A front row seat to the events that killed the sixties. 

Logline

A naïve 22 year old —fresh off a plane from Texas— becomes embroiled in L.A.’s jet-set lifestyle during the late 1960’s.

Life is great…until new pal Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys introduces him to a charismatic guru named Charles Manson; a violent psychotic with extraordinary charm and an apocalyptic vision of himself as Jesus Christ…for whom this young man will kill seven people in cold blood eighteen months later.

Cease to Exist is the true, firsthand account of the journey into madness of the Manson Family through the eyes of the killer of all seven Tate/LaBianca victims, Charles “Tex” Watson.

The producers have acquired Watson’s autobiography, and –working with Watson directly– have adapted it into a feature film screenplay and alternately, an episodic breakdown for a limited series.

Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson

 

Charles “Tex” Watson

Charles Manson

Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson

Charles Denton Watson

Charles Manson a.k.a. “Jesus Christ”

“My brother had collected almost every album The Beach Boys made and I heard them from behind his door, singing about “California Girls” in a way that made Texas women seem a little less exciting ….

I could never have imagined that one day one of those superstars would take me into his home and introduce me to an aspiring rock singer named Charlie.”

-Charles “Tex” Watson

Like many thousands of impressionable kids seeking the freedom, good times, and easy living that the culture of the decade promised, Charles Watson high school track star from Copeville Texas came out to LA. Here he found the good life, rubbing elbows with musicians and movie stars…and meeting their friend, Charlie. 

What he didn’t know was that this gentle, charismatic guy —whom the Hollywood jet-set embraced as a purveyor of good dope and easy girls— was a violent psychotic with extraordinary abilities for seduction and an apocalyptic vision of himself as Jesus Christ.

Within eighteen short months, the young Texan would slaughter seven innocent people in cold blood for his guru Charles Manson in what have been acknowledged as among the most infamous and heinous crimes of the last 100 years.

Cease to Exist is the first person account of descent into the madness of the Manson Family, directly through the eyes Manson’s right-hand man —and murderer of all seven of the Tate-LaBianca victims— Charles “Tex” Watson, the last meaningful eyewitness to the killing of Sharon Tate.

“You’ve always wanted me to be religious,”  I had told my mother.

“Well, I’ve met that Jesus you preach about all the time. He plays guitar and he’s here right now with me in the desert and it’s beautiful.” 

-Charles “Tex” Watson

Through ‘Tex’ Watson’s eyes, audiences will witness the Manson Family from a perspective that is not only authentic, unique, and chillingly close, but which sheds unexplored light on the social and political climate of the times and its contribution to the conditions that made such an unthinkable thing almost inevitable.

Narrated by Watson directly from the rich, borne-of-hindsight accounts in his autobiography*, the audience will accompany him on his descent, and will —as if he were a likeable character in a horror film about to open the door that is his doom— yearn for him not take each next step.

The fact that so few people know it was Watson that did the vast majority of the killing will make this all the more suspenseful…

*In 2019, the Los Angeles Times added Watson’s book (on which this production is based) to it’s “Making Sense of the Manson Family Murders” reading list!

“… the establishment as ‘pigs’… violent revolution standing unabashedly next to songs about peace and love… in the counterculture what the kids heard was: “your parents are wrong” and “crazy is groovy!”

In a real sense, Charlie simply took the rhetoric and the symbols of the sixties counterculture —at least its radical edge— and gave them flesh.

-Charles “Tex” Watson

 

…and, it’s entirely true.

At its heart, this is the cautionary tale of a young man’s downward spiral to self-annihilation as he gets caught up in the times and the events that forever changed those times.

On this journey the audience will encounter a series of historical pop-culture figures, bizarre counter-culture characters and events, and will witness firsthand the death throes of the most dynamic, exciting, and influential decade in American history.

Aside from the insiders’ perspective and unparalleled level of authenticity, Watson’s journey also contains direct witness accounts and many details heretofore unknown except by the most die-hard aficionados of the case.

He was there to experience head-on things that audiences will find fascinating:

One of the major contributors to the motive –and choice of venue- for the killings was the perceived ‘rip-off’ of aspiring rock star Charles Manson’s song “Cease to Exist” by his friends, The Beach Boys.

Charles Watson’s introduction to Charlie Manson comes through Beach Boy’s drummer Dennis Wilson, who Watson picks up hitchhiking on Sunset (after Wilson’s Rolls is totaled).

Dennis Wilson

Dennis Wilson

Charles Watson’s introduction to Charlie Manson comes through Beach Boy’s drummer Dennis Wilson, who Watson picks up hitchhiking on Sunset (after Wilson’s Rolls is totaled).

Watson’s primary guide into The Family was a middle-aged former Methodist minister who had come to LA to rescue his 15 year old daughter from Charles Manson. This minister was instead converted, and soon became The Family’s most devoted member and chief evangelist of ‘The Gospel According to Charlie’.

