Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: You Never Show Me Your Money

Mae Brussell raised a number of issues with respect to the Tate-LaBianca murders, some of which have been answered to various degrees of satisfaction since. When she first went on the air with the story in 1971, Ed Sanders had yet to publish The Family, and Vincent Bugliosi had yet to write Helter Skelter. She relied upon her own sense of history, the numerous newspaper reports she could find, a well-developed network of informers (among them law enforcement officials, political movers and shakers, researchers and the incarcerated), and some original flatfoot detective work instead. In this and in the next few posts, I’m going to highlight some of the major issues that she raises.

The first issue is rather obvious. Basically, it’s the simple question, “Who financed this?”

The question struck Mae as a basic one. In the JFK assassination she wanted to know where Lee Oswald got the money to do all the things he did. For example, when he defected, his plane ticket to the Soviet Union cost $1,400. But he worked at minimum wage jobs ($1.25/hr), and had about $200 in his bank account. No one admitted to giving or loaning him the money for the trip.

Likewise, Mae wondered how Manson foot the bill for everything. There were usually a number of people (in the forty to fifty range) hanging out with Manson at any given time at Spahn Ranch, and less at Barker Ranch. Mae noted that the slippies would have had numerous expenses, even if they bartered farm chores with the elderly George Spahn in exchange for crash space. She pointed out that no one there suffered from malnutrition. They had all sorts of drugs. There were lots of children running around too. As any parent can tell you, kids cost money. They require health care, food, clothing (lots of clothing, for they grow out of everything), supervision and so forth--and in the slippies’ case, the kids were also illicit drug consumers. They had a number of vehicles over this two-year odyssey, including a Fiat, VW minivans, a customized school bus, an old 1950s Ford (the car that they drove to the murders), a mini-fleet of dune buggies, and a Hostess snack cake truck. Cars require not just gas but maintenance. And because most, including Manson, were musicians, they also owned instruments and sound equipment. Moreover, they had a cache of weapons, which included a variety of knives, firearms, and, of course, Manson’s sword, along with field radios and other equipment that they stowed away for their Helter Skelter plans.

Geez. Radios, food, clothing, medical care, vehicles, maintenance, gas, weapons, childcare, drugs, electric guitars and so on. You have to wonder how they paid for all of this. But if you’re assuming that they must have stretched and spent every last dollar that they had, then you’d be in for a bit of a shock. They had money coming out the wazoo.

According to most sources, most reliably from Manson’s former lieutenant Paul Watkins, Charlie always had between $3,000-5,000 on him at any given time, with cash reserves n the neighborhood of $30-40k. Moreover, Manson was in a position to loan fairly large amounts of money to various people, among them a retired schoolteacher referred to only as Gina, who borrowed five grand to pay off the mortgage on her ranch.

Note too, we’re talking about 1969 dollars here. According to the government’s inflation calculator, Manson’s total cash (excluding the vehicles and all other forms of capital) was worth around a quarter of a million dollars in today’s money.

To some extent, we know that the slippies indeed extended themselves to save bucks when they could. Many of their friends in the Straight Satans, for example, were expert mechanics. People passing by Spahn Ranch during this time saw them earning a few dollars here and there making repairs for anyone willing to pay them. It’s quite likely that they serviced all of the “family’s” vehicles, perhaps in exchange for sex and other amenities.

The slippies also fed themselves through a curious practice they called ‘dumpster diving.’ They would wait for local supermarkets to throw away food that had not sold by its expiration date, and simply take it as soon as it hit the trash. After awhile, however, the employees of these stores, knowing that the women would come by and collect their refuse, made it easier for them by putting their unwanted items in boxes, so that the slippies could just come, take it, and haul it away. In perhaps one of the cruelest ironies of all, the Mansonites were especially fond of Gateway Supermarkets, the chain headed by Leno LaBianca.

Manson discouraged the seeking of medical care, saying, “Doctors are only good for curing the clap [gonorrhea].” So, they saved money by playing doctor amongst themselves. If you recall, when Manson slashed Gary Hinman’s ear, Mary Brunner sutured it with dental floss, per their routine. They also delivered their own children. Only in the rare case of an extremely difficult delivery did the women ever go to the hospital.

Still, most of the females had to see the doctor anyway. It would be an understatement to say that the Manson women often got the clap. It’s more like they got the thundering standing ovation.

As for the cars, most say that Manson really knew how to barter. For example, Dean Morehouse gifted him with a piano. Manson traded the piano for a VW minibus, which he in turn exchanged for the school bus. In other instances, he relied upon the generosity of followers and their families to donate vehicles and money. Then too, he appears to have become jointly involved with other outlaws in a car theft ring, which included a chop shop where they salvaged good working parts, and stripped the bodies in order to manufacture dune buggies.

We also know that they engaged in various criminal enterprises that could very well have contributed to their pot. In fact, when you take a good look at it, what we now call the “Manson Family” wasn’t so much a commune as it was a gathering of petty criminals. They trafficked drugs, for starters. Some of the women engaged in prostitution to raise money, especially in a pinch (they tried to get steady work as strippers, but the agency Manson’s former jailhouse friend, Bill Vance, hooked them up with thought they were too flat-chested, and wouldn’t book them until they got silicone implants). They also stole credit cards—lots and lots of credit cards. Back then, retailers had a harder time catching an identity thief than they do now. So there’s a possibility that this could explain a lot of their gas, restaurant bills, and other expenses.

Still, the credit cards couldn’t begin to explain away that amount of cash. After all, ATMs wouldn’t appear for another decade. And even if they existed during the time, you couldn’t get forty grand out of them very quickly, or without getting noticed. Anyone receiving their monthly statement should have immediately recognize an unauthorized charge. And while the “family” might have profited enormously from bartering, that system of exchange wouldn’t produce much in the way of folding money. While the underground economy of penny-ante organized crime could account for a large cash reserve, it would also have to change our perspective of the Mansonites from their typical depiction as communal idlers who whiled away their days in drug binges and sex orgies to a an industrious criminal enterprise.

Since we know they had enough free time to practice and perform their music, chase record deals, make a few home movies (and one feature-length documentary), drop copious amounts of acid and other hallucinogens, network among the stars, and engage in orgiastic sex, if they actually could produce that kind of money through any business, legal or otherwise, then I, for one, would have to tip my hat to them for having that kind of stamina.

On the other hand, we still have to wonder how they managed to keep up an operation of this scale for over a year without getting caught by authorities. Could officials--how can we put this—simply have turned a blind eye to Manson’s shenanigans? Could they have done so willingly? How could the cops not have seen an operation that big in the middle of the desert, with nothing to camouflage it?

