Friday, May 30, 2014

Manson Tour 2014: Stoner's Spahn Ranch Hike

Hi there, Manson Blog readers. My name is Rachel. That's me there in the Manson Cave, wearing the red shirt. (Notice that we're all wearing shoes, in direct contradiction of Manson Family protocol... but there are tarantulas and rattlesnakes out there, so don't judge.) I'm a writer whose subjects have included Manson, Columbiners, and various true crime stories. I've followed various Manson blogs for a while, though I've never posted anywhere. This year I asked the Manson Blog folks if I could tag along with them on their annual tour, and they agreed--which is how I found myself sharing a lovely West Hollywood house with four strangers, one dog, and a very creepy rabbit painting. 

I spent the night of my arrival having the twists and turns of various Manson-adjacent incidents explained to me. You all are true scholars and it makes my head spin a little bit -- when you get a few people with similar depths of knowledge in a room, suddenly everyone is speaking a shorthand I don't understand and getting very excited about it. It's pretty great.

On our first full day, we woke up early and drove out to Santa Susana Pass to visit the former site of the Spahn Ranch. I'd actually been here once before, except my friends and I just drove up to the church gate and peeked through the bars; this time, Mrs. Matt & I dashed across a four-lane road, hopped over a guardrail, and slid down a rocky slope, trying not to put our hands in any broken glass or tarantula holes. Piece of cake. 

We were met by the rest of the group plus Stoner, an affable guy with a lot of really excellent prison tattoos & a Free Leslie Van Houton t-shirt. Here are some pictures of us reenacting famous photos from 40+ years ago:

The famous Manson Cave

Hammock pose from life magazine

Identical spot

Stoner has a friend who spends a lot of time locating where old movies were filmed. He helped determine the site of the hammock photo, which is quite near the cave.

From what I can tell, some of you Manson people are amateur detectives (tracking down people, looking for clues, finding connections); others are amateur librarians (keeping the records, collecting and sorting the archival material). Stoner is an amateur archaeologist. He uses a pocketknife to scrape away the surface dirt at the site where he's determined George Spahn's house once stood. He's found all sorts of stuff -- belt buckles and nails and pennies and fragments of George Spahn's old toilet. That morning, he was thrilled to find his very first shell casing, from a Colt 45. 

We dug around in the dirt for a little while, too. Stoner has seen enough Spahn detritus that he doesn't get all that excited over a melted piece of glass or a coffee cup shard anymore, but this was new and exciting to all of us. We found a small lockbox key and an awl.

Excavating George Spahn's house

It was hot and getting hotter, but we bravely started to trek along the park's rocky path, aiming for the Zodiac car. We crossed an old stagecoach road that once ran from LA up to Santa Barbara (or maybe San Francisco? I forget), and admired views of the Santa Susana mountains. 

The back ranch panorama

It's exhausting enough to walk up the relatively narrow path, and the desert surrounding it is pretty thick with chapparal; who knows how they got the car up here, or why. In any case, we found it up there, right off the path, magnificently rusted and covered in graffiti:

Bruce's car

Then it was time for more rusted old cars a bit farther up the road at the Dune Buggy Graveyard. Matt tells me that Mary Brunner test drove a brand-new Volkswagen, somehow convinced the car lot guy to step out of the car, then hightailed it to Spahn Ranch where the crew stripped it of parts and then pushed it off the cliff. (Incidentally: I wish everyone wouldn't always feel the need to talk about how ugly Mary Brunner was. I think she is actually pretty cute in several of the photos I've seen. Who among us hasn't taken an unflattering photo or two? And anyway, who cares?)

You basically had to run down a cliff to get to the VW, which is perhaps why Matt, Stoner, & I were the ones foolhardy enough to do it. Ever true to form, Stoner dug around in the dirt around the car and found a couple bones. I said they looked like chicken wings and Matt looked at me like I was crazy - but what do I know, I'm a vegetarian. Stoner thinks they're finger bones. Who knows.

Dune Buggy Graveyard (Mary Brunner stolen VW)

Stoner in the VW

Bones Stoner dug-up

Okay, this part is creepy. We crossed Santa Susana Road again to get near Shorty Shea's grave. "That's the Manson tree," Matt told me. He was in the middle of recounting how Manson used to somehow shove a mattress up there so he could be comfy while he strummed the guitar when we all noticed that... something was dangling from one of the thick branches by a rope. "It looks like a cow's tongue," Stoner said.

That sounded ridiculous to me; I thought it was a sweet potato. (Again: vegetarian.) So I hopped over the guardrail and walked over to get a closer look. And holy shit it was indeed a cow's tongue, pink and glistening and meaty and covered in rainbow sprinkles, I kid you not, as if it were an ice cream sundae or some other birthday treat and not a severed cow's tongue hanging from a rope. A gross flaccid Satanic display of some kind? Or santeria? A joke? A spell?  Who knows. There was also an empty fish oil bottle with a battery in it & a plastic bag from H&M. All I know is, any spell involving those ingredients must be extremely sinister....

