Sunday, August 30, 2009

Burying the Kennedy Imprisonment

Of all the aspects concerning the death of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, I am struck the most by the repeated affirmations of Kennedy’s patriarchal status of the Kennedy clan after the assassination of his brother Robert. As far as I have seen or heard all the media outlets have gotten on the bandwagon in discussing this. Even the late Senator’s nephews and nieces all joined together at the memorial service in reinforcing the image of Teddy Kennedy as a noble patriarch who maintained the family standard after Bobby’s death in 1968 and the media has gone along in enabling that rather mythological image.

I use the word “myth” because Teddy Kennedy’s patriarchy was mythological. He was patriarch in name only. In truth, the elaborate framework of the Kennedy family slowly began to unravel in the years and decades following Bobby Kennedy’s assassination—and with it its attendant image of being America’s First Family.

In truth, under Teddy’s patriarchy the Kennedy clan lost its sacred oneness and singularity of purpose. None of the grandchildren of Joseph P. Kennedy have ever equaled or surpassed what his children (and in-laws) had created or accomplished.

In truth, under Teddy’s patriarchy the Kennedy clan suffered a lot of traumas and scandals which could have been avoided if Teddy had taken a stronger hand and/or else the Kennedy family members involved had possessed a stronger moral framework.

At the memorial service Teddy’s nephew Joseph P. Kennedy II (eldest son of Bobby Kennedy) spoke warmly and fondly about Teddy keeping the family together. It’s ironic that he would say that because in the wake of his father’s death it was Joseph who went into a prolonged period of emotional drift along with his brothers Robert Junior and David. All three brothers spent the next twelve years acting at odds with their uncle Teddy, experimenting with drugs, and getting into scrapes which some times led to innocent people being injured physically and/or emotionally. Robert Junior and David developed heroin addictions. Robert Junior would be busted for possession and David would die of an overdose.

Where was Teddy in all this?

Teddy’s nephew Chris Lawford also had major problems with drug abuse (he and his cousin David Kennedy regularly got high together). Luckily, Chris Lawford eventually cleaned up but still the question begs to be asked:

Where was Teddy in all this?

What about William Kennedy Smith, an accused rapist? At least we know where Teddy was that night: drunk, clad only in a nightshirt.

I could go on and on but I will have mercy upon the reader.

Was Teddy a great senator? Methinks so (depending on one’s political point of view).

Was Teddy a true patriarch? Methinks not.

One thing is absolutely certain: now that Teddy is dead there are no Kennedys anymore. Sure the children, nephews, and nieces, and grandchildren are still alive, maintaining the family name but they are not Kennedys with the magical aura and the built-in political life support system which allows them to become a force in American politics.

Those days are over and I think the surviving members of the Kennedy clan know it too—if not the rest of America. What was buried in Arlington National Cemetery was not solely a human body but also an American mythology as well.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Going back to Yasgur's Farm

The voices of Woodstock

“I’m a farmer.”—Max Yasgur

“I’ve got that joint for when we get into the electric set.”—David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, and Nash

“We must be in heaven, man! There’s always a little bit of heaven in a disaster area.”—Wavy Gravy aka Hugh Romney

“The next bleedin' bastard who comes on my stage gets f@#*ing killed! [Crowd cheers]. You can laugh! You can laugh but I bloody well mean it!—Pete Townshend of the Who admonishing the crowd after forcibly ejecting Abbie Hoffman from the stage during the Who’s set

“Marijuana, exhibit A.—Jerry Garcia

A million words have been written in past forty years about the Woodstock Festival. I figure a million more words will be written ten years from now when we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of that august disaster area of a rock concert.

I was only six years old when Woodstock happened. In a few weeks I was about to start kindergarten and I had absolutely no comprehension or understanding about the concert. (I wonder how much of the cultural symbolisms and memories we now associate with Woodstock were associated with the documentary film as opposed to the memories and impressions which were drawn in real time by the observers and participants of the show).

