1969 is widely considered to mark the end of innocence for Los Angeles's bucolic canyons, Topanga, Laurel, Benedict and Coldwater, when beauty turned to brutality with The Manson Family murders. These mini Edens have a particularly macabre underbelly having served as the location for at least two other gruesome crimes including the unsolved 1981 Wonderland murders in Laurel Canyon and the 2000 Benedict Canyon execution-style shooting by New York real estate scion Robert A. Durst, as seen on HBO’s The Jinx.
Banked by steep ravines and narrow winding roads, it’s not uncommon to hear cayotes howling at night in the mist-filled, semi-wilderness of the canyons. Far away from prying eyes, the remoteness usually provides protection for the Hollywood elite. But in the early hours of August 9, 1969, that remoteness provided camouflage for a home invasion that would become one of the definitive cases of the late 20th century.
For true crime fanatics, the chilling event that took place at Sharon Tate’s Cielo Drive home in Benedict Canyon, is the holy grail of horror. Tate, who was pregnant and married to film director Roman Polanski at the time, was one of five people savagely murdered at the behest of cult leader Charlie Manson. He became synonymous with the darkness that lurks beneath the showbiz veneer of Tinseltown, but his story began in Ohio.
Born in Cincinnati on Nov. 11, 1934 to a teenage prostitute named Kathleen Maddox, Manson was renting his own room and supporting himself with odd jobs and petty thievery by the age of 14. In a world of sock hops, bake sales and kids knowing each other since they were born, Manson was an outsider. He ended up at a maximum security reformatory in Chillicothe. In 1955, he arrived in Los Angeles in a car he’d stolen in Ohio.
Popular culture in 2019 is heaving with tales of male killers, abusers, and psychopaths. Katrina Longworth’s podcast You Must Remember This refocuses our attention on the lives of the female victims, examining the culture and industry that made it so easy for a smooth-talking white supremacist to start a cult in one of the most tumultuous times in Hollywood history.