Tag Archives: Obituary

Down Under: A Musical-Metaphysical Memorial for John Murphy (1959-2015)

By Nikolas Schreck

John Murphy and Nikolas Schreck, Berlin, July 2014. Photo by Zeena Schreck.

When extraordinary beings exit this mortal realm, extraordinary signs and synchronicities often mark their passage. Seven days ago, just such a sign appeared only hours before the consciousness of my friend and musical collaborator John Murphy separated from its most recent physical envelope.

On October 10th, John’s wife Annie and a small circle of intimates, including Zeena and myself, held an all-night vigil at John’s bedside to support him in his departure. Unbeknownst to us then as we witnessed this nocturnal transition, John’s long-time comrade and frequent musical partner Andrew King, not yet fully aware of the extreme gravity of John’s condition and the imminence of his end, was performing at a music festival in Leipzig.

In honor of John – as you can see and hear in the video below filmed by Thorium Heavy Industries – King played a cover version of the cover version of the Kirlian Camera song “Schmerz”, a memorably eerie rendition of which John’s Shining Vril solo project had recorded in 2001. So while John’s spirit was in the process of dissolving itself from its pain-wracked body in Berlin, Andrew King in Leipzig played a recording of John’s own distinctive and immediately recognizable voice reciting these all too timely and appropriate lyrics:

Oh father, I appeal my spirit in your hand. And while he was saying this, his spirit left the body. He stayed with his head bent on his chest. Oh, how was his mother feeling in that moment when there’s so much pain? She was seeing her son fainting, screaming and crying and dying … Saint John, who he loved more than anyone else, what he was doing? … Contemplating her beloved son, weeping and crying in vain … she could not relieve the sorrow …

Here is Andrew King’s cover of “Schmerz” from October 10th, and below that is John’s original version, in which his voice can be more clearly heard:

In effect, this meant that John’s final public performance, even if only by proxy, found him intoning his own last rites at the very hour of his impending death. Considering the significant role the use of music as ritual played in John’s long career, there really couldn’t have been a more fitting finale.

Making a living by beating on things was in John Murphy’s blood. And yet even many of his most ardent admirers didn’t know that this world-wandering drummer was the scion of an equally peripatetic percussionist father. Russ Murphy, who introduced his son to the sticks at an early age, also made a name for himself bringing unfamiliar sounds from Australia to farflung locales far from his Melbourne home.

Russ Murphy, John Murphy's father, at the drum, center, with Graeme Bell and the Australian Jazz Band, 1945.
Russ Murphy, John Murphy’s father, at the drum, center, with Graeme Bell and the Australian Jazz Band, 1945.

The elder Murphy played drums in the 1940s and 1950s for the pioneering Antipodean Dixieland band led by Graeme Bell, a local legend recognized as the father of Australian jazz. Decades before his son John’s nomadic musical career brought him to play Eastern Europe in similar fashion, Russ Murphy kept the beat for Bell’s Australian Jazz Band during their historic Cold War tour of Czechoslovakia in 1947 as ambassadors of Western music behind the Iron Curtain. During their visit to Prague in ’47, Russ Murphy sat behind the drum kit on one of Bell‘s best known recordings, an album which includes this lively rendition of “The Saints Go Marching In”. Bridging two generations of drumming Murphys, it’s an appropriately thanatic selection for this memorial, since that syncopated hymn has a long tradition as the favored upbeat dirge in New Orleans jazz funerals. Not only is that John’s father you’ll hear here “when the drums begin to bang”, several rare photographs of him also illustrate the accompanying video.

As I mentioned in this September 2014 Heathen Harvest interview about a then-upcoming collaborative concert I performed with John in Dresden, one of the many bonds between us was our upbringing in households steeped in jazz: http://heathenharvest.org/2014/09/10/in-her-thrall-an-interview-with-nikolas-schreck/

To fully understand John’s musical legacy, this little-recognized familial jazz connection is more important than has been realized. For one thing, the music John recorded and performed with his own bands or as solo compositions – a very different beast than the music he played as a session man for others – shared certain key features with the jazz tradition: a grounding in free-form improvisation https://puttydownload.biz , a spontaneous expression of the present moment in sonic terms, and a tendency to transcend the merely representational in favor of exploring the aesthetics of pure sound untethered to any explicit pre-programmed meaning or “message.” As John put it in his last interview: “I’m just more free flowing, like in a free flowing jazz band, you know, where a third voice speaks through you.”

Portrait of John Murphy by Zeena Schreck.
Portrait of John Murphy by Zeena Schreck.

John’s astoundingly eclectic musical output was often, and much to his chagrin, categorized with the lazy genre labels of “industrial”, “dark ambient” “noise” “post-punk” and “experimental” among many others. This annoyed him for various reasons, one of the most significant being his keen awareness that unlike many (if not most) of the practitioners of those subcultural styles, John was a trained and seasoned musician who actually knew what he was doing but who chose to deliberately break the standard rules when it suited the material.

