Manson: Why the Fascination?

Manson: Why the Fascination?

Criminals and their crimes are like fingerprints. Each one is unique. When we first hear about them, we immediately know the basic stuff: who, what, where and when. But it’s the why that takes so long.

Speculation grows in the petri dish. It’s not until the trial that we get the answer to why. Each day our fascination grows into a frenzy until the jury reaches a verdict.

Take, for example, the trial that at the time was deemed the trial of the century. Like the JFK assassination, we talk about it because we still don’t know why it happened. So why the fascination?

The Manson Family

Imagine having the ability to order people to murder. It doesn’t start out that way, of course. It’s 1967 and Manson crashes at his girlfriend’s place in San Francisco. He somehow gets her to agree to 18 other girls living there because it’s the Summer of Love. Many teenagers across the country run away from home to live in this so-called haven called the Haight-Ashbury district.

Manson buys an old school bus and moves to the Los

Angeles area to make it as a musician. He hooks up with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. After two years of doing drugs and hanging out at Spahn Ranch, Manson is influenced by the Beatles’ White Album and needs to start a race war called Helter Skelter (so-called after the Beatles’ song).

His followers are so under his control that they kill seven people in gruesome attacks on two separate nights in August of 1969. These attacks are known as the Tate-La Bianca murders. His family members show no remorse for their actions.

In fact, one follower named Susan Atkins, is so brainwashed that Sharon Tate, who is weeks from giving birth, begs Atkins to keep her alive to have her baby as Atkins stabs her 16 times. Atkins replies, “I have no mercy for you, bitch.”

The Trial

On July 24, 1970, the Manson Family Trial begins. Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi must prove that Manson ordered his family members to kill Sharon Tate and the guests at her home on August 9, 1969, and the La Biancas at their home the night after.

As if the crimes weren’t a spectacle themselves, Manson and his followers continue the drama in the courtroom. When he isn’t allowed to act as his own attorney, he carves an X in his forehead. The Manson girls follow suit.

During former Manson girl Linda Kasabian’s testimony for the prosecution, Manson holds up a newspaper with the headline stating, “MANSON GUILTY, NIXON DECLARES.”

A Manson family member takes another former Manson girl, Barbara Hoyt, to Hawaii during the trial and drugs her with 10 tablets of LSD in a hamburger. They are at the airport as Hoyt is about to fly back to Los Angeles. Luckily Hoyt recovers fully and testifies for the prosecution.

Leslie Van Houten’s attorney, Ronald Hughes, refuses to let her testify. Van Houten participated in the La Bianca murders. On November 30, 1970, Hughes doesn’t show up for court. His body was later found in Ventura Creek, thought to be the work of the Manson family.

And then, of course, the best (or worst) part of the trial is on October 5, 1970 when the judge won’t let Manson question a prosecution witness. He jumps over the defense table, charges the judge and yells that someone should cut his head off. As Manson is removed from the courtroom, the female defendants chant in Latin.

Patricia Krenwinkle, the third female Manson family member convicted of murder, said in a later interview that Manson scripted all the courtroom antics.

Present Day

Manson’s notoriety gets a reboot with NBC’s Summer series Aquarius, yet it’s only loosely based on the truth around the family. It takes poetic license to create well-written storylines around 1960s issues such as the Black Panther Party and the Vietnam War. It doesn’t tell the whole truth like Oliver Stone’s JFK, but at least Aquarius comes with a disclaimer.

Just when Aquarius fans finish binge-watching the first season, Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi succumbs to cancer on June 6 this year. So shocking is his death that word doesn’t get around for a while, probably because he never owned a computer and didn’t trend on Twitter, not that he cared to.

And just as Susan Atkins showed no mercy to Sharon Tate as she stabbed her 16 times, the court shows no mercy to release Atkins when she’s diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008. One of the relatives of her murder victims says to the judge at Atkins’ hearing for compassionate release that you’ll hear “various opinions” but nothing from the people who lie in their graves because of Atkins. She dies in prison in 2009, 40 years after the Tate – La Bianca murders.

So This is Why

We find Manson fascinating because he is the end of the peace-loving sixties. This is what happens with illicit drugs and brainwashing. He continues to perpetrate the news after going to jail; ordering Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme to assassinate President Ford (though she doesn’t put a bullet in the gun) to his bizarre parole hearings and television interviews.

But it’s the insatiable answer to “why” that makes us follow and continue our interest in this and many other crimes of the century.

When Crime Pays

If crime pays, what does it pay with?

I just served as a juror in a vehicular manslaughter trial. Two vehicles, a white truck and a blue SUV, allegedly raced down a roadway known for speeding. So notorious is this road that it was used in the first Fast and Furious movie in 2001.

What started the race wasn’t proved in court. The defense tried weakly to state it was road rage. However, the defendant driving the white truck was drunk — way past California’s legal limit of .08%. In fact, his blood alcohol content was .18%. A forensic toxicologist proved on the stand this is equivalent to nine beers for a 220 pound man. By the way, it was 11:30 in the morning.

When the two vehicles crossed an intersection on a red light, a Lexus was about to turn into their lane. The blue SUV sped through but the white truck collided with the Lexus. He was going 100 mph at the point of impact, proven by a black box in the truck, which is similar to black boxes in airplanes. Five seconds before impact, the gas pedal was fully engaged and the brake pedal was not touched.

He didn’t just hit the Lexus, he almost split it in half. The front end of the Lexus was mutilated (so were the driver and front passenger), two people in the back required surgery, and a five-year-old boy was injured along with two dogs. The driver of the white truck survived even though he wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

Witnesses saw the blue SUV stop for a while then speed off. No one saw a license plate or a make or model of the car. The driver never turned himself in and no one ever caught him.

