The Mansons were idiots, and while I'm at it so is Marilyn Manson

Sharon Tate
January 24, 1943 – August 9, 1969

Ever since reading Helter Skelter in high school, I've been fascinated by the Manson murders, if only because they made no sense. The Manson "family" committed a slew of horrific crimes for the sake of...well, nothing actually. The crime that sticks out in everyone's mind is the murder of Sharon Tate. The Valley of the Dolls actress was almost nine months pregnant with Roman Polanski's baby, which the murderous group took upon themselves to practically remove from her body.

It’s one thing to get past the dark history and have a new family move in to the home. That would give the Mansons less cultural and historical power. But it’s a whole other thing to try to make a profit off the tragedy. I was annoyed when I found out that Trent Reznor used it as a recording studio with Nine Inch Nails, and more so when he ushered in his little protégé Marilyn Manson to record there. Adding insult to injury, they named the studio "Pig Studios" or "Le Pig," after what was scrawled across the door in Sharon Tate's blood. It’s as if the bands needed that gimmick to make themselves more dark and interesting, because they lacked the character and personality to be at all substantial.

Even Christina Ricci agrees. Regarding Marilyn Manson, she is quoted as saying, "I hate the things they preach. They found a gimmick that sells. The fact that they're making money off all these teenage kids who actually believe in their message is disgusting."

The tragedy took place on Cielo Drive, and I recently hiked there with my greyhounds. I know the address had been switched to ward off drive-by gawking, but walk-by non-gawking with your dogs makes you look like a neighbor, and I knew where the house was.

The neighborhood was still. In fact, everything was eerily quiet as if recovering from their turbulent past. No cars drove by, no one was tending to their lawn, no smells of cooking or faint sounds of music. The opening scene of Helter Skelter shows Tate's frantic housemaid tearing down Cielo Drive screaming and waving her arms in the air. As I walked up that isolated street, this image kept flashing in my mind. The maid must have been terrified, thinking that the killers may have still been on the property. I wondered what the killers said to Tate before ending her life, and what went through her own mind. I thought about how senseless it all was. Manson gave us even more proof that if you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything. He was a failed musician and a drug-crazed egomaniac who brainwashed a group of bored stupid people from the suburbs. That's all it was.

I stood at the gate with my dogs and stole a glance at the new house/studio built where the old home stood. Thanks goodness Trent and his crappy music factory have moved. I'm happy to say he grew up.  I then turned around and walked briskly back to my car. It wasn't as interesting as I thought it would be. I didn't think it was cool. I didn’t think it was rock and roll. The whole thing was just sad.


Hollywood, but dead

I hopped on board of the cozy, air conditioned van that was scheduled to zip us around Los Angeles. But we weren't on a Starline Bus to see where the stars lived. We were going to see where Marilyn Monroe died, where the Manson murders took place and other sites where stars and civilians met their tragic end. I was on the Dearly Departed Tour.

Scott Michaels is the founder of the Dearly Departed Tour, and his enthusiasm was infectious. So wrapped up he is in the history of Hollywood, that he repeatedly derailed the basic stops to show us where the stars lived, died and behaved badly. Our tour runneth over by a half an hour, giving us more than our money's worth. He gets a twinkle in his eye when talking about death. He spoke fast and excitedly when showing us the houses that had been razed when Howard Hughes took that ill-fated flight through West Los Angeles. The film version shows Leonardo DiCaprio smashing through mansions, sparking fires and tearing up lawns with his airplane.

He was wistful when pointing out the soon-to-be razed Ambassador Hotel, where Robert Kennedy was shot. He was quiet and reverential when showing us homes where Manson murders took place. He didn't even want to waste a bathroom break on us, and took us to the public restroom in a Beverly Hills park where singer George Michael was busted for soliciting sex.

But his fascination was a little intense when it came to a nondescript auto body shop in Hollywood. Apparently, it was where James Dean got his motorcycle or convertible worked on. Our tour guide drove by expecting the building to be standing, and when he saw a shamble of crumbled brick, he pulled over and staggered out into the parking lot. He looked lost. We followed behind him as we always did. He turned to us and continued with his James Dean story, urging us to pick up a brick and keep it as a souvenir . He did so, and solemnly. I looked at my date and thought, "Dude, I don't want to take home a brick. It's...a brick." But one by one, we all lifted a brick from the rubble while he watched. I tossed mine out later, as I am sure the others did too.

But I can't knock him for it. Sure, he held a brick like it was baby Jesus, but it was that same enthusiasm and childlike wonder that made the Dearly Departed tour top notch. It's a must-do.

Elizabeth Short (A.K.A. The Black Dahlia) before her death


Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles

I don't know about you, but I thought Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was overrated. Lauded by Hunter S. Thompson fans and people who get wasted as sport, no one ever actually discusses the film. They just wish to make it known that they saw it; especially in front of devotees of William S. Burroughs, a talented writer who is overshadowed by ridiculous worshippers who admire him for taking drugs. It almost seems like if one person admits that Fear and Loathing was boring and aimless, they'll all fall down.

There is one great thing about that movie though, and it's Bahooka. In East Los Angeles, I used to drive by a strange building that looked a cross between a tiki hut and a stranded ship. The sign read Bahooka. I said to my husband that we had no choice but to to go there. He wondered why I was so adamant, seeing as how I had never been inside and the restaurant sign featured those two dreaded words, "Family Restaurant."

But I just new. Come on, it was named Bahooka! It was pure camp. Upon entering, the place was deafeningly gurgling with fish tanks, and giant fish in psychedelic colors stared you down. It was woody and dark, and stretched across the walls were tangled fish netting and all sorts of paraphernalia from the 60's. Giant Polynesian drinks were carried out, weighed down by maraschino cherries and pineapple slices. Straws were poked out of coconuts, and dark hallways led to faraway cubby holes and nooks for couples. This was the type of place where people would actually use the term "grog."

And the best part? It was not a family restaurant. It was a cavernous dive bar that happened to be a restaurant. Loud parties gather in the maze of rooms and hallways to eat island-inspired dishes, surf and turf specials, and...oh who am I kidding? They're getting drunk!

We ordered a giant, flaming bowl filled with some cocktail of the tropical persuasion, and it went straight to my head. How can you knock a place that serves giant bowls of fire? I even saw the place at Christmas, and it was a jolly, sloppy party of a place. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas shot scenes in this restaurant, and I must admit, they really had something there.