Saturday, June 29, 2019

Chesterton the Crusader: Using Words as a Sword

June 28, 2019

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G.K. Chesterton, like the God he worshipped, has risen from the dead. There was a time, in the decades after his death, that he was woefully neglected and seemed to have been almost forgotten. He was dead and, as far as many people were concerned, he was buried.
Chesterton had fallen out of fashion during the fifties and sixties as orthodoxy itself had fallen out of fashion. During those darkening days and the darkening daze that they heralded, religion had apparently succumbed to a dumbed-down ecumenism in which no god of any religion could be proclaimed as the One God to be worshipped exclusively. In such a climate there could be no place for a Christian crusader who used his words as a sword with which to vanquish the enemies of the Faith; there could be no place for a modern-day St. George who used his pen to slay the dragons of modernity; there could be no place for a “Knight of the Holy Ghost,” to employ the epithet that Dale Ahlquist employs for Chesterton in the title of his new book, which is subtitled “A Short History of G. K. Chesterton.”
Mr. Ahlquist is uniquely qualified to write this short history of the man to whom he has dedicated his life. As the present author expressed it in the endorsement on the back cover of the book, “Dale Ahlquist is probably the greatest living authority on the life and work of G.K. Chesterton. As such, nobody is better qualified to offer a concise and illuminating overview of Chesterton’s important contribution to contemporary faith and culture.” For years, as President of the American Chesterton Society, Mr. Ahlquist has been an indefatigable champion of G.K. Chesterton. Like a servant of the servants of the poor, he has been a champion of this champion of the Faith. More than anyone he has borne witness to the power of GKC and has witnessed the resurrection of Chesterton’s reputation. His book is therefore the fruit of much labour and tremendous knowledge, as well as being an act of unabashed homage to one whom Mr. Ahlquist considers to be not merely a hero but a saint.
The book is divided into three parts. The first is a portrait of Chesterton “the man,” the second an appraisal of Chesterton “the writer,” and the third asks whether Chesterton should be considered a saint.
The first part constitutes a succinct biographical summary of Chesterton’s life which also serves as a defence of Chesterton’s reputation. Mr. Ahlquist defends Chesterton’s much publicized love for wine and ale, insisting that the fermented fruits of the grape and grain are “God’s good gifts,” and yet he insists that Chesterton could not be accused of drunkenness. As if to prove his point, he quotes Chesterton himself as saying that “there is nothing so good as drink, and nothing so bad as drunkenness.” For Chesterton, as for all those who enjoy such things, the imbibing of fermented or distilled beverages teaches the necessity of temperance and prudence. In ironic contrast, and as Chesterton never tired of telling us, there are few things less temperate than the ill-tempered prudes in the temperance movement who lose their temper at other people’s intemperance.
Intent on painting a positive portrait of Chesterton the man, Mr. Ahlquist concedes that his hero succumbed on occasion to “a few flashes of temper” but likens these to taking “a whip against the moneychangers,” thereby apparently seeking to sanctify and therefore justify such moments of anger. “For the most part,” he continues, “except in one instance where he unleashed some bitterness after the death of his brother, he expressed his anger with restraint.” This is indubitably the case. There are few who argued as much as Chesterton and fewer still who have quarreled less. He crossed swords with many and made enemies of none. Indeed, this crucial distinction between arguing and quarreling is exemplified by Chesterton to such a degree that he should serve as an exemplar to all those who seek to employ the power of rhetoric in the service of truth.
In the second part of the book, on Chesterton the writer, Mr. Ahlquist sub-divides his discussion of Chesterton’s literary legacy into four areas: Chesterton’s books, his poetry, his journalism, and finally the Father Brown stories. It is with this section that many lovers and admirers of Chesterton’s work will have queries and quibbles. The most obvious anomaly is the inordinate amount of space that Mr. Ahlquist devotes to the journalism. No fewer than 52 of the 78 pages on Chesterton’s literary legacy are devoted to a discussion of the essays that he wrote for various journals. Mr. Ahlquist would no doubt defend this peculiar lack of balance by pointing to Chesterton’s own estimation of himself as being, first and foremost, a journalist. It is true that Chesterton made most of his money from his journalism; it is equally true that, in terms of quantity, he employed more words on his essays than on his books; and it is also true that Chesterton is one of the finest essayists in the English language. And yet none of this justifies the devotion of two-thirds of the discussion of Chesterton’s oeuvre on only one of the literary forms in which he excelled.
As if to add insult to injury, or salt to the wound of the reader’s offended literary sensibility, Mr. Ahlquist fails to even mention Chesterton’s novels. This is nothing less than a significant sin of omission. The Man Who was Thursday is indubitably one of the classic novels of the twentieth century and The Ball and the Cross is a superb and sadly neglected work, and yet these and the other novels do not apparently warrant the reader’s attention. How can these gems of literary fiction fail to warrant as much as a passing reference or the smallest of deferential nods in their direction? For these defects and deficiencies, Mr. Ahlquist’s book will serve as a fine introduction to his subject but will not serve as the final word. In this case the first should not be last!
Were the present author to write a book on “Chesterton the Writer” it would be subdivided very differently. Categorizing by genre, it would include sections on the novels, the essays, the short stories, the poetry, the biographies, the histories, the literary criticism, and, last but not least, the works of Christian apologetics.
Enough. And let’s make it plain that such quibbling is not quarreling. On the contrary, it is a healthy discussion between friends. This being so, and laying such arguments aside, Knight of the Holy Ghost is nonetheless a marvelous introduction to the life and work of Chesterton which ends, appropriately enough, with questions concerning Chesterton’s sanctity. Was Chesterton a saint? Mr. Ahlquist believes so, and the present author is not minded to disagree with him. Will he be canonized? That remains to be seen. Some might feel, considering the indifference and the inertia of those who could initiate the canonization process, that it is unlikely. Perhaps it is more than unlikely. Perhaps it will take a miracle. Now that is something worthy of our prayers.
Knight of the Holy Ghost: A Short History of G.K. Chesterton by Dale Ahlquist (208 pages, Ignatius Press and the Augustine Institute, 2019)
Joseph Pearce is Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. A native of England, Mr. Pearce is Director of Book Publishing at the Augustine Institute, editor of the St. Austin Review, editor of Faith & Culture, and series editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions. He is the author of numerous books, which include The Quest for Shakespeare,Tolkien: Man and MythThe Unmasking of Oscar WildeC. S. Lewis and The Catholic Church,Literary ConvertsWisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. ChestertonSolzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exileand Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Today's Tune: Bob Dylan And Johnny Cash - Girl From The North Country

