Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Lesley Chilcott ('Helter Skelter' documentary) on the continuing fascination with Charles Manson [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Tony Ruiz
Emmys May 11, 2021 4:00PM

"We all wanted to do an anthropological dig into the time," declares Lesley Chilcott about the Epix documentary series "Helter Skelter: An American Myth." The series is an in-depth examination of Charles Manson and his followers culminating in the brutal murders of several people — including the actress Sharon Tate — in 1969. Chilcott, producer of acclaimed documentaries such as "Waiting for Superman" and the Oscar-winning "An Inconvenient Truth," acts as director of the six-episode series and is one of the show’s executive producers. In our exclusive video interview (watch above) Chilcott explains why it was important to avoid what she calls "the tabloid-esque coverage" of the Manson family.

Chilcott says that she took on the project in part because she never understood the public’s fascination with Manson, who died in 2017 while serving a life sentence. The director now says that it is the nature of the crimes that explains Manson’s continued presence in pop culture rather than the man himself. "I think it’s because the puzzle pieces don’t fit," she explains. "What possessed these seemingly normal boys ad girls from down the road to join what was most assuredly a cult, and some of them commit these horrific unspeakable crimes? And it’s still not understandable."

Chilcott spoke to some of those "family members" who followed Manson and readily admits that she will never fully understand the hold that Manson had on them. "On the one hand, it makes me think that it could have happened to a fair amount of people," she says. "On the other hand, it was a very unique time in history." Chilcott points to the Vietnam War, racial unrest and the invention of LSD as the perfect atmosphere for Manson’s ability to bring young people into his orbit. "You isolate [his followers] out on Spawn Ranch," she explains. "You give each person a new name. You alternate with sex and love and abuse. You keep the news and time and television away from the people. That’s what we know now as a classic cult."

In examining the political and social undercurrents of Manson’s era, Chilcott sees disturbing parallels with current society. "What we have now that we had then was that we have a lot of mayhem," she declares. "After a while, people don’t have the tools to process all of this mayhem, so they fall in and they follow a person who could be lying to them day after day but they repeat the same phrases over and over again. That’s not that different from now."

However, Chilcott emphasizes that Manson wasn’t worthy of the mythology that surrounded him in his life. "I kind of wanted to knock him off of that pedestal," she exclaims. "Number one because he doesn’t deserve a pedestal. And number two, he was a small time con artist with some really good raps and these desperate acts got out of control. He did a lot of horrible things, but was he a mastermind planner that should be idolized in that way? No."


SixtiesRockRules! said...

"Spawn Ranch"???? Is there seriously anybody in 2021 who doesn't know the correct spelling of this location? Apparently there is.

Gorodish said...

That Spawn Ranch surely spahned some serious mayhem!!

orwhut said...

I'm an awful speller and the "Spawn" for "Spahn" mistake got by me. The mistake I caught was when MS Chilcott said "cult" and pronounced it "colt" it was spelled the way she pronounced it. Later instances of "cult" were spelled correctly. I put it off to voice recognition software.

Dan S said...

Albert Fish calls himself Jesus Christ and you immediately know he's mad; when Charlie gets called Christ you stop for just a moment and see the parallels.

orwhut said...

Sticking alcohol soaked cotton balls into his behind and setting them on fire helped Fish's case for madness.

Slappy said...

Ah, more Trump derangement syndrome, what with purported distressing parallels that aren't and never were. But good that we now know why her and the man who invented the internet won an award from the same Hollywood crowd who for years had zero problem with Weinstein and Epstein. Epix otherwise reports that ole Chucky and his crew are permeating. So much so that I tried to pirate this thing on a Pirate Bay mirror and not a single episode of this nostalgic cash grab had more than a single active seed at time of attempted download (the ole 1 of 5 and you know you're in trouble when estimated time of completion is measured in days). If Epix and our gal want distressing tendency, it's how the human who voted Jeremy Corbyn (Ricky Gervais) and Elliot of Mr. Robot fame are apparently both alt-right:

Lastly, this is my bs masquerading as insight. My only salvation is that I don't do the social media/fake intimacy thing.

