In Sharon Tate Case, The Lives Of The Jet Set and Hippies Cross
Sunday, December 7th, 1969
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 7 – On the one hand, there was the circle of actress Sharon Tate – the international movie jet set, monied, sophisticated, and on the surface at least, glamorous.
And on the other hand, there was the circle of bearded, magnetic Charles M. Manson — a migrant tribe — mostly young women — living out of a bus or in abandoned buildings, scrounging for a living.
Both groups were far from the ken of most American families – stable, home oriented, with a night at the movies or a day at the lake as common pleasures.
Then the paths of the Tate and Manson set crossed. Average folk reacted with shock to headlines describing the ghastliest murders In movie annals.
The beautiful blonde Miss Tate, wife of the internationally acclaimed Polish director Roman Polanski, master of the macabre, was found slain in the ninth month of pregnancy in a hillside mansion that looked like a slaughterhouse. Dead with her – amid noose, hoods and cryptic scrawling in blood – were four others.
Police said they found no good clues.
Then, the next night, a wealthy market owner and his wife, were found stabbed and slashed among similar bizarre trappings.
Again no good clues, for months, a mystery.
Then, last Monday, Police Chief Edward Davis, announced at a news conference a solution. The killers, he said, were hippie-type members of the Manson “family — young people who called him “God” and “Satan,” said he had them under hypnotic spells, and who had adopted his occult brand of religion.
At first glance, the Tate and Manson groups seem to have little in common. At second, common ground emerges. Members of both were young, often physically attractive, restless, some rootless, some with deep problems, most with time to pursue pleasure. And, police say, members of both sets experimented with drugs.
It now is possible to trace how, the paths of these two small groups met, and how the two units in some ways are typical of broader social groupings: the fast livers of the movie world and the so-called hippies who turn their backs on conventional life styles.
First, the victims:
— Sharon Tate, 26, strikingly beautiful but, friends said, insecure, unsure, often lonely. She and Polanski were known as members of the let sets “beautiful people.” Neighbors called them “rich hippies.”
Sharon was the daughter of an Army officer who moved around frequently. At 6 months, in Dallas, she was chosen Miss Tiny Tot. At 16 she was Miss Richland of Washington. At an American high school in Italy she was cheerleader and homecoming queen.
She referred to herself among friends as “sexy little me.” One of her first movie roles had her bathing nude in a tub. Her film career reached its peak in the role of Jennifer in “Valley of the Dolls.”
With Polanski she traveled the world, where movie work called. He was at firm takes in London while, at their $200,000 rented home here, she awaited their baby -and met death.
— Jay Sebring, 35, handsome, slight men’s hair stylist who demonstrated his masculinity by becoming one of Hollywood’s top karate experts. Sebring, once engaged to Miss Tate, was also a friend of Polanski’s.
— Voityck Frokowsky, 37, a Polish emigre, tall, handsome and physically powerful. At one time an assistant on Polanski films, Frokowsky apparently had squandered inherited wealth and had become a hanger-on in the Tate-Polanski group.
— Abigail “Gibby” Folger, 26, pretty heiress to a coffee fortune and honor graduate from Radcliffe College. She came to Los Angeles to do social work but, police say, became a friend of Frokowsky and a student of black magic
— Steven Parent, 18, a friend of the caretaker at the Tate-Polanski estate.
In Hollywood, the Polanskis led a busy social life centered, due in Miss Tales pregnancy, on the home. The life style, like the clothing, was informal. People from all walks of life -including sometimes hippie types met in odd places -dropped in at all hours. Polanski said some of the couple’s friends used narcotics, but he and his wife did not.
It was a life of fast, expensive cars occasional high living at show business social gatherings, hobnobbing with prominent persons.
By contrast, Manson and his followers were near the other end or life’s scale.
The recent history of the Manson clan is a chronicle of a group often in trouble, almost always on the move.
Manson, 35, emerges as an extraordinary figure. Abandoned as a boy, reared with foster parents and in reformatories, an ex-convict, he appeared to pack irresistible appeal to the young women who shared his life. They called him “God,” “Jesus” and “Satan,” referred to themselves as his slaves.
At the family’s last haven, in a rocky canyon near Death Valley, Manson exercised, in the words of the attorney for a girl now charged with a separate murder, “a Svengali-type power…over her and everyone there including men.”
Manson has known lifelong trouble. At 25 he had spent 13 years in reformatories for auto theft, forgery and transporting women across state lines for prostitution.
Paroled in 1967, he discovered the hippie life and, friends said, a new gypsy world opened for him.
He went to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury hippie district and collected a following, mostly girls. In prison he had learned to play the guitar, found he could sing and began to write songs. Now he called himself “a roving minstrel” and “a walking musician.”
Manson and a 19-year-old girl moved Into a hillside pad she described as “a luxurious hobo castle” with Arabian tapestries, goatskin rugs and a yard or “dancing trees and smiling clover.” Manson’s growing clan sang, beat drums and played along with him.
In April 1968 the group left Haight-Ashbury in an old school bus converted to living quarters for 14 young persons, mostly women. Near Oxnard, Calif., the bus broke down Manson was arrested but released when the bus, listed as stolen, was found to have been legally sold.
On a rainy afternoon the party took refuge in a ranch full of old movie sets near the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles.
“Charley and his friends came to spend the night,” said the owner, 80-year-old blind cowboy George Spahn, “and never seemed to leave.”
That’s where Manson and his followers were living at the time of the Tate murders the night of last Aug. 8-9, police said.
The killers dressed in black for the murderous foray, in an account given by two attorneys for Susan Denise Atkins, 21. In a separate case, she is charged with murdering Malibu musician Gary Hinman, with whom Manson is said to have lived for a time.
Attorney Richard Caballero said Miss Atkins gave the grand jury Friday “all the details” about the Tate killings. She went along but had nothing to do with the slayings and was under Manson’s “hypnotic spell,” said Caballero.
And how did the wandering hippies, path finally cross that of Miss Tate and her jet-set friends? What led them the score of miles from the old movie ranch to the secluded, ridge-top mansion in Benedict Canyon?
The attorneys said Manson had visited the house before when the tenant was producer Terry Melcher, 27, son of singer-actress Doris Day. Miss Atkins’ attorneys say Manson unsuccessfully sought Melcher’s aid in recording songs when Melcher was the previous tenant or the Tate-Polanski home.
After the Tate murders, police say, Manson moved his “family” to the Death Valley area.
There, guarded by fortified observation posts equipped with telescopes and walkie talkies, police say, members of the tribe converted stolen Volkswagens into dune buggies.
Manson and 22 others were arrested in two October raids by Inyo County sheriff’s deputies who said the nomads ran a car-theft ring.
At a court hearing Wednesday in the High Sierra town of Independence, Manson, his hands cuffed to a chain around his waist, was ordered to stand trial on charges of receiving stolen property and operating a stolen vehicle.
Under arrest on murder warrants in the Tate case, meanwhile, are Patricia Krenwinkel, 21, in Mobile, Ala.; Charles D. Watson, 24, in McKinney, Tex., and Linda Louise Kasabian, 19, N.H.
By GENE HANDSAKER