Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Manson, a Black Woman and Nietzsche

 An introductory to this story is necessary.  Wanda Coleman was an acclaimed Black poet and author from Watts in the South Central area of Los Angeles.  She was married to a white man named Charlie Coleman with whom she had two children.  During the summer of 1968 Wanda and Charlie with their kids regularly went to Griffith Park in LA.  It was there that Wanda and Charlie Coleman met Charles Manson and a few of the girls.

This is an excerpt from a chapbook titled love-ins with Nietzsche published in 2000.  Coleman interspersed her memoir with quotes by Nietzsche whose work she was introduced to by a high school teacher.  She had a unique ability to extract the essence of Nietzsche's writings and adapt them to her own circumstances.  Nietzsche certainly wasn't writing  to an audience of young black women of the '60's.
I found Coleman's story to be an interesting asterisk  in the Manson saga especially as it relates to Manson's views on Blacks.  Coleman refers to her husband as Charlie in this narrative and to Manson as Charles except in one instance which is fairly apparent.
"Reports about gatherings of 'the beautiful people' in local parks were on the grapevine- feeding the poor and sharing songs at be-ins and love-ins.  Eagerly, we joined the throng, acutely aware that our double lives had doubled again.  We soon had two children, a boy and a girl.  Often we packed a lunch and Thermos to spend mornings and afternoons among 'the flower children,' picnicking and dancing to conga drum music, ogling trinkets for sale, collecting leaflets- basking in a sandalwood-scented atmosphere of unbridled peace, love and sexual freedom.  The evening and night of the same day, we might find ourselves in the backroom of a community center, abandoned building or church debating the merits of sit-ins, boycotts and armed struggle, wondering who was the counterintelligence snitch.  Charlie loved the excitement and danger.  I sat owl-eyed and silent, keeping my cynicism- on both extremes- to myself.  Nearly four years would pass before our two disparate worlds would merge during the Griffith Park love-ins of summer 1968.
Charlie had promised to help a peace charity set up their tables to hand out free food.  We packed up our babies, double stroller and diaper bag, and went into our larder for a jar of Skippy's peanut butter and strawberry preserves to donate.  It was early when we arrived, the area was deserted.  My habit was to anchor myself to our blanket with my book, playing with the children while they crawled and toddled, keeping one eye on the oversized guitar case.  Charlie had added a 12-string to his collection.  His habit was to roam, strapped with the lighter acoustical guitar, mouth harp in a pocket or neck brace.
The park filed with a vast assortment of people, but Charlie gravitated to musicians, spending most of his time with the conga drummers.  If he liked someone, he brought them to meet me, or moved us to their spot.  this particular Saturday morning, only the families were there, tents up, homemade standards flying.  There were ten to a dozen of them.  He rarely visited the families.  They struck him as strange.  But once the tables had been set up, Charlie found nothing to do.  The conga drummers hadn't arrived, and the crowd was disappointingly sparse.
"Curiosity ain't killed this cat," he'd say as he kissed me good-bye before wandering the park.  "I got nine lives and always landed on my feet."
He returned a couple of hours later, ecstatic, urging me to hurry, pack up the babies and the 12-string.  He had discovered a kindred spirit.  The man led a family that was virtually all female.  He was also a songwriter and was trying to learn how to play the guitar well enough to perform his own music.  He was looking for someone tolerant enough to jam with him.  Not only that, he like to 'debate politics,' enjoying talk hard and fast.  They liked one another instantly.  the man was short, White and 'a righteous brother.'  Best of all they were both named Charlie.  Blushing, he confessed they had shared the peace pipe.
