Archives for posts with tag: Tate-LaBianca murders

The following material is excerpted from my recently published book, Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies.

front cover

Sirhan Sirhan, the man who has been characterized as both the first “Palestinian terrorist” as well as the quintessential “Manchurian Candidate”, was described after his alleged assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 as having been “motivated by Kennedy’s support for Israel.” Sirhan is supposed to have written in a notebook, “Kennedy must die by June 5th” (i.e., the anniversary of the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967)1. Sirhan retracted his initial admission of guilt in the crime, claiming to have been “hypno-programmed” by the assassination’s plotters. Indeed, more than one researcher has suggested that Los Angeles sex therapist and hypnosis expert William J. Bryan did the programming. “Bryan, a self-proclaimed eccentric character, once boasted to two of his favorite prostitutes that he, in fact, had hypnotized Sirhan and had worked on ‘top secret’ CIA projects,” writes Forgotten Terrorist author Mel Ayton. “Bryan’s most famous hypnotic subject was the notorious Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, whose name appeared in Sirhan’s notebooks.”2

Bryan served as a technical advisor on John Frankenheimer’s film The Manchurian Candidate (1962)3, which is about a brainwashed assassin. Frankenheimer had been a successful television director in 1960 when he declined an offer to work for the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign. (According to Frankenheimer, United Artists executive Arthur Krim had aspirations to become the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and was reluctant to green-light The Manchurian Candidate for fear it would upset Kennedy; Krim is supposed to have relented, however, after learning that JFK was a fan of Condon’s novel4.) Frankenheimer, who said he “felt guilty” after the Kennedy assassination for not having done the work for his campaign, proceeded to insinuate himself with the Robert F. Kennedy camp: “when his [i.e., JFK’s] brother declared his candidacy in ’68, I immediately called Pierre Salinger and said, ‘Pierre, I want to be part of this.’” “I never left him,” Frankenheimer recalled. “I was there with him for 102 days.”5

frankenheimer

John Frankenheimer

“Bobby became best friends with me,” the director claimed. “He was staying with me in Malibu, and I drove him to the Ambassador Hotel where he was shot.”6 Frankenheimer further related a strange circumstance of this “defining moment” of his life to interviewer Alex Simon. “You were supposed to be up on the dais with him at the Ambassador, weren’t you?” Simon asked. “Yes, then at the last moment, it was decided that having a film director up on stage with him wasn’t the image they wanted, so we had [Kennedy’s labor advisor,] a friend named Paul Schrade, who was about my size and complexion, take my place,” Frankenheimer recounted. “And he was one of the three people shot in the kitchen.”7 Schrade, who survived, has maintained ever since that day that Sirhan only served to create a distraction and that the shots that killed RFK were fired from behind the candidate’s back8.

Ed Sanders, in his biography of Sharon Tate, relates that Sirhan Sirhan, the alleged assassin of Robert F. Kennedy, was reported by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to have been “attending parties on behalf of the Satanist English cult [the Process Church], including one at Sharon Tate’s place.” Sanders points to a possible motivation for the Tate murder that had absolutely nothing to do with some Mansonian (or Bugliosian) notion of an apocalyptic “Helter Skelter” war:

INS criminal investigator Richard Smith’s report stated that an LA law enforcement agency had a female informant who averred that the English Satanist group had commissioned Manson to kill Sharon Tate. […] The reason for the contract […] was “something that she unfortunately overheard that she was not supposed to overhear either in regards to Sirhan Sirhan or about Sirhan Sirhan.”9

Sirhan Sirhan

Sirhan Sirhan

Tate’s acting coach at the time was an Israeli, Zev Lahav, who went by the name “Laurence Merrick” and had been sent to the U.S. to promote Zionist interests10. Lahav, with partner Robert Hendrickson, produced a documentary, Manson (1973), about the Family, which included interviews conducted both before and after the Tate-LaBianca murders. Members of the Manson Family had come to visit the set of Lahav’s previous film, Black Angels, in 1969 – an eerie circumstance considering the race war plotline’s resemblance to the “Helter Skelter” scenario later attributed to Manson by Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi, who participated in the making of Lahav’s Manson documentary. Another of Lahav’s films of 1969, interesting in view of his Tate-Manson connections, is Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?, which is concerned with occult ritualism and mind control (and even features a minor character named Sharon) and was filmed at the Magic Castle, which, as Scott Michaels points out in the documentary Six Degrees of Helter Skelter (2009), sits a few dozen yards from the Franklin Garden Apartments where Charles Manson shot Bernard Crowe over a bad drug deal – also very near the Franklin Avenue apartments from which Manson ran a prostitution ring called 3-Star Enterprises.

