Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I Learned to be a stuntman from Shorty Shea

Today we have a rare treat. "Pete P" was a child from Simi Valley who grew up to become a Hollywood stuntman. Pete became interested in movie stunts from his exposure to the stuntmen who worked at the ranches around Chatsworth, among them Shorty Shea. Pete is searching for any photos of himself with Shorty, so if you ever snapped any photos as Spahn he'd be appreciative if you checked your collection for him. You can reach him through us if you find any.

Pete, who is admittedly technologically challenged began searching the web in hopes of finding those pics. Searches for Spahn Ranch landed him in the good hands of MansonBlog friend Stoner van Houten, and now us. Below is his story:

Pete P. (center) with Eric Estrada (left) at a CHiPs reunion in Las Vegas

I would ride to Spahn Ranch on my mini-bike between the ages of 9 or 10 without my mother's knowledge. I was a bit of a black sheep to begin with, but after my dad bought me that mini-bike I was outta control. We lived on the corner of Elizondo Ave. and Currant Ave in Simi Valley.  A flood control wash was right across the street that runs right through the center of Simi. I rode that about 10 miles or so on the hard-packed parts. Then I rode a small service road along the railroad tracks for a few miles to Santa Susanna Pass Rd.

I was fascinated with stuntmen and I wanted to be one even at that early age. I knew Charlie (Manson) by sight and name, but I thought he was a stuntman. I figured everyone at the ranches were stuntmen. I already knew a couple of them from a neighboring ranch called Corriganville Movie Ranch - specifically Jimmy Babcock, Monte Laird and Joe Soto. Those guys would also frequently be at Spahn to do stunts for the various B movies that were filmed there.

I'm not computer savvy at all. I only learned to text a year ago. I was looking for photos of me at Spahn ranch. I do believe that people have them. People were always taking pictures there. The riding customers, the move people. Everybody. There was one in particular that I remember taking with Shorty. I was sitting on a corral gate. Shorty was standing next to me with his arm around me and with his other hand made a fist, like he was going to punch me. A girl who was frequently at the ranch took it, but I don't remember her name. If I could get one of those pictures it would be GREAT. So I started to look. When I got on-line, I was floored at how great the interest in this subject still is. It led me to Stoner, and now to you guys.

It was actually Charlie who introduced me to Shorty. I asked Charlie how to become a stuntman and he said, "First you have to be one" (He always talked in riddles). He also said, "You'll want to talk to Shorty". So that's when my career as a stuntman first began. My time with him lasted four or five months.

Shorty was a great guy. He taught me everything like how to take a saddle fall, how to throw a punch and how to take a punch. Most of my friends played sports, but I hung around Shorty. He took the time to show me things. He took a liking to me and an interest in teaching me. He also didn't treat me like a kid. He treated me like an equal. In exchange, I worked for him. I did things like clean horse stalls and other things. For instance, sometimes a ranch customer would be out for a ride and get off the horse to urinate and the horse would run away. So, part of the job was to go find that horse. I really liked it, even cleaning the stalls. If I got there early enough I got to help feed the horses. I loved things like that. My dad was a city boy and didn't like horses but I loved it. I liked cleaning and being a cowboy.

Charlie was always nice to me. He sometimes would ask to ride my mini-bike. I'd let him and he'd tear around on it and seemed to have fun like a little kid. But, Shorty didn't like Charlie and didn't want me near him. He said, "If you play with a bucket of shit long enough, you're gonna get some on ya". I know that people have the idea that Charlie was in charge of the ranch, but he wasn't. The wranglers thought he was a clown. They laughed at him - never took him seriously. Monte Laird slapped the shit out of Manson twice that I know about. I got there shortly after the first one. I witnessed the second, and Laird sure bloodied him up. I also saw Joe Soto throttle Manson good one day. You gotta remember, these guys were a different breed. If you pissed them off they didn't wonder "hey will this guy call the cops?". No, they'd rough you up and just laugh. Those guys were tougher than any bikers. I know that there are folks out there who see Manson as some mysterious guru, but he was a joke to those guys. I wound up having a long relationship with Joe Soto. From the time I met him as a kid at Corriganville Ranch until he passed away in 2009 at age 80.

