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Holy Toledo!

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"Chef" Hicks (Frederic Forrest) learns about Charles Manson's madness in a news article featured in "Apocalypse Now." (1979).
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OKLAHOMA CITY – As America and the world react in horror to the two mass shootings over the weekend – the first in El Paso, Texas, which left 22 dead and dozens injured; the second in Dayton, Ohio, which left 9 dead and 27 injured – I felt sickened, numb.

I was still reacting to the El Paso massacre, when I then heard about the shooting in Dayton, hours later. And yet, I had the strangest feeling about Dayton. I kept thinking, “Toledo,” the city in northwest Ohio, on Lake Erie, that was the home to the fictional character Maxwell Q. Klinger, in the popular series M*A*S*H, which was set during the Korean War, but was first aired during the final years of the Vietnam War. Klinger was a fan of his hometown Toledo Mud Hens minor league baseball team.

And speaking of Vietnam, a year ago, in my Dust Devil Dreams post “Everybody’s looking for something,” I noted a number of different things, including both Charles Manson and Marilyn Manson. I also mentioned Apocalypse Now, the 1979 film, set in late 1969, in Vietnam during a classified mission to take out a crazed Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando).

Capt. Willard (Martin Sheen) is captured by Kurtz in his cult-like, jungle compound in Cambodia and asks Willard where he is from. (May I also refer you to my 2018 sync piece "The past in our present.")

COLONEL KURTZ "Where are you from Willard ?" 
WILLARD "I'm from Ohio, sir." 
KURTZ "Were you born there ?" 
WILLARD "Yes, sir."
KURTZ "Whereabouts ?" 
WILLARD "Toledo, sir." 
KURTZ "How far were you from the river ?" 
WILLARD "The Ohio river, sir ? About 200 miles."


Charles Manson, as I wrote, was quite familiar with the Ohio River, having been born in Cincinnati, and later living in Ashland, Kentucky, something the writer Peter Levenda has written about. I also wrote about it in my sync piece “Goin’ to Ashland.

Ohio has been syncing with me quite a bit of late. A lot! A few days back, a man walking past me wore a vintage-looking T-shirt which simply read, “HOLY TOLEDO!” That comes not from the Spanish city of Toledo, but the Ohio city, which was a “crossroads for those who controlled the import and distribution of Canada-produced intoxicants during Prohibition.”

As the Chicago Tribune noted in 2017, “Toledo was considered a haven for gangsters.” But the gangsters also considered Toledo a neutral zone and didn’t shoot up the place. There were many churches in Toledo, Ohio and because of its “holy city” designation, the “Glass City” of Toledo was considered “holy” ground, which gave us the exclamation, “Holy Toledo!”

I say all of this, because Toledo was on my mind, and now I begin to realize why. It was on Donald Trump’s mind as well, confusing the city of Dayton, Ohio with Toledo, shockingly enough. About 150 miles separate Dayton from Toledo, along Interstate 75. Again, I had anticipated a Toledo reference/connection to this horrible tragedy. I didn’t realize how it would manifest.

As Trump said today, reported in The New York Times: “May God bless the memory of those who perished in Toledo,” the president said, referring to a city more than 100 miles away from Dayton, the location of a massacre on Sunday. “May God protect them. May God protect all of those from Texas to Ohio. May God bless the victims and their families. May God bless America.”

Toledo is in Lucas County, Ohio, which is named after Robert Lucas, who was the 12th governor of Ohio, from 1832 to 1836. Lucas was key in the boundary dispute of the 1835-36 “Toledo War,” which was bloodless and led to Michigan ceding territory to the new state of Ohio.

Lucas is a name that came up in reference to Apocalypse Now – in the form of “Col. Lucas,” played by a young Harrison Ford. It is Lucas who confirms to Willard that his mission is to proceed up the Nung River in a Navy patrol boat and “terminate the Colonel’s command.” (Ford chose his character's name - "Col. G. Lucas" - in honor of friend and Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas). 

I write about this in a lengthy Dust Devil Dreams article I wrote in April 2015 titled “Exploring myth and madness along ‘The Mosquito Coast.

