In 1969 California was as the “Land of Milk and Honey’, the “Golden Coast”, “the place of the never ending sun and surf”, and the Land of Hollywood. In August of 1969 it would be known as the “Land of Murder”. Specifically California in 1969 would show that no one was safe, that innocent people could be randomly butchered in their own homes, and that steel gates and locks were no match for the intentions of a man committed to bringing death to those inside. The “mastermind” behind the murders had a name…Charles Manson.
The summer of 1969 in California was a Mecca bringing together many musical, cultural, and spiritual activities. Drug use was commonplace. Sexual liberation was exploding. Amercia was engaged in the Vietnam War and the site of young Americans dying and returning in “body bags” was a daily occurrence. Civil Rights for minorities were long overdue and Politicians were reacting to decades of injustice. Peace, love, and War were part of the Hippie culture vernacular and “mocking authority” was…in full swing. America was changing and those changes were being propelled by musicians who sang about life, sang about change, sang about love, and sang about death. No where in America was “hotter”, in the current musical scene, than in California in 1969.
Hollywood (California) held endless promises of possibilities, wealth, power, success, and connections. However, many people had come to California (by bus, train, plane, and by hitchhiking) only to discover that life could (in fact) be “hard” in Hollywood. Those deemed “undesirables” in Hollywood had to, some with the aid of the “drugs of their choice”, resign themselves to simply being in “real world no glamour jobs” as doormen, waiters, etc. Yet many still “chased the dream” always hoping for the “one break” that would free them from their societal chains allowing the World to behold their talents and have their named put in the middle of a “Star” in Hollywood confirming that they had…made it.
An ‘unspoken truth” was that there were “two sides” to life in California and/or “two sides” of the same coin. In Hollywood there were also “two sides”. One side was flush with success, money, power, fashion, travel, health, and the best that life offered. The other side lived “hand to mouth” in full view of those who made “made it”. In California in 1969 one influential Rocker returned to the stage after years of being sidelined by contractual obligations to star in movies. Just a year earlier, without warning, the “leather clad” Greek God had reclaimed his by appearing in a “TV Special”. This musically gifted, icon, was named…Elvis Aron Presley.
To even put the names “Charles Manson” and “Elvis Presley” into the same “story” is both shocking and…intriguing. In human history one would be hard pressed to find two people who were more…polar opposites. In spite of their “notoriety” never before has the true story been told, in its entirety, about what really occurred in 1969 as it related to “Charles Manson” and “Elvis Presley”. Two sides of the same coin? No. However, fate has a way of bringing together individuals who (one their own) would never have interacted. Thus was the case here as these men would meet and lives would forever be changed including their own.
In summary, in California 1969 Charles Manson was found on the property of Elvis Presley. How he got there, why he got there, and his intent for being there remains…speculative. The fact is that Charles Manson was there, without invitation, and before his name, face, and his actions would repulse a Nation.
When discovered on Elvis’ property Manson was said to have called out the names of people “well known” in “Hollywood’s musical scene”. He also, in between rants of profanity, began to assert that he was a singer/musician himself. At some point he affirmed that he was, and had, “lived there before” (i.e. in the home and on the property). As was customary, when fans or “others” were discovered on the property without notice/permission, the person(s) were (a) removed and (b) informed not to come back. Such was the case when Charles Manson was discovered on the property of Elvis Presley.
**NOTE: Charles Manson, in several non-specific interviews, told his version of events as follows: I lived in Elvis Presley’s house, man. He ran me out of the yard. I got mad at him, I was going to throw some rocks at him, cause I thought he was an idiot, an egotistical fucking punk. I never liked him even a little bit, but everybody else always kow-towed to him because he was rich and everything. But to me that don’t mean shit. I don’t give a fuck how rich you are, I’ll bust you up anyway.
In 1969 Elvis, for the first time in his life, was married to (the then, now, and always beautiful) Priscilla since May 1, 1967. Nine months after the day they were married (i.e. February 1, 1968) Lisa Marie Presley was born. Elvis now had a wife, a daughter, and (at the age of 34) responsibilities for others who he loved…with all his heart. To those who knew Elvis, and worked for him, nothing was more important than the security (whether it was at Graceland in Memphis Tennessee and/or in Bel Aire California) of Elvis and his beloved family.
