Monday, May 19, 2014

Penny Daniels on her epic Manson interview in 1989

Most of us remember this interview conducted by Penny Daniels, then the anchor of Inside Report which was nationally syndicated. The Manson interview was their first big interview, designed to promote the newly syndicated show. Inside Report was syndicated for a year – from 1989 to 1990. The interview has since become a YouTube Manson classic.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Ms. Daniels, who is no longer in the media and is now a partner in a major communications consulting and coaching firm with offices located across the country.


These are Ms. Daniels' recollections as told to me in her own words:

I remember it was a beautiful morning, not too hot but very, very sunny. My photographer Dale and I took some kind of a shuttle boat to get to San Quentin, which is on a peninsula near San Rafael, California. It was great being on the water,  knowing I was about to go into a twilight zone of sorts.

When we arrived, we had to go through a lot of security to get inside.  San Quentin is quite an imposing structure, very historic, huge, and daunting. Built in the 1850’s, it is the oldest prison in California.  Manson was only at San Quentin for a brief time. He was transferred out to another California prison later that year (1989.)  I feel fortunate that I was able to interview him there because the boat ride, the history, the massive imposing structure all contributed to the mystique of that day for me. Once inside they put us in a small room with a large table and two chairs.  I sat down at the table to wait. Two guards were stationed in there with us – both in front of the table, in the left and the right corners of the room. There was also a PR guy there, he stood in the left hand corner in back of me, and Dale was in back with the camera on the right.

After awhile, Manson was brought in – in shackles – hands and feet, sunglasses on. They took off the handcuffs and leg cuffs immediately and he stood there at the door looking at me, saying "where is the French guy? Are you the French guy?" Very abrupt.  I was scared but I said "do I look like a guy to you?"  You can see that part of the tape, it's all over the Internet. I was young (early 30's) and good looking in those days if I do say so.  It wasn't like I was na├»ve – I had been reporting for years by that time, and seen a lot, but I still looked young and too pretty to be taken seriously. So I had to act tough, which I did.  After I said that Manson proceeded to tell us that he had been promised a tape of the interview by some French reporter – he wanted to send the tape to his "old lady" (who turned out to be Squeaky Fromme). I honestly cannot remember if we promised to do that or said we didn't know or said no…..in any case he decided to do the interview and sat down. Then the fun began.  I know you have access to the complete interview so I won't bore you with the details, but there were several things that went through my mind:

He was a mass of highly focused, wiry energy. I felt that he could jump across the table and strangle me if he wanted to and no one could stop him – not one of the 4 men in the room could match his strength – despite the fact that he was short and skinny – tiny, almost – he appeared to weigh about 100 pounds So small was he that I felt technically I could actually "take" him – I was pretty strong – but he seemed strong way out of proportion to his size.

He was either very, very smart or very very crazy or very very wily or a great actor, or most likely, all of the above. He was hypnotic. You sort of went into a trance listening to him. I could see why impressionable young people would follow him.

He was at times malevolent, at times sort of normal acting, other times laughing maniacally, other times serious and sincere.  He was full of drama and performance – jumping up to dance, shouting and screaming unexpectedly (clearly designed to startle me).  I did however believe that it was mostly an act that he had performed before.

He did make a lot of sense at times. People don't want to hear this, but some of what he said made a lot of sense. For example, he kept saying "I wasn't there that night. I was up in (some northern California county) in bed with some broad" but they have pinned the whole thing on him. You do start to think about why is this man so much more vilified than any other villain? But more so he made sense when saying things like "I'm not in prison you're in prison." I asked him if he ever hoped to get out of there, and he said "do I ever hope to get out of here? I'm out. You're in. Your little world of sane is a prison." Then he sort of went on about the world of the mind and how he was free in the world of the mind and I was not. Honestly when you're listening to him it kind of makes sense.  Because we all do sort of live in our little boxes, some more than others. And we do sort of imprison ourselves, forcing ourselves to color inside the lines.  It's the nature (and for some, the burden) of living in society. A burden Charles Manson does not have to carry.