The only other Manson Family person that I had any real exposure to was Tex. The thing I remember best was that he'd take us for ice cream. He had a pickup truck and we'd all (mostly kids and teenage girls) pile in the bed (since it wasn't illegal back then). Tex would spin the truck out leaving the ranch and we'd all slide around and bang into the sides and laugh. He was almost like a kid when we'd go on those ice cream rides. He was always nice to me.

I remember some of the girls, but I don't remember any of their names because I mostly hung around with the wranglers. I do though remember that sometimes they made brownies and would give me some. I also remember that they liked to take gum wrappers and fold them up to connect to each other and make chains. They had some really long ones going!

One day I got up early and went to Spahn Ranch because I wanted to help feed the horses. When I got there Shorty wasn't around and the horses had not been fed, so I did it. When I finished I saw Charlie talking to Tex and another guy. I asked about Shorty and Charlie said, "He went away on a trip." When I asked when he'd be back he said he probably wouldn't be back. I was very hurt. Shorty was my teacher and more importantly, my friend. He was also the first adult friend I ever had. It was the first time in my life that my heart was broken.

I first heard about Shorty's demise at home. My mom watched the news every evening because the Vietnam war was on and we had relatives over there. This one night the ranch was on the news. Miss Pearl (Ruby Pearl) was being interviewed. She said she was worried about Shorty and feared something very very bad had happened...

Donald Shea
1933-1969

Stoner's interview on Thursday:







53 comments:

Panamint Patty said...

Thanks for sharing your stories with us, Pete! And Stoner, thanks for the introduction.

stoner van houten said...

what a great read ...great job matt!!..pete is cool..cant wait to do my interview with him for youtube....he really thought no one would give a shit about this stuff...LMAO!...there's a lot more people into this then he thinks....

58f7f4b8-1dd6-11e4-a6f1-df825d6e9554 said...

What kind of a mini-bike?! I picture the tiny Briggs and Stratton style rather than a Honda 50, or a Yamaha 75.

58f7f4b8-1dd6-11e4-a6f1-df825d6e9554 said...

Maybe a Taco?

58f7f4b8-1dd6-11e4-a6f1-df825d6e9554 said...

I gotta ask: Why didn't Pete and his mom contact authorities about such knowledge of Shea's final days after seeing it on TV - and perhaps his last known whereabouts?

Jenn said...

Brownies, huh?
:-)

Michael Hloušek-Nagle said...

Great read, thanks Pete, Stoner, and Matt. Charlie Manson, bullying victim! Glorious stuff :)

And poor Shorty. That's why I love blogs like this one - there's a heck of a lot of Manson and Tate stuff out there, but the 'fringe' characters are never forgotten here. Shorty (like Hinman) sounds like a nice guy.

But then, so does Tex....

Eek.

AustinAnn74 said...

Manson got a good slap from the stuntmen every once in a while, so he would turn around, and take it out on the girls. He desperately needed to come across a tough cowgirl, and try the same maneuver, so she could turn around, and do the Texas two-step on his face!

Michael Hloušek-Nagle said...

AustinAnn - beautifully put! :)

Robert Hendrickson said...

I think ANN may be on to something. The "rough and tough" cowboys picked-on Charlie so HE puts the "weaker" girls down. Makes me wonder IF that's why Bill Clinton made the young girls (IE: Monica) get down on their knees for HIM.

Matt said...

HA! RH, you done cracked me up! The football players picking on the marching band guys.

Michael Hloušek-Nagle said...

RH - What are you implying about Hillary!? Maybe more Rodeo than Rodham?

From what I've read, the girls who earned their 'Presidential kneepads' were the luckier ones. Prior to that it seems to have been a case of "You might wanna put some ice on that" as he left the room.

Cuntry Trash said...

Why didn't any of these wranglers kick M's ass for mistreating the women, if they were so tough and the abuse was so rampant?

Or was it done in secrecy? Or was it exaggerated? Tex said he never saw M hit anyone. Doesn't mean it never happened, just saying that people have an illusion that he did it repeated.

All it takes is one hit on a woman to make you a pile of shit, not defending M. Just saying that people sort of take the story and go into la-la land with it sometimes.

Manson got his ass kicked because he was an annoying asshole that talked the talk, but couldn't walk the walk.

I am surprised M didn't tell everyone he was a stuntman. I bet those stuntmen and wranglers would have had a ball "showing him the (literal) ropes" as a stuntplayer.

Matt said...

