Saturday, July 08, 2006

My Life With Charles Manson Chapter the Fourteenth


Chapter 14

Where the eagle flies

We will lie under the sun

Where the eagle flies

We will die…die to be one

The nights are so dark

And the wind’s so cold

Love’s fire is burnin…and you can’t grow old

Livin’ with the poison ones

Sun-in with the Devil’s sons…

-from a song written by Charles Manson

summer of 1969.

The more involved we became in Helter-Skelter, the harder it was to see anything else. Momentum carried us along with Charlie. To say no would have been to violate all that we had worked to achieve. Even when Charlie’s raps became more militant (I shuddered at some of his descriptions), it all seemed to fit with his earlier statements regarding death. We’d been programmed to think of death in a cosmic sense, knowing that the spirit never dies. We’d all experienced countless ego deaths and had watched each other experience them. We knew that life was merely a series of transitions in consciousness. When Charlie got into elaborating on the blood and gore of racial war, we all considered it a kind of therapy he was putting us through. At least I did. Blood and carnage were as much a part of life as anything else; the media were filled with it, seemed to thrive on it in fact. So long as we had no karmic connection with it, so long as we did nothing to cause it, we could view it without judgement. And at that point, there was never a hint that we would have any part in killing.

The emotional impact of living in the center of Los Angeles after months of relative isolation (at Big Sur, Spahn’s, and Death Valley) also served to validate Helter-Skelter. For nearly two years we’d been completely removed from TV sets, radios, newspapers—all contact with the outside world. Our reality had been primarily Charlie and his teachings. Our heads had been filled with Charlie and all his intensity at a time when he was more positive. Then, suddenly, we found ourselves stranded in the midst of civilization again, blaring billboards, buying and selling, TV newscasts reporting what seemed to be nothing but violence and bloodshed: Vietnam body counts, riots in the streets, student demonstrations, and Richard Nixon’s jive.

Around the first of April we began gradually to move out of Gresham Street and back to Spahn’s. Conditions were crowded in the Yellow Submarine—too many people, too many vehicles, and motor parts; too many paranoid vibes. By that time we had acquired, in addition to the dune buggies and motorcycles, a milk truck and two diesel semi-trucks, one of which had already been parked at Spahn’s. We had also accumulated a stack of unpaid electric, water, and telephone bills, and the collectors were beginning to hound us.

Since we couldn’t move back to Spahn’s en masse, without causing suspicion, we had to do it a little at a time. We started by establishing a campsite in the ravine just below the ranch. Charlie and I purchased several parachutes from a surplus store in Los Angeles; after dyeing them green, we converted them into tents beneath the oaks. Meanwhile, we began remodeling the saloon into a kind of nightclub where we could set up and perform our music and store our instruments. We knocked out the back partition behind the stage, painted the walls and ceilings black, then brought strobe lights and white Styrofoam balls to hand from the ceiling. It was trippy—like showtime at the Griffith Park Observatory. Finally we set up our sound equipment and instruments on stage, and began, at night after the tourists had split, to hold jam sessions.

Sometime in mid-April we made a final exit from the Gresham Street house. Charlie had T.J. pull one of the semis into the driveway. We loaded everything inside it: Harleys, VW engines, a big diesel motor, countless dune buggy and jeep parts, and all our belongings. Then we drove into the mountains of Mulholland to a mission off Kanan Road, overlooking the sea. Charlie had learned that the rock group, the Iron Butterfly, had recently moved out and were on vacation. We moved in. Bill Vance broke the lock on the gate and hooked up the electricity. We spent nearly two weeks in the mansion, making music, planning strategy, and hiking around the hillside to plot the rest of the road. Charlie insisted we have access to the sea and to the desert and that the two roads be joined. According to revelation 10:2, “He set his right foot upon the sea and his left foot on the earth.”

Around May we left the mansion and moved back to Spahn’s, staying in the campsites so as not to disturb George and the wranglers. Charlie kept two girls with George at all times and told the old man we’d be helping out with wrangler chores. George said he was much obliged.