Bob Dylan’s Next Bootleg Series May Spotlight 1967–1969 Nashville Recordings

By Andy Greene
June 18, 2019

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Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash

The 14-disc companion set to Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story just arrived in stores, but Dylan’s team is already looking ahead to their next archival project. “We’re thinking about possibly doing Bob’s work in Nashville from John Wesley Harding through the Johnny Cash sessions as the next Bootleg Series,” says a source close to the Bob Dylan camp. “The outtakes from that period have never been heard.”
The exact period they are looking at begins with the three days it took to record John Wesley Harding in October of November 1967 and continues with the eight days it took to record Nashville Skyline in February 1969. Of special interest to Dylan collectors is the fifth day of the Nashville Skyline sessions on February 18th, 1969, when Dylan was joined in the studio by Johnny Cash. Their re-working of “Girl From the North Country” appears on Nashville Skyline, but much of what was recorded that day has never leaked out. That includes a duet on the Dylan-penned “Wanted Man,” which Cash played at San Quentin just one week after the session. They also played “Matchbox,” “Mystery Train,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “Ring of Fire,” “Careless Love,” “Big River” and several others.
Unlike recent Bootleg Series packages that compiled every song in the vaults from key albums Blood on the TracksThe Basement TapesBringing It All Back HomeHighway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, this new set will only contain select tracks from the sessions. “I think we did repeat versions of songs to death on The Cutting Edge,” says the source. “We’re trying to find one really good takes of each song. The giant dumps of everything like we’ve done in recent years really aren’t my preference. I like stuff that is more curated.”
Plans beyond this Nashville 1967–1969 set aren’t quite clear, but a Time Out of Mind package is definitely in the pipeline. “We still want to do that,” says the source. “If there are still people putting out physical records for [the album’s] 25th anniversary in 2022, we’ll possibly release it then.”
Many recent Bootleg Series sets have been released due to a quirk in European copyright law that says that any recording not released 50 years after it was created automatically enters the public domain. That may lead to some sort of digital release of concert recordings from Bob Dylan and the Band’s reunion tour in 1974 before the copyright expires in 2024, though a big box is unlikely. “Do people really want that?” asks the source. “We can do a copyright protection, but Before the Flood is a pretty good record. I don’t think it warrants more than that.”
Recordings from Dylan’s earliest folk concerts before he signed to Columbia Records in 1961 have been compiled for a possible Bootleg Series, though there is no great urgency to get it out. “We’ve thought about that for a long time,” says the source. “We collected a lot of early tapes, but fans don’t seem interested in the early stuff. I’ve always found that period really interesting, but I guess a lot of people don’t. We’ll do something, though, because we’ve got all these great things that people haven’t heard, but I think the interest is pretty minimal.”
There’s also been thought given to a set chronicling the sessions for 1983’s Infidels and 1985’s Empire Burlesque. “We do think about it,” says the source. “The Infidels stuff is great, though it needs remixing because it has a very 1980s drum sound. With Empire Burlesque, the tracks didn’t get finished right. The stuff with the Heartbreakers is great, but they tried to make the rest of it sound contemporary and I don’t know if that really works, so I don’t know. We’re thinking about it.”
“The other thing is we want to do a thing of just another collection of stray tracks,” says the source. “It won’t be as interesting as the first Bootleg Series in 1991, but there’s a lot of movie tracks, one-off tracks and things like that are hard to find. I’d like to do another one of those before the Bootleg Series hangs up its box.”
The thought of the Bootleg Series “hanging up its box” may sound horrifying to Dylan fans since there are so many areas of his career that the sets haven’t touched on yet, but it may become a reality at some point in the next few years. “I don’t think we do it post-physical,” says the source, meaning after the market for physical releases completely vanishes. “I don’t think there’s a reason to do it when that happens. I think we’d give up on it. Doing the beautiful package that we put together can only be supported not by streaming, but by physical purchases. The last one sold well, but the places to buy them are going away. You either buy them on Amazon or our website or your local indie record store. It’s just hard.”
Dylan’s core catalog is available on Spotify and Apple Music in full, but Bootleg Series releases are usually posted in incomplete form. “If I could get them to maybe give us a different Bootleg section, that might be different,” says the source. “We’ve been thinking a lot about this. Two years from now, who will listen to [the gospel-years set] Trouble No More? How will they find it? And so we may talk to Spotify and Apple Music about doing a special Bootleg Series section. We’re thinking about it.”

