Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: Elusive Stardom

Perhaps indicative of his state of mind immediately after release, Manson received several firearms from a former-jailmate, and opted to throw them into the San Francisco Bay instead of selling them or using them for burglaries. When this old jail-buddy found out about this, Manson explained to him, “Look, Danny, if I’d have sold those guns, they’d have been used just like you were planning to use them.”

As sappy as it sounds, one has to consider the possibility that Manson had serious ambition as a potential pop star, and had an expectation of making it. Going back to prison, especially right out of the gate, didn’t appeal to him anymore—this from an inmate who fought against his release. As we will see, in many instances, Manson, who like most crooks understood the nuances of criminal law, deliberately acted in ways designed to keep him out of prison during this two-year stint.

Manson’s belief in possible success had something going for it that most delusions do not share. He had numerous contacts within not only the music industry, but the movie biz as well. When the police raided Spahn Ranch in September 1969, they found Susan Atkins’ celebrity hitlist, which included the names of many notables along with their addresses and unlisted telephone numbers. Adam Gorightly writes that Manson’s initial contact with the screen world came from prostituting himself out to a “well-known actor,” whom Manson referred to simply as ‘Mr. B.’ At the time, Mr. B starred in a popular television series shooting out of Universal Studios. Manson claimed to have then expanded his services to include Mr. B’s wife in three-way sex, and then bringing his harem over to service a number of studio brass.

Manson was consulted on a few movies. Some producers approached him with the idea of his “family” making a picture. While Manson thought it might be cool to have the gang pretend to be dune buggy marauders, or something equally violent, the filmmakers usually had something else in mind, most likely the rampant depiction of liberal drug use and rampant sex. What finally emerged from this was a documentary shot before the Tate-LaBianca murders by Robert Hendrickson and Lawrence Merrick. Released in 1973 as Manson, it features copious footage and interview with top family members, among them Paul Watkins, Mary Brunner, Steve Grogan and Bruce Davis.

Figure 1. Clip of Manson

Some have speculated that many of Manson’s celebrity contacts came from his lengthy association with a private residence known by many names, but ultimately referred to as The Spiral Staircase, located in Topanga Canyon. That Manson hung out there for two months can’t really be disputed. After all, his group’s distinctive school bus sat parked outside that long. The Spiral Staircase attracted its fair share of celebs, because of it tolerance of the underground kink scene—a scene so explicit that Manson admitted that it shocked him. While one can reasonably assume that Manson and his people met some of the glitterati at this particular house, we would have to speculate on whom. Jim Morrison and other members of the Doors frequently come to mind, as do members of the Mamas and the Papas, and Love. Some say that Manson also rubbed shoulders with the likes of Jay Sebring, Peter Sellers and Yul Brynner there. But there’s nothing to say definitely who they might have met at the Spiral Staircase.

We do know that Manson made his most important showbiz contact through Patricia Krenwinkel. While hitchhiking with another girl, Krenwinkel got a ride from Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson. She later go another ride from him. On one or both of these rides, Krenwinkel offered sex, and Wilson accepted it.

For Manson, the fleeting contact between Wilson and Krenwinkel was as good as an invite. While the Beach Boys were out performing, Manson simply commandeered his house. When Wilson returned, to find his house occupied, Manson burst out of the back door, assured Wilson that he would neither harm nor rob him, and introduced him to carnal delights from a bevy of nubile young women. It didn’t take much for the drummer to fall under the spell of extreme sex and dope Manson offered.

Wilson opened up doors for Manson within the music biz, primarily through Gregg Jacobson and through Jacobson’s associate, record producer Terry Melcher. Melcher visited Manson at Spahn Ranch, and was thoroughly impressed with the seemingly harmonious communal aspects of life with the slippies. Over the next few months, Melcher, Jacobson and Wilson would help Manson set up studio times and musicians. Wilson, who publicly referred to Manson as ‘the Wizard’ at this time, convinced the Beach Boys to record one of Manson’s songs, “Cease to Exist” (re-titled “Never Learn Not to Love”),

Figure 2. Excerpt of “Cease to Exist” by both Manson and the Beach Boys (apologies for the audio quality of the latter)

Forgetting for a second the identity of the performer (and the creepy lyrics), there’s a lot of positive things that I could say about Manson’s performance and songwriting. He demonstrates a very interesting approach to rhythm that’s reminiscent of Blind Lemon Jefferson and other bluesmen of the 1920s. There’s brilliant use here of metrical shifting and elision, and other technical points that musicians would see in each other’s works.

What’s really curious to me is the Beach Boys’ rendition of the song. Think of it what you will, you can still agree that the band went to the nth degree with this in terms of effort. They went into full production mode on the song, and did the best with it that they most likely could. In other words, they took the song quite seriously. Perhaps it helped some that Manson allowed Dennis to affix his name as a co-writer, even though it did bother Charlie that the group decided to change the title.