The Tongue at the entry to Shorty

Matt and Stoner scrambled down an even steeper cliff to get a view of Shorty's grave, by an old railroad line. The rest of us were feeling too hot/tired/grossed out, so we found a pleasant and shady patch of grass to sit on.

A few steps later, the trail leading down to Shorty

Shorty Burial Site

Stoner kindly invited us over to check out his full relic collection, which he keeps on the porch. Highlights include belt buckles, an old cattle prod (?), a medicine bottle, a military medal of some kind, and lots of bedsprings.

Stoner Van Houten was funny, engaging, well spoken and full of interesting stories. He also knows Spahn Ranch and surrounding areas like the back of his hand. If you are interested in learning about or taking a hike through the former haunts of the Manson Family, contact him directly. He just might be available! We recommend him highly.

And then we all beautified ourselves in preparation for what turned out to be a ridiculously good dinner at Enzo & Angela, which is co-run by DiDi Lansbury (who apparently now goes by Angela). I have to admit, I wasn't expecting much -- it's a strip mall restaurant with a slightly awkward looking website, after all. But starting with the risotto primavera that Max Frost ordered for the table, everything was outstanding. A faithful blogger friend named Jiri came along for the meal, a guy who's spent quite a bit of time in Italy (so much so that he kept trying to chat with our garrulous waiter in Italian), kept raving about how authentic everything was. Highly recommended!

Enzo & Angela

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Debunking the Bunk Part 2: The Timeline

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

DEBUNKING THE BUNK PART 2: Nikolas Schreck's timeline for the supposed Rostau drug delivery to Cielo Drive and what Nikolas Schreck calls, "Mutual Frykowski and Sebring {drug} Burn", from The Manson File.

Timelines are used and accepted as evidence during U.S. trials. Sometimes they work and send a defendant to the little room with a big needle and sometimes they fail miserably and free the defendant. Case in point, the OJ Simpson murder trial when prosecutor Marcia Clark used a wailing dog to pinpoint the time of the Nicole Brown, Ronald Goldman murders between 10:15 to 10:20 PM.

As one talking head commented during Simpson's trial, "If the prosecution's timeline crumbles, so might their mountain of physical evidence."

And, according to former Leslie Van Houten defense attorney, Ira Reiner, that's exactly what happened when he commented on prosecutor Clark's strategy:  "Another self-inflicted wound. If they hadn't tried to be so precise, they could have lived with 10:35 or 10:40 as the time of death. But they were reduced to trying to make liars out of the defense's timeline witnesses. The witnesses may have been right or wrong, but Marcia Clark didn't come close to proving they were liars."

In Nikolas Schreck's book, The Manson File, he too has a timeline of a supposed Joel Rostau drug delivery to the Cielo Drive victims that happened on August 8, 1969, just hours before the murders. He places Rostau at the Cielo house between 8-8:30 PM (Schreck fluctuates throughout the book, sometimes writing 8P, other times he puts the delivery at 8:30 PM, and still other times he writes 8-8:30 PM).

Why was Rostau delivering drugs to the Cielo house that night? In a very abbreviated description of what Schreck writes in The Manson File, he claims that Charles Watson & Linda Kasabian had been burned by Jay Sebring and Woytek Frykowski on a previous drug deal and wanted revenge.

Schreck's plot calls for Watson phoning Sebring early on the afternoon of August 8 to set up a $20,000 drug deal for which they had no intention of paying.

After Sebring received the request from Watson, Sebring in turn supposedly called his dealer and friend, Joel Rostau, to deliver the $20,000 worth of acid, mescaline, coke, and MDA before the planned midnight transaction with Kasabian and Watson at Cielo Drive.

But, when Rostau arrived at Cielo for the 8 to 8:30 PM delivery, he didn't have the entire order because a drug supplier Rostau used, Rosemary LaBianca (yes, Rosemary, but that is for another day), was out of town. Rostau left Cielo with the promise of returning later with the rest of the drugs, but he never returned.

Watson and company then arrived at the agreed transaction time to find out the deal was botched, Watson became irate, eventually killing everyone at the residence.

Sounds as feasible as any other motive put out there—that is, until we look at Schreck's timeline.

If Joel Rostau had been brought up on charges for delivering drugs to Cielo Drive that night and the prosecution had presented the 8 to 8:30 PM timeline for said drug deal that Schreck presents in his book, we as defense lawyers would have submitted the following timeline defense in order to exonerate Rostau.

On page 583 of The Manson File, Schreck writes: "Early that afternoon, Watson called Sebring at Cielo Drive to set up an appointment…Watson told Sebring he needed $20,000 worth of acid, mescaline, coke, and a new batch of Frykowski's MDA."

We would submit that this phone call from Watson to Jay Sebring at Cielo never happened because we know for a fact from the police reports what Sebring's activities were during the day of August 8 and those findings show that Sebring didn't arrive at Cielo until early evening.

From Sebring's household employee Amos Russell's interrogation, we know that Sebring slept in until the afternoon with a woman named Suzan (Peterson, not LaBerge).

