Monday, February 12, 2018

Randy Starr and The Creeping Terror

The saga of the Tate-LaBianca murders is more massive and complex than any novel by James Michener. The story spans years, locations, and events, and the cast of characters is perfect for the tale. They are varied, individual, interesting, and often quirky (to say the least). Even their names are perfect.  And certainly one person fitting into this murder-tinged mosaic would have been Randy Starr, the black-clad, one-armed cowboy/stunt man who worked at Spahn’s Movie Ranch when Charles Manson and his associates lived there in 1968 and 1969

Randy Starr was born as Joseph Vance Randall on December 13, 1931 in Illinois, USA. Not much is known about his early life, but upon reaching maturity he entered the United States Marine Corps and served as a Private First Class during the conflict in Korea from 1952 to 1954. Upon leaving the service he returned to the midwest. It was there, in Iowa, that Starr was involved in a farming accident wherein his left arm was run over by a tractor. The arm was rendered fairly useless as a result, and it dangled mangled at his side for the rest of his life.

Book from the Randy Starr series of boys adventure books published in the 1930s. It is not known if Joseph Randall was exposed to these books as a child and subsequently adopted the protagonist’s name as his movie alias. 

Although hindered by the loss of one arm Randall didn’t shy away from physical activity, and he eventually made his way to Los Angeles, changed his name to Randy Starr, and pursued a career in the movie and television industries as a bit actor and stunt man. When not  involved with some entertainment project Starr supported himself by working as a ranch hand at Spahn’s Movie Ranch. Starr was living in a trailer at the ranch when Charles Manson and his friends first appeared in the summer of 1968, and he would be present during their entire residency there, including when the murders of the summer of 1969 occurred.

Randy Starr

Randy Starr with George Spahn

Randy Starr publicity propaganda. An associate later wrote, “Randy's stunt gimmick was being dragged or dropped somewhere from a rope around his neck. Being dragged on the ground by a galloping horse was his signature stunt.”

Like everyone else at Spahn’s Ranch, Randy Starr was questioned by law enforcement officers investigating the Tate-LaBianca murders. And Starr made significant contributions to the case against Charles Manson. First, he said that the rope found at the Cielo Drive murder scene was “identical” to rope he had seen in the back of Manson’s dune buggy. More importantly, he identified the .22 caliber Buntline revolver used in the Tate murders as a gun he had once owned before giving it to Manson in exchange for a truck.

Starr testified at the Grand Jury that he saw Manson with a sword in late July of 1969, shortly after the Gary Hinman ear-slashing murder, and that Manson told him, “I cut a guy’s ear off with this.”

Starr also figured in the case during the famous visit to Spahn’s Ranch by Terry Melcher on May 18, 1969 when Melcher came to listen to Manson and his friends play music and sing with the possibility of arranging something professionally. Manson and the others played by the stream in the area behind and below the main ranch set. According to a later newspaper account, “When the group returned from the stream, [Melcher] said there was a strange encounter with a Hollywood stunt man who live at the ranch Randy Starr. He had a six-gun strapped to his waist.

“‘It was a little scary,’ [Melcher said]. ‘It looked like, you know, Dodge City and Marshall Dillon. Randy was going to draw on somebody and Charlie intervened. I think he hit Randy in the stomach and grabbed the gun. I’m glad he did.’”

While Randy star will likely be most remembered for the bit part he played in TLB, he also had a (very) minor show business career on his cosmic resume. A search of his name in the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb) results in a list of three cinematic projects that Starr worked on, one of which, The Creeping Terror, was supposedly partially filmed at Spahn’s Movie Ranch. From IMBd: “The Creeping Terror (1964), on which [Starr] was assistant director, was shot in part at the Spahn Ranch outside of Los Angeles, which was home to the notorious Manson Family, headed by the infamous Charles Manson. Starr later joined the "family", and after the Tate-LaBianca murders it was shown that Starr provided Manson with the gun used in the killings.”

