Charles Manson was a Fame Whore

Yeah, he was also a sex trafficker and a white supremacist, but his main goal was fame.

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Charlie looks angry, but he’s secretly pleased at all the cameras and attention on him

Charlie was obsessed with fame. It started when he was a teen, serving time at Chillicothe prison in Ohio where he met gangster Frank Costello at Chillicothe prison in Ohio. Costello was serving time for tax evasion and offered Manson a kind of mentorship.

“When I walked down the halls with him or sat at the same table for meals, I probably experienced the same sensation an honest kid would get out of being with Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle: admiration bordering on worship.” — Charles Manson quoted in Manson: In His Own Words as told to Nuel Emmons ©1986 Grove Press

While at McNeil, Charlie was mentored by pimps and another old gangster, Alvin ‘Creepy’ Karpis, who had been in the Ma Barker gang. Karpis was one of several older inmates who saw potential in the young man and sought to teach him something useful — in this case, guitar lessons.

“This kid approaches me to request music lessons. He wants to learn guitar and become a music star. ‘Little Charlie’ is so lazy and shiftless, I doubt if he’ll put in the time required to learn. The youngster has been in institutions all of his life — first orphanages, then reformatories, and finally federal prison. His mother, a prostitute, was never around to look after him. I decide it’s time someone did something for him, and to my surprise, he learns quickly. He has a pleasant voice and a pleasing personality, although he’s unusually meek and mild for a convict. He never has a harsh word to say and is never involved in even an argument.” — Alvin Karpis quoted in On the Rock: Twenty-Five Years in Alcatraz by Robert Livesey ©1980 Beaufort Books)

During this era, Charlie was introduced to the music of the Beatles. He began writing his own original tunes. Charlie even told Karpis that he was going to be bigger than the Beatles!

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Charlie was then transferred to Terminal Island in San Pedro, California since his parole would be in California. In the jail yard one day, Manson met Phil Kaufman, a bit player in Hollywood in jail on a marijuana charge. Phil listened to Charlie play his guitar and sing his songs and passed Manson the name of a producer at Universal Studios.

Charlie was released in March 1967, first gravitating to the San Francisco area where he began to perform on the street for spare change. He also attracted a number of young people to him, mostly young women. Manson used his past experiences as a pimp to manipulate these women to serve his needs.

That included his desire for fame. The women often performed with Manson, a collective music experience. In the fall of ’67, Charlie was traveling with several of these women as they drove south to Los Angeles and made his first contacts with the producer at Universal, Gary Stromberg.

“Charlie Manson’s primary motive was to get famous” — Mark Ebner, journalist and New York Times bestselling author, from the documentary “Charles Manson: Fame and Scandal” ©2016 TimeWarner Cable

By early ’68, Charlie and the women were in Topanga Canyon. The introduction of another young musician (Bobby Beausoleil) fueled Manson’s lust for fame. Beausoleil and Manson even started a band together. They only played one gig. Being in a band was hard work and Charlie had this insane notion that his own fame was something that would just ‘happen’ for him.

He got his hopes up again that season when he met 15-year old Deirdre Shaw, the daughter of actress Angela Lansbury. Didi brought her lofty credentials as a child of Hollywood. Plus she had mommy’s credit cards. Those cards were used to buy food and clothing for several months. Charlie courted several other Hollywood offspring that year, including Dean Martin’s daughter.

During the summer of 1968, Charlie was introduced to Beach Boys’ drummer Dennis Wilson. The Beach Boys were having both professional and personal crises in the late 60s, leaving the drummer with a little too much time on his hands. He found Charlie compelling, quickly nicknaming him ‘The Wizard’ and inviting him to stay at his Pacific Palisades home.

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Through Wilson, Manson was also introduced to talent agent Gregg Jakobson and Columbia Records producer Terry Melcher.

“Charlie thought that he was going to be famous. He thought Terry Melcher was the person who might make him a star.” — Catherine Share from the documentary “Manson” ©2009 The History Channel

To be fair, Manson was a good guitarist, a gifted songwriter. He probably never had what it took to be a big star, but he certainly could have found fame and success in the music industry, if he hadn’t gotten so stabby.

By the summer of 1968, Manson realized that Wilson’s generosity would only go so far. Charlie decided to move off of Dennis’s pad so he wouldn’t think he was mooching and stop supporting him.

After a few months at a rundown horse ranch in Chatsworth, Manson and his Family drove in a caravan to Death Valley. But Death Valley is a harsh environment, and everyone grew irritable. Hygiene was an issue, along with snakes and scorpions and other predators. Manson was losing control.

Charlie felt like all he did was love and give and nurture these kids, and what did he have to show for it? Where was his recording career? Where was the fame and wealth he was due? The only reason the kids were there were to help him, Charles Manson. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

One day, Charlie walked away. He stomped away from the ranch where everyone was staying, determined to leave his Family behind. By mid-day he was tired and thirsty. By sundown, he was also lost.