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: Prosecutorial Reflection

In recent years, Discovery ID’s Most Evil show has spent considerable airtime discussing Charles Manson and the Helter Skelter murders. Like many shows on the subject, it featured former-prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi as a talking head. One statement Bugliosi made, in an episode originally airing January 2008, so neatly outlined Mae Brussell’s predictions regarding the consequences of the trial that I transcribed it in its entirety for presentation here without further comment:

The Manson case, here in LA, is a story, obviously on page one. And because the murders were so exceptionally brutal, and they seemed to be somewhat random, and there was no discernable, conventional motive such as burglary, or robbery, people in LA were very, very frightened, particularly in Beverley Hills and Bel Air, the heart of the movie colony, where the Tate murders happened. [Unintelligible] People were dropped from guest lists, parties were canceled, no one knew if the killer or killers were among them.

Sometimes you can measure the fear overnight. The sale of guns, guard dogs, the employment of security services rose dramatically. It shocked the nation, these murders, no question about it--particularly when the facts emerged that the killers did not know the victims, that they entered the homes of total strangers in the middle of the night, and mercilessly stabbed them to death. I mean, if you’re not safe in your own home, where are you safe? And who these people were, who the killers were, they seemed to be average kids from average American backgrounds.

There are people that believe that the murders were the end of innocence. [Unintelligible] The Sixties mantra of love peace and sharing in this country. Joan Didion, in her memoir of the era, The White Album, said that many people believed that the Sixties came to an abrupt end on the night of August 9, 1969. ABC’s Diane Sawyer said that the murders brought an end to the decade of love, that something changed in the heart of America with these murders. So these views basically are saying that the Manson murders were a watershed moment in the social evolution of this country.

The only thing that I will say--and I’m not a sociologist, so I can’t address myself to that point--but I will say this: before the Manson murders, no one associated hippies, identified hippies, with murder, you know, just drugs, free love, and peace. Yes, the hippies wanted to change the status quo in this country, but by peaceful means, not violence. Then Manson comes along, looking like a hippie, living like a hippie, and he’s a mass murderer. And I don’t think there’s any question that the Manson murders hurt the counterculture movement in our society.

So it’s hard to know the sociological implications of this case, but there are people that feel that it kinda changed America. The countercultural flower got deseeded.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: The Stakes

Mae Brussell took an active interest in the Helter Skelter murders almost from the beginning. The similarity of this case to events going on around the world, most notably in Greece, struck her as fundamentally important.

In 1967, Greece underwent a major military coup d’ètat that was two years in the making. Two years earlier, King Constantine II declared martial law under pressure from military brass, who were appalled at the progressive liberalism then sweeping the country. The declaration effectively nullified the government of centrist Prime Minister George Papandreou and his Center Union party. But when reopening the elections in 1967, Papandreou surged way ahead in the polls, thus prompting Brig. General Stylianos Pattakos, Col. George Papadopooulous and other military officers to seize control of Greece, cancel the elections, and place Papandreou under house arrest, where he died the following year.

Pattakos and Papadopoulous set out quickly to reform the liberal influence of the Papandreou years through a series of edicts. These edicts prohibited Greek citizens from (1) gathering in groups of six or more in open spaces, or at all in closed spaces; (2) criticizing government in a public forum; (3) growing beards, and if male from having long hair; and (4) wearing mini-skirts (both sexes). Also, everyone had to attend a Sunday worship service--Jews and others who didn’t normally worship on that day were permitted to observe an additional day of devotion, but still had to attend a service on Sunday. Students had to turn in old history books, and replace them with government approved ones. In science courses, evolutionary theory was discarded in deference to theories of racial superiority and purity. Playwrights and screenwriters had to submit their scripts before censor boards, even if they were translations of such well-known playwrights as Shakespeare, or the original texts of such venerable national scribes as Aristophanes. Rock and roll (and a lot of classical—especially if the composer lived in land now part of the Eastern Bloc) was banned in favor of military music.

These edicts proved unenforceable rather quickly, and many of them were either lifted or modified before 1969. But the thought that someone would think to start a coup to implement such measures might have seemed a little outlandish at the time. Mae never used the phrase, for it is one of our time, not hers. But nowadays we would understand this in terms of ‘cultural warfare.’ The military represented the far-right of Greek society, and they saw liberalism, both political or cultural, as undermining their authority. They reckoned that in order to garner support for their regime, they had to get a nationful of people to see things their way, and not consider any alternative ways that might seem more attractive (or practical, or ethical, or so-on). Thus, prohibiting vestiges of leftist culture would prohibit leftist thought as well.

Or so they thought. Actually, the edicts resulted in a nationful of pissed-off Greeks, thus compelling now-Prime Minister Papadopoulos to make numerous attempts at instituting liberal reform over the following five years.

Mae likened the Greek coup d’ètat to the JFK assassination, itself a de facto coup d’ètat. The liberalization that threw the military junta in such a tizzy she likened to the counterculture movement then going on in the United States. At length, she (and many others) enumerated the ways in which the counterculture undermined the hegemony of privileged classes. For one thing, the hippies were anti-materialistic and non-conformist, which kinda throws a wrench into a capitalistic system of mass production. If people don’t buy, and then don’t accept the goods offered in the numbers that industry requires, then industry’s a bit lighter in the pocketbook, and therefore can’t wield the authority it used to. Moreover, their anti-war stance threatened one of the most lucrative businesses at the time, the defense industry (or as President Eisenhower called it, the “military industrial complex”). For such titans, peace directly leads to a dramatic drop in revenues.

The rumors afloat (some confirmed years later by Constantine II) that the Greek coup sought US backing and advice from such military men as Gen. Lauris Norstad (USAF), led Brussell to speculate that the US military/intelligence establishment might have monitored the progress of the Greek coup in order to assess the viability of possible culture war tactics back home. In this case, the enemy was the counterculture.

And that’s where Manson fits in, according to Mae. In order to combat liberal elements of American society, the far right had to attack the most prominent form of it first.

Of course, there were attempts to literally attack the counterculture, as the events of the 1968 Democratic National Convention illustrate. But these only led the public to become more distrustful of government agencies, because it appeared to many that (paraphrasing Mayor Daley) the policemen on the scene were preserving disorder, not preventing it. In fact, many saw the authorities as the primary cause of the disorder.

It would be more beneficial to get the left to shoot itself in the foot, or in other words, make a fool of itself. Lord knows, COINTELPRO tried its best to do that by infiltrating student and leftist organizations, supporting their most violent elements, and trying to stoke animosity among allies. By and large, however, these organizations refused to swallow the bait.

So, for Mae, it seemed much more practical for the Intel/military elite to create and/or maintain a pseudo-hippie representative, which on cue would discredit itself, and take down the whole counterculture with it. With the general press confusing slippiedom with hippiedom, Manson and his group would serve as a lightening rod for contempt and suspicion against all of those involved with youth culture—from the biggest names in its rock and roll soundtrack, to the friendly flower child selling lemonade in the park. After Manson, none would be beyond suspicion.

Mae supplies some interesting pieces of information that support her hypothesis, and some of these are corroborated by official sources. But to speak the plain truth, I find this one of her weaker speculations in terms of evidence. On the other hand, we’re talking about someone whose predictions were often proven true in the long run. And Mae’s predictions about the effect that the Manson trial would have on the counterculture would pan out in spades.

