By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
"They didn't tell me about it because it would make me nervous," he says. Thumper threw the money in Gale's face. "I was pissed. I wasn't 14 anymore. I was big. And I said, 'You know what? That is fucked up. I could have ended up in prison. You're a fucking prick.' At that point, I knew everything had changed, because I was a patsy."
Thumper kept away from Gale for the next few years. But while attending college in Fullerton, he got a call from Gale. His old friend told him he had a lot of cocaine and needed help unloading it. "He was known as the king of cocaine at that point in time," Thumper says. "I wanted money, so I started selling it to all the groovy people in northern Orange County. I was selling like, six, seven, eight ounces of blow a week through Johnny. And then I got busted in San Clemente."
By the time he was arrested, narcotics detectives had been following Thumper all day; he faced 21 drug-related counts. The cops wanted him to set up Gale. "They said, 'You work with us or go to jail.' I said, 'I guess I'm going to jail,' because I wasn't ready to talk about anybody. But I soul-searched and realized how I wound up where I was. And I was looking at a shitload of years. And you know what I thought about: that surfing trip to Peru."
After getting a stern lecture on the folly of dealing drugs, Thumper agreed to work as an informant. But he refused to snitch on Gale. "He would have killed me. He had bodyguards and Ferraris and all this crazy shit—a brand-new Mercedes—and you know what? The weird thing was he was not a nice guy anymore."
Thumper says he helped the police set up a massive sting against a drug ring competing with Gale and then said he wanted out. He's never looked back—except once, a few years ago, when his daughter attended a DARE class at school. She returned home with a pencil that the cop who gave the speech had passed out to all the kids. The pencil was inscribed with the name of the cop who had arrested him. He called the cop and thanked him for turning his life around.
Now a wealthy corporate executive for an organic food distributor, Thumper recently shared his story over dinner at Oggie's Pizza in Huntington Beach. Fifty-one years old, he's married with two kids, and agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. At 6 feet 4 inches, he still surfs, but he looks more like a linebacker. (Ironically, his stepbrother went on to become a defensive tackle in the NFL.) Thumper's not proud about his involvement with the Brotherhood and only agreed to the interview because he wanted to explain how, even though the group became nothing more than a cynical network of drug dealers, it didn't start out that way. During the interview, his wife and youngest daughter ate pizza at a nearby table. After two hours, they joined us. Thumper mentioned he has a signed coffee table that Leary sent him on his sixteenth birthday while Leary was hiding out in Algiers. As a kind of proof for me, he asked his wife to tell me who had more influence on him: his biological father or Leary.
"Tim," she immediately said. "But it depends on what you mean by 'influential.' If you mean who had a positive influence, then Tim. Not your father. He didn't influence you in a good way."
THE ELVIS THEORY
The cop who busted Thumper is Jim Spreine, who became chief of the Laguna Beach Police Department after Purcell retired. Reached by telephone while on vacation in Oregon, he says he plans to retire next year. In the early 1970s, he was a narcotics detective with the San Clemente police force.
"I made a lot of arrests during that time, so it's hard to remember him," Spreine says. "I know some former narcs, and they really hated the dopers. That wasn't me. These people got caught in it for greed or personal necessity. I felt it was a vicious circle and a lot of innocent people got sucked into it and some very greedy, wealthy people took advantage of them. And in this particular case, I could tell he had a lot more going for him than the average guy, and I told him he should make something of his life."
Spreine says he was never able to arrest Gale. "They had a network to scare their people. At the time, we didn't see a lot of Brotherhood people work as informants. There were guns. They used guys by throwing money at them, or getting them hooked on drugs, and these guys would be scared to death."
The police did, in fact, arrest Gale a few times. An April 30, 1981, UPI story reported that Gale, "one of the wealthiest drug brokers in Southern California," had been arrested the day before in a raid on two beachfront homes in Laguna Beach. The raid netted more than $7.5 million worth of cocaine, $100,000 in marijuana and hash, $150,000 in cash and $250,000 in gems, rare coins and gold.