Erik Hadegaard’s piece in Rolling Stone magazine goes into the life of Charles Manson, his tentative marriage, his history of murder, and his tendency towards mania.
Have you ever sat and thought to yourself; what is Charles Manson up to these days? You know, the Charles Manson? The deranged, sadistically cunning psycho hippie killer from the Golden State California? The man held responsible for directing a group of impressionable youth during the free love movement of the 1960’s to violently murder LA’s wealthy and well-to-do?
Charles Manson agreed to a series of talks with Rolling Stone’s writer Erik Hedegaard over a time span of a few years, disputing popular claims to his motives, the details surrounding his crimes, his gripe with Terry Melcher, his failed attempt at joining the Beach Boys, and his disdain for the Hollywood/Media industry complex.
In his eye opening piece entitled “Manson Today: The Final Confessions of America’s Most Notorious Psychopath”, Hedegaard forcibly brings us into the dark and delusional world of one of the world’s most notorious criminals, and at how at age 79, Manson is just as terrifying to a nation as he was when he was arrested over 44 years ago.
At Corcoran State Prison in southern California, Charles Manson spends most of his days in solitude. Waking up each morning, he leaves to grab his breakfast and his bagged lunch, returns to his cell for an evening nap, wakes up, eats his lunch, takes another nap, wakes up, plays some time consuming game like chess, has dinner, and returns to his cell by 8:45 pm.
This is the average day for Charles Manson, that is, if he hasn’t pissed off the guards or fought with another inmate landing him some solitary confinement.
But when the maniacal Manson isn’t doing the above, he is graced with fan mail, ranging up to thousands of letters a month, more than any other inmate at Corcoran State Prison. He often replies to his fan mail with letters autographed in a eerily humorous tone, “the hippy cult leader made me do it.”
And then there are the visits. While Charlie may be viewed by a vast majority of the American public as the last human you would want to sit face to face at arm’s length with, Manson has one admiring visitor who has stood by his side. A woman Charlie Manson has affectionately named “Star”
“Star!” he says “She’s not a woman. She’s a star in the Milky Way!”
Star is a 25 year old woman raised in a town off the Mississippi River. Raised a Baptist, Hadegaard describes her as a person who “keeps a tidy home, is a prim dresser, (and) has a fun sense of humor.”
So how did these two hit it off? According to Hadegaard, Star’s admiration of psycho serial killer Charles Manson is not for his infamously brutal crimes of the past, but for his pro-environmental stance, also known as ATWA (Air, Trees, Water and Animals). Star is the person behind various “Give-Charlie-a-Chance” websites, mansondirect.com and atwaearth.com.
Star plans visits regularly, 5 hours at a time both Saturday and Sunday, that is if Charlie isn’t rotting away in some light-less underground bunker in solitary.
Star, who seems to be surprisingly sober for a woman who holds a sociopath the likes of Charles Manson in such high esteem, understands that most people think she’s crazy for standing by Charles Manson. “Yeah, well, people can think I’m crazy… But they don’t know. This is what’s right for me. This is what I was born for.”
The general understanding of who Charles Manson and his “family” of psychopathic killers were comes from prosecuting attorney Vincent Bugliosi’s 600-page true-crime account of the Manson investigation called Helter Skelter, named after the popular Beatle’s song Manson was infatuated with. Manson’s obsession with the song and his interpretation as a coming apocalyptic war between blacks and whites Bugliosi claims is what drove Manson and his family to commit the heinous murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate, celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, Folger’s-coffee-fortune heiress Abigail Folger, screenwriter Voytek Frykowski, grocery-store-chain owner Leno LaBianca, and his wife Rosemary LaBianca. By murdering these wealthy white Americans, Bugliosi purports in Helter Skelter that Manson was hoping to usher in the coming race war, framing the Black Panthers for the murders.
Manson had told his followers to “totally destroy everyone in (it), as gruesome as you can.”, and to leave “witchy” and ominous clues behind to make it look as though the Black Panthers were the ones responsible. Charles Manson and his “family” dispute those crimes to this day.
Of the mash up of collected random blurts by Manson to Hadegaard, Manson albeit incoherently, challenges Bugliosi’s claims and asserts that Bugliosi profited off of conjecture and a false narrative.
“I didn’t direct anyone to do a motherfucking thing.” Manson decries.
“I never killed anyone!” a fact, oddly enough, seeing that the Manson Family, (Mary Brunner, Lynette Fromme, Susan Atkins, Sandra Good, Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian, all openly vouched for Manson’s absence during the murders)
“There was no ‘Family’! Bug (his nickname for Bugliosi) made that up!”
“Go for what you know, baby; we’re all free here. I’m nobody’s boss!”
Commenting on Bugliosi’s best seller Helter Skelter, “Man, that doesn’t even make insane sense!”
Manson also claims that the government owes him $50 million for “45 years of bullshit”
Despite Manson’s clearly delusional and manic rants, Hadegaard comments on Manson’s “vibe”- his ability to transmit a powerful presence, a type of informal control over those he so chooses. Bugiosi commented on Manson’s luring appeal, and how his presence alone was enough to draw millions of Americans to their television screens to witness the trial and conviction of a man who never had to murder anyone himself, instead brainwashing others to do his bidding.
“He had a quality about him that one thousandth of one percent of people have. An aura. ‘Vibes’, the kids called it in the Sixties. Wherever he went, kids gravitated towards him. This is not normal. I mean, I couldn’t get someone to go to the local Dairy Queen and get me a milkshake OK? But this guy, I don’t know what it is. How the hell do I know?”
Manson’s ‘aura’ is rivaled by few and lands him a spot as one of the most influential people in American history. Inspiring books, documentaries, fan art, Manson is an enigmatic figure. Between the pouring of gushing fan letters, to requests for interviews from the media, Charlie Manson’s solitary confinement days aside, he is quite the busy man, and now, he is set to get married.
“I’ll tell you straight up, Charlie and I are going to get married,” Star told Hadegaard while sitting in Corcoran’s community park over a milkshake. “When that will be, we don’t know. But I take it very seriously. Charlie is my husband. Charlie told me to tell you this. We haven’t told anybody about that.”
Manson denies Star’s claim, saying that it’s “garbage” and that it’s all for “public consumption.” If Manson’s history of manipulating the facts on the ground for the sake of distorting the public’s perception of the enigma that is Charles Manson teaches us anything, it’s that we should take Manson’s words with a grain of salt.
Hadegaard’s investigation into the mind and life of the 79 year old Charlie Manson, 44 years after his arrest, reveals a complex and intriguing specter. A madly charismatic, sadistically prophetic, devilishly attractive, sadomasochistic environmentalist who is now going to be a married man.
It’s quite the story of a man who couldn’t help but to be famous. Whether that be as the Beach Boy’s guitarist and songwriter or California desert cult leader, it seems as though Manson’s was destined for stardom.
Manson’s marriage, his history of murder, and his tendency towards mania will continue to fascinate and enthrall readers and criminal analysts for years to come. Even half a century later and there are people like me, slaving over a keyboard, hoping each and every word does justice to the gruesomely handsome story of Charles Manson.
“…I’ll never tell on nobody, not even me, man, so that’s why I ain’t never told anybody what really happened back then. I can’t tell you right now. It wouldn’t work if I did tell you, because it would change by morning. Everything is constantly changing, man. The mind is a universal thing. Charles Manson and Beethoven… It’s just one little thought.” – Charlie
by John Amaruso