From Russell's police interview/polygraph, Deemer asked, "When did he {Sebring} leave the house?"

Russell replied: "He left the house Sir, Friday afternoon. Before he left the house there was a lady at the house for a period of that time Friday, she left Friday afternoon and Mr. Woytek he came and picked her up then…. I should say they left pretty close to around 4 o'clock. Mr. Jay Sebring left the house around, about, between 5 or 6 o'clock. Pretty close to 6 o'clock. He came down."

Later in the interview, when Deemer tries to trip Russell up on the time line, Russell does not waver on his times:

D: Friday morning, the girl was still there…

R: She left I'd say Sir ah, pretty close to around 4 o'clock

D: But she left with Woytek.

R: Yes sir.

D: Did Sebring go with them?

R: No Sir.

D: He had gone earlier?

R: No she left first. Mr. Sebring came down around 5:30 or 6. He came down and looked at the house…

D: When did Woytek leave? He took her?

R: Oh, Yes sir, they left together.

D: That's about 4 o'clock?

R: As close as I can recall it, Sir.

During Suzan Peterson's  LAPD interview, she corroborates Russell's version of events, that Frykowski arrived at Sebring's house in the afternoon, around 3:15-3:30 PM (while Sebring was still at home), picked up her up, and then took her (with various stops) to his Woodstock house.

From the Tate/Polanski maid, Winifred Chapman, we know that Sebring wasn't at Cielo in the afternoon because she testified that he called Sharon Tate at around 3:45 PM (roughly the time Jay's bed partner Suzan departed with Frykowski).

From Sharon Tate's lunch guests at Cielo, we know that Sebring was not at Cielo between the time they arrived, 12:30 PM, and the time they departed at 3:30 PM.

From the Cielo gardener, Joe Vargas, we know that when he left Cielo at 4:45 PM, Sharon Tate was alone in the house and napping.

Then, the police report states that Sebring's neighbor placed him driving from his house on Easton Drive between 5:30-6 PM.

Now we're into early evening when, between 6:30-7 PM we have bike deliveryman Dennis Hurst finally placing Sebring at the Cielo house when Sebring signed for Folger's bike.

Under the circumstantial evidence route, one must note that Schreck states earlier in the book that Watson had been to Sebring's house on Easton drive before for drug deals, so why would he call him at the Cielo house? Then we must ask about the $20,000 deal—that's a boatload of money in 1969 for a spur of the moment (one day, 12-hour) drug deal.

Now, let's take a look at the August 8, Rostau Cielo drug delivery timeline.

On page 593 Schreck writes: "…the crucial event of Joel Rostau arriving at Cielo Drive sometime between 8:00-8:30 on August 8th with the large delivery of mescaline, acid, and cocaine Sebring was expecting." (Not only does Schreck fluctuate on the time of the delivery, he also fluctuates on what exactly was being delivered—sometimes it's MDA, other times LSD/acid).

As defense lawyers, we would present that this "crucial event" never took place. As previously noted in Part 1 of our series, we believe that Joel Rostau concocted this whole incident to impress on his friends that he had a brush with death and to gain his fifteen minutes of fame.

Furthermore, for the supposed Rostau 8 PM/8:30 PM drug delivery, we need to look at the timeline of the victims' El Coyote dinner, an event that until otherwise proven, we will assume took place.

The manager of the restaurant said that he saw Sebring's name on the wait list at 9:45 PM. We believe that it's unlikely that they were waiting for a table at 9:45 PM  because we know from the police report that Abigail Folger's mother told them that she phoned Abigail at the Cielo house at 10 PM.

Did the phone call between Abigail and her mother take place at exactly 10 PM? Unlikely, but usually when someone gives a time such as 10 PM it's within 10-15 minutes prior to or after the hour and rounded up to the hour. If it's after 10:15 PM  it's rounded to the next half at 10:30 PM, etc.

Furthermore, Kathy Palmer, a waitress at El Coyote stated that Sebring and his party (she could not positively identify any one of them) waited 15-20 minutes in the bar before being seated and served dinner. She then estimated that they left the restaurant around 9:45 PM-10 PM.

It's roughly a 15-20-minute drive from El Coyote to Cielo (probably more with Friday night traffic). In order for Folger to make the 10 PMish phone call to her mother, they would have needed to leave El Coyote by approximately 9:45 -10 PM.

Lets also remember that it's Friday night and crazy-busy at El Coyote, so, in order to leave the restaurant 9:45-10 PM they would have had to be seated by at least 8:45 PM.

Below is a timeline that we believe needed to take place in order for Folger to be home at Cielo around 10 PM. And, as a note, with this timeline, we feel that we're being extremely generous, playing the devil's advocate of best case scenario times and even throwing out the waitress's claim that they waited 15-20 minutes in the bar; after all, when interviewed, Palmer couldn't even identify the victims, so how good of a witness could she be?

