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Annotated text of THE GREAT BREEN BOONDOGGLE OR ALL BERKELEY IS PLUNGED INTO WAR, circa 1963, with children's names redacted. It was written by Bill Donaho. Here are png files of the pages of the zine, with the names of children redacted:
TRIGGER WARNING. This newsletter discusses child sexual abuse in graphic detail.
A conference organizer analyzes the situation and what people are arguing about in Berkeley sf fan groups and communities. He questions what should be done and why, settling on the idea that Walter Breen should be banned from local fandom and from the upcoming Worldcon (Pacificon II) because he is harming children. He asks a wide group of friends also in fandom for advice on how to achieve this. Breen then married Marion Zimmer Bradley.
List of children affected
It seems worth pointing out that according to this newsletter, it was public knowledge by 1964 or before that since Breen moved to Berkeley in the late 50s, several children were affected. I would like to keep their names out of this.
Children listed here who were allegedly molested by Breen:
- P--, a 3 year old girl.
- S--'s son, a 13 year old boy.
- G--, 10 years old. (And onwards for several years.) ("Victim X")
- G2, 7 years old.
- Several unnamed teenage minors, boys and girls.
To ban or not to ban
Also of note, the basic idea that sf cons could ban people at all was so fraught that representatives from several cons across the United States signed a statement of support for banning, including several people who received this newsletter or were mentioned in it. http://fancyclopedia.org/moskowitz-pacificon-ii-reminiscence
THE GREAT BREEN BOONDOGGLE OR ALL BERKELEY IS PLUNGED INTO WAR
This article is most emphatically a Do Not Print, Do Not Quote and Most Especially Do No Blab My Name When You Mention This Letter Substitute. It is written for two different purposes: (1) To put together the facts in some coherent manner to send to Jack Speer for advice (2) To put together an account of recent stirring events in Berkeley to send to my friends for information purposes and/or to ask for advice. The account is long enough to make the writing of individual letters burdensome, particularly as I want to send it to a fair number of people.
As most stories do, this one has its roots in the past. It goes back to the very day when Walter Breen first arrived in Berkeley -- almost four years ago. At first sight -- even before Walter's statements and behavior largely confirmed this to most fans -- Walter was assumed to be a homosexual. But no one cared. It was assumed that Walter had this facet under control and besides his sex life was felt to be no one else's business -- consenting adults and all that.
In the beginning the only anti-Walter people were the Gibsons and Danny Curran. Joe let it be known that he kept a loaded revolver on his mantel and that if Walter ever showed up at the Gibsons, he would use it. And of course Walter was one of the main people Joe had in mind when he wrote that SHAGGY article. Danny also lost no opportunity of putting Walter down. I once accused him of being Square. Danny said, "Hell, it's not that. You know I have homosexual friends. But I think Walter is a shit. And this is a handy club to hit him with."
So, at first Berkeley was indifferent to Walter's sex life. This gradually began to change. There were two main causes for this. At a GGFS meeting at the -----'s, S---- walked into her son's bedroom -- age 13 -- to find him in bed with Walter with Walter's arm around him. They were watching TV. (Walter is incredible.) S---- wasn't about to take this. She didn't make a scene at the time, but from then on, someone else was anti-Walter. Thenceforth the -------- kids were under instructions to retire into their room and barricade the door with furniture whenever Walter was in the house. They did too. S----- wanted to ban Walter from the house entirely but Alva felt great reluctance to reject any fan.
Most people were rather amused by this incident, feeling that the kid could say "No" and even if he said "Yes" the experience probably wouldn't hurt him any. After all, Walter is so child-like himself that it would be just as if the kid were playing around with another kid. And quite apart from the sexual connotations some people were outraged that an adult could prefer the society of children to that of adults, as Walter does.