Credit from The Creeping Terror listing Randy Starr as an Assistant Director

Given the inaccuracy of the blurb’s description of Starr’s relationship to “the notorious Manson Family” I wondered if the film was indeed shot at Spahn’s or whether this was just another Mansonian mirage. To find out, I took a look at the film myself. (You can too; it’s here. You can also read some detail about this ill-fated cinematic project in its Wikipedia entry here.)

The Creeping Terror is generally regarded as one of the worst movies ever made, and after viewing the film I would have to concur. Some movies are “good” bad, but this one is just bad bad. Pick any aspect of the production — writing, acting, directing, music, special effects — it’s all bad. (In fact, it’s bad enough that the folks at Mystery Science Theater 3000 had a go at it.) One particularly odd feature is that since the original soundtrack was apparently lost or destroyed a narrator explains much of the dialogue that is clearly going on but cannot be heard. The film’s only redeeming quality is that it is just over an hour long.

Al Lewis (the same name as the actor who played Grandpa on The Munsters television program) is listed in the credits. I didn’t see him when I viewed the film, but I will not watch it again to see if he’s there. Perhaps one of our readers can confirm Grandpa’s presence and add that factoid to the endless encyclopedia of TLB trivia. (Terror is not listed among Lewis' IMDb credits.)

Al Lewis as Grandpa Munster

(Since Manson was incarcerated at the McNeil Island federal penitentiary in 1964 when Terror was filmed it would have been impossible for him and Lewis to have connected at that time. But Lewis eventually did meet Manson, as he recalled in this 2010 article: "In California in [the late sixties] the estimate was that there were at least half a million runaways from the age of eight on, drifting to California. Every Friday I used to have about fifty [to] sixty kids who would wait for me on Sunset Boulevard and I'd take them all to dinner. All runaways. That's how I met Charlie Manson. He wanted to be in the music business. He babysat my three kids ... I met him in front of the Whiskey-A-Go-Go on Sunset Boulevard. He sat for four or five hours, he amused the kids, he brought the guitar and he played, no big deal, no sweat.”)

One interesting feature of Terror is a perhaps prescient “Hootenanny” scene of a young man with a guitar playing for a group of pretty young girls in a meadow. (Like their real-life 1968-69 counterparts, they are all devoured by a monster.)

Many scenes occur at a location described as “Lovers Lane,” which was the actual name of the road leading from the main western set to the back ranch house when Manson and his friends lived there. Is this a case of life imitating art?

Although there is no sign of the western set, many of the outdoor scenes in Terror look like they could have been filmed at Spahn’s, especially near the end. But then, just when you’re thinking, “Yeah, that looks like it could be the ranch,” at the 108.50 mark the characters unmistakably drive past the Outlaw Shacks. No question; case closed.

Above and below, the Outlaw Shacks in The Creeping Terror and Will You Die For Me?

Randy Starr had two more films to his credit after The Creeping Terror. Both were released posthumously. The first was Machismo: 40 Graves for 40 Guns, released in 1971. Starr appears in this film as a bit player described in credits as a “roper.”

Movie poster for Machismo: 40 Graves for 40 Guns

Starr’s last cinematic moment was in Hard On The Trail, which was released in 1972 and is described in IMBd as “a hardcore pornographic film.” I was not able to find this film, so I can't say whether it is actually “hardcore” or is more of a Ramrodder type of soft-core breast fest.

Above and below, movie poster for Hard On The Trail and Randy Starr’s billing

Randy Starr died unexpectedly on August 4, 1970, shortly after the trial of Charles Manson and his co-defendants began. Starr had been anticipated as an important witness for the prosecution because his testimony could have placed the murder weapon (gun) used at the Polanski residence in Manson’s hands. Although the sudden death appeared mysterious and suspicious initially, it was soon revealed that Starr died of “acute purulent meningitis due to or as a consequence of left otitis media and mastoiditis, acute.”  (In other words, he died of an ear infection that spread to his brain.)

