(Above, trailer for upcoming movie, "Leslie, My Name Is Evil")
Here's Part 1 of a 5-part excerpt from John Waters' forthcoming book, Role Models (2010) running in the The Huffington Post. Waters writes about his friendship with Leslie Van Houten, the Manson Family member who is serving a life sentence for murdering Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in 1969.
I have a really good friend who was convicted of killing two innocent people when she was nineteen years old on a horrible night of 1969 cult madness. Her name is Leslie Van Houten and I think you would like her as much as I do. She was one of those notorious "Manson girls" who shaved their heads, carved X's in their foreheads and laughed, joked, and sang their way through the courthouse straight to death row without the slightest trace of remorse forty years ago. Leslie is hardly a "Manson girl" today. Sixty years old, she looks back from prison on her involvement in the La Bianca murders (the night after the Tate massacre) in utter horror, shame, and guilt and takes full responsibility for her part in the crimes. I think it's time to parole her.
I am guilty, too. Guilty of using the Manson murders in a jokey, smart-ass way in my earlier films without the slightest feeling for the victims' families or the lives of the brainwashed Manson killer kids who were also victims in this sad and terrible case. I became obsessed by the Sharon Tate murders from the day I read about them on the front page of the New York Times in 1969 as I worked behind the counter of the Provincetown Book Shop. Later, when the cops finally caught the hippy killers and I actually saw their photos ("Arrest Weirdo in Tate Murders", screamed the New York Daily News headlines) I almost went into cardiac arrest. God! The Manson Family looked just like my friends at the time!
I'm looking forward to reading the other four parts of this excerpt, though I seriously doubt it'll change my opinion that Van Houten should spend the rest of her life in prison.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects