Tuesday, April 2, 2013

My Interface With The Manson Family, by Sue Marshall: Part 1 of 3

This series comes exclusively to Eviliz.com from Sue Marshall, a writer who lives in California. Sue will be monitoring the blog for the next few days to field your questions.

At the time the Manson Family perpetrated the Tate-LaBianca murders, I had just graduated from Santa Monica High School.  Shortly thereafter I began  writing on a freelance basis for the Los Angeles Free Press, a tabloid weekly that provided sensational coverage of the counterculture, to much acclaim.

In November 1969, I was hired by the Freep as a staff writer. I began to cover the antiwar movement. Later, I would be named "military editor." To my amazement, I was soon receiving a lot of mail from soldiers in Vietnam who would prefer to be anywhere else.  My journalistic focus inclined toward covering serious news about the peace movement, social justice, and women's liberation.

Around the same time, mid-October 1969, Manson and some of the Family members were arrested at the Barker Ranch in the Panamint Mountains, now within the boundaries of Death Valley National Park.  Charges filed included auto theft and arson. It took the police authorities a few weeks to figure out who to arrest for the Tate-LaBianca murders, as well as those of Gary Hinman and Shorty Shea.

Gary Hinman

Coincidentally, I was acquainted with Manson Family victim Gary Hinman.

In the spring of 1968, as a high school junior, I met a young man named Gabriel, a musician, who recruited me to come to a Buddhist meeting. Thus I discovered the Pacific Palisades chapter of the Nicherin Shoshu Sokagakki, the Buddhist cult that chants "Nam Myho Renge Kyo" and conducts a vigorous proselytization effort. Being curious, bored, and interested in meeting young men, I joined up.

In August 1968, the sect held a convention in Honolulu. Seizing this  opportunity to have a little adventure, I had saved my earnings from a summer job and flew to Hawaii with the group.  There I met Gary Hinman.

Hinman seemed much older and wiser than the rest of us. He must have been in his early 30's. He was not very tall, of thin build, with straight brown hair of medium length and a brown beard.  He smiled and did not talk much.  He wrote his address and phone number in my little red book.  I could have gone to visit him at his house in Topanga Canyon, later to be the scene of his demise.  But I never called him. Could Gary's open and welcoming nature have eased the way for Manson and his followers to have access to him?  I suspect so.

A Visit from Sandy Good, Squeaky Lyn, and Gypsy

By December 1969, the police had arrested most or all of the Manson Family members who had been involved in the string of murders.  I was still very new in my job as a reporter when the Freep office was visited by a trio who would later become infamous in their own right.

At that time, the Free Press office was located on the north side of Beverly Boulevard, one block east of La Brea, across from CBS Television City. Because of earlier bomb threats from anti-Castro Cubans, the door between the lobby and the offices was controlled with an electric latch.  Before anyone could enter, receptionist Dee would have to buzz them in.

It was in this dim lobby, with bright sunbeams filtering through the glass door, that Sandy Good, "Squeaky" Lynette Fromme, and "Gypsy" (Catherine Share) introduced themselves to me and my neighbor, Michael.  They were carrying a stack of vinyl records: Charlie Manson's original songs performed by the Family, with Gypsy playing acoustic guitar.  The appearance of the cover art made it obvious that this was not a product of the slick record companies.  It was a blurry black-and-white version of the Life magazine cover photo of Manson with his trademark stare. The only title, in block letters, was the word "LIE," in an attempt to mimic the magazine logo.

My neighbor Michael immediately produced the five dollars that the young women were asking for their record.  If I had bought one from them then, it would be probably worth ten thousand dollars today.  But I probably didn't have five dollars in my pocket, and the Manson Family trio were activating my weirdness radar.

Soon we were joined by managing editor Paul and advertising administrator Shirley. They were very intrigued by our visitors.

We listened to the spiel:

Charlie, they said, had been targeted by the LAPD because he was having a good time with his Family.  He never did anything criminal, they said.  Everyone was innocent.  It was Us versus the Man. The Pigs were scapegoating hippies because they needed to solve these murders.

All this sounded plausible.  We made an appointment to meet the Family at their stronghold.


Leigh said...

