John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray) details his relationship with Monrovia prom princess turned Manson Family murderer Leslie Van Houten in a five-part series that’s been running this week on Huffington Post.
Helter Skelter She’s coming down fast Yes she is Yes she is
She’s coming down fast
Yes she is
Yes she is
coming down fast
Aug. 10, 1969, 3301 Waverly Drive, Los Feliz, Calif. It’s well after midnight. There’s no moon in the sky.
It’s a few short miles from the Monrovia neighborhood she grew up in, but Leslie Van Houten is a long way from home.
Charles Manson, whom Van Houten believes is both Jesus and Satan, has just tied up Rosemary and Leno LaBianca.
Manson believes The Beatles are talking to him. He believes their song depicts an apocalyptic race war between blacks and whites.
He figures that by killing some straights, the war will begin in earnest and when the smoke clears, he’ll reign as some sort of messiah. At least that’s what he tells his followers.
Addled by LSD and an assortment of reds, bennies, dexies, mescaline, hash, opium, PCP, mushrooms and pot, Van Houten buys into the crap Charlie’s been feeding her for months. She wants to please him.
“The more I took it (LSD), the more I couldn’t relate to regular kinds of people,” Van Houten recalled later.
Now, Van Houten stands inside the master bedroom. There’s a pillowcase over Rosemary LaBianca’s head. Leslie ties it taut with an electrical cord. She can’t stand to hear the woman scream.
Van Houten holds Rosemary down, while accomplice Patricia Krenwinkle stabs the woman.
Leslie calls out for help. Leno’s killer, Charles “Tex” Watson enters the bedroom and stabs Rosemary several more times with a bayonet. He hands the weapon to Van Houten and tells her, “Do something.”
Van Houten delivers 16 more stab wounds. Then she steals the now dead woman’s clothes, wipes the crime scene free of fingerprints and leaves the room.
She passes through the living room. There, Rosemary’s husband Leno is already dead. Leno’s head is covered with a pillowcase.
He’s been stabbed with a two-tined carving fork. The word “WAR” has been sliced into his chest. The fork protrudes from his stomach. There’s a knife in his throat.
“DEATH TO PIGS” dripped in blood on one of the walls.
Leslie heads to the kitchen. In Leno’s blood, someone misspells “HEALTER SKELTER” on the refrigerator door.
Van Houten grabs some food from the `fridge and hitches a ride back to the Spahn Ranch in Van Nuys where she meets up with Charlie.
It’s coming down fast.
By December Van Houten and the rest of Manson’s family had been captured.
The county jail was a far cry from Van Houten’s Monrovia roots.
Her mother, Jane, a Monrovia school teacher, once told a court that “Les” was a “feisty” girl. She sang in the church choir, was a Camp Fire Girl, took piano lessons, liked camping, and was happy with school.
At Monrovia High School, Van Houten was sophomore class princess at homecoming. She was a cheerleader.
Early in 1968, Leslie “dropped out of the straight world,” her mother recalled.
After several trials (one of which resulted in the death penalty), retrials, appeals, a brief bit of freedom in 1978, and failed visits to the parole board. Leslie Van Houten remains incarcerated in the state women’s prison in Corona.
The place where Van Houten will likely die is just 32 miles from where she grew up – and a world apart.
Friday morning August 8, 1969.
The sun is fully visible at 6:10 a.m.
At 7:50 a.m. Steven Earl Parent, 18, leaves his parents’ El Monte home on Bryant Road for work at Valley City Plumbing in Rosemead.
A recent graduate of Arroyo High School, Parent works two jobs. He plans on attending Citrus College in the fall semester.
Parent’s co-workers say he is “clean-cut” and “intelligent.” “A good worker.”
He splits work at 5:15 p.m. and heads to the second job, at Jonas Miller Stereo on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills.
At 7:48 p.m. sunset envelopes Southern California.
Sometime after 11 p.m., Parent gets off work. He’s driving his dad’s 1966 AMC Rambler.
Parent heads up Beverly to Sunset, then jogs north again on Benedict Canyon Road.
A waning crescent moon barely lights the night sky. Oleanders and scrub oak line the unlit road. He turns again on Cielo Drive.
At 11:45 p.m., Parent demonstrates an AM/FM Sony Digimatic clock radio. He hopes to sell it to Bill Garretson, his 19-year-old friend.
The two met several weeks earlier, when Parent picked up Garretson hitchhiking and drove him home.
Garretson lives in the back house at the estate on Cielo Drive. He takes care of the owner’s dogs.
Garretson declines to buy the radio. Parent drinks a can of beer. He calls a friend.
It’s now Saturday morning August 9 – 12:15 a.m. Parent leaves.
In the dark, he walks back to his dad’s white Rambler. He starts his car and heads toward the gate.
He rolls down the window to use a push button gate opener.
A figure approaches.
“Halt,” a man calls out. The man’s got a buck knife in one hand and a .22 in the other.
Parent pleads with the man, “Please don’t hurt me. I won’t tell anyone.”
The man slashes at Parent with the knife, slicing the teen’s wrist. Then, he opens fire with the revolver. Shots strike the El Monte teen in the head and chest. By 12:30 a.m. Parent is dead.
He would become the first victim in a two-night killing frenzy led by Charles Manson and carried out by members of his LSD-crazed “family.”
Within minutes, Parent’s murderer, Charles “Tex” Watson, and three women would enter the main house at Cielo Drive and kill actress Sharon Tate, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, film producer Wojciech Frykowski and hair dresser Jay Sebring.
In hopes of inciting a race war that Manson called “Helter Skelter,” the killers struck the next night at the Los Feliz home of and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.
Parent’s body was discovered about 24 hours after he left his parent’s El Monte home for work. His mom and dad were disturbed that LAPD officials didn’t notify them of their son’s death for several hours.
His dad wondered what Steven was up to.
“I just can’t understand what he was doing up there in the first place,” Wilfred Parent said. “Hell, Steve wasn’t a poshy kind of kid. I didn’t even know he knew any of those people.”