ALWAYS IS ALWAYS FOREVER
Charlie Manson & The Family
POP CULTURE'S ICONOCLAST ICONS
Author's note: To my surprise over the last four years this essay has received more response from readers than any other piece I've posted. Thank you for your interest, comments & also for corrections on some of the dates and details. I've modified the piece with respect to the input received by readers (2007) and again to maintain current status of information (2009).
This essay was originally part of an academic project on "Radical Changes of the 1960s & 1970s" which covered theater, fiction, film, spirituality, lifestyle, psychology, feminism & civil disobedience.
I think we (both) want to stay clear of the facile insinuation that ritual murder is some sort of extension of popular culture --
but there is that tenuous link.
In 1969 sex and violence shocked the country as 'The Summer of Love' ended in bloodshed. What really went down making Charles Manson & the Family iconoclast icons who we all know and love to talk about? Let's begin with the key figures in the Tate-LaBianca murders, and where they are now (note: originally written in 2003.so please contact me if something is out of date or incorrect):
Charles Manson: incarcerated in protective housing unit at Corcoran State Prison.
Susan Atkins: deceased. incarcerated at the California Institution for Women at Frontera until diagnosed with brain cancer.
Leslie Van Houten: imprisoned at the California Institute for Women at Frontera, considered the most likely to win parole.
Charles “Tex” Watson: after transfer to Mule Creek State Prison in Northern California, became a minister in prison, and fathered four children.
Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme: released after 34 years. "Squeaky" is one of the characters in the controversial Stephen Sondheim's Assassins.
Sandra Good: convicted of conspiracy to mail threatening letters in 1976, served time in federal prison and was released.
Most Americans know some, if not all, of these names. Who, though, are these people? The Manson Family - cult of love and murder. They don’t consider themselves a cult; they don’t call themselves THE family. In numerous discussions in books and on tapes it is stated that the media created that term for them after the murders for which they are so famous.The murders for which they are so famous... What an odd way to become famous. And famous, they truly are! There are books, films, t-shirts, stickers, posters, websites, all kinds of nostalgia. Charles Manson is a pop culture icon, and he did not even commit the murders in question. Hey man, “Charlie Don’t Surf!”
I wondered before setting out to do this paper: Why exactly is Charles Manson in prison for life? If these people were given the death sentence, why are they all still around? Still creating controversy and cutting culture? What kind of cult were they? If they were hippies, why were they so into murder? Who are these people and where did they come from and what is their deal?
Manson is in prison for life because he is held responsible for the others involved in the brutal slaying(s). He does not attempt parole anymore; he has no desire to be released. He has spent most of his life in prison. For most of the last thirty years he has been in solitary confinement. He used to attempt parole, but not now. I have to wonder about something after reading all that I have - the State of California withdrew the death penalty because they felt it cruel and unusual punishment. Charlie, though, was sentenced before this rule went into effect. I have to wonder if he and society would not have been better off if he had been grandfather-claused into the gas chamber. Not only do I feel it is cruel and unusual to keep a prison locked up, mainly in solitary, for thirty years, but it is what has allowed him to become the cult hero of pop iconology. If he had just been executed after the event - would any really know who he is today? Vincent Bugliosi, prosecutor of the Tate-LaBianca trials may not have sold so many books if Charlie was gone now. He is not to blame, though. He, too, was shocked when in 1972 the State of California decided that the death penalty was no longer policy. The Manson Family would never see the Green Room, as it was called, over at San Quentin.
