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Member of the Family: Manson, Murder and Me

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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Our house in Santa Monica also became full of life and creativity. Through these group gatherings, we became friendly with other Oraclefamilies, and several had children close in age to Kathy and Danny. It seemed like every weekend we began hosting meetings, cookouts, and picnics at our house. All of which got more interesting after my father, fresh off of studying the work of R. Buckminster Fuller, figured out how to build a geodesic dome in our backyard. One of my favorite photographs is of my brother, sister, and father and me inside the dome, with my father smoking a joint and grinning from ear to ear. People were always coming and going from our house, but after a while they stopped going. Little by little people started crashing there. I could see why. My father made things interesting and his enthusiasm gave credence and a sense of possibility to all the new ideas the group was considering.

The Oracle group had a big vision for everything from obtaining religious status to the creation of schools and employment opportunities. I know my parents had something to do with the ideas for alternative education that the Oracle was espousing. They had been very disappointed with the education I was receiving at the Santa Monica junior high. I never thought of myself as unusually bright, but I guess my education in Minneapolis had been far more advanced than what these schools were teaching us. My parents and the members of their Oracle tribe also believed children should be taught to think differently, something that was never going to happen in the public school system.

Despite their reservations with my public education, to be honest, I didn’t have a problem with school. In fact, I liked my school and my friends—both offered a structure that was becoming elusive at home. I might have been a little bored with having to study things I already knew, but it was comfortable to know where I was going and what I would be doing every day. Rules and expectations made me feel secure. Being around my parents and the free-thinking Oracle members had the opposite effect on me.

Increasingly, though, my parents weren’t listening to what I had to say about such things.

In late june, I turned the guilt trip around on my parents for leaving me at the Elysian Park Love-In. If I was old enough for them to leave me there, then I was old enough to go to the Monterey Pop Festival with my uncle, my father’s brother, who was the only relative with whom we were still speaking. Like most people, I had no idea that the concert would become a cultural touchstone and a centerpiece to the Summer of Love. I just wanted to see groups and performers like the Who, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Otis Redding. My uncle was younger than my father and a musician, and when I heard he was going to the concert, I promised that I would bring pot brownies if he’d let me come along. He agreed, and I begged my parents to let me go. I expected more of a fight from at least my mother, but they both said it would be okay—my mother even helped me bake the brownies.

When we got to the concert, we didn’t have tickets to get into the venue, but it didn’t matter. Right outside the fence was a festival of counterculture revelers that made the Elysian Park Love-In look like a family picnic. My uncle was sick with either the flu or food poisoning, so he stayed close to the truck to wait it out. He didn’t want to ruin my good time, so he pretty much told me to go on without him. The feeling around the festival was electric and I was completely free to explore. It’s difficult to recognize history when it’s happening all around you, but I knew this was something special.

I wandered around and met people, enjoying the generosity of freely shared food and marijuana and getting the freedom I’d craved to meet people who wouldn’t simply dismiss me as Clarence and Shirley’s little kid. I shared my brownies, which I hoped was not the cause of my uncle’s malady, and got myself very stoned. The festival was set for about seven thousand attendees in the arena, but there had to be over fifty thousand people on the grounds. At night, I fell asleep for a few hours in a horse barn. The horse wasn’t there, but there was a soft blanket of straw for me to crash on. There were longhairs and hippie girls sitting on the barn roof to watch the concert, which is probably how I wound up inside.

When I woke up, some people invited me to a party where I met Tiny Tim, who was tall and very funny. Or maybe everyone was funny. We were passing around joints and feeling the electricity of the music and the times. There was so much to see with the soundtrack of the music in the background—every now and then you’d perk up your ears and hear the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, or the Grateful Dead. People were sitting together weaving yarn “eyes of God,” and others were selling handmade colorful jewelry and wind chimes. It was tactile and sensual, and wherever you looked, there was something beautiful.

