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Wes Garland: Webmaster
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On Thursday, August 21, 2003, at 2:45pm, my wife of 34 years, Rebecca, died in my arms in an emergency room.
The last words we spoke were in perfect synchronization: "I love you with all my heart."
What Happens When You Can't Live
Without A Recording Studio?
If it's 1976, you build one. Maybe things are different now, I don't know. As you read this story, maybe you can understand why I wouldn't even try to find out. This experience was enough to last for two lifetimes.
Digital hadn't even been invented yet, thank God. There was no such thing as CDs. No ADATs. No MIDI, and no computers. Cassette tape was brand new on the market. VHS video decks for your home were just coming out, and cost about $1,500.00. Mine was an early Hitachi - it weighed about 40 pounds and broke every month - guaranteed.
Synthesizers had just been invented, too - they played one note at a time, and you had your choice: ARP or Moog. Or better yet, neither. I fell for it, I bought an ARP Pro Soloist, but my Hammonds, Leslies, and Twins had TUBES.
Music used to come from people back in those days. You had to play. There wasn't any looping, quantizing, cut and paste, or drum machines. Music went to tape. Anybody that's ever listened knows and understands the two magic words "WARM" and "ROUND". Here's a test. Say "ANALOG". See? That didn't hurt at all. Today, people are all going frantic about tube preamps, back then, they were throwing them away.
Well, how about the studio? First, you ask a lot of questions. Visit as many smaller studios as you can find, and then spend a hundred times as many hours in the "big" studios to see how it's really done. These rooms aren't getting $375.00 per hour studio time for nothing.
If you're extra lucky, you have fairly regular access to several Westlake rooms, Kendun Recorders, and you can get in contact with the real pioneers - Tom Hidley and Kent Duncan - when you have questions. If you're just half as lucky as we were, you can even get Kent to look over your plans, and show you what you should be doing. We were very lucky.
Then you pay some dues. You work for just about nothing wiring up Leon Russell's 40 track Helios/Stephens studio, then you do work for nothing wiring somebody else's (we won't mention any names here, Reggie Fisher, then of Sherman Oaks) 16 track room. (Well, you thought you were getting paid, but you got screwed instead.)
By now, you know how to solder pretty damn well, and you could wire amps, patchbays, multitracks, and mic lines in your sleep.
You take a look at your empty almost-three-car garage - it's a good size, 26' wide - and you know what's coming. If you add a 26' wide control room right behind it, 24' deep, and 14' high, you're going to have one kick-ass studio when it's all over. It won't be enormous, but it'll be your own.
The very first thing you do is start drawing. If you're into drafting and scale rulers and all that paraphernalia, you make blueprints. If not, you'll make them anyway - the building department isn't issuing a building permit without them.
Then try explaining to a building inspector that, acoustically, parallel interior walls are not wanted in a recording environment. Let me know how you make out. I'll wait in the car.
One thing you can be sure of: people in building departments don't know or want to know, anything about recording sound. If it isn't in their building code book, forget it. It's illegal.
Know who I'm referring to, Craig "Staggering Drunk" Gordon?
That's why you build a "storage room" - not a recording studio - and get rid of the inspectors as fast as you possibly can.
They're about as welcome as malignant tumors.
Another thing: always be prepared. When the inspector struts up and tells you that the closed circuit camera you installed at the gate is illegal, be prepared to tell him that it's 12 volts DC. There is no Goddamn electrical code that applies to low DC voltage devices - including that camera. Send his swaggering ass back to the code books to show you the code sections that don't exist - that's what he's paid for, right?
Know who I mean, Caylor "Whitey" Walp, with the greaseball hairdo?
Nobody said these inspectors knew how to read or understand English, so don't expect very much. I had to climb up on the roof at 8:00 in the morning, with drunken Craig Gordon - to prove there were nails holding the roof on. Exactly as specified by code, I hadn't missed even one nail. Gordon was crawling around on his knees, counting nails - so drunk he had to do it twice - then he gave up anyway. I probably would have done him a favor by throwing him off the roof. Broken head equals instant sobriety! Cities only hire the best. "Your tax dollars at work - on a five day bender".
After the plans are approved it's time to clear the ground for the foundation of the control room. Trees in the way? Get rid of them any way you can. Hopefully, you've already planned for electricity, telephone lines, and extras. They have to enter the building somehow, bringing them in underground isn't a bad idea at all. Go get some 6" PVC pipe and a shovel. Trust me on this: do it before the concrete goes in or you'll never do it.
click on any picture for a full size view
Time to dig the footer: that's an 18" wide by 18" deep border around the outside perimeter of the room. It's going to have a lot of steel bars in it for strength. Remove - yes, that means dig out - the dirt, level the floor area, and build the forms. These are the outside boundaries, which must be level. Don't know how to use a string level or water level? Then learn! They'll hold in the concrete once it's poured, and will be removed after the concrete sets up. Our control room floor was six inches deep, with plenty of steel bars and reinforcing wire to add strength.