In shunning those convenient pre-fab tags which all too many music journalists and fans throw around, John himself, with more precision, almost always referred to his own music as “abstract.”

Abstract music, like abstract art, often confounds conventional expectations by not being “about something”. When we consider that one of the definitions of “abstract” is “existing only in the mind; separate from embodiment” and that the word derives from a Latin root meaning “pulled away from, detached” we have a key not only to John’s creative work but also to his singular being. Like any true artist, John, while keenly observant of the world around him, was in essence an outsider, “pulled away from” and “detached”, viewing humanity’s foibles with wry amusement from a distance. He was, as the Sufis aspire to be, “of the world, but not of it.”

Even in the varied subcultural musical style “communities” of self-proclaimed transgressives which he helped to pioneer, from the earliest days of punk, the so-called Industrial “occulture” of the early 80s, to the later Neo-Folk niche which they spawned, John remained present but somehow apart, a misfit among misfits. To his credit, and as a testament to his character, despite being on the front line of the endless series of feuds, bitch fights, internal purges, and back-biting internecine civil warfare which characterizes a “scene” which paradoxically boasts loudly of Honor, Loyalty and Comradeship, John never lowered himself to such Kindergarten spats. Instead, he quietly and professionally attended to his musical duties without engaging in the many Prima Donna dramas raging around him.

Informing this quality of amused detachment from worldly shenanigans was John’s spiritual perspective, often misunderstood by those who mistakenly assumed that he shared the Satanic, Odinic, or atheist materialist ideologies of some of the musicians he worked with. I have seen several well-intentioned farewells from fans and friends wishing John a speedy rune-adorned ascent to Walhalla, among other paganistic sentiments. Yes, as a student of all forms of spirituality and mythology, he was certainly conversant with the runes and the Northern tradition and sympathetic to their celebration. But John was always quite adamant in defining himself as a Gnostic.

Even before he had a name for it, he often explained to me, John felt a sense of profound alienation from this world, which he sensed was somehow cosmically “wrong”. A necessary starting point of any Gnostic process of initiation which has much in common with the initial “revulsion for Samsara” needed to cultivate the higher stages of Buddhist renunciation.

Even as a child, he sensed that there were other dimensions and realities interlapping and interconnecting with this one. A very early turning point in this understanding of his came during his youth when he read a comic book which concerned a girl who insisted to her parents that she was the separated twin of a creature from another world. Judged to be crazy by her parents, the girl is sent to a psychologist and priest for counseling. Meanwhile, in another dimension, an octopus like creature tells her parents that it is the separated twin of a human girl in another world, who her parents naturally consider a monstrosity. The creature, like her lost counterpart on Earth, is sent to her world’s equivalent of a psychologist and priest. Somehow, this tale of separation struck a deep chord in him and he attributed to it the genesis for his spiritual search.

He often mentioned a visionary dream which deepened his interest in Gnosticism and his awareness of multiple alternate realities in which he was a citizen of Alexandria, Egypt in a technologically advanced future. In this Alexandria of tomorrow, the original Gnostic mystery schools had prevailed over mainstream Christianity. John awakened from that dream feeling that that other reality was where he really belonged. In his study of Gnostic history, he later discovered that Alexandria had actually been a main center of the Gnostic teachings.

When he traveled to Egypt, John said he was overwhelmed by a strong sense of familiarity and homecoming in its ancient ruins. His fascination with all things ancient Egyptian was most pronounced in his devotion to the God Thoth, the Neter of wisdom. Even his initial attraction to his later wife Annie was sparked by the fact that at the time he first met her she sported a Cleopatra hairdo and Egyptoid makeup which made her the living hieroglyph of the pharaohnic girl of his dreams.

John’s Egyptophilia made his participation in the Sethian sonic rite held by Zeena at the Egyptian Museum of Leipzig during the Wave Gotik Treffen earlier this year much more than an aesthetic exercise. For Seth, according to the lore of Khem, is the father of the unnaturally born Thoth, and the Sethian Liberation Movement Zeena founded is ultimately a Gnostic religion. John had also intended on having an image of Abraxas, the Gnostic god synonymous with Seth, tattooed on his flesh as a sign of his Gnostic affinity when we were planning a concert honoring that particular form of the deity. 

John had several vivid past life experiences, and was always a firm believer in reincarnation, long before his looming discarnation made it an urgent matter of more than philosophical interest. Upon his first visit to Paris, he was certain that he had been there before as a starving Bohemian artist in the 19th century. John attributed his lack of talent for drawing, an art he admired, to a karmic payback for squandering his talent as an artist in that former existence. He also recalled impressions of at least one life as a crusader knight in the Holy Lands, an experience he was sure molded some of his ways of thinking.