Charlie! Crazed psycho hippie... Except that Charlie hated hippies. Charlie was filled with hate; he had never experienced love. Charles Manson was born a bastard child on 12 November 1934. His mother an alcoholic, rumored to be a prostitute. Shortly there after 16 year old Katherine Maddox married to give her son a name, though the marriage would not last. The boy became Charles "Charlie" Manson. Charlie Manson spent most of his youth at reform institutions such as Boys Town, U.S.A. or being pushed onto distant Aunt’s and Uncles in between lock ups. He was known as soft spoken and pleasant youngster. His rap sheet was showing a another side of him. At 21, he was released, after having been there nearly entirely since he was 16. He took off to West Virginia, has sex for the first time with a waitress. He got her pregnant. They were married in 1955. He met another lady, though, stole a car, and took off to California. When he was caught, he was sent to Terminal Island Prison in Los Angeles for felony auto theft. His wife came went out west with their baby to wait for him to get out of prison. She left him shortly thereafter. When he was released on five years probation, Charlie Manson took off to Venice, California alone. Not long after his release from Terminal Island, Charlie wrote a bad check for thirty seven dollars, and was sent to McNeil Island in Washington. He would not be paroled until 1967. Some of Charlie’s favorite things to learn in prison were pimping, other cons to keep money fluid, guitar and Scientology. He felt he had really mastered Scientology. In 1967, Charles Manson was 33. He’d been incarcerated for most of his life. He was not formally educated. He had no proper work skills. He could play his guitar and he could sing. He was pretty happy to be free, find a career in music, and a use some of the skills he’s learned in prison.
After being released from McNeil Island, Charlie rode the bus aimlessly. H e would end up in Berkeley, California and then San Francisco. The streets of San Francisco were filled with cheap or free drugs, free love, free meals at the soup kitchens, and everything one needed when they had nothing but love to give. San Francisco 1967 was a special place for a man who had been in prison most of life. Charlie liked it, and the girls liked Charlie. He made them beautiful, special -- complete. He became their father, lover, friend; Jesus and the Devil.
It was in the Bay Area that he met Lynette Fromme, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle, and Leslie Van Houten. The girls were all teenagers from middle class homes who had gone a bit a stray. Bobby Beausoleil was making music and also acting in films, such as Kenneth Anger’s 'Lucifer Rising'. He and Manson became close. The scene in San Francisco was becoming dark, though. It was not all about love. Charlie saw that the wild hippie fest was not going last. He got an old school bus, and convincing a caravan of misfits that the Haight was becoming filled with hate, a communal grouping left Northern California. After checking out areas of Oregon, Southern California was the eventual destination with young girls picked up along the way. A freedom ride away from the stifling home environments in which many of them had lived, away from the crime beginning to saturate the streets, away from everything in search of something new. Something perfect.
There was a freedom back then that explored its own vagueness.
Everything hadn't been done before, and certainly not a thousand times over ...
Zachary Lazar, author of the novel SWAY (2008).
In California it was not uncommon during that time for people to live in nomadic or communal situations. Hog Farm, begun by Wavy Gravy, is one of the most famous of peaceful communes. Alternative living to the white, middle class establishment allowed for The Family to blend right in. Some of the girls added to the caravan had come from families which lived on communes. Some of the parents were even supportive of their teenage girls exploring their freedom, while others, such as the family of Ruth Ann Moorehouse felt she had been lured into a cult. Her father, a preacher, eventually went to Los Angeles to retrieve her, was dropped a lot of acid, and became a follower of sorts himself. No one went home. They WERE home.
All of the girls were given new names - nicknames, aliases. In researching material, some of the girls have up to five different aliases which makes keeping track them as confusing as it must have been for the police while investigating the murder.The desired goal was to live for today, and only today. Make music, make love, get high.
At least that was what Charlie said. Somewhere down the road added to that basic philosophy was the coming of the race war that was to be Armageddon, the power the rich held over the poor in a way that forced him to view the rich as pigs, the need to find shelter in the center of the universe to survive the coming war, and the hiatus into the desert to find the entrance to the bottomless pit that would lead to their safety. After the war, they would be the survivors and society would belong to them. They would create a new race of peaceful, loving beings. The winding path between live for today and the end of tomorrow became very very twisted.
It seems to be an unfortunate tendency of utopian movements to dissolve into these nightmares.
Pursing an ideal life always gets boring after a while,
and you become fascinated with the nightmare and the thrill of the nightmare.
Zachary Lazar, author of the novel SWAY (2008).
