Neil Young Reminisces About His Laurel Canyon Days- Renting and Writing His Early Songs in the Kiyo Hodel Cabin in the Late Sixties
May 5, 2022
Birch Bay, Washington
Cinco De Mayo
Former Steve and Kiyo Hodel Residence 8451 Utica Dr. Laurel Canyon
I married Amilda Kiyoko Tachibana (“Kiyo”) in the summer of 1962 and for a short time we lived at her home on Kirkwood Drive just a block up from the “Country Store.” It was a secret marriage. I was just 20 and Kiyo informed me she was “28” and looked it. (I would later discover that she was in fact, 41.)
Ours was a whirlwind romance. She was fire and I was water. It lasted just three years. Shortly after getting married we bought the large estate on Utica Drive with the rental properties. We moved into the large main house and rented out a small cabin on the property as well as the small apartment above the garage at street level. (Both the main residence and garage apt can be seen in the above photograph. The small cabin which was about 100′ east of the steps is not visible.)
For a complete description of that time period of my life see Chapter 10 “Kiyo” in Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder (Skyhorse Pub.2015)
In the winter of ’65 after coming home unexpectedly early from my studies at Los Angeles City College (I had decided to drink instead of think that night) and finding Kiyo in flagrante delicto with a young actor I quickly ended my marriage and moved on.
I wanted nothing more than my freedom and in the divorce proceedings gave Kiyo the four separate properties that we had purchased during our marriage.
Fast forward a few years to the late 1960s. Kiyo continued teaching her astrology classes and was known in Hollywood as the “Astrologer to the Stars” with the likes of Jane Russell (a very cool and friendly woman) continuing to attend them at our Utica Drive residence.
Kiyo after my leaving rented out the separate cabins to young musicians just starting their careers. But, let’s let one of them, Neil Young, tell the story.
Here is a recent interview Young did with Rick Rubin. The original interview is an hour, but this four-minute clip focuses on Neil’s description of his Laurel Canyon reflections.
Laurel Canyonites circa 1968
John Densmore rented our garage apt and Neil Young the small cabin
John Densmore Neil Young Michelle Phillips Danny Hutton
Kiyo circa 1944 Kiyo with Neil Young “Astrologer to the Stars” ’69 Time article
Link to full-hour interview with Rick Rubin and Neil Young HERE.
As presented in BDA Chapter 15 my half-sister Tamar Hodel and Michelle Phillips were very close and remained friends throughout Tamar’s life. Here’s a scanned excerpt in Michelle’s own words as written in Michelle’s book, California Dreaming: The True Story of the Mamas and the Papas, describing their friendship:
And here’s a related blog I did some time ago on the Utica Drive property.
A Blast to the Past: Some Stephen Stills stills and Laurel Canyon Lore
Steve: Thanks for the personal trip down memory lane for me. It reminded me of the days I wore bold striped bell-bottoms with a wide belt , moccasins and a rawhide vest with no shirt most days while Traveling the streets of Hollywood. Having met Neil while Springfield rented the rehearsal hall at our theater, I visited him at the rustic cabin on your property which would have been shortly after you left Kiyo. I was surprised to run into John Densmore on the property one time. I had met him some time before when he was playing drums at a small bar/jazz club called “Sherry’s” on Crescent heights around the corner from Schwab’s pharmacy and just north of Zeidler & Zeidler. The music scene was very accessable then, especially for other artists who shared in the creative process. As I lived and worked as an aspiring Thespian in Hollywood in those days, I was surprised that our paths didn’t cross when you were working the street patrol at Hollywood station. In any event, thanks for posting this Young interview as it brought back vivid memories of my youth. Hope all is well in Washington and the family is healthy and safe.
Hi Dennis. Yes, those were The Days for sure. I transferred to Hollywood Division in late ’66 after the summer riots of WATTS I. (August ’65) Worked three years in uniform before going to detectives in ’69, I remember Sherry’s and that may have been the bar I had drinks at that fateful night before going home to discover Kiyo in the arms of another. The bar I’m thinking of was at the NE corner of Sunset and Crescent Hts just west of the great GREENBLAT’S DELI.
