Mad Men S7 Episode 5: “The Runaways” and Who They Symbolize (Contains Spoilers)

“The Runaways” was a fun Mad Men episode, and by fun I mean we saw a creative genius being carted away to the loony bin in front of his co-workers, a knocked-up dropout in her third trimester calling from a payphone to ask for money from an “uncle” that tried to sleep with her three seasons ago, and a couple of trophy wives who increasingly feel like they have no value to anyone whatsoever.


What can you say about Ginsberg? When Mad Men goes gory they go all the way. Who can forget the tractor incident or Ken Cosgrove’s hunting accident?


Hats off to The Weiner on this one. I don’t know if a nipple-ectomy is a “thing” the way Van Gogh cutting off his ear is a thing, but it’s always been one of my most primal subconscious fears that frankly just seemed too weird to ever bring up in public. Until now, that is. Once again, groundbreaking television from the people at Mad Men.

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And how about Peggy? She really attracts all the winners, doesn’t she? On the other hand, when are any of the women ever well treated by the Mad Men? Other than Henry Francis with Betty or Lane Pryce with his Playboy Bunny, I really can’t think of any.


Now the bloom finally seems to be off that rose, too. Henry Francis has infinite patience and admiration for Betty, whom he dotes on like a child. But Henry’s a politician, and you don’t mess with a politician’s livelihood by sharing your unsolicited  and potentially vote-costing opinions at a party. Betty already feels like her kids hate her (and vice versa), and she feels inadequate compared to her friends who lead the exciting lives of working in a travel agency three days a week, but now she’s going to have to adjust to the indignities of being a politician’s wife as well.


When you’re beautiful like Betty Draper and have nothing much to say, people listen anyway. But when you’re a politician’s wife, you have to stick to your script. Sadly, Betty’s nightmare is just beginning. Beauty is the one asset she has, but it’s a finite resource that dwindles a little more each day. We wonder if Betty realizes that yet.


Sally showed up at the Francis house with a broken nose and a flimsy explanation about “sword fighting with hockey sticks,” which sounds like code for underage drinking.  Betty seems more furious at Sally for almost ruining the perfect nose Betty gave her than she was for Bobby trading away her sandwich two weeks ago, which is saying something.


Laying in bed at stately Francis Manor, Sally confides to her brother Bobby that she just can’t take it there at home, not even for a single night. It’s so bad that she actually wants to sneak BACK to school. Bobby is starting to learn to fear and loathe Betty, too. If the field trip incident of two weeks ago didn’t take care of that, overhearing the screaming fight with stepdad Henry Francis did. “I have a stomach ache all the time,” Bobby tells Sally. Yes, Betty is the kind of mom that gives boys eating disorders, too.


By the way, is it just me or is it a little unsettling that Kiernan Shipka’s (Sally) voice is about two octaves lower than her mother’s? Unsettling perhaps, but very appropriate as to who the adult in the relationship is–ditto the way Sally refers to her mother exclusively as “Betty” these days.



Stephanie phones Don.

Stephanie phones Don.


The Draper kids discussed running away, but they spoke of it whimsically, from the comfort of the bedroom in stately Francis Manor. And then there’s Don’s “niece”, Stephanie. Mad Men callbacks are always nice if only to show just how fast the times are changing. After all, way back in Season 4 it was Stephanie who first filled Don’s head with the ideas of the Sixties to come. She was a Berkeley student in Fall 1964 when we met her, the very semester that Mario Savio and friends instigated the UC Berkeley sit-in and famously blocked the police cars from removing campus protestors, kicking off the Free Speech Movement and everything that followed.


Stephanie seemed so full of optimism and promise at the time. What a difference four years makes, eh?  Stephanie calling Don up for cash from a payphone with the Capitol Records building in the background puts me in mind of Bob Dylan’s only actual 1960s hit, “Like A Rolling Stone,” which paints a grim picture lyrically, but with an uplifting, defiant tune that makes us all want to be the rebel chick out there on the streets calling her own shots.