Another great source. Thanks to the Eviliz staff and thanks to Sue Marshall for sharing your memories, insights and reflections and for being willing to answer our questions. I can't wait to read the next installment. I'm in a bit of a rush now so don't yet have any questions of my own, but want to give some appreciation.

starship said...

Uh oh...Gypsy played guitar?

Let the fighting commence.

eviliz said...

Thank you so much Sue!

eviliz said...

starship said...
Uh oh...Gypsy played guitar?

As well as the skin flute.

St. Circumstance said...


very fascinating....

Always a great treat to hear first hand accounts of the times and the players. Very excited to read more from this wonderful source...

Anything on Hinman is valuable to me. so hard to find information about him.

Doc Sierra said...

eviliz said...

starship said...
Uh oh...Gypsy played guitar?

As well as the skin flute.
She started out on the meat whistle.

Matt said...

Sue, two topics about Gary Hinman are frequently debated on this blog.

1) Even though he had previously been married, many think he was gay.

2) Was he a drug dealer?

Did you spend enough time around him to get a feel for either of these?

St. Circumstance said...

Matt is right sadly...

people do ask and debate those 2 questions, and what is sad is that some argue he was one or the other to the purpose that he brought the murder on himself...

otherwise who cares what the poor guy did in his free time or behind closed doors... Why attack the character of a person who was brutally tortured by people he seemed to trust.

Wonder what your feelings are on that? you seem to be a tuned in person of the times and socially aware as well...

St. Circumstance said...

Love to read some of Sue's articles for Free Press or anything else relating to the times and current events- are there links anywhere coming or that we could go to read some of her work??

leary7 said...

I suspect I will get detention from Matt again for being so ornery...but I thought this article (at least this first part of three) was tremendously bland. The memorable lines being....
"I could have gone to visit him"...
'But I never called him'.
"If I had bought one from them...but I probably didn't have five dollars in my pocket".
Seems like she had chance brushes with the Family and laments over not being more aware and assertive. Not exactly groundbreaking journalism.
I usually have a dozen questions after reading something like this but honestly this piece didn't generate any.

But I am just being a grouch. Maybe the next two parts will have more meat.
Regardless, it is nice of her to share.

DebS said...

St. Circumstance said...
Love to read some of Sue's articles for Free Press or anything else relating to the times and current events- are there links anywhere coming or that we could go to read some of her work??

We did post one of Sue's articles a while back. It is the Nov. 8, 2012 post here-


St. Circumstance said...

Oh yeah.. TY didn't put the name together but I do remember that article


St. Circumstance said...


you always seem underwhelmed?

You say in many posts that many other infamous people and cases are just as interesting to you and have made it very clear you don't feel this is much more significant than any number of them....

75& of the time your general tone says your bored and " whats all the fuss about?"

The details for some of us is in the small stuff. we have read the general stuff so many times - it becomes the new and little things which satisfy the craving...

I just wonder what the draw is for you since none of the material seems to impress you much?

Col is a dick sometimes. I love the stuff he does though and I admit I am a fan oh his humor and writing. I like it- I just do lol- that's why I go back...

I used to read about Scientology and 60's music and stumbled across the Manson story. I started reading all the sites and it led me to the blogs. Of all the other subjects I liked reading about- this was one with active blogs to talk back and forth with other people. there are no Scientology blogs or Laurel Canyon blogs I found as fun or with as much participation as this - and eventually I got to know a few people- so that is why I come back here and to other sites. As well as to learn new things if I can- because i know so much about the subject it is only the small things and new perspectives and details which provide me anything of significance.

We have been talking long enough to be friendly and you not take this personally or as an attack..

I just wonder why you come back?

you never thought it was more important than other cases you study, you dont take the time to read all the books/sites or learn the facts, you never seem impressed by the number of participants or the subject matter... you the impression it doesn't really stoke your passions any more than a dozen other similar cases in history. You comment as to give people the feeling this doesn't really impress you more than any number of other things.... You don't even bother to really get to know the facts lol how many times have you started a post by saying

" I'll leave the___ to _____ because he is more of an expert than I am"

and then tell us why the broader picture is that is really isn't so big of a deal anyway....

