Manson Exposed!

Having read easily in excess of a dozen books on Charles Manson over the years, plus viewing at least that number of films and documentaries about his life, not to mention the literally countless scads of magazine and news articles devoted to chronicling he and his followers’ brain-curdling exploits, I was content in the belief I knew everything there was to know about the the 20th century’s answer to Jack the Ripper.

How wrong that was. A book published last year by American journalist Ivor Davis to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the crimes known to the world as the Tate/LaBianca killings has dramatically and emphatically turned that belief on it’s head.

MEMBER OF THE FAMILY (HERE) written by Dianne Lake and published in 2018 was the last book I read from what may properly be referred to as the ‘Manson canon’. That book was such an insightful and gripping read, I made a pact with myself never to read another book on Manson that wasn’t penned by a person who was actually there and a member of Manson’s inner circle known as The Family.

That meant no more books by journalists, hangers-on, Manson-ologists, sideline commentators and self-appointed experts. God knows there’s been way too many of those over the years offering absolutely nothing new on the subject of Charles Manson and his band of devoted followers.

Back in August 1969, Ivor Davis was the U.S. correspondent for The London Times newspaper. He was among the throng of reporters gathered outside 10050 Cielo Drive, Los Angeles the day after the murders of actress Sharon Tate and four others hoping for any morsel of information shared from the attending police and detectives.

Davis not only wrote the second ever published book – FIVE TO DIE – on the case back in 1970, he also accompanied the Beatles on their 1964, 31 concert American tour (Manson claimed songs from the Beatles WHITE ALBUM foretold of a black/white race war that he would be the architect of).

He also personally interviewed Sharon Tate about her movie career prior to her murder and recorded interviews with John Lennon and Paul McCartney regarding their views on Manson’s twisted interpretation of their song lyrics.

In other words one would be hard-pressed to think of someone more consummately qualified than Davis – now aged 82 – to write the definitive journalist’s account of this unique and so very dark period of American history.

Among his new book’s many revelations are –

  • Actor Steve McQueen once got into a fight with Charles Manson and broke the delusional Svengali’s nose
  • Steve McQueen was en-route to Sharon Tate’s house the night of the murders to have dinner with Sharon and Roman Polanski but got sidetracked when he picked up a female hitchhiker. Instead he spent the night back at her house. For years, that close shave with death was known around Hollywood as McQueen’s GREAT ESCAPE (after the 1963 movie of the same name he starred in)
Steve McQueen pictured with actress Sharon Tate and film director Roman Polanski just days before Sharon’s murder in August 1969.
  • Months before the killings Manson had a brief encounter with Sharon Tate at her Cielo Drive residence
  • Singer Neil Young once gifted Manson a motorcycle
  • A few weeks after the murders, Roman Polanski received a bill from his landlord Rudi Altobelli – from whom he and Sharon were renting the property at 10050 Cielo Drive – for $1500 for damage done to the property on the night of the murders. The expenses included replacement of blood-stained carpets, damage to drapes and repainting of walls that had been inscribed with messages written in the victims’ blood
  • Bruce Lee was briefly considered a suspect in the Tate/LaBianca murders. Lee had coached Sharon Tate in martial arts for her role in the movie THE WRECKING CREW.
  • In 1983, a company called GREY MATTER RECORDS released a 13 track album of Manson music titled CHARLES MANSON: LIVE AT SAN QUENTIN, recorded in and smuggled out of Vacaville Prison
  • When he died in 2017, Manson had 8620 Twitter followers
  • On the day he died – November 17th – the headline of The New York Post ran –

Interestingly, MANSON EXPOSED includes one of the few positive anecdotes I’ve read which paints Manson in what could be construed as a vaguely humanitarian light.

The story is recounted (page 201) that on the second night of murders, August 10, 1969, while driving around Benedict Canyon looking for a house to kill all the occupants of, Manson is said to have looked inside a home and remarked “Let’s drive on – there’s children in that house”.

Not something one might exactly include on a character reference but if your name happened to be Charlie Manson then I imagine anything that could be even remotely mistaken for a charitable comment might be welcome.

The real game-changer however, delivered to me from reading Ivor Davis’s book, concerned Charles Manson’s thwarted music career.

A number of books and sources over the decades have offered the motive for the murder of Sharon Tate and the four other victims at 10050 Cielo Drive on the night of August 9, 1969 as being a mistaken, tragically misplaced revenge killing ordered by Manson whose real intended victim had been record producer Terry Melcher (son of Doris Day).

Through a series of by now very well-documented events, Terry Melcher expressed interest in recording a demo session with Charlie in his recording studio. Manson rashly and idiotically interpreted this as a handshake agreement to the pre-signing of a record contract.