Stephanie is scrounging for her next meal, but it looks like she’s pretty good at it. This time, she’s the Mad Man with the sales pitch and Don’s the mark.


We have to remember that when Don’s childhood brother showed up looking to reconnect, Don treated him with withering contempt by throwing a sack of money at him and telling him to never come back. So when Stephanie calls Don up, pregnant and asking for help, you figure Don’s reaction is going to be a combination of anger, disgust, and denial of paternity. Instead, his whole face lights up.


When was the last time you actually saw Don smile?


We don’t know why Don’s so excited. Is it because he still wants to hit that? Or is this the new Do-the-right-thing Don Draper, who cherishes family connections (his wife Megan excluded, of course)? When Don gets off the phone with Stephanie, he calls Megan and tells her to expect his “niece” to show up, and that he’ll be flying in to see her that night.

Don smiling about something.

Don smiling about something.

Stephanie arrives and tells Megan that she has been knocked up by a musician who got busted for grass and sent off to prison. My how things have changed since those clean-cut protest days of 1964. Of course, with the Manson murders and Altamont still some months off, and no rock stars dead yet from overdoses (Brian Jones would be the first on July 3, 1969), it’s still easier to be optimistic in the spring of 1969 than it will be in the fall of 1969.


By the way, I like how Stephanie constantly refers to her home base as Oakland. Is that because Oakland is the closest Greyhound bus station to Berkeley, or is she actually staying in Oakland? The distinction is meaningful. Then as now, San Francisco and Berkeley get all the glory for the Sixties counterculture, but Oakland did more than its share of the heavy lifting. Oakland is where the Black Panthers were founded and based, as were the Hell’s Angels. When antiwar protesters marched down Telegraph Ave. from the UC Berkeley campus towards the Oakland draft induction center, they were violently turned away by both the Oakland police and the local Hell’s Angels. So when Stephanie uses Oakland in 1969 as her home base, you have an idea that she can roll with a tough crowd.


Bay Area locals might know all this, but for a show like Mad Men to have the inside scoop on Oakland rather than using the more obvious Berkeley or San Francisco is just another example of how dialed in these people are to the places and times they write about.


When Stephanie concluded the conversation with Don by saying, “thank you, Dick,” it sent a shiver down our spines as it does every time the taboo subject, by now an open secret, is explicitly mentioned.


Beyond that, Stephanie’s return was brief. She served mainly to stoke Megan’s jealousy and to get Don out to California again. I have to say, I’m very surprised by the good terms Megan and Don are on at the start of the episode. I guess Megan’s soap opera chops are pretty good, because when she said “this is how it ends!” and “you need to leave now!” two episodes ago, I thought she meant it. But apparently he’s still coming out for weekends, and she’s still eager to see him whenever he can find the time.


It was interesting to watch how Megan and Stephanie first sniffed each other out. We knew it was going to be competitive, but Megan’s “you’re beautiful!” comment seemed to diffuse the situation. Not for long though. Once Stephanie tells Megan that she knows all Don’s secrets, it’s game over, even after Stephanie assures Megan she never fooled around with him.

“Of course not, he’s your uncle!” Megan says, logically. But even as she says this, Megan must realize how dysfunctional her marriage truly is when she doesn’t even know who her husband’s nieces and nephews are, let alone what any of his secrets are.


So Stephanie is a runaway, singular, but we still don’t know why the episode is called “The Runaways,” plural.

The Young Runaways.

The Young Runaways.

Richard Dreyfuss is one of the Young Rebels.

Richard Dreyfuss is one of the Young Runaways.

Perhaps “The Runaways” is a reference to the 1968 teen film “The Young Runaways,” a movie about youth who flee to the road desperate to escape parents and authority figures who don’t understand them. It turns into a wild ride of sex, drugs, forced prostitution, attempted rape, motorcycle rides with mysterious musicians who turn you on to drugs and leave you pregnant, jealous post-adolescent rages, and ultimately overdoses and violent death.


