2020-04-03 People South Africa

(Ben Green) #1
13-year-old girl at actor Jack
Nicholson’s house. He fled the
United States after a plea-bargain
deal negotiated by his lawyers
unravelled and he was told to
expect 50 years’ jailtime. Now
living in Paris, his greatest regret,
says Debra, is that he cannot visit
the grave of his wife and unborn
Although her health is shaky, and
she receives regular death threats
from the dark extremities of the
Manson-worshipping web, Debra
campaigns relentlessly against
the release of the imprisoned
members of the Family.
“It isn’t personal,” she says. “I
don’t feel hatred for them. When
Charlie died in 2017, aged 83, I
actually shed a tear for him. But
we are fooling ourselves if we
think these people are no longer
dangerous. When has any of them
shown real regret? Why do they
keep in such close touch with each
other? I hear their lawyers saying
they are reformed and shouldn’t
still be paying for their youthful
mistakes, and I think, bull.”
Last year a parole appeal was
made by 69-year-old Leslie van
Houten, one of Manson’s key
followers, who has been in jail
for over 48 years, and shares
with Krenwinkel the distinction of
being America’s longest-serving
female prisoner. On June 4 of
2019, California Governor Gavin
Newsom denied parole for Van
Houten, citing concern for her
‘potential for future violence’.
Van Houten, a teenage runaway
from a strict Christian home,
played a leading role in the
second night of Manson’s
murder rampage. This time the
victims were Leno and Rosemary
LaBianca, the owners of a
small chain of grocery stores.
They were neither famous nor
particularly rich. It was their very
ordinariness that made them
Throughout 1969, a turbulent
time of anti-Vietnam War
protests, political upheaval and
race riots, Manson had been
telling the Family that America’s
blacks were about to rise up and
turn on their white ‘oppressors’
in a mutually destructive conflict
that would destroy the world’s
existing order and bring the
Family to supreme power.
When this prediction failed to
materialise, Manson – fearful
that his credibility was slipping –
decided to trigger the race war








been in her to hurt anyone. Everyone who
met her recognised the sweetness in her.
This is why the story still haunts us. It is the
good against the darkness and the evil, the
sum of our fears.
We were amazingly close as kids. Our dad
was in the military, and we were always
upping and moving home, so the only real
constant Sharon and I had in our lives was
each other. When she became a star she
didn’t change at all. Everyone knows that
Hollywood can be a cruel place and, God
knows, there’s a lot of dishonesty and
double-crossing, but Sharon never played
that game. I’ve met so many people over the
years who met her, maybe even just once,
and remembered something nice she had
said or done.
She told me if she hadn’t become an actress,
she’d have liked to have been a psychologist.
Definitely she had an ability to know what
people were thinking, and that helped her to
steer her way through the business.”
Sharon had made early waves as a child
beauty queen, and by the time she arrived
in Hollywood, in her late teens, she had the
show-stopping looks of a born movie siren.
The powerful agent Hal Gefsky, who took
her on his books, confessed later: “She was
so young, so beautiful, I didn’t really know
what to do with her.”
For the first few years of her career, this
presented Sharon with a problem. Directors
took the view that no actress so beautiful
could also be talented, and she found herself
marooned in a cycle of routine B-movie
roles. Everything changed in 1967 when she
landed a part in Valley Of The Dolls, adapted
from Jacqueline Susann’s blockbuster novel.
Critics differed over the movie, but they
swooned for Sharon.
“Astoundingly photogenic, infinitely
curvaceous, Sharon Tate is one of the most
smashing young things to hit Hollywood in a
long time,” raved Newsweek magazine.
In 1968, she married 35-year-old Roman,
whose dark cinematic eye was attributed
to his having lost most of his Polish-Jewish
family in the Holocaust. A London society
writer who attended their celebrity-packed
Chelsea wedding called them ‘the Douglas
Fairbanks-Mary Pickford of their time ...
cool, nomadic and nicely shocking’.
“Sharon was completely crazy about
Roman,” says Debra. “Of course she was! He
was charming, smart, funny, brilliant. He still
is. I speak to him on the phone quite often,
and although he has moved on, as he had
to, what happened back then is always with
him. He loved her very deeply, but to this
day he can’t talk about it. He probably opens
up to me more than anyone because we
share the same sense of loss, but basically
he can’t go there.”
Roman’s Paris lawyer, Hervé Termine,
confirms that the director ‘will be making
no statement on what he considers to be a
private matter’.
Eight years after Sharon’s death, Roman
was arrested in LA for having sex with a

for life for
a series of
murders in the

Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van
Houten and Susan Atkins – all
followers of hippie cult leader
Charles Manson

Sharon Tate and Roman
Polanski on their wedding
day, January 20, 1968
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