For Danny Trejo, spending time behind bars with a criminal mastermind was quite the trip — but not in the way you might think.
In his new memoir Trejo, the Machete star opens up about his time behind bars and the colorful characters he met. The most shocking? Future cult leader Charles Manson, who was locked up in Los Angeles County Jail in 1961 at the same time.
The 77-year-old explained his brush with Manson took place years before the infamous figure was released and attracted a group of followers in California who would become known as The Manson Family. Trejo said the “greasy, dirty, scrawny” Manson was too small to protect himself at the time but won over Trejo and his friends by claiming he had hypnotic powers that could make them feel “high.”
According to the actor, Manson wasn’t just talking the talk. He wrote that the future cult leader put them through a kind of “guided meditation” that caused them to have the sensation of smoking marijuana, then heroin. Trejo, who was a teenage heroin addict, recalled:
“The dude sat us down and told us to close our eyes. For 15 minutes, in great detail, he walked us through the process of copping the dope, finding a place to fix, cooking the heroin in a spoon, drawing it into a needle, and sticking it in our veins. Even before I fake-fixed, I could taste it in my mouth. Any junkie knows what that is like. By the time he described it hitting my bloodstream, I felt the warmth flowing through my body… If that white boy wasn’t a career criminal, he could have been a professional hypnotist.”
Trejo went on to say he “felt sorry” for Manson at the time, who he described as a “slick little wimp,” sharing:
“I felt sorry for him. It was clear the only shower the man was ever going to have was the one he was going to get in jail. There were three in our cell — Johnny Ronnie, Tacho, and me — so we told the dude he could clean up for us and we’d keep an eye out for him. He couldn’t sleep in our cell, but we let him sleep just outside so people knew he had eyes on him.”
Of course, the two would part ways eventually.
Trejo turned his life around after his release and went on to become a successful actor. Manson, on the other hand, became a household name for a whole other reason. In 1969, two years after his release, he convinced the group to start what was dubbed “Helter Skelter” — a heinous murder spree in El Lay that killed seven people, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate.
While the court said he never directly ordered the murders — nor presumably hypnotize his followers — his involvement was enough to get him convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in 1971. Manson was sentenced to death, but that was commuted to life in prison after the California Supreme Court got rid of the death penalty in 1972.
He died from cardiac arrest and colon cancer while still imprisoned in 2017.
[Image via Brian To/WENN]