Randy Starr’s obituary in the Los Angeles Times

From the Van Nuys Valley News

Upon his death Randy Starr reverted to his original identity and was buried at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Lemay, Missouri (2900 Sheridan Street, St. Louis, MO)  Section 1, Site 2262.

Randy Starr’s military grave

(Thanks to Deb S. for the clarifying info on the arm!)


starviego said...

Did Randy Starr ever say where he got the Buntline revolver?

Matt said...

starviego, see this post

starviego said...

Thanks for the info.

orwhut said...

Good job, George. I love awful horror movies and just recently watched, The Creeping Terror.

AustinAnn74 said...

I'd rather watch it in Mystery Science Theater 3000! I freakin love MST3000!!

Mr. Humphrat said...

me too!

David said...

Off subject estate update:

Matt said...

Where is King Solomon when you need him?

Robert C said...

Long ago when I discovered there were a number of ranch hands at Spahn mostly unaffiliated with the Manson Family I wondered who they were, how they interacted with the MF and what happened to them too. So this was a well researched and written piece about alias Randy Starr and his brief saga. Seems like these guys never live very long.

Channels, Freeman and Roberts all have questionable pasts and intent. I'm not saying those three are necessarily bad people but If the bod & estate goes to anyone I hope it's young Brunner who probably has a very solid DNA claim plus a more genuine intent to take care of the remains and etc.

starviego said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
starviego said...

I have been thinking of a proper send-off for Charlie. Most of you are probably in favor of a quiet ceremony with close relatives with the ashes being spread above the beaches of Malibu, or maybe at Barker.

But I am envisioning a televised public spectacle with all the parties being there. Invite a local satanic coven to conduct a ceremony. Invite Debra Tate to lead a counter protest. Let Squeaky show up and start crying, before whipping out an unloaded .45 and point it in the general direction of Michael Channels. Let Snake show up with a trunk full of her new book($24.99 regular price, $35 for an autographed copy). Let Gypsy come and pass around a petition to free Lulu. Let the memorabilia dealers set up booths to sell T-shirts. Contract with the Straight Satans to provide security in exchange for 10 cases of beer and some mescaline. Let there be gate crashers. Let animus and bad blood be. Let the accusations and threats flourish. Let there be yelling and cussing. Let there be an unseemly shoving match for possession of the urn. Let the fists and fold-up chairs fly. Let the buck knives be pulled and brandished. Let the dogs of Helter Skelter be loosed. Let the police come in with swinging nightsticks and shut it all down. Let there be arrests and lawsuits. And let it all be covered in glorious living color by the grasping, sensationalist media. America deserves no less. Because Charlie does not just belong to Brunner or Freeman. He belongs to ALL of us!

OK, I know my view is not a popular one, but think of the ratings!

prefeteria said...

A question for the attorneys in the room, including the practicing or disbarred.

Frykowski’s son won a wrongful death suit causing royalties from the Guns and Roses version of Look At Your Game Girl to be paid to him. Has that been settled and/or how would this affect future royalties paid for “Manson’s Likeness” or other things?

cielodrivecom said...

He was supposed to get 60k for every million records sold

David said...

prefeteria said: "Has that been settled and/or how would this affect future royalties paid for “Manson’s Likeness” or other things?"

Generally, in most states, a judgment stays on the books 10 years and can be renewed. But a judgment is not 'self executing'. You have to, for example, garnish wages or a bank account or attach (seize) a car, jewelry or a Heisman Trophy and then sell it . No third party is going to automatically just pay you unless you take steps to make them pay you.

If Frykowski's son's judgment has not expired he will or should file a claim against the estate once I reaches that point.

cielodrivecom said...

He’s dead

Robert C said...

Yeah, the son is toast so the real question is does the judgment end or does it pass on to the next of kin ?

George Stimson said...

The judgment was against Manson. Would it also be against his heirs?

David said...

George said: "does it pass on to the next of kin?'

I can see I was inarticulate. The last bit is there is all that really mattered: Frykowski's only remaining viable claim is against Manson's estate (not heirs, his estate) if the judgment has not already expired.

