Bad Moonie is the confession of a 17-year-old-mid-western-boy-on-his own…circa 1979 …this eager, yet un-brain-washable cult recruit, takes a wrong turn at a no-nukes rally and ends up in the “Boy-to-Robot-Ultra-Cult”…The Moonies. He is bewitched…so he lets some details slide, never stopping to wonder why his new friends at the commune all dress like Young Republicans, and what kind of hippies would constantly chant “OUT SATAN!”? Pulling off the biggest charade of the decade, bank rolled by the manic flower selling and fueled by the creepy “Love Bombing” that defined the Moonie experience …David spends the funds he’s raised, meant for “True Parents” on booze, pot and hookers. His adventures and mishaps eventually led him to a “de-programming” after being extricated from the Moonies in a dramatic SFPD sting
Chapter One: My Time in Juvie
I was remanded…somewhere. There was a shock of white light amidst the confusion, as if my abductors had removed a hood from my head, and I squinted. I blinked slowly as the room came into focus. My imprisonment had become literal. This was an actual prison! Cool! I’d been physically detained, but I had no sense of mortal danger or fear for my well-being. This was a movie. I was the star.
I’d grown up with Police Women and Hawaii 5-0, so I knew the routine. I was about to be fingerprinted, my mug shot taken; I was busted. The heavy chain that shackled me was moored to the floor through the back of an oaken bench; the handcuffs, the same I’d been wearing since being kidnapped by the San Francisco Police Department in an elaborate undercover sting.
It seemed my adventures as an underage runaway who’d become a Moonie were about to end.
Moonie is what they called us; the glassy-eyed brainwashed robots that made salacious headlines nationwide. We were the faithful followers—well, they were the faithful followers—of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the self-proclaimed second advent of Christ. I was just along for the ride.
I was their best disciple, or so they thought. Only problem was, I wasn’t paying attention when they were brainwashing me. Some of the “True Parents” money that I raised by selling flowers at night went to junk food and porn. I was having fun trying to corrupt the other Moonies. I wasn’t finished yet. I couldn’t go home after all this time.
My real mom and dad didn’t know I wasn’t brainwashed. They hired deprogrammers, who then hired the San Francisco Police Department, to kidnap their child from the definitive cult of mind control.
So here I was.
I waited, checking out my surrounds. I was in a small room with nothing in it but an empty desk and the long bench where I sat. The door was slightly open to a hallway, but I couldn’t see anything outside. I heard the murmur of voices from a nearby room. Suddenly my mother’s figure appeared from behind a flimsy wall that had separated us.
She came close gingerly, a natural peace-maker, but was careful to remain just far enough away so that I couldn’t touch her—or grab her, hit her, or whatever she might have imagined I’d do. When I’d first spied her from the back of the squad car I hoped her involvement meant this whole debacle would be over. I would soon learn that wouldn’t be the case.
“David? David, I’m your mother,” she said, in a saccharine sort of sing-song voice that one might use speaking to, say, a coma victim. It was clear she was far, far out of her element.
I could only laugh. “I’m your son, Mom.” I couldn’t keep the sarcastic edge from my voice.
“David,” she cooed, “we’re doing this for your own good. You’ve been brainwashed, and we’re going to help you. You’re going to get better. You’re going to go home.”
“Mom? Mom, it’s me. It’s Dave.” Now she was the coma victim, as I tried to help her realize that I wasn’t out of my mind—I was still her kid. But I was angry. “I mean, look at this! Look what you’ve done to me! You’ve had me shackled!” I shook my handcuffed wrists at her, clanging the ridiculous chain against the thick bench.
My mother reacted in horror, placing her hand over her mouth and facing away from me in disbelief. A chill came over me. “Mom! Mom! This is ludicrous! Unchain me, and we can talk!”
Mother didn’t say another word. She just disappeared from my holding pen.
Then, Father paraded in. He planted himself an even safer distance than Mom had, hands thrust into the pockets of his suit. “What did they do to you?” he demanded, “When did you sleep last? When did you eat? Were you out selling flowers today?” He continued barking his interrogative remarks in rapid fire.