We see most of these things during this episode of Mad Men, while the last two things, overdose and death, seem to be hovering ominously in the near future.


We’ve seen plenty of reefer on the show, and even some acid, but if we’re going to stay real to the period, we should probably start seeing some heroin showing up in the timeline soon. For a while, I thought it would involve Sally, but the way things look now I’m thinking Megan.


I think we’ve just started to scratch the surface of the potential for Megan’s downward spiral. The Weiner threw us for a loop on that one. First he made us think Megan was breaking away from Don and starting an independent career track in L.A, ending it on the spot with Don when he admitted to lying about still having his job in New York.


Now it’s as if she never dressed him down and kicked him out at all. She’s back to being an insecure woman-child with nothing to live for except gaining the approval of an indifferent, absentee husband, who only showed up because he wanted to see some pregnant hippie girl , and who split the moment he realized the hippie chick was gone. Not even a surprise threesome could keep him from catching the early flight out.


About that threesome, maybe we had some foreshadowing when Stephanie first showed up at Megan’s door. It seems like they spent the first five minutes ogling each other and telling each other how beautiful they were.


When the actual threesome starts to go down, we’re not certain if this is something Megan and Amy do often, because they seem pretty confident in their movements, until the next morning at least. So if it’s not something Megan and Amy do all the time, where did the idea come from?


Well, probably from having Stephanie in the house. Whether Megan was reacting to how beautiful she thought Stephanie was, or whether she was scared of how much attention Don paid to her and was eager to erase this niece figure from Don’s mind, it seems pretty clear that Stephanie’s earlier presence in the house is what made Megan initiate the three way.


Now that Megan seems interested in keeping Don around, her decision to try to spice up the sex life makes sense. Megan likes to throw parties and Megan likes surprises. The last party we saw her throw was Don’s surprise birthday bash back in New York, where she hired a band and performed “Zou Bisou Bisou.”


Don was very uncomfortable at that party and with Megan’s routine, but also visibly intrigued. Later they had a big fight that almost ended it all, until Megan got down on her hands and knees and started cleaning the floor in her underwear, upon which Don was overcome with passion and took her on the spot.


When you think about it, that’s the basis of their marriage. And this is probably why I’ve never really bought into the character of Megan. It’s easy to see Don having a sleazy affair with her while she’s his secretary. Don does nothing but have sleazy affairs. But it’s hard to see why he’d marry this one especially if she’s not even pregnant. The relationship Don had with Betty was the best part of the show. We still don’t really know what Megan is still doing there, and neither does she.


But they’re both in L.A. now and it’s a Megan party and she wants to make lightning strike twice. Once again there is a band playing, and once again she is dancing. She keeps looking over at Don to see if he’s interested, but sees that he’s not. So later that night, instead of getting down on all fours and scrubbing, she brings in Amy from Delaware to join them in the bedroom.


By the way, if you want a reminder of just how charmed the alcoholic life of Don Draper is, consider how of all the parties in L.A., Harry Crane shows up at that party all the way from the East Coast, at the exact moment Don needs a New York Mad Man drinking buddy to rescue him from the hippies.


The relief on Don’s face was palpable. Standing around the hippies in his suit and tie he looked about as comfortable as Nixon debating Kennedy. Don’s demeanor, in fact, reminds me of Jack Kerouac’s 1968 appearance on “Firing Line” with William F. Buckley.


Kerouac had been the epitome of cool in 1960, and now he’s a drunken reactionary railing against the hippies and Allen Ginsberg. Kerouac would be dead from alcoholism within a year of that appearance. The same is largely true of Don Draper. He was the coolest in 1960, but in this 1969 he’s a fish out of water, and he’s certainly got alcohol issues.


