Charles Manson

Charles Manson's Hollywood, Part 12: The Manson Family on Trial by Karina Longworth

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The trials of the Manson family became a kind of public theater which a number of current and future filmmakers found themselves caught up in. Joan Didion bought a dress for a Manson girl to wear to court, Dennis Hopper visited Manson in prison, and a young John Waters attended the trial and took inspiration for his legendary film, Pink Flamingos

Show Notes:

Welcome to the final episode of our ongoing series, Charles Manson's Hollywood. As we speak, we are working on putting together our next, non-murdery season. It will begin some time in September -- follow us on Twitter for updates. 

This episode featured contributions from Moises Chullian, who played Richard Nixon; and, of course Nate DiMeo, concluding his run as Charles Manson. Special thanks to all of our guests on this series, including Wiley Wiggins, Max Linsky, TS Faull, Sam Zimmerman, Noah Segan and Ram Bergman.

Other sources for this episode include:

Charles Manson's trial testimony

Manson family ties

Charles Manson's fiancee wanted to marry him for his corpse

The episode also includes a clip from the Dennis Hopper film American Dreamer, which you can watch on YouTube, and one from Jann Wenner's December 1970 interview with John Lennon, which Rolling Stone has made available as a podcast.

Charles Manson's Hollywood #11: Death Valley '69 by Karina Longworth


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After the murders, Manson moved his family to the depths of the California desert. There, even before they were finally apprehended by the law, their utopia started to fall apart. Hollywood was in the process of being changed by Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider, a film shot partially in the same desert where Manson was now hiding. The Family and their flight to Death Valley -- and the impossible dream of the 60s revolution in general -- was soon thereafter unwittingly reflected in Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni's attempt to make a Hollywood studio film, Zabriskie Point, starring Hopper's future wife. 

Show Notes:

Special thanks to this week's special guests: Nate DiMeo reprised his role as Charles Manson, and we were lucky to have Max Linsky, of and the Longform Podcast, playing Mel Lyman. 

The base list of sources for this series can be found here. The second half of this episode, about Mel Lyman and Zabriskie Point, is indebted to a whole different set of sources:

The Lyman Family's Holy Siege of America by David Felton, Rolling Stone, December 23, 1971

The Sorry Life and Death of Mark Frechette by Dave O'Brian, Rolling Stone, November 6, 1975

Once-Notorious '60s Commune Evolves Into Respectability: After 19 Years the Lyman Family Prospers as Craftsmen and Farmers.LA Times, August 4, 1985

Return to Zabriskie Point: The Mark Frechette and Daria Halprin Story, by Sam Tweedle, Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict

See also: the "four obscene words" editorial in Avatar; and the trailer for Zabriskie Point.

This episode is titled after the Sonic Youth song "Death Valley '69," which, as Kim Gordon explains in her memoir Girl in a Band, was partially inspired by the Manson family. I included a few other Sonic Youth songs just for their vibe; Gordon tells stories about many of them in her book. I particularly like the story about how "Halloween" was inspired by Henry Rollins.

The final song in this episode before the end credits was composed and submitted by YMRT listener Blake Godfrey. If you'd like to submit your music for consideration for use in a future episode, the best way to do that is by sending Karina a link to your stuff on Soundcloud or whatever streaming thing you prefer. 

Episode breakdown:

Intro: "Album Tag Song" by Dennis Wilson; "Modern Heavy Rock Guitar Top Line" royalty free loop

Woodstock: "Mellow Music Theme Instrumental" royalty free track

Spahn Ranch raided by Straight Satans and police: "Southern Rhythm Guitar" GarageBand loop

Shorty Shea's murder: "Psychedelic 6 Guitars Soundscape Mystery" royalty free track

Barker Ranch, Easy Rider connection: "Dark Melodic Metal Guitar Loop 1 Long" royalty free loop; "Death Valley '69" by Sonic Youth

Linda Kasabian leaves the Manson Family: "70s Acid Trip 2 Guitar Loop" royalty free loop

The Manson Family in the desert, preparing for Helter Skelter and searching for the Bottomless Pit; Juan Flynn; Danny DeCarlo's defection; Barbara Hoyt and Kitty Lutesinger want to leave; Barbara and Sherrie leave; Sherrie Doe's body is found: "Halloween" by Sonic Youth

Manson vs. Scientologist prospector Crockett; Juan Flynn's defection: "Stranger on a Train": by Sonic Youth

Hard times in the desert force Manson to beg from Gregg Jakobson; Charlie cracks the whip; the earth mover fire;: "Because Coda" by Sonic Youth