He's got quite an act. I did think it was bullshit when he kept talking about ATWA – Air, Trees Water and Animals. But who knows? Maybe he has become an environmentalist of sorts in prison. One more thing I do remember. He talked a lot about music. He kept saying "I played music, that’s why young people were around me, it was the music." He denied they were his “family;" he said they were kids who wanted to listen to the music. He also said that he wasn’t of their generation, he wasn't a hippie, that wasn't true, he said he was much older than they (well maybe 10 or 12 years? Not sure.) And that he was more about the 50's than the 60's. He basically said all he cared about was music – and ATWA. He did say at one point that it "wasn’t his problem" if kids took things he said out of context or something like that. He has never taken responsibility for any of it and I guess he never will.

Afterwards we came out into the sun and it was 11AM – we'd been in there for 2 and a half hours. I was completely dazed. I remember thinking if I was a drinker I would want a drink right now.  I did tell Dale I wanted ice cream. So we went and had ice cream.  Then we drove up into Marin County to meet with this woman one of my producers had found somehow who was young and attractive and totally in love with Charlie. We interviewed her at this lovely playground, and she was way nutty. We also interviewed a guy who was following Charlie. He was also fairly young and unlike the woman, this man was not what you would call lucid.  He was talking in riddles, really, really fast.  I think whatever drugs he was taking had sent him completely over the deep end.  Quite an experience.

Then we left – went home to Florida – and set to work screening tapes and writing. That’s all! And to this day it's still all over the Internet. Bizarre.

Recently I reconnected with Dale (25 years later!) and he said to me something to the effect of, our interview didn't really "break new ground." But we are among a very small select number of people who were allowed a face to face interview with one of the most notorious American criminals of all time. And that’s pretty cool.

It took me years to agree, because I had so many amazing experiences as a reporter over the years that for me, really overshadowed the Manson interview. However, looking back and seeing the incredible reaction that people had, and have, when they hear I interviewed Manson (or see it on the Internet) I realize that, however small, it is a part of history. And that is actually pretty cool.







47 comments:

DebS said...

Manson tends to play to his audience and gives them what he thinks they want in the way of answers to the questions asked of him. Did you have the feeling that he was trying to get into your head to tell you answers that he thought you wanted to hear? Or, did he just seem to have his act down pat and that he was more or less giving a performance?

Thanks a lot for answering Matt's questions. It's great to hear about all of this from your perspective!

chatsworth charlie said...

THAT was great!
Answered a couple questions I always had right off the bat.
I wonder though if Penny thought the interview was over before it began as it seemed Charlie was somewhat miffed & confused as to who was supposed to be there interviewing him.

Max Frost said...

Wow - Thanks a lot Penny!

Did Nick Bougas ever get the "roll of film" that Manson requested before the interview?

Robert Hendrickson said...

In the last post "bucpaul" said HE in-visioned Manson kick-starting the OLD Family with their "special language" BUT he doesn't need to think it. Just watch the the Daniels / Manson video CAREFULLY !

There is a whole NEW generation being KICK-STARTED by the OLD MANSON stuff and the time will come when Manson's words actually mean something to those who learn how to think.

A young American BLACK ex-soldier (with mental issues) just died in Riker's Island prison, BECAUSE it was over 100 degrees in HIS cell.

Obama would say: "Come have a 'cold one' at my air-conditioned white house.

Soccer mom would say: "Thank you for your service"

Charlie would say: "You stupid fucking PIGS."

equinox234 said...

Matt,

Well done to you for getting this input from Penny Daniels, and thanks to Penny for contributing.

I am sure that many of us are well acquainted with the interview in question. CM starts off being perfectly coherent when he talks to her about the French guy and whether he is getting a copy of the footage. When the interview begins, he goes into the "daft Charlie" routine for the cameras. One of the highlights, if I recall correctly, is when he announces that he has to 'go for a s**t'! He then tells the hapless Penny that she is 10 pounds overweight. I am sure Penny has heard a lot worse in her long journalistic career!!

Matt said...

EQ, that was a different interview. Penny handled him pretty well. That other journalist you are referring to was rattled - but yes that was funny!


Panamint Patty said...

Two questions: Is or was Charles Manson "sane?"

When he jumps down the lawyer's throat, do you think it has anything to do with racism?

Thanks for participating, Penny, this is terrific.

Penny Daniels said...

Hi Deb,
I definitely had the feeling he was trying to "get into my head." That is for sure his MO. Answers that he thought I wanted to hear? Not so sure about that. Rather I think it's two things: he both had his act down pat (and used it especially for "expected" question and was also genuinely thinking about and responding sincerely to other questions, maybe the ones that weren't quite so predictable.
Penny

Penny Daniels said...