Cuntry, I spoke with Pete on the phone about that and the explanation I got was that the wranglers and the Family were on different sides of the Ranch.

If you read Family-sympathetic accounts you would think that the Family did all of the ranch work. After speaking to Pete it sounds like they weren't too involved with that. Friction seemed to occur when Manson stuck his nose where it didn't belong...


Krissy Deen said...

Very interesting to read, thank you. I love hearing from people who were actually there at the time. I have read before that Tex came across as a nice guy. Well- maybe he was unless you were one of the people he stuck a knife into.It's still surprising though that many people today don't even seem to know who Tex Watson is and what he did. Maybe it's because I think Charlie likes acting crazy ( although I don't think he really is) and the others act like brainwashed victims who weren't responsible for their own actions.

Cuntry Trash said...

Well, I think at one time they may have really done ranch work - to wedge themselves in. We also hearing that they cooked and cleaned for George, but then we hear people saying that they really didn't or did it half assed.

The ranch wasn't that big, and being on the other side means what? 500 feet? Wasn't the ranch hand quarters behind the stables? Not far from the front of the ranch.

I wouldn't disagree that Manson tried to run Spahn, but come on now - he had absolutely no chance.

I just don't think Manson was as much as a tyrant as he is remembered for. However, I won't condone his behaviour because he as obviously violent and hit the girls.

As for Tex, it sounds like Pete was there throughout the murders and maybe even after - leading up to Shorty's death. His account of Tex seems to be complete opposite of what he alleges - that he was this out-of-his-mind programmed monkey for Manson.

AustinAnn74 said...

I liked reading Danny Decarlo's testimony from court when he said his club brothers were gonna go out to that ranch, and roll Manson up in a rubber ball! I laughed, literally out loud when I read that. I think he said it twice. Tex lied about seeing the abuse, because he admitted it in court. The one I'm surprised didn't roll Manson in a ball was Juan Flynn.



Cuntry Trash said...

And the kid in the beginning of Inside The Manson Gang smoking with the girls looks like he could be this guy....

AustinAnn74 said...

I meant because his size, not attitude.

Matt said...

Cuntry, it can't be Pete. Pete stopped going to the ranch after he believed Shorty was gone. RH didn't come along until after Zero's "suicide".

hippiekiller said...

What a great read! Thanks for sharing, Pete.

Mr. Humphrat said...

Yeah thanks Pete. I love hearing stories that fill out the picture more and like to hear about Charlie getting slapped around.
It makes me think also of Wendy's interview recently (Randy Star's wife); she's got all these great stories but she hasn't written a book because she lacks confidence in her own writing. I wonder if anyone has come forward to offer to help her.

Cuntry Trash said...

I could have sworn Pete asking Fox to see if Hendrickson had any footage of him riding his minibike? Am I mistaken?

Windy doesn't write a book because she has a lot of fantasy in her stories.

Cuntry Trash said...

Come on now, look at the pic - same person.
http://tinypic.com/r/289vfhk/8

stoner van houten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stoner van houten said...

i did a one hour interview with pete at the ranch today 1/7/2015 ...he hasnt been to the ranch in over 40 years..he showed me where everything was that he could remember ...lol..check it out on my youtube page ''spahn ranch worker''

Matt said...

Hump, in the archives here you'll see that we spoke with Windy before that interview. We had to dismiss a great deal of her story because it didn't check out.

As just one example the plane crash she says happened. Those things don't go unnoticed by newspapers. Especially in a huge media market like LA. There was no such plane crash. Like Cuntry says, most of that interview was fantasy.

Krissy Deen said...

