?) leading up to 10050 Cielo Drive on August 9, 1969, right after the Beatles crossed that stygian Abbey Road, on their way to a funeral.

“Charlie felt that the Beatles were beaming subliminal messages that on a conscious level were unknown even to them,” writes Gorightly. “During the Tate-LaBianca trial, Manson was quoted: ‘I think it’s a subconscious thing. I don’t know whether they did it or not. But it’s there. It’s an association of the subconscious. This music is bringing on the revolution, the unorganized overthrow of the Establishment. The Beatles know in the sense that the subconscious knows.”

And if you haven’t noticed, Charlie is everywhere. The recent David Duchovny vehicle Aquarius, incorporates Manson into the plotline. Manson nearly married earlier this year to a far younger woman and alleged devotee. And this week, it was reported that a copy of the “White Album,” signed by Charlie and members of “The Family” was put up for sale, online, for $49,000!

And it makes sense. Charles Manson and the “White Album” are forever intertwined. As Gorightly notes, Tex Watson and other members of “The Family” say that Charlie (about whom “Helter Skelter” was written – Charlie, the Jesus figure “emerging from the bottomless pit”) was not as willing – later – to admit to his original and pure interpretation of the “White Album.”

“The most experimental piece on the “White Album” (officially titled The Beatles), ‘Revolution #9,” took on great significance to Manson, who equated it was Revelation 9” from the Bible, writes Gorightly. “Like Manson, the number nine held great significance in Lennon’s life. In numerology, nine is the final number, the last single digit and highest counting number before starting over again; the beginning and the end.”

“According to Tex Watson, in early 1969 Manson began ranting in his death trip lectures about The Process Church of the Final Judgment. Soon after, Charlie and other Manson Family members were wearing black capes and black-dyed clothing – just like their spiritual brethren. Of course – from the beginning of his three year odyssey with the Family – Charlie had always talked about death, but it was usually spiritual death he was rapping about: death of the ego." Death and black magic. Race war. Dune buggies of death created out of stolen Beetles. Beetles and Beatles.

But that changed to a “death is beautiful” and “death was Charlie’s trip,” as Tex Watson was quoted as saying. Tex and "Sexy Sadie" would be on their own death trip, stabbing Roman Polanski's wife Sharon Tate, 16 times. Polanski, Gorightly writes, told the Los Angeles Police Department that he considered degenerate folk-rocker "Papa" John Phillips as a suspect. "Monday, Monday" indeed ..."

Yeah, Papa John Phillips. He was a character. A very dark and disturbing character, from what I have been told, despite his remarkable singing and songwriting abilities. It was weird hearing "Twelve-Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon" by The Mamas and The Papas playing as Rick Dalton first encounters members of The Family outside his home. And Rick calls Tex Watson "Dennis Hopper." Michelle Phillips is spotted at a Playboy Mansion party. In reality, Phillips would actually marry wild man actor Dennis Hopper for eight days in 1970, but divorced him due to his "unnatural sexual demands." I have heard it was worse than initially reported. 

I suggest readers check out the late Dave McGowan's excellent 2014 book Weird Scenes Inside The Canyon (my review here), for more information on what was likely really going on in the 1965-1975 time period when Laurel Canyon and neighboring environs were a bizarre laboratory of mind control, propaganda and extreme talent from a crop of military-linked young people who would take over the pop charts during that wild, turbulent period of American history. 

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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