Obviously, Manson’s arrest and trial gave the Beach Boys reputation a black eye. Dennis Wilson had lost quite a bit more from his association with ‘the Family.’ He lost some respect among his colleagues, especially after Manson’s repeated knife threats, and his shooting of Bernard Crowe. What’s worse, the slippies literally ate him out of house and home, exhausting the fortune he had accrued as a rock star, leaving the Beach Boy so destitute that he couldn’t pay his rent or utility bills. And if that weren’t bad enough, cavorting with Manson’s ‘girls’ left Dennis with a case of the clap.

But as bad as the Beach Boys had it, an even bigger pop icon would receive notoriety by getting sucked into the Manson vortex.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

In Comedy, Timing Is Everything

Vaughn Meader, a standup comedian with a perfect ear for mimicry, happened to look a little like President John F. Kennedy. So, in 1961, when JFK assumed the Oval Office, Meader was in the right place, with the right look, with the right act at the right time. His album, The First Family, was an immediate hit, a multi-platinum Grammy winner, and a personal favorite of JFK himself.

On November 22, 1963, Meader woke up really late in the afternoon, and had to hustle to make it to his next performance. On the way, the cab driver asked, “Did you hear that President Kennedy was assassinated?”

Thinking that the cabbie was joking, Meader replied, “No. What’s the punchline?”

Suddenly, the man who had been overbooked for the previous two years found himself without an act and without an audience--a victim of incredibly bad timing.

Nevertheless, the album is hysterically funny. JFK thought so. Perhaps we can share a laugh or two with him.

For more stuff on the JFK assassination, click here.

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A Rose by Any Other Name….

This is a dramatization of Rose Cheramie’s talk with Dr. Victor Weiss for the 2008 Canadian movie Le piège Americain. Actress Janet Lane portrays Cheramie here.

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Death by JFK Assassination

The assassination of US President John F. Kennedy seems to be the hit that keeps on coming. For years after the event, people involved with the case frequently turned up dead, for one reason or another.

Journalist Jim Marrs reckoned that 103 people who had evidence in the case died fishy deaths within the next fifteen years. Of course, that number is a little shaky, for it’s hard to tell how relevant their knowledge is to the case, and how fishy the deaths actually are.

Below is my countdown of the twenty most interesting deaths surrounding the JFK assassination.

20. Dr. Mary Sherman (1913-1964)

Who the hell is she? Research physician and expert in nuclear biochemistry, genetic mutation, orthopedic surgery, and microbiology. Partnered with Dr. Alton Ochsner, founder of the Ochsner Clinic.

What could she say? Sherman could have possibly told investigators the story of her three putative research assistants who worked for her in New Orleans during the summer of 1963. The first was a talented young biochemist named Judyth Vary (later Judyth Baker). The second was Vary’s boyfriend, a married man named Lee Oswald. The third was Oswald’s associate David Ferrie. She might have also told investigators that the research she carried out during this time had to do with artificially inducing cancer into otherwise healthy organisms.

How did she die? Police found her stabbed to death. The killer attempted to confuse an investigation by setting fire to Dr. Sherman’s corpse on her bed, but police soon discovered that her burns didn’t coincide with the flaming mattress. People sometimes attribute her death to a botched robbery attempt, but it remains unsolved.

19. Mary Pinchot Meyer (1920-1964)

Who the hell is she? One of President Kennedy’s mistresses. Wife of CIA officer Cord Meyer. Friend of CIA asset Dr. Timothy Leary.

What could she say? She could have possibly testified about the CIA’s attempts to manipulate JFK through sex, and through LSD, which she allegedly supplied to the President courtesy of Leary.

How did she die? Shot twice in the back of the head from close range during an evening stroll. Witness Henry Wiggins heard a woman cry out for help, rushed towards the noise, and found Meyer’s body crumpled in front of a “black man in a light jacket, dark slacks, dark cap.” Police arrested Raymond Crump, a man who seemed to fit the description. But because of Wiggins uncertainty in identifying him, and because of a court order not to mention Meyer’s links to the CIA or President Kennedy, a jury acquitted Crump on July 29, 1965. To this day, Meyer’s death remains unsolved.

18. Jack Zangretty (also spelled ‘Zangetty' and ‘Zangretti’; ?-1963)

Who the hell is he? Motel manager in Oklahoma.

What could he say? On Saturday November 23 1963, he confided to friends that he knew that Oswald did not shoot JFK, but rather a team of three men. Furthermore, he predicted (correctly) that a man named Ruby would murder Oswald within twenty-four hours. He could have told investigators how he had foreknowledge of Ruby’s attempt to kill Oswald.

How did he die? Two gunshot wounds to his chest, two weeks after the assassination. Police found his body floating in Lake Lugert.

