Monday, July 25, 2022

Guest Post - Grim Traveller

Having recently done jury service here in London, I thought it might be a novel time to say a few things about a book that made absolutely no splashes or fanfare that I could see, when it came out back in 2019, a time when many things Manson were flying out of the woodwork, when 50 year anniversary {an odd concept in my mind} talk was all over the place. That book is “Inside the Manson Jury” and it was mainly written by the jury foreman, Herman Tubick. It passed well under the radar, which is interesting, considering in the four years leading up to it, there had been the deaths of Charles Manson, Vincent Bugliosi and Family documentary maker, Robert Hendrickson, as well as books by Dianne Lake, Lynette Fromme, Ed Sanders and the long awaited “Chaos” by Tom O’Neill, not to mention increased parole activity, including several recommendations for parole by the parole boards. One would have thought that a tome written by one of the actual jurors would have at least rated something of a mention, but no.

Jury foreman Herman Tubick, was the undertaker that served on the original trial and I think that he missed a trick in not having his book published at the time he wrote it, back in 1973. His nephew who writes the foreword, says that he never wanted to profit from it, which is quite commendable. In retrospect however, having gone to the trouble of writing a memoir about it, he clearly wasn’t just writing for himself.

With involvement with the co-author of Dianne Lake’s “Member of the Family,” in truth, it’s not a great book. It’s even arguable that many people interested in TLB would actually want to read it. It’s not sexy like “Chaos” and “Goodbye Helter Skelter.” It’s not controversial or definitive like “Helter Skelter” or its predecessing poor relation “The Family.” It may be an insider’s account, but it’s not exciting like “Reflexion” or “Member of the Family”  or gossippy like “Trial by your peers.” It’s not a debunker like “Crucified ~ the railroading of Charles Manson” or “False profit ~ Garbage dump to guru.”  

But in saying all that, it’s certainly not a bad book. It’s what I’d call a “point of view” account and for anyone interested in the workings of a jury, how they relate to matters and sift through the information they are given, it’s a gold mine. Had it come out in ‘73 along with William Zamora’s, it would have provided some much needed balance to his. And not only that, certain questions that only a juror could answer are answered. For example, we find out how much of an impact the 9 months of Atkins, Krenwinkel, Manson and Van Houten’s shenanigans had. We discover what the jury really thought of Linda Kasabian. We learn what they thought of the various delays, what it was like being sequestered, how they felt about being on such a famous case, how they got on {or didn’t, as the case may be}. Were the jury the “ding-a-lings” that Paul Fitzgerald hoped they would be ? Were they swayed by pre-trial publicity ? How great was their respect of and admiration for Irving Kanarek ? Did they cut Ronald Hughes any slack ? Was Judge Older viewed as weak and lacking in control ? What did they think of the Family witnesses on both sides ? Was there any bias ? Did William McBride really have the hots for Leslie ? Did they see through Bugliosi and think of him as a slick operator or hold him in high esteem ? How aware were they of the women on the corner ? Were they afraid of the Family ? Were Stephen Kay and Don Musich knights in shining armour ?

We get a sizeable and significant input from Herman’s wife, Helen, and we learn that the two spent much time in the ensuing years after the trial talking about the trial and the whole experience and she is the one that encouraged him to write his memories down in book form. As with juror John Baer’s wife Rosemary, with her book, “Reflections on the Manson Trial,” {which pre-dates even Zamora’s book}, Helen {who looked a bit like the Queen of the UK} demonstrates that at some point, the Manson episode touched people in profound ways and so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at the lingering interest, even 50+ years later. Both Herman and Helen appear as relics of a bygone age, yet through having to be on her own for 9 months, albeit reluctantly, Helen developed an independence and drive that she’d never had to contend with before so the book carries an interesting social dimension that William Zamora’s never had.

Speaking of Zamora, I thought it would be interesting to read his book again. “Trial by your peers”  {later rebranded as “Blood Family”} remains an excellent book and like Herman’s, takes us through each of the witnesses and what the juror remembered of each. But one thing that comes across very starkly in both books are the two specific juror’s disdain for each other. Zamora used aliases in his one and the person he cast as Herman Tubick is presented as a small minded old man that was out of touch. Herman on the other hand, names names and suffice it to say, William Zamora wouldn’t’ve been heading his Christmas card list in the early to mid 70s, if ever ! As diplomatic as he tries to be, the friction is clearly in his writing. Still, it wouldn’t be in keeping with all things Manson if there weren’t contradictions and differences relating to the same events !

I don’t want to say too much because despite it not being the greatest story ever told, I would recommend it. Heartily. And I have to give an affectionate shout out to Beauders who tipped me onto the book in the first place.

Thanks sister !

How much it actually adds to the overall story is really down to the individual. I personally enjoyed most of it and think it is valuable. I tend to think that most, if not all, of the perspectives that various participants in this saga bring to the table are really quite important, if only for balance and appreciation of nuance. And up until now, the only juror perspectives we’ve had have been that of William Zamora and a kind of second hand one in Rosemary Baer, wife of John Baer ~ and interestingly, she disagreed with her husband on matters like the death penalty and seemed to be more willing to listen to where the defendants were coming from. In Herbert’s book, we get not only his observations, taken from his notes and recorded in real time, we also have input from William McBride III who was also on the jury. He was one of the youngsters and his contribution to the book is worth a whole lotta something valuable. He actually went on to become a court reporter, inspired by his time on the jury. I rather wish he’d write his own book ! Or at least do a very long and definitive interview.

In spite of all that has been said and written about the Manson case, the defence and prosecution, dodgy activity on any side of the equation, the Family or the families etc, the simple reality is that it was those 12 people sitting on the jury that convicted the defendants. Not motives or theories or lies or lack of defence. That alone makes the book worth a read. The illustrations are top notch, even if the artist, Anna Latchmann, had a 50 year advantage that other artists didn’t in the 70s.

