Acid Heroes: the Legends of LSD

June 30, 2014

Charles Manson

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:23 pm
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Turn on, tune in, and X out.

I’ve always had a weird fascination with Charles Manson.  Like I lot of people, I guess.  If you made a list of the 10 most famous living people on the planet, I wouldn’t be surprised if Manson made that list.  45 years after the Sharon Tate murders there’s still an enduring, world-wide fascination with Charles Manson.  Manson has become almost a cartoon character of evil.  America’s favorite monster.

When I was 17 in 1974, senior year of high school, I first became fascinated with  Charles Manson. It was like an off-shoot of my general fascination with all things LSD.   I had a little bookshelf that was  built into the head-board of my bed in my bedroom.  And I kept it well-stocked with books related to psychedelics drugs.

There was “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” of course, which featured Ken Kesey as sort of the prototype psychedelic hero — the pioneer and space-cowboy explorer of inner space.  And I had a Beatles bio paperback, circa Sgt Pepper, with color photos of the Beatles decked out in their “psychedelic clothes” and Paul talking about how LSD had helped him to see God, and how acid might be a universal cure-all that would end poverty and war and shit if only the square politicians would start turning on.   And, of course, I had “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas,”  Hunter S. Thompson’s madcap vision of the psychedelic experience.  And I had a bunch of Kurt Vonnegut novels, who was like a psychedelic father-figure (his son Mark Vonnegut would live out the classic ’60s hippie trip, starting a commune and grooving on many acid trips until he finally ended up in the nut ward).  Even my sports books had turned psychedelic.  There was “North Dallas 40″ by Peter Gent, one of the first acid-dropping NFL football stars.  And the NBA basketball star Phil Jackson started out the first chapter of his jock bio, “Maverick,” with a story about how an acid trip had changed his life (for the better, natch).

But one day, quietly, my parents slipped a copy of “Helter Skelter” by Vincent Bugliosi into my collection of books.   They never mentioned it to me directly.  But I could sort of tell what their unstated message was:  “We can see where you’re headed with the drugs and the street scene and the psychedelic hippie shit.  So you might want to check out where that path could lead you.”

Of course I was fascinated with “Helter Skelter” and would read it many times from cover-to-cover.  And when I was tripping on acid I would some times vividly imagine what those kids in the Manson Family had experienced.  On acid you could understand exactly how those kids had been transformed.  For psychedelic drugs do open up your head in a way.  But they leave your  head exposed to be filled with whatever happens to be going around.  Nature abhors a vacuum after all.  And that goes for all that blank space in your noggin’, too.

Later,  in the 1980s, one of my best friends would become good friends with this wispy little Berkeley hippie chick named Angel Star who used to be in the Manson Family in the late-’60s.  Angel Star was in her 30s by that point, and every now and then she would talk about Charles Manson.  She claimed she had gotten out of the Family before the killings started.  But I was never so sure about that.

And Angel Star was just Charlie’s type.  Small, girl-ish, waif-like, with the long, straight hippie-hair parted in the middle. It’s weird how so many of the Manson girls were the exact same type.  And it was the “Children of the Damned” aspect that I think was such a big part of Manson’s enduring fascination. That these cute and seemingly innocent (and sexy) teenage girls could be capable of such monstrous acts.

I always wanted to ask Angel Star about Manson.   In retrospect I regret I didn’t.  But I could tell she didn’t want to go there.  It wasn’t something she  was eager for other people to know about. And I respected that.   Because it marked her in a way.  Almost as if it X-ed her out of society, even though she hadn’t literally carved one on her forehead.

To this day, I’ll still occasionally see Angel Star wandering around the streets of Bekeley.  Often dressed in rags, and sometimes pushing a shopping cart and listlessly scrounging around in garbage cans on Shattuck Avenue.  Always alone.  Always silent.  She’s in her 6os now and looks a bit haggard, even as she’s still retained some of her girl-ish demeanor.  She looks almost like an ancient, grizzled, little girl.   And I’ll sometimes think of how many different lives Charles Manson ruined.  And it’s almost mind-boggling.

There was another guy that used to hang out on Telegraph Avenue for a bit around 10 years ago.  Young, hippie-looking guy, dark brown hair, beard,  probably in his mid-30s.  Used to hang out on the sidewalk outside the Caffe Med, usually alone, never seemed to talk to anyone.  Always dressed in black clothes and was usually barefoot.  Nothing particular distinctive about him, except that he always wore a black top-hat.  And every now and then he’d take his hat off and you could see he had an X carved in his forehead.  Whenever I would see that guy hanging out on the Ave, I always got a strange feeling.  It was like seeing this haunted specter from the past, hovering silently over the scene.  And maybe a specter of the future, too.  Last  I heard, Charles Manson was still alive and well.  And still had an enduring appeal.

March 3, 2014

Excerp from the “Gore and Violence” issue of Twisted Image, 1983

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:05 pm
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January 13, 2014

Charles Manson seeks professional counceling

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:42 pm
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Charles Manson enters the office and sits down on the couch.   Dr. Steven Schloshman, a licensed psychiatrist, is sitting on a chair nearby, writing in a little notepad.

Dr. Schloshman:  Good afternoon, Mr. Manson. How are you feeling today?

Charles Manson:    I been doin’ just fine, doc.  What’s happenin’.   This life’s a trip, ain’t it, man?

Dr:  I was wondering if you had given any thought to some of the issues we discussed at your last session, Charles?

Manson: Hell yeah.  I been spendin’ a lot of time in my cell thinkin’ about some the things we was rappin’ about last week.  Like all that stuff about my feelings-of-repressed-hostility and shit.

Dr:  Good.   Precisely.  We were talking about how your compulsion to act out in socially inappropriate manners  may in fact stem from deep-seeded feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem.  Like your need to be a big hippie cult leader.  It seems to me you might be over-compensating for your feelings of inadequacy.

Manson:  Oh ma-a-an!  You’re way off base there, doc.  I feel fine about myself and my scene.  Its all these other people that are always fuckin’ with my trip!

Dr.:  Well, what I was driving at Charles.  This need you feel to, say,  go on killing sprees and splatter blood on walls and the like.  Has it occurred to you that this might stem from an underlying need for attention and validation?  Like a child who acts up and  makes a mess in order to compensate for feelings of rejection by one’s mother.

Manson:  Now you’re just talkin’ nonsenses, man.  What’s my mother got to do with it?

Dr.:  Well, lets delve into your feelings towards your mother, Charles.

Manson:  My mother was a ho’ and a bitch, you understand?  When I was 12 she had me arrested and locked up in the reformatory because she didn’t want me livin’ at home.  I was gettin’ in the way of her boyfriends.  You dig?  So the bitch had me set up on a phony bike-stealin’ rap?  What kinda’ goddamn mother is that?  The cunt!!

Dr.:  I sense you have conflicted feelings towards your mother, Charles. . . .  Has it ever occurred to you that you have may have been projecting some of your feelings about your mother onto the young women in your circle, the so-called “Manson Girls”?

Manson:  What are you drivin’ at, man?

Dr.:  That perhaps it was your mother that you wished to have locked up in prison.  To pay her back for locking you up.  You couldn’t do that.  So instead you set up those women to be arrested and locked up.  Symbolically  imprisoning your mother.

Manson: Hmm . . . (Manson gazes off at the ceiling, lost in thought).  Is that what they call transference?

Dr.:   Exactly.  Its important you become aware of how these psychological issues can manifest themselves in socially inappropriate behavior.  Such as satanic rituals and blood-baths and senseless killings.   Things of that nature.

Manson:  I can dig it.  (Manson grabs the side of the couch with his fists and starts violently kicking on the ground with his feet, eyes wide-open and bug-eyed)  COMING DOWN FAST!!  COMING DOWN FAST!!  COMING DOWN FAST!!

Dr.:  The other thing I’ve concluded, Charles is that you may be suffering from some kind of chemical imbalance.  Like your LSD consumption in the late ’60s.  That was an attempt to self-medicate yourself, chemically.  And a way to deal with your mood swings.  After looking at the results of your physical and your blood tests, I recommend  prescribing Prozac to deal with this.  In my opinion, you suffer from clinical manic-depression.  And you may also be bi-polar.

Manson:  Hey, I always copped to diggin’ both cock and pussy.

Dr.:   No.  What I’m getting at, Charles, is that you used the drugs like LSD as a way to compensate for your bi-polar mood swings.  You’d go from one extreme experiencing yourself as Jesus Christ, the savior of mankind.  And then you’d go the other direction and experience yourself as Satan, the dark lord.  Prozac will help you smooth out those mood swings, those highs and lows.  And you’ll mostly stay in the middle and experience yourself as a normal, mortal human being.

Manson:  Doesn’t sound like much of a buzz to me, man.  No highs, no lows.  This Prozac sounds like some bunk shit.  How much does that stuff go for on the streets, anyways?

Dr..: Ha ha. (the psychiatrist chuckles at Manson’s naivete)   Oh, it would probably go for around 2 or 3 dollars a pill.

Manson:  Shee-it!  Nobody’s gonna’ get rich slinging that shit.

Dr.:  Now I’d like to do a little word association, Charles.  Tell me the first things that come to your mind when I say these words.

Manson:  OK.

Dr.:  Love.

Manson: Hate.

Dr.:  Fear.

Manson:  Awareness.

Dr.:  Mass murder

Manson:  Savin’ the environment and clean water and air and trees and healin’ mother nature.

Dr.:  Helter Skelter

Manson:   Even I thought that that was a John song!!  Can you believe Paul actually wrote that one?  Shit!

Dr.:  Hollywood celebrities.

Manson:   Now that was the biggest bum rap they laid on me.  That I wanted to kill all them Hollywood stars because I couldn’t get a recording contract.  That was the biggest load of bull!  What did I want with a career in show business?  I was free, man.  I was out there doin’ my thing with 20 chicks and all the bread in the world.  But you society makes up this whole lie that I was a hippie guru who was a frustrated rocknroll singer.  Hell, they even made up this bull crap rumor that I auditioned for the Monkees.  That’s a LIE, man!  Even as its a proven fact that I would have been perfectly cast as the small one,  the role they gave to that English guy,  Davey Jones.  Shit.  The producers said I lacked ‘cuteness.’  Its a wonder I didn’t kill all them evil motherfuckers.  Goddamn!

Dr.:  Um, well yes.  Go with that thought, Charles.  . . . There’s one last issue I’d like to delve in before we wrap up this session.  Have you given any thought to what we talked about last week regarding your lack of empathy for others.

Manson: Lack of empathy my ass.  I love everybody!  We’re all one, man.  How could I kill  you and hack off your ear and disembowel your organs?  That would be like killin’ a part of myself.  I love you like a brother, doc!  (Manson throws himself to his knees in a submissive posture, starts stabbing at the ground with his fist)  Death is just an illusion, man.  I’d DIE for you, brother!  Go ahead and kill me!  CEASE TO EXIST!!  CEASE TO EXIST!!

Dr.:  In clinical terms, Charles, you seem to be suffering from what we call a lack of a conscience.  Its a trait common in the sociopathic personality.  You have no concept of other people’s feelings or well-being.  You have no concept of right and wrong.   In other words, you can kill indiscriminately without feelings of guilt or shame.

Manson:  And what’s wrong with that?

Dr.:  Well, a conscience acts as a form of checks and balances.  Having a conscience is what prevents a person from acting out his anti-social impulses and hostilities.  For example, I might feel the impulse to jump up and grab you around the throat and bash your fucking head in and throttle you until you’re dead.  And then justify the murder as a means to start a race war and  bring about the great global Apocalypse.  But my conscience sends me a clear-cut message that that would be wrong.

