Saturday, October 31, 2020

A Little Something for Halloween

This is a post from Mark Lindsay's (Paul Revere and the Raiders) fan page. I am not the Deb in the first part of the story!  All the pictures were taken at Cielo.  Happy Halloween


Do I believe in ghosts? Well, if you're talking about spiritual manifestations in the physical world that remain after the body is dead and buried, the answer is yes.

In the 1990s, we were living in Maui but the bi-weekly commute to the east coast to do gigs was time-consuming and expensive, so my wife Deb and I decided on a second residence. We found a grand old (circa 1830) Federal in upstate New York.

The house had a great deal of character, and we soon found out that at least one of the earlier householders was still in residence, so to speak. On many occasions when we were in the dining room or kitchen, we would hear what sounded like footsteps coming from above us on the second story. I'd fling open the door to the second story servants' quarters and dash up the steep, winding staircase, but as soon as I got to the top landing, the sounds would cease.

Several times I saw the legs – just the legs – of a woman dressed in heavy skirts moving swiftly ahead of me up the stairs. This was quite a shock the first time I observed her, and Deb and I soon came to the realization that our new old house might be haunted, but the spirit or whatever was benign and seemed to pose no threat. And after we assured a electrician working on our renovation who had also seen her that she was friendly, we all peacefully co-existed with our “guest” until we sold the place several years later. 

This experience was in stark contrast to the first haunted house where I lived for two years, in 1966 and 1967, at 10050 Cielo Drive. Yes, the place that would soon be known as the infamous "Manson Murder House."

Terry Melcher was a staff producer at CBS Records in Hollywood. His mother, Doris Day, had been a staple at CBS for years, but the new era of rock and roll was exploding and Paul Revere and the Raiders was signed to the label as its first rock act. It seemed natural that Terry, as the youngest producer and the same age as me, should be assigned to produce my group.

Terry and I soon became friends, and he told me he had just leased a house in Benedict Canyon. When he asked if I wanted to move in, share the rent, and write songs together, I jumped at the chance.

The house had a million dollar view, a pool, and peaceful, well-sculpted grounds with a rose garden. The interior at first seemed ideal. There was plenty of room with a master and guest bedroom, as well as a spacious living room with a grand piano and a loft. Across a small entry hall was the kitchen, dining room, and a maid's quarters.

But a couple of weeks after I moved in, I began to sense two areas in this idyllic setting that seemed, well, not quite right. The two bedrooms were in the back of the house and although there was a door from the master to the pool, I always took the long way to the pool, out the front door and around to the back.

The master bedroom just felt "wrong" to me somehow. Although it was much larger than my room, it always seemed cold and a little creepy. I know Terry had a hard time feeling comfortable in his room, and took sleeping pills nightly.

The other area in the house that felt weird to me was the entry hall. It always seemed several degrees colder than the main part of the house, even in the summer's heat, and no one ever lingered there.

A month or so after moving in, I learned that there was perhaps a reason for my odd feelings. Rudy Altobelli owned the property and lived in the guest house that was slightly down the hill. He dropped by one afternoon to visit with Terry and me.

After we'd had a glass or two of wine, Rudy asked if we were superstitious, and we both responded, "No." And then he proceeded to tell us the history of the house. It seemed that several Hollywood luminaries had lived there over the years, but the story of some of the early residents really got our attention.

Rudy said that one of the first couples to occupy the house had been newlyweds, and on their wedding night the bride somehow learned that the groom had cheated on her in the recent past. Supposedly after the marriage was consummated and he was asleep, the new lady of the house took a large knife from the kitchen and stabbed him to death in bed. She then put a bullet in her brain using the small "lady's pistol" that he had given her for protection as one of her wedding gifts.

Rudy told us the whole affair had been hushed up and was never talked about because it would reflect negatively on the real estate value. He said that although the femme fatale's spirit still lingered, she probably wouldn't bother two guys -- although he warned that she didn't seem to tolerate beautiful women very well. "As long as you don't let your girlfriends stay over too long, you should be okay," he warned. And then he went back to his residence, leaving us to ponder.

Over the next few months, I began to believe that Rudy was telling the truth, and that the bride was not only still with us, but quite angry, because strange things began to happen.

Except for the odd feeling in Terry's bedroom and the unexplained temperature drop in the front entry, the house seemed fairly neutral most of the time. However, unless we were writing at the piano or listening to music (which we played at ear-splitting levels), Terry and I felt most comfortable hanging out in the rose garden, which was on the opposite side of the house from the master bedroom.

More and more often, I noticed that Terry was taking downers, Valium and Tuinals, during the day and not just to sleep. The 44 magnum I usually kept in a suitcase in my closet, I now slept with under my pillow. I couldn't put my finger on it, but in the back of my mind I felt like I might need protection.

When I had moved into the house, I brought my studio sound system, including Mcintosh amps and JBL monitor speakers, which I installed in the loft. I also brought my telescope, mounted on a tripod, which we placed in the front entryway. The idea was that if we opened one of the front Dutch doors, we could then use the telescope to check out the view of Beverly Hills and the Pacific Ocean in the distance. I think we did this once, and then the scope just became a fixture in the entrance.

One day, about a month after I'd moved in, Terry and I were both seated on the piano bench, working on a tune. We were kicking some lyrics around when, all of a sudden, there was a loud crash from the vicinity of the front door. We both jumped up and found that the telescope had been knocked over.

The tripod was still open and locked in place, no one else was in the house, we had no pets at the time, and the door was shut tight. We talked about it and agreed there was no way it could have fallen over by itself, but somehow it had!