Well, certainly nothing had changed about the old man.
“I’m not going to answer your questions,” I said, raising my voice to match his. “You’ve arrested me and had me chained. I have rights, you know.” My adrenaline was pumping again. This felt like any typical exchange between my father and me, only this time I couldn’t escape him. This time, he had me bound and helpless.
“Hmm,” he said. “Just as they told us.” He walked around to the end of my holding cell and disappeared. I sank into utter helplessness, like the child in trouble with Mommy and Daddy. Nausea clawed at the pit of my stomach and worked its way up my throat.
The voices in the next room rose a bit. I overheard my name. Something about seventy-two hours. My father’s voice, thanking the cops, addressing them as officers. I pictured him shaking their hands with his firm grasp.
Then, one of the two cops who’d arrested me came in. He unlocked me from the bench, taking me by my right arm, and leading me down a long, long hallway. When I glanced behind, I could see my parents’ heads poking out a doorway, my mother crying again, my father awkwardly patting her on the back. And behind them, avoiding my eyes, nose running and red-faced, was my sister, Cathy.
At the end of the hall that never seemed to end we made a left, and stopped at a fortified door with the sign, “San Francisco Juvenile Detention Incarceration Area.”
“Open up cell fifteen,” the cop told a guard, and the door swung away from us, exposing its innards: rows of doors, with faces pressed up against tiny windows as we walked by. On my left we passed a large open room marked Solarium. Thirty more feet took us to a small space marked Cell 15.
Inside, the officer removed my handcuffs. He had me remove my shoes, belt, and tie. He pointed to an orange jumpsuit splayed on the bed and directed me to put it on and give him the rest of my suit. My already-high feeling of surrealism heightened as I pulled up the coveralls with the twelve-inch letters reading “S.F. Juvie” on the back. Without a word, the officer left.
I plopped down on the small cot, allowing myself, for the first time, to feel sorry for myself. I lay on the cot, my whole body exhausted with an adrenaline hangover. I fell asleep thinking of Sarah’s story, of the Morrison’s emphatic warnings, and of my secret kidnap wish, which wasn’t worth prison.
“Breakfast!” came a shout from behind my cell door. Suddenly, it opened and a man dressed all in white placed a tray on my cot and left, locking the door. An orange, toast, peanut butter in a small tub, half a banana, and a carton of milk. I stared at it. Now it begins, I thought. No food for me. I placed the tray on the floor near the door and paced to the back of the cell, to the small window fused with tiny diamonds of wire. Outside were trees and a pathway, surrounded by more building; a courtyard. If I were to escape by somehow breaking that window, I’d still have to squeeze out of the cavity and then somehow climb to the roof.
I dismissed the scenario before it could be fully imagined. Defeated, I leaned against the wall and slid down onto my butt. With nothing left to do, I began to chant. “True Parents forever, True Parents forever!” Over and over again, alternating that with: “Out Satan! Out Satan!” I shook my fists in rhythm to keep the time. If they wanted crazy, I would give them crazy.
After about an hour I grew weary. I’d never taken chanting seriously; it was comical to me. I only did it to keep up the charade. Chanting never brought me any comfort.
Wanting keep my vocal protest going, I decided to sing instead. I started with all of the songs I could think of from Booneville and Camp K; the James Taylor and Smokey Robinson songs whose lyrics had been altered to suit the family. The song “If Love Were Gracious Enough,” penned by Christina herself.
When I ran out of Moonie songs, I moved on to songs from YMCA camp. I sang as loud as I could, hoping to disturb my jailors. Instead, I heard, “Shut the hell up!” from the other inmates.
My cell door opened. In came my mother, this time clutching a grocery bag.
“David,” she said in the same mellifluous voice she had used earlier. She squatted beside me and got right in my face. Then she looked into my eyes as if they were a crystal ball. She was looking for the glassiness in my eyes. It was a well-loved cliché that Moonies had glassy eyes. It was supposed to be an indication of mind control. I don’t know what she saw, but finally, she sat back.
