The next day Sandy and Squeaky returned to Sacramento; school was due to resume and they wanted to be there for their classes. After promising to keep in touch, Marvin and I drove back to Los Angeles.
At Home with the Manson girls: An Insiders Report
by Marsha Bradt
Marsha G. Bradt has been following the Manson Family case since 1969. She has corresponded with Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme and Sandra Good, and on occasion, shared her little apartment with them. She became interested in the Family, she says, because "I saw that my life was heading in pretty much the same direction- that those girls could have been me." This is Bradt's first published article.
At 9:30 on Friday morning, September 5, a lean figure dressed in red walked into Capitol Park adjacent to the capital in Sacramento. She had been there often. watching the squirrels, studying the trees. It was a cool and pleasant oasis not far from where she lived.
President Ford was staying at the Senator Hotel across the street.
News reporters near the hotel recognized the girl in red as a Charles Manson "Family" member. Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, and remarked to each other about her presence. It was suspicious, more than one of them thought, for her to be here with all the people who wanted to catch a glimpse of the president, perhaps to shake his hand.
They discovered later, after she had aimed a loaded .45 caliber automatic pistol at the president, what her motives were.
Several days later, Ford told newsmen, "I saw this girl in a red dress. It happened so fast...."
I met Squeaky in 1973. Since then, Squeaky and her friend Sandra Good have stayed at my house on several occasions and have corresponded with me regularly about their plans, activities and philosophies. Until the publication in 1974 of "Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders" by former Los Angeles district attorney Vincent T. Bugliosi, the letters were light and cheerful, full of drawings, cooking hints, and funny stories about their misadventures- along with the usual doomsday prophecies. They appeared to be adjusting to life without Charlie- though never gave up hope that he would be set free one day.
"Helter Skelter" was on bestseller lists for months, and was promoted heavily on television and the printed media by its author.
Its publication had a little known side effect. It mobilized the few remaining Family members who had managed to avoid prison. It encouraged them to work at reuniting and expanding the Family. It made them more determined than ever to see Manson released and recognized as a spiritual leader.
(Reuniting the Family would not have been an easy job. Linda Kasabian, the former Family member who testified for the prosecution, lives in the East with her children, after having been given immunity from the same murder charges that sentenced the others indicted to death. Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten remain incarcerated at the California Institution for Women in Frontera, California. They may apply for parole in the next five years, and appear to be acting as model prisoners. Sandy and Squeaky corresponded with them for a time, but according to Sandy, they want to be paroled, and don't think correspondence with other Family members will look good on their records. Tex Watson is in San Quentin, and I have never heard Sandy or Squeaky speak of him; they almost seems to be deliberately avoiding the subject. Bruce Davis, a Family member convicted in the Shorty Shea murder, is in Folsom Prison and corresponds with the girls from time to time, as does Steve Grogan, convicted of the same murder, from Deuel Vocational Institute in Tracy. Manson himself is now back in San Quentin, under maximum security after being attacked in the exercise yard at Folsom by a former Family member who had a beef against Manson for years. Catherine Share, one of Sandy and Squeaky's prime targets for return to the Family, held a press conference after her parole telling reporters that that part of her life was over; a few weeks before the press conference, Sandy and Squeaky had attempted to contact her through her lawyer. Susan Murphy, arrested with Sandy after Squeaky's attempt on the President, had lived off and on with the girls for several years. while she had never met Manson, she seems to have been converted to the Family doctrine by osmosis, and her primary use to Sandy and Squeaky was her passive acceptance of their fanatical beliefs and her ability to contribute money by working intermittently as a nurse.)
For over two years, Lynette Fromme and Sandra Good lived in a small attic apartment in a rambling old rooming house near the capitol working on a book detailing the Family's history from 1967 to the present. Until recently both were attending college. The money for school came from "the government" and the academic load was light.
Lynette Fromme is 26. she grew up in a large Catholic family and attended parochial schools. Her father, she has said, was a tyrannical man given to violent rages, and her mother was a weak-willed woman trying desperately to keep peace. She met Charlie Manson when she was 18. She had been kicked out the house following an argument with her father, and had hitchhiked to Venice, where she met Manson. She never went home again.
Sandra Good is 31. She is five feet tall and can pass for 20. Her parents were divorced when she was very young and both remarried. Sandy and her three sisters lived with their mother, stepfather and stepbrother in a comfortable upper middle-class home in San Diego. Sandy attended college in Oregon and later San Francisco. she was 24 when she met Manson. She immediately dropped out of college and joined the Family. Sandy has a son born in September of 1969. Sandy and Squeaky have been devoted to Manson from the time they met him. They were in charge of keeping the Family archives in order. They had possession of Charlie's vest, an amazing kaleidoscope of embroidered devils and witches, flaming cities and grinning elves. the vest was a privilege to work on and the girls in the Family competed for the honor. They claim it was once stolen by zealous law enforcement officers, and guarded it carefully. They kept their "Armageddon wardrobes" (leather pants with knife sheaths sewn into the legs and Hell's Angel style jackets reading "Devil's Witches, Death Valley") ready for "Judgment Day." They had a whole gallery of photos of themselves, and even their very own Family-inspired version of "The Book of the Dead," with artistic contributions from all of the Family men, and even some outsiders like John Linley Frazier, who murdered several people in Santa Cruz, not long after the Tate/LaBianca murders. These relics and memorabilia are now in the possession of the FBI.
