Steve McQueen’s sexual exploits have become legendary in Hollywood. Having been married three times and seeing countless girls on the side, it was ultimately this sex life that saved him from becoming another victim of Charles Manson’s killer sprees. The night of August 8, 1969, is one of the darkest in entertainment history, when a pregnant Sharon Tate and her party guests were hideously slaughtered by Manson’s cult followers. The King of Cool was supposed to be there as well, but was only stopped by a female companion that didn’t want him to leave her alone.
Despite the events of that night taking place more than 50 years ago, its impact on the movie industry has never wavered. Even Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to the golden age of American filmmaking, Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood deals with the tragedy of that evening (though in its own way).
By the late-1960s, the Manson Family, as it had become known, were already operating outside of Los Angeles. The group had a particular disdain for the entertainment industry. Manson himself despised it in part for continually rejecting him as a songwriter years prior.
Over time, he built a dedicated and unquestioning family of followers, people that would do his bidding to the point of committing horrendous murders. They even had a list of celebrity victims, with Frank Sinatra on top. The plans for his death involved him “having sex with” one of the Manson Family girls. Elizabeth Taylor and her husband Richard Burton were to be “tied together and boiled alive.”
On August 8, 1969, the family had other plans for Tate and McQueen as he tasked them to go to the address of 10050 Cielo Drive.
The previous owner of that residence was Terry Melcher, a record producer that had rejected Manson’s music years prior. When the family arrived, Sharon Tate was living there, joined that night by three guests who were enjoying a small party.
Tate was married to director Roman Polanski at the time, with the star eight-and-a-half months pregnant with his child. He wasn’t present that night, but celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, and two family friends, Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger were.
The Valley of the Dolls star along with her guests were all killed by Manson’s followers. Their deaths were so shocking that many historians attribute it to ending the hippy era and ushering in a decade of political change on a social and governmental level.
READ MORE: Steve McQueen’s frenzy after tricking wife
According to Marc Eliot’s book Steve McQueen: A Biography, Tate was known for her house parties in which many of Hollywood’s stars were invited. He wrote: “Tate held regular soirees at her home.”
At the time, McQueen and Sebring “had become such good friends that Steve let Jay restyle his blond hair into the look of the day – short, flat, and combed to one side.” She was one of the guests of Tate’s August 8 party and she was the one that invited him to join.
Eliot added: “Sebring told him there was a little soiree planned for the next night at Sharon Tate’s rented house up at Cielo Drive and that Steve should come…Steve told Sebring he’d be there.”
McQueen invited his Magnificent Seven co-star Robert Vaughn to the evening as well, but thankfully he was unavailable due to previous plans. Eventually, the Bullitt star pulled out of the party too, because of “a young and beautiful blonde he had been seeing.”
McQueen’s weakness for beautiful women ultimately saved his life, as despite him inviting her to the party, “she told him she had a better idea for just the two of them.”
In the end, there were five victims that night, though McQueen was intended to be the sixth, as Manson had his name on his disturbing death list. As it happens, this list was later discovered two months after the event. Once the Manson family had finally been apprehended, the police discovered the full extent of his intentions.
They found a detailed list of celebrity names and the manner of death they planned for them. McQueen’s biography author wrote: “Part of the evidence the police found was a ‘hit list’ that Manson had made of celebrities he wanted to kill.”
The Great Escape star’s death was “to look like a suicide.” Following his discovery, he “freaked out and rightly so. He had every one of his homes completely wired and burglar-proofed with all the latest security equipment.”
He also started carrying a loaded magnum with himself at all times. Eliot added: “He could not shake the dark feeling of having come so close to death. A simple decision to get l**d had saved his life.”