January, 1972. Convinced there’s more to the Manson murders than meets the public eye, counterculture journalist Paul Krassner embarks on an LSD tinged investigation of the last of Manson’s disciples: Brenda McCann, Sandra Good, and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme. What he finds could change how the world sees the 60s… if he lives long enough to tell the story.
Directed By: Lonnie Martin
Written By: Based on “My Acid Trip with Squeaky Fromme” by Paul Krassner
Screenplay By: Lonnie Martin
Produced By: Cindy Marie Martin
While Stimson says very little about the murders on Cielo, he has much more to say about Waverly because each of the
participants' memories of what exactly happened differ greatly.
Chapter Ten: The Murders on Waverly Drive"
According to several of the participants of the events of August 9th and 10th, Charlie, Tex, Pat, Susan, Leslie, Linda and Steve Grogan drove around for a few hours looking
for someone to kill: two homes in Pasadena were possible targets, a
minister in a church, and a man in a sportscar at a traffic light. When
the group arrived at Waverly Drive, Tex says that Charlie went up to
the house alone, then came back for Tex. The two of them took Rosemary's
wallet, tied up the victims, then returned to the car to get two of the girls.
Tex says that Charlie then told him to make sure that the girls did
some of the killing this time before he drove off with Susan, Linda and Steve. Susan remembers that Charlie tied the victims
up on his own. Leslie doesn't really remember much at all but she does
remember Charlie asking her earlier that night at Spahn if she thought she could
kill, to which she responded that yes, she could. Susan, Tex and Linda remember that Charlie had a gun which was supposedly buried later that morning in the sands of Venice Beach.
Charlie says that he did not have a gun. He
remembers that he first went looking for True, who wasn't home, and
just sort of offhandedly stumbled into the La Bianca home. There, he had
a brief discussion with Leno who he says was not fearful
at all, and was not aware that Rosemary was in the house. He left the house having not robbed or tied up the victims: that it was all
on Tex. He did not know anyone was going to be killed that night. He
also says of leaving the wallet in Sylmar that, contrary to the
prosecution's assertion, he did not know whose wallet it was but only
assumed that it was "hot." Furthermore he says he knew that Sylmar was
NOT a black neighborhood which becomes significant if he was indeed
trying to start a race war.
Later, Linda says it was Manson's idea to kill Saladin Nader in Venice Beach. Susan however remembers that Linda suggested it while the group was still in Sylmar. Linda pointed out the wrong apartment, no one was killed, and then Manson went back to Spahn, leaving the others to hitchhike home. Stimson claims that much of the information from that night comes from Linda whose lack of credibility will be examined in later chapters.
Stimson believes Manson's version of events for several reasons. He believes that Tex is not credible because he gets a lot of the details wrong, like saying the LaBiancas' car and boat were in the driveway when they were not. Also, the supposed hunting expedition earlier in the evening could not have taken place the way some of the participants said it did because there simply was not enough time. And, why would Charlie abort certain attempts because the neighbors might hear them but be okay with killing a man in a sportscar at a busy intersection on a Saturday night? No one can describe the gun that Charlie supposedly had, it was not in any of the trial testimony, and why would they feel the need to get rid of it it they had not used it? Charlie could not have tied up the LaBiancas on his own because Linda Kasabian says that he was only gone long enough for her to smoke 3/4 of a Pall Mall cigarette. Finally, when Linda led them to the wrong apartment in Nader's building, why didn't they just kill whoever answered if they were on a supposed random murder spree? In conclusion, Stimson says that because of these discrepancies, Charlie's explanation of events that night is the only one that makes sense and in it, he committed no crime.
Chapter Eleven: "The Murder of Donald 'Shorty' Shea"
This chapter is almost entirely devoid of any analysis by Stimson. He lets the words of Steve Grogan, Bruce Davis and Charles Manson stand on their own. What these people say is that Shorty was generally disliked by the Family because he was viewed as sloppy or sleazy for drinking too much and chasing the girls. Charlie says it is true that he did not like Shorty's being with a black woman because "I was raised that you don't...cross that racial line." Squeaky and Kitty both overheard Shorty talking badly about the Family to George Spahn. What finally got "five or six guys" upset enough to kill Shorty was the view that he had snitched on them and caused the Spahn Ranch raids of August 15 and August 24. Steve claims that the worst part of the raids were having Family children taken away to be placed in foster homes.
He and Bruce say that killing Shorty was Charlie's idea, that he was there, he put the weapons in their hands and told them to follow Tex's lead. Charlie on the other hand says that it was the group's collective idea and that it got out of hand. According to Steve and Bruce, Shorty was asked to drive the group down the hill to retrieve some car parts. At some point, Tex stabbed him in the eye, and Steve hit him on the head with a pipe wrench. Shorty was then dragged from the car and stabbed by various participants until he was dead. Charlie says he did not mortally wound Shorty himself but sounds as if he feels that the murder was justified based on the fact that Shorty was a snitch, and because snitches get what they get in the prison world that Charlie was accustomed to. All of the participants agree that even though each of them at some point cut or hit Shorty, the bulk of the killing was done by Tex. Later that night it was Steve who came back to bury the body that had been temporarily stashed in some bushes.
What is most interesting to Patty about this chapter is the list of who was there: Steve, Bruce, Tex, Charlie, possibly one of the girls according to Bruce and "another person" according to Steve and Charlie, who is not named and who was never prosecuted for the murder. Who was this person, why was he or she never implicated, and what might be the significance of this? Patty would love to hear Stimson's thoughts on the topic.
Chapter Twelve: "Back to the Desert"
Stimson briefly recounts here how the Family returned to the desert around the first of September: Juanita Wildebush had left with a miner and Paul Crockett had moved into the bunkhouse with Little Paul and Brooks. He reminds us that Bugliosi recounts three aborted murder attempts on the residents of the bunkhouse during midnight creepy crawly raids but discounts them because what difference would it make if the supposed victims heard Charlie coming to kill them or not? It was very remote in the desert, and if Charlie truly had 20 or so brainwashed followers, why wouldn't they just kill them? Stimson also quotes Crockett as saying that he never saw any drug use or "ritualistic activity" in the desert.
Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen: "Introduction to the Motive" and "The Helter Skelter Motive"
Three elements that tie a person to a crime are means, motive, and opportunity: there is no such thing as a motiveless crime. And, while a prosecutor is not bound to introduce evidence of a motive at trial, it is to his distinct advantage to do so because lack of motive is strong circumstantial evidence of innocence. Stimson claims that in the Tate La Bianca trials, Bugliosi had to establish a motive because there was "literally no other evidence tying Manson to the murders."
Stimson contends that Helter Skelter is too fantastic to be believable, but that the public bought it because of the barrage of media fabrications and inaccuracies that began to emerge beginning in December, 1969: hooded victims, sexual mutilations, dune buggies with machine guns mounted on them and Manson being known among the family as "Jesus," for instance. Many police theories were bandied about including bad drug deal, orgy killing, LSD freak out, Mafia hit, robbery, revenge killing and class warfare, but none of them fully fit the circumstances of the crimes.
Bugliosi, Stimson contends, discovered Helter Skelter "in the peripheries of the consciousness of some of the people at Spahn's." Major components of the theory were the music of the Beatles and Revelations 9 in the Bible. Stimson says that the influence of the Beatles on Manson is overestimated because he was older and preferred the music of the previous generation to which he belonged, like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra (to be honest this part made Patty chuckle a little bit). Further, he points out, that of COURSE there were messages in the music of the Beatles, that is what music is, and it is why people listen to it in the first place...so, what?
Then Stimson makes what Patty feels is his strongest point in the entire chapter. If indeed, the Family did honestly believe that they would live in a bottomless pit in miniaturized form for 50 to 100 years before emerging to rule the world, wouldn't that qualify them as being psychotic? And if hey were crazy enough to believe in Helter Skelter, why were they considered sane enough to stand trial?
Stimson goes on to demonstrate how none of the participants save Leslie thought that their crimes were meant to start a race war. Tex says he wasn't clear about what was to be written on the walls, that he "wasn't clear about the whole thing, really." Pat says that she thought they were going to Cielo to commit a robbery. Kasabian says she thought it was to be a simple creepy crawl. Bobby says that he had never heard of Helter Skelter until it was reported in the media. Charlie says he did talk about Helter Skelter, but that to him it just means "confusion:" the direction that society was heading in in 1969. Stimson quotes a December 7th LA Times article entitled "Manson Wanted a Race War, Friends Say" in which each source says that they only heard certain parts of the supposed theory, and that they had to piece it all together on their own later on. Even Bugliosi has said on many occasions that he doesn't believe in
Helter Skelter: "It was almost unbelievably bizarre...(I) told (a
co-prosecutor) it wouldn't take me two seconds to dump the whole Helter
Skelter theory if he could find another motive in the evidence." Stimson's ending analysis is that why wouldn't the convicted killers claim Helter Skelter as their motive, especially when they know it might be to their advantage to do so? Because, he says, it's not true.
In the next installment, Patty will detail for you what Stimson claims the REAL motive was. She hopes you are looking forward to this part of the book as much as she is.
Michael Channels is selling parts of his collection off for cheap! Here
is a letter from 1987 that comes with a certificate of authenticity, as
does everything that comes of the back porch. Michael's stuff is
guaranteed for real, and trust Patty, that is important because there is
a lot of fake stuff out there.
Here is a piece of fan mail from a guy in Europe that Manson wrote on. Michael is selling it for FIVE measly little dollars!! In the video he hilariously says, "Maybe it's you. You can get it back." LOL
Why is he doing this you might ask? Because he has a ton of stuff and apparently is raising funds to one day add a book he is writing to the legion of titles published on the subject. It's bound to be a good one, Patty'd venture.
Says Michael,"If you want more, tune in later. Cuz I got a pile of shit to get rid of
here, and its all going, Out the door. First come, first served."
UPDATE: at the time of this publication the items you see here have mostly been sold. However, do get in touch with Michael via the contact information he has in his video to be alerted to upcoming items he is ready to part with. This is one of a kind stuff, people.
Here we have an extremely rare photograph of Sandra Good being visited by her son Elf, possibly during her stint at the federal prison in Dublin, California when he was probably around 7 or 8. Obviously, she had already transformed from Sandra Good into "Blue" for Manson's "Order Of The Rainbow" environmental religion. Actually, that was the whole reason she got sent to prison. Well, that isn't the reason she got sent to prison. The reason was because she was sending death threats through the mail. I always thought getting 10 years for sending threatening letters was kind of severe, but the authorities probably felt otherwise. She did seem to always threaten people's lives back then. Well, hopefully she has mellowed with age. Enjoy the photo, ladies & gentlemen. It's an oldie, but a GOODIE!!
The next two chapters on Bernard Crowe and Gary Hinman begin to flesh out Stimson's contention that Charles Manson is not legally culpable for the murders that took place during the summer of 1969. If Patty understands correctly, rather than Charlie's ordering "his children" to kill, his brothers and sisters killed for love of each other, to preserve their family unit. The distinction here is that each person involved made the decision to be involved of their own free will rather than being told to do something and obeying because of having been brainwashed or what have you.
Chapter six: "The Shooting of Bernard Crowe"
Stimson claims that this incident was one of two main catalysts that led to the murders later that summer, and was a naive effort by Tex Watson alone to raise a little cash. Tex got Rosina Kroner to raise $5,000 for a marijuana deal that ostensibly Bernard Crowe helped her to raise. When the three of them travelled to the dealer's apartment, Tex slipped out the back leaving Rosina with a very angry Crowe, who called Spahn demanding his money back. If he did not get his money, he threatened to come to the ranch and kill everyone there.
While Tex claims that it had previously been agreed that Charlie would handle the aftermath of the theft, Charlie claims that this was never so. Stimson agrees with Charlie's version because he was not "criminally naive" enough to have set the deal up in the first place. On the other hand, Stimson asserts that Tex already had a reputation as a thief because it was his idea that Linda Kasabian should rip off her husband's friend for $5,000 that summer. Stimson quotes Tex from Will You Die for Me as having said that "I thought a while and came up with an idea" and "it was MY mess." Charlie claims that he told Tex to give the money back, but rather he ran to the hills to hide out with Sadie. Then Charlie was stuck holding the bag and had to do something to protect his family from being up into danger.
When Charlie shot Crowe, he thought he had killed him. He also thought that meant that Tex was inadventently going to cost him his own life and as such, he told Tex that Tex OWED him big time. The very next day, the new reported that a Black Panther had been killed in Griffith Park, and the Family mistakenly thought it was Crowe. This is significant according to Stimson because the Family therefore believed that Charlie had killed for the benefit and survival of the family, which set a standard and demonstrated the extent of Charlie's love for them. From this point on they all became capable of murder.
Furthermore, Stimson says that Tex wrote in his book about how Charlie brought up the Crowe affair on the night of Cielo. This is further significant in showing that Charlie didn't order the murders that night because if Charlie had been involved, there would not have been any debt for Tex to have to pay back.
Chapter Seven: "The Murder of Gary Hinman"
While some of their specific assertions conflict, both Bobby Beausoleil and Charlie have claimed that the murder of Gary Hinman was indeed a drug deal gone bad and not a strong-armed robbery as many have asserted. Bobby's story is that the Straight Satans were having their tenth anniversary party in Venice Beach, and that he wanted to be invited, so he tried to score "something different" to impress them. He claims that Gary was making mescaline from peyote in his basement and that he bought 1,000 tabs for $1,000. The next day, the angry bikers beat Bobby up and demanded their money back, which is why Bobby paid Gary a visit in the days before his murder on July 31, 1969. But since Bobby did not have any of the so-called bad drugs for Gary to test, Gary assumed that Bobby was trying to rip him off.
Bobby also asserts that Charlie did not order him to kill Gary and that he did not make the phonecall to Spahn that the police later discovered from Gary's telephone records. Rather, he claims that the girls, who were unaware of the purpose of the visit in the first place, called Charlie to say that they were in trouble and that Gary had a gun. This is why Charlie had Bruce Davis drive him from Spahn Ranch to Gary's house where he took Gary's gun away and cut his ear with a machete. Prior to Charlie's arrival, Bobby said that Gary had signed over the pink slips to his cars which Bobby was going to give to the bikers in lieu of the $1,000. According to his account, a gentleman's agreement had already been achieved before Charlie showed up and cut Gary, purportedly to protect the girls. Only after Charlie cut Gary did Gary threaten to go to the police, at which point Bobby said he "acted irrationally" and killed Gary.
Susan Atkins tells a different story when she says that the pink slips to Gary's cars were not turned over until two days later. Charlies version differs as well. He says that Bobby asked him what he should do about the bunk drugs and that Charlie told him to forget about it. Bobby however wanted to pay the visit to Gary because it was a matter of principle for him. When Charlie showed up, he cut Gary to show Bobby how to be a man at which point Charlie says the pink slips were turned over and he left. After he left, he claims that Gary said he was going to kill Charlie and so Bobby killed Gary first to protect his friend. Charlie claims that he never told Bobby what to do.
At some point, Gary's gun was fired since a bullet hole was found by police in the kitchen. No one can agree about when it actually went off, however. Stimson claims that although some things still don't make sense, no one says that they went there with the intention of killing Gary. "People don't normally administer first aid to their victims before killing them," he claims. The killing only occurred after Gary went back on his word to not go to the authorities over his slashed ear and therefore was not premeditated as the prosecution would have us believe. Stimson says that Bobby killed Gary to protect Manson. He killed for brother, just as Manson did when he believed he killed Crowe. Stimson is painting an overall picture here in which Charlie is not the father of a group of children who unquestioningly did his bidding: rather, they all had a more equal social and emotional relationship based on mutual love and reciprocity.
Chapters Eight and Nine: "Introduction to the Tate La Bianca Murders" and "The Murders on Cielo Drive
Stimson says very little about the murders on Cielo, save the following: They were not random, nor isolated, but part of a larger series of events that arose out of "illegal drug transactions gone awry, underworld favors owed, and an ill-conceived plan to divert police attention from a previous murderous occurrence." All four participants admit to what they did, but did Charlie really "mastermind" them? Charlie told Stimson that perhaps he did, but "unknowingly." Everyone remembers Charlie telling the girls to do whatever Tex said and to "leave something witchy." Charlie also remembers giving them the old pair of glasses to leave behind in order to cause confusion. While Tex remembers that Charlie specifically told him to kill the occupants of Cielo and in exactly what way, Stimson believes that Tex was either mistaken or outright lying. Future chapters are to elaborate on what Stimson believes the true motive was.