We walked to the tent.  My Charlie introduced us.  Manson's eyes glittered when he looked up at me.  I was not what he expected.  I was darker than assumed, a full head taller and outweighed him by eighty pounds.  Charles was not the type Charlie was usually drawn to.  His angular face and sable shoulder-length hair, gave him the look of a shrunken, wily-eyed Christ.  We shook hands, his bony grip firm.  We went outside and Charles helped us set our belongings near the tent.  The girls were 'off and around,' and the two Charlie's wasted no time resuming their talk.  I was not able to sit idly by and listen.  I joined in, keeping one eye on the children, breaking from the conversation only to feed them and change diapers.  We chewed over such issues as the Warren Commission report on the death of JFK, voters rights, Mao, Castro and Che.  When the talk turned to music, I excused myself while the two Charlie's studied lead sheets.
As our afternoon wound to a close, Charles noticed I was carrying my volume of Nietzsche and asked if he could see it.  He thumbed through it and asked if he could borrow it.  I made him swear an oath to give it back.  He kept his word.  But when he returned it two weekends later, he had questions.  Didn't I realize that what Nietzsche wrote wasn't intended for the likes of me?   Especially the part about a race of supermen?  As a Negro wasn't I offended by Nietzsche?  My Charlie chimed in.  And it wasn't long before we got around to one of the two Charlie's favorite topics, if for different reasons- race war.
I eloquently parroted the going militant rhetoric.  This amused Charles.  He asserted he wasn't a racist, but a realist, and bluntly dismissed my arguments for Black revolution as ludicrous.  Charlie idolized John Brown, the song and the man.  His contribution to the argument centered around Brown's attack on Harper's Ferry- that Whites could and would one day lead Blacks into armed struggle, that struggle would be integrated.  Charles Manson turned his illustration around as evidence for his assertion that legions of Blacks did not rise up to join Brown because they couldn't.  Negroes had been whipped, co-opted and cowed by slavery.  Blacks would never rise up against Whites, if history were any witness.  They loved Whites too much.  Denmark Vesey was the exception, not the rule.  Manson maintained that if any cultural revolution- or revolution of any kind- was to take place in the U.S., only Whites could defeat Whites because Blacks- if Martin Luther King were any example- did not have the guts or the intelligence to lead either an armed or organized resistance.  Whites would have to do it for them.
I immediately dropped my third of the argument, took my Nietzsche and retired to the blanket with the babies.  Early in our encounter, Charles had suggested that I check out his women.  Two of the dazed-eyed naiads took me by the arm and led me to the women's quarters.  Curious, I made an attempt.  they liked playing with our kids.  But I could not connect.  We had nothing in common.  Their sole interest was their reverence for their Charlie.  They spent hours discussing his needs, wants and lessons.  Otherwise, they seemed spaced out, or high- flitting about without ambition or purpose.  I had no experience with the drug culture and no way of understanding who they were.
Charles repeatedly invited us to visit Spahn Movie Ranch.  Things were extremely tough for us.  Life was love-filled but terrible.  Charlie couldn't get a decent job to keep one and I couldn't get work because of my inexperience, pregnancies and color.  We lived on public assistance, between any odd job he could get.  We drove old clunkers for as long as we could keep them running.  We always needed money, and Manson was eager to involve Charlie in a couple of schemes.  One Saturday morning, Charlie accepted Manson's offer and went out to Chatsworth.  I stayed with the children, fingers crossed.
Charlie was gone virtually the entire day and returned after sunset without a dime.  I had been worried.  When he came in he looked haggard, hands in his pockets.  He stood in the doorway, in his denim jacket and jeans, lamb's wool cap tilted slightly forward on his forehead.  I was eager to hear the news.  What kind of job was it?
"Sweetheart," he said solemnly.  "Those are some baaad people."
The 'job' had involved auto theft.
Charlie was proud of his outlaw status as a renegade civil rights worker.  But he was not a criminal.  He had walked away from Charles Manson without ever looking back.  He was twenty-six, going on twenty-seven and I was twenty-one.  Within the year, our relationship, too, would end."
"There are the terrible ones who carry about in themselves the beast of prey, and have no choice except lusts or self-laceration.  And even their lusts are self-lacerations"- Nietzsche.


