Text and photos: Castle
In honor of our ‘California Cult Tour,’ we decided to pay homage to our favorite state with a tour diary of a different sort. As we travel along, we’ll be probing the underbelly of California ‘cult’ure to see if there’s something in the air, water or the in case of our first entry, truck-stops, that gives the golden state the advantage on weird.
Wed. Jan. 28th
“The Devil Pope Bus”
Where: I5 outside Lebec, CA
Cult Type: Religious/Fanatical
What Is It? An ex-con roadside preacher who travels in the “Devil Pope Bus,” a red school bus adorned with fanatical religious slogans like “Devil/Pope” and “demon sex priests.” Provides “one on one” therapy sessions.
California Twist: This was the third time we saw the Devil Pope bus on the California Tour and finally decided to investigate. After taking photos of the bus we went back to leave a parting gift of homemade muffins and meet the “truck-stop Messiah.” The shambolic innards of the bus matched his insane demeanor, white beard/crazy eyes and all. More terrifyingly, a woman’s arm came out of the shadows and took the bag of muffins. Bonus: This guy tours as much as we do.
What Happened? The faux psych button- pushing session didn’t get much of a rise out of the three of us, but he did drop some Manson-esque one-liners like “I didn’t ask for this garbage world,” and our favorite (and the tour motto), “that’s your shatter.” As we left, he urged us to “reveal secrets to each other” and free ourselves of the fear and, “did you see a demon as a baby?”
Fear Meter: 7 out of 10. At one point he described a prison shanking.
Last Words: Gentle on my mind.
Fri. Jan. 30th
Where: Los Angeles, CA
Cult Type: Murder/Mayhem
What is it? A quasi-commune originating in San Francisco’s Haight/Ashbury district during the “Summer of Love,” eventually settling in Los Angeles and the surrounding desert. Led by ex-convict/singer/songwriter Charles Manson, who’s mystical con-cum-apocalyptic-terror-vision ‘Helter Skelter’ was the impetus for several ritual murders carried out by members of his Family.
California Twist: The Family befriended Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, inviting themselves to live in his Malibu home and eventually forcing Wilson, who became wary of Manson’s doom trip, to move out, leaving the Mansonites there. Wilson had also introduced Manson to Beach Boys producer and Doris Day’s son, Terry Melcher, who recorded demos of Manson at Wilson’s home studio. Originally scheduled for release on the Beach Boy’s label, Brother Records, the recordings were shelved, but not before the Beach Boys recorded and released their own version of the Manson penned song “Cease To Exist” as “Never Learn Not To Love”. Bonus: Trent Reznor of NIN bought the Tate murder house in 1992, converting part of it into a studio he called “Pig” and recorded the album Downward Spiral there before a chance encounter with Sharon Tate’s sister, who accused him of exploiting her sister’s death, realigned the singer’s moral compass. He sold the house in 1993.
What Happened? After pulling an all-nighter from Oakland, the scene of last night’s riff slaughter, we drove from Spahn Ranch, the one-time abandoned Western set and L.A. home of the Manson Family, to 10050 Cielo Dr., infamous address of the Tate murders. Winding through Benedict Canyon with our sleep-deprived minds, we wondered, “did our GPS have us on the same dark path as the killers that fateful night?” Located on a dead end street, the front gate and sloped hill of 10050 Cielo Dr. is instantly recognizable and after a quick and uncomfortable photo-op that had the guards coming at us, we split.
Fear Meter: Low grade but constant. The fear and paranoia that the Manson Family leveled on Los Angeles is forever woven into the fabric of the city’s identity.
Last Words: I’d rather die than give you control.
Sat. Jan. 31st
“Hollywood Forever Cemetery”
Where: Los Angeles, CA
Cult Type: Fame/Personality
What is it? Hollywood’s first cemetery, built in 1899 and the final resting place for a disparate throng of movie stars, gangsters, exiles from czarist Russia and titans of industry. Now a cemetery/tourist attraction.
California Twist: Within the cult of fame, if the objective is to get as close to the celebrity as possible, then the new owners of Hollywood Forever, who took over the bankrupt and dilapidated cemetery in 1998 and began a marketing campaign around its celebrity “residents,” have hit the nail on the proverbial head; business is booming with the living and the dead. Located directly behind the Paramount lot, Hollywood Forever now boasts movie nights and concerts among the marble monuments of the once wealthy and powerful, and if it’s prestige by burial proxy you seek, there are still a few crypts near Valentino left, though just like L.A.’s more exclusive addresses, having your remains near Hollywood’s resting elite doesn’t come cheap. Bonus: “I sometimes feel that I’m impersonating the dark unconscious of the whole human race.” – Vincent Price
What Happened? After last night’s riotous Los Angeles show, we sought the peace and quiet of Hollywood Forever, and in what’s become a common theme on our cult tour diary stops, were approached by guards while taking photos. Apparently, the rules of engagement in the celebrity afterlife state you can take photos of the celebrity graves, but you cannot take pictures of yourself with the celebrity graves.
Fear Meter: 0 out of 10.
Last Words: Starry eyes forever will be mine