A few weeks later, when I was sound asleep, the stereo system came on at full volume in the middle of the night. I jumped out of bed and ran into the living room to tell Terry to turn it down, but no one was in the room. I shut it off and went to bed.

The next morning, Terry was upset. It seemed he had picked up one of the go-go girls at The Whiskey, and was at a "critical point in the relationship" when the stereo suddenly started blasting at full volume. I told him I thought he had turned it on, but he vehemently denied it, so we were left with another mystery.

This "stereo in the night thing" happened at least two other times that I remember, and since I was on tour about half the time, I might have missed more of the unwelcome events.

One hot summer day at the end of a series of tour dates, I returned to the house when there was a meeting going on in the living room. Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys was there, and he, Terry, and a prominent attorney were discussing some kind of deal. 

So as not to interrupt, I went into the kitchen to get a cold drink. There was a guy I didn't recognize squatting on the slate floor, leaning against the refrigerator. He was dressed in a blue work shirt and jeans and did not seem too happy.

I tried to open the refrigerator door but the guy wouldn't budge. "Excuse me," I said, but he totally ignored me. I tried again. “Sorry, man, but I'm trying to get in the frig!” He didn't move or even look at me. I walked into the living room and asked, "What's with the weird guy in the kitchen?" 

Dennis said, "Oh, that's just Charlie...he's okay." But he didn't seem very "okay" to me at the time.

This of course turned out to be Charlie Manson, and he was at the house on at least one other occasion. When I was driving up to the house a couple of weeks later, he was just getting into a limo, which then left. Charlie didn't look like the kind of guy who could or would hire a limousine, so I figured Terry or Dennis must have sent one for him.

When I walked into the house, the vibes were not good, so I figured that particular meeting must not have one well. Supposedly, Manson was at least at one other meeting at Cielo, but these are the only two times I saw him there. As I came and went from my trips, I would never know who I might encounter when I returned. I met Hendrix there, Mama Cass, John and Michelle, and a lot of "folkies" and blues musicians.

On one return trip, I walked into the house to discover Terry and Candice Bergen making out on the couch like a couple of teenagers. As time went on, I would find Candy there more and more often. It became obvious that this was becoming somewhat serious and I began to feel like the odd man out in my own house.

The lease was up for renewal in a couple of months, so I told Terry that I would feel more comfortable renting my own place, leaving Candy free to move in. In retrospect, this might not have been such a great idea for their relationship. As soon as I moved out and Miss Bergen moved in, she and Terry began having more and more disagreements and fights, which ultimately culminated in Candy moving out.

This left Terry alone in the house, which I don't think he liked very much. Shortly thereafter he sublet the property to Roman Polanski, and moved to his mom's beach house in Malibu.

Did the spirit who Rudy had said didn't like pretty women stir up the tension to evict Candy?

And did that same spirit inspire Susan Atkins or Tex Watson to take a large knife from the kitchen and brutally stab Sharon Tate?

I guess we'll never know for sure, but I can testify to the fact that strange, unexplained events occurred when I was living there. And at it times, I did sense an undeniable foreboding and a feeling of pervasive darkness emanating from the house at 10050 Cielo Drive.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Reporter Dave Smith on the Family

Dave Smith was a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.  His article on the Manson Family, written after the Tate/LaBianca trial, is a departure from what other publications were writing at the time.  The article is insightful and there is plenty of food for thought and discussion.

The Manson Family

Through A Glass Darkly

Some reflections on how they got that way

By Dave Smith

West            June 20 1971

"Gaze not too deeply into the abyss, lest the abyss gaze into you."  Friedrich Nietzsche

"Don't look back. Sump'n may be gaining on you."   Satchel Paige

On Monday, March 29, a Los Angeles jury voted the death penalty for Charles Manson and three female disciples- Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten- for the Tate-LaBianca massacre of August, 1969.  In the nearly two years since, people have kept asking: Why did they do it? How did they get like that? Are there more?  (Apparently yes- in Yuba City, for example.)  Underneath shivers the normal man's horror of the kind of murder taught us lately by Starkweather, Whitman, Speck, Oswald, Smith, Sirhan, et al:  Death may come anytime, and not exactly from your proven enemy, but from some stranger who springs up and slashes, killing you without saying why.

The Manson trial was shot through with the vague sense of a lesson to be learned, somehow.  One juror offered her own summation: "I hope this verdict will be a lesson to young people of this country- that you just can't go into a person's house and butcher them up..."

I wouldn't want to gainsay that, though I have my doubts.  Since February I have talked to a variety of behavioral scientists- psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, social historians and lay counselors at hippie clinics- in an effort to extract some meaning from the brutal affair.  Several of those I consulted see Manson as embodying the growing existentialism and nihilism of our time.

By and large, behavioral scientists have paid too little attention, I think, to the Manson case, for it is they who might help explain how the "family" got that way.  (The danger of ridicule to the profession- underlined by the psychiatric donnybrook of the Sirhan trial- kept them away from the Manson trial in droves, though four belatedly appeared for the defense and one study has begun since the conviction.)

Some of the experts I chatted with saw a connection between the Manson and Calley cases: a society at war inside and outside itself may tend to influence the defectives among us toward a compulsion for violence.  It is a debatable analogy, beyond proof or refutation, but an intriguing one.

But an hypothesis is only a stand-in for verifiable facts.  And maybe no one can ever know the whole truth about anything anyway.  But a really good writer once told me, "Don't try to illuminate the whole subject for all time.  Just part the curtain."

Fair enough. To pull the curtain over the Manson case is to deny ourselves any possible hint of where the beast may come from next, and so remain afraid of things that go bump in the night, the way we were in August of 1969.