Thursday, June 27, 2019

America Can Afford to Stay Calm with Iran

June 26, 2019

US President Donald J. Trump holds up a copy of an executive order in the Oval Office
President Trump signed an executive order calling for new sanctions against Iran on Monday. (EPA)

President Trump recently ordered and then called off a retaliatory strike against Iran for destroying a U.S. surveillance drone. The U.S. asserts that the drone was operating in international space. Iran claims it was in Iranian airspace.
Antiwar critics of Trump’s Jacksonian rhetoric turned on a dime to blast him as a weak, vacillating leader afraid to call Iran to account.
Trump supporters countered that the president had shown Iran a final gesture of patience—and cleared the way for a stronger retaliation should Iran foolishly interpret his one-time forbearance as weakness to be exploited rather than as magnanimity to be reciprocated.
The charge of Trump being an appeaser was strange coming from leftist critics, especially given Trump’s past readiness to bomb Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons, his willingness to destroy ISIS through enhanced air strikes, and his liberation of American forces in Afghanistan from prior confining rules of engagement.
The truth is that Iran and the United States are now engaged in a great chess match. But the stakes are not those of intellectual gymnastics. The game is no game, but involves the lives, and possible deaths, of thousands.
The latest American-Iranian standoff is not like that of 1979-1981, when theocratic revolutionaries removed the Shah, stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and took American hostages for 444 days—and humiliated America.
Iran fears there are now no such American liabilities. Forty years later, America has no presence in Iran. It has long since given up on bringing Tehran back into the Western fold.
There are no Americans in Iran to be kidnapped and no Iranian allies inside Iran to be saved. Iran has no leverage over the United States, at least not as it did in 1979.
Nor is the current confrontation reminiscent of the 2003-2011 tensions in the region. The United States is not fighting a ground war in the Middle East, much less one on the border of Iran.
The U.S. no longer believes in nation-building the autocratic Middle East into Western-style democracies. American troops are not in jeopardy from Iranian ground attacks. Americans have no financial or psychological capital invested in liberalizing Iraq, much less Iran and its environs.
Nor is the situation like the chronic Iranian tensions of the last 40 years in which an oil-dependent U.S. feared Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz, or the sudden cutoff of imported oil, ensuring Nixon-era gas lines.
America is now the largest producer of gas and oil in the world, soon to be the largest exporter as well. The U.S. economy is booming. Iran’s is imploding.
The economies of China, Japan and Europe depend on the free flow of Middle Eastern oil. But China is currently in a trade war of nerves with the United States. An appeasing Europe doesn’t have the desire to help ramp up sanctions on Iran to prevent its nuclearization, nor is it eager to accede to U.S. entreaties to increase defense spending and enhance the NATO alliance. Japan is trying to deny Iranian aggression in fear that the global oil market might spike on news of Persian Gulf tensions.
In other words, both allies and enemies expect the United States to ensure that their shipping and their oil are safe.
Nor are we too concerned for our longtime ally Israel with regard to Iran. An impoverished Iran is bereft of allies and remains an international pariah, desperate to sell its embargoed oil to any rogue autocracy shameless enough to buy it. Israel is nuclear and has never been militarily stronger. It is now self-sufficient in oil and gas.
Israel has forged new ties with China, Russia and the European Union, and renewed its traditionally close relationship with the United States. Iran’s neighbors in the Arab world are either in a mess or clandestinely allied with Israel. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas have never been weaker vis-a-vis Israel.
Time is on the American side. Each day Iran grows weaker and poorer, and the U.S. stronger and richer.
Iran’s only hope is to draw the Trump administration into a messy Iraq-like ground war, or, at worst, a Balkans-style, months-long bombing campaign—with plenty of CNN footage of civilian collateral damage.
How, then, can the U.S. deter Iranian escalation without getting into an unpopular war before the heated 2020 election? It merely needs to persist in the present standoff: Ramp up the sanctions even tighter and ignore pathetic Iranian attacks on foreign ships.
If Tehran preemptively attacks an American ship or plane, it will be met by a disproportionate response, preferably one aimed not at civilian infrastructure but at the Iranian military hierarchy, Revolutionary Guard and theocratic elite.
Otherwise, the Trump administration can sit back and monitor Iran’s international ostracism and economic isolation while remaining unpredictable and enigmatic, ready to hit back hard at any attack on Americans but without being suckered into an optional war with Iran in the perennial Middle East quagmire.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Did Charles Manson unleash his murder spree because Doris Day refused to make him a rock star? New evidence uncovered 50 years after savage killing of pregnant actress Sharon Tate