In the summer of 1969 many things were “heating up” and not just due to the weather. There was a palatable discontent brewing between the “young” and the “establishment”. Emotions ran high across America as Americans, including children, were witnessing confrontations of the Civil Rights Movement and having to address emotions/events/rights that had been “minimized” for far too long.
The “Cold War” still existed, as it had been for about 20 years now, and problems between Communism and America remained. Extremists like the Black Panthers openly carried automatic weapons in the streets and drug use, from marijuana to heroin, was becoming a daily part of the lives of America’s Youth. So many things were changing, at such rapid pace, that if one stopped to ponder one could (literally) feel something…different…something not quite familiar…something…dangerous.
It was in this “societal cocktail” that a Charles Manson, who many confirmed was a mesmerizing man with boundless musical abilities, played on the hopes and fears of susceptible young adults. At the time no one believed that “pure evil” would spawn from the passionate songs written, performed, and originated from one Charles Manson.
Charles Manson was a once promising musician who realized the power wielded by having a powerful “combination” of beautiful women and (seemingly) an endless supply of drugs. Manson used his verbal charms (accompanied by his playing the guitar and singing about society’s ills) to lure other “young souls” into his World not defined by borders…but by his words.
In between hits of acid Manson offered the promise of happiness and community and endless sex and drugs. Most of all Charles Manson offered “acceptance, peace, stability, and unconditional love”. People from Texas came. Rich girls came. Cheerleaders came. People from all walks of life came. Under Manson’s guidance, and constant manipulation, all “boundaries” were…removed. Manson aggressively passed around LSD, and acid, always taking a “lesser amount” so that he remained in full control.
Just as their minds were “primed”, altered by the chemical reactions of the drugs coursing through their veins, Manson would invade their minds, their thoughts, and their sub conscious with his beliefs and his endless stream of words designed to bring them closer to him in every sense.
Time and again Manson would use the words of the Bible, passages selected to substantiate his interoperations, and tell this followers (i.e. the “family”) about the forthcoming “end of the World”. Manson believed, and passed along to his “family”, that he and he alone was chosen one to lead his “children” after Armageddon. Manson would start society anew and his “guidance” would allow the “family” to share in his…greatness. Manson knew how to influence others and he used the words contained within the bible to further his perversions.
As a child Elvis had been told about evil. Evil deeds that some men do, and then make amends for. Evil that was in the World centuries ago and evil that was in the World today. Evil was not sole custody of the Devil (i.e. Satan) for it had been shown to man since Adam’s “biting of the apple”.
Elvis learned these lessons as they were taught from his Bible that his loving Mother (Gladys) had given to him. Elvis kept this Bible with him as a young man, then as a new singing “act”, then as a World Famous Entertainer, as a young Army Man in Germany, during his movie career, and now in 1969 he had his Bible where he could use it the most…on his nightstand. Most every night that Bible would be opened and Elvis would go through the words, underline passages, question, and repeat the words as he lay in bed repeat the words in a soft voice just so they were barely audible but Elvis did so because it helped him to learn…to understand.
Charles Manson bounced around Hollywood, and Los Angeles, with his guitar and supply of drugs and beautiful women who would do anything Manson told them (including having sex in public immediately after Manson told them to do so) it wasn’t long before Manson was present at parties of those in the “up and coming” music scene.
It was at one of these parties that Manson was introduced to Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. A relationship developed between Dennis and Manson as Manson provided Dennis with beautiful women, and drugs. Dennis began to brag about getting Manson into the music business as he told Manson that he would soon be a…”star”.
The beginning of the 1960’s was “unique” for Elvis. He had just returned Germany and received an honorable discharge from the Army. His beloved Mother had passed away in August of 1958. The woman he thought he would marry when he was drafted was now replaced in his heart by a young American whose Father was in the Military also stationed in Germany. He was unsure about “what was next” whether it was recording, live performances, or movies. Under the guidance of Colonel Parker Elvis agreed to do a “few pictures” which soon turned into “money making machines” rendering Elvis (contractually) incapable of doing anything else. Soon one picture a year became two then three and the budgets decreasing along with the script quality. The Beatles had overtaken America leaving Elvis (at times) to sing about “doing the Clam” and other “songs” that Elvis detested (but was professional enough to make the best of it). The torment of years of “settling” in his own career goals and standards had now been replaced with critical acclaim and requests for live appearances. Seven years of “doubt” had been displaced when Elvis “returned” in his 1968 Singer (i.e. known as the “68 Special” and/or the “Comeback Special”) Special. There was no doubt that in 1969 there was no “brighter star” in California, or the World, than Elvis.