Hi Chatsworth,
I thought maybe the interview was over before it began, but very soon realized that this guy wanted to talk, and if I was just patient, he would.
Penny

Penny Daniels said...

Hi Max,
Nick Bougas? Was that "the French guy?" No clue. I would ask Dale if we ever sent him anything, but I can't put my hands on his email right now, and I kind of doubt it anyway. I looked at a little of the tape that Matt has posted here and it jogged my memory as to what happened -- you can hear Dale say "no problem!" when Manson asks about getting the "film" (he was of another generation after all, as he pointed out to me) but I am not sure if Dale ever followed through.
Penny

Matt said...

Hi Penny,

Thank you so much for participating. If you could ask Dale that question for us we would be deeply indebted.

Penny Daniels said...

Hi Matt,
I am glad you clarified that what Equinox is referring to was a different interview. I had no memory of either of those things being said -- and I probably would have remembered both of them!
Penny

Penny Daniels said...

Hi Patty,
Not being a mental health professional, I really could not say whether Manson was or is sane or insane. He certainly appeared insane at times to my uneducated eye, and other times, quite sane. Is there such a thing as a combination? I am sure that psychologists have written about Manson and would probably have more informed things to say about this. I will just repeat what I think Manson said to me (keep in mind this is from memory -- I have not reviewed that far into the tape in many, many years) "the world of sane is a little world." something like that...."....and I am free."
Penny

Penny Daniels said...

Patty,
Sorry I forgot to answer your other question. First, that man was not a lawyer, he was the PR guy for the prison. Second -- I am not sure Manson wouldn't have treated him the same way if he were white, I couldn't say. I have read that Manson was racist but I don't recall him saying anything to reveal that. I think he was just really, really scornful of his jailers and all of us who live in "society." He probably wouldn't have spoken that way to a guard because they have more power over him. That man was just a hapless victim I guess.
Penny

Panamint Patty said...

Thank you Penny :)

Max Frost said...

Thanks for answering questions, Penny - this is very cool!

Yes Nick Bougas was the one Manson requested the "roll of film" for. When you asked who he was, Manson replied " He's a Frenchman."

A lot of people assumed he was talking about a guy in France but, as you can hear clearly in the interview, he says Nick is in Hollywood, CA.

Suze said...

Penny, many thanks for answering our questions. This is way cool.

That part where he jumped up and went into his manson dance routine... if I had been there I likely would have laughed so hard I would have peed myself. Do you remember what your initial internal reaction was? I know as a journalist you need a good poker face.

Penny Daniels said...

Hi Suze,
Well I don't think I had the urge to laugh because it was actually pretty scary. He does it on purpose, all of a sudden with no warning, because he wants to startle and scare you. It worked, but I didn't show it. I did have a poker face the whole time I was with Manson. I pretty much acted like I saw people act like complete wackos every day. Afterwards as I said -- I needed a drink, but since I never drink at 11AM (and not too much at any time) I had ice cream instead!
My version of temporarily falling apart.
Penny

equinox234 said...

Penny,

Apologies for mixing up your interview with that of someone else. A point I've always wanted to know is if Manson stinks!!! I know this could be the worst question in the thread, but I was wondering if you got close enough to him during your visit to find out. I never felt that personal hygiene was high up on the list of The Family's priorities!

Penny Daniels said...

ummmm....I honestly don't remember that he did.....or didn't.

beauders said...

Penny,
I have written an encyclopedia on Manson, the murders, the trials, etc. and was wondering if I could put this interview under your name? The book will be self published and I would assume only people truly interested in the case would get it. Your interview with Manson is one of my favorites as you held strong and didn't seem intimidated by him. I think he treated you with more respect because of it.

equinox234 said...

Penny,

Were you given any advice or safety instructions by the Penitentiary staff prior to your meeting with Manson? For example, not to shake hands with him in case he tried to assault you?

Robert Hendrickson said...

Thank you for sharing your time and experience. You provide a personal connection to a very significant character in American history. Actually, you seem to be a very objective connection and that is much needed IF the TRUTH will ever be revealed. Oh, the TRUTH ? Well, in case you didn't realize - the folks at this website are also interested in whether Helter Skelter was really the MOTIVE for the Tate / LaBianca massacre or whether there was another MOTIVE ( like maybe a drug burn gone wrong). Did you ever get the impression that a Black & White race War was not the real reason for the Manson Family violence? If so what was YOUR take on the MOTIVE ?

Penny Daniels said...

Equinox,
I don't remember being given any such instructions. I wasn't inclined to shake hands with him, but looking back I don't think he would have assaulted me. He may be crazy but he's no fool.
Penny

Penny Daniels said...

Hi Robert,
That's a tough one. Since Manson never admitted to me (or anyone) that he was responsible for the murders, anything I say would be pure speculation. Keeping that in mind....from what I observed, Manson hated (hates?) authority, society, pollution, industry, the government, the "establishment," people who are "successful" (especially in the music business,)rich people, etc. etc. you get the idea. He loved (s) music, his friends, himself and ATWA -- air, tree, water and animals. (at least that's what he talked about to me.) He talked disdainfully about almost everyone, except his "friends." So....I don't know as that brings any clarity. Again, I haven't listened to the interview for awhile, and I don't recall what he said specifically about Helter Skelter.
Penny

Penny Daniels said...

Hi Beauders,
Yes, you may. Please credit mansonblog.com for the interview. Please also correct any typos you see (mine, not Matt's....we did the interview in writing.)
Best of luck with the book!
Penny


Panamint Patty said...

Beauders, how many pages are you up to now? Since Patty has known you you have been laboring over your book. Patty likes your encyclopedic format idea. :)

Panamint Patty said...

Penny, in your opinion, is and was press coverage of the Manson story "objective"?

beauders said...

Right now I'm stuck at around 1200 pages and probably will increase it to 1400 because I keep getting more information. I'm also stuck at publishing. I'm thinking a three volume set with just under 500 pages but that would be pretty spendy. I'd have to stagger the releases such as the first one would be released and them three or four months later release the second volume and then three or four months the third one would be released. Of course I could just release it as a kindle. Does anyone have any recommendations or idea's?

Robert Hendrickson said...

Can anyone understand WHY Charles Manson HATES "authority" and The Establishment" ?

The answer may lie in the oldest prison cells of the YUMA State prison. But has any US President or any US official or supposed scholar ever even visited the HABITAT of any of the OTHER Americans?

Is the OTHER America ever even talked about in the "American" educational system ?

Most think that Manson goes off on tangents like a babbling idiot, BUT isn't HE actually just communicating with the OTHER Americans in THEIR special language.

In over a hundred years we have learned how to fly like the birds and even gone to the moon, BUT we can't even figure out how to re-invent the penal system in a way that the TWO Americas may one day be ONE.

Otherwise, the day will come when TWO Americas will have to WAR against each other - again.

Max Frost said...

There are more people in prison in America (per capita) than any other country in the world.

We are building an army (or big city) of "Other Americans" in that sense.

rick john said...

Please Penny Daniels take a look at Mansondirect.com

Robert Hendrickson said...

At First I thought EQ's question about whether Manson STINKS was rather rude and later I realized the word "STINKS" is SO relevant to the Family and all of us, that I should respond.

The Family and I actually discussed the issue along with deodorants and perfumes.

It was presented to me that deodorants when applied under the arms release a chemical poison into the body. Remember, this is 1970, when back then nobody seemed to even know that chemicals applied on the skin could actually enter the body through the pores.

Of course, NOW we all know that a "medicine patch" is the easiest way to administer chemical /drugs into a body. AND perfumes which usually contain animal urin (piss) can even make a smelly body fuckable again. BUT if you are the only one with PISS rubbed all over your body and everyone else just STINKS from a lack of hygiene - who is the real STINKER ?

Then enters the matter of "appearance" which greatly affects smell, which greatly affects "attraction" which ultimately affects "physical connection." Research shows that "ordor" is a primary stimulant for "sex." So does that mean IF a great perfume turns you on, you are into animal piss. Does one use perfume to attract the opposite sex or to turn one's self on ?

So did Penny Daniels wear her best perfume the day she went to meet the "most dangerous man alive" CAUSE that would really say more about all of us who inhabit the other America.

Dilligaf said...