Rangers question Crockett about Manson Family; Crockett freaks out; Rangers find Tex Watson's Toyota: "Halloween" by Sonic Youth

Charlie tells Tex to shoot the Rangers; Tex defects; Kitty and Stephanie escape; the first raid on Barker Ranch; "Devastation and Revenge" by Kevin MacLeod

Charlie thinks he's escaped arrest; second raid on Barker Ranch; cops find Manson hiding in a cabinet; Charlie tries to talk his way out of arrest by invoking Helter Skelter; Kitty tells the police everything she knows; Susan talks to investigators about Gary Hinman; Susan spills to her jailhouse roommates; Virginia and Ronnie decide to snitch; Danny DeCarlo talks; LAPD announces they've cracked the Tate case: "Remembering Past Everything" by Pipe Choir

Zabriskie Point plot connections to the Manson Family: "Stormy Moods Orchestra" by Apache Tomcat

Zabriskie Point as doomed production; casting of Daria Halprin and Mark Frechette; Mel Lyman, the Fort Hill Community; Avatar Magazine and first amendment battles: "Railroad's Whiskey Co" by Jahzzar

Daria Halprin marries Dennis Hopper; Mark Frechette robs a bank; Frechette dies in prison; similarities between Lyman and Manson; future of Fort Hill; Manson's letter to Lyman"A Memory Starts" by Blake Godfrey

End Credits: "Pop Rock Guitar Rhythm Loop" royalty free loop

Outro: "Expressway To Yr Skull" by Sonic Youth

Charles Manson's Hollywood, Part 8: Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski by Karina Longworth


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While trying to launch her own acting career, Tate fell in love with, and eventually married, Roman Polanski, the hotshot Polish filmmaker who had his first massive American hit in the summer of 1968, Rosemary’s Baby. Tate and Polanski were often described as Hollywood’s “it” couple during their brief marriage, but behind the scenes their relationship was complicated by his infidelities, and her struggles to prove herself as an actress in films like Valley of the Dolls.

Show Notes:

The base list of sources for this series can be found here. This episode is a continuation of last week's episode, and was mostly based on the same sources, particularly Roman Polanski's Roman.

Once again, Ram Bergman played Roman Polanski.

Charles Manson's Hollywood, Part 7: Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring by Karina Longworth


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In the first of two episodes about the Manson Family’s most famous victim, we’ll trace actress Sharon Tate’s early years, her romance with celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, and the on-set affair that changed the course of Tate’s life and career. Plus: sex, drugs, haunted houses, Warren Beatty and Steve McQueen.

The base list of sources for this series can be found here.

In the immediate aftermath of the Manson murders, much misinformation, rumor and slander about the victims was published as fact, so it can be difficult to sort out truth from fiction even today -- particularly when it comes to things like sexual habits and drug consumption. My primary sources for this chapter were Roman Polanski's autobiography Roman by Polanski;Sharon Tate and the Manson Murders by Greg King; and My Husband, My Friend by Neile Adams McQueen. This 2002 story on Jay Sebring from the New York Times Magazine is a little odd, but it was useful for me to understand Sebring's accomplishments as a hairdresser. The Warren Beatty/Shampoo stuff came from Peter Biskind's Star and Easy Riders, Raging Bulls -- books which cover the same territory in almost the same exact language at times. 

Today we introduce a new special guest: Ram Bergman played Roman Polanski. 

Episode Breakdown:

Intro: "Album Tag Song" by Dennis Wilson; "Modern Heavy Rock Guitar Top Line" royalty free track; "Mellow Suspense Music" royalty free track

Jay Sebring and the Manson murders' connection to Warren Beatty's Shampoo"Pacific Ocean Blues" by Dennis Wilson

Sharon Tate's early life: "Family Tree" by Jahzzar

Tate's teenage rape: "Crazy Raggea FX Guitar" royalty free track

Richard Beymer, Jack Palance and Sharon's early ambitions to act; Tate's arrival in Los Angeles:"Boulevard St. Germain" by Jahzzar

Sharon Tate's beauty, and insecurity: "OLPC" by Marco Raaphorst

Sharon Tate and Marty Ransohoff: "Starlight" royalty free track

Thomas Kummer becomes Jay Sebring, who revolutionizes hairdressing: "La Hacienda" by Apache Tomcat

Jay Sebring's taste for danger, living in Jean Harlow's former, now haunted house; drugs; Sharon's first big film, Eye of the Devil: "Piano Spa" royalty free track

Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski's abortive early dates and acid trip: "Cylinder Six" by Chris Zabriskie

Sharon and Roman's acid trip turns bad: "Sci Fi Movie Sound Effects 2 Spacey Guitar" royalty free track

Polanski and Tate become a couple on the set of The Fearless Vampire Killers, Polanski's attitude towards women: "Relaxing Piano Notes (Easy Listening Music) royalty free track

Sharon Tate breaks up with Jay Sebring, who insists on meeting Roman Polanski: "The Operation" by Morrissey

Sharon and Roman's idyllic early relationship: "Readers! Do You Read?" by Chris Zabriskie

End Credits: "Pop Rock Guitar Rhythm Loop 3" Royalty free track

Outro: "LA Woman" by The Doors

Charles Manson's Hollywood, Part 5: Doris Day and Terry Melcher by Karina Longworth


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Charles Manson became convinced his best chance at rock stardom was impressing Terry Melcher, a record executive who had made stars out of The Byrds, and who was also the son of one of old Hollywood's most wholesome, carefree Establishment stars, Doris Day. Terry and his girlfriend, Candice Bergen, had long lived at 10050 Cielo Drive, and sublet the house to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate months before the murders.

Show Notes:

The base list of sources for this series can be found here

If there is a good Doris Day biography, other than her autobiography (which I have on order, but it hadn’t arrived by the time I had to make this episode), I couldn’t find it. I consulted two books,Considering Doris Day by Tom Santopietro and Doris Day: A Reluctant Star, both of which I found to have problems. Day deserves a serious book; I hope she someday gets one.

The other woman at the center of this episode, Candice Bergen, has written two autobiographies. I based a large portion of this episode on her first memoir, Knock Wood, published in 1984. 

Other sources for this episode:

“1969: Film star stabbed in ‘ritualistic’ killings”

Sly Stone interview on Doris Day

Episode Breakdown:

Intro: “Album Tag Song” by Dennis Wilson/Modern Heavy Rock Guitar Top Line royalty free loop/Delay Guitar royalty free loop 

The Golden Penetrators: Mouse Trap by Apache Tomcat

Doris Day’s marriage to Al Jourdan/parallels to New York New York/Jourdan’s abuse/Doris Day’s first screen test for Michael Curtiz/Day’s rise to fame and “perpetual virgin” persona/Pillow Talk: Easy Listening in Jazz royalty free track

Terry Melcher’s early life as surf rocker/selling song titles to Bobby Darin/Recording The Byrds: “Somewhere in My Mind” by Apache Tomcat

Terry Melcher’s relationship with Candice Bergen/Bergen as celebutante, second-rate Julie Christie and bridge between Establishment jet set and hippies: Also “Somewhere in My Mind” by Apache Tomcat, but a different part of the song  

Terry Melcher and Candice Bergen as rich hippies/Melcher’s first visit to Spahn Ranch/Melcher sleeping with Manson girl/Manson as chameleon: “If I Can’t Dance It’s Not My Revolution” by Quantum Jazz

Terry wouldn’t let Manson in his house: “For Better or Worse” by Kai Engel

Sly Stone story:  “Que Sera Sera” recorded by Sly and the Family Stone

Marty Melcher dies, leaving Doris Day destitute: “Divider” by Chris Zabriskie

Terry Melcher moves out of Cielo Drive, goes off the radar: “Crazy Reggae FX Guitar” royalty free loop

Creepy-crawls(i.e.: Manson family home invasions): “Gagool” by Kevin MacLeod

Helter Skelter put on hold to prepare for Terry Melcher’s visit to Spahn Ranch: “Au coin de la rue” by Marco Raaphorst

How dare Terry Melcher stand Charlie Manson up: “Devastation and Revenge” by Kevin MacLeod

Charles Manson meets Sharon Tate/Terry finally auditions Charlie: "Blue Feather" by Kevin MacLeod

Manson wilully misinterprets Melcher’s promises: "Mellow Music Theme Instrumental" (royalty free)

Mike Deasy’s bad trip to Spahn Ranch/Randy Starr/Charlie becomes angry all the time: "Sci Fi Movie Sound Effects" royalty free loop

Manson gets dark, creepy crawls turn into robberies, Terry Melcher gets paranoid/Melcher’s testimony: "Sinister Mood Guitar Effects" royalty free loop

The Ballad of Easy Rider and Byrdmaniax/Melcher’s later life: “Decora” by Yo La Tengo

Outro: Pop Rock Rhythm royalty free loop; “Dig It” by The Beatles