When the imagined record contract did not eventuate, Manson regarded it as an act of treachery and double-cross on the part of Melcher and swore vengeance. Terry Melcher was at one time the tenant of 10050 Cielo Drive but had moved out several weeks before Manson’s band of demented followers struck.

What the 2019 book MANSON EXPOSED reveals is that Manson had numerous chances to achieve his dreams of singer/songwriter success but due in no small part to his own in-efforts and lack of follow-up, ended up bitter, disillusioned and empty-handed.

Davis recounts the time Manson recorded a three hour demo session with Gary Stromberg, a producer at Universal Records. Stromberg wanted Charlie to come back and do some more but Manson never showed up.

About a year later, Charlie gained the interest of another music producer but after the recording he again failed to show for the follow up. Phil Kaufman, a music industry insider, is quoted as saying “We tried to sell Charlie’s music a long time ago but we never could get him to sit down and do it.” (page 37).

Whether it was due to Manson’s nomadic, drug-fueled lifestyle, or his need to keep on the run from authorities or some other reason, accounts such as these go against the previously unchallenged picture of down-trodden Charlie who couldn’t get an even break from a music industry blind to his talent.

I reckon a decent enough fiction writer could have a rolling good time with the possibilities inherent in an alternate history version of the Manson narrative. What if fate had deemed that Charlie’s musical career did take off? And take off spectacularly?

Speaking of which…

A writing site called QUERY LETTER.COM is running a competition asking entrants to write a back cover blurb of 100 words or less for a made-up, yet-to-be-written book.

I thought I’d try my hand and came up with this –

California. 1972.  Former hippie cult leader Charles Manson is now a successful recording artist on his way to becoming the next Bob Dylan. The brutal killings forever associated with his name are yet to take place. Instead, the sort of success Charlie always dreamed of finally seems within reach.

Industry executive Roman Reyes is charged with managing the eccentric superstar on the rise but when he promises more than he can deliver events take on an unexpected, sinister turn. Will Charlie revert to old ways and seek vengeance or is this a messiah reborn? Find out in MANSON SPIN CITY.

Coming up with the name of the actual book proved to be challenging. I boiled it down to this list of ten titles, then chose one –

Unfinished Notes

Front Man Charlie

Manson 2.0

Back Catalog

Manson Set List

The Sound & The Fury

Manson Spin City

Charlie Hasn’t Left Yet

The Manson Also Rises

Brave New Charlie

There’s $500 up for grabs for the winner. Entrants have until September 15 to submit. Go HERE if you’ve got a brilliant idea.

Ps. Your bonus view this week is an interview with Charles Manson’s son, Michael Brunner. He comes across as someone who has lead a thoughtful life and doesn’t appear to be a chip off the ‘ol block.

12 thoughts on “Manson Exposed!

  1. OMG…where does one begin here?
    With kudos to Steve McQueen kicking the maniac’s ass?
    With props to McQueen’s loose sexual morals saving his life?
    How unsympathetic, greedy, calloused, and completely illogical Landlord Rudi was toward Roman?
    (Wouldn’t a similar situation, tho much worse, be Rudy Giuliani billing all the surviving family members of 9/11 for the destruction of the Twin Towers?)
    Hey, at least Manson didn’t let his animals slaughter the kids. PROPS !! Keep driving. We have to find another house full of people to murder.
    The Post. Holy sh**. You’ve got to love them. “Make Room, Satan.” LOL
    But what a loser! So many opportunities he just tossed away with the music.
    So that’s Manson–maybe never would have become quite as bad as he became if he stuck to music. Probably would have become famous and just succumbed to drugs when he was 26 or 28, like every other musician on the planet.
    Hitler wanted to be a painter.
    We all know what happened there.
    The Castro thing and baseball: that turns out to be a myth. He liked baseball but didn’t evidently really try to become a player.
    Who else could there have been in history, though? How many others?
    Idi Amin’s secret desire was to be a ballet dancer?
    Genghis Khan actually invented snowboarding and would gladly have gone “pro” and not wasted his time conquering Asia and China?
    Nero displayed an odd talent for tightrope walking and would have created the first circus instead of fiddling while Rome burned?!
    Who’s to say?
    We’ll never know!

