Thank you for reading this addition to a series I secretly call The Eyes Of The Lurker. That's probably not seriously the name but I'm also not sure. Maybe. I definitely sing it to myself sometimes that way.
all the leaves are brown...
Among Manson's supporting cast, only Tex (Charles Watson) and Cupid (Bummer Bob) are mentioned more times than Leslie Van Houten on this vaunted blog. A polarizing figure, Van Houten and her fate have been argued to Hades and back by Manson scholars, wanna-be's, boxcars, and poop butts.
(Like it or not, we are forever bonded by our gruesome pursuits.)
Today, we look at two versions of Leslie Van Houten who were recorded for posterity over the holiday season of 1969. One version conducts herself in the manner she probably believes is that of a clever criminal. The other version is a clear victim of an evil little magical pimp with mind control powers who expertly pressed secret MK buttons on her chakras beep boop beep boop, pointed a tiny finger toward the LaBiancas' open door, and growled, "KILL KILL KILL" on that hot summer night of August 9th, 1969.
Just like he did that one time in Gary's backyard. A handwritten binder told me.
The difference between the two versions of LVH is drastic. I'll never know what the experts know but I'd like to rule some things out in my own brain whenever possible. I read Helter Skelter when I was twelve, which is way too young. (Remind me sometime to tell you how discovering Sexton and Plath in a spare bedroom bookcase at age ten went. Bookworm families amirite?) For a couple of weeks after reading Helter Skelter, I showered with the curtain drawn back so I could quickly check for LaBianca killers every five seconds. Water soaked the bathroom floor. My mother asked why every time but what could I say?
"Umm, because of those satanic hippie girls."
I learned to lock the bathroom door and wipe the floor.
Before we dive in, I gathered some background info in case anyone is new here or forgets who Leslie Van Houten is or anything along those lines.
Van Houten remains incarcerated but also dune buggies untethered across the sands of late twentieth (and early twenty-first) century pop culture. She is simultaneously a fleshy collection of defiant young photographs true crime fans want to have sex with, or possibly rescue, Idk, doubtful, and an anxious senior citizen pleading with her eyes at a parole board that keeps trying to send her home.
Somewhere, a rustic drawing of Abraxas is laughing from its thumbtacked spot on a wood-panel wall. The sound is rumbly, two-dimensional, and unexpectedly scary.
Leslie avatars have appeared in motion pictures several times. Most recently, when Quentin added his two cents to the corpus.
photos via Google
Same sad look. Maybe a bit more Dutch in the face would've worked but whatever. There's little chance the historical person will resemble the real Leslie when it's all said and done anyway. Give a pretty girl a little pizzazz if that's your thing. Have George and Ruby dance a hillbilly jig out front of the Outlaw Shacks while Why Don't We Do It In The Road plays for all I care.
Seriously. Take license. Give the dust and flies some sparkle. I'm strapped in for the ride. Hyperbole feeds our collective dopamine addiction and we consume with unbridled glee.
Don't get me wrong. Mutilating corpses (if that's all Leslie did) is super way high up on the list of ways to convince me you're all kinds of seriously fucked up and need someone to keep a close eye on you. But at the same time is over half a century long enough to spend locked inside a progression of tiny rooms? Should we argue case law and/or governators again for the zillionth time?
Leslie said she could barely stab her knife into Rosemary when Leslie was young and fit. She's certainly not as strong now at 72 years old. Why keep her when so many worse went free eventually? Exactly what kind of a threat is she?
How long of an extension does singing in a hallway create?
Regardless, a victim of herself, others, and the difference between the way things should be and the way things are, Leslie sits in Corona waiting to die.
Do you think she already completed her karma or is her karmic completion forthcoming? I'm a bit unsure of myself on the doctrine. I'm all baby colt unsteady above wobbly legs. Don't even get me started on the dogma.
And I know there are people reading this who want more justice than a mere lifetime. Perhaps Rosemary and Leno concur and wait patiently at the point of Leslie's crossing with retribution in their hollow eyes. Maybe they're practicing their screams. Whenever Leslie finally succumbs to death, all three will have given their lives for something we do not understand.