Something we didn't bother including in our plans was the fact that the control room slab wasn't going to touch the studio slab: they would be isolated from each other by six inches, and the space filled with sand. (There are some secrets here, but I'm not telling.) When cement day came, we lined the front of the footer with blocks of hard florist foam, against the old (studio) footer: this prevented the new concrete from touching the old concrete. After the concrete hardened, a blowtorch made the foam disappear real fast, and left gruesome green melted puddles in the bottom of the trench. I hope somebody discovers them 2,000 years from now. I should have left a note in a bottle explaining acoustic isolation and building inspectors.
Framing began within a few days. That may have been the easiest and most fun part of the entire project. Just build a wall laying down on the slab, and get a lot of people to help stand it up. Brace it up good with some 2x4s and hope it doesn't fall on your head while you build the next one. 24' walls, 14' high, don't usually stand up by themselves - so invite several people, and be sure you have beer.
Another suggestion: build everything on 16" centers. That's BETTER and STRONGER than the building code book specifies: the code book clearly states 24" centers. Our home and garage were 24" centers! You might think that's overdoing it, but you'll appreciate it in the long run. For some walls I'd even suggest 12" centers.
Let me add something: forget about ladders, don't even think that way. Rent real scaffolding that can support a bunch of guys, 3', 6', or 9' up, and let you really work where and how you need to.
Look carefully at the pictures and you'll see we framed a compression ceiling in the control room.
Simply defined, a compression ceiling looks a lot like a flat bottom "V" from the side: it drops from 14' high, down to 9', then back up again to 12'. The flat bottom of the "V" is about 12"-18" wide, and is to be located exactly above the engineer's head when he's sitting behind the console. The purpose is to compress sound down towards the engineer's ears, then "relieve" the compression right into the traps, once the sound passes through this "magic" area. A whole lot of planning, measuring, and drawing come into play here. You must plan the entire floor layout months in advance. You will draw this out on the concrete so you know where you're going.
In order to create this part of the framing, we bought two pieces of raw timber - 12" high x 6" wide x 26' long. This stuff isn't even called "lumber" - they use the word "timber". They also use a forklift. I wish to hell we had a forklift!
Huge bolts connected them together, effectively providing a 26' long piece of 12" x 12". We spent a long time getting it placed perfectly - that was done with a "precision alignment tool". Most people know this tool as a "sledge hammer". I recall these two pieces of timber cost over $400.00 each, and we had to borrow a flatbed truck to go get them. Getting them into the control room took half of a day. They had to be "fed" from west to east, through the framing, and maneuvered into place so we could get them up on the supports. You'll never know.
We bolted 4" x 4" beams together inside the control room framework to support the timbers, then it took a whole crew to move the timbers up into place on top of the supports. They went in one at a time, of course, and were bolted together after they were in place. I won't even guess what that timber weighed, but if California suddenly falls into the Pacific Ocean, at least I'll know why.
This is a clear view of the 4"x 4" supports for the timber.
In short order, the roofing and stucco work began.
Above and below you can see the "three wall" isolation: the back wall of the "studio" (garage) and the two separated walls of the control room. Unknown to the building inspector, the control room and studio barely touched each other at all. (More secrets.) The less we told the inspector, the better. It came down to a simple fact: these building procedures were all completely stable, and they were all completely beyond the mental capacity of the inspector to comprehend. Especially after a bottle of whiskey before 9 am.
We pulled quite a few unusual techniques to acoustically isolate one room from the other. Most of these pictures don't show our final isolation procedures.
(That's because I keep some things secret.)
The boards we cut off the original garage roof overhang ended up being used, too. The door was a solid 4" thick. .45 caliber rounds didn't even come close to penetrating it. I tried it one day before putting on the internal layering.
This is what a compression ceiling looks like.
Studios usually have insulation. Ours bordered on insanity.
Active traps are used to (of all things) trap sound. A lot can be written about this, maybe I'll get into it someday. We had traps everywhere. The back three feet of the control room was nothing but twelve foot high active traps. Traps ran inside the studio/control room walls, along one complete side wall in the studio room, and in the ceiling of the drum booth. Devoting this much space to traps reduced our control room floor area to 26' by 21' and it was worth every inch. What isn't blatantly apparent, is that all the interior walls are slightly, and intentionally, non-parallel. In some pictures, it's quite obvious.
Everything was "layered" using plywood, sheetrock, masonite, celotex, and then final covering. But not all surfaces were done in that order, and some areas were layered more than others. (Sorry - I'm not giving everything away here. More secrets.) The layering was a blast - we used compressed air, a roofing gun, and about $3,000.00 worth of long roofing staples, plus gallons of Liquid Nail. Most of the seams were sealed, and we layered to cover seams everywhere and whenever we could. Even with all the layering, we could still hit studs easily - we previously marked them out on the floors and ceiling. The walls and ceilings began to get thicker as we added layering - one half inch at a time. Pretty soon, you couldn't hear a grenade if it went off outside the door. The air conditioner or heat only required about ten minutes, and the temperature stayed constant all day.
We did most of this after the building was completely signed off. By then the inspectors were permanently out of our hair, bothering other people.
INTERESTING FACT: I've been back out and visited the studio four times since 1980. Guess what? It's still standing. The son of a bitch hasn't collapsed yet. Isn't that something, Gordon, Walp, and the rest of you brain dead "inspectors"? What about all that "overload" that never overloaded, even with all those earthquakes? 20 plus years is undeniable evidence, isn't it! These "inspectors" ought to be inspecting their own asses, and leaving music people alone. (Another interesting fact: nobody ever found the Krugerrands I hid there - I checked.)
