My Right Foot

Gordon McGuire's becoming a role model for the severely disfigured. But he's by no means any sweet-natured Elephant Man type.

"I just pretty much ended up laying on the couch at home wondering if I was going to live to the next day," he says.

It would be another decade before his head was clear enough, or that he cared enough, to try again to find out what was wrong with his body.

Prescription medications didn't help the pain. He began smoking pot. Through his drug contacts, he began trying different street drugs as well.

Gordon McGuire with his new foot and his new dog Doogan at McGuire's mother's house in Paradise Valley.
Irvin Serrano
Gordon McGuire with his new foot and his new dog Doogan at McGuire's mother's house in Paradise Valley.
Gordon McGuire at age 3.
Gordon McGuire at age 3.

By far, the greatest relief he could find came from methamphetamines.

"It was like the stuff made my body rigid enough to get the fluids moving again," he says. "I'd smoke that, then smoke pot for the pain and that would get me through the day."

As he floundered, his wife became increasingly frank about her feelings about him and his body. She started calling him Mr. Hump and making fun of his labored walk and huge feet.

"That was the first time someone's comments really hurt," he says.

He couldn't work. He lived off money from his father and, later, money from social security and $60,000 from the accident settlement. He sold just enough drugs out of his house to pay for his own habit.

After his wife left him, McGuire's home became a pad for local drug addicts and prostitutes. And in time, he became a sort of father figure and sugar daddy in the Lake Elsinore underworld.

He was known as "Hippity-Hop." And it's a wonder Hippity-Hop managed to survive.

Sherry Latham's body was found July 4, 1991, near a campground outside Lake Elsinore. She had been bludgeoned and strangled. When she was found, her hand was clutching brush as though she had tried to crawl to a nearby road.

She was one of the 19 prostitutes killed by William Suff, who became known as the Riverside Killer.

In a true crime book about the case, Latham, a 37-year-old drug addict, was described as having "drifted into lower-class trampdom and ended up a strangled corpse."

Her daughter, also named Sherry, had also drifted into drugs and lower-class trampdom.

That's how she met Gordon McGuire.

The younger Sherry was living across the street from McGuire with her brother and sister. She began spending time with him, something her siblings didn't like at all.

"They thought he was weird, and they thought he was rude," Latham says. "He'd always call me `bitch.' I thought it was funny; they thought it was disrespectful.

"And they knew he was a drug guy."

But Latham came to love McGuire. He was sweet, empathetic, smart and had a wicked, offbeat sense of humor. He listened as she talked about her twisted childhood. She would get him groceries when he couldn't move.

And he always had a means of getting high.

"He was getting it, selling it, but I think he was selling just enough dope to cover his habit," she says. "He was in so much pain, and that stuff helped. It was the only thing that worked for him."

But sometimes, she says, the crank would make him verbally abusive. When he was high, she says, McGuire could be one of the meanest people she's ever known.

"He'd get ruthless, really vicious, especially if he was doing shit and not getting his way," she says. "I guess I understood why he could be such an angry person sometimes. I could get angry at the world, too. Some people couldn't deal with him. But I guess I understood him."

While McGuire was still married, a neighbor had offered to let him move into a small place the neighbor owned up in the mountains outside Lake Elsinore. The rent was $450 a year.

Which still was too much, McGuire says, since it was a doorless hovel miles off any main road. After enough time in the Lake Elsinore drug world, though, he decided he'd be better off alone up on that mountain.

So he moved to the rickety 1950s travel trailer with a batch of Chocolate Thai pot plants and little else.

Then he met the neighbors.

"So these guys come over and we start talking and it comes out that I have these plants," he says. "And they ask if I'm going to grow. They tell me I should because the guy before me had 200 irrigated growing sites on the land. I asked what happened to the guy and they say, `Oh, he was arrested.' So that scares me enough that I just give them the plants and tell them to give me a little when they mature."

The neighbors were also cooking meth for sale down in Lake Elsinore. McGuire was set.

But there was something odd about this loose community of drug dealers up on the mountain. They were all vaguely religious, all knew each other, all had numerous children and all seemed romantically involved.

McGuire had stumbled into one of the vestiges of the Children of God/Family of Love cult.

Started by former evangelist David Berg in 1969, the Children of God considered themselves "end time soldiers for Christ," believing in a new Christianity based on Berg's "law of love." At its essence, this meant that actions and thoughts could only be judged good or bad based on the nature of the motivation behind them.

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