or: The Tangled Web of Charlie Manson
“[In Hollywood], everyone’s a producer or a hit man.”
Douglas Clark, convicted Sunset Strip serial killer and the son of a Naval Intelligence operative
“I don’t know if you guys have ever in your entire life shot anybody, but it’s really fun to do.”
Former child actor Carol Bundy, Clark’s convicted accomplice, speaking to the police
It has frequently been said that if you scratch just beneath the glossy and oh-so-glamorous exterior of the Hollywood dream factory, you will find the dark and ugly reality that lurks just beneath the surface. But just how dark and ugly is that reality?
There is certainly no shortage of recurrent weirdness that passes for business-as-usual in the land of make-believe that we like to call Hollywood. For such a small and tight-knit community, the Hollywood gang has generated more than its fair share of scandal and sleaze over the better part of the last century.
Is that merely because, in our celebrity-obsessed culture, every misstep of the entertainment community is open to such intense scrutiny? Would we find the same skeletons in the closets of any other group in the country that was subjected to such unabashed media and public voyeurism? Is Hollywood merely a microcosm of America itself, illuminated by the harsh glare of the stage lights?
If so, then it is truly a strange and scary world that we live in. Consider, if you will, just a few recent examples of Tinseltown weirdness:
- Actress Margot Kidder, missing for a week, surfaces in the bushes of a stranger’s yard with her head shaved and a few of her teeth conspicuously absent.
- Actress Anne Heche similarly goes missing, only to show up at the door of a stranger in the middle of nowhere babbling about being beamed up to the mothership.
- Actor/comedian Martin Lawrence decides to stop traffic one day on busy Ventura Boulevard by wandering into the street, waving a gun and shouting incoherently.
- Actor Robert Downey, Jr. finds himself sleeping in the bed of a neighbor, with no idea of how he got there.
- Dr. Haing S. Ngor, who purportedly survived the killing fields of Cambodia before starring in Hollywood’s version of events there, doesn’t survive the streets of Hollywood; he is gunned down in February of 1996.
- Actor Jack Nicholson decides to blow off some steam by attacking the vehicle of another motorist with a golf club.
- Someone ‘falls’ to their death from the apartment of actor James Caan.
- Comic actor Eddie Murphy is arrested in the company of a transsexual prostitute. He/she dies a violent death shortly afterwards, though the press doesn’t pay much attention.
- Actor Hugh Grant is arrested while being serviced by Hollywood prostitute “Divine” Brown. Brown’s pimp subsequently surfaces in the company of a neo-Nazi singer who claims he was offered money by Courtney Love to kill Kurt Cobain. The would-be assassin turns up dead soon after telling this story to filmmaker Nick Broomfield.
- Actor Brian Keith, the former star of television’s Family Affair, is found with a fatal bullet wound in his head on June 24, 1997. His death, ruled a suicide, continues a long tradition of Hollywood notables allegedly shooting themselves in the head. Included on that list are Herve “Tatoo” Villechaize (September 4, 1993), Del Shannon (December 8, 1990), Jon-Erik Hexum (October 12, 1984), Freddie “Chico” Prinze (January 29, 1977), Pete Duel (December 31, 1971), and George “Superman” Reeve (July 1, 1959).
- On June 2, 1996, the 35th anniversary of her grandfather Ernest’s alleged suicide, Margaux Hemingway joins the list of Hollywood personalities whose deaths are attributed to drug overdoses. Margaux is the fifth member of her family to have their deaths ruled as suicides. River Phoenix’s death on Halloween, 1993, outside of Johnny Depp’s Viper Room, is also attributed to an overdose.
Nothing unusual about any of that, I suppose. Looking further back over the sordid history of Hollywood, consider also these examples of unexplained weirdness (and these examples are, it should be noted, just the tip of a very large iceberg):
- At Marlon Brando’s Los Angeles estate, his son Christian shoots and kills sister Cheyenne’s significant other, Dag Drollet, in May of 1990. Christian and his father claim that the shot was fired accidentally during a struggle for the gun. There is no sign of a struggle, and Drollet is found in a sitting position with a cigarette lighter and the remote control for the TV still in his hands. Attorney Robert Shapiro, who also represented Robert Evans in the Cotton Club murder case, cops a plea that results in Brando serving just five years. By that time, Cheyenne is dead, allegedly a suicide victim. Christian is later considered as a husband by Bonnie Lee Bakley, before she decides to marry Robert Blake. Five months later, Bakley is dead.
