During the summer of 1969, the Manson murders gripped the nation with fear. And while everyone is familiar with the mastermind—who recently passed away at the age of 83—and his story, his victims sometimes languish in his shadow.
But there were many people who died at the hands of Charles Manson and his brainwashed "family." Among them was Sharon Tate, a 26-year-old actress who was eight and a half months pregnant at the time of her death. Talented, beautiful, famous, and married to Rosemary's Baby director Roman Polanski, it seemed unthinkable that someone like Tate could meet such a brutal end. Her murder was not only senseless and shocking—but a definitive end to the carefree spirit and innocence of the 1960s. As renowned journalist Joan Didion writes in The White Album: "Many people I know in Los Angeles believe the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969."
Just before midnight the previous evening, a group of Manson followers arrived at Tate's home, armed with instructions to "totally destroy everyone in [it], as gruesome as you can." Charles Manson had come to the house on a different occasion, ready to argue with its then-renter—music producer Terry Melcher—about a rejected record deal. With Melcher gone and the famous Polanksi couple in his place, 10050 Cielo Drive now represented everything Manson hated.
By the early morning hours of August 9, 1969, Sharon Tate was dead, as were three of her friends—Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, and Abigail Folger—and a fourth guest, Steven Parent. Save for Parent, who was shot, Tate and the others died from vicious stabbings. The Manson murderers then wrote "Pig" on the front door in Tate's blood, fulfilling their leader's final wish that they "leave a sign...something witchy."
Tate was mostly known for her memorable performance in the 1967 cult favorite, Valley of the Dolls. Her rise to fame had been an upwards slog from beauty pageantry to working as an extra to getting bit parts on shows like Mister Ed andThe Beverly Hillbillies. After failed movie auditions for The Cincinnati Kid and The Sound of Music in the mid-1960s, Tate finally landed her first big role in the 1966 horror film, Eye of the Devil. A succession of other movies, plus her working relationship and marriage to Roman Polanski, set her more firmly on Hollywood's radar. Her final film was 12+1—her first, and only, lead role.
Despite the passage of over 50 years, the massacre at 10500 Cielo Drive—and the LaBianca slayings the day after—has not faded from the American consciousness. Greg King recounts Tate's life and murder in Sharon Tate and the Manson Murders, painting a portrait of an actress, friend, wife, and expectant mother who had so much more to show the world. The following excerpt of the book takes readers to the devastating crime scene on the morning of August 9, 1969.
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Featured photo: IMDb