8-8:05 PM: The victims walk out the door, load into the car, and leave Cielo

8:20/25 PM: Arrive at El Coyote, leave car with valet, and walk into the restaurant

8:30 PM: Put Sebring's name on wait list

8:35 PM: (Scrapping the likely 15-20 minute wait) Seated at their table

8:40-8:45 PM: Waitress arrives at their table and they immediately order

9:05 PM: Food arrives

9:30 PM: Eating completed

9:35 PM: Check paid (no time for back and forth of waitress transaction)

9:40-9:45 PM: Retrieve car from the valet and drive off

10P-10:05 PM: Arrive back at Cielo, Abigail races inside in time to receive her mother's phone call at 10-10:15 PM

That timeline is nearly impossible for a Friday night at El Coyote. Circumstantial evidence would lean toward the victims arriving at El Coyote earlier than the warp-speed dinner noted above; especially with Palmer's (realistic) estimate that they waited 15-20 minutes for a table, which in reality is a short wait for a table at El Coyote on a Friday night in an establishment that does not take reservations and would, perhaps, not think of Sebring as a VIP.

Now, let's push this dinner timeline to allow for a drug deal sometime between 8-8:30 PM, but with a more likely timeline scenario at the El Coyote restaurant.

Following a 8 -8:15 PM drug transaction:

8:20 PM Leave Cielo

8:35 PM Arrive at El Coyote leave car with valet, walk into restaurant.

8:40 PM Sebring leaves his name on a wait list.

8:55 PM The foursome are seated.

9:00 PM Waitress takes drink order and leaves menus for them to look at.

9:10 PM Drinks arrive, they order their meals.

9:30 PM Meal arrives and they eat.

10-10:10 MP Waitress arrives with the check, they pay the check immediately, waitress leaves and comes back with credit card bill or change. OR alternately, they pay the check at the hostess stand with roughly the same timeline

10:15 PM Walk out, retrieve car from the valet, and drive back to Cielo.

10:30-10:35 PM arrive at Cielo and Abigail has missed her mother's phone call.

So, we know even with a 10 minute give or take, that scenario is highly unlikely to have happened because if you back the time up to, say 8:05 PM leave Cielo, it leaves very little wiggle room for an important, $20,000, drug delivery by Rostau and still only gets Folger home by 10:20 PM. Also, let's remember our give or take on the hour—if Schreck had said 8 PM we could go with 7:45-8:15 PM, but he writes that it's 8-8:30P. In other words, the timeline prior to the victims' departure for El Coyote would need to have gone something like this to work for Schreck's case:

8 PM: Rostau arrives with the drugs.

8:01-8:06 PM Sebring or Frykowski or both meet Rostau at the driveway or the front door, take the drugs from him, stash them in the nursery (as Schreck claims), while Rostau explains at hyper-speed what he gave them, what's missing, and that he'll return later with more. Sebring or Frykowski check the inventory of what was delivered, and finally a payment transaction.

Note: We placed the drug transaction in the driveway/front door because Schreck claims (as you'll soon read in a later post) that Sebring is the type of host who would pour drinks for his drug dealing sellers or buyers that he invited inside the house. Since there is no time for drinks or socializing in this timeline, we kept it outside where Sebring would not have the opportunity to implement his hosting skills.

8:07-8:10 PM: Deal finished, drugs stashed, Frykowski and Sebring, tell Folger and Tate it's time to go. The women (one pregnant and slow moving) gather their purses (or whatever) race to the car, load in, and drive through the gate toward El Coyote. Arrive at El Coyote at 8:25-8:30 PM.

We believe this to be a highly unlikely timeline/scenario of an insufficient, $20,000 drug deal.

We would submit that based on the El Coyote dinner timeline, that the victims more likely left Cielo a little earlier than 8 PM. Dennis Hurst said he was there between 6:30-7 PM. Circumstantially, since Hurst testified that Sebring had a bottle of wine in his hand, and appeared to be eating, this would be indicative of him pouring a glass for himself or someone else to drink, along with a snack, before the leave time for the restaurant.

We would also submit that based on the above timeline scenarios that it is highly unlikely (nearly impossible) that this Rostau drug deal could have taken place at the alternate 8:30 PM time that Schreck writes about in The Manson File.

Now, if Schreck had presented a case that had Rostau arriving at 10-10:30 PM for a drug delivery, we'd have a problem because beyond Folger's phone call to her mother, no one can really account for the victims' activities between 10P and 12 AM. But there's no basis for that time and that's not what Schreck presented. Plus, a 10 PM arrival with Rostau hardly gives him time to find more drugs to deliver by the 12 AM Watson/Kasabian deal—if by 10-10:30 PM he couldn't find enough drugs for the order it's highly unlikely that he would find the needed amount in an hour (drive time included for various dealer stops) in order to say he'd return later with more.

There is one other notation in the police report for the time period between 10 PM-12 AM that is worth mentioning. From the LAPD progress report we find that Frykowski may have placed a phone call to Witold Kaczanowski at his art gallery, "At a time estimated about midnight Friday night." According to Kaczanowski, Frykowski called to ask why K was not at the Cielo house. Kaczanowski said he was still working and declined Frykowski's second invitation to join him at Cielo.