Stimson has a bit more to say about Waverly because each of the
participants' memories of what exactly happened differ much as they did
in the instance of Gary's Murder. More on that next time.
Welcome back to Patty's ongoing book report on George Stimson's very thoughtful Goodbye Helter Skelter. Today's installment covers the next ninety pages or so for your reading enjoyment. BTW, have you ordered your copy yet? If not, then get on it!
Chapter three: "On Sources, Methodology and Terminology"
George explains why he does not use Helter Skelter as source material (one sided and self aggrandizing), The Family (entertaining but irrelevant), or Manson in His Own Words (in Emmons' own words). He claims that the Indiana School for Boys' gang rape recorded in Emmons is completely fabricated, and that Charlie himself refers to the entire book as "bullshit." He also discounts Taming the Beast because the quotes attributed to Manson were not tape recorded or written down verbatim, they were paraphrased by the author.
Rather, George relies on taped interviews and conversations, letters, trial transcripts, and the websites of people who were involved like Tex's and Bobby's. He relies on speakers talking about themselves only, and refuses to use anonymous sources.
Here is where things get a little shaky. George is occasionally willing to "present possible motivations" for people when he feels that they are lying. For instance, he claims that when Susan Atkins told her cellmates that she tasted her victims' blood, it is reasonable to assume that she is lying because she was trying to scare them in order to protect herself. While this may seem reasonable, it seems to Patty that then he is venturing into territory where he should not be if he is attempting to be more objective than his predecessors. We shall see how this plays out as the book goes along.
Further complicating the methodology is the fact that since parole boards don't retry cases and must accept as true the courts findings, those hoping to be paroled must admit to guilt and could also therefore not be telling the whole truth. This might not be entirely intentional on the part of the participants. George quotes Pat Krenwinkel here when she said in 1993 that "sometimes I'm not sure who said what and what really happened because there is (sic) so many accounts from everyone."
Before the chapter ends, George vouches for Charles Manson's honesty when he says that he has never known him to lie, but only to be evasive. He claims that in "even Bugliosi has acknowledged Manson's honesty."
At the end of the chapter, Patty was left with an uneasy feeling that she hopes will dissipate some as the book progresses. After all, George has asks us that if we are to read the book, we read the entire thing, hear him out fully. Patty intends to do just that.
Chapter four: "The Mood of the Time"
This chapter is very densely packed with many details, and is nearly impossible to summarize. In fact, George has already summarized what was a very crazy and tumultuous few years into just a few pages which, if you are big on US History, pop culture, movies and/or music you will want to read very carefully for book, movie and album recommendations just as Patty did.
Patty is afraid to try and summarize what George wrote at all because of this passage near the middle of the chapter: "Although most written works...on the Manson case touch briefly on the mood of the time, it is really not enough to vaguely refer to "Flower Power" or the "Summer of Love" to fully explain the spirit of the late 1960's and early 1970's. That spirit cannot be conveyed into a soundbyte, for it was in fact derived from an accumulation of experiences and events that took place and affected people's minds...on a daily basis for years." Any attempt by Patty to boil down George's eloquent chapter into a paragraph or two would be doing just this: creating a soundbyte. Suffice it to say that Patty has received her marching orders to read up on topics that she still knows very little about like Eldridge Cleaver and the Black Panthers, the philosophy of Jerry Rubin, movies like Zabriskie Point and Alice's Restaurant, the "Is God Dead?" Time Magazine cover, the shooting of James Meredith and so on.
Chapter Five: "Spring 1967 to Summer, 1969"
This chapter is a chronology of the events leading up to the murders that is meant to illustrate the group dynamics and bonding between the members of Charlie's brigade. Much of it you are already familiar with but let's hit the highlights, shall we?
Shortly after his release from prison on March 21, 1967 Charlie traveled to the Bay are where he met Mary Brunner. They stayed only a few months before leaving for LA where they met Lynette Fromme in Venice Beach. The three traveled through Northern California through the spring and summer of that year, staying briefly at 636 Cole Street in the Haight Ashbury. In July, Charlie met Dean Moorheouse while hitchhiking, and the four were invited to stay with him for a time. Charlie was gifted a piano by a friend of Dean's which he sold in order to buy a VW camper van. By September, the four were in LA again, where they met Patricia Krenwinkel in Manhattan Beach. Back in San Francisco, they traded the camper van for a black bus with a stove, sink and water tank on top (what Little Paul likened to the bus' "hat") and added Susan Atkins to their group.
In November 1967, Charlie contacted producer Gary Stromberg whom he met through a prison contact (Phil Kaufman), and worked on an ill-fated movie about a black Jesus. He also recorded some music at Universal which was never released. While in LA they stayed at the Spiral Staircase where they met Bobby Beausoleil, Gary Hinman, Diane Lake, Nancy Pittman and Dede Lansbury. There were two abandoned houses they stayed in, Horsheshoe Lane (where Susan was given the nickname Sadie Mae Glutz during a fake ID brainstorming session) and Summit Drive where they met Bruce Davis, Little Paul, and Sandra Good (who had flown down from the Bay area in a private plane with a rich artist friend to sell paintings and go surfing).
Pooh Bear was born at Summit Drive on April 5, 1968 which concreted the group, George Stimson asserts, from a group of loose knit friends into more of a "family." By May, they were forced to move out because of pressure from local law enforcement. Sadie then heard about Spahn Ranch from someone who picked her up while hitchhiking. The group asked George Spahn if they could stay, and he agreed. Here is where the group picked up Steve Grogan (Clem), TJ Walleman and Catherine Share.
Around this time Dennis Wilson invited the group to stay with him after picking up Pat and Ella Jo Bailey while hitchhiking. Here, they met Brooks Poston and Tex Watson, who had picked up Dennis while hitchhiking home from Sunset Boulevard (hitchhiking seems to be a common theme through all of the meetings, doesn't it?). Dean Moorehouse was on the scene again when Mary, Susan and Pat moved north to where the famed Witches of Mendocino incident happened. Manson asked Dennis to bail the girls out but he demurred. Charlie made new Hollywood contacts through Dennis, namely Greg Jakobson and Terry Melcher. When Charlie wasn't given any royalties or writing credits for Cease to Exist (Cease to Resist), Stimson claimed that he soured on Hollywood and actually CHOSE to move out. The family was "glad to get back to the more natural way of living at Spahn's Ranch" to spurn the materialism of Hollywood in favor of their beloved environmentalism.
By July 1968, Paul Watkins was back from Big Sur, and on August 16 the Witches were released from custody in Mendocino. Susan gave birth to her son. Tex moved in to a tent at Spahn but continued to split his time between there and Hollywood where he sold wigs and marijuana. In November, he moved back to LA, failed his civil service exam, and met his fiance, Rosina Kroner. He also began selling LSD and returned to Spahn by March 1969, but continued to come and go as he pleased.
By Late August, 1968, Bobby arrived at the ranch with wife Gail and Leslie Van Houten. By September, Juanita Wildebush also arrived and donated her van and inheritance to the Family. Stimson claims that many, many people came and went, but that Charlie put conditions on none of them. He did have a way of getting rid of "troublemakers" with his "kill me, kill you" routine and by putting loathsome characters on a horse named Major to scare the shit out of them. Charlie claims that Susan caused a lot of trouble but he didn't have the heart to drive her off.
It became impractical for the group to stay at Spahn because of their burgeoning size and increased pressure from the law, so in October 1968 they drove out to the desert to check out Myers Ranch. Stimson claims that they got along just fine with the locals, like Emmett Harder, who thought well of them. When winter came, it got cold and harsh, so everyone but Paul, Brooks and Juanita moved in January 1969 to the house on Gresham Street in Canoga Park. Supposedly they didn't immediately return to Spahn's because Lynette and George Spahn had a fight. A month later however, Stimson says that Spahn invited them back again.