(Here’s a link to the 1968 Firing Line episode on the subject of “Hippies,” featuring Jack Kerouac; Ed Sanders, poet and member of the Fugs; and sociologist Lewis Yablonsky who died just three months ago. It’s a fascinating look into how luminaries of the day were discussing the ascent of the hippie as it was happening, plus some buffoonery from Jack Kerouac. Worth watching for anyone interested in looking deeper into this subject.)

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Kerouac and Buckley

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So we’re back to the question: Who are The Runaways?


So far, the choices seem to be

A)   The subjects of the film “The Young Runaways”

B)   Sally and Bobby

C)   Stephanie

D)   All of the above, plus an entire generation.


I’m going to have to go with D.


“The Runaways” implies a sweep of American youth. On one end there’s Sally and Bobby laying innocently in their pajamas in the comfort of their manor and resenting their out of touch parents. At this point Sally’s big conflict with Betty is over horsing around in gym class at boarding school. Who knows what the future holds for Sally, but for now her worst digression is acting like a prep school tomboy.


Then there’s Don’s slightly older daughter figure, i.e. his “niece,” the one he tried to hit on a few seasons ago. She is but one face in the throngs of youth swelling the streets, sometimes pregnant but never married, all out there looking to find their magic ticket or at least score their next meal.


When I hear “The Runaways” I can only think of this entire generation. These are the Baby Boomers, the largest demographic in this nation’s history. They were the first teenagers marketed to as teenagers. And now, barely legal, but imbued with a sense of generational entitlement, they were beginning to leave the nest and join the ranks of young adulthood. Their overwhelming demographics began flooding the West Coast streets like Sunset and Haight, the universities, the music festivals and gatherings. Every day the coasts, campuses, and communes got fuller. The ranks swelled and the numbers got stronger. A critical mass seemed to be building.


These people, these gathering throngs who didn’t really know what they wanted, but knew what they didn’t want and had already left it behind. These were The Runaways.


To understand where they came from and how they got there, we need to get some perspective on just how fast everything changed in the Sixties.


Mad Men, the show we are talking about here, began airing in the summer of 2007. We’re now approaching the summer of 2014; the show’s been running for seven years.


Think of what you were doing seven years ago when you first started watching Mad Men. Was the world drastically different then, or was it pretty much the same as now except with better cell phones?


Well, now consider that it’s currently 1969 on Mad Men, and seven years before that was 1962. All the changes that took place in the 1960s took place between 1962 and 1969. In the summer of 1962 Kennedy was still very much alive; Marilyn Monroe was still the reigning queen of Hollywood;  the Beatles and Motown weren’t around yet; even the Beach Boys hadn’t caught on yet; Vietnam was years off in the future; the Cuban Missile Crisis had yet to happen; college activism meant stuffing frat boys into phone booths; there were no protests or feminism to speak of; there were no drugs or drug culture either; there was no Civil Rights Act to be passed yet; no one outside of Greenwich Village had even heard of Bob Dylan.


It really was Leave it to Beaver in 1962. The nostalgic films American Graffiti and Animal House were both set in 1962, precisely because it felt like such a bygone time. Now imagine Kennedy, Vietnam, Civil Rights, folk music, the Watts/Detroit/Newark Riots, the MLK assassination, the Bobby Kennedy assassination, psychedelic drugs, the Chicago Democratic Convention violence, Black Power and everything else that changed American society happening all in the timespan that you’ve been watching Mad Men.

1962 was Wally Cleaver. 1969 was Eldridge Cleaver.

That’s why they call it the Sixties Revolution.


This is the world these barely legal Baby Boomers were being churned out into, and to top it off, the men were draft eligible, America was at its peak involvement in Vietnam, and none of them could vote until they were 21. Most young Americans were able to fit in to mainstream society in 1969, but an ever-increasing number were choosing to Run Away.


Of course, on Mad Men the Sixties aren’t quite over yet. Still to come are the moon landing, the Manson murders, Woodstock, Altamont, and moving ahead to 1970, the escalation of the Vietnam War into Cambodia that would result in nationwide student riots and culminate in the killing of four students at Kent State. By the end of that summer, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin would be dead as well.