17. Karyn Kupcinet (1941-1963)

Who the hell is she? Actress. Daughter of sportswriter/journalist Irv Kupcinet.

What could she say? She made a number of phone calls from LA to Washington in the days prior to the assassination. At one point she got so frustrated about not getting through that she screamed to operators that the call had to go through, because someone was about to shoot the President. According to Penn Jones’ book Forgive My Grief, Karyn had found this out from information her father happened to have come across in his job as a journalist (Irv Kupcinet denies this was ever the case, but nevertheless insists that someone murdered her).

How did she die? After going out to eat with friends, she promised to give them a call in the morning, because she had apparently acted strangely the whole evening. She came home to watch some television with more friends. She simply went to sleep. When she failed to call, these friends contacted police who discovered her nude body lying on a couch. There was conflicting evidence as to the cause of death. She had plenty of potentially lethal drugs on hand, and police found a depressing letter that could possibly be construed as a suicide note. The coroner, Dr. Harold Kade, concluded that she had died of a broken throat bone, which meant that someone had strangled her to death. But Dr. Kade’s reputation has come under increasingly hostile criticism over the years based upon his willingness to help the police tie up their cases (evidence be damned), and because of a serious alcohol problem.

16. Rose Cheramie (sometimes spelled ‘Cherami’; c.1929-1965)

Who the hell is she? She worked for Jack Ruby as a stripper and prostitute.

What could she say? On November 20, 1963, two days before the assassination, Cheramie, high on heroin, was found bleeding and barely coherent on a lonely stretch of road between New Orleans and Dallas. A good Samaritan drove her to East Louisiana State Hospital, where she pleaded with doctors to do something about her former boss, who with friends would attempt to assassinate the President. Because of her intoxication, doctors did not take her seriously until after Kennedy's death, whereupon a psychiatrist, Dr. Victor Weiss, examined her. He believed that she had given accurate information all along. Were she alive, she could have told investigators how she came to have not only foreknowledge of JFK’s assassination, but also of Ruby’s involvement.

How did she die? Run over by a car, which crushed her skull. Among her injuries was a large round wound in the back of her head, which has led some to believe that she was shot first, and then run over to make her death appear accidental. Police ruled out foul play, however, and charged no one with her homicide.

15. Jim Koethe (c. 1917?-1964)

Who the hell is he? Journalist, reporter for the Dallas Times Herald.

What could he say? He could have told investigators of the sources for his planned book on the JFK assassination.

How did he die? Someone broke into his apartment and karate chopped him in the throat, causing him to asphyxiate.

14, Dorothy Kilgallen (1913-1965)
Who the hell is she? Gossip columnist, journalist, television personality, and a personal friend of President Kennedy.

What could she say? Kilgallen was an early skeptic of the lone-nut hypothesis and a sharp critic of the Warren Commission. Disturbed by what she saw as very, very wrong, she decided to investigate the case herself, which led to a meeting with Jack Ruby in his cell. She only managed to write out some of the details of what Ruby claimed privately to her, but among the juiciest was the fact that several weeks prior to the assassination, Ruby met at the Carousel Club with a man named Bernard Weisman, officer J.D. Tippit and a fourth person whom she referred to in her notes cryptically as the ‘ferret man’ (obviously David Ferrie) to discuss the upcoming assassination of the President. She obviously knew more than she published.  Although it might have presented some validity problems, Kilgllen might have been able to drop a nuke on the JFK assassination investigation just by publishing what she thought, and what she had learned through her network of informants. In fact, days before she died, she confidently asserted that she was “about to blow the JFK case wide open.”

How did she die? No one’s really sure. Her friend and hairdresser Marc Sinclaire discovered her body the morning of her death, sitting up in bed, an open book in front of her. Police speculated at the time that she died from a lethal combination of barbiturates and wine. Some suspect that she might have had a heart attack while reading in bed. Still, others believe that she might have been dosed with an untraceable poison administered to the glass of wine she was drinking at the time.

13. E. Grant Stockdale (1915-1963)

Who the hell is he? Real estate tycoon, politican, friend of JFK and US Ambassador to Ireland from 1961-1962.

What could he say? He could have gone public with the information that he told Robert and Edward Kennedy four days after the assassination. Nobody (other than Sen. Ted Kennedy) would know what took place during that conversation, but he seems to have had specific information on the cabal that conspired on the executive level to do in Kennedy. He could have told investigators the identity of the persons who were “closing in on all sides” of him during his last few days of life.

How did he die? Ten days after the JFK assassination, he either fell down the steps, or someone pushed him. Police have generally treated this case as an accidental death, although his friend, Congressman George Smathers, hinted that Stockdale might have committed suicide.

12. Lee Bowers (1925-1966)

Who the hell is he? Railroad switch operator. He watched the group of men standing behind the wooden picket fence adjacent to the grassy knoll.