AustinAnn74 said...

So it seems (if you believe her) that CM was spouting off about race wars for a good while before August 8, 1969.

CrisPOA said...

Good point Ann. I guess Coleman is a slightly known poet and i don't think she would lie about this.
Thanks Deb, great article, grat read.
"Their sole interest was their reverence for their Charlie", how about that...

Robert Hendrickson said...

But NOTICE what's missing from this story. Like, WHY Wanda REALLY didn't go to the Spahn Ranch. The Prosecutor Bugliosi would have added: "She was NOT welcome, because she was Black." and "See folks- even early on Manson ONLY saw Blacks as a tool to be used in promoting HIS race war ambitions."

BUT is there ANYTHING in this "writing" that suggests it is a true story?

I have audio recordings of Bugliosi's 7 day Manson Case Court Summation and therein you can
hear how HE was able to CON-VINCE the common-man JURY that HIS Helter Skelter STORY was TRUE. As claimed in the movie MANSON, Mr. Bugliosi was a judicial genius.

DebS said...

Robert, like ChrisPOA, I don't see why Coleman would lie about her encounter with Manson but putting the incident down on paper after years of reflection would tend to filter her immediate reaction upon meeting Manson and listening to his rhetoric.

I think Bugliosi and Manson were like two peas in a pod. Both are excellent conmen but Bugliosi had education and the law on his side. Manson essentially cut off his nose to spite his face by not formally education himself and playing the "woe is me" card. And I do think that Manson is far more literate than he would have people believe.

mrgroove said...

Deb S. I really couldn't agree with you more about Manson being far more literate than he's let on. He's like an evil version of Lon Chaney Sr. aka "the man of a thousand faces". The wide-eyed undereducated, neglected hillbilly is just another one of his many faces. Typical con artist bs, in that respect.

HellzBellz said...

@Robert Hendrickon "She was NOT welcome, because she was Black." But lets put it this way : If all the ,Manson Family, at Spahn were Blacks ,Would YOU feel welcome as the only WHITE guy ?
But annyway, interesting story Wanda tells here. I wonder what here thoughts were after the Murders... And most of all...What IF her Charlie DID take Mansons offer and took the Job...and stayed at Spahn..

Mr. Humphrat said...

Thanks Deb, I like this story. I love the little side stories that fill in a bigger picture.

Robert Hendrickson said...

OK Deb - How about this:

READ your own article VERY carefully and ACCEPT that Wanda is telling the TRUTH.
NOW - understand WHICH "Charlie" is actually leading the conversation about a Black & White Conflict.

When the Tate / LaBianca Massacre occurred WHY didn't Wanda or HER "Charlie" go to the POLICE.

OR when it became public that one Charles Manson was involved with trying to ignite a Black & White RACE WAR, why didn't WANDA or her man "Charlie" go to the Prosecutor Vincent T. Bugliosi. Are NOT "welfares" allowed to testify in a Court of Law.

AND if YOU claim that the cops didn't make public - enough information for Wanda OR her man to realize that Mr. Manson might have been involved in the Massacres - well then, maybe the cops didn't give a fuck whether any other folks, like "Shorty" might die also. Of course, that would also explain WHY the cops were really pissed at Ronnie Howard for breaking the Manson Case.

SEEMS to me that most everyone's attitude that "the COPS have NO reason to LIE, so they MUST be telling the TRUTH" is - kind'a kinky at best.

DebS said...

Robert I have no idea why Wanda or her Charlie did not go to the cops when they learned that Manson et al had been arrested for the carnage of the decade. I wouldn't even try to guess.

If I were in Wanda or her man's shoes I probably would NOT have gone to the cops either. As you well know things were different back then. The younger generation did not trust the cops, especially young people like Wanda and her Charlie who were involved in all manner of student and Black unrest. I would have been afraid that the cops would try to turn the tables on me and somehow implicate me as well.

Remember, too, that many people, particularly those that were considered hippies did not believe that Manson and his crew had committed the murders and felt they were being framed. The first few months of LA Free Press articles defended Manson and other underground papers followed suit.

crash said...

They, and their story, wouldn't exactly fit the picture the bug was painting.

CrisPOA said...

DebS if i was Wanda in 69 i wouldn't tell the cops either. I think i'd be shocked and scared. And they thought the family people were bad for auto theft.

I didn't know the cops were mad at Ronnie for breaking the case! I thought they were desperate to have a clue since the media and the nation were putting pressure at LAPD to answer the case, i.e., investigate!
BTW, Bugliosi made s*** of part of LAPD in his book.

