By Jake Mouchawar, Production Dramaturg for Squeaky Fromme Love Song
Before James La Bella’s new play Squeaky Fromme Love Song, the 1990 cult musical Assassins was the first (and only) fictional portrayal of Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme. Other than a cameo from Dakota Fanning in last years Oscar-nominated Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, popular culture has been mostly silent on the Manson Family’s most devoted member. Squeaky Fromme Love Song gives her another chance in the spotlight by centering the story and some of the major character arcs around Squeaky Fromme’s November 1975 trial for her attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford (though Fromme exists more as a looming presence in this play because she isn’t an actual character). To help better understand her contribution to Squeaky Fromme Love Song, we must first look at the factors leading up to the trial that intersects with the events of the show.
In Squeaky Fromme Love Song, our protagonist is high schooler Louis “Chicky” Biff who feels abandoned and betrayed by his family as well as society in general. We see him metaphorically run away from both family and society to a savior who he believes will pick him up. In May 1967, 19-year-old Lynette Fromme drops out of El Camino Community College and is thrown out of the house by her father. She runs away to Venice Beach, where she meets Charles Manson—an American criminal in the middle of recruiting people into a cult that would later be known as the Manson Family—at a bus stop. Manson allegedly sees her and states the exact predicament she was in: “Your parents threw you out, didn’t they?” Manson starts to walk away, but Fromme follows him, becoming the second member of what would later be known as the “Manson Family.”
Chicky’s cathartic journey in Squeaky Fromme Love Song is supported by and indeed directly revolves around what happened after August 1969 in both Charles Manson’s and Squeaky Fromme’s lives. In August 1969, the Manson Family brutally murdered nine people. One of these victims was actress Sharon Tate, which became the focal point of the federal chase of the criminals. Fromme didn’t partake (at least to our knowledge) in the murders, however; she praised Manson and his cause outside of the courtroom throughout the entire Manson Family case from the start of the trial on June 15, 1970 to the very end on January 25th, 1971. Her loyalty was one of the biggest factors in Charles Manson becoming a notoriously inspiring icon to a lot of the young American population at the time. Sometime in 1973, donning the nickname “Red,” which she got from an imprisoned Charles Manson, Fromme packed up her life and moved to Sacramento with former Manson Family sister, Sandra Good. At some point between her move to Sacramento in 1973 and August 1975, she became an environmentalist with a focus on the protection of the Redwood National Park. Her love for this environmental safe haven was challenged in early August 1975, when President Gerald Ford asked Congress to backpedal the provisions of Nixon’s 1970 Clean Air, which helped protect many national parks including The Redwood National Park. Seeing that President Ford had plans to visit Sacramento in September, she enacted a plan to assassinate him. She bought a Colt .45 pistol from a retired federal government engineering draftsman and Manson Family friend Harold E. Boro. On September 5, 1975, Fromme donned a red cape and went to Capitol Park to assassinate President Ford who was meeting with citizens of Sacramento. Her gun misfired and she was brought to the ground by a security agent. She sat for almost two months in prison before her trial began on November 4th, 1975. From that moment on, the trial and the baggage it carried in relation to Manson became the backdrop as well as a direct motivator for the events of Squeaky Fromme Love Song.
You are invited to come see James La Bella’s Rod Parker Playwriting Award–winning Squeaky Fromme Love Song, directed by Joe Antoun, running from March 12 through 15 in the Greene Theater. $12 tickets ($8 with Emerson ID) at bit.ly/squeaky-fromme.