Danny DeCarlo arrived at the ranch in March, 1969. The group began their moneymaking schemes to get back to the desert, including the "Helter Skelter" nightclub in the Longhorn Saloon which the police quickly shut down. The stage was now set, says Stimson, for the "ill conceived underworld mis-dealings that would soon get out of control and escalate into literal matters of life and death."
"Leave Something Witchy" is a full-length graphic novel about the life of Charles Manson and his "Family". Chronicling Manson’s life from birth to his final arrest, months after the Tate/LaBianca murders.
Written and drawn by Randolph Gentile, Marvel and DC Comics letterer and creator of the critically acclaimed" Viral: A Slasher Comic", published by Comixology, "Leave Something Witchy"part 1, will be released in late 2015.
Randolph Gentile is available to answer questions in the comments section.
When I decided to write and draw "Leave Something Witchy", the story of Charlie Manson and the Family, I, like everyone on this blog and others who read a lot of true crime novels was fascinated by Charlie. To ask "what makes him tick" kick starts a journey into the human mind, America in the 1960s, drugs, runaways, the US prison system, music, Hollywood, Satanism, religion, and murder. More than enough material for a good story.
One appeal of the Manson story that always fascinated me is how he not only managed to attract wayward youth, but how many of those young people were capable of murder. What are the odds? There were communes all over California, none remembered for murder yet the group at Spahn Ranch managed to have 7 (at least) ready and willing killers.
How did Charlie bring that dark side out of these people? Is that dark side tucked away in all of us, able to surface if you were pointed in that evil direction? Charlie used a cocktail of LSD and quasi-religion to mold Tex, Sadie, Patricia and the others into killers.
But not everyone at Spahn was chomping at the bit to kill for Charlie. Some ran at the first drop of blood. So what was it about Tex that would pick up a knife and gun and lash out at "blobs" while others literally headed for the hills at Spahn and Death Valley? Maybe it wasn't Charlie's fault for what happened at Cielo and Waverly? But then, maybe it is… after all Leslie, Patricia, Tex, Sadie, Bruce Davis, were all model prisoners while an 80 year old Charlie still does time in the hole, yelling with a swastika tattooed between his eyes about the injustices thrust upon him.
You can turn this story in countless directions. That's what I find most fascinating about this story and it's why I've decided to embark on writing and drawing "Leave Something Witchy".
The first time I drew Sharon Tate, I, like most people that have seen her, was struck by her beauty. She's the prototypical Hollywood Beauty. When you draw someone you're forced to really look at them. Eyes being the most important part to capturing life in your drawing. As I drew Sharon's eyes for the first time I became incredibly saddened. Those eyes watched at Tex wrapped a rope around her neck. They watched Patricia Krenwinkel, knife in hand, chase her dear friend Abigail out of her house. Then they pleaded with Tex and Sadie to let her live… to let her have her baby… suddenly I'm not drawing the eyes of a beautiful actress, I'm drawing eyes that have seen unspeakable horror.
I kind of envy Vincent Bugliosi, Ed Sanders and the others who have written novels about that night. It's one thing to write about the murder of a pregnant woman. It's another to draw it.
This letter appears in a publication titled Squeaky's Scrapbook that was complied by Jack Stevenson. Though it's hard to find the original publication, I believe there are copies of it available somewhere.
"If you were surprised by the murders, you weren’t connected to what was going on in the canyon”
- Gail Zappa
"David (Briggs) chased Manson off the grounds of his Topanga house. Manson wanted his truck. David told him he’d shoot him if he didn’t get lost. Manson was scared of Briggs
- David Blumberg (Music Arranger)
I just finished a couple of older books in the last few weeks, and they got me to thinking about Manson again. I wasn’t really reading any of them for Manson-related reasons, but it doesn’t seem to matter much. Whenever I get into anything related to music or the Los Angeles area in the late 60’s- Charlie seems to make an appearance sooner or later. One of the books was about the music scene in and around Laurel Canyon. It had all the usual suspects. I read tales of Mama Cass Elliot and her rock and roll networking parties, and stories about Frank Zappa and the legendary “Log Cabin”. Once again, I wondered about the close proximity of the Cass Elliot residence to where two of the victims of TLB were living at the time.
In this first book, I read references made by Gail Zappa and music industry executives (such as Sally Stevens) to seeing Charlie and his friends at parties, and being in and around the scene. I had always believed that if there was any connection between the TLB murders and the music industry, it had to have had its roots in relationships forged during these times and in this place, where some of the people known to have associated with both the family and the victims socialized. I hung on to the little things I read—small pieces I had picked up here and there that told me members of the family had to have come into contact with certain people associated with the victims in Laurel Canyon; and yet, I could never come across any concrete evidence that Charlie had personally met anyone who was intimately involved with any of the major players of the Laurel Canyon musical fraternity.
There were things about Dennis Wilson, but that never seemed to get me anywhere beyond the time they spent having sex orgies at his house. Not sure that there is anything of real concrete value in relation to Dennis that we don’t already know, and it never seemed to directly tie Charlie to any other member of the music scene outside the Melcher/Wilson/Jakobson trilogy. The Wilson connection was essentially some great sex stories, and a nice final tab for Dennis along with a wrecked car or two. But aside from that, nobody else would admit to having anything to do with Charlie if it couldn’t be proven. Dennis himself wouldn’t talk about it after the murders. After all these years, and after reading almost all the TLB-related books, I had become convinced there would never be any direct admissions by any other players of any consequence of any dealings with Manson or his minions. But to steal a line from our favorite Prosecutor- it was otherwise, however, with the second book I read...
All quotes/excerpts below are taken from the biography "Shakey" by Jimmy McDonough.
"Topanga Canyon is a mere 25-minute drive from Hollywood and, in the late 60’s, was a universe apart from the glitz of the Sunset Strip. "It was like I was on speed and everyone else was on downers. People wore capes in Topanga".
- Writer Eve Babitz
Floods and fires brought hippies and rednecks together and earned it the nick-name- Haight Ashbury South: "It just exploded" - "it’s inaccessible except for one road so it became a microcosm of the best of the 60’s".
- Actor Dean Stockwell "There were theater groups, nudist colonies, and communes, plus a small thriving music scene centered around the Corral. Originally a country western hole-in-the-wall called Mickey’s Hideaway, the Corral was revamped by architect Ral Curran into a hippy nightclub complete with a large painting of a naked couple, entitled Pisces Dancing, hanging over the dance floor. Canned Heat, Taj Mahal, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Joni Mitchell all played at Corral, along with Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Biker Gang Satans Slaves called the Corral home, as did R&B great Big Joe Turner, who was booked into the club by beatnik "Topanga" Dick Ludwig, famous for his T-shirt proclaiming "Topanga Dick is not a social disease!" People would walk out into the parking lot with pitchers of beer, there would be drug connections up the street, people were screwing in the bushes, it was nuts. Just nuts."
"In addition to the other Topanga Crazies Young was meeting, at some point in 68 he encountered Charles Manson a few times. ( Curiously, Young and Manson share a November 12 birth date)"
Well, this is interesting to me for a couple of reasons. First, this must be the Corral where Charlie and Bobby’s band played their "Milky Way" gigs. Who knew they were in such heavy company? Second, I have read references to connections between the Family and Satan’s Slaves. A potential motive in Labianca ties this biker gang to a daughter of one of the victims through a boyfriend. As Charlie was only out for a short time in the big picture, and traveled a bunch as well, there was only so much time for him to have met all of the people he is tied to. We know that when he was at Spahn Ranch he was spending most of his free biker time with the Straight Satans. So if indeed Charlie did meet and form some type of relationship with Satan’s Slaves, was it here- during this period? This is the first thing I have ever read that puts both of them at the same place in the same time.
Also in this book, I came across an interesting character named David Briggs. He was the producer of almost every record Neil Young made with his side-band Crazy Horse. He lived in Topanga, and for a time while recording his earliest solo stuff- Neil Young lived with him at 1174 Old Topanga Road on his Ranch. They shared the place with the white dog you see on the cover of "Everyone Knows This is Nowhere". They hung around with guys like Louie Kelly. His parties were infamous. He was a charter member of the Topanga All-Stars, a loose congregation of 15 or so roughnecks who functioned as "Topanga's answer to the James Gang." The Topanga Allstars also congregated on the property. David Briggs had some unique personality traits. Here is a quote about life at Mr. Brigg's Ranch:
"They treated women like dirt. The whole macho cowboy thing. I have never heard anyone before refer to a woman as "old lady".