Sunday was raining, but it was perfect for listening to Ravi Shankar. The strange and haunting sounds he produced on the sitar were transporting. He created a sacred atmosphere by requiring that everyone put out cigarettes if they wanted to hear him play. People complied. He encouraged them to light incense, what he referred to as joy sticks, and the sweet smell was everywhere. At the end of the performance, people threw flowers on the stage. That night brought the festival to a close with performances by the Mamas and the Papas and the Who. As I peered through the fence, I watched as Peter Townshend smashed his sunburst, maple-neck Fender Stratocaster. The crowd went wild.

I had been away for only a weekend, but when I returned my good mood quickly deflated. My home was now filled with more Oracle members who had evidently lost their lease or decided that sharing their environment with the Paulekas freak commune was no longer serving their goals. Somehow it became our responsibility to take care of these now-homeless hippies, another one of my father’s great ideas that he came up with unilaterally. As I walked through the door, I saw that our spacious living and dining rooms were both filled with transients on mattresses or in sleeping bags. Confused, I went looking for my parents.

“The Oracle had to move out of their house,” my father explained when I found him. “We told them they could crash here.”

While my mother seemed to agree with my father, I knew she wasn’t completely comfortable with the idea. I knew objecting to this would have been futile, but as was always the case, they never asked us how we would feel about our home being taken over. Adding insult to injury—there was another surprise waiting for me: My father and his friend Bob, another member of the Oracle group, had purchased bread trucks from the nearby Pioneer bakery with plans to turn them into mobile homes.

“This way if we ever want to go anywhere, we have our home with us,” my dad said.

Maybe I was missing something, but I had vivid memories of how this same scenario worked out the last time we tried living in a mobile home. When we finally did land somewhere, we were cramped and miserable. My father had the “this time will be different” look on his face so I kept my mouth shut.

The two men quickly got to work on their trucks. At first it was a matter of taking things out. Then it was a matter of putting things in. My father figured out a way to insulate the truck with soundproofing Styrofoam that I think he got from work at the telephone company. Admittedly, we all thought it was clever how he figured out how to use what was essentially trash to make a home out of a cast-off vehicle.

He worked on that truck every day for the entire summer, building a foldout table that converted into a bed as well as bunk beds that doubled as storage. My mother and I helped sew a curtain that would go completely around the truck to create privacy for anyone who might be inside. My father created a pop-up awning that extended the truck out the back to provide shade from the sun. My brother worked alongside of him soaping up screws so they could go into the metal without being stripped. Even Kathy helped sweep up the shavings from any woodwork that he did in the garage.

Despite all the work he was putting into the truck, I didn’t see the big picture at the time. Given how often he seemed to latch on to new ideas, I didn’t realize how serious this plan of his actually was. He had pretty much shut down his painting studio and had quit his job. Every bit of energy and focus was put into this truck and the apparent freedom it was going to give our family. It didn’t occur to me or anyone else that this was my father’s pattern rearing its head again.

With so much focus on the truck, it was easy to forget that our actual house didn’t seem to belong to us anymore. During that summer of 1967 the entire Oracle commune lived with us, ate with us, and slept under our roof. In general, I grew to like most of the people staying at the house—after all, it could be fun always having people around. One night a bunch of us decided to try making the legendary “mellow yellow.” Someone had been advertising it in the Oracle, and it was supposed to be made from the insides of the banana peel. They espoused it as a cheap legal high. We were typically not out of pot, but on this night, we scraped the insides of the bananas and smoked them. I didn’t feel anything, but we all laughed anyway because of how silly we felt to have fallen for the rumor.

“It’s Donovan’s fault.” I laughed when I told Jan and Joan about our experiment. We’d played Donovan’s song “Mellow Yellow” constantly, as it had been on the top of the charts in 1966 and was still going strong.

