Ann Sprout by Hugh Kenny

One of the people who was beloved and feared at the Seawall was the volatile and explosive Ann Sprout. She was mildly psychotic but not always mild. She might suddenly erupt and yell, ” Why are you looking at me”? and throw her tray onto the floor, and, in games, there was always a danger of being hit by one of her angrily launched ashtrays. Naturally, Synanon being the madhouse that it was, she was given the assignment to greet people at the front reception desk.

This photo is the Seawall reception desk. The smiling woman is not Ann Sprout. She is identified as Marji .

The Seawall was an ancient warehouse on Sansom and Lombard Streets. It originally snugged up close to the San Francisco docks. You were admitted to the Seawall on Sansom St. through a glass door with the  Synanon logo on it.  The prospect bench was to the left as you entered. Directly facing the door was the front desk and the  Medusa-like visage of Ann Sprout. Should you succeed in getting past this gargoyle, a flight of stairs, on the right, rose to the occupied warehouse, above.

I arrived at this door with four other newcomers, freshly flown out from the receiving house at Westport, Connecticut. I had been at Westport for two weeks, swallowing the stories told to us of girls playing volleyball on the sunny beach of Santa Monica. Instead, I was hustled to an old brick building with steel bolts the length of the building holding the walls in place.

We entered through the door and confronted the snarling glare of this singularly unpleasant-looking woman. She erupted from her chair and began to scream at me, “What do you want here? Go away. Go away!” The old-timer who delivered us assured us that we were safe and the rest of the group would be more welcoming, and he hurried us up the stairs.

John Stallone wouldn’t be so lucky. John came into Westport dressed to the T. Fine Italian knit, Bruno Magli shoes. Luggage.The whole regalia. His girlfriend, Cookie Kowolski, and his cousin Margaret escorted him. Both of them were knockouts and hung all over him. John, when he told the story said, “You how Neighborhood girls are, they make a big fuss over you.” Well, from all this evidence, John was unwarrantedly identified as a pimp. And before they put him on the plane, Westport sent a précis identifying him as such. Ann saw the paperwork and was incensed. On John’s arrival at breakfast time, she greeted him with a well-aimed egg.

Ann was kind of sexy. She had a great body. I still remember her shuffling purposefully over the splintery floors of the Seawall in her perennial blue and white polka dot dress that would attract a young man’s attention. She seemed to have the most animus toward the young pretty men. I think that was part of the problem and her frustration. She knew none of them would be hitting on her. After a while, if the guys were cool, she would settle down and was capable of warm, loyal friendship.

John Stallone reminded me today that after Mike Jorgensen, a young, pretty man if there ever was one, was in Synanon a few months, Candy Latson, in a moment of compassionate brilliance, told John that he was “giving Mike to Ann” And he did. They were both happy and horny and got along famously. There was a built-in terminus to their concupiscence because Mike was actively demonstrating to bring his wife, the lovely Diane, and his two kids in. Perhaps this was part of the demonstration? Anyway, Mike was happy, Ann was happy, and because of the vague but certain expiration date and Mike’s kind, loving, manner, the months they spent together were concluded without Ann feeling much rejection. I was expecting her to go nuts again, but she remained affable and cheery for some time to come

One response to “Ann Sprout by Hugh Kenny”

  1. Margo Macartney Avatar

    Ann was unpredictable, wasn’t she? I sat down for breakfast one morning in Santa Monica at a table where Ann and a few others were quietly enjoying their oatmeal or eggs. I hadn’t said anything. I was still new and perpetually unsure of myself snd didn’t know anyone very well at that point. Ann glared at me as though I had just killed her mother, grunted something unintelligible, picked her plate up and moved across the room where she continued her glaring, as if she could actually kill me with her look.

    Not knowing her proclivities I was devastated. Her treatment of me was consistent with my fears of nobody liking or accepting me. I finally sought out advice from Arline. What should I do? How can I atone for something done without my knowledge to someone I don’t know?

    Arline explained that Ann was in love with Charlie Haden, with whom I was friends. Arline said don’t take it personally” and I let it go. We even had conversations afterwards and we became friendly. She was entertaining for sure, once bragging that she had slept with Marlon Brando when she lived in New York and involved in the theater.

    Years later, when Chuck was arrested, in the late seventies, and it was all over the news, I was called the office at the ranch for an phone call from someone with a name no one recognized. Someone who used to live in Synanon. It was Ann — she had heard about Chuck and wanted to know what happened. We had a lovely conversation. She was living in a Buddhist monastery in Colorado and was a Buddhist nun.

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