A number of people suffered personal losses during the trial period, Pat Krenwinkel among them, losing her half-sister. The jury members weren’t spared the clutches of the Grim Reaper , with Tubick being among those to lose close ones and/or family members. Ironically, life had to go on.

There are some nicely human moments such as when Charlie mouthed “Happy birthday” to Herman on his birthday and the female defendants sang the song “Happy birthday to you” outside the jury room. But all in all, it could hardly be described as a happy affair and it’s worth a read to understand exactly why as Herman has much to say about the wheels of justice. The book is available and the prices online range from more than reasonable to taking the mickey.

As an appetite wetter, I’ll conclude by quoting Herman from the book;

“There was sorrow in my heart for all four defendants, especially for the women. There were moments in the courtroom, as I reflected on the wasted lives of these young girls, the thought crossed my mind; by the grace of God, they could be my daughters. There is no jubilation in something like this, no sense of satisfaction; it was a task that I did not relish. The issue was not how I felt, but that it was a job that had to be done. And in a crime of this nature, the defendants were seemingly unrepentant killers. I could not let my heart rule my head.”

- GT


EAN (ISBN-13): 9781944068868


Publishing year: 2019

Publisher: Micro Publishing Media

ISBN/EAN: 9781944068868

ISBN - alternate spelling: 


Friday, July 15, 2022

Mark Ross

The Colonel sent me an interesting article today about Mark Ross. It's an interview conducted by The Hollywood Reporter shortly before Mark's death.

You can read the article here.  Loads of pictures, too.

A longtime character actor, Aesop Aquarian was the Zelig of L.A.'s free-love counterculture, roaming from the Manson Family ranch to the commune of Father Yod. At the end of his life, he finally decided to tell his story: "I'm going, 'Wait a minute, they want me to kill these people?'"


JULY 15, 2022

When Aesop Aquarian returned from acting class to discover an acquaintance dead of a gunshot wound in his spare room, he let it go.

Perhaps it had been a game of Russian roulette, or a suicide. At least these were the theories offered to him by his new Venice Beach housemates, members of what the public would in time call the Manson Family.

Later, when Aesop’s beloved custom Volkswagen camper van was mysteriously torched after he resettled with the group on their compound 30 miles north at the Spahn Movie Ranch, he accepted it. Maybe it was just an accident. Mercury could well have been in retrograde.

But Aesop finally bugged out, hitchhiking back to Los Angeles before dawn, after it was proposed he turn assassin in the run-up to Charlie Manson’s trial. “There was no humor in the suggestion,” explained Aesop, who then still went by his birth name, Mark Ross. “It was matter-of-fact, like going down to the store to pick up some sugar and flour. ‘Oh, and by the way, kill [prosecutor Vincent] Bugliosi and the judge.’ ”

This is just one of Aesop’s true fables. He died May 27 at 77 years old, after speaking at length about his life with The Hollywood Reporter.

In the entertainment industry, he was a bit player, not a leading man, making ends meet with background work, music gigs and assorted side hustles. Where he starred, though, was in his own epic journey across the vivid margins of the entertainment industry, from Old Hollywood to New Hollywood to the Streaming Beyond. He’s a window into a vanishing world. Think Forrest Gump, but sharp-witted; Barry Lyndon, but downwardly mobile; Cliff Booth, but a hippie. Think fiction, but it happened.


Aesop grew up wealthy in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, when the name of the local Country Mart still reflected the largely bucolic setting’s avocado groves. The wife of neighbor Cecil Kellaway, an actor twice nominated for an Oscar, “used to give us marmalade because she used the oranges from our trees.” He took Kellaway’s career advice to heart: A star has “five years, maybe 10 years if you’re lucky. But as a character actor, you could work forever.” Other neighbors included Cesar Romero, Fred MacMurray, and Judy Garland and her husband, Vincente Minnelli.

Weekends were spent goofing off at the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Sand and Pool Club, where his family had a membership. He remembered catching sight of Lauren Bacall when he was of a tender age. Marvin Davis, still decades away from his acquisition of 20th Century Fox as well as the resort itself, would often make a move on the family’s favored cabana.

Aesop’s maternal grandfather, Albert Kahn, was a Jewish Lithuanian immigrant turned New York merchandising tycoon and philanthropist who came to own, among other businesses, Spear & Co., the country’s largest home furnishings chain as of the early 1950s. Aesop’s father, a West Coast executive for the family’s rubber-manufacturing business, was his son’s nemesis.

“[Aesop] was outwardly rebellious, and he got into shit-tons of trouble — smoking cigarettes, running away — and he was beaten by Dad,” says Don Ross, his younger brother by six years, now a licensed marriage and family therapist. “We didn’t come from a typical Jewish family in that we weren’t very close. We had two emotionally immature parents. Dad was extremely self-involved, narcissistic. Mom wanted to be kind of a celebrity wife — she wanted to be in that role. She was very prone to uncontrolled rages and screaming. She was betting her whole future on this love she hoped she’d get from my dad, and that didn’t happen. It was like trying to get blood out of a stone.” He adds: “The core issue in our family was that there just wasn’t much love.”

Aesop was sent to a boarding school catering to the kids of the rich and famous in Idyllwild, three hours east of Los Angeles. “Back then we were called ‘problem children,’ ” Aesop explained. “Today, we call them ‘creative.’ ” He roomed with Frank Sinatra Jr. The two formed a band called the Outhouse Four. They played ballads and folk songs: Aesop on string bass, Sinatra on piano and serving as emcee.