But for now on Mad Men, it’s late Spring 1969 and all of these things (except the moon landing) are still complete unknowns. The Sixties are still very much an expanding universe for the people on the front lines.




We’re going to talk about Megan’s party at the house up in the hills, and of Manson, but before we do we need to say a few words about something called the New Hollywood, which was ushered in with the breakaway success of two 1967 releases, “Bonnie & Clyde” and “The Graduate.”


These were films that had trouble getting made throughout most of the 1960s, and were so unorthodox when they were finally made that they were panned by leading critics and expected to be flops.


Indeed, both films started slow, but their popularity kept growing and growing over the course of 1967 and all throughout 1968. The appeal was generational. College aged kids identified with the characters in Bonnie & Clyde and the Graduate.


The theme of both films is rebellion. All of the main characters are Runaways of a sort.


Before that time Hollywood’s marquee films were Westerns and musicals. The big names were people like John Wayne, Rock Hudson, and Doris Day. Hollywood parties meant going to someone like Lucille Ball or Chuck Heston’s house and getting sloshed on hard punch. But 1967 marked an abrupt turning point.


In Hollywood, money always talks, and once they realized they had finally found a way to tap into this massive Baby Boomer demographic, they adjusted accordingly. Before 1967, a prototypical Hollywood star was Henry Fonda. After 1967, the prototypes were Peter and Jane Fonda.


By 1969, Hollywood had embraced this new radicalism and vice versa.


So when Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate throw their parties, there’s going to be a lot of open marijuana smoking, a lot of hippie fashion on display, and a lot of rock and roll musicians in attendance. And these are the same kind of parties that Megan Calvet is going to throw. The parties aren’t in Beverly Hills anymore, they’re in the Hollywood Hills, the canyons.


So far, both in Mad Men and society at large, we have almost all the elements of “The Young Runaways” in place. The sex, the drugs, the rock and roll, the thrills, what’s missing is the violence.


Though Mad Men hasn’t mentioned it yet, the big counterculture film of 1969 was “Easy Rider,” which in addition to Peter Fonda, had New Hollywood names like Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson. It told a story of aimless, altruistic drug-fueled wandering that all too often ends in senseless violence, played out against a country-rock soundtrack.


More than “The Young Runaways,” this is the film I think of when I watch this Mad Men episode, and particularly Megan’s party, with its acoustic band and its outlaw hippies in the hot desert air.



Dancin' with Manson?

Dancin’ with Manson?


The dark underbelly of the '60s.

The dark underbelly of the ’60s.

Manson looms everywhere in these last two seasons of Mad Men, and especially this episode.


In June, July, and even the first 8 days of August, no one partying in those Hollywood hills has any inkling of what is about to unfold. For now they’re all riding one big expanding bubble of youth culture. They may be down on their luck like Stephanie, or ensconced up in the hills like Megan Draper and Sharon Tate, but they’re all part of the same movement, and that movement was making huge inroads into society with every passing day.


In Hollywood, they had done it. They had actually taken over the establishment. Hollywood was theirs, and they kept the victory parties going all that summer. The music industry had already gone over to the New Left a couple of years before the movie industry did. During the 1960s, the music industry began to relocate from the East Coast, from London, and from Detroit to L.A. to such an extent that simply showing Stephanie calling Don from a pay phone in front of the Capitol Records building tells us exactly where she is in time and place.


By 1969, if you wanted to be affiliated with music or film, L.A. was the place to be. Hugh Hefner was moving the Playboy empire out there as well. So, young dreamers and schemers of all kinds were making their way to L.A. and hoping to get invited to, or crash, the right parties.


Megan likes to throw parties. Until now, I’d always taken her status as a gainfully employed actress at face value. After all, she walked away from a steady TV gig in New York, she had an agent and lots of leads waiting for her in L.A. But when Harry Crane shows up at her party with someone he calls “an actress” on his arm, and when you consider Amy from Delaware who seems as enthusiastic about sleeping around as reading a script, these actresses seem a lot more like call girls, while the musicians seem to be dudes walking around with guitar cases, selling the actresses their drugs and occasionally getting them pregnant.