All good up here in the NW corner of the U.S. Miss our lunches, but great to be close to my sons and grandkids. Best, Steve.
In an interview with Fauna Hodel she made the comment/claim ( also echo by Tamar) that you allegedly dated/married Kiyo in order to ‘investigate” George (at that time) — What would you be ‘investigating’ in early 1960s– George, Tamar and the morals case? Your time with Kiyo would have been pre-Zodiac and you wouldn’t realize your dahlia ‘thoughtprints’ until publication of BDA in 2003. Is there any truth to Fauna’s disclosure? As a once active officer/detective during your time with the LAPD-did you ever access George’s files related to the morals case decades earlier to the publication BDA?
You seem very attached (still) to Kiyo.
I have never heard that claim made by Fauna and or Tamar. NO TRUTH AT ALL TO THAT IF THEY DID MAKE IT. As a twenty-year-old very naive young man I was simply attracted to Kiyo’s beauty and intelligence. I would not learn about Kiyo’s relationship to my father (as a sometime girlfriend/lover) until AFTER breaking up with Kiyo and being informed by my mother in 1965.
All I knew was that my parents had known her slightly back then and assumed she was very young.
I did at about fifteen years into my police career check to see if I could obtain the transcripts of my dad’s incest trial but discovered they were not transcribed because of the “not guilty” verdict and never pursued anything further. I always believed Tamar’s claims of incest even though dad continued to label her as “lying Tamar.” No current attachment to Kiyo. That ended long ago when I discovered her infidelity. As a mature adult in discovering her multiple marriages and what has been written by others describing her, I am now more amused and concerned by her past actions and behavior and realize she was very psychologically damaged as a young woman. First by my dad and mom, being used as a sex object, then followed by detention in the Japanese internment camp, followed by her serial marriages to much younger men. As described in BDA, the climax of our relationship culminating in her (unbeknownst to me) need for revenge with my father when I introduced her to him at the Biltmore Hotel as my wife, with her, “Hello George.”
Steve, after reading your Blast to the Past, I am picturing my grandfather Patrick shaking his head mournfully saying “the property, the property!” over your generous release of the Laurel Canyon property😱. I did the same in ‘68 selling my inherited commercial real estate on Geary St. in SF! Waiting a few more years, I would have been a millionaire☹️! Yes, the 60’s were quite a mix of good times, bad times, sad times. Living thru the crazy times being Tommy Smothers next door neighbor, and meeting some (now) great entertainers….Kris Kristofferson, John Hartford (a great musician & very good man), spending many a weekend in SF at the Hungry I, Purple Onion I don’t know how I graduated with a teaching degree in ‘62 from SJState🤔!! Yes, count our blessings……you’ll see when the grandkids exhibit awesome talents….and believe me they will👍! Profoundly satisfying! Who needs Laurel Canyon, Geary Street!!🤣. Keep dancin’🕺🏻Steve……..lots more
to come! 😎🌵
Yep. Bet that Utica Dr. property is worth 2M + now. We bought it for $37,000 and I worried how to meet the $184.00 payment each month. Nearly half my police monthly salary. Times sure have changed. I just stopped to get a head of lettuce and a lemon at my local convenient store. The lemon was $1.00! Got my new passport in the mail a few days ago. It is good for ten years and expires in 2032. My goal now is to NOT EXPIRE before my passport does. I’ll bet Tamar was at the Hungry I same time as you some night. Her regular hangout back in the Sixties.
I like the part about not expiring…
I have owned the “Magic House” (As Dolly Parton called it) and the neighboring dwellings that comprise this Laurel Canyon Compound for over 35 years and it’s heavenly!
“Magic House”? Are you referring to the 8451 Utica Drive property Randy?
Or something else? I was told a Middle Eastern sheik or someone owned it?