The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Please welcome to the world … Jack Skelley Dennis Wilson and Charlie Manson (Fred & Barney Press)


“In Skelley’s world everything and everyone is volcanic. Cities become backlots; celebrities become saviors. Sharp, always spectacular. One of my very favorite writers on the earth.” – Dennis Cooper

“Jack’s mind on the page helps parse our crazy, media-besotted, celebrity-drenched, digitized lives. His ability to syncretize pop culture and history, product placement, Catholicism and beyond is a necessary wonder of the contemporary world. ” – Amy Gerstler

“Despite my dislike of seeing my own name, you’re really a good writer – never what’s expected.” – Kathy Acker

“With a linguistic and cultural range of four or five octaves, Skelley’s poetry and its luminous, energized mental landscapes provide a place for the art to survive.” – David E. James


e-Book available now via Book Baby and other platforms

For signed limited edition print version, contact Jack (Helter) Skelley at …


Do you ever feel that your personal life is part of a public mythology? Growing up in Southern California, the Beach Boys were virtually our neighbors. And Dennis Wilson’s connection with Manson – including Manson’s extravagant Beatles prophecies – became California fable, though not well understood. Living in Venice in the 1980s, many friends encountered Dennis in his last days. The (sometimes comic) tragedies touching him – and brothers Brian and Carl – magnify their music… which also remains misjudged. And I wonder if Dennis – with his defective, lifelong yearnings – finally re-merged with a larger universe of love.


From ‘Dennis Wilson and Charlie Manson’ by Jack Skelley. Illustrations by Brian Walsby.











‘The above photo is just one of the curious connections you’ll find when looking into the Manson Family’s sordid history, many of which began well before certain Family members joined the Charlie’s cult. Case in point, the Manson Family and Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey. Susan Atkins, it so happens, was a go-go dancer in a Satanic revue that LaVey produced in San Francisco in 1966, playing the role of Vampire.’









Carl, Brian and Dennis, of Hawthorne, California (clockwise).



Brian Wilson by Annie Liebovitz, in West Hollywood, 1970.



‘Outtakes and edits from the Smile sessions. The Smile album – a majestic cut-up monument, weaving deeper than the Beatles could dream, and cast before a world that wanted car songs – was left unfinished. Brian spun out of orbit and stopped writing.’



Surf’s Up

‘I have long meditated on the meaning of “columnated ruins domino!” and I referenced it in Charlie’s rant.’

Brian Wilson / Van Dyke Parks

A diamond necklace played the pawn.
Hand in hand, some drummed along
To a handsome mannered baton.

A blind class aristocracy.
Back through the opera glass you see
The pit and the pendulum drawn.

Columnated ruins domino!
Canvas the town and brush the back-drop.
Are you sleeping?

Hung velvet over taking me.
Dim chandelier awaken me.
To a song dissolved in the dawn.

The music hall, a costly bow.
The must all is lost for now,
To a muted trumpeter swan.

Columnated ruins domino!

Canvas the town and brush the back-drop.
Are you sleeping? Brother John?

Dove nested towers,
The hour was strike the street, quicksilver moon.

Carriage across the fog-two-step to
Lampight cellar tune.

The laughs come hard
In Auld Lang Syne.

The glass was raised, the fired-roast.
The fullness of the wine.
A dim last toasting.
While at Port, adieu or die.

A choke of grief, heart-hardened eye,
Beyond belief, a broken man too tough to cry.

Surf’s Up! Aboard a tidal wave.
Come about hard and join the young
And often spring you gave.

I heard the word.
Wonderful thing!
A children’s song.
A children’s song, have you listened as they play?
Their song is love and the children know the way.



‘Dennis, you’re flatting… You guys think you’re good?… You think because you’ve had a few hits you’ve got it made.’

Jack Skelley note: Murry Wilson had a minor hit when he was younger. He never stopped abusing his sons, even in the recording studio after they were world-famous, and even after Brian had become a master producer. Eventually, before breaking with his dad, Brian had a knob installed in the control room for Murry to twirl. The knob did nothing. On their Pacific Daydream album, Weezer’s song “Beach Boys” includes some of this Murry Wilson abuse.




‘The body of Sharon Tate being removed from the Los Angeles house where she and four others were murdered by followers of Charles Manson, August 1969.’






