Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Emma Cline’s Masterful (and Quite Traditional) Manson-Family Debut Novel


In The Girls, her first novel, Emma Cline has taken the story of the Manson Family as a template and made her own sly alterations. Some of these are cosmetic: The setting is moved from Southern California to the outskirts of the Bay Area; no historical names are retained. Others are in the interest of streamlining the narrative: A few characters seem to be composites of real-life figures and several wholly imagined; the predictions of a Beatles-themed apocalyptic race war that Manson was spouting before the Family’s murders (he called it “Helter Skelter”) have been entirely dispensed with. Cline has retained the essential structure of a gang of hippies living in hedonistic squalor on a remote ranch, the women sexually in thrall to a buckskin-clad charismatic leader who keeps them around with the shared delusion that he’s destined to become a rock superstar. A grisly night of speed-fueled murders goes down, and there’s blood on the wall. Cline’s crucial decision, signaled in her title, is to tell the story in the voice of a minor, off-and-on member of the re-imagined cult. Now middle-aged and looking back on the strange summer of 1969, when she was 14, Evie Boyd is a narrator in the mold of Nick Carraway, but her Gatsby isn’t the Manson figure (here renamed Russell Hadrick). It’s a woman named Suzanne Parker, one of the murderers and a figure with a charismatic power all her own.

The Manson horror show has been chewed over in too many books, films, and other pop-culture ephemera to count. And though the murderers Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, and Charles “Tex” Watson, as well as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who later attempted to assassinate Gerald Ford, accrued their own repertory celebrity, the focus of Manson lit — from the Rolling Stone cover story that dropped during the trial, to prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s best seller Helter Skelter, to Jeff Guinn’s excellent 2013 biography Manson — is usually on the maestro, who still makes the news when he gets engaged from prison or has a birthday (he’s now 81). A bogus meme this spring had it that he’d endorsed Donald Trump for president. Reviewing Guinn’s book when it appeared, I found exposure to videos of Manson’s recent parole hearings toxic enough to be nightmare-inducing. For the baby-boomers, the Manson episode lingers with Altamont as one of the bad dreams that closed the book for 1960s utopianism. Cline approaches the story without those hang-ups. A 27-year-old graduate of the Columbia MFA program, whose fiction has appeared in the Paris Review and Tin House, she’s shrewdly reasoned that we’ve heard enough about Charlie. In the cult dynamic, she’s seen something universal — emotions, appetites, and regular human needs warped way out of proportion — and in her novel she’s converted a quintessentially ’60s story into something timeless. (It hasn’t gone unreported that her efforts earned her a $2 million advance from Random House.)

The Girls has a retrospective frame. When it begins, Evie Boyd is a middle-aged woman, out of work and living in a borrowed house on the Northern California coast. Unexpected guests arrive in the middle of the night, and her frightened mind jumps back in time, to the night of the murders. The guests turn out not to be intruders but Julian, the college-age son of the house’s owner, and his 18-year-old girlfriend, Sasha. Their youth and delinquency — Julian smuggles pot and was thrown out of school for poisoning a professor’s dog — reminds her of her own seduction by Suzanne into Russell’s cult.

The decades that have passed allow Evie to understand it all with some clarity. When just out of junior high, she was drawn in from a place of unhappiness: her parents newly divorced, her crush on an older boy unrequited, her friendship with the boy’s sister going sour. She glimpses the “black-haired girl,” Suzanne, from afar, in a park pulling at the neckline of her dress and for a moment exposing a nipple. The excitement is part attraction, part identification — it’s a public demonstration of perverse impulses Evie recognizes in herself. She sees Suzanne and her “attendants” take a bag of bread and an uncooked chicken from a restaurant dumpster, get shouted away by a man in an apron, and climb into a school bus painted black. On their next encounter, in a shop where Suzanne is thrown out when the shop's owner recognizes her from a previous theft, Evie returns to buy for Suzanne the toilet paper she was after, saying she stole it to impress her new friend; a few days later, Suzanne invites the younger girl to the cult’s ranch and assumes the role of big sister, lover, protector, groomer, and corrupter.

Cline’s true subject is the tangle between Evie and Suzanne’s bond and the cult’s internal economy. Within the closed system of the ranch, the women of the cult are at once commodities and procurers of food and money, venturing out into the straight world to commit little acts of larceny. The first day Evie visits, a boy asks Suzanne if she’s a “solstice present” and is told to shut up. But when the evening’s party commences — a car is ritually burned, and there’s a feast of “watery vegetable pabulum, the mash of potatoes and ketchup and onion soup packets” — another of the girls calls Evie “our sacrifice ... Our solstice offering.” She meets Russell, and he takes her to his trailer with the promise, unfulfilled, that they’ll be joined by Suzanne. A sexual initiation follows. “I wanted Russell to be a genius,” Evie says.

