Why so many people are talking about Manson-era Hollywood

Margot Robbie on a Westwood street filming Columbia Pictures' “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood”
Margot Robbie in Westwood filming “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.”
(Andrew Cooper / Columbia Pictures)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, July 25, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

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You would be forgiven for thinking you’d fallen into some kind of time warp, as yesterday’s Mueller-obsessed internet gives way to nonstop Charles Manson mentions and ultra-specific references to Los Angeles in 1969.

But there has been no tear in the fabric of time and space. It’s just the much-hyped release date for Quentin Tarantino’s new movie.

(Well, technically speaking, Friday is the actual release date, but “opening weekend” has long since stretched to include Thursday showings for big movies.)

There are good movies, and there are bad movies. And then there is a third category — one that transcends that simple, two-dimensional continuum and instead enters a new dimension — where the movie itself becomes almost beside the point.

These are the movies that constitute a full-on pop culture event. There are no real parameters for what elevates a film release into a culture-dominating event, but to paraphrase a certain very famous Supreme Court decision, you know it when you see it. Or, perhaps more accurately, you know it when you see it everywhere. These are the movies that spawn playlists and fashion trends, provoke renewed interest in niche topics or entire historical periods (coinciding with the 50th anniversary of an already obsessed-over notorious event certainly helps), and have girls already planning their white go-go booted Halloween costumes shortly after the first trailer drops.


Here’s a look at some of that universe of film-specific, and more broadly Manson-related coverage, from our paper and beyond:

Before he spurred a notorious murder spree, Charles Manson was a failed songwriter who came west to chase his musical dreams. As The Times’ Randall Roberts writes, after “Manson’s arrest and conviction, his sinister charisma became synonymous with evil, and a generation of taboo-busting punk bands — and then rappers — drew meaning from his words, music and myth.” Here is a semi-chronological annotated playlist of Manson-related music.

For the Books section, journalist and author Patrick J. Kiger created a guide to the still-growing library of true-crime books that try to make sense of Manson, his followers and their string of killings in summer 1969. Here’s that reading list.

Plus, how The Times originally reviewed “Helter Skelter,” the famous Manson true crime book, in 1974.

Film business reporter Ryan Faughnder looked at the $90-million gamble Sony Pictures made to land Quentin Tarantino’s first post-Harvey Weinstein film. He writes: “The acclaimed and controversial auteur’s upcoming odyssey through 1969 Los Angeles is a show business rarity: a pricey studio release in the middle of summer that’s not a sequel, remake or superhero film. The box office has been dominated by franchise movies including Walt Disney Co.'s “Toy Story 4,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King,” which opened with a stellar $191.8 million at the domestic box office last weekend.”

Alta Magazine has an interesting look at the strange cottage industry that has sprung up around all things Charles Manson over the past five decades.

If you really just care about vintage Los Angeles, Curbed LA delves into how the film re-created old Hollywood theaters and storefronts with astonishing detail. Over at Los Angeles Magazine, a movie poster expert dissected the faux-1960s movie posters featured in Tarantino’s film.

And what of the actual movie? Is it any good? (Does it even matter?) Well, here’s Kenneth Turan’s recent review and Justin Chang’s review from Cannes. And the Rotten Tomatoes link, for good measure.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


A federal judge has blocked the Trump administration from enforcing a new rule that bars asylum for the vast majority of migrants trying to enter the U.S. at the southern border. The judge issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the 10-day-old rule on Wednesday. Los Angeles Times

As part of a $5-billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, Facebook was ordered to create new layers of oversight for its collection and handling of users’ data. New York Times


Want Swedish meatballs outside of Ikea? Save this Scandinavian deli on Pico. (Fun fact: Christian Kneedler, who bought the deli in 2013, has a full-time day job managing iconic West Hollywood restaurant Dan Tana’s.) Los Angeles Times

Fifteen of the most glorious remaining examples of Googie architecture in Los Angeles, mapped. Curbed LA

Norms on La Cienega Boulevard is a famous example of Googie architecture.
(Los Angeles Times)

Critics have sued to stop a Hollywood project that would bring a new development to the site now occupied by Amoeba Music. Los Angeles Times

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President Trump’s new fast-track deportations rule has sparked confusion and fear among migrant communities. San Diego Union-Tribune


Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill to clean up California’s drinking water. The law will take up to $130 million of state money each year that was supposed to clean up the air and instead use it to clean up drinking water. Los Angeles Times

See also: An investigation into the crisis in California’s taps, published the same day Newsom signed the bill. Troubled water districts, which operate in mostly poor areas on thin budgets, receive little oversight and face a host of problems. New York Times

Two California tea party activists have been accused of a “misleading” donations scheme. Los Angeles Times


The killing of a 10th grader revealed the sizable presence of MS-13 at an L.A. high school. Los Angeles Times

Who keeps vandalizing Merced school buses? The yard where the district parks its buses has been struck by vandals three times this summer, and officials say the damages are costly. Merced Sun-Star

An 18-month legal struggle over how homeless people are treated in north and central Orange County has ended with a legal settlement that will set rules for help and enforcement in the area. Orange County Register


Google has paid $1 billion for several Sunnyvale properties, including Yahoo’s headquarters complex, in a mega-deal completed this week. Mercury News

The union representing 15,000 health, research and technical workers at the University of California staged protests statewide Wednesday after another round of contract negotiations failed to produce an agreement. Sacramento Bee

San Francisco’s Outside Lands music festival is seeking permits to allow marijuana sales and consumption at the annual Golden Gate Park event. San Francisco Chronicle

Heading to Chase Center? The Golden State Warriors will pay your Muni fare. San Francisco Chronicle

Huntington Beach is prepping for the U.S. Open of Surfing, which kicks off this weekend. Orange County Register


Los Angeles: partly sunny, 88. San Diego: sunny, 79. San Francisco: partly sunny, 68. San Jose: partly sunny, 86. Sacramento: partly sunny, 99. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Peter Hartmann:

“We moved (when I was 6) in 1946 from Tucson to North Hollywood. I walked to Oxnard Street School from our home on Denny Avenue. To get to school, I walked across farms that were in production; [I] recall petting a cow. We took the Pacific Electric streetcars from North Hollywood Station to downtown Los Angeles when my mom wanted to go shopping. My dad had our Packard serviced at the North Hollywood Packard agency on Magnolia Boulevard.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.