Once at Spahn’s, everything was geared towards Helter-Skelter and moving back to the desert. The acquisition of a huge open-topped semi-trailer bed (which we covered with tarps) gave us additional space to store parts, to work on the motorcycles, and to sleep up to fifteen people. We had mechanics rebuilding Harleys, diesels, and dune buggies round the clock. We paid them, and paid them well—in money, dope, and all the sex they could handle. Meanwhile, the tourists came to ride horseback, look at movie sets, and talk to the wranglers, who went about the business of tending George’s stock. Pearl showed up daily to see George, balance the books, and make sure everyone was on the job. At noon each day the cowboys generally gathered to eat lunch and bullshit. They got to know the mechanics and Bill and the sundry motorcycle types who began appearing with greater frequency. While they never became chummy with the bikers, they did share a languorous tolerance that allowed our work to continue. The days got hotter, and sometimes the smog seeped out of the valley and reached up into the foothills. The smell of horseshit permeated the air, and as always, the flies had the run of the place. Shorty and Randy continued to bad-vibe us, but not enough to alter the momentum of what was coming down.

It was during this period that we met Danny De Carlo, a tough booze-addicted biker, who, at the time, was treasurer for a motorcycle gang known as the Straight Satans. Danny was a fast-talking, earthy little dude (five-eight) with a thick black “waterfall” hairdo, dark, direct eyes, and a passion for “beer and broads.” He invariably wore the full Levi’s garb (with “Straight Satan” embossed across his jacket) and boots, and walked like a Hell’s Kitchen hoodlum. He had a good sense of humor, a quick wit, and while blinded by his own prurient inclinations, he was, as the saying goes, nobody’s fool. He later told authorities that his rapport with Manson was enhanced by the fact that he (Danny) could satisfy Charlie’s girls sexually, thus taking the pressure off Charlie. While this was pretty farfetched (Charlie only allowed Danny access to certain girls), Danny did acquire the nickname “Donkey Dan”-A tribute to his “Size”; it was a sobriquet he was proud of.

We’d met Danny just before leaving the Gresham Street house. Charlie cultivated him for his knowledge of bikes, his street savvy, and because he could keep things copacetic between the family and outsiders who sometimes showed up to make trouble. Charlie seemed to like Danny (he was always more favorably disposed to smaller guys) and saw to it that Danny got rewarded. Danny had recently separated from his wife and was invariably hot to trot. Sherry, a new girl, and Ouisch were virtually given to Danny in exchange for his talents as a mediator and mechanic and his knowledge of firearms.

De Carlo was born in Canada but had been given U.S. citizenship after serving in the coast guard as a weapons expert. When it came to guns, Danny knew what he was talking about. His father sold firearms for a living, and Danny had dismantled, repaired, and fired all kinds. By then we were beginning to accumulate a small arsenal, which Charlie insisted we’d need for defense purposes while convoying people to and from the desert. Through various sources – most of them ex-cons – we had purchased several small-caliber handguns, two twelve-gauge shotguns, a Schmizer machine gun, and a thirty-thirty. We also began carrying buck knives around the campsite. It was alter that summer that Charlie acquired a sword from the then president of the Straight Satans, a guy known as “Eighty-Six George.” George had come to Spahn’s to convince Danny to leave the Family; not only did he fail in that effort, but wound up being conned by Charlie. Charlie offered to pay one of George’s traffic tickets in exchange for the sword – a twenty-inch razor sharp weapon, the top of which had been honed into a fine and delicate point. Approximately two month later, Charlie would use the same blade to slice off Charlie Hinman’s left ear.

By the end of May the girls were designing buck-skins – all-purpose, combat-ready clothing which would last indefinitely and be conducive to life in the desert. At the same time, Tex, at Charlie’s suggestion, began constructing a Family shelter across the road from Spahn’s, a place to hide and store supplies in case of emergency. Tex worked on that project for several days, using two-by-fours and slabs of plywood ripped off from a nearby off from a nearby construction site in the valley. The shack he built was small (fifteen by twenty feet), yet well-designed, almost like a lean-to, with one side fronting on the slope of a ravine, with a small window facing the creek bead. In it we stocked provisions, camping gear, dried foods, and several handguns. The Family called in the Helter Shelter; Charlie referred to it as “The Just-in-Case Place.”

In the midst of these preparations, Charlie moved about like a seasoned field general, giving orders. We set up camps in the creek bed and explored the mountains around Spahn’s so that we knew every hill and gully. We took dune buggies and Harleys into the canyons and worked on the road. At times Charlie would order us to evacuate one campsite and set up another. It was like commando training. We began to feel like a well trained band of guerrillas. Meanwhile, our mechanic worked on the vehicles, and our girls continued to dance topless and bring home fat paychecks to cover our burgeoning expenses. At night we played music in the saloon and sang the songs of revolution.