Having been in prison previously, for forging a US Treasury check, Manson learned valuable lessons in Prison and Manson believed that what one man told another was “binding” and he lived his life that way. Manson expected others to adhere to what they said as well and it did not matter if the words were said while on an LSD trip or while smoking pot. Manson expected you to do exactly what you said whether you knew it or not was not the point. If you said it to Manson then he held you to your words.
Decades before Elvis, and his Mother, had known the pains of having Vernon Presley serve time for altering a check. However, the lessons that Vernon learned which passed along to Elvis was that Vernon took full responsibility for his actions, did his time, and made restitution. Vernon gave his word to Gladys to, regardless of the circumstances, to never again put their family in Jeopardy. Vernon kept his word to Gladys and Elvis never forgot the importance of doing so.
Dennis Wilson, of the Beach Boys, became enamored with Manson and promised him a meeting with the Manager (who was the son of legendary Actress Doris Day) of the musical group “The Byrd’s” who were an “up and coming hot rock group”. Manson (excitingly) responded with one word…“cool” when hearing about this meeting. Manson realized the ever increasing need to provide money for “the family”. Manson believed that a “musical contract” would provide just such an income along with giving Manson the “forum” to where he could spread his messages…to others.
Charles Manson had distinct tastes in music throughout his childhood. But now, in 1969, Manson had believed that the Beatles had “turned in” to Manson’s “vibes” and “words”. Manson believed that the Beatles, in the form of songs on their albums, were responded directly to Manson. Manson shared this belief with every member of the “family”. Words that were penned, and then sang, by Lennon and McCartney found “revised meanings” to Manson.
What we know of Manson’s musical “tastes” is that he loathed Country music. Surprisingly Manson has openly admitted that he loved Bing Crosby. He liked many rock and roll acts but has said that he did not like Elvis Presley (what impact the fact that Manson was “removed” from Elvis’ property played is unclear but it surely did not “favorably add” to Manson’s like/dislike of Elvis).
Note: In an interview in later years Charles Manson said that “Bing Crosby was a diamond and Elvis Presley was a rhinestone”.
During one of the nights Charlie stayed at Dennis’ home Dennis made good on the promise to meet with the “Byrd’s” Manager and his name was Terry Melcher (who was the son of legendary Actress Doris Day). Charlie played for Terry, and sang a few original songs, and after a while Terry said that he had to go back home and needed a ride. Charles Manson offered to drive him home and Terry agreed. During the ride Charlie kept talking about his music and upon arrival to Terry’s home (they had pulled directly in front of the home) Charlie stopped the car and said “do we have a deal?” (Meaning was Terry going to sign Charlie to a contract?) and Terry said “I am going to think it over”. Terry exited the car, saying goodbye and have a good night, and Charlie was despondent by not being offered a contract “right then” but held out the hopes that Terry would do so in a few days. Before putting the car into gear, to move from park, Charlie looked at the property and repeated the address to himself. He repeated it again out-loud just enough so it was audible. He did this so that he could…remember it.
In response to the demands for live appearances Elvis had signed an agreement to appear in Las Vegas (note: this would be Elvis’ first live appearances in over seven years). Rehearsals for the Vegas shows were going well for Elvis and he was in excellent (physical) shape. He was rested and he was tan and he was in love with his wife and enamored with his baby daughter. The musicians, and orchestra, that were put together for the Vegas shows were among the “best in the business”. Elvis had already put together his “back bone” (which consisted of drums, bass, lead guitar, piano, etc.) group along with the men’s vocal group (i.e. JD Sumner and the Stamps Quartet) and the women’s vocal group (i.e. the Sweet Inspirations) for vocal backups. Elvis also had his friend, going back to his enlistment in the Army, who was also an accomplished musician/singer/gospel artist and his name was Charlie Hodge. The rehearsals were winding down and Elvis felt invigorated. He looked great, he felt great, and his vocal abilities were among the very best of his entire career. Elvis was back on top and he had earned it as he had everything in his life. There were many justified reasons to just…smile.