She gets stoned, and he turns out to be a reciter of lines like these: “Shy Evie .... You’re a smart girl. You see a lot with those eyes, don’t you.” “I’m like you  ... I was so smart when I was young, so smart that of course they told me I was dumb.” “There’s something in you ... Some part that’s real sad. And you know what? That makes me real sad. They’ve tried to ruin this beautiful, special girl. They’ve made her sad. Just because they are.” She starts to cry, and a page later he’s pushing her head toward his crotch.
“An act, I thought, calibrated to comfort young girls who were glad, at least, that it wasn’t sex. Who could stay fully dressed the whole time, as if nothing out of the ordinary were happening.”
“But maybe the strangest part — I liked it, too.”

This is the most we see of Russell and the “undercooked look of his dick.” For Evie this episode is less a matter of her submission to the cult leader than her initiation into a sisterhood. Evie spends the rest of the night with Suzanne: “You can crash in my room if you want," she says. “But you have to actually be here if you’re going to be here. Get it?” To Evie the moment was like “those fairy tales where goblins can enter a house only if invited by its inhabitants,” only here she’s the innocent invited into a house of goblins. She doesn’t realize it yet but instead senses “the possibility that my life was hovering on the brink of a new and permanent happiness.” Evie goes home the next day, and becomes a thief for her new friends at the ranch, stealing from her mother’s purse and hustling the boy next door for $65 of his parents’ money with the promise of bringing him weed. At Russell’s suggestion, Suzanne takes her to the home of Mitch Lewis — a rocker composite of Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson and Byrds producer Terry Melcher, the men Manson hoped would grease his path to stardom — and they have a coke-fueled threesome, the end of Evie’s virginity: “I’d enacted some pattern, been defined, neatly, as a girl, providing a known value. There was something almost comforting about it, the clarity of purpose, even as it shamed me.”

For the rest of the novel Evie ping-pongs between the ranch and her old life — the mingling of her sense of belonging with crude transactional sex has poisoned the fun, but neither can she go home again. Her final visit to the ranch sees Russell’s group in a state of high desperation, seemingly starving and deranged with access to more speed than food. Russell dispatches the killers — Suzanne among them, Evie almost — to Mitch’s house “to teach him a lesson,” and they commit something like the massacre visited on Sharon Tate and her friends. Cline’s decision to substitute a simple revenge plot for the baroque paranoid end-times scenario Manson improvised to maintain Family discipline makes sense for her book. She knows her strengths are psychological, not Pynchonian.

 Cline has a lush descriptive style, and she favors the sentence fragment where the pressure falls on nouns: on one visit to the ranch she sees the “silty rectangle of pool, half full, with its teem of algae and exposed concrete ... The crispy package of a dead frog, drifting on the surface.” A system of metaphors drawn from Evie’s middle-class world animates her departure from it. (There are a few too many like-dependent similes, but one gets used to them.) Cline’s exquisite set pieces are the equal of her intricate unwinding of Evie’s emotions: Even after the murders she thinks, “Suzanne was not a good person. I understood this. But I held the actual knowledge away from myself.” When she finds Polaroids from Suzanne she feels something more like love but knows she’s also stifling disgust.

These effects are all the more potent for what Cline has left out. There’s very little cultural noise in the picture. Evie reads a few magazines, watches an episode of Bewitched, and there’s a reference to Jefferson Airplane, but Cline hasn’t overloaded the book with ostentatious period details and trivia. (Nor did I notice any anachronisms.) The Girls isn’t a Wikipedia novel, it’s not one of those historical novels that congratulates the present on its improvements over the past, and it doesn’t impose today’s ideas on the old days. As the smartphone-era frame around Evie’s story implies, Cline is interested in the Manson chapter for the way it amplifies the novel’s traditional concerns. Pastoral, marriage plot, crime story — the novel of the cult has it all. You wonder why more people don’t write them. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

LaBianca Estate Question


I recently purchased this 1957 Mercedes 220S from a guy in Ohio. He said his late father told him it was Rosemary Labianca’s car and he bought it from the Estate auction. I’m hoping there is a way to verify this.

Do you know if there is a list of the items in her estate?

Regards, Ty

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Countess who claims to have narrowly avoided being killed by the Manson Family begs California governor not to release former cult member

  • Former Manson cult member Leslie Van Houten recommended for parole
  • She is now waiting on approval of governor Jerry Brown being going free
  • Ava Roosevelt, who said she was due to be at Sharon Tate's house the night she was killed by Manson's followers, is opposing the move
  • Roosevelt says she will 'fear for my life and those who I love' if she is freed
  • Van Houten was not involved in Tate's killing, but admits helping to murder Leno and Rosemary La Bianca the previous night 
Ava Roosevelt, 68, who claims she was nearly a victim of the Manson family murders, has asked for a former member of the cult to be kept in jail
Ava Roosevelt, 68, who claims she was nearly a victim of the Manson family murders, has asked for a former member of the cult to be kept in jail

Ava Roosevelt, who claims she narrowly escaped being a victim of the Manson family murders, has begged California's governor to keep a former member of the cult locked up.