The second cause was Walter's sex play with 3-year old P----------- ----------------. He had her trained up to the point where she would take off her clothes the minute she saw him. He would then "rub her down" and all that. I recall one occasion -- a fairly large gathering at the Nelsons -- in which he also used a pencil, rubbing the eraser back and forth in the general area of the vagina, not quite masturbating her. (Walter is incredible.) Many people were somewhat displeased by this -- most particularly her parents. No one thought he was actually psychologically damaging P--------- (she being so young) --- obviously ----- and ---- would have interfered if they thought he had been -- but the spectacle was not thought to be aesthetically pleasing. Years later Walter found out about the reaction and said, "But why didn't somebody say something! I wouldn't have dreamed of doing it if I'd thought someone _objected._"
There was of course more than one incident of sex-play with P-------. That was just the most spectacular one. I thought "Walter obviously isn't going to stop this as P------ grows older and more appealing. Sooner or later D---- is going to think she's being hurt. Now D----- as do most bohemians --- may think it's approaching immorality to reject anyone for any reason, and particularly any fan, but _killing_ in certain circumstances is perfectly moral. Now I wonder . . ." However, it didn't come to that. D---- let it be known that Walter was to stop this forthwith.
After this there were quite a few anti-Breen embers in Berkeley. But things jogged along for awhile. There were more and more Walter Breen stories (some of them screamingly funny) but no one's attitude changed. Then came the G----- episode. G---- was ten years old and Walter was seeing a hell of a lot of him. (And still does; he recently gave G---- a 10-gear bike; the standard quip is "One gear for each position."). Rumors kept growing that Walter was having an affair with G-----. One fan said that he had surprised them engaging in sex. Upon being closely questioned, however, it developed that G----- and Walter were seated side by side on the couch in an unlocked, open room (Walter is incredible) and the guy came into the room suddenly. Walter leaped up and ran into the bathroom, clutching his open fly. The guy didn't actually see what they were doing, but drew his own conclusions.
At least three different fans have reported glowing descriptions of sex with G---- given them by Walter. (Walter is incredible.) One account: "G----- and I began with mutual masturbation and worked up to 69. Then G---- wanted to try buggering me, so I let him. Then I buggered him."
This is all very vivid and on the whole people were more shocked than amused. However, almost all Berkeley fans dislike G---- so no one cared much. "Who cares what happens to the little bastard?" But some felt that G------ was a little bastard because he is troubled and going through a most difficult time at home and that particularly under these circumstances Walter wasn't at all good for him.
Also about this time Walter was seeing another kid, 7-year old G2---. G2 is the son of the girl Danny was living with at the time and Danny told Walter to keep the hell away. This wasn't too effective as the kid would still sneak off to see Walter, but Walter got all excited about it. He said that Danny had "betrayed" him. It is difficult to see how this could be a betrayal since from the beginning Danny and Walter have made no bones about intensely disliking each other. Danny's attitude was more or less: "If anyone who has a kid lets Walter even speak to it, he should have his head examined." Most people in Berkeley seem to think this is a reasonable attitude.
Walter was also upset about Danny's trying to deprive him of G2 because "The kid's too young! All I can do is to *cuddle* him for Christ's sake." The parental idea though seems to be -- quite apart from the possible damage of the "cuddling" -- that although as a general rule Walter isn't interested in pre-puberty kids of either sex, if he's "cuddling" one and no one else is around, a sudden temptation or aberration may seize him.
But Walter has further said, "I never even *seduce* a teen-ager. The kids *always* seduce me!" That is as may be. But one teen-ager, leaving Walter's place after the first day of a proposed week's stay said, "Walter *may* always be the one who's seduced, but he makes it goddamn clear he's available."
However, Walter got quite upset about the whole G2 matter. He seemed to think that Danny's action was somehow connected with G---- (Danny would have done the same if G---- had never been heard of), that Danny was actively spreading his "rumors" about Walter and G---- (Danny didn't have to, everyone else was) and that the story was causing not only Berkeley fandom, but all of West Coast fandom to reject Walter. (At that time Walter's status was the same as it had been for years; fans objected much more to his previous dealings with P----- than to his supposed affair with G----).