Traps go inside walls, too.
Depending on how skinny your ass is, you could be elected to go install traps way up inside some walls. Getting out of there is your own problem.
Studio walls and ceiling have to be covered, layered, and insulated.
In the control room, just above the window area, we built a soffit (illegal, of course) to hold the closed circuit TV, controlled by a motion detector and automatic timers (all illegal, according to the building inspector - all legal according to the building code regulations). This was completely covered in mirror. Mirror was a natural tool to visually communicate with friends sitting on the sofa, right in front of the console, on the low floor. The engineer(s) and friends had perfect eye contact, due to the angle of the lower mirror surface. If I remember right, the mirrors (four pieces) cost around $800.00. They were cut and beveled perfectly, and installed with mastic cement. We bought our control room glass from the mirror man, too. We measured and planned things out very carefully before we built. Another soffit was built in the studio for the JBL 4311 playback monitors.
It's amazing how 5 or 6 minds can envision, draw, measure, and start building. Within days, it's reality.
If I remember correctly, the only things we had to do twice were change the grille color from blue to tan burlap in the control room, and have the console desk custom built twice. That desk cost a bundle, but the first one was all wrong. We weren't going for that.
Walls get covered, work gets done. Sometimes you work, sometimes you rest. These pictures show the rear of the control room - the active trap area - later covered with removable grille panels. Blue really looked awful, so we recovered the grilles in tan. Also shown is the lighting control panel. We hinged it to drop down if we wanted to change anything. 12 switches and 6 Luxtrol (absolutely no noise into the audio system) light dimmers were right behind the engineer, more were placed in various other locations in the studio and control room. Heat and air conditioning for both rooms could be remotely controlled from this location as well.
Control rooms (back then, anyway) had awesome large monitor speakers. Per Kent Duncan's advice, ours were designed to be a part of the frame of the room, and bolted directly to the framework (illegally, of course). They were made of two layers of .75" plywood, and, when empty, probably weighed close to 250 pounds each. All the components came from my second set of JBL 4320s, and an engineer at JBL in Northridge graciously worked on our drawings with us, calculating proper bass porting, insulation, and internal bracing details.
It's simply astounding those monitors didn't cause the whole control room to collapse into a pile of toothpicks.
Designing the angles of the monitor boxes was a real project. We wanted the baffle plates to aim directly to the position of the engineer's head, and coming up the with precise angles and measurements took us several days and pads of paper.
Our monitors were tri-amplified using Spectra Sonics amps and active crossovers. Spectra Sonics manufactures rack mounted card holders, modular slide in amps and crossover cards, and power supplies. Their systems are easily configurable, and ultra, ultra high performance. One day, I went to an AES show in L.A., dropped about $3,500.00 and came home with an empty pocket and several thousand watts of very clean power. A whole lot of audio power went to each speaker terminal. We had custom six conductor, twelve gauge speaker wiring made to spec which ran inside the walls and under the floor.
Speakers have woofers and tweeters, don't they?
We wanted a large section of the control room floor to "float" eight inches above the real floor. (Talk about illegal building codes? A floor above a floor?) This allowed us to run all our control room wiring (literally over a mile of it) under the floor, inside of PVC pipes. All our console wiring came up through the floor, inside the legs of the custom made desk. The same "underground" wiring was used for patchbays, tape machines, mic lines, phones, intercom, and dozens of other wiring paths. Our goal was no visible wires at all, except mic cables. Period. Our key phrase: "I Don't Wanna Have To ....". It's really not much fun tripping over a mile or two of wires.
Pipes were placed everywhere in the control room. Inside walls, several from the control room out to the studio, into the tape machine wall, anywhere that wires had to be run. We set up the forms, laid and packed in four inches of sand, poured four inches of concrete, then we smoothed the floor, just like old pros. After everything dried and hardened, the PVC pipes were cut off flush to the floor.
In our zest to run the PVC, we never thought about pulling a wire through each of them for later use. No problem: a big chunk of cotton, some fishing line, and a vacuum cleaner fixed that problem in 30 minutes.
Lava rock was used in many places in the control room and studio. Notice the areas where the compression ceiling is supported - the effect is like pillars of lava rock. Rock was also used under the control room window. Wood strips, hardware cloth, and cement go on the walls first, then you cement the rock in place a few days later. It's very, very pretty stuff, and it's very, very hard to work with.
Isolation is a good word in a studio. We built a five walled drum booth with a floating floor, (undoubtedly illegal), and converted the entrance area into another isolation room which could be used for vocals or percussion work. Plans for the drum booth included an oak floor and remote controlled electric drapes covering two mirrored walls, but reality got in the way before we ever got that far.
The little room next to the entrance was our storage and electronics control room. Eventually, it became home to the motion detector equipment, which automatically turned on spotlights and three closed circuit TVs for exactly three minutes, so we could see who was at the gate. We usually couldn't hear anything, so the TVs and spotlights were a necessity. Our security system was also in this room, with motion detectors mounted in several secret places, an intercom system (plans were brewing for a gate phone: press 2 for control room, 5 for house, etc.), and relay controls for the gate, which opened electronically. I designed and built all the circuits and timers. (All illegal - all 12 volt DC.) To add insult to injury for the "inspectors", they all had battery backup, too - and everyone knows that batteries are illegal.
