Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

Charles-Manson

The passing of maximum psycho Charles Manson brings back a lot of memories, all of them bad. Several people have remarked that his death occurred roughly 50 years too late. I think we gotta go back a bit further – it came 83 years too late. Manson should never have walked this earth.

He was my father’s age, and I remember wondering at the height of Manson’s fame, when I was 10 or 11 with the limited perspective you might expect, how a guy like my dad could ever do those things. Of course, Manson was nothing like my dad. At the time of the Tate-LaBianca murders the 35-year old Manson had already been in jail and other institutions for nearly half his life.

He was born to a 16-year old single mother who, if she wasn’t unhinged at the time, shortly reached that point. He seemed to experience very little of what could be described as a normal upbringing and was one of those tragic children who had no chance. That said, his wiring may have been fried from the very beginning, demonstrating, as Bruce Springsteen sang in his song Nebraska, “I guess there’s just a meanness in this world.” An appropriate, orderly life was obviously anathema to Manson and the fact that most people actually lived that way ultimately bothered him enough to mastermind a killing spree.

I equate both Manson and the Zodiac Killer with a certain point in history. As I said, I was quite young at the time and both men scared the living shit out of me. I had difficulty sleeping, and when I did manage to fall asleep I had nightmares. Manson continued to freak me out well into my teens–long after he was convicted and incarcerated–with his wild eyes and whacked-out followers, including Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who attempted to further Manson’s legacy with an assassination attempt on President Gerald Ford in Sacramento in 1975.

Charles Manson forever tainted the Beatles’ “White Album” for me. He was under a delusion that the record was speaking to him, and many of you probably recall that his followers scrawled references on the walls at the mass murder sites, using the blood of their victims. To this day I can’t listen to ‘Helter Skelter’ with anything resembling enjoyment – all I see is Manson’s face with a maniacal grin, making the song threatening and spooky. The stunning ballad ‘Sexy Sadie,’ which is actually about the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, never breaks through the chill of being co-opted as the nickname of convicted killer Susan Atkins. And the silly ‘Piggies’ has taken on an entirely different meaning that will never be erased.

Buh-bye, Charlie. If there is in fact life after death,  I hope yours will be most unpleasant.

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

  1. Karma for Manson: Part 1. Reborn as a fly in a recently abandoned National Park Service composting outhouse and Part 2. The outhouse is the site of an eternal “Groundhog Day.”

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  2. Interesting to think about how time and distance colors your connections to things. I love the White Album (except when Yoko screams).

    I was 9, and thousands of miles away, at the time of the Tate-LaBianca murders. It was nowhere on my radar. My dad was overseas launching aircraft from a carrier on Yankee Station in support of ground troops in the Vietnam War. Our family had traveled from Washington to Colorado/Kansas to spend July and most of August with grandparents and assorted uncles, aunts, and cousins.

    Here’s what I remember that summer of ’69 instead of Manson (not in any order of importance):
    1. Curiosity about dad and Vietnam in the age of G.I. Joe Action Figure (G.I. Joe WAS NOT a doll).
    2. In the rudimentary, limited song play on our flight from Seattle to Kansas City was “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill.” Couldn’t wait for it to repeat on the 20-song channel. Looking back seems like a strange tune for United to have had on their playlist.
    3. I was rockin’ to The Archies and “Sugar Sugar.” Perry Como’s “Seattle” was another biggie to those in the PNW due to the TV show “Here Comes the Brides.” Little sis was in love with Bobby Sherman.
    4. Older cousins tricking me in the local swimming pool by throwing a quarter on the bottom and having me find it (I now use the story in teaching refraction to 9th graders).
    5. Oldest cousin’s bizarre posters in his basement room: Cream, The Grass Roots, and Steppenwolf. I had not heard of a single one of these groups.
    6. In El Dorado, KS, grandpa pulling my brother and I onto the front porch as we tried to go play in the golfball-sized hail. On another night we heard the tornado sirens and ran up to the attic to watch and see if we could spot Dorothy. We were paddled as we were carried into the basement.
    7. Catching fireflies.
    8. Three Broomfield, CO cousins taking my brother and I to the drive-in to see “2001: A Space Odyssey” with the 2nd feature: Burt Reynolds in “Joe Whiskey.” I think we may have gone so the cousins could experience the second half of 2001 in an altered state. Burt’s film was not appropriate for 7- and 9-year olds (but we liked it). Remember eldest cousin being cussed out by parents for taking us to those films and not the drive-in with the “Disney” films. Main reason is brother got scared by HAL and couldn’t stop talking about it when we got home.
    8. Introduced to an incinerating toilet at an aunt/uncle’s cabin on the Big Thompson River. Couldn’t pee in the toilet (another receptacle for that). Burning poop to a 9-year old was awesome. Got in trouble for flushing it too much.
    9. And the topper: sitting in the El Dorado house on July 20, 1969 and watching Walter Cronkite deliver the sound and film of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. My grandfather was born in 1882. He wept.

    I feel fortunate that my love of the White Album was not corrupted. Though, as a veteran of Desert Shield/Desert Storm – I NEVER, NEVER, EVER want to hear Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” or Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” again. I’d rather be locked in a jail cell and have to listen to non-stop “Macarena” and/or “Gangnman Style” than hear those over-requested, over-played, beat-to-death recordings. Liked ’em both prior to December 1990.

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