THE SIX DEGREES OF SHARON TATE| MAO, MCQUEEN, MANSON AND MAD MEN
So this is what the internets are recently abuzz about– The Mad Men costume designer channeling the essence of Sharon Tate, circa Esquire Magazine 1969, by placing the same Vietnam Star T-shirt on Megan Draper. Which, mind you– was probably not for sale at your local Hot Topic, head shop, or Amazon.com back then, so kinda random and creepy. It’s a pretty good ploy to generate some buzz– made me look twice, and I haven’t watched the show in a few years now. Probably exactly what they were going for. I will say, for the record, that the original photography by William Helburn is amazing– downright titillating, even.
But if you find this kind of stuff remotely interesting, the real tingler is how Steve McQueen himself almost ended up a part of the Manson massacre, and could have shared in Sharon Tate and the other’s gruesome fate…
From The Daily Mail, the alleged accounts of McQueen’s infidelities and loathsome ways that put him on the road to creepsville, and in the path of Manson’s murderous crew
”For years, as his [a young Steve McQueen’s] career failed to ignite, he leeched off a successful dancer called Neile Adams — spending her earnings on new cars, drugs and other women. Eventually marrying her in 1956, he landed a small role soon afterwards in the film of Harold Robbins’s trashy novel, Never Love A Stranger. Within days, he’d embarked on an intensely sexual affair with the film’s leading lady actress Lita Milan — and then proudly told his wife about it. According to Neile: ‘Lita would be the first in a long line of flings that would plague me throughout our married life. OK, I thought, I can handle it — I have to — as long as he doesn’t flaunt it.”
But, as McQueen’s career gathered pace, he never stopped flaunting his affairs — with co-stars including Jacqueline Bisset and Lee Remick, not to mention a host of starlets and fans. Perhaps as a test of his wife’s devotion, he made indiscreet phone calls within her hearing and left lipstick smudges on his shirts (and trousers) and love notes in his pockets.
By 1960, Neile had given up work and given birth to a son and daughter. Still struggling to be the kind of wife he wanted, she’d boil up the high-grade peyote he bought from Navajo Indians, and then disappear while McQueen got stoned with his friends.
He also started going for all-night benders at the Whisky a Go Go club on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, where he met one of his chief partners in crime: a womanising hairdresser called Jay Sebring. The two men, fuelled by alcohol and cocaine, shared the sexual favours of a Bambi-eyed starlet called Sharon Tate, often in the same bed at the same time. And their friendship continued even after she married the director Roman Polanski.
Sharon Tate for Esquire magazine, 1967 –Photo by William Helburn
On the afternoon of August 7, 1969, Sebring went to McQueen’s house to give him a trim and suggested they attend a party that evening at Sharon’s house. McQueen said he’d be there. Before setting out, however, he was called by a young and beautiful blonde he was seeing at the time. Come along to the party, he said — but she told him she had a better idea for just the two of them.
Thus, by a whisker, Steve McQueen avoided being massacred by the Manson ‘Family’, the hippie followers of the manipulative psychopath Charles Manson, who butchered Tate and three guests — including Sebring, who was shot and stabbed. Ironically, McQueen’s adultery had saved his life.
Two months later, when the killers were arrested, police discovered McQueen’s name on a hit-list of people whom Manson had decided to kill. It turned out that someone at McQueen’s production company had once rejected a screenplay by Manson. From then on, the actor carried a loaded Magnum at all times.