Charlie continued to make trips to L.A. to confer with Dennis and Greg. Despite earlier frustrations, he had not given up trying to get our album recorded. We had spent hours making tapes and wanted to get them heard. But Charlie’s anger at Melcher hadn’t subsided. I didn’t learn until later that he had finally gone to 10050 Cielo Drive (the scene of the Tate murders) looking for Melcher, only to learn that Melcher and his then girlfriend, Candice Bergen, had moved to Malibu. It was during this visit to Cielo Drive that Charlie met the owner of the house, Rudy Altobelli, who was then living in the rear cottage and who later told authorities of Charlie’s visit and that it was quite likely that, on his way in, had seen the occupants of the main house: Voytek Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and Sharon Tate. Charlie never went back to Cielo drive, but on August 9 he sent four people there to pay a visit; Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Kenwinkle, and a new girl named Linda Kasabian.

Linda was the epitome of the young flower child, on her own since sixteen. She’d traveled from the East Coast to California during the summer of love (’67) in search of spiritual fulfillment; she’s lived in Taos and Seattle; she’d worn flowers in her hair at Haight Ashbury; she’d crashed in cheap hotels and communes and had taken psychedelics in quantity before coming to Spahn’s late that summer with her two-year-old daughter, Tanya. Linda was five-one and petite, with long light brown hair, green eyes, and a soft, clear speaking voice. When she met Charlie, shortly after I met the Family, she was nineteen and certainly no novice to the jargon of the time. Yet, she fell for his rap hook, line, and sinker. One month later, he sent her to kill.

As things became more fragmented, Charlie’s bitterness and frustration surfaced with greater frequency. He began sprouting “death to the piggies” and quoting from the Beatles’ album. He said we had to work faster; once again we took our group to a studio for a recording session in the valley, but things fell apart; Charlie got pissed off at the technicians and we split. One evening, a short time later, we were practicing in the saloon. Charlie was sitting on a stool in front of the mike, with Bobby to his left, playing the drums. Tex and Brooks were behind Bobby playing steel guitars. I was on Charlie’s right doing vocal accompaniment. Behind us, the girls were singing background. During a break, Charlie suddenly stood and demanded that Brenda sing.

“Sing what?”

“Anything, just sing.”

“But… what do -?”

“Goddammit, sing!” Charlie walked over and yanked her hair.

“Ahhh.”

“That’s a sound, now try something else.” He jerked her hair again.

“Oweee.”

“Good, now sing.”

She sang.”

Cleanliness became a real problem; with no access to indoor facilities, we were forced to go for days without bathing. We all rinsed off in the creek regularly, but it was hard to stay clean. People have been led to believe that the Manson Family was “dirty and unkempt,” but this was not the case. Up until the summer of 1969, Charlie demanded good personal hygiene, and that clothes, food, musical instruments – everything – be kept orderly. But living at Spahn’s like commandos made it impossible to maintain these standards. The natural, easygoing rhythm of life we had enjoyed gradually became too diffused and disjointed, and finally, decadent. With bikers and hippies and strangers coming and going at all times, there was little opportunity to put the old scene together. Still, there were moments – those nights when the girls made meals at the campfire and we sang songs and Charlie rapped. Those nights were soothing and I remember lying beside Snake in the tent listening to the crickets and wondering what the future held for us. I made love to Snake a lot during that period. It was one experience that always felt right. With Snake I shared a kind of inner harmony that sustained me even when things started coming apart. It was not that Snake and I spent a lot of time together or that we consciously cultivated a “special” friendship; it was just that when we were together, it was special. It was something neither of us talked about, but it was there from the beginning, from the day I arrived, and Charlie sent her to seduce me by the same creek bed, just one year before.

Months later, lawyers, law-enforcement authorities, and friends would ask me why, when things had degenerated so, I remained with the Family. What needs did the family fulfill? Why didn’t I split? It’s hard for people to understand what deep needs were met by the Family. I can only say that living day in day out with a group of people with whom you’ve shared all manner of experiences, without inhibition, binds you deeply. It wasn’t only Charlie. I was close to everyone. It have me a feeling of security against the impersonality of the world. I felt we shared more than any genetic family; we shared a kind of communication that is rare between people. The Family met many needs: sexual, spiritual, communal, recreational, artistic. We were brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, lovers to each other. We were one. It was a hard thing to let go of, even when it all faltered. Rather than leave it and invalidate all that was good, it seemed easier to ignore or refuse to acknowledge the changing vibes, the degeneration. I had experienced fears before, and they had been dissipated through confrontation. Charlie taught me to submit to these changes. I had endured the choking, the freak-out, and a good deal more. Plus, if Charlie was right and Helter-Skelter was coming down like he said, I needed him and the Family to survive.