My point is this: Woodstock was not a singular concert event like Live Aid was in 1985. Woodstock was one festival on many rock festivals which took place during the summer of 1969. Almost every weekend from June to August there was a rock and roll festival and many of the acts which played at Woodstock attended those other festivals as well. We remember Woodstock because (like the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967) there was a documentary film of the event along with a wonderful multi-disc soundtrack album of the same. If there had been no documentary film of Woodstock would the show remain such an epochal cultural event or would the show have faded into obscurity along with the other festivals which took place that same year. (Don’t laugh. During my college years, I had a fascination with the 1960s and had an idea of writing a novel called Festival Summer which would feature the adventures and misadventures of two young male hippies hitchhiking across America bouncing from one festival to another; encountering the obscure, the infamous, and the famous along the way; the novel would have had a lot of sex, social commentary, more sex, drugs, much more sex, and a little bit of violence along the way; the two heroes would have made it to Woodstock, and beyond, and the novel would have ended at the infamous Altamont concert in December 1969. Sadly, I never had the guts to write it. I became an archivist instead).

Woodstock was not about altruism either. It was supposed to be a money-making operation. You had to buy tickets to get to the concert. It only became a free concert after the first day when the approaching crowds overwhelmed the crowd control infrastructure set up the organizers. (Early in the Woodstock documentary you can see the late rock promoter Bill Graham giving a Dutch uncle lecture to the festival organizers about their failure to provide proper crowd control to the event).

Getting to Woodstock wasn’t rough solely for fans but for the musical acts as well. I have read many comments and seen film footage of Woodstock artists complaining about the difficulties they had in getting to the area and then getting organized to take the stage. Many acts were late in taking the stage. The festival was supposed to end Sunday evening August 17. It actually ended Monday morning of August 18. Waiting back stage wasn’t pleasant either. The late John Entwistle of the Who once said in an interview that all the drinking water back stage was spiked with LSD and that all the coffee was spiked with STP (a hallucinogenic drug with five times the power of LSD). Simply put you were going to get stoned whether you wanted to or not. (If you’ve seen the documentary film you will see a lot of stoned people. My nominees for the most stoned looking people in the film are Country Joe McDonald and Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane. Both of whom were severely stoned while they performed). Indeed I have read several accounts from musicians who called Woodstock the worst gig they ever played. Pete Townshend of the Who, Levon Helm of The Band, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival have been quoted as damning their experiences at Woodstock.

(I’ve written this before but if I had a time machine and had a choice of attending the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival or Woodstock 1969, Monterey Pop wins hands down, no contest).

But it wasn’t all about the drugs. Woodstock was a happening as well. One of the reasons for the massive overflow of people was because of the word-of-mouth aspect of the festival. Everyone wanted to attend because rumor had it that the festival would be a real event—in the end it was if you didn’t mind the disastrous side effects of the experience.

My favorite couple from Woodstock is not the lovers depicted on the movie picture poster and the album cover. In 1999 and this year that couple (now married) have been covered in the media. My favorite couple can be seen in the director’s cut of the brown-movie at the one hour, ten minute mark of the film. It’s a blonde-haired male hippie and a brown frizzy haired female hippie, both of whom look like they’re college freshmen. They’re filmed hitchhiking to the festival and then, later, on the festival grounds itself. Their discourse was deemed so fascinating that film director Michael Wadleigh gave them five minutes of airtime in the movie (which is a very long time when it comes to commentary). The male hippie does most of the talking and what’s amazing is that his discourse is not some psychedelic stoned dementia one would expect from a festival of youths freaking out on brown acid. Instead his commentary is thoughtful, insightful, and deeply perceptive. He admits to drug use, communal living, and living in a free love union with his female companion. (Remember People this was the sexual revolution and this was ten to twelve years before anyone knew anything about A.I.D.S. and other STDs). He and his female lover talk about the generation gap with their parents. Every time I see the movie and I am always impressed by what he had to say. I keep hoping every time someone does a Woodstock retrospective that someone would find the young male hippie and his companion and talk to them again to see what became of their lives. The questions would be compelling: Are they both still living? Did they remain together? Did they marry? Did they break apart? Did they find love and contentment with others? Did they succeed in life? What are they doing now? What are their beliefs and ideals?) Their commentary in the film is a microcosm of what the youth of America was thinking and feeling in the summer of 1969. If I were a high-school or college teacher I would show that five minute clip to my students just to show them what youth was like in those days.