I remember that incredible weekend when the savagely butchered bodies of actress Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring, Voityck Frykowski and Steven Parent were hauled away from the charnel house.  (There would be two more killings to go, and earlier ones yet to be learned of.)

Case-hardened as we may have since grown on the subject, then we were stupefied at the viciousness and lack of meaning in the crime.  Our bewilderment kept us transfixed by the Manson family far more than we might have been had the defendants been clearly insane and, therefore, too freakish to be duplicated.

We have kept on wondering how they got that way.  The experts I consulted- most asked not to be identified- agree that the answers sprawl beyond the borders of any field of expertise, into genetics, environment, family background, sex, booze and drugs, conscious reconditioning, group pressures, the anti-intellectual countercultures so prevalent today and whatever it is about an establishment society that seems to turn off so many of its young people.

For their part, Manson and his ardent true believers have explained away their crimes, and perhaps their self-doubts, in a flood of circular, pseudo mystical gab that covers everything- or nothing.  But at times, however unlikely or suspect the source, some points hit home, if only by accident.

Charlie on child rearing: These children that have come at you with knives, they are your children.  You taught them, I didn't teach them.  I just tried to help them stand up.

Leslie on the human condition: We are all murderers; we are all capable of murdering; we are all animals; that is part of all of us.

Psychiatrist Joel Hochman, of UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute, on Leslie's condition:  I think, in fact, that this is not inaccurate from a psychological point of view- that murder is a potential in all human beings.  The remorselessness?  With a certain class of person, or value system, it's unusual.  With another, not so unusual.  The first time I ever encountered such an attitude was in The Stranger by Camus.  It was about a man who killed for no reason, to test an existential point.

Attorney Paul Fitzgerald:  There is, in mankind, some underlying homicidal urge?

Hochman:  No.  I think there is, in mankind, rage which can become differentiated into a variety of acts, one of which is murder, another which is war.  We have killed 50 million people in the last 30 years in the world.

Fitzgerald:  Is it possible to unprogram somebody, as it were, from some belief that murder is wrong to a belief that murder is right and OK?

Hochman:  I think we try to do that with every soldier we send out.  I think historically the easiest way to program someone into murdering is to convince them they are alien, that they are them and we are us, and that they are different from us.

Dr. L. J. West at NPI has a theory about the "universal stranger."  He theorized that we project upon the stranger all the impulses we forbid in ourselves, and all the characteristics.  It is easy to be angry toward them.  That is what mankind has done traditionally, made the other person into an object, not like us, with flesh and blood.

Fitzgerald:  Well, that might be a recognized characteristic on a national or international scale, but it's extremely unusual on an individual basis, isn't it?

Hochman:  I think it happens every time someone murders an individual.

(In the past and present wars we have fought "spics," "krauts," "wops," "nips,"  and now "gooks," "chinks," and "slopes."  At home, our freaks call our cops "pigs."  To the Manson family, their victims were "piggies.")

The Manson family was unquestionably more than the sum of its parts, if only because each member, taken separately, is rather an ordinary type of sick person seen often in this so-called age of alienation.  The ordinariness of it is the horror of it, and we write of it in clich├ęs.

In the past decade especially, we have got used to the ugly experience of crazed individuals wreaking private vengeance on the world, but a prime fascination of the Manson crime was that it was done as a grisly parody of togetherness.  (A deranged leader and his witless maenads, howling out of the desert, when are they coming for me...?)

Charles Manson may be insane-we don't know- but whatever he is, a similarly wretched mental condition could be inferred about many men with such backgrounds of long imprisonment.  Yet it is the girls who are most interesting.

Testimony at the trial indicated the girls were not legally or even medically insane.  Neurotic, you bet; psychotic, no.  Up to the time they fell under Manson's influence, they lived lives that pass more or less as normal, in the permissive context of today.  And even then, without anyone noticing, they were being warped by forces that hammer just as mercilessly on thousands of other girls- who will commit no crimes.  Not all the girls Charlie met agreed to go with him.  Why did these?

In court Lynette (Squeaky) Fromme tells of her unhappy life at home and adds, in a tone of incredulity, "In fact, I was taught I was ugly!"  The jurors blink, embarrassed; alas she is merely plain.  After a pause, Squeaky adds quietly, "A dog goes to somebody who loves it and takes care of it."

Susan Atkins is asked why she devoted herself so fixedly to Charlie, and she asks right back: "Can you imagine what it's like- a girl who never had much attention?"

And Katie:  "I felt ugly.  I always had too much hair on my body.  He began to tell me what I wanted to hear.  'Everything is all right,' he would tell me..."  It just might be that simple.

In court, this infamous Charles Manson stands disappointingly small for a legend, just over five feet.  At 36, his face still has an innocent quality.  Untouched.

It has been an adolescent boy's dream, this trial.  His girls have testified over and over again- not just to him but in court for all the world to read- about his manhood.  Charlie is love.  Charlie is all man, the first real man I ever met. Oh wow.

The records may say he was an abused, rejected child; his mother insists he was spoiled rotten by the women of their family.  Both claims are probably true; he wouldn't be the first child bewildered by grown-ups blowing hot and cold.

One thing for sure: for all that is said of his way with girls, and for all the girls that say they love it, Charlie hates women.  One of his favorite sermons is how women take away manhood, how mothers weaken their sons, wives their husbands.  Charlie and his girls. Wow.

Charlie, the coolest and sickest of them all, really pretty humdrum if we could know the whole story, but now, undeniably fascinating in the way- as novelists and movie-makers so well understand- mentally sick people are so often more fascinating than healthier ones.

