Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Milky Way, The Corral Night Club in Topanga Canyon, and Ernie Knapp

Not much has been said about the little band Charles Manson started in late 1967. I only recall Charlie, Bobby Beausoleil, and possibly Paul Watkins, mentioning the little band they formed called "The Milky Way".  

I suppose the reason they never discussed it much, is because the group only played one night together. That one gig was played at the Topanga Corral (now long gone, it burned down)... but it had been a happening place in the 1960's.

It's said that Canned Heat, Neil Young, and Taj Mahal played there. It's also rumored that  Road House Blues by the immortal Jim Morrison was written about Topanga Corral.  Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda were regulars there. It's too bad it burned down in the 1970's. I missed out!

Ernie Knapp: "I played in a band with Charles Manson".
Charles Manson and Ernie Knapp (1969)
The following interview was submitted by a friend of the blog, named Viktor.
Thank You so much Viktor! This is so cool!

A guy by the name of Ernie Knapp (a session musician that played bass with the Beach Boys in concert during 1981-82) was interviewed (last year) by Sonny Vincent (a musician in his own right). 

During the interview, Ernie talks about being the bass player in a band with Charles Manson called "The Milky Way", which played one show at the Topanga Corral.

Side note: 

"The Snake Pit" was a seedy area in lower Topanga, built in a debris/flood basin during the 1920's.  In Ed Sanders book "The Family", he talks about the "Spiral Staircase"... a house that had slid off its foundation during a flood. According to Sanders, the DeGrimstons of the "The Process Church" owned or rented this place. Lots of bikers, homeless, druggies, hippies, and the Manson Family called this place home for a while in the late 60's.

Here is part of the interview by Sonny Vincent and Ernie Knapp:

ERNIE: Well, that was in the fall of 1967. I had been going to college down in San Diego for two years before that and I had just got kicked out for smoking pot. So I was back in LA at my parents’ house trying to figure out what to do next. My friend there, Bay Johnson, owned a couple of little houses and little shacks down in a place in Topanga Canyon called ‘The Snake Pit’. It was a real hippie area of little cabins and shacks and a few old houses across the coast highway from the beach, kind of in the river bed. That place is all gone now. It all got wiped out in a flood.