Gate control was available from a number of momentary pushbuttons: in the control room, the studio, inside the house, at the inside gate, and with the card reader, mounted in the brick pillar outside the gate. Everyone who "belonged" had their own access "credit card". We were cool back in those days - very, very cool.
Finishing up a part of the project meant clown time ...... we damn well earned it.
Pretty soon, things start looking quite a bit better. Carpet, track lighting, and most of the hard work was finished, and about 3 more miles of wire were left to connect. After that, we only needed to go borrow $250,000.00 or so, and buy some equipment. You know how that goes.
Take a careful look below (nd093.jpg): 10 patchbays in our tall equipment rack. 520 balanced, normalled jacks. Each jack required 6 solder points: 2 normalling, 1 ground bus, and 3 signals. 3,120 solder points on the back of the patchbays alone, and we still needed more. Also consider the several thousand solder points at the other end of all those cables! I wouldn't be surprised if we had over 15,000 solder points once everything was wired. One thing I insisted on: I did all the soldering work. Everyone helped measuring the wires, putting on the numbers, and creating the bundles, but the soldering work was mine. Every solder point was tested with a meter, and I found a few dozen bad points. Of course, I corrected them. Perfect? No, I'm not.
We bought XLR connectors 12 dozen at a time, cartons of Belden wire on 1000' spools, pounds of solder, heat shrink, cable numbering, hardware, tie wraps by the case. California Switch and Signal adored us. I made up 4 dozen mic cables - each exactly 6' long. No more clutter than necessary. East and west walls had their own respective mic plates, two more for the isolation booths, another for the tape machine wall - all custom built of stainless steel. I had a friend in the stainless fabricating business: no charge.
We bought a Speck 800D console with 16 modules, later adding 12 to fill it up to 28. (We damn sure couldn't afford a $45,000.00 Spectra Sonics.) Each module had 2 faders - a super feature - providing 56 line inputs. Vocal echo return, for example, could be patched right to the blue fader on the same module as the vocal track. It also had 16 discrete output busses, none of this current trend of "panning" to a buss. We had several custom "extras" done to the Speck, including a stereo meter pod, switchable to read anything and everything you could imagine. Console wiring harnesses (nd092.jpg and nd100.jpg) called for heat shrink, numbering tape, each wire properly tinned, and crimp spade connectors - over 400 terminations on the back of the console, a couple hundred more inside the legs of the desk. More signal harnesses into the tape machine wall, and spares galore, ready for the day we went from 16 to 24 tracks.
Console power supply, Spectra Sonics power supplies, amps, crossovers, and White 4001 equalizers were mounted in a separate, dedicated, fan cooled rack, built as part of the right side of the desk cabinet, completely out of the way, and nearly invisible. A single switch powered the entire audio system through a relay, but I recall we left everything on 24 hours a day anyway. (The pictures below don't show the Spectra Sonics and White equipment in our studio.)
We had a huge collection of real vintage microphones, but I've been unable to find pictures so far. Among them were three early tube AKG C12s (cream colored) with those huge power and pattern select boxes, three Neumann tube U67s, four tube U87s, and four tube U47s, some old Beyer ribbons, two RCA ribbons, a small pile of current Electrovoices - several each of the entire RE series - six AKG C414s, extra capsules, and two new, solid state U87s. We weren't hurting for mics at all, and not a Shure within 100 yards. I've always been very Un-Shure. The mics stayed locked up in a secret "safe" - a nearly invisible compartment at the end of the producer desk area, but you had to know how to open it. I guess I had too much Ike Turner influence.
Don't forget to relax and party a little. There's only one picture below of the 17 year old angel who lived about a block away from the studio. In less than a month, she turned 18, and we fell madly in lust with each other. She would come over early in the evening, and stay until about 4 in the morning. Sometimes we watched her mother on the closed circuit TV, but playback was too loud, we couldn't hear a thing. On her birthday I bought her a beer. And a bottle of Courvoisier.
Voicing the monitors: One of the most unpleasant maintenance jobs in the world is voicing the control room while you're in it. You can get a rash from pink noise at 112dB, and 120dB is just plain insane, unless you're grateful and dead.
Don't tell me anything about earplugs and headphones, just tell me why my skin turns red.
We used White 4001 equalizers, balanced ins and outs, which terminated in the patchbays. And - they were removable, with XLR connectors mounted on them. (There's the key to the whole thing. We really should have mounted them permanently in the electronics room with the alarm, etc.)
