Manson and the Media
Article by Ray Schillaci and Marcus Nispel
November 19, 2017, a darkness pervades when a sigh of relief should be in order. The tragic memories continue to linger for so many. Some more than others. Why them? The answer to that question has alluded the majority of us until now.
I’ll never forget the day the LAPD visited my dad. His good friend and business associate, Jay Sebring, 35, famed hairstylist, was murdered in writer/director Roman Polanski’s home with 26 year-old actress Sharon Tate, who was 8-and-a-half-months pregnant, and fatally stabbed sixteen times. As reported, three others were also murdered with them. Voytek Frykowski, 32, a friend of Polanski who came from a wealthy Polish family, Abigail Folger, 25, an heir to the Folger Coffee fortune, and Steven Parent, 18, a houseguest on Polanski’s estate. “PIG” was etched in blood on the front door.
At the same time, my best friend’s parents had also discovered that their good friends, Leno, 44, and Rosemary LaBianca, 38, owners of a chain of L.A. grocery stores, had been murdered the following day presumably by the same people with “DEATH TO PIGS” scrawled in blood, and “HEALTER SKELTER” misspelled on the refrigerator. Gary Hinman, 34, a musician, and Donald “Shorty” Shea, 35, a horse wrangler/aspiring actor at a movie ranch would also be found murdered by the same people. The man behind it all, Charles Manson.
Manson is now dead, and while many of us rejoiced, there is a lingering depression that accompanies this infamous criminal. It’s that damn word, “infamous.” It’s what he wanted, and we gave it to him. He loved the idea that so many of us were on a first name basis with him, “Charlie.”
What’s the old saying? “Negative attention is better than no attention.” That saying goes right along with “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” The two sayings go hand-in-hand, especially for Manson. He proved it true. Especially since he knew how to spin it to his full advantage. And, Manson was a craftsman.
What does Manson have to do with the entertainment industry? Plenty. More than you can imagine. That is why my friend, Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 2003, Exeter) has been listed as a co-writer of this article with his recent Facebook posting.
Several years ago, Marcus revealed to me his strong desire to breakaway from the horror genre and develop a film or limited series with a strong 70’s conscience based on Manson’s exploits in the entertainment industry. For many years, Marcus and his writers did an extensive investigation into Manson’s life and influence on the entertainment industry. Not just music, but film as well, and all the people that loved to party with him. It was an expose on how those in the business fed Manson what he needed while he provided what they desired. It was a sad and sick symbiotic relationship, and a story that many rich and powerful would not appreciate.
As the outing continues of sexual predators and unwanted advances, from politics to show business, one cannot help but wonder what took so long. The “casting couch” has long been a staple in Hollywood to the point of an open joke. Hollywood’s lure of sexual deviant behavior, drug trafficking and abusers, the pimping of underage kids has been the dirty not-so-secret in the industry that crushes so many dreams while people young and old continue to seek attention and fame. Yes, the tinsel is fading in this town as the talk continues. But, will it be enough?
This is not to say that the entire industry is tainted. There are good people that work in this town. As my mentor and good friend, writer/producer Karl Schanzer use to say, “There are only a handful of true artists out there.” They are the people that want to make a difference. They truly have something to say. But, there are also far too many people in power that continue to corrupt. And, it’s those perpetrators that help create the monsters like Manson and his followers.
And, the blame for this behavior appears to have been made worse with technology. As with books, movies, TV, video games and now the internet, we tend to accuse these sources for the spectrum of anti-social behavior, from indecency to murder. But, these sources are not the root of the problem, for if they were not available to us, those predators would continue with their misconduct. With the age of the internet, the information regarding these predatory practices is far more accessible to us. What it all comes down to – society needs to start taking responsibility.
The internet has become a double-edged sword. It’s made our life easier with purchases, finding places to go, and providing easy access to so much information. But, not all of it valid, and we’re left to ourselves to weed through fact and fiction while fending off the paranoia that so many feed into. There is the ease of children viewing adult material, hacking, identity theft, and creating celebrities from nothing: selfie queens, YouTube stars, and those with millions of Twitter followers. The feeding frenzy of fame has reached all new heights.
And, this brings me back to catching Marcus’ (Nispel) post on his thoughts on Manson, and all that surrounded him. I found it depressing, profound, and poetic. His brave posting is also in Paul Preston’s (editor at TheMovieGuys.net) words, a “Massive Takedown.” With Marcus’ permission, I have copied and pasted his post with all its blemishes.
I could not justify correcting any grammatical errors or editing his form. For this posting is raw, powerful, and most of all, from the heart, and this man has a big heart. It should also be noted that in no way was Marcus attempting to use his diatribe as a selling point for his script. Let it be known that I was the one that approached him about his posting. At the time of the developing of his property, he felt strongly that the story was at the core of where our society was heading: us not being able to draw the line between fame and infamy, and why this delusion continues to destroy those who are drawn to it’s force field like moths to a fire.
