Wednesday, April 3, 2013

My Interface With The Manson Family, by Sue Marshall: Part 2 of 3

The Yellow Submarine House

The following day, a group of us Freep staffers drove to the West Valley in two cars. Since I lived in East Hollywood, in the opposite direction, I drove alone in my battered yellow Ford Falcon.  Paul, Shirley, and Judie lived in Reseda, in the same general direction as the Family.  The rendezvous point was the one-story ranch-style house the Family called the Yellow Submarine.[1]

The vivid detail that sticks in my memory was an antique (or imitation antique) sign on the front porch reading:  Doctor Sigafoos, Diseases of the Colon and Rectum.[2]

We were greeted by two of the men.  I believe one was "Clem," Steve Grogan.  The other may have been Bruce Davis or Dennis Rice.  These guys reminded me of weasels or ferrets.  They were thin and dirty, with the wise-ass demeanor of jailbirds. The young women were summoned from the back of the house.  We all sat in the living room on regular chairs and sofas.  I do not recall the d├ęcor in detail, but it lacked the ornate arrangements of India prints, temple bells, candles, incense, and psychedelic posters that were the hallmark of good hippie housekeeping in that era.

I stared at the girls.  Squeaky Lyn was a redhead. Gypsy had very black hair.  Sandy Good was a blonde.  They all wore the same odd hair style:  cut short at  ear length, with a few strands left long at one side of their faces. Ed Sanders would learn later that Manson had ordered his female followers to submit to a ritual tonsure, with the harvested hair woven into a vest that was presented to Charlie. [3]

One of the men, again I think it was Clem, began to hold forth:

The police had it in for Charlie. Why, a cop could sit in a topless bar in Van Nuys all evening and still not succeed in getting laid.  Wouldn't it make him want to nail Charlie, who was surrounded by pretty girls who were happy to do his bidding?

As if on cue, the girls assumed insincere smiles. There was something creepy about the scene.

But here we were, in the West Valley, a district that would become the epicenter of the loathsome L.A. porn industry.  This was early in the progress of the women's liberation movement, but I was struck by the subservience and robot-like sexuality that the Manson girls were enacting.  I had observed this vibe before around the West Hollywood groupie scene, from the young women who gravitated to rock bands.  I had already come to the conclusion that all rock musicians were assholes. So what we were witnessing was, thus far, par for the course.

The Spahn Ranch

With this preliminary indoctrination accomplished, our caravan left for the Spahn Ranch.

The Santa Susana Hills look like the backdrop of every old Western movie you've seen.

When I was a child in L.A. in the 1950s, there was no Ronald Reagan Freeway to expedite the trip between the northwest San Fernando Valley and Ventura. High above Simi Valley, a road passed along the eventual freeway route and crossed Santa Susana Pass.  It is here I would feel a great excitement, for my family would only be here if we were headed for Corriganville.

Movie stuntman Crash Corrigan had developed a small theme park and tourist trap amid his movie set in Chatsworth.  There was a fake old-West town, with false-front buildings, raised plank sidewalks, hitching posts for horses, and a rustic one-room jail, complete with barred windows. Actors would simulate gunfights for the delight of the children.  We had been raised on Western movies and TV.

At Corriganville, the surrounding hills, dotted with massive granite boulders and yucca, set the stage for those Westerns. When I was in Corriganville I was in paradise.

When our party arrived at the Spahn Ranch, I had a moment of the same giddy excitement. By some measures, at age 18 I was still a kid. I looked around at the desert hillsides, at the movie-set Western town.  The Spahn Ranch movie set was smaller than Corriganville, but it looked very similar, and the two sites were not far away from each other.

I had come to the Spahn Ranch expecting a hippie commune, perhaps with noir overtones.  But what I saw was HORSES!

To my surprise, I saw that the young women of the extended Manson family were seriously engaged in the work of renting out horses for trail rides. They were running a business there[4].  I fought a strong impulse to run to the rental corral, mount up, and explore the desert hills on horseback.  Or at least go pet the horses.

But I was a professional.  I was there to do a job. I had come to interview subjects for a news article.  Would I get the by-line?[5]  I was new on the job and eager to prove my ability.

Glancing around the movie ranch, I saw Ruby Pearl, the old cowgirl who was George Spahn's sidekick.  She emerged onto the back porch of the main house. Her orange hair was pinned up in braids around her head. She looked bemused at the scene all around her.  She must have been seeing strangers  everywhere invading her home, hippies outnumbering the horse rental customers.  And now a new group had arrived from the Freep. We were not introduced to her. She must have perceived us merely as more hippies.  She held a pan of grain.  The chickens strutted, clucking, up to the back porch where she stood.  Ruby Pearl tossed out the feed.

