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Leslie Van Houten seeks parole: one of "Role Models"

Fans of John Waters' "Role Models" might be interested in today's action from a California parole board, which is hearing 60-year-old Leslie Van Houten's bid to be freed. (Update on Van Houten's hearing -- and denial.)

Over many years, Waters interviewed Van Houten -- impisoned since 1969 for her role in two Manson family murders -- and wrote about those conversations in his book, while supporting her release. As he told the Baltimore Sun: "She's very intelligent. She takes the most severe criticism and owns up to her guilt and tries to deal with it in the best way she possibly can. 'I'm not trying to get away with anything,' she says, and she's not."

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Waters has also noted his fascination with Charles Manson's "family," and the way they influenced his film-making. An excerpt: "Sexy, scary, brain-dead, and dangerous, this gang of hippy lunatics gave new meaning to "folie à famille", group madness and insanity as long as the same people are together and united. It was an amazing thing to see in person. Heavily influenced, and actually jealous of their notoriety, I went back to Baltimore and made Pink Flamingos which I wrote, directed and dedicated to the "Manson girls", "Sadie, Katie and Les".

Van Houten was convicted of murder and conspiracy for her role in the slayings of Leno and Rosemary La Bianca, who were stabbed to death one night after Manson's followers killed actress Sharon Tate and four others, an AP report notes. Van Houten, then 19, did not participate in the Tate killings but went along the next night when the La Biancas were slain in their home. In court, she confessed to joining in stabbing Rosemary La Bianca after she was dead.

To his credit, Waters does not dismiss the personal tragedy left behind by Van Houten and other Manson followers. The Sun story noted that despite his support for Van Houten's parole, he emphasizes his respect for the LaBianca family: "Whatever they say, they're not wrong, it can't be wrong, because it's personal, it's their family. I am talking from the view of society, the law, and what is fair. And that's a very different thing. If they ask, 'Where's the parole for my mother?,' I can't answer that question."

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