Aesop, who’d been interested in acting since he played with puppets as a child, studied performance at what’s now the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Canada. Landing the role of Theseus in a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set him on a lifelong path. “I was terrible — jiminy Christmas, was I bad,” he said. “But I had the part, and it did spoil me forever. Getting your own dressing room, your own makeup girl: The bug bit me. There was no question about what I wanted to do for a living from that moment on.”

But first, Aesop volunteered for the Marine Corps, encouraged by President Kennedy’s admonition to “ask what you can do for your country” as well as the indebtedness of a Jew not far removed from America’s fight against the Nazis. (“I have relatives that died in the oven.”) However, the inveterate misfit, a self-proclaimed “trickster,” never shipped out to Vietnam, instead turning his three years of active-duty service into, by his account, a blend of Catch-22 and Three’s Company by taking advantage of the military’s commuted rations policy, which permitted soldiers to receive an allowance in lieu of meals if they resided off-site. So, while Aesop officially was based out of California’s El Toro air station in Orange County, the military helped support him while he lived with his girlfriend and her UCLA roommates in a Westwood apartment. “What a great time to be a healthy young man,” he recalled. “It was after the pill and before AIDS and before herpes.”

That girlfriend, who now goes by Carol Davidson Baird, fell for him in November 1965 when she heard him playing folk music along the Sunset Strip at The Fifth Estate, a hub for the city’s emerging political New Left. “He had the most beautiful bass voice and jet-black hair,” she says. Later, he won over her parents by singing the kiddush, a Jewish ceremonial prayer, over dinner: “My father had a glow, like I’d finally found a nice Jewish boy. But it was a roller-coaster-ride relationship.”

The couple were soon engaged. Yet the relationship foundered when, after leaving the military, he abandoned his plan to pursue a degree in psychology so that he could seek work as an actor. “He was unemployed and didn’t have a pot to piss in,” Baird remembers. Still, for a time, the “stormy romance” flared — as when, in 1969, after a motorcycle accident that left him in a cast up to his waist, she arrived to comfort him and they put on the unreleased music of a local underground artist. “We were listening to Charlie Manson on reel-to-reel.”


On an autumn day in 1969, Aesop encountered a couple of young women panhandling in Santa Monica. “I told them I didn’t have any change, but I had a house in Venice, and I had an open-door policy,” he said. “Anybody who could handle the scene inside was welcome to stay.”

About the scene he’d established at 28 Clubhouse Ave.: “Number one, we didn’t wear any clothes. Number two, no one locked the bathroom door — the door was off its hinges.” Third, “if you couldn’t deal with making love in front of other people, then you could go to the ‘shy’ room. But when you’re loving and you’re caring, you don’t mind making love in front of other people that are loving and caring. It’s no big deal.”

It turned out that the women, Susan Phyllis Bartell and Madeline Joan Cottage, were part of a commune that called itself the Family, and soon they and a handful of their companions, male and female, were living at Aesop’s pad. While their group was already on the radar of both law enforcement and the media — police had recently arrested key followers as well as their leader, Charles Manson, on auto theft charges — the Family had yet to become shorthand for countercultural darkness. The notorious Tate-LaBianca murders, which claimed the lives of seven people including actress Sharon Tate and hairstylist-to-the-stars Jay Sebring, had occurred the previous summer, but the culprits had not yet been apprehended.

Aesop thought he’d found his tribe. Having grown his hair long — and, he believed, been hounded constantly by the local cops because of it — he figured the new circle amounted to fellow unjustly hassled hippies. They were on his wavelength, after all, sharing his sexual adventurousness, social rebelliousness, fondness for acid and openness to New Age theoretics. Most also had troubled relationships with their parents. “There was a lot of Scientology game going on,” he explained, referring to the new housemates’ interest in the self-improvement doctrines of L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics. “It was a 24-hour-a-day therapy session. They’d call you on your bullshit.”

Things went sideways Nov. 5, 1969, when Aesop returned home from acting class to find police in his home and learned that a Family associate named John Philip Haught, also known as Zero, had died in the shy room. The death would be ruled a suicide, but questions have persisted about the responsibility of Family members who were there when it happened. Cottage, who went by Little Patty and was in bed with Haught when he died, reportedly claimed he shot himself with a .22-caliber revolver — owned by Aesop — in a larkish moment of Russian roulette. (Among other troubling revelations, the gun reportedly was found wiped clean of fingerprints.)

Bruce Davis, a Family member convicted of two killings tied to the cult — of aspiring musician Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald “Shorty” Shea, who worked at Spahn Ranch — was another Aesop housemate at the time of Zero’s death. He’s also long drawn suspicion among observers who wonder whether the Family believed Haught had become a problem in need of solving. “There are a million possibilities,” said Aesop, who was “freaked out” to later learn of Davis’ involvement in the Hinman slaying, which occurred a little more than a week before the Tate-LaBianca killings. Like him, Hinman played music and did drugs — and had an open-door policy for the Family at his own place in Topanga Canyon.

In a letter to THR from San Quentin State Prison, where he continues to serve his sentence after Gov. Gavin Newsom blocked a 2021 parole recommendation, Davis described Aesop as “a generous host,” reminiscing that “he had a good 12-string guitar.” As for Zero, Davis cited Little Patty’s statement and the official police report ruling the death a suicide. “So sad,” he wrote, in summation. (Aesop said of Davis and Manson: “They were both ex-cons that grew a beard. They weren’t hippies.”)

After Zero’s death, Aesop became closer to the group. “I was completely open with them,” he recalled, “except at night, when I closed my eyes, I’d sort of go, ‘Well, I wonder if I’m going to wake up tomorrow.’ ” Still, he remained with the Family and moved to Spahn Ranch. “I didn’t just live there; I worked it,” he said. “Get up before the sun, eat a big breakfast, take the horses out.”

