1974 --  MAE  AND  THE  SLA

(Part 6)

By Virginia McCullough

If you have access to a tape recorder, Mae would be more than
  happy to know that you have a personal copy of her controversial
           research.  Unlike President Nixon, her tapes are available to the people.

On Monday, March 11, 1974 Mae Brussell's "Brussellsprouts" tuned in to listen to their mentor update them on the past week's events.  Mae greeted them in this manner:

Good afternoon, it's Mae Brussell, Monday, March the 11th (1974).  I'm laughing, I've so much material here to share with you in forty-five minutes and it's overwhelming, so I'll try to keep from speeding it up too fast and we'll try to make some sense from the news of the week.

I figured it would be a very big week in the HEARST KIDNAPPING when we left off last Monday.  I said,.'We'll continue next week because the events will escalate, the story will continue to be THE story in the news'.  I compare it to the KENNEDY assassination, and in terms of news, the Watergate affair too, this is the 'big' story in terms of domestic turmoil in America and the tangling of citizens as against the military and intelligence operation that is taking place in our government.  (To read entire transcript, Click.)

According to the transcript, during the week preceding this broadcast Mae "had called the Hearst family and offered information [and] research to help them locate the source of the plot that made their daughter become a political prisoner and fingered the FBI, and as long as I talked to the secretary of Mr. Hearst, he was listening to what I said - until I said 'FBI' - and then he cut me off completely and wasn't interested".

The parents of Patty Hearst ignored Mae Brussell and allowed the suffering of their daughter to continue.  Captive Patty Hearst had already said the FBI was involved and that they would kill her, that her life didn't mean much and she was simply a pawn in the game.  Her parents did not listen to what their daughter was saying but Mae listened very closely and repeatedly tried to communicate with the family.  Shortly after the initial phone call to the family, Mae found that the Hearst family phone had been cut off and that all messages now went to the FBI.  Still attempting to communicate, Mae held a radio and television news conference, because it was the only method left for her to get her message to the family of Patty Hearst.

During her broadcast, Mae made the following observations, "It's very strange that in every political assassination or political conspiracy in this country, that the person who is behind the conspiracy receives all the information that comes in and is supposed to solve it."

She compared the Patty Hearst kidnapping to the Watergate conspiracy, stating,  "It was like John Dean getting information for the White House on solving the Watergate Conspiracy when he was a part of it from its very beginning".  Just in case her listeners missed her point, she continued,  "It's like Allen Dulles - I have minutes of the Warren Commission meeting - where Allen Dulles went to the members of the Warren Commission and said...any evidence that comes in about Lee Harvey Oswald or Marina Oswald, you give to me - because I have studied past assassinations and Lee Harvey Oswald and Marina Oswald were both agents of intelligence operations.  She was working with the Defense Intelligence Agency and he was working with the Navy Intelligence and FBI.  All information on espionage went to the people who had hired them as agents in the first place".

Patty Hearst's family never contacted Mae Brussell.  When Patty Hearst was captured her attorney, F. Lee Bailey, made sure that his defense of Patty resulted her jail sentence.  Throughout Patty's ordeal, Mae Brussell continued to fight for justice in this case.   Years later, on September 24, 1978,  Patty Hearst mailed Mae a thank you card for all of her help.  (Click.)

Throughout 1974 the name of researcher Mae Brussell was appearing often in the local, national and world-wide press.  On April 23, 1974 the Zodiac newsletter devoted its entire issue to Mae's research.

(ZNS)  Mae Brussell, a conspiracy researcher from Monterey, California, has charged that the escape of Donald DeFreeze from Soledad prison was arranged by prison authorities.

DeFreeze has since been widely identified as General Field Marshall Cinque on the taped communiqués from the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Ms. Brussell bases her allegations on a letter she has received from an inmate she is corresponding with who was in Soledad prison at the time DeFreeze escaped.  Ms. Brussell has released the text of the letter.  But she says she cannot identify her inmate-contact by name because she fears disciplinary action might be taken against him.

Here, in part, is the inmate's letter: (quote)  "When I met (DeFreeze). he was working in the maintenance shop.  I asked him if he was happy on his job...he replied, that within a few days, he was going to be assigned to the boiler room in the south facility."