Still, some aspects of the arrangement were uncomfortable. There were people in every room, and many of them slept in the nude. From what I understood, these people weren’t used to holding back on anything they wanted to do when they wanted to do it. They were at ease with their bodies and showed no modesty at all. I felt awkward about it but didn’t say anything. Kathy walked in on a couple in the middle of having sex and started to ask a lot of questions. I doubt my parents answered them, but it did lead them to tell the couple to “cool it.” Whatever freedoms the Oracle staff enjoyed at the Log Cabin would have to be limited at least in the presence of the children.

Understandably, Jan and Joan were also apprehensive with the setup when they came over. They told me how some of the men from the Oracle kept talking to them about loosening up and asking them to come sit with them. The girls said no and laughed it off as if they had no idea what the guys had in mind. They knew what these guys wanted from them probably more than I did. Jan and Joan lived with a single mother who had taught them how to protect themselves. I wasn’t even told that I needed to protect myself or from what.

When my friends did come over, we avoided the Oracle guys and headed straight to my room. We’d talk about sex and share what we knew. Jan and Joan didn’t have much more awareness about sex than I did at this time, but we were all feeling our raging hormones and were curious. Though we wanted to experiment with boys beyond kissing, the leering eyes and suggestive comments of the Oracle members were intimidating. There really wasn’t anything romantic or sexy about the way the men from the Oracle were trying to persuade us to get close to them. It made all of us uneasy, so we started spending more time at Jan and Joan’s apartment or at the beach to dodge any situations we didn’t feel ready to handle.

Not every awkward situation could be avoided though. People would come and go from our house, which meant there were a lot of strangers around. And all of them acted friendly with one another, even if they’d just met, which made it hard to know who was trustworthy. One of the couples that moved in with us had been part of the adult film industry. Initially I didn’t think much about it, and it didn’t seem to bother anyone else. In this atmosphere of sexual freedom, no one was into making judgments.

One day this couple told me about their friend who was a photographer, saying how I would make a great subject, that with my beautiful skin and hair I should consider becoming a magazine model. The suggestion was more than flattering—in my mind I was still the girl with the squinty eyes and the fat rear end. I was vulnerable in a way ripe for exploitation, particularly since my parents’ lack of attention lowered my self-confidence.

A few days later, the photographer, an overweight guy in his mid-thirties, came to pick me up. He was wearing a button-down shirt with a suit vest that didn’t close in the front. It didn’t have any pockets, so it didn’t serve much of a purpose except to mask the sweat stains forming under his arms. He helped me select a few outfits, including the new orange bikini that I’d bought for the summer. I was finally getting breasts, so that was a positive change. I still felt fat but was hoping the rest of me would reshape itself like the women I saw in the magazines.

We drove into the woods, and he had me pose in my bathing suit on a log. He told me to imagine that I was a fairy in the forest. I thought about all the beautiful hippie girls I had seen floating through the love-ins, with flowers in their hair like wood nymphs. That is how I imagined myself, completely free and completely beautiful. Then I imagined the forest was alive and welcoming me as its fairy queen, with each leaf and plant in awe of my flowing red hair. I was no longer a freckle-faced little girl, awkward in her body. Instead I was the goddess of the forest who with one wave of my hand could bring all the flowers to life.

The reality was, we were in a remote wooded area somewhere close to my house. The photographer asked me to pose in a hundred different ways all the while clicking his shutter with each shot. I imagined myself as a redheaded not skinny Twiggy, one of the world’s most photographed models of the time. As I was lost in my imagination, he asked me to take off my top. As soon as I hesitated, he said the first words he had uttered the entire time we were there:

“There is no one here but us, and only you will see these,” he insisted. It is funny how it seemed like there was no one else in the world while he was taking my picture. He made it so I was very unaware that he was even behind the camera. I don’t know why, but I took off my top for him.

“That’s it, there is my girl,” he said as he snapped the shutter. “Now take off your bottoms. Only you will see how beautiful you are.”