He got to know Manson only during prison visits, which were encouraged by Family members. (While held on the auto theft charges, Manson was indicted for murder and conspiracy in the Tate-LaBianca killings.) “Charlie and I got along well from the second we saw each other, we really did,” he said. “I understood him as a being. Not as Charlie Manson, drug-crazed being. Just as a spiritual being, living in the body of Charles Manson.” Noting that as an actor, Aesop believed he was especially attuned to performative behavior in others, he made clear: “I think Charlie played crazy really well.”

Of Manson and his most famous followers, who were also indicted for the Tate-LaBianca killings, “I felt they were innocent until proven guilty. I also know that it’s not unusual to be arrested for something you didn’t do. It happened to me a couple times.”

Aesop, who chauffeured the remaining female Manson followers from the ranch to the courthouse each day in his van so they could support their leader from the spectators’ gallery, believed that Manson, regardless of his culpability, received an unfair trial. “Just a very sad circus,” he said, highlighting the judge’s decisions not to allow Manson to represent himself (“They threw me in jail [for contempt of court, for five days] because I made a comment to the judge about that”) and, later, not to call a mistrial after President Nixon declared to reporters that the defendant was guilty, which prompted national headlines.

Still, “I knew that living on the ranch was not the safest place in the world for me to be.” This bad moon rising became glaringly apparent to him one night when his van — one-of-a-kind, with double doors on both sides; he called it The Great White Whale — “was completely and totally gutted” by fire. Nobody on the ranch provided a suitable explanation. “It broke my heart. It really did.”

Then, when it was floated that Aesop assassinate Bugliosi and the judge — “I can’t honestly remember if it was Squeaky [Fromme] or Brenda [McCann] or Sandy [Good]” who first brought it up — he left the commune. “All the scales from my eyes fell,” he said. “I’m going, ‘Wait a minute. They want me to kill these people?’ That was the end-all, be-all. Goodbye, yeah. I didn’t last a day past that.”

Yet before Aesop severed ties with the Family, he claims he proposed the idea for, and brokered the necessary participation required to complete, a film about the group that became Manson, which was nominated for a best documentary feature Oscar in 1973. In retrospect, he declared, his uncredited assistance in gestating “my baby,” as he refers to the project, is a fact that “I’m proud of, and a little aggravated about,” since it didn’t turn out as he’d hoped.

The co-directors, Robert Hendrickson and Laurence Merrick — respectively, a fellow student at his acting school and the teacher of their class — have both since died. “Everything was sensationalized,” Aesop said. “The whole idea of making a movie was to give these people humanity, and it gave them none. It was 180 degrees from what I had in mind.”

The film infamously opens with a gun-wielding female Manson follower asserting in a chilling, possessed tone: “Whatever is necessary to do, you do it. When somebody needs to be killed, there’s no wrong, you do it, and you move on.” Aesop believes that, like their leader, the women in the film “were trying to act like they were crazy” to gin up lurid mystique, scare the squares and play along with filmmakers they’d decided were dupable, predatory or both. “[The women] weren’t anywhere near that way with me,” he said.


Aesop soon established half a world’s distance between himself and the Family. “I was living the life of a one-legged, blind sadhu” — a Hindu sage who’s renounced earthly attachments — “in the holy city of Varanasi” in India. “I would bathe in the Ganges every morning.” He eventually ended up passively suicidal in Afghanistan, taking Mandrax, a qualuude-like sedative. “I woke up with my wrists and my ankles tied to a hospital bed in a Kabul prison.” He doesn’t recall much about how he ended up there, except that when local police had engaged him, “my Marine Corps training came in, and I guess I fought.”

His psychologist brother, Don, who didn’t speak with Aesop for the final six years of his life, in part over the distribution of their parents’ estate, contends that Aesop long fostered “this kind of impenetrable persona of acting like he’s just the coolest and most controlled and most self-possessed guy in the room. It’s just bullshit.”

Aesop, then still Mark Ross, found himself again in music while pushing farther east to Asia, and decided to forgo his surname. “I’m not attached to my name; it’s not who I am,” he said. “I became Mark Elliott. My attitude back then was ‘Why not?’ It still is. I’m pretty much open to most things.”

He began gigging clubs in Laos and Thailand, later crooning “Everybody’s Talkin’ ” — the folk-rock tune popularized by Harry Nilsson in 1969’s Midnight Cowboy — across the Hong Kong airwaves. “I’m probably the first country western singer on Asian television,” he mused.

In time, Aesop made it back to L.A. By 1972, he’d formed a street-performance duo, the Singer and the Silent Partner, alongside a pantomimist. That mime, Sheldon Rosner, recalls that the partnership lasted seven months. “Aesop, who was calling himself that because some of the songs were fables, was a real control freak,” he says. “He’d play guitar and sing songs and I’d act them out according to the story. His idea was to do it exactly the same way every time — no variance. I was like, ‘I need a little freedom to improvise, to be myself.’ He didn’t like that.”

Before the pair broke up, Aesop encountered the charismatic, controversial leader of another L.A. commune known for its female followers. Father Yod, of the yoga- and meditation-focused Source Family, handed Aesop a $100 bill while he and Rosner performed in the plaza at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Soon, Aesop joined their fold, which included attractive acolytes in flowing robes, a mansion in the Hollywood Hills and a pioneering vegetarian restaurant along the Sunset Strip, called The Source, which was frequented by the likes of Warren Beatty, John Lennon and Julie Christie. (It’s where Alvy Singer orders his “plate of mashed yeast” in Annie Hall.)

