Bill Walton’s long strange trip to Sacramento

Bill Walton, circa 1976.

Bill Walton, circa 1976.

We’ve been practicing our Bill Walton impersonations. And, as Walton has said on many occasions about the Sacramento Kings, “They’re horrible!”

The Sacramento Bee had a story about the Kings new color commentator, which just barely touched on Walton’s hippie past by noting that “During his college days, he became a devoted follower of the Grateful Dead (and to this day quotes lead guitarist Jerry Garcia) and was arrested during an anti-Vietnam War rally.”

Which woefully understates how much of a counterculture figure the guy really was.

Sports Illustrated said back in 1976 that Walton was seen by some as a “doped-up, whacked-out, weirdo, Commie-loving, acid freak hippie with lice in his hair and Patty Hearst’s phone number in his datebook.”

The year before that, S.I. called him the “second-richest radical in the U.S., after Jane Fonda.”

Then there’s Time magazine’s description, which reads in part:

“An enigmatic, moody man, Walton is a bitter critic of U.S. society. ‘I don’t believe in capitalism,’ he said when he signed his pro contract. ‘I believe wealth should be spread around.’ Walton’s deal gave him $2.5 million.”

I believe the wealth should be spread around too, Bill. Come take me to lunch.

Walton was also connected to the left-wing militant movement of the time—though just how tied in is a little murky. And he was at least on the fringes of the whole Patty Hearst affair.

He hung out with Jack Scott, a sports writer and radical (and Walton’s later biographer) who famously hid Patty Hearst and other members of the Symbionese Liberation Army at a Pennsylvania farmhouse for a while, and then drove Hearst across the country, disguised as his pregnant teenage wife.

These shenanigans led to Scott and his wife Micki also going into hiding briefly—at which point Walton was questioned by the FBI. When they came out of hiding, they did so in the presence of Walton, who appeared with them at a press conference at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco.

All of which makes Walton just part of the whole six-degrees-of-radical-craziness thing that ran through Sacramento in the 1970s. You recall the SLA’s horrible botched bank robbery in Carmichael in April of 1975 that ended in the murder of housewife Myrna Opsahl. It would be 25 years before Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully would bring charges in Opsahl’s death. During their Sacramento time, the SLA crashed in safe houses on T Street and W Street, in the then-seedy Midtown area.

Compiled from Snog.