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Annihilation Man 

How Darby Crash lost control. Of the Germs. Of Circle One. Everything.

Wednesday, Dec 27 2000
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After he won a children's writing contest for a weekly Venice newspaper, Faith bought 10-year-old Paul a portable typewriter and kept him supplied with notebooks for his endless jottings. As he entered adolescence, his enthusiasm for writing blossomed into compulsion. He would lock himself in his room, sometimes for days, appearing only for meals, while the family could hear him clicking away. He blew up if anybody entered his room or touched his papers, and he was observant — and meticulous — enough to know if even one sheet had been disturbed.

While attending University High School in West L.A., Paul became interested in Scientology, the pseudo-religious cult founded by pulp science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. At the time, he and Germ-to-be George Ruthenberg were enrolled in the IPS (Innovative Program School), an experimental program for high school underachievers directed by Fred Holtby, who used Scientology methods as pedagogical tools. (Paul had met George, a socially estranged mulatto kid from the Pico-Bundy area of West L.A., in the seventh grade when they patronized the same speed dealer.) Spinning off Hubbard's "applied religious philosophy," IPS emphasized a screwy gumbo of est, Scientology and applied rhetoric, while students were asked to devise their own curricula, stage their own exams and grade themselves. It was around this time that Paul, with lots of encouragement from his friend George, began experimenting with the mind-control techniques he'd cobbled together from these and other sources to try to get other Uni High kids to do his bidding.

Truth be told, Paul had always seemed more fascinated by Hubbard himself than by the militia he founded. Here was a darkly charismatic figure so persuasive that he could, as Paul saw it, order his followers around like so many sheep. At one point in his career, Paul heard, Hubbard had refused to speak to anyone except through messengers, mostly regimental girls kitted out in hot pants and halter tops, sexy androids who were trained to relay his orders in exactly his tone of voice. To Paul Beahm's skewed sense of humor, manipulating people to do things for you like that was a hoot. How far could you go with that shit? "People are really stupid," he noted.

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Paul would eventually claim that he had abandoned Scientology, having come to regard it as fatally "flawed." However, as late as fall '77, speaking as the Germs' Bobby Pyn in an interview in Flipside fanzine, he said that "[Scientology's] philosophy is unbelievable. Everything they say works. The government's been suppressing them. If I had $10,000, I'd go back and do it [i.e., undergo 'advanced training']. It does work. It's gonna save the world."

Lemme get control I've got your minds now I want your souls, lemme get control I've got your minds Now I want control, I need control…

—The Germs, "Shut Down (Annihilation Man)"

Paul soon discovered that he could attract attention at school and, to amuse himself and George when they got bored, command the minds of certain psychological or emotional types. If you were bright, overweight, a nerd, a druggie, a victim of child abuse, from a single-parent family or an outsider of any sort, Paul Beahm — still basically a sweet, vulnerable, sensitive kid, say former schoolmates and others who knew him early on — spoke to you, and it wasn't long before he was able to grow the subjects of his mind manipulations into a small clique consisting of some of the school's most intelligent underachieving misfits.

(A few years later, the Paul Beahm coterie had morphed into a full-blown demonic punk subcult, Circle One. According to former Germs manager Nicole Panter, "Darby used to make people do things, just because he could. Like he'd order one girl to take off a bracelet and give it to another girl, or he'd say, 'Gimme that button,' 'Gimme that shirt,' 'Gimme a beer,' and five little girls from Beverly Hills would run and get it for him.")

One of Paul's techniques for driving people into submission was to ask, over and over again, "What makes you think so?" in response to whatever the other person had just asserted. He disrupted IPS classes so many times with this variation on the 3-year-old's game of "Why?" that he was eventually booted out of the program, a move that convinced his early disciples that he was a prophet-genius who'd symbolically triumphed over the establishment.

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