Charles Manson T-Shirts Letter

Original Letter to Richard Lemmons of Zooport Riot Gear in Newport Beach

Stephanie Rowe

Original letter written by Charles Manson.

Around 1992, entrepreneurs Richard Lemmons and his brother Dan Lemmons had an idea to create a T-Shirt with the face of convicted murderer Charles Manson on the front, and the words “Charlie Don’t Surf” on the back. During a 1993 interview the brothers told New York Times staff writer Susan Christian that they thought it was cool and was originally thought of as a joke because, as they said, Charlie Doesn’t Surf, he is in prison. The saying “Charlie Don’t Surf” was first coined in a 1979 movie called “Apocalypse Now”, where it referenced “Charlie” as the people of Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.

At the time, the Lemmons brothers wrote a letter to prisoner Charles Manson to obtain permission to use his likeness and image on the shirts offering him 10 cents for each shirt sold as a royalty payment. Manson, who was sitting in Corcoran State Prison serving his life sentence, returned his own hand-scribbled letter signed “C. Manson” and dated “today.” Shown below is a scanned and watermarked image of the original letter returned by Manson giving his permission.

The full letter is titled ROYALTY AGREEMENT, I Charles Manson, grant permission for my likeness to be used on a T-Shirt created by Zooport Riot Gear. I agree to accept the .10/T-shirt royalty to be paid to me on a quarterly basis to be placed into [blank] account. On the bottom of the letter is scribbled “P.M. I don’t know about stuff like this, you take care of this” Signed, C. Manson, dated TODAY. Top right added: Send to Dan Lemmons, Box 15596, Newport Beach, Calif CA, 92659

The shirts become a hit in popular culture when singer and song writer Axl Rose of then popular Guns N’ Roses recorded a song Manson wrote called “Game” which was based on Manson’s “Look at Your Game, Girl” and Rose began wearing the shirts in concert, on stage and in videos saying he did so because people said he was crazy and Manson reflected this. Manson’s royalty payments were intercepted by a lawsuit from one of the victims which prevented both Zooport Riot Gear and MCA Records (which was the record label for Guns and Roses) to redirect any royalty payments to be applied to the judgement won in the lawsuit.

The original letter along with one original t-shirt was purchased from the Lemmons’ brothers and is in the possession of CharlesManson.com


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