Tag Archives: Michael Caine

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.

Secret London: the Victorian herbalist

This piece originally appeared in Completely London magazine. 

You don’t expect to find a shop as beautiful as Baldwin’s on the Walworth Road, the grimy but charismatic street that connects Elephant & Castle with Camberwell and is otherwise punctuated by pound shops and bookmakers. ‘We have the greatest range of herbal products in the UK,’ says owner Steve Dagnell proudly, and that is easy to believe. Baldwin’s is lined with aged apothecary drawers stuffed with herbs, gleaming wooden shelves holding big bottles of wood curls, lavender and liquorice and ancient signs that advertise pills ‘for piles, pains in the back, pimples and dizziness’ and tonic mixture ‘for lowness of spirits’.

Baldwin’s has been on this road for 150 years, selling herbs, tinctures, oils, beauty remedies and sarsaparilla to customers – among them celebrities such as Terence Stamp, Michael Caine and Max Bygraves, who came here for his throat sweets – since 1844. It started at No.77, but moved to 173 in 1969, taking many of the original fittings with it. The store is currently run by Dagnell, 57, whose grandfather started work at Baldwin’s in 1918. ‘At that time there were six shops in London, but the others were closing,’ says Dadnell. ‘His first job was to go round all the other shops with a handcart buying back the old stock.’

Dadnell himself began working there in 1981. The store stocks a mind-boggling variety of herbs – everything from agnus castus to yerba santa, including helonias root at £322 per 500g – as well as essential oils, shampoos, body washes and handmade soup. ‘We do an enormous range of essential oils and have developed a cosmetics range based on these,’ says Dadnell. ‘A lot of people use them to make their own shampoo, massage oil and soap.’ It’s a beautiful shop selling beautiful products, the hidden jewel of the Walworth Road.

Baldwin and Co, 171-173 Walworth Road, SE17.