Manson v. the Mafia
A new book claims Charles Manson is not the crazed demon of popular mythology and that the Tate murders were a bid to muscle in on the mob's drug racket. Neil Mackay talks to its author Bill Scanlon Murphy
Charlie didn't do it. Manson might have been the man who killed the 60s, but he certainly wasn't the man behind the murder of Sharon Tate, wife of Roman Polanski, and her movieland friends at the starlet's LA mansion on August8, 1969.You can forget about cults, Helter Skelter and the revolution. The Tate murders were just a heist gone wrong- a game attempt by a rag-tag bunch of aspiring criminal high-rollers to take on the Mafia for a slice of its Hollywood drugs market.
It's a brave thing to try to morph a man who ordered his followers to stab a beautiful, pregnant woman 18 times before dipping towel in her blood and daubing the word 'Pig' on her living room wall as she lay dying, into little, more than an extra from Reservoir Dogs. But the dividends can be high if you've got the guts to get into bed with a serial killer. Author and producer, Bill Scanlon Murphy, a Govan lad made good, is looking at a seven-figure advance from publishers for his revisionist history of Manson, the hip-named Live Freaky, Die Freaky. The book got its title from a comment made by a passer-by to one of the police officers the morning after the Tate killings.
Murphy is still playing his cards rather close to his chest and not revealing the full mechanics of how his conspiracy theory works, but he has compiled hours of video footage with Manson and the rest of the family in jail. The ink's not dry on the contract yet, but Murphy was always the man for the job. As former session musician with the Beach Boys, who were pals of Manson before the hippie leader achieved worldwide notoriety, he had an in. But it is this which casts a question mark over his claims that Manson was nothing more than a hip wide-boy.
Murphy was close friends with Dennis Wilson, the Beach Boys drummer and brother of the band's singer-songwriter Brian Wilson. And Wilson was a friend of Manson. Shortly before he drowned at sea, Wilson, in a drunken haze, told Murphy: "I know Manson didn't do it. He was an asshole and a criminal, but this family shit is all wrong. I know." He wouldn't elaborate, but Murphy decided to check his hero's theory. It turned into a l0-year trawl of the underbelly of America's west coast, which brought him into contact with porn stars, mobsters, nazis, dope-fiends - a pick'n'mix of freaks and sickos.
Murphy seems to have been true to the spirit of the man who made his dreams come true. He never veered from believing Wilson's words that Charlie 'didn't do it'. Murphy's is a great theory; as conspiracies go it's one of the best bringing the Mafia and Manson together for one final, cataclysmic clash that ends in the bloodbath in the Polanski house. But behind the impeccable research and professed objectivity there's a feeling Murphy may have had his eye more on the memory of his friend, than the truth about Manson. "I loved Dennis," said Murphy. "He was my greatest friend. I would have done anything for him."
And it shouldn't be forgotten that Dennis - who wasn't averse to the odd hallucinogenic- could hardly be said to be open-minded about Manson. Even Murphy hints his pal might have been more than just friends with Manson. The gist of his theory is this- Manson gets out of jail in 1967, a bisexual, borstal boy with a history of ultra-violence, and lands in San Francisco and the LSD-fuelled counter-cultural revolution. Still linked to the mob since his days in jail - he was a protege of mass murderer Alvin 'Creepy' Karpis - he was a magnet for Frisco's low-lifes and wannabe criminals. Among this freaked-out menagerie there was a bright, young drug dealer called Charles 'Tex' Watson. Now serving life for his part in the Manson family murders, it is Watson, Murphy believes, who was the real brains behind the killings.
From interviews with all the main players, Murphy has reconstructed what he believes to be the motives and running order of the murders. By the late 60s, the mob had effectively cornered the drugs market in Hollywood, squeezing out smaller gangs like the one Manson and Tex Watson were running. "This wasn't a gaggle of counter-cultural weirdos," says Murphy. "The so-called Manson family were petty gangsters with big dreams."
According to contacts Murphy made in the Mafia, Jay Sebring, one of the Polanski house victims, was Hollywood's main candyman, a conduit for mob-supplied drugs. The official version has it that the Manson clan arrived at the Polanski home, not even knowing who lived there, because Charlie had sent the order that "now is the time for Helter Skelter" - code for random vengeance against the rich.
Murphy says he has proof that Tex, and other family members had been at the Polanski house on at least one previous occasion in connection with drugs. They knew on the night of the murders that Jay Sebring had $40,000 worth of mob drugs on him and they, more precisely Tex, went to rip him off.