The  inmate continues: (quote) "I questioned that because he didn't have enough time here to be 'given that trust'.  He wouldn't comment; he only gave me a big smile.  I should explain that no prisoners were kept at the south facility because it had no security.  No gun towers were in operation, and there were no guard towers posted."

The letter continues: (quote) "A few days later, DeFreeze did get that job:  midnight to 8 a.m. shift in the boiler room at south facility.  On his first night, he was dropped off at midnight, and given a few instructions.  His job was automatic: it only required an overseer, then he was left to himself, and when a guard returned an hour later to check on him, (DeFreeze) was gone."

Ms. Brussell further charges that the reason DeFreeze was permitted to escape was so that he could infiltrate and agitate within the various prison reform groups on the outside.

Mae Brussell began appearing at various speaking engagements that were well attended.  She represented an alternative voice that people were anxious to hear.  On April 21, 1974 she appeared at San Jose Civic Auditorium in her first bay area appearance where she conducted "A discussion of 10 years of research into political assassinations in the USA, covering all kinds of conspiracy from Dallas to current Bay Area 'violences' and kidnappings".  The event was well attended and would lead to many other speaking engagements around the country. 

At the end of April, Mae Brussell received a phone call from a writer who identified herself as Stephanie Caruana.  Caruana said she was an associate editor for Playgirl Magazine and had just relocated from Los Angeles to Berkeley on the advice of her friends.  She stated that she was already in Carmel, and asked if she could come over to Mae's home and meet with her for ten minutes.  That meeting lasted three hours and the next day Caruana moved into Mae's small guest room in her home.  They would collaborate on several articles that would be published throughout the remainder of the year.  Caruana's version of what occurred that summer is detailed in an email to publisher Kate Dixon dated October 27, 2001.  (Click.)

The Berkeley Barb published an article co-authored by Caruana and Brussell in the April 19-25, 1974 issue.  This piece was entitled "Is SLA's Cinque the First Black Lee Harvey Oswald?".  In this write up Stephanie Caruana acts as the interviewer and Mae Brussell responds to her questions by detailing her extensive knowledge about the intelligence community's relationship to the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and the SLA.   The footnotes for this article consisted on 12 references.  (Click.)

The publication of the Berkeley Barb article in April served to remove the element of surprise and therefore, dampened the shock Mae's previous article had on the establishment.  The "Powers That Be" had a preview of Mae's knowledge and could better prepare for the impact of the article that would run in The Realist three months later.  That article would run under the subtitle "Mae Brussell's Conspiracy Newsletter" and it was far more extensive and provided more in-depth details.  It was written in Mae's own free-form style.  Publisher Paul Krassner stated at the time that, "Lack of space prevents inclusion of the footnotes from Mae Brussell's material in this issue."   These footnotes consisted of 26 references and supported all of the conclusions made by Mae in the article.  (Click.)

The problem that arose from publishing these two articles in this particular time frame was that it allowed Mae's critics to prepare to more effectively discredit her conclusions because they had a preview of the article that would appear under her own byline three months after the "interview" article carrying the Caruana/Brussell byline.

After staying with Mae Brussell for two months,  Mae asked Stephanie Caruana to move because she had to make the guest bedroom available for someone else.  Mae kindly arranged with a friend of hers to rent a trailer located in Big Sur to Caruana so that she could complete the work she had begun while in Carmel.

In August of 1974 another article by Stephanie Caruana appeared in Playgirl Magazine.  This piece was part of a series that Caruana wrote entitled "About Women..." and it featured researcher Mae Brussell.  Caruana states her feelings about Brussell's research in the following manner:

Mae Brussell believes she knows who is manipulating the course of American history by means of "bullets and blackmail" and why.  She believes that plans for the military takeover of the United States and the imposition of martial law sit on governmental desks like time bombs, waiting to go off when the time is right -- and that only immediate public awareness can avert a national disaster with echoes of Nazi Germany, Greece, and the Philippines.

