How I Learned About Inez Burns, The Famous “Queen of Abortionists”

If you know Mary Florey–the longtime owner of Florey’s Bookstore in Pacifica, you know what a great lady she is. She’s supportive, she’s loving, she’s a real person. Down-to-earth.

One day Mary Florey called me and told me that I might want to interview Caroline Carlisle, a Pacifica woman, who had a fascinating story to tell me about her relative, Inez Burns, the famous San Francisco “queen of abortionists.” Ms. Burns was headquartered in San Francisco but she had strong ties to the Coastside, at La Honda, Half Moon Bay and finally a hospital in Moss Beach.

It’s not often a writer gets a call like this–a tip that really pans out. The result of my multi-houred interview with Caroline Carllisle, along with my own newspaper research, follows in the next series of posts. Maybe someday soon I will put the amazing pieces together in a book–or a movie because the story of Inez Burns possesses so many colorful “L.A. Confidential-like” dimensions to it. And, as they say so often these days–you can’t make this stuff up.

My Search for the Beatniks Who Lived at the “Abalone Factory,” Princeton-by-the-Sea: Part IX: Conclusion

Attorney Marvin Lewis (ML): A couple of weeks after that I heard from McCracken.

Michael McCracken (MM): Next Sunday, your painting will be ready. Come and get it.

ML: How do I find you?

MM: Just go to a grocery store in Princeton and they’ll tell you how to get here.

Marvin Lewis (to June): That was a Sunday and I had my Chrysler. I remember, I had just bought it. It was pouring, just a real storm.

Mrs. Lewis to her husband: You’re nuts to go.

ML to his wife: “I can’t reach these people by phone. They’re expecting me. He painted this painting, whatever it is. So I better pick it up.

ML (to June): I drove from Hillsborough over the Half Moon Bay Road, came down to Princeton, went to the grocery store and asked for Carol and McCracken.

Storeowner: Oh, you mean where the beatniks live? He walked outside the store and pointed. You see that promintory that comes out into the water? Pillar Point. That way? Right out on the end is a building, you’ll see its wrecked and they’re living in that wrecked building.

ML (to June) I drove and followed the coastline and went out there. Just as I arrived these great big dogs came running at me. One had red hair and was barking and two guys ran out, including Michael, calling off the dogs.

Marvin Lewis (to June): As I approached the house, I heard loud music playing and chickens were flying all over the place, roosters and goats walking around. There was even a goat inside the “house”. Then when I came inside this large room there were couples copulating all over the floor. I had to step over them.

In the middle of the floor there was a fire going in a brick kiln which they had built for Carol’s baby. Carol married McCracken. He made it legal. There was some guy laying on his back–I think with some gal in his arms and with his bare feet he was rocking the cradle while the baby was crying over the noise of the music and all of the scenes of animals and birds that were flying about in the building.

Michael McCracken (MM): Would you like to see the painting?

ML (to June) I went to see this painting and it was a sexual painting. The two wings were sexual, genital organs. It was a white angel and the rest of the picture was just black, inky black. It wasn’t a picture. It was a mural. It took up the whole wall.

ML to MM: I’m most grateful. I know the work you put into this but I don’t know how to say this–but I just don’t have any office space.

MM: What about your home?

ML: No way. Mostly my house is glass. I don’t have any wall space for paintings. I couldn’t get it in.

MM: I’m terribly disappointed–if you knew the hours I put in on this painting. Would you accept a smaller dark angel?

ML: Yes.

ML (to June) He went and got me a duplicate that was smaller and framed. I got into the car and dogs were barking at me until I drove away. I said goodbye to them and left. That was the last time I ever saw them. I don’t know what happened to the Dark Angle. My wife saw it and she let out a howl.

Mrs. Lewis to Mr. Lewis: My God, what are yoiu going to do with that?

ML (to June) We put it in the basement. Maybe it’s still there. I can’t remember if I gave it to my son or not–but it was something I was sure could have no value. I thought it had absolutely no appeal but I didn’t understand modern painting and I still don’t.

My Search for the Beatniks Who Lived at the “Abalone Factory,” Princeton-by-the-Sea: Part VIII

Marvin Lewis (ML) (to June): This puts one way back with a half-hour for the other case. So I got my investigators, four of them.

ML (to investigators): Scour North Beach. Find her wherever she is.

ML (to June) In the meantime Carol’s mother told me that McCracken came home from Princeton and said she wasn’t going to live in any goddamn capitalist hotel any longer. He had taken her to some place in North Beach.

I decided to lock myself in the john…

ML (to his investigators): If you find her you come and get me and I’ll come out.

ML (to June): So at about 9:30 a.m. the judge wanted to know where I was and they couldn’t find me and I heard through the paging system my name being called and I didnt’ come out of the john–so I figured they were going to hold me in contempt.

About ten minutes to ten the investigators came and said they found Carol. She was outside. Carol and Michael had misunderstood. They thought it was ten. McCracken had come and he was with Carol and said not for me to get excited. Everything was all right.

To make a long story short, Carol was acquitted. Then after she was acquitted, the judge did not put her in jail for contempt.

