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Martinsburg stands in for 1960s San Francisco in Manson documentary

July 15, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The producers of a documentary about the infamous Charles Manson said Monday they found a little bit of San Francisco's colorful Haight-Ashbury district in downtown Martinsburg.

"The architecture is untouched," said Lucilla D'Agostino, director of a two-hour production about the criminal for Sirens Media of Silver Spring, Md. "There is no Starbucks."

In the 200 block of North Queen Street, D'Agostino directed a team of actors dressed in the hippie styles of the 1960s for a production she expects will air on MSNBC next year.

Manson, 73, is serving time in Corcoran (Calif.) State Prison for his role in a killing spree carried out by members of a commune-like group that he led beginning in the late 1960s.

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"Manson, after 40 years, is still considered one of the most evil killers of all time," said D'Agostino in between takes of filming Manson's plunge into the hippie movement in 1967.

Manson was born in Cincinnati and lived with relatives in McMechen, W.Va., for a few years as a child when his mother and her brother were imprisoned for robbing a Charleston, W.Va., business, according to published accounts.

"We actually (filmed) his childhood in Maryland," D'Agostino said.

D'Agostino is six months into a project that she said she expects to wrap up in November.

"It doesn't have a title just yet," she said.

In one scene staged Monday, actor Charlie Davidson (Manson) was flanked by two girls who shared what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette with him while seated on a bench. They were all smiles in what D'Agnostino said was an attempt to create a typical "Summer of Love" scene.

"It's like a candy store," she said.

In another scene, Davidson, with a guitar slung over his back, encountered the d'alliances of girls as he strolled along North Queen Street.

Davidson donned a toupe and said he let his beard grow for five weeks.

"It's very uncomfortable to sleep," said Davidson, describing the feeling to be like a "mat of hay."

One man who walked past Davidson was Apollo Civic Theatre board member Glenn Goulet.

"This is actually better than being in the theater and acting," Goulet said of his work as an extra.

Siren Media's search for a setting that resembled Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s and within driving distance of the production company's offices led them to the West Virginia Film Office, which provided images of downtown Martinsburg, according to Faith Gaskins.

Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin said Monday that the production company was compensating the city for providing a traffic detour, which continued until about 1:30 p.m.

"It's been extremely pleasant. Everyone's friendly and extremely helpful," D'Agostino said.

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