The hippies were a brand new thing in 1969, and at first glance, it was hard to distinguish the people with the nice houses at the top of the hill–like Sharon Tate and Megan Draper, from the people trying to work their way up–like Amy from Delaware and Don’s niece Stephanie, from the girls at the bottom of the hill in Manson’s harem and even Manson himself.


The reason Charley was in L.A. was to break into the music business. He wrote songs, he had groupies, he really thought he could use the same magic he used on his girls to persuade the music industry to sign him and make him famous. And he was on the right track. He used his girls to bait various industry people, such as Dennis Wilson from the Beach Boys, into befriending him, listening to his tunes, and trying to get Charley a record contract. Charley even got Neil Young to give his record a positive review.


Manson managed to parlay the Beach Boy connection to a meeting with record producer Terry Melcher, who lived at 10050 Cielo Drive. Manson auditioned for Melcher, but Melcher declined to offer him a recording contract based on what he heard. Apparently, there was still talk of a documentary being made about the Manson Family, but after witnessing Charley pick a fight with a stuntman, Melcher pulled out of that project as well.


So, in 1969 you have Megan and her friends all hanging out and trying to break into the business, you have Don’s niece Stephanie living out loud “Like A Rolling Stone,” and you have the Manson Family trying to go pro, too.


How do you adjudge one dream against another? Especially when the whole hippie scene was so brand new and still only just beginning. Charley and the Family were already known entities on the scene. There were thousands of would-be stars and groupies in Hollywood, and more showing up everyday.


Before August 9, 1969, Charley’s particular group of Runaways wouldn’t have seemed very out of place from all the other unwashed hippies roaming the streets and sleeping in crash pads. The idealized image, at least for the girls, might have been the heroine Bob Dylan created in “Like a Rolling Stone,” but the reality was probably closer to the girls in “The Young Runaways,” relying on something termed “survival sex,” to pay their way. Survival sex is exactly what it sounds like.

Charles Manson spent most of his teens and twenties in prison, where he learned how to pimp. When he got out, he wormed his way into the bedroom of a slightly older woman who worked at UC Berkeley, and soon had almost thirty young women staying at the house. Once the high schools let out in 1967, Haight Street, across the bridge from Berkeley, started to fill up with teenagers. Charley fit in perfectly there, and began picking up vulnerable girls to do his bidding and, naturally, submit to him sexually.

Every one of the Manson girls was coming from a broken home or a traumatic childhood or both, and they first had to become Charley’s sexual property before they became his crazed killers.



Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring days before their murder. Does she remind you of Don's niece Stephanie?

Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring days before their murder. Does she remind you of Don’s niece Stephanie?

Sharon Tate’s life was not unlike Megan’s. She was an actress with a husband who was away working another time zone. She threw frequent parties at her house, the Cielo Drive mansion formerly rented by Terry Melcher, where actors and musicians were in attendance and sex and drugs were conspicuous. And of course, there must have been all sorts of hangers on and wannabes, as there always are. In fact, Charley showed up at one of Sharon Tate’s parties a few months before the murders. He didn’t get very far, but he was there. Was he also at any of Megan’s parties?


Who was that dark stranger Megan was dancing with at her party, anyway? He may have appeared a lot taller and better looking than Charley, but take a look at that denim jacket and that haircut and tell me it isn’t Mansonesque. Was Megan dancing with the devil?


We don’t know if Charley crashed any of Megan’s parties, but we know what happened at 10050 Cielo Drive on August 9, 1969. After Tex Watson cut the phone lines and the girls entered the house and started roaming up and down the hallways, one of them peered into the room Abigail Folger was sleeping in. Abigail gave her a friendly smile, assuming she was one of Sharon Tate’s friends, such was the casualness of the times.


