Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

August 10, 2009


Paul Krassner, Huffington Post - This month, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a member of the Charles Manson family, is scheduled to be released on parole from a federal prison in Texas after serving 34 years behind bars for the attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford in 1975. Squeaky did not participate in the Tate/LaBianca killings, which I began investigating in 1971.

Manson was on Death Row -- before capital punishment was repealed (and later reinstated, but not retroactively) in California -- so I was unable to meet with him. Reporters had to settle for an interview with any prisoner awaiting the gas chamber, and it was unlikely that Charlie would be selected at random for me.

In the course of our correspondence, there was a letter from Manson consisting of a few pages of gibberish about Christ and the Devil, but at one point, right in the middle, he wrote in tiny letters, "Call Squeaky," with her phone number. I called, and we arranged to meet at her apartment in Los Angeles. On an impulse, I brought several tabs of acid with me on the plane.

Squeaky resembled a typical redheaded, freckle-faced waitress who sneaks a few tokes of pot in the lavatory, a regular girl-next-door except perhaps for the unusually challenging nature of her personality, plus the scar of an X that she had gouged and burned into her forehead as a visual reminder of her commitment to Charlie. That same symbol also covered the third eyes of her roommates, Manson family members Sandra Good and Brenda McCann.

"We've crossed ourselves out of this entire system," Squeaky explained.

They all had short hairstyles growing in now, after having completely shaved their heads. They continued to sit on the sidewalk near the Hall of Justice every day, like a coven of faithful nuns bearing witness to Manson's martyrdom.

Sandy Good had seen me perform at The Committee Theater in San Francisco a few years previously. Now she told me that when she first met Charlie and people asked her what he was like, she had compared him to Lenny Bruce and me. It was the weirdest compliment I ever got, but I began to understand Manson's peculiar charisma.

With his sardonic rap, mixed with psychedelic drugs and real-life theater games such as "creepy-crawling" and stealing, he had deprogrammed his family from the values of mainstream society, but reprogrammed them with his own perverted philosophy, a cosmic version of the racism perpetuated by the prison system that had served as his family.

Manson had stepped on Sandy's eyeglasses, thrown away her birth control pills, and inculcated her with racist insensibility. . .

We went to the home of some friends of the family, smoked a few joints of soothing grass, and listened to music. They sang along with the lyrics of "The Horse With No Name" -- which I figured was about heroin -- "In the desert you can't remember your name, 'cause there ain't no one there to give you no pain." I was basking in the afterglow of the Moody Blues' "Om" song when Sandy began to speak of "the gray people" -- regular citizens going about their daily business -- that she had been observing from her vantage point on the corner near the Hall of Justice.

"We were just sitting there," she said, "and they were walking along, kind of avoiding us. It's like watching a live movie in front of you. Sometimes I just wanted to kill the gray people, because that was the only way they would be able to experience the total Now."

That was an expression that Manson had borrowed from Scientology. When ranch-hand Shorty Shea was killed, he was first tied up, a few of the girls gave him blowjobs, and when he climaxed, his head was chopped off because he had reached the Now.

Later, Sandy said, "I didn't mean it literally about killing the gray people. I was speaking from another dimension.". . .

When we returned to their apartment, Sandy asked if I wanted to take a hot bath. I felt ambivalent. One of the defense attorneys had told me that he participated in a memorable threesome with Squeaky and Sandy, but I had also been told by a reporter, "It certainly levels the high to worry about getting stabbed while fucking the Manson ladies in the bunkhouse at the Spahn Ranch -- I've found that the only satisfactory position is sitting up, back to the wall, facing the door."

Visions of the classic shower scene in Psycho flashed through my mind, but despite the shrill self-righteousness that infected their True Believer Syndrome, these women had charmed me with their apparent honesty and humor, not to mention their distorted sense of compassion. They sensed my hesitation, and Squeaky, not Sandy, confronted me.

"You're afraid of me," she said, "aren't you?"

"Not really. Should I be?"

Sandy tried to reassure me: "She's beautiful, Paul. Just look into her eyes. Isn't she beautiful?"

Squeaky and I stared silently at each other for a while -- I recalled that Manson had written, "I never picked up anyone who had not already been discarded by society" -- and eventually my eyes began to tear. There were tears in Squeaky's eyes too. She asked me to try on Charlie's vest. It felt like a bizarre honor to participate in this family ceremony. The corduroy vest was a solid inch thick with embroidery -- snakes and dragons and devilish designs including human hair that had been woven into the multi-colored patterns.

Sandy took her bath, but instead of getting into the tub with her -- assuming her invitation had included that -- I sat fully dressed on the toilet and we talked, while I tried not to ogle her pert nipples.


Anonymous Mairead said...

What a bizarre article for you to have chosen, Sam. Who, really, gives a damn about any of the Manson gang?

August 11, 2009 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Manson had written, "I never picked up anyone who had not already been discarded by society" --
Where do people like khmer Rouge, Shining Path, and Blackwater come from? They start with good intentions. They're gonna be Robin Hood; they're gonna set things right. Nowadays most of those earnest well-meaning types who crave the approval of others so deperately join the military or the police, but they'll never find the self in allowing themselves to be manipulated because all those groups are not about belonging, they're about being owned.

August 11, 2009 12:42 PM  

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