You don’t have to believe me on that one. Just listen to someone who was there.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: Love Locs and Rosemary’s Babies

Edited for clarity 10/24/08

I know Manson didn't do it. He was an asshole and a criminal, but this family shit is all wrong. I know.
--Dennis Wilson, Beach Boys drummer, shortly before his death in 1983

Charles Watson (left), called ‘Tex’ by the slippies, graduated from high school with varsity letters in football and basketball (he excelled in both), and a straight ‘A’ GPA. For someone with this type of resume, you’d think the academic and sports scholarships would come rolling in. But instead of a PAC-10 school or some other gridiron powerhouse, he attended North Texas State University (nowadays known as the University of North Texas), where he majored in wine women and song. His grades plummeted, and he dropped out after only attending a semester or two.

A friend hooked him up with a job as a baggage handler for the now-defunct Braniff Airlines, a gig that afforded him an opportunity for free travel. But he soon grew tired of that too, and decided to go back to college, this time at The California State University. To support his education habit, he took a job as a wig salesman in Beverly Hills. During this time, he banged up his knees in an automobile accident. The damaged patellae made him ineligible for military service, so he no longer needed his student status to keep him out of the Army, and thus out of Vietnam. He dropped out of school again, left his job, and opened a wig shop of his own, Love Locs, in Laurel Canyon. He also dealt drugs on the side.

Love Locs managed to stay in business for all of six months. Yet it could be one of the most overlooked and fascinating aspects of the Tate-LaBianca murders. After all, two of his victims, Jay Sebring and Rosemary LaBianca, were also in the wig business. They would have either been competitors or associates during this time.

One theory advanced by Bill Scanlon-Murphy, in a still-yet-to-be-published (as far as I know) book titled Live Freaky, Die Freaky,* posits that the motive for the Helter Skelter murders had nothing to do with race war, yet everything to do with organized crime. By 1969, the Mafia had pretty much sewn up the entire Los Angeles market. They only dealt through their approved dealers. In that capacity, Sebring served as their main pipeline to the rich and famous, due to the proximity afforded by his hair salon and wig-making.

Murphy, a former Beach Boys session musician and close friend of Dennis Wilson, spent ten years interviewing Manson and associates at their prisons, and came up with a startling conclusion: the murders were part of Watson’s attempt to take over a share of the lucrative LA drug market from the Mob.

After Love Locs went out of business, Watson made his living solely from drug sales. He stood in danger of losing that business to the Mafia unless he took drastic action. The purpose of his visit to the Polanski/Tate residence on that fateful night wasn’t to murder everyone there, according to this scenario, but to rob Sebring of $40,000 of Mob money that Jay supposedly had on him. But things got out of hand, and instead of collecting from Sebring, he shot him, forcing him to kill everyone else in the house.

The raid on the LaBianca household the following night stemmed from inside knowledge of the contents of a safe, located away from the house in Leno’s office. It contained the businessman’s embezzled cash and little black book. If you’re wondering where he got the inside information, then, depending on who’s telling this story, you’re left with two choices.

Choice A is Rosemary LaBianca. Rosemary’s estate was valued at over three million dollars. In 1959, the year she met Leno, she barely made ends meet as a waitress. Yet, in ten years’ time she had apparently made a sensational profit from Boutique Carriage, the upscale clothing store she started with seed money from her second husband.

Some believed that Rosemary’s stewardship of Boutique Carriage couldn’t account for the bulk of that kind of money, let alone all of it. At the same time, rumors persisted that she merely used Boutique Carriage as a front to launder the money she made from her true source of income, namely drug trafficking. According to this story, she would stash bags of the stuff in some of the wigs carried by her store, and ship them off to other dealers in the wig business. Among these associates was one Charles Tex Watson, proprietor of Love Locs. Following the logic of this, one could extrapolate that Watson learned about the scope and supply chain of Rosemary’s operation simply simply through his dealings with her. Thus, the purpose of raiding her house the following night was the same as that of the previous night: to collect the mob money in her possession, located in Leno’s office safe.

Choice B is more sinister. If Watson had inside information about Rosemary’s business baby, he could very well have gotten it from her actual baby, or in other words her daughter Suzan Struthers (current name Suzanne Struthers LaBerge). This hypothesis carries a bit more weight, for Struthers had another connection to Watson independent of her mother’s business. Susan’s boyfriend at the time, Joseph Dorgan, happened to belong to the Straight Satans, one of the biker gangs courted by Manson at Spahn Ranch. Writer Bill Nelson, who interviewed Leno’s first wife, Alice LaBianca, in the early-1990s, said that the surviving members of the LaBianca family received threatening phone calls warning them not to discuss aspects of the family’s business. Nelson wouldn’t tell who told him this, but he says the calls came from Struthers.

According to this, Struthers had known Watson for some time before the murders, and could have conspired with him in her parents’ death. While Tex had her mom and stepfather tied up at home (both literally and figuratively), she supposedly snuck into Leno’s office, and opened the safe containing the embezzled cash and the little black book. Police, in fact, noted that someone had broken into the safe in question.

What’s most astounding is that Struthers/LaBerge has been an active and open supporter of Watson over the years, testifying on his behalf in front of the parole board, and advocating for his release.

Figure 1. A Current Affair segment featuring Struthers, Watson and Doris Tate

There are certain aspects of Murphy’s scenario that ring true to someone who has extensive knowledge of these events. First off, the nature of Watson’s relationship to Charles Manson is depicted more closely to what it most likely was than what's depicted in the official version. Watson had a tendency to take bold, reckless action. But because he had managed to keep out of jail (so far) he needed someone to guide him in undergound tactics and theory, a professor of crime so to speak. Given his numerous years behind bars, Manson would qualify as a de facto PhD in the science of committing crime. Manson understood what things a crook should do, and what he shouldn’t. Watson had no idea, and kept making mistake after mistake, only to have Manson bail him out time and again.

There are a number of places where this hypothesis comes up wanting. First of all, it’s one thing to hear rumors of Rosemary LaBianca’s involvement with the drug biz. But rumors are a poor substitute for sworn affidavits, depositions and testimony. Second, if Struthers wanted to retrieve the contents of that safe, she wouldn’t need Watson to create a diversion. She could have simply taken it out herself since her folks had no plans to go out that night. True, her defense of her parents’ main killer seems a tad odd. However, not everyone shares a lynch mob or vengeance mentality. Third, if wigs were Rosemary’s choice of transport, then it would make more sense for Watson to keep Love Locs open, for no other reason than it served well as a cover. Four, why would Watson go to the Polanski residence to get money from Sebring instead of his house? Why would he expect him to keep the money there instead of his own place?

Fifth, Watson’s clearly a fairly intelligent, if rashly impulsive, guy. Did he really think that he, a few female cohorts, and a veteran jailbird could really drive the Mafia out of the LA drug business all by their lonesome?

