Still Pretty After All These Years

The story of Manson Family murderer Bobby Beausoleil

November 6th was the 73rd birthday of Robert ‘Bobby’ Beausoleil, convicted killer.

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Bobby Beausoleil as a child

Bobby was born November 6, 1947 in Santa Barbara, California. He was the eldest of five children, born to Charles Kenneth Beausoleil and Helen Arlene Mattox. Bobby’s father Charles was born in Massachusetts, the son of Ernest Hermenegilde Philipe Silvestre de Beausoleil (Known as Philip Beausoleil) who was from Quebec, Canada and Clara Mitchell who was born in New York State. Bobby’s mother (known as Arlene) was born in Los Angeles to Guy Frank Mattox and his wife Helen who were both originally from Ohio.

Charles and Arlene were married just six months before Bobby’s birth, in California. The couple had four more children (two girls, two boys) after Bobby’s birth. Charles worked as a milk man and Arlene was a homemaker.

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Bobby (far right) and his siblings with their dad

Bobby was a natural musician at an early age. He was raised Catholic, and got along well with his blue-collar parents.

“I’ve always had a fascination for music. The earliest Christmas present that I remember getting was a drum — one of those little toy drums with paper heads and a pair of drumsticks. I was four or five, but I remember that gift, whereas I don’t really remember any of the others. And I remember that I beat it to death, there was nothing left of the skins on either side — which was kind of a shame because then it wouldn’t work as a drum anymore! After that as I was growing up I remember building these strange instruments, out of wooden crates, sort of jug band type instruments.” — Bobby Beausoleil interviewed by Michael Moynihan for Seconds magazine ©1988

But Bobby’s life changed in his pre-teens, something happened. He was molested by an older man. Later when he was sixteen, he slept with his cousin’s wife. During the years between the two events, Bobby often ran away to his grandmother’s home in El Monte. He wasn’t upset with his parents, but his grandmother had cancer and he wanted to be close to her. Unfortunately, it brought him into contact with some unsavory elements and at the age of fourteen he was arrested for shoplifting and spent some time in a juvenile detention center.

Bobby attended Santa Barbara High School for three years, starting in 1962 but then dropped out his senior year. He moved to Los Angeles and began going to concerts, inspired by the 1960s music scene..

“I used to go on the weekends to a club called the Red Velvet with my fake ID card, and go listen to Rhythm and Blues… I had a $1.98 sportcoat on. I didn’t know how to dress or how to behave around these kinds of people. All I used to do was go into the non-drinking section with a cherry Coke and listen. Every once in awhile I’d get up the courage to ask a girl to dance.” — Bobby Beausoleil interviewed by Michael Moynihan for Seconds magazine ©1988

Bobby soon had a new girlfriend, Bridget, who was the seamstress for Sonny and Cher. Bridget taught Bobby how to dress like a hip dude, and she also introduced him to pot and LSD.

At the time, folk music was the big deal but it was soon supplanted by the psychedelic era. Los Angeles was a hub for this music, including bands like The Byrds. Bobby was looking to join a band, and he soon met Arthur Lee who formed the band the Grass Roots. Bobby heard them play and suggested to Lee that they needed a rhythm guitarist. Arthur agreed, and Bobby joined the band.

It was during a trip north with the Grass Roots, that Bobby got his infamous nickname:

“We went through Big Sur, and all of a sudden I’m seeing a lot more long-haired people. I began to see distinctions in the cliques of long-haired people. I was in my gigging clothes, I had on skin tight pants and a blousy crepe shirt with ruffles. I had the nickname of “Cupid” back in those days. It came from the period when I was playing with the Grass Roots and this girl, Linda Moss, began making shirts for me. I had a mop of hair and these blousy crepe shirts she would make for me, so I got the nickname Cupid.” — Bobby Beausoleil interviewed by Michael Moynihan for Seconds Magazine ©1988

Bobby spent a week in San Francisco with the Grass Roots, and fell in love with the Bay Area. He found a music scene that was a lot more dedicated, tight-knit and promising.

When he returned to Los Angeles, the Grass Roots informed him that they’d decided to replace him with another guitarist. They didn’t approve him constantly upstaging the lead singer. The Grass Roots later changed their name to Love.

After getting the boot from the band, Bobby went back to San Francisco and wound up in Haight-Ashbury. He wanted to start another band, one that gave him a little bit more leeway with instrumentation.

“What I wanted to do was play Rock music with all these other elements being a part of it. I didn’t want to lose the hard, driving rawness of Rock, but I wanted to bring in this sort of ‘universal’ music concept that I was evolving, a multi-cultural, multi-disciplined sort of thing. It was extremely vague at this point in my conception. It was something that was just beginning to emerge as I was listening to these other types of music. So I began to pick up other instruments: a dulcimer, the student model sitar, the bouzouki, an acoustic guitar.” — Bobby Beausoleil interviewed by Michael Moynihan for Seconds magazine ©1988

Bobby’s first band post-Grassroots was The Orkestra, a psychedelic instrumental band that blended multiple genres of music, much like Sun Ra. The band consisted of several prolific jazz and instrumental musicians, but many of them had serious drug problems and The Orkestra soon broke up. Bobby soon met filmmaker Kenneth Anger.