Wow. I just watched Stoner's video with Pete and I am impressed. Stoner, I have seen your name on these blogs but I don't know too much about you. I'm more of a lurker than a poster and although I think I know a lot more about Manson & friends than the vast majority of people in the world I don't know nearly as much as the people who post on these blogs. I have always considered myself a fan of Sharon Tate more than someone who is interested in TLB- but before the internet ( and I've been a " fan" of hers for nearly 40 years) the only way I could usually find info on her was to look up information on the Manson " family" who was more well known at the time than she was unfortunately, and I admit to becoming interested in not only the whole Manson story but the late sixties culture in general. I have watched other people post their videos from Spahn ranch and they were so boring or lacking in any new info. that I wouldn't even finish watching them. Not so with your video-you knew how to ask the right questions and let Pete take it from there. Pete was great to listen to. He's obviously very sincere and honest when talking about his time spent at the ranch. He could have very easily exaggerated things that happened or pretend to know more than he did but he obviously didn't do that- and he didn't need to. His real memories were interesting enough on their own. I hope he can find that picture he's looking for and maybe connect back up with others who may have known him or been around Spahn at the same time. I would love to hear more from him. I know some people think that at ten years old, how much can one really remember. Well, it sounds like he was living his passion then- learning stunts- and those memories do stay with you. He is only a few years older than I am, and I can remember being about ten years old as well, my father had been sent to a military base out west in the middle of nowhere and it was during this time of my life that I discovered my own passion- which was horses. I would get up and ride my bike for miles and miles to get to that stable. It was the only one for miles around. I can remember some of those times much more clearly than many of the years that followed- maybe because I was happy and learning about things I loved. I can still remember nearly all of those horses names and the stalls they were in and lessons I learned but I can't remember a lot of my other years growing up. Bits and pieces obviously but not in great detail. I could tell just listening to Pete's horse talk that he knew what he was talking about. Anyway, sorry to carry on so long but I really did enjoy this video. If Pete's around and can answer a question- I would like to ask him if he is still a horse lover after all these years or if it was more the stunts he was interested in. From the few pictures I've seen of the horses at Spahns they always looked cared for- sometimes it seems like the Manson crew took credit for a lot of that but I assume the guys down at the other end of the ranch were the ones actually caring for them. Anyway,that was a very enjoyable video and thanks again to both Stoner and Pete.

Matt said...

I've added Stoner's interview to the post. Enjoy...

Robert Hendrickson said...

Stoner: Ask Pete if he went back to the Spahn Ranch at all, sometime at the end of 69, because I definitely remember a young guy with a "mini-bike." A young "Johnny" is in "Inside the MANSON Gang." but he is not the guy with a mini-bike.

ALSO on point here is the situation of story "exaggerations." When I was there, Randy Starr was the only so-called "ranch-hand - stunt-man" and HE never lifted a finger to do ANY physical work around the ranch. Great guy, got along with the Family, but HE was a cowboy "star." The reality in Hollywood is: IF they are called to audition for parts that I am called for, they are my competition AND if they get the part - NOT me - I hope they unfortunately can't make it to the set.

Because of the new Polanski news, last night AOL posted this caption with Roman's pic:

"U.S. Officials renew effort to extradite notorious outlaw movie director."

ANYONE else now see where this is all going ?

Michael Hloušek-Nagle said...

Wonderful - I love Stoner's video tours. He allows me to see more of Spahn than my wife did on our honeymoon.

(I tried to explain to her how romantic it was - the rocks, the views of the Valley, the moonlight, the murder site - but she wasn't having it.)

Matt said...

Cuntry, I showed Pete the still shot you posted. He says it definitely is not him.

Also, we ruled out Hendrickson as a possibility to have captured him on film. The dates didn't work. They couldn't have met.

aMy said...

"I figured everyone at the ranches were stuntmen". Well you might have been on to something with Spahn between the ages of 9 and 10 there

Suze said...

Fascinating hearing the ranch described by someone who was there. I didn't know that the front was really the back (first will be the last? LOL) or about the Red Dog /Longhorn thing.

Thank you for the knowledge Pete, Stoner, Matt and anyone else who had a hand in this.

Sun King said...

Great interview and stories! Also from the little tour I was able to see that I was in the right location of the ranch when I took a visit there a few months ago but wasn't sure due to the erosion that was explained in the video.

aMy said...

Also interesting to read that Shorty REALLY didnt like Charlie or take any of the man's BS.I always thought he was compliant out of fear but it doesn't sound like it. Maybe he was murdered because he undermined a narcissist.
Sounds like a fun, together guy. More sure of himself than I ever would have thought.

St Circumstance said...

Really interesting stuff....

aMy said...