15 June 2019

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Charles Manson

It was the crime that brought the Swinging Sixties to a savage halt. 
On the night of August 8, 1969, a man and three women – Charles ‘Tex’ Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian – climbed into a beaten-up yellow Ford and headed towards Beverly Hills.
All four were part of a hippie commune about to become notorious the world over: the Manson Family.
Living in isolation outside Los Angeles, the group subscribed to a set of New Age rules – anti-establishment politics, drugs, free love, apocalyptic theology – laid down by their mesmeric leader Charles Manson, the man who had ordered them to make their fateful journey.
The four arrived at 10050 Cielo Drive, home of film director Roman Polanski and his wife, the actress Sharon Tate, about 40 minutes later. 
Leaving Kasabian as a lookout, they approached the sprawling estate on foot.
Near the house they found 18-year-old Steven Parent, who had been visiting the caretaker at his home in the grounds. Watson shot Parent with a .22 Buntline revolver and he died instantly.
Inside the main house, the group swiftly hunted down its four occupants: Wojciech Frykowski, a 32-year-old Polish film-maker; his girlfriend, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, 25; Hollywood hairstylist Jay Sebring, 35; and Tate herself, who was eight months pregnant with Polanski’s child.
Her husband was in London scouting locations for his next film, but due to arrive home in time for the birth.
The horror of what happened next was unimaginable. Sebring was stabbed repeatedly and killed with two shots that pierced his lungs, while Frykowski was murdered with such savagery that the coroner recorded 51 stab wounds and 13 blows to the head.
Folger died while attempting to flee. Krenwinkel caught up with her in the garden and brought her knife down, stabbing her 28 times. 
Tate was now the only one still alive, clad in her underwear and bound by the neck to Sebring’s dead body.
Watson ordered Atkins to kill her. Tate begged for her life to be spared, and that of her unborn child. ‘I want to have my baby,’ she said.
‘Woman, I have no mercy for you,’ Atkins responded. ‘You’re going to die.’
She stabbed her in the stomach. Watson joined in. Between them, the pair knifed her 16 times. As her life ebbed away, Tate cried out for her mother.
Atkins later told a cellmate that plunging the knife into Tate’s pregnant belly had been ‘like a sexual release’.
Atkins scrawled the word ‘Pig’ on the front door in Tate’s blood. Their work was done.
But it wasn’t over. The next night the same group convened with three additions: 18-year-old Steven Grogan, 19-year-old Leslie Van Houten and Charles Manson himself. 
This time their victims were grocery store owner Leno LaBianca, 44, and his wife Rosemary, 38 – a couple unknown to them who lived next door to a house Manson had once visited in the Los Feliz neighbourhood of Los Angeles.
Manson chose Watson, Krenwinkel and Van Houten as his executioners and ordered them to go inside and kill everyone.
The trio burst in and stabbed Leno 26 times. Rosemary suffered 41 stab wounds. Before they left, the killers scrawled ‘Healter [sic] Skelter’ in blood on the refrigerator – misspelling the name of the Beatles song. On the walls they smeared ‘Rise’ and ‘Death to Pigs’ in Leno’s blood.
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Manson and his cohort weren’t brought to justice for nearly four months. Only after they had been arrested on other charges, and Atkins had bragged to cellmates about her complicity in the Tate murders, did the case finally break open for Los Angeles police.
The sensational nine-month trial that followed saw Manson and his disciples sentenced to death – later commuted to life imprisonment – and made a celebrity of the prosecutor, Vince Bugliosi.
His subsequent book became a global bestseller and was widely accepted as the official version of the story.
But now, as the 50th anniversary of the killings approaches, I believe that much of what we accept as fact about that period is fiction – a conclusion I have reached after two decades of studying the case and speaking to the people who were there. I will reveal how:
  • Doris Day’s refusal to release Manson’s music on her record label, laughing in the would-be rock star’s face, could have inspired the carnage at Cielo Drive, where her son used to live;
  • Members of the Beach Boys pop group believed their phones were being monitored by the FBI over their connections with Manson;
  • A Los Angeles deputy district attorney told me that some of the evidence I found was strong enough to overturn the verdicts against Manson and the Family;
  • Fear about the murders is so strong in Hollywood that even decades on, A-listers refused to speak to me.
The horror of it all – a pregnant star slaughtered – unleashed something in the American psyche. 