Okay. Maybe Watson would try something that dumb. But Manson's never been that stupid. If that were the true motive behind planning the Tate-LaBianca murders, Manson would most likely have stopped him. Instead, Manson took a more active role in helping Tex perform the murders on that second night.

One of the strengths of this hypothesis is that it supports a case for the position advocated by Mae Brussell several decades ago, because it focuses the mayhem not on Manson, but on the man who actually did all of the killing, either alone, or with help from Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie van Houten.

You see, Mae questioned why we tend to think of the Helter Skelter murders as the Manson murders, whereas she always thought of them as the Watson murders.

*Not to be confused with the animated film of the same name, a sci-fi flick that depicts the Mansonites in a futuristic scenario.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Devil’s In the Slide: An Offer They Didn’t Refuse

Edited for clarity 6/20/11

Charles Manson’s ties to the Mafia began with his transfer from the federal reformatory in Petersburg, VA to the one located in Chillicothe, OH in January of 1952. At the tender age of nineteen, he became associated with legendary New York mobster Frank Costello, a fellow inmate. Manson regarded the Don of All Dons with nothing less than fawning admiration. As Charlie wrote in his autobiography:

When I was at Chillicothe I met Frank Costello. When I walked down the halls with him or sat at the table for meals, I probably experienced the same sensation an honest kid would get out of being with Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle: admiration bordering on worship. To me, if Costello did something right or wrong, that was the way it was supposed to be.
Later, when serving time at McNeil Island Correction Institute, Manson came across another Mafioso, famed gunslinger Frankie Carbo, formerly of Murder Incorporated, and, like Costello, a New York City-based gangster. Sources vary as to how close Carbo and Manson actually were. Manson has admitted to knowing him, but little else. Realist Editor Paul Krassner seems to hint at a closer connection. Whatever their relationship, they really did know each other. Moreover, they had a common enemy.

Some have speculated that as a fawning devotee of two violent, high profile thugs, Manson might have taken up one of his old mentors’ hit contracts. In his 1987 book, The Ultimate Evil, journalist Maury Terry made mention of Manson’s ties to the Mafia, as did Krassner briefly in a 1973 essay titled “The Rise of Sirhan Sirhan in the Scientology Hierarchy." These references infer that the motive behind the Tate-LaBianca murders lay not in cataclysmic race war, but rather in La Cosa Nostra’s exertion of its silent power.

Of course, if all seven victims died as a result of a Mafia hit, one would then have to wonder what in the world Tate et al did to incur their wrath. Since the mob is underworld, what would Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski have to do with such things, especially if, as public figures, their lives were so, um, overworld?

Ed Sanders noted that at the time of his death, Wojiciech Frykowski was in the middle of a “ten-day MDA” experiment. Methylendioxyamphetamine (MDA) is a hallucinogenic drug with no condoned therapeutic usages. In addition to a trip slightly mellower than acid, it has some properties that approximate ecstasy, a chemically similar drug which also affects mood and social understanding—hence MDA’s nickname, ‘the love drug.’

In The Shadow over Santa Susana, Adam Gorightly fills in some of the gaps of this particular hypothesis. Apparently, Frykowski had met Canadian dope-smuggler and gangster Billy Doyle through Cass Elliot. Doyle, knowing that Frykowski had helped Jay Sebring’s Hollywood drug business (some referred to the hair-stylist as “The Candyman to the Stars”), approached the young Pole with a far more lucrative idea. He offered Wojiciech an exclusive MDA distributorship that would cover all of Los Angeles and the nearby area. They planned to smuggle the drug in from Canada

As an early designer drug, MDA could have had interesting consequences on the drug scene, and the normal players in it. After all, it offered high-end competition to LSD, heroin and other recreational poisons. Naturally, one of those competitors would have been the Mob.

Hypothetically speaking, regardless of whether or not this story is true, I would hardly expect the LA Syndicate to stand idly by, while a small, foreign operation over which they had no control snorted up their profits with a rival drug that they didn’t know how to make. I would expect the Mob to take control of that operation—perhaps through peaceful means, perhaps by violence—or shut it down. Thus, this aspect of the story sounds plausible. If Frykowski were the sole kingpin in the LA area, and he left himself unprotected, then his death wouldn’t be that surprising. Moreover, since he had ingested MDA, and since the only plausible source would have been Doyle, then we have slight (albeit unconvincing in and of itself) evidence that Frykowski intended to step up his drug smuggling operation via the Canadian connection.

The connections between Leno LaBianca and the Mafia were far more intimate and better documented. In their initial investigation, LA police immediately looked into this angle. The cops noted in their official report that Leno had sat on the Board of Directors of Hollywood National Bank, a financial institution that they had long regarded as a Mafia front. Furthermore, LaBianca had a serious gambling problem, and some have alleged that he owed the aforementioned Manson associate Frank Carbo over $30,000 in 1969 money at the time of his death. The investigation also turned up another interesting tidbit: the Gateway Market Corporation, founded by his father and owned by him until his recent sale, was missing $200,000. It’s quite possible that Leno embezzled the money to pay off Carbo and other creditors.

In a 1991 episode of the tabloid news show Hard Copy, Manson admitted to knowing about LaBianca’s Mafia connections when confirming that he in fact asked Leno for his “little black book.” Years earlier, Manson told Krassner, “The black book was what CIA and mob market players had, Hollywood Park [race track] and numbers rackets to move in the governor’s office legally.”

Manson wound up leaving the LaBianca household without the little black book. Leno’s first wife, Alice LaBianca, would find it a few days later when cleaning up the bloody mess left behind by Charles Watson and company. She dutifully turned it over to a Sgt. Frank Patchett of the LAPD. Alice also heard neighborhood rumors alleging that someone fitting Manson’s description had loud arguments with Leno in Harold True’s front yard, next door.

In this version of the Tate-LaBianca murders, there were two intended victims, with everyone else portrayed as condemned lambs along for the gory ride.* But there are a number of problems with this scenario. First off, one would have to imagine a uniquely weird situation that would prompt the Mafia to dismiss an army of professional and experienced killers for a group of amateurs who had yet to taste blood. If the mob really wanted LaBianca and Frykowski, then it would make more sense to have a pro do it. After all, killing someone is more difficult than most people imagine, and the murders at 10050 Cielo demonstrate this in spades. Despite inflicting numerous gunshot and stab wounds, and even a disemboweling, three of their victims kept getting up.** And supposing that the Mafia did give them a contract for the Tate murders, why would they give them a second job the following night if they had so thoroughly botched the first one? In addition to making a mess out of the first crime scene, they left fingerprints, eyeglasses, and all sorts of other evidence behind. And because of their newness to the hit biz, how much could the Mafia depend on their silence if caught?

