Dear Dirty America


Charles Manson Touches Rolling Stone Writer, & He Likes It

Charles Manson Touches Rolling Stone Writer, & He Likes It
December 03
05:38 2013

A Touch On the Arm from A True Outsider

Erik Hedegaard from Rolling Stone writes about his frequent phone conversations with celebrity outlaw, Charles Manson. In quite an honest, introspective piece, Hedegaard fairly (at least more fairly than others writing about Manson) assesses the famed criminal’s presence:

“There are thousands of evil, polished con men out there, and we’ve had more brutal murders than the Manson murders, so why are we still talking about Charles Manson?” [prosecutor Vincent] Bugliosi says. “He had a quality about him that one thousandth of one percent of people have. An aura. ‘Vibes,’ the kids called it in the Sixties. Wherever he went, kids gravitated toward him. This is not normal. I mean, I couldn’t get someone to go to the local Dairy Queen and get me a milkshake, OK? But this guy, I don’t know what it is. How the hell do I know?”

How the hell would anyone know? It’s inexplicable, and no one will ever really know, just as I will never know or understand why when Manson rested his hand on my arm it felt so good, not passively good, but actively, like leave it there, leave it there some more. It’s a presence. And it’s that presence, coupled with how he used it, that for the past 44 years has made him a face-of-evil superstar symbol second only to Hitler. In 1970, this magazine published the first exhaustive account of Manson and his followers, 22 pages long, titled “The Incredible Story of the Most Dangerous Man Alive,” taking a nuanced approach and allowing Manson to speak at length. Since then, the books and stories have kept on coming. He rarely participates, however, and it’s been around 20 years since he last granted a wide-ranging press interview.

It’s true about Charlie’s presence. Although I’ve never met the man, I’ve seen him fill a room again and again. I’ve seen the way he grinds Geraldo Rivera’s manly interviewing approach to frustrated exhaustion. Geraldo was the big journalist who was going to crack Charlie’s refusal to admit guilt in the Tate-LaBianca murders, yet he leaves feeling foolish.

I’ve long been fascinated with Charlie Manson interviews from the 1980s, where the anticipation to see his face is almost unbearable. The hype surrounding the man is tremendous, and real. In the Penny Daniels interview, the viewer can see that past the room where the cameras and Daniels are waiting, the short criminal is getting his chains unlocked and being readied for the meeting.

Like nearly every interview done with Manson, it is his show. He instantly controls the situation. His head with its thick, tangled hair and beard assesses the room and the people in the room from behind dark sunglasses. He has an almost uncanny ability to read each individual in a moment before saying something to put himself in command.

With Penny Daniels, Charlie says, Are you the guy I’ve been talking to on the phone? Daniels quickly says, Do I look like a man? Charlie says, Well, I was talking to a guy from France about this interview. Where is he?

He knows that’s not the case, but right away Daniels has to explain that they are from Inside Story from Miami. She has to defend herself and her right to be there. The one in shackles has displaced the one who is supposed to be in charge, and he’s insulted her. He knows his value in this situation, and that she’ll do just about anything to get the interview.

I was told this was a French crew and I’d get thirty minutes of my own tape to record anything I wanted, Manson says. When Daniels must have looked confused, Charlie says, Well, what the hell am I even doing this interview for, anyway?

The cameraman tells Charlie that’s fine, that they’ll do that for him, and Charlie says, That’s what I thought.

He’s got an aura. He’s got “vibes”. Manson has become a legend, and who knows if he’ll stay famous for the next five hundred years, but one thing is for certain: he’s responsible for one hell of a lot less damage and human suffering than most of our United States presidents over the past five decades are, yet Charlie will be loathed with unique fervor for his creepiness and brutality.

For what it’s worth, exiled cultural philosopher Hubert Humdinger called Mr Manson the “least understood but most valued villain for the cultural elite in human history.”

[photo by Valerie Everett]

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1 Comment

  1. Joanna
    Joanna December 03, 12:27

    Intriguing and horrifying. Manson plays on our primal fears and flicks our cognitive switches. He draws us into his darkness and we can’t look away. The devil is beautiful.

    Reply to this comment

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