The subversive spirit of the 1960s had come on too quickly, and this, people thought, was the payback. Sales of burglar alarms and guard dogs soared. At the funerals of Tate and Sebring, actor Steve McQueen carried a pistol.
Tina Sinatra, Frank’s daughter, said her father had hired a security guard because of the attacks. ‘He was uniformed with a gun and he sat in the kitchen all night,’ she explained. ‘I can remember the whole tone of this city afterward. It defined fear.’
The trial began in July 1970. With his opening statement, Bugliosi made what was already a sensational case even more so. The motive he presented for the murders was spellbindingly bizarre.
His argument was that Manson, an avid Beatles fan, believed the group was speaking to him through their song lyrics. In Manson’s interpretation, black people would rise up against the white ‘Establishment’ and murder the entire race, apart from Manson and his followers, who would escape to a ‘bottomless pit’ – a concept from the Bible’s Book of Revelation.
Manson’s acolytes subscribed wholly to his vision of Armageddon, said Bugliosi.
By making it appear that the crimes against the white ‘Establishment’ – including the LaBiancas – had been committed by black militants, Manson, an avowed racist, had hoped to kickstart a race war. His followers were willing to kill to make it happen.
Bugliosi told the court the reason Polanski’s house had been chosen was that Manson had known the former tenant, Terry Melcher, a record producer and the son of Hollywood icon Doris Day.
Melcher had flirted with the idea of recording Manson, who had dreams of rock stardom, but decided against it.
In the spring before the murders, Manson had gone looking for Melcher at the house, hoping to change his mind. But a friend of the new tenants told him that Melcher had moved out. Manson didn’t like the guy’s brusque attitude.
For him, the house came to represent the ‘Establishment’ that had, he believed, rejected him. When he ordered the killings, he wanted to ‘instil fear in Melcher’, according to the testimony of Atkins.
This was a vital point. Manson didn’t go to the Polanski house on the night of the murders. To convict Manson of criminal conspiracy and get a death sentence, Bugliosi had to establish a compelling reason for picking that property. Melcher was that reason.
Melcher said in court that he’d met Manson three times, the last of which was around May 20, 1969, more than two months before the murders. After Manson’s arrest, Melcher became so frightened of the Family that Bugliosi had to give him a tranquilliser to relax him before he testified.
‘Ten, 15 years after the murders I’d speak to him and he was still convinced that the Manson Family was after him that night,’ Bugliosi later told me. But, as I was soon to find out, things were not quite as they seemed.
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Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, 1968
MY involvement in the case began in 1999 when I was asked by a film magazine to write a feature marking the 30th anniversary of the murders. It was the start of an obsession.
My first interviewee, photographer Julian Wasser, described the ‘great fear’ that descended on Los Angeles after the killings. In 1999 that fear appeared to be alive and well – at least among Hollywood’s A-list, many of whom declined to speak to me.
Warren Beatty and Jane Fonda said no. Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper, both reputedly close to Tate and Polanski: no, no. Candice Bergen, Terry Melcher’s girlfriend in 1969, said no too, as did Mia Farrow and Anjelica Huston.
Bruce Dern: no. Kirk Douglas: no. Paul Newman: no. Before long I began to wonder if there was a conspiracy of silence in Hollywood.
There was one major player, though, who agreed to talk to me: Vincent Bugliosi.
I asked if he could tell me anything about the case that had never been reported before. After a long silence, he told me to turn off my tape machine.
Bugliosi claimed that when he’d joined the case, police told him they’d recovered videotape from the loft at Cielo Drive. According to the detectives, the footage depicted Sharon Tate being forced to have sex with two unidentified men. He never saw the tape, so could not verify it.
Bugliosi claimed he told them: ‘Put it back where you found it. Roman has suffered enough. All it’s going to do is hurt her memory and hurt him.’
Armed with this information, I started pushing harder with my interviews.
As I won the confidence of some of Tate’s closest friends, they told me some concerning stories. The Sharon Tate they knew, warm and vivacious, was diminished in Polanski’s presence. She ‘just wasn’t herself when she was with him,’ said the German actress Elke Sommer. ‘She was in awe, or frightened; he had an awesome charisma.’
Maybe I was naive to think I could discover what had been going on at the Tate house. I decided to focus on one of the most perplexing figures in the case: Terry Melcher.