What could he say? We have every indication that Bowers said all he could to the Warren Commission. During his testimony, questioners refer to things that he told them in private--things they do not put on the record. Had he lived, he could have repeated much of this information to Orleans Parish DA Jim Garrison.

How did he die? He lost control of his car on an otherwise deserted road and slammed into a concrete abutment. The coroner noticed what he termed “a strange shock” prior to death.

11. Roger Craig (1934-1975)

Who the hell is he? Highly respected officer of the Dallas Police Department. He was at the scene at the time of the shooting.

What could he say? Craig traced the shots to the grassy knoll area, and ran immediately there to interview witnesses. About fifteen minutes into his investigation, he saw a man whom he identified later as Lee Oswald running from the back of the Texas Schoolbook Depository to a waiting Nash station wagon owned by Ruth Paine, a white Russian sympathizer, whose husband had ties to Intel. Despite pressure from his peers, Craig testified for the prosecution in Louisiana vs. Clay Shaw. His testimony could have been invaluable for the Congressional committee hearings a couple of years after his death, especially if he might have discovered or remembered something later.

How did he die? Not easily. People kept trying to kill him. Someone shot him in 1967, but the bullet only grazed the back of his head. In 1973, a car forced him off the road. Although he suffered multiple injuries, Craig survived. In 1974, someone shot him in the Texas town of Waxahachie. Still, Craig lived to tell the tale. In 1975, someone hooked up his car to an ignition bomb. Craig took a licking, but kept on ticking. Finally, later that year, he died from gunshot wounds. Police ruled his death a suicide.

10. Guy Banister (1901-1964)

Who the hell is he? Private investigator, formal Naval Intelligence officer, and FBI Special Agent. He ran guns to South America, most likely to aid in anti-Cuba efforts. According to Banister's business partner Jack Martin, and his secretary/lover Delphine Roberts, Lee Oswald actively and wittingly participated in their anti-communist activities.

What could he say? Banister kept secret files on everyone and everything in New Orleans. He obviously could have said a lot about Operation Mongoose, the abortion of which has been cited by many as one of the motives behind the assassination. He could have also talked about his relationship with Lee Oswald. Perhaps someone could have compelled him to explain why such a fervent anti-communist like himself would have hired a man who already defected to the Soviet Union, and still referred to himself as a ‘Marxist-Leninist.’

How did he die? Coronary thrombosis in June of 1964.

9, William Sullivan (1912-1977)

Who the hell is he? Former FBI Assistant Director of Counterintelligence.

What could he say? Plenty. As J. Edgar Hoover’s right-hand-man for all of the Bureau’s dirty business, Sullivan would have known about the ins and outs of all official investigations into the JFK assassination (and others). He could have told, for instance, how Oswald’s name managed to stay off of the Security Index, despite the fact that he had defected once to the Soviet Union, and still professed his allegiance to communism. Sullivan would also have been in a position to know about the Banister-Oswald connection.

How did he die? Shortly before his scheduled testimony in front of the Congressional committee investigating assassinations, Sullivan was shot to death as he walked in an open field. The son of a local sheriff took responsibility for the shooting explaining that he mistook Sullivan for a deer. Former FBI Special Agent William Turner thought that kind of odd since the Assistant Director didn’t have antlers, and walked on two legs, not four. Authorities filed no charges in Sullivan’s death.

8. Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968)

Who the hell is he? US politician, Senator, Presidential candidate (presumptive party nominee), former US Attorney General, and brother of JFK.

What could he say? Probably a lot. Jim Garrison suspected that RFK was the person behind the bugging of his office. There’s every indication, however, that RFK was really trying to find out what the Orleans Parish investigation was revealing, for it would have been political suicide to have investigated the crime himself. Although he publicly endorsed the findings of the Warren Commission, he privately expressed doubts because of what some have described as a low-key investigation.

RFK ate his last meal at the house of a big financial and political supporter, filmmaker John Frankenheimer. Dining with them were two prominent RFK campaigners, director Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate. According to the Polanskis, RFK would have immediately reopened the investigation into both the JFK and Martin Luther King slayings were he elected President.

How did he die? Assassinated. Despite copious forensic evidence and eyewitness testimony that the man who fatally shot and killed RFK was white supremacist Eugene Thane Caesar, authorities arrested and convicted a young Palestinian Christian named Sirhan Sirhan for the crime.

7. Gary Underhill (1915-1964)
Who the hell is he? Military intelligence officer, CIA contract agent and editor for Life magazine.

What could he say? He told a friend of his, Charlene Fitsimmons, that he could see right away that Oswald was a patsy because the presentation of evidence in the hours after the shooting exactly matched the textbook procedures for conducting an assassination in a foreign country. Moreover, he believed he could name the exact people involved. As he told Fitsimmons, “I know who they are. That’s the problem. They know I know. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I can’t stay in New York.”