Frankenheimer, over the course of his career, would direct a number of movies with explicitly Jewish and anti-Nazi themes: The Train (1964), The Fixer (1968), Black Sunday (1977), The Holcroft Covenant (1985), and Dead Bang (1989). Black Sunday, in particular, depicts the Israelis as allies against Islamic terrorism. Indeed, the assassination of RFK, as Ayton puts it, “might be the first act of the tragedy that culminated in 9/11”11.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood.

Endnotes

  1. Troy, Gil. “Understanding RFK’s Assassination as Palestinian Terror”. The Jerusalem Post (June 5, 2013): http://www.jpost.com/printarticle.aspx?id=364591
  2. Ayton, Mel. The Forgotten Terrorist: Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Washington, DC: Potomac Books, pp. 6-7.
  3. Vaughn, Robert. A Fortunate Life. New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books, 2008, pp. 260-261.
  4. “Dialogue on Film: John Frankenheimer”, in Armstrong, Stephen B., Ed. John Frankenheimer: Interviews, Essays, and Profiles. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2013, p. 96.
  5. Simon, Alex. “John Frankenheimer: Renaissance Auteur”, in Armstrong, Stephen B., Ed. John Frankenheimer: Interviews, Essays, and Profiles. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2013, pp. 149-151.
  6. Hart, Hugh. “Frankenheimer Knew Period’s Main Players”, in Armstrong, Stephen B., Ed. John Frankenheimer: Interviews, Essays, and Profiles. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2013, p. 213.
  7. Simon, Alex. “John Frankenheimer: Renaissance Auteur”, in Armstrong, Stephen B., Ed. John Frankenheimer: Interviews, Essays, and Profiles. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2013, p. 151.
  8. Post, Paul. “Schrade Still Seeks Justice for RFK: Senator Was Assassinated 47 Years Ago, June 5, 1968”. Saratogian (June 5, 2015): http://www.saratogian.com/article/ST/20150605/NEWS/150609842
  9. Sanders, Ed. Sharon Tate: A Life. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, 2015, p. 266.
  10. K., Rainer Chlodwig von. “Israel, Manson, and Vampirism: The Freaky Life of Laurence Merrick”. Ideological Content Analysis (May 4, 2017): https://icareviews.wordpress.com/2017/05/04/israel-manson-and-vampirism-the-freaky-life-of-laurence-merrick/
  11. Ayton, Mel. The Forgotten Terrorist: Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Washington, DC: Potomac Books, p. 11.
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Laurence Merrick 2

Life imitating art?

One of the many unusual figures whose life trajectory intersects with the Manson Family saga is Laurence Merrick, an Israeli Defense Forces veteran who, as critic Bryan Thomas relates at Night Flight, was sent to the U.S. in 1960 “to speak in support of Zionism, and while he was fundraising in New York City, he met his future wife, a dark-haired aspiring Broadway showgirl and wannabe actress named Joan Huntington.” From there the pair “came out to the west coast, and set up the Merrick Studio, located at 870 N. Vine St. in Hollywood, California, and for a time it was an inexpensive place for actors” – including Vietnam veterans – “to learn lessons about their craft.”

The Merricks were subsidized by the government, too, which enabled them to make a lot of money running the school. They bought a nice house in Beverly Hills and then decided to put their studio profits towards making their own movies, which they could then cast with students from the school, a win-win situation for everybody.

Laurence Merrick

Merrick, Thomas writes, is “probably best known for co-directing the legendary 1972 documentary Manson with Robert Hendrickson, which […] ended up garnering an Academy Award nomination for Best Feature-Length Documentary.” The Israeli “was also well-known in Hollywood […] for the fact that one of his students, Sharon Tate, would later be killed by members of Manson’s Family, during August of 1969, the same year he spent fourteen days directing [the biker film] Black Angels.” Note the interesting choice of words, too, when Thomas relates that Huntington viewed her husband’s movies as “training exercises”.