It's hard to say if Kaczanowski's story is accurate considering that he went on to tell LAPD that his life was in danger because he knew who the killers were. LAPD believed Kaczanowski for a time and put him under protective custody while they followed his new intel for them. But as Kaczanowski began spending a lot of money partying on LAPD's dime, with a trip to Vegas to boot, LAPD eventually pulled the security detail on K because they believed they'd been hoaxed by the pole and any information he had was bunk.

But, if indeed Witold K is telling the truth about Frykowski's midnight phone call (and previous invitation for Friday night), it would then corroborate the idea that as opposed to waiting for a giant midnight drug deal, that this was just another run of the mill Friday night for Frykowski with him calling a friend to see if he was coming up (as planned) to party.

Since Schreck does emphatically place Rostau at Cielo between 8-8:30 PM, we believe that our timeline evidence would give a jury reasonable doubt and therefore exonerate Joel Rostau of committing a drug deal on August 8, 1969 at 8 PM or even the time in between leading to the alternate 8:30 PM drug delivery time.

If we throw out the Rostau drug deal that Schreck claims happened on August 8, between 8-8:30 PM, then we blow a hole into Schreck's premise that there was to be a drug burn by Watson and Kasabian (more on this coming in a later post). If we blow a hole in that fact, then we've added another link to our chain to prove that there was no conspiracy involving Joel Rostau, Jay Sebring, the Genovese/Boiardo crime families, the FBI or the CIA and Schreck's entire narrative for the motive for the Cielo Drive murders crumbles just a little bit more.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sue Bartell

Sue Bartell was arrested in the Barker Ranch raid.
She was also present in the Venice residence when
John Phillip Haught (Zero) "committed suicide".

This is her seen on the left outside the Hall of Justice in 1970.

Thank you, Melc!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

New Polanski Interview

The Polanski Paradox

A new interview with Roman Polanski by James Mottram.

Roman Polanski arrives for our interview with a smile. Which is a relief. The last time we met, around the time he made his 1999 satanic thriller The Ninth Gate, I asked him about his “notorious” reputation in the media and he near-enough boiled over. “How can you ask such a question?” he steamed. “What is ‘notorious?’ I think you’re too much a victim of the media, and I would rather be known by my work than my notoriety.”

Friday, May 23, 2014

Grogan's Parole

Here is a brief timeline on Steve Grogan, aside from what is commonly known about his involvement with the Manson Family and the murders committed.

Steven Dennis Grogan was born July 13, 1951 in Los Angeles County California.  He is a couple of years younger than Leslie Van Houten who is generally written about as being the youngest Manson Family member convicted of murder.  Grogan got married while in prison on December 1, 1975 to a woman who was five years younger than himself.  While still in prison, thanks to California's conjugal visits policy at that time, Grogan and his wife conceived two boys.  The first child was born in 1976 while the second was born in 1984.

Grogan's stage name compromises both of his son's first names.  I believe that Steven Grogan is still his legal name as I have found through public records searches that he owns property in his birth name with his second wife.  Neither of Grogan's sons live in California at this time and neither of them use the last name of Grogan.

I am not certain when Grogan and his first wife divorced nor when he and his second wife married.  I do know that Grogan's second wife is a psychologist working in Sacramento County, she has a PhD but is not a psychiatrist.
There are a couple of articles that address his parole, one states exactly when it occurred though a few months after the fact.  He was involved in child care while in prison.  Where's the "shuttering" smiley  when you need one?

Additionally, there is an LA Times article that affirms Sun King's comment that Grogan was a house painter in the San Fernando Valley after his release from prison.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Color Footage of Monfort, Pitman, Craig, Fromme and Cooper's Stockton Arrest

This is some recently released film of those arrested for Lauren and James Willett's murders.  It's from San Francisco Bay Area television station, KPIX.  It's kind of cool that it is in color and you can tell exactly where the newspaper pictures came from.  There is also some footage of the exterior of the house on Flora St.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Penny Daniels on her epic Manson interview in 1989

Most of us remember this interview conducted by Penny Daniels, then the anchor of Inside Report which was nationally syndicated. The Manson interview was their first big interview, designed to promote the newly syndicated show. Inside Report was syndicated for a year – from 1989 to 1990. The interview has since become a YouTube Manson classic.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Ms. Daniels, who is no longer in the media and is now a partner in a major communications consulting and coaching firm with offices located across the country.

These are Ms. Daniels' recollections as told to me in her own words:

I remember it was a beautiful morning, not too hot but very, very sunny. My photographer Dale and I took some kind of a shuttle boat to get to San Quentin, which is on a peninsula near San Rafael, California. It was great being on the water,  knowing I was about to go into a twilight zone of sorts.

When we arrived, we had to go through a lot of security to get inside.  San Quentin is quite an imposing structure, very historic, huge, and daunting. Built in the 1850’s, it is the oldest prison in California.  Manson was only at San Quentin for a brief time. He was transferred out to another California prison later that year (1989.)  I feel fortunate that I was able to interview him there because the boat ride, the history, the massive imposing structure all contributed to the mystique of that day for me. Once inside they put us in a small room with a large table and two chairs.  I sat down at the table to wait. Two guards were stationed in there with us – both in front of the table, in the left and the right corners of the room. There was also a PR guy there, he stood in the left hand corner in back of me, and Dale was in back with the camera on the right.

