Win McCormack: So, Susan Atkins was the first Manson Family member you met, when you picked her and two male companions up hitchhiking in Northern California. What was she like?
Juanita: I knew her as Sadie Mae Glutz. Sadie was a kid, a twenty-something-year-old kid. I have lots of real fond memories of her. It destroys me when I think about what happened to her, because she tried real hard to do the right thing. Sort of screwed up all along the line in her choices. Sadie was in the passenger’s seat, and the guys were in the back. I remember her talking about their musical group. That was their story. They were all members of a band, and their band’s name was the Family Jams. I remember TJ [Thomas Walleman, or “TJ the Terrible”] saying, “Oh yes, we record with Dennis Wilson and the Beach Boys and we use their studios.” Dennis Wilson was very much a part of the “peripheral family.” I remember Sadie telling me very intently what a wonderful group it was and how neat, how much it meant to her, and how it really worked as her family. I talked to her about Mexico and how I was engaged to a guy living there. This was the end of September 1968. I was going to be twenty-four the next month. She talked to me about how wonderful this place was where they lived near Los Angeles. She talked with the fervor of somebody who’d been converted. [Editor’s note: Susan Atkins was involved in the Tate murders and the prior murder of Gary Hinman, a graduate student who dealt drugs to the Family. As recounted in Vincent Bugliosi’s book Helter Skelter and in The Family by Ed Sanders, during the Hinman killing, after Manson follower Bobby Beausoleil stabbed Hinman twice in the chest and he lay bleeding to death, Atkins put a pillow over his head to suffocate him. Regarding the killing of Sharon Tate through multiple stab wounds from several different knives, which Atkins participated in, Atkins once recounted to a cell mate how pregnant Sharon Tate had begged for her life and the life of her baby, and how she had responded: “Look, bitch, I don’t care about you. I don’t care if you’re going to have a baby. You’d better be ready. You’re going to die.” She went on to say that the first time she stabbed Tate, “It felt so good.”]
WM: Tell me about your first encounter with Charles Manson.
J: My intention had been to drop the three of them off and to drive on to Phoenix on the way to Mexico to hook up with my fiancé. I totally misjudged how long it would take to drive the length of California, and so by the time we drove into Spahn’s Movie Ranch near Los Angeles, I was exhausted. They said, “Why don’t you stay here?” There was a whole sort of facade of Western town buildings and then off to the right was a trailer with its lights on. Everybody said, “Let’s go get Charlie, let’s wake up Charlie,” and everyone went running in. Charlie came out naked. He had been making love to a woman named Gypsy, and she also came out naked. Nobody reacted to that. Nobody thought anything of this. It seemed like the most noticeable thing to me. Everyone was hugging each other, everybody was so happy to see everybody else. They said, “Oh, look what we found, look who we found,” and introduced me to Charlie. And he came over and put his arms around me and said how glad he was. Of course, this was the ’60s, when everybody was hugging, but there really was a lot of love around that trailer. There was real bonding. It’s that same kind of stuff, that same kind of open and unthinking love that you see in the face of a Moonie. Charlie got a guitar out and everybody started singing. It was just wonderful fun, but it was very clear that nobody had any talent. I felt perfectly comfortable with them. That night, Charlie asked if he could spend the night with me in the camper and I told him no. He let me know that I was being selfish and self-centered and that there was a deficit in my character.
WM: You decided to stick around there rather than driving on to Phoenix and then Mexico to meet up with your fiancé as you had planned. Why?
J: The wooing began almost immediately. Somebody came along and brought me breakfast, then Charlie came along and brought me coffee. From dawn on I had somebody around to tell me how wonderful it was there and I don’t think I ever spent another five minutes alone until several weeks later. At the time, this was a group of people who lived my philosophy—make love, not war—all of those things. At least, to all appearances that’s what they did! Life on the ranch then was just one great big make-believe time. There was a real spring back in the woods. You’d take a shower under a waterfall. You could run through the woods naked. There were horses to ride. It was a magical kind of place.
WM: You became one of Charlie’s lovers very quickly, I believe. How did that happen?
J: I didn’t know then how to say no to anybody. And then I was real needy too. And here were all these girls, women, falling all over him. And it was my door he was knocking on.
We went off to Malibu in my camper just a few days after I had gotten there. A man called Chuck, and Sadie and Charlie and I. My camper was one of those pop-up ones with a bunk at the top and a bunk at the bottom. And we had gone over there and dropped some acid. We spent the night there on the beach, and in the morning, when dawn was breaking, as it were, Charlie and I started making love, and Charlie told Chuck and Sadie to come down into the same bunk we were in. And I tolerated that, although we did not have group sex. I tolerated that, and that seemed to be significant to Charlie. And I remember after that Chuck and I went for a walk on the beach, and I said, “What’s this guy all about?” And Chuck said he was this really powerful, wonderful person.
He was a good lover. Probably the most phenomenal lover I’ve ever had. But once I was hooked, he didn’t have much to do with me.
WM: What made Charlie such a good lover?
J: What makes anyone a good lover? He was very tender.
WM: Charles Manson was tender?
J: Very. I never saw that man do anything that was hurtful. I really didn’t. There is a very incongruous aspect to all this for me.
WM: Tell me more about Charlie.
J: He was not particularly big—probably five-two. Really wiry, real agile. Almost leprechaunish in some ways, with a quick wit. There was a real playful quality about him, an endearing quality about him. He could be very much the little boy, and he showed a vulnerable side that really got you engaged in taking care of him.
WM: How did he show his vulnerable side?
J: I remember one time—this was at Spahn’s, and it was even very possibly that same night I gave him all my money. There were kittens all over the place. The mother cat had stopped cleaning up after them. They had messed in the kitchen. And Charlie got down on his hands and knees and cleaned the kitchen floor. He cleaned up after the kittens. He picked them up and put them inside his shirt and went and sat by the fire and warmed the kittens and played mother cat. I remember him looking up and saying, “I now understand the pain of too much tenderness, because it hurts not to hug them. But if I were to hug them I would hurt them.” It was those kinds of things. He showed himself or acted like a very, very gentle man that would never hurt anything.