ColScott said...

A judgment is an asset, so if Frykowski junior had any heirs they could inherit it and then have to collect from the Charles Manson Estate. if and when that is ever clarified.

I believe Bret G before he took a hot dose ascertained that Junior had no heirs and had not renewed the judgement.

Whisper when you discuss this we do not want Debra to get any ideas

cielodrivecom said...

This is Bartek’s daughter. She’s a minor polish celebrity. Can’t imagine she let that suit expire.

David said...


If I knew where and when the judgment was entered I could try to figure that out. said...

I'll look to see if I have that.

orwhut said...

If I remember correctly, I read that a much better costume had been made for the monster in, The Creeping Terror. Owing to a monetary problem, the costume designer, who I took to be the owner, was said to have left and with the costume. The costume seen in the film was thrown together at the last minute by someone else.

Robert C said...

David Said: ** George said: "does it pass on to the next of kin?' **

No, David, it's what I said. Focus, David, focus.

ColScott Said: ** A judgment is an asset, so if Frykowski junior had any heirs they could inherit it and then have to collect from the Charles Manson Estate. if and when that is ever clarified. **

Ah thank you -- that's what I was wondering and if true (and I have no reason to doubt), very interesting.

Cielodrive Said: ** This is Bartek’s daughter. She’s a minor polish celebrity. Can’t imagine she let that suit expire. **

Thanks and ... whomever inherits Manson's estate could still maybe endlessly be hounded by this person and (sh-h-h-) ;-)

Peter said...

The La Bianca estate also had a wrongful death suite against Family Jams, Inc. which was actually incorporated on December 30, 1969. At the March 11, 1970 hearing before Judge Keene, Shinn represents that he has an interest in and is representing Family Jams in that lawsuit. Also, I think in Harold True's recorded police interview, his lawyer comments that True may have an interest or is in possession of certain Manson musical recordings.

I tried to find more information on Family Jams, Inc. but was unable.

ColScott said...

Family Jams was the Charlie Music thing. It is administered by ASCAP. True ? Kaufman owned the music. I knew nothing about the LaBianca suit or any judgment. Interesting question to ask Frank Struthers when Matt does his interview he talked about years ago.

Also it is not a suit. It is a judgement. That you have to pay lawyers to enforce and collect and renew. It all depends if they saw any money from it at all

Peter said...

I may have misspoke. I might be referring to the Sebring lawsuit referenced in AP articles published on January 21, 1970. I have to go back and check the transcripts because my notes from the pretrial motions indicate Shinn referred to a suit filed by the La Bianca estate.

From the January 21, 1970 Times Record, Troy, NY

A $5 million wrongful death suit has been filed against Charles M. Manson and four members of his hippie-type "family" in connection with the death of hair stylist Jay Sebring, slain with actress Sharon Tate and three others al her mansion last August. In addition to Manson, 35, the action by Sebring's parents and business associates filed in Superior Court Tuesday names as defendants Susan Denise Atkins, 21; Charles Watson, 24; Patricia Krenwinkel, 22, and Linda Kasabian, 20. In addition to Sebring and Miss Tate, three other visitors to her home were slain the night of Aug. 9. All of the defendants cited in the wrongful death suit also are charged in the knife deaths the following night of Leno LaBianca, a market owner, and his wife. A sixth defendant, Leslie Louise Van Houten, 19, is accused only in connection with the LaBianca killings. The suit filed by Sebring's family and associates seeks to impound any profits the defendants receive from The Family Jams, Inc., a corporation newly formed to turn out records of Manson's musical compositions.

Peter said...

But the significance is that Manson's estate may not even own the rights to his music because they may have been transferred to this now defunct corporation with a judgment against it over 50 years ago.

Peter said...

The “LIE” lp liner notes lists “A Joint Venture, PO Box 4657, North Hollywood, CA 91607” The production credit goes to Phil Kaufman under the alias “phil 12258cal” who was also a friend of Harold True. An advertisement in the Los Angeles Free Press directs retailers interested in the lp to contact “E.D.M. Enterprises, PO Box 1246, Studio City, CA 91604”

I cant find anything on either of these companies or the addresses.

