Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Hey, Charlie… Black Beard Charlie!"

Charlie (Black Beard) Melton
Photo credit:  Jim Otterstrom

  Melton and his doggies 2013

Most readers here will be familiar with the name "Charles Melton" aka "Black Beard Charlie", and where he fits into the TLB story (nightmare). But here's a recap anyway: He was a friend of Paul Watkins prior to either of them meeting the "Manson Family" et al. He is referred to as "Black Beard Charlie" in Paul Watkin's book, "My Life With Charles Manson". The book, a rare and usually expensive find in print form, is available online in its entirety courtesy of ColScott, at the Colonel's site:
www.tatelabianca.blogspot.com  (The Chapters begin in June 2006. Chapter 1 as well as Chapters 24 and 25 are relevant here.).

Though the following excerpt details Watkin's return to Topanga Canyon after a stay in Northern California; he and Melton had travelled to Northern California together, with stays in Big Sur and the Haight, among other stops. Melton was with Watkins when Watkins was arrested in Half Moon Bay, CA (for possession).

From Little Paul's book:
Black Beard [Charlie Melton] was another "runaway" from L.A. who had shined-on suburbia to take to the hills. He was nineteen, a full-on Kerouac “dharma bum” who could assume the full lotus at the drop of a hat and fall immediately into trancelike meditation. He was tall and slender with a gaunt, El Grecolike face which seemed compatible with his vagrant life-style. Brown, wide-set eyes highlighted his dark complexion. His hair hung to well below his shoulders and was tied at the base of his skull with a strip of rawhide. Black Beard was a student of Eastern religions and he taught me a lot about survival in the wilderness with a pack on my back. We had made camp at Hot Springs canyon, near Esalen, and were committed to the gypsy life, wandering through the forests and along the California coastline.
Melton, originally from Reseda, is listed as also residing during his lifetime in Agoura Hills, Malibu (Topanga), Big Sur, and Ukiah,CA.

Melton was living in the infamous area of Lower Topanga known as the "Snake Pit" when he first met Manson, etc. In "Helter Skelter", Bugliosi writes of Melton's self-professed first visit to Spahn Ranch as being in March of '69. Melton told the story of Tex admiring his beard, and allegedly saying: "Maybe one day Charlie will let me grow a beard.".

From "The Family" by Ed Sanders, 2002 Ed., Thunder's Mouth Press. Available on Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Family-Ed-Sanders/dp/1560253967
..."On July 4th, Gypsy, aka Yippie aka Cathy Share and aka Manon Minette, saw fit to take herself to Topanga Lane near the beach in Topanga Canyon to visit Charlie Melton, a bearded friend who lived in a canvas-covered stake truck notable in that it had an automobile seat perched atop its cab.

... Linda Kasabian, her husband Bob, Blackbeard Charles and Jim and Juli Otterstrom - all were living in the stake truck, preparing for that trip to South America. Charles Melton had inherited around $23,000. and some of that was going to pay for the trip. The rest he had been giving away, much to the delight of various Topanga residents.

Inside Melton's trailer, Gypsy picked up his guitar and began to sing "Cease to Exist. "Gypsy began to tell Linda about the Spahn Ranch and particularly about Charles Manson... The others in the trailer were shining Gypsy on, but Gypsy said that their ego wouldn't let them listen to the Truth. Mrs. Kasabian, though reconciled with him for only seven days, was having trouble with him. It seems that already he and Charles Melton had cut her out of the trip to South America. Gypsy invited her to come to the Spahn Ranch. Linda had been planning that day to go to the July 4th Love-In on Topanga beach but she went to the Spahn Ranch instead, taking her 16-month old (daughter) Tanya with her."

Once at Spahn, Linda hooked up with Tex Watson and told him about Melton's inheritance. He "convinced her" to go back and steal the money from Melton.

... "July 5th was a day of happiness for the Family. In the morning, Tanya, Linda, Gypsy, and Mary Brunner went to Topanga Canyon to go to the beach. They ran into Charles Melton and Bob Kasabian behind the Topanga Shopping Center by the creek. They smoked some hellweed and Bob and Charles went off to downtown L.A. to get their passports for their trip. Linda and the girls drove to Melton's canvas truck-house to get her possessions. She dug up a buried Bull Durham pouch full of thirty pink acid tabs. She packed up her gear... Then she went into Melton's duffle bag and removed a Velvet tobacco pouch containing fifty $100-dollar bills that she took to Chatsworth to give to the Wizard: $5,000.