The story of Manson and Melcher starts with the Beach Boys’ drummer, Dennis Wilson. In the summer of 1968, when he was 23, Wilson split from his wife and moved into a lavish mansion to the West of Los Angeles.
One day, two hitchhikers, Ella Jo Bailey and Patricia Krenwinkel, caught his eye. He picked them up and took them back to his place.
The girls were members of the Family and told Manson about the encounter, and so began a summer of ceaseless partying for Wilson. Manson and his entourage moved in, with the girls cooking meals and sleeping with the men on command.
Manson advocated sex seven times a day: before and after all three meals and once in the middle of the night. In exchange for his women’s favours, Manson hoped to use his connection with Wilson to launch a musical career.
Rocker Neil Young remembered meeting him. ‘A lot of pretty well-known musicians around LA knew Manson,’ Young later said. ‘Though they’d probably deny it now.’
Among these was Melcher, a guest at one of Wilson’s marathon parties. Later that year, after Wilson grew tired of footing the bill – upwards of $100,000, including the cost of gonorrhoea treatments – Manson decided to hitch his wagon to Melcher’s star.
In the winter of 1968, he arranged for Melcher to come out to a house where the Family were staying in the San Fernando Valley, to hear his music. Manson prepared meticulously for the prospective meeting, but Melcher stood him up.
A second session was arranged, and this time, it went ahead. In May 1969, Melcher auditioned Manson in person, visiting the Spahn Ranch, a disused movie set where the Family now lived, twice over four days.
But something about Manson’s demeanour made Melcher decide against a deal. He never went back to the ranch or saw anyone from the Family again. Or so he would later say under oath.
In January 1969, Melcher and Candice Bergen left the house on Cielo Drive in the middle of the night, with no warning and four months left on the lease.
Still fascinated by the Beach Boys connection, I spoke to Dennis Wilson’s ex-wife Carole. I wondered, I told her, if Manson’s reach in Hollywood was further than had been previously known.
‘Yes, it sure was,’ she replied. She asked that I call her back the following Monday – we could meet for coffee.
When Monday came, though, she’d changed her mind. ‘I can’t talk to you,’ she said. There were a lot of people involved, she explained – too many. ‘It’s a scary thing,’ she added, ‘and anyone who knows anything will never talk.’
Meanwhile, I’d started to hear more about Melcher’s association with Manson. Bob April, a retired carpenter who’d been a fringe member of the Family, told me Manson ‘would supply girls’ for ‘executive parties’ that Melcher threw. But what would Manson get in return?
‘That’s why everyone got killed,’ April said. ‘He didn’t get what he wanted.’
Melcher, he suggested, had promised Manson a record deal ‘on Day Labels,’ his mother’s imprint. But Doris Day took one look at Manson ‘and laughed at him and said, “You’re out of your mind if you think I’m going to produce a f****** record for you.” Said it to Charlie’s face.’
Melcher and Manson ‘knew each other very well’, April said, adding: ‘I’ve tried to get this out for years.’
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Terry Melcher and Doris Day
BY NOW, I had conducted hundreds of interviews. What I needed was documentary evidence. In the offices of the Los Angeles chief prosecutor, I found it.
A long yellow legal pad with scrawled notes in prosecutor Bugliosi’s handwriting. It was an interview with a biker named Danny DeCarlo, a key witness who had provided security for the Manson Family.
To my utter astonishment, in the crossed-out sections of Bugliosi’s notes, DeCarlo described three visits by Melcher to the Manson Family AFTER the murders, one in August, and two in September 1969.
At the grand jury hearing in December 1969, Bugliosi had asked Melcher whether he ever saw Manson after his May visits to the Spahn Ranch. ‘No, I didn’t,’ Melcher replied under oath. Three different times on the stand Melcher lied about not seeing Manson again.
This was a stunner, never before revealed. Clearly, this was information Bugliosi didn’t want before the jury. But why? He had argued that Manson chose the Cielo house to ‘instil fear’ in Melcher. But if Melcher had been with Manson after the murders, where was the fear?
In the archives of the LA county sheriff’s office, I found further proof that Melcher had visited Manson after the murders.
They had records of an interview with Paul Watkins, a key member of the Family who’d testified against Manson. He, too, saw Melcher at the Spahn Ranch, around the same time as DeCarlo had: the first week of September 1969.
What he told the unnamed interviewer was truly shocking: ‘Melcher was on acid. Was on his knees,’ he’d said. ‘Asked Manson to forgive him.’ Why did Melcher need Manson’s forgiveness?