How did he die? Gunshot wound to the head. Police ruled his death a suicide.

6. Eladio del Valle (1921-1967)
Who the hell is he? Cuban Congressman under the Bautista regime. Defected to the US and worked with David Ferrie and mobster Santo Trafficante to eliminate Castro as head of Cuba. According to Ferrie, del Valle served as the paymaster for Operation Mongoose.

What could he say? del Valle could have talked about the monetary tributaries that financed illegal covert ops in the United States, and on the network of Mongoose spies who might have overlapped with the JFK assassination.

How did he die? On February 22, 1967, the same exact day authorities found David Ferrie’s body, Miami police found del Valle’s remains. Someone beat, bludgeoned, shot, and hacked him with a machete in his car.

5. J D Tippit (1924-1963)
Who the hell is he? Dallas police officer and friend of Jack Ruby. Also a rumored acquaintance of Lee Oswald.

What could he say? For one thing, he could tell investigators what transpired at the meeting between him, Bernard Weisman, David Ferrie and Jack Ruby, which took place a few weeks before the assassination. He could also discuss the relationship between Ruby and Oswald, Oswald and Ferrie, and Oswald and himself.

How did he die? Gunned down by a little fat man and another assailant, according to the closest witness to the shootings, Aquila Clemmons. The crime was quickly charged to Oswald alone, and subsequently never prosecuted.

4. Baron George De Mohrenschildt (1911-1977)
Who the hell is he? White Russian, pro-Czarist nobleman, who immigrated to the US, where he worked as a petroleum geologist. Also a friend and benefactor of Lee and Marina Oswald and their kids.

What could he say? As the one who orchestrated the Oswalds’ support within the White Russian community of Texas, the Baron knew a good deal about Oswald and his movements prior to the assassination. Although he at first endorsed the Warren Commission findings, he apparently expressed remorse over the years for perpetuating lies about Oswald. By the mid-1970s, he began to suspect that the CIA was harassing him to keep quiet by among other things making his wife sick and killing his daughter. Infuriated with the treatment, he fired off an angry letter to the CIA asking them to stop. Then-DCI George H.W. Bush wrote back, and tried to convince him that the threats he received had come from crackpots because of a renewed interest in the JFK assassination:
The flurry of interest that attended your testimony before the Warren Commission has long subsided. I can only speculate that you may have become "newsworthy" again in view of the renewed interest in the Kennedy assassination, and thus may be attracting the attention of people in the media. I hope this letter had been of some comfort to you, George, although I realize I am unable to answer your question completely.
In 1977, de Mohrenschildt told author Jay Epstein that he worked for the CIA during the early 1960s

How did he die? Gunshot wound to the head. He had finished giving Epstein another interview when he came back home to find that he had been visited earlier that day by the top Congressional investigator Gaeton Fonzi. He was found only hours later. Police ruled his death a suicide.

3. David Ferrie (1918-1967)

Who the hell is he? Former pilot, unsuccessful seminary student, former science teacher, mercenary soldier, CIA contract agent, associate of Guy Banister and Clay Shaw, and friend of Lee Oswald, and rumored assistant of Dr. Mary Sherman.

What could he say? Ferrie related to Orleans Parish DA Jim Garrison the extent and scope of the conspiracy against President Kennedy. He knew the connection between all of the major players and where they fit in. While he expressed all of this secretly to Garrison, he often told another story altogether on the stand to the grand jury. He would privately explain to Garrison that he had no choice but to protect himself, because his knowledge of the conspiracy was fundamental and extensive.

How did he die? On February 22, 1967, the same exact day authorities found the murdered corpse of his former associate Eladio del Valle in Florida, New Orleans investigators found the body of David Ferrie in his apartment. Despite the fact that police recovered two typed unsigned suicide notes, and despite Garrison’s belief that someone forced a lethal dose of Proloid (a drug Ferrie would obviously have no use for; an empty bottle was found near the body), authorities ruled his demise death by natural causes.

2. Jack Ruby (born Jacob Rubenstein; 1911-1967)
Who the hell is he? Nightclub owner, pimp, intelligence operator. He murdered Lee Oswald.

What could he say? Most likely, everything—the nature and methodology of the plot, the reasoning behind the assassination, the identities of the perpetrators. Everything. In fact, he tried to tell everything after his arrest. He asked the Warren Commission to take him to Washington with them for he was not safe to spill the beans in Dallas. He talked as much as he could to journalist Dorothy Kilgallen.

How did he die? Cancer. Ruby believed, however, that the cancer that took his life was artificially induced by a method originating in Dr. Mary Sherman’s research.

