Monday, December 11, 2017

The End of an Era

"Living is what Scares me.... Dying is easy"
- Charles Manson

" Its always our own self that we find at the end of a journey. The sooner we find that self, the better"
- Ella Maillart

Ya know... 

I came into this world in the "Summer Of Love" almost literally. I was born in the Spring of 1967. Not three months from when Charlie Manson walked into the Haight Ashbury District for the very first time. I was too young to be a part of what, I always have believed to be, the most exciting years our nation has ever experienced. At least as far as individual freedoms and hope. I have had to settle for spending my life reading about it to settle my curiosity. It seemed that magically almost overnight, society went from black and white to color. Like that scene in Wizard of Oz when Dorothy first opens the door in Munchkin City. Things just became a whole lot more wide open than people were used to thinking were possible. As I got older, I became more and more curious as to what the counter-culture movement was all about? From what I could find in books, records and radio, all roads seemed to lead to California. From the Beach Boys as a tot, and then the Doors records we used to play in basement I grew up in as a boy, to the Greatful Dead shows I used to trade bootlegs of in High School- I have been infatuated with all things Musical, Hippy, and California for most of my life. This fascination has led me to study many movements and cliques of the late 60's period, where it seems all 3 of these subjects were intertwined, and at their peak. Scientology, The Process Church of Final Judgement, The Hog Farm, The Panthers, The Diggers, the Merry Pranksters, The BEL ( TY Patty) - I have delved into all of them. Same with the rock and roll scene. From the earliest clubs on Sunset Strip, and the musician networking in Laurel Canyon, to the music coming out of the Bay area and the creation of Psychedelic Rock and the Jam-band sound. I read every book and listened to every tale I could find. But the one story that stayed with me the most, and has haunted my dreams, after all these years is the story of Helter Skelter and Charles Manson. It is not really a Hippy story in my opinion to be honest, but that it is how I came across it, so it will always be catalogued in my memory with that period of time...

I have read in many places that two events ended the "Spirit of the 60's". One was the Murder of Meredith Hunter in Livermore California, at the Altamont Raceway, during a free Rolling Stones Concert. The other was the Manson murders of Sharon Tate and her friends, followed by the slayings of Leo and Rosemary Labianca the following night. I would argue that although there was plenty of ugliness, drugs, Hippies and bikers involved in both stories to merit a comparison, only one has truly withstood the test of time, as judged by public interest, to really merit consideration as the turning point in a cultural shift. I am quite sure that while 90% of America no longer remembers the events of the Northern California raceway where one tragedy took place late in 1969, almost everyone who has heard the name Manson raised an eye when the Mastermind of another tragedy in the same year passed away last month in a Bakersfield Hospital.

Today, I take a final look at the life of Charles Manson.....

His Youth: 

I wouldn't wish the childhood of Charles Manson on anyone. At the age most of us are wondering what the difference is between a number two pencil and any other pencil, Charlie was struggling to keep food in his mouth, clothes on his back, and a roof over his head. Boy's schools, and reform programs tossing you back and forth, while you are handed from relative to relative, is not a really an enabling or nurturing environment for success. Charlie was dealt a bad hand for sure. He was stealing and breaking minor laws to get by at a very early age, and in many ways he really had no choice. Charles Manson had a tragic youth. Although there was some love, and a few family members who were showing him some type of example, he was pretty much left to himself by the two people who matter the most in all of our upbringings - Mom and Dad. Living on the run, and moving from one crime to another just to get by was a sure recipe for trouble. Trouble is exactly what young Charlie kept finding. Constantly and consistently, until he was finally through his childhood and teenage years, Charlie would spend a good deal of time in confinement. There was not much promise or hope in the earliest years of Manson. It wasn't until he was a grown man that he would get a real taste of freedom and possibility. But when he got it, Ohhhh what a taste he got....

His Big Break and Opportunity:

In march of 1967, Charlie was released from prison and given permission to go to San Fransisco just in time for what was probably the greatest multi-month psychedelic party in the history of our Country. Charlie was able to find housing and a girlfriend, or two, and to play his music with others who were living free and enjoying the vibes of the times. Imagine the man who had just spent so many years shuffling along in the black and white world of prisons and reform schools walking into all of that visual stimulation. Ahhh, The sounds and the colors of The Haight in summer of 1967. Much like the aforementioned Dorothy, this young man from the poor, rural part of nowhere America, must have felt like he was in some new place very far from anything resembling what he used to call home. And it must have been truly amazing. What an incredible time of peace and love. Charlie had an opportunity to understand the human side of people, and all the good that they are capable of. Sharing and kindness were all around him. Charlie had a chance to make anything he wanted of himself, and the possibilities were limitless. He caught a break coming out to this environment. It was the first of a few good things that would happen to him. He was starting to meet people who would support him, and give him friendship and love. It gave him a chance to start fresh and make something positive with his life if he so chose. What he chose instead was to start to gather a group of people and go in another direction....