Grave of Sharon Tate at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City includes Sharon and Roman Polanski’s unborn child, who was killed in the Manson murders. Photo by Jack Skelley



From ‘Dennis Wilson and Charlie Manson’ by Jack Skelley. Illustrations by Brian Walsby. Jack Skelley note: ‘Originally Brian Walsby and I had Charlie simply standing in Sharon Tate’s backyard. I suggested to Brian that we depict him as Jesus holding the White Album. Brian Walsby generally depicts Charlie surrounded by flies. Can you detect references to two Beatles songs?’



‘I am called Jesus.’



Hildegard of Bingen, ‘Powers, Principalities and Antichrist’

‘I saw a worm [vermis] of unbelievable size and length lying on its back. It was horrible and mad, black and hairy, full of sores and full of deadly poison. He had a nose and mouth like a snake, hands like a man, feet like a snake and a short and horrible tail.’



William Blake, ‘Beatrice addressing Dante from the Car.’ Illustrations to Dante’s Divine Comedy. Floating around Beatrice are “Four Living Beings” of John’s Revelation.

From Revelation 9
‘7 The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. 8 Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. 9 They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. 10 They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. 11 They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).’

Jack Skelley note: ‘Manson quoted the White Album with the Revelations. In Blake they appear as a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle. Manson saw these four beings as The Beatles. I love how in Revelations their stingers can torment people for precisely five months!’




The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun. From William Blake’s depictions of Revelation.



‘They took me to the Beach Boys…. Jesus Christ told you that 2,000 years ago!’



Dennis dated Mike Love’s wife, leaving Susan Atkins to babysit the children of Mike and his wife.: ‘What made this dark chapter in Mike Love’s life even more bizarre was the nature of his wife’s affair with Dennis Wilson. When they were off having a good time together, they brought in a babysitter for the kids while Mike was also out and about performing with the Beach Boys. They hired a young lady by the name of Susan Atkins [Sexy Sadie]. The reason that her name is so familiar is that she was one of the infamous Manson girls…’




‘Dennis married and had a child with the daughter of his cousin Mike Love: ‘Out of all the women who Dennis Wilson was with during his short life, the one that stood out to him the most was Shawn Marie Love, who he had separated with not too long before the time of his death. However, what many fans don’t realize is that Shawn Marie is actually Mike Love’s illegitimate child. Seeing that Dennis and Mike were first cousins, this meant that he ended up marrying his own relative. In 1982, they had a son called Gage.’




Brian Wilson. ‘Following the success of Pet Sounds and the breakdown of the following project Smile, Brian Wilson was virtually nowhere to be seen by the band. Sadly, a combination of mental health issues and substance abuse forced Brian to step away from his role as producer and songwriter.’




No Love lost: Brian Wilson and his reviled cousin and Beach Boys singer Mike Love.



Two men drag-racing across the U.S., in a ’55 Chevy. Dennis Wilson’s the mechanic, James Taylor’s the driver. 1971. Director Monte Hellman.



‘There is no denying that Dennis Wilson was probably the most dysfunctional of the Beach Boys. Towards the end of his life, Dennis was living on the streets, drinking and taking illicit substances. Although he made a concerted effort to get into rehab, Dennis wasn’t able to fix himself. On December 28, 1983, a drunk Dennis tried retrieving some items he had thrown into Marina Del Rey three years prior. However, he ended up drowning. He was just 39 years old.’



Entry to Marina Del Rey boat slip where Dennis Wilson drowned. Photo by Jack Skelley



From ‘Dennis Wilson and Charlie Manson’ by Jack Skelley. Illustrations by Brian Walsby.


Beach Boys Villanelle

Diving off a dock of darkened memories
A father with one eye and a son with one ear
He plunged into the drink and never surfaced

It was nearly Dennis not Sharon Tate who Charlie got first
He threw me in the deep end cried Christine McVie
Diving off a dock of darkened memories

Daddy dear never had a hit so he hit his sons
The bad vibes flow from Blue Jay Way to Marina Del Rey
He plunged into the drink and never surfaced

300 pounds of coke-drunk Brian watching “Flipper”
Dad popped-out his glass eye and bared his bloody socket
Diving off a dock of darkened memories

Shattered by acid Brian poured forth masterpieces of pain
His father smacked his ears till he heard in only mono
He plunged into the drink and never surfaced

