In the early 1990s, Patti Tate, sister of Sharon Tate, was on a public tirade against Guns N Roses frontman Axl Rose for going onstage every night wearing a Charles Manson T-Shirt. Around the same time, I had my own Manson shirt, worn regularly to freak people out.
Here’s Axl in his shirt:
Here’s me in my shirt:
The picture was taken 20 years ago — 1992 — when I was in a band with the two guys to my right. At the time I was all about shocking people. Shocking people has always been a good way to change the subject — especially when the subject is why you’re suck a fuck up. Of course, wearing the shirt proved I was just that.
I’m not trying to beat myself over this. That’s who I was back then. Plain and simple. We’re all in constant evolution and we go through our good and bad phases.
But my stupidity of the time is hitting me clearer than ever because I just finished reading “Restless Souls: The Sharon Tate Family’s Account of Stardom, the Manson Murders, and a Crusade for Justice,” written by Tate family friend Alisa Statman and Brie Tate, niece of Sharon Tate.
Patti Tate picked up the crusade against the Manson killers and work as a victim’s advocate when her mom, Doris, passed away in 1992. In the book, she recalls seeing Axl in a video on MTV, sporting the infamous T-shirt. Here was a guy reaching millions of kids every day, essentially telling them that Manson was cool, a guy to look up to. I don’t think Axl really believed that. I think he was just going for the shock like me. I also think he covered the Manson song “Look At Your Game” because he simply liked the song and separated it from Manson’s crimes.
But like me, he was barking up the wrong tree.
In the final analysis, I don’t think it’s really possible to separate Manson the murder mastermind from Manson the musician. The music and the murders were geared toward the same cause — starting Helter Skelter, a race war Manson believed was imminent. Manson believed the black man would win the war and be unable to hold the reigns of power afterwards. Then, he and his family would come out of hiding in the desert and take control.
A ridiculous notion to be sure. But that’s what he believed, and at least nine people were brutally murdered over it, including Patti’s sister.
I regret wearing that T-shirt. I’m glad I lost it along the way.