- Actors and actresses like Clara “It Girl” Bow, Frances Farmer, and the aforementioned Oscar Levant and Wallace Reid find themselves forcibly confined to mental hospitals. Farmer later tells of being beaten, raped, locked in a cage, and administered electroshock torture (oops … I meant to say electroshock therapy).
- Mob enforcer Johnny Stompanato is found stabbed to death in the home of actress Lana Turner. Turner’s young daughter takes the rap, though she doesn’t appear to be physically capable of committing the crime.
- Actress Natalie Wood goes missing in the middle of the night from a yacht while in the company of actors Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken. She subsequently is found floating in the Pacific Ocean. Witnesses later claim that she had been in a motel room with Walken on Catalina Island.
- Aspiring actress Elizabeth “The Black Dahlia” Short is found literally cut in half, with her mutilated remains left on display, on January 15, 1947.
- People close to actress Sarah Miles develop a knack for committing suicide. There is the roommate who jumps out of the window of their shared apartment. There is the ex-gardener who owes Miles money and decides to gas himself. And of course there is the business manager who is discovered dead in Sarah’s motel room and declared to be the victim of a drug overdose – though there is reportedly blood on his face and on the bed in which he is found. Miles has purportedly spent the night in the room of her co-star at the time: Burt Reynolds.
- Actress Thelma “Hot Toddy” Todd turns up dead in her car, allegedly the victim of suicide by means of carbon monoxide poisoning. Blood on her face, a cut lip and a dislodged tooth indicate that she was beaten senseless prior to her …. uhhh …. suicide. Todd had at one time been the wife of Pat DiCicco, one of “Lucky” Luciano’s top lieutenants.
- Three years after Todd’s death, popular comedian Ted Healy – who had had a fling with Thelma – is beaten to death. Though the details of his death were never reported, it has been fairly common knowledge in Hollywood circles for decades that Healy was beaten by DiCicco and actor Wallace Beery. Present at the time of the beating is Albert “Cubby” Broccoli – first cousin of DiCicco, friend of Howard Hughes, and one-time agent for Lana Turner. Broccoli goes on to produce the James Bond films, penned by British intelligence asset Ian Fleming. Assisting in covering up the murder of Healy is Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges, whose careers were launched by Healy.
- Comedian/actor John Belushi is found dead in his room in a West Hollywood hotel in March of 1982. He is said to be yet another victim of a drug overdose. His last known visitors, on the night of his death, are Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams. The story of his death, and tragically short life, is then told in a book by former Office of Naval Intelligence ‘briefer’ Bob Woodward.
- A number of the people involved with the movie Rebel Without a Cause die mysterious deaths at young ages – including stars James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo (who is stabbed to death outside of his apartment on November 12, 1976) and Nick Reid (who is found dead of mysterious causes on February 7, 1968).
- Silent film legend Ramon Navarro is found dead in his home on Halloween day, 1968. He has been brutally tortured and murdered in what appears for all the world to be a ritual homicide. Two brothers, both young male prostitutes, are charged with the crime.
- Actor Bob Crane is murdered and it subsequently emerges that he had a secret life that centered around a passion for hardcore, homemade porno films.
Nothing unusual about any of that either, I suppose. But consider the web spun by the man known as Charles Milles Manson. Now this is where we really cut to the core of the dark underbelly of Hollywood. Join me then, if you will, as we embark on a journey that I like to call “Seven Degrees of Charlie Manson.”
Before doing so, allow me to introduce a few members of the stellar cast of this strange and twisted tale:
- Sharon Tate – the most famous of the Manson victims, and the daughter of Colonel Paul Tate, U.S. Army Intelligence. Tate was killed on August 9, 1969, along with Abigail Folger, Steven Parent, Jay Sebring, and Voytek Frykowski.