So, for months Walter was going around saying that Danny was responsible for his "rejection". Now he's changed his mind and is say[ing] that Al Halevy and Sid Rogers are responsible for his "persecution"; he's even promoted Sid so that according to him she is one of the Three Big Bitches of Fandom, the others being G. M. Carr and Christine Moskowitz. Ho hum. Perhaps all this is connected with Subbud. (An East Indian Cult that is quite the thing now a days.) I understand that when Walter was "opened" in Subbud he gained two primary insights: (1) His Way of Life is absolutely correct and that he on no account should change it and (2) He is far too tolerant of other people and subservient to their wishes, but nevertheless he is always being betrayed. (Walter is incredible.)
But now at last to our main story. Perhaps due to Subbud's reassurance, Walter's recent behavior has been getting many Berkeley parents not just alarmed, but semi-hysterical. If Walter is in the same room with a young boy, he never takes his eyes off the kid. He'll be semi-abstractedly talking to someone else, but his eyes will be on the boy. And if the kid goes to the bathroom, Walter gets up and follows him in. (Walter is incredible.)
Again when people complained about this, Walter said that if he had the least idea that anyone *objected*. . . Knowing Walter I can readily believe that he was completely oblivious to the obvious signs of strong objection. Those who say Walter is a child are right and as a child he is completely oblivious to other people's desires and wishes unless hit on the head with them.
By now there were three main attitudes in Berkeley:
(1) Walter is evil and should be locked up.
(2) Walter is sick and should be helped -- against his will if necessary.
(3) Walter is an intelligent and nice guy. None of this is important. He loves and understands children.
About this point Al Halevy decided that whether Walter is evil or sick is irrelevant; there is no reason why we have to put up with him and we should excrete him. As is Al's wont, he waxed very enthusiastic about this project. He encountered stout opposition, but he also fanned the Anti-Breen embers into full flame.
The proposed excretion of Walter was discussed all around Berkeley. The suggestion was also made that we expel Walter from the Pacificon II as well, since we were expecting a large number of young teen-agers and shouldn't let Walter make the convention his Happy Hunting Ground -- that after all we owed some protection to the kids we were gathering in. However, in the first place Walter had attended four previous Worldcons without untoward incident and was in fact usually sharing a room with several other fans. In the second place while we could of course cancel Walter's membership, if we did so without telling fandom why, there would be a big row. And if we told why, Walter would sue for slander and libel and we didn't have $75,000.00.
It was pointed out that truth is a defense in a case like this. So it is, but Walter would probably sue anyway. And even though we have all sorts of evidence establishing the main facts, if not each individual instance, we'd still be out several hundred dollars in lawyer's fees even after we'd won the case.
Here's the evidence we have, some of it being pretty good.
(1) Eyewitness accounts of his sex play with P----, following T---------- into the bathroom (possibly similar things with other children), Walter's being in bed with B-------, and of the time he and G---- were surprised on the couch. Cross-examination might minimize some of these, but not all I think.
(2) Somewhat guarded admissions by Walter in TESSERACT and other fanzines and somewhat less guarded ones in the Cult. But the most damaging ones are very guarded indeed as in TESSERACT where he defended abstractly teachers having sex with their teen-age male pupils, saying "What is *really* wrong with this?" But of course he has always claimed in public that this was an intellectual discussion and he didn't really believe that.
(3) Statements by Walter in letters (some of those letters have been destroyed, but fortunately not all. Can someone testify to the contents of a letter they threw away, Jack?) They range from admission of his relationship with G----, rhapsody about the joys of 69-ing with a couple of young New York fans, glorification of boy love in general, on downwards. Besides the destroyed letters a further difficulty is the reluctance of many people to bring this correspondence to light. But this would diminish somewhat in the case of a genuine suit.
(4) Quite a number of Statements made by Walter in person to three of four different people -- particularly about the G--- affair, but also his homosexuality in general. But again a reluctance to testify is manifest. Not refusal -- reluctance.
As word of these discussions began to leak around fandom we got a rumor back that at least one other convention committee had been planning to expel Walter, not telling why, but expelling him at the last moment before the convention so he wouldn't have time to kick up too much of a fuss. (They said -- apropos of some homosexual remarks on child molesters, "If even the homosexuals won't accept him, why should we?") However, they chickened out at the last moment.
