On August 9, 1969, the Manson Family would commit five brutal murders that included actress Sharon Tate and her unborn child. On the 50th anniversary of the massacre, I attended the opening reception of the Charles Manson exhibit at Lethal Amounts.
For four days, from August 8th to August 11th, the gallery showcased never-before-seen artifacts that either belonged to Manson or those connected to him, original art, newspaper clippings, letters and other pieces. Highlighting a controversial and vicious time in American history, the event gave insight into how these killings deeply altered an era.
Artifacts came from various collections, such as from director and producer John Aes-Nihil, who is known for the “Manson Family Movies,” and from Michael Channels.
Channels is not only an avid collector of Manson memorabilia, but was also his pen pal. He wrote the cult leader an estimate of 50 letters and met Charles in prison in 2002. For both the preview night and opening reception of the exhibit, Channels did a Q&A discussing his personal collection of Charles Manson relics. There were also ephemera from the holdings of Black Wolf, another Manson devotee, among others.
Even if there are those of us who aren’t intimately familiar with the details surrounding the Manson Family case, most people have at least heard of Charles Manson, the cult following he cultivated and the gruesome acts the group executed. The exhibit exposed how Charles Manson has become embedded, not only in American history, but in pop culture as well.
He has occupied a place in the music world for quite some time. Marilyn Manson’s stage name is partly inspired by the convict and the song “Beautiful People” is about him. Charles Manson even wrote letters to the musician. Guns and Roses, The Beach Boys and Murder Junkies are just a few bands that have covered Charles Manson’s songs. System of a Down’s album “Toxicity” features a track titled “ATWA” based on Manson’s ecological philosophy of Air, Trees, Water, Animals.
Interestingly, System of a Down guitarist Daron Malakian is an admirer of Manson and sparked controversy when he expressed that he was saddened by the prisoner’s death in 2017. Although he made clear he in no way supported the murders that Manson instigated, Malakian did admit he was inspired by the fugitive’s artistic abilities and found his views on society and the environment interesting.
The guitarist reveals a sentiment that may not be widely shared, but it cannot be ignored that Charles Manson had a creative side and some people’s fascination with him stems from this lesser-known fact. I wasn’t aware that Manson was a lyricist or crafted jewelry and art.
One piece that caught my attention was a Halloween mask Manson created for Michael Channels. It was made out of string, a paper plate and fruit punch mix that made it look like it had been splattered in blood. There were meditation beads he created of toilet paper and urine. It was noted that the relics still retained the pungent smell of the bodily fluid.
Charles Manson didn’t think much of his artwork and saw it as meaningless. For him, it was simply a conduit that allowed him to expel pent-up energy.
Then, there was the jarring reminder of what happened the summer of 1969. Display cases held photos of Sharon Tate. There were images from her films, modeling photoshoots and candid shots that showed her pregnant. There were also clippings from Herald Examiner and Los Angeles Times that announced the murders.
All the more startling were the official crime scene photographs from the LAPD’s coroner’s office. The victims’ stab wounds, sliced flesh and blood-soaked garments could be seen in the pictures.
It’s been nearly two years since the passing of Charles Manson and in death he continues to haunt society. He leaves behind an eerie legacy that lays bare a horrendous side of humanity and pushes us to confront what we’d rather forget.
Although an exhibit dedicated to this man may seem controversial and offensive, it gave the public an unforgettable opportunity to learn about Charles Manson more intimately, get a peek inside his psyche and pay homage to the memory of those who were slain. The recollection of the dreadful affair still lingers in the City of Angels, but if we cannot escape our past, we should learn from it.
Get more information about future events at Lethal Amounts at the official website.
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