ColScott said...

Again when I tried to do the movie back in 2000 Kaufman was able to demonstrate ownership enough to convince my lawyers

prefeteria said...

Apologies to George for hijacking this thread, but I sensed it would lead to interesting discussion.

Peter said...

Do you think that Harold True, Kaufman, Shinn, Family Jams, Inc., and Joint Venture are all the same thing?

Family Jams, Inc. Appears in the California company search so it actually did exist. I wonder who incorporated it?

ColScott said...

No idea

Family James was the name when they played at the Saloon together

True is deaded


David said...

In a 2013 interview Kaufman claimed this:

He said, "Put out my record and you can have all the rights to my music." So I did. It was the "LIE" album. Only 3,000 copies were pressed, and half of those were stolen by the Family when they broke into my house. They tried three more times, and the last time I chased them off with a gun…so I never saw them again.

ColScott said...


Peter said...

You know the difference between jelly and jam?

George Stimson said...

prefeteria said... Apologies to George for hijacking this thread, but I sensed it would lead to interesting discussion.

No problem. Discussion is the thing!

Ceridwyn3 said...

I'm asking this question because it needs to be asked. Is the purpose of this and other closely related blogs to glorify the "manson family", you know..those cold-blooded killers?. Is it a stroll down memory lane with your photo lineup of the killers and others associated with the killer. It would seem to be. If so how can you live with yourself?. I'm a former hardcore bundle + a day heroin addict, so i am no weepy weak woman,i did tons of powder coke, but NEVER did I think to kill. Drugs fo not make people kill. Being insane or pure evil does which is the case of manson(whom im sure is in hell) and all family members imho. Self defense or defense of lived ones is okay though of course. But none of them had that excuse.I Hope they all die hideously painful deaths.

David said...

Ceridwyn3 said: "Is the purpose of this and other closely related blogs to glorify the "manson family", you know..those cold-blooded killers?"

The simple answer to your question is: 'No'.

The more complicated answer is: I think those that post here, on some level, don't accept the 'official narrative'. So we are looking for the answers.

Example: Susan Atkins repeatedly claimed after her conviction that she did not stab Sharon Tate and the evidence strongly supports her claim. However, that same evidence IMO also strongly supports the fact she did fatally stab Wojciech Frykowski. So her 'story' is not the complete story.

Similarly, many of us have issues with the official motive.

And some of us try to understand why these young people, especially the women, followed/worshiped Manson and were prepared to commit these crimes.

I also recommend you take a look at some of the other posts before you pass judgment- just my opinion.

I hope this answered your question.

Peter said...

So you're saying that's NOT the purpose?

Peter said...

We are a community of like-minded, writers, researchers, students of history, and disbarred lawyers from Torrance who have banded together in search for the truth. Join us in our never ending quest as we go round and around and around and around and around on what the true motive was. And around. And around and around and around. Like a helter skelter.

G. Greene-Whyte said...

Hi, all. I have a question in my mind lately and I'm wondering if anyone here can answer it for me. How did Parent get to the door of the guest house at Cielo? Garretson has Parent knocking on his door in both the original, "I didn't hear anything" version of his story, as well as in the 3 eyed baby version he told on TLB Radio. I've been going through my books looking for a reference to this but can't seem to find anything. To that, if I may, the way Sanders writes is super annoying. I suppose the style is dated but calling someone's nose a smell hole is a surefire way to make me put your book down. I'd give him a C for cheeseballery if he wrote like that in a college level writing class I taught.

Mr. Stimson, I like your empirical, academic style.

*Apologies for going off base in regards to the original post.

Peter said...

It's also innacurate. Technically it's "smell holes", plural.

David said...

Green/White said: "How did Parent get to the door of the guest house at Cielo?"

I'm not sure what you are asking but I will try to answer.