Dennis drowned in women more than music booze or brothers
A heart forever flooded with blood and love obsessions
Diving off a dock of darkened memories
He plunged into the drink and never surfaced

– Jack Skelley




p.s. Hey. I’m super happy today to be able to turn the blog into its red carpet iteration to help usher in the first new book in many ages by one of my very favorite writers, and a recently ensconced d.l. of this blog, the legendary Jack Skelley. The book showcased up above is a blast and a total joy, and I encourage you to explore the vertical feast Jack has put together for the occasion and then score the book. Thanks, and have fun. ** David Ehrenstein, Thank you for the Anderson input, sir. I think I’ve mentioned this before but I went to a screening years ago at the Director’s Guild of what was supposed to be the Director’s cut of ‘O Lucky Man’ with Anderson and Malcom McDowell in person where they didn’t in fact show the Directors cut, and, oh boy, was Anderson pissed off and very, very grumpy, ultimately making a big scene and storming out of the theater with McDowell trailing behind him making apologetic hand signals to the audience. ** Misanthrope, Happy to fill in the blank. I hope the cake was as yum as I imagining it to be, which is very yum. I think your smartphone solution seems reasonable. ‘The Autobiography of Mark Dennison’ with illustrations leading to a public life sounds like a capitol idea to me, duh. Self-publishing is fine. All the cool kids are doing it. ** Dominik, Hi D!!! Thanks for saving here a sliver of your weekend. Um, I hope the concept of your love doesn’t mean that you spent your weekend proofreading and editing a research essay on the isotope analysis of pig teeth. Love offering to proofread and edit whatever you’re proofreading and editing at the moment and allowing you to stand nearby blasting music and rocking out but you nicely offering to pause the rocking out very occasionally to answer any questions he has, G. ** Steve Erickson, Ah! Everyone, Steve made a gig of what he’s been listening just like I did the other day but on Spotify so it’s ears only. Seek your enlightenment here. Glad you were able to Zoom with your distant friend. Everyone crabs about Zoom, but I applaud its sanity preserving talent. Wax Trax! Fun! I wish that doc was better, but it’s better than nothing. ‘KMFDM is a drug against war!’ Ha ha ha. ** James, Hi, James! I’m okay, mostly counting the minutes until France starts reopening next week. So sorry to hear you’re in the dumps, man. Concentrate on the slow returning of real life? That’s what I’m doing to stay kind of perked up. I didn’t know Scott Bradfield has a new book, and I will definitely check it out. Thanks for the alert, bud, and I hope your feel infinitely better infinitely soon. ** Bill, Thanks, man. Yes, I was quite shocked to see, first, that Factrix had collaborated with Marc Huestis, and, second, that it was an interesting film, because, yes, I only know him from his ‘Mayor of Castro’ persona, although I think a few years ago I saw him talking on Facebook about being raped by Curt McDowell, so I guess he … changed. A lot. I, of course, totally missed what seems to have been the last ever Bandcamp Friday, grr. ** brendan, Hi, B! Wow, your favorite day ever? Not bad. I really like Gavin Lambert’s writing, and I don’t know that book, so I’ll definitely hunt it. Thank you, pal. I hope you’re digging your new/old gradual freedom attaining. ** T, Hi, T! Very good to see you! Obviously, I’m glad you got through the work avalanche without seeming injuries. I’m okay. We start to reopen in 9 days, so I’m just kind of biding my time and living vicariously for that mostly. Nice about the pub, chilliness aside. We’re still stuck with takeaway coffees and sitting in the park as our only form of fraternisation. Take care. Hope to get to see you more often. ** Right. Jack Skelley has your local day completely covered, and enjoy the spoils. See you tomorrow.


  1. Hi!!

    This post is just IT. I need to get my hands on this book right away! Thank you for the introduction and, of course, thank you and congratulations, Jack!!

    Thank fuck I didn’t accept the pig tooth essay, hah. It was a real thing, though. So, in any case, I’m grateful to your love, and I’m more than ready to stop rocking out for the sake of answering a few questions. The least I can do, haha.

    How was your weekend? Are you allowed to move around a bit more freely now that you’ve had your first shot? (Or only?)

    Love rubbing a lamp and wishing to be turned into Franklin the Turtle because his life seems a great deal easier and more ideal than his own, Od.

