"Later, after Manson was arrested, I drove across the country for the first time in my life to Los Angeles for the California premiere ofMultiple Maniacsand the next day began attending the insane LSD media-circus Manson trial which I've never really gotten over. After Manson and the three girls were convicted of the Tate/ La Bianca murders and sentenced to death, my rabid following of the subsequent but much lesser-known Manson-related trials never ceased. I needed to know more. How had these kids, from backgrounds so similar to mine, committed in real life the awful crimes against peace and love that we were acting out for comedy in our films?
In late 1971, still free, second-tiered Manson Family members robbed the Western Surplus Store in the suburbs of Los Angeles and stole 14 guns (supposedly to break Manson out of jail) and a shoot-out with the police occurred. All six robbers were arrested. At their trial, many members of Manson royalty, now awaiting the promised Helter Skelter end of the world from death row, were called as witnesses by the robber defendants so they could have a courtroom reunion of sorts. The nervous trial judge called the proceedings "the biggest collection of murderers in Los Angeles County at one time". There were only two court spectators the day I went to a pre-trial hearing; myself and a lower-echelon Manson groupie with a shaved head and a fresh X carved in her forehead who was furiously writing what looked like a thirty-page letter to one of her "brothers". When about fifteen of the Manson Family were brought into court, hand-cuffed and chained together, women on one side and men on the other, many with their heads shaved, the atmosphere was electric with twisted evil beauty. Not having seen each other in about a year, the cultists started chanting, jerkily gesturing, and speaking to one another in a nonsensical language that only the Family could understand. Sexy, scary, brain-dead, and dangerous, this gang of hippy lunatics gave new meaning to "folie à famille", group madness and insanity as long as the same people are together and united. It was an amazing thing to see in person. Heavily influenced, and actually jealous of their notoriety, I went back to Baltimore and made Pink Flamingos which I wrote, directed and dedicated to the "Manson girls", "Sadie, Katie and Les".
Then I went deeper into the Manson flame and started visiting Charles "Tex" Watson in prison. "What on earth were you thinking?" you may wonder and today it is a question I have to ask myself. In Los Angeles I had met his post-conviction girlfriend Lu, a German hippy girl with an obvious off-kilter sensibility who had come to America speaking little English and accidentally met some of the still-free "Manson girls" as the initial trial was taking place. "God, kids sure are wild in the United States," she told me she remembered thinking, not understanding how different these hippies were from the American love-children she had read about back in Munich and hoped to hook up with when she came to our shores. But Lu would only go so far. Refusing the demands to shave her skull, she broke away from the unincarcerated B-list Family members to the relative safety of a "jailhouse" love affair with "Tex", a convicted killer who was still clearly out of his mind and had almost no chance of ever being paroled.
Charles "Tex" Watson was perhaps Manson's best piece of work; a high-school football star who turned hippy and came to L.A. like millions of other kids to find '60s grooviness. Instead he met Manson and was turned into a killer zombie in just ten LSD, Belladonna-drenched months. "Tex" personally stabbed or shot all nine Tate/La Bianca victims. Lu and I would hitchhike to the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo from either L.A or San Francisco to visit him and I wrote about our times, rather inappropriately and with little insight, in my book Shock Value."