One of the aspirations of the Medicine Buddha practice John diligently performed during the many-month ordeal of his terminal illness is that even if the practitioner has reached the point where no cure is possible, the mantra’s blessings will allow the afflicted to survive long enough to die under the proper spiritual conditions favorable to liberation. This aspiration came to pass this past summer, when John almost miraculously awakened from a coma that he was not expected to survive. He underwent several mystical experiences while unconscious and hovering very near to death, including what he described as “seeing God” and “deep insights into the true nature of humanity.”

Determined to make music to the end, John was even inspired by the hallucinations he saw in that extended altered state to plan a musical recording to capture the sounds and voices he heard. Although he was weakened and frail after his release from the hospital, John had the tenacity to attend the August 22 Berlin premiere of a concert film made of our “In Her Thrall” performance and even took to the stage after the film to speak about our work together. That memorable evening at NK turned out to be his last public appearance.

Final public appearance: John Murphy and Nikolas Schreck at the premiere of the concert film "In Her Thrall", 22 August 2015, at Berlin's NK.
Final public appearance: John Murphy and Nikolas Schreck at the premiere of the concert film “In Her Thrall”, 22 August 2015, at Berlin’s NK. Photo by Julian Percy.

On October 10 2015, John’s final interview, conducted only weeks earlier during his unlikely recovery from the coma, was posted online by Germany’s African Paper blog. Speaking rather wistfully of the many musical projects he still hoped to complete, John told his interviewer “Nikolas Schreck and I might, as well, do some more works together in the future.”

And as soon as I read that line I knew without a doubt that that future would never come. Only a few hours later, I received the dreaded call informing me that I should rush to the hospital immediately as John’s condition had worsened drastically.

After the enthusiastic reception our first collaborative concert garnered, John and I had planned many ambitious and challenging recordings and concerts to come. As recently as April of this year, John, though ailing, still had just enough strength to rehearse with me with some of those performances in mind.

I’m absolutely sure I’m not the only musician among John’s many colleagues who feels that the loss of the inimitable and one of a kind Murphy magic punches an irreparable hole in our life and work. One of the tragedies of his all too early exit from this illusory state we call life is that even after decades of sterling sonic accomplishment John was still filled with enthusiasm and curiosity about forging into new and unknown musical land. There are a billion things that only he would understand that I know I’ll want to tell him. Alas, the only thing left to tell him now is…. goodbye.

P.S: John had been clean and sober for decades. But there’s no doubt that the damage he sustained through drink and drugs in the reckless 80s played a great part in hastening his early demise. If you admired John and his work, the best tribute you could pay him is to stop subscribing to the stupid and self-destructive rock and roll lifestyle that insists that alcohol and other drugs are necessary components of playing or enjoying music.

Om Amidewa Hri!

Zeena Schreck’s brilliantly curated tribute to John’s work on Network Awesome says it all:


John’s illuminating final interview from African Paper: 


For all ten of you not on Facebook, here was the original farewell message I had posted there on my official page on October 12:
“John Murphy not only marched to a different drummer, he WAS the different drummer others marched to. John’s passage from this world yesterday morning is not only a profound personal loss to his beloved wife Annie and his friends and family. It’s also a bleak moment for the many lovers of adventurous music around the world who were moved by his versatile artistry during his long and distinguished career as a bolduncompromising pioneer of the sonic avant-garde. As he said in his final interview, John’s life-long spiritual search had brought him to “Gnostic Buddhism”. In the past harrowing months of his brave struggle with many maladies he found the strength and wisdom needed to face the inevitable end in the Medicine Buddha practice. Although his consciousness has now separated from his physical body, please join me in praying that John now makes a swift transit from this samsaric illusion to the Pure Land and ultimate liberation. I will miss him greatly, as a true friend and as an irreplaceable musical collaborator. Those of you who experienced John’s acerbic and sarcastic Antipodean black humor know that he is even now no more sentimental or reverent about the final practical joke death plays on us all than he was about all the other absurdities of life. He made his transition from our realm in the company of Annie and other supportive and loving friends, including myself, and as per his request, ZEENA – Official Zeena Schreck performed the Tantric Buddhist rites of consciousness transference for him as the clear light of dawn shone over Berlin. I will post a more detailed appreciation of the man and the musician on my blog, but for now: OM AMI DEWA HRIH! NS”

Bye Bye Bug: Nikolas Schreck Says a Fond Farewell to Vincent Bugliosi

Vincent Bugliosi demonstrates evidence at the Tate-LaBianca Murder Trial

As an antidote to the mainstream media’s inaccurate eulogies, here is the real Vincent Bugliosi, as revealed in a chapter excerpted from Nikolas Schreck’s 2011 book The Manson File: Myth and Reality of an Outlaw Shaman:

The Bug Cashes In: You Saw the Trial! Now Read the Book! And See the TV Movie!