- That was said by Nils Lofgren, who was about to join the band. Here are a few more quotes about David Briggs:
"Briggs was evil, an evil individual. He looked like the devil. There was this anti-Semitic thing I used to get from David Briggs. He wasn't too crazy about Jews."
- Larry Kurzon (Agent and Manager)
"You put a hand right in front of David's face and you get a lot of respect out of him immediately. His mouth has written a lot of checks his ass can't cash."
- Kirby Cohee (Childhood friend)
"David was the master of committing women to slavery by putting them in left field. A true master of administering pure pain and gaining true love"
- Poncho Sampedro (Guitar player - Crazy Horse)
"One thing about David Briggs - even when you thought he was completely gone, he was always 100% there. Even when he was 100% stoned, 100% out of his mind, 100% lost on some fucking trip, he was still there. What was Brigg's job? I think he kept the chaos happening.
- Niko Bolas (Engineer)
Remind you of anyone? You wonder if Neil Young had encountered Charlie during this period if Neil and some of Neil's friends maybe had some influence on a struggling musician wannabe? When exactly did the vibes get darker for Charlie? Somewhere between the Magic Mystery Tour on the bus and Helter Skelter at Spahn Ranch, Charlie went from Mr. Lovey-Dovey to Apocalypse Now, and there wasn't a whole bunch of time in between. But, these times were in between. Who and what were the influences that caused this huge turnaround in Manson's priorities? The Beatles did all of that with a couple of records?
As for Neil Young, you can read the 700 plus pages for the rest of his story, but he certainly surrounded himself with some dark people. But I would ask if it was the darkness that Neil saw in Charlie? When exactly did they really meet? Was Charlie even showing dark signs back in Topanga in 68, if they crossed paths at that time? If Neil would admit to meeting Charlie several times, why not be honest about when? Certainly, some of what I read Neil say about the meetings didn't add up. It could be passing of time, selective memory, or who knows what else. If you listen to Neil Young, it is simple and he has figured it all out. Me? I am still not so sure. As always, with anything I read about this case, I walk away with as many questions as answers. But you haven't read all of this for my feelings and thoughts. Here are Neil Young's:
"We just hung out. He played some songs for me, sittin in Will Rogers old house, on Sunset Blvd. Dennis had a house there, and I visited Dennis a couple of times… Charlie was always there. I think I met him two, maybe three, times. Spent the afternoon with him. Dennis and all those girls - Linda Kasabian, Squeaky Fromme. The girls. They only paid attention to Charlie. Dennis and I felt like we weren't there, o.k.? Now that may not seem that unusual, but it is. Because both Dennis and I were known. The girls couldn't see us. He seemed uptight, a little too intense. Frustrated artist. Spent a lot of time in jail. Frustrated songwriter. Singer. Made up songs as he went along. New stuff all the time, no two songs were the same. I remember playing a little guitar while he was making up songs. Strong will, that guy .I told Mo Ostin about him- Warner Brothers. This guy is so unbelievable - he makes songs up as he goes along, and they are all good. Never got any further than that. Never got a demo. Glad he didn't get around to me when he was punishing people for the fact he didn't make it in the music biz. That's what that was all about. Didn't get to be a rock and roll star, so he started wiping people out. Dig that."
Q: What would have happened if he had got signed?
"Well, he would have probably gotten pissed off at them. He was an angry man. But brilliant. Wrong, but stone brilliant. He sounds like Dylan when he talks. He is like one of the main movers and shakers of the time- when you look back at Jesus and all those people. Charlie was like that. But he was kind of…. skewed. You can tell by reading his words. He's real smart. He's very deceptive though. Tricky. Confuses you. Crosby was scared to death of doing Revolution Blues. He didn't think it was safe to do it. Didn't want people to get the message you know- about Rock and Roll stars being worse than lepers. Didn't want that vibe out there."
Q: Are some people just Evil?
"Some people's lives are evil. I think people are receptacles- evil and good are out there. We either pick up on one or the other. I mean Well, if you're talking about intensity, and you're talking about somebody who you don't why they get to ya - look at Charlie."
So it seems like they certainly spent some time together. Not sure Linda was around when they were at Dennis Wilson's and Neil sure had a pretty specific opinion of someone he barely met. But there could be good reasons for those types of things... What is more important to me is that this erases any doubts that Charlie had met, at least, one of the major players in the music scene outside of Dennis Wilson. If Neil young is wrong about where/when, that makes it a bit more interesting to me as well..
Sometime in the couple of years (total) that Manson was free in between jail sentences, he formed some relationships and connections that, in addition to various influences he came under, I believe, led to the motive for the TLB murders. I think the motive had its roots in the scene he first flirted with, and aspired to, before things went South. I always assumed that Laurel Canyon was the most fertile soil for those seeds to have been planted. But, it seems that in my obsession over Laurel Canyon- I may have overlooked another Canyon just a few miles away. Topanga appears to have been another place in the late 60's in California where only no sense seemed to make any sense at all...
-All the very best from Your (You're?) Favorite Saint ;)
Patty is finally going to crank out a synopsis of George Stimson's very interesting book (which RFoster1 mailed to her) for you, the readers, one hunk at a time. Enjoy, but please don't settle for just these Cliff's Notes (or Patty Notes as the case may be). Patty encourages you to think for yourself and to do that you must also read for yourself. Anywhoo, here goes: Acknowledgements. George's acknowledgements read like a who's who of the Manson world. Patty says Manson here, not TLB, or HTLB, or SHTLB or what have you with good reason. Stimson is firmly on Charlie's side of the fence but please do not call him a follower, because he is not. More on that later. Anyhow, acknowledgements include his personal friends and associates, most of whom he has stayed with at least once and more often many times including Shreck and LaVey, Bougas, Aes Nihil, Emmett Harder, Walleman, Gillies, Bartell, Good, Fromme and of course Manson himself.
Author's Note. George writes that most of his book was already written by 1999. He has since done additional research but didn't change much of what he already had because "What was true in 1999 (and in 1969, for that matter), is still true today."
Chapter One: "Preface: Why Write This Book?" George claims that he intends to present a totally different, new point of view based on his 25+ years of research. He writes quite simply that "The premise of this book is that...Helter Skelter is a fantasy." A secondary premise he concedes might be that Charles Manson has no legal culpability for what happened because he was NOT the mastermind that Bugliosi made him out to be. Charles is not a nice guy, but neither is he "evil incarnate." The killers, he writes, have ceased to be mere criminals, but are now "monsters beyond human comprehension" presumably because "it is now more advantageous to keep Manson...locked up forever as a permanent sign that the authorities are doing their jobs." Finally, he asks of the reader, "If you read this book, please read it all." Chapter Two: "Who Am I?" This chapter is a short autobiography and chronology of events that made George the Manson expert that he is, today. Though more conservative than many of his peers, he was still a child of the times and admittedly "experienced" in the Jimi Hendrix sense of the word. George was a college senior majoring in German when Squeaky crossed paths with President Ford in 1975. He read Helter Skelter first, like most of us did, but found it largely unbelievable. He began to devour all of the movies and books and videos and newspaper articles he could find on the topic, and amassed quite a body of material. Sanders, he writes, was even less believable to him than Helter Skelter. Conversely, Shreck's first Manson File of 1988 made a lasting impression on him in terms of credibility and reasonableness. It was Shreck that ensured a letter that George wrote to Charles Manson made it up to the top of the pile. When Charlie wrote George back for the first time, he referred to him as Saint George, in case you were wondering where that nickname came from. About this same time, he helped to film the movie "Charles Manson Superstar" and can actually be seen in some of that footage.
In 1990, George was introduced to Sandy Good, who was looking for high quality videotapes which George was in possession of. At the time, Sandy was still on probation and living in Bridgport, VT. George visited her there and stayed for three days in the fall of 1990. Towards the end of 1991, Sandy finished her probation and moved to Hanford, CA. George also moved to California from Ohio by the end of that year and began writing to Lynette Fromme who was in the federal prison in Marianna, FL.