And yet despite the traffic, narcotic, and meteorological obstacles encountered at Woodstock there was some truly incredible music played at the show. Over the years I have downloaded my favorite songs from Woodstock and have my own four CD compilation of the Festival. My favorite performances from the festival are as follows:

1) The Who’s entire set
2) Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s entire set
3) Sly and the Family Stone’s entire set
4) Richie Haven’s doing Freedom
5) Arlo Guthrie doing Coming into Los Angeles
6) Santana doing Soul Sacrifice
7) Country Joe McDonald doing I feel like I’m fixing to die rag
8) Jefferson Airplane doing Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon
9) Jimi Hendrix doing the Star-Spangled Banner, Purple Haze, the Woodstock Improvisation, and Villanova Junction.

The Who’s Woodstock performance was a breakthrough gig for the band. Before Woodstock the Who was a struggling hit band with a cult following. Woodstock elevated The Who into the stratosphere where they stood alongside the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as epitomizing the best of the British Invasion. What’s ironic is that the Who originally didn’t want to do Woodstock. They had already done an extensive tour of the United States in support of their immortal rock opera Tommy. They badly needed some rest but it was their booking agent who saw the potential of what the Woodstock festival and the impending film and album could do for the Who’s image and earning potential. He wore down Pete Townshend and the other members of the band and got them to agree to perform. Even then their going onstage was not a sure thing. The Who demanded their performance fee and were forced to wait for almost an entire day before they got their money (that’s why the Who performed in the pre-dawn hours). Even though the band for the rest of their lives panned Woodstock their performance became a part of Rock and Roll iconography. The image of Roger Daltrey attired in buckskin fringes and long blond curls singing See Me, Feel Me is an eternal image of Woodstock. Despite being spiked with hallucinogenic drugs; despite their anger at being denied a rest day; despite their rage at being inconvenienced by the prolonged delays, the Who overcame the obstacles and delivered the goods. (The Who film The Kids are Alright features three songs from their Woodstock set. I remember I was fifteen years old at the time and seeing the film with my mother. I remember two of the three songs featured slow pans of the 500,000 gathered screaming their praise for the Who as dawn slowly broke over the lysergic New York landscape. I remember at the time being spellbound, awed, wishing fervently that I could do a thing like that: make 500,000 people absolutely ecstatic with joy—part of me still wishes I could do that some day or at least seeing my nephew Frankie do that because he’s a musician too).

It’s Jimi Hendrix’s performance though which offers the greatest symbolisms (and answers) as to what Woodstock represented to America and the world. Hendrix was the last act to perform onstage at the festival. Interestingly he played to only 50,000 die hard fans who remained the remaining 450,000 people who had been there had left to go home. (If you see the documentary all the camera shots are close-ups of Jimi and the band with extremely few crowd shots and what shots there are of the crowd are very tight close-ups so the viewer cannot see that the vast majority of the people have left).

The Jimi Hendrix Experience had broken up the previous month even though he was introduced onstage as the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Jimi quickly puts the crowd to rights by introducing his new music musical incarnation: A Band of Gypsies. Hendrix wanted to outgrow his power trio attack and expand his musical horizons. He was experimenting with new percussive sounds and additional musicians, dabbling with fusing jazz and rock into a newer, broader musical universe. His Woodstock performance was to the debut of this new musical direction.