While I was writing my review of her recent interview on Ear Hustle, I also listened to Leslie's interviews with Detective Sgt. Mike McGann (not from the banks of the Bann), and the lawyer she stupidly fired, Marvin L. Part. Both interviews are available at cielodrive.com and include transcripts.
People argue in the comments sections under the interviews. You'll love it. Maybe it's some of you under different names. We live in a mysterious world and no one really knows who's who anyway.
I mean. I believe I'm me. And I'm positive I'm here to talk about the things I heard and read when studying Leslie's interviews with McGann and Part.
Sgt. Michael J. McGann
26 Nov 1969
28 Nov 1969
McGann took the 27th off so he could spend Thanksgiving Day at home. Leslie insisted.
Just ninety-five days after her twentieth birthday, Leslie finds herself on the hot seat opposite McGann. She is using the alias Leslie Marie Sankston and claims a California arrival from Waterloo, Iowa, just two short years before. Genealogists and hobbyists will have no problem identifying her people online. Lying about Iowa was, as we find repeatedly in our studies of this group, not a good idea. If Leslie was ever able to become free and slip away in those early days, they'd know right where to start looking.
Schrodinger's criminals for real.
Anyway. McGann and Leslie face off. Danger drips from every question. Leslie feigns cavalier and attempts cagey. Her youth makes my heart ache. I feel like a snuff voyeur.
Leslie made me laugh there. Brave girl cracking jokes in the shark tank. She plays cute with McGann for awhile. He tells her he's given her immunity. She doesn't appear to believe him.
She is also trying to employ the stupid routine that Charlie thought was aces. It's not as effective when you're a homecoming princess from the same world as the detective.
McGann isn't fooled. He's been around the block. College. Military officer. A decade on the job.
You can tell he's tired of working the case and wants it to end. McGann tells her there's nothing okay about random killings as far as he's concerned and appeals to Leslie's heart. She is unmoved.
Most of Leslie's three plus hours on tape are spent saying she doesn't know anything, and then even if she did know something, she's not ready to talk just yet. And plus she really wasn't even hanging around them all that much anyway because she liked the bikers a lot more.
Not the best thing to tell the police probably. Leslie is obviously trying to figure out what they know while stalling for time. Their conversations drag at times. She immaturely refers to Terry Melcher as Terry Marshmallow.
McGann the cat arrogantly yawns into his mouse's face several times while flexing and extending his claws. Not really. Or maybe. I was only listening and reading along.
For someone not saying anything, and with the benefit of hindsight, Leslie says a lot.
First, she throws shade at the young loves in the first of her pointless attempts to keep McGann's mighty spotlight away from her homies.
Next, Leslie winks at Schreck before pulling Bill Vance into the mix. But before we get there, did you ever by any chance notice that both Charlie and Bill spend time being professional crooks in Cleveland, Ohio? Charlie talks about his Cleveland days in Reflexion if you're unaware and interested. What a coincidence! Anyway, let's get back to it. Leslie wants to drop the M word.
Wait...what? Bill Vance reminded Leslie of a mafioso? How weird because if you remember, Vance is the Clyde component of a Bonnie and Clyde couple in Fromme's Reflexion. I wrote about it recently here.
Oh, the pain! They hurt me every time they lie.
To gunman or not to gunman....that is the question...
Just kidding, but also like what if one of them isn't exactly a liar on this point? Someone simply might not be talking about something. Like some big gigantic something. But who can really say? Secret codes and outlaw ethics and whatnot always foul up access to the already withering streams of information, don't you think?
Let's just leave all that for later and see who else Leslie wants to sacrifice alongside the 1969 Thanksgiving turkeys. I'm blanking on where we were in my presentation for some reason. I also suddenly want candied yams and a nice mushroom dressing with lots of extra celery. Mashed potatoes. Gravy.
He brought her a slice of leftover cake from Thanksgiving. Lord have mercy.