It was also in 1991 that George first began meeting with Charlie at Corcoran. Of their meetings, George says that he was personally transformed. Though their relationship was limited to the visiting room there, they met over 200 times in 10 years. George claims that he knew Charlie better than anyone aside from Sandy in those years. As a result, he became sensationalized in the media as a brainwashed follower, a white supremacist, a satanist, an arsonist, and a murderer. He was and is none of these things. He was insulted and threatened by strangers on the internet and in mailings to his home. His house was watched and filmed. He was interrogated by the Secret Service. He was even impersonated. This, he says, gave him a true appreciation for what Charles Manson and his associates had experienced for the past 30 years.
This last bit really gets to Patty because even writing for this little tiny blog, she has experienced a lot of these same things from total strangers. It is definitely transforming. Patty is developing sympathy for George already after just the first two chapters, and can't wait to read what he has to say next. Tune in next time, won't you? Or better yet, get yourself a copy and we will all discuss in the comments. Until then...
I have just been to your website and read the page about me. I wanted to write and express my feelings on this matter. I would also like for you to publish this letter on your website as a sort of "my story" type of thing. I realize it is your website and you are free to publish whatever you want. I also would like to thank you for not releasing any information that you have about me.
I have been living a quiet life for the past 30 years. I have been blessed well beyond what I have deserved. I have a great husband who I adore, a job I love, and sons who are my whole being. But there have been many tragedies along the way. I am not trying to make anyone feel sorry for me, I am merely trying to "set the stage" for what has become of my life.
I received my first email from Bill back in July. I admit that it hit me out of the blue. I had seen his website and had also seen him interviewed on television. I didn't know what to expect. I hadn't talked about those years of my life for a long, long time. Indeed, my own children don't know my history. I have been up front with them about the drug use and basically told them I lived in a "commune". They have no idea I was with Manson.
I tried to explain to Bill my reluctance to "speak out" because it had been so long. I have been living quietly with this for almost thirty years. Old habits are hard to break. For a moment put yourself in my shoes. Have you ever tried to explain to a plastic surgeon why you have an ‘X' on your forehead in the first place? I have had all these feelings bottled up tight for many years. I have been to professional counseling for years. I can't talk to my friends about it. Real friends will understand? Wrong! I know from firsthand experience that is not the case. I have tried "opening up" before and have had people (special people) walk out of my life because of it. Welcome to my life.
I told Bill this story. I live in a VERY small town. One cold night, I couldn't sleep. I flipped on the TV and there happened to be a Sharon Tate movie (DON'T MAKE WAVES) showing. I cried the rest of the night. I think about it all the time. Not a day goes by when I don't think back wishing the whole thing was some awful dream. But it wasn't a dream. I know that. I can't change it, although I would if I could.
Barbara Hoyt. I think about her and wish that there was something I could do to ease her pain. What I did was despicable. I am ashamed. But again, I can't take back something I did 30 years ago. The reason I never apologized to Barbara through email to Bill is quite simple. I can't fully express my feelings in words. I feel it is something that needs to be done face to face. At this time however, Bill has told me that Barbara doesn't want some type of overly emotional reunion to be blasted all over the talk shows. I feel the same way. Like I said, I think about Barbara on a daily basis. What happened with her has kept me up nights for 30 years thinking about what could have been a very tragic outcome. I am truly sorry.
After reading Bill's website update about me, I felt compelled to give my side of the story. Bill has been getting a bad rap on the message boards and I probably shouldn't have "popped off" the way I did. As far as I know, he hasn't spilled any information about me. Basically, everything happened too fast for me. Much too fast. I wanted to set the record straight and give insight into my decision to do what I did.
OK Bill. What do you think? Can you publish that letter in full? I picked up the ball in my court and have passed it to you.
I am sure most of you have studied the above photo, and though a lot about what it meant. I sure have. What year this photo was taken, I haven't a clue, but from the hair style, it looks to me like it might be late 70's early 80's at the most. The question I would like answered is this: WHAT THE FUCK is she doing with her hand? Is it an "M?" If so, does that mean an "M" for Manson? Could it be something else, like some secret, woman club she had at the prison? Could it be a "W" for woman? An "M" for Manwich? What? Aiy!
In the second photo, we have another weird, hand thing going on. Of course, this photo is of Manson himself, and he always has a secret riddle to figure out. He isn't a "beat around the bush" type of guy, unless we are talking about something else. You know what I mean. Observe, and please let me know if you think it could be connected.
I do believe the third photo below was taken at the same time as the one above, but maybe a few seconds before or after. Same hand thing, though.
And last, but not least, we need to talk about the horrendous wound that was "carved" on poor Leno LaBianca. Out of respect for the victim, I really don't want to have to publish the whole photo of his body, so I will just show the "W" or whatever it is. The "W" on that wound looks an awful lot like the hand signal that Manson & Pat were sharing in photos.
What do these mean? Has anyone ever asked Manson, or Pat? Well, now that I think about it, you'd probably get a bullshit answer from them anyway. Ya know, I am surprised nobody has brought that up at Pat's parole hearings. Then again, there isn't any real "proof" that she was doing it out of an alliance to Manson. Shall we discuss?
by Larry Giddings, anti-authoritarian Prisoner of War
Introduction: The Anti-Authoritatian Movement & Political
by Anarchist Black Cross (Toronto)
When we mount a movement to challenge power we must expect and prepare for repression as a matter of course. The resurgence of anti-authoritarian organizations has paralleled a general increase in militancy among progressive forces in North America. The predictable state response to this militancy has been increased repression, including political imprisonment.
There are currently well over 100 political prisoners and prisoners of war held in North American prisons, representing many diverse political movements. Among these are Native Americans, Puerto Rican independistas, Black/New Afrikan nationalists, white anti-imperialists and anti-nuclear, ecological, and animal liberation activists. There are also anarchist/autonomist/anti-authoritarian prisoners-- captured activists from our own movement.
The further development and defense of our movement requires building an effective and consistent response to the state's repressive actions. Providing moral, political and material support for those on trial and for long imprisoned activists, aiding their families, learning how to protect ourselves from arrest; these are all things we as individuals and as a movement can and should be involved in.
Let us introduce you to one of our comrades, Larry Giddings, captured by state forces in 1979. Larry is imprisoned-- but still actively participating in our movement-- today.
Larry was born October 6, 1952, in Rosstal, Germany. His mother is Silesian/German and his father is of various European and North American extractions. Larry spent his early years and some teens in Germany. He spent approximately eight years attending school and living in Maryland, USA, until dropping out of high school.
Larry was wounded during a shoot-out and arms expropriation with four others on August 21, 1971, in Los Angeles, California. He was arrested at the scene. Larry's legal/political defense focused on the need for armed struggle against the US government and judicial system and the liberation of prisoners. Upon conviction, he received a 20 years to life sentence. New laws, and his status as a "first-time felon", resulted in his parole after seven years. Larry spent more than a year on parole, working and living with a multi-cultural, political, food, and prisoner support collective involved in progressive work in the San Francisco Bay area. He later began clandestine activities.
On October 14, 1979, Larry was again wounded and captured along with Bill Dunne (an anti-authoritarian POW currently incarcerated in Terre Haute, Indiana) during the liberation of a comrade from a Seattle, Washington jail. Convicted of aiding an escape, the shooting of a policeman, bank expropriations (used for funding their activities), and conspiracy, he received multiple sentences of life in prison and 75 years, all consecutive. He has no known parole opportunities.
Since his imprisonment, Larry's anti-authoritarian commitment, non-nationalist political analysis and continuing activism, has resulted in police repression against himself and his friends. Imprisonment has not stopped Larry from making important contributions to the anarchist/anti-authoritarian movement. Supplementing this activism, Larry completed BA degrees in Sociology and Psychology with the University of Kansas. He is presently working towards the completion of an MA degree in Sociology, in the area of social movements.
