Black Beard had changed only slightly since I’d seen him more than a year before, just a few miles away from where we now stood facing each other in the middle of Topanga Canyon Boulevard. His fleecy, tousled hair hung to his waist; his smile was infectious. He said he’d rented a place up the canyon and invited me there for breakfast. I followed him in my car. Five miles back up the canyon he turned up a steep side road to a small house built beneath a stand of oak trees, and parked.
Before going inside, we stood on the porch and smoked a joint. I told him about Charlie and the Family and what I’d been doing. To my surprise, he knew a lot about the Manson Family – firsthand. In July 1969 (just after I had split for the desert), Black Beard had inherited some money and had moved into Topanga Canyon with a friend named Bob Kasabian. A short time later, he met Bob’s wife, Linda, who had just joined the Family and who, on orders from Charlie, had ripped off Black Beard for five thousand dollars. When Black Beard tried to get the money back, Charlie merely showed him the sword he’d used to chop off Gary Hinman’s ear. Black Beard got the picture and a week later took off to South America. He’d only recently gotten back, and was again living with Bob Kasabian.
During the weeks which followed, I visited Black Beard regularly, thereby adding another dimension to my fragmented state, another tendril of extended energy I could ill afford. When I confided to him the many roles I was playing, maintaining at the same time that I had faith that things were going the way they should, he said he wasn’t surprised. He recalled the night we were busted at Half Moon Bay, saying, “I never seen anyone turn a scene around like you did that one. It was karma, man… the real McCoy, you blew those pigs’ minds…”
In early February 1970 we were still living in the Chandler Street house during the week and repairing to Spahn’s on the weekends to do music and unwind. I continued to confer with Charlie, to help arrange for attorneys, and to convey his messages to Leslie and Sadie. I was also in touch with Crockett and Posten by phone.
About that time Bruce Davis was arrested again and sent to Inyo County on charges of grand theft. I was subpoenaed and told that without my testimony they couldn’t hold him. I’d hitchhiked to Inyo with a new girl in the Family named Ginny who was carrying twenty-four tabs of acid, all but two of which we’d sewn into the lining of a sleeping bag. Squeaky had suggested we slip a tab of acid to Bruce during the trial; in part it was a means of testing me. Charlie had told them to watch me closely.
During the proceedings, while Don Ward sat with Crockett and Posten on one side of the room and Ginny on the other, I took the Fifth Amendment, refusing to answer on the grounds that what I said might incriminate me. Steuber, and Inyo’s D.A., Frank Fowles, were furious. They needed the testimony to hold Davis. While they had interviews from me which more than implicated Bruce Davis, they could not be used in the court. Brooks and Crockett knew the game I was into and they looked pretty dejected. It got even more insane when Ginny got up and, while passing in front of Bruce, slipped him a tab of acid in the courtroom. Bruce dropped it on the floor, but before anyone could react, picked it up and ate it. A cop meanwhile had seized Ginny’s purse and found the other tab of acid. She was held for two days, then released.
A few days later they let Bruce go, and my loyalty to the Family was, for the time being, reconfigured.
In the meantime, the scene had been set for my sexual number with Squeaky. It was never talked about directly, but the promptings were there, a feeling that the Family would benefit by such a consummation of power.
It happened one afternoon at the Chandler Street house. I’d been at court all morning and had just returned to change clothes. While I was changing, Squeaky entered the bedroom and flopped down on the bed. She was talking about how great things were going, that Charlie was going “to walk.” The free press was taking up the cause. This was during the time that Bernardine Dhorn told a convention of Students for a Democratic Society, “Offing those rich pigs with their own forks and knives, and eating a meal in the same room, far-out! The Weathermen dig Charles Manson.” It was also at the height of Charlie’s flamboyant courtroom theatrics, when he wore embroidered shirts, kept his hair combed, and paraded around the courtroom like a peacock. I walked by Squeaky, telling her to follow me into the other bedroom. I heard her giggle as she waltzed in behind me, removed her blouse, and tossed it on a chair.
I’d all but forgotten the day at Barker’s when I’d seen Charlie bring Squeaky out of an epileptic seizure following sex. And I was momentarily stunned when, after making love to her, she began to shake and convulse. Within minutes she had lost all control. It was as if her entire being had been reduced to a quivering mass of jelly. Then her body stiffened and she clenched her fists until her knuckles turned white. Her head thrashed from side to side.
“It’s okay, Lynn…” I said. “It’s okay. It’s Paul… just relax.” I climbed on top of her grabbed her by the wrists.
“Ohhh… Ohhh,” she moaned. “Aghhh.” Her breathing came in short pants and gasps.
“Go ahead… go ahead,” I said. “Tighten you fingers… yeah… good… tighter, no, tighter… Now, relax them… relax… Now tighten… relax… tighten…”
Using the method I had seen Charlie employ, I was able to settle her down, but it wasn’t easy. By the time I’d calmed her, we were both exhausted. Afterward we drove to Spahn’s and Squeaky behaved as if nothing had happened. But the incident stayed with me, a graphic expression of the control mechanism Charlie had implanted in Squeaky and by which he had been able to dominate both her mind and body.