Richard Allen, author of Satan’s Slaves: An Investigation into the Bizarre Underground Cults of Sixties California says this about the state of Los Angeles at the time of Tate-LaBianca killings: That the ritualistic mass murder in Benedict Canyon evolved from the Los Angeles Scene is really no surprise. For generations, L.A. has been begging for such a ‘happening’. One can blame The Family for it’s horrific slaying. One can accuse hippieism for its non-conformist attitude to real life. One can conclude that when law and order always breaks down to permit drug-taking and fee-love communes then one must expect violent insurrection. Many people seem to feel that it was some how invited. What all was going on in California at the time Charles Manson got out of prison that would make this kind of statement warranted?
Gary Hinman, murdered shortly before the Tate-LaBianca murders by Bobby Beusoleil and Mary Brunner, was a devoted Buddhist. He also manufactured mescaline. Popular on the West Coast were organizations such as the Solar Lodge of the O.T.O run by Georgina Brayton (O.T.O usually places an image of Aleister Crowley into the minds of people familiar with the occult, but the formal O.T.O. is much more dynamic than the pop-black magick of Crowley) and The Process: Church of the Final Judgment. I printed out information about The Process, and the information I found makes them sound so lovely. Soup kitchens, clothing for the poor, helping the homeless, and love. In the literature about the case, though, they are described as a cult which branched away from The Church of Scientology in England. They came over to America to recruit for the Apocalypse, it was reported that they slaughtered animals for ritual sacrifices, preached Armageddon via a similar style war to what Charlie conjured up (leading some people to speculate that he actually took part of his formula from The Process). They also believed in multiple aspects of the deity being G-d, Jehovah, Satan and Lucifer or something like that. All four were worshiped, but members had to pick which one best fitted their own personality. Scientology was all around. Why Scientology comes up around all cult research I am not entirely sure, but somehow the mental manipulation they are rumored to have invented carries over into many era phenomenon and problem. It is believed the Manson pulled philosophy and rhetoric from the various popular alternatives just named. There were also a plethora other spiritual or anti spiritual movements to chose from: The Bakar Infa Temple was located on Sunset Boulevard. Hare Krishnas. Moonies. The Church of Satan. The Temple of Set. G-d, Satan, Jehovah were everywhere. Charlie, though, would say he was Jesus. Either Jesus or the Devil depending on his mood or need. The psychological methods of control over the women and men who became his followers are believed to have stemmed from a myriad of available sources. The streets of Southern California were filled with possibilities. It may also be why The Family felt sane with the beliefs they held, and actually in the beginning it was not about a kill cult, it was about beautiful happiness; at least that is what they were led to believe. They were maneuvered into the position of soldiers in the war against the establishment without having been recruited.
It was also in Los Angeles that Tex Watson came on board the magical bus ride - a black school bus with the back seats cut out and pillows laid out for group comfort. Tex had been an all American story of athletics and good grades and clean cut charm. In the two years of being with Manson, he was unrecognizable to his old friends. By the time The Family found fortress at The Spahn Ranch, they were about 40 strong. One of the new girls to the group was Linda Kasabian. She had met Charlie at Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s house, and would later be the prosecutions star witness against Manson. Life at Spahn Ranch was described by Susan Atkins as beautiful, very, very, peaceful ; where we all made love with each other, got over our inhibitions and inadequate feelings and became uninhibited. Amidst that peace, an arsenal was being added to weekly. Walkie Talkie look outs were installed in different desert locations. A member of the Straight Satan’s motorcycle gang was enticed to live there, and watch over the weapons while adding personal security.
Money came and went through drug deals involving new designer drugs such as MDMA, DMT, Lysergic Acid (LSD), and other narcotics. The girls would go out on daily dumpster runs to scavenge for food that was thrown out behind supermarkets and restaurants. Cars were given to the group or stolen. Houses were robbed by the girls, and the goods and money given to Charlie.