“David? I brought your favorite. Look!” She pulled out fruit from the bag. “Peaches, and plums, and nectarines…and I have cherries! And strawberries and grapes, too! They’re all your favorites, David! Do you remember? Do you remember how much you love fruit? How you loved fruit better than candy? Do you remember—we used to give you fruit in your Easter basket?”
This was true. I tried to reason with her. “Of course I still love fruit, and yes, I remember the Easter baskets. But I’m not going to eat this food, Mom. I’m on a hunger strike until you get me out of here.”
My mother broke into hysterical sobs. She dropped the bag of fruit on the cot and left the cell.
I returned to my singing. Eying the voluptuous fruit on the cot, I salivated, imagining the taste of a juicy peach. I wondered if I could get away with eating just one, perhaps hiding the pit under my mattress. I decided it wasn’t worth the risk.
After a couple more hours of serenading, I stopped for a moment to hear myself think. Were my brothers and sisters at Bush Street planning to extract me? What were my parents going to do next? A memory popped into my head: age ten, the Christmas I got my most coveted toy, the Mattel VertiBird helicopter, which I had begged for. I had hugged my parents and kissed them each on the cheek, my father’s whiskers tickling my lips. The red and green and silver colors of the light bulbs on the tree in soft focus comforted me.
Then: crash. Back to my reality.
I had genuine regret and sadness that the relationship with my parents had gotten so completely fucked up. Still, those days were gone. Now they were the people who had jailed their own son. I continued to sing.
Eventually, my door opened again, and a uniformed guard told me to follow him. Past the guard station, we entered a room with a table and two steel chairs, containing nothing else except for the large mirrored panel on one wall.
“Sit down,” the guard said. And I did, folding my hands on the table.
I had seen this scene countless times before on TV and I couldn’t help but grin at myself in the mirror, picturing myself in an episode of The Rookies.
Then, the door opened, and in walked a stocky, mustachioed fellow chewing on a toothpick, with plaid pants and contrasting sport coat and tie. Following him, a skirted woman in plain black shoes, de rigeur clown-necked blouse, and a cheaply-tailored jacket; she shut the door behind her.
The man sat down in front of me; the woman opened her purse and removed a wallet. I could see the .38 in her bag.
“I’m Detective Napoli,” she said, “and this is Detective Howe.” She flashed her badge and ID, and he did the same.
“We’re with the SFPD, and we’re on the Cult Task Force,” Detective Howe said. “We want to ask you some questions.”
Detective Napoli stood in the corner with her arms folded, looking very serious. We sat there in silence for what seemed like a long time and I could tell Detective Howe was choosing his words carefully before speaking.
“How did they get you, David?” he asked abruptly. “How did you get recruited into the Moonies? How did they lure you in? Where did they find you?” Detective Howe leaned back in his chair, flinging his left arm across the back of it, exposing the gun in his armpit holster.
“They didn’t recruit me at all,” I said. “And I’m not going to tell you any more.” In my mind, I was already telling the story to Christina, how I withstood this interrogation.
“What did they make you do in there?” Howe continued. “Did they make you sell flowers?”
“They didn’t make me do anything,” I said.
“Did they pay you for selling flowers, David? You never got any money from selling flowers all night did you?” he barked.
I just stared. Then the woman spoke. “We know Christina Morrison, we know Dr. Durst, we know Allen Seher—and the others.” She placed her hands on the table to lean toward me. “We’ve been watching them, Dave. They’re snatching young people like you up all the time. You’re the victim of mind control techniques like a low protein diet, sleep deprivation and love-bombing. They overwhelm your mind and turn you into a glassy-eyed robot.” She bent forward even more, gazing at my face. “You have those glassy eyes, David.” Leaning back, she crossed her arms, finishing her case. “They hide their brainwashed victims from their parents by moving them around from property to property. What they did with you was illegal. So how did they get you? What did they tell you to make you become a Moonie?”
