October 3rd, 2013
This is a very detailed book, most of which is presented in chronological order. The best thing about it, to me, is that Manson is not portrayed as a wild, crazy monster that is constantly raging and ranting and killing, but a quite centered and manipulative person who honed his followers into the insane.
Indeed, Manson’s growing up was hard. And his youth was hardcore:
A parole hearing for Charlie was scheduled for February 1952. All he had to do was follow Honor Camp rules and stay out of trouble until then; if he did, his release was practically assured. But this proved beyond him; in January Charlie was caught sodomizing another boy while holding a razor blade to his victim’s throat.
While in jail – during one of many times there – Manson discovered a band that would form much of his views of the world, including Helter Skelter, that later on paved way to what Manson viewed as necessary destruction.
The Beatles’ burgeoning fame was such that it penetrated all the way into Charlie Manson’s cell at McNeil Island. Their songs were constantly on the radio. Charlie was intrigued by the music but even more impressed by the adulation the Beatles received. Charlie always yearned for attention; now he decided that fame was what he really wanted. If these four Beatles could have it, why couldn’t he? After all, he sang and played guitar, too.
…and Manson was a racist:
Charlie believed that all blacks were genetically inferior and most of them were dumb as rocks, but give enough angry ones guns and they could probably wipe out much of the white race.
Guinn places Manson into political context by describing student, youth and political movements briefly. For example:
Actor Ronald Reagan made Berkeley Free Speech a major campaign issue when he ran for governor in 1966, promising that if elected he would “clean up the mess there,” which Reagan swore included “sexual orgies so vile I cannot describe them to you.” Reagan won the election handily, and sent a message through the media to the Cal-Berkeley students: “Observe the rules or get out.” Like college students all around the country, they did neither; Reagan’s threat reinforced their belief that the government was their implacable enemy.
When Haight Ashbury spawned, Manson seized the moment and started building himself up as the Jesus figure he wanted to be:
Charlie set about recruiting his in the Haight. He began not by preaching, but by listening. For days Charlie drifted from one street guru to the next, memorizing their best lines and putting together his own street rap. Charlie was in no rush with his research. Unlike most Haight newcomers, he had no immediate financial concerns.
It’s good to read that Haight Ashbury and The Summer of Love wasn’t all it was cranked up to:
There were no riots of any sort in the Haight, but plenty of rapes. An even greater danger to its overflowing community were drug overdoses and diseases brought on by malnutrition and exposure. Despite the best efforts by the Diggers and neighborhood churches, thousands of people, mostly teenagers, went hungry during the day and slept wherever they could find a few feet of space at night. Even though it was summer, Bay Area nights were chilly and damp. The music played in clubs or in the Panhandle was almost always punctuated by hacking, phlegm-soaked coughs from the audience. Sick kids staggered on their own or were helped to the public health services at Park Emergency Hospital near Golden Gate Park; from there they were routinely shunted off to other facilities, where they were equally unwelcome and went mostly untreated.
The beginnings of snaring and enslaving his “family”:
Charlie always seemed to have knives handy. Sometimes he’d take Mary, Lynne, and Pat off into the woods and make one of them stand in front of a tree. Then he’d back up a few steps and throw a knife so it would stick in the tree just over her head, like some circus act. It scared them, but Charlie explained it was a way of testing whether they really trusted him. If they flinched it meant that they didn’t. So they tried very hard to stand completely still, and when they did, Charlie always told them how wonderful they were. That kind of praise from him made the risk worth it.
Manson on feminism, something he was a clear opponent of:
[...] while he was on his way to the kitchen the queen called after him, “While you’re out there, would you get me one, too?” Every day after that she told the king to make a sandwich for her; their roles had been neatly reversed. Charlie explained that this was the way women tricked men and took control. They appealed to men’s love, to their sense of sympathy, and the men fell for it. Much of what was wrong with modern society, Charlie warned, was because, more and more, men were no longer in charge. It wasn’t going to be that way in the Family. In this blessed, enlightened group, women served men and everyone was better off because of it.
…and on using the women:
Sex with outsiders became a daily routine for Family women. Charlie would bring over whatever men he wanted to impress and please that day—not just Wilson, Melcher, or Jakobson, but bikers and drug dealers—and tell the women to line up in front of them. Charlie sometimes held the pretty girls back, keeping them as a special treat for VIP visitors. Each man was encouraged to pick out whichever girl he wanted, and Charlie would order her to go with the guy and do anything he told her. If a girl refused to do something, that meant she still had hang-ups and Charlie punished her, sometimes by making her strip naked in front of everyone else and then ridiculing her. It was effective. The girls learned not to refuse any request and never to seem reluctant or squeamish.
Guinn regarding a detail on the Tate murders:
Tex had stabbed Folger several more times; he wrote later that she was, in fact, alive when he reached her, and that she muttered, “I give up, you’ve got me,” just before he delivered the fatal blow. With Folger and Frykowski dead on the lawn, and Jay Sebring lifeless on the living room floor, only Sharon Tate remained. Susan was guarding her beside the sofa. Tex and Pat returned to the living room and Tate began pleading—not for her own life, but for her unborn child’s. They could take her with them, Tate begged, and kill her after the baby was born. But Charlie hadn’t said anything about postponing murders. He wanted maximum publicity right away. Susan held Tate while Tex stabbed her. Sharon Tate sobbed for her mother as she died.
I am stunned by the road from the insane killing to the mundane realities of day, as is recanted from a piece that takes place just after the murders:
There had been little conversation in the car as the four drove to Cielo, but on the way back to Spahn everyone talked at once. Susan told Tex that she’d lost her knife back at the house and he shouted angrily at her. Pat complained that her hand ached—while stabbing Folger, her knife frequently struck bone, and the impact hurt her hand.
When Manson was taken into custody:
Charlie was booked as “MANSON, CHARLES M., AKA JESUS CHRIST, GOD.”
Despite Manson’s lawyers trying to contact The Beatles in order to get them to help Manson (!):
A few months later in the course of a lengthy interview, Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner asked former Beatle John Lennon what he thought of Charlie Manson and the whole tragic Helter Skelter business. Lennon replied that Manson was “barmy” (crazy) for reading any kind of message into the song, adding that he personally had never even paid attention to its lyrics because they didn’t matter. So far as the Beatles were concerned, Lennon said, Helter Skelter was only noise.
Nine Inch Nails on recording in the Cielo house:
But the house on Cielo where Terry Melcher lived and Sharon Tate and four others died is gone, demolished in 1994 and replaced by an entirely new structure at the end of the narrow winding road up the high steep hill. The last resident of the original house was musician Trent Reznor, who in 1993 moved in and built studio facilities to record The Downward Spiral album with his band Nine Inch Nails. Reznor didn’t know that the infamous Tate murders had occurred there until after he moved in. He said that this news excited and disturbed him at the same time. Reznor named his recording studio “Le Pig” in honor of the word Susan Atkins scrawled in blood on a door twenty-four years earlier, but for some time every sound in the night made him jumpy. He decided to move out in part because he kept returning home to find bouquets of dead roses and lit candles placed reverently at the front gate. He was never certain, Reznor said, whether they were left in tribute to Sharon Tate or Charlie Manson.
When he’s not deprived of privileges for various transgressions, Charlie’s days in prison are simple. He enjoys doing artwork—the resulting sketches and small sculptures are sometimes sent to supporters and ATWA contributors—and he plays guitar and reads the Bible. Charlie also enjoys reading National Geographic. At mealtimes he skips meat and subsists on cheese, crackers, salads, potato chips, and Ramen noodles. Charlie still likes to listen to music, mostly vintage rock ’n’ roll as well as Sinatra. His favorite actor is John Wayne, and he is also a fan of comedian George Lopez. Sometimes his fellow inmates ask Charlie to tell them the truth about Tate-LaBianca: What really happened on the nights of August 9 and 10, 1969? Charlie’s response is always the same. He says, “I don’t know anything.” And he winks.