1. Lee Oswald (1939-1963)

Who the hell is he? If you don’t know by now, you’re beyond help.
What could he say? You’re kidding! Isn’t it obvious?
How did he die? Gunned down like a dog by Jack Ruby on live national television.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: Tex Mess

Charles Manson reluctantly left prison, in part due to hopes of musical stardom. Despite arrests that seemed rife with the potential for sending him back to the pokey for parole violations, he managed to keep his freedom for two whole years. In other words, while he didn’t give up a life of crime, it’s clear that Charlie had other interests. Tex Watson, on the other hand, seemed like the major instigator. The only reason we do not perceive of Watson this way is because the Manson mythology has become ubiquitous.

For example, Tex wanted to complete a drug transaction in which he needed $5,000 to buy $20,000 worth of hooch. He found backing from an enterprising professional criminal named Bernard Crowe, or Lottsapoppa as his friends called him (due to his girth). Crowe, a neighbor of Cass Elliot, had his share of entertainment contacts, among them Byrn Lukashevsky, another close friend of Dennis Wilson and an associate of record producer Gregg Jacobson.

Most likely, Watson found Crowe through Manson, for there would have been numerous opportunities to interact with him—either through Elliot or Jacobson. Manson has been relatively mute about his relationship with Crowe, and Bugliosi only mentions it in passing in Helter Skelter. But both Ed Sanders and Adam Gorightly noted that Crowe’s involvement with Manson was a lot deeper than most people realize. Indeed, former family member Diane Lake referred to Crowe as “the Negro member of the family.”

Watson expected Crowe to hand him $5,000 in return for a lion’s share of the profit from the drug sales. Crowe would have none of that. He insisted that he and his henchmen drive him to the exchange site. For good measure, they also insisted that Watson’s girlfriend at the time, a woman identified only as Rossina by most sources, accompany them. Watson directed them to this house, and got out alone with the money (apparently the seller wanted to deal with Tex alone). To ensure his return to the car, Lottsapoppa kept Rossina as a hostage, making sure Tex would understand that he wouldn’t see Rossina alive again if he didn’t come back with a lot of drugs.

A fat lot of good that did Lottsapappa. Watson entered the empty building in the front, and escaped through the back, leaving Rossina to whatever fate awaited her.

If Manson got Watson into bed with Crowe, he could possibly get him out. Charlie, armed with the Colt Buntline that would later shoot Jay Sebring and Wojiciech Frykowski, accompanied Tex to Crowe’s place after promising over the telephone to return the money. Instead of digging deep into his pockets, Manson shot Crowe, left him for dead, and escaped with Rossina, an event witnessed by Lukashevsky who was on the scene.

In this case, Manson is proving his loyalty to Watson, not the other way around as the dominant narrative would indicate. Manson paid dearly for this episode. Lukashevsky told both Jacobson and Wilson, who in turn informed Terry Melcher. Melcher, Wilson and the other Beach Boys cooled their relationship with Manson from then on, thus effectively ending his big-time musical career.

And when Watson slaughtered Sharon Tate and her friends, he left a mess. There’s every indication that someone altered the crime scene sometime between the murders and the police investigation, and the most logical person to have done this was Manson. Blood samples collected around the front door included one type O-M. Out of the five victims, only Tate had that bloodtype. While the killers used the word ‘Pig,’ on the outside of the door, this wasn’t the source of the blood on the inside, which is higher up. More O-M samples were found in the hall leading up. Yet, in all of the independently given versions of the event by the killers, Tate was nowhere near the hall. They killed her right where police found her, next to the couch. This implies two things: (1) Tate was still alive when the killers left; and (2) the rope tied around her neck and anchored to Sebring had considerable slack allowing her to walk or crawl that far inside the house. Yet, the police found hardly any slack in that rope. LA County chief pathologist Dr. Thomas Noguchi, who investigated the rope personally, reported it as being taut, not nearly slack enough to have allowed Tate the freedom of movement that she obviously took.

In other words, someone altered the evidence of that night. The killers wore no gloves, and thus left fingerprints all over the place. Whoever cleaned it did an outstanding job, but still missed good prints on the desk, where Frykowski said he kept his wallet. So Tex would eventually get caught, anyway.

As for the training of the women as killers, Manson had no part in that either. Watson did all of that. Watson set up the training at Spahn Ranch, taught the women how to shoot and stab, ran the combat drills, and armed them. Even on the night of the Tate murders, the night everyone says that Manson ordered his followers to kill, Patricia Krenwinkel, Linda Kasabian and Susan Atkins all said that Manson did not give them specific orders to kill, but rather that he gave them instructions to do whatever Tex wanted them to do. They have all since construed Watson’s orders to have come from Manson. But we only have Watson’s say so on that.

Manson tells a very different story.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: Poor Tex

As I was saying....

If you only look at his life before coming to California, Charles “Tex” Watson seems like a straight-laced, clean-cut, all-American, super-hyphenated kid, squeaky clean (so to speak), the paragon of conservative Christian young-manhood.