His Family:

From Mary and Squeakster who were his first, to Sandy, Patricia, and Nancy who were maybe his most loyal. From Ruth and Diane who were too young to know any better, to Gypsy and Leslie who knew exactly what they were getting into. Charlie had an effect for sure on the Girls. For not the love and dedication of the core group of girls, I say this Family never sticks together and none of the rest of it ever goes down. The girls were the glue and bond that kept the whole thing together. With the men I believe it was different. I believe there were a couple who bought the rap such as Brooks, and maybe Bruce and Tex to an extent. However, I think the guys just went along with whatever the message of the day was, in order to get high and laid. In any case, and for whatever reason you want to pick, Charlie was able to put together a core group of 20 people or so who more or less stayed together on the promise of a daily diet of things all people that age were interested in back in the late 60's. Intoxication and the opposite sex. But again, this gave Charlie both the chance to have an easy life and to enjoy the places and times in which he was very fortunate to be living. Even more, during this period he was able to meet some of the real movers and shakers of the moment in his loved profession- music. From Neil Young to Dennis Wilson, Charlie got a rare opportunity to get on the inside. Maybe he just wasn't good enough, or maybe he just didn't take it seriously enough? Who am I to judge today. In any case, when it didn't happen, instead of looking for another way to make himself happy, he decided to take a turn towards a much darker place. And once he went in that direction, the momentum started picking up at an alarming speed.  To some in his circle, this was a sign it was time to leave. Others believed it to be "cool". Those back then learned it was otherwise so, but there are those who believe that Charlies darkness was "cool" to this day. It wasn't just acid and the 60's that caused normal people to buy into Charlies ideas. Charlie has an extended family which somehow morphed from the kids and young adults of the Spahn and Barker ranches, to a small assorted group of cliques of people who still correspond, speak with, and visit with him to this day. In all his adult life, his ability to draw some in never seemed to diminish. It has always been a challenge for me to understand why some could read, and hear, what those who were in the original Family had to say about what life was like with Charles Manson, that would make them wish to become a part of it, or champion what he said and did? Because what started out as a fun group of people taking acid and making love in the sun, at some point became a hardened group of criminals, who stole, assaulted, and murdered people under the leadership, and in most cases direction of, Charles Manson...

His Crimes:

The crimes of Charles Manson are many. From his earliest days he was stealing and breaking minor laws. As he got older the crimes got more serious. Even long before the TLB crimes he was raping, pimping, stealing, forging, and doing all types of  criminal behavior as one would expect from a person who spent more than half of their formative years in confinement of some type. There were dozens of people all over the country who were hurt, robbed, or cheated by Charles Manson before he ever played one note on his guitar. But this blog is mostly about one specific set of crimes, so let me address it one last time clearly and finally. Then the rest of you can battle over it for as long as you wish....

TLB:  I do not know for sure what the real motive for the TLB crimes is. And Neither do you.

I suspect strongly that there is some basic element of all of the the motives we fight over here. I think its possible that some of the girls believed they were trying to get Bobby out of Jail. I think Charlie may have had some personal reason for choosing the locations that we may never know. I think Charlie had personal ways to push each individuals buttons to get what he wanted from each specific individual. I also think, he knew there were limits to how far he could push certain people in his Family. And you know what else I think?

I think that Helter Skelter was probably the button he pushed for at least a couple of them.

Bugs lied and embellished, and used every trick in his book to get his guy and make his story. That is true. But, it is also true that there is more physical, testimonial, and circumstantial evidence to support the Helter Skelter motive than there is any other motive put forth by anyone else. Scream as you may, we have been over this so many times. There was just too much evidence of Helter Skelter to simply ignore it. I think Bugs could have worked out an angle over drug burn, or copy-cat, or music business envy and just as easily involved Charlie and sold books. But he chose Helter Skelter as the starting point to build his case, and novel, on. I think there was a simple reason for that. There was more to back up and justify a Helter Skleter motive than anything else. Does not mean it was the only motive, or the real ultimate motive, But it is fair to say it was around and probably played some part for, at least, some of them. And, I have read and listened to a couple of the people involved say that Helter Skelter was the reason they did it, so I think that the actual murderers reasoning for doing what they did is good enough for me.

