Monday, November 7, 2022

The Process, Gypsy Jokers and Ed Sanders

Sometimes it takes a while to locate where a particular story got its beginnings. Ed Sanders, The Family, is one of the early books in the Manson Saga and he has quite a few stories in the book that make you wonder if they are true or not.


A number of years ago I wrote a post about Filippo Tenerelli who had been pegged as being a Gypsy Joker. Apparently, Sanders leapt to that conclusion because the Gypsy Jokers had a member named Dago. Dago being a slur for an Italian person. Since Tenerelli was Italian surely, he must have been the person who the Gypsy Jokers nicknamed Dago.

The post puts to rest that the Gypsy Joker named Dago was not Filippo Tenerelli. Phil Cross was the president of the San Jose chapter of the Gypsy Jokers. In 2013 Cross wrote "Phil Cross: Gypsy Joker to a Hells Angel". I contacted Phil through his publisher to ask about Dago and he replied with one of the more memorable emails I’ve received.

Hi Deborah,

I’m glad you enjoyed the book.

In answer to your question, Dago’s name was Donald Ragante, and there was no Gypsy Joker named Filippo Tenerelli.

I have no problem with you posting my photo of Dago at the Chateau.

One other thing you might post is that Ed Sanders statement that the Gypsy Jokers were “heavily into the occult” is complete bullshit. We could have cared less about any of that shit. We rode, partied and fought, and that’s what we lived for.


Phil Cross

So, where did Sanders get information that the Gypsy Jokers were into the occult, possibly tied to The Process? I have the answer and it came from an unexpected source.

Most of the recent documents I have been posting are from the Inyo County investigation and arrests of Charles Manson and other members of the Family. In with all of the documents I received there were some pages of information on The Process and a police interview with a woman who was the girlfriend of Victor Wild. Wild, as you might recall, had a leathercrafting shop in San Jose CA. He is said to have made the leathers that Manson was wearing when he was arrested at Barker Ranch. Wild, also known as Brother Eli, had been a member of The Process but dropped out to apparently start his own cult.

The address and name of the leather shop.

74 San Fernando E San Jose CA 

The unexpected part of the story is that the girlfriend’s interview with the police was conducted during the investigation of the Doreen Gaul and James Sharp murders.

Victor Wild’s girlfriend was Leslie Bouffard, she contacted law enforcement after the Gaul/Sharp murders because she wanted to give a statement. She is mentioned on pages 18 and 19 of the Gaul/Sharp police report which is linked in the post about their murders. The date, November 15, 1969, on page 18 is the same date that is on the following interview.

Sanders, in the first edition of The Family pages 114-116, relates some of this interview, particularly the information on page three of the interview which involves the Gypsy Jokers.

Pages one and two of the interview give some standard information about the Process and mentions that Moore was once a member of Scientology. Bouffard states on page two that The Process tried to take over the Jokers.

Note: at the top on page one someone has written the word NO and over and underlined it. I did not do that; it was on the page when I received it. It does lead me to think that Bouffard’s statement may not have been taken seriously or considered not relevant to the Gaul/Sharp case by law enforcement though.


Page three of the interview gets into the connection of Victor Wild and the Gypsy Jokers. Leslie says that in 1967 Victor Wild had some success incorporating some of the Jokers into his group called the Agents of Satan. I could not find anything on the Agents of Satan that wasn’t bible related. I took Leslie to mean that the Agents of Satan was a motorcycle club.

The Labor Day 1968 run to Mendocino County is the only part of the interview where Bouffard gives a firsthand account of what took place among the Gypsy Jokers. The rest of her statements would be considered secondhand knowledge or hearsay in a court of law.

The account of the Mendocino run has a few problems. A newspaper article written just before the Labor Day weekend warns of influx of several motorcycle gangs for the weekend.


The Hells Angels were to meet near Squaw Rock in southern Mendocino County. Squaw Rock has been renamed to Frog Woman Rock in the last couple of years due to wokeness, “squaw” being derogatory to Native Americans. Leslie’s account has them meeting at Red Rock. There is an area in Mendocino County named Red Rock but it’s very remote with no paved roads and in the far northeast section of the county.

Leslie goes on to say that the Gypsy Jokers along with other clubs were meeting in another canyon. The way it is stated in the interview it sounds like the Hells Angels and other clubs were not a great distance from each other but the Gypsy Jokers were going to party on some land one of the members owned about eight miles west of Willits. Willits is a good 50 miles north of Squaw Rock. She continues, saying there were many guns being fired as well as explosives. She also tells of a girl having been “turned out” by some of the riders. The girl was raped by multiple men, threatened with a gun and stabbed. The girl did get away alive.

If all of that happened Mendocino County law enforcement missed it because an article written after the weekend said there was no trouble caused by the cyclists. There was no mention of a rape and stabbing or of gunfire and explosives.

Page four of the interview goes on to give more details about the Gypsy Jokers. Three Gypsy Joker’s were arrested for killing a Black man and injuring another for no apparent reason in February 1969. There were not three Black men killed.

Next on page four Leslie talks about a Gypsy Joker, Dirty Doug, and a Hells Angel being killed in a bar fight which started a war between the Jokers and Angels. There may have been a bar fight but no one was killed. Dirty Doug, T/N Doug Bontempi passed away in 2009. However, there was a war between the Jokers and Angels. It went on for a number of months though I could not find any deaths of either Jokers or Angels that were related to the war. Lots of fights though, many of which are recounted in Phil Cross’s book. The majority of Gypsy Jokers who died were killed in vehicle accidents or by law enforcement. The San Jose chapter of the Gypsy Jokers patched over to the Hells Angels June 11, 1969. The Jokers knew they could never beat the Angels so decided to join them instead.