After awhile, Manson was brought in – in shackles – hands and feet, sunglasses on. They took off the handcuffs and leg cuffs immediately and he stood there at the door looking at me, saying "where is the French guy? Are you the French guy?" Very abrupt.  I was scared but I said "do I look like a guy to you?"  You can see that part of the tape, it's all over the Internet. I was young (early 30's) and good looking in those days if I do say so.  It wasn't like I was naïve – I had been reporting for years by that time, and seen a lot, but I still looked young and too pretty to be taken seriously. So I had to act tough, which I did.  After I said that Manson proceeded to tell us that he had been promised a tape of the interview by some French reporter – he wanted to send the tape to his "old lady" (who turned out to be Squeaky Fromme). I honestly cannot remember if we promised to do that or said we didn't know or said no… any case he decided to do the interview and sat down. Then the fun began.  I know you have access to the complete interview so I won't bore you with the details, but there were several things that went through my mind:

He was a mass of highly focused, wiry energy. I felt that he could jump across the table and strangle me if he wanted to and no one could stop him – not one of the 4 men in the room could match his strength – despite the fact that he was short and skinny – tiny, almost – he appeared to weigh about 100 pounds So small was he that I felt technically I could actually "take" him – I was pretty strong – but he seemed strong way out of proportion to his size.

He was either very, very smart or very very crazy or very very wily or a great actor, or most likely, all of the above. He was hypnotic. You sort of went into a trance listening to him. I could see why impressionable young people would follow him.

He was at times malevolent, at times sort of normal acting, other times laughing maniacally, other times serious and sincere.  He was full of drama and performance – jumping up to dance, shouting and screaming unexpectedly (clearly designed to startle me).  I did however believe that it was mostly an act that he had performed before.

He did make a lot of sense at times. People don't want to hear this, but some of what he said made a lot of sense. For example, he kept saying "I wasn't there that night. I was up in (some northern California county) in bed with some broad" but they have pinned the whole thing on him. You do start to think about why is this man so much more vilified than any other villain? But more so he made sense when saying things like "I'm not in prison you're in prison." I asked him if he ever hoped to get out of there, and he said "do I ever hope to get out of here? I'm out. You're in. Your little world of sane is a prison." Then he sort of went on about the world of the mind and how he was free in the world of the mind and I was not. Honestly when you're listening to him it kind of makes sense.  Because we all do sort of live in our little boxes, some more than others. And we do sort of imprison ourselves, forcing ourselves to color inside the lines.  It's the nature (and for some, the burden) of living in society. A burden Charles Manson does not have to carry.

He's got quite an act. I did think it was bullshit when he kept talking about ATWA – Air, Trees Water and Animals. But who knows? Maybe he has become an environmentalist of sorts in prison. One more thing I do remember. He talked a lot about music. He kept saying "I played music, that’s why young people were around me, it was the music." He denied they were his “family;" he said they were kids who wanted to listen to the music. He also said that he wasn’t of their generation, he wasn't a hippie, that wasn't true, he said he was much older than they (well maybe 10 or 12 years? Not sure.) And that he was more about the 50's than the 60's. He basically said all he cared about was music – and ATWA. He did say at one point that it "wasn’t his problem" if kids took things he said out of context or something like that. He has never taken responsibility for any of it and I guess he never will.

Afterwards we came out into the sun and it was 11AM – we'd been in there for 2 and a half hours. I was completely dazed. I remember thinking if I was a drinker I would want a drink right now.  I did tell Dale I wanted ice cream. So we went and had ice cream.  Then we drove up into Marin County to meet with this woman one of my producers had found somehow who was young and attractive and totally in love with Charlie. We interviewed her at this lovely playground, and she was way nutty. We also interviewed a guy who was following Charlie. He was also fairly young and unlike the woman, this man was not what you would call lucid.  He was talking in riddles, really, really fast.  I think whatever drugs he was taking had sent him completely over the deep end.  Quite an experience.

Then we left – went home to Florida – and set to work screening tapes and writing. That’s all! And to this day it's still all over the Internet. Bizarre.

Recently I reconnected with Dale (25 years later!) and he said to me something to the effect of, our interview didn't really "break new ground." But we are among a very small select number of people who were allowed a face to face interview with one of the most notorious American criminals of all time. And that’s pretty cool.

It took me years to agree, because I had so many amazing experiences as a reporter over the years that for me, really overshadowed the Manson interview. However, looking back and seeing the incredible reaction that people had, and have, when they hear I interviewed Manson (or see it on the Internet) I realize that, however small, it is a part of history. And that is actually pretty cool.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The nonsensical language that only the Family could understand

 I tend to be drawn to the minutia surrounding the Manson Family. The little things that can be so minute that I figure I'm the only one who gives a shit about them. Here's one...

