Erratic Clerics & Rumors That Refuse to Die

In this month's East Bay book news, cult leaders get caught, and artists strut and fret.

Singing in the dead of night:
Remember the first time you played the Beatles’ song “Revolution #9” backwards to hear John groaning Turn me on, dead man? Were you stoned? Andru Reeve was, but then he needed a clear head to spend the next three years researching the Paul-McCartney-is-dead rumor.

“By now it has infiltrated popular culture,” says Reeve, a Walnut Creek audio expert. “Novelists and filmmakers regularly throw in references to Paul-is-dead. Salman Rushdie did it; Sleepless in Seattle does it. People love that rumor, the mystery.” Reeve’s book Turn Me On, Dead Man (Author House, $19) probes the legend that McCartney was killed in a crash while driving through London one autumn day in 1966 — and examines the frenzied, ongoing international search for “clues” in Beatles lyrics and pictures: On Abbey Road‘s cover, to cite a classic example among hundreds, Paul’s eyes are shut, he is barefoot, and he is out of step with his bandmates. And how about those copious lyrics alluding to death, car crashes, and cars? Was it all sheer coincidence, a deliberate marketing ploy, or actually cosmic? “There are religious overtones. It wasn’t just that Paul was dead, but that he was resurrected,” Reeve says: “Mankind has such a deep need to believe in something.”

Oye, cómo va?
On her second date with Carlos Santana, the future Deborah Santana accompanied the guitarist to his Marin manse, meditated with him under a painting of Jesus, then spent the night. By the time the couple wed in Albany, they were devotees of guru Sri Chinmoy, whom they considered an avatar but who was really a manipulative cult leader, as Santana writes in Space Between the Stars (Ballantine, $24.95), her memoir which begins as a fascinating exposé of the author’s early romance with Sly Stone. After spiriting away her virginity during an acid trip shortly before Woodstock, suede-booted Vallejo-born superstar Stone swept the beautiful teen into a whirlwind of drugs, beatings, and international travel which ended with a coat-hanger abortion.

Looking back on past mistakes and on her subsequent thirty years of happy marriage to Santana, the author, who will be at Cody’s Telegraph on March 23, advises: “Always live with your own integrity and well-being in the forefront of every decision and choice you make. Never let anyone lay a hand on you.”

And the cults just keep on comin’:
Claiming that he could channel Christ, perform psychic healings, and satisfy his female followers better than their husbands could, William “Rev. Bill” Duby founded his Berkeley-based Spiritual Rights Foundation in 1982. Duby died in 2001, but the group still exists; its Web site quotes him as saying, “I had a beautific vision.”

Ex-members such as Albany’s Steve Sanchez — whose book Spiritual Perversion (TurnKey, $16.95) recounts fourteen years in the God-and-chakras world of SRF — call it a cult, saying it wrecked their lives, stole their spouses and kids, drained their fortunes, and drove them crazy.

After leaving the group five years ago, “I was in so much pain, but ecstatic to be out. I felt like I was floating.” By writing the book, says Sanchez — who will be interviewed on KRON-TV at 9 p.m. on March 1 — “I could try to decode all that mind-control.”

Thugs ‘n’ kisses:
Gangbangers face off in Turf War (North Atlantic, $13.95), the third in Renay Jackson‘s series of Oaktown Mysteries. Packed with ghetto-slang dialogue (“Muafuckin right ahm gone party, shidd, you ain’t”) and explicit shaggery (“Silky plunged the mushroom in and out with rapid-fire precision, causing Melody to become delirious”), it follows Shakey’s Loose and Oaktown Devil. After self-publishing his first novel, ex-rapper and Oakland Police Department custodian Jackson was contacted by a talent agency about taking the gritty tale to Hollywood.

Screen gem:
When Oakland’s opulent Grand Lake Theater opened in 1926, multiplexes and DVDs were the stuff of a far-distant and somewhat depressing cinematic future. Today such showplaces serve chiefly as artifacts.

“The Grand Lake is a guardian. It’s a cathedral for all people,” says its resident restoration artist, Miron Murcury, whose CD-ROM, The Historic Grand Lake Theater ($20), is now on sale at the theater and at nearby Walden Pond bookstore.

“My very best work is completely invisible,” says Murcury of his restorations. “It’s wonderful to have the challenge of invisibility in a world where people scream and scream to be noticed.”

Sage advice:
The effects of history are reflected in today’s high diabetes and substance-abuse rates among Native Americans, says family therapist Ethan Nebelkopf, a director of Oakland’s Native American Health Center and coeditor of Healing and Mental Health for Native Americans: Speaking in Red (Alta Mira $26.95). “Native Americans live in two worlds: Western society and tribal culture,” Nebelkopf says. “Many suffer from historical trauma as a result of oppression and genocide that is passed down from generation to generation.”

Sometimes you win:
UC Berkeley School of Journalism dean Orville Schell, the author of more than a dozen books, will receive this year’s Fred Cody Award for lifetime achievement from the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association, to be presented during the 24th annual Northern California Book Awards ceremony at San Francisco’s main library April 13.

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