Wednesday, August 8th, 2012
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 8 – It was November, 1968. Richard Nixon had just won the presidential election, defeating Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace. NBC had just angered football fans across the country, when the network aired Heidi, instead of the last minute of the Oakland Raiders’ epic comeback win over the New York Jets. The Beatles had just released their self-titled double White Album. And in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles, grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary were in the process of moving.
For the past six years, the LaBianca’s had called 4053 Woking Way home. Woking Way wasn’t so much a street as it was a curve in the road. It winds in between Parva Avenue and Amesbury Road in the hills overlooking Silverlake.
The house at 4053 Woking Way was big – just over 6,000 square feet – and had a fantastic view of downtown and the pacific. It’s living room had vaulted ceilings and a staircase that led up to a Juliet balcony. The French-Normandy styled house was built in 1932 by Walt and Lillian Disney. It was equipped with a screening room where Walt reviewed studio dailies.
Rosemary LaBianca’s JW Robinson credit card with Woking Way address
But for Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, the Woking Way house had become a financial burden. So that November, The LaBianca’s made arrangements to sell the Disney house and buy Leno’s mother’s home.
The house at 3301 Waverly Drive was no stranger to Leno LaBianca. His mother and father had purchased the home in 1940, and Leno and his sisters had grown up there. The white stucco, two bedroom home was modest, especially compared to the Disney house. It was perched high atop a sloping front yard, where, at family get-togethers, Leno’s children, nieces and nephews would lay sideways and roll down the hill, racing each other to the bottom.
But although the Waverly Drive house was filled with memories, the move back was only supposed to be a temporary one. Leno’s long term goal was to move away from the city and build a horse ranch.
Three months later, and 11 miles west of Los Feliz, Sharon Tate Polanski had plans to spend the day with real estate agent Elaine Young. Sharon and her husband Roman Polanski had spent much of their first year of marriage living at 1600 SummitRidge Drive.
1600 SummitRidge Drive
The 2-story Cape Cod styled house at 1600 SummitRidge Drive sat high up on the hill overlooking Benedict Canyon. The Polanski’s were renting it from Sharon’s Valley of the Dolls co-star Patty Duke.
Columbia pictures had hired Bruce Lee to give Sharon martial arts lessons in preparation for her role in The Wrecking Crew. After Sharon introduced Lee to Roman, the martial artist would come by and teach the couple kung fu in the driveway of the SummitRidge house.
Sharon loved the SummitRidge Drive house, so Roman made an offer to buy it. But for whatever reason, Polanski and Patty Duke’s husband Harry Falk, couldn’t agree on a price.
In February of 1969, a newly pregnant Sharon began looking for a more permanent place for the couple to live and raise their child. Roman was scheduled to work on the script of Day of the Dolphin in London. Sharon herself, was booked to star in the Thirteen Chairs. With filming in Italy two months away, Sharon had little time to find a place to call home.
Elaine Young and Sharon looked at properties all over Los Angeles. Sharon finally settling on the secluded home at the end of Cielo Drive. The rustic farm house at 10050 Cielo Drive had been vacant for about a month. It’s previous tenants, Terry Melcher and Candice Bergen, had moved out shortly after New Year’s.
Roman Polanski signed the extended lease on February 12th, the same day opening statements began in the Sirhan Sirhan trial at the Hall of Justice.
Five months later, both the Polanski’s and LaBianca’s moves proved to be most unfortunate, when both of their new homes were invaded by a group dressed in black. Their futures were savagely erased, and forever linked to pure madness, speculation, and slander.
Both the Woking Way and SummitRidge Drive houses still stand today. 4053 Woking Way was recently on the market and sold for $3,700,000 on August 26, 2011. 1600 SummitRidge Drive has undergone some recent improvements and is currently on the market with an asking price of $5,395,000.