In John Waters' 2009 piece Leslie Van Houten: A Friendship, I have always been particularly fascinated by part of a paragraph that refers to The Family having their own language:
In late 1971, still free, second-tiered Manson Family members robbed the Western Surplus Store in the suburbs of Los Angeles and stole 14 guns (supposedly to break Manson out of jail) and a shoot-out with the police occurred. All six robbers were arrested. At their trial, many members of Manson royalty, now awaiting the promised Helter Skelter end of the world from death row, were called as witnesses by the robber defendants so they could have a courtroom reunion of sorts. The nervous trial judge called the proceedings "the biggest collection of murderers in Los Angeles County at one time". There were only two court spectators the day I went to a pre-trial hearing; myself and a lower-echelon Manson groupie with a shaved head and a fresh X carved in her forehead who was furiously writing what looked like a thirty-page letter to one of her "brothers". When about fifteen of the Manson Family were brought into court, hand-cuffed and chained together, women on one side and men on the other, many with their heads shaved, the atmosphere was electric with twisted evil beauty. Not having seen each other in about a year, the cultists started chanting, jerkily gesturing, and speaking to one another in a nonsensical language that only the Family could understand.
 Is there anyone out there that has actually heard any of it?

A couple of years ago when we were delving deeper into the Ukiah murders we touched on our discovery that the Anderson Valley has its own language called Boontling.

Is there anyone out there that has actually had exposure to Boontling for longer than the video we posted?

A contingent of The Family spent quite some time up there in 1968 and I'm curious if the "nonsensical language" that Waters mentions had it's roots in their exposure to Boontling. If not, where?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Freedom of Information, My Ass!

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request can be made for any documents relating to a deceased person that might be on file with the United States Department of Justice/Federal Bureau of Investigation. I sent a request for any FOIA documents that related to Susan Atkins and was completely surprised by the reply I received from the DOJ/FBI.
They told me "Records which may have been responsive to your request were destroyed on March 1, 1993 and October 28, 1994.  Since this material could not be reviewed, it is not known if it was responsive to your request."

Can you believe that?!?!  The attached letter is ambiguous, typical government speak, and I am unsure if they destroyed just the stuff relating to Atkins or maybe they destroyed documents relating to all the Family members.

The FBI retains documents on many people and old cases, some dating back to the 1920's and quite a few of them are available online to peruse at the FBI Vault.  Why get rid of these particular files?

And, why would they have destroyed files in those particular years? There is so much still up in the air about whether or not the Family was involved in any other murders. We have the Tex tapes and the LA DA's office saying they are looking for connections to other murders 20 years after these files were supposedly destroyed. There is still much to be learned about the Family's activities, as least from those of us who are lay people not connected to law enforcement. Was there something so incriminating to who they considered the "wrong people" in those files that they had to be destroyed because they would make the government or law enforcement look really bad?
I guess I will just sit here in my tin foil hat and cogitate what it could possibly be that the government doesn't want us to know.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Raising a Style Icon: Does Sharon Tate Hold a Clue to the 'Mad Men' Finale?

From the New York Times Today. Unfortunately, it's kind of a mélange of disjointed connections to Sharon.  Young 'uns  discovering Sharon for the first time, throwbacks to the '60's in TV  and they mention both Restless Souls and Debra Tate's upcoming "book"! Restless Souls mentioned first!!! It also touches the glamour of the clothes and mod vs hippie style, subjects that bore us to pieces. There are just a lot of little bits thrown together almost haphazardly.

We suppose it all comes down to being an article on the show Mad Men though and I guess if we were to approach it from that angle it kinda makes sense.

I guess we're not the only ones sometimes trying to shift the focus from the killers to the way more pleasant subject of Sharon Tate, in fact it we may started a trend!

Good luck Debra. Sounds like you're trying to sell chicken scraps as pheasant under glass. Can't wait. Tick tock...

Friday, May 9, 2014

Brothers Reunited!

Bobby Beausoleil was able to reunite with his old buddy Steve Grogan when they both played for a prison band called "The Freedom Orchestra Band" at Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, California. Obviously, this photo was taken sometime in the 70s. Steve Grogan, after a while started distancing himself further, and further away from his past, and eventually wanted nothing to do with anyone associated with "The Family." I suppose that was a pretty good move, since he was released in 1985, and Bobby is still there, growing older by the minute. Very sad, indeed! Check out a clip of them playing:

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Gypsy and Country Sue: Racist PIGS!