When you listen to Hendrix’s entire performance what you hear are guitar sounds which have never been replicated by any other guitar legend. Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Eddie Van Halen have never come remotely close to matching the wizardry which Hendrix displayed on that August morning. (What’s even more amazing was that Hendrix was performing under extreme physical conditions. Before he took the stage, Jimi had gone 48 to 72 hours without sleep. Drinking the water and coffee at Woodstock meant that Hendrix was under the influence of LSD and STP. In addition to those two potent hallucinogenic drugs, Jimi was also using crystal meth as well--a drug Hendrix loved very, very much. Simply put when Jimi took the stage Monday morning August 18, 1969, he was in the 99th dimension so when you listen to Hendrix’s rendition of the National Anthem it should be heard in that context).

Hendrix’s rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner is an iconic moment in American musical history. There hasn’t been a documentary of the late 1960s which hasn’t featured that singular performance. It wasn’t the first time Hendrix had done the National Anthem (it wasn’t patriotism on Hendrix’s part either. Whenever Hendrix performed in England, he would do God Save the Queen) and yet Hendrix’s Woodstock rendition was rife with symbolism, imagery, and augury. Near the end of the song, Hendrix plays a few bars of Taps. When Hendrix did that he was tapping into a vibe that would take the rest of America decades to comprehend. At the time people thought Woodstock represented a beginning of a new cultural era. That was a lie. Woodstock was the last gasp of psychedelia and the Counter Culture movement as a whole.

Jimi Hendrix was playing the funeral music of the Cultural Revolution. As Hendrix was performing powerful, unseen forces were at work which would sweep away much if not all that Hendrix and his fellow musicians had created.

Jimi Hendrix had precisely thirteen months left to live. Fellow Woodstock performer Janis Joplin would soon follow him in death (as would Jim Morrison). Weeks after Woodstock, John Lennon would tell Paul McCartney that he wanted “a divorce” thus breaking up the Beatles for good.

The week before Woodstock Charles Manson and his followers committed the Tate-LaBianca murders. Those crimes would be used by mainstream America to discredit Counter Culture. Indeed Richard Nixon would be elected President in 1968 and reelected in 1972 because he tapped into Middle America’s fear of the Hippie movement and converted into political power. The present day conservative movement in America arose in reaction to the Counter Culture movement. Ronald Reagan would pick up where Richard Nixon left off and achieve the Presidency in 1980 because he stood in opposition to what had happened politically and socially in the 1960s.

A cultural tsunami of woe followed in the wake of Woodstock: the Nixon Administration’s war on civil liberties and the press; the invasion of Cambodia which sparked the Kent State shootings; inflation and the rise in energy prices; Watergate and the resignation of President Nixon.

When Hendrix finished the National Anthem he segued into what I believe is the ultimate version of Purple Haze. The Woodstock version of Hendrix’s signature tune is the most muscular expression of guitar fury and percussive expression in rock and roll history. To call what Hendrix was doing heavy metal or hard rock or acid rock fails to do it justice. While Jimi solos drummer Mitch Mitchell delivers some incredibly explosive drum licks which forms the mortar to Hendrix’s sonic architecture. Not content with conventional guitar chords, Hendrix literally splits atoms as he speeds up the pace of his guitar-playing, causing a melodic chain reaction leading to critical mass which thus culminates in the Woodstock Improvisation. Years ago Rolling Stone magazine made a list of the 100 greatest guitar solos in rock history. Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven was listed at number one. A fine guitar it was and very worthy of the honor but my vote goes to Hendrix’s Woodstock Improvisation. The instrumental solo is literally a musical journey around the world; Hendrix’s playing is so astonishing the rest of the band stops playing to listen thus leaving Jimi to perform (appropriately enough) the song all by himself. At warp speed Hendrix goes from Spanish flamenco licks to Near Eastern to Far Eastern keys and modes back to hillbilly licks. At times Hendrix makes his guitar emit bird noises and other agonized sounds as he coaxes feedback and other modulations into a sonic vocabulary that the rest of the world still has not caught up with.