In Larry's view, anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism are integral to the anti-authoritarian analysis and practice. In Larry's own words:
"I seek a world where people live without cultural, racial, or national oppression. This can only happen in a non-nation-state world, a world without borders. My most inspirational historical example is that of the Seminole struggles of the 1800's, in Northern Florida, Oklahoma, and finally in Northern Mexico and Texas. Indigenous People of various nations, Afrikans (both free-born and escaped from slavery), "renegade" Europeans and Maroons (ship-wrecked sailors and rebels from around the world) united under the banner of the Seminole and and resisted the imperial slavocracy of the US for decades. Some of these Seminole People continue to struggle to this day. These "Seminole Wars", as they are called, are filled with examples of non-authoritarian structures, multi-cultural developments and autonomy between a number of cultures united in struggle. It is from these roots that I believe a truly dynamic and successful movement for a socially and ecologically sound world will arise. A respect for the Indigenous People of the world and the environment is a primary step in creating this world."
Have we supported Larry or has Larry supported us? Sometimes it is hard to differentiate. Certainly we have learned a lot from Larry and are priveleged to have worked with him. He remains unquestionably a part of our movement.
Support for political prisoners and prisoners of war in North America is minimal: their existence is all but unacknowledged. Recognition of and support for anarchist/autonomist/anti-authoritarian prisoners is even more limited. For years people like Larry Giddings have received little or no support from anti-authoritarians. Indeed, Larry's existence is unknown to most of us even though he has contributed greatly to our movement both before and since his capture. There is a growing movement within North America to recognize, support, and publicize the plight of political prisoners and POWs We as anti-authoritarians have a responsibility to ensure that both captured comrades such as Larry, and anarchist/anti-authoritarian organizations on the outside are included as a force within this movement.
Anarchist Black Cross (Toronto)
By Larry Giddings
From within the primal ooze of social-political labelling I have, for a number of years, chosen "anti-authoritarian" as my own. Those that prefer specificity have argued that this term is not descriptive enough and does not declare a "particular" poltical evolution. Bandits, rebels, street gangs, "free speechers", Jeffersonian constitutionalists, untutored and politically unsophisticated teenagers in rebellion, anti-communists, undiscplined rabble, counter-culturists, libertarian socialists, democratic socialists, social democrats, council communists, syndicalists, anarcho-syndicalists, anarcho-marxists, anarcho-communists, anarcho feminists... and more, can all be considered "anti-authoritarian". Oh, just so you think I forgot, anarchists, little 'a', and big 'A' are considered anti-authoritarians. "Why can't I use one of the more 'acceptable' labels, one with a more distinctly 'left' connotation?", they ask.
Unfortunately, I found the term - anarchist - lacking as well. I'm not alone in this observation. The term "autonomist" has appeared in recent decades as a response to the perceived differences between "classical" anarchists, and younger more contemporary anti-authoritarian activists. In Europe, the original organizations of many thought to be extinct political ideologies are still alive. Small, they may be, but they are still around. So, younger anti-authoritarians/anarchists felt compelled to develop different organizational methods and their label. Similarly, having described myself as being part of the anarchist persuasion during the early '70s, it has been a circuitous route to the term anti-authoritarian.
"Anarchist", is generally accepted to mean: without authority, or without ruler. In that sense, especially - without ruler - I am, most certainly, an anarchist.
However, life isn't nearly so simple, and, as with most other labels, the term - anarchist - has become "value laden". Which means that when people read or use the term - anarchist - they readily identify it with particular ideological, social, historical images they have carefully or unconsciously filed in their brains. For the unconscious, the greatest majority of people, it represents everything from bearded bomb-throwing radicals, to pipe-smoking armchair idealists. For those with some political and historical knowledge, those who carefully file their definitions, an anarchist is someone that doesn't believe state power is the object of struggle with the dominant social order but, a socially responsible and autonomous humanity - is - the object of struggle.
At this point, the waters become rather murky. There are nearly as many definitions of anarchy as there are anarchists! Labourists and syndicalists view the General Strike as the jumping off point in the creation of a classless, racismless society; to others, a committment to the removal of technology, and anti-industrialism is the mark of a "true" anarchist. Any support for a national group or "nationalist" movement precludes one from being an anarchist, to others. Situationists, post- Situationists, social ecologists, social anarchists, anarcho- marxists, Christian anarchists, pagan anarchists - fill in the blanks. All definitions of "true" anarchists are based on good analysis.
Excuse ----- me!!! As a poor, mostly self-educated, imprisoned, non-dues paying member of any organization, or adherent to a specific anarchist "program", I conceded. O.K.!! Maybe I am not really an anarchist. Maybe, I should take a step backward and, dipping into the primordial ooze of labelling, find something not so insulting to true anarchists. So, I did. A friend, some years ago, suggested that I was an "eclectic" anarchist; since, I do believe that good ideas can come from most anywhere and good people even moreso. Then, there is the term "autonomous". "Autonomous", in the European sense, has been used to describe non-communist party dominated socialist and communist groups, as well as the ever more popular "autonomes" of Germany. The autonomes include many perspectives in its non-ranks. The term - autonomous - is still largely unknown in the u.s. So, anti-authoritarian was the term that seemed to work best.
Like most of us, my journey began as a "rebel", pure and simple. Against family, against school, against "adults", against most anything that got in my way of achieving some personal enjoyment and development in life. I left "home", left school, and dropped-in to the world at a large, to find all the impediments multiplied. Firstly, I recognized "ageism" as a repressive cultural force. Secondly, I left the "family", as an incubator of the state, was the most repressive institution. Thirdly, the state, the enforcer of economic disparity and manager of all other institutions, the inhibitor of change, was the target of my rebellion.
Within the structure of the state, I swiftly recognized the police and "criminal justice" system as the immediate arm of state authority. I was very clear on this when I was 14, 15, 16 years old. I had read lots of history, been active in street actions in Germany and preparing for armed action in the u.s. from 16 to 17 years of age. There was no doubt in my mind that armed revolution was needed to affect any real change in this system. I had learned, all too well, as the son of a career army sergeant, that force was the only thing that the state understood. Living near Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Annapolis, I witnessed - all too often, the results of "peace demonstrations" and sit-ins, and civil rights marches, not to mention anti-war demos. Discussion was out of the question. I wasn't willing to lay down and let the state, or anyone else, beat me bloody, attack me with its dogs and shoot me, without fighting back.
My less than perfectly executed expropriation of arms, to pass out to liberated prisoners and a good number of 16-18 year olds, much like myself, in L.A., in 1971, landed me in prison for 7 years. I spent those years evaluating myself and my actions and my goals. I had recognized a youth movement, armed youth including Black Panthers, Brown Berets and American Indian Movement (A.I.M.) activists, and others, and headed in the same direction. But, I had not worked closely with any of them. Mistrust between groups of activists, separtism: political and cultural, active campaigns by various police agencies (including the F.B.I.'s COINTELPRO program), served to support our already deeply taught "need" to function as separate communities. Except for fairly isolated events, such as the occupation of Wounded Knee, this idea of the necessity of racial/cultural separtism remained a dominant theme, especially in the armed revolutionary communities. Ideologically, I proclaimed anarchism as a goal. In practice, I operated nearly as separately as nationalists. Still, I rejected dictatorships of any kind.
In prison, from '71 to '78, I read, like a lot of prisoners. Amongst that mass of printed words, I began to read "feminist" literature. It was easy to identify with many issues raised by feminists. As the oldest son of working parents, I had been responsible for the care and keeping of house and brothers. Don't you know I hated being trapped, both as a servant and as a youth, with virtually no rights in this society. Children were, and still are, "property" of their parents, genetic parents or otherwise. The "law" treats them equally shabby. This study of women's writings and political analysis led me to recognize "gender" as a special category of social/political relations, other than economic class and age. Likewise, feminists pointed out, correctly, that it had been women who have provided the backbone and sustenance of nearly all movements. In the anarchist community, ecological issues, childcare and education, healthcare, the anti-war/anti-nuclear movements, anti-racism and prison abolition have been issues fought for - daily - by women. As the numerically largest class of poor, single women with children of all races - bare the brunt of the state's oppression. They struggle with these issues, whether they are "popular" or not. While men often "struggle" for a short period of time, and then abscond, women, especially those with children, have no choice but to continue to confront the state in all its forms. Also the women's movement of the '60s and '70s reaffirmed and expanded the concept of the "affinity group", an anarchist form of organization, in which small groups of compatible people function in a largely egalitarian manner - without hierarchical "command" structures.