When the police interviewed Ruby Pearl about the disappearance/murder of Donald Jerome "Shorty" Shea, she told the police about a little incident where Shorty's African American wife went to the ranch, and had sat down in a chair. I guess after she left, Catherine "Gypsy" Share, and Sue "Country Sue" Bartell told the others not to sit in the same chair that Shorty's wife had sat in. WTF? If anything, Shorty's wife should of been afraid to sit in a chair that those two skanks sat in. There is a good possibility that they left unmentionable odors & stains wherever they sat, so who were they to be such jerks? Oh, and Lynn Fromme wasn't any innocent, little elf either, even though she did have an "elf-like" appearance. Just saying.... Ruby Pearl's statement:
On 10-31-70 the undersigned interviewed Ruby Pearl. Miss Pearl stated, "I knew Shorty for approximately ten years. I saw him almost every day. He always told me where he was going. He moved back to the Spahn's Movie Ranch in August of 1969 after splitting from his wife, a colored girl. He brought her to the ranch in the summer of 1969 and it made the hippies mad. Gypsy (Catherine Share) and Sue (Bartell) told everyone in the Manson family not to sit in the same chair that Shorty's wife had sat in after she left. When Shorty returned to the ranch, after splitting from his wife, he brought a box of very pretty dishes, given to him as a wedding gift. Two weeks after his disappearance I went to the ranch and the Manson family was using the dishes. I asked what they were doing with Shorty's dishes and Lynn Fromme said, 'He won't --' and stopped speaking abruptly. Some time late in August I went to Spahn's Movie Ranch about 11:30 P.M. Shorty had been drinking and asked if he could come over to my house and stay because he didn't like being around these weird hippies. I told Shorty I didn't have room at my house for him and got into my car and started to leave, when I observed a blue car pull into the ranch with Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Bill Vance, Bruce Davis and Clem Tufts jumped out of the car very fast and spread out along the boardwalk. I thought it was strange as they never moved very fast. I didn't stop. I continued driving out of the ranch and never saw Shorty again. After Charlie was arrested I went to the County Jail with Dawn Quant to visit Charles Manson. I asked Charlie, 'Where is Shorty's body, Charlie?' We want to bury him properly.' Charlie answered, 'Ask the Black Panthers.' I replied, 'Charlie, you know there haven't been any Black Panthers around the ranch.' Charlie wouldn't talk to me anymore. During the first part of the Tate trial Charlie kept sending notes out through his attorney that he wanted to see me. I want with some attorney to the County Jail again and the first thing Charlie said, 'You know, Pearl, I didn't know Shorty very well.' I answered, 'Charlie, you know given the ranch a black name.' He refused to talk to me any more.


Monday, May 5, 2014

LIFE AFTER MANSON - trailer to Krenwinkel documentary

Four decades after one of the world’s most notorious crimes,
a Manson Family member breaks her silence to reveal
how a series of choices led to ultimate destruction.

Life After Manson is an intimate portrait of one of the world’s most infamous crimes and notorious killers. At 21-years-old, Patricia Krenwinkel callously murdered three people at the command of Charles Manson. Now 66-years-old, she continues to be demonized by the public and haunted by the suffering she caused over four decades ago.

Through an exclusive interview with and never-before-seen footage of Patricia Krenwinkel, Life After Manson frames a historically irreconcilable story through a complex emotional lens, offering insight into what led a suburban girl to commit crimes the world will never forget. For the first time, the public will learn what caused a young girl to recklessly run away from home and toward destruction. Her unlikely relationship with the charismatic Charles Manson led her to cross every line of moral consciousness, resulting in the brutal murders she committed to win the approval of the man she loved.

Life After Manson offers a provocative character study that reveals a broken woman struggling with her past, her arduous effort to evaluate the cost of her choices, and the possibility of self-forgiveness. Can society offer her the same? Is it possible to identify with a woman who took life only to lose her own in a desperate effort to find love?

This website covers the details

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Follow-up to Debra Tate and Don Wilson post

We know most of you are getting bored with this blogs' posts which you feel we present Debra in a negative light but we do want follow up on the last post about Debra.  Since the post ran, Don Wilson's online presence has diminished.  As of this writing he no longer has a Facebook page, a Twitter page, a Pinterest page or a Tumbler page and his LinkedIn page has been revised, too.  Don Wilson is a convicted sex offender, he is posted as such on the State of California Megan's Law website.  His criminal record is available through the LA County Superior Court website.  This is not a case of blog or forum rumors and gossip, it is a fact.

We have an intense dislike for people that harm children physically, sexually or mentally.  We hope that there is a special place in hell for these people.

Debra demonstrated poor judgment by allowing Wilson to speak on her behalf.  She did not exercise due diligence in vetting those that represent her.  If I were a victim's family member I would not want Debra to speak for me. Our opinion is that Debra should back off from calling herself a victims' advocate and focus on keeping the people that were responsible for her sister's murder in prison.  Keep it simple and on point.  Debra has not been an effective victims' advocate, Bruce has been granted parole at his last three hearing in spite of her presence at the last two hearings.

Debra appears to have rectified the situation and has severed any online connection to Don Wilson as far as we can see.  While this should have never happened in the first place we are glad to see that she has the good sense to take action regarding this matter.

The question you can as readers ask yourself as you think about this is, what else was Don Wilson gaining by latching onto what was once a valiant campaign/cause? Was he using it to meet new unsuspecting victims who trust the name Tate and thereby (now) Wilson, to be protected by predators such as himself. Was he ever able to lure an unsuspecting parent to trust him with their child? We'll never know, but I gotta say, I will sleep better knowing that we did whatever we could to expose and shut this guy down and to let him know, we're still watching - so don't fuck up, Don.