Oral Histories

Interview of Bill Goodson

Associated with Synanon drug rehabilitation program.
Synanon Foundation Oral Histories
Science, Medicine, and Technology
Community History
Biographical Note:
Associated with Synanon drug rehabilitation program.
Montgomery, Cecilia Dederich
Goodson, Bill
Persons Present:
Goodson and Montgomery.
Place Conducted:
Venice, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
2.5 hrs.
Series Statement:
This series of interviews looks back on Synanon, the first self-help residential community for drug rehabilitation in the United States, which was founded in Venice, California in 1959 and continued through the early 1990s. In the interviews the former residents speak from their own experience in describing many aspects of the organization and community as it evolved beyond its original purpose. They discuss Synanon’s beginnings, early development, growth, and eventual decline, as well as the organization’s use of a cathartic brand of verbal group encounter known as The Game.The original interviews in the series were conducted in the spring of 1962 by Oral History Program staff member Elizabeth Dixon at Synanon House in Santa Monica and at one of the residences in Venice. Since it was impracticable to record each and every member of the organization, the project at least attempted to interview as broad a sampling of individuals as possible— male and female, old and young. Originally the intention was to conduct follow-up interviews at periodic intervals of the people whose stories had been recorded, but that never happened.Nearly half a century after the original interviews were done, Jady Dederich Montgomery, the daughter of Synanon's founder, Charles Dederich, conducted additional interviews with former members of Synanon. She donated those interviews to the Center for Oral History Research in 2012, and they were then added to this collection.
Enters Synanon in 1960 at age 3 with mother and sister--Life in House No. 2 with other children and mothers only--Attends public school--Witnesses women undergo detox and withdrawal--Impression of Charles Dederich as major figure--Prevalence of dancing, parties, and music at Synanon--Witnesses daily encounter groups--Family moves to Detroit in 1967 where we witnesses riots--Family moves back to Synanon after eviction--At age 12, experiences in the Game and development of cycles of abuse--Moves to Tomales in Marin County and enters teenage school with older group--Becomes drill sergeant but finds it difficult to discipline others--Marries girlfriend at 16--Moves to Badger in the foothills of the Sierras in Central California--Growing need to address questions about sexuality--Sexuality not discussed in Synanon--Simultaneously comes out and leaves organization at age 18--Vasectomies begin a month after leaving--Maintains connection with Synanon, but is dismayed at its deterioration--Decides to cut ties--Achieves success with fitness program Cardio Funk and moves to Italy--Disappointment towards parents who never apologized to young victims.