Half a century on, Aesop wasn’t interested in dwelling on similarities between Manson and Father Yod, or why he’d been drawn to the realms each had conjured. “It’s sort of more than my brain can deal with,” he said. He did acknowledge that he and Father Yod “had a lot of things in common,” ticking off everything from being Marine veterans and their recent voyages through India to mutual interests in leather-working and Eastern religion. Also: “He liked living with a lot of girls. I liked living with a lot of girls.” (Aesop claimed to have “been with over 2,000 women,” and acknowledged he “was a little devious” in that “I did not use protection because I wanted to have a lot of children.” Father’s Day, he asserted, was “the unhappiest day,” since he figured he had plenty of kids he’d never met.)

Rosner, who now works as an astrologer, says he, too, was captivated by the group’s spiritualism, but quickly pulled away. “What I saw was that it was indeed a cult,” he says. “There was a harem around Father, who really took sexual advantage around a lot of these young girls, and I think Mark was in it for a piece of ass.”

Aesop, who like other members of the Source group took the surname Aquarian (“out of respect, the same way that Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali”), was candid with the new faction about his then-recent history among Manson’s crowd. “The thing about Charles Manson, that was the time when everyone was in a crash pad or finding a commune, and some of our people could’ve gone to their group or they could’ve gone into our group,” explains Isis Aquarian, who helped run The Source as an administrator and produced a 2012 documentary about it, The Source Family. “The teachings of spirit are the same, but they could be used for white or black. Charlie Manson used them for black magic.” She says Aesop “made choices [in his life] that weren’t all good,” but that she believes he was “an innocent.”

Still, Manson proved to be the undoing of Aesop’s Source era. Father Yod, who fancied himself a matchmaker, knew that one of his female disciples also had, as Isis Aquarian terms it, “some previous energy” with Manson, and pushed for the two to pair up. Aesop wouldn’t go along with it — even if this meant displeasing his metaphysical master. “I’m sorry, I’m a bachelor then, I’m a bachelor now,” he said. “And I’m not going to hook up with somebody because they’d be a good match. That wasn’t going to play.”

Besides, as with the Marines and Manson’s group, it was in his character to remain apart. “I’m not much of a joiner,” he said. “How do you explain it? You’re in it, but not of it; you’re of it, but not in it.”

Aesop kept gigging all the while, honing his country-hewing folk act to that of, as he put it, a “sit-down comedian.” In August 1976, he qualified for his SAG card, earned $232 and outmaneuvered the celebrity judges on NBC’s The Gong Show with a performance of his self-composed ditty “The Shortest Cowboy Song,” in which he sang a laconic lyric (“It’s been lonesome on the saddle since my horse died”), strummed his guitar with a flourish of finality, then walked offstage before the panelists even had the chance to gong him. “They have to give you at least 30 seconds,” he recalled.

Odd jobs kept him afloat over the years, from managing apartment buildings to sales work. But he identified most as a jeweler, designing his own pieces. He was known to don bracelets up to his elbows on each arm, with three rings on every finger and a load of necklaces. Then he’d visit industry hangouts — Ciro’s, Dan Tana’s, Musso & Frank — and take a seat at the bar to hawk them, ordering his signature drink, a Grand Marnier and coffee with a twist of lemon peel. He’d prop a business card in the brim of his cowboy hat that read: “The jewelry store is open.”

Aesop also found customers on set, selling custom pendants shaped like coke spoons (“passed around like party favors back then”). Barbra Streisand purchased a sterling silver necklace featuring black and red coral when he had a small role as a recording engineer in her 1976 version of A Star Is Born. “Everybody complains about Barbra, but she was nothing but a sweetheart to me,” he said. “I figure people that have bad things to say about her, they’re carrying around their own grief.”

Aesop’s acting career peaked in 1977, when he played Simon Marcus, a Manson-esque cult leader on Starsky and Hutch. He believes he landed the role — auditioning in front of Starsky himself, Paul Michael Glaser, who was directing the episode, titled “Bloodbath” — because he opted for the understated. “If I played it low-key, it would be even scarier,” Aesop said, recounting his thinking at the time. Of Glaser, he recalled, “He shuddered. He went, ‘Scared the hell out of me.’ ” Nobody involved with the show knew Aesop had been associated with the Manson Family.

He thought his biggest break, and steadiest paycheck, might be in the offing when he secured the part of a sea captain in a short-lived 1990 live-action Disney Channel program, Little Mermaid’s Island, featuring puppets from The Jim Henson Company. Then Henson died, and so did the show. “Oops,” he said.

As Aesop doggedly auditioned, he joined a clique of men who hung around Hollywood’s Gower Gulch, on Sunset Boulevard east of Vine Street, shooting the shit as they pursued their creative dreams. They were latter-day counterparts to the working cowboys who decades earlier had corralled themselves at the same spot (which by this point had become a strip mall), in search of jobs in the then-dominant genre of Westerns. “They all had cool stories,” says Sue Kolinsky, a veteran nonfiction producer (Top Chef), who for a time shot footage for a documentary about Aesop and his friends. “One guy managed music acts and had found the Beach Boys, actually named them, but couldn’t hold on to them; another had been John Cassavetes’ stand-in. Aesop was getting parts in music videos,” including for Ziggy Marley and Kanye West.

As his dark beard grew longer, scragglier and grayer, he joked that the background roles he secured had certified him for “the 3-H Club: hippies, Hasidics and the homeless.” He played a warlock on Power Rangers, a buccaneer in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, a rabbi in You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, a village elder for Iron Man 3, a vagrant on I’m Dying Up Here and an old pioneer in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

Aesop could tap into personal experience for the homeless roles. “I let him stay [overnight] in my office for a couple of weeks,” says Victor Kruglov, his longtime manager. “Nobody knew about it. This was in the 2000s. He was a very nice guy; I never gave up on him.”

