In the summer of 1969, Charles Manson and his cult followers, the Manson Family, murdered seven people. Though each of the victims names are well-known to us now, some of them were celebrities prior to their deaths, most notably actress Sharon Tate. Other familiar names included Abigail Ann Folger, the coffee heiress, and Jay Sebring, a famous celebrity hairstylist. Manson was a wannabe musician who surrounded himself with celebrities to give himself a better chance to break into the music scene. It is plausible that his descent from petty crime to murder was a result of his failed music career. Then again, the man is insane, so trying to find reason in the type of crimes such as the ones he committed can be a fool’s exercise.
In the arrest of Manson and his followers and the case that followed, one of the most interesting stories to come out was about a so-called celebrity death list. This, according to family member Susan Atkins, was a list of celebrities that Manson wanted to kill in order to properly shock the world. There were also a number of celebrities that were associated with Manson who were considered to be lucky to have escaped him alive. Some celebs, like musician Neil Young, were loved by Manson, whereas many others had confrontations with him, perhaps underestimating his craziness. We want to explore some of the celebrities who were allegedly almost murdered by Manson or came in such close contact that they could have been killed. Here are 15 Celebrities Who Were Almost Killed by Charles Manson.
15. Roman Polanski
Director Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate were only married for one year when she was murdered. While in Paris working on a film, Polanski’s wife and unborn child were killed when the Manson Family broke into their home during a party one evening. Each of the guests she was entertaining were killed that night as well. After Tate’s death, Polanski said that not being with his wife that night was the greatest regret of his life. Who knows what could have happened, but it’s a fairly safe bet that if Polanski was there, he would have been numbered among the dead. The Manson Family snuck in unexpectedly and had knives and guns. The house guests were unprepared and could do nothing to protect themselves. Although the murder victims are not believed to have been targeted specifically for their celebrity, Polanski’s star status would have made him an ideal target for the attention-starved Manson.
14. Dennis Wilson
In 1968, before the Manson Murders began, Dennis Wilson, drummer and co-founder of the Beach Boys, was driving through Malibu. He saw two young women hitchhiking, so he pulled over and picked them up. These women were Patricia Krenwinkel and Ella Jo Bailey. Wilson dropped them off at their desired location and left. Later, he saw them out hitchhiking again. This time, he let them stay at his house while he went to a recording session. When he returned home, Charles Manson was there. After that, Wilson lived with about 17 women and Manson. They wrote music together and partied together. Wilson introduced Manson to many of the connected people in the industry trying to help him get his foot in the door. But things fell apart. Wilson ended up recording “Never Learn Not to Love,” which was one of Manson’s songs reworked, but Manson got no credit. Apparently, Manson showed Wilson a bullet and said, “Every time you look at it, I want you to think how nice it is your kids are still safe.” This led to a fight and a friendship ended, but Manson’s threat appears to have been genuine.
13. Mike Love
Mike Love was another one of the founding members of the Beach Boys. Through his cousin and bandmate, Dennis Wilson, Love met Manson and hung out with him on a couple of occasions. The first time he met Manson was when the Manson family was living at Wilson’s home. After having dinner with everyone, Manson invited the men, including Love, to the living room. It was there that “he turned on a strobe light and revealed all of his girls lying there, naked.” Love tells that Manson then “started passing out LSD tabs and was orchestrating s*x partners.” Love, uncomfortable with the situation, went upstairs to have a shower. Next thing he knew, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, the Manson follower who attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford was in the shower with him. Manson then entered the bathroom and said, “You can’t do that… You can’t leave the group.” Love got dressed and left as soon as he could.
12. Terry Melcher
Terry Melcher was a record producer who worked with the Beach Boys, the Byrds, and others. He was also the only son of legend Doris Day. Melcher was also one of the connected guys that Dennis Wilson introduced Charles Manson to. It was Melcher’s home at 10050 Cielo Drive that Polanski and Tate were renting, the home that the Manson Family invaded. Some say that Manson was unaware that Melcher had moved out before they invaded, which means they were out to get him specifically. Manson had auditioned for Melcher, but the producer declined signing him or making any music with him. There was some talk about making a documentary on Manson and his family, but that all ended when Melcher witnessed a fight between Manson and stuntman, Donald Shea, a man that Manson would later kill.
11. Candace Bergen
Even though many believe that Manson knew that Terry Melcher no longer lived at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, there has always been talk that he was targeting Melcher specifically. Some believe that if it wasn’t for Doris Day, Melcher’s mother, both Melcher and his girlfriend at the time, actress Candace Bergen, would have been the Manson Family’s victims. Mike Love of the Beach Boys, says that “[Melcher] had told [Day] about Manson–and about some of his scary antics, his brandishing of knives, his zombie followers–and that Manson had been to the house on Cielo and she insisted he move out.” Soon after that talk, Melcher and Bergen moved to one of Day’s homes and it was rented out to Polanski and Tate.
10. Bobby Fuller
Bobby Fuller and The Bobby Fuller Four were never the big-named band they sought out to be, but they did have a few hits. The biggest of all was the smash hit “I Fought the Law,” which was actually a cover. On July 18th of 1966, Fuller was found dead in his car. The final report said accidental asphyxiation, but it’s a crazy one. Fuller was in his car, covered in gasoline with a half-filled can of gas next to him. One of his fingers was broken and he had bruises or chemical burns (or both) on his body. The doors were locked, the roof was down, and there were no keys in the ignition. How does Charles Manson figure into this? Well, this isn’t a case of “almost killed” but “may have been killed” by Manson. Some rumors around the death claim that Manson sought out guitar lessons from Bobby Fuller and guitarist Jim Reese. When they turned him down, Manson sought revenge. He gave Fuller LSD, which was his trademark (it was also the trademark of the ’60s) and then killed him. No evidence has ever been brought forth to suggest that this is true, but it’s possible.