A 1977 UPI article states that “Merrick became interested in the Manson Family because actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered with four friends by the group, had been a student at his school” – implying that Merrick only took an interest in Manson after the killings had taken place; but Merrick and Hendrickson had begun conducting interviews with Family members “before and after the shocking murders that rocked the nation in 1969,” Thomas indicates (italics added). As his account of the making of Black Angels tantalizes, the totality of Merrick’s involvements with this movie, Tate, and the Manson Family strains the limits of what can be dismissed as mere “synchronicity”:

In fact – in yet another example of the parallels that existed between Southern California’s biker and hippie countercultures – members of Manson’s Family would occasionally drop by Paramount Ranch, located at 2813 Cornell Road, in Agoura, California, and visit the set while Merrick and his cast and crew were filming scenes. […]

Merrick’s script focuses on two biker gangs at each other’s throats, a white motorcycle gang called Satan’s Serpents — led by Chainer (once again played by Merrick’s favorite leading man, Des Roberts) — and a black motorcycle gang, called the Choppers (their leader was played by Bobby Johnston, whose biggest role previous to this one was as a prison guard in In Cold Blood).

The film’s title, Black Angels is actually the name attributed to the highway patrolmen who observe the two rival biker gangs from a distance, waiting for the race-motivated war for turf to explode.

Merrick recruited a real black biker gang to play the Choppers in order to provide authenticity.

The main plot concerns one “Black Angel” in particular – a lieutenant for the highway patrol named Harper (Clancy Syrko, who also edited the film) – who wants to see all of the biker gangs wiped off the face of the earth, and he plots to pit the two gangs against each other so they will end up in a race war leading to both of them being destroyed. […]

Black Angels

It’s interesting to note that this film’s concept of pitting white against black in a race war, in the year 1969, is very similar in some respects to Manson’s concept which he called “Helter Skelter”, an apocalyptic war arising from racial tensions between blacks and white, which he believed was foretold in Chapter 9 of the book of Revelations in the bible (as well as hidden messages he believed he heard in the Beatles’ “Revolution #9”).

Makes you wonder what kinds of conversations they were having at Paramount Ranch between members of the cast and crew and some of Manson’s followers.

There were also many interesting cameo appearances, including a real member of Charles Manson’s gang, Mark Ross (he plays “Singer”), who later claimed to write a theme song for the film that was never used […]

The film’s tagline “God forgives, the Black Angels don’t!,” incidentally, was borrowed from the hugely successful 1967 Italian spaghetti western, God Forgives… I Don’t.

Another tagline – and perhaps another reference to Manson? – was “A portrait of the family.”

Speaking of Manson and his family, again, it was during the film’s production that Merrick was invited to head over to Spahn Ranch, with a 16mm camera, in order to film the Manson family on their own turf.

Merrick also shot footage of them at Devil’s Canyon, their Barker Ranch hideout in Death Valley, and then later – during the Manson trial – at the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles, in addition to other locations.

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi, who did as much as anyone to shape the public’s perception of the Manson Family mythos, participated in the production of Merrick and Hendrickson’s documentary and appears onscreen.

Guess What Happened to Count Dracula

Des Roberts as Count Adrian in Merrick’s Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?

Merrick’s previous movie, Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?, concerns the occult, mind control, and, at least subtextually, acknowledges Jewish power in Hollywood – and it only intensifies the Tate-LaBianca resonance of Merrick’s work, even featuring a minor character named Sharon. Thomas continues:

The movie featured several of Merrick’s students in key parts, and chiefly concerned what happened to Dracula’s son, Count Adrian (Des Roberts, who plays the vampire while sporting a wicked John Carradine-style goatee). Roberts and his musical partner, Andy Wilder, also provided the film’s musical score.

The film was shot at the Magic Castle in the Hollywood Hills, a mansion built in the 1920s which had been renovated for performances by magicians.

One of Merrick’s students owned the place, and had invited Merrick and his wife over for dinner, which left a lasting impression, and when the couple began thinking of locations where they could shoot their Dracula movie, they both remembered the Magic Castle, which was just about to undergo a renovation. […]

The movie also contains a subplot straight out of the then recent box office smash Rosemary’s Baby, when one character — an actor named Guy (just as John Cassavetes’s character was in Roman Polanski’s film), played by John Landon — is all too willing to sell his soul in return for being given a successful acting career.

It’s also interesting to note that Merrick’s film features a “surprise” ending that was clearly inspired by Polanski’s previous film, 1967’s The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, when Polanski’s future wife Sharon Tate sprouts fangs in the film.