- Kenneth Anger – former child-star turned underground filmmaker, and the son of a ‘military-industrial complex’ engineer who developed machine-guns for Kellogg during WWII and later worked for Douglas Aircraft.
- Judy Garland – child actor and singer who was kept drugged on a daily basis from about the age of five, first by her mother, and then by the studios. Garland was found dead on the summer solstice of 1969, just seven weeks before the Tate/LaBianca murders.
- John Phillips – musician/composer who founded the singing group The Mamas and The Papas and who was born in a military hospital, the son of a career Marine officer. John later attended the U.S. Naval Academy.
- Roy Radin – theatrical producer who specialized in staging vaudeville revival shows. Radin was working with Robert Evans to produce The Cotton Club when he was shot some twenty-seven times in the head in 1983. Radin began his career while still a teenager by staging shows in Masonic temples.
- The Hell’s Angels – the most well-known of the biker gangs that arose after WWII due to the efforts of returning OSS and military officers. The Angels were led by Ralph “Sonny” Barger, reportedly an informant for the Oakland Police Department who was also on the payroll of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
- Jayne Mansfield – actress/sex symbol who was decapitated, allegedly in a car accident, on June 29, 1967. According to Jayne’s daughter, Mansfield’s parties featured the rich and famous getting naked and filming themselves. Tate and husband Roman Polanski were reportedly the producers and collectors of ‘fame porn’ as well.
- Robert F. Kennedy – U.S. Senator and presidential candidate who was assassinated in Hollywood on June 5, 1968. Kennedy was allegedly shot from point-blank range behind his right ear by Sirhan Sirhan, who was standing several yards in front of and to the left of the candidate. Like I said, shit happens.
Without further ado, we begin this journey – for no particular reason – with the aforementioned Phil Hartman, who was a highschool friend of Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who later became a disciple of Charlie Manson, a jailhouse correspondent of John Hinckley, and the attempted assassin of President Gerald Ford, who was once a roommate of modeling entrepreneur Harry Conover, whose wife was the infamous Candy Jones, who was ‘treated’ by CIA-linked hypnotist William Jennings Bryan, who also ‘treated’ the purported Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, whose name was written repetitively throughout the diaries of Sirhan Sirhan, who was also ‘treated’ by Bryan, who served as the technical director on The Manchurian Candidate, which was directed by John Frankenheimer, at whose beach house a dinner was held on June 5, 1968 whose attendees included “Mama” Cass Elliot, Roman Polanski, and Sharon Tate, who was killed just over a year later by followers of Charlie Manson, whose music was recorded by Doris Day’s son, music producer Terry Melcher, who lived with girlfriend Candace Bergen at 10050 Cielo Drive the year before it became a slaughterhouse after being rented by Polanski, who initially was slated to pen the screenplay for Day of the Dolphin, which purported to tell the story of Dr. John Lilly, who was a friend of Timothy Leary, whose Mellon family-owned Millbrook estate was frequently visited by Dr. Max “Feelgood” Jacobson, who once ‘treated’ Judy Garland and who served as the personal physician of John Kennedy, whose assassination prompted the shelving of the film The Manchurian Candidate by its star, Frank Sinatra, who was a frequent companion of fellow ‘Brat Packer’ Sammy Davis, Jr., who was an acknowledged member of Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, from where Manson recruited killers Bobby “Cupid” Beausoleil and Susan “Sexy Sadie” Atkins, who confessed to her cellmates that she had stabbed to death actress Sharon Tate, who was inducted into witchcraft on the set of the Polanski-directed film The Fearless Vampire Killers by Alexander “King of the Witches” Saunders, who received ‘training’ as a child from Aleister Crowley, whose followers included Anton LaVey and fellow Church of Satan member Kenneth Anger, who was the roommate (and probable lover) of Family member Bobby Beausoleil, who once appeared in an underground film titled Mondo Hollywood, which also featured hairdresser and Manson victim Jay Sebring, who was a former lover of Sharon Tate, who was a friend of a wealthy widow named Charlene Caffritz, who played host to – and filmed the exploits of – Charlie and some of his girls, who also lived for a time