Some things may need to be explained to post baby boomers. “Haight” refers to Haight-Ashbury, a district of San Francisco. “The Haight” was historically known as the birthplace of the hippie counter-culture.
Stars such as Steve McQueen (Bullitt), Doris Day (The Doris Day Show), Warren Beatty (Bonnie & Clyde), Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown), and Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider) that are mentioned should be looked up if you’re not familiar with them to take note of the circles they traveled in and the power they wielded. So, untethered and without any remorse, I present the well-hidden answer provided by filmmaker Marcus Nispel to that question in my opening paragraph, “Why them?” Let there be no misunderstanding, no one (the victims and their families) deserved what happened to them, but Manson’s motives are now made clear, and they should serve as a warning, lest history repeats itself…
The late Charlie Manson always knew how to keep himself in the headlines of the Hollywood Reporter.
What only a few people know was that he was never a cultish outsider but an insider of a much bigger cult than his scruffy Topanga Canyon group of white middle-class runaways.
Charlie was a Hollywood insider.
Here he developed screenplays for Steve McQueen, recorded B-sides for the Beach Boys, auditioned with Doris Day’s son and producer of the”Doris Day Show” in the hope of scoring a part in the TV show”the Monkeys,” and he would also provide his unique brands of sex, drugs and Rock’nRoll to the entertainment industry.
(Reportedly his favorite book in jail was Dale Carnegies book”How to make friends and influence people.)
Hollywood was always a place for snake oil salesmen, flim-flam men and Manson, in an unspeakably tragic way, he outdid them all.
Parties of the rich and famous from Beverly Hills to Malibu that were frequented by illustrious stars such as Warren Beatty, Candice Bergen or Dennis Hopper…if Charlie and his girls weren’t present it was not considered a happening party.
We all know that he put an end to the “Peace & Love” movement but he also had tax paying Americans lock their doors at night and he singlehandedly jumpstarted Westech and countless other home security firms but what Manson really wanted,was to be one of the Beatles…no force as ferocious as unchanneled creative energy.
Today,the man still cast’s his spell over those who are compelled by his rebellious outsider/underdog persona and he himself played that famously to the max when he tattooed the “Sign of Cain” on his forehead. He first flaunted it during those prime time court proceedings…only to alter it later in jail into a Swastica in the hope of endearing himself to the white supremacist group in jail who has been protecting him until his death from the African American inmates who did not take lightly to the race riot’s that Charlie tried to incite.
I developed a script for many years with the talented writer and historian Reinhard Denke on Linda Kassabians story.
Linda escaped an abusive husband with her young daughter and Manson took her in.
Linda also drove the car on that fateful night of that terrible massacre at Cielo Drive.
She would evolve as the only witness to testify against Manson,sending him to jail for good.
Our take was very different than one might expect as we never focused on the awful atrocities but rather on Manson’s obsession with America’s and Hollywood’s prime focus:
FAME…the bastard child of the American Dream.
In the end, Charlie offered us a look behind the curtain and what we saw was no Wizard but a little creepy guy who has now left us with nothing but a balloon full of hot air…and yet we have regularly fallen and continue to fall under the spell of even greater sociopaths.
Today his name lives in infamy and that is exactly what he wanted all along.
Just like the names of those shooters in our schools,movie theaters,Vegas.
None of this is about religion and politics and we would over-simplify things by dismissing these people as crazy…instead,what they are really guilty of,is being part of a craze (while the entire country is keeping score of who has killed more)…and Charlie,who never killed anyone,started it all.
People ask, what attracted these young and beautiful women to follow this man.
I find it ironic that his death and probably greatest media blitz, coincides with the allegations surrounding the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, Brett Rattner, Lasseter and Rose. Don’t even think for an instant that harassment and rape is the only way that these guys and their cohorts wield abuse their power…and there you have the answer.
What Charlie offered, besides designer drugs and free sex was exactly the same message that this riff raff peddles around:
Leave your “One Horse Town” and your square parents behind and let me take you to the glitzy “Planet Hollywood” ride.
A dazzling phantasy world where everyone is rich, young and beautiful, and where names live forever.
Now we got something.
Charlie left the Haight because what was being offered there was for free, there was nothing to exploit.
He came all the way to Hollywood because he needed Fame and Fame became his currency.
He was an agent of the counterculture.
Charlie was and will remain a mirror to these tinsel-town sleazeoids and in many ways to all of us who worship at their altar of celebrity.
It’s easy to easy to simply dismiss him as crazy but in contrast to all those pimps and sociopaths who are the cornerstones of Hollywood, at least he was aware of what he represented, preached it openly and always confessed to it. So this, by definition, makes him exempt from being a sociopath.
If holding up a mirror to our own societal diseases was really his message than he sadly succeeded and probably deserves the T-shirt of the week or one of those stars on that dirty walk of fame that is paved with so many Hollywood hypocrites, users and abusers as well as their enablers…and of course all those innocent souls who followed their lure and lived their lives for millions who they will never know.
My heart is with the victims.