Don Hewitt, the creator of CBS' "60 Minutes" news program in New York in 2004.
(Jim Cooper / Associated Press)
The Man Who Winds the Clock
Don Hewitt built '60 Minutes' and still drives TV's top-rated news program. How does the low-tech, high-intensity machine keep ticking?
January 13, 1991
By JANE HALL, Jane Hall is a Times staff writer.
NEW YORK -- It was a small Manhattan dinner party in the media stratosphere in which Don Hewitt likes to travel. But in the middle of the affair, Hewitt, the creator and executive producer of "60 Minutes," suddenly walked out. Barbara Walters and Mort Zuckerman, the owner of U.S. News and World Report, were criticizing a recent "60 Minutes" story as biased against Israel. The story had been critical of the Israeli government's official account of the killing of 19 Palestinians by Israeli police during a disturbance at Jerusalem's Temple Mount last October.
"They zeroed in on me, giving me a lecture, and I began to feel like I'd just painted a swastika on the door," Hewitt recalled. "Why can I question the Bush Administration without being called a self-hating American, and not question the Shamir Administration (in Israel) without being called a self-hating Jew?"
The incident illustrates both the power of "60 Minutes" and the feistiness of its maestro. Impetuous, engaging and dramatic at age 68, Don Hewitt in many ways personifies his hit TV series.
"Don is the length and shadow of '60 Minutes'--he's flamboyant and he's episodic," said Fred W. Friendly, a former CBS News president (and collaborator with CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow) who now heads the Columbia University Seminars on Media and Society. "That which is important is often dull; they don't have any tolerance for that. But what they have done is interest the blue-collar worker, the non-serious news-reader, in a way that not Murrow or Cronkite or I have done."
Once considered too show-biz for the serious world of CBS News, Hewitt presides over the most successful news program in history. As much of an institution in the American TV landscape as "Monday Night Football" or "MASH," "60 Minutes" has been in the Nielsen Top 10 for the past 13 years. Even now, in its 23rd season, with the networks failing with hip shows about singing cops and dancing schoolteachers, square old "60 Minutes" is seen in an average of 19.6 million homes a week, second only to "Cheers" among all prime-time programs.
And--where it matters most in TV--"60 Minutes" has been immensely profitable. By one count, the news magazine has earned $1 billion for CBS since it premiered in 1968. Before "60 Minutes," news was considered a prestigious loss-leader. Today, "60 Minutes" wanna-bes pop up in prime time with nearly the same regularity as sitcoms and dramas.
"The question is always asked, 'Why hasn't anybody duplicated your success?' " Hewitt observed recently. "It's like somebody writing a memo saying, ' "All in the Family" is a big success--why don't we do a show about a bigot with a dingbat wife who fights with his kids?' If you've got Carroll O'Connor and Sally Struthers and Jean Stapleton and Rob Reiner and Norman Lear, you've got a hit. If you don't, you know what you've got? You've got a memo."
And if Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Harry Reasoner and Ed Bradley are the equivalent of "All in the Family's" stellar cast, Hewitt is its Lear--the alchemist whose vision and talent for mixing the show's various ingredients spells the difference between "60 Minutes" and lesser competitors. "Don is close to genius when it comes to television," says commentator Andy Rooney. "I think '60 Minutes' would fold without him; I don't think it would survive his departure."
Some critics say that "60 Minutes" sometimes seems to be using its powerhouse franchise to shoot a fly with an elephant gun, pursuing too many petty thieves and not enough powerful institutions here and abroad. Behind the scenes, some former and current staffers say there is a chauvinistic attitude toward women. Yet even those who have criticisms of Hewitt say that he is one of the great talents in television. As his close friend Mike Wallace put it, "Don has fresh eyes. He has the same gut, the same resourcefulness, the same desire to make it compelling, that he has had for 22 years."
Each week the "60 Minutes" correspondents--whom Hewitt unabashedly calls his "repertory company of great reporters"--encounter compelling, real-life characters in what one TV critic dubbed "little morality plays."
"My idea was that television reality ought to be packaged as entertainingly as television entertainment," Hewitt said. "I believe that it all comes down to that ancient phrase: 'Tell me a story.' I think people are interested in stories, not issues, even though the stories may be about people coping with issues. In the Bible, the issue was evil, but the story was Noah."
Thus the emphasis on the storytellers. Hewitt has always stressed personalities over issues. As he acknowledges, "casting" the people who appear in "60 Minutes" stories is an important element in the show's success. One recent "60 Minutes" segment, for example, featured an overweight, tall-talking Texan who illegally turned back odometers in used cars. "You couldn't find anybody better to play that guy," Hewitt said.
"We've got to find people who can tell their story on camera," Hewitt continued. "Are you flirting with making reality more appealing than it is? Yeah, but (print journalists) do the same things, bringing phrases in to bring people to life."
And was there theatricality in the casting of the correspondents? "Of course there was," Hewitt answered. "There was theatricality in the casting of Ed Murrow. I've always thought that Ed Murrow as a very appealing man who had the good fortune to look like Walter Pidgeon playing Ed Murrow. People have to care about you before they'll listen to you."
In the case of the Temple Mount broadcast, for example, questions about the Israeli government's official account already had been raised by the Village Voice, an alternative newspaper here. What made the "60 Minutes" story so compelling and controversial were two young Palestinians who appeared on camera to give their version of events. One was a teen-age boy, the son of a Palestinian leader and one of the rock throwers, who spoke in an accent that sounded positively American-suburban.
"You know," Hewitt mused, "I think what people objected to was that the young Palestinian boy was so attractive. I got the feeling that they wanted him to be swarthy, a bomb-thrower."
A man who rarely pauses for reflection, Hewitt prides himself on writing few memos and holding even fewer meetings for his staff. But while the organization at "60 Minutes" appears casual, Hewitt is involved in stories throughout the various stages of productions. He approves proposals from producers and correspondents, who often compete to be the first to pitch him a timely idea, and spends much of his day popping out of correspondents' and producers' offices, editing rooms where pieces are being put together and screening rooms where pieces are shown to him in more finished form.
"He simply has great instincts," observed one "60 Minutes" producer. "He's like a kid in his enthusiasm for a good story, and he really knows how to take something and make it sing."