There was yet another surprise in store. The Beach Boys’ surviving members had all declined to speak to me, but I spoke to John Parks, their former manager.
He recalled that Melcher had not only met Manson, but recorded his music, too. That was something else Melcher had expressly denied in court. Bugliosi repeated it in his closing statement: ‘He did not record Manson.’
After the murders, I asked, did Parks or any of his colleagues suspect Manson? Of course, he said. Everyone suspected Manson right away, even though it took the LAPD nearly four months to bring him to justice.
Parks went on to say something even more dizzying: he was positive that the FBI had sent agents to the Beach Boys’ office soon after the murders. ‘They were monitoring our phones, because they thought there was some connection with those guys,’ he said.
Parks told the FBI about Manson ‘early on’, but they didn’t seem to act on his tip. ‘I didn’t know why they weren’t doing anything,’ he said.
I spoke to Melcher in July 2000, our first meeting. He adamantly denied the idea that he’d been to the Spahn Ranch more than the times he’d testified to at trial. ‘You know I like you,’ he said. ‘If I didn’t like you, I’d take your briefcase and throw it off the balcony.’
I never saw nor spoke to Melcher again. He died in 2004, aged 62, of cancer, and with him went any possibility of learning so much more about the Family.
A year after Melcher’s death I showed Stephen Kay, co-prosecutor on the case, the notes I’d found in Bugliosi’s handwriting.
‘I am shocked,’ he said. ‘This throws a different light on everything. If Vince was covering this stuff up… if he changed this, what else did he change?’
I asked Kay whether this evidence would be enough to overturn the verdicts against Manson and the Family. Yes, he conceded. It could get them new trials.
Just like the omissions about the tape from the Polanski house loft, did Bugliosi change the story to protect Melcher, the child of one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars? Had he streamlined certain elements to get an easy conviction?
Or was this part of a broader pattern of deception, of bending the facts to support a narrative that was otherwise too shaky to stand?
Parks went on to say something even more dizzying: he was positive that the FBI had sent agents to the Beach Boys’ office soon after the murders. ‘They were monitoring our phones, because they thought there was some connection with those guys,’ he said.
Parks told the FBI about Manson ‘early on’, but they didn’t seem to act on his tip. ‘I didn’t know why they weren’t doing anything,’ he said.
I spoke to Melcher in July 2000, our first meeting. He adamantly denied the idea that he’d been to the Spahn Ranch more than the times he’d testified to at trial. ‘You know I like you,’ he said. ‘If I didn’t like you, I’d take your briefcase and throw it off the balcony.’
I never saw nor spoke to Melcher again. He died in 2004, aged 62, of cancer, and with him went any possibility of learning so much more about the Family.
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Vincent Bugliosi during the Manson trial
A year after Melcher’s death I showed Stephen Kay, co-prosecutor on the case, the notes I’d found in Bugliosi’s handwriting.
‘I am shocked,’ he said. ‘This throws a different light on everything. If Vince was covering this stuff up… if he changed this, what else did he change?’
I asked Kay whether this evidence would be enough to overturn the verdicts against Manson and the Family. Yes, he conceded. It could get them new trials.
Just like the omissions about the tape from the Polanski house loft, did Bugliosi change the story to protect Melcher, the child of one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars? Had he streamlined certain elements to get an easy conviction?
Or was this part of a broader pattern of deception, of bending the facts to support a narrative that was otherwise too shaky to stand?
I wasn’t on some crusade to prove Manson innocent, or to impugn Bugliosi’s name. I just wanted to find out what really happened. Part of me was convinced that, if I kept pushing, I could crack this case and figure it all out. The other part of me feared that I was too late. Powerful interests had aligned themselves against the truth.
Over the years I have been warned off my researches many times. An interviewee implored me: ‘Don’t write this stuff. You’ll get killed.’ That was a warning I’d hear a lot from various parties.
Many of the people involved in this case are now dead. Bugliosi died in 2015, Manson in 2017. And yet the case continues to fascinate and horrify.
California’s current governor, Gavin Newsom, summed it up when he refused a third request for parole for Leslie Van Houten, now 69, just days ago.
‘I am concerned about her potential for future violence,’ he wrote on June 3, adding: ‘The gruesome crimes perpetuated by Ms Van Houten and other Manson Family members in an attempt to incite social chaos continue to inspire fear to this day.’