We, the jury, found the defendant guilty of two counts of vehicular manslaughter, four counts of great bodily injury, one count of bodily injury, driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher, and driving under the influence.  

So while one driver paid for being incredibly stupid, the other got away scot-free. Crime paid him with his freedom.

that stupid birthday cake

Thought I’d reblog this on Mr. Welles’ 100th birthday.

row away from the rocks

Part of this year's twenty. Geez, I'm getting old.

” ‘That stupid birthday cake,’ she said, ‘is just another cake; and you’ll have all the cakes you want. But the candles are a fairy ring. And you will never again in your whole life have just that number to blow out.’ ” ~Beatrice Welles, on her deathbed, to her son Orson on his ninth birthday.

The book Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu, Volume 1 (by Simon Callow) is like a treasure box. Each time I open it, I find another gem of a glimpse into Welles’ childhood. Welles states that the greatest mistake he made was that night. He forgot to make a wish before he blew his candles out. 4 days later Beatrice died at Chicago Memorial Hospital in 1924.

If a feature film is ever made of his life, it would be a crime to omit his mother’s influence. She wanted…

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President-John-F-Kennedy

The Eyes of Texas

The following is an excerpt from my novel in progress, The Eyes of Texas. 13-year-old Dallas native Jolene Purdy skips school to watch the President and Mrs. Kennedy in Dealey Plaza. What she witnesses not only changes her life but the entire world.

My daddy never had boys. I was his only child. He took me deer hunting one season and had me shoot one. He told me not to shoot it in the head because he saved the heads to mount them in the cabin up north. I guess he and his buddies had some kind of competition to see how many deer heads they could decorate their cabins with. I found it disgusting.

Daddy said the reason we went deer hunting was to control the population. If we didn’t the deer would take over the woods. There’d be dead deer lying all over the place and deer wandering into town looking for food like cats. I said, “Yeah, but we don’t kill cats and mount them on the wall.”

He said, “That’s because they don’t have pretty antlers.”

But I wanted to please Daddy so I tried to kill one and, of course, I shot it in the head. When we got up close, the bullet tore through his skull like a piece of bloody carpet ripped up, flap hanging and all. There was no way Daddy could ever mount that and show it off. I thought he’d yell.

But he didn’t say nothing. He just looked at it, tied its legs and said, “Jolene, you shore made us a lot of venison for tonight!”

On November 22, 1963, I was right to the side of President Kennedy when he was shot. He looked just like that deer.

Image via Flickr

Bootsy Bansfield Reporting

Bootsy Bansfield, the intrepid TV reporter, is out for the shock of her life when she steps into the crowd of animal rights protesters.

“What’s that lipstick on your face?” asks one angry picketer holding a sign that reads MAC IS MURDER!.

“Um, I don’t know, Blissful Ignorance I think?

“Exactly!”

Bootsy asks for a Kleenex from her cameraman. As she tries to wipe her lips, they go live while protesters loot a salon and whip cosmetics at Bansfield.

“Here we are at Boppin Betty Boop’s, the salon that not only admits to but advertises animal testing,” reports Bootsy. “Oh look! PETA is burning the poster of bunnies and chimps wearing mascara. Ouch! STOP THAT!”

Bootsy just got hit with a mega plastic cosmetic kit. She picks it up and studies it. “Okay, c’mon people! Fifty Shades of Grey Eye Shadow really hurts! Back to you at the studio!”

my backyard

My Backyard

Curled-up dead leaves rustle on gray branches. Black crows caw, redhawks chase each other while humming birds appear to stand still though their wings flap wildly.

 

No lizards on my backyard concrete wall today; the heat is on holiday. I feel sorry for the asphalt workers as they slurry seal our road, frustrating parents picking up kids from school. They detour the motorcycle riders rumbling by.

 

By day, the sky boasts a robin’s egg blue. The clouds are either finger painted on with acrylic white and gray or puffy with glitter glue and cotton balls.

 

But at night, constellations play connect the dots. Possums and neighbors’ cats balance themselves on our rotted out fences till they get to my wrought iron gate. They stop at thorny rose bushes when my dogs come leaping and barking.

The Jewel – Dallas, 1963

The following is an online writing assignment. We used the first sentence to see where the jewel took us. The book Dallas 1963 influenced my writing. With racial tension in the news lately, I thought it appropriate to take a trip back to see what segregation was like over 50 years ago.

She found a jewel down inside herself and she wanted to walk where people could see her and gleam it around.

 

She thought this time people are gonna see it, not like last time when she swallowed the goldarn thing, You know how hard it is to pass a daggum jewel after it travels the happy highway?

 

First, she’d walk by all the snooty girls in English class and sit by the sunny window. Then a ray would hit the jewel and blind them all so bright it’d burn all the hairs on their heads, ruining their bouffant hairdos.  She bet Johnny Taylor wouldn’t ask any of them to Homecoming then!

 

After that, she’d take the bus with her friend Violet down to Neiman Marcus. They’d shop in the art department and buy paint brushes and sketch pads. Then they’d go down to the lunch counter.

 

The waitress would say, “I’m sorry, I can serve you but not your friend here.”

 

She would say, “But she bought something. Why can’t she eat here?”

 

“That’s just how it is, Miss.”

 

Then she’d shine that jewel right in that waitress’ eyes and hypnotize her into taking Violet’s order. Not only did that waitress serve her, she didn’t charge her neither!

 

She and Violet would walk out Neiman Marcus that day and anyone that stared got a real good look at that jewel.