Simple solution: Take the equalizers outside in the studio and do it remotely. That's why everything terminates and/or normals through the patchbays. If you need a basic explanation:
In the control room: Speck left channel main output patches to studio mic line 1
In the studio: mic XLR connector 1 connects to left channel White EQ input
In the studio: White EQ left channel output connects to mic XLR connector 2
In the control room: studio mic line 2 patches to Spectra Sonics left channel crossover input
In the control room: Speck right channel main output patches to studio mic line 9
In the studio: mic XLR connector 9 connects to right channel White EQ input
In the studio: White EQ right channel output connects to mic XLR connector 10
In the control room: studio mic line 10 patches to Spectra Sonics right channel crossover input
Easy enough? The calibrated Ivie mic sets up exactly where the engineer's head would be in the control room, and connects to studio mic line 28 in the patchbay. In the studio, mic XLR connector 28 connects directly to the mic input of the 31 band Ivie real time spectrum analyzer. The Ivie pink noise generator is patched to any Speck line input, eq set flat on the board, and there's some almighty noise going on inside that control room, so you bolt out the door - quick.
Now you're out here, watching the analyzer, and tweaking the equalizers until you see flat. It can't get much better - until you design a remote control fader. Do the left side, the right side, then pan center for a final touchup.
NOW, PAY THE PRICE, BABY
One day, I was served with a search warrant, alleging page after page of illegal building and zoning code violations which supposedly took place in the recording studio, on my property. My detached residence wasn't mentioned in the search warrant.
Walp, the greaseball Anaheim zoning inspector who had sworn the affidavit for the search warrant, further accused me of "operating a health food store", inside the recording studio, and "recording pornographic child videos", with the camera permanently bolted down near the gate - outside - to view the gate and driveway area. He brought along six uniformed police officers, a plain clothes detective, and a building inspector to "assist" in the search.
Nine of them. One of me. Pretty good odds, based on body weight.
The "search warrant" wasn't signed by a Judge. It was signed by a "justice of the peace" - a well known alcoholic. Very soon, he'd be a justice of a bottle of Wild Irish Rose, or Ripple. Much later I learned that two real Judges refused to sign the "search warrant".
Based on intelligence, they never had a chance. Based on legal procedure, all they did was violate it - repeatedly.
I was forced inside my house, handcuffed, arrested, and then beaten up by seven Anaheim police officers, who walked and kneeled on my back and neck to "subdue" me, while I was not resisting or struggling, and was already handcuffed. I weighed about 110 pounds at that time. I really think I have enough brains not to fight against 7 cops, 1200+ pounds, 14 hands with guns and nightsticks. Actually, I'm positive I have enough brains.
I may have been crazy enough to build a recording studio, but I wasn't stupid.
Greaseball "Whitey" Walp was having the time of his life - this was better than Superbowl!
I was paying the price, baby. They were gonna teach me a lesson.
Dozens of personal items - "evidence" - were seized from inside my residence during this "search of the detached garage". None of the items had anything to do with the studio. All of the items were completely legal, all of the items were ordered returned to me, once we got into court. Nothing was seized from the recording studio. Thirteen criminal charges were filed against me that day. THIRTEEN. I won't list them all - here are just a few examples:
Business and Profession Code Criminal Violation: Possession of hypodermic needles and syringes.
They were dispensed to us by our veterinarian, with a 20cc bottle of medication, for once-a-month hormone injections for our dogs. Our vet trained us how to give intra-muscular injections. I'm fortunate the police overlooked the medication in the refrigerator. I'm sure I would have been charged with that, too.
Zoning Criminal Violation: A 12" wide PRIVATE PROPERTY sign on my fence, citing the state code section applying to trespassing.
It was identical to my next door neighbor's. My neighbor had THREE.
Zoning Criminal Violation: A private (not for rent or lease) sound recording studio in my garage.
I had a current, valid home business license for a sound recording studio and home office.
Electrical Criminal Violation: An illegal, 12 volt DC Panasonic closed circuit camera, and 3 illegal monitors. Also included in this violation was our 12 volt DC burglar alarm and 3 motion sensors.
Electrical Criminal Violation: An illegal, remote controlled electric gate, with an illegal card reader, and several pushbuttons to open the gate. As above, 12 volt DC.
None of these were illegal. Electrical codes do not apply to 12 volt devices.
Dangerous Deadly Weapon Criminal Violation: A completely deactivated military surplus hand grenade in a green container which clearly stated "DEACTIVATED".
I'd bought it for $2.00 at a public gun show - in Anaheim - a few months earlier.
You'd just get bored reading about the rest of my crimes and violations.
The "search" of my recording studio was absolutely ridiculous. They spent 5 minutes searching in the studio, and 5 hours searching inside of my house, which, as I mentioned, was completely detached from the studio, and not even included in the search warrant.
As they systematically reduced my entire residence to chaos, one of them had the nerve to ask if I had anything cold to drink. Another left his business card in my wife's bible, quoting verses and chapters about sinners and punishment.
They searched for zoning code violations in our refrigerator, dishwasher, cabinets, silverware drawer, and bedroom closets. They emptied our closets and dresser drawers all over the floors and hallways, and threw clothing around our rooms, trying to find building code violations. There might be one hiding on a coat hanger, you can't ever tell. I won't even bother writing the insulting comments they made. It's sufficient to tell you they made plenty of insulting comments.
They paraded around the house, carrying my wife's underwear, provoking me to react, so they could kick my ass some more.
I reacted. I laughed in their faces.
My attorney would have a ball with this shit, once we got into a courtroom.
After about five hours of thrills, joy, and violating my rights - the police grew tired of all this hard work, and transported me to jail in handcuffs. The "observant" cops didn't notice the handcuff key on my keyring: I collected Colt handcuffs, too.