SV: What was it called? The Snake what?
ERNIE: The Snake Pit.
SV: The Snake Pit. OK, sorry I have a problem with this microphone. OK, got it…
ERNIE: Yeah, Bay had bought these little houses ‘cause he had a bunch of hash that his brother had smuggled into the country and anyway that’s another story. And he was renting them to these two musicians, Desi Nod and Johnny Riggins, who were guys that were like 5 years older than me, who were like my idols, you know? They were in the big bands around west LA at that time and even going back into the early 60s. And so I had played with them. I was just kind of starting to play the guitar. I had got to play with them a couple of times and was excited about that and, anyway, when I got into LA in 1967 they took me down there to visit them. And this guy Charlie had just came down from San Francisco in this big yellow school bus and he had like 5 or 6 girls with him in his bus and Bay was all… getting with the girls…real cute girls…and Charlie moved into this biggest house down there in The Snake Pit. And then it turned out that Charlie met these guys, these musicians, and they decided to start a band. So they introduced me to him and told me they were looking for a guitar player and would I like to audition. So I went down there the next day.
SV: So he was actually auditioning people?
ERNIE: Yeah.
SV: (laughs) OK.
ERNIE: So I went down there the next day and walked into Charlie’s living room. It was Charlie and his whole clan. He also had a couple of real gnarly kind of biker dudes with him who were not very nice at all. In fact, when and while I was setting up, one guy pulled a knife on somebody else and Charlie had to stop a big fight. So it was a little tense. And I was nervous. I was set up in that living room with people in a big circle all around me, getting ready to check me out. I had learned the night before… you know that song, that was brand new back then… that Cream song that goes tatataratata ta?
SV: Oh, yeah, ‘Sunshine Of Your Love?
ERNIE: Probably the most cliché lick in all history of music now, you know? Now people play it as a joke. So, anyway, I played that and they liked it. They said, “OK, yeah, you can be in the band.” We had one rehearsal and the rehearsal was really intimidating too ‘cause they brought in some other keyboard player from Malibu who I didn’t know and who was not very nice. The two older guys I knew, Johnny and Desi. They were pretty nice to me. And Charlie was OK. But I was really intimidated, you know, so I wasn’t playing very assertively. The biker dudes started hassling me at the rehearsal. I remember Charlie stood up for me. I was twenty years old and the guys in the room were probably thirty back then. Charlie said, “Hey, the kid is nervous but give him a chance and he’ll be fine.” So I relaxed and then it was good. We learned, uh, like 8 songs and about half of them were Charlie’s and his songs, you know, were weird. They were kind of old fashioned jazz chords and real meandering progressions that didn’t go really anywhere. Knowing more about him now, I could kind of imagine how he would have all day to sit around in his cell playing the guitar, you know? [*Sonny’s note: I have listened to many recordings of Manson’s music and I like it.]
SV: Sure, man.
ERNIE: You know, everybody were good sports and figured out parts of the songs and we could play them. Then we learned a few standards rock and blues songs that everybody knew. We wind up a couple of days later and auditioned at The Corral which is a club high up in Topanga Canyon. At that time, it was a full-on redneck bar.
SV: So you guys …cool….this is getting way more detailed than I hoped. I thought you merely kind of jammed a couple of times but you auditioned and then you were accepted as a member of Charlie Manson’s band? Now you guys are together and going for an audition at a club. Jesus, Ernie!!
ERNIE: (laughs) Yeah.
SV: Wow, OK.
ERNIE: We went up there in the afternoon and Charlie was gonna call the band ‘The Solar System’. But anyway…
SV: Hey, Ernie, were you guys like all mega stoned and everything at this jam sessions and rehearsals and all?
ERNIE: There were people smoking pot and stuff but it was pretty business-like as far as getting some songs together and going up and playing.
SV: So you seriously were putting a band together. That’s an amazing part of your history, Ernie!
ERNIE: So we went up and set up in the bar in the afternoon and played for the owner and, you know, some other kind of barfly guys hanging around. It didn’t go over at all with them. This was a country western bar.
SV: Hey, Ernie, can I stop for a minute just to crosscheck the tape. I wanna make sure we are rolling good…so we are rolling. So this redneck country bar…
ERNIE: Yeah. And our band was not received well and they kind of told us to get the hell out of there. So we all left. And literally a couple of days later I moved up to Mammoth. My cousin had just gone up there and gotten a job.
SV: Where is that? Mammoth?
ERNIE: Yeah, Mammoth Mountain. A ski resort up in the Sierras.
SV: Ah, OK.
ERNIE: And my cousin had gotten a job as a bus boy in this big fancy restaurant right at the ski lift and said there was an opening. So I went up there and I had a great time. I became a ski bum for like two months.
SV: So you guys did the audition at the country bar and then you split town?
ERNIE: Yeah.
ERNIE: And then I moved straight from Mammoth to Santa Barbara to get back into college ‘cause I had gotten my 1A draft notice. So I had to hustle. I got back into UCSB for the spring quarter which got the draft off my back. Then I was just living in Santa Barbara and, actually in my recollection, that’s where later, it was around 1969 I think, when everything blew up with Charlie. Where I was…I think I was walking into the Student Union at UCSB and saw, you know, the LA Times in a news rack with his face, you know, covering the whole sheet, the whole page. I just went, “Holy shit!! Uhh…Charlie!!” My feelings about it, even at that time, it was…it was creepy in the way the people were with Charlie and the way he was with them. It was very manipulative and it was real uncomfortable for me.
SV: Ah, so I got the part right about the newspaper but the location was different. OK. So, you noticed something, even in the early times when you first met Charlie, it was not like what you will encounter with people who are more in harmony with each other. You clearly saw something that was somehow out of balance, eh?
ERNIE: Definitely, and plus he had these evil guys with him too, you know? They really were menacing. I mean, they were thugs. The whole deal in that era…there were a lot of little communes and little hippie groups trying to set up their little places, you know, all over the place…up in the mountains and everywhere you went. And a lot of them…well, Charlie really plugged into people. Everybody was really trying to be more hip than each other, and it was like “I can be freer than you, I can be more free of all this square bullshit than you”, you know?
SV: Uh huh.
ERNIE: He kind of got people, I think. It’s just my own little theory , you know, that was part of how he keep pushing everybody with him to be wilder and I guess ultimately do what he wanted.
SV: Ernie, that’s all amazing.
ERNIE: I didn’t go back to LA much and I never did see him again, but I did hear stuff later through my playing with The Beach Boys. He had a lot of interaction with The Beach Boys and, in particular, Dennis Wilson. Yeah, one day a couple of Charlie’s girls were hitchhiking and Dennis picked them up. That’s how Charlie first met Dennis. They all moved into Dennis’s house and later The Beach Boys actually, you know, recorded a song that Charlie wrote!
SV: Yes, I know that. That’s pretty crazy. And it’s also weird that you wind up playing with The Beach Boys. This is like some kind of weird crossing the universe, you know what I mean? [*Sonny’s note: That’s weird, way fuckin’ weird.]
ERNIE: Yeah! But, you know, but….the theory that I kind of believe in is that Bruce Johnston’s good friend Terry Melcher, Doris Day’s son, was a big music producer in those days. And somehow The Beach Boys got Charlie hooked up with Terry Melcher to produce Charlie and then the whole deal fell through. Charlie was real disappointed and Terry Melcher used to live in the house that Charlie attacked.
SV: Yeah, the Polanski house. Yes, I know the story really well. That’s why it’s so intriguing to me.
ERNIE: Yeah and it’s just…God, how horrible, you know?
SV: Yeah, how weird. Hey, Ernie, let’s get away from Charlie for a moment before we start entering people’s houses and what not, you know?
ERNIE: (laughs)
Ernie with Carl Wilson
To read and LISTEN to the entire interview, go here:


