August 9, 2009

40 Years Later: Remembering the Manson Victims

August 9, 1969. A day that would go down in history for the generation to come. A day that would bring public awareness to Charles Manson, to brutal and meaningless crime and sadly, because she had been seeking stardom for a handful of years, to Sharon Tate.

As is common for many murder cases, the victims often get lost in the publicity that engulfs the events. Many journalists and authors want to speak to the killer or killers, wanting to understand why the crimes were committed. Interesting, and perhaps helpful certainly, but it leaves the victims almost as impersonal and unimportant as the killer or killers themselves felt.

Today should be about the people whose lives were lost due to Charles Manson and his "Family". These people shouldn't be remembered only as Manson Family victims. They had thoughts, dreams, hopes and desires - - the strongest of which, on August 9, 1969, certainly was to live.

Sharon Tate Polanski. Unquestionably the most famous of those who died, due to her occupation as an actress and being the wife of director Roman Polanski, Sharon was known for her incredibly kind heart and generous spirit. She was said to have never turned a friendship away and never had a harsh word for anyone. She was fostering a half dozen stray animals on August 9, 1969, in keeping with her caring heart. Nearly nine months pregnant with a baby boy at the time of her death, Sharon only wanted to be a wife and mother. She did accomplish being a wife during her lifetime.

Jay Sebring. Jay was an internationally known hairstylist and "the" hairstylist to celebrities in the late 60s and lived the fast Hollywood lifestyle to go with it. Jay lived in the house formerly occupied by Paul Bern and Jean Harlow and "discovered" Bruce Lee in Long Beach, introducing him to Bill Dozier, who started Bruce's career. Despite his playboy-like lifestyle, Jay was a relatively lonely person, who counted Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski as family. Having dated Sharon prior to her meeting Roman, Sharon gave Jay her high school graduation ring as a gift. He was still wearing it around his neck on the night he died.

Abigail Folger. Best known as the Folgers Coffee heiress, she was known as "Gibby" to her family and friends and Sharon Tate's sister remembers her best for the thick, luxurious, dark hair she had. Despite coming from a very affluent family, Gibby volunteered much of her time - doing charity work for the Los Angeles County Welfare Department, helping her mother with the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic in San Francisco, as well as a political volunteer for Bobby Kennedy's presidential campaign and Tom Bradley's campaign for mayor of Los Angeles. She supported the civil rights movement and in keeping with her friendly nature, actually waved and smiled at one of her killers that night, believing them to be friends.

Wojciech "Voytek" Frykowski. Voytek was born in Poland to a wealthy, well-known family. He was educated in an exclusive film school and the father of a son, Bartek, who was born during Voytek's first marriage. Voytek became friends with Roman Polanski during the early years of both men. Voytek had hoped to have a successful writing career and had been in a relationship with Abigail Folger for over a year at the time of his death. In keeping with his strong willed nature, he fought hard for his life and the lives of his friends.

Steven Parent. The least well known, and least publicized, of the people who died on Cielo Drive was this recent high school graduate was working two jobs to pay for college he was due to start the month after his death. He enjoyed folk music, playing the guitar and anything electronic. In fact, Steven had been tested at near genius level for electronics. Steven had a younger sister, Janet, and two younger brothers, Greg and Dale.

Leno LaBianca. Leno had the nickname "Flash" growing up and was such an exceptional student, he was able to skip a grade. He competed in both the shot put and discus competitions in high school, and went into the family business - - groceries - - eventually. Leno was also in the Army, becoming a member of the 524th Military Police Battillion. After spending years running the family business, Leno was able to realize a lifelong dream of breeding and racing thoroughbred horses. He was remembered as being quiet and shy but equipped with a subtle humor. He had two daughters and a son, as well as a stepson and stepdaughter at the time of his death.

Rosemary LaBianca. Rosemary spent her early years in an orphanage in Arizona, until she was 12 and a California family adopted her. Having once worked as a carhop, Rosemary found her calling with clothing and fashions. She not only started her own boutique but smartly invested her money in stocks and commodities and becoming an overnight millionaire. Rosemary left behind a daughter, a son, two stepdaughters and a stepson.

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