with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, who recorded a song penned by Charlie, who was an occasional member of the entourage of Mama Cass, who was listed as a defense witness for Charlie’s trial (but never called), as was her Mamas and the Papas band-mate John Phillips, who was close to Polanski, Tate, Melcher, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Cass Elliot, and film producer Robert Evans, who was working with – and very likely contracted the execution killing of – Roy Radin, whose assistant was Michael DeVinko aka Mickie DeVinko aka Mickie Deans, who married – just a few months before her untimely death – Wizard of Oz star Judy Garland, who as a teen was flooded with phone messages and telegrams by admirer Oscar Levant, whose dead body was found by Candace Bergen, who – as a photojournalist for Life magazine – covered the preempted presidential campaign of Robert Kennedy, who was romantically linked to Marilyn Monroe, who was also linked to Anton LaVey, who appeared in Kenneth Anger’s Invocation of My Demon Brother (released in August of 1969) along with Bobby Beausoleil, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who was a guest at the 1968 London wedding of Sharon Tate to Roman Polanski, who – during a nude photo shoot – molested a thirteen-year-old girl at the home of Jack Nicholson, who was a friend of Cass Elliot, as were Robert Evans and Manson victims Jay Sebring, Voytek Frykowski and Abigail Folger, who provided funding for the Himalayan Academy, which Kenneth Anger helped form with Timothy Leary, who was at the side of the stage at the 1969 Altamont concert where – while the Rolling Stones played the Process Church-inspired Sympathy for the Devil* – a fan was killed on film by the Hell’s Angels, who had been romanticized and transformed into anti-establishment heroes in the film Scorpio Rising by Kenneth Anger and the book Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson, both of whom have been accused of making snuff films** for private collectors, which was also a favorite pastime of Charlie Manson, one of whose underage recruits was Didi Lansbury, who had written permission to travel with Charlie from her mother, Angela Lansbury, who starred as the control agent in The Manchurian Candidate, which was based on the novel of the same name by Richard Condon, who once served as a publicist for Walt Disney, who once owned the home where the Manson Family slaughtered Leno LaBianca and wife Rosemary, who was involved in the trafficking of drugs, as were many of those in this twisted saga, including Charles Manson, victims Voytek Frykowski and Abigail Folger, John Phillips and Kenneth Anger, who was a huge fan of the dark and violent imagery of the Rosicrucian-inspired, L. Frank Baum-penned Oz books, which inspired the band The Magick Powerhouse of Oz, which was led by Bobby Beausoleil, who was also at one time in the band Love with Arthur Lee, four of whose members later turned up dead or missing and presumed dead, as did Charlene Caffritz, Cass Elliot (who allegedly choked on a sandwich in 1974), Dennis Wilson (who allegedly drowned on December 28, 1983), and Gram Parsons, whose corpse was stolen and burned at Joshua Tree on the autumnal equinox of 1973 by his band’s road manager, Phil Kaufman, who was a good friend from prison of Charlie Manson, who met (at Cass Elliot’s house) and received money from victim Abigail Folger, who also funded Kenneth Anger, who at various times lived with both Jimmy Page (who purchased Crowley’s home and many of his artifacts) and Keith Richards & Anita Pallenberg, whose home – in 1979 – yielded the body of a teenager who had been shot to death, as was John Lennon the next year by Mark David Chapman, who shortly before doing so met with – and offered a gift of live bullets to – Kenneth Anger, whose films were cited as a major influence by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who was implicated by witnesses in the Halloween 1981 execution killing of New York photographer Ronald Sisman (a close associate of Roy Radin), who was reportedly in possession of a snuff film of one of the Son of Sam murders, which were allegedly committed by David Berkowitz, who from prison accurately described the Sisman killing before it happened and who took the fall for the Son of Sam murders to cover up the involvement of others, including possibly Roy Radin and wealthy art dealer Andrew Crispo, who admitted being present at the site of a ritual murder which was committed by a man named Bernard LeGeros, who was the son of a State Department official, as was Pic Dawson, who was a regular member of the entourage of Cass Elliot, as