By then, a neighbor had called my wife at work, and told her the police cars had been there all day. My wife called my attorney, and wheels were already turning.
At the jail, during "booking", I was ordered to empty my pockets. On that particular day, I had about $8,500.00 cash in my pocket.
The desk sergeant's eyes popped. "Where'd you get all that money from?", he asked. "I work for it. How do you get your money? Payoffs?", was my reply.
If it isn't obvious, I was not in a real friendly mood that day. I made him count my money three times - in front of witnesses - before writing down the exact amount. I wasn't about to donate one dollar to these assholes. There's no doubt in my mind - all of my money would have disappeared into these corrupt cops' pockets, given any chance at all.
I spent about 20 minutes in a jail cell, made some phone calls (I called some friends - just for laughs - told 'em I was in jail), and was released by a Judge's order, on my own recognizance, before they fingerprinted or photographed me. The Judge called Anaheim police, and ordered them to release me this second - IMMEDIATELY.
The Judge had already received a fax copy of the "search warrant", and he knew what he was looking at. That "justice of the peace" "search warrant" had BOGUS/INVALID all over it. I'm almost positive he was one of the same Judges that refused to authorize the "search warrant" earlier that day.
My wife and attorney were already waiting there to pick me up, and - again - we made the desk sergeant slowly count my money more than once.
Defendant's Criminal Charges: 13
Defendant's Bail: $0.00
Anaheim's Prosecution Status: PROBLEMS JUST BEGINNING
FAST FORWARD: Three Superior Court Judges, Lamoreaux, Soden, and Dickey, ruled the "search warrant" worthless. Utterly invalid. Void for vagueness. Written, authorized, and executed by obvious morons. (They didn't use the word "moron" - they inferred it, repeatedly.) Anaheim's city attorney, legal wizard George Berenson, got the lecture of his lifetime as he frantically tried to defend the search warrant. That just didn't work. Too bad, Berenson. Too bad, Anaheim.
FAST FORWARD: Weeks later, at my "arraignment", Judge Robert Fitzgerald exploded.
Thirteen charges against me were dismissed. In open court - in front of a courtroom full of people - Anaheim's wizard attorney George Berenson, the police detective, the zoning and building inspectors were ordered to stand. They were given a fifteen minute lecture by Judge Fitzgerald regarding their bogus "search warrant", the "evidence" seized, "criminal charges", and "violations". Directed at Berenson (for the second time) was a warning never to bring that kind of shit into ANY courtroom again. The people in the courtroom were in hysterics.
I took the opportunity (one of many, in the hallway of the courthouse), to laugh in their little pasty white faces.
Now I had them on a level playing field. This was already beyond superficial justification, it was a motivating necessity of life. These cocksuckers were about to learn what "I won't quit" really means.
Ex-Defendant's Criminal Charges: 0
Ex-Defendant's Status: NO LONGER A DEFENDANT
Anaheim's Prosecution Status: PROBLEMS INCREASING - NOTHING TO PROSECUTE
This part of the story really deserves an entire webpage of its own.
One of my personal belongings seized during the "recording studio search" was a very rare collector's item: a 1921 Colt Thompson submachinegun, worth well over $10,000.00. (Probably closer to $20,000.00 including all the accessories.) It was legally registered to me, I was in lawful possession of it.
I was also a current, registered Federal Firearms License holder, and a legally licensed Federal Firearms Dealer.
Per Federal law, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was called in during the search. Three BATF Special Agents examined my Federal Firearms licenses, all of them, my registration paperwork, my Thompson's serial number, and made it absolutely clear to the Anaheim police that I was in complete legal compliance with all laws pertaining to automatic weapons.
The BATF agents additionally made it perfectly clear that if I had violated any law in this situation, I would have been arrested by THEM and taken into Federal custody, on the spot. Unlawful possession of an automatic weapon is a major crime: I believe the penalty at that time was 10 years imprisonment and a $10,000.00 fine.
See what can happen when you obey the law? Keep reading ....
The police - specifically Anaheim's superstar detective David Rochford - chose to ignore the BATF agents. He chose to take possession of my Thompson anyway.
FAST FORWARD: One day Rochford went nose-to-nose with me in the courthouse hallway. He put his terrifying cop eyeball stare on me, and promised, "You'll never get that Thompson back again in your life. It'll go in the ocean first. I'll see to that personally."
But now he wasn't standing on my neck, so it was possible to speak. I only had two words to contribute: "Wanna bet?"
My attorney physically pulled me away from the confrontation. Rochford's petrifying intimidation was amusing - I was far more afraid of a germ infested dead mouse. Rochford chose to ignore me, though. Rochford was a brilliant example of a real professional detective.
FAST FORWARD: During one court appearance, in Judge's chambers, we supplied Judge Fitzgerald with a BATF publication, clearly defining which actual part of the Thompson was legally defined as the "weapon". (A BATF agent was also present, to assist the Judge in clarifying facts. Additionally, a licensed Class III dealer (Class III specifically: automatic weapons and destructive devices) was brought in from Mississippi, to provide further facts and assistance. Ironically, neither the BATF agent or the Class III dealer needed to say one word - the BATF publication was perfectly clear to the Judge.)