Manson did not go to the house or take part in the killings in either the official version or in Murphy's theory. But he was aware of the plan and keen for it to succeed so the gang could start to make their mark in LA's underworld. According to Murphy, the robbery blew up in the gang's face when Sharon, Sebring and the coffee heiress Abigail Folger and her lover Wojiciech Frykowski tried to bolt. They were shot and stabbed to death by Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkle. A fourth member, Linda Kasabian, remained as a look-out outside.
"When they told Charlie what happened, he freaked," says Murphy. "He started swearing, saying 'I'm just out of the fucking can and you are gonna put me right back inside, you assholes'." One of the most staggering new claims made by Murphy is that Manson effectively admitted that he returned to the Polanski house more than an hour after the killings to tamper with the murder scene. Until now, it has been believed that Manson had never so much as set foot in the Polanski house.
Now the real conspiracy theory comes into play Manson's close friend Bobby Beausoleil, a student of black magic, had killed a musician associate of Manson's called Gary Hinman in a wrangle over drugs. To cover his tracks, Beausoleil daubed the words "Political Piggie" in Hinman's own blood on the walls of his house. Hinman was known to associate with members of the Black Panthers and hoped the slogan would attach blame to the black movement. With that in mind, Manson, a rabid racist, rearranged the Polanski house bodies to put the Panthers in the frame.
More murders followed with the killing of Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. The motive this time was financial and the LaBiancas had to die - they had seen their killers. This time Manson led the robbery, but both the official version and Murphy's account maintain he didn't wield the knives that claimed the LaBiancas. Leno had 'war' scored on his stomach and on the walls, in blood, were the words 'Death to Pigs' and 'Helter Skelter', again, to point the finger at the Panthers.
In October 1969, their luck ran out. Atkins, already in custody on a minor charge, blabbed to a cellmate about her part in the Tate killings. The family were all arrested. Now the conspiracy theory once again comes into its own. Murphy, who says that he and his family have been threatened by Manson supporters and the Mafia, claims to have information from people within the state attorney's office and the police, that the authorities knew the real motive for the murders but chose to prosecute it as a serial killer cult trial.
The reason - some of the biggest players in Hollywood would have been exposed for being up to their armpits in drugs, orgies and the mob. The trial could have seen a scandal implicating a pantheon of US celebrities, and the acquittal of the Manson family as the trial fell apart. Murphy is set to name one of Hollywood's biggest male stars of the 60s as being at the Polanski house on a drug binge just hours prior to the murder, a movie mogul as a mob-front for money-laundering, a famous male TV star as Manson's gay lover and a famous British businessman on the fringes of politics who made his money as a coke dealer to Polanski and his friends in London in the later 60s. So there may be some credence to Murphy's claims that he has had two attempts on his life.
When the family realised what the prosecution line would be they went along with it. "I have it from the killers that they realised getting tried for mass murder as part of a psycho cult was bad, but pure bloody murder for financial gain was a sure way to get a ticket to the gas chamber." Murphy says. In the end they were sentenced to death, later commuted to life meaning life.
Meanwhile, Tex was in custody in Texas awaiting extradition. When he was told the trial was going ahead as the Manson family murders, with Charlie billed as his crazed guru, Tex fell about laughing, saying: "Charlie! Fuck man, no way!" A year later, he walked like a robot into a Californian courtroom and played the hypnotised acolyte.
The questions remains why Manson didn't stand up in court, deny he was a cult mastermind and point an equal finger of blame at Tex. Well, according to Murphy, in a way he did. The only problem is that Manson sufferers from acute schizophrenia. He rambled his way through lengthy speeches in court which, if you cut through the psychobabble, made one point - he wasn't the guru of a killer cult. But nobody wanted to listen. Now, 30 years later, the only thing Manson has left is his notoriety. Shackled and despised in Corcoran Maximum Security Penitentiary, he is kept alive by the adoration of a growing band of Mansonites, a hotch-potch of white supremacists, environmentalists and extremists into hardcore porn who worship the 65 year-old for the bloody counter-cultural revolution he tried to ignite. "He's never going to get out, he knows that," says Murphy. "Why should he throw away the only thing that makes him feel alive. And, anyway. He's so incapable of rational thought, he wouldn't be able to even attempt to express the truth."
After hours of interviews, Manson finally said to Murphy: "I'm not an entertainer, I'm not a cult leader, I'm a thug. But all I've got left is my rap, if you take that away from me, I'm nothing."
Source: Scotland On Sunday 07/02/1999
Article written by Neil Mackay