In the end Hendrix brings his journey right back to the very roots of American music: the blues. If Villanova Junction proves anything it was that Jimi Hendrix could play the blues and the fact that Hendrix was playing the blues at Woodstock is, to my mind, a reaffirmation of the funeral music aspect of Woodstock. Hendrix plays the slow lugubrious blues to its conclusion, says a subdued ‘thank you’, has enough strength to do an encore of Hey Joe and then collapsed onstage from extreme exhaustion. Hendrix was comatose for 48 hours before recovering fully.

Woodstock was over.

Since then others have tried vainly to replicate Woodstock but have failed miserably and rightly so. If history teaches us anything it is that you cannot replicate a vibe. Woodstock endures because it was such an utterly singular experience.

There was a Woodstock 1994 (famed for its mud fight) and there was a Woodstock 1999 (famed for its crowd riots, random acts of arson, and for Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers performing stark naked save for his bass guitar. If you don’t believe me just go to Youtube and see the clip of Chili Peppers doing Fire. It’s a awesome!)

As for me: we are stardust. We are golden and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.


Monday, August 10, 2009

The Legacy of No Name Maddox

Forty years ago (over a two day period) seven of the most brutal, savage, bestial, and horrific murders in the annals of human criminality were committed. The man who orchestrated those murders: Charles Manson remains, to this day, inexplicably, a beguiling figure who continues to weave a spell upon the American consciousness from his prison cell in California.

If you’re wondering why I used the name No Name Maddox in the title of this blog entry it’s because that was the name recorded on Manson’s birth certificate when he was born in 1934. He got the surname Manson later in childhood but Manson was a man with many names, aliases, faces, and guises. During his long strange trip through the underbelly of California life from 1967 to 1969, he was known variously as God, Jesus Christ, Infinite Soul, Satan, the Devil, as well as Charles Willis Manson. (Prosecutor Vince Bugliosi was curious about the latter alias. He asked a Manson Family member what it meant and he later wrote that the answer he received chilled him. The Family member said, “Charles’ will is Man’s Son.” i.e. Charley’s will was equal to that of the Son of Man.

Even more extraordinary is the fact that so many young men and women were so willing and eager to believe that Manson was a divine figure. That was the aspect of Manson’s crimes that beguiles and frightens us today: what did he possess which could twist the minds of ordinary American youths and make them into killers, eager to do his bidding; eager to kill at his command? To look at Manson from afar it’s hard to figure. Manson was short (only 5-2) hunchbacked, lacking a proper formal education, living nearly his entire life in criminal institutions for various charges (none of which involved murder) until he sent his killers on those two hot August nights in 1969. And yet if you read the massive library of literature about Manson from those who met him up close and personal Manson had that ability to reflect back at people what they wanted to see and to hear. He had that conman’s ability to be what you wanted him to be. He could say the right words which turned the keys to the heart and soul which allowed him to take possession, manipulate, and control his followers. Subtlety and deceit were intrinsic in his nature. Manson amazingly hobnobbed not only with the detritus of society but also the California elite. Rock stars Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, Neil Young, John Phillips and Mama Cass of the Mamas and the Papas had encounters with Manson. Manson claims in his memoir written by Nuel Emmons that he had sex with a Hollywood producer and his wife. (My favorite celeb encounter with Manson is the one involving Dean Martin’s daughter Deanna. She met Manson at a Hollywood party. Manson gave her a coral ring and asked her to join the Manson Family; true story.)

Even today he commands followers. If you google the name Charles Manson you will be amazed at the number of websites that record his murders, fornications, and his thefts. (Be warned though some of those sights contain horrifically graphic photos of the crime scenes and autopsy photos of the Tate-LaBianca murders. If you see some of those photographs like I have you will never forget them for as long as you live). Indeed I like to use the Manson case as an example of the decline and fall of western civilization. When Vince Bugliosi’s book Helter Skelter came out in the 1970s the book had crime scene photos in it but the photos showing the dead bodies were obscured out of respect for the victims and their families. Twenty years later I have seen at least two books and several websites which show the crime scenes with the dead bodies in place in complete gory detail, especially those showing Sharon Tate (eight months pregnant) in a pool of blood caused by sixteen stab wounds. It took a lot of personal will and discipline on my part not to break down and cry when I saw those pictures.