Obviously, wood grips, a buttstock, a brass cleaning rod, magazines, drum, springs, buffers, oilers, trigger assembly, carrying case, etc., are not legally classified as a "weapon".
The Judge ordered and authorized me to remove anything and everything that was not the "weapon" and take possession of it. Meanwhile, Berenson was throwing a fit, because "no gunsmith was available". The Judge just ignored Berenson, then told him to shut up.
It took maybe 30 seconds to act as my own "gunsmith", as the Class III dealer and the BATF agent watched.
THIS order undoubtedly drove Rochford and Anaheim absolutely berserk.
Now all that Anaheim retained was the (completely stripped) receiver with sights and barrel attached, inside my black leather carrying case - and nothing else. I chose to leave the receiver and attached barrel in the case to protect it.
During this activity, the Judge carefully inspected the receiver/barrel and the carrying case, and warned Berenson that it better remain in exactly the same condition until it was returned to me. A roll of photographs was taken in the Judge's chambers as evidence of the condition of the Thompson receiver and FBI case.
My attorney and the Judge had already initiated the process to have my Thompson returned to me, and, by that point, it was a foregone conclusion that I would be in possession of my Thompson in short order.
Sorry, Anaheim - you WILL NOT be showing off MY Thompson for YOUR amusement - those days were over. You want a 1921 Thompson? THEN GO BUY ONE.
Keep reading .... see what happens next ....
FAST FORWARD: Rochford chose to ignore court orders and defy subpoenas to produce my Thompson in court - not once or twice, but repeatedly. He did not want to return it. It probably represented the pinnacle of his miserable, useless, asshole lifetime, his personal triumph over all the evil on Earth. Rochford wanted Anaheim PD to retain my Thompson as "contraband".
But my Thompson was not contraband, and that fact was blatantly clear - proven by BATF, numerous Federal agents, my Federal Firearms Licenses, a Class III dealer, as well as several Judges. Rochford chose to ignore a lot of things.
But Rochford was about to learn an important lesson. Let's see how he ignores this.
Ex-Defendant's Status: THE VICTIM BECOMES THE HUNTER
Anaheim's Prosecution Status: PROBLEMS MULTIPLYING AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT
The next event was set up in advance like a precision rat trap. When it snapped, it snapped.
As expected, Rochford again ignored a court order to bring my Thompson to court. Judge Fitzgerald exploded again. My attorney was right there with the contempt and obstruction of justice motions - all typed, prepared, signed, and ready to go. I served the copies on wizard Berenson myself. The Judge didn't approve of contempt? The Judge wouldn't tolerate his court orders defied any longer? Just sign on the dotted line. Judge Fitzgerald signed on the dotted line.
Three United States Marshals were sent to "assist" asshole Rochford to court.
Within 60 minutes, Rochford, Anaheim police chief Tielsch, and the Anaheim evidence room supervisor were in custody, in court, in handcuffs - WITH my Thompson.
No more stories, no more excuses, and especially, no more lying cop bullshit. It was time to get down to the nitty-gritty. The bullshit was going to stop - right here and now.
My Thompson was immediately seized by the U.S. Marshal, and delivered to the Judge.
That's it. DONE.
Anaheim had just lost control of my Thompson - permanently.
The Three Wise Men Of Anaheim were then given a little surprise reward by the Judge: short, unplanned vacations - a few days in jail - for repeated contempt of court and obstruction of justice. Payback is a bitch, isn't it? I'm fairly certain I could have asked the Judge to increase those sentences, but never thought of it at the time, or I didn't have the courage.
Naturally, if YOU or I had violated the court's orders repeatedly, we'd be doing time. But those city employees were "special". That's why they get "special preferential treatment". Do you see how all this works? "They" get 3 days - "we'd" get 12 MONTHS.
By this point, the wizard Berenson was in a frenzy, babbling like an idiot. The Judge finally told him to just shut up.
I laughed out loud and clapped my hands like everybody else in the courtroom. My attorney was laughing too hard to shut me up. The courtroom was like a bar party, without the beer.
The Judge put everything on hold, and ordered a ten minute recess. Off we went to chambers, my attorney, me, and Anaheim's wizard, Berenson.
In chambers, Judge Fitzgerald ripped Berenson a brand new asshole. To our great amusement, he didn't do it quietly - we could hear the laughter from the courtroom. I just laughed some more. The wizard looked a little glassy-eyed, like he was about to have a seizure. Too bad the Judge didn't toss his ass in jail, too - for about 12 months.
Back in open court, Judge Fitzgerald called me right up behind his bench, and personally handed my Thompson submachinegun over to me, smiled and winked, while the three outstanding city employees were being led off to jail in handcuffs, and the whole courtroom broke up laughing again.
The look on "supercop" Rochford's face was positively priceless. I almost blew him a kiss as I waved goodbye to him. The wizard Berenson magically disappeared, so I didn't get the chance to thank him for all the entertainment he provided. Maybe he was nervous - after all, I was holding that Thompson submachinegun, even if it was completely disassembled. I suppose I could have found him, and bashed him upside his head with the carrying case .... but that would have meant a brand new criminal charge - a REAL criminal charge. No thanks. Not me.