After that episode, things happened fast. Later that same week I was coming out of the court building when a dapper little guy sporting a goatee and dressed in a double-breasted suit approached me, saying he was a lawyer and wanted to ask me a few questions. I walked with him to a chauffeured limousine and we drove up to Hollywood. He introduced himself as Jake Friedberg, saying he just wanted some information about the Family and that he’d make it worth my while to provide it. He asked if I’d mind staying at the Continental Hyatt House for a couple of days, and when I said no, he made a reservation for me in the penthouse. I spent two days there telling him what I knew; on the morning of the third day, as I was leaving the hotel, I was paged to the phone. It was Crockett; I’d called him the day I arrived and left my number.
His voice was hard and clear, like a pick against granite.
“Where the hell you been?”
“I been tryin’ to get you. D.A.’s office called us up and said that guy Friedberg is a Mafia man… somethin’ about La Bianca’s connection with the syndicate… he say anything about it?”
There was a long pause. Then Crockett spoke. “Where you tryin’ to take yourself anyway, oblivion?”
I didn’t answer. I didn’t know.
“When you comin’ out to the desert?”
“It won’t be long.”
I waited to Friedberg to come back, but he didn’t. And I never saw him again.
A couple of days later, we moved out of the Chandler Street house and back to Spahn’s. George had mellowed enough to allow us to move in again on a permanent basis. The day after we moved back, Clem was released on bail and joined the rest of us in a small wooden structure built just beyond Randy Starr’s trailer, a beautifully symmetrical building we called the Story-Book House. The day we moved in, I was standing on the boardwalk with Sandy when a car with two men in it pulled up beside me and stopped.
“You Watkins?” the driver asked.
I nodded. Both men got out of the car. Both wore baggy sports jackets and gray fedoras. One of them had on sunglasses. They asked if we could talk, and I led them into the saloon, where Squeaky and Brenda were sitting on the floor working on Charlie’s vest.
“We’ll make it fast,” the shorter of the two men said. “We hear Charlie wants to be sprung.”
“Huh?” Brenda stood up.
“We don’t know nothin’ about that,” Squeaky said. “Where’d you hear that?”
The man didn’t look at Squeaky. His eyes were on mine. “So what’s the deal?”
“I don’t know anything about it.” I didn’t.
The two looked at each other. Then the short one grinned. “Well, that’s cool… just forget it ever happened.” They walked out, climbed in their car, and drove away. To this day I have no idea what their visit was all about.
That same week a motion for discovery was made by the defense, and all the prosecution’s evidence (including my statements) was turned over to Charlie and his ever-changing team of lawyers. I had known this would happen eventually, but I didn’t think it would be that soon. I would later learn that on the very day Charlie was presented with those documents we at Spahn’s had set things up for an acid trip to celebrate our return to the ranch.
It was rather chilly the night we gathered inside the saloon to play music and smoke a little grass. I had Mark Ross pass out the acid, and we all dropped at the same time. It was good acid and we each took one tab. Sitting at the head of the circle on a pillow, with Sandy and Brenda on one side and Squeaky on the other, I felt as though I had assumed control. I sensed at once that Kevin and Mark were uptight. I signaled for Cappy and Ginny to move closer to Mark. We all joined hands and I initiated some motion into the circle. It was then that I saw Mark’s eyes kind of roll back in his head. I knew we might lose him if I didn’t intervene. I knelt in front of him and raised his hands, setting his palms against mine. “Hey, Mark… hey, man, don’t fade away on us.” I began exerting a slight pressure against his palms until he met the pressure with some resistance. When he did, I gave in to his motion, then applied pressure again. Pretty soon our hands began moving in a series of synchronized movements. I watched his eyes and saw he was coming around… the motion was bringing him around. I’d seen Charlie do the same thing countless times; pretty soon everyone was tripping out on me and Mark. Finally he looked me dead in the eye. As he spoke, so did I; the words we said were the same words:
“Are you doin’ that or am I?”
Afterward we all made love, then lay around rapping and listening to music. Sometime before dawn we heard three vehicles pull up in front of the saloon. Brenda blew out the candles, and Mark and I laid a cross beam across the door. We could hear the static from squad-car radios and the cops as they climbed out of their cars and began flashing their lights along the boardwalk.
“Go on down by the corral and take a look,” one of them said. “We’ll take a peek up this way.” The boardwalk creaked as they clomped past the saloon toward the tack room.
“Check the back door,” I whispered to Cappy. She walked quietly to the rear of the saloon, then came back and sat beside me.
“It’s locked,” she said. “Somebody must have told them we moved back here.”
Had they wanted, the cops could have gotten inside, but in listening to them, you got the feeling that they really didn’t want to. Finally they convened in front of the saloon, got in their cars, and split.