                                        By Nikolas Schreck

Who we gonna blame it on? Let’s blame it on somebody we can get away with blaming it on. Let’s blame it on some convict that ain’t got no money, let’s blame it on somebody that got no education… When Bugliosi seen me, I was custom made for his ambitions.”   – Manson

When it comes to naming and shaming the creators of the false Manson myth that’s been marketed to the public for four decades, the name Vincent Bugliosi stands at the top of the list in a class of its own.

Perhaps the day will come when research into the Manson phenomenon can proceed in its own right without having to constantly differentiate the facts from the tales told by theDistrict Attorney. But as of this writing, Bugliosi’s influenceon the way Manson is perceived far outweighs any other fac-tor. This can be illustrated by the fact that I’ve already been forced to mention Bugliosi 170 times in the course of our inquiry thus far. This present study has attempted to clear away the thick impasto of obscurations that begrimes the Manson mirror. Most of the gunk that needed to be scrubbed away derives from Bugliosi’s courtroom theatrics and his heroic portrait of them in his most famous work.

I would wager that if a survey was held to ask the proverbial man on the street what they know about Charles Manson, the answers would all be based on the Bugliosi-created myth rather than anything remotely like the truth. And I suspect that this would be so even if our theoretical man on the street never read a word of Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter or saw either of the two Made-for-TV docu-dramas based on that questionable source. Since the media made the mistake of turning to Bugliosi so often as the undisputed Manson expert, the attorney’s skewed opinions of Manson have soaked into the mass mind’s conception bysheer osmosis. If we are to understand how and why the Manson myth and the Helter Skelter horror story it’s based on was created, we need to understand something of the enigmatic attorney whose calculating imagination created it.

Helter Skelter (1974), the best-selling true crime book in publishing history, is the veritable Bible of the orthodox Manson myth. We’ve already seen that the story it presents isvery far from being “The True Story of the Manson Murders” the book’s subtitle claims it to be. And yet it has become the standard source of information on Manson.

Whether Bugliosi’s antics in court – the heart of the cover-up – were performed at the behest of the Mob, the Hollywoodmovie industry, the FBI, or all three, cannot be proven with absolute certainty. That the concealment of the truth which Bugliosi’s “Helter Skelter” scenario accomplished during the trial primarily served the interest of those parties is incontestable. As previously mentioned, Manson’s informed opinion is that his prosecutor’s main taskmaster was the same branch of the Mafia which Leno LaBianca worked for: the Genovese Family.

But whatever orders from above drove Bugliosi to perform the courtroom cover-up he carried out with such efficiency, his continuing capitalization on the crimes after he won the case had only one beneficiary. Not truth. Certainly not justice.Only the insatiable political ambitions of Vincent T. Bugliosi himself.

As Susan Atkins, who was also manipulated and discarded as a pawn in Bugliosi’s career-making machinations wrote, in her unpublished and unfinished document The Myth of HelterSkelter: “It may be cynical but it has to be pointed out Mr.Bugliosi’s book about the crime was published just before heran for Attorney General of California.”

Far from being cynical, that’s just the plain truth of it. Every copy of Helter Skelter should have come with a VINCENT BUGLIOSI FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL bumper sticker.

Even before the media circus of the Tate/LaBianca trial actually began, it’s clear that Bugliosi already planned to commandeer the Manson case as his personal vehicle to political superstardom. Helter Skelter was the first phase of his cam- paign; anyone who could defeat an evil criminal mastermind like Manson could certainly be trusted to fight crime as Attorney General. As we will see, only Bugliosi’s own self-destructive arrogance and a few glimpses of his paranoid personal behavior which were revealed to the public prevented him from attaining his goal.

Even some of Bugliosi’s own legal associates were astounded and repelled at the shameless way Bugliosi grand-standed for the cameras during the trial. They saw only seven squalid murders which would never even have aroused public attention had not a semi-famous minor actress of Sharon Tate’s caliber been among the victims. But Bugliosi, from the beginning, hyped what he called “the crime of the century” as an event unprecedented in the history of murder. He portrayed the messy but by no means uncommon killings of some drug dealers into a phenomenon of great moral weight andeven metaphysical significance. By so doing, Bugliosi created a stage grand enough for him to play the part of Super-Prosecutor he cast himself in.

Integral to the stark drama of Good vs. Evil Bugliosi intended to enact was a foe fiendish enough to serve as a worthy adversary. One sufficiently loathsome to allow Bugliosi tocome off as the brave dragon-slaying knight he saw himself as.

The real instigator of the crimes, and the man who had done most of the killing, was unavailable since he was still locked upin a Texas jail. And besides, Watson, the bland and clean-cutcollege athlete would never do as the Satanic megavillain that Bugliosi needed as a foil.

This Manson kook, on the other hand, looked and acted the part. But Manson as an accessory to a series of drug rob- beries which he was dragged into once half of the Cielo Drive murders had already happened also didn’t fit Bugliosi’s bill. By inventing a narrative of supernatural evil which featured Manson as a cult leader who cast a spell on his followers to kill in the name of an esoteric race war, Bugliosi had created amonstrosity formidable enough to allow his own ascent to fame and fortune.

