You don’t find many things that unite nearly all Americans – but the death of Charles Manson is one of them. Other than high school kids trying to get a rise ouf of their elders, not many people – especially those that remember the utterly legitimate fear his “familiy” inflicted for a time in the late sixties – aren’t happy to see this vile chapter in history fade to a halt.
Manson predated me and my consciousness – to me, there’s always been a Charles Manson – but the attempt by “familiy” member “Squeaky” Fromme on President Ford forty-odd years ago was certainly a punctuation mark in my early understanding of the weirdness of the world (and of the US in the seventies, which was a whole ‘nother level of weird).
I did read Helter Skelter, Vincent Bugliosi’s masterpiece on the era, including his prosecution of Manson and his family. If you’ve never read it, do; it’s not only the best explanation of the era, but one of the best lessons on the anatomy of a prosecution you will ever find.
Of ocurse, for a brief stretch of my life, Manson wasn’t just background; he was an assignment.
Back in 1987, after Don Vogel went to Chicago, I spent some time producing the Geoff Charles show at KSTP-AM. And Geoff was obsessed with Manson. One of my ongoing standing assignments; land an interview with Manson. Didn’t matter how; by phone, in person, on tape; Charles would have flown himself out to San Quentin to put the interview on tape at his own expense, IIRC.
And so I spent the next three months making at least a couple calls a month to the California Department of Corrections. Me and everyone else, of course; “an interview with Manson” was on pretty much every media person’s wish list at the time, and we may have been one of the smaller potatoes in the bag. But we were a persistent small potato, at least.