Manson:  Interesting, doc.  I never quite thought about it like that.

Dr.:  Well, I see our time is just about up for today.  Give some thought to the issues we discussed today, Chuck.  Particularly the concept that other people  have feelings and actually have just as much right to exist as you do.  And we’ll pick it up again next week.

Manson:  All right, doc.  You be cool.  Peace.

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October 3, 2013

Ace amusing himself late at night.

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:32 pm
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(click on pictures to watch the videos)
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“Don’t Be An Asshole (Because I Love You)”
A love song by Ace Backwords
“Heads”
This one’s for all you heads
This one’s for the Grateful Dead
And Grace Slick said “feed your head”
But Charles Manson he saw red
And the children sang “Paul is dead”
This one’s for all you heads
State of the Nation Address for year 2014

April 2, 2013

Sproul Plaza

 
 

 
 

There’s a lot of history to Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus. Its where Mario Savio helped to launch the Free Speech Movement in 1964 when he stood on top of a police car that had been surrounded by a huge mob of protesters and delivered his famous speech about “the operation of the machine being so odious” and “throwing your body in the gears” and all that. It was the seminal moment of what Berkeley would become over the next 6 decades. All that “radical Berkeley,” “the People’s Republic of Berkeley,” and “Berzerkeley” stuff that lives on today in the popular imagination (before the ’60s Berkeley would regularly elect Republican mayors, believe it or not). Today there’s a commemorative plaque on the Sproul Plaza steps in honor of the occassion.

 

 
 

 
 

Sproul Plaza was also the scene of a huge anti-war rally in 1965 that Ken Kesey supposedly subverted with his psychedelic harmonica act (as immortalized in the “Electric Koolaide Acid Tests” book).

Charles Manson famously met his first Manson Family follower sitting on the very steps of the Student Union Building playing his guitar, fresh out of San Quentin in 1967 just in time for the fabled Summer of Love. A young UC Berkeley co-ed was so impressed with Charlie’s guitar-playing grooviness that she would carve an X in her forehead 2 years later in his honor (no commemorative plaque for that one).

 
 

 
 

Then there’s the Pauley Ballroom on the second floor of the Student Union Building. In 1969 Timothy Leary hosted one of his LSD freak-out parties there (needless to say a groovy time was had by all).

I first started hanging out regularly in Sproul Plaza around 1987. My comic strip was appearing every day in the campus newspaper. So I’d walk behind people who were reading the paper and look over their shoulder to see if they were reading my comic. Sick, aren’t I?

And I spent 10 years in the 1990s hanging on Sproul with Hate Man and his legendary Hate Camp, this motley collection of street crazies. Sproul Plaza was like a stage where we enacted countless mad dramas. Some of which I can still sorta’ remember. . .

 
 

 
 

Yesterday I was sitting on this bench that we used to refer to as Bench One (because its the first bench when you first enter the campus). And I remembered sitting on that very bench back in the summer of 1974 when I visited Berkeley for the first time as a 17-year-old boy. I used to buy an Orange Julius at this cafe across the street (an Orange Julius was this hippie concoction made up of orange juice and raw egg — today the place is a Subway sandwhich fast food chain, which seems symbolic of something or other). I’d sit there on the bench, sipping my drink, and watching the mad hippie circus that was Berkeley circa 1974. So its a weird feeling for me to be sitting on that bench nowadays. Because I’ll think of all the people who have come and gone over the years. And yet I’m still here. It all seems like a dream. Its like I’m trapped in a twilight zone. I swear, life is like a Rip Van Winkle deal. Its like I went to bed as a 17-year-old boy and woke up as an old man 40 years later. And all the people I once knew are gone. And the town of Berkeley that I had once lived in is gone, gone, gone. It all went by in a blink of an eye. But sometimes, if I squint my eyes just right I can still see the ghost of the 17-year-old boy that I had once been.

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

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