Writers, artists and filmmakers alike remain fascinated by Charles Manson, a polarizing figure who took advantage of disenfranchised youth, inciting them to kill innocent people for the thrill of it and as revenge for his failed entertainment career. Of course, Charlie was also a racist (something he has denied over the years; though his forehead tattoo -not a peace sign- says otherwise). The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” was an uproarious good time before Manson reinterpreted it to rep his vision for an apocalyptic race war, though most forget the ugly truth behind his use of it, especially after bands such as Motley Crue and Siouxsie and the Banshees put out blistering covers. And then there’s Marilyn Manson, whose use of the name juxtaposed with Hollywood’s ultimate sex symbol only added to the macabre mystique of the cult leader. So why does the general public remain so fascinated by this monster 50 years later? Prurient curiosity? Coming to terms with the dark nature of humanity? These are questions many of us asked ourselves as we watched Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, set just before the Tate/LaBianca murders. Those who checked out Lethal Amounts’ Manson exhibit this past weekend, called “Once Upon A Time in ’69,” surely did so as well. Like past Lethal exhibits, this one didn’t shy away from the provocative and controversial nature of art or violence. Presenting artifacts from the era in addition to ephemera from the collections of John Aes-Nihl (an archivist and collector who made 1984’s Manson Family Movies, a faux home movie–style film about the cult), the show included writings, photographs, original art and ephemera, much of it never before seen or available to the public. Though the show is over, much of it is still available by appointment (email firstname.lastname@example.org).
Here, a look at the exhibit’s opening night via Fernando Guerrero for Psykoboys.com.
Read our review of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood here.
Read an exclusive excerpt from the new book Hippie Cult Leader: The Last Words of Charles Manson here.