At that point, I know I was caught up in the moment and the excitement of thinking that someone, even an overweight sweaty photographer, saw me as beautiful. The hippie women were not shy about their bodies, so I decided to do what he asked. I took off my bottoms and let him photograph me. I felt beautiful. I imagined myself to be the most desirable girl in the world, thinking that all the boys at the beach would want me. This would be my secret that they could see only if I let them. When we finished, I dressed and we got back into the car. When we began to drive, I realized I had no idea where we were going.

“I thought my house was back there,” I pointed. It felt like we were going in the wrong direction.

“Don’t worry, we are going to my studio. It isn’t very far from here. I have a few more photo ideas I would like to shoot.”

We got to this little cabin, which was far away from any other houses. He had a key, so I figured it must be okay. It smelled musty when we entered it, like it had not been used for a while, but it was clearly a place where he had been before. He told me to lie on the bed and give him a smile. He shot some photographs.

Then he went into the bathroom and started the bathwater. “I would like to get some shots of you in the bathtub with some bubbles,” he shouted from the other room.

I sat there for a moment, looking at the fading light in the cabin. All at once I came to the realization that none of this was okay. I was alone in a cabin in a place I would never recognize again, and no one had any idea I was there. My stomach tensed up.

“That’s all right,” I said hesitantly. “I have to go home now.”

I heard him turn off the faucet. He came back into the bedroom, where I was now sitting up straight.

“You don’t have to do a shot in the bath if you don’t want to.” He started to stroke my hair, and I felt my heart race. He noticed me tense up and began rubbing my shoulders. I became aware that part of the musky smell permeating the air when we entered the cabin was coming from him.

“I really need to go home now,” I said, standing up.

“What is your hurry?”

I started to cry. I wasn’t a wood nymph or a hippie girl. I was a dumb girl who was alone in the woods with someone I didn’t know who was trying to get me to have sex with him. That much I figured out. I only hoped it wasn’t too late.

He sat with me for a minute and said, “I thought you wanted to do this.”

My chest began to heave. I couldn’t speak.

“Get dressed,” he said. “I will give you all the photographs and we will forget this ever happened.” We got back into the car and he drove me back to the house. He said he would call when the pictures were ready and would give them all to me if I promised not to tell anyone about it. I nodded and wiped my eyes on my sleeve.

Surprisingly true to his word, he showed up a few weeks later with over two hundred and fifty photos of me, mostly in the nude. I really liked one in which I was smiling and in my orange bikini. I took that one out and put the rest of them back in the brown envelope they came in and hid them under the bed.

Young as I was, I still understood how lucky I’d been to return home safely, and that there was something very wrong with what had happened. The photographer was disturbing, of course, but the fact that I’d met him because of people living in my house was equally troubling. Though I hadn’t considered it before, the people my parents were involved with were relative strangers to us, and we took most of them at their word about their pasts. These were people my parents had invited into our home, a place that was supposed to be safe, but now it turned out I couldn’t trust them.

Beyond these uncomfortable questions of the modeling shoot, there was also a larger, more problematic reality for me. No longer a child, like Danny and Kathy, but not an adult either, I was in a precarious position, and no one—not my parents and not me—seemed willing to acknowledge it or to recognize just how vulnerable I was. My father was plunging our family headfirst into the ethos of the moment, opening us up to a communal existence without fully understanding the risks that this posed for me specifically. Or perhaps as I would like to believe, he too was simply naive about some of the very real dangers hidden in the idealism of the moment. Acting as hastily and impulsively as he always had, he didn’t stop to consider that as a parent of a teenage girl he had different responsibilities. It was a miscalculation that would prove dangerous.

Los angeles during that summer of 1967 was a crazy scene. There were happenings every weekend, and it was easy to get caught up in the wave of change. This was a revolution led by the young, and more of them were arriving every day, flooding into Los Angeles and into San Francisco to find the tribes of hippies they’d heard about. California was at the epicenter of the counterculture, and eventually it just came to blend in with the sunshine and the palm trees.

