Hell hath no fury like a woman CIA recruiter scorned
excerpt: “History of the Groove, book three” Russell Buddy Helm ©2014 all rights reserved
1969. Hell hath no fury like a scorned woman CIA recruiter, especially after refusing to work with her mother’s people in Georgetown. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to; it was in my blood I suppose. But I disagreed with their lame fashion sense and their South East Asia policy. There was also a deep fear of this moment, imbedded in me by my mother; the day when they would come for the son. In just this one moment it became clear to me that I would not work with them. If I had, a successful music career would have been assured, and it would have been different than what it was.
“Peter Max…” Joe said as he guided his boatlike Toronado through the backwoods roads in the middle of the night north of Tampa. He was one of a group of crazy college acquaintances my girlfriend had from New York and Washington DC. “No one’s heard of him yet. But they will. And when they do. I’ll make a lot of money, coz I got a warehouse full of his art.” I was so straight they thought I was a narc. The joke was on them all, as well as on me; my girlfriend was really the undercover agent. And it wasn’t them she was after. It was me.
My girlfriend had her way with me for a few months, hanging out with her wild crowd from New York and DC. My grade point average dropped. Immediately, my mother called to tell me a letter had arrived from the draft board informing me of my very draftable 1A status. My girlfriend drove over from Tampa, chatted with my step father, took me out to a friend’s country estate and gave me LSD. We listened to the new White Beatles album; Revolution Number Nine. Not much happened. I had such a lock down on my mind that I really didn’t experience much more than tingling and a few visual vibrations in the patterns in the red and black carpeting. This seemed to please my girlfriend immensely. A fellow drummer in Tampa turned me on to an old fashion general practitioner doctor, who wrote out a letter recommending that I could not sustain the rigors of military duty because of a heart murmur. I showed up for the physical with hundreds of other boys. The friend drummer ended up in front of me in line. He handed the sergeant his letter, “You get to go home to your Mommy. Get out of here, punk.” Then the sergeant looked at my letter and frowned, “We’re going to keep you.” My medical letter was identical to my friend’s letter. They sent me to a heart specialist. I told him; “My band has a single in the top one hundred on Billboard. I am doing what I want to do.” He looked at me oddly and his eyes clouded over. I felt that I had successfully performed the Bene Jesserit voice control technique from Frank Herbert’s Sci Fi masterpiece “Dune” on this unsuspecting civilian heart specialist working for the draft board. He gave me a medical deferment; probably because I have a little hole in my heart that makes the rhythm irregular. Whatever the reason, I arrived relieved, back at our love shack in the wooded outskirts off the USF campus. My cougar from DC was impressed that I had gotten out of the draft legally. Young men were desperate to escape the unexplainable meatgrinder of Viet Nam and went to great lengths to avoid the draft; even leaving the country. I seemed to be destined for something else. Her actual agenda was simple; she wanted my grade point average to drop, so that I would face the real threat of being drafted into the regular army as ground forces in the jungle; an unpleasant undertaking. She would then give me an offer I couldn’t refuse; don’t go to Viet Nam, work for CIA.
As I sat at the back of the hot room full of scared boys, a whisper caught my ear.
“Hey! Are you Buddy Helm?”
I turned and caught a glimpse of a medic in a white shirt with a handlebar mustache, “My little sister said you were coming up. She loved Those Five.” I was blessed by guardian angels who directed me away from the active duty. Back in Tampa, my girlfriend was intrigued beyond her wildest expectations. This one may not be that clever, but he was really lucky.
“I want you to meet my mother.” She said with a smug look I had seen before. I had no idea what that remark meant, but I had gotten into the habit of not questioning her actions. She told me what she wanted to tell me. When I explained to her how I had gotten a medical deferment, her gorgeous green eyes got round. “I’m impressed!” That was the prevailing climate then; if you wanted to get laid by a free love hippie chick, you resisted the war. Lysistrata; plenty of stories about new recruits getting seduced by hippie chicks in San Francisco before they shipped out, trying to get the boys to run away to Canada. In this case the free love hippie chick was older by five years. Plus, unbeknownst to me, she was actually working for CIA, as a recruiter. She had picked me up in a theater arts course that I grabbed at the last minute during the grueling undergraduate enrollment in the USF gymnasium where grown men, football players, stars in high school were crying like babies because they could not get enough credits to stay out of the draft. The popular media was changing into a voice of questioning, and the administrations were caught off guard. The technological and spiritual saviness of the resistance gave it an unexpected edge. The prevailing winds shifted against the agenda in office. They wanted moles in ‘The Movement”. I was not a fink. I wasn’t in the antiwar movement. I was a drummer.
I sat facing my girlfriend’s rather large, stern, mother across a massive shining black lacquer table at an exclusive private Chinese dining room in Georgetown. There were several CIA people at the table. If I had taken notice, I would have surmised that this was not a regular meeting to recruit some unknowing college kid. If I had been more sanguine then, I could have asked myself, “What did my father really do?”