The next morning (though I was scheduled to appear in court on a traffic violation), I accompanied Clem to the Hall of Justice. He too had to appear in court. It was simple procedure; he merely wanted to change attorneys, substituting Daye Shinn (at Charlie’s suggestion) for Charles Hollopeter. All that was required of Clem was a one-word answer: “Yes.” But by then Steve Grogan was pretty far gone.
When he was finally called before the judge, he stood there dumbly, with a leering grin on his face, his hair disheveled across his forehead.
“Mr. Grogan, the court is informed that you no longer with Mr. Charles Hollopeter to represent you, that you have decided upon Mr. Daye Shinn as your new acting attorney. Is that true?”
Clem turned and looked at the girls who were seated among the spectators.
“Is that true?” the judge repeated.
“Huh?” Clem muttered.
“Young man, I’m talking to you… do you understand what I’m saying?”
“Huh?” Clem blurted again.
The judge then asked that Clem be taken next door and examined for being under the influence of drugs. Forty-five minutes later he was escorted into the courtroom again, it being determined that he was not under the influence of any drug or stimulant. When the judge repeated the question, however, Clem’s response was the same. We asked for a recess, and I took Clem outside.
“Look, man, all you got to do is say one word, ‘Yes.’ When he asks you if you want Daye Shinn, you say, ‘Yes.’”
“Huh?” he repeated.
Finally I just rared back and slapped him full in the face with the flat of my hand and shouted his name. “Steve… Steve… what the fuck is the matter?”
His eyes fluttered and he looked at me.
“What’s the matter?” I repeated. “Where the hell have you been? You okay?”
“You want to keep Hollopeter or do you want Daye Shinn?”
“I’d rather have Shinn; he seems to know more what’s happening.”
When court reconvened, we went back inside and he told the judge he wanted Daye Shinn.
Seeing Clem so completely “dodoed out” that morning unnerved me; he’d played the idiot so long that he’d literally become an idiot; all his responses were idiot responses – implants by Charlie. Steve Grogan had for all intents and purposes “ceased to exist.” Why this particular episode jolted me so, I don’t know. Unless it was the realization that my own idiocy was no less blatant. I didn’t go back to Spahn’s that afternoon. Instead, I drove out to Topanga Canyon to visit Black Beard and spent the night there.
The following morning I appeared before the judge for my traffic violation. Brenda and Squeaky went with me. Since I’d failed to show on two previous occasion, the old man was in no mood for excuses, and fined me sixty-five dollars or five days in jail. I asked the girls to go out to the car and get some money I’d stashed under the dashboard. They went out but didn’t come back, and I spent five days in the cooler, not knowing that Charlie had already given the girls copies of my statements to the D.A.
Charles Manson had spent twenty-three years in prison. To me, five days seemed an eternity, particularly since I knew I’d pushed my own games to their limit. Though I was in a cell with six other guys – half of them murder cases on appeal, the others alcoholics – I felt totally and utterly alone. I thought about the others in jail. I thought about what going to prison actually meant. I thought about Snake, sitting in a mental ward. I would later see a transcript of a statement she’d made to the police. When asked who she was, she replied, “I am a butterfly in a flower palace… I live on a sea of sand.” Perhaps for the first time I began to see what was happening. Not the sensationalism, the publicity, the theory, the great spectacle that was being created to glut the public’s craving for “meaning and justice.” What I saw was the truth, that the distance between good and evil is short; that the fine line between sanity and insanity is one we all walk; that I was on the brink of self-destruction. Around me were four walls and barred windows and men, who, in the face of life, preferred to stay drunk.
I was released in the morning (sometime around the end of March) and immediately hitchhiked up to Spahn’s. Five nights of insomnia had left me completely obliterated. Sandy, Brenda, and Squeaky were there waiting with copies of my statements to the police.
“What is this shit?” Squeaky shouted, springing to her feet.
“What?” I mumbled.
“Your goddamned testimony to the Inyo County pigs!”
“It’s the truth… it’s the -”
“Charlie always said we had nothing to hide… the truth will set you free.”
“It didn’t set you free, did it?” Brenda lashed out.
“You want to be free?” Sandy asked.
“Judas… you’re a Judas!”
I walked out of the saloon and up to the Story-Book House. I grabbed the keys to Mark’s van, then trotted up the trail toward the outlaw shacks where it was parked. I didn’t know where I was going, but I was getting the hell out of L.A.
I stopped in Chatsworth and put some gas in the car, then headed for Topanga Canyon, deciding to see Black Beard before I split. I was completely disoriented, feeling disgust one moment, anguish the next. My entire being seemed molten, slippery, and out of control, as though all levels of consciousness belonged to the sea – to its currents, its waves, its vastness. I felt like some hapless sailing vessel on the brink of a storm. Part of it was exhaustion; part of it was I had reached the end and the beginning at the same time.
COPYRIGHT PAUL WATKINS AND GUILLERMO SOLEDAD