When Charlie returned back to “the Ranch” and told everyone the news about the meeting with the “record manager”. Charlie was in the mood to party but Charlie worried about the financial crisis as he needed money to support “The Family”.
Over the next few days Manson called Terry over and over but never spoke with him. Manson did the same to Dennis Wilson. Each call made Manson more and more upset and finally he reached Dennis Wilson on the phone and he asked about Terry. Manson was told that “at this time Terry was not interested”. Manson screamed at Dennis over the phone and slammed the phone against a wall while saying “do you know who you are speaking to”?
Note: Manson has stated in several interviews that his involvement with Dennis Wilson included but was not limited to: Dennis Wilson did record a song written by Charles Manson called “Never Learn To Love”. In several interviews during 1980-2009 Charles Manson said that the Beach Boys stole many songs from Charles Manson and in return they “gave” Charles Manson a Rolls Royce and the home that Dennis Wilson was living at. Charles Manson asked for the ownership papers for both and was told that “the Manager holds that and we will get in touch with him to get them for you. Since Charles Manson held everyone literally to the words coming out of their mouth Charles Manson believed that the house, the Rolls Royce, and the legal paperwork was coming and that he owned these possessions valued at several hundred thousand dollars in the late 1960’s. IF this was true it should have provided Manson with the means to readily provide for him and for the “family” that he had been “stressing” about for months).
Manson called for some of his followers to go with him. Manson went and got his gun and his ammo. Manson went directly to Dennis Wilson’s home with the gun and banged on the front door yelling for “Wilson”. Dennis Wilson was not at home and Manson was told that and asked “if there was a message”? At that point Manson handed the man one (1) bullet and said “give this to Dennis” and stormed out.
Manson then drove to Terry’s house, parked the car, and started to walk down the driveway. As he was approaching the swimming pool entry he was stopped at which point Manson demanded to see Terry. The man that was there, who was photographing a beautiful blonde who was in the swimming pool, told Manson “I don’t know any Terry and the Polanski’s live here”. Manson was perplexed as he had driven Terry to this very house not long ago. The photographer escorted Manson off the property and to his car.
Manson got into the car and starred at the beautiful house, landscape, driveway, all the while Sharon Tate was being photographed. This was the second time that Manson was kicked off a property and he made a commitment that never again would this happen and that he would personally ensure that Armageddon happened and it would start with the murders of those “rich establishment” and he would try to frame the murders on African Americans.
Manson gave the orders to have the occupants of the home that “Terry” lived at slaughtered. He had planned on having various possessions of the victims taken into African American neighborhoods so that the police would believe the murders were African American. Manson believed that there would be a War between the Whites and the African Americans and that many would die and that he would be “chosen” to lead and he and “the family” would do so and bring about a new social order with Charles Manson in charge.
After the initial murders Charles Manson made up a list of people to be killed and mutilated. To the outside World these would be “random” but some would be “persons who Charles Manson knew” and some would be “persons that members of “the Family” had met” and others would be “rich” (i.e. celebrities, singers, entertainers, Hollywood, etc.) and Charles Manson and “the Family” members called these people…”PIGGIES”. As the list (to be killed and mutilated) was made there was one person whose name Charles Manson made sure was on the list for several reasons and the primary reason was “personal”. That persons name was Elvis Presley.
When the newspapers released the story Hollywood was shocked, horrified, upset, scared, and perplexed as to “why”? When the pictures, and the details of what occurred, became known the “why” turned to “anger” and “resolve” to catch these barbarians who murdered innocent men and women.
When Elvis learned of the deaths, as part of the story was relayed to him, he became even more angered/outraged when he learned that one of the victims was Jay Sebring. In Hollywood Elvis had befriended a musician/singer by the name of Johnny Rivers. They were even Motorcycle riding buddies on occasion. Johnny Rivers hair stylist, who he had recommended to Elvis, was named Jay Sebring.