Excerpted from Ed Sanders' book, page 29

Bobby Beausoleil - Oui Magazibe Interview - November 1981

ALB: Were you living at Gary Hinman's at the time?

BB: No, I wasn't living with Gary. I had stayed with him previous to that. I joined a band, The Milky Way, that Charlie was in. That's how I met him. He was a very talented songwriter good musician, lyrically, just excellent. 
He was somebody with an incredibly intense, vivid, expanded imagination because of all the time he's done.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Did The Victims Feel Pain?......

One thing that I've always wondered about when contemplating these horrible murders is that you never hear of anyone really saying that they're in pain.  Yes, there are stories of some guy yelling, "No, don't!" (etc) but there's no indication of when that definitely happened.  And, yes, we know that Abigail told Pat that she was "already dead."  Of course, some people are skeptical but this is the official story so....

Here are my thoughts on this.  First, I need to give you some background.  I started babysitting at the age of 10 or 11.  I know that's young but I was very responsible, lived in a small town, knew practically everyone and was never afraid as I knew help was always near.  I was booked up weeks and months in advance and there were actually arguments sometimes over who'd get me to watch their kids.  You know, "I asked her first!"  "No, you didn't!"  So, I almost had a day care business.  There were times I'd be watching a zillion kids in one day.  I kept babysitting until my early 20's, then stopped because the kids were growing up and I needed to join the real world.  

When I was about 20, I was babysitting for a neighbor who had 2 kids who were 3 and 5.  I'd taken care of them practically since birth so I was very comfortable in their house.  This particular night, I was going to get the kids a snack so I went to the kitchen to get something.  Their mom had washed dishes and left them in the drainer on the counter.  I remember thinking that it was strange that she left sharp knives with the blades pointing up.  I thought about putting away the dishes as this was the sort of thing I did (along with picking up toys, dusting or whatever looked like it needed to be done) and figured that I'd do it after the kids were in bed.