Furthermore, this hypothesis makes the rationale for the Hinman slaying all the more tenuous. They allegedly took the contract in order to raise money for Bobby Beausoleil’s defense. While Manson might have had Mafia contacts, the others did not. Moreover, one would have to wonder why Manson would risk so much (mind you, he’s out on parole) to play both matchmaker and murder professor when most likely he couldn’t care less what happened to Hinman or Beausoleil. After all, he managed to get Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins and Leslie van Houten to take full credit for the Tate-LaBianca murders. He could have easily done the same with the Hinman slaying, especially in light of his minimal involvement with it.

Recently, another theory along the same lines has cropped up, one that maintains that the killings were part of an organized crime operation, but not one involving the Mafia. In this other version, some members of the “family” wanted to form their own little crime syndicate, one that cast Manson not in the role of godfather, but rather consigliere.

*In some versions of the story, the killers were surprised to see Sharon Tate in the house, for they were deliberately trying to spare her (Tate had in fact cancelled a visit at the last minute, and would not have been in the house at the time of the murders had she kept her appointment).

**There’s evidence that Tate too also got up after receiving mortal injuries, but I’ll get into that later.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Notes on a Democracy by Henry Louis Mencken: A Review

We interrupt our current series to bring you this special review.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) began his writing career as a cub reporter for the Baltimore Morning Herald. He would later pen a number of essays, op-ed pieces, books (fiction and non-fiction) and even poetry. Known for sharp satire, pithy one-liners and iconoclastic observations, his works in toto seem more a collection of caricatures than actual portraits of American society. With broad characterizations of various segments of American, British and German populations, along with a distorted view of their abilities, motivations and proclivities, he directly addressed, with tongue slightly in cheek, the foibles and perceived fallacies and potential danger of populist rule in his 1926 book Notes on a Democracy.

Dissident Books has just published an excellent new edition of Notes on a Democracy, with an introduction and annotations from Mencken biographer Marion Elizabeth Rodgers. Rodgers deftly situates this book in the context of Mencken’s life and times; the former consisting of a middle-class, nearly chauvinistic German American background, and a lifelong commitment to personal liberty; the latter entailing such (then) hot-button topics as Prohibition, lynching, the Palmer Raids, the Scopes Trial and female suffrage. The annotations, designed to explain certain themes constant in Mencken’s other works, archaic terms, and intellectual jargon, can sometimes leave the reader scratching her head wondering why Rodgers feels compelled to explain some terms (e.g. ‘Freud’) and not others (e.g., ‘flappers’). If the reader’s never heard of Sigmund, the book’s probably over her head anyway, while flappers, on the other hand, populated an era that has almost vanished from living memory. Nevertheless, the annotations are usually helpful, especially with respect to antiquated definitions of terms currently used to mean something completely different (e.g. ‘modernism’).

Notes on Democracy is neither a defense of nor paean for democratic values, but rather a no-holds-barred criticism of them. For this, some have labeled Mencken anti-democratic. In some respects, because of his penchant for caricature--which often results in an obliteration of anything resembling so-called political correctness--one might have problems seeing the irony in Mencken’s writing. In other words, some simply don’t get the joke. On the other hand, flippancy doesn’t necessarily indicate that the individual means the opposite of what he says—just as some in the southern US take license to level the most ruthless commentary at another provided that the phrase “bless his heart” punctuates it at the end (“That man is a money-grubbing, whore-chasin’, whiskey-swilling pig, bless his heart”). Thus, we are left to wonder a bit if Mencken’s really advocating the destruction of the republic in favor of monarchy, or if he’s actually challenging democracy to get its act together.

We often see the concepts of liberty and democracy going hand-in-hand. But from Mencken’s perspective, democracy is the natural enemy of freedom. While this might seem counterintuitive at first, he lists a number of reasons why this is so, reasons that would ring true to the twenty-first century American reader, especially in the midst of the presidential campaigns that we have witnessed lately. First off, he regards the notion of a wise, or intelligent mass as mere fiction. He sees instead a mob acting not by virtue of reason, but primarily out of fear, or the lust for security. Indeed, post-9/11 we’re often told that we have to sacrifice our civil liberties for personal security, because our leaders and the polls say so. So we barely stir when Justice Department officials illegally tap our phones, assuring us they only intend to catch terrorists (or as W. calls them, “evildoers”); or when law enforcement officials harass, infiltrate or profile certain groups whose ideas or personnel seem foreign to us. Then again, fearmongering from both major parties has played a role in presidential elections all of my life, from the “Daisy Girl” spot for LBJ in 1964 to the current attempts by GOP proponents to brand Democratic nominee Obama a terrorist.

Second, Mencken declares that the tenet of all men being equal leads to denying the existence and liberties of exceptional men due to the perpetual public desire to bring them down to (presumably equal) size. Certainly, anti-intellectual themes abound in our everyday discourse, but we can perhaps more readily see this concept in popular culture, with its current fascination for getting the dish on the loftiest luminaries, the celebrities that it simultaneously worships and savages.

Most important, Mencken indicts systems of democratic government, characterizing them as totally corruptible, more so than monarchy. Because he has to pander to a mob for election and reelection, the politician is open to manipulation by well-managed and heavily financed minorities willing to give him an edge. The Anti-Saloon League, consequently, receives a grand dose of Mencken’s wrath for self-righteously bullying legislators into passing laws leading to dire consequences. As he puts it, one cannot reform government simply by electing persons of better character, any more than one can reform a whorehouse by staffing it with virgins. Because of the nature of each enterprise, one will have to either go against one’s principals early and often, or leave right away to maintain his or her honor. The more honor a politician shows, according to Mencken, the less viable he is as a candidate, for he will have broken the illusion of being one of the mob:
The aim of democracy is to break all such free spirits to the common harness. It tries to iron them out, to pump them dry of all self-respect, to make docile John Does of them. The measure of its success is the extent to which such men are brought down, and made common.
Nowadays, we see candidates reaching out for the approval of some guy named Joe SixPack, or basing their electability on how well they reflect the voter’s self identity, with all its virtues, flaws, self-righteousness, bigotry and ignorance. Moreover, when one candidate or other has demonstrated a latent streak of honor, we see that gets ironed out in seconds flat, as has occurred recently at a Republican rally in Minnesota when, amid shouts of condemnation for Barack Obama, Sen. John McCain briefly defend his Congressional colleague, only to be greeted with boos by his own supporters for gently suggesting that their lynch mob mentality was unjustified and unwarranted.

These are only three of the aspects Mencken cites as democratic impediments to freedom. He lists and expands on numerous others, in a very light prose style that’s not only easy, but also fun to read. If one keeps in mind the deliberately broad brush with which he paints the subjects of this piece, he or she will probably see this book as eternally relevant. Taken at its word, it’s the most self-indulgent screed for Hobbesian autocracy written at the time. Perhaps the confusion as to how to take Mencken accounts for his simultaneous embrace and revulsion by both right and left.

