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He has confessed to perpetrating all the killings in the case, with the girls mostly just stabbing the victims after they were already dead, for what difference that makes. And Bugliosi, 79, after a lengthy career both as an attorney and a bestselling author, is now mostly resting at his California home, battling cancer and giving the occasional interview."There are thousands of evil, polished con men out there, and we've had more brutal murders than the Manson murders, so why are we still talking about Charles Manson? "He had a quality about him that one thousandth of one percent of people have. ' Vibes,' the kids called it in the Sixties. He rarely participates, however, and it's been around 20 years since he last granted a wide-ranging press interview.
I first talked to Star in September 2012, and spoke to Manson on the phone two months later, after which he became increasingly squirrelly about seeing me, some days half-agreeing, some days saying no, some days berating me for being a media stooge. "I only meet people like you when I'm going to rob you. I don't talk to flunkies." When I went to visit Star this past September, Charlie once again made it clear he wouldn't see me. Williams wrote, "We, as a collective culture, looked into Manson's eyes and saw in those dark caves what we most feared within ourselves, the paranoia of what might happen if you go too far.
It was a loopy, harebrained scenario and one that Bugliosi's fellow law-enforcement types wished he would ditch in favor of something more down-to-earth, like robbery or a drug deal gone sour.
The first thing you notice about Manson is the X (later changed to a swastika) he carved into his forehead during his trial, to protest his treatment at the hands of the law, an act that was soon copied by his co-defendants – and, all these years later, by the girl sitting across from him, Star, who recently cut an X into her forehead, too. Despite his age, there's none of that gross old-man stuff about him, no ear hair, no nose hair, no gunk collecting in the corners of his mouth, and his prison-approved blue shirt has not a wrinkle or a food stain on it. The third is how softly he speaks, so different from how he was in TV interviews during the Eighties and Nineties, when, for instance, he angled in on Diane Sawyer in her black turtleneck and pretty earrings, roaring, "I'm a gangster, woman. He bends down, looks inside, moves things and heaves up a great sigh of disappointment."Well," he says.
"The popcorn's all gone.""I think we ate it all last time," Star says.
He's spent the past 44 years in prison and nearly 60 years incarcerated altogether, meaning he has spent less than two decades of his life as a free man. For her part, Star has been living in Corcoran for the past seven years, since she was 19.
It wasn't Charlie's murderous reputation that drew her here but his pro-Earth environmental stance, known as ATWA, standing for air, trees, water and animals.