Hewitt is said to have an uncanny, total "video recall," an ability to screen a segment and suggest moving the elements around, remembering everything he has seen. "Basically, Don is an editor with cold, hard judgment about what works and what will appeal to people," Andy Rooney said. "I'm always surprised at how he can look at a piece once and remember every element of it."
Hewitt and Wallace, in particular, are said to have heated discussions over stories, and some producers say that the program sometimes has been at its best when they disagree. "We've been fighting for 23 years," Wallace said. "Apparently, something good comes from it."
"Mike and I have had the same conversation for many years whenever he records the narration for one of his stories," Hewitt said. "I'll sit with my head down on the counter and say, 'That pause is in the wrong place' or 'That emphasis is wrong.' I edit with my ear."
Since "60 Minutes" stories remain surprisingly low-tech for television, Hewitt may be on to something. His thinking, he said, was influenced by his early work with Friendly and Murrow, who moved from radio into the new medium of television.
"When I came into television, the accepted wisdom was that you put words to pictures. I think you start with what you want to say and think, 'How do you illustrate it?' I believe that it's your ear more than your eye that keeps you tuned to a television set. Look at (the recent PBS hit) 'The Civil War.' That was still pictures--with great audio!"
Even after the pieces are edited and completed to Hewitt's approval, he isn't done with them. Hewitt writes the "teases" at the beginning of the broadcast as well as the on-air promos and the ads.
The son of a newspaper advertising executive, Hewitt grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y. His childhood idols, he said, were the stage characters Julian Marsh, the Broadway producer in the musical "42nd Street," and Hildy Johnson, the aggressive reporter in "The Front Page." Television, where he got a job in 1948 after stints in newspapering, allowed him to be both.
He was a producer-director on the CBS evening newscast with Douglas Edwards from 1948 to 1962, and then became executive producer of the show's successor, "CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite." He was credited with many innovations--from the "double-projector" system integrating pictures and narration to hiring an amphibious plane with Edwards in 1956 to cover the sinking of the luxury liner Andrea Dorea. He also produced the "Great Debates" between presidential candidates Richard Nixon and John Kennedy in 1960.
But while his gift for television was recognized, Hewitt was considered a little too flaky and "show-biz" for the serious ethos of CBS News. (He had once suggested to Edwards that he learn Braille--this was before TelePrompTers--so that he could look at the camera and read copy at the same time.)
Hewitt was moved out of his job as producer of the "CBS Evening News" by Friendly, who says that he was acting on the suggestion of CBS founder William S. Paley. "He had a feeling--which I shared--that the program needed a good administrator more than a driving spirit," Friendly said.
Hewitt spent the next several years in limbo, producing documentaries, before he began to think about combining elements of the traditional one-hour documentary with lighter subjects into a kind of Life magazine of the air.
"Documentaries were getting the same rating, no matter what," Hewitt said. "I thought, 'I bet we could do better in the ratings if we married the Ed Murrow of 'See It Now' (Murrow's documentary series) with 'Person to Person' " (his highly rated celebrity series).
Hewitt had Reasoner in mind as the correspondent for the magazine series when Mike Wallace was suggested for a kind of "white hat, black hat" duo. Wallace, who had been known as the aggressive interviewer on a New York TV program called "Night Beat," was hoping to be assigned to the CBS White House beat. "I remember Hewitt coming to my house one night, describing this show with his customary hyperbole," Wallace recalled. "I figured I'd give it a try; I didn't think it would last very long."
"60 Minutes" premiered as a biweekly program in September, 1968. It had low ratings against entertainment programming in a variety of time periods until December, 1975, when it was moved to Sunday nights at 7 p.m., a relatively protected time slot that had been designated by the Federal Communications Commission for either public-affairs or children's programming. With Wallace, Reasoner and later Safer, Dan Rather and Bradley as correspondents, the show began to attract audiences competitive with entertainment programs. (Despite the news virtues of "60 Minutes," some TV journalists worried that demonstrating that news could be profitable would make that the standard for all news programming--a fear that has proved well-founded.)
Remarkable success notwithstanding, the show remained an all-male broadcast until Diane Sawyer was added in 1984. All of the male correspondents had extensive experience in addition to "star" quality. But the lengthy talent search for the first female correspondent included Candice Bergen, a woman who today plays a glamorous, Sawyer-like character on "Murphy Brown" but who had virtually no journalistic credentials when Hewitt talked to her about co-starring on "60 Minutes."
"It got to be a joke around there, how long it was taking them to add a woman on the show," one former staffer recalled. "They just kept talking about how the woman had to be a big name."
At the end of last season, as part of an effort to put the next generation of "60 Minutes" reporters in place, Hewitt added two new correspondents, Steve Kroft and Meredith Vieira. Both had been reporters on CBS' "West 57th," a now-defunct attempt at a yuppie "60 Minutes." Vieira was going on maternity leave before the birth of her first child when then-CBS News president David Burke approached her about the "60 Minutes" slot. She wanted the job but later took her infant son, Ben, with her to lunch with Hewitt to emphasize, she said, where her priorities were. Vieira and Hewitt made an agreement whereby she would work part-time during her first year, contributing 10 to 15 pieces, about half as many as some of the other correspondents.
At the end of this season, Vieira and Hewitt will have to come to an agreement on plans for her to begin working full-time. "I very much want this to work, and I'm hopeful that it will," Vieira said recently. But, she admitted, "I had a rocky beginning," declining to go further. Several sources contend that Hewitt was uncomfortable with Vieira's arrangement, which included bringing her baby with her into the office when she began, and that he became more critical of her work than he might otherwise have been.
"Don has had a terrible time coming to grips with the fact that her own baby means more to her than his baby," said one source. "His baby is '60 Minutes.' "
Hewitt denies that he was uncomfortable with Vieira's priorities, saying, "You know who minded the baby being around here? Some of the women." Asked to evaluate her work so far on "60 Minutes," he said, "Meredith has yet to really make her mark in the world. I think that her gaze was split between being a mother and being a reporter, although I have a feeling she has solved that."