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  2. This five minute documentary, complete with thick English accent, claims Hitler painted more than 1000 paintings between 1908 and 1914 –

    This second doco, this time with Indian accent, points out that in 2002, several of Hitler’s paintings were shown to a renown art critic without the art critic knowing who had painted them. Apparently the critic proclaimed that the paintings were quite good but noted that the way the artist portrayed human figures showed a profound disinterest in people.
    Hmmm…

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  3. Interesting little mini documentaries.
    I would never own a Hitler painting. You know how we’ve talked about how Jerry Lewis was evidently a giant a-hole and I can’t stand the fact that Jon Voight is a total Trump supporter….but we can separate Jerry’s persona from his hilarious comedy and I still think Jon V. is a great actor.
    But Hitler paintings……?! No thank you !!
    I think they second doc. stated it correctly: he did not have the soul of an artist. I’ve never seen his paintings before. They ARE pretty good (on first glance). But what great arrogance and delusion to call himself an artist. He had some technical know-how, but the buck stops there.

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  4. No way I didn’t know the Steve McQueen stuff. He just oozes damn fine coolness. What a guy! Haha the great escape indeed. Hitchhikers and roadside motels. Haha He’s the dude alright. But if he wasn’t getting his end away? Would he have beaten them all up OUATIH style, would he be dead with them or maybe they wouldn’t of entered the building seeing his cool ass car parked outside!!??
    Awesome article Glen. A top read,.
    PS He recorded a beautiful love song that I so adore. Difficult one to recommend for obvious reasons so this article of yours is a perfect place to drop it in. It’s a perfect little song, shame it comes with baggage !

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It is indeed a tempting thought to imagine how it might have turned out differently on the night of August 9, 1969 at the residence of Sharon Tate had an extra, fully-fit male – and that male being Steve McQueen – been in attendance.

    “Look at Your Game, Girl” was written in 1968 in the hopes that it would help Manson get a record contract. It is but one track from his 1970 album LIE: THE LOVE AND TERROR CULT recorded by producer Phil Kaufman through the label Awareness Records.

    Guns ‘n Roses recorded a cover of this song on their 1993 album THE SPAGHETTI INCIDENT (*** Ooops! I see from the comments section of your DILLINGER review you already knew that!) which I used to own but junked many decades ago.

    Would it be too warmed-over to label this song a real cult classic?

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  6. Not to be too serious, Glen, but the ‘humanitarian light’ you draw from the anecdote is vague indeed: Manson was above killing all the occupants of a house in which there were children residing, but he was not above murdering a woman carrying an eight-and-a-half month child?

    On the strength of that evidence, it is difficult to argue that there was any humanitarian light in a man who not only aborts the child, but the mother also—horrendously. Mr. Manson was not merciful in the former instance, merely capricious.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The contradictions and ridiculous ironies are there for all to see.
    Manson might have liked to have claimed the moral high ground in his condemnation of governments around the world vandalizing the rain forests and the environment in the name of progress but such lecturing coming from a man who spent most of his life behind bars was for the ears of the foolhardy and blindly idealistic only.

    Likewise Manson claimed at various time to have been a vegetarian in support of the humanitarian treatment of animals. There’s no actual evidence of Manson being a vegetarian and I somehow doubt his various prison kitchens went out of their way to accommodate his dietary restrictions,

    Apparently back in 1970 in a rant to a Californian court Manson is quoted as having said – “You eat meat with your teeth and you kill things that are better than you are, and in the same respect you say how bad and even killers that your children are. You make your children what they are. I am just a reflection of every one of you,”.

    “I knew a guy that used to work in the stockyards and he used to kill cows all day long with a big sledgehammer, and then go home at night and eat dinner with his children and eat the meat that he slaughtered. Then he would go to church and read the bible, and he would say, ‘That is not killing.’ And I look at him and I say, ‘That doesn’t make any sense, what you are talking about?’

    Then I look at the beast, and I say, ‘Who is the beast?’

    My comment – Yikes!

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  8. Found this little run-down on the internet just now on two typical traits for Scorpios. Whoever penned it may as well have had Charlie in mind when they wrote it all down –

    PERSISTENT (read: obsessive)

    They’re relentless, seriously. Give a Scorpio a meaningful and positive purpose and they could change the world – there’s no stopping them. Self-doubt, recriminations, a lack of confidence… this is alien to them. They know what they want and they believe they’re entitled to get it. Faced with problems, their razor-sharp intellect can create flexible and out-there solutions and get-arounds. Their charm can win over enemies (though they’ll have noted them down in their ‘Grudge Book’ for later… revenge is best served cold).

    STRATEGIC (read: secretive)

    Scorpios treat daily life like a mission. So, they’re on point, focussed and ready to work their charms/strengths/advantages to get what they want (and they always know that they want). Watching them is like seeing a magnificent predator, parading around. See it arch its back, flex its claws, flick its tail… it’s going to do something AWESOME. And you’ll never know what’s coming because they don’t share their goals or thoughts with anyone, which makes them even more interesting.

    They strategise everything, there’s always a hidden agenda with an agenda. Scorpio would make a great ‘Super Spy’…

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