The publication of "Helter Skelter" seemed to act as a catalyst for the girls, changing their concept of what their roles in the Family should be. They had kept a low profile, covering up the X's they had gouged in their foreheads during the trial, not even speaking Charlie's name except in the presence of trusted associates. Even their preaching was limited to the already-convinced and to probable converts and contributors. But suddenly, when the book was published, the appeared to go from relatively passive to the loudly militant. Suddenly the X's appeared prominently, and they seemed to welcome publicity once again. All indications pointed to the idea that they were willing to go to jail again to draw attention to their cause.
Sandy and Squeaky spent five days at my house early in 1975.
When the Family had been together, before the arrests and trials, one of the strongest tenets had been anti-materialism. Apparently this had worn thin with Sandy and Squeaky in the years since Charlie's incarceration. They were driving a gold Cadillac in this trip, a loan from one of their current benefactors. Their wardrobes were incredible, they had clothing with labels from Saks Fifth Avenue and I. Magnin. They seemed to never wear the same thing twice. They looked like a couple of society matrons out to lunch than two girls trying to secure the release of a convicted mass murderer.
The friend with whom I share an apartment is an expert at building dune buggies and driving in the desert, both subjects of great interest to the girls. Manson maintained when the cities were being destroyed, the "aware" people would go into the desert in dune buggies to escape the "holocaust." Both my roommate, "Marvin", and I were familar with some of the places in the desert that Charlie had picked out as "escape" areas, and Sandy and Squeaky felt that it was part of their jobs to familarize themselves with these places.
The girls wanted to visit a peripheral Family member, Catherine Gillies (known as Cappy), who lived in the Panamint Valley, near Death Valley, a few miles from where the Family's last mass arrest occured. Cappy was living with her two year old son and a gold miner. Marvin and I were invited to accompany Sandy and Squeaky.
When we arrived in the desert, Cappy's small house was filled with babies, dogs and other visitors. Sandy and Squeaky were a striking contrast to Cappy, who was wearing dusty old clothes with her hair pinned on top of her head. It looked like the city slickers visiting the country cousin.
Amazingly enough, these girls, who had once been so close, living together within the Family and later keeping vigil on the steps of the Hall of Justice during Manson's trial, had little to talk about in the present tense. Most of their conversation was reminiscing, talking about the good old days and what Family members in jail had said in their letters. But the rest seemed to be chitchat- talk about herbal medicines and discussions about different types of tea.
One thing that brought them together, however, was a recent message that Charlie had sent out to the girls from Folsom, a rambling, incoherent address ending with the line, "One woman and the longer you take the less chance I will have to do what I can or give you the benefit of what thoughts I have and can have."
After a while Marvin, Squeaky and I went for a walk. Squeaky was in a good mood, and talked, as we walked along, about various "miracles" in the desert. One story was about the last time she and Sandy had visited Cappy, the summer before. The three girls had encountered a rattlesnake. Each person's reaction had been different, and they had not agreed on how to handle the snake, whether to kill it or let it go by. Later, Manson had written to comment on the incident. Squeaky maintained that no one had told him about it. The way he knew, she said, was that he had watched it happen through the eyes of a crow flying by. She felt certain that Charlie could watch them whenever he wanted to, and their actions would be judged accordingly.
Shortly after that, Vincent Bugliosi began appearing on television talk shows to promote his book. Squeaky and Sandy were always referred to, though never by name. On February 13, ABC-TV presented a late night special, an "unauthorized biography" of Manson. Bugliosi and Irving Kanarek (Manson's attorney) were featured guests, as were two former Family members, Brooks Poston and Paul Watkins, who had testified for the prosecution at the trial. It was on this broadcast the Vincent Bugliosi declared that there were "....four or five girls, hard-core members of the Family, with X's on their foreheads, still thinking that he's Christ. They're living in Sacramento which is about 30 miles from Folsom, and I think potentially they're still very dangerous."