But in his blind ambition, Bugliosi didn’t only engineer his own rise to celebrity and political eligibility. By convincing the jury and the watching world of the lie that Manson – who ordered nobody to kill or be killed over the weekend of 8-9 August 1969 – had actually commanded the murders, Bugliosi almost single-handedly created the basis for a Charles Mansoncult that had never existed before.

But that was a very risky game.

Because as Bugliosi’s keenly aware, not only is he largely responsible for his adversary’s legendary celebrity, but Manson’s own stubborn refusal to talk about the actual natureof the crimes is what has kept Bugliosi’s reputation intact all these years. While Manson has lambasted the D.A. as a liar, a Mob stooge, a self-publicist and an opportunist, he has neverreally revealed in clear and unimpeachable terms preciselyhow wrong the case Bugliosi presented in court and in hisbook really was. And to date, of the other defendants, only Susan Atkins finally spoke out and clearly stated that theHelter Skelter” motive was a lie with no bearing on the crimesshe was convicted for. However, for whatever personal rea-sons, she didn’t take that extra step of revealing her first-handknowledge of what Tex was really up to on that long-ago week- end.

However, Bugliosi’s undeserved reputation as a great legal mind and hero to true-crime fans doesn’t only depend on the silence of criminals. It also relied to a great extent on the passive cooperation of those LAPD homicide detectives who watched Bugliosi pull off his great deception in court. Even though they knew how much evidence had been suppressed and how much false testimony had been uttered to do so. One of the mysteries of the case I have not been able to penetrate is why so many cops kept their mouths shut about what they knew – even after Bugliosi accused them of incompetence in Helter Skelter.

The planning that went into Bugliosi’s scheme to use the Manson trial as his stepping stone to political power was almost military in its efficiency. Bugliosi’s ghost-writer Curt Gentry, who did most of the work of weaving Helter Skelter’s narrative together, was installed in a small room behind thecourtroom throughout the trial. There, he was fed a steadysupply of facts, near-facts and utter fantasies that were ultimately melded into the Helter Skelter product. Bugliosi’s behavior at the trial must be seen with this in mind: he was consciously performing the part he wanted his hired writer to depict. In this sense, from Bugliosi’s self-aggrandizing perspective, you could say that the trial was conducted the way it was largely to assure that it would make for a dramatic and saleable book.

When one interviewer asked Manson what he thought of Helter Skelter, he wrote of how mercenary Bugliosi’s motives were, and how significant the book was as the foundation stone for the profitable Manson industry to come:

Helter Skelter was written well, names and dates were right – The D.A. won Helter Skelter reality for the People Vs. Manson and made $15.50 a copy 25 million times world wide and 295 17 million and movies = a lot of money – 50 books written and people don’t realize the LA Times sold papers all over the world = 100’s of millions of dollars made in the U.S and the world and the movies and TVs been playing Charlie’s Angels, Charlie’s this and that – It would take you 5 years to think through how much was made from one asshole and only money I got was 40 or 50 dollars – no lawyer no rights and 19 years in the hole … people been misleading each other for years and years – the biggest part of what you believe is unreal.”

When the trial was over, Bugliosi took possession of the rough draft manuscript Curt Gentry had been preparing behind the courtroom and gave it its final shape. At one point in Helter Skelter’s composition, Bugliosi’s friend Hugh Hefner let the lawyer hole up in a comfortable Bunny hutch at the Playboy Mansion West. As a guest of Hef’s hospitality, Bugliosi carried out his labors on the book. The patronage of the Playboy entertainment empire in connection with the making of Helter Skelter raises other questions about whose interests Bugliosi’s magnum opus of deception was intended to serve.

Shortly after entering English exile in the mid-Sixties, Roman Polanski befriended Hugh Hefner’s rich British lieutenant and fellow womanizer Victor Lownes. Lownes, in turn, introduced the Polish director to someone who would later play an important role in the events of August 8-10, 1969: Iain Quarrier. Quarrier’s first film role had been in a Lownes pro- duction. Lownes became a powerful patron in Polanski’s career. Through this connection, Hefner invited Polanski to publicize his forthcoming Fearless Vampire Killers with a nude photo spread of Tate published in Playboy’s March 1967 issue.

The next year, on January 20, Lownes arranged for Polanski and Tate to be married at a star-studded party at London’s Playboy Club. Tate and Polanski appeared with Hefner on an episode of Playboy After Dark, a television series Hefner hosted.

Lownes was with Polanski in 1969 when he heard the news of his wife’s murder from L.A., and the British Playboy chief was also among the party that escorted the grieving Polanski from London to Los Angeles. Later, Hugh Hefner and Lownes helped the director return to his career after the trauma by producing Macbeth, Polanski’s first post-murder film, released on Playboy’s short-lived film subsidiary.