But others, too, were feeling the change. One afternoon I was hiking up from the campsite toward the saloon. Charlie had asked me to help the mechanic assemble a new Harley. I’d just researched the saloon when Bo came up and started walking with me. She was a full-length gingham dress and was barefoot. Her face was smudged with dust and she’d lost so much weight that her eyes seemed enormous. All of us had begun eating less; with no place to cook but the campfire, it was difficult to prepare meals for so many, so that we resorted to living off sweet rolls and cakes, which we continued to get in quantity from our bakery connection in Santa Monica. One look at Bo and I knew she’d been crying.

“What’s the matter, Bo?”

“I don’t know. I just feel…”

She stopped when we reached the semitruck, and the mechanic, a guy we call Turk (a friend of Bill Vance’s) stuck his head out the trailer. “What’s happening, Turk?”

“Did De Carlo ever bring them plugs?”

“I don’t know.”

“Shit.” Turk wiped his forehead with a greasy rag, then stuffed it in his back pocket. “Where’s Charlie?”

“Down at the corral, talking to Tex.”

Turk jumped out of the semi and trotted toward the corral.

When he was out of earshot, Bo told me Charlie had scared the shit out of her. “Charlie said when Helter-Skelter comes down they’ll come looking for me, and if they find me, they’ll chop me up. He said blackie’s gonna terrorize everyone. He said they’re gonna smear the piggies’ eyeballs on the ceilings and paint the walls and floors with blood.”

I knew what Bo was feeling. I had experienced Charlie’s demonic side. Yet, I did not want to acknowledge it. I wanted to move beyond Helter-Skelter; to go back to the desert. But things only got worse. And my own fears and uncertainties became apparent to Charlie.

One night, not too long after my conversation with Bo, Charlie asked me to go with him to Canoga Park to pick up some girls. He said we needed to relax and have a good time. I’d worked all day with Turk and Tex, helping pack and assemble parts so we could transport them to Barker’s. I’d crashed out in the semitrailer in my sleeping bag and had just dozed off when Charlie woke me.

We took the milk truck and drove down to Topanga Canyon Boulevard, then turned left on Chatsworth. Charlie was talkative, but I sensed that some of it was put on, that he was trying too hard to be his “old self.” Somewhere near the Topanga Plaza, near Gresham Street, we pulled up alongside some girls in an MG and started rapping with them, but they weren’t interested, and when Charlie got belligerent, they flipped us off. Minutes later, it seemed, we drove by the Gresham Street house and turned left on one of the cross streets. About halfway down the block Charlie spotted a truck parked in someone’s driveway, a big heavy-duty Dodge ambulance-weapons-carrier. He stopped the milk truck and turned off the ignition.

“Hey brother… we could use that truck, you know. Why don’t you hotwire it and take it back to the ranch?” Charlie’s eyes drilled mine, and he kept right on talking. “Just drive it directly to the campsite, load up with supplies – food for Juanita and Brooks, some tools, and a little dope – then take a few girls and head for the desert. Don’t wait for nothin’… just load it and get on down the road. After you check on things at Barker’s, come back in the pickup.”

All that went through my mind as Charlie spoke is difficult to recount. It lasted just a split second, but during that time I experienced an involved process of assessment. I’d known troubles with the law, but always for minor offenses. I’d never stolen a vehicle. Yet it wasn’t the stealing that made me hesitate; it was a composite of feeling brought on by the changing vibes. Though Charlie had not indicated directly that we would have anything to do with perpetrating violence, it was clear that we were preparing for it. I was divided in myself; part of me had begun to doubt Helter-Skelter. Yet, I wanted to survive, and to do so, I needed Charlie. On another level, I saw his request as another personal challenge; he had sensed my wavering state of mind and perhaps thought it time to test me again.

“You’re not gonna say no, are you?”

I grabbed a piece of wire and a flashlight from under the seat. While Charlie waited, I trotted up the road to the driveway. The front end of the truck was less than ten feet away from what looked like an open bedroom window. Moving quietly, I found the hood latch and slowly raised the hood. The truck had a starter button in the cab, so all I had to do was hot-wire the ignition. It took just seconds for the motor to fire. As the engine turned over, a bedroom light came on. I leaped into the cab, slammed it into reverse, and backed into the street before ramming it into first; I burned rubber for about fifteen feet and then I was in second and flying by Charlie, who was still parked. He gave me the okay sign and a big grin as I roared by, turned right, and headed for home.

