[[ By Popular Demand we bring you MY LIFE WITH CHARLES MANSON by Paul Watkins, required reading for all Manson Scholars. Remember the following- Paul was there. Paul loved Charlie. Paul then turned on Charlie. Paul actually tried then to REPLACE Charlie. Read this with all of the above in mind. This book is COPYRIGHTED by Paul Watkins and Guillermo Soledad, and thus also presumably by Martha Watkins. This book has been out of print for twenty five years. We present it here for research purposes only because you cannot find a freaking copy. If somebody objects that isn't Martha or Guillermo, tough titty. And now CH 1. Proceed, Class.]]
Part One: I Am You and You Are Me
On the day I met Charles Manson – March 16, 1968 – there was enough wind to drive the clouds and the smog out of the
Several months before, I had left my home in
From the hillside where my tent was pitched (near the top of a ridge in the middle of a mustard-weed patch), I looked directly down through a stand of eucalyptus and oak to Topanga Canyon Boulevard, which stretched from the valley to the Pacific Coast Highway. Hidden from the road, I could observe at my leisure the endless procession of cars weaving back and forth through the canyon. I had chosen this vantage point for strategic reasons: probation authorities were still searching for me following the December marijuana bust at
That bust was a real revelation. Certainly it made me more sympathetic later to the plight of Charlie and the Family. It happened while I was living in the mountains around
Two weeks after we arrived at
We didn't care much which direction we went, so once we reached the road, Black Beard stood on one side and I went to the other. It didn't take long. Within five minutes we had our first ride-a freezing-ass ordeal in the back of a Chevy pickup which took us to
The city seemed cold and inhospitable that day. We spent the morning wandering the streets, lugging our packs around, resting on corners, watching people. Sometime around noon, we took a bus ride to get warm but the driver gave us the evil eye for ten blocks so we got off. All the Christmas shit was up: window displays, Styrofoam Santas, colored lights, phony greenery, most of it dripping wet and pathetic-looking. We hiked over to Hippie Hill and found it nearly deserted. The mood had changed completely since the summer of '66 when I first visited the Haight. Instead of hippies and flower children we saw only derelicts and hard-core junkies trying to score booze and smack. Everything seemed depressed and stony and by late afternoon we wound up in
"Hey, man, let's boogie outta here."
"What's up, Paul?"
"The rain, man…I'm catching cold. I feel like getting dry."
"Anywhere, let's just go."
We packed up our gear, took a hit of acid, and left the park, trudging it all the way to the highway. By the time we got there it was bitter cold but the rain had stopped and through a mist reminiscent of that morning, we watched the sun disappear into the sea. One ride with a jocular young sailor and his beer-swilling girlfriend took us to the outskirts of Half Moon Bay. From there we set out walking towards the town in silence, still coming onto the acid. The road was wet and the wheels of passing traffic made a hissing sound against the pavement. I thought of the highway as a snake, hissing as we moved along its back. We hadn't walked a hundred yards when a highway patrolman pulled over, wanting to see our I.D.'s.
The cop was a big, swaggering dude with a wide, sanguine face and freckles; the more I looked at his face the more the freckles looked like islands on some vast sea of skin. He said I'd been walking like a drunk and he stood over me with his flashlight while I fished through my wallet for the I.D. I had two, one a driver's license that was legal, the other a draft card that wasn't. I found the cards and he seized them both. But I was feeling confident, even friendly.
"Which one of these is you?" His voice was hard.
"The license is for real. But hey, man, I'm old enough to be on the road; it's cool. Hey, I'd like you to meet my friend Black Beard Charlie."
The cop ignored my introduction and told us to walk on down the highway to the drive-in restaurant where there was more light. We did and he followed us, radioing in the meantime to another squad car, which careened into the parking lot just after we got there. By then Black Beard was all Buddhaed-out in the full lotus, under a neon light. In front of him, his draft card, and a Bible. The big cop was still examining my I.D. "What's with Moses?" he asked, gesturing toward Charlie.
I shrugged. The other tow cops were looking at his I.D., but he didn't bat an eyelash and they didn't disturb him; they just looked at the I.D., then set it down again.
"What do you have on your back, Mr. Watkins?" the big guy wanted to know.
"Let's have a look."
"You can't search me without a warrant!"
The cop sniggered, reaching for the poncho. "Take it off, Mr. Watkins."
"Hey, man, you're supposed to be the law." I pushed his hand away. "This is my house…you can't enter my house! I didn't do anything!" The acid had slowed things down, had removed the filters from my vision. The cop seemed enormous to me now, like Goliath or King Kong, and I felt as though I were acting out a role in some ancient, preordained myth, and that somehow the outcome was already a matter of destiny.