In theory, Berenson was "just doing his job". Nazi war criminals did, too. They were "just doing their jobs". Anaheim's superstar asshole detective, David Rochford, handed him a bullshit case, and it was his job to try and prosecute the case. He probably knew it was all bullshit, right from the very beginning, but he had his own bureaucracy to answer to, somebody else's ass to kiss. Unfortunately, Anaheim, Berenson, and his bureaucracy LOST this one.
It was really a lovely day. Some days, "justice" does mean more than "JUST US".
Ex-Defendant's Criminal Charges: NONE
Ex-Defendant's Thompson Submachinegun: RETURNED TO ME - THE LAWFUL OWNER
Ex-Defendant's Zoning Code Violations: NONE
Ex-Defendant's Building Code Violations: NONE
Anaheim's Prosecution Status: LOST THE BATTLE THE DAY OF THE BOGUS SEARCH WARRANT
Minutes later, I walked out of the courthouse with my attorney and my Thompson. We went to my house where I reassembled it, and took a roll of pictures of him and the Thompson. I had a 3' poster made for him to frame on his office wall.
I got smart, too. The next day I stored it in a safety deposit box in another state.
My attorney subsequently filed an injunction with the court, prohibiting any inspectors from trespassing on my property, for any reason, without a prior, scheduled appointment, with my attorney present, to tape record and take pictures of the event.
THE FINAL SCORECARD
My last words regarding Anaheim's building and zoning inspectors,
Craig Staggering Drunk Gordon and Caylor Greaseball Walp
You tried and you lost, of course.
There were no building or zoning violations. None. There never were.
The only violations were violations of my civil and constitutional rights.
It cost plenty, it took awhile, and it was worth every last cent.
If you thought maybe I'd slip you a bottle of whiskey or a few hundred
to look the other way, you definitely were at the wrong address.
So I figuratively shoved a 2x4 up your asses instead.
Hope you enjoyed it!
My last words regarding Anaheim's Rochford, Berenson, and Tielsch
You tried and you lost, too.
By siding with mentally deficient Greaseball Walp, your "side" got demolished.
Thanks to my superior attorney, who also refused to give up,
your illegal tactics didn't work. But our legal tactics did work.
Every step of the way, I laughed in your faces, while we
shoved your CROOKED COP "LAW" up your collective crooked cop asses.
Hope you enjoyed it, too!
SCREW ALL OF YOU
SUCK ON THAT FOR AWHILE, BOYS,
WHILE YOU THINK BACK ON THE GOOD OLD DAYS
AND DON'T EVER FORGET
I GOT MY THOMPSON SUBMACHINEGUN BACK
TIME FOR THE REAL CRIME
I don't care about admitting this. What I did back in 1976 doesn't mean very much, and the statute of limitations ran out in the early 1980s anyway.
In retrospect (meaning at my age), this part of the story seems pretty funny. This wasn't my idea, and I certainly would NEVER, EVER do it again, but I damn sure did participate back then - right along with my other four "partners in crime". Maybe I had more nerve in those days, but the truth is - I was just 100 times stupider.
The law has a name for this, it's called "GRAND THEFT". We just called it "fun". And we found out something: crime does pay - it pays pretty good, too. The whole idea is not to get caught. (If you don't believe me, just ask nearly any politician, city, or government employee. They usually know all about this. Turn on the TV for a few hours and see for yourself.)
Our best friend - no names, none of your business - had a night time job.
He was a night watchman. A security guard at a construction site, of all places. A place where a whole community of expensive houses were being built - houses in the $500,000.00 and up range. Today, those houses are undoubtedly in the $4-5 million price bracket.
(Back in 1976, a $55,000.00 house was a hell of a house. By 1979, the same house was appraised at $130,000.00.)
Every day, huge quantities of building materials were delivered to this construction site. And every night, our friend would call and tell us what was new on "today's menu".
Insulation. Cedar boards. Cedar tongue and groove. 4'x8' plywood. 4'x8' Celotex insulation sheets. Ready mix concrete. Molding. Drywall. 2x4s, 2x6s, 2x8s, almost any kind of lumber imaginable, any length you want. Hardware. Light fixtures. Electrical components, romex, wall boxes, outlets, switches. Nails by the ton, every size you can imagine.
Thanks to our friend, our little group collectively became experienced, efficient "midnight shoppers". We borrowed a truck, drove up to the construction site - now known as the "Midnight Builder's Supply" - and helped ourselves to whatever we needed. We were quite generous with ourselves: we took so much insulation, we couldn't use all of it in two studios. Our "shopping" didn't even make a dent in the mountains of supplies at that construction site.
One night, a police car appeared, so immediately we were delivering supplies. We promptly put them right back in the truck as soon as he left, and had a beer, too.
"Midnight Builder's Supply" probably saved us $10,000.00 in the construction of the studio.
But - hold on. What about our friend, the "security guard"? Was he fired? Arrested? Did his boss raise hell with him?
Nope - it's positively, absolutely, beyond belief incredible! Nobody ever said one word about any missing supplies.
We nearly dropped dead laughing when he was promoted and given a raise! That's what happens when you're doing a really great job!
And probably that's because everybody else was stealing fifty times as much stuff as we were!
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