... He (Charlie) was told about the probability that Charles Melton and friends would be coming to the ranch to get back the money. Manson then decided to send Linda to the cave down the creek behind the ranch, to hide from the wrath of her husband.

... All the next day, high up the hill by the cave, the young ladies scanned the dirt driveway of the Spahn Ranch below with binoculars. And, just as predicted, Mr. Melton, Bob Kasabian, and Jim Otterstrom pulled into the drive in their stake-bed truck. Charles Melton asked someone by the boardwalk to locate Gypsy and Linda. The person left and returned with Manson, who rewarded Melton with a kill me/ kill you routine. According to Melton, Charlie said: "Who are Linda and Gypsy? I can't even remember their names."

Melton replied: "They took $5,000 from me."

Manson said: "What's money? Nothing is yours. "Then Charlie took out his knife and handed it to Melton, urging him to kill Charlie with Charlie's own knife. Mr. Melton refused the proffered knife. Manson said: "Then maybe I should kill you to show you that there's no such thing as death."

At this point, Melton and company were quick to drive away into the wind."
Otterstrom worked, during this time frame, as a cook and dishwasher at the Topanga Kitchen, a restaurant located at the Topanga Shopping Center (at the junction of Topanga Cyn Blvd and Old (Topanga) Cyn Rd. The Market that Sadie walked to to get supplies and soup during the Hinman killing is still there. The Canyon Kitchen, long gone, was owned by Susan Acevedo, Neil Young's first wife. "Manson Family" members frequented the Kitchen often.

Melton and Bob Kasabian, alleged by some to have been lovers, remained close friends and were photographed attending the TLB trial together in 1970.

Also early in 1970, during the fire/attempt on Paul Watkin's life, Paul was in a camper (microbus?) belonging to Mark Ross, parked outside of Melton's place.

Charlie Melton and Robert Kasabian at Tate-LaBianca trial (Melton opening door)

Bugliosi wanted to use Melton on the witness stand to testify as to Tex's alleged remark about growing a beard, but says by that time Melton was unreachable, having gone off with Bob Kasabian to Hawaii to "meditate in a cave".

Melton and Jim Otterstrom remained lifelong friends, according to Jim Otterstrom. They are those rare people who lived their "hippie ideal" (beautifully idealistic and participatory) beliefs throughout their lives. I really admire that. Jim Otterstrom wrote in his blog that he and Melton both attended the same school in Reseda albeit several years apart, became friends, and through the years continued to get together a couple of times a year.

 The late Jim Otterstrom and Melton
at a party celebrating Otterstrom's retirement from the Postal Service (1971-2001)
Photo credit:  Jim Otterstrom

I'm sad to say Jim Otterstrom has passed away. His blog tells of his love for the earth, animals, and nature, and his family and friends.You can read it at:
homeearthgarden.blogspot.com


Here is an obituary that really captures his essence and legacy:
http://www.bigbeargrizzly.net/obituaries/article_83e005d6-1dcf-5bdc-9c51-98590bb80016.html

Another thing I really dislike about Manson:  I don't believe, and yes, to state the obvious, it's just
my opinion, that he has ever had an original thought in his head. We can ask the philosophical question: "Does anyone really ever have an 'original' thought, or is there truly 'nothing new on heaven or earth...'"? But while Manson and his "band of merry humpers", as Phil Kaufman referred to them, were polluting the gorgeous wilderness around Spahn with oil pans, tires, and hulks of stolen Volkswagons that remain there to this day while he milks the whole ATWA schtick; Melton and Otterstrom and others like them were living to make the world a better place. Idealistic, maybe. But nevertheless wonderful. And man, it sure would be a great time to sit down and hang out with Blackbeard Charlie, who now goes by the nickname: "Tower Charlie". Smoke some hellweed, and see where the conversation takes us...





43 comments:

Max Frost said...

You can also buy a xerox copy of Paul's book at:

www.aes-nihil.com

Hint hint.

Trilby said...