“Sorry, we’re late!” The Princeton type with suede elbow patches and perfect teeth appeared with his female partner, a Farrah Fawcet type. Both smiling, “We broke up a hashish ring in Marakesh, then jumped on a military transport to get back here in time..”
“You’re good with those chopsticks, Buddy.” The beautiful Chinese CIA operative complemented me. I still didn’t get it. I was nineteen years old. “I am a drummer.” I responded demurely. “We know that.” She said bluntly. “So, Buddy…” Her voice turned from chatty to interrogative. “Tell us about your first LSD trip.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. That had been a sacrament; a secret, mysterious rite to high consciousness. It was recently made illegal and considered dangerous and subversive in the media but still popular among seekers. The whole table full of spooks looked at me like the cat who had gotten the canary. I suddenly didn’t like this situation my girlfriend had driven me up into. I had an emotional flash of psychic insight: pictures of mayhem, the smell of brimstone, the feeling of evil. I had wanted to be in CIA when I was a kid, but now that the opportunity presented itself, I reacted from an instinctive, gut level. I had this one moment to decide the fate of my life. I looked to my girlfriend, across the large table from me, sitting next to her mother, CIA operatives flanking her. She looked like she was a hundred yards away. I called out to her, “What…?” She looked at me coyly and said, “You are on your own.” The realization that she had played me the whole time felt like a brutal slap in the face; hurt at the abandonment and manipulation, and then the realization that she was working for CIA. Before this moment, that had never entered my mind. But I could not speak. Shock was setting in. This was the moment my mother had dreaded and prepared me for; the day that the men in black would come for her son. His son. A sound rose through the paralysis in my throat and I felt my own vocal chords vibrate with a stranger’s voice speaking with determined conviction.
“I have never taken LSD.” The temperature dropped in the private dining room. They all knew my girlfriend/handler had dosed me on the day that I had received my draft notice. It had been a test. Now, suddenly, I was not one of them. The possibility of fraternity was irreparably gone forever. The next week, I was a guest in Georgetown at their spacious modern apartment full of African art, and I was questioned by the beautiful Chinese CIA operative who would have slept with me if she thought it would accomplish anything. “What is the antiwar movement like on your campus?” She pressed, leaning closely, touching me, breathing on me. I had never been to an anti war rally on campus. She wouldn’t give up asking me.
I finally made something up, “Okay….I’ll tell you….It’s a fashion show.” She frowned at me, not understanding. “…The students look at the front of Life magazine, see Huey Newton in a black beret, so they go down to the army surplus and buy one, walk around campus with their fist in the air, yelling, “Fuck the pigs”. They graduate, they get married, they have two point three kids, a dog, and a washing machine in the garage. They pay their taxes. You don’t have anything to worry about from these people.” I wanted to protect the naive, innocent students who were protesting. She didn’t like my assessment. She wanted a much bleaker prognosis. This gorgeous Chinese CIA operative received a regular paycheck signed by Director of Central Intelligence, who had the same last name as me; Harmonic Resonances dance through our lives. The last name of Helm in the intelligence business was like the name Barrymore in Hollywood. It got peoples’ attention. DCI needed to be convinced before they coughed up a bigger budget for the counter intelligence program on American college campuses. I wanted no part of it.
Arriving back in Tampa, from our sudden trip to DC, my mother had her suspicions, “Did you go to Georgia and marry her?” I was that young. “No.” I didn’t tell her we had driven all the way to Washington DC and had an unexpected interview with CIA. She couldn’t have handled that after losing her husband in the intelligence business fifteen years earlier. I put it behind me, left college, and started looking for a new band. I went down to the Beaux Arts coffee house in Pinellas Park. I had a new addiction, and it was music. New music; all kinds, rock, RnB, jazz, electronic, gospel, field hollars and symphonies. I had to hear more. I had to play more.
Maybe she did not forget so easily after investing such a great deal of time and effort grooming this young one for the job. Maybe she fell in love with her target. This was going to be her plum. She could have a mate in the game. Months earlier, she had taken me to a group therapy session with stutterers on campus. The redneck psychiatrist attacked me for having long hair, so then the stutterers joined the fray. I held my retorts back because she had told me before hand, “Don’t get angry at them, they are stutterers. This is a chance for them to talk with regular people in a safe setting.” I let them thrash me for an hour. She was very pleased with that test. She then came to band practice and seduced my lead singer. I really had no control over her, but she had power over me. When I finally separated from her, there was a great deal of emotional disappointment; I refused to use the word ‘love’. Also a career disappointment by refusing to partner with her. I made her look foolish in front of her CIA colleagues. I stopped in to see her once to show off one of my new music partners, Charlie. She was not as accommodating as before. The Bethlehem Asylum performed at war moratorium rallies on campuses all over the South after that. She probably kept an eye on my progress. I felt betrayed but I was too young to understand. It got stuffed down inside of me but I kept looking over my shoulder, at something that was there but never seen.
excerpt: “History of the Groove, book three” Russell Buddy Helm ©2014 all rights reserved