In prison, I swiftly observed racial separation as a constant source of misunderstanding, and felt all such "separatism", national, or otherwise, as divisive. We could not change this society, as anarchists, or anything else, while observing and participating in tacit agreement with social and cultural apartheid - u.s. style. It was in these years I rediscovered a favourite historical period of mine. Instead of just an isolated period of "history", my experiences led me to realize the deeper social and political significance of the "Seminole Wars" of the early 1800s. This committment to a consciously multi-cultural, non-nationalist struggle, rather than an amorphous anarchism, propelled me to enter a collective that reflected that committment upon my parole in 1978.
This collective held property in common, supported prison abolition and prisoners' needs, women's struggles, and members were from a variety of cultures and races. Study of revolutionary political material was a constant and reflected the various origins of those involved. Anarchists, Marxists and socialists of several varieties, lived, worked and struggled for individual growth and with each other, as well as against the state. It was an "eclectic" community.
Twenty months after parole, I was captured in Seattle, for the attempted liberation of a prisoner. Once again - I was in prison. My time on the streets had gone much too fast. While recognizing other groups and struggles as necessary, I had focussed on a fairly narrow spectrum of activity. No strong alliances had a chance to grow in such a short time. The continuing destruction of the small armed "left" groups in this country and my personal experiences, caused me to look more closely at the relative isolation of many peoples and struggles. An anarchist, global revolution against the nation-state formation, must begin somewhere. It must survive to struggle. I began to re-evaluate my thoughts, actions and focus. Once again, I returned to the study of the Seminole formations. In doing so, I found a greater commitment to Indigenous, Native American, Indian struggles was necessary.
Recognizing genocide, colonialism and ongoing destruction of Indigenous People and their ideas as a historical fact, is one thing, implementing that knowledge in a meaningful way - is another. Rather than just acknowledging that genocide and colonialism exist, we need to actively struggle against it, now. Many Native Americans may not call themselves "anarchist", but many are, clearly, anti-authoritarian in views and practice. Instead of relying on European historical example, they rely on their long Indigenous history. Recognizing that much of what modern and 18th and 19th century activists call - anarchism - is in a large way a result of interaction between European intellectuals and Native American societies - is of paramount importance in this process. Closer interaction with and support of Native struggles clearly added "self-determination and autonomy" for Native people to my list of goals, along with the recognition that they have historical reasons for wishing to organize separately.
Feminism, Women's Studies, gender as a special category of oppression, led me to identify and accept struggle against other specific forms of oppression as valid. Recognition that Black/New Afrikan, Puerto Rican, Mexicano Peoples, and others also share specific and different historical, intellectual and social realities, swiftly followed. This recognition, in other than just an abstract way, is not "truly" anarchist, I have been informed on many occasions.
However, I would hold that the Seminole struggles were anti-authoritarian in practice, and perhaps even anarchist in reality. Rather than a mere ideological/philosophical position of "globalism", or a theoretical "anti-capitalism", or "alternative economy", or "utopian" multi-racial/multi-culturalism, -- they actually practiced, lived, loved and fought with those principles in the real world. Unlike many European based anarchist, and anti-authoritarian movements and struggles, which attempted to deny their own cultural imperatives, those that struggled in the Seminole way acknowledged and accepted their own special relations and histories. Rather than a false-universalism - one which excluded those that sought autonomy within their own movement, they practiced a true one.
Rejecting a "romantic" view of Native American struggles is a requirement before learning the lives and struggles of People as real. If, we tear away the mythology and romantic view of "Indians living with nature", we find a revolutionary movement in the Seminole. A movement evolving out of the "Red Stick" movement shortly preceding it, as well as the social political struggles of Europe in regard to wars, growing industrialism and the social theories and movements in England and France, there can be little doubt that the Seminole knew of these struggles. Seminoles had alliances with every class of people in the young united states, especially among the anti-slavery/abolitionist movements, allies in Europe, and the Caribbean. Furthermore, Florida was still a Spanish colony, though, in reality, the Spanish dominated only a few towns and some coastal areas. A number of Seminoles fought in battles and struggled with others as far north as Connecticut. Native Americans had been kept as slaves in Georgia and the Carolinas, at some points it was considered "illegal" to have Afrikans enslaved, but "legal" to enslave Indians. Their legal status shifted back and forth. But, the link between the "cimmarones" (Spanish for: wild and runaway), Maroon communities and others became stronger as they helped more and more people to escape from bondage and build a new society, one which might eventually be able to free territory in other areas, including Central America and Venezuela. Cimmarones became known as Seminoles.
De-centralized, participatory communities, multi-cultural and separatist communities, autonomous decision making and plans of action, caused the Seminole allies to be an incredibly committed and versatile foe to the u.s. The u.s. government's actions against this grouping was the most costly ever fought here, except for the Civil War of the 1860's. Some bands, ones that refused to submit, still exist. Others fled to the islands, migrated and mixed in with local populations, or were removed to Oklahoma, as members of the Seminole People. Still others escaped the reservation and fled to Mexico, where they waged a running war with the u.s. for decades more. Some bands still live in Mexico.
In my attempts to translate these events and my own experiences, I have observed the following: whether I recognize non-anarchist, nationalist, separatist struggles, or not, they are in existence. By ignoring their existence, because of some principle of - pre-agreement, a requirement that these struggles reflect my own notion of a non-nation-state future and multi- cultural struggle, I am ignoring history and the reality of their day to day lives. By ignoring their existence, and ignoring their struggle against what are most often our mutual oppressors, I ignore my own desire for a non-nation-state future. "Globalism", de-centralized social and economic systems, non-nation-state formations, will only come about through struggle. Through struggling together, trust and confidence in our ability and commitment to our dreams, is communicated. "Globalism", must come about through mutual understanding. It will not be imposed. A culture of anti-authoritarian struggle is necessary.
Anarchism, as a body of literature and activity which opposes centralized state domination of social political life, is growing ever larger. In recognition of the vastness of the sea of material available and the swamp of views represented, I have used the label - anti-authoritarian - to keep the door, so to speak. There is every reason to allow people to grow and learn and make additions to anti-authoritarian theory and practice. If we narrow our movement to some narrowly defined "true" anarchism, we have excluded many of those we wish to, or claim to wish to, communicate with. Young people, in particular, are much more open to the need for a multi-cultural practice than those of my own generation, for instance. It matters less, to me, that young activists understand every nuance of the struggles between historical anarchism and marxism, in its intricacy and confusion, than their day to day practice of an anti-authoritarian nature. None of us, not one, were suddenly endowed with all of this information. To expect young, or old, activists, to suddenly understand what took many of us decades to compile, or even to agree with it, is ludicrous, to say the least. In fact, it is from this new generation of activists that a new language of global struggle will emerge. The assuredly "Euro-centric" language and practice of anti-authoritarian/anarchist theory, is in for a very healthy, and long-overdue, infusion of life.
In effect, I would rather be called anti-authoritarian and spend my time and energy struggling to build a non-nation-state world, than to argue to infinity about the definition of a "true" anarchist. Either -anarchism- has the ability to retain an evolutionary approach to problems, analysis and struggle, or it will be rejected by yet another generation of activists, in favour of quick-fix, short-term, pseudo-democratic and authoritarian alternatives. Those that wish to trap themselves in an ideologically suicidal classicalism, may do so. I, for one, reject that crystalization of thought and practice, which would doom the fertile and living body of knowledge and experience we call anarchism, and, yes, anti-authoritarian.
Let us practice globalism. Let us be real, sincere, and effective allies to each other. Whether active in anti-nuclear, ecology, anti-racism, squatting, prison abolition, anti-colonialism, cultural movements, women's movements or others it is time to recognize each other. Practice the knowledge we have confidence in. Confidence. A lack of fear that contact with "others", somehow - unlike ourselves, will destroy us, or take away our knowledge, change us. Confidence will build flexibility. False confidence and fear, create rigidity. Can we reaffirm anarchism's roots by becoming anti-authoritarian? I hope so.
Write to Larry:
Larry W. Giddings
PO Box 1000
(published by Arm The Spirit)
And his supporters:
Arm the Spirit
Burlington, VT 05402-1242 U$A
Anarchist Black Cross (Chicago)
Chicago, IL 60681 U$A