Episode 4: Summer of Love | Young Charlie podcast (Transcript)
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Tracy Pattin: On November 6, 1969, Susan Atkins, AKA Sadie Mae Glutz, was in a mood to talk. There is nothing unusual in this. Crazy Sadie, as her cellmates at Sybil Brand Detention Center had nicknamed her, didn't seem to know how to keep silent. From the moment Ronnie Howard and Virginia Graham had met her, this odd young woman was going on about things any seasoned con knew better than to discuss. Virginia had even warned her about someone she knew who'd been convicted on the basis of information entrusted to a cellmate, but that didn't stop Crazy Sadie. She talked about her time as a topless go-go dancer in San Francisco, bragged about all the drugs she'd taken and sex she'd had, she gave details of the crime she'd been charged with, the murder of a music teacher in Topanga Canyon, but most of all she talked about Charlie, a near-mythic figure, from her telling, who might just be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ himself. Sadie might not have seen him walk on water, but she was convinced he was the most powerful man on Earth.
Scorned and beaten down like all prophets, he was impervious to all he'd been through in a hard life. It was Charlie who'd given her the name Sadie Mae Glutz, no great favor in Virginia's assessment. Sadie confided she was among the select few. Charlie's followers would survive the apocalypse by descending into the bottomless pit. There, they would dwell among the inhabitants of a magical civilization to resurface in hundreds of years to rule the world, but maybe the strangest thing about this strange girl was how she talked about killing people with the same lightness of spirit as when describing drug-fueled forays into the desert. When she told her two cellmates she was in for murder, it might as well have been for a traffic violation, nor had she held back on admitting her participation in the torture and stabbing death of the victim, Gary Hinman. She brushed off any concerns about letting Ronnie and Virginia in on the details of the crime. She could see in their eyes they could be trusted.
From Wondery, I'm Tracy Pattin with Stephen Lang. Today, Hollywood and 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: The Summer of Love. Here's my co-host, Stephen Lang.
Stephen Lang: Charlie closes his eyes and smells the air, takes a breath and lets it go. For the first time in his life, he sees the future stretch out before him straight and bright as a sort of fire. Standing there outside the prison walls, suitcase in one hand, guitar in the other, he is unbounded by the constraints of his past and the world's future, the sum of what he has been and all he will become, and yet, like Jesus in Gethsemane, he had his moment of doubt and pain. Only hours before his release, he asked prison officials to let him stay in the home he had known for 17 of his 32 years. He didn't feel ready to re-enter a world that had no use for him, but he can no more dictate the moment of his release than the length of his sentence, so on March 21, 1967, Charlie Manson finds himself on a bus headed to LA and a meeting with his parole officer.
Charlie relaxes into his seat, listens to the sounds of the road, the engine hum, the free wind rushing past the window. His last years at McNeil Island Penitentiary have prepared him for this moment he reassures himself. He has put his time to good use, practicing his guitar, writing the songs that would enlighten the world, even playing in variety shows put on by prisoners. So single-minded was he in the pursuit of his clarified future that he managed to steer clear of trouble. His evaluator at McNeil might have been doubtful about the longevity of his changes, writing that Charlie would need "a great deal of help in the transition from institution to the free world," but Charlie knew better. When, in May 1966, he was transferred to Terminal Island in Los Angeles Harbor pending his release, he returned to his former institutional home with new resolve. He had heard the call of a new generation setting the stage for him with a promise of freedom and power. The inmates didn't know what to make of him when he slashed at his guitar and belted out his improvised tunes and announced to anyone willing to listen that he would be bigger than the Beatles, but Charlie is free now. At the very moment, the world is transforming itself. No sooner is he off the bus in LA that he meets with his parole officer and requests a transfer up north. He's got a buddy in Oakland who's willing to help him get settled. The PO agrees to assign Charlie's case to the San Francisco office. Though he doesn't know it yet, Charlie is headed for the Summer of Love.