True dat, Max. I've gotten a bunch of stuff from him, & he's always been great. Everyone should check out his site, if they haven't already.
I had a copy of Watkin's book in the late 70s, in high school, & lent it to a friend. Goodbye, book. Then last month on e-bay there was a copy only 1 bidder noticed, & it went for 19.99! I had meant to swoop in & grab it, & forgot all about it. It actually sold for the $19.99 bid. I'm still mad at myself over that. I forgot about another rare one listed last week and it went for under fifteen!

Max Frost said...

That's an INCREDIBLE price Trilby. I remember scoring one on eBay in '99 for $65 and that was a STEAL at that time.

Suze said...

Thank you Trilby! I've always enjoyed your comments and I'm so glad to see you are now a contributor. This is great!

Trilby said...

Hi Suze! I think you're great and LOVE your comments! Thanks so much for the welcome - I told Matt I feel like an AA pitcher called up to the big leagues. Nervous as hell, 'cos contributors and posters at this blog are awesome. Nervous as hell about joining the team. Matt has been VERY patient. He and Mrs. Matt are just great.
A teaser - my next post will be about one of the victims. Some new info. ;) 😊

Trilby said...

Sorry for sounding like a moron in my last comment - I loathe posting by phone, I use the same phrases and adjectives and then I'm too lazy to proofread on the small screen hence my comments that read as if they were written by a slap-happy 4 y.o.

Matt said...

Gotta love a girl who uses baseball for metaphorical purposes, even if she's a Phillies fan...

Trilby said...

OMG... A PHILLIES fan????!!!!! DODGERS!!!!!!!! Vintage Dodgers since the 70s!!!!!!!! (I root for the Angels merely for Scioscia's sake.). Matt, you are sooo wrong for that but I forgive you! I guess my originally being from the Philly area confused you. :) Temporary insanity.

equinox234 said...

Trilby,

Thanks for such an informative and entertaining item.

You are right in your comments about Charlie polluting the Spahn Ranch area, particularly with the dune buggies when he has been saying that we should all get back to the horse!! What about leading by example? Yes, he does hide behind this ATWA thing. What did he do in the years 1967-69 when he was out of prison in terms of environmental projects? Nothing, that's what.

Over on his Facebook page, you will notice that Star and others always refer to him as 'Manson' under the misapprehension that he is some international figure of great stature. He is, and always will be, nothing more than a two bit crook.

orwhut said...

A very enjoyable post, Trilby. Thanks!

Trilby said...

Yeah, I saw one on e-bay about a month ago that stayed at about $25. until the last hour of the auction, & then ended up going for about eighty. I still can't believe no one noticed it. On a visit back home, I went to a used bookstore that I knew used to have back issues of LIFE magazine, & sure enough they had 3 Manson and/or TLB issues. So I snapped them up. A year or so after that, on another visit back, I decided to go in and buy ALL the LIFE back issues, & maybe learn how to put them up on e-bay. Someone else had already had the same idea. I think it's getting harder and harder since the advent of e-bay to find things organically in used bookstores, etc. Thank goodness for resources like aes-nihil.

Trilby said...

Thanks, equinox!! I haven't seen the FB Page, I'm going to go check it out now! :) I have to say I do think George Stinson lives his environmental beliefs and isn't a hypocrite; but I sure do agree with your assessment of Manson. "Manson". Like "Madonna", huh. Just a "material girl, living in a material world". LOL.

Trilby said...

Thank you!! I always love your comments (especially this one). :) :) :)

equinox234 said...

Trilby,

You are most welcome - it's a very impressive piece.

I too believe that George Stimson and Sandra Good are sincere in their environmental beliefs and commitments. However, in Charlie's case, I think he has seen a bandwagon, and decided to jump on it.

CM would probably deep down like to be known for something other than the TLB murders. That isn't going to happen for him.

Robert Hendrickson said...

Bernard Crow - MONEY

Linda K.and the $5,000 - MONEY

G. Hinman - MONEY

Tate House - Gee Wizz kids ! Let me tell you a story about a dirty, nasty old "ex-con" that DREAMED of starting an international RACE WAR ! BUT the really scary part is: HE littered the beautiful country-side with dirty, oily old car parts. Now how icky is that? AND this is after the great American Lady Bird Johnson began HER make America Beautiful to rid the Promised Land of all those unsightly rusting old car parts that those devilish Republicans were actually SELLING on Heaven's Highways.