Do you think McGann's wife made pie with Cool Whip topping as well as a cake? At the time non-dairy, Cool Whip hit the ground running in 1966 as a tasty dessert alternative to whipped cream.
Apologies, food drives me. Btw, just in case you maybe somehow have the idea that Mike McGann skated through this darkness unaffected, I hate to report that the overtime and things he saw on the job eventually cost Detective McGann his marriage of fourteen years. The cake and Cool Whip train stopped rolling in early 1971. Sanders already told you that 1971 was the year of the pig but I thought I might refresh anyway.
You might know already or have guessed that Linda Kasabian goes under the green bus next when stage two of Leslie's not-well-thought-out plan of finding a way to continue the fun and games with her soulmates lurches forward.
McGann and Leslie hit the ball back and forth for a long time. They drink coffee. Leslie orders hers with sugar and lots of cream. She takes bathroom breaks. McGann doles out candy bars from a machine by the elevators like he's the grand marshal of the Halloween parade.
At one point, Leslie is either scared or exploring every angle and mentions Christopher Jesus.
McGann does not initially act like he's after Leslie personally. He wants Charlie's head on a pike and the head of the third girl whose identity he's not sure of yet on a pike next to Charlie's. The detective is eager to work with Leslie but she's evasive. She sidesteps him so many times that he eventually asks if she was involved in the killings.
Like hey what are you waiting for the water is perfect hop in. But Leslie knows something he doesn't. A total game changer you could say. As her window of daylight closes, Leslie decides to double down on having her friends' backs.
(A sad trombone closes us out. McGann sighs evenly and stops his tape recorder. He looks at the crumb remnants of the slice of cake his increasingly distant wife baked for Thanksgiving. He regrets bringing it to Leslie but says nothing. Women confuse him.)
Marvin J. Part
29 Dec 1969
Just a month and a day later, after spending Christmas caged, a brand new Leslie sits down for a recorded interview with her attorney, Marvin L. Part. Gentry writing as Vincent Bugliosi in Helter Skelter famously quotes Part telling the judge that Leslie is "insane in a way that is almost science fiction."
You know the rest. Someone here probably wrote it first anyway but I shall summarize for the uninitiated. Part gets shitcanned but tries to keep Leslie from firing him. He implores the judge to listen to his interview with Leslie because he thinks she's lost her mind. Nevertheless, his efforts are for naught. Part possibly never realizes his role in Leslie's updated survival plan until it's too late.
"And so I was in Hollywood one time and I had an acid trip, and I, and I was up on the cross. It sounds far out but I was for real. I was feeling them do it. And I could feel the knife or the sword when it went in, too. I know that he is - you know - I believe that he's Christ. I would never deny it."
Leslie's statement completely reminds me of the part in the Gospel of Thomas where Jesus says, "Lift up the LSD and you will find me there."
Gimme some of that old time religion:
Naturally, this is only after they find the giant hole "in the Death Valley area" that will provide access to the center of the Earth.
Entiendo. I get it. The rats are jumping off the ship. She done?
Not. Even. Close.
Leslie begins by sending a message to Starviego across time.
She is checking boxes faster than any boxes have ever been checked. Race war that isn't a race war? Check. Important mysterious black man from the government? Check. Mini-Leslie who does not age? Check! The Beatles were talking to me? CHECK!!!
Helter Skelter!!!! Why did I ever doubt you?
Leslie's words flow like snatches of remembered conversations in fever dreams but no one cares. Her interview is used against Manson in the strongest ways possible by the prosecution.
But it's tooooo late, baby.
Leslie establishes her unhinged persona again and again until it resembles roadkill flattened against a busy highway for sixteen hours. She drives back and forth across the thin oval several more times just to make sure. Raising a glass of tepid water to his dry lips, Part swallows an extra dose of blood pressure medication, rubs his temples, and takes a caffeine-laced pain reliever named Excedrin that has been on the market for nine years.
Back in reality, the cat's out of the bag. Leslie isn't leaving custody anytime soon. Since there's no charge for unabashed ghoulism, she is up against the death penalty. Is Leslie going down alone and perhaps actually really truly insane in the ways Part thinks?
Not unless suddenly becoming delusional is accompanied by immediate, improved memory functions in the not-delusional world. And she's certainly snitching.
In case you don't remember, the gang eventually (supposedly randomly) arrives on Waverly. Seems laughable but what do I know? I just type.
According to Leslie, she wakes up when Charlie exits the LaBiancas' home, returns to the car, and tells Tex everyone is tied up and chilled out because they believe they're victims of only a robbery. The clowns are then sent inside to imitate monsters, misspell easy words, and steal milk and cheese. The thought of dairy products after all that makes me feel nauseous.
And seriously who other than a baby sleeps through a car stopping and parking after arriving at the destination? "Hold up a sec, lemme wipe this slobber from the side of my face before I head in there for some grizzly healtering oh dark lord and master..."
Rosemary immediately creates questions in the minds of researchers for eternity by asking Leslie...
"What are you guys doing here?"
Was Rosemary anxious and scared and blurted something out that meant nothing, or did she know them and typically meet them somewhere else? "You guys" sounds kinda like you're familiar with your new arrivals to my ears.
I might be reading too much into it but Rosemary's question surely haunts the part of me that wants answers to this gory puzzle.
"You know like it comes in pictures and the picture I see is Katie trying to get the knife in her throat and it wouldn't go."
"And then I remember seeing her (Rosemary) laying flat in front of her closet all bloody on her stomach."
"And then I remember seeing the man (Leno) on the sofa gurgling that deep bloody gurgle."
"And so then we were going to make the house look freaky..."
Would Leslie be free right now if she hadn't said all that crazy shit and other crazy shit just like it? I vote yes.
Out living a real life. Possibly grabbing a fresh pair of Chucks or Nike Cortez at the Foot Locker this evening. Maybe hitting up Subway (in a mask since she doesn't want covid twice) for a veggie on whole wheat combo with Sun Chips and an unsweet tea for lunch tomorrow.
Or Jersey Mike's if she's dedicated to a fast sandwich. They're better than Subway imo but still nothing special. Now, certain people in my family are complete Jersey Mike's addicts when time is short. And Cane's even though drive thru lines always wrap around the building twice during this time of death and politics. I dig the crinkle fries and Cane's sauce for sure, and I suppose their Texas toast too, but I'm more of a dark meat guy. The breasts are just so dry.
Okay. Where were we? I know I was typing about unhappy things...
Right! Sooner or later, the real Leslie Van Houten will leave prison.
Rounding out this dark trinity, the Leslie Van Houten of myth, like some nasty Sisyphus, will spend eternity sitting across from an attorney with a 1969 tape recorder between them as she endlessly repeats her bizarre story. Except for the recording device, everything in the room will be old, heavy, and dusty. Remnants all from the big war where we were the good guys and won. Nothing and no one is plastic.
Every night, the LaBiancas' little dog will chew through Leslie's flesh with tiny needle teeth and never stop yipping while consuming her slimy liver. Transubstantiation is a twenty point word in Scrabble, btw. Words with Friends tacks on another five.
There's no possible escape. Leslie will be the photographs and pleading looks until she is not. The gods will allow her to eat only unflavored, unsweetened gelatin she cannot swallow on account of the knife in her throat. Eventually, no one will remember she ever lived, and her punishments will continue unwitnessed.
Leslie Van Houten was convicted of murder March 21, 1971, and sentenced to death. She remains in prison at the time of this writing. She is no longer freaky.
I suppose I could've just said hey I had the idea that maybe Leslie wasn't mind-controlled and was down for some dirt when she arrived at the Ranch, and not spent two weeks obsessively typing this out, but whatever. I shall play my small part in the GIGO process.
(have you ever noticed how often peeps in the fam said, "in other words.." every time they talked in interviews? i wonder if it was one of charlie's phrases. -ggw)
I don't remember where these photos are from anymore. I've had them a long time. Most likely the almighty cielodrive.com