Cordula Ohman, a friend of Aesop’s since the 1960s, recalls him at one point living out of a storage area in Hollywood. “I thought he hadn’t kept himself together, to be living like that,” she says. “He was stubborn and driven — he wanted to do his art. He wasn’t willing to give up. He’d go through any lengths, even if he had to sleep in the street.”

Aesop had since improved his situation, renting a modest courtyard apartment in Hollywood, north of the Paramount lot. In May 2021, he experienced a freak accident (cigarette, oxygen tank) that resulted in a burn down his throat and the transformation of his admired bass voice into a pubescent rasp. He became a recluse.

It was during this confinement that Aesop spoke to THR, his health wavering and then descending through his final year. Rumors had swirled around him since the ’70s. Yet he’d chosen to disclose little, if anything, about his past — even to his confidants. Now, at the close of what he knew to be his final act, he’d decided to take a curtain call.

Hours before Aesop died, he sent THR an email: “Please call there are 2 or 3 things you must hear from me before you publish … PLEASE!” Attempts to respond went unanswered. It’s unknown whether these were to be revelations or renunciations — or mere clarifications.

Essra Mohawk, who had a romance with Aesop in the 1970s that turned into a lasting friendship, says the committed bachelor, aware he was near his end, had recently asked her to marry him. “He wanted me to have the monthly wife-of-veteran payments,” she explains. “I should’ve believed him when he said he was dying. If I did, you’d be talking to Mrs. Aquarian.” A singer-songwriter and protégé of Frank Zappa, she intends to sing at Aesop’s memorial service, planned for September at the Frolic Room, the Hollywood dive where everyone knew his name.

“He was a very complicated character,” says Don, his estranged brother. “It’s telling that he was a Pisces, whose symbol is two fish swimming in opposite directions, but bound together. You get extremes with Pisces — it relates to Jesus but also to those in the theater.” He adds: “Aesop was always looking for a sense of significance in the world.”

Many of Aesop’s belongings, as well as his 15-year-old Tibetan spaniel, Lady, have been brought to the Hollywood high-rise apartment of his close friends, Maya Sloan and Thomas Warming, a writing-team couple who became his caretakers during his last year and are embarking on a book about him. “He’s a true Hollywood creation,” says Sloan, “an outsider even among outsiders.” One who, as Warming puts it, “weaves in and out, like a cameraman, who happens to be in the wrong places at the right time.”

Aesop Aquarian’s own Age of Aquarius fulfilled its promise of long hair and free love, if not, necessarily, harmony or enlightenment. Before he died, he said he had found resonance in a Kurt Vonnegut line from Cat’s Cradle: “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” It was, he explained, “the way I live my life.”

This story first appeared in the July 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Bruce Davis Was Denied Parole Today


Charlie Says - Movie Review

    Charlie Says (2019) hit the theater as a limited release in 2019, and pretty much came and went, barely even registering a showing at the box office, only taking in about $37,000. Despite this poor showing, it is actually a pretty good film, well worth checking out. The movie comes at the TLB saga from a different angle- a post-murders, feminist slant. The production values are relatively good, and there are some decent performances. It is currently available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Roku. 

    When it comes to movies about the Manson saga, it is probably best to look at the films from two angles- how does it work as a movie, i.e. entertainment, and how does it fit into the whole area of Manson/TLB studies regarding accuracy. This film is not a documentary, so problems with accuracy should not deter you from viewing it. Word of warning: there is abundant nudity and sexual situation in the film.

     The source material for the movie is The Family by Ed Sanders, and The Long Prison Journey of Leslie Van Houten by Karlene Faith (the producers add a disclaimer at the end that the movie was made without the cooperation of Leslie and Katie. Susan had already passed away at this point). The primary focus of the movie is on Lulu, with Katie and Karlene Faith playing prominent supporting roles. Susan does feature as well, but not too as large a degree as the others. Charlie is of course in a large number of scenes, but he is not the focus of the film. 

    The film itself alternates between two time periods- the mid 1970s and the months leading up to the TLB murders. Karlene Faith is a grad student that is invited by the warden of the California Institute for Women to teach courses to Lulu, Sadie, and Katie, who are being kept in isolation after having had their death sentences overturned. Karlene is a feminist scholar and focuses part of the sessions with the girls on the premise that they may also be victims of Manson's abuse. As the story progresses, the girls come to some painful realizations about the lives they led with Manson and the horrors they took part in. 

    All of the actors involved do a good job, with some giving real scene stealing performances. Hannah Murray as Leslie and Sosie Bacon as Katie are very expressive and emotional in their portrayals. Marianne Rendon actually underplays Sadie, making her more pensive than the typical over the top crazy Sadie portrayals we have come to expect. Merritt Wever really nails the socially conscious and empathetic Ms. Faith. 

    Some scenes to look out for: Paul Watkins bringing a young girl to the ranch who doesn't fall for Charlie's act or his jailhouse pimp games, Melcher's visit to Spahn for Charlie's music showcase, Charlie's physical and sexual abuse of Sadie over salad dressing (this really highlights his misogyny and control over the women) and the final key scenes in the movie: the LaBianca's murders and the cut to the 'present' when it really sinks in for Leslie.

    The LaBianca's murder scene is harrowing. We see the casualness of Charlie dispatching them inside, the confusion and mounting terror in Lulu, Rosemary's desperate fight for her life against a knife wielding Katie as she hears her husband being murdered down the hall. It culminates with Tex and Katie prodding Lulu to stab Rosemary. Hannah Murray plays this scene to great effect, punctuating each stab with her own blood curdling screams. The look she has on her blood spattered face afterwards is powerful.   

