Charles Manson: My Two Degrees of Separation, Plus Three Degrees, Twice

It is strange how close we are to people we have never met. It is no more than six degrees of separation in most cases.

There is a parlor game on this: the Kevin Bacon game. Name a movie. Then get to Kevin Bacon within six steps. Sometimes it is far fewer than six. site member posted this.

As a member of the BMW Club of Northern California, I met some unusual people. Dick (Richard) Van Dusen was among them. He invited me to visit his home to meet his family. He did so with this invitation, “We don’t have much, but we will share what we have.”We visited back and forth many times over the next couple of years. His middle daughter was quite skilled at sewing. I once bought her a hunk of fabric and in just over an hour, she was wearing the pants made from it. The younger daughter, Julie, really liked me and was about 9 at the time.

One Sunday I was visiting the family and a school bus drove into the yard. Out came a bunch of hippy types. Two guys and 8-10 young women. One guy, Charlie, was clearly the head of the group. It was obvious that they all worshipped him. He was so weird and the relationships so sick that I made an excuse and left after a couple of hours. He had visited the family several times over the years. I didn’t recall names, as I just pushed aside this bunch of crazies. The hippie era was full of way out groups, so this wasn’t so unusual.

A few months later, Dick reminded me of that group. He told me that they were in the news for having killed Sharon Tate. He was quite appalled and shaken. Charlie had given a diamond ring to Julie, which I suppose she still has today.

Time to buy old US gold coins

This is one degree of separation for him, two for me.

I also have three degrees, twice.

In high school, one of my closest friends was Neal Jardine. That was in the late 1950’s. His younger brother was Al. I met him only once, probably in 1958.

That’s one degree.

In 1961, Al got together with the Wilson brothers to form a band, the Pendletones. They cut a single. When it came out, they found that someone in the record company had changed the band’s name to the Beach Boys.

That’s two degrees.

Dennis Wilson rented a home in Malibu in the late-1960’s. A frequent guest was Charles Manson. Dennis persuaded brother Brian to cut a song of Manson’s, “Cease to Exist.” Brian changed it to “Never Learn Not to Love.”

That’s three degrees.

In high school, my favorite teacher was Wayne Roy. I dedicated An Introduction to Christian Economics to him in 1973.

That’s one degree.

A few years later, he taught Lynnette “Squeaky” Fromme.

That’s two degrees.

She was one of Manson’s girls. She was not involved in the murders. She was not charged.

That’s three degrees.

She tried to assassinate President Ford with a .45 automatic in 1975. She did not know that she had to cock it before firing. “It didn’t go off,” she complained. That got her life imprisonment for attempted murder under California law. She was paroled in 2009.

That gets me four degrees from President Ford and five degrees from President Nixon.

We’re closer than we think.

Reprinted with the author’s permission.