At the same time, The Family was in association with Dennis Wilson who cut one of Charlie’s songs on the b-side of Beach Boy’s album. Charlie was introduced to the who’s-who behind the scenes of the industry such as Terry Melcher , son of Doris Day, who had formerly lived on Cielo Drive, the house in which Sharon Tate and her friends were all butchered. A lot of articles say the killing was entirely random, but Manson was familiar with the grounds on Cielo Drive because of his association with Melcher, and possibly through odd job handy / yard work he had through Wilson. ( In Bulgiosi’s book, there are only two sentences about this, and Terry is made to seem an entirely innocent music producer involved in a strange coincidence. Sander’s book though goes into descript detailing of Melcher knowing Manson, and it seems a lot more involved than what came out in trial.)
A lot of people think that Charlie was purely a second rate amateur singer trying to get a record deal, and falling through the crack. In researching 1967-1969, when the Family first arrived in Los Angeles, Charlie was connected at Universal Studios (though through prison resources, not executive connections) , working some studio time and getting a lot of good feedback. Hard to find albums such as “The Manson Family Sings” were cut. Family members had bit roles in films being shot in the desert. They were in documentary style films of the times. One film on them showed in San Francisco film festival shortly after it was shot. Essays were being written about their lifestyle in progressive psychology journals, and also psychedelic journals. They were, as a group, and also as individuals, doing things - they were promised situations that never came through, or led to believe that they would be integrated into scenarios that never took place. It does not explain the gruesome reality that came to be, but I thought it was interesting after reading the 1971 first edition of The Family by Ed Sanders how much legitimate activity the group has been involved with. Most mainstream sources will reflect how much of this anger that led to murder was purely because Charlie, a second rate amateur, could not get a record deal and then heard the Beatle’s White Album, and went over the deep end.
The Beatle’s White Album. A revolutionary thrill to fans of rock n roll, it is true that Manson felt the secrets to the revolution were all there. Helter Skelter, the death ride that rocked Los Angeles the summer of ‘69, did come from the Beatles song about an amusement park ride. Helter Skelter painted in the murder victims' blood on the walls where they were killed. Helter Skelter, the race war where the black man would rise up and take over the city and society with violence that had to be matched with violence. Helter Skelter, the end of the control of the poor by rich. The end of the oppression of the free man by the establishment. Helter Skelter, one of the only murder cases - not just to fascinate - but to become a pop fascination to span generations and continents.
I realize I listed the names of the murderers involved in the killings, but not the people who made the murders so well known. The authors of the primary books about Family.Vincent Bugliosi writing with Curt Gentry: Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders. This best selling, 502 page book became the bible of the case. Written about the findings of the victims, the search for the killers and the trial, Bugliosi made sure every technical detail was perfectly in order. Some shocking details are revealed here about how poorly the police tended to many parts of the investigation. Also, learning about how many petty past charges all involved in the murders had accumulated, I found myself questioning the system as much as the behavior of the family during this read.
An example? When Bugliosi was working on the case, he asked the LAPD to arrange for undercover cops to go to Spahn Ranch. The LAPD told him that would not be possible because the undercover agents may be asked to do something illegal, such as smoke marijuana. They were investigating one of the most terrifying murders to shake Southern California, but they could not allow for officers to go undercover to gather information about The Family. I felt as though that kind of mind set probably made it more enticing to screw with the system.
Also, at the Tate murder scene, Tex Watson left a bloody finger print on the button to the front gate at the drive way. He had pushed the button when he and the girls went to leave. The police initially investigating the murder scene were so shocked by the killings, that when they went to leave the grounds in order to get back up, one of the LAPD pushed the button on the gate, wiping away the identity of the bloody print, and replacing it with his own finger print.
And one of the main points of interest to me - the police never caught the Tate-LaBianca killers. They had caught some car thieves who smoked pot and didn’t have proper i.d. One of those people was Susan Atkins, who revealed her crimes to a cell mate, and brought down The Family she so worshipped. Bobby Beausoleil was the only one caught by police specifically for murder.
