I remember when Bryan Adams' hit song, The Summer of 69 first hit the airwaves back in 1985. It was a catchy song and Adams distinctive voice made the song an instant summertime anthem.
1969 was not only the last year in a decade that changed the world, but it was a year full of triumphs and tragedies. The iconic Boeing 747 "jumbo" jet and the Concorde made their first inaugural flights. Apollo 11 took the first men to the moon. The Beatles performed their last public appearance on the rooftop of Apple Records in London. Elvis recorded his comeback sessions. The first artificial heart was transplanted. The Woodstock Festival, now simply known as "Woodstock" takes place on a farm in upstate New York. Scooby-Doo, Sesame Street and The Brady Bunch all aired for the first time on TV. The fast food giant, Wendy's, opens in Columbus, Ohio. My first car, the Dodge Challenger is introduced in 1969 for the coming 1970 model year.
Those were some of the highlights of 1969, and with the exception of the moon landing, which I vaguely remember, I was too young to pay much attention to anything else. Oh, except that was also the year I went from being the only child to the big brother when my younger brother was born.
1969 also had a dark side; a very dark side. The Vietnam war continued. Airplane crashes were frequent, killing hundreds of air passengers. Riots on college and university campuses over the Vietnam war escalated. Richard Nixon was inaugurated as President of the United States. The Zodiac Killer continued to roam the streets of San Francisco. Hurricane Camille destroyed parts of Mississippi, killing 248 people. Conflict between the British and IRA continued in Northern Ireland. Mary Jo Kopechne dies after a car driven by Senator Edward Kennedy crashes off a bridge on Chappaquiddick island, Massachusetts. The Cuyahoga River in Ohio catches fire.
One of the most violent events of 1969 took place on August 9th and August 10th in Hollywood, California: The Manson family murders of actress Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Steven Parent, Wojciech Frykowski, coffee heiress Abigail Folger and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.
What does all this have to do with my own family history research? Well, aside from the fact that President Richard Nixon was a distant cousin of mine (I have not yet worked out our relationship to one another, nor have I rushed this process), and former President Eisenhower died in 1969 (he was the husband of my 9th cousin, Mamie Eisenhower, not much...except for the Manson family and how they directly and indirectly impacted several of my distant family members.
While researching my family history, I discovered that Manson family victim, Abigail Folger, was my 17th paternal cousin. Abigail was murdered 2 days before her 26th birthday. Abigail had been staying with her boyfriend, Wojciech at the home of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. Polanski wasn't at home on the night of the murders but his 8.5 months pregnant wife Sharon was, along with her friend, Jay Sebring along with Abigail and Wojciech. All 4 of them, along with Steven Parent who was killed as he left the caretaker's residence on the Polanski property. The following night the LaBianca's met the same fate at the hands of the murderous Manson members.
I have known about the Manson family murders since I was a child - for some reason the killings always sent chills down my spine (still do!), and the crazy, evil eyes of Charles Manson are etched in my memory from seeing him on TV.
Even after I had discovered the connection to the murder of my distant paternal cousin, Abigail Folger, I still didn't know how Manson impacted the lives of some of my other distant relatives. According to some reports, Manson had a hit list of celebrities that he wanted to kill. Two of the celebrities on his list included my 10th cousin, actress Elizabeth Taylor, as well as my 23rd cousin, Steve McQueen.
Another fact that I only recently remembered was that Beach Boy, Dennis Wilson, who was my 21st cousin, was closely associated with Charles Manson and his "family" for a period of time in 1968. After picking up two of Manson's girls who were hitchhiking, Dennis soon found himself playing host to the Manson family. Manson had dreams of being a rock-star, and running into Dennis had been non accident; apparently Manson had planted his girls around Hollywood with instructions to meet up with musicians like Wilson. Manson tried to leverage his friendship with Wilson into a recording contract which never happened. Dennis introduced Manson to Terry Melcher (son of Doris Day) who was a producer at Columbia Records. Melcher had also been living at 10050 Cielo Drive with actress Candace Bergen. Melcher had left the Cielo Drive home just before it was rented out to the Polanski's.
Another distant cousin of mine, and first cousin of Dennis Wilson, fellow Beach Boy Mike Love (my 21st cousin) met Manson at Wilson's house, but was creeped out by him and his "family". The same feelings were expressed toward Manson by Brian and Carl Wilson, Dennis' brothers and fellow bandmates. After spending almost $100,000.00 on Manson and his "family", Dennis finally had enough. He left his rented home with the Manson family still inside, leaving them for the landlord to evict.
Wilson's association with Manson pretty much ended after that, but the two men did see each other from time to time after Dennis left his rented home. Apparently Manson showed Wilson a bullet and a threat was made toward Wilson's children.
The following year, Manson's rage with being unable to secure a recording contract and becoming a rock-star came to a boil. He planned to start a race war and, to set that in motion, he told his followers to kill everyone at 10050 Cielo Drive, most likely believing that producer Terry Melcher still lived there, although he had moved out months earlier after being prompted to do so by his mother, Doris Day.
Dennis Wilson refused to talk about his relationship with Manson and his followers publicly, but people who knew him say that his grief and guilt for being associated with Manson lasted right up until his untimely death in 1983 from drowning. Dennis was 39 at the time of his death.
After the Tate-LaBianca killings, Hollywood changed. Celebrities became more elusive, not willing to mix with "ordinary" people like some had up until that point. The murder John Lennon in 1980, and the murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer almost 20 year's after the Manson killings - both by crazed fans - locked down celebrities even more.