Yet, when one takes a look at Watson’s life after he last parted ways with Charles Manson, another side of his character emerges. What lay hidden in Watson was something arguably more disturbing than anything one could find in Manson.

As he explained to Sharon Tate moments before he killed her, Watson was the Devil, doing the Devil’s business.

That would be his own business.

Watson left California for his hometown of McKinney, TX in October 1969. A few weeks after his arrival, he phoned his California attorneys, Perry Walshin and David DeLoach, to let them know where to contact him. Collin County Sheriff Tom Montgomery simply took him into custody on November 30, 1969, as soon as he received notification that Watson’s fingerprints matched those found at the Tate and LaBianca crime scenes.

Sheriff Montgomery happened to be Watson’s cousin. But that alone doesn’t quite explain why the state of Texas dragged its heels during the extradition process. It’s not like Austin has to sign a special treaty with Sacramento. But Watson happened to have more than mere family in high places. He had a lot of friends, among them, his Texas attorney, Bill Boyd, son of Texas politician Roland Boyd. The senior Boyd happened to be the political benefactor of Judge David Brown, the jurist who issued repeated extradition delays on Watson's behalf in violation of Constitutional law.

Of course, despite Judge Brown’s shenanigans, Collin County couldn’t hold Watson forever. Just when California looked as though it would finally gain its prisoner, Watson suddenly came down (ahem!) with a serious mental illness that left him catatonic, supposedly because of the trauma of the Tate-LaBianca murders. At the beginning of his incarceration, under his cousin’s care, Watson had a healthy appetite and libido, according to his former girlfriend, J. Denise Mallettt. Nothing about his behavior and attitude hinted at anything traumatic, in her testimony at Watson’s criminal trial:

[Lead Prosecutor Vincent] Bugliosi: During that period of time, primarily the summers of 1965 and ’66 and 1967, how would you describe Charles Tex Watson?

Mallett: He was always very mannerly and happy.....

Bugliosi: Would you characterize him as being somewhat carefree?

Mallett: Yes....

Bugliosi: Now, after you last saw him in August of 1966 when is the next time you saw him?

Mallett: In November of 1969....We just rode around, talked, went to the Dairy Queen and got a coke [recte: Coke].

Bugliosi: How did he look to you in November of 1969?

Mallett: He looked great, you know, he looked like he had always looked. He was a little thinner, but that’s all....

Bugliosi: What about his personality?

Mallett: Well he seemed—he seemed pretty much the same, he had a lot of new ideas and things, but other than that he seemed, you know, he seemed pretty much the same....

Bugliosi: [The next day] Did you engage in sexual intercourse with Mr. Watson at the Holiday Inn?

Mallett: Yes, sir....He was rather animalistic, I would say. I don’t know. It was strange....

Bugliosi: Did he ever talk about his experience in California…?

Mallett: Oh, he told me about a beach house that he once lived in and then mentioned that he also lived on a ranch.....

Bugliosi: Did he say with whom he lived on this ranch?

Mallett: No. He never mentioned any names of the other people he lived with....He said there were quite a few women, maybe 30 girls, and just a couple of men....He said he and one other person were the main people.
Mallett’s testimony, taken into account with previous statements and actions gives us a sociopathic view of Tex. Watson claimed he was traumatized by the killings he committed, but symptoms of post-traumatic stress do not appear at all when he’s initially incarcerated, and only emerge when it became clear that the state of Texas can no longer protect him. When Judge Brown ordered Watson’s California attorneys, Walshin and DeLoach, to leave Texas, Watson went along understanding all too well the political connections that were keeping him under his cousin’s watch. In later years, many who are familiar with his prison ministry, Abounding Love, have questioned its sincerity. And Watson’s Christian contrition to woo Suzan Struthers seemed like a con job to Sharon Tate’s mom, Doris.

What I find interesting about Mallett’s testimony is the part where she said that Watson claimed to have co-run Spahn Ranch, presumably with Manson. Watson did not give her the impression that he was following anyone, but rather that he was one of the leaders, under no one else’s control but his own. Of course, this directly contradicts his depiction of the situation before parole boards, who make it easy for him to take the position of a duped minion, in service to the dominant narrative, namely that Manson was a master criminal and manipulator.

But in many ways, especially in terms of crime, Watson doesn’t seem so much a soldier in a call to violence, but rather someone who initiates the blood, guts and gore on his own.

To read earlier posts in this series, click here.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Pardon My Absence, But…

I’m just writing to let everyone know I’m okay. I’m not sick or dying, or anything like that. I am, however, in the process of moving from New York to Washington DC, and have been shuttling back and forth over the last two weeks. During this time, I’ve been cut off from the Internet, by and large, and haven’t been able to update or visit many of you, and for this I apologize.