Their letters changed tone after that. Their mood became more ominous; fear became a prevalent theme. Several times during this period, Sandy told us to practice "scary voices" so that we could make intimidating 'phone calls to people involved in projects they were opposed to (like pet food manufacturers, who, she alleged killed burros in the desert). "Fear speaks," she wrote in one letter, and beneath it drew a glaring face. "Your leaders represent your fear, who represents your love?" wrote Squeaky for the Sacramento news media. "Fear is what makes people reach for securities," - Sandy, February 10. "Charlei says the fear that is coming, or rather the truth, is so scary that it would make your eyes burn and your heart stop," - Sandy January 29.
On February 21, Sandy wrote telling us of their plans to make public appearances, dressing carefully and speaking persuasively, trying to create a new image to counter Bugliosi's characterization of them as "slavishly obedient." I wrote back that it seemed like a good idea and they could stay in my apartment while they were in Los Angeles.
Their letter od March 14 took the form of a sermon, saying "....What you see is 2000 years of madness.... you see the Christian thought is fading. The thought of good, bad, suffering and death as all have been shown the dead man on the cross. All have been praying to death even though they don't know it. The thought that Manson set was killing the death thought and turning it toward life."
Sandy added that she was leaving school, that there were "more important things than running in school madness.... Just exactly the steps to take are not clear yet, but they will be, Charlie and the earth as your reflection.... There is a MANSON renaissance, you better believe it! If there ain't it will all spin into a nightmare beyond anything you or I can imagine.... MANSON IS ONLY A SERVANT- all he wants is to walk the earth in peace. LIARS will join Shorty Shea...." (Shea knew the Family in 1969. He disappeared shortly after the Tate murders. Several Family members were convicted of his murder, though a body was never discovered.)
Later in March, I received a letter from Sandy containing a five-dollar bill, and instructions to immediately procure a post office box in my roommate Marvin's name, for their use in receiving letters from Charlie. ( The girls had been able to correspond with Manson at one time, but their writing privileges had been discontinued, and evidently believed he would be able to obtain permission to write someone else). I was also directed to contact an actor I had recently worked for and instruct him to find a red robe for Charlie: "I thought Hollywood might have some old king robes or judge robes." The actor in question was on location making a movie at the time and the thought of him dropping everything to come back to Los Angeles to dig through old wardrobe departments was ludicrous. Sandy was dead serious about this idea, however. In addition, I was told to "clear out the back room for us, cause honey, your mean ass sistahs are movin in and some buggin's gonna be goin on in L.A. Town," and that I would be needed to "play detective in your spare time." According to the letter, they planned to stay about a month.
Considering the hysterical tone of the previous letter, my own current state of affairs (no car and no job). and the dictatorial tone of this letter, I concluded that I simply could not handle them moving into my apartment for a month. There had been talk in several letters about reuniting the Family and I was aware that two other girls associated with the Family had recently been paroled and were somewhere in Los Angeles. The idea of a Manson Family reunion in my living room did not excite me, and I fired off a brief, terse letter, explaining that their timing was bad and that our situation could not accommodate them right now.
As soon as she received the letter, Squeaky 'phoned, and begged, whined, and pleaded, promising "we'll be as quite as two lkittle mice." She finally broke down my resistance. I told Squeaky they could stay one week.
I didn't sleep that night. I was certain that something very heavy, and very illegal, was being planned, and I didn't want to be any part of it. Sandy and Squeaky had long arrest records and nothing to lose. Marvin and I, on the other hand, were not committed to reuniting the Family- and certainly not to Charlie's philosophies.
The next morning, Marvin called Squeaky in Sacramento and told her they couldn't come Squeaky asked why, and his reply was simple: He told her that their idea of reuniting the Family sounded like a hopeless fantasy - something I could not tell Squeaky myself. To her there was no such thing as a fantasy. All was possible if you believed.
Several days later, mail started arriving for them. Apparently they had notified their correspondents well in advance of notifying us that they'd planned on being in town. I was beginning to wonder how long they had actually planned to stay.
About a week later, Squeaky called to tell us they were in town, and wanted to know if any mail had come. I had a box of clothing I'd been saving for them, and Squeaky needed a typewriter. could she borrow mine? she asked. I thought I'd let her use an acient portable I had sitting around. We agreed to meet in Sherman Oaks the next evening.
The meeting was set up at a classy health food restaurant on Ventura Boulevard. I was late in arriving and when I walked in I saw Cappy sitting in the dimly-lit entryway. I hadn't expected to see her here, and meeting her in the smoky darkness was rather like encountering a ghost; her skeletal face and hollow eyes were exaggerated by the low light. I was curious as to why Cappy made the trip to the city; I knew wasn't fond of Los Angeles and asked her about it. Her only response was to point to Sandy and Squeaky.
Sandy and Squeaky were at the pay 'phone in a dark corner of the restaurant, Both were wearing long red dresses and new red sandals. While Squeaky was on the 'phone I commented to Sandy on her clothes. "We are all wearing red now," she replied gravely.