Critics have chided Mencken over the years for his political incorrectness, especially after the posthumous publication of his diary entries, which show among other things venomous racist and anti-Semitic leanings—this despite his open advocacy for the anti-lynching movement or his demonstrated concern for the welfare of Jews in Nazi Germany.

For someone like me, the issue of political incorrectness isn’t troubling because it’s potentially offensive to hypersensitive bourgeois sensibilities, or patently provocative, but because it betrays a fundamental ignorance on the part of the speaker. Mencken bases this book on the premise that some men are naturally superior to others. To his credit, he, unlike many of his contemporaries, sees this as a factor of individuality, not genetics. Superior men, like their inferiors, come in all shapes, sizes and colors, he says. In his assumed position of judging which is which, Mencken tacitly characterizes himself as one of the superior men.

Well, it’s easy to think that you’re above the rabble, its fears and superstitions if, as the son of a prosperous cigar maker you can always go back to the family business, you’ve grown up free of the daily fear of wondering where your next meal comes from, or the dread that the nightriders are going to pump your house full of lead. It’s perhaps easy to castigate people for choosing liberty over life instead of the other way around. For example, although he sympathizes with African Americans in the Jim Crow South because of their practical inability to vote, their refusal to either flee north or fight to the death for suffrage proves to him that they are still driven with fear, and, despite the possible future achievements and superiority of their progeny, inferior. Yet, those who stayed and took no action, survived. And some of their progeny did become men and women of letters and complex abstractions (myself included), not despite of their ancestors’ sacrifice of liberty for survival, but because of it. After all, we grew up free of want and violence. Despite my degrees and achievements, I’d be a fool to think that I’m superior to those who went out of their way to make these things possible for me. So in this regard, Mencken has possibly mistaken patience for popular cowardice. Who knows what else he’s mistaken for popular cowardice?

To be fair, Notes on a Democracy precedes the work of Maslow and other shrinks who would tell you that physical survival is always the first order of human business. That the mass demonstrates a tendency to organize for “ham and cabbage” instead of liberty might not indicate a lack of imagination or intelligence, but rather a (perhaps justified, perhaps accurate) realization that that’s all they’re gonna get—at least until a chance for actual and sustainable liberty raises its head.

Patience, you see. But my caveat to this book has little to do with its perceived notion of African Americans, country bumpkins, or the great unwashed. Rather, Mencken’s prejudices ironically point out the difficulty he had in fully extricating himself from the mob mentality—even if it’s arguably a more genteel mob we’re talking about, here.

Notes on a Democracy is in many ways a dangerous book. Take it as a joke, and you risk missing the very cogent and valid insights Mencken had about the nature of democracy. Take it verbatim, and you feed the ever-growing cult of blind individualism. However you take it, this isn’t a book you can toss aside lightly, given how its themes echo in the works of such writers as Ayn Rand and in the philosophical underpinnings of Libertarianism.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Sleazo Inputs Pt. 3: Movies; Dirty Movies

In June 1969, the slippies stole several cameras from a local NBC affiliate news truck. With them, they filmed their activities for the rest of the summer. The silent, grainy eight-millimeter film footage of the Mansonites featured in numerous documentaries comes from these.

The celluloid images not only included shots of the “Family” dancing with knives, but also rampant sex, allegedly with some famous faces in the mix. Others included footage of animal and human sacrifice, with a bit of necrophilia thrown in. Ed Sanders quoted another unnamed source claiming to have viewed some of the movies that either someone destroyed, or has hidden for lo these many decades. From the context, it would seem that this witness had ties to Manson and company, had spent time with them on Spahn Ranch, and had watched the movies in their company. These included depictions of a ritual, in which two of Manson’s main women participated:

In most of the films, he [unnamed informant] claimed that a lot of the participants were dressed in black and were wearing crosses, though some of them, however, wore white clothing. Some wore black hoods but others had no hoods on. In the dog-blood flick, the film allegedly began with everybody sitting around singing. Then it was all hideousness.
The black hoods and clothing, coupled with the long-reported instances of animal sacrifice, would make it seem as though the Process—who wore such garb in private and public, and who practiced animal sacrifice--were behind the gruesome events of that night:

They cut up a dog. Then they brought a girl in there—two girls. They took their clothes off and poured the blood off the dog on top of the girls. They just held the dog. And they took the girls and they put the blood—and the bodies—all over both of them. And everybody balled the two girls…it was a couple, two couples—they were being, uh—but I’m not, you know, this was a while ago. But I remember they were all taking hits of blood. It was really weird….I recognized maybe eight to ten people in that film. You know, people that I know, people that I’ve seen come to the ranch, you know, people that have, you know, for the weekend or so…They had two or three similar to that that I’ve seen of theirs.
If you feel sorry for the dog, the source also told Sanders about a film in which the sacrificial lamb walked on two legs in life, not four. Attendees allegedly had sex with the unfortunate decapitated female corpse.

Grisly killing for the purpose of getting one’s rocks off is admittedly one of the most violent, sadistic, and mean-spirited things one can do in life. Yet, there seems to be a certain appropriateness to the filming of such a horror. After all, they’re in the heart of the American movie capitol. It would make sense that people would film all sorts of things about their lives, good or bad, just because the medium is much closer to them as the lifeblood of the town’s most prominent industry.

According to Manson, his followers were not alone in filming their misdeeds. In a statement made many years after the murders, Manson told interviewers, “Don’t you think those people deserved to die? They were involved in kiddie porn.”

Here, Charlie’s referring to a number of videotaped loops allegedly made by Polanski, Sebring and presumably Tate herself, along with others. Back then, only the wealthy could afford videotape recorders and stock, the days of the household VCR over a decade away. In The Shadow over Santa Susana, Adam Gorightly discussed the sources claiming that the Hollywood elite took dirty pictures of themselves, and traded them back and forth for kicks.

Bugliosi only confirmed the existence of a Tate/Polanski sex tape, which police took into evidence during the investigation. Okay. The content of the tape might have been XXX, but the notion of a married couple in a monogamous relationship rates at worst a PG-13. Perhaps that accounts for Bugliosi’s reticence to discuss any other material the cops might have seized, if he is indeed aware of any.

Hal Lipset, a private eye who independently investigated the Tate-LaBianca murders (presumably working for Scanlon’s, but that’s unclear) told Realist editor Paul Krassner that police actually carted off box loads of homemade porn, which they sold on the black market. They depicted not only wild sex that consisted of anything you could imagine (and probably a few things that you can’t), but also show a curious combination of famous faces. In addition to Sebring, Tate and Polanski, the tapes purportedly showed such people as Howard Hughes attorney Greg Bautzer, along with footage of folk-rocker Cass Elliot simultaneously servicing actors Yul Brynner, Peter Sellers and Warren Beatty in a four-way that seems so bizarre it could only happen in Hollywood.