I can’t speak to several students being stabbed in Santa Barbara. I could not find any articles saying there had been a rash of stabbings.

Leslie claims to have seen Grant Molan (Steve Grogan), and possibly Mary Scott (Patricia Krenwinkel) and Sadie Glutz in the leather shop. She does not say when she saw them. Because Leslie used the aliases of Grogan and Krenwinkel I suspect she was shown mug shots taken before law enforcement had a handle on the true names of the Family members.

As for the claim that the motorcycle clubs were discussing potential contract murders that went to the lowest bidder, I can only say that I looked through newspaper articles for murders for hire arrests. I found a handful that took place between 1966 and 1969. No motorcycle club members were named as suspects. Either they were very, very good at not getting caught or it just didn’t happen. I suspect the latter.


Sanders didn’t write about most of what was in Bouffard’s interview, that was probably a wise decision on his part. But what he did write obviously came from the interview and created a shit storm of controversary.

I attempted to contact Victor Wild. I told him I had Leslie Bouffard’s police interview and would like to ask him some questions. He did not reply to my email.


Torque said...

Excellent stuff, Deb. Thanks for this.

shoegazer said...

Again, this is very good work, Deb, and this is what makes reading this forum worthwhile.

Now, a personal anecdote that's really worth nothing substantive, but it's a personal impression, so take it for what it's worth.

In 1965 I worked at an all night gas station in San Rafael, CA, in Marin county, just north of SF. I was 18 and enrolled at College of Marin, and junior college in Kentfield.

I had the midnight to 8 shift, and it may have been a weekend. Sometime around 1 am to 3 am 4-6 bikers came into the station. One of them wanted a place to work on his bike, saying that he was having trouble with it that night.

Naturally I was very nervous, since the Hells Angels had a fairly high public profile, and these bikers wore the Gypsy Jokers patches (the name stuck in my head--it's almost comical, playful) and looked just like Angels. So I cheerfully acquiesced (of course) and they guy and his friends pulled over under one of the light standards and did just as he said: he fiddled around with some tools on the engine of the bike, got it running the way he liked, thanked me, then left. His friends stood around smoking and talking while he worked on his bike. No other motorists came in during that period, and I just watched them from the booth. They were all probably 5-10 years older than I was.

They were disappointingly "normal" in their behavior.

It was odd; my observations of them did not align with my expectations, which were that they would be semi-drunken madmen, like outlaws in a western film, and that I'd be lucky to escape the encounter intact. That they did not act this way in this situation doesn't mean that they never did, or were not willing and capable, but rather it implies less saturation in outlaw culture, with the persona being assumed when they wanted it, as a part of a public display or statement.

Well, like I said, this means nothing, but hopefully adds texture to an understanding of the times, especially for any who have no experience of the transition from early 60s "normal America" to the mid/late 60s freaked out youth culture.

Doug said...

Off topic but very interesting...Bruce/Stoner had Lynette/Squeaky as his guest last night. A little bit more than an hour of conversation

orwhut said...

Good story shoe.Thanks!

orwhut said...

Accurate or not, I enjoyed Ed's book. Ooo eee ooo

Toadstool Shadow said...

My book on the history of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted is packed away, but I recall the section on Mr. Fillmore Cross aka Phil Cross. A dashing looking man, he was, with great hair. Whether or not he had a reputation for honesty, the book did not say.

DebS said...

I think Phil Cross is honest about things that don't incriminate him in something unlawful such as whether or not the Gypsy Jokers were involved in the occult, with The Process or any other cult activity and whether or not Filippo Tenerelli was a member of the Gypsy Jokers.

It doesn't make sense that Tenerelli would be affiliated with a motorcycle club that had its chapters primarily in northern and central California when he lived in the Los Angeles area.

My feeling about the whole thing is that Victor Wild was the person who was interested in The Process and perhaps other cultish organizations. It's not a stretch to believe that Wild would have made leathers or other items for the Gypsy Jokers in San Jose. We know Wild was acquainted with Manson but just because Wild knew Manson, the Jokers and was involved with The Process for a time it doesn't follow that all three were in tight with each other.

I think that Sanders failed to follow through with investigating the three different factions and he presented the information in such a way that it led people to believe they were all connected.

Milly James said...

Mario III normally has something to contribute on the biker aspect.

orwhut said...

I just saw an article about how the Ukrainians are fighting Russia with dune buggies. Ed Sanders book tile immediately came to mind.

Rock N. Roll said...

I find Ed Sanders fascinating. He’s a poet and writes in hieroglyphics. A beatnik and hippie he’s really a Renaissance man. Plus oo-ee-oo is classic Manson terminology!

Gorodish said...

If "Dirty Doug" Bontempi actually shot a Hell's Angel in a bar brawl, the Angels apparently didn't hold a grudge. He patched over to the San Jose Hell's Angel chapter with Phil Cross et al and became a partner in crime with the Walter White of the biker world, Oakland HA meth cooker extraordinaire Kenny Owen. You can read about them in a 1979 Rolling Stone magazine article called "Hell's Angels-Masters Of Menace".