At 8:13 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 19, Charles Manson, a short, delusional asshole who tried to start a race war by instructing his “family” of followers to kill a slew of innocent people, died in a Kern County hospital. The murders the Manson Family committed in L.A. in the summer of 1969 — actress Sharon Tate and guests Jay Sebring, Voytek Frykowski, Abigail Folger and Steven Parent, and, the following night, Leno and Rosemary La Bianca, a Los Feliz couple chosen at random — were gruesome and bizarre; Tate, who was eight months pregnant with her first child with director Roman Polanski, reportedly was stabbed 16 times.
Also bizarre were events and circumstances that led up to the killings, widely considered the symbolic end of the 1960s, a decade when a creepy ex-con with unrealized musical ambitions and a harem of dirty, malnourished female sycophants could land in the orbit of people like Beach Boy Dennis Wilson and music executive Terry Melcher, son of Doris Day.
On her highly addictive and painstakingly researched podcast You Must Remember This, former L.A. Weekly film critic Karina Longworth delved deep into the Manson Family and all of its peripheral characters in the 12-part, 2015 series “Charles Manson's Hollywood.” Here's her description of the season from the podcast's site:
This season, You Must Remember This will explore the murders committed in the summer of 1969 by followers of Charles Manson, and the Hollywood music and movie scene surrounding the killings. Throughout the series, we’ll learn how a single sociopath’s thwarted dreams of fame and fortune led to the gruesome events which became the symbolic “end of the '60s.” Future episodes will explore the various celebrities, musicians, movie stars and filmmakers (including Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate, The Beach Boys, Dennis Hopper, Doris Day and more) whose paths crossed with Manson’s in meaningful ways, both leading up to the murders and in their aftermath. Today, we’ll talk about what was going on in the show business capital that made Manson seem like a relatively normal guy. Then we'll lay out the basic facts of who was killed, and how, in order to begin to explain how these unthinkable crimes fit in to the tapestry of one of the most tumultuous times in Hollywood history.
It's essential (if occasionally difficult) listening, to flesh out not just your understanding of Manson but an entire era in Los Angeles history, one you could say officially drew to a close on Sunday evening. Carve out a dozen hours and give it a listen.