Charles Manson is dead. And honestly, who gives a shit? The man was 83 years old. He lived significantly longer than every individual whose murder he orchestrated. And in addition to robbing them of the long lives they deserved, their names are now and forever laced with his legacy; gruesome anecdotes of America’s most formidable and pop-entrenched cult figure.
There’s really nothing to talk about with regards to Manson’s life. He spent the better part of the last forty years behind bars for his crimes, which include – but are not limited to – organizing and implementing the deaths of at least nine people. Before he assembled his notorious Family, and before they found shelter in the sun-starched Topanga Canyon, he was in and out of jail for a number of offenses, including theft, forging checks, and pimping teenagers. There’s plenty of literature in the world that attempts to understand Manson: where he went wrong, what economic or environmental factors might be to blame, who he was really.
I have no interest in that. When I heard that Manson kicked it last night, I didn’t think of the man himself, but of those he murdered – maybe not firsthand, but in every other sense of the word. And it seems only right to remind the world of them; who they were in life, and just what Manson and his cohorts stole from them and their families.
Hinman was the first known victim of Manson and his family. A talented musician and student – he was working on a Ph.D. in sociology at the time of his death – he was remembered for his generous spirit, and for letting those seeking shelter stay at his Topanga Canyon home. That included the Manson Family, whom Hinman befriended and housed for several months in 1969. But that friendship soured in July, when Manson – convinced Hinman was independently wealthy – sent family members Bobby Beausoleil, Susan Atkins, and Mary Brunner to his home to extort him. They stabbed him to death three days later, and Manson stole his car. He allegedly died while clutching prayer beads and repeating a Buddhist chant. He was 35 years old.
Donald “Shorty” Shea
Shea was a stuntman who hailed from Massachusetts. He came to Hollywood with dreams of fame, but got into stunts instead, and also worked as a bouncer and a ranch hand. His nickname, “Shorty,” was ironic: the man was roughly 6 feet, 4 inches tall. Though he continued to work in the entertainment business, he found comfort and profit as the foreman of Spahn Ranch, an old movie ranch near Topanga Canyon that was once the set of several Western films and TV series like Bonanza and The Lone Ranger. The Manson Family eventually took shelter at Spahn, and though at first they cohabited peacefully, Shea later found them a nuisance and attempted to have them removed from the property. Manson also came to despise Shea, largely because he was married to a black woman (Manson was a well-documented racist). On August 26, 1969, Manson ordered Family members Bruce Davis, Clem Grogan and Tex Watson to kill Shea. He was beaten with a pipe wrench and stabbed to death, and then buried at the ranch. His remains weren’t discovered until 1977, almost a decade after his death. He was 35 years old.
Parent was the first to die in the Tate murders. He was a Los Angeles native and a recent high school graduate who was obsessed with electronics; he loved to tear apart radios to figure out how they worked. That fascination got him in trouble here and there, and he spent some time in a youth correctional facility for theft. After graduating, he worked two jobs, trying to save money to attend college. While out driving one night, he picked up a hitchhiker named William Garretson, a caretaker at 10050 Cielo Drive, which was being rented by Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. Garretson invited Parent to visit him at the property’s guest house any time, which he did on the night of August 9, 1969, hoping to sell Garretson a radio. He hung out at the guest house for a few hours, leaving at around midnight. At the property’s gate, he was stopped in his car by family member Tex Watson, who approached him, slashed him with a knife, and shot him to death. He was 18 years old.