In the yard we were greeted by Sandy Good, holding her infant son. She told us his name was Ivan, or Elf.  She smiled and said that his father was Bobby Beausoleil.

The wind blew. We followed the Mansonites into one of the fake-western buildings. I think it was the General Store. We found seats.  A fine layer of gritty dust covered everything, as you would expect at a desert horse ranch where not a lot of cleaning was done. One hanger-on was a teenage girl, from some suburban home, incongruously dressed in clean white pants.  And she still had all her long hair.  I concluded that she must be a very recent recruit.

Gypsy took up her guitar and soulfully sang Cease to Exist, the song Manson had almost succeeded in selling to the Beach Boys.[6]

I have no recollection of whatever desultory conversation we had that afternoon.  No food or drink was served and no joints were passed. It was like many a hippie commune, without any money to speak of, and with little attention paid to household cleanliness or personal hygiene.  Perhaps the Mansonites were trying to convince us of how normal they were.

The hour grew late, and we departed at dusk.


[1] According to research by Ed Sanders, the address of this house was on Gresham Street in Canoga Park.  He says the Mansonites were evicted shortly after our visit and that the house has been demolished since the events recounted here.

[2] Although I don’t recall the exact name of the purported physician, it wasn’t really “Sigafoos”.

[3] Don’t you wonder where this artifact might be today?

[4] Manson had negotiated accommodations for his entourage from elderly George Spahn;  the deal was that the girls would manage the rent string and the horse rental business. Squeaky was assigned to provide oral sex to keep George contented. Her Family name was derived from the sounds she emitted when the old gentleman felt her up, according to Ed Sanders.

[5] As I recall, it was Paul, as managing editor, who got the by-line. He seemed taken in by Clem’s rationale for the LAPD aversion to Manson. In the weeks that followed, I did not care much that I was not assigned to write an article about the Family. Now, in my maturity, I am very relieved.  I would not have been able to publish any sentiments that the Family would have found satisfactory. Who knows what might have resulted?

[6] According to the story, the Beach Boys had insisted in making revisions to the lyrics, including changing the title to Cease to Resist. This move toward marketability was unacceptable to Manson.


orwhut said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
orwhut said...

[3] Don’tyou wonder where this artifact might be today?

One version of what happened to the vest is that, Squeaky presented it to Charlie in prison. Not wanting it stolen from him, Charlie cut it up and gave the pieces to various other prisoners. I never understood how he was allowed to have it in prison, or why no pieces have turned up on ebay.

Maybe others will have different versions of the story.

St. Circumstance said...

I could listen to this all day lol

How incredible to actually have been there to see this actually playing out at the time first hand...

I think I would have had the same thoughts and reactions....

Sharp lady ;) said...

When did this visit to Gresham happen?

eviliz said...

WOW- this is the first time I ever heard that Sandy confirms Bobby is Ivan's birth Father. Eviliz staff (LOL) has know that for some time but kept it quiet to protect Ivan.

eviliz said...

Loving your participation Sue. Thanks so much!!

A.C. Fisher-Aldag said...

The vest had hair sewn onto it, not woven of hair. And the hair was given as a surprise gift. No demands. There are plenty of photos of it.

What struck me in the article was that MOST hippies lived that way... no money, not very clean (in the days of Lemon Pledge and bleaching everything and dangerous chemical cleaners sloshed everywhere).

Another thing... as I'd said previously, the "family" was WORKING on the ranch, taking care of and renting horses.

A.C. Fisher-Aldag said...

Off topic -- from a previous post. Today there are headlines about drugs, guns, booze, and yes cell phones found in Louisiana prisons -- on videotape, no less.

Sooo, obviously Gray Wolf isn't the only one bringing illegal items into America's prison systems.

Are these inmates being scrutinized and punished in the same manner?

St. Circumstance said...

AC- I bet Charlie didn't personally do a goddamn thing lol I am sure the others earned his keep...

two wrongs or two hundred wrongs dont make a right - isn't that what we teach the kids??

besides all those other people probably don't make the claim they are only helping the person they are sneaking the phone to to save the environment...

they are probably at least honest about what they are doing.. Helping a convict because they dig him- not contributing to some great grander cause....

eviliz said...

AC- Welcome back, long time no see.
Hope all is well.

Farflung said...

It looks like the Yellow Submarine was much closer to white. Sanders said the name was given to the house because of its color. I’m so confused.