While it was becoming increasingly clear that this way of life was taking over, I still had my own reservations. I had enough maturity to know that school and a stable living environment had been good for me. I had ambitions and goals for myself. But it also became more difficult to resist the forces around me, especially since my parents’ blind enthusiasm clouded their judgment. They were thinking and acting like the teenagers streaming into L.A., as though they didn’t have responsibilities or kids of their own; after all, it’s a lot easier to live in the moment when you don’t have three mouths to feed. They were adults, but apparently they were rejecting that role. And though I had plenty of misgivings about their approach, at a certain point that summer I decided to simply give up the fight—if living in the now was my future, so be it.

In mid-July, my parents let me go to the Fantasy Faire & Magic Music Festival at Devonshire Downs with Jan and Joan. It was a two-day festival in Northridge, which wasn’t too far from us. The radio ads described it as a “magic meadow where people would partake of a spectacular gathering, an adventure in light and sound with twenty groups including the Doors, the Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat, in forests and meadows filled with a thousand wonders.” There was no way we were going to miss it.

The bands were as spectacular as advertised, but there was something else that caught my eye as we wandered throughout the sea of hippies. The promoter of the event was a tall, handsome, curly-headed man in his late twenties named Kim Fowley. My eyes followed him as he walked the grounds greeting people he knew. Jan and Joan teased me because it was obvious that I was hot for the guy. He was just my type and he was in charge—that was very appealing. Eventually, he started to notice me, and toward the end of the day, he approached me and asked how I liked the show.

I don’t know why, but I felt like a different person as I flirted with Kim. It was like I was intoxicated, but not on drugs, on him. I didn’t want to come across as a dumb little kid, so I acted as poised as I could. While we spoke, I made up my mind: If he made any kind of move, I wouldn’t turn him down. There was sex everywhere, but more than that, the expectation of sex was everywhere; if I was expected to do it, I at least wanted it to be with someone I found exciting and sexy. Not some leering perv with sweat stains or a longhair who happened to be living under my parents’ roof.

Kim got the message, asking my name and giving me little things to do as he made sure the show ended without any difficulties. Jan and Joan decided to leave, and when they came up to tell me they wanted to go, Kim offered to give me a lift home. With the cleanup under way, he talked and I listened, and a few times he took me by the hand. My body was reacting to every touch and I decided that this night would be the night for me to go for it.

I didn’t say anything to him as we got into his car, but he came up with the idea to take me to his apartment first, since it was near to where I lived. When we got into his apartment, I saw that it was surprisingly modest for someone as important as he apparently was. He offered me a drink and I asked for an Orange Crush, realizing too late any ambiguity about my age was now gone. He smiled and offered me a 7UP instead. Then he took out a joint that we shared while sitting on his couch.

As we became buzzed, he grabbed my hand and led me toward his bedroom. He undressed me slowly and I knew I wanted him. With each piece of clothing removed he told me how beautiful I looked and that I was like a goddess. Then he surprised me.

“Come here,” he said as he sat on the bed. “I just want to look at you.” He leaned back on his pillow and asked me to stand on the bed over him. At this point I was completely naked and ready to try sex. I stood over him and that was all he did. He looked at me and admired my body. He never laid a hand on me, even though I gave him every signal that I would be happy to have sex with him.

Then he told me he should take me home and that was that. He had me dress and he kissed me on my forehead. I was totally confused about what had happened but I figured “different strokes for different folks,” as the expression went. Even though it was a rejection, it didn’t feel that way at all. Rather, it was just confusing. Sex was all around me, but some people considered me too young for it, and others seemed to think I was already doing it. Once again, I was in that awkward teenage space—the sexual liberation of the sixties apparently wasn’t sure what to do with a teenage girl.

It wasn’t until my father put carpet on the floor of the converted bread truck—the final touch—thatg I fully understood the scope of his plan.

With the truck complete, my parents called us together and told us their news.

“We’ve decided to drop out,” my father explained.
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