It's been 40 years since "the sixties died," as Joan Didion wrote in her memoir, The White Album. Didion was referring to the discovery of 5 bodies at the home of celebrity couple Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. One of the bodies was Tate herself, a beautiful and famous starlet who also happened to be 2 weeks short of giving birth to her and Polanki's first child, another a famous hairdresser (Jay Sebring) and another the heiress to a coffee fortune (Abigail Folger). Four of the bodies, including the pregnant Tate, were brutally stabbed numerous times. It was by all accounts a grisly crime scene.
The very next night, a similarly shocking murder happened at 3301 Waverly Drive. This time, the victims were not part of the young, hip Hollywood elite. It was an older couple, the LaBiancas, who had the misfortune of living next to an address the Manson Family had attended a party at some time earlier.
There's no need to go over the complete history of Manson, the Family and these crimes here. But with the 40th anniversary, there are some interesting articles up this weekend. The prosecutor who put them away and author of the greatest true crime novel of all time, Vincient Bugliosi, has one in Newsweek. MSNBC has an article about what has happened to some of those Family members that did not go to jail. Maybe the most interesting article, from the Daily Mail, discusses Manson's fame and how he has turned it into a virtual cottage industry from behind bars. More than a little disturbing, I suppose.
One personal note. I remember the movie Fatal Vision coming out in 1984. Based on a true story, the movie documented Green Beret Captain and physician Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted of murdering his wife and children on base at Ft. Bragg in 1970. The crime scene bared a striking similarity to the Manson-Tate crime scene, which seemed odd to investigators. MacDonald's story was also odd, describing a crime committed by hippies and druggies. The US Army CID on Bragg didn't believe MacDonald's story, because the physical evidence did not add up. Then, on the floor of the living room, the found an issue of Esquire magazine that detailed the Tate-LaBiance murders. It became obvious to investigators that the scene was staged and it had very likely been staged to resemble the murders described in the magazine article.
I watched that movie as a 9 year old and it scared the shit out of me. But I remembered the part about the Manson murders and in 7th grade, I discovered Bugliosi's book, Helter Skelter, in the library. It was probably the first "real" book that I read cover to cover. Probably not the fare a 7th grader should be reading, but what are you gonna do? Anyway, it created an interest in me of what made people tick and do that kind of crazy shit. In my line of work, I often have to deal with people who do some pretty evil crap. I'd like to think that I'm pretty good with dealing with such people. If that is so, it's probably got something to do with that early fascination with what makes people commit such heinous crimes.
Anyway, I've probably read Helter Skelter 10 times throughout my life. If you have never read it, you should. It's an interesting glimpse into the way a person can exploit other people's wants and needs to the point of making those people do inexplicable things.
Happy Anniversary, Charlie. Rot in hell.