Sharon Tate and the Manson Murders
The first comprehensive biography of Sharon Tate: Hollywood star, wife of Roman Polanski, victim of Charles Manson, and symbol of the death of the 1960s.
It began as a home invasion by the “Manson family” in the early hours of August 9, 1969. It ended in a killing spree that left seven people dead: actress Sharon Tate, writer Voyteck Frykowski, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, hair stylist Jay Sebring, student Steven Parent, and supermarket owner Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary.
The shock waves of these crimes still reverberate today. They have also, over time, eclipsed the life of their most famous victim—a Dallas, Texas, beauty queen with Hollywood aspirations. After more than a dozen small film and television roles, Tate gained international fame with the screen adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls, but The Fearless Vampire Killers marked a personal turning point, as she would marry its star and director, Roman Polanski. Tate now had a new dream: to raise a family—and she was only weeks away from giving birth the night Charles Manson’s followers murdered her.
Drawn from a wealth of rare material including detective reports, parole transcripts, Manson’s correspondence, and revealing new interviews with Tate’s friends and costars as well as surviving relatives of the murder victims, Sharon Tate and the Manson Murders gives readers a vital new perspective on one of the most notorious massacres of the twentieth century. The dark legacy of the cult phenomenon is still being explored in novels (Emma Cline’s The Girls) and TV shows (NBC’s Aquarius).
In addition to providing the first full-fledged biography of Sharon Tate, author Greg King finally gives a voice to the families of the slain, notably Tate’s mother, Doris. Her advocacy for victims’ rights was recognized during President George H. W. Bush’s 1992 “A Thousand Points of Light” ceremony. This is the true story of a star who is being rediscovered by a new generation of fans, a woman who achieved in death the fame she yearned for in life.
Veteran celebrity biographer King (The Duchess of Windsor, etc.) gives us a thorough account of Sharon Tate's brief life, her star-crossed career and her tragic death at the hands of Charles Manson's Family. King counters the grisly familiarity of the Tate-LaBianca murders by approaching the oft-told story from the perspective of Tate's innocent Hollywood ambitions, presenting her as representative of the 1960s-era woman in pursuit of L.A. stardom and liberation. He recounts her youth as a soldier's daughter in Italy, her struggles in films like Valley of the Dolls (which presented her as a nascent sex kitten) and her ominous relationship with the volatile, philandering Roman Polanski. King portrays Tate as an essentially simple, generous-hearted person who possessed an unfortunate na vet regarding the hidden social storms she traversed. But King's narrative gets less interesting as he begins to reconstruct the Family's development, its descent into the mad butchery of Tate, Leno LaBianca and others, and the arrests. Although King coherently re-creates the stale hippie dreams, criminal tensions and drug-tainted glamour of the cultural milieu in which Manson operated, he breaks little new ground, rehashing what is already known from prosecutor Bugliosi's seminal Helter Skelter. Albeit capably researched and written, this account in the end occupies that uneasy perch between veneration and exploitation.