Bugliosi’s book has a lot of valid court documentation, it speaks in depth about the problems between the media and investigating police, it shows how the court works, but by the end of it I was left feeling as though the behavior of some of the investigators was as extreme in one direction of err as The Family’s was in the other.
To be honest, after watching some old news footage of Ronald Reagan discussing the disgusting rock n roll acid parties at Alameda County universities - I can almost understand why people wanted to laugh in the face of the conservative right. I still do not understand these murders, though. I wonder if the girls subliminally began to hate Charlie, and acted out his wishes with subservient love to deface him. You know, without even realizing they were doing so. It is impossible to answer questions like that. Even with all the material I’ve read, listened to, and watched.
Ed Sanders: The Family: The Story of Charles Manson’s Dune Buggy Battalion. Written in 1971, shortly after the trials, this book offers 412 pages of in-depth pretrial exposure of the lifestyles of the Family, the victims, and everything going on between Los Angeles, San Francisco and into the desert ranches and Death Valley where the family dwelled. The amount of information about cult behavior, porn industry association, the crimes and passions of everyone and the times is fascinating, at times a bit sickening. Sander’s book is excellent, but he too must be a bit crazed to have gone undercover and underground in such an obsessive way to create this book; but then he opens the introduction with the news article from the San Francisco chronicle that introduced him to the Family. The article has been reprinted in an ecology newsletter entitled Earth Read Out: The last survivors of the band of nude and long haired thieves who ranged over Death Valley in stolen dune buggies have been rounded up, the sheriff’s office said yesterday. A sheriff’s posse, guided by a spotter plane, arrested 27 men and women members of a nomad band in two desert raids. Deputies said eight children, including two babies suffering from mal nutrition, were also brought in. Some of the women were completely nude, others work only bikini bottoms, deputies said. All adults were booked at Inyo county jail for investigation of charges which included car theft, receiving stolen property and carrying illegal weapons. Six stolen dune buggies were recovered.
Deputy Sheriff Jerry Hildreth said the band lived off the land by stealing. He said they traveled in the stolen four wheel drive dune buggies and camped in a succession of abandoned mining shacks. The band preciously escaped capture by moving only at night and by setting up radio-equipped lookout posts on the mountains, he said. “It was extraordinary by the way they covered up their tracks, and would make dummy camps to throw us off”, Hildreth said. “They gave a merry chase. This is probably one of the most inaccessible areas of California.
From there Sanders collected thousands and thousands of pages of information on the family. He spent a year and a half gathering information. His book greatly compliments Bugliosi’s book, as The Family is everything up to the murders, and Helter Skelter is everything after the murders. One of the problems I had with Sander’s book is that he says that he left out a lot of occult related material due to the fact that it was unfair to the victims and made him fearful for his life. In reading the nearly 1500 total pages of material that I read through altogether, I feel that information would have been useful in better understanding certain aspects of behavior, psychology and association with all those involved in the case.
Sander’s book also mentions many other murders that took place, including apparent suicides by Russian roulette both in California and in England. The outreach of the group is much more so than the core grouping of those in prison now. The affiliation with other formal magical and spiritual organizations is much more detailed. The bizarre relation between The Family and associates of the victims is detailed, yet still ambiguous.
The book is organized painstakingly well, but has so much information without any bibliography or index, that in order to include it and really put it into context would mean making the Manson’s a senior study, and that is a bit too involved for what I intended.
I just wanted to include a bizarre, era related piece that has continued to rock the media to this day, as the video footage I clipped from a recent Diane Sawyer interview will show. (Note: The video accompanied the academic presentation of this essay, but is not available here in the essay now. At some point I'll see if I can get the VHS tape compressed to an e-file). It seemed that just as Charles Manson and The Family is considered the end of the Summer of Love, it would also make a fitting close to the end of my semester. I’ve researched est, an organized corporate cult of sorts; John Lilly, who’s experiments with lysergic acid and transcendental meditation / exercise brought him to a new state of mental reality; Vietnam, the war that made war at home; Susan Sontag’s writing, a contemporary feminist who’s writing reveals much of the beauty of breaking away from traditional thought and expression with a surreal, eloquent perfection; terrorism, which we think of now as a foreign policy problem was considered a domestic horror with organizations such as The Black Panthers, the Weatherman, SLA, The Manson’s and others... On one of the tapes that I viewed , in 1969 Ronald Reagan compares “domestic terrorism” by the radical left and it’s sympathizers to Nazism. It may all seem completely a separate reality, though see how it all weaves together as experiences - which combined - assisted in altering aspects of American life as we know it now.