So one can only wonder if Hefner’s involvement as a guardian angel in the writing of Helter Skelter was in any way connected to Playboy’s long history of supporting Polanski’s career. Tangential to a possible Playboy-Bugliosi-Polanski con-nection and how it may figure in the mechanics of the cover-up is the fact that Hefner, from the beginning of his career,was dogged by rumors of Mafia involvement which he has, of course, angrily denied. When Hefner opened his first Playboy Club in Mobbed-up Chicago, it was no secret that the syndicate got a cut from every nightclub in that city. It’s often been speculated that Hefner couldn’t have operated his profitable club without paying off the Chicago mob, or letting them in on the action. Such rumors obviously didn’t bother Vincent Bugliosi, even when he was on the brink of running for California’s Attorney General, and, one would imagine, would have wanted to be careful about presenting a law-abiding image to the electorate.

Friendship with Hugh Hefner wasn’t the only thing Polanski and Bugliosi had in common. Polanski was born on August 18, 1933 in Paris. Vincent Torquato Bugliosi, whose fate would interweave with Polanski’s, was born exactly one year later, on August 18, 1934.

His hometown was Hibbing, Minnesota, where Bob Dylan also grew up. Like Leno LaBianca, who Manson so often links him to, Bugliosi’s parents were Italian immigrants. Also like LaBianca, Bugliosi’s father owned a successful grocery market. Bugliosi attended Catholic school. Excelling at tennis, the competitive young man became Minnesota’s state high school champion. His athletic skill won him a tennis scholarship to the University of Miami. There, he met Gail, his future wife.

After moving to the greener pastures of California, Bugliosi graduated from UCLA Law School in 1964. Ever the over- achiever and pillar of society, he was elected the president of his graduating class. After passing the bar, he entered the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. Even before his star-making Perry Mason performance in the Manson show trial,

Bugliosi already had a knack for mixing show biz and jurispru-dence. He served as technical advisor for Dragnet star Jack Webb’s TV series, The D.A.. Bugliosi edited the scripts of two pilot films for the series, providing him valuable experience that later paid off in his exploitation of the Manson case into entertainment. Bugliosi’s resolute crime-busting persona owes more than a little to the morally upright character the cop-loving Jack Webb played on TV.

After the Manson trial made him a nationally recognized public figure, Bugliosi prepared the release of Helter Skelter as a publicity-grabbing first step in his campaign for Attorney General. Many of the hippies who watched Bugliosi carry out character assassination on the counterculture during the Manson trial assumed the aggressively square D.A. must be a rabid Nixonite Republican. In fact, the fervent JFK apologistwas always a loyal Liberal advocate of the Democratic Party.

In keeping with the thin line between entertainment and Californian politics that Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger maneuvered so well, Bugliosi relied on his Hollywood friends as part of his crusade as Democratic aspirant to the Attorney General’s Office. The actor Robert Vaughn, best known as secret agent Napoleon Solo in the popular 60s spy series The Man from U.N.C.L.E, was recruited to stump for candidate Bugliosi.

Despite the reputation as legal eagle supreme that the Manson trial earned for Bugliosi, his better-financed Republican opponent outspent him and eventually defeated him. But there was another significant factor in Bugliosi’s loss of the Attorney General post he fought so hard for. Candidate Bugliosi’s electoral performance was also badly damaged by an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on May 8, 1974, which quoted fellow attorney George V. Denny, at one time Bruce Davis’s attorney, describing Bugliosi as a “liar, a perjurer and fabricator of false evidence who [is] totally unfitfor office.” At a May 7 press conference, Denny also accused Bugliosi of “lying to police investigators, and making hush money cover-up payments.”

Denny’s allegations, although not directly connected to the prosecution of Manson, are suggestive enough of the state of Bugliosi’s moral probity and character that any serious student of the Manson phenomenon must at least consider them.

The Denny charges were originally brought to light during Bugliosi’s first grab for political power in November of 1972, only a few months after Manson’s conviction. Bugliosi, then Deputy D.A., ran to unseat the incumbent Los Angeles

District Attorney, the Chief County Prosecutor. On November 3, 1972, a press conference was held, in Denny’s words, “to bring to the public’s attention Bugliosi’s misuse of the powers and resources of the District Attorney’s Office when he was just a Deputy D.A.. The implications of yet greater misuse andabuse if he were to become THE D.A. were apparent.”

A Los Angeles couple, Rose and Herbert Weisel, issued legal declarations under penalty of perjury accusing Bugliosi of harassing them with anonymous phone calls and mail.

According to the charges made in the Weisel documents, Bugliosi, who they believed was in need of “professional help from a psychiatrist” was convinced that Herbert Weisel, a milkman by trade, had had an affair with Bugliosi’s wife and may have been the real father of his child. According to Rose Weisel’s statement, Bugliosi’s wife came by the Weisel home to apologize for the harassment. Mrs. Weisel testified that Mrs. Bugliosi said, “I know he’s sick. He’s got a mental problem.”