The managing editor was taken in by Clem’s story? And so a myth is conceived where the cops can’t get any action, so they go after Charlie as a sort of release, how would that have played out exactly?

A group of police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and oddly CHP wait in a briefing room for the sergeant. He arrives to stand behind the podium and announces: “As many of you know, I spent the balance of last night in a gentleman’s club and couldn’t get a lap dance if my trousers were made out of twenties. Yet this Charlie person lives with dozens of beautiful, blithe, clean, charming and feminine girls out at Spahn’s ranch. He no doubt has received Rusty Trombones, Cleveland Steamers, and a couple Texas Chili Bowls, while I have to take out my frustrations on speeding motorists. So here’s what I need 20 or 30 of you to do, along with the DA’s office; find Manson and arrest him so this injustice against my libido can be avenged.” Really? Really??

It is astonishing how two people can observe the same event, at the same time, and retell versions with such vastly differing perspectives. Combine this with some form of anti-establishment bias and Charlie is being hassled for nothing more than, “having a good time with his family”. I can appreciate advancing an agenda as much as anyone else, but one needs to exercise a little discretion when it comes to what you’re willing to hang your hat on.

leary7 said...

Okay, I'll bite.
Characterizing and dismissing me as "bored" is typical of your playground tactics Saint.
I've read both these articles with interest. I just concluded neither was particularly well-written or had much substance.
So sue me.
In the first article Sue says "if I had bought one of them then (Manson record recording), it would probably be worth ten thousand dollars today."
I am not an Ebay guy but is there any evidence whatsoever that Manson recordings sell for huge sums?? If not then that statement of Sue's is nothing but silly and sensationalized conjecture. And really lousy journalism.

In this latest article Sue says upon coming to Spahn...
"But I was a professional. I was there to do a job. I had come to interview subjects for a news story".
Later in the article....
"I have no recollection of whatever desultory conversation we had that afternoon."

Seriously, am I the only one that sees the red flags here. Where are the interview notes? "No recollection" of conversing with some of the most infamous characters of that time???

I hate to be a negative nellie but I spent a decade getting three degrees in journalism and another 18 years working in the field.
Sorry, nothing personal, but this is really mediocre journalism.

Matt said...

I think somebody needs a nap.

St. Circumstance said...

not dismissing you in any way- you just always post comments to the affect that the subject matter is not very interesting or impressive to you and you just did it again lol so I dont think the thought was too out of line...

Leary as a person who put himself out there and wrote some things for public consumption and who got many emails from people from all over- I can tell you personally that many more people would be contributing if they weren't afraid of comments like the one you just made. These sites get tens of thousands of hits every year and yet we only see a small percentage of those who read getting involved. I have been told my many people they don't comment because they don't want to deal with the type of thing your doing right now.

and if the thought of having more people not be afraid to contribute doesn't do it for you....

How about common manners? Is this any way to treat a guest? lol

Some of us really are interested in hearing first hand accounts of these times and people. If they feel like their offerings are going to be critiqued and picked apart- how many of them are going to be willing to keep doing it??

offer your ideas and opinions (which are very well put together and articulate) But to criticize her style and abilities is not really going to motivate her to give the rest of us what we are really interested in having- more!!

But I called you out- so you can have the last word....

I will leave it at that- of course you and everyone else will do as you will

leary7 said...

yeah, I was worried about the manners thing.
But as I have always said, the Irish are blunt in their affections, and even "blunter" in their disaffections.
I am simply passionate about good journalism and short-tempered with what I see as 'People' magazine type journalism. I really wanted to keep my opinion to myself but when I saw others gushing over the article I felt obliged to be the grouch.
A long nap does sound delicious though. said...

I know what your saying Saint, but for the record that's not what a Hit is. You're talking about Visits or Unique Visitors. Tens of thousands of hits in a year would be extremely bad. A site like this probably gets that many hits in a day

leary7 said...

I guess I have just never considered a blog tp be akin to a garden club or tea party. Blogs to me are more like a rough corner bar. If someone is afraid to voice an opinion because it just might illicit a disaproving repsonse then maybe the blogworld is not the place for them.
It is what it is...and it ain't no tiptoe through the tulips.

St. Circumstance said...

Yes Cielo- I stand corrected :) said...

Sorry, I'm a dork

Cuntry Trash said...

Is it true that Bobby is the father of Ivan, or was that one of Sandra's lies to substantiate the "free Bobby" motive?

I knew it was not Joel, the timeline doesn't add up perfectly for that, does it?

I an believe Bobby, though.