With Reasoner retiring at the end of this season, Hewitt said, the show needs Vieira to work full-time. Can a woman with children can be a globe-trotting "60 Minutes" correspondent?
"You know, Morley Safer once figured out one year (that) he was home seven weekends. It's a choice you make," Hewitt said. "I think there comes a time when you say, 'If I want to be a member of this group, that's what it takes."'
Although half of the "60 Minutes" producers today are women, several former staffers say that, in earlier days, the program was a tough shop for women. "You had to be twice as good if you were a woman," one former producer said. "Women were expected to do more of their own research, and it was harder for women to be assertive and independent."
"This place was run like a men's club," another former producer said. "They were comfortable with 'girls' who were deferential--or women who were 'one of the boys.' "
Not true, Hewitt said. "This is one place that is completely non-sexist and color-blind. The women who are producers here are the best in the business."
In the mid-1980s, several TV critics wrote that "60 Minutes" seemed to be showing signs of middle age. Wallace was fighting a lawsuit by Gen. William Westmoreland over a "CBS Reports" documentary on Vietnam, for which Wallace had been a principal reporter, and some observers thought the program seemed tired.
The had some validity, Wallace said. "The criticism was helpful. We pulled up our socks."
This season, "60 Minutes" has seemed to be on a roll with a number of news-making stories, including the first TV interview in two years with author Salman Rushdie and a report on whether Sadaam Hussein is secretly mining uranium to manufacture a nuclear weapon.
"They've been re-energized this season, although I'm not sure it's great to see them go back to 'ambush' interviews," said Dan Ruth, TV critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. "All news organizations go through cycles (of more serious stories and less serious ones), but, overall, they have a good track record."
With Wallace at 72 and Hewitt at 68 (Safer is 59, Rooney 72 and Bradley 49), the inevitable question is: How long can they--and the show--go on? Some at CBS News say the program ought to be retired when Hewitt and Wallace retire. But it seems highly unlikely that CBS executives would voluntarily kill the "60 Minutes" goose while it is still laying golden eggs.
Wallace emphatically dismisses any notion of ending the show. "Barring something cataclysmic in the whole business of network television, '60 Minutes' will be around into the 21st Century," he declared. "It took Harry, Morley, Ed and me time to find our voices. Steve Kroft, who is doing a lot of pieces, has surely made his mark, and Meredith is first-rate, although she hasn't done enough pieces yet to make her mark."
Not that either Hewitt or Wallace is showing signs of sailing into the sunset. "I've got 2 1/2 more years on my contract--and then I'll renegotiate!" Wallace said, laughing.
Hewitt has a 10-year, $2.5-million-a-year contract that lasts until he's 74. And, like Wallace, he is not expected to retire even then. "I don't feel like I'm 68," Hewitt said. "I like that line from (baseball player) Satchel Paige: 'How old would you be if you didn't know how old you was?' I'd be about 17."
"He really does think he's a teen-ager," observed Hewitt's wife, Marilyn Berger, who has been married to him since 1979. A former NBC News White House correspondent who now works as a free-lance print journalist, the 55-year-old Berger is Hewitt's third wife. (His first wife died, and his second marriage ended in divorce. He has four children from his previous marriages.)
Berger and Hewitt met on a date set up by Mike Wallace. "I was expecting this bald, old man," she recalled. "Instead, I got this gorgeous guy who said immediately, "If tonight works out, can we go out tomorrow night?' "
Before meeting Hewitt, Berger said, she had formed her impression of him from an unflattering portrait in a book by Washington Post writer Sally Quinn about her short-lived career in TV news. Quinn, who was hired to co-anchor the "CBS Morning News," wrote that Hewitt had threatened to make her look bad on TV when she rejected a romantic advance from him. "Yeah, I made a pass at her," Hewitt says now. "I was between marriages. But I never threatened to make her look bad on TV. I wouldn't make anybody look bad on TV, not even Hitler!"
Berger and Hewitt--who have an apartment in Manhattan and a home on Long Island--became friends with CBS patriarch Paley during the last years of Paley's life, frequently riding with him on a CBS helicopter for weekends on Long Island. Some top CBS network executives resented Hewitt's connection to Paley and said that the couple had ingratiated themselves with the CBS founder, who had rarely socialized before with people who worked for him. But Hewitt said that it was Paley who pursued the friendship. "Bill called us more than we called him. We had a deep affection for him--he had been my hero. I think he sought us out because his crowd was abandoning him."
As Hewitt's own fame and influence have grown, he finds "60 Minutes" more often doing stories on people he knows, but he says it does not affect the coverage. "You can't very well go to Ed Bradley and say, 'Don't do this story because so-and-so is a friend of mine.' We did a profile on (civil rights leader) Vernon Jordan that I think was too hard on him because he's a friend of mine, and I stayed out of it."
Hewitt said that another friend, MCA chairman Lew Wasserman, stopped speaking to him because of a piece that "60 Minutes" did on alleged crime connections in the record industry. According to Hewitt, "Lew's wife told people that I had promised them that we would never do that story. I never did that in my life; I never promised anybody we wouldn't cover a story."
Meanwhile, his passion for his work shows no signs of waning. On one recent day, Hewitt bounded out of his office to a quick lunch downstairs. "We have incontrovertible evidence that the mercury in dental fillings may cause short-term memory loss and other problems," he said enthusiastically. "And this profile of Sting we've got--I told them we've got to explain to the old farts like me who this guy is because I want them to stay tuned to the story."
If he ever did think of retiring, his wide-ranging conversation at lunch indicates that he'd have plenty of notions to keep him occupied. The networks, he believes, are an outmoded delivery system. He has proposed creating a "video wire service" like the Associated Press to provide raw video footage, an idea that has effectively been embraced by the networks in their newly planned news-feed services to their own affiliates. And if that didn't work, Hewitt has an idea for an indexed version of a nightly newscast that would be delivered through videocassette technology so that viewers could watch news stories, features and sports scores in whatever order they wanted.
But for now, Hewitt is focused on next week's "60 Minutes." "What drives me is the joy I get out of crafting a television broadcast," he said. "I'm not an intellectual. But what I think I have are the feel--the fingertips--for what works in television."
Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
Aug. 17, 1969: I suppose we at the Daily Mirror HQ should be talking about "Amerika" and how the military-industrial complex sucks the blood of the Woodstock Nation. But we're not. The only thing up against the wall here are the filing cabinets. Coming up in October: The Moratorium peace march!
South African golfer Gary Player is pelted with ice by civil rights protesters at the PGA championship ... and the Fire Department has fewer blacks than it did in 1956.
Nancy becomes a stalker.
Maury Wills returned to Canada for the first time since leaving the Expos so he could return to the Dodgers. There were plenty of boos to go around, almost all of them directed toward Wills, who in the long run didn't let it bother him.
""It's as if the fans here thought I played poorly because I wanted to be traded and now I'm playing good because I was traded," Wills told The Times' Ross Newhan. "Unfortunately I'm not that good of a player to do one thing one day and another thing the next. I also have too much pride."
There was plenty to be proud about against the Expos. Wills singled twice, scored two runs and stole a base in the Dodgers' 9-2 victory in the first game of the series. Then he hit the first grand slam of his career in a 9-3 victory.
Gene Mauch, the Montreal manager and future Angel manager, had an interesting perspective on Wills' short stay with the Expos: "When Maury first came to us from Pittsburgh the fans expected him to be perfect. They booed him when he wasn't and he became tense. Then he tried to meet it with indifference and that certainly isn't Maury Wills."
Aug. 12, 1969: William E. Garretson is freed in the "Tate" killings.
Shoulder problems forced Drysdale to call it quits only a season after setting the major league record for consecutive scoreless innings. The news wasn't a surprise because only a few days earlier Drysdale had pulled himself from the Dodgers' rotation explaining, "The pain has come back like it was in the beginning. I can't sleep. I roll over on the arm and the pain wakes me up. This morning I had to use my left arm to brush my teeth."
Drysdale was one of the last links to Brooklyn although he became a star in Los Angeles, first with Sandy Koufax and then becoming bigger and more important to the ballclub once Koufax's arm problems forced his early retirement.
"Drysdale leaves us a star," Walter O'Malley said. "He has charisma. He is a valuable property. I have the feeling that he'll capitalize on his magic now and then later perhaps return to baseball."
Ross Newhan's story included as rumor the idea of Drysdale joining Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett. John Hall suggested in a column that Drysdale might be courted by the Padres and Angels as a manager.
The Times' radio columnist, Don Page, said Drysdale would be a good candidate for the Dodgers' booth but didn't think that would happen as long as Scully wanted to remain the No. 1 voice: "It is no secret, however, that Scully intends to relinquish the job in the near future [a couple of seasons?] although he could be persuaded to announce televised games only."
Of course, things didn't quite work out that way.
Aug. 11, 1969: The Times brings out an extra for the La Bianca killings.
Note: In keeping with the Daily Mirror's practice of posting original documents in Los Angeles history, often for the first time, we present former Deputy Dist. Atty. Vincent Bugliosi's opening statement from July 24, 1970, in the Charles Manson trial. Bugliosi gave copies of his remarks to reporters covering the trial, including Sandi Gibbons, now of the district attorney's office, who provided a photocopy. Bugliosi's statement is a model of clear writing; there's barely a word out of place. The text has been edited to conform to Times style but has preserved Bugliosi's occasional errors ("their" for "there," for example). This is in part to preserve the quirks of the document ... and to make it easy to trace copies that are posted on other websites without permission.
[handwritten notation: "I have Xed myself from your world."]
TATE - LA BIANCA MURDER TRIAL
Your honor, defense counsel, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. As the court has just stated, the purpose of my opening statement is to give you a very brief preview or outline of what evidence the prosecution intends to introduce at the trial and what we expect to prove by this evidence so as to assist you in following the testimony and the evidence as it comes from the witness stand.
After weeks of extensive voir dire, you probably already have some rather general idea of what this trial is going to be all about. By the time this trial ends, you folks will probably be as familiar or more familiar with the facts and the evidence as we attorneys.
Now and then an attorney will give a rather lengthy opening statement, going into considerable detail on what each witness will testify to. My particular style, if you will, is not to do this. I believe in rather brief opening statements.
In the prosecutions final summation to you three or four months from now, you won't be quite so lucky. At that time, we will go into considerable depth, reviewing the testimony of each witness, tieing each witness' testimony in with the testimony of the other witnesses, analyzing the evidence, drawing inferences from the evidence, etc., etc.
But today I am merely going to provide you with a very broad structure of the people's case. The testimony of the witnesses, given under oath from that witness stand, will supply all the necessary bricks, as it were.
It is the custom of many lawyers to preface everything they say in an opening statement with the repetitious phrase "The evidence will show." Although I will frequently use this phrase, I do not intend to use it any more than I have to.
However, on those occasions when I do not preface a statement with the words "The evidence will show," please understand that it is implicit in everything I say.
As you know, there are eight counts to the grand jury indictment in this case. The first seven counts are murder counts, the eighth count charges the crime of conspiracy to commit murder.
The first five counts of the indictment charge murders allegedly occurring on Aug. 9, 1969. These five murders are commonly referred to as the "Tate" murders.
Counts six and seven of the indictment charge murders allegedly occurring on Aug. 10, 1969. These two murders were the murders of Mr. and Mrs. Leno La Bianca.
Defendants Charles Manson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel are charged in the indictment with all seven murders, that is, the five Tate murders on Aug. 9, 1969, and the murders of Mr. and Mrs. La Bianca on Aug. 10, 1969. Each of these three defendants are also charged with the eighth count of conspiracy to commit murder.
Defendant Leslie Van Houten is not charged with the first five murder counts of the indictment, the five Tate murders. She is only charged with the murders of Mr. and Mrs. Leno La Bianca in counts six and seven of the indictment.
So I would remind you that any evidence at this trial which pertains solely to the five Tate murders, should not be considered by you against Miss Van Houten for the simple reason that she is not charged with these murders.
In addition to being charged in counts six and seven of the indictment with the murders of Mr. and Mrs. La Bianca, Miss Van Houten is charged in count eight of the indictment, along with all the other defendants in this case, with the crime of conspiracy to commit murder.