I know its probably a long-shot, but when Pete spoke of the girl with the "Sandy, dishwater coloured hair" that took the photo of Shea and himself, Sandra came to mind.Pete said it was a girl who was always around and was very pretty. Sandy had those striking eyes, but what im thinking is i can totally see her being proactive with a camera. The same could possibly be said of Lynne. They were the ones we see on film trying to endear themselves to Mr Spahn.Im sure they would have been the types to approach someone with a camera. However, Pete has probably seen their pics many times now... it just made me shudder to think someone like her might have been the one who has this precious memory of Pete's.

stoner van houten said...

glad everyone enjoyed the video...pete is building a ranch for disabled kids..he said he was planning to build a replica of the longhorn and rock city cafe on his ranch...i have seen photos of his place its very nice..i hooked pete up with another stuntman gary warner kent today ..gary was in 4 films shot at spahn ranch (Lash of Lust, Hell's Bloody Devils, Satan's Sadists, and Angel's Wild Women) and was in the movie Shorty Shea was in (Fabulous Bastard from Chicago)..kent wrote a book called ''shawdows and light'' in it at pages 242-249 he talks about the manson family,the hiring of juan flynn..and shorty shea...i talked to gary today and he remembers pete ..but not as a stuntman,he said he remembers a kid on a mini-bike riding around the ranch..but didnt think much of it..gary is older then pete by 25 years...lol..they talked and now there getting together to talk about old times in march....how cool is that !!..and i will be going with pete to check out a possible manson family dune-buggy he might own..??..will see,im doing some reaseach on it....

Robert Hendrickson said...

Thanks Pete, Stoner and ANN; I now think I got the Spahn Ranch "big picture." On one side you got the "shit-kicker" cowboys and on the other side you got the "long-hair" hippie types. It's amazing ONLY "shorty" got wacked. OR were there more ? I suspect "Shorty" was the out-front, "in your face" bully. I had been to the "shit-kicker" bar in nearby Acton on a Saturday night and NOT even the cops would go there.

Hippies, who only wanted to make love and "shit-kickers" who only wanted to kick the shit out of "hippies." My god, how did I miss such a significant clue all these years.

aMy said...

Id love to know just how the dynamics between the ranch guys and the slippies really were. IF they really did "party" together, surely there wasn't that much animosity...at some point they were more than just tolerating eachother. What escalated things getting out of control? Hard workers trying to find common ground with lazy kids? After a few cans with Charlie, maybe Shorty and the rest got frustrated at seeing what was happening with these girls. That THEY weren't seeing through the bull this weasle was spewing (while he was getting laid on tap ; )

Matt said...

Yes Amy, wouldn't it be grand to find one that's still living to get his slant on it?

aMy said...

Sure it would be only graaand Matt! And I believe there's folk out there, probably dying to straighten out a few misconceptions floating about. But what's also out there after all these years, is the FEAR! The fear that probably only grows with such a long time having passed

Mr. Humphrat said...

Is it true Squeaky "snitched" on Shorty for talking to Spahn about selling to the developer. and also isn't it true Charlie suspected Shorty of snitching to authorities about stolen cars?

Doc Sierra said...

Does anybody know if it's true that Shorty beat the shit out of Vance and Manson on Gresham St or is this another figment of Randy Starr's wife's imagination?

Healter Skelter said...

Shorty learned the hard way not to be a snitch or a bully.

Matt said...

Doc, on the right side of the blog, scroll down to the "Labels". There is a label "Windy Bucklee". If you click on that there are a few posts.

We published what we considered plausible in her story. It doesn't mean that everything checks out, it just means that we think what she said was reasonable. A significant amount of what she told us was just flat out ridiculous and was not included. It would not have been responsible to do so.

beauders said...

I remember reading that Nancy Pitman's mother came to Spahn because Nancy had taken her camera (the mother sounded like a spitfire too). Could Nancy be the girl with the camera?

Matt said...

That is an interesting thought, beauders...

Mr. Humphrat said...

when he said a girl took his picture I thought he meant another little girl visiting the ranch but I probably misinterpreted because it would make more sense it was someone who lived there.

La-de-la said...

I can’t imagine a sweeter, more poignant testimonial to Shorty than the one given by Pete, memorialized by Stoner and shared by Matt. This is probably the best thing to come down the TLB pike in a very long time.

Thank you so much all of you and what an amazing treat!! Would love to hear more from Pete too!

-Maude’s Harold

Robert Hendrickson said...

Here you have a guy named STONER who has been searching and digging for material "relics" of the Manson Family, but his greatest treasure to date is a "personal" man named Pete. Makes me think: "Seek and ye shall find." BUT don't get trapped in tunnel vision OR you will never be able to SEE outside the darkened tunnel.

Unknown said...

I loved the interview that Stoner did with Pete!.. a sweet story!