Of course -- she could be wrong.  In spite of her painstaking analysis of hundreds of books and thousands of articles, letters, and other documents; in spite of her staggering perception of a Gestalt, a pattern, in which puzzling wearying daily news stories emerge as expected details to be slipped into the overall framework -- she could be wrong.  She could be simply a modern Sherlock Holmes, exercising a brilliant capacity for deductive logic on events which in reality have no interconnection.  Even so -- how happy I would be to sit at her feet like a modern Dr. Watson, with no pipe to chew on to hide my comic consternation at having missed the point again.  Sometimes I become so involved with the exhilaration of the chase -- the mental process of tracking down the game -- that I almost forget this is real life we are talking about.  Real people are being murdered, while other real people are being framed and railroaded into real prisons.  The "arch enemy" in this game isn't Professor Moriarty, "the most fiendish criminal mind the world has even known," but, after all, a fictional character safely on the wrong side of society's pale; it is the intelligence agency complex of the United States.

Oh yes, Baker Street irregulars, I know how you feel -- you with your Inverness capes, sleuth caps, and meerschaum pipes, as you slouch through a world of fantasy -- but can you guess how I feel?  With a whole new unwritten library of mystery stories before me in the person of a lively, charming, lovable mother of four, who currently shares a rambling, casual, suburban home with two daughters, two kittens, a rabbit, and a blond cocker spaniel?  A potential shelf of contemporary history books that I myself may help to write?  I feel lucky.

This article by Caruana was already at the offices of Playgirl Magazine being prepared for publication when Mae asked Stephanie to move out, to make room for another visitor.  Caruana later would claim that Mae Brussell "bad mouthed" her to others.  It is doubtful that Caruana was aware that she was being supplanted by a black prisoner soon to be paroled from Folsom prison.  The man, Elmer Davis, was a key figure in the Watergate scandal.  He had been wrongly convicted for the burglary of Dr. Fielding's office.  Dr. Fielding was the Psychiatrist for Daniel Ellsberg who had leaked the Pentagon Papers.  Mae Brussell and Elmer Davis had corresponded for a year and the correspondence had grown increasingly romantic.  They shared a common cause - to provide equal justice to inmates incarcerated in California's prisons.  They met because of the Watergate affair and their mutual involvement in it.

A flurry of letters written in August and  September of 1974 to prison officials by Mae Brussell and Elmer Davis clearly document their mutual struggle to secure parole for Elmer Davis by October 8, 1974.  On September 13, 1974, Mae Brussell wrote a letter to a Mr. Adams stating the following:

Dear Mr. Adams:

This letter is to confirm our discussion regarding employment of Elmer Davis.   My contracts for articles, and speeches has required me to have assistance... with regards to my research, typing, and legal help on matters that might possibly concern libel.  Elmer Davis is skilled at various kinds of research and would be able to assist me with my various projects.

He would be given immediate expenses, consisting of room,  board, transportation, etc.  In addition, I could guarantee him an income from $200 to $400 a month for helping me.  A great deal of the college year I will be away, doing lectures, probably two or three a month.  The work piles up during those times, particularly my mail.  Elmer will be able to handle this for me.

When an opening is available as a legal aid, he should pursue that project.  Law is a subject he has studied for almost ten years.  In the evening, he will be able to attend night classes at the law school on the Peninsula.

Thank you for everything.  Best Regards                 Mae Brussell

The co-habitation between the researcher and the paroled convict lasted less time then did the collaboration between visitor/writer Caruana and her mentor Mae Brussell.  Perhaps Elmer Davis and Mae Brussell might have remained life long friends if they had never become romantically involved.   Certainly absence made the hearts grow fonder and closeness created friction that the romance could not survive.

Mae Brussell analyzed others constantly but she also analyzed herself with the same intense scrutiny.  Caruana quoted her in the Playgirl Magazine article as she analyzed her personal relationship with her husband, Bill Brussell.

My husband never tried to discourage me; in many ways, he helped me.  I could have any book or magazine subscription that I wanted.  But my new interest in political assassinations definitely drove a wedge into our marriage.  He couldn't see why it was so important to know who murdered John F. Kennedy.  And I think most men would begin to resent the time I withdrew from entertaining our friends and devoted instead to what became serious, full-time research.  We were divorced four years ago.

I had gone through a drastic role change.  But people do change partners today, when their interests change.  If your mind leads you to follow a new belief, and your mate goes with you, that is beautiful.  Otherwise, you need the courage to go it alone, or you will meet someone who is on the same trip, and so you continue on that trip with him.