Krassner ultimately found a reporter who claimed that members of the LAPD had shown him the Hollywood sex tapes, one of which featured Frykowski having sex with Susan Atkins. Manson himself disputed this claim, however, telling Krassner “You are ill advised and misled. Sebring done Susan’s hair and I think she sucked one or two of his dicks. “ In other words, he’s saying that Atkins had pleasured a couple of male friends for Sebring’s enjoyment. However the story goes, both versions would not only provide a prior link between the murders and their victims, but an intimate link at that.

Elliot later introduced Krassner to Wojiciech Frykowski’s friend and major drug supplier, a Toronto-based thug named Billy Doyle. After interviewing him, Krassner then read what Ed Sanders had to say about him in The Family.

Sometime during (the first week of August) a dope dealer from Toronto named Billy Doyle was whipped and video-buggered at (the Tate Residence). In the days before his death, Sebring had complained to a receptionist at his hair shop that someone had burned him for $2,000 worth of cocaine and he wanted vengeance. Billy Doyle was involved in a large-scale dope-import operation involving private planes from Jamaica.
Sebring was long rumored to have indulged in masochistic fantasies, and for videotaping them, either as his contribution to the private porno ring, or for his own personal enjoyment. Two of Manson’s harem were also rumored to have been on the business end of Sebring’s whip.

Gee. Rumors, rumors everywhere, and not a fact to drink.

You see, it would be nice if we could find some evidence of these tapes’ existence. Instead, we have the reports of people who claimed to have seen them. Granted there is some inference that they do exist. Bugliosi admits to one, and only one. Krassner, who not only knew Cass Elliot, but also numerous celebrities, talks to her after he’s learned about her alleged involvement in one, possibly two, and she responds by helping out his investigation, directing him to another source. Since he had subsequent contact with Elliot, would have had ample opportunity to discuss the rumor with her, and he still insists to this day that the tapes existed, we would have to conclude that she gave him no reason to think otherwise. Nevertheless, claims and inference make for poor evidence. Until something more substantial (like an entry in a police evidence log, public corroboration by any surviving parties, or simply the tapes themselves) comes up, we can only say “That’s interesting,” and shove it onto the backburner until needed.

Yet, there were other aspects to the victims that could have also given rise to other motives, ones that have nothing to do with cataclysmic race wars.

To read earlier posts in this series, click here.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Sleazo Inputs Pt. 2: The Devil Wears Nada

Among the more interesting subjects explored by many writers is the relationship between the slippies and Hollywood Satanism. The influence of the left-hand path didn’t manifest itself necessarily in Manson. Rather, it played a critical role in the thought process of two key family members: Susan Atkins, and Bobby Beausoleil.

In The Shadow over Santa Susana, Adam Gorightly gave a rather detailed account of how Atkins first became involved with Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan. Before meeting LaVey, she pretty much drifted, running away from home in 1966, and eventually settling in her hometown of San Jose, CA. Bored with her administrative assistant job, and out of touch with old friends, she attempted suicide. After recovery, she began dating dangerous guys, two of who, Al Sund and Cliff Talioferro, led her to a life of petty crime, for which she served several months in jail followed by a suspended sentence and probation.

She then found a job as an exotic dancer. One day, her boss introduced her to LaVey who wanted to form his own topless show, based on Satanism. LaVey took her in after a private audition. Playing the part of The Vampire for a pagan ritual, she wore a cape, open in the front, wearing either panties alone, or nothing at all. She would then lie in a coffin and arise when awakened. She made her first performance tripping on acid, a euphoric experience that turned really ugly when she came home to find that her boyfriend had left her, his jealousy stoked by her devotion to LeVay. She would later say that her time with LeVay made her quite ill due to chemical dependency and venereal disease.

As mentioned earlier, LaVey had ties to a few Hollywood stars, and lied about his connection to others. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he insisted that Marilyn Monroe numbered among his followers. He did, however, know actress Jayne Mansfield, but exaggerated the closeness and nature of their relationship. Mansfield, usually in tune with the hip and the far out, never took him seriously, preferring instead to string him along for a good laugh every now and then. LaVey also exaggerated his relationship with Rat Packer Sammy Davis Jr., whom other members initially drafted into the CoS by the time LeVay actually met him.

Many writers, including Sanders, have stated that among LeVay’s Hollywood contacts were Roman Polanski and Mia Farrow. Indeed, they cite him as a technical advisor for the film Rosemary’s Baby. Some even say that he played the role of Satan in the pivotal rape scene. However, now-retired actor Clay Tanner actually played the role. And both Polanski and LeVay agreed that the latter didn’t play a part in the film’s production in front of or behind the cameras. As of this date, I can’t find anything that proves a connection between the two men.

LeVay, in fact, acted and sometimes served as a technical advisor for the silver screen. He performed in the role of the high priest in a 1975 movie titled Devil Rain, which starred Ernest Borgnine, Eddie Albert and William Shatner. In Kenneth Anger’s Invocation of My Demon Brother, he played the role of the ritual leader.

Anger was a longtime associate of LeVay, and helped him form the Church of Satan back in the 1950s. Perhaps better known today for his Hollywood Babylon book series, he made his first big show business splash as a child actor in films that are no longer extant. He later wrote, produced and directed a number of avant-garde pieces beginning in 1947. He later became a friend of Jack Parson’s widow (and L. Ron Hubbard’s former mistress) Marjorie Cameron, and cast her as the star of his 1954 flick Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome.

In the 1960s, he became a close friend and benefactor of Bobby Beausoleil, then a fledgling actor and musician. Beausoleil played the title role of his film Lucifer Rising, and composed and performed the soundtrack of his 1972 film after Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page backed out. The film co-starred Marianne Faithful, who had become involved with the Process during the filming. He also appeared with LeVay, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger in Invocation of My Demon Brother.

Beausoleil and Anger, despite being very close—among other things, Anger had gifted the young man with a car, and made his house available to him—had a sudden and turbulent falling out. The nature of the rift remains unclear, even to Beausoleil, apparently. As Gorightly depicted it, Anger, performing an onstage ritual with Beausoleil, began to undergo a bad trip, or bummer, after ingesting LSD. For some reason, he blamed Beausoleil for the embarrassing debacle that followed.

The backgrounds of Atkins and Beausoleil are worth noting, especially since they, unlike Manson, actually killed someone. A lot of the specials that I’m currently seeing on cable portray Manson’s followers as “average” middle-class American kids who fell under the guru’s spell. Well, in the case of these two, we can see that there were intermediary steps between their allegedly pristine lives and Manson. One could reasonably expect that Atkins would have spent years of her life behind bars had she never met Charlie.

Beausoleil also brought with him his own harem, which included Leslie Van Houten, another of the convicted killers. Forced against her will by her parents to abort her pregnancy at age fifteen, Van Houten turned to spiritualism and self-medication, which included copious amounts of marijuana and acid. One could also expect that she would have had a host of things to deal with independently of Manson.

While Ed Sanders attributed sleazo inputs to Manson primarily, his associates had their own connection to the seamy side of life. Other writers, however, didn’t limit the sleaze to Manson and his followers. According to them, some of the victims had their own lurid side that put them into a direct path with Charlie and company.