Roosevelt, 68, told governor Jerry Brown that she will 'fear for her life' if Leslie Van Houten, who helped Manson's followers murder Leno La Bianca and his wife Rosemary in 1969, is released from jail.

Van Houten, a former beauty queen who admits holding a pillow over Rosemary's head as she was stabbed to death and then mutilating her corpse, was recommended for parole last month after 46 years in jail.

In a letter, seen by the New York Post, Roosevelt writes: 'If Leslie van Houten, a convicted killer, is set free, I fear for my life and those who I love.

'In my view there is no place for this murderer in American society. As a survivor of the death spree, I beseech your office to deny any recommendation for parole.'

Roosevelt claims she was due to be at Sharon Tate's house on the night Manson's 'family' stabbed the actress to death along with four of her friends.

Tate, who was eight months pregnant with husband Roman Polanski's baby at the time, had invited Roosevelt over to her house after dinner on the night of August 9, 1969, she claims.

However, a faulty gas valve on her 1955 Rolls Royce meant the car would not start and so she stayed at home.

That night Linda Kasabian, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia 'Katie' Krenwinkel broke into Tate's Beverly Hills mansion, tied her and her friends up, and stabbed them to death - scrawling the work 'Pig' in blood on the wall before leaving.

The following day Leno and Rosemary were also stabbed to death in similarly gruesome fashion, with the word 'War' carved into Leno's stomach.

Roosevelt is just the latest in a long line of people who have called for Van Houten to be kept behind bars after a parole board recommended her for release. 

Leslie Van Houten, who was jailed aged 19 for helping to murder Leno and Rosemary La Bianaca in 1969, was recommended for parole last month after serving 46 years of her life sentence
Leslie Van Houten, who was jailed aged 19 for helping to murder Leno and Rosemary La Bianaca in 1969, was recommended for parole last month after serving 46 years of her life sentence
Van Houten (far right, with fellow killers Susan Atkins, left, and Patricia Krenwinkel, center) admitted holding a pillow over Rosemary La Bianca's head as she was killed
Van Houten (far right, with fellow killers Susan Atkins, left, and Patricia Krenwinkel, center) admitted holding a pillow over Rosemary La Bianca's head as she was killed, and then stabbing her after she had died

Cory La Bianca, Leno's daughter, gave a rare interview with the LA Times in which she said: 'I very much disagree with the ruling.

'We all need to be held responsible for our behavior. The least we can do, for someone who commits a crime against another human being, is to keep them in jail.'

She said her 41-year-old son burst into tears while listening to the parole hearing at the California Institution for Women in Chino.
Sharon Tate's sister, Debra, has also started a petition calling for Van Houten to be kept behind bars, saying she failed to show remorse for years after the crimes and can't be trusted. 

Van Houten was just 18 when the Manson killings took place over two days in August 1969. She was not present for the murders of Tate and her friends, but went along the following night when the La Bianca's were killed.

Van Houten, who launched her first parole attempt in 1979 and has applied for parole 20 times, recounted her part in the killing of La Bianca and his wife during her hearing.

The former homecoming princess, who described herself as a hippy at the time of the murders, told of how she looked off into the distance until another Manson follower told her to do something before she joined in the stabbing.

Leno La Bianca
Cory La Bianca, the daughter of Rosemary (left) and Leno (right), has also asked for van Houten not to be released, saying she failed to show remorse and should be left in jail
Van Houten (right, with Atkins left and Krenwinkle center) was recommended for parole last month despite admitting that she would have stabbed babies if Manson had demanded it
Van Houten (right, with Atkins left and Krenwinkle center) was recommended for parole last month despite admitting that she would have stabbed babies if Manson had demanded it

Van Houten told the panel she had been traumatized by her parents' divorce when she was 14, her pregnancy soon after and her mother's insistence she have an abortion. 

During her five-hour testimony, Van Houten described Manson as a 'Christ-like man that had all the answers'. 

Van Houten also admitted that she would have been willing to stab babies and toddlers if Manson had demanded it.

She was initially sentenced to death for her part in the slayings, but that was later commuted to life in prison. 

Her defense lawyers say she denounced Manson and his teachings soon after being jailed, and has taken 'self-help programs, classes and counselling' while in jail.

The decision of the parole board will now be scrutinized by a legal panel before being sent to Brown for approval, a process which can take up to four months.