At the intersection of Devonshire and Topanga Canyon I tromped the break to avoid running a light. As it was, I overshot the crosswalk and had to back up. As I did so, a squad car eased up alongside me. I looked straight ahead , my heart pounding. Then I took a deep breath and glanced down at the cops.

“In a hurry, are ya?”

“Kinda… yeah.”

“Well, slow down, partner, you’ll live a whole lot longer.”

When the cops turned left, I headed north on Topanga, then hauled balls up Santa Susana Pass to where the road ended. I parked on the shoulder, then clambered down the hill to the campsite and woke up the Family.

24 comments:

meatpile said...

One thing I'm missing alot of in all of Paul's writing is any mention of Bruce Davis.

Am I confused about the timeline - has Bruce been gone for awhile? Was he not part of the first move to Barker, the move back to Gresham St, and then back to Spahn's?

He also doesn't speak much about Tex.

Makes me think Paul didn't know what was going on, and was mainly a tool to recruit girls.

Dok said...

Was Bruce in England? I have read that he spent a lot of time there.

jollywest said...

Good point meatpile. Since Tex was heavily brainwashed and under the control of Manson, it seems that he would have had a significant presence in the various group activities. According to Paul, you would almost think that the only men in the inner core of the group, were Paul and Manson. It seems that most of the other men that he mentions were either Spahn ranch hands or mechanics and bikers that were paid. Regulars, such as Poston and Clem, seem to have insignificant roles.

agnostic monk said...

I gotta say, I love that song. Whenever I've watched Hendrickson's Manson doc from 1972, that song stands out. Hypnotic in a way, disturbing in a way. Cheesy in a way. The bizarre satanic fireside ritual cult-looking footage that goes along with it adds to the effect.

Anyone else know of what I speak?

:)

Yepyep said...
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catscradle77 said...
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Salem said...

Thanks once again Col. for another chapter.
Dianne

Jane Doe said...

agnostic monk said...
"I gotta say, I love that song. Whenever I've watched Hendrickson's Manson doc from 1972, that song stands out. Hypnotic in a way, disturbing in a way. Cheesy in a way. The bizarre satanic fireside ritual cult-looking footage that goes along with it adds to the effect.

Anyone else know of what I speak?

:)"

I love the music from the Manson documentary. Aes-Nihil sells Brooks Poston's cds on his site.

meatwad said...

"and the eagle flies"...wasn't that a Steven Stills verse?

"Love the one your with"

meatwad said...

Monk said,

"The bizarre satanic fireside ritual cult-looking footage that goes along with it adds to the effect."

Well, it was supposed to. The movie wasn't about quilt making.

And it wasn't really satanic looking or anything. It looked like a cheap home made movie. It could have been made on 8mm.

agnostic monk said...

meatwad said...
>>>>And it wasn't really satanic looking or anything. It looked like a cheap home made movie. It could have been made on 8mm.<<<<

well yeah but they're all dancing around the fire all wacky and stuff and doesn't someone jump in front of the fire in a red cape or something and outstretch his arms all ceremonial looking?

I know it wasn't really satanic but to me it took on the vague look of a cheesy satan cult b-movie (or c or d-movie) from the 60's. I half expected Ernest Borgnine to jump out and shoot death rays from his eyes.

Yepyep said...
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catscradle77 said...
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highlandave said...

Versions of Young Girl & Harmony performed by Hope Organ were released on 7" by a small Pittsburgh label, Ingreat Records in 1991.
Pretty hard to come by now but worthwhile if you love those songs.

catscradle77 said...
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agnostic monk said...

highlandave said...
>>>>Versions of Young Girl & Harmony performed by Hope Organ were released on 7" by a small Pittsburgh label, Ingreat Records in 1991.
Pretty hard to come by now but worthwhile if you love those songs.<<<<

Dave was it Brooks or was it Paul who wrote those two songs?

I remember Young Girl (awesome song) but for some reason can't recall Harmony by name.

meatwad said...

Cats said,

"and as long as Brian Denahy (Sp?) aint in it, I am cool.."

Cats, I had a long conversation when I met Brian and he is very, very nice guy.

Seems like he has been in a lot of "B" movies, though.

meatwad said...

Cats said,

"it skerred me... "

I'd be skerred too....if I lived in Cleve's land, lol.

catscradle77 said...
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catscradle77 said...
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catscradle77 said...
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meatwad said...

Cats said,
"so I gots it in for Brian"

I gots it in fo Thom Qwuz.

Dang foo. Attack Matt Lauder..foo.

catscradle77 said...
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catscradle77 said...
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