To read later posts in this series, click here.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: Sleazo Inputs Pt. 1; or What’s New, Pussycat?

If the counterculture didn’t play a significant role in shaping Manson and his followers, we have to look at what did. In Helter Skelter, Bugliosi refers to a semi-private conversation between Manson and himself, supervised by a bailiff. He suspected that Manson had developed the Helter Skelter motive as an informal acolyte of the Process Church of the Final Judgment. To test this theory, he asked Manson if he had ever heard the name Robert Moore. Manson smiled and told Bugliosi that he and Moore were one and the same.

Granted, Moore and Manson look somewhat alike. Yet both deliberately donned the stereotypical appearance of Jesus. Moore claimed to be Christ. Manson allowed his followers to infer that he was Christ (Man’s son). So that they share a physical resemblance isn’t that remarkable. At the same time, they could not have been one and the same. There’s copious evidence to prove that Moore’s movements back and forth between London, Los Angeles and Xtul occurred independently of Manson, who was incarcerated for part of that time.

Bugliosi knew that Manson and Moore were two different people, and understood Manson’s statement as an affirmation of the guru’s teachings, not an alternate identity or alias. Manson simply meant that he and Moore were on the same page. Nevertheless, the connection between the Process and Manson still intrigued the prosecutor, even though he did not present this information in trial. He noted, for example, that Manson and the Process shared a number of key ideas. First, was the fundamental belief in fear. Fear, according to both, made one hyperaware of the truly important, instead of the superficially profound. Manson’s preaching stressed the importance of maintaining a constant state of anxiety. As quoted by the aforementioned Rolling Stone article, he said:

Have you ever seen the coyote in the desert? Watching, tuned in, completely aware. Christ on the cross, the coyote in the desert -- it’s the same thing, man. The coyote is beautiful. He moves through the desert delicately, aware of everything, looking around. He hears every sound, smells every smell, sees everything that moves. He’s in a state of total paranoia, and total paranoia is total awareness.
Bugliosi noticed other similarities, some large, some small. For starters, the Process referred to themselves as “The Family,” a name the slippies would come to be known as soon as their notoriety hit the front page. The fascistic bent of the Process that forced Marianne Faithful to leave the group was reflected in their symbol (left) a stylized swastika-like logo consisting of four overlapping ‘P’s.’ Manson and his followers, who explained their reverence to Adolf Hitler by declaring that he “leveled the karma of the Jews, carved swastikas onto their foreheads during the trial.

There’s evidence Manson had some contact with all of these groups, or their teachings. In San Francisco, for example, they lived two blocks away from a prominent Process member, Victor Wild (aka Brother Ely). Many sources place Manson, ever curious about his surroundings, at Wild’s residence during this time. Also, Bruce Davis worked at the Scientology office in London before his days with Manson, and had contacts with the Process.

Sanders cited a person identified only as Blaine, who wrote an article for an unnamed Berkeley newspaper. Blaine reported that he personally knew Manson in San Francisco, and that they had met by chance, despite having a mutual friend.

According to Blaine, Manson participated in a death cult, which he called the Final Church of Judgment (perhaps he meant Process Church of the Final Judgment?). One faction of this cult met at a place called the Devil House, located on Waller Street. This was a particularly chauvinistic bunch, for women were not allowed into the inner sanctum, where the group performed their rituals. Instead, the Waller Devil House had a special room for women to stay while their men did their thing. They even forbade anything but male-on-male sex while in the house.

In December of 1968, according to Blaine, The leader of Devil House, Father P., summoned a meeting. Manson arrived from Spahn Ranch with a woman in tow (judging from the description, most likely Atkins). Once assembled, they conducted a “trial” to determine the guilt or innocence of a member nicknamed Sadyi on the charge of “committing crimes against Haight-Ashbury, against nature and for crimes against Pussycat [a twenty-year-old male, presumably Sadyi’s sex partner].” They charged Sadyi of causing the demon possession of Pussycat, so part of the trial consisted of a torturous exorcism ritual. In the middle of the proceedings, Father P. ordered Manson to steal holy water from a nearby church so that they could carry on.

Despite Pussycat’s victim status, Father P. threatened to kill him. But those in attendance voted to spare his life that night, whereupon Atkins and Manson returned to Spahn Ranch.

Blaine also wrote that Father P. went to Los Angeles to meet with Manson on occasion.

Most interestingly, Bugliosi quoted a contemporary police interrogation of a former Process member in an unrelated case. This unnamed informant related something quite familiar.

A: They [the Process Church] don’t like anybody that they can’t indoctrinate or anybody that is not with them. They are just totally against what they cal the ‘gray forces,’ the rich establishment or the Negroes—“

Q: Why don’t they like Negroes?

A: I don’t know. They just don’t.”

Q: “They have a natural hate for the Negro?”

A: They have a natural hate but they would also like to use the Negro as a tool to begin some kind of militant thing. They are really good at picking out angry people.
The use of black militancy to promote anti-black hysteria seems quite like Helter Skelter. And if you recall, Georgina Brayton’s Solar Lodge had a similar plan to excite black violence as a rationale for policies that would encourage (white) public support for extermination. Also, as did the Solar Lodge, Manson curried favor with such biker groups as the Straight Satans in an effort to develop them as shock troops for full-scale combat and protection, when and if necessary.

During its days in Los Angeles, the Solar Lodge ran a house (they actually owned a number of properties, including a gas station) located at 1251 W. 13th Street, where Manson hung out frequently. According to Atkins, she and other slippies participated in animal sacrifice and blood drinking rituals at some of these properties. They also had mutual interests in the Straight Satans.

By the way, you’ll note that I said “During its days in Los Angeles.” Believing that the predicted cataclysmic race war would ignite soon, Brayton moved her flock out to Riverside County in May of 1969. If the Solar Lodge had planned on taking an active part in starting this conflict, however, their arrest for the torture of six-year-old Anthony Gibbons would have put an end to that.

Manson studied Scientology in prison under the tutelage of a fellow prisoner, and claimed to reach the highest state of achievement, “theta clear.” Some of Manson’s frequent maxims—e.g., “Coming to now,” Cease to exist,” etc.—came from Scientology. Throw in half a cup of apocalyptic Christianity, garden-variety Satanism and a reverence for Nazism, and you’ll have a substantial recipe for what Manson preached to his followers.

In short, Manson wasn’t a thisist, or a thatist. He was eclectic, borrowing from any and all philosophies, traditions and garbage that he happened to come across. Ed Sanders referred to these as “sleazo inputs,” the reckless admixture of outrageous ideas, far-fetched beliefs and hokum that alienated the Mansonites from both mainstream thought and the counterculture.

Of course, there were other sleazo inputs that seem quite fascinating and lurid, when you get down to it, totally on the level of The National Enquirer or The New York Post.

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