American actor Danny Trejo has maintained a stellar career in cinema as well as television. In addition to appearing in popular films like Heat and Con Air, Trejo has also scored parts in wildly successful television series including Breaking Bad and King of the Hill, among many others. His most iconic role is definitely his rendition of Machete, an ex-Federale who possesses deadly skills.
Since his childhood, Trejo had been involved in a world of crime and drugs, which led to him using marijuana and heroin from a very early age. He was incarcerated in a juvenile facility for the first time in 1956, where he learnt how to survive in the real world, citing his uncle as an influence who “taught him how to deal, steal, intimidate, how to spot weaknesses, when it was best to terrify, and when it was right to comfort”.
During the ’60s, Trejo entered and exited the California prison system on various occasions due to his lifestyle. At one point, he even managed to become the boxing champion of San Quentin in the lightweight and welterweight divisions. Trejo worked as a debt collector as well as a drug dealer, often participating in occupational hazards which involved acts of violence like murder.
In 1961, Trejo had an interesting encounter inside the LA county jail which led to an experience he would never forget. Inside the facility, Trejo met the infamous cult leader Charles Manson when he was just 17 years old. Although the Manson murders hadn’t taken place yet, it was undoubtedly extraordinary and unnerving to run into a man who would earn the label of one of the most deranged psychopaths in history.
However, Trejo felt nothing but pity for Manson and described him as a “dirty greasy scrawny white boy”. In his memoir, the actor recalled: “He was so poor, he didn’t have a belt, and instead used a piece of string to keep his pants up. I felt sorry for him. It was clear the only shower the man was ever going to have was the one he was going to get in jail.”
Trejo insisted in later interviews that Manson was different from the images of him with a swastika tattooed on his forehead that were circulated by every media outlet. Manson promised Trejo and some other inmates that he could get them high without the use of drugs, leading them on a guided meditation instead. It worked so well that the actor still remembers it to this day.
“For 15 minutes, in great detail, he walked us through the process of copping the dope, finding a place to fix, cooking the heroin in a spoon, drawing it into a needle, and sticking it in our veins,” Trejo revealed. “Even before I fake-fixed, I could taste it in my mouth. Any junkie knows what that is like. By the time he described it hitting my bloodstream, I felt the warmth flowing through my body. If that white boy wasn’t a career criminal, he could have been a professional hypnotist.”