…To Be Continued…

Stellar S.F. Attorney Marvin Lewis


(Photo: San Francisco attorney Marvin Lewis, 1970s)

An excerpt from Marvin Lewis’s 1992 obit: “Former San Francisco Supervisor Marvin E. Lewis, one of The City’s greatest trial lawyers and the driving force for the creation of BART, died Saturday. He was 84.

“Renowned for his eloquence, persuasive powers and a touch of flamboyance, Mr. Lewis pioneered the legal concept of psychic injury.

“‘This was one of the exemplary lawyers, not only in San Francisco, but around the country,’ said his old friend and colleague Melvin Belli. ‘He had the warmth and spirit of the law in him.’

“Mr. Lewis’ most famous case was dubbed ‘The Cable Car Named Desire’ when he convinced a San Francisco jury to award damages to a young dance teacher who allegedly lost her mental balance after a cable car accident and became a nymphomaniac….”

My Search for the Beatniks Who Lived at the “Abalone Factory,” Princeton-by-the-Sea: Part VII

Marvin Lewis (ML): I argued the case to the jury and I felt that I had it won. I was very pleased and I explained that to the family.

ML (to the family): You keep her here at the St.Francis, whatever happens.

ML (to me): And the judge said, Tomorrow morning, Ladies and gentleman of the jury, we’re going to instruct the jury at 9 o’clock. I don’t mean two minutes past 9. I mean 9. The reason for that, is while the jury is deliberating, I have another case coming in to start.

Everybody understood.

June: The next day Marvin Lewis received a call about 8:30 a.m.

ML (to June): There was no Carol. I figured there was still some period of time but I was still worried. At 5 minutes to 9, the judge called me into chambers.

Judge: ‘Is your client here? Are you ready to proceed?’

ML: No, she isn’t here, your Honor.

Judge: I’m going to tell you, Marvin, what I’m going to do then. If she’s not here in five mintues, I’m going to dismiss this jury and when she shows up, I’m going to put her in jail for contempt.

ML (to June): The case had taken about 3 weeks. I had it won. It was a marvelous jury and I thought I had done a marvelous job on argument.

Ml (to the judge): Judge, will you let me stipulate that she can be excused during the reading of the instructions?

Judge: Marvin, you know better than that. It’s a criminal case and you cannot stipulate that for her absence.

ML (to judge): You’re right.

Judge: I’ll give you one half-hour–but that’s it.

…To Be Continued…

My Search for the Beatniks Who Lived at the “Abalone Factory,” Princeton-by-the-Sea: Part VI

Marvin Lewis (ML) And this girl stood up, as if she was a slave to her master, and she was actually going to come around and give herself to me.

ML: In front of you?

Michael McCracken (MM): Of course. What’s wrong with that?

ML: First of all I don’t perform like that, and secondly, it’s very embarassing for this girl.

MM: Oh, no. Not at all. It’d be a great experience for her, too.

ML (to June) She (“the girl”) said, Oh yes, I understand.

Marvin Lewis (to me): I told Carol, I paid for you to stay with your mother at the St. Francis so I know where I can find you. Don’t go down to Princeton because you’ve got to go to court everyday. I don’t want Michael around and I don’t want the rest of the group around. I’ve got a tough enough case because I’m going to try the police here [which was my way of winning this particular case]

Still some of the people came down into courtroom. Michael never came down.

…To Be Continued…

I Vote For “Little Miss Sunshine”


When you watch this movie be sure to look for the punctuation of primary colors–the bright yellow bus, Olive’s bright red boots and so on….(I want to say blue blue sky but I can’t remember now if the sky was blue blue but I do recall being struck by the effect of the primary colors, as in an emphasis here and there…)

My Search for the Beatniks Who Lived at the “Abalone Factory,” Princeton-by-the-Sea: Part V


Marvin Lewis (ML): “I said, Don’t worry about my personal life. Don’t concern yourself with it.

Michael McCracken (MM): “Oh, I can make you life a paradise. You’ll have a different woman every day. I have beautiful women. Do you want a blonde? Do you want a redhead?

ML: What is this? Are they for a price? Are they prostitutes?

MM: Heavens no. These are all gals with good backgrounds and come from fine families.

ML: Well, what goes?

MM: Oh, that’s the trouble. I thought you were really with it, but you’re really not. In a way you are, but you’re not completely. The Marvin Lewis that I think I see should have the same mentality as I have and you should have what I’m offering you in every way. You’d have a much fuller life and a much happier and enjoyable life.

Marvin Lewis to June: To me, the idea of him just expecting to sit there and watch me copulate was unbelievable.

So the next week my receptionist said that McCracken was in the outer office and had a gift for me. So I said, ‘Have him come in.’ So he came in with another girl. She sat over there [pointing at a chair] and he said, ‘I want you to meet this girl and I want you [the girl] to meet Marvin Lewis’.

He said, ‘I’ve told everybody over at the beach [Princeton-by-the-Sea] what a fabulous person I find you to be’. And he said, ‘I thought you should have this type of woman in your life.’ So he said, whatever her name was, ‘Go around the desk and ball him’.

You gotta be kidding, I said.

…To Be Continued…