Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Leslie Van Houten: A Friendship" by John Waters

Last weekend, I watched an indie film loosely based on the sensational courtroom escapades of the Manson Family, entitled: Leslie, My Name is Evil. Although it received mostly horrible reviews in mainstream media, I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable parody of the pop culture sensibilities of it's depicted era; a wildly confusing time when free love seemed to collide head-on with ferocity and fear-mongering. 

For some time, I have been unsure about how to approach the Manson Girls for the purposes of this blog. If nothing else, this movie (far more arthouse than accurate) has provided me with a convenient segue into one of the darkest corners of American culture.

This morning, I came upon a somewhat surprising critique of Leslie. Legendary film-maker John Waters - also known as the Pope of Trash - decried the film's release. Speaking on behalf of both himself and his friend, ex-Manson Family member and convicted murderer Leslie Van Houten, Waters said: 

"Both myself and Leslie were horrified this movie was made, and I will never be able to watch it no matter what the intent."

Waters went on to explain that he, too, is guilty of having contributed to Manson Mania:

"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."

Victims, indeed. While I understand the plight of reformed offenders (really, I do) as I watch them grow old behind bars, such is the unfortunate price of foraying into the realm of ultra-violence. Would any of the ex-Manson Family members ever have come to an understanding of the word "redemption" had they not been forced to contemplate their own brutality from inside an institutional cage?

Back in 2009, Waters contributed a series to the Huffington Post about the unlikely friend he found in Van Houten. Waters has been a fierce advocate for Leslie's parole; her 19th request was denied by the parole board in July 2010. She will be eligible to apply again in 2013.

Whether or not you agree with Waters' position on Van Houten's parole entitlement, the following is a thoughtful, intelligent piece of writing from an undisputed master of the craft:

More Information...



  1. Kitty.. I have read both articles (Susan & Linda) and found them both interesting from the "where are they now" standpoint. Each claim to have remorse and I believe they do but remorse does not reverse the crime. What they did was inhuman and their antics during trial didn't help.

    Yes, they were under the influnce of Manson but they did it. They should find peace in that they have made the most of their situation but should never expect to be free.

    1. I agree, Anon. I suspect that Leslie holds out even less hope now that Atkins is gone -- she wasn't even granted leniency while she was half-dead from a brain tumour!

      Personally, I don't buy into the "influence of Manson" song and dance. I understand that he ruled the roost at the ranch, and that shit rolls downhill, but each and every one of those kids made the initial decision to stand there and wait for the sewage to wash over them. They rolled the dice, and now they're paying the price.

      From what we've seen of the imprisoned Manson Girls over the years, life in prison still looks infinitely better than what they did to their victims. Roll the dice, pay the price! Sorry ladies!

  2. I think Leslie should be released... Reformed criminals can have a profound effect on non-reformed criminals, & help prevent criminals from coming into being. I'm not saying that all reformed criminals should be counselors. What I am saying is that they know both sides of things, as it pertains to committing crime. They can basically let anybody that crosses their path know that they are gambling with misery that can last a lifetime. The misery involved with murder is universal. Everyone involved suffers. Leslie is a model of reformation, in my opinion. She seems to understand both sides of things & I think she deserves freedom. Keeping a reformed criminal in prison is an injustice to reform itself.......

  3. They were sentenced to death, not rehabilitation. They got their 2nd chance when the sentences were commuted to Life.

    While I don't believe them to be no longer a danger to society, I feel they should die behind prison walls.

    1. ITA, Angel. I think it's interesting that we didn't hear many calls for Susan Atkins' release; even as she lay on her death bed, I think the general consensus was: LET HER BURN. I can't help but wonder if people are more sympathetic (perhaps unconsciously) to Leslie's situation because she was the All American Beauty Queen of the Manson Girls.

      Besides, her life in the slammer doesn't appear to be THAT bad -- not many people get to participate in mass murder AND pose for photos with famous film makers. I love John Waters, and really enjoyed reading this thoughtful and enlightening piece, but that doesn't change the fact that Leslie et al must (continue to) accept the consequences for their most heinous actions.

    2. Leslie was not sentenced to death. Hers was a mistrial. She was retried in 1978 and sentenced to life.

    3. Leslie was sentenced SEVEN YEARS TO LIFE WITH THE CHANCE OF PAROLE, idiot. Kitty, based on you ignorant posts, I would suggest you do some fact checking to know of Leslie's involvement. Your "let her burn" submission also shows your not only an idiot heartless close-minded judgmental psychopath. You may check a book out, or research the facts...Sorry watching helter-skelter isn't the way to know the facts

  4. Ms. van Houten is stigmatized for life, and rightly so. To maintain a deterrent effect--to the extent one exists for homicidal maniacs in the moment of crime--society cannot permit second chances for the like of Ms. van Houton. I would also add that there appears to be a gender-based double standard at work here. Male perpetrators of Manson crimes get no traction whatsoever in their parole hearings despite their apparent rehabilitation. Why should the women?

  5. I can't wait till she dies in prison, she deserves it!

    1. U deserve to get cancer

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