Caruana might not have understood that Mae Brussell was far better at compartmentalizing her life then was the CIA.  During the approximate two months that Stephanie Caruana resided in Mae's spare bedroom and collaborated  on several articles they co-authored, Mae was also working with The Citizens Research and Investigation Committee (CRIC) that issued a devastating report on the CIA connections to the SLA.  The report, based on the book Cinque the Slave by Donald Freed and Lake Headley, credited Mae Brussell, among other researchers and publications, for contributing valuable research to the project.

When Mae Brussell and Elmer Davis began living together it became rapidly obvious to everyone who knew them that they were not on the same trip any longer.  The Realist publisher Paul Krassner has referred to the romance between the two distinctly different individuals as "true love" (Click.).  I would serious disagree with that description by Krassner.

However, Krassner hits the proverbial nail on the head in the following excerpt from his book,  Confessions of a Raving Unconfined Nut: misadventures in the counter-culture:

A year before the Watergate break-in, E. Howard Hunt, who had worked for the CIA for twenty-one years, proposed a "bag-job" -- a surreptitious entry -- into the office of Dr. Lewis Fielding, a Beverly Hills psychiatrist who had refused to cooperated with FBI agents investigating one of his patients, Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers.  It was the function of the White House "plumbers" to plug such leaks.  The burglars, led by G. Gordon Liddy, scattered pills around the office to make it look like a junkie had been responsible.  The police assured Dr. Fielding that the break-in was made in search of drugs, even though he found Ellsberg's records removed from their folder.  An innocent black man, Elmer Davis, was arrested, convicted, and sent to prison, while Liddy remained silent.  Mae Brussell corresponded with Davis, and after he finished serving Liddy's time behind bars, he ended up living with Mae.  It was a romance made in Conspiracy Heaven.

On November 23, 1974 Mae wrote Elmer the following two notes:

Nov. 23 - 1:30 p.m.

If you into town today, and do not want to help me with the things we said we would do on Saturday, I am not going to marry you.

If you have one drink while in town, with any alcohol on your breath, or act drunk and pass out when you come home, all of your possessions will be packed and ready to move out as soon as possible, I am going to collect boxes, and put everything away.


Nov. 23 - 3:30 p.m.  

 I believe our not having money this last month, the cancellation of the Playgirl article, the trip to Utah , and the other lecture, was for a purpose.  The fates were testing us, to see what we could do together in adversity, without extra cash in our hands.

If I had earned that money, we would have possibly been married by now.  In the meantime, we had a chance to see that you had no intention of writing letters introducing yourself to the local law firm, or of going out to seek employment until our money came in.  You intended  to sweat it out...until some good fortunes, stemming from my efforts at lecturing or writing came forward.

In the meantime, those efforts were too time consuming for you.  You need cash, and recreation, and drinks...and living on the town.

I am indeed grateful for the turn of events that spared me the mental anguish of having been deceived further...and the legal problems of a divorce.  Having seen your performance, we are both free of each other from this day on.

P.S.    A receipt of your childish indulgence, to spend $25.69 for a motel when we could have used it towards the necessities...such as phone calls, research books, newspaper subscriptions, etc.

Both lovers were prisoners - Mae a prisoner of her own making whose prison was the truth, and  Elmer a prisoner of the system built upon untruths.  Both were selfish to the core and their lengthy correspondence reflects their self knowledge of that common failing.  

The final article in Playgirl Magazine featuring the dual byline of Mae Brussell and Stephanie Caruana appeared in the December issue.  It contained no footnotes.

 Mae Brussell stated her beliefs in the August 1974 article by Stephanie Caruana in Playgirl Magazine.

The people I admired most were Frank Lloyd Wright, Carl Sandburg, Henry Miller, Bertrand Russell, Emerson, and Thoreau.  They cared about people -- how they live, and how they relate to each other.  They were calm and placid; they served humanity, and they tried to turn people on to the truth.

That is how Mae Brussell will also be remembered.

Virginia McCullough © 5/27/02

Art in Heading: Lovers by Amana Johnson © 2002

1974 MAE  AND  THE  SLAIt was a very good year.  Part 1 Part 2  Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

Click. To view documents, articles from the Mae Brussell Archive