Charlie had a full-on meltdown right there at the base of the Panamint Mountains, a meltdown that resulted in him talking to rocks and crying to the skies and finally, the rather sound decision to just lie down and sleep it off.

He woke the next morning with newfound determination in his music. He was going back to the ranch, back to his kids, to focus on his music.

Charlie’s fatal flaw — the one that also proved the death knell for several innocent human beings and led to lifelong imprisonment for several of his followers — is that he didn’t reject his Family. He fought his nature, his loner inclinations… If Charlie hadn’t been a psychopath, he’d have let the magic of 1968 simmer and fade as it inevitably would. He might have maintained a few of his most loyal supporters for a time. They could have played their music and enjoyed their drugs and faded, in obscurity. There wouldn’t have been a record deal but there would have been music, and there would have been family, and there would have been love. Real love.

…Charlie had to fulfill his true purpose in life by destroying the people who loved him.

…All he really wanted — not love, not a family, not even a meaningful music career — was Fame. Charles Manson was just a fame whore. He was no different than the Kardashians, the Real Housewives, the Bachelors and Bachelorettes, Speidi, the Cash-me-Outside girl, the ones who used to show up on the Jerry Springer Show.

Manson was a fame whore but remember, he was also a psychopath. If Charlie was 34-years old today, he’d be getting people to kill for him but doing so with his own damn reality show. — The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing ©2019 Swann Publications

He returned to Los Angeles, planning to kick-start his music career but found Wilson, Jakobson and Melcher unavailable. Then, at the end of November, he listened to The White Album.

After that, Charlie pursued fame in greater and greater desperation. That desperation resulted in an increased use of drugs, in an increased need for cash, and in an increased resentment at the young people who depended on him, but he now realized might stand in the way of his success.

He must have suspected that the end of his freedom was likely nigh. Charlie wasn’t afraid of going back to prison. What he was scared of was going back without accomplishing what he sought out to do when he was released two years before:

He hadn’t become famous yet.

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After the murders, after the second retreat to Death Valley when the Family were later captured (initially on charges of arson), Charlie famously tried to evade arrest by hiding in a tiny little bathroom cabinet. Police only found him because a lock of his dark hair was sticking out. I chuckle now at the description of that arrest in the book Helter Skelter, written by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. The prosecutor made it seem like Charlie was hiding like a snake under the rock, so he could steal our beautiful, innocent children.

The truth is that Manson was hiding in plain sight, and law enforcement had ample opportunity to find the culprits and even to prevent the crimes. After all, Charlie spent nearly two years interacting with California elites — spiritual leaders, Hollywood hoi polloi, notable occultists, organized gang members, famous music stars and producers. Manson wanted to be famous and he hung out with famous people. He never tried to ‘hide’ except when he knew he was wanted for murder.

“Charles Manson had everything. At one time he had almost thirty young girls taking care of him. He hob­nobbed with the Beach Boys and attended Hollywood parties with musicians and movie stars. He lived for free off the generosity of soft­hearted people who believed in him like Dennis Wilson… He never once had a job in the three years he was out of jail. Free drugs. Free sex. Famous people around him. He lived a dream life… Charles Manson was finally rejected by society because he was a manipulative USER who abused the people who tried to be nice to him. Everyone who ever tried to help Charles Manson was ultimately made a fool for their troubles.” — The Myth of Helter Skelter by Susan Atkins-Whitehouse ©2012 Menelorelin Dorenay

Charlie had almost everything he wanted, but when he couldn’t get fame or power or money, he decided to destroy the world. And destroying society began with demolishing his Family. He selected each killer very deliberately, knowing that if they were caught they would pay the price, not him.

And when it backfired and he was implicated in the murders, he used that farce of a trial to get more attention.

And when he still got convicted of murder, he continued acting like a clown. Hey at least in death, he’d be infamous, right?

And when his death sentence was overturned and he realized he’d spent the rest of his life in prison, he decided to spend those years clowning around at every opportunity. Prison officials finally had to cut off access to Manson by media, because of his craven desire for fame.

Even at the end of his life he found a way to be in the spotlight, by proposing marriage to a young gal besotted with him.

That woman got the last laugh: she only wanted to marry him so she could sell tickets to other fame whores, to view Charlie’s corpse after he died.

Charles Manson was a fame whore. We gave him exactly what he wanted. He didn’t care if he could only enjoy it inside a jail cell: he’d spent his whole life incarcerated and felt at home there. He often said that jail was his father.

And we were his audience.

Written by

Author of the “More to the Story” true crime nonfiction series. https://www.mansonfamily.net/

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