I reached into a cabinet above the dishes to get a snack (this was the snack cabinet filled with pretzels and so on) for the kids and a glass for myself (to have some soda).  When I lowered my arm I can remember thinking that things just seemed strange.  I can't describe it but it was like I was there, but not there.  Things seemed very dreamlike. I'm sure you've all been woken out of a sound sleep and you aren't quite sure you're awake.  This was sort of how that felt.  Everything seemed to be in slow motion.  My eyes were sort of wandering all over.  I remember thinking about the glass in my hand and looked at it.  It was all red and I couldn't figure that out. My arm was all red too and there was red all over the floor.  The redness was dripping from my arm.

I turned toward the dish drainer and noticed that the tallest knife had blood that was quite a way down the blade.  I looked at my arm and saw a gaping hole in it midway between my wrist and elbow. Now, I'm VERY squeamish so the fact that I could look INTO this hole and not pass out still amazes me.  I had enough sense to realize that I needed help NOW

This was before cell phones and 911.

I told the kids to stay put on the couch, grabbed a towel, wrapped it around my arm and ran to the next door neighbors but they weren't home.  I went to another neighbor who was a paramedic and he said that I definitely needed to go to the hospital.  His wife went with me to get the kids as she said she'd watch them.  (I had no way of getting hold of the parents as this was before cell phones and I didn't have the phone number of where they were, plus I just didn't have the time to try to find it)

Once I knew the kids were ok, off we went to the hospital.  Long story short, I had several stitches put in my arm and was really surprised that I felt no pain.  The ER staff wasn't really surprised and they kept saying that I'd feel it when the shock wore off.

We got back to town, I picked up the kids, we walked back to their house, I got them ready for bed and their parents happened to call.  After hearing what'd happened, they said they'd come right home but I said it was ok, I was fine, they could stay where they were.  I think they came home a few hours later.  In the meantime, I'd cleaned up the kitchen and wiped it down as best I could without getting my huge bandage wet.

At the hospital, my bill was under my folks' insurance but the neighbors said they wanted to take care of it and they did.  They told me later that they found blood all over the place, I'd left quite a trail going from the kitchen to the family room, out the back door....I thought I'd gotten it all but missed a lot too.  I was still feeling very foggy tho.  When I went to the Dr. later to get the stitches out it was clear that the wound hadn't fully healed.  I still have a puffy area where this happened

So, I really think that they were all suffering from extreme shock and I've always wondered if they experienced what I did, the sort of dreamlike state.  If so, that explains a lot.  I didn't feel pain until about 6 hours after this happened and by the next day my arm was incredibly black and blue

I really don't know how to end this thread, this is just a story about an event that happened to me and I've often wondered if this is sort of what they experienced.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Manson and Bugliosi had even more in common than you might think...

Ok, so it's the MailOnline US - news, sport, celebrity, science and health stories but what the hell.

 Click here for the link to the story.

Charles Manson prosecutor 'had secret love child with his mistress of 23 years'

Vincent Bugliosi passed away in a Los Angeles hospital on Saturday evening following a years-long battle with cancer, his family said He famously prosecuted Charles Manson and three of his cult followers for the horrific murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others in 1969 The attorney turned the trial - the longest and most expensive in LA history at the time - into a marathon showcase for the killers' bizarre lifestyles After the case, he made failed bids for DA and became a defense attorney but gained greatest success in writing a dozen books 'Helter Skelter' - about the Manson case - became one of the best-selling true crime books of all time