Mr. Stovitz and I, representing the prosecution, that is, the people of the state of California, expect to offer evidence in this case proving that on or before Aug. 8, 1969, defendants Charles Manson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel, together with Charles Watson, who is presently in Texas, entered into a conspiracy to commit murder. Whether or not a fifth person, Linda Kasabian, was a member of the conspiracy, will probably be up to you folks to decide. Pursuant to the aforementioned conspiracy to commit murder, in the early morning hours of Aug. 9, 1969, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles Manson murdered five human beings at the Roman Polanski residence, a secluded home at the top of a long, winding driveway, located at 10050 Cielo Drive, Los Angeles.
Those five victims were: Sharon Marie Polanski, whose stage name was Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Voityk Frykoswki, Jay Sebring and Steven Parent. As I've previously stated, these five murders are commonly referred to as the "Tate" murders and in the interests of brevity I will hereafter refer to them as such. I will also refer to the Roman Polanski residence as the Tate residence.
As I've indicated, the Tate murders took place in the early morning hours of Aug. 9, 1969. Later that same day, in the late evening of Aug. 9, 1969, another defendant, defendant Leslie Van Houten, joined the continuing conspiracy to commit murder. Pursuant to that conspiracy, in the early morning hours of Aug. 10, 1969, these defendants murdered Leno and Rosemary La Bianca at their residence located at 3301 Waverly Drive, in the Los Feliz-Griffith Park area of Los Angeles.
What kind of diabolical, satanic mind would contemplate or conceive of these mass murders? What kind of mind would want to have seven human beings murdered?
We expect the evidence at this trial to show that defendant Charles Manson owned that diabolical mind. Charles Manson, who, the evidence will show, at times has had the infinite humility, if you will, to call himself Jesus Christ.
Evidence at this trial will show defendant Manson to be a vagrant wanderer, a frustrated singer and guitarist, a pseudo-philosopher, but most of all, the evidence will show him to be a killer who cleverly masqueraded behind the common image of a hippy, that of being peace-loving.
The evidence will show Manson to be a megalomaniac who coupled his insatiable thirst for power with an intense obsession for violent death.
The testimony at the trial from several witnesses will show that Charles Manson was the unquestioned leader and overlord of a nomadic band of vagabonds who called themselves "the Family." All of these defendants were members of Charles Manson's family.
At the time of the Tate - La Bianca murders, the Family lived at the isolated Spahn Movie Ranch in suburban Chatsworth, Calif.
Although Manson's Family varied in size from time to time, it invariably consisted mostly of females, and that was by Manson's design. He felt that to become powerful, he needed men, but he couldn't attract men to his Family without their being woman to satisfy their every need.
We anticipate that Mr. Manson, in his defense, will claim that neither he nor anyone else was the leader of the Family and that he never ordered anyone in the Family to do anything, much less order them to commit these murders.
We therefore intend to offer evidence showing that Manson was, in fact, the dictatorial leader of the Family, that everyone in the Family was slavishly obedient to him and that he, like the despots and tyrants of history, always had the other members of his Family do his bidding for him. Eventually, at his command, they committed the seven Tate - La Bianca murders.
This evidence of Mr. Manson's total domination of the Family will be offered as circumstantial evidence that on the two nights in question, it was he who ordered the seven Tate - La Bianca murders.
Although the evidence will show that Manson did not himself personally kill the Tate - La Bianca victims, we intend to show that since he was a member of the conspiracy to commit these murders, in fact, the leader of the conspiracy, he is equally responsible and equally guilty, under the laws of conspiracy, for these seven murders committed by his co-conspirators.
The principal witness for the prosecution will be Linda Kasabian. Linda is also charged with the seven Tate - La Bianca murders, but we intend to petition the court to grant her immunity from prosecution.
The evidence will show that Mrs. Kasabian was not a hard-core member of the Family, having come to live with the Family only one month before the Tate - La Bianca murders.
In very brief outline form, Mrs. Kasabian will testify that on the evening of Aug. 8, 1969, at Spahn Ranch, Charles Manson instructed her to get a knife, a change of clothing, her driver's license and told her to go with Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel and do everything Tex Watson told her to do.
She will testify that pursuant to those instructions, but without being specifically told what Watson, Atkins and Krenwinkel were going to do, she accompanied Watson, Atkins and Krenwinkel to the Tate residence in the late evening of Aug. 8, 1969 and early morning hours of Aug. 9, 1969. Although she did not enter the Tate residence and did not commit any of the murders, she will testify as to her observations, including being an eyewitness to Steven Parent's being shot to death by Charles Watson in the driveway of the Tate residence and to the murders of Voityk Frykowski and Abigail Folger by Charles Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel on the lawn of the Tate residence.
The evidence will show that Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring were murdered inside the Tate residence. Mrs. Kasabian did not actually observe these two murders. However, she will testify, for instance, that she observed Susan Atkins coming out the front door of the Tate residence and to Miss Atkins telling her that she had lost her knife inside the residence.
Mrs. Kasabian will testify that after Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and she left the Tate residence, at Tex Watson's instructions, she threw the knives which had been used to murder the Tate victims, and the blood-spattered clothing the killers wore, over the side of a hill in the Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles.
When the group returned to Spahn Ranch after the five Tate murders, Manson was waiting for them. Tex Watson reported to Manson what had happened, after which Manson asked each of them if they had any remorse for having committed the murders, to which they all replied they did not. Mrs.Kasabian will testify that actually she personally was filled with remorse but she was afraid to admit this to Charles Manson.
There will be testimony that after the murders, the word "PIG" was found printed in blood on the outside of the front door of the Tate residence.
Among other things, will will introduce into evidence the firearm used to shoot Steven Parent to death, a .22-caliber Longhorn revolver. We will also introduce into evidence the actual clothing the killers wore during the murders of the Tate victims.
Dr. Thomas Noguchi, the coroner of Los Angeles County, will testify that the cause of death of Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Voityk Frykowski and Jay Sebring was multiple stab wounds. He will also testify that the fifth victim, Steven Parent, was shot to death. Voityk Frykowski and Jay Sebring were also shot, but their gunshot wounds were not fatal. Both of them died from multiple stab wounds.