was a one-time bodyguard of publisher Larry Flynt named Bill Mentzer, who was convicted of killing Radin and who was suspected of involvement in numerous other contract murders, including some of those attributed to David Berkowitz, who was ‘examined’ by psychiatrist/hypnotist Daniel Schwartz, as was Mark David Chapman, who was obsessed with the film The Wizard of Oz and the book The Catcher in the Rye, which was written by reclusive author J.D. Salinger, who served in the OSS with Henry Kissinger, who was a close adviser to Gerald Ford, who once met and shook hands with Mark David Chapman, who was ‘examined’ by psychiatrist/hypnotist Bernard Diamond, who also ‘examined’ Sirhan Sirhan, who had connections to the Process Church, as did many of those ensnared in this sordid web, including Kenneth Anger, John Phillips, Roy Radin, David Berkowitz and Charlie Manson, who attended a New Year’s Eve party at the home of John Phillips, who wrote the siren song of the ‘Summer of Love,’ bringing thousands of hippies and flower children streaming into San Francisco and into the hands of such figures as Louis “Dr. Jolly” West, Anton LaVey, Charlie Manson, Bobby Beausoleil, Timothy Leary and Kenneth Anger, who – just three days after the suspicious death of Rolling Stone Brian Jones – filmed the Hell’s Angels stomping the crowd at a 1969 Stones concert in London, just five months before they did the very same thing to the crowd at Altamont, which was organized by San Francisco attorney Melvin Belli, who consulted with F. Lee Bailey whilst the latter was busily railroading Albert DeSalvo and later consulted with Richard “The Night Stalker” Ramirez, who was offered an honorary membership in the Church of Satan by Anton LaVey’s daughter Zeena, who along with boyfriend Nickolas Schreck staged an event on 8-8-88 celebrating the slaughter of the victims of the Manson Family, who some researchers believe were involved in the murders attributed to the “Zodiac,” who called and sent correspondence to Melvin Belli, whose clients included the widow of Hermann Goering and Jack Ruby, who assassinated Lee Harvey Oswald, the purported assassin of John Kennedy, whose brother Robert was romantically linked to Jayne Mansfield, as was Anton LaVey, who served as Roman Polanski’s technical director on the 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby, which was set in New York’s Dakota Apartments, where John Lennon was gunned down by Mark David Chapman, who shared a fixation on The Catcher in the Rye with failed assassin John Hinckley, Jr., who stalked actress Jodie Foster, who is working on a film biography of Leni Riefenstahl, who was met by – and admired by – fellow filmmaker Kenneth Anger, who laced his film Scorpio Rising with Nazi imagery, including the prominent use of swastikas, not unlike the one carved into the forehead of Charlie Manson, who – at the Cielo Drive home of Polanski and Tate – had a chance meeting with Nancy Sinatra, the daughter of Frank Sinatra, who was married to actress Mia Farrow, who starred in the Polanski-directed Rosemary’s Baby, which was produced by Robert Evans, a friend of Henry Kissinger, who was the righthand man of President Richard Nixon, whose election was ensured by the assassination of Robert Kennedy by Sirhan Sirhan, who was yet another client of Melvin Belli, as were the Hell’s Angels and Nazi-collaborator Errol Flynn, who made two films with Ronald Reagan, who was an occasional visitor to the childhood home of Candace Bergen, who – as a photojournalist – chronicled the short-lived administration of Gerald Ford, who married one of his friend Harry Conover’s ‘Covergirls,’ who later opened the Betty Ford Center, where various celebrities in and out of this web routinely check in for tune-ups.
I could probably go on, but I really have to get back to work on my screenplay. I’m thinking of trying to break into Hollywood. I have this great script about a guy who is propelled to the heights of power through a combination of fraud, arrogance, legal manipulation and public denial to lead an imperialist military power that masterfully uses propaganda to turn reality on its head.
When the man-who-would-be-king first takes office, the public views him with a considerable amount of well-deserved skepticism. But then there is an apparent attack upon the state which is used as a pretext to rally the support of the people behind a reactionary social agenda and a war of unspecified duration with unspecified goals. Some suspect that the attack was actually an inside job, but they are ridiculed by those who scoff at the notion that their government would attack one of its own institutions.