Actually the most frightening crime scene photo is not that of Sharon Tate. It’s the one of Abigail Folger, the heiress to the Folgers Coffee fortune. Folger died from twenty-seven stab wounds. She had been wearing a white night gown which would become saturated with her own blood. The photograph I saw showed her lying flat on her back; her hands and arms frozen upward in rigor mortis as she was vainly trying to ward off being stabbed by Manson Family member Patricia Krenwinkel and the others. Her cheeks have two deep puncture wounds from the Buck knife used by Krenwinkel. She died with her eyes and mouth wide open; her face contorted in a look of absolute fear, horror, and terror. When I looked at that photograph a rather morbid and odd thought entered my head. If I was told that I was to die a violent death and I had to choose the mode of violent death, I would unhesitatingly choose to die by gun than by knife; after seeing the photos of the Tate-LaBianca murder victims who died by knife wounds. I would definitely prefer to be shot to death rather than be stabbed to death.

Hopefully I will never die violently.

One topic of debate amongst criminal experts was how Manson kept his followers in line. One recent documentary I saw on TV gave great credence to drug use by Manson and his followers but I don’t buy that. Yes, Manson and his minions did an enormous amount of drugs during their heyday but if drugs were the motivating factor in causing the killings then why is it that there weren’t more horrific knife killings caused by people taking LSD or other hallucinogenic drugs? Not everyone who took LSD turned into a Mansonoid killer. (In fact some of Manson’s killer used speed during the two nights of murder). Indeed not everyone who encountered Manson from 1967 to 1969 fell underneath his hypnotic spell. Ed Sanders who wrote an excellent book called The Family about Manson (one of the greatest works of counter culture literature) relates that many youths came and went through Manson’s life. Not everyone who passed through Manson was bewitched by him. The ones who stayed the longest were the ones who did believe in Manson; who worshipped at the altar of his nihilistic personality.

Manson didn’t start preaching Helter Skelter until the winter of 1968-1969. Before that Manson and his followers’ sole focus was sexual excess, drug use, and, later on, what Ed Sanders would call sleazo inputs such as Satanism and other unspeakable practices. Sex was the lever which Manson used to keep his followers in line and to recruit new minions. Is it any coincidence that one of Manson’s former occupations was being a pimp? Manson used sex to entice, enthrall, and enslave.

One psychiatric expert told prosecutor Vince Bugliosi that if you take an average American youth (male or female) who comes from a middle class background and moral compass and subject them to a wide variety of sexual stimuli and sexual practices which they would never have performed in their normal milieu then you can go a long way into achieving control over that person. If a person balked at performing a certain sex act then Manson would force the person to perform the act again and again and again. Manson killer Susan Atkins would later tell a prison informant that she had done everything there was to do sexually and that she didn’t care whether she lived or died anymore. She was barely into her twenties when she said that.

Sometimes Manson used violence to get his way. Ed Sanders writes that three weeks after the Tate-LaBianca murders, Manson and his followers were hiding in Death Valley from the authorities. With them were two new female recruits named Sherri and Barbara. Manson decided to initiate them into the Family in his own inimitable way. First he ordered Sherri to perform oral sex on a male member of the Family in front of everyone. Sherri refused whereupon Manson gave her a brutal, savage beating. Manson then ordered Barbara to do the same thing. Frightened, Barbara reluctantly obeyed. (Barbara would get her revenge. She would be a key prosecution witness who helped convict Manson and his killers of their crimes).