9. Elizabeth Taylor
Virginia Graham was a model who was living in the Hollywood area. One day, she wrote a bad check and was arrested and thrown into jail. It was there that she met Susan Atkins, a Manson Family member. Atkins ended up discussing everything she and the Manson Family had done and planned to do with Graham. It was Graham who testified against Atkins and Charles Manson and told the world about the celebrity death list. Perhaps the most famous name on that list was Elizabeth Taylor. Graham told investigators all that Atkins had said to her, “She told me she knew how to gouge people’s eyes out; that Charlie (Manson) had shown her how to do it—so she decided that she would take Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes out… She was going to take her knife, burn the end of it until it was red-hot, and put it on the side of Elizabeth Taylor’s face, to leave her mark.”
8. Angela Lansbury
The great Angela Lansbury seems like she should have no connection to Charles Manson. She voiced Mrs. Potts for Pete’s sake. In fact, her association with the killer is nothing more than coincidence. It was her daughter, Deidre, who was the link. Lansbury tells of her daughter and how she went down a dark path. “It started with cannabis but moved on to heroin,” Lansbury said. “There were factions up in the hills above Malibu that were dedicated to deadly pursuits. It pains me to say it, but, at one stage, Deidre was in with a crowd led by Charles Manson. She was one of many youngsters who knew him and they were fascinated. He was an extraordinary character, charismatic in many ways, no question about it.” Manson would pick Deidre up from school and they would go on a spending spree, blowing all of Lansbury’s money on credit cards. Eventually, the cards were cut off and Lansbury moved her family to Ireland to get them away from those crowds. We know the Manson Family attacked homes they knew were occupied by rich people. Who knows what could have happened if Lansbury stayed around?
7. Sammy Davis Jr.
It’s very difficult to verify if there is any truth to this tale, but there has long been a rumor that Sammy Davis Jr. was supposed to be at the party at Tate’s home on the night of the grisly murders. Davis Jr. was a friend of several of the victims and he was allegedly planning on visiting the Cielo Drive home but he was a no-show. He later said that it was due to fatigue from his most recent show that caused him to cancel. Some stories even go so far as saying that Davis Jr. was at the home earlier in the night, but he left before the murders took place. Again, it’s unclear if this did actually happen in this way, but if it is true, the Manson Murders could have been even more infamous than they were.
6. Mama Cass Elliot
We know that Mama Cass Elliot, one of the members of the Mamas and Papas band, knew Charles Manson. She also knew the victims of the murders quite well. In fact, Michael Caine tells a story in his autobiography that, while at a party in Elliot’s home, he was introduced to Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, and, amazingly, Charles Manson. This also implies that Manson may have known Tate and Sebring before having them killed as well. Well, one story says that Elliot got on the Manson Family’s bad side after kicking some of the Manson girls out of her house one evening. She, like Sammy Davis Jr., was also said to be at the home of Tate earlier in the evening. This last part seems unlikely, but the fact that Elliot connects the victims to Manson appears to be valid.
5. Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne is a famed musician and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was also almost connected with Charles Manson. In a 1987 interview, Browne told of how he had heard many stories about the “s*xually free” Manson Family when he was a young man on the Los Angeles music scene. He was captivated by these tales, wanting to visit the Spahn Ranch and find unity with the people there. He brought this idea to Terry Melcher, urging him to go with him. Luckily, Melcher knew what Manson was about and strongly suggested Browne to stay far away. He did and he might still be alive because of it.
4. Richard Burton
After Susan Atkins revealed all the spicy details to Virginia Graham, Graham divulged all this information to the police. The following day, the manhunt for Charles Manson was on. It was Graham (and Atkins’ big mouth) that led to Manson’s arrest. Graham then became a key witness in the trial and testified against the members of the family. Another one of the celebrities that Graham overheard Atkins discussing about being on the death list was actor Richard Burton. Graham told police, “as far as Burton was concerned, she wanted to castrate him.” This, of all the crazy things said, is probably the tamest.
3. Tom Jones
While most of the celebrities discussed by Susan Atkins were likely targets of the group because of their huge fame, it seems that singer Tom Jones, one of the celebs named on the “death list,” was simply in there because Atkins was strongly and strangely infatuated with him. While in prison together, Atkins told Virginia Graham that “she was physically attracted to [Jones] s*xually and that she would force him to have s*x with her at the point of her knife and that then she would cut his throat.”
2. Frank Sinatra
At the very top of the death list, as told to police by Virginia Graham, was singer Frank Sinatra. Allegedly, the Manson Family targeted the crooner because of his star status and the shock it would cause the world. Atkins told Graham that the family was “definitely going to get” Sinatra. She went on to describe the plan in some detail. “She said she was going to Sinatra’s house, knock on his door, and she was positive he was going to answer it because she knew that Frank liked women… She said she was going to get a meat hook, hang him upside down, and skin him alive while his music played… She then said that Charlie had shown her how to tan hides and that she was going to make purses out of it to try and sell them to hippie shops so that everybody would have a little piece of Frank.” Gross.
1. Steve McQueen
The iconic actor, Steve McQueen, was not only the last name on the death list as far as Virginia Graham knew it, but McQueen also had another major connection to the Manson Murders. On the night that Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring were murdered, Sebring, one of McQueen’s good friends, invited him out for dinner and to a party. McQueen denied the request after the girl he was with suggested an evening in. That party was the one that the Manson Family ambushed. Adding to it even more, McQueen was allegedly on the death list not because of his fame but because he rejected a screenplay that Manson had sent him. After news of the murders hit, McQueen was said to have carried a gun with him at all times, including to Sebring’s funeral.