The evidence will show that Manson knew the former occupant of the Tate residence, Terry Melcher, a music publisher and record producer who, in a rather subtle and oblique fashion, rejected Manson's efforts to have him record Manson commercially as a singer-guitarist.
Mrs. Kasabian will further testify that in the late evening of Aug. 9, 1969, Manson told Tex Watson and the others that they had been too messy the night before and this time he was going to show them how to do it. She will testify that on the evening of Aug. 9, 1969, she accompanied Manson, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten and one Steve Grogan in a car to various locations in Los Angeles County. Their mission: murder.
Linda Kasabian's testimony will show that on this evening, Aug. 9, 1969, as contrasted to the previous night when they drove directly to the Tate residence, in this vast, sprawling metropolis of 7 million people, no one, be they in a home, in an apartment or in an automobile, were safe from Manson's lust for death, blood and murder. The testimony will show that at Manson's directions, the killer's roamed about, initially looking for their victims totally at random.
Ultimately, however, Manson directed Linda, who was driving the car, to the address 3267 Waverly Drive in the Los Feliz-Griffith Park area of Los Angeles. A year earlier, Manson had on several occasions visited the former resident at that address, one Harold True.
Manson got out of the car alone, walked to the home next door to Harold True's former residence, the home next door being the residence of Leno and Rosemary La Bianca at 3301 Waverly Drive. When Manson returned to the car several minutes later, he called Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, told them he had tied the hands of the occupants of the home, and instructed them on how to murder the victims.
Dr. Katsuyama of the county coroner's office will testify that Leno and Rosemary La Bianca, like four out of five of the Tate victims, died of multiple stab wounds.
Linda Kasabian will also testify that after Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Lesie Van Houten left the car and Manson and the others drove off, Manson gave Linda, Rosemary La Bianca's wallet and eventually instructed her to hide the wallet in the restroom of a gasoline station in Sylmar, which she did.
Later in the night, Manson instructed Linda, Susan Atkins and Steve Grogan to murder a man in his apartment in Venice, a man whom Linda knew, but Linda prevented the murder by deliberately knocking on the wrong door.
There will be other evidence connecting Mr. Manson with the Tate - La Bianca murders which I will not go into at this time.
Will the evidence show Manson's motive for these seven murders? As the court will instruct you at the conclusion of the evidence, but before you deliberate, the prosecution does not have the burden of offering one speck of evidence as to the motive these defendants had in committing these murders. We only have the burden of proving that these defendants committed these murders. We do not have the burden of proving why they did it.
However, where we have evidence of motive, we naturally offer it, since if one has a motive for a murder, it is very powerful circumstantial evidence that it was he who committed the murder.
In this trial, we will offer evidence of Manson's motive for ordering these seven murders. There was more than one motive.
Besides the motives of Manson's passion for violent death and his extreme anti-establishment state of mind, the evidence at this trial will show that there was a further motive which was almost as bizarre as the murders themselves.
Very briefly, the evidence will show Manson's fanatical obsession with Helter Skelter, a term he got from the English musical recording group, the Beatles. Manson was an avid follower of the Beatles and believed that they were speaking to him through the lyrics of their songs. In fact, Manson told his followers that he found complete support for his philosophies in the words sung by the Beatles in their songs.
To Manson, Helter Skelter, the title of one of the Beatle's songs, meant the black man rising up against the white establishment and murdering the entire white race, that is, with the exception of Manson and his chosen followers, who intended to "escape" from Helter Skelter by going to the desert and living in the Bottomless Pit, a place Manson derived from Revelation 9.
Revelation 9 is the last book of the New Testament from which Manson told others he found further support for his philosophies.
The evidence will show that although Manson hated black people, he also hated the white establishment, whom he called "Pigs."
As I've previously indicated, the word "PIG" was printed in blood on the outside of the front door of the Tate residence. The evidence at the trial will also show that the words "Death to Pigs," "Helter Skelter" and "Rise" were printed in blood inside the La Bianca residence.
The evidence will show that one of Manson's principal motives for the Tate - La Bianca murders was to ignite Helter Skelter, in other words, start the black-white revolution by making it look like the black people had murdered the five Tate victims and Mr. and Mrs. La Bianca, thereby causing the white community to turn against the black man and ultimately lead to a civil war between blacks and whites, a war Manson foresaw the black man winning.
There will be more circumstantial evidence in this trial pointing to Manson's efforts to make it appear that black people had murdered the seven victims.
Manson envisioned that black people, once they destroyed the white race and assumed the reins of power, would be unable to handle the reins of power because of inexperience and would have to turn over the reins to those white people who had escaped from Helter Skelter, i.e. turn over the reins to Manson and his followers.
In Manson's mind, his family and particularly he, would be the ultimate beneficiaries of the black-white civil war.
When we offer this evidence on Manson's philosophy on life, please keep in mind that it is not legally necessary to your determination of the guilt or innocence of these defendants. We are simply offering the evidence to help you understand how and why these seven brutal murders came about, and also, we are offering it as circumstantial evidence that it was Manson and these defendants who committed the murders.
I want to add one further point. We intend to call not just one, but many witnesses to testify to Manson's philosophy on life. Among the main witnesses who will testify to Manson's philosophies on life will be Greg Jacobsen, Paul Watkins and Brookes Posten . We intend to offer the testimony of several witnesses on Manson's philosophies because the evidence at the trial will show that Manson's philosophies are so strange and so bizarre that if you heard them from the lips of only one person, you probably wouldn't believe it. So when we offer this testimony [handwritten: about Helter Skelter, etc.] from several witnesses, though it will be somewhat repetitious, please understand the reason why Mr. Stovitz and I feel that it is advisable to do so.
What about Manson's followers, the other defendants in this case? The evidence will show that they, along with Charles Watson, were the actual killers of the seven Tate - La Bianca victims. We expect the evidence to show that they were very willing participants in these mass murders. That by their overkill tactics -- for instance,Voityk Frykowski was stabbed 51 times -- they displayed that even apart from Charles Manson, murder ran through their own blood.
Aug. 10, 1969: The Times reports the Tate murders.