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, R.I.P: Triple Murderer Who Fooled Hollywood

(With the release of Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Review box set I thought it prudent to present another angle on the subject of Mr. Dylan's song "Hurricane" - jtf)

By Larry Elder
April 24, 2014

Immortalised: Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter (left) who has died peacefully aged 76, with Denzel Washington (right)
Hurricane Carter with Denzel Washington (Reuters)

Rubin "Hurricane" Carter has died. Sympathetic obituaries say things like "wrongfully convicted" or "exonerated." But the black middleweight-title-contending boxer was neither.

Carter, in 1966, murdered three people. But Hollywood later made a movie, "Hurricane," in which Denzel Washington brilliantly portrayed Carter as a wrongfully convicted near-saint, hounded mercilessly by a determined, racist detective. Excellent moviemaking, but it adds more sludge to the widely held notion of the "racist criminal justice system" that supposedly "warehouses" black males for no reason other than wrong place, wrong time, wrong skin.
So, what really happened that night in Paterson, N.J., when three people were shot and killed? Why did Carter get prosecuted? Was Carter, as the media continue to say, an "innocent man" who was "wrongfully convicted"? Did the courts "exonerate" him?
In the film, Carter possesses near-sterling integrity, character pure and even noble. It shows Carter losing his middleweight title fight to champion Joey Giardello. The apparently bigoted judges gave the decision to Giardello, though the movie shows Carter pummeling him in the latter rounds.
One summer night in 1966, two black men burst into a bar in Paterson and killed three whites. In the movie, the police arrested Carter for virtually no reason. No physical evidence linked him to the crime. An evil detective, obsessed with nabbing Carter, spearheaded this travesty of justice, and Carter was convicted — twice.

Now the facts. Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was a self-admitted street thug, having spent several years in juvenile detention for muggings. On the eve of his 1964 middleweight title fight, he bragged in the Saturday Evening Post about his savagery: "I stuck a man with my knife. I stabbed him everywhere but the bottom of his feet." Carter also said he and a friend "used to get up and put our guns in our pockets. ... Then we'd go out in the streets and start fighting — anybody, everybody. We used to shoot at folks." While briefly out of prison and awaiting his second trial, Carter viciously beat the woman who had worked tirelessly to free him after the first conviction.
No evidence linking Carter to the crime?

One murder victim survived long enough to provide a sketch artist with a description. This never made it into the trial because authorities failed to obtain a "deathbed declaration" since they thought the victim would survive. She did not, and without the declaration, her testimony was not entered.

But the victim, Hazel Tanis, a 56-year-old waitress and soon-to-be grandmother, was shot four times with a .38 caliber and once with a shotgun. The New York Times wrote: "Her daughter, Barbara Burns, stayed with her for 28 days as she struggled to survive, her midsection shredded by bullets. ... Ms. Burns re-enacted her mother's begging for mercy on the bar floor: 'Why are you doing this? I'm a mother. These are innocent people.' (Co-defendant) John Artis hesitated, and Carter said: 'Finish her. Finish her.' With fresh fury, she recalled her mother's words: 'You don't look a man in the eyes and plead for your life and forget what he looks like.'''
Image result for hurricane carter guilty
An eyewitness ID'd the killers and their getaway car. Within minutes, the police apprehended Carter driving a car that matched the description. According to New Jersey Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine, police found two bullet shells in Carter's car, shells that fit the weapons used in the shootings.
During the first trial, Carter presented several "alibi" witnesses, who placed Carter elsewhere at the time of the crime. During the second trial, however, many of Carter's "alibi" witnesses changed their testimony, stating that Carter had bribed them.
In the movie, a Carter defender states that two "all white" juries found Carter guilty. False. The second jury contained two blacks.

Although not mentioned in the movie, Carter publicly claimed he passed a lie detector test. Not so, says Jim DeSimone, son of the now deceased out-to-get-Carter detective portrayed in the film. DeSimone says that Carter flunked a lie detector test. Moreover, the authorities offered Carter, on the eve of the second trial, a chance to take a second test. Pass it, they said, and we drop the charges. Carter refused.
Did the boxing judges steal the middleweight title from Carter in an act of racism?
His opponent, Giardello, shown handed a victory he did not deserve, sued the movie for defamation. He received a settlement, including changes in the film. At his death in 2008, a Los Angeles Times obituary read: "Most contemporary observers and boxing historians agree (the Carter fight) was a hard-fought contest won by Giardello.
Finally, was Carter "exonerated"?
Judge Lee Sarokin set aside Carter's second conviction after nine years. He ruled that the prosecution erred in advancing a motive theory not, according to the judge, supported by the evidence. The prosecution, noting that Carter had already served 19 years and that several witnesses were then deceased, declined to try him a third time. That is not "exoneration."
Don't think there will be a sequel.
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit Follow Larry on Twitter @larryelder. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at
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Bob Dylan and Hurricane Carter (Ken Regan)


Media missed the real story of the late Hurricane Carter-