For a bonus freebie, from the one comment:

when Charlie gets called Christ you stop for just a moment and see the parallels

Leaving one to wonder: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, so what the point of any Sunday schooling for those who signed on with ole Chucky? Was the teaching that bad and/or were they just so incredibly not understanding? Inquiring minds want to know. So we can have yet more bs masquerading as insight.

Fayez Abedaziz said...

Look at her, Lesley here is quite a lady.
Her voice, the clarity, is easy to hear and she is obviously a common sense thinker.
She basically sees and then states the basics, thought I do believe that Charlie had more going as to influencing a greater interest in the fun of the good old notorious mayhem we've come to continuously indulge in and enjoy from across la la land.

See the Hollywood sign and the freaks, rich, poor, dumb, infamous, hip, square, cocktails and a joint and '69 ing from that sign, makes me sigh to a hill in Chatsworth you can have Chats... about it for what it's... Worth

Aside from Charlies great influence there were a couple statements Lesley made (what's up with the goofy spelling. It should be LESLIE, like our pretty innocent face girl Van Houten's.)
Another thing that she, among others says, as we see in many books and articles is that the gang at Spahn were isolated.
They did have phones, two that I know of. I know. I called one and talked with 'em.
They did have televisions. One in the trailer and one in Spahns house.
One or two or three of those fun kids could leave the place for some hours or a day.
That's easy to know simply from reading Paul Watkins or Susan Sadie or Tex's books.
No calendar or clocks? Please. Not many an apartment or house has a calendar on the wall anywhere as we know anyway. But you know that there must have been a clock and calendar at old man Spahns house. After all, he ran a business and had hired help/workers,times for bill paying, beside what chores some of the 'family' performed.
Then, Lesley, talking rather directly, reminded me of two very good interviews that were done with smooth legs Susan (aka Sadie aka Atkins) and with good looking Charlie. Charlie kinda reminds me of Johnny-I Walk The Line-Cash.
One interview with Susan was, as I recall, also her first since she was asked to step this way, "here we are dear"... in prison. This interview was in 1976. The interviewer's name was, ah... Atkinson. What? Never mind, it's all so strange.
So are you.
Susan was clear, sincere and looked Mr. Atkins-son right in the eye and leveled with him as to the crimes she was involved in, particularly at Cielo Drive that August night.
Charlie had an enjoyable interview with Diane Sawyer in 1976. He moved his words around as we have often seen, as in some riddles, but he seemed quite sincere though he was not going to say, directly, that he sent Tex and the girls to outright commit murder. But, he was coherent as to some facts of life and some facts of the sorry states of events and people in recent and current history and social and political affairs and so on. That was one smart fella, there, wasn't it?
No, you are wrong if you think Charlie was some crazed serial killer out just to hurt people. He was taking revenge and he too was delusional at those times and guilty of/as, were the directly by hand killers. In that interview with Diane Sawyer, was the now wise old Charlie that, I'm convinced, was thinking back and thinking that he would not have been a part of murders, not only to avoid arrest and prison, but what was the use...what's the use? Nothing gained and the others were singing like birds, against him, in no time. There's a lot to this story in terms of his interview with Diane. She was joking with Charlie and being pleasant.
But, what's up with that off-white, oversize, bad pattern jacket she was wearing? Come on Diane

Fayez Abedaziz said...

Oh, sorry, that year was repeated by me, the one where Susan was interviewed-1976.
Charlie's interview with Diane Sawyer was in 1993, not the above year.

Slappy said...

Almost forgot:

The only difference between ole Chucky and St. Jim of Jonestown is that, whereas ole Chucky was rather limited in terms of support, St. Jim of Jonestown was in favor with a few too many politicos (Willie Brown, St. Harvey of Milk, Mervyn Dymally, etc.) and journos (Herb Caen, etc.). Maybe our gal could do a doc on how some rather whitewashed both St. Jim of Jonestown and St. Harvey of Milk.