The man who successfully prosecuted cult leader Charles Manson died earlier this month leaving behind two children-or so that's what people thought. Vincent Bugliosi left behind his wife of 59 years, Gail and their two adult children, Vincent and Wendy. And on Tuesday a woman claiming to be Vincent Bugliosi's lover of 23 years, Lydia Alvarez, has stepped out of the woodwork to say the two of them had a secret child together named Nina. Bugliosi who wrote the book 'Helter Skelter,' also apparently has five grandchildren that until now were kept hush hush, reports The New York Post. 'I am looking for a PR agency to represent me in selling a story to a newspaper or magazine about the unknown personal life story of Vince Bugliosi,' Alvarez wrote in an email to several PR firms. Alvarez says she wants to write memoir called, 'My Helter Skelter Life with Vince Bugliosi,' but said she wanted to wait until after he died to go public with her story

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Former L.A. District Attorney, Vincent Bugliosi, Best Known for Prosecuting Charles Manson Dies

Posted 10:45 PM, June 8, 2015, by Los Angeles Times, Updated at 11:03pm, June 8, 2015
Vincent Bugliosi, the Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who gained worldwide fame for his successful prosecutions of Charles Manson and his followers for the brutal 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others, has died. He was 80.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Sharmagne Leland-St. John, Jay Sebring, Roman, and Elizabeth Folger

Normally, this is something I would never do, share a Facebook post unless it was Public. 

However, realizing that over 2,000 people are friends with this person (whom I won't name here), I figured it's not really private anymore, and Sharmagne is also quite public.

Here is the post:

I love this part:  
"Bugliosi withheld so much info on the murders, but I never understood why."

Personally, I've never heard of Sharmagne Leland-St. John until I read the above post.  She says she was Jay Sebring's girlfriend.   I'll admit I don't know much at all about Jay's private life during that time, maybe someone that does can chime in...

She has a public Facebook page, a Wiki page, and an IMdB page.  Sharmagne is quite accomplished as a poet and actress.  Her parents were actors.  She was married to Richard Sylbert, the Oscar-winning production designer.

I checked the Tate/LaBianca police reports and she is not listed as a suspect, although she clearly admits she was, along with Charles Tacot and others.

It's also the first I've read that Roman had plans of switching houses with Michael Butler.

(From Wiki) 

"Michael Butler is an American theatrical producer best known for bringing the rock musical Hair from Public Theater to Broadway in 1968.  During his time as Hair producer he was dubbed by the press as "the Hippie Millionaire."

"My future nephew was married to Gibby's younger sister."  In researching Elizabeth Folger, I could only find that Elizabeth was married to Robert Eldred.  Not sure if Robert was her future nephew, but thought I would throw all this out there as most here are always interested in the Folgers.

Here is Elizabeth in 2010:

Robert Eldred is a Financial Planner in the Bay Area.

And once again we hear the story that the Manson girls were swimming in the Cielo pool a day before the murders.

I faintly remember reading something long ago about the cast from Hair being questioned,  (also thrown out of Mexico at that time) but I don't recall the specifics...unfortunately...

Anyway, I'm glad to see some of the folks that were actually there starting to speak up, maybe with all these little tid-bits we'll be able to connect more dots!

Friday, June 5, 2015

And now there's MANSON: The podcast

Fresh off the popularity of the SERIAL podcast and riding the wave of Charles's Manson's return into the modern popular culture comes Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This  

"Charlie Manson’s Hollywood” is a ten-episode cycle on “the life, crimes, and cultural reverberations of Charles Manson.” The first episode, “What We Talk About When We Talk About the Manson Murders”, lays down both Longworth’s theses and the blueprint for the series. In the former category, she acknowledges that the Manson story is, as is often acknowledged, a story about the ‘60s, and how their idealism “curdled, amidst a series of disasters”: the 1968 assassinations of MLK and RFK, Nixon’s election that fall, Altamont the next year, and Vietnam throughout. Manson was “more than a 1960s phenomena,” Longworth says; he “helped to invent the ‘70s.”

Sounds like as much fun as you can have while listening to stories about gruesome murders.  I shall definitely be giving this a try.  And, while I'm at it, let me ask Karina where's she's been all my life?

Click here for another link into how Charles Manson is again a 'hot topic.'