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Charles Manson: Lurking Behind the Scenes in ‘Inherent Vices’


California takes a lot of flack for its laid back beach culture overflowing with Sports and Hollywood celebrities, celebrity politicians (Schwartzenegger, Reagan, Bono, Eastwood) and celebrity wannabes. We all want to be a somebody, or so the other 49 states would have you believe.

People in the other 49 states shake their heads and utter things like, “Would be okay with me if California just slipped off its San Andreas fault into the big blue Pacific” and “California . . . home to a bunch of fruits and nuts,”–that being a double entendre for homosexuals and crazy folk.


Crazed cult leader, Charles Manson.

California is also known for some of the most notorious headliners and grusome crimes. As a child I was vaguely aware of Timothy Leary, the Berkely psychologist turned LSD proponent who ran for governor against Ronald Reagon, and of the Sharon Tate murder at the hands of cult followers of Charles Manson, who had  been a singer-songwriter hanging out on the coattails of the Beach Boys. Both Leary and Manson haunted my childhood.

(The truth is we still have plenty of nuts.  And the nuts here don’t fall too far from the Kardashian tree.)

I’m looking forward to coming face to face, via the silver screen, with an odd combination of  southern California nuts in the movie version of Thomas Pynchon’s novel, Inherent Vices.  Director Paul Thomas Anderson has taken a stab at recreating 1970 in Southern California’s Orange County, complete with the whacky characters originated by Pynchon. There’s no wondering why the setting is southern California–no one would believe the people and situations could happen anywhere else.

Here’s an excerpt from a review of the movie, Inherent Vices, coming out in December, and the movie trailer.

h/t: The Verge
The director  [Paul Thomas Anderson] has drawn a curly cosmic line from Tim Leary to Lauren Conrad. It’s a nostalgic retelling of California’s wealthy elites terraforming the sunny, relaxed shores of Orange County into the tacky wasteland they are today. It’s also a slapstick gumshoe noir.

Doc Sportello, a private dick played through a cloud of chronic by Joaquin Phoenix, is on the hunt first for the billionaire beau of his suntanned ex-girlfriend Shasta, and then Shasta herself. On the path between the detective and the truth stand a motley crew of Southern California characters, including a coked-out Dentist (Martin Short), a maritime lawyer (Benicio del Toro), a former tenor sax star (Owen Wilson) and a dope-loving district attorney (Reese Witherspoon), and a Black Panther (Michael K. Williams) in cahoots with the Aryan Brotherhood. We hear a lot about cults and collusion and the corporatization of culture.

The mystery isn’t so much a mystery as it’s a narrative thread tightly binding two conflicting world views: the stoner counterculture of the late 1960s, on life-support following the Manson Murders, and the conservative mainstream of the same era, embodied by square-jawed, short-haired Nixonites. So we have Sportello on one side and Bigfoot on the other.

If the recreation is authentic enough, I’ll be transported to the stomping grounds of my childhood, and momentarily experience the eerie presence of Charles Manson.



T.M. Burroughs


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About Author

Baron Von Kowenhoven

Baron was just a shy kid with a dream, growing up in the 40's with a knack for story-telling. After a brief career in film, Von Kowenhoven went to Europe in search of fringe-scientific discoveries and returned in the 90's to unleash them on the entertainment and political landscape of America.

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