Re St. Jim, need go no further than Walter Fake News Cronkite and his St. Jim as "power hungry fascist" and never mind his lefty socialism, his good favor with Northern California Dems, his private meetings with Mondale and Peanut Head's wife, etc. Add the NYT and its St. Jim as fundamentalist Christianity with social activism (does the NYT not know that fundies don't go around tossing the Bible to the ground to show it doesn't matter?). And toss in Mort Sahl, and his, "The exercise in Guyana was a fascist exercise, no matter what the label on the can. Socialists don’t do that" (as the history of both Stalin's USSR and Mao's China certainly show, right Mort?).

Re St. Harvey of Milk, one can start with his habit of buggering troubled teen boys, see Randy Shilt's biography for that, and for the relation, he also wrote to Pres Peanut Head denouncing those Congressmen who had expressed doubts about St. Jim of Jonestown:

John Victor Stoen was found dead at Jonestown. Score one for you, St. Harvey. Now kindly note the date of the letter, so after the media piece exposing Jim Jones, which prompted his and the mass flight of his followers to Jonestown. St. Harvey also wrote to Guyana. So, on the one hand, you have the Stoens and all those other concerned family members, and then on the other hand all those politicos in the US still in support of St. Jim. What was the Guyanese government to do? Clean up the mess?

But ole St. Harvey of Milk had no mess but instead got a stamp and an airport terminal and never mind his buggering of troubled teen boys, some of John Victor Stoen's blood on his hands, etc.

Let me leave you with Flynn, from an interview re his Cult City (from The American Conservative):

Jim Jones could not have killed 918 people without politicians, journalists, and activists running interference for him. They mistook ideology for ethics, a mistake common to fanatics of all stripes. Rather than learn from this mistake, they compounded it by portraying Jones posthumously as someone he was not to protect their ideology, shield their political skullduggery, and absolve themselves from the journalistic sin of performing PR instead of real reporting.

Maybe our gal could do a doc on that, though I'm not at all hopeful. Now well and truly lastly, so I am clear, as crystal, one can say many things about ole Orangie, and some entirely unflattering, and rightly so, and was him as well, fake, in certain respects, but he was still not wrong with his, fake news, as that's been our reality since time immemorial. See Walter Fake News Cronkite, the NYT (how's Walter Duranty, lads?), Mort, and those who saw fit to approve a stamp and name an airport terminal after a man fond of buggering troubled teen boys and writing in defense of St. Jim, when anyone with a functioning cerebral context knew the score, and perhaps at the cost of a child' life. Compared to that, I find the "fascination" with ole Chucky and his merry band of nitwits somewhat consoling. Oh, and ma'am, re your pedestal, that's not ole Chucky, as ole Chucky has no stamp nor an airport terminal named after him. Would instead be St Harvey of Milk, patron saint of buggerers of troubled teen boys.

Rock N. Roll said...

Calling bullshit on the Harvey Milk comment. Really not necessarily or cool, just mean.

Dan S said...

jim Jones high ly organized. Charlie highly disorganized

ColScott said...

Slappy we are all stupider for your postings

Patty is Dead said...

Colonel I will be in LA this week with some M friends if you feel like having cocktails.

ColScott said...

Patty I would love that- I just need to see if I am mingling with the world yet Let me check with the boss

Patty is Dead said...

If it's cool with Mrs. Col then I may be reached via Mrs. Matt.

orwhut said...

Off Topic

I've often wondered why someone would give their child the confusing name of Colonel. Not long ago I stumbled cross the fact that, Redd Stewart who wrote the lyrics for Tennessee Waltz grew up in Kentucky and named one of his sons Colonel Henry Redd Stewart. Charlie's father Colonel Scott was born in Kentucky. This makes me think it's a Kentucky thing.

ColScott said...

I was born in NY and it was a very common name when I was born

orwhut said...

It's even more confusing in this forum. I caught myself typing Col Tate the other day when I meant Col Scott or it might have the other way around.

ColScott said...

I get it. Bright lights confuse me

orwhut said...

It's when the bright lights flash on and off that I develop a twitch.

cindyfromphilly said...