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Hollywood Macabre: Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson & Cielo Drive
I am currently writing a book about Charles Manson, and in the course of my research, I came across some interesting, albeit strange trivia about 10050 Cielo Drive, the address that Manson sent his Hippie hit squad to during the early morning hours of August 9, 1969, which resulted in the deaths of five people and one fetus at the hands of the Manson Family.
Among those murdered were Sharon Tate (and her unborn baby boy), Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Steven Parent, and Wojciech Frykowski. The home on Cielo drive is often referred to as, ‘the Sharon Tate house,’ even though she only resided at the Cielo address for six months.
After the bloody events of August 9, 1969, there was quite naturally a significant amount of notoriety associated with the house on Cielo Drive. The owner of the estate, Rudy Altobelli, lived there for close to twenty years, knowing full well that the infamy associated with the property was not an incentive to sell. In spite of its stunning view and prime location in the Hollywood Hills, the market value of the property had been considerably reduced by the nature of the crime committed. He was content to sit tight and wait it out.
In 1993, musician Trent Reznor, frontman for the band Nine Inch Nails, rented 10050 Cielo drive, converting the home into a recording studio, naming the studio, Le Pig. As will be remembered, Manson Family murderess, Susan Atkins, unceremoniously wrote “Pig” on the front door of the residence in Sharon Tate’s blood. Twenty-four years later, the door was still standing; a sad reminder of the senseless loss of life that took place as the turbulent decade of the sixties careened to a bloody end.
1993 was a busy year for Reznor. Along with cutting his own album, Downward Spiral, he produced an album for an up coming new musician who would go on to achieve more than a fair amount of fame, and generate just a little controversy. His name is Brian Warner, but you most likely know him as Marilyn Manson. Some of the songs for Manson’s first album were recorded at Cielo Drive. The title of the album is Portrait of an American Family, though the original title was the Manson Family Album. As it turned out, the completed product was recorded in part, at 10050 Cielo Drive. What a coincidence!
Reznor insists that his selection of 10050 Cielo Drive was merely predicated on his preference for the home, rather than the morbid history of the place, and according to some accounts, there is the assertion that he was entirely unaware of the history of Cielo Drive when he rented the house. I find that difficult to believe. The crimes associated with the Manson Family shocked the nation, the Hollywood entertainment industry in particular. In all likelihood, Reznor was fully aware of the bizarre history of the home when he put his John Hancock on the lease agreement.
In a strange turn of events, Reznor had a chance meeting with murder victim Sharon Tate’s sister, in which she came right to the point and asked him, “Are you exploiting my sister’s death by living in her house?” Raznor responded that he was merely fascinated by the “Folklore” associated with the residence. At some point during an interview, Reznor explained that the conversation with Tate’s sister gave him a new perspective about his choice of residence. According to Raznor, her question upset him so much that he went home and “cried” over the encounter, thinking “what if it was my sister”? Of course by the time the conversation took place, Reznor had succeeded in producing two albums that would go on to achieve success in the music industry, but the tears were a nice afterthought.
The Rock and Roll subculture has a long history of engaging in certain behavior for no other reason than shock value. Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off of a bat during performances is a prime example of this tendency. At my age, nothing much shocks me anymore. Rather I view events via the lens of poor or good taste, and the potential impact on others.
Did Reznor rent the Cielo Drive residence as an over the top publicity stunt? I supposed to some extent, thumbing one’s nose at conventionality can render success within more unconventional target markets. It’s all part of that the contrived ‘cool’ sold by Madison Avenue as cutting edge. There’s an awful lot of money to be made under the umbrella of anti-establishment.
Late in 1993, Reznor left Cielo drive to start a recording studio in New Orleans, Louisiana, purchasing an eighty-five year old funeral home for his musical endeavors. Reznor had vacated Cielo Drive, but not before taking the “Pig” door with him, replacing the front door to his new digs with the Cielo Drive relic of Mansonian lore.
Anyway, back to the news from the land of the strange. Marilyn Manson has stated that one of his favorite authors is the Great Beast himself, Aleister Crowley. In the song, Misery Machine, Manson gives a nod to Crowley with the line, “We’re gonna ride to the Abbey of Thelema.” For those of you who don’t know, The Abbey of Thelema was a house in Italy that Crowley and his fellow followers of Thelema lived in a communal state while attempting to perfect the first Thelemic principle of “Do What Thou Wilt.” In 1923, Mussolini threw Crowley and his followers out of Italy, and they were forced to abandon their beloved Abbey of Thelema. Years later, the Italian hilltop villa holds special significance for those who admire the works of Crowley.
Aleister Crowley has been linked to another Manson, Mr. Charles Manson. There has been a long suspected connection between the Manson Family and the Solar Lodge of the O.T.O, an organization based on Crowley’s religion of Thelma. The O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis) is an esoteric organization that was completely revamped by Crowley, via Thelemic principles. The connection between Charles Manson and the Solar Lodge is hotly disputed by the O.T.O. of today, and if Manson was indeed involved with the Solar Lodge back in those dark days of 1969, he’s not telling.
Charles Manson frequently denies ever having any occult connections, though he frequently uses an image in his artwork that is similar to Crowley’s beloved goat headed Baphomet. Again, we are back to the shock value question. Is Manson merely playing to his sinister public persona, or is his use of an image that suggests occult activity predicated on an actual belief system? Given my current research on Manson, it’s my opinion that his artwork is in some measure, a reflection of his personal belief system.
Years have passed since Reznor and Marilyn Manson made music at 10050 Cielo Drive, and the Louisiana based Nothing studios is no longer in business. From what I was able to determine, the “Pig” door is still in Louisiana, functioning as the front door to the empty funeral home. A lonely old building filled with the decaying energy of the bereaved. With the addition of the door from the Tate residence, the building has more than its share of karmic overload.
As for the house on Cielo drive that Sharon Tate once called her “Love house,” it was torn down shortly after Reznor pulled up shop, and replaced by a large, Neo-Hollywood estate that juts out of the hillside to the extent it gives the appearance it may simply slide off the hill and spill over into the heavy traffic of Sunset Blvd with the slightest Los Angeles tremor. It’s ostentatious, having none of the charm of the original estate that blended harmoniously with the indigenous vegetation of Benedict Canyon. Its address has been changed to discourage the prying eyes of the curious.
So what to make of all this information? I guess we can sum up all of the above to either Reznor using Manson Family infamy to boost record sales to a market that resonates to such tactics, pure coincidence, or on the darker side of the spectrum, a motive of a more esoteric nature. I will leave it up to the reader to decide.