Shortly before the Tate-LaBianca murders, Charles Manson and some of the girls from the Family were up in Northern California to visit Esalen. The same institute where Dr. Lilly lectured, and through which reassessed his future professional and personal goals. The same institute where Werner Erhard learned of the revolution of new psychology practices, which he would manipulate for his own endeavors. Charles Manson left Esalen disgusted by the pretentious disinterest in his work and his philosophies. In Sander’s book it is written that after the reception he received at Esalen, Manson’s hatred for the 60s trend culture and hippie movement increased a ten fold. When they worked to his advantage, it was great, when not - he showed his true con man, convict colors.
Books such as Richard Allen’s Satan’s Slaves, Gilmore’s The Garbage People: The Trip to Helter Skelter and Beyond with Charlie Manson and The Family, and HeadPress: The Journal of Sex, Religion and Drugs out of England recently dedicated a large part of issue 21 on the pop super-stardom of Jesus Christ Manson and his teenage femme fatale disciples. Brightly colored packages, with lots of graphic photos and poster art from all the commercial network films made on The Family. Garbage People even shows the morgue photos of the Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Steve Parent, Voityck Frykowski, Jay Sebring, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, unlike say Helter Skelter where even in the photos of the dead bodies on the grounds, the people are cut out of the image and filled with white to protect their integrity. Times have changed, though. It is alright now to show the full details of bludgeoning and guns shot wounds, and dinner implements protruding from the dead.
The dead. You may have thought I’d forgotten about them. The victims. Beautiful, successful people. Loving and well loved. I didn’t forget about them, it is just that in most of the literature they are not the focus. They are the reason why The Family came into focus -
Gary Hinman was 32 years old, and very near to getting his PhD in Sociology from UCLA. He had befriended the Manson Family, and had often helped them out in the past by giving them a place to sleep if they needed, or at times some money. He was strongly involved with Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, a militant sect headquartered in Japan, with an office in Los Angeles. He was a musician, and very well affiliated in the music industry community. He was also involved with the manufacture of synthetic mescaline with a young married couple who acted as his partners. He had recently received an inheritance, and it was believed he had over $20,000.oo hidden in the house when he was murdered.
Bobby Beausoleil was directed to Hinman by Manson to get some of that money so that The Family could fully maneuver themselves in the desert. He brought with him Susan Atkins and Mary Brunner. Basically, they tortured him, beat him over an extended period of time, cut his ear off, and sat with him all night long trying to get him to disclose where he hid his cash. When Gary’s screams became too much, Beausoleil apparently stabbed him in the chest twice. He was placed on the floor of the living room near his bookcase. Above him was fashioned a makeshift Buddhist shrine, and he was allowed to chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo until he finally died. “Political Piggy” was painted in his blood on his walls, along with a strange blood painting of a paw print. Part of the plan was to make it seem as though the Black Panthers had killed a whitey for no reason, so as to get white people down to the ghetto, rioting in fury. That was part of Helter Skelter. Each individual who participated I am sure had their own philosophy beyond the groups collective confession reasoning.
Bobby Beausoleil was placed on death row for his involvement. Susan Adkins would, while she sat in jail for auto theft, explain that to kill is to love; it is to allow the soul to be released to live free; that murder is love, and love is Charlie and that is all beautiful - like sex, man. She would also be involved in the Tate-LaBianca murders.
By dominating him psychologically Manson persuades Bobby to enter a stranger's house and stay there after he leaves. In a weird sense that first
scene is a mind-fuck, on a metaphorical level. A kind of invasion is going on there. Throughout the book (SWAY), I was interested in the persuasive
power of sexuality, even unconscious or half conscious sexuality. Sexuality is a kind of electrical charge that Jagger used to mesmerize his followers,
that many of the characters use to manipulate one another.
Zachary Lazar, author of the novel SWAY (2008).
Bobby was arrested prior because when leaving Hinman’s house, he hot wired and stole his VW van. Though he sold it right after, it became part of the police investigation and the person who had purchased it would lead the police to Bobby. Originally the police thought it may have been suicide. They thought just some kind of weird, isolated hippie thing, and even after the blood painted walls were discovered the Tate house, it was not thought there was any direct connection. In fact, it took the police a while to accept that three cases of Hinman, Tate and LaBianca were connected. In retrospect, I have to say, it does seem that the writing was on the wall - so to speak. To mention another strange sign of the times - the night that Gary Hinman was murdered on 27 June 1969, Jean Brayton’s occult group was raided and arrested for blood drinking activity in Blythe, California.
The house that Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski lived in was located in Benedict Canyon on Cielo Drive. The house was actually owned by talent agent Rudy Altobelli, who Manson had met in the past. Rudy was away in Italy, and had hired a caretaker for the grounds over the summer named Bill Garretson. Bill was a young man, fresh out of school, and for a small salary he lived in the guest house.
The main house, once occupied by producer Terry Melcher, was rented by Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon. The hefty rent over well over a thousand dollars a month was paid by out by movie studio funds, since Roman was directing films. He was away for the summer, but Sharon returned home to prepare for the birth of their baby. He was planning to return around the time of the birth. She was eight months pregnant in August 1969.
Roman had not wanted Sharon alone. Friend Abigail Folger and her boyfriend Voityck - a Polish poet actor, and long time friend of Roman) stayed on in the house Sharon. Abigail was the heiress to the Folger Coffee fortune. She had been doing social work in Los Angeles attempting to better the standard of life for underprivileged African Americans shortly before she was murdered. I found it interesting that the autopsy report showed she was a decent dose of MDMA when she died. It turns out that she and her boyfriend were involved with a designer drug lab in another part of the country. Pretty cutting edge. Many people think MDMA was invented around 1989, but it was already on the market in 1969.
Jay Sebring was the hairdresser to the stars, working on celebrities such as Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and the creme de la creme of the industry. He was a self made man with a global enterprise. He and Sharon were close friends for many years. After his murder, many felt his lifestyle deserved a sick end. There was a gram or so of cocaine in the glove box of his Porsche, a roach of a joint, and at his home they found some fetish oriented pornography.
Steve Parent had been visiting Garretson, and was leaving the grounds when he was shot multiple times at point blank range in the head. He was 18, and seemed a star child. That night Charlie had sent the clan out, just saying to do what Tex said, and to leave a sign behind. Linda Kasabian, Susan Adkins, and Patricia Krenwinkle went with Tex for a drive to the hills. Though it is continuously said that Charlie, nor none of The Family had ever been to the property, the layout was already known to them. The phone lines were cut, the fence scaled with caution. It was an electric fence, but it had not been wired since before the Polanski’s moved in.
"... do something witchy." I mean, what a strange thing to say and it essentially translates into "be creative".
There is a very perverse creativity being about there, something that's uncomfortable now to talk about.
Zachary Lazar, author of the novel SWAY (2008).
Tex shot Parent while the girls were still coming up behind him. The crossed the grounds quietly, broke into the house, then made their presence known. Everyone was gathered together, and told to lay down on the floor. Jay attempted to protect Sharon, asking that she be allowed to sit since she was pregnant. They had thought it was a basic robbery at first, and communicated with The Family thinking they’d be left, basically, alone. No deal. Jay tried to get the gun from Tex, and was shot in the armpit. As he fell to the ground Tex drop kicked him, forcing screams from Abigail. He was then stabbed and beaten to death.
Tex ordered Susan Adkins to kill Voityck Frykowski who had been tied up. Susan stabbed him a few times but he fought her off, got somewhat loose, and went to run. It made his final death more gruesome. He was butchered by multiple stab wounds, fifty one in all, to the spleen, abdomen, left lung, right back, heart, chest and hands. Tex finished the job. Voityck had survived the Nazi’s, only to die such a sad fate.
A rope had been tied around the necks of those left, but Abigail Foster had somehow freed herself. She was running, covered in blood by the blows she had taken from Patricia Krenwinkle’s knife. As Abigail tried running from the house blood was splattering all over. Krenwinkle, in an effort to stop her from going through the door to the yard , left a full hand print on the door , in blood, which would later confirm her death sentence. Outside though, defeat came. Abigail Folger was overtaken and bludgeoned.While the murder scene was erupting, Linda Kasabian apparently hid in the bushes. She would testify later on in exchange for immunity as an accomplice.
Sharon Tate Polanski was still alive. They wanted for her to watch all of her friends die. Around her neck a rope connected to the now dead Jay Sebring. She was killed by Tex, Susan and Patricia as they held her down and stabbed her sixteen times with two knives. The entire time she begged for the life of her unborn baby. She begged them to cut it out of her and let her live. Susan realized then that she was afraid of that. She didn’t know how to save in murder, only to kill. Susan would later tell jail mates Ronnie and Virginia, who reported her, how it was all so beautiful, like sex, it felt so good. She wrote all over the walls in Sharon Tate’s blood. “Death to Pigs.” She said she loved the feeling of the blood going through her hands.
Charlie was upset over the way it had all gone down. It was too messy. He would explain to Tex how to do it right. They were all excited about the newscasts. The next time he went out with them, but would leave before the murders. He gathered Tex, Susan, Clem, Patricia, Leslie Van Houten and Linda. They drove around to find the right spot, and then chose the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Unlike the first killings which involved the beautiful and the famous, the Leno LaBianca had a grocery chain in Los Angeles, and his wife has independently invested in the stock market leaving her an immense portfolio. They, too, were butchered - their blood used to paint the walls with eerie slogans.
Other related murders would include one of the Barker ranch hands, Shorty, who was completely dismembered and remains never found. Sandra Good’s former husband, Joel Pugh, would be found dead in a hotel room in England with his blood used to paint slogans on the wall, a friend of The Family’s named Zero would be found dead after playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun, no fingerprints on the weapon. Other killings in similar vein took place during the season, but were considered unrelated by the authorities. Bugliosi believes that though Manson and the Family could only be charged with nine murders, that the correct number is thirty five. That is up to speculation. If you ask Charlie, he’ll tell you he didn’t kill anyone. Hey man, Charlie don't surf.
In the end Lynette Fromme, Clem, Ruth Ann Moorehouse and Dennis Rice of The Family would get 90 days on petty miscellaneous charges. Linda Kasabian would testify on the Tate LaBianca killings which would lead the sentencing of death for Charles Manson (believed to have brainwashed the actual killers), Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle, Leslie Van Houten and Charles Tex Watson. Bobby Beausoleil was already in custody, and undergoing trial for Gary Hinman’s murder when the others were brought in. None of the convicted killers received the death penalty, and are now celebrities of cutting edge & morbid pop culture.
Bobby Beausoleil, Susan Atkins and Tex Watkins were all married while in prison. Charles Manson has recorded a few acoustic albums, Leslie has her own book out.
Charlie - to this day - says that he is not responsible for any of the killings, and that he only reflects that which society actually is, as it is. Though the Summer of Love may have ended in bloodshed, it has kept the fascination and love for the era alive in the mind of many. Charlie to this day receives more mail than any other inmate in America, and still has a Family who loves him. As the song from Singing With The Manson Family says:
Always is always forever!
Research/photo archive thanks to Jim Hollenbaugh / S.R. Video Productions, Greg Teetsell & John Szpunar / Barrel Entertainment, Detroit.
All photos came from the book titles shown.