  2. Congrats to Mr. Skelley. I like this, and I like that it’s illustrated. Beast mode right here.

    Dennis, Thanks. Yeah, the cake was something else.

    So we go to dinner Saturday night around 6. It’s a 1 hour wait. David’s bitching. At first, he wanted us to go and wait and call him to come there when the table was ready. We weren’t having it. So we’re sitting there in the parking lot with 12 parties ahead of us. He’s like, let’s go to Books-A-Million across the street to have something to do. We finally relented. Of course, as soon as we walk in, we get notice that our table is ready. Ugh. We made it in time, but man, this guy.

    I did get him the smartphone. They totally raped me with the activation fee, but it’s his last phone from me and it was a relative cheapo. He has to re-up every month, no plan. Like either go to the store or online and purchase more data and all that.

    I forgot to tell you that you were in my dream Friday night. You were driving me through the neighborhood where you grew up and they’d built this humongous Walmart next to your old family home and you were not too happy about it. Next night, I dreamt Rigby was staying with my family—which might happen next year, actually—was trying to download illegal shit via our wifi.

    Last night, I had two mini nightmares, woke up for a while, and then went back to sleep and had this insane dream where I was hanging out with this group of brothers who were a murder gang and we were running around murdering people willy nilly. I think I ate too soon before bed.

    Thanks for that. Yeah, I’d be up for self-publishing this thing. I have a friend in Manchester who I think would be up for illustrating it. We’ll see…

  3. This looks to be a very interesting book, though I must admit to being All Manson-ed Out. Brian Wilson was always thought of as a brilliant mess, but it was Dennis who was the real trainwreck. He was beautiful, catnip to women, possessed of some talent (his solo album s quite good and he’s marvelous in “Two Lane Blacktop”) but quite unable to get out of his own way.

    • Thanks, David — you’re absolutely correct about Brian/Dennis. Amazing actually that Brian is the survivor of the 3 brothers. The more I learned about Dennis the more the comic-tragedy became pure tragedy.

  4. Jack congrats on this project of yours! I’ll read it this week. I remember working at Hunter Books in Westwood, and looking for something light to read, I decide to dwell into “Heroes and Villians” by Steve Gaines. Wow! I went into deep depression after that book. I didn’t realize how messed up The Beach Boys were at that point. I thought it was all fun, fun, fun, some acid, a little trouble with the Manson Family, but brotehrly and family love will win the day. Instead it’s like a tragic opera taking place. Truly one of the most miserable bands on this planet Earth. Amazing narrative. I’m really looking forward to reading Jack’s book this week.

    • tosh!!
      This book has been gestating in me since i read Heroes and Villains years ago. Seriously. As i wrote this late last year and early this year, I found my old copy with copious notes. There were many many villains. And the worst villains perhaps were the ones inside them. Thank you !!!

  5. Congratulations on the new book, Jack!

    Good to hear reopening is on the horizon, Dennis. SF MOMA’s Nam June Paik show is opening, but I won’t have time to see it until June.


  6. Jeffrey Melnick’s book on Manson’s musical influence recounts Dennis Wilson falling deep under his spell and believing Manson’s haranguing about being a plastic Hollywood hippie. Manson got him to toss his gold Beach Boys records into the street!

    When I hear a song like “A Drug Against War,” I picture a ’90s Hollywood movie about green-haired hackers bringing down the CIA on dial-up. But their first album is closer to Some Bizarre-era Cabaret Voltaire, and as tasteful as they ever get.

    I wrote up the four films I saw at New Directors/New Films on my blog: https://steeveecom.wordpress.com/new-directors-new-films-2021/

  7. Derek McCormack

    May 11, 2021 at 12:35 am

    I love today! Jack Skelley, a thousand thanks for this — congratulations!

  8. This is wonderful, Mr. Skelley. Congrats. Can’t wait to dig in further. The Dennis Wilson/Manson friendship or whatever you call it is one of the most fascinating parts of that whole saga. What a crazy time to be in LA. See you on IG.

    Dennis – Yes things are slowly happening. But things are still pretty quiet around here. And I don’t know how to do anything anymore. Walking into a restaurant is fraught with doubt and uncertainty. Nobody knows when to hug or shake hands, etc. We’re having to learn all these basic things all over again.

    I’m going to a Dodgers/Giants game at the end of the month!


  9. Hey Dennis loving Frisk think it’s terribly funny.

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