Panamint Patty said...

Patty loves her some Trilby...welcome girl!

Trilby said...

Yep, exactly!! And he exploits whichever parts of the mythology he can for his own purposes. And I can't say I wouldn't do exactly the same in his position.
What leapt out at me re: the Melton thing was the word "inheritance". Wonder if that's where the whole "inheritance" story about Hinman derived from. You hit the nail on the head with money. Whether in drug or actual currency form.
I've said it before and I'll keep saying it, like a parrot: the only one with the juice to co-ordinate the "official" story was Sidney Korshak.

Trilby said...

Thank you!! I sure love me some Patty... your posts are GREAT and you are nailing the BEL info!! I also really love your peacemaking when squabbles begin. :)

Trilby said...

You know, for a guy who preached incessantly about "losing your old ego", Charlie is just about all ego himself. Even though Watkins, Grogan/Gabriel & probably even Gypsy :( had more talent; Charlie still had talent. I know alot of people disagree with me on that. But given alot of production work in the studio, both "Look At Your Game Girl" & "Eyes of a Dreamer" had Top-40 potential if he had allowed them to be produced as pop/rock. He was never going to "submit to his brother" or budge an inch. Now, on the one hand that may demonstrate integrity or conviction. On the other, ego or stubborness. Whatever one, or mix of all - he ensured that his music career wouldn't go anywhere. And in that way he has of dropping hints of the truth or contributing factors into his "conversations" or interviews, he has talked about the music business then being controlled by the Mob - totally true. I've often wondered where that factored into his lack of a career, too.

equinox234 said...

Mr Hendrickson,

Agree with you entirely on the money factor.

In addition, he helped himself to the trust funds of both Sandra Good and Didi Lansbury.

He operated as a pimp.

All in all, after release from prison, he was determined to live off others' backs. If he was so fond of nature, he could have sought a job in a public park - no particular skills needed. I think CM was allergic to the word 'work'.

MrsMatt said...

It's a Trilby love-fest today! Great post, Trilby, and thanks for the kind words! The teaser for your next post has me intrigued - start writing!

Panamint Patty said...

Trilby, Patty understand u may have a BEL post yourself? ;)

Dooger said...

This is a great find. I was just talking about Black Beard and wondering if Charles Allen Manson from the LAPD list was Black Beard.

As for Manson's ATWA schtick, I think most of that came after his incarceration contrary to what he says. it's easy to look back and cringe, and preach a new ideal.

But most of the messes left by the Family was a joint effort and not just Manson, though he was definitely a part of it.

I think that Charlie sincerely believes in his ATWA vision, but like I said it is easy for someone locked up to preach it because it's nearly impossible for them to live it.

But, I think when Charlie was out he wasn't concerned about ATWA much at all. Neither were any of the others and if they were, they weren't practicing it.

Doc Sierra said...

Trilby said...

OMG... A PHILLIES fan????!!!!! DODGERS!!!!!!!! Vintage Dodgers since the 70s!!!!!!!!
-----------------------------------
I have two words for you Trilby.
Oakland Athletics.....
I lived in Oakland and Daly City in the early 70s when they won the World Series three years in a row. Maybe the happiest time of my life.....

Doc Sierra said...

Trilby said...

Yeah, I saw one on e-bay about a month ago that stayed at about $25. until the last hour of the auction, & then ended up going for about eighty.
-----------------------------------
There's one ebay right now for $599. Insane.....

Doc Sierra said...

I've known a sociopath or two in my day and I think what makes Manson able to be such a hypocrite is the sociopathic ability to rationalize just about anything and the narcissistic ability to believe one's own bullshit.....

Matt said...

Oakland Athletics??? Shouldn't that be the Kansas City Athletics? No, wait it's the Philadelphia Athletics. What's an Athletic, anyway? Shouldn't it be Athletes? :)

Trilby said...

Hey, a team that had Tony LaRussa (an animal advocate and rescuer) & 2 great guys - Bobby Welch and Dave Stewart - is A-OK by me! :)

Trilby said...