BUT your here as much as me or anyone else :)

so maybe you are just like me and you come here to talk about this case- because there is no other place with as much to offer in the same way regarding those other cases and my other favorite subjects?? we come here to talk and argue because this is one place we always know that those options are always available to us here and about this subject.

doesn't that in itself say something about the importance and difference between this case and others and the level of interest it holds over people???

lol if there was a JFK blog world or a blog devoted to lizzie Borden or any of the other cases you bring up- wouldn't you spend part of your time there as well??

but there are always people who are ready to talk about Charlie...

it is what separates it from others to me. how many people are so still so interested after so long....

just a thought - your a very bright guy and well spoken. this isn't a challenge. I am not trying to start a back and forth that lasts longer than this comment. I just want to point out that there is a reason why Movies still get made on this subject and Bruce still cant walk, and people still buy eviliz Manson tour shirts, or that people even go on a eviliz Manson tour... It really is not like all of those other cases in so many ways.... How many

You gotta recognize lol

Farflung said...

This may be a good time to update the Manson Family Matrix, as a way to disabuse anyone of confusion or cross contamination of information. Don’t worry; all of this should be wicked easy to follow.

Red, Blue and Gypsy were selling the first release of the album ‘LIE’, and made a $5 sale at the Freep.

The ‘LIE’ album was produced by Phil Kaufman, who went on to manage Gram Parsons, who would die of an overdose in the Joshua Tree Inn, as covered previously on this blog. Kaufman was recommended by Terry Melcher, who produced ‘The Ballad of Easy Rider’ with The Byrds.

The opening scene of the movie ‘Easy Rider’ has record producer Phil Spector, acting (believable performance too) like someone buying a large quantity of cocaine. Phil Spector was sentenced to 19 years in prison for murder two, which he is presently serving at Corcoran (ooo-wee-ooo). This may be Manson’s best opportunity with a music industry big wig (see what I did there?). Isn’t that the definition of ironic punishment, like the guy on the ‘Twilight Zone’ who just wanted to read books undisturbed, but broke his glasses? Now ‘The Wall of Sound’ has a little razor wire and some guard towers. I’m thinking it’s time for Manson and Spector to team up and re-release the anthem of incarceration:


Fuller’s own death would only add to the ironic mystique, since Manson escaped the gas chamber.

Now for the other loose end at the L. A. Free Press. Apparently the paper was started by a Michigan transplant and alchemist/political socialist named Art Kunkin. After closing the paper and practicing various vocations, he ultimately arrived at The Institute of Mentalphysics. And just what’s the first motel you come to traveling east from the Institute? That’s right, the Joshua Tree Inn. Once again proving my theory; everything has only one degree of separation from the ‘Family’. (oooo-weeee-oooo)

St. Circumstance said...

far out farflung lol well done!

HellzBellz said...

Interesting.... Seu is captured on Photo with a nice Camara and ,Zoom-Lens, I truly hope she did took some interesting pictures during that period ....and show us ofcourse. Looking forward to Part 2&3 btw

Farflung said...

Here are some of the ‘Freep’ publications with the issues from the TLB timeframe, third from the bottom:

Fearless Freep

The article is about Frank Zappa and the Mothers, but it made no mention if they had the best place around (1:08-1:17):

Smoke on the Water

St. Circumstance said...


Cuntry Trash said...

Gypsy had a 45 out under Charity Shayne, really good too.

My question is simple: Do you know if Gary Hinman had any connection whatsoever (even if meeting them once) any victims including Bernard Crowe and any of the people who were assumed to have been drug suppliers to Frykowski or Sebring like Joel Rostau?

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

Thanks for the kind words, Leigh.

And thanks to St. Circumstance for your insights.

To those who wonder whether I knew whether Hinman was either a dealer or gay, the answer is no, I did not get to know him well.

To leary7, who is bored by this account and thinks it would have been more scintillating if I had gone to Topanga to hang out at Hinman's or had bought the LIE album, let's just say that these things were not high priorities. If I had to do it over again, I still would not have cultivated a relationship with Hinman - not because he wasn't a lovely person, but because the Nicherin Shoshu folks are WEIRD. And the Mansonites are WEIRDER. Hinman was not careful enough about the company he kept, ipso facto.