Max, in regards to the number of inmates per capita is one thing, however, the percentage tells a different story. Working off of an accepted US population of 314,000,000, there are 2,200,000 prison inmates equalling less than 1%. Hardly an army of "other Americans"....

Max Frost said...

Interesting point Dilligaf...

How many Americans are currently serving in the U.S. Military?

Dilligaf said...

Max, what does on have to do with the other? Seem like a false comparison at best. However, there is one similarity between the two, both are volunteer based. Some volunteer to serve their country while others volunteer to serve time....

Panamint Patty said...

we all do stuff that's "illegal" every day. U turn? Illegal. download movies? illegal. dance naked in the City Park? Illegal.

Panamint Patty said...

keep the extra change from a vending machine? Illegal. Let your 16 year old have wine with Thanksgiving dinner? Illegal. Pattys point is often the difference between a criminal and a law abiding citizen is that one got caught. Definitely too many people in prison to keep Charlie company, and not all of them murderers.

Max Frost said...

Dilligaf - " what does one have to do with the other?"

You said "hardly an army of other Americans"

How is it hardly an army if the two numbers are roughly IDENTICAL?

Robert Hendrickson said...

To Dilligaf:

I too am I numbers guy, so I can really appreciate your position, BUT lately I can't stop from thinking about:

How many Nazi's did it take to kill 6 million Jews?

How many men did it take to kill JFK?

Or how many children does it take to do a school MASSACRE?

About a year ago, ONE rebel cop (Christopher Donner) put the entire LAPD - armed to the hilt police force -- in total PANIC. The "good" cops were so fuck'in scared they were shit'in in their pants and shooting at innocent bystanders

OH! Just realized there were TWO different bullets ( 1 full metal jacket & 1 expander). used on JFK.

The EVIDENCE is right there on the Zabruder FILM for the whole world to SEE.

What that means is: JC was, at least, right about one thing. "God gave US eyes and WE see NOT."

You can't have a question without there being an ANSWER.

DebS said...

Kind of splitting hairs with the army/prisoner comparison. While Max did say "We are building an army of other Americans" I didn't feel that he was making that comparison to the US military. An army is defined as a large number, as in a multitude, as well as to define the military.

However, it so happens that the number of prisoners in the US is roughly equal to the number of people serving in the US military. So, to assert that the prison population is equal to an army is not false comparison, IMO.

Dilligaf said...

I see the comparison as having no meaning,that is all. You could take the same number of residents in SF and compare them to the number of inmates nationwide, and the only thing you would have in common is a number.

Patty, as far as there being too many prisoners, I for one have never prosecuted anyone for serving wine to a Sixteen-year old at Thanksgiving, nor for someone keeping the extra change from a vending machine. I havce not seen a serial jaywalker receive a prison term. The realit today is this, when one is sentenced to prison, they have committed a felony. You have done something that warrants more than a one year term in prison. It is not a simple crime that puts a person in prison, it is a conscious act that someone committed. Further, many times those people in prison have confessed to a lessor crime as part of a plea. So, the acts which put a person in prison is not only a wilfull act on their part, but many times a wilfull agreement to plead down in exchange for a lessor sentence.

Max Frost said...

Not to mention all the INNOCENT people who have been wrongly accused and sentenced to a life of hell in prison - a lot of whom ended up on death row.

Here's a good example of a wrongful conviction:

http://www.newsforage.com/2014/05/man-cleared-of-murder-charges-after.html?m=1

Dilligaf said...

Max, if you want to debate the virtues of the Death Penalty, our Appeals system, and why LWOP does not protect society, I am happy to discuss. However, perhaps it should be started in a different thread so as to not hijack this thread any further. Peace.

Panamint Patty said...

Thank you Dill for keeping us in line. Come back, Penny?

bucpaul2812 said...

Mr. Hendrickson,

Regarding your comment:

"In the last post "bucpaul" said HE in-visioned Manson kick-starting the OLD Family with their "special language" BUT he doesn't need to think it. Just watch the the Daniels / Manson video CAREFULLY !"

I only just happened upon this thread and it's riveting, to say the least. Suffice it to say, I will definitely watch that video. Much obliged for the heads up!

Max Frost said...

No Dilligaf, I was just responding to your comments and that's that.

Penny will come back if more questions are posed.

So c'mon all you silent types...

ASK AWAY!