Wednesday, April 6, 2011
LA Times Article from '99
We need a gold-standard boogeyman, a human monster incarnate, against whose misdeeds all others can be measured--and there he is.
We need a figure of obscene outrage for sated kids to shove in their elders' shocked faces--and there again he obliges.
We need someone to take us slumming for ratings during sweeps week even as we congratulate ourselves on our pious disapproval--and up he pops, with a TVQ that an anchorman would envy.
We need a man to remind us that celebrity is about quantity, not quality--and so he metastasizes his 15 horrendous minutes into a lifetime as a master of scam.
There have been more prolific serial killers than Charles Manson--the Night Stalker, murderer of 13 and perhaps more.
There have been, if possible, more depraved ones--Lawrence Bittaker, who recorded the keening anguish of the women he tortured and killed, to enjoy later at his leisure.
Yet Manson remains the archetype, the nightmare made flesh, invoked as the cautionary tale against drugs, against rock music, against license, against, even, California. For his gargoyle's face stares out of the California family album as surely as Jerry Brown's or Joaquin Murrietta's or Charles Richter's.
Thirty years after the gory August weekend that put him in prison for the final time, three months from reaching the gold-watch age of 65, Charles Manson sits in Corcoran prison, in special quarters that confirm his singular status to himself and the world.
He inks in his forehead swastika afresh, reads his fan mail--four letters a day on average, more than any other man in stir--and broods over the district attorney who put him there, over Richard Nixon, who, from the Oval Office, deigned to pronounce him guilty.
His acolytes, original and reissue, freshen his name via Web sites. He has been the subject of an opera. Comedians use the Manson Family to make mock of family values. He is a cash-cow for sellers of T-shirts and crime memorabilia and for inmates who can snag his autograph. He is Manson Inc.
Here is the length of the shadow he casts:
A judge sentencing a Baldwin Park woman to prison for paddling her child to death to expel the devil compared her to Charles Manson, meriting "a special place in hell."
A researcher, likening ancient cannibalism to modern sociopaths, used as his model "a Charles Manson-type crowd."