While it is curious and interesting that these dimensions of weirdness existed for us then and still exist now, I made a decision to not hang around with weird people, and am happy with that decision.

To farflung, as a matter of fact I was in Joshua Tree last week and spoke briefly to Art Kunkin.

But all is not as cosmic as it might appear -- Joshua Tree is the prettiest place in the high desert, and it is not a coincidence that Gram Parsons and millions of others gravitate to the area.

- Sue Marshall

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

Two post-scripts:

1. St. Circumstance - did you know Gary Hinman? It is not beyond the realm of possibility that Hinman crossed the path of the Grateful Dead when they were in L.A. for the Acid Tests in 1967, and staying at Margie King's place on Ocean Front in Venice. But this is conjecture on my part.

2, For those interested in the old Freep archives, a gentleman named Steven Finger of Palm Springs has created a digital database of articles. You can google the Los Angeles Free Press and all will be revealed.

-- Sue Marshall

orwhut said...

"Being curious, bored, and interested in meeting young men, I joined up."

Honest and straight forward. I like it!

hippiekiller said...

Good stuff as always. eviliz killin' it.

ColScott said...

@ St.- Being gay is not a defect of character. You need to join NOW man. Charlie would want you to!

Also email me your address and I will send you ALL the FREEP articles.

St. Circumstance said...

I didn't mean to say it was a character defect lol being gay or selling drugs actually lol

Some guys I know who sell drugs are terrific characters ;)

I meant that people bring up his personal life sometimes and blame him for getting himself killed.

But hey if Charlie wants me to do something...

eviliz said...

Doc Sierra said...
eviliz said...

starship said...
Uh oh...Gypsy played guitar?

As well as the skin flute.
She started out on the meat whistle

LMAO never heard that one before

Unknown said...

Very interesting! I thought Gypsy played violin and that it was Clem who played the guitar on the album?

A.C. Fisher-Aldag said...

Being gay = not a character flaw. Not harmful.

Selling drugs = character flaw and harmful. Certainly not a reason to murder someone... but... you lie down w/ dogs, you get up w/ fleas. Drug dealers kill each other. Did in 1969. Do nowadays, too.

hendythefifth said...


Could you expand on the "weirdness" vibe you got from Gypsy, Sandy, and Squeaky? Did you get a sense that they were dangerous, or did they just seem harmless and goofy.

St. Circumstance said...

Ya know the more I read it again- I really didn't say that quite right did I ???

ooops sorry

Unknown said...

This is totally unrelated to Manson, but I thought it was funny:

I was looking at old issues of the Freep that Farflung linked to, and really grooved on the cartoon advertisements by a character named 'James Lockway'. So I decided to look him up.

Well, there's sweet FA about him on the internet, really. All I could find at first was this:


Which establishes that by the 80s he was still an acid-taking, wild-living Freak cartoonist.

But then after a little more googling I turned up this:


Which suggests that at some point before becoming the resident cartoonist of a 1980s countercultural Old Media rag he decided to give up Hippydom in favour of the kind of personal fulfilment that can only can only be achieved through the medium of window-washing entrepreneurialism . That or he and his old lady were engaging in an early form of trolling, directed at the Lawrence Journal.

Humans sure are a strange and amusing bunch of creatures. :)

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

Hi hendythefifth -

Sorry, I missed your question before. Have just finished doing taxes. :-)

To expand on the weirdness vibe I got from Sandy, Squeaky, Gypsy. Let's see; that's a hard question to answer.

When we met in front of the Freep office, they were not dissimilar to the folks one encountered at your Love-Ins, your Diggers in the park, etc. They were more articulate and more sincere on our first meeting than subsequently.

It was when we went to the house in the Valley - probably the one on Victory Boulevard, as Cielo.com suggests, rather than the Yellow Submarine house as I had been thinking - that the vibes got REALLY strange. In the presence of Clem and the other men, the young women began to act very insincere. You can tell when the facial expressions are not showing genuine emotional content.

My discomfort became increasingly intense. The fact that their group was associated with a sensational murder case did not initially put any of us off, but the more time I spent with these people, the more it was but for me it became a visceral pulling back from a bad scene.

Hope this is helpful.