Rev. Dean Moorehouse

 Watson’s story contains multiple, earlier visits to Doris Day’s son Terry Melcher (and his girlfriend Candice Bergen) in the house on Cielo Drive where new resident Sharon Tate and four others would be slaughtered months later.

Manson blamed Melcher for the Beach Boys’ theft of his song “Cease to Exist”.

Terry Melcher

Terry Melcher

Watson’s story contains multiple, earlier visits to Doris Day’s son Terry Melcher in the house on Cielo Drive where new resident Sharon Tate and four others would be slaughtered months later.

Manson blamed Melcher for the theft of his song “Cease to Exist”.

Having been a prime subject of Manson’s artful control Watson’s experience offers a unique insight into how otherwise normal suburban kids can be turned into monsters capable of such great evil.   

Manson was a masterful manipulator of people.   He took full advantage of Watson’s search for freedom from his small town parents, the glamor of Hollywood,  and —as so many others of the baby boom generation— ripe for a ‘new’ vision of Jesus Christ, free from the stodgy, ‘uptight’ churches of parents and pastors*.

He was there at the moment Manson first heard The White Album, Manson’s reaction to the track ‘Helter Skelter’ being so extreme that Watson runs from the Family, until Charlie’s programming draws him back.

The Beatles
The Beatles

He was there at the moment Manson first heard The White Album. Manson’s reaction to the track ‘Helter Skelter’ was so extreme that Watson runs from the Family, until Charlie’s programming draws him back.

B. “Lotsapapa” Crowe

His story contains Manson’s shooting of a pimp in Hollywood in a drug ripoff —who Manson later believed was a Black Panther—and numerous other, heretofore little known characters and events that are fascinating, entertaining, and engrossing. 

Best selling true crime book of all time misses some key parts of the story.

Audiences will be surprised that it was Charles “Tex” Watson that did the vast majority of the killing, but he’s been virtually written out of the lore, primarily due to the fact that he was not part of D.A. Vince Bugliosi’s case, and therefore not much mentioned in “Helter Skelter”.

His story is a huge mostly missing piece of one of the most enduring stories in the world.

Audiences will be surprised that it was Charles “Tex” Watson that did the vast majority of the killing, but he’s been virtually written out of the lore, primarily due to the fact that he was not part of D.A. Vince Bugliosi’s case, and therefore not much mentioned in “Helter Skelter”.

His story is a huge mostly missing piece of one of the most enduring stories in the world.

Best selling true crime book of all time misses some key parts of the story, and more importantly, lacks the intimacy of the insider’s view.

Charles Watson (now 79) is the last significant member of The Manson Family alive today. Though he receives no monetary gain from the project, his help in clarifying facts and shedding light on the various dynamics of the story is invaluable.

His experience in the cult destroyed the lives of so many (including his own in many ways); motivation in wanting to get the story out is primarily in the hope that his story may serve as a cautionary tale for young people, especially those caught up in a flurry of major societal changes —which are currently occurring at a rate rivaling that of the late 1960s…..and driven by many of the same themes.

*  The world often forgets how big a movement this was in the late 1960s and ’70s. The “Jesus Freaks” were a major cultural force (think Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Godspell”). The major non-denominational ‘mega-churches’ of today find their origins with then-young people rejecting the Christianity of their parents for their own ‘personal relationship with God’.

“I died for everyone’s sins 2,000 years ago… and it didn’t do a f*ckin’ bit of good.”

—Charles Manson

Why THIS project?

There have been prior renderings of this saga; some have been reasonably good —like the police procedural “Helter Skelter”.  However far too many have been sensationalist fiction, conspiratorial nonsense, inaccurate fantasy, or exploitative slasher films. 

Cease to Exist is a truly different production, with the benefit of primary-source authenticity, an easy to follow story arc, and attention to historical accuracy.

It’s a serious and engrossing true-crime drama in a rich period setting, and containing the elements to make it an entertaining, award-caliber production.

It has sex, drugs, violence, Black Panthers, celebrities, bikers, a music industry rip-off, a future presidential assassin, dune buggies, presented with a cast organically containing young people, and great locations all presented with an unrivaled authenticity.

It is the stuff of truly memorable and thought provoking entertainment.

It also contains themes that are disturbingly similar to rhetoric that we’ve not heard since the early 1970s, but that has recently burst into the forefront of daily discourse, and with hordes of young people, full of zeal with the perceived righteousness of their cause(s) spouting rhetoric that would make Charles Manson’s seem mild.

Screenplay and episodic breakdown available by request.

“Charles ‘Tex’ Watson was perhaps Manson’s best piece of work. A high-school football star who turned hippy and came to L.A. like millions of other kids to find ’60s grooviness. 

Instead he met Manson and was turned into a killer zombie in just ten LSD, Belladonna-drenched months.”

—-Film director John Waters

An American Tragedy

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