I didn't see any point in expelling Walter from the clubs here. I thought it would cause more fuss and mess than it was worth. I thought the best way to handle the situation was to have those people who objected to Walter -- mostly parents -- ask him not to come around. Ben agreed. Alva agreed saying that he wanted to protect his kids of course, but that the situation was adequately handled at his house by having them barricade themselves in their room. Danny said that it was outrageous for the kids to have to do this in their own home. After two more weeks of discussion with various people Alva finally decided to bar Walter from his own house at least.
Halevy finally decided to form a committee to investigate the "Breen situation", which would talk to Walter and all concerned, and then, if they thought the situation called for it, present formal charges at a club meeting, giving Walter ample time and opportunity to prepare a defense if he chose to do so. However, Al was shortly to leave for Israel, and he decided to defer doing anything until he got back, his theory being that Walter had been around for three or four years, three or four months wasn't going to make that much difference. So he left without doing anything.
But before leaving Al talked to so many people about this and some of them became quite stirred up. The counter theory was developed: "If Walter's dangerous enough to get rid of in three or four months, he's so dangerous he should be gotten rid of now!"
The Clintons were especially upset. they had just moved to Berkeley from the Peninsula and the GGFS had just been shoved onto them, Ed being the new president and Jessie the new secretary-treasurer. They felt that the whole Breen mess was being shoved onto them too, as they were continually being urged to Do Something about Walter. They felt that the people who had known Walter for years should have done something, not left it to newcomers.
And they swung between two points of view. "We must protect T----" and "We're all kooks. Walter is just a little kookier than the rest of us. Where will it all end if we start rejecting people because they're kooky?" So they swung from on the one hand proposing that if Walter wasn't to be expelled, then the banning from individual homes should be extended so that club meetings were only held in such homes, and on the otherhand calling the whole series of discussions "McCarthyite" and "Star Chamber". "I don't want Walter around T----, but if we do such a horrible thing as expelling him, I'll quit fandom."
Oh, people were really excited. There was a hell of a lot of mishmash and a lot of confusion between whether Walter deserved to be expelled and the methods suggested for doing this on the one hand and on the other, confusion between what was talked about -- including many wild statements and impractical ideas -- and what was actually seriously proposed as procedure for handling the situation.
Some people said that banning Walter from individual homes wasn't enough as he would still be in and around Berkeley and could see and entice the kids any time as he did with G----. And that no one was worried about Walter's raping the kids, but his seducing them. If this is the main fear, it is difficult to see how expelling him or even running him out of fandom would improve the situation either.
On this point Walter later said that if he really is as bad as all that, it's rather immoral for fans to be only concerned with protecting fannish children, leaving him perfectly free to prey on the rest of Berkeley. I gather that some people have the same idea -- only from a different point of view.
Jerry and Miriam belong to the violently anti-this-persecution-of-poor-Walter faction. (They're not exactly pro-Walter though since they have been amongst the fans most disgusted at Walter's self-centeredness, obtuseness and behavior.) And just about this time Miriam got a brilliant idea: if Walter knew how people were reacting to and about him, he would voluntarily stay away from club meetings and all this unpleasantness could be avoided. She called up Ray Nelson and asked him to tactfully tell Walter. Ray did.
Walter was annoyed that all these parents so bent on protecting their children hadn't given him the *slightest* hint that they objected to his behavior. He does have a point. Plenty of non-verbal hints were given, but he might have been told off in so many words. Some have answered this point by saying that anyone in his right mind, even if he thought this behavior O.K. himself, would know that it is not socially acceptable. (But Walter is incredible.)
Walter said that he wasn't mad at anyone -- except Al and Sid -- and would stay away from club meetings at least "until all this dies down," but that if this Witch Hunt were carried to the point where he was excluded from the Pacificon II, well then, Marion Zimmer Bradley would stay away too. And if this wasn't enough to stop the committee, he would also due for Defamation of Character. (I guess he's made too many noises about evil Moskowitzes suing for libel and slander to sue for libel and slander himself.)
