Monday, July 13, 2015

Charlie Don't Collect

As the current NBC television series Aquarius demonstrates, Charles Manson did not fade away into obscurity after his murder conviction and sentencing in 1971. Instead he has lurked just under the surface of American consciousness, breaking through every few months just to remind people that he is still around. One such surfacing was during the "Charlie Don't Surf/Guns N' Roses" contretemps of the early 1990s.

"I wore the T-shirt because a lot of people enjoy playing me as the bad guy and the crazy." 
                                                                                                                         -- Axl Rose

It started with something as simple as a T-shirt. While today Manson-themed T-shirts are fairly common, in the early '90s they were less prevalent and there was still some daring connected with wearing one. One outfit producing such apparel was Zooport Riot Gear, run by brothers Dan and Richard Lemmons in Newport Beach, California. Two surfer dudes, the Lemmons brothers offered a complete line of clothing for their casually attuned clientele. Among those offerings were T-shirts emblazoned with the famous image of Manson from the cover of Life magazine on the front and with the captions "Charlie Don't Surf" (a line taken from the movie Apocalypse Now) and "Support Family Values" on the back. (The brothers also sold ball caps and watch caps with similar images and slogans.) The shirts soon caught the eye of rock musician Axl Rose of the then popular group Guns N' Roses. Rose had also worked out a version of the classic Manson song "Look At Your Game, Girl" for inclusion on his group's current album The Spaghetti Incident?, a collection of cover versions of songs by other artists, and he took to wearing the shirts while performing in concerts in support of the album. Thus, by highlighting both Manson's image and his music, Rose scored a "bad guy and the crazy" twofer. (The song is not listed or acknowledged on the CD and is technically presented as the last half of track 12. Manson gets a tip of the Rose bandana at the end of the song when the singer says, "Thanks, Chas.")

To its credit, MCA Records (the parent company of Geffen Records, G N' R's recording label) recognized that even murderers are due royalties on songs they composed (See Jim Gordon and "Layla") and thus sent a letter to Manson acknowledging the fact that he owned 100% of the royalties due for "Game" and that he would be paid accordingly.

Below, letter and copyright license agreement from MCA Records acknowledging Manson's right to royalties from the Guns N' Roses recording of "Look At Your Game, Girl"

It was only a matter of time before all of this in-your-face behavior attracted the attention of, well, just about everybody. Newspaper editorials voiced their outrage at the glorification of the country's most infamous mass murderer. Manson prosecutor Stephen Kay said, "These men [the Lemmons brothers] are taking advantage of kids who don't understand what Manson stands for or what he did. They're making a folk hero out of a cold-blooded murderer."  Manson's former co-defendant, Susan Atkins, also made her opinion known when she wrote, "How can anyone endorse this profiting on the infamy of such a hideous criminal? ....To make a novelty out of a person like Charles Manson, whose self-serving wickedness (I can attest) is beyond any of your comprehension, is truly unconscionable.... While, to a younger generation who was not alive at the time, Charles Manson must seem like a cartoon character, I can assure you.... that his depravity and depth of cruelty make him a truly base human being, deserving of no one's attention, let alone admiration."

A shop window in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Franciso, 1993
Below, the Hazleton (PA) Standard Speaker is appalled.

But the most significant person to get wind of the whole affair was Los Angeles attorney Nathaniel Friedman. In 1971 Friedman had won a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of his client Bartek Frykowski (the son of "Manson Family" victim Voytek Frykowski) against the convicted killers of his father, i.e., Charles Manson, Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian (who was adjudicated as responsible for the murder in the civil suit). The original judgement was for $500,000, but since no payments had ever been made on it interest had accrued over the years until the new judgment amount was $1,411,482. Lawyer Friedman sprang into action on behalf of his client and served notice on both Zooport Riot Gear and Geffen Records that any royalties or payments due to Charles Manson would immediately be seized in order to pay off the civil judgement. 

And that's what happened. The paperwork was filed, the parties involved were notified, and when the dust settled over $75,000 had been paid by Geffen Records and Zooport Riot Gear towards the settlement of Bartek Frykowski's suit (or at least towards the lawyers fees). 

Below, the Petition for Order Approving Service of Writ of Execution. Manson is puzzled at the signature of the approving magistrate, which was apparently done by rubber stamp.

Below, the Notice of Levy against Geffen Records. Manson protests, "Song was written in the 1960s."