As I've previously indicated, the evidence will show that the five Tate murders took place in the early morning hours of Aug. 9, 1969. The two La Bianca murders took place in the early morning hours of Aug 10, 1969. In addition to Linda Kasabian's testimony implicating defendant Susan Atkins with the Tate - La Bianca murders, the evidence will show that in late October and early November 1969, approximately three months after the murders, while Miss Atkins was incarcerated at Sybil Brand Institute for Women in East Los Angeles, she had conversations with three of her co-inmates, Virginia Graham, Ronnie Howard and Roseanne Walker, in which she told them of her involvement in the Tate - La Bianca murders.
And there will be other scientific evidence connecting Miss Atkins with the five Tate murders.
With respect to defendant Patricia Krenwinkel, in addition to Linda Kasabian's testimony implicating her in the Tate - La Bianca murders, we will offer evidence proving that her fingerprints were found on the inside of the door to the master bedroom of the Tate residence.
[Paragraph deleted: There will be other circumstantial evidence connecting Miss Krenwinkel with these murders. For instance, while Miss Krenwinkel was incarcerated at Sybil Brand Institute, she was told that the words "Rise," "Helter Skelter" and "Death to Pigs" were printed in blood inside the La Bianca residence. She was then asked to print these same words so that her printing could be compared with the printing inside the La Bianca residence. Although she was told that she did not have the constitutional right to refuse to give a printing exemplar, she nevertheless refused to print the requested words.
We will offer this as circumstantial evidence showing a consciousness of guilt on her part].
With respect to defendant Leslie Van Houten, who is only charged with the two La Bianca murders, not the five Tate murders, in addition to Linda Kasabian's testimony implicating her in the La Bianca murders, we will offer evidence that at Death Valley in late September 1969 she had a conversation with Diane Lake, another member of the Family, in which she told Diane Lake of her involvement in the La Bianca murders.
With respect to Charles Watson, the co-defendant who is presently in Texas, in addition to Linda Kasabian's testimony implicating him with the Tate - La Bianca murders, we will offer evidence that his fingerprints were found on the outside of the front door of the Tate residence.
The evidence at this trial will show that Charles Manson started his Family in the Haight-Asbury district of San Francisco in early 1967. The Family's demise took place in October of 1969 with their arrest at Barker Ranch, a desolate, secluded, rock-strewn hideout from civilization on the shadowy perimeter of Death Valley inInyo County, Calif.
Between early 1967 and October 1969, as I've already indicated, the evidence will show that seven human beings and an 8 1/2-month-old baby boy fetus in the womb of Sharon Tate met their deaths at the hands of these defendant members of the Family.
The evidence at this trial will show that these seven incredible murders were perhaps the most bizarre, savage, nightmarish murders in the recorded annals of crime. I am of course excluding wartime atrocities.
Mr. Stovitz and I intend to prove, not just beyond a reasonable doubt, which is our only burden, but beyond all doubt, that these defendants are guilty of those murders. In our final arguments to you at the termination of the evidence, we intend to ask you to return verdicts of first degree murder against each of these defendants.
I do not have to tell you folks of the enormous importance and magnitude of this trial. I also don't have to tell you that it's going to be a long trial. As my partner Aaron Stovitz has said, borrowing from Tennessee Williams, "It's going to be a long, hot summer."
There's an old Chinese proverb to which I have always subscribed, to the effect that the palest ink is better than the best memory. Because this trial is going to be a long trial with a great number of witnesses, I strongly urge that you take notes during the trial so that later on in the jury room, during your deliberations, you will be able to refresh your memory as to what each witness testified to. Without notes, it's almost an impossible task to recollect even the highlights of each witness' testimony, much less the details.
Mr. Stovitz and I feel confident you will give your full, undivided attention to all of the evidence during the trial so that you can give both the people and the defendants the fair and impartial verdict to which they are both entitled.
Thank you very much.
[Vincent Bugliosi, July 24, 1970]
Aug. 9, 1974, Paul Conrad on Richard Nixon's resignation.
Nixon's resignation comes at an interesting time for the Daily Mirror because we're gearing up for the 1960 presidential race, awkwardly putting the end of the story before the beginning.
In the 1940s and '50s, under the influence of political editor Kyle Palmer (Nixon was a pallbearer at Palmer's funeral); James Bassett, who took leaves from The Times to work on Nixon's 1952, 1956 and 1960 political campaigns; the editorial board; and anonymous columns by "The Watchman," The Times was not only a Nixon supporter but a powerful ally.
And then ... but I'm getting ahead of the story. Scroll down and take a look at the masthead in 1974.
Aug. 9, 1974: The Late Final leads with Gerald Ford being sworn in as president.
Aug. 9, 1974: Home edition, Nixon Resigns in "Interests of Nation."
The Times' editorial on Nixon's resignation says: "He departs in disgrace, the victim of a thirst for power that was his strength and his frailty. It was a power he used with effectiveness and imagination in many areas, including development of the new relationships for the United States and China and the Soviet Union. But it was a power that corrupted him, leading him to abuse his authority to the point of obstructing justice, encouraging him to justify any means for the end of maintaining himself in office."
||Here's a real period piece: a "day sleeper" sign distributed by the Los Angeles Examiner. This is a very clever promotion and something I've never seen before. Obviously the Examiner saw itself as the the shift worker's newspaper. I wonder if The Times did anything similar. Bidding starts at $7.
Bruce Russell's editorial cartoon is appalling today, but this style is typical of the 1950s, when artists frequently relied on a small repertory company of characters that included the Peace Dove, the Russian Bear, Mr. A-Bomb, Uncle Sam, the Taxpayer, etc.
Aug. 4, 1959: Nikita Khrushchev is coming to America! He'll be in Los Angeles -- but he's NOT going to Disneyland.
More than 55,000 were at the Coliseum to watch the American League win, 5-3. This was the first time two all-star games had been played in one season. Don Drysdale, who was the top player in 1959's first all-star game, took the loss in this one. He gave up home runs to Yogi Berra of the Yankees and Frank Malzone of the Red Sox.
I think baseball should return to the days of two all-star games. Pick a charity each season, raise some money for a good cause and let fans in two cities see baseball's best.