Walter also brought forth thte point that since he has been in a mental hospital and discharged, he was the only person in Berkeley fandom who was certified sane. I don't see the relevance of this, but there it is.
And of course Walter is writing to his correspondents, telling them all about how he is being evilly persecuted in Berkeley. And all because little children *insist* on climbing all over him.
Some people got quite irritated by Miriam's action. These divide into roughly two groups: Those who want to "get" or "help" Walter and are afraid that this solution will let things die down and he will still be around indefinitely and those who wanted to quiet things down and hush the whole Matter up before Marion Zimmer Bradley learned about it. Many of us like Marion and all this is not a very pleasant welcome to Berkeley for her. Not to mention the fact that it's going to severely strain her relations with almost all Berkeley fans, since naturally she will defend Walter. If under the circumstances there are any relations to strain, that is.
There are also two main sets of opinion about Marion's coming. One is: "Maybe she'll reform him. He may have had mistresses before, but he's never been fully committed to a woman. Besides, maybe she'll keep him so busy he won't have time for other outlets." Most of us think this is cloud 9 dreaming of the worst sort. For one thing there can be only change if there is a desire for change. Walter is extremely well satisfied with himself the way he is. The other position is "It'll only be a short time until she comes to her senses. Obviously she knows about Walter and accepts him, but let's see what happens to tolerance-in-theory when he starts making passes at her 12-year-old son."
And of course many people think Marion can't *possibly* know what she is getting into. "Doesn't she have some friend who can warn her?" But most of us think that this would be a thankless, not to say impossible, task. We feel that she most probably at least knows about some of Walter's affairs with adolescent males but believes in tolerance and also believes Walter when he says, "The kid always seduces me." We feel that she also believes that "Walter loves and understands children" and would put down anything she heard about Walter's activities with children and adolescents to distortion, exaggeration, lying and/or evil-intented persons. After all, presumably she loves the guy and has a little faith in him . . .
And the chain reaction keeps going on. More and more Berkeley fans keep hearing all the gory details and rush in to put in their 2 cents worth. And as the rumors keep trickling out, letters crying "Expel the bastard" keep coming in. At every party or meeting there's one or more hassles about Walter. And the discussions go on for *hours*. Most of us are thoroughly bored and disgusted. Just the other day Alva said, "If I hear the words "Walter Breen" or "WB" just once more, I'll puke. I know exactly what he means.
And nearly every Berkeley fan is irritated or disappointed or annoyed at at least one other Berkeley fan -- and mostly at two or three or four -- because of things said and positions taken in the Breen Boondoggle. I tell you the Martin affair can't even begin to compare to it. Next week: "East Lynn".
But to some extent we are regaining our sense of humor about it all. At a recent Little Men gathering at the Clintons one of the kids was trying to get me to play with him and Jessie said, "We don't want any of that around here: evil old men cuddling little boys. We won't have any of that in our house." All factions roared.
Any number of clashing viewpoints appeared in this account, so perhaps it's just as well to put down here exactly what mine is. I had a very good correspondence with Walter for some six months before I met him. I felt he was a friend and felt myself committed to him. (Walter can be quite different in letters; see his l.o.c.'s.) When I met him and suffered an intense shock: I found him self-centered to the point of egomania, deliberately and consciously exploitative of everyone with whom he came in contact, and possessed of an "You're entirely for me or you're entirely against me syndrome." Naturally I disliked him. However, because of the correspondence I felt intensely guilty for doing so and leaned over backwards to remain friendly with him. This lasted for about two years. By then his behavior had been such that I stopped feeling guilty. Soon afterwards I stopped disliking him. Now I feel very sorry for him. But I must admit that oft times his behavior with children mitigates my pity. Also I do not particularly enjoy his going around saying "Donaho is a homosexual." I suppose, however, I should take this for a compliment. Being called a homosexual by Walter is something of an accolade to him. The list of fans he has bestowed this accolade on is indeed impressive.