Meanwhile, the anti-hero sells the country out to huge corporate and financial interests and institutes overt police state measures to keep the masses in line should the people ever begin to catch on that their collective reality is little more than a grand illusion. Much later, historians reluctantly admit that the purported attack was in fact a staged provocation, but by then it is too late.
I’m almost done with the final draft. I just have to decide whether to name my anti-hero Adolf or George. Then I’m going to have my people get in touch with Jerry Bruckheimer’s people and close the deal.
Of course, I might have to take out some of the plot elements and replace them with gratuitous, but really cool, special effects sequences. But it will still be a great movie. Maybe even as good as the biography of the Marquis de Sade that Kenneth Anger had long planned to film, in the original castle where deSade’s crimes were committed. But that’s another story altogether.
* A number of journalists have written that the killing took place later in the concert. This is perhaps due, at least in part, to the deceptive way in which the film of the event, Gimme Shelter (arguably the most widely viewed snuff film ever created), was edited. In the film, the killing is deliberately shown out of sequence, making it appear as though it occurred at the end of the concert. It did in fact occur while the Stones played Sympathy for the Devil, as can be discerned from a careful viewing of the final minutes of the video version of the film. The band, fully aware of what was going on immediately in front of the stage, played on. <back>
** Thompson, whose legal representation is provided by the same politically-connected law firm that successfully shielded John and Patsy Ramsey from prosecution, has been accused by the child witnesses in the case dubbed the ‘Franklin Cover-Up.’ Anger was suspected by police investigators, but was shielded from prosecution by sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, a devoted follower of Aleister Crowley. Kinsey died shortly after he and Anger visited Crowley’s Thelema Abbey in Sicily. <back>
1. Bain, Donald The Control of Candy Jones, Playboy Press, 1976
2. Bowart, Walter Operation Mind Control, Dell Publishing, 1978
3. Bugliosi, Vincent with Curt Gentry Helter Skelter, Bantam Books, 1974
4. Bresler, Fenton Who Killed John Lennon?, St. Martin’s Press, 1989
5. Constantine, Alex The Covert War Against Rock, Feral House, 2000
6. Cromelin, Richard “John Phillips; Singer-Songwriter Led the Mamas and the Papas,” Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2001
7. DeCamp, John W. The Franklin Cover-Up, AWT, Inc., 1992
8. Farr, Louise The Sunset Murders, Pocket Books, 1992
9. Fricke, David “Life of a California Dreamer,” Rolling Stone #867, April 26, 2001
10. Gilmore, John and Ron Kenner Manson: The Unholy Trail of Charlie and the Family, Amok, 2000
11. Landis, Bill Anger: The Unauthorized Biography of Kenneth Anger, Harper Collins, 1995
12. Lee, Martin and Bruce Shlain Acid Dreams, Grove Press, 1985
13. Levenda, Peter Unholy Alliance, Avon, 1995
14. Marks, John The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, Times Books, 1979
15. McGunagle, Fred “The Man Who Killed John Lennon,” The Crime Library, www.crimelibrary.com
16. Moench, Doug The Big Book of Conspiracies, Paradox Press, 1995
17. Mueller, Jim “A Nyuk on the Wild Side; Did the Three Stooges Cover Up the Murder of Their Founder?” Chicago Tribune, April 4, 2002
18. Sanders, Ed The Family, Dutton, 1971
19. Street-Porter, Janet Scandal!, Penguin Books, 1981
20. Terry, Maury The Ultimate Evil, Barnes and Noble Books, 1999
21. Vankin, Jonathan and John Whalen The 60 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time, Citadel, 1998
22. Vankin, Jonathan Conspiracies, Cover-Ups and Crimes, Illuminet Press, 1996
23. Wick, Steve Bad Company: Drugs, Hollywood, and the Cotton Club Murder, St. Martin’s, 1990
24. “The John Lennon Assassination,” A&E American Justice
25. “John Lennon: The Final Days,” E! True Hollywood Story
26. “Oscar Levant,” E! Mysteries and Scandals