According to Horrorpedia, “more obscure X-rated edits of the film [Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?], with an emphasis on male gay sex, were released as Does Dracula Really Suck? and Dracula and the Boys.”

Adding to the mystique of Merrick’s Manson documentary is the fact that it features Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme caressing a rifle and explaining, “You have to make love with it; you have to know it […] so that you could pick it up any second and shoot.” This interview took place several years before Fromme was convicted of (supposedly) having attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in Sacramento. Merry Prankster and founding Yippie Paul Krassner claims that Manson sent him a letter instructing him to get into touch with Fromme around 1971:

I called, and we arranged to meet at her apartment in Los Angeles. On an impulse, I brought several tabs of acid with me on the plane. […]

The four of us [Krassner, Fromme, and her roommates Sandra Good and Brenda McCann] ingested those little white tablets containing 300 micrograms of LSD, then took a walk to the office of Laurence Merrick, who had been associated with schlock biker exploitation movies as the prerequisite to directing a sensationalist documentary, Manson.

Squeaky’s basic vulnerability emerged as she kept pacing around and telling Merrick that she was afraid of him. He didn’t know we were tripping, but he must have sensed the vibes. He may even have gotten a touch of contact high. I engaged him in conversation about movies. We discussed the fascistic implications of The French Connection.

Was Fromme “afraid” of the Merrick from the effects of the LSD – or did she have other reasons? This brief encounter, whatever its meaning, in combination with Fromme’s participation in Merrick and Hendrickson’s Manson constitutes another Israeli connection to an eccentric piece of American political assassination drama following the various Jewish and Zionist intrigues surrounding the murder of John F. Kennedy.

Bizarrely, Merrick himself was murdered in an outrageous episode further dissolving any distinction between reality and theater. Bryan Thomas relates the bizarre incident:

Dennis MignanoThen, in 1977, Merrick’s life would intersect fatally with a potential acting student named Dennis Mignano, who – much like Manson himself – had really wanted to have a music career, but when that didn’t pan out, the struggling rock singer decided to take acting lessons.

That decision had led him straight to Merrick Studio – which by now was teaching classes in acting, directing and cinematography – where he applied to be a student.

He believed that Merrick – due to his association with Manson, bikers, and magic – was the perfect person to help him launch a successful acting career (Mignano had reportedly been obsessed with magic as a child).

Mignano filled out an application to be a student, and then was told he was eligible for government assistance to pay for his tuition, but he had to wait for three weeks for the application to be processed.

Mignano grew irritated and felt like the delay was yet another setback and a disappointment, but he waited, and while he did so he watched episodes of a 1976 TV mini-series called Helter Skelter, which just happened to be re-airing on TV.

The TV series may have played a small part in reminding him that his life was now intertwined with Merrick’s and he then became obsessed with the idea that Merrick had actually placed a curse on him.

On January 26th, 1977, he went to the school and waited in ambush for Merrick to appear in the parking lot for a few hours and then pulled out a pistol and shot 50-year old Laurence Merrick in the back.

Mignano then fled the scene, and much like the opening scene of Richard Rush’s 1980 action film The Stunt Man – which, and get this, starred actor Steve Railsback, who had played Charles Manson in the Helter Skelter mini-series – he, by pure chance, happened upon a movie being shot mere blocks away, on Willoughby Ave., and the killer blended in with the crew (just as Railsback’s character did), pretending to be part of the film production team.

Merrick, meanwhile, staggered into his office at the studio, telling his students “Some son of a bitch shot me and I don’t even know why!” Some of the students thought they were witnessing an impromptu acting exercise, but quickly realized that their teacher was dying in front of them.

Merrick was rushed to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, but he was pronounced dead within an hour. Students at the Merrick Studio Academy of Dramatic Arts said that Mignano had been hanging around the building all morning, asking them questions about Merrick and his Manson documentary.

Mignano confessed to the crime in 1981 and was confined to a mental institution. Six months after his murder of Merrick, Mignano’s sister Michele, a topless dancer, was also murdered – a case that remains unsolved. Questions about Merrick remain, as well. Why was his actors’ studio receiving government funding? Did his work on behalf of Israel end after he left New York for Los Angeles – or did it continue in some capacity as he interacted with the Manson Family and completed his films?

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

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