Below, the Notice of Levy against Zooport Riot Gear

Below, Notice of Partial Satisfaction of Judgement in the amount of $72,608.26,
leaving a balance due of $1,338,873.74 

Royalties from both the recorded song and T-shirts sales slacked off soon after the initial excitement however, so Frykowski was still awaiting over $1,000,000 in awards at the time of his death in Gluchy, Poland on June 8, 1999 at the age of 40. (Frykowski died of stab wounds that the local coroner determined were self-inflicted.)

Charles Manson himself took the whole episode in stride. And as a token of his appreciation to the Lemmons brothers and their infamous sartorial offerings that had touched off the whole affair he created an artwork that was grotesque even by his standards. The Texas Hemorrhoid, a monstrosity made of paint, plaster, rocks, and miscellaneous debris, was sent out of the California State Prison at Corcoran in late 1993 and immediately dispatched to Los Angeles where it was presented to Dan Lemmons by Sandra Good in a gas station parking lot. (The Lemmons brothers were natives of the Lone Star State, hence the artwork's name.)

Above, The Texas Hemorrhoid
Below, Sandra Good presents The Texas Hemorrhoid to a dumbfounded Dan Lemmons of Zooport Riot Gear in Los Angles, California in 1993.

"Thanks, Chas."


Guida Diehl said...

Always been curious about these shirts in an idle, off-hand way - and also in Manson's transition from a simple Symbol of Evil to being simultaneously, in a Manichean way, also a symbol of Americana. This was really well-written & a pleasure to read, Mr. H, thankyou.

Robert Hendrickson said...

Talk about a coincidence, I just finished re-reading the December 19, 1969 issue of Time magazine RE: MANSON cover "The Love and Terror Cult."

AND that is where and how IT all started. NO question - without a world-wide introduction such as that, Charles Manson would have ONLY been just another "Bad Hippie Crime Story." NO mention of the now infamous "Helter Skelter" EXCEPT that Manson supposedly talked about an "Armageddon" involving "black" people.

Apparently, Bugliosi in HIS magnificant performance as the world's greatest lawyer, actually created an ICON (MANSON)to be shared by ALL for generations to come.

It is so rare for such a THING to materialize, most folks ONLY hear about it happening once in their lifetime.

The Donald Trump situation may actually be NOW "materializing" right before our eyes, in much the same manner.

AND if the "Manson Family" story helped knock the Mi Lai Massacre OFF the public's radar, maybe the CIA actually did the RIGHT thing - that time !

DebS said...

Fun Fact! The Spaghetti Incident album also paid homage to the Zodiac Killer by using a few of the cipher symbols on the front of the album.

No, this does not mean that the Manson Family had anything to do with the Zodiac killings.

The code reads FUCKEM All!

Patty is Dead said...

Great post thank you George

Anonymous said...

Manson's name and image was being used in the Punk scene and had a few of his songs covered by various bands way before Guns N' Roses took it mainstream. As most people probably already know, Henry Rollins was working on releasing a Manson LP on SST in the early 80s'. Nikolas Schreck, always the story telling, claims he turned Axl onto Manson. Apparently Radio Werewolf and Guns N' Roses rented out and shared a rehearsal space.

Anonymous said...

@George Stimson,


Thanks for this interesting, enjoyable post. I do like your writing. Could you clarify what the position is now with regards to any royalties from LAYGG. Did the payouts end with Bartek's death, or does the right pass on indefinitely from heir to heir?

I wonder if they ever got a dime from Mrs Kasabian;)

LAYGG was an excellent song - if fact there are quite a few of Charlie's songs that are very good.

Robert Hendrickson said...

For 46 years years I've been asking myself - WHY does a dirty, stinky old ex-con get to be an American ICON when TWO All-American Presidents during HIS heyday, are simply reduced to rotten apples - kicked to the roadside of world HISTORY ?

The BEST I can come-up with resides in the relationship between the Mi Lai and Tate/ LaBianca Massacres.

ANYONE have ANY other thoughts on the matter ?

MHN said...

CM gets to be an American icon because America is the child that walked away from its parent/king and went its own way, founding a new type of personal freedom in doing so. The fact that CM turned this revolution to dark and cruel ends does not diminish or negate the fact that he represents America the revolutionary child more than any modern President does.

But seriously - blacks overturning the established order yet finding themselves unable to govern even themselves without Manson's help? Did none of the Family at any point realise "Hey - that's me! I overthrew my family, walked away from my father and mother, rejected pig rule and order with Charlie's guidance, and now I am obeying Charlie's will every day! He's conning me. I am the black man in his Helter Skelter! I wanna go home!"

Robert Hendrickson said...

I must say: I hope EVERYONE can realize Michael's unique "perspective" from the homeland of OUR real forefathers. It is that of the "parents" waving goodbye to THEIR children, as they set-out to conquer the world.

The FACT that those "children's children" one day returned to SAVE their parents from HELL itself, ONLY goes to show that every KIND of sense makes sense, in a world where even NO sense seems to prevail.

Of course, WE Americans seem ot have merely traded in our old KING for a mentally disabled President.

"God save the Queen" - just in case we might need her one day.

MHN said...


Our kid told us he didn't want to live at home anymore, our rules were stifling him. He packed his bag and left after a blazing row. He went off to have fun at the beach and break all the rules, and then he invented burgers and Coca-Cola and shakes and teenage girls, and bikinis and sex in the desert. He sent us a postcard to tell us what he was doing, and after we read it we looked at our miserable old wife and her pursed lips and her conventional disdain for the male organ and the act of love, and we decided to cope with our crippling envy by clinging to tradition and tea, and affecting disgust at the vacuousness and vulgarity of our kid.

Then some German guy tried to burglarize our house, and - whaddaya know - our prodigal son showed up just in time and helped beat crap out of that thug's ass. Then our kid and his friends kind of hung around the neighborhood for a few decades to make sure no other bullies troubled us. And while he did that, at his own expense, we sat around bitching behind his back about his love of money and guns.

We won't be happy until he is as old and dead (or 'European') as we are, until he too commits to funneling his hard-earned wealth into the hands of the feckless and the weak via the government, until he too gives up his right to defend himself and his kids using force and relies instead on the state to protect his life, his safety, his health. We won't be happy until he shrugs off that love of individual freedom that made him leave us in the first place. Why? Because we're as jealous as hell, even if we don't admit it to ourselves.

Thankfully he has started down that path now. Seven years ago he voted to put a European in the White House (though people don't notice he's a European because he is also black, which is a useful distraction.)

Robert - we are the walking dead, the zombie of civilization; if you ever have need of the British monarch again then it's too late, Rome has already fallen.

Robert Hendrickson said...

Thank you Grim Traveler for your inspiring (breath of fresh air) comments !

Guida Diehl said...

Michael that is like a punch in the gut to my flag-waving love for the Mother Country, lol! Right on the money though. Years ago I lived with this terribly insufferable pseudo-hippy who once remarked to me, apropos of an American talking head on the news and nothing else: "I hate Americans!" Made me ruminate on how well it would have gone over with her if I'd declared out of the blue "I hate Indians!" or "Chinese people really give me the shits!" Americans catch a lot of flak (and you forgot their Love of Jay-sus to go along with those guns and $$$- Yanks are super-materialistic, except when they're not) from us, which seems unfair because THEY'RE the ones catching flak FOR US, if y'know what I mean (think Team America).

If anyone wants to see how happy European & Australian progressives are with prejudice when it's directed against the bastard children of 1776, go read the comments section on any article about America on the Guardian Online. Rivals the Son of Man and his Happy Family in terms of externalised hate; Americans, like blackie & The Pigs, iz azkin fer it.

Robert Hendrickson said...

I love your comments Michael. Isn't it amazing that WE in America hear so little about OUR extended Family roots. I'll bet almost no young people today can even tell you what the American revolution was about.

BUT mention the name Charlie Manson and HIS revolution. A Mexican-American mailman said to me: "Oh, he was that guy who wanted to KILL all the minorities."

I was about to respond when I quickly realized - IF I told him the truth - I would destroy HIS "bad-guy." AND there are 3 things you never want to take away from the "oppressed." THEIR "Devil" their Messiah or their Teddy Bear !

orwhut said...

As a citizen of the land of the prodigal son, I thank you for your kind words.

MHN said...

RH - their Teddy Bear - :)

You may not have told your mailman the truth, but can you tell us....? (I mean those of us like me, too dumb not to have worked it out already).

AustinAnn74 said...

The Texas hemorrhoid, huh? That is really, really funny.

George Stimson said...

Don't take it personally, Ann.