I do like the weasel description of Grogan.

Thanks for this, it's nice to have this perspective.

St. Circumstance said...

You have a great website Cielo and I am a long time fan...

Unknown said...

I believe that Bobbys the father, Ivan's face has Bobby in it. said...

I thought Bobby had already confirmed that said...

Thanks Saint!

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

Thanks for the vest story, orwhut. The vest probably disintegrated rapidly if Manson cut it up and used it for jailhouse party favors. It probably did not last long enough for Meg Whitman to bring ebay to market.

-- Sue Marshall

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

To -

The date I visited the Yellow Submarine House?

While I was not as organized in keeping an appointments calendar then as I became later, I can bracket the visit to the Gresham house by two events: My first week at the Freep was November 21, and Ed Sanders said that the Mansonites were evicted from there in the "fall of 1969". Ed said he never visited the house, but somehow he obtained the street address, which is in his book "The Family".

My best guess is that I was there approximately the first week of December, 1969.

-- Sue Marshall

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

Hi Eviliz -

Oops, hope I did not let the cat out of the bag by recalling what Sandy Good said about Elf's parentage.

-- Sue Marshall

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

To A.C Fisher Aldag -

Thanks for your comments.

Indeed, the Mansonite women were caring for the horses and renting them out. Did any of them lead trail rides?

While many of us hippies did live in relaxed standards of housekeeping, it was not the universal norm. My best friend from high school, who grew up with Owsley a frequent visitor and members of the Grateful Dead occasional house guests, has always kept an immaculate home -- a worthy goal to which I still aspire.

Finally, do you dispute Ed Sanders' account of the mandatory haircutting to make the vest? Ed was told that Manson had demanded it, and told the girls afterward that it was good that their egos were dead. Sounds coerced to me.

-- Sue Marshall

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

To leary7 -

For your information, this pice of writing is not journalism. This is a segment of my memoir. I did not keep interview notes from 44 years ago for a story that I neither wrote nor wanted to write.

My heart goes out to you that you are one of the many trained journalists who is not marketable in the new world order of media.

Perhaps you can vent your frustration by finding a nice blog and writing snarky remarks.

-- Sue Marshall

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

To farflung -

Yes, you do not much overstate the line of bulls**t that the Mansonite man told our group from the Freep.

From our vantage point in the 21st century, many young people do not realize how much police professionalism has improved in the past few decades. In 1969, the LAPD was populated by Irish-American men who felt that they had carte blanche to strut around town insulting persons of color, youth of any sort, and always hippies. Thus, my collegues did not dismiss Clem's line of BS out of hand.

-- Sue Marshall

candy and nuts said...

When I wrote to Lynette back in 1990, I asked her about the hair-cut with the long tail-she basically just said it was something they did between the girls and didnt elaborate it on it further I assumed it was something private she didnt really want to discuss so I left it at that

candy and nuts said...

I had read somewhere ( a newspaper or magazine article) done when the trial was going on but the girls were still at Spahn that they were working on a cape for Charlie and using the hair they cut that July 1969 on the cape and also the hair on the dune buggy of Charlies-the hair on Charlies vest Im guessing was all from when they shaved their heads in 1971 ( will try to find article if I can)

eviliz said...

Amelia Sue Marshall said...
Hi Eviliz -

Oops, hope I did not let the cat out of the bag by recalling what Sandy Good said about Elf's parentage.

-- Sue Marshall

April 3, 2013 at 11:46 PM

No not at all. I have known it for a long time and I am sure others have too. Your article is the first time I saw Sandy admit it, before it was just rumored.

hippiekiller said...

This series is a breath of well-written fresh air in the Manson-blog world that regularly shits out half-baked blog posts and barely-literate comments. I'll take a true firsthand account over rehashed "what if" stories, repetitive hate posts and off-topic fluff I run into elsewhere.

Between this rough corner bar and the urbane speakeasy over on, I get my fill of tasty, refreshing Manson Family.

hippiekiller said...

This series is a breath of well-written fresh air in our Manson-blog world that regularly shits out half-baked blog posts and barely-literate comments. I'll take a true firsthand account anyday over rehashed "what if" stories, repetitive hate posts and off-topic fluff that I run into elsewhere.

Between this rough corner bar and the urbane speakeasy over on, I get my fill of tasty, refreshing Manson Family.

Nice work, Sue.

A.C. Fisher-Aldag said...

The other convicts surely aren't saying, "I'm using this cell phone to order a hit on a rival cartel leader" or "I'm using this phone to bring a shipment of dangerous illegal drugs into this country", I'll bet.