Squeaky finished her 'phone call. Seeing her more closely, I was startled by the dramatic changes she had affected since our last meeting. Squeaky had always been an elfin character with beautiful red hair and sparkling eyes. tonight her hair was like a lion's mane, cut at every angle, in clumps of different lengths all over her head. Her eyes weren't focusing; they were shiny and dilated, like the eyes of movie robots or alien beings.
The first thing they wanted, of course, were the clothes, the typewriter, and the mail. The clothes were given over; they were far too small to be of any use to me. but Squeaky's manner convinced me that the typewriter would never be returned, and I had no intention of giving it away. I glibly told her it was broken. One could almost feel a cold breeze coming from her. How dare I not hand over my typewriter? When the subject of the mail came up, I learned that Sandy had informed her probation officer in Sacramento that she would be staying and had used her name and address for her travel papers. It was becoming apparent that they had told almost everyone else where they were planning on staying before telling me. It was also apparent that refusing to let them stay had really screwed up their plans.
My attempts to initiate conversation failed. They declared that they had given up smoking, drinking, and drugs. I facetiously asked them if they had also given up sex. they nodded. I told them they sounded like they had joined a religious order. Squeaky's reply was that they were starting one.
Finally, Squeaky glared at me and asked if we really had anything to talk about. I wasn't even sure at that point who I was talking to, but I plunged in anyway. I attempted to explain why we hadn't been able to accommodate them this particular time, and said that I didn't expect them to drop whatever they were doing and rush to help me with my current problems, and that I had no intention of doing that for them. I had been under the impression that they had planned to do something constructive to counter the negative publicity generated by "Helter Skelter", but it appeared they had it in mind to create incidents, rather that rationally talking to people.
Squeaky contended this time that they had no real reason to do anything to change their image. Implicit in her line of reasoning was a belief that something far more earthshattering was about to happen, apparently a sudden dramatic change in the mass consciousness. She, Sandy, Cappy and anyone else they could recruit into the Family were to serve as examples for the masses.
All the old, tired rhetoric started up again. Squeaky was mouthing Manson's old sermons about how people were "running the same tapes over and over again" about how it was time for a new thought and a new energy.
They were interested in talking to the Pope, the girls told me. They could appeal to his sub consciousness, they thought, thereby converting him. Astonished, I tried to point out that there were more of "them" (people not ripe for conversion) than there were of "you"- a statement that was greeted with exasperated distain. They said they only had to approach people on the correct level.
Sandy and Squeaky have spent the better part of seven years together, some of them within the Family framework and a greater portion of it as a couple, in an arrangement resembling a marriage of sorts. Both agree that their portrayals in "Helter Skelter" and other books and articles on the case are inaccurate. Both can be well spoken, convincing, and articulate.
Before joining the Family, Squeaky was a college student with literary aspirations and a love for words. She found her niche within the Family in that very area: she became the Family historian, writing poems and prose detailing the idyllic life the Family once shared. Her writings, in beautiful loopy script, are full of symbolism and esoteric metaphors. She turns Charles Manson's words into poetry.
Sandy Good was a dilettante, a rebel, long before she joined the Family. she moved from college to college and apartment to apartment in search for a new life that suited her. She remains the same now, dabbling in botany one moment, Asian cooking the next. Her interest span is short but her concentration is intense. Sandy's smiling. persuasive manner, coupled with her diverse knowledge of many subjects, make her seem more of a dedicated seeker of truth than a brainwashed robot.
I find it difficult to take Squeaky's assassination attempt seriously. Her knowledge of guns was limited and her handling was inept. Squeaky would have great difficulty with a .45 caliber pistol. On one occasion, she had complained of the stiff recoil from a .22 caliber pistol she had been using for target practice.
The "conspiracy" that took place, I believe, was not a well-planned strategy, but an act evolving from a shared sense of frustration and impotence. Furthermore, the public attention given Bugliosi's book triggered something within Squeaky, the memory of the Manson trial, and her every word and action was recorded by the herds of reporters. she thought she wanted to be in the limelight again.
Sandy Good must share an equal responsibility for Squeaky's act, as she fed and participated actively in the fantasy that sent Lynette Fromme to the capitol with a gun. Sandy and Squeaky were constantly arguing about tactics to be used in approaching people, and their thoughts and acts were collective. Whether Sandy was present or absent on that Friday, aware or unaware of what was happening six blocks from the P Street apartment they shared, it could not have happened without her. She often dominated Squeaky and is a far more practiced manipulator.
For Squeaky, I feel a terrible sadness. Had she been able to break free from the prison of collectivism, she could have been the writer she wanted to be. Her mind was sharp and the manner in which she expressed herself on paper was unique. She was funny and loving. Her biggest problem was her total lack of independence. The two most revolutionary acts of her life were hooking up with Charles Manson and pointing a gun at the president of the United States.