Susan Atkins, alias Sadie Glutz, mother of Zee Zo ZeZe Zadfrack (named by Manson, fathered by whom?).

Set adrift by and unloving mother who died, a father and step-mother she didn't like, Susan recalls a self-fulfilling prophecy: "My family kept telling me, 'You're going downhill, you're going downhill, you're going downhill,'  So I just went downhill."

Sadie is the one who snitched.  Separated from the Manson family for a few days, she faltered and then talked, to two cell mates, then in a long interview later she tried to take it all back.  (Did her eyes dart about then, I wondered, the way they do now in court?)

With a little girl's mischievous smile and bright eyes that peek and wink and flick about, Susan is the most expressive and vulnerable of the three girls.  Watching her behavior- bold and actressy in court, cute and mincing when making eye-play with someone, a little haunted when no one pays attention- I get the feeling that one day she might start screaming and simply never stop.

Patricia Krenwinkel, alias Katie.  Earth mother of the family.  Quiet, competent, the Rock of Gibraltar to Susan.  Heavy.

We know she was born in her parents' middle age, that her mother wasn't well, that an older sister, now dead, was troublesome, that her parents were divorced when she was 18, and that from birth until Charlie, her best friend was her father.  (Joe Krenwinkel remembers that time as happy, and says three different times:  "She was such a good little guy.")

But she was overweight and hairy for a girl, and didn't have any dates.  She used to come home crying from school; these were the people she'd have to grow up with and live among; she couldn't be her father's best buddy her whole life...

Today she seems quite at peace.  There were bad moments after her arrest in Alabama, where she ran to, but then she was reunited with the family, and Charlie's philosophy rushed back into her soul, filling all the empty spaces.

A psychiatrist, A.R. Tweed, talked to her for hours, but never got through to her.  He called her Alice in Wonderland and she giggled and agreed.  She made his head spin with her magic word castles of homemade mysticism and secondhand religion: Everything is love, there is no pain, no death, only love, and when love is all I am, everything I do is perfect, so don't be upset, Dr. Tweed.

Dr. Hochman believed she was a schizoid personality- not schizophrenic and insane, merely ill with a schizoid tendency that deepens as she walls herself off from reality.

He may have been right.  She moves through the trial with an increasingly awesome serenity.  She strikes me as a person who is moving away.  They'll never get through to her.

Leslie Van Houten, the most All-American of the lot.  Normal, happy childhood, two big brothers, parents who adopted two younger Korean children, good grades, being chosen homecoming princess by the football team, a groovy boyfriend, almost everything.  Yay-y-y.

The pot, LSD with her boyfriend, pregnancy at 15 , an abortion she couldn't forgive her mother for.  High on LSD one day, seeing her parents as cold, unloving, mother domineering, father giving in.  Then divorce, and her curious lack of caring about it, and efforts to find herself- in Self-Realization Fellowship.  Bust.  In a Victorville commune.  Bust.  In San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury.  Bust.  Then Charlie.  Bingo.

Clear-eyed, articulate, theatrical and just a little bitchy at times, Leslie seemed hard enough to make one suspect she is still capable of wanting.  Hochman thinks she could be reached with treatment.

But this she will not get.  She hung onto her cool, and society made its judgment.  Less of a fantasist than the other girls, she will simply grow harder and bitchier, I suspect, knowing better than they what the coming down of helter skelter really means, but unable to say a word of apology.

Charlie took them all away from their misery, like Peter Pan to Never-Never Land.  First was Susan, grubbing around blearily in San Francisco, dancing topless in North Beach and making it with old men for money, strung out on LSD and booze at 18, and genuinely hurt over a broken engagement to a nice young man whose brother convinced her she wasn't good enough to marry him.

Then Patricia, drudging fatly through the days as an insurance clerk, experimenting occasionally with drugs introduced to her by her own sister, yearning always for something good to happen, and then, at her sister's, meeting a houseguest named Charles Manson...

And Leslie, tripping vaguely through California, her father remarried and lost to her, her boyfriend gone religious and lost to her, now with a new beau, and some girls who talked about a dude named Charlie, who sounded real heavy.

Charlie took them all way, dressed them in kicky clothes, gave them clever new names, and off they went- to the woods, to the deserts, to any old town, playing their games together, their magical mystery tours, their creepy-crawling, everybody sharing food, work, sex, and play, so sharing (like the shared rituals of a child's gang or as college fraternity or a men's lodge) became a bond among them, and the more outrageous the initiation, the more tightly they were bound together against the world outside.  From isolated children they grew into a family, with Charlie carefully dispensing love and beautiful talk they all wanted to find somewhere.

At this point, they are still not so obviously different from many thousands of others, wanting to find love and beautiful talk.  The hippie movement is in full flower around 1967, and dropouts, runaways, acidheads and flower children are a common sight from the East Village to the Haight.

Charlie is the most memorable one of his group, and two specialists at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, Dr. David E. Smith and research assistant Alan J. Rose, do a brief study of Manson's "group marriage commune."

Their research, finished 15 months before the Tate massacre but not published until after Manson's arrest, deals chiefly with Manson's role as a sexual omnivore and charismatic Big Daddy, but makes no mention of any predilection towards violence in his group.  They describe Manson in 1970 as "probably an ambulatory schizophrenic."

But few others in the Hashbury scene would have said anything that heavy in 1967 or '68.  Everybody was entitled to do his thing, and it wasn't very cool to put down somebody else's trip.  You might have thought Charlie was a little more spaced-out then the average, but you wouldn't have called him crazy- not against the background that embraced nearly everything, from transvestites to speed freaks, that gave protective coloration to such incipient sociopaths as the Manson family. 

