Mama Cass in London: drugs, towels, Michael Caine and Charles Manson

I have a piece about Mama Cass Elliot in the current issue of Uncut. One area I didn’t have space to cover was Cass’s arrest in London in 1967 when The Mamas & The Papas were travelling by boat to England to play a show at the Albert Hall. They had arrived at Southampton when they were told police were waiting with a warrant for Elliot’s arrest. The band frantically tried to destroy their stash of weed and then went on to the dock where they were supposed to meet label boss Lou Adler and his friend Andrew Loog Oldham. They were instead greeted by six of the Met’s finest, who bundled Elliot into a police car and drove her to Scotland Yard.


Elliot was stripsearched and questioned, then denied bail and held overnight. The police said the charges related to a stay in London six months previously at Queen’s Gate Terrace, when she had absconded with an unpaid bill and several towels. Outside the police station, The Mamas & The Papas – Denny Doherty, John Phillips and Michelle Phillips – were joined by Scott McKenzie, brandishing FREE MAMA CASS placards while they waited for Elliot’s release. The Albert Hall concert was cancelled.

Elliot escorted to the police station in Waterloo.

Elliot escorted to the police station.

Elliot told the press she had been treated well, but not been given enough blankets. ‘Believe me,’ she said, ‘One blanket doesn’t go far round this chick.’ After a trial at West London Magistrates Court, at which no evidence was offered for the prosecution, she was released without charge and left the courtroom munching on a hash cookie that she found in her handbag. That may account for the big smiles in the photo below, taken shortly after her release.

Elliot on release.

Elliot on release.

The Mamas & The Papas with Scott McKenzie after Elliot's release.

The Mamas & The Papas with Scott McKenzie after Elliot’s release.

The Mamas and the Papas with Scott McKenzie in London.

The Mamas and the Papas with Scott McKenzie in London.

While such heavyhanded treatment by the authorities of rock stars was fairly common at this time, it later emerged that Elliot’s arrest actually had more to do with her occasional boyfriend, Pic Dawson, who the British police believed was involved in a major drug-smuggling operation. According to Michelle Phillips, this was the only subject the police in London were really interested in.

Pic Dawson and Cass Elliot at Whisky A Go Go.

Pic Dawson and Cass Elliot at Whisky A Go Go.

Dawson, who died of a drug overdose in the 1980s, was certainly an interesting figure with connections to the underworld. Numerous rumours circulate about him partly thanks to his peripheral involvement in the Manson Family murders.

Dawson, left, and Elliot, right, at Mama Cass’s house with guests including David Crosby and Eric Clapton

Dawson knew several of the victims – basically, he supplied them drugs – and after the murders John Phillips is said to have told the police that the bloody PIG daubed on Sharon Tate’s wall actually said PIC. The LA police were also informed that Dawson, along with another of Elliot’s drug-dealing boyfriends, Bill Doyle, had been ejected from a party at the Polanski house shortly before the murders. Dawson was subsequently arrested, questioned and cleared, as was Doyle.

These were not Elliot’s only connections with the Manson murders. Dave Mason recalls, “One of the freakiest parts was that at Cass’s I saw a lot of Abbie Folger and Wojciech Frykowski until the Manson crew slaughtered them” and she knew all the victims well. But she also knew the murderers – in his autobiography, Michael Caine of all people recalls attending a party in Hollywood with Jay Sebring and Sharon Tate, where Mama Cass introduced him to a ‘scruffy little man’. His name was Charles Manson.

7 responses to “Mama Cass in London: drugs, towels, Michael Caine and Charles Manson

  1. If Susan Atkins hadn’t met up with underworld madam Virginia Graham and decide to spill her guts so that Graham could go to the police via one of her “girls” Ronnie Howard, it would have been amazing that Billy Doyle and his crew would have been let off the hook. Doyle was allegedly pistol whipped and sodomized by Frykowski weeks before the murders.

  2. I remembered this article after learning that the Jane Doe recently identified by LA Police (Reet Jurvetson from Toronto) was being looked at in the context of the Manson killings. Reet’s sister say the girl headed out to LA sometime in mid-1969 after meeting someone called ‘John’ in a coffee bar. There was a guy called John Deturo who lived with Billy Doyle and the Harrison crowd. Billy talks about him in his Police interviews and says John arrived from Toronto himself in Spring 1969, around the time Reet/Jane Doe is said to have arrived from Toronto. Billy talks about their regular trips back to Toronto as part of some drugs run or other. Talks about John being at a Sebring/Tate party. Clearly the Family were responsible for what happened at Cielo Drive, but I do wonder if Reet was lured to LA by Doyle and his gang and then found herself in the company of those at Spahn Ranch (or other gangs hanging out in the area). What happened to those girls in Peru shows it can happen. That said, John/Jean is a very common name.

  3. Pingback: Reet Jurvetson – Jane Doe Possible Manson Victim

  4. Pingback: Strange Celebrity Connections to Charles Manson You… – 7DAYS DAILY NEWS

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  6. For anyone interested. The actual police interview with Doyle can be found on you tube.

  7. Pingback: Jaw-Droppingly Out-Of-Control Stories From The Mamas & The Papas - FactsandHistory

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