As Gen. Corman says to both Willard and Lucas, in explaining the point of the secret mission to terminate Kurtz: “Because there’s a conflict in every human heart, between the rational and irrational. Between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the ‘better angels of our nature.’Every man has got a breaking point. You and I have them. Walt Kurtz has reached his. And very obviously he has gone insane.”


Kurtz, of course, demonstrated he was mentally unstable. In Heart of Darkness, the Joseph Conrad novel Apocalypse Now is based on, Kurtz is depicted as arriving in equatorial Africa ready to change it for the better, but the place changes him, drives him to depravity, insanity. Brando's Kurtz is portrayed in the same way. 

An Apocalypse Now trivia page at, notes the following: “Although no date or year is given for when the film took place, a newspaper article being read by Chef reports the trial of Charles Manson. This would date the action to November 1969 at the earliest since the article could've reached Chef and the crew after that date.”

Principal photography in the Philippines of Apocalypse Now, under the direction of Francis Ford Coppola, took place in 1976-77. It was, famously, a difficult shoot. At the same time - over 10,000 miles away - People's Temple cult leader Jim Jones was importing cyanide to his fortified compound at Jonestown in the Guyanese jungle. Another madman who cast a spell on his followers - all of whom were led to their doom in late 1978, just months before Apocalypse Now was released in theaters. 

And in one notable scene, later in Apocalypse Now, the high-strung character "Chef" Hicks (Frederic Forrest) receives some mail and is reading it on the patrol boat. With a letter is a newspaper article about Charles Manson. In the film, Chef reads the murderous cult leader's name as "Charles Miller Manson," while it is clearly visible in the newspaper article on the screen that it is actually, and accurately, Charles Milles Manson. While the film never notes a specific date regarding the events, it is likely that it is November or December 1969.

And here we are. This week is the 50th anniversary of the Tate-LaBianca murders, which were orchestrated under the strict instructions of Manson, to his "Family." It took place on Aug. 9, 1969, a day after the Beatles (who inspired Manson's madness with songs on "The White Album" nearly a year earlier) made their famous stroll across Abbey Road. 

Manson cultivated his followers out in the California desert and made them into order-taking, killing machines. All the while, the U.S. war machine fought a senseless war in Southeast Asia, about which, Apocalypse Now highlights darkly. It even uses The Doors' "The End," an apocalyptic rock dirge if there ever was one. (And don't forget Jim Morrison's father's role in the escalation of the U.S. role in Vietnam following the Gulf of Tonkin incident). 

And we know Quentin Tarantino's "nostalgia porn" film Once Upon a Time In ... Hollywood, was originally scheduled to be released on Aug. 9, 2019, on the 50th anniversary of the Tate-LaBianca murders. But it simply couldn't be done. It's set in 1969 - a manic year of highs and lows. A year that is being remembered this year, 50 years later (or, as the Rolling Stones put it in September 1969 - "Through the Past, Darkly" - syncing with my DDD sync piece "Crossfire hurricane").

As Maureen Dowd wrote in The New York Times this past weekend: "Tarantino’s movie is about illusion, two TV entertainers clinging to a vanishing macho myth. Trump’s White House is about illusion, one TV entertainer clinging to a vanishing macho myth.

Both the Tarantino creation and the Trump creation feature scripted tough-guy dialogue, rough treatment of women and slurs against Mexicans. (“Don’t cry in front of the Mexicans,” Pitt warns an emotional DiCaprio in a tinsel town parking lot.)

But — except for the usual burst of violence that the director justifies the usual way, by leveling it at the most evil people ever, in this case the Manson Family — Tarantino’s time machine is a gentler ride."

So ... "tough guy" Trump screws up his statement about the shooting in Dayton and calls it "Toledo." No apology. No admission that he screwed up. He never does that. He likely doesn't even know where Ohio is on the map. All the while, gun-toting killing machines - many of them white supremacists - are gunning down people in shocking numbers. And what does Trump have to offer?!?!? He is a two-bit cult leader himself, inciting violence and hatred - and worse. 

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, a Democrat who is also running for president, Tweeted out the following when he heard Trump’s mistake via Dayton/Toledo … “Toledo. Fck me.

Yeah. About right.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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