The decade containing the two Kennedy murders, the King slaying, the Calley case, the Manson family and our first generally unpopular war has given Americans a bitter taste of lessons other nations down through the years have boggled at, each in its turn, ever since Cain slew Abel and helter skelter came down for good.

Maybe they're wrong, at those super-aware gatherings where they beat their breasts a while and say, "We're all guilty.  We are a violent people," but really only worry whether they have wetness.  Maybe it's really true, the part of our national anthem that goes: "Then conquer we must,/ for our cause it is just,/ and this be our motto,/ 'In God is our trust.' " Maybe.

Whether our history has been nonviolent, or just recently violent, or covertly violent all along- or all three - is still a moot question, although historians suggest the extremes of good and evil have co-existed in all nations.  But the past decade had indisputably been a shocker who believed his high school American history textbook; this is particularly true of the young, who are less experienced at adjusting to the discrepancy between ideals and realities.

The point is that since the Depression and World War II, the great majority of the young Americans- older Americans too for that matter- have grown dissatisfied in differing ways and degrees with American life.  Not that youth hasn't rebelled before, but seldom to this extent.

When those crises ended and affluence began to flourish, and still out Utopian dreams were deferred by more wars, more technology, more taxes, then the movements began in earnest on a broad scale.  The beatniks fanned out from Greenwich Village.  Martin Luther King caught a bus.

He was not alone.  John Kennedy offered a New Frontier, Lyndon Johnson proposed a Great Society, Robert Kennedy sought a Newer World and Martin Luther King had A Dream.  Well, a funny thing happened on the way to reality, and many are now turning inward with their dreams, scaling them down, perhaps closer to life-sized or, at least, to what they feel is possible.

Affluence and technological capability climb steadily, but as social evolution fails to keep pace, at least as many people seem to be intimidated by the potential of the time as they are inspired by it.  The empty-handed still want a piece of the action and go after it with anger that has rocked every American city in the last decade.

Meanwhile, the children of the affluent middle class- the first generation raised wholly within the gelid gaze of the television (which Buckminster Fuller calls "the third parent") and perhaps exposed and over sensitized as older generations were not- decide the status quo isn't worth the grief.  Having had it, they can't reject it.  And they drop out- with a little walking around money, of course- a pervasive sadness and insecurity fueling their search for alternatives to a society they find unresponsive and undesirable.

Subcultures, countercultures, alternative cultures- in themselves are nothing new, of course.  From long before the Brook Farm experiment to today's Hells Angels, there have always been groups which, with greater and lesser hostility toward the establishment world, sought to escape it.  Christ Himself, it appears, belong to such a group. 

Some communal efforts- such as the Shakers- survived quite a long time and made valuable contributions, while others simply ran out of gas, fell to bickering over who slept with whom or whose turn it was to clean the privy, or found themselves ideologically bankrupt when the society they despised stubbornly refused to collapse on their departure.

One such commune of separatist Christians was lead by a holy man named Guiteau, whose son Charles grew up to assassinate President Garfield.

Success or failure of early communes was often related to whether the group dropped out of society to fight or punish it, as some revolutionary and counterculture groups seem to be doing, or whether it simply wanted to do things differently, no hard feelings.

The very term "counterculture" suggests a force whose power derives chiefly, if not solely, from its adversary role.  The term also implies that the group is still defining itself, like it or not, on the establishments terms; the umbilical cord still ties the child to the parent.

Historically, deranged individuals were not welcome in communes which often shared a communal neurosis as well, and thus needed no lunatics to worsen their heavy sledding in a hostile world.  Isolated psychopaths generally burned themselves out young, their high degree of visibility dealing most of them into prisons or madhouses.  The less obvious, more clever of them, according to many sociologists, sometimes channeled their violence into vigilante groups like the Klan, while some even found social acceptance through the institutionalized violence of war, or on occasion, in police work. 

But the variety of experiences available on the contemporary scene afforded those like Manson and his girls both an atmosphere in which they could move comfortably without attracting much notice, and a rhetoric of anger and alienation, with which they could reinforce, even aggravate, the personal problems that had brought them to the brink in the first place.

To further aggravate an already dangerous emotional imbalance, there were the drugs.  LSD research has a long road ahead to go before we can identify all of its properties for certain. But most experts agree that LSD, depending on the social context in which it is used, can exert a powerful influence on shaping the personality of an individual whose sense of himself and whose hold on reality have been flimsy.

The experts also agree that in such a case as the Manson killings, LSD was a catalyst- not a casual agent.  It apparently stripped the thin veneer of civilization off a murderous, unchanneled anger that bubbled just below the surface in each of the family's members.

Above and beyond drugs, anti-intellectualism is a matter of deep concern to many behavioral scientists who have followed the Manson case.  It is not the anti-intellectualism of the stupid, but rather of the skeptical, articulate, well-educated young dissidents whom question what all our intellect has done for us.

"Reality is a crutch," announced a recent bumper sticker, and perhaps  that is the core of the neo-romantic, anti-intellectualism of today.  One psychologist has pointed out, "Intellectualism is reality, and anti-intellectualism is a form of denial- in this case a denial of reality that is painful.  These pseudo philosophical systems, the interest in ESP, astrology, prayer, drugs- these appeal to people who want to take the easy route, who want to deny old guilt, adult responsibility or the pain of facing reality.

On UCLA's Dickson Court, between the brick grandeur of Josiah Royce Hall and the Powell Library, a young man is blowing bubbles.  Long, tangled hair streams down behind his multicolored shirt, which billows tent-like in the breeze.  He dips his plastic bubble wand negligently in a pan of soapy water, waves the wand negligently, talks negligently to a friend, his eyes darting with studied carelessness about the court.

Finally a small crowd gathers to watch. and the young man's gestures grow suddenly graceful.  His friend, disregarded, ambles away.  The young man wields the wand slowly now, inflating large opalescent globes that waver off on the air, undulating, shape-changing, until their flimsy beauty bursts against the hard brick fortress of intellect that glowers down on the grassy court.

For more than an hour the young man and his fluctuating audience enact this ritual, observing each little death with small ironic smiles.  They well know the fate that awaits beauty and feeling in collision with the rational established order.

I am momentarily moved to suggest that they should take their ceremony to a beach or grassy hillside, but I am wrong: that would miss the point entirely.  There, they would have no hulking towers to break  the bubbles or their hearts against; here in this citadel of learned responses, they are more keenly attuned to the bittersweet symbolism, and with each pop they are drenched in significance.

It is just real profound.

And harmless, perhaps.

But further down the scale, the split between romance and reality takes on an eerie edge.  For instance in this prose poem.

I went into the bathroom and looked into the mirror and I saw myself.

I'd look away, and then I'd look at myself again.

And I saw myself.  I saw my father and his age, and everything that he had ever told me, on my face.

Then I began to grow older, right before my very eyes.  I began to get old and wrinkled and my hair began to get gray.

And I looked at my hands, and my hands got age spots on them, and then got arthritis in them.

And I grew old and I died right before my very eyes.

It was quite an experience.

Then I couldn't get away from the mirror.  I would want to go away from the mirror and the reality of what I was seeing.

And I went to bones.  My skin fell off.  I went to bones.

Then I closed my eyes, and I wasn't really thinking too much about anything, since I was dead.

And I opened my eyes and it was like I was reborn.  It was like I never- there was nothing on me.  I was nothing but pureness.

A moving experience, beautifully expressed.

And its author, describing from the witness stand a 1967 trip on LSD, is Susan Atkins.

Similarly moved on a later occasion, she plunged a knife in and out of the beautiful, living, pregnant body of Sharon Tate.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Col Presents: The Last Word on JAY SEBRING... CUTTING TO THE TRUTH

In 1985 I came to California to get a graduate degree from USC.  I knew absolutely no one and had only enough money to get a small room in a roach infested “graduate” apartment building eight blocks from the campus.  I didn’t mind, I was away from home pursuing my dreams.


I didn’t have a car yet and, after orientation, school would start in another week.  Plenty of time to read large books, go to the cinema and explore the area.  Although then as now the area near USC is shit.


Hell, I thought one day, I am going to the Cinema School and there is a Cinema Library and I am in fucking LA, Hollywood adjacent.  Let’s check it out.Alabama born celebrity hairdresser died defending Sharon Tate from Manson  Family -


At the time it was a small space.  It had lots of cool movie star bios and other things along that line.   Good reference materials for film students.  I quickly learned that they had “files” on many subjects.  Like if you asked for the Errol Flynn file they had several folders filled with clippings of articles and photos.   Thus you could read about Flynn’s abuse of underage girls, his movie stardom- or even learn that he had once been an actual slave trader!


Even in 1985, learning these files existed, I only wanted to ask about one- Manson, TLB. Tate.  Years before founding the ONLY official TLB Blog I was still obsessively bothered by the case.  I had not learned that BUG had committed perjury during a capital murder case, and was in fact a sociopathic liar.  But I knew something was wrong.  No way this Helter Skelter shit was the motive.


I spent several hours going over the files and learning nothing new, although as Deb will tell you primary sources are the most accurate and fascinating, being up close time wise to the events occurring.   As I was set to go probably eat a shitty cheeseburger, a fellow student, undergraduate, came up and said “I understand you have the Manson files”.  I said yes, I was finished. I handed them to him.  He was younger than me, but equally new.


“Thank you.   What is your interest?” he asked.  I said “Obsessed since the TV film.  Still seeking facts.  You?”  “ Jay Sebring was my uncle”.


Awkward.   Although weird juxtapositions would come regularly in the future as effortlessly, I was three days in LA and without trying met one of the victims relatives.  I quickly did the math, was uncertain, but doubted the guy really knew his Uncle before he was slaughtered.


As Patty will attest, I do have a habit of sticking my foot in my mouth and then was no different.  “Yes, he was one of the victims with Tate.  I guess he was into tying women up and beating them.  He apparently loved Sharon till the very end.”  DUMB.   I don’t even know this guy.  I gave him the files and left.


Circa 2011, DiMaria became one of the sad people showing up at Parole Hearings to make sure the killers stay put.  I say sad, because it has been clear since the 90s that all the Mansonites in prison are dying in prison. Not even a chance.  Not even LVH who “only” stabbed a dead body (eye roll).  So when you show up it feels to me pretty sad.  You spend hours driving to a remote prison and reliving shit that happened decades ago and why?   They were not getting out anyway.  And people like Orca Tate, showing up at hearings of people who didn’t kill anyone she knew, after her own mother specifically did not WANT her to take up the mantle I mean wtf?  If it isn’t some sad attention seeking what is it?  It feels like a fake mailbox explosion, like why did you do this, who cares?


I recall saying all this, either here or on the Official TLB Blog, and meaning it.  Yuck.


A year or so after, I was at Musso and Franks the legendary restaurant in Hollywood and a guy came up to me.  Anthony DiMaria.  Maybe he was with a mutual friend.  I was awkward again, like how does he know who I am?  Is he upset at my opinions?  He was nice and gracious and I reminded him of the USC library and that’s that.


I think back story is important so the reader can judge.  I never, unlike Nelson/Molesto, inserted myself into the story but often I became inserted into it.  So in the same way you needed to know that Tom O’Neil was an assclown as far back as 15 years ago, I passingly met DiMaria 35 years ago last month.



JAY SEBRING….CUTTING TO THE TRUTH is a strong documentary look at a mostly forgotten and tragic figure, Jay Sebring, arguably one of the early fathers of modern men’s hairstyling.  It is told from the point of view of his nephew, who was a toddler when Sebring was viciously murdered by Tex Watson and his comrades.


Unlike say HBO’s The Vow, the director does not have access to a lot of primary footage.  The main footage used seems to be a Sebring International hair cut training video.  (I did wonder, with so little footage available, why the sequence from MONDO HOLLYWOOD was omitted- they could not have asked a large fee ffs).  He relies on the usual talking heads along with some home pictures and, certainly unusual for the genre, a lot of footage of himself on the phone.   That sounds boring but it isn’t.


The film gives a clear, for the first time, view of Jay:The Early Years.   His upbringing and military service and family life gets more attention here than anywhere I have seen.   It really is not enough, and the director struggles to connect cause and effect several times but it does portray a three dimensional picture of a real human being.


As he moves to the second act of the film I feel like the director struggles because of one simple fact- HAD Jay lived he was on his way to worldwide fame and fortune.  He would have been a millionaire and his salons would be in every state.  Instead he was murdered.  So the film tries to make an argument that Jay WAS what he probably would become, if that makes sense to you all.  When Jay died he was a jet set playboy with money and star access, who was on his way to the top.   But to argue that he somehow already WAS there is silly.   $100 Steve McQueen haircuts were great, but that would not make him remembered today had he not been killed.


The filmmaker also struggles with who would show up.  Jay’s pretty ex wife is there and does the obligatory “I still love him today” dance  But the person you really want to hear from is Sharon Tate and yeah, well, she’s dead too.


Despite these struggles the second act works for me because of how thorough the director is.   He glosses over things- I really do not think a guy who moved to LA and changed his name should be portrayed as close to his family, and his dad does not sound like fun.  There is some weird obsession with BUG.  Unusual for BUG who will show up for a supermarket opening, he refused to be interviewed by Di Maria, saying he never knew Jay.  He didn’t.  Why did DiMaria want him?  No clue but he tried hard to get him.


If I was impressed by Act 1 and enjoyed the massive data dump of Act 2 I felt Act 3/Denoument goes off the rails a bit.   There are still many people not named Orca who knew Roman and Sharon around in Hollywood.  No one is interviewed.   Would Beatty not come and speak for his fallen friend?  Hell he could have set the ground rules- talk only about Jay, not the TLB stuff.   Act 3 is where everything needs to come together.  DiMaria tries but he does not quite get there.  He’s stuck with the fact that he’s said everything he really can about Uncle Jay.  You see, because JAY didn’t get to his third act.


Instead we get DiMaria showing up at one of the Parole Hearings.  Remember, he’s a toddler when Jay is killed, he doesn’t know the guy.  No one from the immediate family showed up through the 70s and 80s when, conceivably, some of the girls could have been released.  Yes, DiMaria has the right to show up, but is he there to “make sure’ these old people stay put – or for a “movie moment”?


He also falters in the “bring the film together section”.  To tie my above story to the review, much is made about Jay’s s/m peccadillos.  Now in 2020 there is a thriving community of s/m fans on the internet, Reddit, where have you.  In 1969 less so.  But DiMaria brings up the accusations AS accusations and makes a big deal about portraying these and accusations, more or less saying “Can you believe this shit?”.  You sit there waiting for him to show us that it was bullshit.  But he just moves on.



DiMaria spends some time finessing an ending making his Uncle a hero for standing up to the hippie psychos and defending Sharon.  I didn’t get why.  All versions of the story have him trying to tell these killers that the lady was pregnant and stop being assholes, which leads to his death spiral.  It is surely brave if not heroic (I mean, he fails).  The problem was that Jay had no reason to believe they would not all get out of there alive because this kind of shit DIDN’T HAPPEN.


Look, I am being picky, probably because this is likely to be the only profile of Sebring we will ever see.  As such, OVERALL, it is very good.  It TRIES to be excellent and doesn’t quite get there.  DiMaria is too much a fan of his Uncle to make a warts and all film. (Look at the photos from the last day that we have thanks to Statman lifting that roll of film off the puke LAPD cop- tell me Sharon and Jay weren’t still fucking.)  But he obviously worked on this for ages and I get the full rounded sad story.

 Jay Sebring

I didn’t expect to like this film, and bought it just because.  But if you are on this blog you care about the TLB victims.  Had she lived I think Sharon possibly might not have acted again.  She wasn’t good and she didn’t love it.  Had Jay lived he would have been a big deal. The fact that none of the five made it is the tragedy.


Hollywood being Hollywood, I am certain I will see DiMaria again somewhere.  I will tell him that he did his Uncle proud and buy him a Musso’s Martini.


The rest of you check it out- Amazon has it for $5.99 and it is worth it.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Jay Sebring Is the Godfather of Men's Hairstyling. So Why Haven't You Heard of Him?

By Garrett Munce (Esquire)
Oct 1, 2020

The first celebrity men's hairstylist was murdered by the Manson Family. Now, a new documentary tells his whole story.

Jay Sebring...
Cutting to the Truth
Let's get this out of the way first: on August 9, 1969, members of the Manson Family murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four friends in cold blood. You know the story. It sent shockwaves through the nation that can still be felt in our culture today, decades later (see, most recently: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood). As Joan Didion famously said, it was the day the '60s ended. Charles Manson and his murderous followers became mythic boogeymen, but as their roles in American culture were cemented, the lives and legacies of the victims faded away.