While Brown has worked to reform the parole process in California, making it easier for inmates to be released, he has denied applications from members of the Manson cult in the past.

Manson (left in 1969 and right in 2009) inspired his cult of hippie followers to stab at least nine people to death as part of an impeding race war that he warned was approaching

Bruce Davis, convicted for the killings of Gary Hinman, an aspiring musician, and stuntman Donald 'Shorty' Shea, had a recommendation turned down by Brown who said he had still failed to accept full responsibility for his part in the murders.

Manson, now 81, remains behind bars, along with Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles 'Tex' Watson who have each been denied parole multiple times.

Fellow killer Susan Atkins died in prison in 2009.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Manson Family Children

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Read Van Houten's parole transcript on the link.  Thanks Sunset!!!! 


At parole hearing, Manson acolyte said she would have killed babies

California parole officials foolishly recommended a former Charles Manson disciple for release — even after she admitted she would have killed babies during her murderous 1969 rampage.

During an April 14 parole hearing, Leslie Van Houten, 66, went into graphic detail about her despicable role in the savage murders of a wealthy married couple in their Los Angeles home on August 10 that year.

Presiding Commissioner Ali Zarrinnam grilled Van Houten about her sick bloodlust, “You would have done anything at this point, right? If there were babies in the home, would you have killed babies, newborns, toddlers?”

Van Houten responded: “I think I would have if he’d have said,” referring to Manson, according to the 210 page parole board transcript exclusively obtained by The Post.

The gray-haired femme fatale never recanted or took responsibility for her shocking statement, saying instead that she had “surrendered completely, morally, ethically” to Manson.

Yet, parole officials have paved the way for Van Houten to be released from the California Institution for Women in Chino, Calif.

Governor Jerry Brown has the final say on whether she will be released. His decision is expected in the coming months.

During the seven hour parole hearing, Van Houten gave a chilling blow-by-blow account of the couple’s slaying at the hands of her and her accomplices, Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles “Tex” Watson.

Van Houten, then 19, said it started with Manson and “Tex” breaking into the Los Feliz residence and tying up Leno, 44, – a supermarket owner – and his wife, Rosemary, 39.

Manson ordered his brainwashed crew to make the killings appear less “gruesome” than the night before when he had ordered the murders of five other people, including Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, Van Houten testified.

Charles Manson in October 2014Photo: AP
“[Tex] told Pat and I to go into the kitchen and get knives, and we took Mrs. LaBianca into the bedroom and put a pillowcase over her head,” Van Houten said.

“I wrapped the lamp cord around her head to hold the pillowcase on her head. I went to hold her down,” Van Houten testified.

At that moment, they could hear the “guttural sounds” and “struggles” of Leno while he was getting butchered in another room, Van Houten said.

Rosemary “jetted forward and started calling his name saying what are you doing,” Van Houten said. “And I tried to hold her down more, and Pat went to stab her on the collarbone and the knife bent.”

Watson showed up at the door and Van Houten told him that “we can’t kill her, it’s not working,” she said.

He then handed a knife to Van Houten and told her to “do something,” she said. “And I stabbed Mrs. LaBianca in the lower torso with the knife he gave me. Coroner’s reports say between 14 and 16 [times].”

Van Houten was convicted in 1971 for the LaBianca murders and sentenced to death.

Manson, 81, is also serving a life term with parole for murder along with several other accomplices.

Read Leslie Van Houten’s full parole board transcript:

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Katy Perry and the Convent next to the LaBianca's house on Waverly Drive

Los Feliz convent

I'm very sorry to have been gone so long.  I am mad busy with three gigs now so I shall probably remain scarce for a while...


Back in January I finally was able to make the trip and spent four days and nights in LA.  I saw some friends, dined in Hollywood at Osteria Mozza after having had drinks at Musso and Frank with an Industry friend of mine, saw Chris Carter of The X Files and met an actress who gets killed on it's latest incarnation.  I planned on taking the Manson Tour but it wasn't available, so I had to see what I could on my own.

I drove up and down Cielo Drive and took pictures from Falcon's Lair, drove up and down Mulholland Drive, went to Brentwood and accidentally found myself on Bundy, but also went to Los Feliz to see the LaBianca's  house on Waverly.

I noticed that the property right next to it on the left as you look at it was a Convent.  I studied it because it went a long way towards my understanding that the LaBianca's house could indeed be considered somewhat isolated because the Convent's grounds are vast and there's no house on that side anywhere near where the LaBianca's house is.  I thought I would eventually research the Convent, see how long it has existed and all, but didn't get around to it.

Then I saw this Katy Perry thing on the TV news and it seemed so familiar as they described this property, and yes indeed it is one and the same.

And it's pretty damn amazing about Jane Doe 59 too.