It wasn’t until Manson realized the New Hollywood establishment wasn’t going to do business with him after all that he unleashed his minions on the people in the mansions.


As far as Manson parallels on this particular episode of Mad Men, in addition to the guy Megan danced with there’s the startling resemblance between Stephanie and Sharon Tate, right down to the advanced stages of their pregnancies, and at least to my mind, there’s the connection to Ginsberg slicing off his own nipple.


I should warn sensitive readers to consider skipping the rest of this paragraph…When initial reports of the brutal stabbing deaths at the Tate house came out, a report said that one of Sharon Tate’s breasts was slashed off. Apparently this was false, but the rumor still seems to parallel the shock value of Ginsberg’s action.


It would be several months before the police could tie the brutal Tate-LaBianca murders to the Manson Family, that group of runaways with the hippie bus driven by the guitar playing, songwriting leader who started out on Haight Street and followed their bliss down to L.A. But the murders were the beginning of the end of the Sixties. Although Woodstock went off without a major disaster, Altamont didn’t. Somehow, the hippies had convinced themselves for all these years that they and the Hell’s Angels were on the same side, but that false sense of harmony also came to an abrupt end in 1969.

The iconc shot of the Kent State shootings. The girl is Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year old Runaway who sold the rights to her story for a bus ticket to California.

The iconic shot of the Kent State shootings. The girl is Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year old Runaway who sold the rights to her story for a bus ticket to California.

In 1970, students were rioting on campuses everywhere. It wasn’t just the high-minded free speech student bodies of places like Berkeley and Columbia anymore, but also middling state schools like Kent State and UC Santa Barbara, where young people seemed to be rebelling for rebellion’s sake. As the spring term of 1970 drew to a close, open revolt was at an all time high. But after the Kent State shootings, authorities all over the country quickly stepped in and declared martial law. The campus protest movement was all but gone at the start of the following school year and has never returned.


By the end of the summer of 1970, two of the heroes of the hippie generation, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix would both be dead from overdoses, setting yet another limit, along with Manson and Kent State, on just how far this Sixties trip could go. After their deaths, there was no more pretending that the trip could go on forever as long as you had enough drugs to keep it going.


By the way, I don’t usually interject editorial opinion into these pieces, but every time I review the Manson murders, I find myself regretting the fact that the US Supreme Court banned capital punishment before it could be carried out on Charles Manson and Tex Watson. Whatever your personal feelings about the death penalty, it seems tailor-made for their kind of crimes. Instead they still live among us as quasi-celebrities.


Manson has the rock star fame he always craved, and he still has nubile groupies willing to marry him. Every few years Sharon Tate’s sister has to come out to face Manson at his parole hearings, arguing why he shouldn’t be released.

Manson was even able to put out a hit on President Gerald Ford from his prison cell, which only failed because Squeaky Fromme forgot to load the magazine into the chamber of her pistol.

If Manson been fried 40 years ago, we wouldn’t be stuck with any of this.


Tex Watson also got married in prison, and took advantage of California’s conjugal visit policy to sire four children from behind bars. He has a support network on the outside, including a website and a ministry of sorts, and he considers himself forgiven for the crimes he committed.


Even after they were locked away the Manson Family continued to serve as a lightning rod for the excesses of the liberal culture of the 1960s. It was the decision of an increasingly liberal US Supreme Court that abolished capital punishment as “cruel and unusual,” thus giving all inmates then on death row a reprieve, before being reinstated four years later.


Also controversial was the idea of giving prisoners conjugal visits. Whatever positive results the proponents of that policy were trying to provide, watching Tex Watson become a four-time father was about the worst publicity you could ask for, and certain to rub salt in old wounds. That policy too was abolished by the end of the 1970s.





I had several thoughts about Megan, Don, Peggy, and the computer, as well as some predictions for what direction the show might take, but considering the length of this piece already, I’ll hold off until next week and see if any of it is still relevant. In the meantime, pay heed to Ginsberg’s warning:

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“Get out while you can!”

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