One would think that after forty years there would be no mysteries left involving Manson. The truth is there are innumerable questions left unanswered about him. How many people did he kill? Manson was formally convicted of ordering nine murders yet Manson family legend and police investigations seem to suggest he may have killed more. Indeed last year forensic teams went to Barker Ranch in Death Valley (Manson’s last hideout) to do underground sonar searches to see if they could find any shallow graves on the property. At first investigators thought they had some possibilities but subsequent digging failed to find any human remains.

Another question is whether Manson’s satanic gospel of Helter Skelter was the real motivating factor behind the Tate-LaBianca murders? Author Maury Terry in his book The Ultimate Evil suggests strongly that Manson had other hidden motives for committing the killings and that he might have been acting at the behest of others when he sent the killers to the Tate residence. If so then who was Manson working for? There are disturbing questions. Some of Manson’s followers have said that they were told ahead of time that Sharon Tate was not supposed to be home during the first night of the murders. Indeed Sharon Tate had plans to spend the night with a friend that evening but changed her mind at the last minute. The question is who told Manson and his killers that information?

Another question regards the conduct of Bill Garretson, the caretaker of the guest cottage on the Tate property, during the night of the Tate murders. Murder victim Steve Parent was at the Tate property to see Garretson in the hopes of selling him a clock radio. Garretson refused to buy the radio and he led Parent out the door to his car whereupon Parent drove to the front gate of the Tate residence only to be killed by the Manson family killers. Parent was murder victim number one. The guest house where Garretson was staying is only fifty yards from the Tate house where the other four victims were killed and yet Garretson would testify that he heard no gunshots or screams during the night and he never left the guest cottage; all well and good right? There’s only one problem. Manson killer Patricia Krenwinkel claims that she went to the guest cottage to see if anyone was there (with instructions from Manson killer Tex Watson to kill anyone who was in there). She looked through the windows and saw no one. So why is Garretson lying about not leaving the guest cottage?

If Garretson had said that he had heard shots and screams and tried to call the police but couldn’t get through because the phone line was dead (the Manson killers cut the phone lines before they entered the Tate property) and so he left the guest cottage and hid in the bushes for fear of his life then no one would have blamed him. His behavior would be completely understandable. Even more interesting is what happened when the police entered the Tate property after being called when the victims were discovered. They approached the guest house and overheard Garretson telling the guard dog “be quiet! They will hear you.” Which “they” was he talking about? Sharon Tate’s mother (who later became a vigorous advocate for crime victim’s rights) always expressed doubt and skepticism about Garretson’s story and rightfully so, in my opinion.

Considering the forty years of public scrutiny Manson has faced and the periodic televised questioning by such journalistic luminaries like the late Tom Snyder, Geraldo Rivera, Charley Rose, and Diane Sawyer, Manson has not been given the ultimate pop culture seal of immortality—a major Hollywood motion picture about his life and crimes. Other, lesser known killers have gotten the full cinematic treatment but not Manson. There have been ample documentaries on Manson and a few portrayals in made for TV movies (the best of which remains Helter Skelter starring Steve Railsback as Manson and George DiCenzo as Vince Bugliosi. Interestingly Railsback’s acting career subsequently suffered because he played the role of Manson. Why? I do not know. Railsback did an excellent portrayal in my opinion).

But no major motion picture.

The question is why? One would think director Oliver Stone would be tempted by the possibility since Stone has always had a fascination with 1960s history but so far he has not bitten on the project. When one considers how much Manson’s stigma has permeated American pop culture the failure (or refusal) of Hollywood to examine Manson, the Manson Family, and the murders is puzzling. It’s not out delicacy for the victims or their families. When one considers the tawdriness of Hollywood society and its gutter instinct for mega-millions, the absence of a Manson picture becomes suspicious.

One wonders if the reason why is because Manson moved so easily through Hollywood society; interacting with its resident powers that be; perhaps serving their bidding is the motive for denying him cinematic immortality?

The only person who can answer the question in Manson himself and he’s not talking.

May he (and his killers) rot in jail (and in hell).