The cop was furious now. "I said take it off!"
"Fuck no! I'm a sovereign being…you're violating my universe, man!"
He grabbed at the pack and the other two cops lurched over to help. I was more exhilarated than scared, driven by an impulse I could only obey as I listened to the cops grunting while trying to pinion my arms; my blood was surging, my adrenaline pumping, and for a time I held them off. But then the big one slammed a leg in behind my knee and threw me to the ground; he had one foot on my neck and the other on my hand, which he crunched into the pavement. I felt a toe of his boot grinding against my fingers at the same time the gravel was cutting into my face. My flesh peeled away onto his boots, onto the gravel. I was aware of warm blood trickling across my skin. I could smell it. Panicked again, I began kicking and flailing like some beached mammal; that's when Black Beard came to life and tried to help me-but one of the cops collared him.
"Hey, Paul," Charlie shouted. "Give it up man! Shit, it ain't worth it!
"No! No! They can't do this," I gasped. "This isn't the law!"
"This is the law, sonny," the big guy snarled, ripping my pack from my back. "This boot on your neck is the law…and don't forget it!" His words fell on my ears like some sort of substance pounded out of cold air. I heard the words being repeated over and over again, then I felt them like a liquid being poured into my head; but it was my own blood I felt, dripping. And I knew he was right, that one man was overpowering another, inflicting his will, is the bottom line of the law. Ironically, this revelation elated me.
I was in a spaced out daze when the big guy jerked me to my feet and held me while one of the other cops rummaged through my pack, scattering food, clothing, and utensils on the ground. Patrons from the drive-in had gathered in an excited gaggle outside the door to watch. I was bloody and exhausted, yet filled with a sense of buoyance, as though I had played my part well and was being cosmically rewarded. Black Beard, meanwhile, has resumed the lotus beneath the light, his eyes closed, his face mirroring an inscrutable calm.
"I found the marijuana!" came the proclamation as the cop jerked the bag from the debris, as if to prove to everyone, including the spectators, that it had all been worth it. His proclamation struck me as uproariously comical and I burst out laughing and cheering at the same time. It seemed to me then that we were all members of some comic acting troupe, a band of gypsy thespians performing on the roadside. And as the proclamation continued: "…in the name of
"Get your ass up and outta here, Moses!" he barked as I maneuvered into a sitting position in time to watch Black Beard collecting the gear from the parking lot and stuffing it into my pack. Then Big Ben got in his car, and the other two cops got in theirs, while the crowd around the restaurant began to disperse.
That's when Charlie ran up to the car and shouted, "Hey, Paul, hang tough, amigo…see you soon!"
We Brodied out onto the highway amid a swirl of gravel and mud, and all kinds of things flashed through my head: like maybe I'd go to jail for twenty years; marijuana was a big offense in those days. But I wasn't really scared; in fact, I felt a strange sort of satisfaction: the acid brought me to the realization that I had created the episode myself, had genereated my own personal catharsis at the cops' expense. I didn't blame them; if anything, I felt slightly guilty for deceiving them. Sitting Indian-style in the cage in the back of the squad car, I watched the clouds clear. I could see hundreds of stars glittering crisply in the heavens. Everything seemed clean and promising and gradually a flood of emotion swelled up inside me; tears streamed down my face. It seemed as though I had just returned from the bottom of the world, that I had been stomped on and stamped with the mark of civilization, but that I had survived and was still free. I flashed on Black Beard sitting in the full lotus and smiled through my tears. I saw the strength in his face and the light in his eyes when he shouted at me through the window, and I felt like a warrior. The moon broke through the clouds and Big Ben and I watched it out the window. He saw the tears and asked if my hand was okay.
"Yeah, it's okay."
I was booked in
After watching a wedding caravan scream up the canyon-I remember horns blaring and the flowing streamers and tin cans tied to the cars-I pulled my pack out of the tent and ate some dried peaches and a handful of raisins, which I washed down with water from a canteen. Then I kicked off my moccasins and took out my French horn. The instant I started to play, two blue-jays who hung out in a nearby scrub oak came out and started squawking; they'd been there ever since I set up camp, and they squawked each time I played music. But no one else did. There was no else around.
