Manson murderer Bobby Beausoleil, it’s probably fair to say, is an entirely star-crossed asshole.
Take, for example, the anecdote Kenneth Anger has been wheeling around town for a good few decades regarding how the two of them came to part company, in which a nineteen-year-old Beausoleil, who was Anger’s intended protagonist in Lucifer Rising and also living rent free in the filmmaker’s Haight-Ashbury home, purportedly spent money given him for film equipment on dope, leading Anger to send him packing.
In revenge, Beausoleil supposedly stole Anger’s van, as well as the footage for the unfinished film. As followers of his biography will know, Anger habitually relays, usually with a certain laconic relish, how the van, which Beausoleil piloted from San Francisco to LA, broke down right outside Spahn Ranch, resulting in Beausoleil’s fateful encounter with Charles Manson.
Anger’s conspicuous delight at this turn of events could be explained by the infamous locket he reportedly kept dangling from his neck for many years: Beausoleil’s image on the one side, a frog’s on the other, and the self-explanatory inscription—“Bobby Beausoleil turned into a frog by Kenneth Anger.”
This frequently recounted anecdote, however, is perhaps starting to wear thin—so thin it’s beginning to fray. It just doesn’t quite ring true, and not exactly due to the large circumstantial infernal/coincidental overlap element, either, but rather because the real connections of all the main players in this mythology almost always appear (upon closer inspection) much less happenstance than they would have us believe.
So, Beausoleil’s van probably didn’t just break down as recounted (Beausoleil tells a different story himself, anyway). Similarly, Dennis Wilson probably didn’t meet Manson due to his picking up those Family hitchhikers (an equally questionable tale of motorway madness).
Which is not to say that, when you peel off the top layer of seeming psychedelic randomness, the whole scene still doesn’t bristle with synchronicities. Au contraire….
Take, for example, Beausoleil’s role as rhythm guitarist in an early incarnation of Arthur Lee’s Love, The Grass Roots. Eventually replaced by Bryan MacLean, Beausoleil would go on to claim that his nickname at that time, “Cupid,” in part by inspired the band’s ultimate change of name.
Arguably, the hot-headed Beausoleil was probably not the kind of guy it was wise to usurp, and MaClean certainly experienced a very narrow escape.
According to Manson murderer Susan Atkins, it was actually Beausoleil’s arrest for the torture-murder of Gary Hinman that instigated the Manson Family’s ensuing murder spree—enacted, she would claim, in order to convince police that the killer(s) of Gary Hinman were in fact still at large.
Whether or not this was true motivation for the Tate/LaBianca killings, Beausoleil’s connection to them—as progenitor, inspiration, or both—is indisputable, which is why it’s really just super strange that (and feel free to here start whistling “The Red Telephone”) Beausoleil’s replacement in Love, Bryan MaClean, a close friend of Sharon Tate’s, was invited over to Cieolo Drive on the night of the killings, having a change of heart at the last minute.
Below, rarely heard recordings of Beausoleil’s San Francisco group, The Orkustra. Another player in the group was David LaFlamme, who later founded It’s a Beautiful Day who had the eternal FM radio hit, “White Bird.”
On May 17th and 18th, Cinefamily in Los Angeles will be presenting a 35mm screening of the rarely seen Oscar-nominated 1973 documentary Manson. DirectorRobert Hendrickson—who shot some disturbing footage of Family members at the Spahn Ranch—will be there in-person for a Q&A after the May 17th and 18th screenings.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Rosemary’s Baby, the White Album and the Manson Murders (Conspiracy Coincidence Syndrome Overload)