In pursuing this notion, the Weisels claimed, Bugliosi had misused his position as Deputy D.A. to obtain private information about the Weisels, including their personal telephone number and work address. Bugliosi became a nuisance to them, they asserted, after he’d been given this information.

Herbert Weisel stated:

It wasn’t until sometime during the Manson trial that I happened to see Mr. Bugliosi on T.V. I called in my wife to show her the guy who had been harassing us, and it was only then that we discovered that he was a Deputy District Attorney.

In June this year, after the primary elections, my wife and I discussed the fact that Mr. Bugliosi had become one of the two run-off candidates for D.A. Based on what had happened to us when he was only a Deputy and not the actual D.A. we were scared of what would happen if he got into office.”

According to George Denny, “Bugliosi had been apprised of the upcoming Weisel news conference before it occurred.

Therefore, the night before the news conference, he concocted a spurious story about a supposed $300 theft that had occurred in his home, his suspicions about Weisel as the thief, and his contact with both Weisel and his attorney regarding those suspicions.”

In his document The Vince Bugliosi Story, Denny claims that the Weisels began pursuing legal action against Bugliosi.

This was settled out of court when Bugliosi paid the couple $12,500. By then, the multi-millionaire author was not goingto be unduly troubled by the loss of such a sum.

Denny also described another case which became public knowledge due to a Herald Examiner article headlined BUGLIOSI ACCUSED OF ASSAULT. A young woman named Virginia Cardwell had allegedly been beaten and choked by the crusading D.A. during a particularly strenuous interrogation concerning an abortion Bugliosi supposedly insisted she should get. Cardwell claimed that she had been impregnated by Bugliosi during a brief affair. She said that Bugliosi had beaten her when she failed to abort the child withmoney he had provided for that purpose.

After Cardwell went public with this incident, Bugliosi was alleged by Denny to have forced her to recant the charges. Bugliosi’s deafening silence in the face of this apparent grossdefamation is remarkable; Denny remains un-sued to this day.

The Cardwell case was, Denny said, ultimately settled out of court. This was revealed in a May 9, 1974 article in the Evening Outlook which stated that Bugliosi “paid $5000 to a former girlfriend to keep her from suing for civil damages over an assault that occurred in Santa Monica, a Beverly Hills attorney has charged.

All of this negative publicity contributed to Bugliosi’s loss of the election on June 4, 1974. These fleeting glimpses of the man behind the mask of public rectitude did nothing to make the public wonder if the prosecution of Manson had been handled with similarly shady methods. But Denny revealed some details of a relatively unknown case more directly related tothe Manson trial:

The Grand Jury had indicted Bugliosi on three counts of perjury. The charges were based largely on the testimony of Bugliosi’s co-prosecutor in the Tate-LaBianca cases, Stephen R. Kay, and the limited but crucial testimony of reporter William Farr. The gravamen of the charged offenses was that Bugliosi had twice lied to [Manson trial] Judge Charles Older and had also lied to the Grand Jury itself in denying under oath that he had provided Farr with the transcript of a witness’s testimony in violation of a court order.

At Bugliosi’s perjury trial in September-October, 1974, instead of testifying as he had before the Grand Jury, Farr asserted the newsman’s privilege not to reveal his sources of information. Unable to make use of the prior testimony under the Evidence Code and, therefore, unable to establish a prima facie case, the special prosecutor moved to dismiss the case … No conviction. No acquittal. No vindication.”

I believe that a simple comparison of the original police reports in the Cielo/Waverly killings with the trial transcripts suffices to prove that the D.A. suppressed unassailable evidence which pointed away from the Helter Skelter myth.

Unfortunately, that anti-climactic procedure concerning the Farr document remains the only time the question of prosecutorial perjury at the Manson trial has actually come to court.

One of the most frequent charges leveled against Bugliosi by his detractors which has never been legally investigated wassummed up by Sandra Good:

Bugliosi used the power of the district attorney’s office, the money, the resources of investigators, he was able to coerce witnesses by making deals with them. There were people who testified for the prosecution who had pending charges against them. Bugliosi said, ‘You say what we want you to say or – and we’ll drop your charges.’ People were paid. People were intimidated. Women’s babies were taken away from them. They took my child. They tried to use my child as lever- age to get me to testify against Charlie. They took Susan Atkins’ child away from her. They took Mary Brunner’s child away from her. They used every trick in the book to get people to say what would fit with Bugliosi’s scenario.”

Another kind of trial also sheds light on Bugliosi’s willing-ness to perpetuate the Helter Skelter myth and market it as a profitable entertainment.