     Now onto the actual history in the film. A lot of the Manson movies are hampered by the fact that there is an awful lot of information and back story to pack into a running time of around two hours. Out of necessity, things are left out or condensed for storytelling's sake, or put onto composite characters or other characters. Charlie says at times suffers from some of these faults. 

    The set at Spahn is pretty accurate, and it is actually the same set used in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. We also get to see Squeaky taking care of George (in more ways than one), Charlie orchestrating an orgy, Charlie's head games, the acid trips, Dennis Wilson, the Straight Satans, etc. these scenes come and go pretty quickly. 

     The motive for the murders is presented as being part Helter Skelter and part Manson's frustration at his derailed music career. After Melcher passes on Charlie's music, Charlie starts to spiral, becoming more and more aggressive in pushing Helter Skelter on the Family. Helter Skelter was mentioned in passing at first, but after this rejection, it takes center stage. 

    The filmmakers actually gave most of the women distinct, actual personalities, rather than the cartoonish portrayals they often get in some films. 

    The murders themselves receive little screen time. We are shown Tex and Sadie getting high on speed the night of Cielo. the murders at Cielo are condensed into a short but powerful scene of Sadie holding a terrified and pleading Sharon while Katie tells Tex to 'kill her.' Tex slashes Sharon's face and then the scene ends. The Waverly scene is slightly longer, but the actual murders aren't depicted in a graphic manner where we see Rosemary being stabbed by Leslie- we just see Leslie thrusting a knife over and over.

    Manson here is shown to be more of a con man and wannabe pimp than in some of his other on screen portrayals. He is shown to be manipulative more than he is shown to be some kind of mystical guru with extraordinary powers of persuasion and the ability to stop clocks. He uses a mix of drugs, physical abuse, sex, jailhouse games, and some pseudo philosophy in order to manipulate the Family members. 

      Overall, Charlie Says is one of the better Manson related films. The performances of the leads make it standout, and the portrayal of the relationships between the three women and Manson are fascinating to watch. It also includes a fairly accurate portrayal of life at Spahn.   

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Patricia Krenwinkel - May 26, 2022 - Parole Hearing Transcript

Tobias sent me the link to Patricia Krenwinkel's most recent parole hearing over a week ago but I failed to notice in a timely manner as I've been outside hunting rabbits and earwigs in the hot Ohio sun. Thanks, Tobias. 

And thanks as always to for stocking and hosting the Manson Family research library year after year. You rock, dude. 

Kit Fletcher is Janet Marie Owens. But is she also Cory Hurst?

"The whole thing. I think it's sick."

Cory Hurst's feigned disgust during Robert Hendrickson's 1973 Academy Award nominated documentary Manson will never fade from Manson lore. Hurst arrives onscreen a third of the way through the film sounding like she met her connect at Pioneer Chicken on the way to her interview. Nevertheless, she remains more palatable than Alice and the other Goons Bugliosi scraped from the floors at Sybil Brand to serve as witnesses against the foolish Susan Atkins, and manages to drop a couple of the best lines in the study before exiting the stage. 

Assuming sweet Joan Huntington did not write those lines for her. More recently, the band Slipknot placed Hurst's words into the minds of a younger generation. (I also found another brief take on the Slipknot intro here.) 

While not everyone is familiar with Cory Hurst, or in fairness might not care a whit since no payday exists at the end of yet another depressing rainbow once Hurst reads her lines and hands things off to less attractive broken women, Hurst's small role in Hendrickson's documentary caught our attention. 

Common to other female Manson fringers, 1970's porn rumors swirl around Hurst. Th sex trade. A possible awful upbringing. If we could find Hurst, maybe she'd corroborate the child and adult sex trafficking claims mentioned by victims' family members during MF parole hearings. 

Regarding the research, were home hair clippers not a thing yet in the 1970's? Yikes. 

Jesse Pearson was Hendrickson's Don Pardo. "Teenaged Cory Hurst was arrested for a minor offense, possession of a marijuana joint, and placed in the same cell as Susan Atkins, a confessed murderess," narrator Pearson tells us. 

Teenaged? Locked in a cage with a m-m-murderess? We had to check. 


The sun had set on Hurst's teenage days half a dozen years earlier. At the time of her incarceration with Atkins, Fletcher/Owens/Hurst was almost twenty-six. Adding to the mystery, Lt. Earl Deemer thought Fletcher was a fella. 

Sexy Sadie knew the truth and tried to run the same game on Fletcher that Charlie successfully ran on her. Unfortunately for the fam, Atkins' sweet nothings turned Fletcher into a prosecution witness. 

From the transcripts: 

No admonishments or nuthin. "You misrepresented yourself to the police and stayed in our jail under a false name? Hilarious! It's okay because we all know you're honest at heart. Let's move along and start repeating what Virginia Graham said earlier. I'm putting her in my book don'tcha know."

*Sometimes my quotes are not actual quotes. Don't blame me. All Cretins are liars. 

Here's the Press Courier relaying what Atkins said in the Fletcher/Owens letter that landed Owens in Older's courtroom. Sorry I can't get you closer. A copy of the actual letter is located in Box 10 page 147 but appears to be missing at this time. Hook us up in the comments if you've got the goods. 

So Kit Fletcher is Janet Marie Owens. She's the daughter of a career Navy man. A marijuana joint gets her locked up close enough to Susan Atkins to eventually elicit a confession. Owens' testimony begins on Page 17 in these transcripts provided by almighty Cielo. 

Confused and filled with legal questions after reading the testimony about the letter, I emailed Dreath and asked what was going on in the courtroom that day. Why does attorney Shinn care so much about Atkins' personal mail? Dreath's responses are in italics. 