I'd also like to see World Series games played in the day, at least on the weekend. And bring back Sunday doubleheaders. And the 154-game schedule. And I wouldn't mind seeing another baseball game at the Coliseum with 115,000 of my closest friends.
President Reagan, who at one point in the festivities said he was "bursting with pride," delivered the formal opening statement from inside a glass-enclosed booth at the packed Coliseum. The Times' Peter H. King called the Olympics "a mammoth undertaking challenged by financial restrictions imposed by weary taxpayers, by boycotts, by the threat of terrorism and by all the other calamities that have beclouded the Olympic future."
"We wish no political statement," said Peter V. Ueberroth, the Olympics chief and future baseball commissioner. "We wish only to show hospitality and friendship and through these efforts make a better world if we can."
July 28, 1969; Someone thought "14 Moonquakes" would be a great screamer headline for street sales. In a story that still resonates 40 years later, Bill Tuohy writes that prospects for peace in the Mideast seem more remote than at any time since the 1967 war.
Tuohy says: "The Arabs have increasingly come to refuse anything but complete withdrawal by Israel from areas occupied during the six-day war.
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and his family attend church a little more than a week after the July 18, 1969, death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick.
"Kennedy nodded only slightly in acknowledgment and appeared somber after a troubled week in which he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a fatal automobile accident and then went on television to ask the voters of Massachusetts to tell him if they wanted him to remain in office."
Note: Typepad has changed the way it handles images. The above clipping looks fuzzy, but is sharp and readable if you click on it.
Don Drysdale pitched five innings and the Dodgers defeated the Cubs, 6-2. A season ago on his way to the major league record for consecutive scoreless innings, Drysdale would have made news with such a short outing. In 1969, he made news just by pitching.
Drysdale hadn't pitched since July 3 and hadn't won since June. "I'm encouraged," he told The Times' Ross Newhan. "There was nowhere near the pain that there has been in the past. I feel as though I'll be able to start again in four days, then I'll take my regular turn over the rest of the season."
Meanwhile, the Dodgers and Angels were talking trade with the wanted player ancient knuckleball pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm. The Angels eventually would trade Wilhelm but to Atlanta.
July 25, 1959: WHAT?? Miss JAPAN?!!! NO!!!!!!! The Times leads with a beauty pageant over the Nixon-Khrushchev "kitchen debate?" What were they thinking!? In the 1950s The Times loved Richard Nixon and the paper took every opportunity to promote him. Please tell me we didn't do this in the home edition, just the final, which was for street sales. Please.
'It Is Beautiful That It Has Concluded This Way'
* History: In library meeting, Nikita Khrushchev's granddaughter and Richard Nixon's grandson reflect on the Cold War's end.
July 29, 1996
By DAVID HALDANE,
TIMES STAFF WRITER
YORBA LINDA -- Their grandfathers' argument in a mock-up of an American kitchen made Cold War history.
Now the grandson of President Richard Nixon and a granddaughter of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev sat side-by-side Sunday, 36 years to the day after Nixon had predicted in a speech that Khrushchev's grandchildren would live in freedom.
"Nixon was right and Khrushchev was wrong," Nina Khrushcheva told the crowd gathered at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace on Sunday.
"When I think about it now," she said, "it doesn't surprise me. Mr. Nixon and Mr. Khrushchev were required by history to do what they did to make history move."
Smiling broadly, Christopher Cox, 17, generously agreed. "I'm sure the spirit of this moment would have meant a lot to both our grandfathers," he said.
The moment was a far cry from the one in 1960 when then-Vice President Nixon made his famous prediction in a speech accepting the presidential nomination of the Republican Party. Responding to a statement the Russian leader had made during the well-known kitchen debate the year before, Nixon said, "When Mr. Khrushchev says our grandchildren will live under communism, let us say his grandchildren will live in freedom."
The two men's verbal duel in 1959 in Moscow, in what became known as the "kitchen debate," had taken place in a model American kitchen. Nixon poked Khrushchev's chest for emphasis as he lauded the merits of U.S. products and the system that produces them.
Both incidents highlighted the nature of the Cold War, when the United States and the former Soviet Union competed bitterly on the world stage--militarily, politically and economically.
In 1960, Khrushchev sent shock waves by angrily banging his shoe on a table during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. And two years later during the Cuban missile crisis, he brought the world to the brink of war by installing nuclear weapons 90 miles from the United States.
Currently, Khrushchev's granddaughter, 32, is studying comparative literature at Princeton University. The former Soviet Union recently held its first democratic elections.
Library Director John H. Taylor thought it fortuitous to bring the two grandchildren together to kick off the library's newest exhibit, " '46/'96 The Politics of Peace: The Uncertain Legacy of Victory in World War II and the Cold War."
"I don't believe that any president had a more intuitive grasp of the dynamics of the East/West struggles," Taylor said of Nixon's Cold War policies. "It was the central issue of his life."
The issue certainly was in evidence as Taylor guided Cox and Khrushcheva--smiling and sharing stories--on a tour of the Nixon library prior to Khrushcheva's lecture on Soviet history and politics.
"I thought he was taller," Khrushcheva said, posing next to a statue of the famous grandfather who died when she was 8. She paused thoughtfully before continuing. "But then," she said, placing her hand about waist high on the statue, "I was only this high."
Cox, one of four Nixon grandchildren, looking at an exhibit depicting Nixon's post-presidency living room, recalled how he and his grandfather used to watch baseball games there.
"This was one of my favorite rooms," said Cox, who will work as a page at the Republican National Convention in San Diego. "We were big baseball fans."
Both described their grandfathers as kind, sensitive and attentive.
"He was a wonderful grandfather," Khrushcheva said of the former premier. "He was very warm and a true Communist right to the end."
Later, during a reflective moment, she described the emotion of Sunday's meeting.
"I believe in circles," she said. "We have made a circle, and we are done. It is beautiful that it has concluded this way and here we are, two grandchildren talking together."
The significance of the moment wasn't lost on members of the audience, many of whom lined up after Khrushcheva's speech to get autographs on copies of Nixon's 1960 speech.
"This was very inspirational for me," said Julie Gray, 61, of La Habra. "It symbolizes that a new generation is coming up, and we have to depend on them to pursue peace in new ways. It gives me a lot of hope."