Thanks, Dooger. Yeah, I totally agree with your ATWA-after-the-fact assessment. Charlie's not a trailblazer, he's a bandwagon-jumper. The only one that I think ever had a pre-existing love for the environment mighta been Sandra Good. She majored in botany, & I see a consistency there. "Eccentric" *cough batshi* crazy cough* but kinda consistent. I think the biker/petty criminal influence was much more prevalent than any hippie ideals in '69.

Trilby said...

Nope, the BEL is Patty's baby and your research is awesome. I'm an empath, & an empath's battle cry is: "I don't know how I know, I just know!" I don't know much in life - I can barely remember most days to wear shoes (I hate shoes) - but when stuff leaps out at me it's frustrating to find solid supporting evidence given my minimal research skills. It's like that poster with a quote by either Goethe or Richard Bach that I had on my bedroom wall growing up about having a dream and then building the foundation under it... something about building sand castles in the air... anyway, I'll e-mail you by next week with some stuff I found & see what you think about it.

Trilby said...

I sound like I had dope for breakfast, not coffee. Meant to say I stumbled onto a BEL connection that I don't think is just a coincidence, but I still lack evidence. It places them in Manson's neck of the woods, though, in one of his hangouts.

Trilby said...

Yeah, the Amazon prices are laughable, too. I think that one is just going to go back into my collection as an aes-nihil photocopy. There's only a couple more books I'm going to try to collect, I think.

Trilby said...

Thanks, Mrs. Matt!! I'm gonna start pasting the post tomorrow, but in the meanwhile invoke your executive privilege and make Mr. Matt tell you the topic! ;) He's gonna have to come up with a title, anyway, 'cos I'm stuck.

Trilby said...

Damn, I forgot about Connie Mack Stadium... Hey, how 'bout them Washington Senators??

Trilby said...

I don't know what I like more about this post - the conclusion or just about the greatest opening sentence ever! ... Both. :)

Doc Sierra said...

Hi Trilby, it was very sad last month to hear that Bob Welch died. I was at a game back in the late 80s and during batting practice he and Storm Davis were in the outfield shagging fly balls. They looked like a couple of kids having the time of their lives. I can still see Welch's smile.
I remember back in the early 90s that during a game the announcer, probably Monte Moore said that Tony La Russa was the first manager to use computer data to assess the opposing teams' hitting and pitching.
Matt, they will always be the Oakland A's to me. When you walk into the Oakland Coliseum there's a mural with past players. In my opinion Rickey Henderson is the greatest all around baseball player that I've ever seen in spikes.
Trilby, Doc digs him some Dave Stewart.....

Doc Sierra said...

Matt, when they started out they were called the Philadelphia Athletic Club and they shortened it to Athletics.
When I was a kid I had a t shirt with a jock strap with a face on the front of the shirt with the caption "Be An Athletic Supporter".....

Matt said...

Dave Stewart will always hold a place in my heart for decking Pat Corrales (at about the 30 second mark):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WtoZimFZH4

The indians used Tucson as their Spring Training home back when I was attending Arizona. I'd see them in restaurants regularly and Corrales was a first class asshole.

Doc Sierra said...

Trilby, I just want to add that I was pissed at LaRussa for years when he didn't let Dave Stewart get a complete game in game one of the 1988 World Series. When Tommy Lasorda had Kirk Gibson pinch hit in the bottom of the 9th with two men on my first thought was that Dennis Eckersly's slider was not effective on lefties. We all know what happened after that.....

Doc Sierra said...

Dave Stewart grew up in east Oakland. That's a place where kids have to know how to fight.....

Trilby said...

Hey, everybody: Matt just clued me that the comments show up differently on Android phones (& IPhones). I've been posting on my phone, & there's a "Reply" option after each comment. It must look really goofy since Matt said viewing on a regular OS doesn't show that reply option... :( Sorry, I will put an "@" and name in front of my replies from now on! Sorry again! Hope everybody is having a good day.

hippiekiller said...

For those looking for Watkins' book, you can torrent the PDF here: http://kickass.to/paul-watkins-my-life-with-charles-manson-pdf-t7743918.html

Doc Sierra said...

Max, I sold a copy on eBay back in 99. I wonder you bought it.....