How did he get from the parking area to the guest house? He used the path along the front of the property where Candice Bergen had hung the Christmas lights. You can see it here:

How did he get into the property? The gate button. Parent had previously given Garretson a lift hitch hiking and dropped him at the gate.

AustinAnn74 said...

A smell hole?! Haha!! That's going to be my new word when calling someone an asshole.

G. Greene-Whyte said...

David, but who buzzed him in? I don't see any mention of that anywhere.

G. Greene-Whyte said...

LOL Peter and Ann!

Doug said...

GreenWhite - I can't stop myself from replying to your post here...I do NOT mean any disrespect either...but, I must say - your comments concerning Sander's irritating writing style MUST warrant a hearty OOH-EEE-OOH (consider that to be a THUMBS UP...and, definitely NOT a smell hole!)


G. Greene-Whyte said...

Thanks, Doug! The O-E-O's are kinda cool to read in Sanders' book. There were a bunch of those early in this blog but I don't see anyone using it anymore here in modern times. Real talk, Sanders' overuse of the word "human" when trying to hep-ly identify a person is ruining my current re-read. I wish there was a glossary that lists all the times Parent is in the book. Instead, I'm using my sight circles on a page by page basis as Sanders would say.

David said...


No one had to 'buzz him in'. The gate control was plainly visible outside the gate. Look to the left in this image:

Patty is Dead said...

Patty misses the ooeeoo

G. Greene-Whyte said...

Thanks, David. I emailed you.

Mr. Humphrat said...

The Al Lewis in The Creeping Terror was also in A Hard Day's Night as Gambler (uncredited) and two other movies. Seems to be a different Al Lewis.

George Stimson said...

Mr. Humphrat said... "The Al Lewis in The Creeping Terror was also in A Hard Day's Night as Gambler (uncredited) and two other movies. Seems to be a different Al Lewis."

Thank you.

lman28 said...

Mike Armstrong, appears on the poster credits...wasn't he the Ranch Foreman when "Manson" was being filmed?

Peter said...

This is from the March 11, 1970 trial transcript. Reporters Transcript Vol. 2 at page 466. The issue was whether Shinn had a conflict if he substituted in for Atkins.

FITZGERALD: [quoting from a letter] Paragraph two of that letter is as follows 'On March 4, 1970, Miss Krenwinkel was served at the Los Angeles County Jail with a Summons and Complaint for Wrongful Death, filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, under Civil No. 969326." This is a wrongful death action allegedly arising -- well, it is an action that has been filed by attorneys purporting to represent the estate of Leno LaBianca. 'Miss Krenwinkle is presently without counsel in this civil case, and in connection therewith desires to speak with attorney Dane Shinn.'

Later at page 467.

THE COURT: What is your status, Mr. Shinn, insofar as any civil actions that may have been filed in any cases involving the defendants who are named in this criminal case?
SHINN: Well, your Honor, I am representing the Family Jams, Incorporated.
THE COURT: You're representing what?
SHINN: Family Jams.
THE COURT: What is the Family Jams?
SHIINN: It's a corporation set up to sell music and records and all of that.
THE COURT: What other representations have you made or do you intend to make insofar as any civil action is concerned?
SHINN: That is the only one and I told Miss Krenwinkel that I may answer in her behalf because I answered the complaint for the Family James, Incorporated, which is the same complaint.

Peter said...

And according to this article at Cielodrive, there was a $500,000 judgment in a case brought by Frykowski's estate.

Brian G said...

Yes I think you're right. Interesting

BlueJayWay said...

The very best shots of the outlaw shacks are in the movie "Fanango". A great deal of the movie takes place around them.

Unknown said...

The cabin the young mother carries her laundry out of then uses the clothesline is the 'Back Ranch'of Spahn.You can make out the neighbors house in the distance. There were active horse corrals nearby if my memory serves me from 1966.Anybody else ride back then....about $2/hr

Unknown said...

you can see the front side of the back ranch house , and a kid in the yard , thru the car window at 36:24 in non mst3000 version of creeping terror .