The letter testified to was mailed, notice that becomes an issue with Shinn. There is a presumption in the law that a letter deposited in the mail is received by the addressee. However, there is also a presumption that the mailing person sent the letter if it was received. The point of the testimony is to establish that Fletcher/ et al received it. That is all VB needs. A confession gets around the hearsay rule as a statement against interest.

Susan Atkins was naive to say the least. The folks at Sybil Brand and the LAPD were monitoring her mail. Why she thought her jailers wouldn't do just that, rights or no rights, confuses me. Photocopies were made. 

And btw didn't Atkins say she told a bunch of crazy stories around the jailhouse to keep the lesbians away? What's all this woman you are beautiful stuff? 

Why is the defense so concerned with police intercepts of Atkins' mail? 

First, the defense never offered was going to be: a frame up. Stealing letters is some evidence of that.

Second and more importantly, dumbass…I mean Shinn at least had some brain electrodes clicking and whispering to him, ‘There might be something wrong with stealing and photocopying inmate letters without reading them their Miranda rights.’ Of course, since Shinn is part of the Nightmare Team, he couldn’t remember the California inmate mail rules allowed it. But at least he went….”Huh…something is wrong here…I think.'

The Supreme Court invalidated those rules in 1974.


If you have time, read a few minutes before and after the Owens testimony. Bananas. Ronald Hughes arrived a few minutes late to court and explained to a chastising Judge Older he possessed neither car nor home phone, his ride never showed, and xyz. 

"Just be happy I made it, your judgeness..."

Older glared down at Hughes. His chagrin is obvious. "We all have problems. I don't want to hear yours." 

Caught off-guard by Older's total lack of empathy, I laughed. Snorted more like. Don't you mess around with the old judge. He's hiding a six shooter under those robes. 

And is fair:


LOS ANGELES, Oct. 26 – Letters implicating a defendant in the Tate-LaBianca murder trial were barred from evidence today pending results of a defense appeal for a higher court ruling on admissibility.

The letters, written by “Manson family” member Susan Atkins, reportedly include passages which implicate her in the murders. They were scheduled to be read today as the trial entered its 20th week.

However, Miss Atkins’ attorney, Daye Shinn, objected that the letters should not be admitted into evidence, since his client was not advised that their contents could be used against her.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Older granted Shinn’s motion to take the matter to the district court of appeal, and granted a delay for that procedure.

Contents of the letters written by the 22-year-old defendant while she was in Sybil Brand Institute have been censored by Judge Older to omit any reference to other defendants.

One of the letters was received by a Long Beach resident, Janet Marie Owens, on Dec. 18, 1969, a week after Miss Atkins was indicted for the murder.

Deputies said that all “Manson family” mail was ordered photostated and turned over to Los Angeles police department investigators.

One of the investigators, Sgt. Manuel Gutierrez, said he had asked officials to photostat all “family” mail to assist him in further investigation of the case. He admitted that if incriminating evidence were found in the letters he would “definitely use it against them.”

Miss Atkins sat chatting with two other female defendants — Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten — and seemed little concerned that the letters were to be read to the jury. Meanwhile Charles Manson, the “family” leader, still clean shaven, sat listening intently and offered suggestions to the four-lawyer defense team.



Here's the local gang back in 2013 discussing another letter Atkins wrote Fletcher that was for sale for ten thousand dollars a decade ago. I'll tell you everything Mark Ross told me for eight and the location of your favorite taco truck. 

Noticing Chris B in the 2013 comments, I contacted him and asked what he remembered. Chris said those statements were made by another Chris B and therefore he shall henceforth be known forevermore into perpetuity as Tall Chris B on account of his being six feet five inches tall. 

But then he remembered he'd indeed made those long ago comments, so I'm unsure if the Tall part remains added. Chris also linked me to a list he made of prosecution witnesses in a blog post everyone new to the cases should bookmark immediately. Taking that list back to the comments section of Austin Ann's 2013 post, it's clear some of the blog crew had the same idea. Max Frost asks Hendrickson to clear the air but does not receive an answer. 

Max is smart. Deb once told me Hendrickson had everyone sign a release and kept all of the releases. Which means this question is answerable. We also might die wondering. Hopefully, Owens is not in our final thoughts though. That'd be so odd. 

Do you ever attempt to arrange your happy memories for when your life flashes before your eyes during your last seconds, or are you hoping for the best? I think about it a lot. Please let me remember this day and not that one, O I beseech thee. 

If you stare at these two photos long enough, the bottom one turns into a sailboat.   

Same lady. 

Like the more famous Manson prosecution witness Linda Kasabian, Owens never straightened up. She was in prison on and off from 2000-2010, and then again from 2012-2014. Sixty-nine years old at her final sentencing, Owens lived the hard times for real. 

"You are of the highest quality and beauty since Manson," Atkins told Owens in a letter. Sadly, time smacks the pretty out of all of us. No one escapes. 

Some think Owens died in 2015. Others say she's in a place where she doesn't understand the words people say and her government benefits never touch her hands. I'd choose dying in 2015 if those were my options. But I know life doesn't work like that. 

Before I go, I have a quick question. Why do you think Hendrickson had Hurst tell the stories about the family's sexual kicks obtained from murder, Liz Taylor, and Tom Jones in his film? I understand Bugliosi wanted several witnesses to repeat the same things so his shady witnesses appeared less shady to the jury, but what did Hendrickson need in his moment? 

I'd get so much more out of Hurst looking straight into the camera and coming clean. "Sadie sent me a letter saying she did it and btw here's the letter, Greenwhite. It's yours because I love you." 

I'd believe her but also laugh. Everybody knows I'm forever down with Joan.  

This post was created with the help of Beckham, Bunt, Chris B, Deb, Doug, Dreath, and Montana. Many million thank you's to you all.