“They didn’t make me become a Moonie!” I said in frustration. “I’m a follower. This is my church. I have rights!”
“No you don’t,” Detective Howe said. “You’re a child. You’re a juvenile. You have no rights. You better listen to us,” he said sternly, shutting me up.
“Where did they lure you in, David?” Napoli asked. “Exactly where were you when they made contact? After you raised the money by selling the flowers, where did the money go?”
They were now peppering me with questions, one on top of the other, giving me no time to reply.
“Where did they hide you, David?”
“What did they call you in there? What was your underground name?”
“What properties did they move you around to? Booneville? Camp K? Hearst Street?”
“How often did they move you? Every week—every day?”
“How did they hide you, David?”
Their loud, angry, and repeated queries aggravated me. “No, no, no! It wasn’t like that!” I cried, my voice becoming shrill. “I volunteered! I’m in the church of my own free will. I’m practicing my religious rights.”
“YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS!” Howe said again, this time with his eyebrows crossed, pounding his fist on the table. His outburst heightened my anxiety. “The Moonies are engaged in illegal activity. We’ve been investigating them for a long time, David. They’re guilty of tax evasion. They’re harboring out-of-state juveniles, like you. They’re using mind control to produce slaves for their carpet-cleaning business. You’re a victim, David. And we’re so close to making arrests. We need you to cooperate with us.”
I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. There was a pinched expression on my face, almost as if I were about to cry. This was what I had been warned about while sitting in the rec room at Bush Street. I flashed back to Alan’s mini-lecture about the tactics that Satan was using to sabotage the Family. Allen was a lawyer, but I could be a better lawyer. I could be Clarence Darrow.
What helped bolster my confidence was a familiar feeling—the same sense from my days at Saint Katherine’s-Saint Mark’s, and at John Deere junior high. I was a misfit. Teased, taunted…persecuted. The difference now was my solidarity with other misfits. At long last, I was getting the chance to be the hero who stood up to the bully.
I straightened my expression, and sat taller in my chair. Looking Howe straight in the eyes, I stated, “You can torture me with questions all you want, but I’m not going to break.”
Leaning on the table again, her face in mine, Detective Napoli declared, “If you don’t cooperate with us we can keep you in jail for a long, long time, David.”
“If I have to endure prison for my faith, then I am prepared to do so,” I said. “True Father was a prisoner of war in Korea. That’s where he found his faith; this is where I find mine.”
“You’ll rot in there! I’ll see to that!” Howe snarled.
The detectives looked at one another. I hoped they could see that I was steadfast and that they weren’t accomplishing anything. I really don’t know what their reasons were for ending the interrogation, but a moment later I was dismissed.
“This is not over,” Howe said. “We’ll be questioning you again tomorrow and every day after that until you cooperate with us. You’ll give up Christina Morrison. You’ll give up Dr. Durst after you’ve cooled your heels in a jail cell for a while. A week? A month? A year? Or longer? That’s up to you.”
I would later realize that the resources and effort the San Francisco Police Department put into me was astounding. They had trumped up the charge to detain me. At the time, in the state of California, an out-of-state juvenile could only be held for 72 hours in juvenile detention. Then after that three-day period if the child still wanted to be independent, the cops just turned them loose. But now they threatened me with a longer stay, since I refused to cooperate with their investigation.
The sting operation, the undercover vehicle, and the three cops employed in my dramatic arrest were far above what they would have normally done to snag a seventeen-and-a-half-year-old runaway. More often than not, they wouldn’t have done anything at all. My situation gave the cops a chance to act on their vendetta against the Unification Church. It had brought too much bad PR to the city, and was bad for tourism. Not only that, but they truly wanted to bust the cult and return kids to their parents. The cops in San Francisco were frustrated that they couldn’t extend the same favor to the parents of “brainwashed” Moonies who were over eighteen.
The guard escorted me back to my cell. I sat on the floor and resumed singing.
An hour or so later, the door opened and my mother appeared once more, this time looking a bit more composed. The door was left open, and just outside my father and the guard observed our exchange.