It was my custom to sit on that hillside for hours, playing the music to trees and wildflowers, watching the leaves blowing and twisting as if they were dancing to the tune I played-the sensitivity of massive, gnarled limbs betrayed in their nimble leaves. And when it was hot, there were always the white butterflies fluttering in pairs across the canyon, and a myriad of droning bees in the mustard weed. From my hideout I could see the elegant homes of the wealthy perched on surrounding hillsides, and a few shacks back up the canyon. But around me was only a feral expanse of nature, now abloom in early spring; perfect; living in a pup tent on my own private mountain in the middle of
It was around four o'clock when I put my horn away, grabbed a sweater, and started my hike down the hill toward the riverbed which leads up the canyon to
I had become acutely aware of this phenomenon on my first trip to the Haight that same summer: playing music in the city-in parks, crash pads, parking lots; smoking grass; feeling good. It was the beginning of the psychedelic revolution and it captured the awareness of youth like nothing else in my lifetime. I met people from everywhere, hiked with them through the city and up into the mountains behind Berkeley, where we sang songs and picked flowers; we were like gypsies spreading love, giving love and flowers to people in the street; people of all ages-children, old men, women, bus drivers, cops, newspapermen, grocery clerks, ex-convicts. It was real love and it was contagious. People have forgotten how deeply it was felt because in time it turned into a heavy rip-off drug scene and lost its potency. In fact, by September 1967 (two months after Jimi Hendrix brought "a new soul sound of love" to the Monterey Pop Festival), Haight Ashbury had degenerated from a scene of smiles and flowers into a cesspool of violence and hostility: it had become a terror-stricken ghetto where those "hippies" who remained became victims of phony slop-bucket liberal do-gooders, vicious con men, or worse. But in the beginning the love was real; it had integrity; and it turned my head around. So much so that by the time I went back to
I hiked along the creek bed which parallels
Jay's house was located at the end of the creek where the road slopes up and dead-ends against the face of the hillside. All but hidden in a grove of oak, it gave the illusion of total isolation from the world. Beyond it, the rugged hillside swept up into an overgrown mane of mustard weed and wildflowers which looked from the floor of the canyon to be the jumping-off place to the sky. Though there were other houses around, within a stone's throw of Jay's, they were hidden by dense foliage and the rolling contours of the landscape. Being at Jay's, you had the feeling of living in a mountain retreat. Jay was a musician who played drums for a local rock group on the Sunset Strip. I'd met him only recently and had visited him a number of times since moving to my hideaway in Topanga. But I hadn't seen him in over a week.
It took twenty minutes to hike the half-mile up to the dead end where Jay's car was usually parked on a slope above the house. But his car was gone. In its place was an old black and white school bus with a large storage rack on top, secured with rope and covered with an embroidered psychedelic canvas tarp. From a distance, and because of the angle as I approached the slope, the bus looked like the head of a minstrel wearing a top hat. When I turned off onto the dirt driveway and started down the gully which plunges into the oak grove, I spotted a dim light in the living room window. By then it was downright cold, so I jogged down the hill, hopped on the porch and knocked on the door. A can of paint sat in one corner of the porch with a brush lying on top of it; Jay had intended to paint the trim around the windows of the house, but apparently had not gotten around to it. The house was small, made of weathered pine, and painted white. It was old and run-down, but it had a woodsy charm. The fireplace was spewing smoke and I was eager to get warm. I was ready to knock again when the door opened.
Two naked, wispy-legged teenage girls with waist-length hair stood in the doorway, greeting me with quizzical, appraising smiles. I felt the heat from the fireplace waft across the porch and I smelled the fragrance of marijuana.
"Is Jay around?" I stammered.
"Jay doesn't live here anymore," the taller girl said; she pulled a strand of hair away from her eyes and smiled. "I'm Snake and this is Brenda…Would you like to come in?"
They asked my name and I told them as they stood aside to let me enter the house.
Brenda (Nancy Pitman) led the way. She was about five-three, and had wavy blondish hair that hung to her butt. Her body was slender and suntanned; she looked like the classic little surfer girl from
The living room we entered was spacious, with windows fronting on the thickest part of the oak grove. A luminous glow emanated from the fireplace and the smell of pot was intoxicating. Ten or twelve people, all but three of whom were girls, sat on the floor around a knee-high wooden table, the top of which was covered with a red embroidered cloth. There were three or four candles on the table and two bowls filled with candy bars. About half the girls were naked; none of the guys were, though the one at the head of the table who held the guitar was shirtless. At my feet, lying across the entrance to the room like some exotic Playboy Bunny in repose, was a pretty dark-haired girl who was subsequently introduced to me as Sadie (Susan Atkins).
"This is Paul," Brenda announced in a husky voice, a childlike voice which seemed compatible with her rosy, cherub face; she addressed the guy at the head of the table, the shirtless one who held the guitar and who smiled warmly, raising his hand in a gesture of welcome.
"I'm Charlie," he said. "Won't you stay and make music with us?"