I think all of this. I do not know. If you want to insult my mother, beat me up, or call me names- then have one last time at it. The one thing I do feel strongly about is that whatever the real reason for the crimes, Charlie was aware of it, and involved with the crimes in as far as deciding the locations and choosing the participants. I am going to end my time studying this case certain that this is the truth. Charlie was as responsible for TLB as any of the actual killers in that aspect. For ten years now I have been reading books, and watching movies and documentaries. I have visited the locales. I have read or listened to almost every parole hearing any one of them has had. If I am sure of any one thing after all of this time, it is that Manson knew exactly what was going on with both the Tate and Labianca murders, and he and he alone called the shots. Many people give many reasons for why Charlie never tried to put on a normal defense, nor took his parole chances seriously. I think its because in his heart he knows that he couldn't defend himself in this case. Charles Manson accepted what he did, even if none of his supporters ever did or will. Manson was many bad things, but not a hypocrite. He went out of his way in the courtroom to show who was in charge and called the shots, how could he ever admit later on that someone else was the boss? Charlie made his famous speech in court and he didn't try to explain that he wasn't involved, he used his moment in the spotlight to try and make people understand his way of thinking and how it justified what happened. It is a real tragedy to me is that Manson has never shown any remorse or sense of responsibility for any of the people he hurt in any of those years. None of the victims of the crimes he was involved in, nor any of the young lives he ruined when he led young kids into harms way, over and over again. He offered no answers or explanations. He just left us with questions. the greatest among them, of course, being- Why?

Senseless Tragedy. To me that will be the real legacy of Charles Manson. But, there are others...


I wrote a post about this time last year about what I thought the legacies of Manson would be. It was called "Blurred Lines", and although I am not going to rehash the entire post again here, I did reread it myself. Today, I will just summarize....

Manson will leave behind real family. Children and Grandchildren. I hope they can live life free of the shadow the name represents. They lost family and I am sorry for them all for that.

Manson leaves behind an extended family of friends and supporters. People are mourning his loss and celebrating the life he lived in his memory. They will carry on his causes, defend his name, and make sure his side is heard. I do not get you, but again, am sorry for your loss.

Manson will be the subject of much media and TV. We will continue to get movies, specials, documentaries, and books well into the future. This story blends all the essential ingredients. Sex, drugs, rock and roll, celebrity, the wild west, and of course throw it all into a Hollywood locale- add the perfect Evil Bad Guy and you have the crime story gift that just keeps on giving. There is a great line the movie Gladiator when Proximus tells Commodus to " Win the Crowd. You must give them something they have never seen before, and you will win the crowd." Well, Manson gave us all something we had never seen before alright. And it appears to have won over at least some segment of the population who show no signs that their interest in this subject is slowing down.

Manson leaves behind his music. Covered from many established artists, and available all over the internet, Charlies music will stick around for the curious to seek out, and his loyal base to reminisce to. There are a few versions of a couple of Charlies songs that actually stick with me, although to be honest- I like the music Brooks and Paul did in the Hendrickson documentary better than anything Charlie ever did.

Charlie leaves behind his name. Manson will be a word that represents evil long after my time has come I suspect. It has become ingrained in our societal conscious as a representation of murder and darkness. Frankly, I think Tex is a lot more deserving of that distinction, But, Tex was smart enough to get himself tried separately and keep his mouth shut, and Charlie had a fatal desire to turn his trial into a performance which he personally controlled in front of the jury, press and world. So Manson himself has as much to do with that as anyone. Charlie is mostly responsible, through his own actions, for creating his own myth.

 Finally, Charlie leaves behind all of us. The curious. From the TLB Scholars, to the casual lurkers. Charlie leaves behind questions. What was it really like? Why did they really do it? Who really knew what and when? We could go on and on, and most of you certainly will. Like any fascinating tragedy, we are stuck in perpetual limbo trying to understand the understandable. From giggling children smoking pot and having orgies, to blood stained robots, stabbing innocent people to death, and joking about it. How does that happen? To those people, and in that time and place? It just doesn't make sense. Maybe it's not supposed to. If we really knew the truth, what would we do next? Would that be the end? Does it ever end? Only we can decide the end of our own journey's. And I can only speak for myself in regards to this journey. Mine ends with Charlies and Charlies journey is over. This is where I get off.  In the last couple of years we have lost Manson, Hendrickson, and Bugliosi. with each passing of the major players, the chances of learning more real valuable truth grows greater and greater. I sometimes wonder if this isn't going to end up being Charlies last laugh at all of us. That a community of smart people would spend so much time trying to make sense out of a guy who once said that "No sense makes sense".

I have to imagine that Charlie stopped caring about this as much as we do, a very long time ago. I know that for me the death of Charles Manson is very much the end of an era. For the last ten years, I have been watching and waiting for something relevant to shake up the history of the case. Waiting for Charlie, or someone to say something that would finally shed some light on all of the unknowns. Waiting for someone to finally let us all know who was right and who was wrong. Charlie, most importantly of all, could have ended all of our fighting over motive at any time he wished. Just one coherent conversation or letter. But there is no chance for that now. Charles Manson has passed away. Charlie has had his final say on this subject.

And now I have had mine.....

- Your Favorite Saint