But there's one thing that i'd like to understand...if the crimes were to free BB (as Tex owned a favor to Charlie, blabla...) why would Krenwinkel refer to Healther (sic) Skelter in the crime scene? I mean, the Hinman murder had nothing to do with HS signs - and who would know that HS meant a race war? The police?
The concept of HS was into the family only. This makes me believe the girls were aware of the "make scene" or, they truly believed they had to ignite HS. It was stupid to write HS in the Waverly house, for it related the family with the crime scene.
Aw, i guess it'll take years of study for me to get the details. I'm learning a lot in this blog :))

John Seger said...

Deb and ChrisPOA,
Both of your comments here are very well said!Both of you pointed out great points!! Personally, I do believe the Family believed in "HS," hook line and sinker. I know people are going to jump on me for saying that. Do I think Bugliosi might have known of possible 2nd and 3rd motives? Of coarse he did. He was a DA. That's what a DA does. He tries to prosecute.Regardless,thank God he got those freaks convicted.

John Seger said...

And Robert, I always enjoy your comments here. I may not understand what you are saying half the time, but the other half is worth sticking around for. :-) It's awesome you share your thoughts here with us. Thank you for that

Mr. Humphrat said...

I recently heard a Bugliosi interview in which he said something to the effect of it was a very complex case and Helter Skelter wasn't the only motive or something to that effect.

John Seger said...

Mr. Humphrat,
that is really interesting. Where did you hear he interview? Is it online? Ya, I am certain there were other factors.

DebS said...

I did a post last month on a 1976 Penthouse interview where Bugliosi gives three reasons why he thinks the murders happened. Perhaps this is what your thinking of Mr. Humphrat??

Mr. Humphrat said...

Yeah, that was probably it thanks Deb. He didn't mention a copycat to get BB out of jail though.

crash said...

I have heard the bug a lot call the "primary motive" helter skelter and the secondary motive being to strike out at the establishment.

CrisPOA said...

That would be that Charlie got upset by being treated like s*** at Cielo months before by that photographer of Sharon. Remember in HS Bug interviewed this guy and he told Sharon also saw the "weird man". He got so upset and hatred he used the Helter Skelter fantasy to deceive the other about the need to start it. IMO Charlie never believed in HS, just made that up to control the Family. It could be. But why would he wait months to begin?
Also, i think the idea of drug burn is possible but so far i never could put two and two together. It's all hearsay...

CrisPOA said...

John i agree with you, i think Bug made what it was possible to do to get a conviction. Of course he could have other lines of motives to consider but i guess he just chose the one he could work with at the trial. He didn't even had the "obligation" to present a motive but had to do so he could link the defendants to the crime. Specially to convict Charlie.

Anonymous said...

It's funny, but even though I know Manson was a (rather intelligent) con artist above all else, I still find myself slipping and buying into the 'redneck idiot genius' image he and others have ascribed to him.

Like with this (very enthralling) account- my immediate reaction on hearing Manson read Nietszche and also was capable of having Intellectual Conversations On Current Events was: confusion. Because didn't Sanders write that Manson was "barely literate" and banned books from the ranch?

Yet in the same book Sanders also said Heinlein's 'Stranger In a Strange Land' was hugely influential on Manson's worldview. This is the problem with Mansomania, it's full of layers and layers of confusing bullshit you have to peel back- and then you just find more confusing bullshit (and more layers) underneath. I love it though.

Thanks for the great read, Deb. :)

beauders said...

Well it's happened here a man stabbed a woman to death then decapitated her shouting radical Islamic phrases in Oklahoma today.

Anonymous said...

And an 18-year-old ISIS fan stabbed two police officers before being fatally shot a few days ago here in Australia. In response a few mosques have been hit with graffiti and some protestor with a knife forced his way into a Muslim school.

Bit worrying, really. :/

Max Frost said...

That's what happens when you live in a country run by a terrorist government intent on imperialistically invading so many countries and slaughtering so many innocents.

Terrorism is a REACTION, remember...

Robert Hendrickson said...

Thanks Deb for the extra info on WANDA. She even mentions the BLACK Muslims - which makes the whole article worthwhile - to ME. In "Inside the MANSON Gang" I mention that Charles Manson could have simply been doing a FAVOR for his Muslim prison buddies. Coincidence or by design ? That almost always seems to be the REAL question in dealing with the MANSON mystique.