PAUL HOLDENGRÄBER: You believe in the deepest tenets of existentialism, that existence in some way precedes essence—we first are, and then we’re defined, and in some way what you believe is people can and do, in fact, change.
JOHN WATERS: Yes, but what is enough? What is enough punishment for something that terrible, and you know, it is so notorious. The case is even in the original book of Helter Skelter, of Bugliosi, who I believe is the fairest of all the Manson prosecutors said that he thought she would serve twenty years. It’s been forty. It’s because the case won’t go away. It’s a Halloween costume now. It’s a horror movie. And every time they make another movie, I’ve seen Leslie [Van Houten]’s pain even in the visiting room when somebody so misguided will ask her for her autograph. I mean, she almost breaks into tears, what a terrible thing that is. Why would you want my—for what I did is the last thing I want to be recognized for. So she’s a very smart—she’s a friend of mine, that’s all I can say, that’s all you can do for your friend that’s in prison, that’s gone for a long time, is stick up for them, and that’s all I’m trying to do on a personal level.
PAUL HOLDENGRÄBER: So the chapter, the fourteen-thousand-word chapter is an attempt through the power of writing to change a verdict.
JOHN WATERS: No, it’s a character reference, because as a defense lawyer I would never bring up all the negative things against her. Which I do. I bring up the hardest possible questions and bring them up to her that a defense lawyer would never do, the prosecution would do.
In John Waters’ book Role Models, he dedicates a chapter, referenced above, to his friend Leslie Van Houten, who was a member of the Manson family and participated in the murder of Rosemary LaBianca. The murder was less than two days after they killed five people in Roman Polanski’s home in Beverly Hills. Van Houten has paid the price by spending over 40 years in prison.
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