Episode 3: How to Win Friends and Influence People | Young Charlie podcast (Transcript)

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Young Charlie Episode 3: How to Win Friends and Influence People | Hollywood & Crime/Wondery Podcast (Transcript)

Length: 40 mins

Young Charlie by Hollywood and crime contains depictions of violence and is not suitable for everyone. Please be advised.

Tracy Pattin: On September 21, 1969, about 260 miles north of Los Angeles, National Park Service Ranger Dick Powell observed a red Toyota four-wheel drive vehicle heading down a road in Death Valley. Inside, were a young man and several girls. The car piqued his curiosity. Two days earlier, Park rangers had investigated a case of arson on a back road near the Barker Ranch, an earthmover belonging to the federal government had been stripped of its parts and set of blades, tire tracks leading from the burned out hulk had been determined to belong to a Toyota four-wheeler. The rangers soon learned that a band of hippies was living in the desert and that one of their vehicles was a red Toyota.

Ranger Powell decided to question the occupants. He signaled for them to pull over, but by the time he reached the car, the male had jumped out and scurried into the brush. The girls gave him little useful information, responding to direct questions with oblique, trippy answers. Before letting them go, he took down the license plate. When he returned to the Inyo County Office of the Park Service, he learned that the plate didn't belong to the Toyota. The Park rangers contacted the California Highway Patrol. They immediately decided that a joint team would investigate what was going on at the Barker property.

From Wondery, I'm Tracy Pattin, with Stephen Lang. Today, Hollywood & Crime presents Young Charlie. If you're joining us for the first time, we recommend you go back and listen to the previous episodes. We'll be waiting for you. Today's episode: How to Win Friends and Influence People. Here's my co-host, Stephen Lang.

Steve Lang: The staff at Terminal Island Penitentiary in San Pedro doesn't think Charlie has much of a chance, though his IQ tests at a  "bright normal," 121 and his verbal skills are considered good, he's small and baby-faced. Combined with no apparent capacity to control his impulses, these attributes don't make for an easy time among hardened criminals twice his size. Not that Charlie hasn't developed a sense of self-awareness along the way. He requests and is granted smaller work details since he tends to  "cut up" when he's around larger gangs, and at least he's got his wife Rosalie. She stayed on in LA to be near him, moving in with his mother, Kathleen. She dutifully comes to see her husband once a week throughout her pregnancy. Visits, especially from a woman, confer status among the inmates. Charlie Puffs his chest out just a bit, adds spring to his strut whenever Kathleen comes by. Most times, though, he tries to keep a low profile.

By 1956, he's spent enough time in institutions to know there are things to be learned beyond the simple courses they offered. He moves among the prisoners like a wraith, observing, constantly observing the intimate and tangled power relationships around him. Who owes who what and who's risen or fallen in the pecking order. It's a constant dance of push and pull, hard meeting soft, the powerful and the vulnerable, those who do and those who are done to. The straights on the outside see prison as a jungle and there's truth in that, but what Charlie figures is that it's all a jungle, whether inside the walls or out, an animal game of desire and frustration. He watches the other men as they play cards or hustle at basketball, hunch protectively over their food at mess, or engage in idle conversation that isn't idle at all but thick with subtexts.

Yes, there's much of value to be learned here, something he can use on the outside, that jungle beyond the jungle.  "We're all prisoners," Charlie figures,  "of each other's expectations, of small ways of thinking, but a lion who knows he's a lion has the advantage on a sheep who hasn't yet figured out he's a sheep. Allusions are there to be exploited."

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