One of those four other victims was Jay Sebring, who you probably don't know anything about except how he died. Tragedy has a way of eclipsing everything else, and one of the sub-tragedies wrapped up in the story we all know so well is that Jay Sebring is now famous for the wrong thing.

Sebring's legacy, a topic explored in the new documentary Jay Sebring...Cutting to the Truth, streaming now, is little-known but lasting. So lasting, in fact, you're probably part of it without even realizing. The haircut you have right now, and the place you go to get it, are direct descendants of Sebring's life and work as the first celebrity men's hairstylist.

Even without his close relationship to Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring was a fixture of 1960s Hollywood in his own right. He was born Thomas John Kummer but changed his name to Jay Sebring after the famous racetrack; he alternated between driving around a Mustang and a motorcycle (sometimes in full leathers); he wore hip-hugging jeans and chambray shirts he bought at Fred Segal; he was a party boy known to work hard and play even harder, usually with a beautiful woman on his arm and some drugs in his pocket. His staff idolized him and his customers, most of them celebrities themselves, were in awe of him. He was such a well-known figure that rumor has it he was part of the inspiration for Warren Beatty's character in Shampoo (Beatty has never commented on this, but he was a client of Sebring's).

Above: Jay Sebring and Bobby Darin in 1961.
Lead image: Sebring cutting Jackie Cooper's hair.

His larger-than-life personality isn't the story—it's the starting point. When Sebring opened his eponymous salon in West Hollywood, he did something revolutionary for the time: He brought hairstyling to men. "Pre-Sebring, men only went to barbershops, women only went to beauty salons, and never the two did mix," says Anthony DiMaria, Sebring's nephew and the film's director. "Jay realized he wanted men to be able to be groomed and taken care of the same way that women were." A Navy barber who later went to cosmetology school, Sebring created a salon that catered to men, but featured things like wash stations where he shampooed his client's hair before cutting. He imported small, handheld hair dryers from Europe to replace the big, sit-under versions that were common in women's salons, but were never found in barbershops. This doesn’t sound like a big deal now, but in the 1960s, people’s mouths were on the floor. "What’s the big deal with a unisex shop?" asks DiMaria. "Well, at the time, they didn't do that."

It was such a strange idea that Sebring caught flack from the Barber’s Union, which tried to shut him down several times. "They tried to squash him because he wasn't fitting into barbers' guidelines," says DiMaria. Since he went to cosmetology school where he learned to cut hair on women, and not barber school, they claimed he couldn't legally cut mens' hair. His response? Hair has no gender. The clashes between Sebring and the Barber’s Union even got violent a few times, says DiMaria, since the union was rumored to have mob ties. "But Jay had friends, too, in Las Vegas and Detroit." Eventually Sebring founded his own union, the Hair Designers Guild of America, and even participated in passing legislation that did away with the "cosmetologists are for women, barbers are for men" delineation.

Sebring in Malibu in 1969.

Still, it was his hair-cutting technique that brought in the clients even more than his personal mythology. He called himself a hair designer, not a hairstylist, because "he knew that hair was the frame for the face," says DiMaria. "He cut it free flowing and he used his techniques to help express the individual." Walking into an appointment with Sebring meant you weren't going to walk out with the same barber cut that every other man in your office was sporting. You were going to get something completely personalized to you and, in most cases, a little longer and a lot cooler. People, especially celebrities, were willing to pay big bucks for that experience. While a barber cut ran around $1.25, Sebring charged $50 and sometimes more. His was said to be the most expensive men's haircut in the country.

He was the man behind Jim Morrison's iconic shaggy mop and the Rat Pack's sleek quaffs and Steve McQueen's effortless crop both in real life and in movies like The Thomas Crown Affair. He worked on Marlon Brando, Kirk Douglas, Dennis Hopper, Paul Newman, and Henry Fonda. Bruce Lee was a client (whose hair he cut in exchange for martial arts lessons) and also a friend who is credited with helping Lee get his big break. Truly, name a male movie star in the '60s and they were probably a Sebring client. His technique and signature styles were in such high demand that before his death he was laying the groundwork to expand his salon into other cities including New York and London, had created his own men's-specific product line, and had even developed a series of educational training videos to teach his specific cutting technique. It's easy to wonder where he might be today if he hadn't died so tragically.

Sebring cutting Robert Phillips’s hair
on the set of The Dirty Dozen

Even without speculation, it's clear Sebring's impact on men's grooming can still be felt. "His approach to men’s hair was visionary," says hairstylist Martial Vivot. "The styles he did are our everyday inspirations [now]. Think of Jim Morrison and the Rat Pack—you've just covered the entire spectrum of men's hair styling from classic to edgy, longer, and curly. He embraced the hair, respected the hair, followed how the hair moves." Chances are, the barber or hairstylist you see today for your cut is influenced by Sebring, possibly without even knowing it. What we take for granted—from the types of tools our hairstylists use to the types of products we put in our hair to the fact that we might be sitting at a salon station next to a woman (and that it's okay)—is all thanks to Sebring.

"Jay created something out of nothing that went on to become a billion-dollar industry, elevating thousands of professionals and artists," says DiMaria. "I've always felt that he really, in his way, changed the world." Like many other visionaries, he burned bright and fast. "He is really like the Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain of hair," says Vivot. And while it's impossible to say what he would have accomplished if he'd lived longer, or whether we'd know his name for his work instead of his death, next time you walk out of the barbershop with a fresh cut, pour one out for Jay Sebring. We owe him.

A portrait of the man responsible for your
haircut, whether you knew it or not.