In 1986, a British TV network hired Bugliosi to participate in a fictional docu-drama trial of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Attorney Gerry Spence defended the fictional Oswald in this mock trail, and Bugliosi played the prosecutor. In the end, Bugliosi convinced the jury that Oswald had acted alone. The Oswald as “lone nut” theory was concocted in part to prevent the American public from learning of Mafia involve- ment with the Kennedy administration. It also was intended to divert attention from links between Jack Ruby – the man who killed the self-described “patsy” Oswald – and the Mob.

After researching the Kennedy case for this fake trial, Bugliosi became an aggressive opponent against the theory that JFK died as the result of a conspiracy. Bugliosi became devoted to the “Oswald acted alone” hypothesis. He spent over twenty years working on an exhaustive book intended to be the last word on the Kennedy assassination. Bugliosi’s latter-day literary battle in support of the Warren Commission’s no conspiracy conclusion has led many JFK assassination researchers to accuse Bugliosi of being a government disinformation agent.

In light of the Mob background to the Tate/LaBianca murders which Bugliosi’s first book Helter Skelter did so much to conceal from view, his equally adamant refusal to allow that the Mob had something to do with the Kennedy hit in Dallascan only cause us again to wonder whose interests this manhas really been arguing for since 1970. As we will see, Lawrence Schiller, another zealous defender of the Warren Commission, played a crucial part in the early stages of the Tate/LaBianca cover-up and its marketing in the form of yetanother deceitful book.

In the 1990s, those who have some idea of what Bugliosi really got up to at the Manson trial were astonished to see him, of all people, self-righteously preach from the pulpit paid for by the Manson trial about legal improprieties in other trials.

Bugliosi criticized Kenneth Starr’s prosecution of President Bill Clinton as unfair “demonization” – a legal method Bugliosihimself had perfected with his treatment of Manson in Helter Skelter. Bugliosi was also moved to write a book critiquing the errors the prosecution team in the O.J. Simpson trial had made. Bugliosi, who made his career by harping on the completely irrelevant “race war” aspect of his Helter Skelter motive, was especially outraged by the defense playing the famous “race card” in the O.J. Simpson case.

The full extent of the long-lasting damage Bugliosi inflicted with his promotion of Helter Skelter has not been sufficiently realized. By concealing the truth that the murders were simply the routine result of a typical rivalry between drug dealers, Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter cover story unleashed a nightmare in the national consciousness that lingers to this day. Through spreading the false idea that there were motiveless death cults lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce on random victims, Bugliosi set off a tidal wave of paranoid fear in American society that was completely groundless.

But the tangled web of deception Bugliosi wove led to consequences far more serious than inspiring false testimony, per-jury, suppression of evidence, and fear-mongering. It seems unlikely at this late date that the Teflon D.A. will ever be compelled to legally account for the mockery of justice he was responsible for in court during Manson’s trial decades ago.Even though the Helter Skelter lie at the center of Bugliosi’sManson myth has already proven to be lethal.

In Nuell Emmons’ book Manson in His Own Words, Manson is recorded as observing, “The media, film directors, and book authors took a molehill and made it into a mountain. The myth of Charles Manson has twisted more minds than I was ever accused of touching.”

How many deranged minds have been twisted to commit acts of violence and murder by the Helter Skelter cover storyBugliosi authored?

Manson has described meeting many ignorant young con-victs in prison who proudly told him that they had killed random rich victims just like he’d ordered his “Family” to do as part of his Helter Skelter plot. Manson had to disappoint thesemisguided souls. He informed them that they’d only acted outa fictional scenario that Bugliosi invented. Manson has stated that the mail he’s received over the years often includes letters from admirers who’ve volunteered to kill for him. More oftenthan not, these confused fans revealed that they got the erroneous idea that he wanted people to commit senseless slayings for him directly from Bugliosi’s book (or the TV movie based on it.)

That the destructive effect of the devious Helter Skelter myth Bugliosi crafted during the trial and popularized through his book went well beyond the courtroom is proven by at least one dramatic example: the Michael Draben case.

Draben was sentenced to a prison sentence of 75-100 years for the brutal murder of a Lincoln, Illinois family completely unknown to him. According to a Tribune Wire Service news account, Draben testified in court, “that he was following the philosophy of the Charles Manson ‘family’ as outlined in the

best-selling book ‘Helter Skelter.’ He said the Manson family killed all those rich people and I saw that if you killed them, that eases the problem.’…He said he chose … his victims simply because they seemed wealthy and lived in a remote spot. … Testimony at the trial showed that Draben continually played the record ‘Helter Skelter’ in his home.”

Here we have a clear case of an impressionable psychopathcommitting multiple murder by faithfully following the false Helter Skelter scenario Bugliosi created. Draben was, predictably, misidentified in the press as a “Manson-style slayer”.

Typical journalistic inaccuracy; even Bugliosi didn’t accuse Manson of slaying anyone.

If the truth were known, Draben is more aptly described as a “Bugliosi-style slayer.”Helter Skelter did more than earn millions. Its success also splattered the blood of innocent victims on its ambitious author’s hands.

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