As Charles Manson basked in the knowledge that the second murders had taken place, and they had not been caught, he realized that Armageddon had not yet occurred so that the “list” became more and more important. However, Charles Manson (personally) was not there during the first set of murders. But, after hearing the details he believed they were ‘sloppy” so he (personally) was the one who jumped the gate – entered the property – and tied up the husband and wife – but left the actual murder to be done while he drove elsewhere…intent on murder.
At some point Charles Manson, while getting gasoline, got a newspaper (which was common as he wanted to see what reports there were of the murders) and he took it back to the ranch. While going through the various sections Charles Manson became more and more “bolden” about his success but then his demeanor changed and he slammed the newspaper down and screamed “look at this…look at this”! As members of the family gathered they looked down at the headline proclaiming “Elvis Presley is back in Las Vegas and SOLD OUT”.
Within a few months Charles Manson, and members of “the Family”, would be arrested and their faces splashed across TV sets, and newspapers, nationwide. The horror of what they did, and what they believed, caused great unrest in America in 1969 and consumed residents of California in 1969 and each year thereafter.
A few months after the Charles Manson Murders Elvis Presley was threatened with being murdered. A letter had been delivered to Colonel Parker saying that Elvis would be killed. Another threat was made at the Hotel Elvis was performing at. The Colonel notified the FBI and every precaution was taken. As Elvis confided to his friend from his hometown Memphis, named Sonny West, that he (Elvis) had a fear of someone shooting and killing him for no reason. Elvis actually broke down and cried in the dressing room. He then called in Red, and Jerry Schilling, (note: they were part of the Memphis Mafia and were part of Elvis Bodyguards) into the room and said, “I haven’t done anything to anybody to get shot. I haven’t hurt anybody. If some SOB tries to kill me, I want you guys to get him; and I want him done up right. I don’t want him sitting around like Charles Manson, with a grin on his face or a claim to fame that he killed Elvis Presley”.
Whether this threat was linked directly, or not, by Charles Manson and/or any member of his “Family” we do not know. There was the possibility that one of the “Family” members, who had decided to run away from Charles Manson for these murders, knew firsthand who was on the list. This person may have taken steps to notify those on the list (directly and/or indirectly). As of the date of this story (i.e. September 12, 2009) the case details remain “unsolved”.
Worth noting is that since the murders occurred Elvis had taken steps to procure guns both in Memphis and in California. Since Tennessee had a Law prohibiting citizens from openly carrying guns Elvis had been appointed a “Special Deputy” and was given a Badge. This event (i.e. the Charles Manson Murders) propelled Elvis’ desire for guns and police badges and would one day bring him to Washington DC (unannounced) to obtain a Federal Narcotics Badge from President Richard Nixon with the photographs becoming…infamous.
Life, for many, went on and many tears were shed over the lives that were taken. Time, subject to the familiar narrative, does not “heal all wounds”.
Nonetheless I, personally, pray that God allows the relatives, friends, loved ones, etc. of the victims to have some type of “peace” and to give them the “strength” to remember the good times and to put their faith (always) in God’s hands. We may ask “why” it is that a “man” like Charles Manson is allowed to “live” while a remarkable decent honest caring man, like Elvis Presley, is taken from us at the age of 42. However, we must resign ourselves that many questions we have will remain…unanswered. Such is one of lifes’ lessons. Answers and questions…two sides of the same coin.
Probably the most “famous” individual that was murdered by Charles Manson’s Family was (actress) Sharon Tate who was living at the home that “Terry” had previously (note: he had moved out a few weeks prior). Sharon Tate was married to respected filmmaker Roman Polanski. Sharon Tate was 8 months pregnant when she was murdered. The child died (sadly) as well. Needless to say, Roman Polanski was devastated that he had now lost his wife and his child. The pain must have been…unbearable.
Many years later, by the grace of God, Roman Polanski found love and married. Polanski’s wife became pregnant and bore a healthy son. Death bequeaths Life and vice versa. Two sides of the same coin. His son was named after his Father (i.e. Roman Polanski) favorite singer. Roman Polanski proudly bestowed the name upon his son. The name was…Elvis.
Written by Jeff Schrembs 2011 – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED