The Sharon Tate Murders -
A girlfriend and I were debating on whether to go to a music/festival up in New York - We couldn't figure out how we would get to Woodstock (actually it wasn't in Woodstock after all) because on the map it as if we LaGuidia and we were too young to rent a car. (16 and back then you had to be 23)
So as usual we missed one of the greatest events of history. Too bad we didn't see in the future because we could have stuck out our thumbs and probably gotten there sooner then a vehicle.
"The New York Freeway is closed, Man"
We had just completed a bucolic 8 weeks of Summer Stock at a theatre called "Parkway Playhouse" in North Carolina; fun and innocent. Besides the war, which we were getting desensitized to (too many body bags of guys we know coming home) the biggest problem we had was who was going to make the booze run to Ashville since Burnsville is a dry county.
Those innocent things - hitch-hiking, meeting strange cute boys at teen clubs and on the beach, camping on the beach when we were too broke to rent a room, never locking a door, stealing our parents car in the middle of the night to ride around and listen to music, being excited about the moon walk and hearing over and over 'a small step for man, a giant step for mankind' slowed but they didn't really change.
Kids didn't hang around TV much then - we only had 3 channels - CBS, NBC and ABC - In the summer there were re-runs anyway so it was the next week before we starting getting a real clue as to what had transpired that hot August weekend. We had seen Sharon Tate in Valley of the Dolls - everyone wanted to look like her - her hairstyle's were featured in teen magazines, her beauty tips... Everyone knew who Jay Sebring was because it was the birth of the occupation of 'great stylist's' Sassoon had brought a asymmetrical bob that was almost hassle free - (we wore something called 'falls' when we wanted that long hippie look)...we were all in love with Steve McQueen and Jay's picture cutting his hair was plastered everywhere. We had flipped out at Rosemary's Baby - Mia Farrow was the biggest star in Hollywood during that time and to we budding like actresses we thought she was the 'serious bomb' No one could figure why Sharon Tate had married that small homely director, though. We thought she needed Steve McQueen or maybe even better we thought someone that gorgeous should be the wife of a Beatle.
Until Susan Atkins' 'confession' hit the news-stands - the news we got here in the east was still sanitized. There were no talking heads or pundits to debate over the the motivation of the crimes and we were 'told' these people got what was coming to them - they were into 'Hollywood parties, types of witchcraft worse than Ouija boards)Parent's said "See what happens when you smoke marijuana?)
But the East Coast still seemed like a long way away from wicked California. As with all teenagers, the mind has a quality that makes us invincible so we quickly forgot. The trial went on and on - but except for grand displays of craziness like Manson and the girls hanging themselves on imaginary crosses, who had time to watch the daily details. Especially when you have an attorney like Kareack who make the flow a standstill.
Court TV was a thing of the future and the trial was a small segment on the nightly news. So the case became abstract to our East coast hipness - and something like a horrible vague but horrible memory
Then, Helter Skelter, the book came out soon after the trial. Everywhere you looked people were reading this book, just like you had seen them glued to "Valley of the Dolls" a few years back. On the beach, on the bus, over breakfast at places like Lum's or Denny's, in doctor's offices, in class - everywhere it's red cover was in front of one's face.
Never had we heard such a story. Not only about the villains but about the victims - it was like the OJ trial would be later - in the conversation at parties, the halls at school, you name it - All of a sudden that night became real - people were suspicious about all dirty long haired guys, the communal way of life was not as ideal sounding, we realized that a few of the girls actually looked like the girl down the hall in our dorm.
But again, the ebb and flow of life, after college and a stint in NYC, I split for Europe to live. I didn't see the States for anything or any reason and back in that time in France and Italy again no one bothered to lock a door. One didn't hear a thing about that sort of crime, (the most danger in Paris and Rome and all places in-between was getting pick-pocketed).
Hitch-hiking was and is common there - American kids found respite in hostels and slept head to feet - innocent Western Europe.
Hashish is the most plentiful drug. Music like Abba played at on every when fast cars and great fashion are the main focus, it's easy to forget about everything in the states. It was an ideal life there in so many ways.
Teenage girls held hands on the beach - precious and were not wordily as we were at their age. Lot of ex-pats like myself and my husband living together in communal settings. All of us were working now and then for Fellini when he was shooting up in Cittevechio. Dubbing the Italian and French C movies and Spaghetti westerns into English for extra money even the porn movies voice overs seemed a laugh. I've often considered that perhaps the openness of porn (every street corner there are myriad magazines - some so explicit that they specialize in 'golden showers' or 'chain bondage') coupled with the totally open legality of prostitution actually keeps the European counties sane and safe.
A dichotomy surely, but nevertheless true.
One day I when I was pregnant with my first child I there was a bookseller in the Parisian flea market and I came upon a ratty old copy of Helter Skelter. I had to be back in Rome the next day and I hopped the train and opened the book.
I had read it prior of course, but the compartment's of one's brains forgets the horror of some things. I stayed up all night on the train and asked the attendant for a flashlight not to wake up my Cosetta (sleeping berth) companions - I got home and locked my door for the first time I ever felt like I needed to in the beach town of Sperlongna where I lived.
I thought about Sharon, pregnant just like me. I thought about all the 'rich' girls like Gibby I had gone to high school with - I remembered Jay. I thought about Leslie, both of us were not the Homecoming Queen we were merely princesses on opposite coasts but we had worn the same slightly embarrassed smile in pictures back then.
I thought about the commune I had lived in college with a bunch of other people in the theatre and the drugs and the exploration of alternate religious experiences and seeking and searching for 'true' experiences.
I held my stomach and felt my baby kick and I couldn't sleep with the identification and the abject sorrow.