REVIEW / How Manson finished off a dying decade

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The Independent Culture
PHIL KAUFMAN, a survivor of the Sixties and sometime acquaintance of Charles Manson, is doubtful about Manson's credentials as a real hippie. 'I definitely don't think he had that real love that people were trying to put out,' he said in The Man Who Killed the Sixties (C4). Good call, big guy] But tell us, what was the little detail that gave him away? The swastika carved into his forehead or the fact that he encouraged his followers to go out on killing sprees?

Sandra Good, on the other hand, doesn't buy Kaufman's analysis. A former member of the Manson family and still apparently devoted to him, she appeared on a plain American porch to recall that it was the sense of 'brotherhood, loyalty, honour' that set him apart. In newsreel footage at the time of the trial, you saw her defending the murder of Sharon Tate, butchered when eight months pregnant, and warning the assembled newsmen that they would be next. Twenty-five years on, she still quivers with a contained rage that occasionally spits to the surface, particularly when she calls to mind 'scum' like Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, those who didn't have the courage to follow through on their principles by plunging forks into the chests of their enemies.

This issue was important to Peter Bate's film, which attempted to place the Tate-La Bianca murders in a larger historical context. Did Manson hijack the

psychedelic bus of Sixties radicalism and drive it over a cliff, or just ride it to its final, inevitable destination? Bate's title suggested that the jury had already returned a verdict, but the film itself was less clear cut. The murders certainly crystallised Middle America's anxiety about the hippies, and they matched the baleful mood of the times, when peaceful protest was beginning to get impatient and explosive. But it seemed likely that things would have turned sour even if Manson had been content to sit in the desert having sex with his disciples. The Weathermen, America's home-grown terrorists, may have adopted Manson as symbol of violent revolution, but they were already active before his dreadful celebrity.

For what it's worth, Manson himself thinks the hippie connection is crazy, and crazy is something he knows about. In one of his wild-eyed contributions to The Man Who Killed the Sixties, he pointed out that he was considerably older than most of his acolytes, a child of the Second World War, rather than the era of peace and love. 'My heroes were cliffs of Dover, man,' he mumbled at one point, raising the awful possibility that it wasn't the Beatles' 'Helter Skelter' that set him off on his murderous career, but the songs of Vera Lynn.

Andrew Davies appeared to be settling some old scores in A Few Short Journeys of the Heart (BBC 2), a piece of dramatic origami that included satirical swipes at literary agents, film directors, preening actors and that old whore Reputation. This doesn't necessarily militate against art, particularly if the scores are being settled with the writer's psyche, but the play, entertaining and ingenious as it was, never seemed to resolve on any

particular purpose.

A piece of legerdemain at the end, linking the various layered and interlocking stories by means of an image of outstretched hands, nearly persuaded you that it all fitted together in a meaningful way, but it struck me finally as a touch like a man who solves the Rubik Cube puzzle by painting all the faces the same colour. F Scott Fitzgerald's line about personality, 'an unbroken series of successful gestures', was cited here as a clue to what it was all about and, with its suggestion of audacious pretence, serves pretty well for the play itself.

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