“David. David Eugene. David Eugene Ritzinger,” my mother recited. “Sit down here on the bed with me.” She sat on the cot and patted the spot next to her. Our combined weight caused it to sag in the middle. “I want to show you something, David.” My mother removed a stack of photographs from her purse.
Her bag was unusually large. Joan Ritzinger called her big bags her “movie purses.” Whenever we went go to the local cinema complex—just outside the “shit cities,” as Joan dubbed them—mom would stuff her giant purse with homemade air-popped popcorn and cheap LadyLee pop, a snack she could square with her perpetual dieting.
We went to the movies as a family without fail every weekend. Sometimes we’d see two or three movies by sneaking from auditorium to auditorium inside the giant Cinemas complex. They even brought my sisters and me to R-rated films, which made for good stories on the playground. Mom and Dad were movie buffs, and they created movie buffs—four of us. I loved my parents for that gift: it did more to enrich my life as did my formal education, which topped out after ninth grade, including two tours of duty of fifth grade.
I loved everything about movies. The cool dark auditorium on hot summer days. Previews—lots of previews, please! The popcorn, and the giant cups full of pop. And, of course, the magic of the movies themselves. Movies were my window to the world. And I developed my mother’s heightened sense of drama from the culture of the movies.
My parents had unwittingly created a drama stricken Frankenstein’s monster.
And now I was living a movie, it was my Academy award-winning role, and I knew how to heighten the drama…oh, too well…
My mother held out a comical image of me in a uniform wearing the geek glasses, and spoke in forced merriment. “This is a picture of you in the Cub Scouts …David, do you remember I was a den mother?…Can you remember?”
I spoke robotically, just to keep her guessing. “Yeah I remember Mom of course I remember the Cub Scouts why wouldn’t I remember the Cub Scouts?”
She pulled out another one. “Here is a picture of you at Camp Abe Lincoln with your favorite counselors; do you remember how you loved Camp Abe Lincoln, David? Do you remember how we sent you to summer camp every year and you cried when you had to come home?”
My mother looked into my eyes again…scanning for her son.
I lost patience. “Listen, Mom, my memory is intact. I don’t know what they’ve led you to believe. I don’t know what the deprogrammers told you, but I remember my childhood. I remember everything!” She looked at me with that now-too-familiar look of fear and panic. Her bottom lip started to tremble. “Please stop this Mom. Please get me out of jail!”
Mom shoved the four-inch stack of Kodaks into my hand and reached into her purse. Then she produced the 1979 Pow-Wow—the yearbook of John Deere junior high.
Opening the book to one of several bookmarks my mother said, “And here you are just last year. Look, you were president of the student council!”
“Yes,” I said, adding details to convince her. “You wrote my campaign slogan for me: ‘We don’t want just any cracker for president, we want a Ritz.’”
She looked into my eyes again, squinting as if she might be having some doubts. She seemed unsure of whether to believe me.
But soon she turned back to the yearbook, pointing at pictures as she went. “And here you are voted Best Actor, and here you are with the lead in the spring play, and here you are with the lead in the fall play—” and she went on paging through the yearbook at an increasing pace. “You remember David, do you remember that you wanted to be an actor? Do you remember that you wanted to go to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York?”
“Yes I remember that. I sort of gave up that dream to protest nukes, remember?” I hoped to turn the tide.
Again I was confronted with the look of perplexity, a bewilderment that came from my sanity; a sanity that didn’t jive with all of the prep work of the “faith-breakers,” who ironically used the same psychological mind control techniques they accused the Moonies of using; sleep deprivation, food deprivation, and in-your-face taunts or “love-bombs” designed to break you down psychologically .
“And here’s a picture of you on the track team,” she continued hastily. “And here’s a picture of you in the talent show and that’s you at a school dance—”
I grew irritated. “Mom! You’re not listening to me.” I slowed my words to show her I was serious. “You need to get me out of jail, and we can talk about all this after I get released.”
My mother reached into her purse and removed the 1978 Pow-Wow.
“You want your only son to be here in jail?” I raised my voice, until I was shouting. “Do you have any idea what those police detectives said to me? I could be in here forever. We can resolve this Mom. I’m really glad to see you and Dad and Cathy. I hate it in here. I want out now! I want to get out now!”
“And you had the lead in both plays in eighth grade too,” my mother said, raising her voice over mine. “You were a really good actor David, do you remember? Can you remember? Your father and I really love you, David, and you’ve been brainwashed, you’ve been taken advantage of and we’re here to help you, David! “
She looked pleadingly into the hallway at my father and the guard. They’d been joined by another man; small and skinny, in plainclothes.
That was it. I had had enough. I stood up. “Stop this Mom. Stop this right now! This is ridiculous. This is ludicrous!” Mom clapped her hand to her mouth and shook her head, as if every word I spoke confirmed a completely and utterly erased mind.
Here I was proving that I was still myself with the same memories and same personality, but all she could see was a Moonie. She had been told what to expect by these self- proclaimed experts; these non-degreed non-psychologists, these amateurs whom they had hired. And that’s what she believed, never questioning it. Abandoning her usual critical thinking, my father suspending his skeptical mind, they saw only what the expected to see, and nothing else.
Regardless of my behavior, regardless of my reasoning with my mother, she only saw a Manchurian candidate standing above her.
My parents had been suckered by the deprogrammers and the media. Now, we were strangers to each other. Mom didn’t recognize her son, because she had been informed that he was gone—snuffed out—and that these desperate measures were the only way to resurrect him.
The hysteria over the Unification Church and especially the Oakland family’s “heavenly deception”—a technique developed by Christina Morrison herself in San Francisco— was so great that it was making my mother hysterical. And now her hysteria had spread to me.
I threw the photographs on the bed. “I’m leaving!” I turned and with a fast gait was out the door of my cell, taking a hard left. My mother, father, the guard and the stranger all pursued me.
Mom had picked up the photographs and flipped through them shouting, “And here you are on your fifth birthday, and here you are at Christmas with your helicopter toy and here you are with that great big bandage over your hand from when you lost your finger waterskiing at YMCA camp and here you are and here you are and here you are—” She went on, chasing me down the hall. I quickened to a jog and they still pursued me. The guard had the power to overcome me but he didn’t; he just allowed this drama, this family matter to play out. I reached the Solarium common room, and ran inside. I was completely overwhelmed. I had been worn down. I started to cry. I wished I had never joined the Family—not if it was going to mean this strain and pain with my real parents; not my True Parents but my true real parents.
They chased me around the perimeter of the solarium for three revolutions, my mother chanting at me: “We love you David we love you David we love you David we got you out we got you out we love you David we got you out!”
I stuck my fingers in my ears to dull the noise and I chanted back, “LA-LA-LA-LA!”
Finally, they had me. They had broken this bronco. I submitted. I gave up. I sunk to the floor in the far corner. All four of them stood above me. My mother continued her intense love-bombing and flipped the snapshots at me like someone might flip cards into a hat. I covered my head with my arms.
Finally, Mom, attacking like a grizzly bear protecting her cubs, pulled out her most lethal weapon: pictures of Fritzi, my beloved dachshund. Fritzi, who slept with me every night at home. Pictures of a boy and his dog. “Do you remember Fritzi? Remember how much you loved Fritzi? Fritzi was your favorite; you took care of her, you went everywhere together. YOU LOVED FRITZI!” She bombarded me over and over again, and it worked; I had left Fritzi behind when I left “home” in Moline.
I was now covered with photographs of myself. Snot and tears poured out of me, making my hands, face, clothes sticky, the photos stuck to me; I wore my old self like a costume. My mother still shouted her love and devotion. It snowed family photos. Three impotent men just stood there corralling me, and Mom went on and on like a crazy lady stuck on repeat. It was surreal and I was in a movie all right, I was in a Fellini film…of a Beckett play…. But I wasn’t going to wait for Godot no more…