I think Walter is sick, extremely sick. And if he is evil, it's because he's sick. But I certainly don't want to hurt him. If anything is to be done to or about Walter, it should only be done because it's necessary to protect others, not to hurt Walter. If Walter is not damaging others he should be left to go on his peculiar way in peace. Although of course those of us who don't want to associate with him certainly don't have to.
But I do think Walter is dangerous to children. I'm not *entirely* sure of this, but I think so. I know from Walter's own statements that he has had sexual relations with children of both sexes of the age of puberty or older. I know from observation that he "cuddles" and has sex play with younger ones. But what I'm not so sure about is whether or not this sex actually hurts the kids.
Oh, of course I have an intense emotional reaction against this sex -- after all I'm a product of this culture, but also I'm not conventionally religious and I think that everyone should have a free sex life. But not with children. But does it hurt the chlidren?
Of course Walter doesn't rape children or physically damage them. But he's very good at seduction. He's an adult meeting children on their own level and thinking in their own terms. They find this irresistible. All children seem to flock to Walter like bees to honey -- even when he's given them no more cuddling or play than a normal affectionate adult would.
But I tend to think that normal, healthy, emotionally-secure children will not be damaged or much affected by Walter. The only trouble is: how many of this kind of children can be found in our society? And I'm reasonably certain that children lacking love and emotional security at home, even if they are partially neglected only and/or those who have disturbed attitudes towards sex -- almost inescapable in our society -- will be affected and most probably harmed. Also, while Walter can evidently be most tender and loving when it suits his purposes, he has had sex with young teen-age girls without using contraceptives -- again by his own statements -- and he had behaved quite brutally to some of his lovers after he has tired of them.
So, Walter is dangerous to children. What business is this of mine? I don't have any children. Well, I think everyone should have a certain amount of social responsibility, if not to society as a whole, at least to their friends and acquaintances and towards a friendship group like fandom. I think that I would be a coward and a shirker if I didn't at least try to do something about the danger that I think Walter represents.
I came to this conclusion most reluctantly. I have no axe to grind. And quite apart from my emotional reluctance, I expect some of my friends to get mad at me if I do anything about Walter. Others will be "disappointed" in me because of my "persecution" of Walter, poor innocent Walter who loves and understands children. Also I rather expect some damage in my race for TAFF in 1965.
While many people of course want to get Walter committed and out of circulation entirely, my own goals are more modest. I want to perform a surgical operation, separating Walter and fandom.
I'm certainly not going to protect or defend Walter or even try to argue with those who want to commit him. Nevertheless I shrink from this myself.
Walter is a human being. He has rights. But those rights do not extend to hurting children. They do extend to letting him defend himself. And as a matter of face he is defending himself quite well. If it weren't for the possibility of a suit, some such account as this would be going to all fandom.
We have evidence, sure, and according to a preliminary statement from Jack Speer, quite good enough, provided the people to whom Walter has told things would testify to this in court. But there is considerable reluctance to do so of course. And you start pushing people in a case like this, you wind up holding the bag.
And as I see it, there's no reason per se for excluding Walter from the Pacificon. He's evidently always been perfectly well-behaved at conventions. (If he hadn't been, I'm sure he would have boasted about it. Walter is incredible.) If he is excluded without fandom being told WHY, he would still be around and something of a martyr.
If we tell Why, we get sued. This is expensive even if we win. We should win, but there's always the possibility that we won't.
So, what the hell can we do?
If any of you have any advice or arguments to offer: Air Mail it.
Mailing List: F.M. and Elinor Busby, Ed & Jessie Clinton, Dick and Pat Ellington, Dick Eney, Bill Evans, Joe & Robbie Gibson, Rog and Honey Graham, Al Halevy, Jerry] and Miriam Knight, Betty Kujawa, Dave and Ruth Kyle, Norman Metcalf, Bob Pavlat, Dave Rike, Alva and Sid Rogers, George Scithers, Larry and Noreen Shaw, Jack Speer, and Ben Stark
- Talk:Marion Zimmer Bradley
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- Talk:Marion Zimmer Bradley
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Comment: typical Berkely, rallying around rapists and pedos.
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Summary: comes to her sense -> comes to her senses
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