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(Credit: Gage Skidmore / California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)


The bizarre story of how Bryan Cranston met Charles Manson


While Bryan Cranston might have since learned a thing or two about how to handle crime via the wherewithal of his crowning acting achievement as Walter ‘Heisenberg’ White, back in the late 1960s, he didn’t have the benefit of that method acquired skills. Thus, when he encountered Charles Manson, it was somewhat of a terrifying ordeal. 

Cranston’s chat about the incident on The Dan Patrick Show began about the lesser-known music career of Manson. Away from the headlines of his cultist atrocity, Charles Manson also had a music career that put him in the same room as some of the biggest counterculture stars of all time. In a quirk of history, the notorious criminal even shared a jam session with Neil Young when he was an up-and-coming talent in the music industry before it all turned horrifically sour. 

The cult leader’s life has been eternalised many times over through movies, songs, books and every other medium possible, but naturally, few have the same spooky insight that Young has on the matter when he wrote ‘The Revolution Blues’. In many ways, Young captures both the individual and the societal issues that led to the heinous crimes that shocked Hollywood. 

As Young said himself, “A few people were at this house on Sunset Boulevard, and the people were different. I didn’t know what it was; I was meeting them, and he was not a happy guy, but he seemed to have a hold on girls. It was the ugly side of the Maharishi. You know, there’s one side of the light, nice flowers and white robes and everything, and then there’s something that looks a lot like it but just isn’t it at all.”

Manson certainly operated on the three tenets of late sixties pop culture: sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – but he did so in a much more nefarious manner than the flower power that sought progress. Ultimately, this all culminated in a series of gruesome murders that he hoped would trigger a race war. Nevertheless, and that’s a rather huge nevertheless, I might add, he apparently had a decent band going, as Cranston attests: “To his credit, Charles Manson had a great group. Their guitarist was amazing! It was insane.”

His encounter, however, dates back to when he was young, and he would rent horses around what then simply a rural ranch before it had been condemned as the camp of Manson’s cultist regime. As Cranston explains: “My cousin and I used to go horseback riding at the Spahn Ranch. The last time I did I was about 12. It was 1968 and we were renting our horses and some guy came in screaming, Charlie’s up the Hill!'”

Not having a clue what that meant, Cranston and his young cousins remained calm, but a scurrying mass of adults put them on alarm. They trudged away on their horse but soon seen the adults racing back towards them on the horse. And at the front of the pack was Charles Manson, who seemed to be in some sort of LSD induced stupor. At this point, his cousin turned and joked: “Well, that must be Charlie!”

The following year, Manson’s picture was hitting the headlines as the head of an American atrocity, and the horse ordeal all came rushing back.