The most famous Manson victim was the ethereally beautiful movie star Sharon Tate. Though well-known for her bombshell figure and smoky eyes, Tate dreamed of being a truly great actress. Born in Texas and raised partially in Italy (her father was in the army), she modeled and won beauty pageants across two continents. While visiting the set of Adventures of a Young Man in Verona, actor Richard Beymer (of Twin Peaks fame) spotted Tate and encouraged her to contact his agent in Los Angeles. Her father was eventually promoted and reassigned to California, a move that allowed Tate to set her sights on Hollywood. Though she was inexperienced, her agents saw great potential in her, and invested $100,000 into making her a movie star; that paid for a makeover, photoshoots, acting and singing classes, and a trainer. She landed a recurring role on The Beverly Hillbillies, and later landed her first movie role, Eye of the Devil, in 1966. The next year, she appeared in Roman Polanski’s Fearless Vampire Killers, and the two fell in love and married in London a year later. Both Polanski and Tate’s careers blossomed quickly: he found widespread success with 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby and she continued nabbing movie roles, including a lead role in Valley of the Dolls, which got her a Golden Globe nomination. She was 8 months pregnant with her son, Paul, when her home was invaded by the Manson family in August 1969. Along with her houseguests, she was stabbed to death by Tex Watson. She was 26 years old.
Sebring was a world-famous hairstylist who revolutionized male hair care. His clients included celebrities like Warren Beatty and Paul Newman, and he also did hair for major motion pictures, like 1960’s Spartacus. His salon was largely profitable, allowing Sebring to live a very lavish lifestyle among the stars. He was good friends with Bruce Lee, who taught him martial arts; Sebring passed Lee’s name along to his client, producer William Dozier, who cast him in The Green Hornet. Sebring met Sharon Tate at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in 1964 and the two began dating. She eventually left him for Roman Polanski, but the two remained very close, and Sebring would stay with her when Roman was away filming. Sebring was looking to expand his business into hair care products and open more salons, but that was cut short on August 9, 1969, when he was murdered by the Manson family while staying with Sharon. He was the first in the house to die, shot by Tex Watson after protesting Sharon’s mistreatment. He was 36 years old.
Folger was the heiress to the Folger Coffee Company, a graduate of Radcliffe College and Harvard University, and a philanthropist. She worked for magazines, in art museums, and later as a volunteer social worker for the Los Angeles County Welfare Department. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and donated large sums of money to Tom Bradley, a black councilman running for mayor of Los Angeles (which he lost after a racist-tinged smear campaign). Folger and her boyfriend, Wojciech Frykowski, were good friends with Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski; Polanski asked them to stay with her in their Cielo Drive home when he went overseas to film a movie. She was stabbed to death on August 9, 1969 by family member Patricia Krenwinkel. She was 27 years old.
The Polish-born Frykowski was the childhood best friend of Roman Polanski, who he met at a school dance. The two worked together on many of Polanski’s early film projects; Frykowski helped with funding and worked as an extra. He was twice married and had a son, Bartek. He moved to America 1967, where he met Abigail Folger. He didn’t speak English and she didn’t speak Polish, but they both spoke French, and eventually fell in love. She provided for him and taught him English, and they spent much of their time together housesitting for Polanski and Tate when they were working on film projects. Frykowski was allegedly caught up in drug trafficking, which put his relationship with Folger on the rocks. They were close to breaking up, but never got the chance; they were both murdered by the family on August 9, 1969. He was stabbed by Susan Atkins, then beaten, shot, and stabbed to death by Tex Watson. He was 33 years old.
Rosemary and Leno LaBianca
The LaBiancas were a moderately wealthy couple who lived in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. Leno found success as the president of the supermarket chain Gateway, and Rosemary owned a profitable dress shop named Boutique Carriage. Through smart investments in stocks and commodities, and with her successful business, Rosemary became a millionaire. The LaBiancas married in 1959, and both had children (him three and her two) from previous relationships. The couple originally lived in a Los Feliz home previously owned by Walt Disney, but later bought Leno’s mother’s house a few streets away, on Waverly Drive. The house had a series of break-ins, which unsettled the couple, who were looking to move out of the area. Unfortunately, the break-ins would prove ominous. On August 10, 1969, their home was invaded by the Manson family and the couple was stabbed to death in different rooms of the house. Leno was 44 years old and Rosemary was 40 years old. By sheer luck, none of their children were home at the time.