I’m hoping to resolve the situation by next week. ‘Til then, I’m missing and thinking of all of you.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: The Inner Manson

Since Mae’s view of the Helter Skelter murders involves looking at the relationship between Charles Manson and Charles ‘Tex’ Watson, it behooves us to dig a little deeper into the background of each man.

Manson was born [No Name] Maddox in Cincinnati, OH on November 12, 1934. The name we know him by actually comes from a man that his mother, Kathleen, married only briefly. Kathleen appears to have been the black sheep of an otherwise respectable family. In 1939, a West Virginia court convicted her on robbery charges after she and her friends held up a gas station. Charlie spent the next five years chafing under the strict guidance of Bible-thumping relatives until his mother’s release from prison.

There’s no question that Manson adored his mother. Unfortunately for him, his mother didn’t share his feelings, and treated him as if he were a burden. According to Manson, she once tried to sell him to a barmaid for a pitcher of beer. Kathleen then tried to send Charles away to a foster home, but due to lack of space, he wound up at the Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, IN. He escaped ten months later to hook up with mom, but this time Kathleen unequivocally rejected him once and for all. To survive, he broke in and stole from a number of local businesses, leading to his first arrest and detention at the age of thirteen. From there, he would spend almost his entire life in reform schools and prisons.

Manson never met his father, a man named Colonel Scott. Scott died in 1954, thus giving Charlie little chance to know him, assuming he cared to. But in one of his early school registrations, Scott’s ethnicity was listed as African American (actually, “Negro”), and this would later play a role in LA prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s development of a motive. Bugliosi likened Manson to Adolf Hitler, who hated Jews but supposedly had Jewish ancestors. In Manson’s case, Charlie hated his black heritage.

Adam Gorightly deftly deconstructs the mythology surrounding Manson’s ethnicity. He first notes the source doesn’t firmly establish Scott’s paternity of Manson. Yet, even if paternity were a given, then one would still have little evidence that Scott was African American. Although I have yet to find photographs of Charlie’s father, I do have one of Darwin Scott (left), his paternal uncle. One can easily see a resemblance between Scott and Manson. More important, one can also see that Darwin, Colonel’s brother, doesn’t appear African American.

Whether or not Manson believed himself to be black, it became clear from early on that he preferred life in a cage. Not only did he constantly go back to reform schools and prisons, but his actions clearly indicate that he preferred to stay locked up. His reform-school teachers remembered him as exceptionally intelligent. He would excel in his studies until it became clear that his academic promise would result in an early trip home. At that point, he would deliberately hand in failing work. In one reform school, he raped his cellmate at knifepoint close to his release date, thus ensuring another few years behind bars. He gained acceptance into Boys Town, an event captured in a bizarre photograph depicting his handshake with Father Ed Flanagan, a man who couldn’t believe that bad boys existed. Of course, Charlie loused that up nine days later when, taking advantage of the school’s honor system, he stole a car and spent the next few days joyriding through Nebraska.

Even the 1961 count that ultimately landed him at McNeil Island confirms the supposition that Manson only felt at home when incarcerated. He went there after a conviction for cashing a $40 Treasury check, which elevated the crime to that of a federal offense. Had any other institution issued the check, he would most likely have served a few months. Forty bucks isn’t a lot of money, especially when weighed against the possibility of an eight-year sentence. In 1966, penal authorities transferred him to Terminal Island in order to prepare him for early release. Manson fought the parole. Explaining that prison had become his home, he made a request to have his release nullified. Officials simply ignored him.

Shortly before getting thrown out of jail, Manson received a visit from a high-powered Beverley Hills attorney, George Shibley. Because of privilege, we’ll probably never know what happened at that meeting, so there’s no reason to speculate on what took place. Nevertheless, the fact that a prominent attorney is there to consult with a run-of-the-mill petty criminal seems a bit odd.

Odd or not, Manson eventually accepted his fate, and walked out a free man on March 21, 1967. Despite his reluctance to live free, perhaps he came out with some degree of optimism. He had become rather seasoned behind bars, and had acquired a skill he didn’t have when he entered, namely the ability to play a guitar. As his former music teacher, Al Karpis, later told interviewers, Charlie found tremendous inspiration in the Beatles’s success—not their music, per se, but their success—and dreamed of claiming a piece of that action for himself.

Manson not only developed a talent while in prison, but also something else that he didn’t have before, namely a showbiz contact named Phil Kaufman, himself imprisoned on a marijuana charge. Kaufman would later become a legendary road manager, and as such had numerous friends and acquaintances in the popular music industry.

It’s clear in hindsight that Manson really didn’t want to leave prison, unless he could find some way of achieving his dream of stardom. He had tried other roads to fame before this. Under the alias Chuck Summers, he set up a fly-by-night movie company that couldn’t do much more than introduce its wannabe starlets into prostitution. In short, it was a dream, but not a legit one.

Music, however, was a different story.

To read later posts in this series, click here.

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