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Read this: A former Manson family member weighs in on Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood

As the final prosecution witness in the Manson murder trial, 17-year-old Dianne Lake leaves the courtroom with an unidentified member of the prosecution team.
Photo: Bettmann Archive (Getty Images)

A significant portion of the new Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood deals with the Manson family. At one point, stuntman Cliff Booth gives a member of the family a ride home to the Spahn ranch, where he meets other Manson family members like Squeaky Fromme (Dakota Fanning), Gypsy (Lena Dunham), and Snake (Sydney Sweeney). Those characters were based on real people: “Snake” is a now-65-year-old woman named Dianne Lake. Today, The Daily Beast just ran a piece highlighting her thoughts on the new movie, considering her familiarity with the subject matter.

Lake was only 14 when her family moved to California, and she soon wound up in Manson’s camp. The Daily Beast describes, “Lake lived with the Mansons for two years, but she maintains she didn’t know about their serious criminal side until after the murders.” After Manson family member Tex Watson showed her evidence of the murders, Lake became a star witness for the prosecution against Manson and his followers, “helping to send several members—including Manson—to prison.”


Lake found the depiction of the Spahn ranch pretty accurate, though she took issue with Tarantino’s portrayal of Squeaky and her relationship to the elderly George Spahn (Bruce Dern).

“George was like that,” Lake said, referring to his eye condition and propensity for sleeping. “We did take care of him. It’s Quentin Tarantino, so he’s going to exaggerate and stuff. But it grossed me out that they made the house look so filthy. Inside, it’s all trash and rats. I mean, George was blind. He couldn’t see the rats and mice. I’m sure that they were there, but we kept his house pretty clean—as clean as possible. It was old. Old and dusty. It needed paint. That part was accurate. But the portrayal of Squeaky was really sad. She wasn’t like that. She was caring for George. I don’t think she ‘fucked his brains out.’”

She also recalls Manson’s theory to revolutionize the world, which didn’t factor into the film, saying, “He had been talking about this race war for a long time… once it was over, ta-da! Charlie and family would rise from the ashes and, you know, repopulate the earth and fix everything. Charlie thought he was this Messiah. He thought he was Christ, coming again. It was just crazy.”

Although Lake thought Tarantino’s alternate take on the night of the murders was “very clever,” there was one scene that resonated with her most of all. “I shed a tear for Sharon… To see her watch herself—she was just a new starlet, really—and how they portrayed her joy and excitement at seeing herself on the screen, when she snuck into the theater, and put her feet up on the chairs. It was just sweet. It was like, oh, if only that’s the way it had really ended.”


Read the full piece here.

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About the author

Gwen Ihnat

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.