Anger had allegedly been a child actor who gained some recognition after he worked with sexologist Alfred Kinsey, and began creating short avant-garde films. In 1965 he published a tabloid book called Hollywood Babylon, which chronicled some of the more debaucherous and shocking stories from Tinseltown’s past. As an openly gay man during the repressive ’40s and ’50s, Anger also dabbled in the occult and psychedelic drugs. It was during his studies of Aleister Crowley that Anger became fascinated with the mythology around Lucifer.

He began to associate with Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan and even tattooed the name LUCIFER on his chest. He decided to make a film about Lucifer, the fallen angel, and when he met Bobby Beausoleil he knew he had discovered the perfect cherubic face for his Lucifer. He also asked Bobby to step in and arrange the film score.

Bobby then formed The Magick Powerhouse of OZ, essentially to support the film and the band played one gig. Bobby may have been in a personal, and not just professional, relationship with Anger and something happened between the two. Bobby fled back south to Los Angeles, taking some of the recordings with him.

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The Magick Powerhouse of OZ (1966). Bobby is in the center.

It was during the months after his return to southern California that Bobby met Charles Manson in Topanga.

“The first time I met the Manson people was at the Spiral Staircase…There was a party going on — people smoking pot and playing music… I sat down, I listened for a while and I picked up this thing called a melodica. I picked it up and started improvising some counterpart melodies, which kind of blew everyone’s mind — maybe they were all loaded on acid.” — Bobby Beausoleil interviewed by Michael Moynihan for Seconds magazine ©1988

Bobby was known as an eccentric dude, sometimes walking around Los Angeles with a falcon on his shoulder. The night they met, Bobby began bragging to Charlie about his music connections, including Frank Zappa. Beausoleil wasn’t into tethering himself to a guru but he did want to play music with Manson.

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Bobby Beausoleil outside Kenneth Anger’s home in San Francisco

A few days later, Charlie dropped in on Bobby, who was staying in Topanga with a fellow musician and chemist named Gary Hinman, at a comfy two-story hillside house. Weeks later, Bobby was living in a tent on someone’s lawn in Topanga, and the Manson Family (evicted from the Spiral Staircase where they’d been squatting) stayed with Bobby for a time.

Bobby then got hired as an extra in the low-budget porno Ramrodder which was being filmed at Spahn Ranch. During filming, he met Catherine Share (also working as a film extra) and added her to his current relationship with a woman named Gayle Massman. Bobby, Gayle and Gypsy (as Share was called) went north to San Francisco, met 17-year old Leslie Van Houten and added her to their growing group.

But Gypsy kept talkin to Leslie about Charles Manson, this far-out dude down at Spahn Ranch. Eventually, she convinced Leslie to defect with her to The Family. Charlie was displeased by this — not that the women joined him, but that they didn’t bring Bobby. He viewed Bobby Beausoleil as a link to some potentially influential music connections, and a prized stud.

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In early 1969, Bobby impregnated Family member Sandra Good. She was one of three women to get pregnant by him that season. His daughter with ex-girlfriend Gayle was born in late July, his son with Sandra was born in October, and he also had another daughter born in February 1970 with girlfriend Kitty Lutesinger.

But Bobby never got to see any of those children that year. He was arrested for murder in August 1969 after killing his friend Gary Hinman. He was originally sentenced to death.

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Bobby tunes his guitar inside San Quentin. Photo by Peter Beard.

“Remanded to San Quentin’s death row, the pretty ‘Cupid’ toughened himself up, courting the Aryan Brotherhood and getting plastered with racist tattoos. His death sentence was overturned two years later when California’s Supreme Court briefly ended the state’s death penalty and commuted to life in prison.
Beausoleil is now one of the longest-serving prisoners in the United States. Over the past fifty years, he married, resumed his music career, became an accomplished artist, gave a few interviews (once, notably, to true crime author Truman Capote), occasionally changed his story about the motive of Hinman’s death, had more children, became a grandfather and renewed his musical collaboration with filmmaker Kenneth Anger. Some of Bobby’s recent art includes images of young boys, bare-bottomed, being spanked by beautiful women. Concerns arose when alleged pornographers purchased those images, although it did not appear that Beausoleil sanctioned those purchases.

Little is known about his first child with Gayle Massman, except that she is now 49-years old, and has her own children. Bobby’s daughter Jene (with Kitty Lutesinger) is a stay-at home mom, dedicated to animal rights. In 2008, Bobby acknowledged parentage of son Ivan (with Sandra Good). In 2012, Bobby’s wife of 30 years, Barbara, passed suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 65.

Bobby has gone before the parole board numerous times. In 2013, parole was declined because ‘of the heinous nature of the crime and because he remains dangerous. Beausoleil was denied parole in part because he has been recording music for sale without the permission of California authorities… He previously had permission from Oregon authorities, where he had been serving his sentence until last year.’

It was a shock then when, in 2019, Bobby Beausoleil was granted parole — meaning that he met the eligibility of release, by a California parole board. The decision was forwarded to Governor Gavin Newsom, who had 120 days to review the file before making a determination. Thanks to the efforts of Debra Tate, who opposes the release of any Manson Family killers and established a petition for concerned citizens, Governor Newsom reversed Beausoleil’s parole.

Bobby was not recommended for parole in 2020.” — The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing ©2019 Swann Publications

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Bobby today

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Author of the “More to the Story” true crime nonfiction series.

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