Telling the Tate-LaBianca Story: Truth and Embellishment

by Bill Brenner on August 9, 2014

A while back I wrote a post about how, in my opinion, Restless Souls: The Sharon Tate Family’s Account of Stardom, the Manson Murders, and a Crusade for Justice by Alisa Statman and Brie Tate, was the most important book ever written about the Manson Murders. Since then the book’s accuracy has been thrown into question. So let’s talk about it.

Brian Davis, host of the online Tate-LaBianca Radio Program podcast, which posts Sunday nights, contacted me by Twitter a few weeks ago after seeing one of my tweets on how important I thought Restless Souls was. He wrote, “Yes probably because it contains some of the most fabricated material about [Tate-LaBianca] ever. So in that regards it is important.”

Davis explained what he meant in a follow-up email:

I host a Tate-LaBianca radio program every Sunday online, and my listeners are very well versed about the murders and TLB-related material.

I can tell you they very much anticipated this book Restless Souls, but most were disappointed and had questions for Alisa.

I attempted to get Alisa on [the program] to speak about the book, but she declined, saying her publisher wouldn’t let her do any media without going through them. That was understandable, except it wasn’t true. She lied. She went on another website to answer questions. Prescreened. So as my listeners continued to pick apart the book, they continued to find many [discrepancies] in the book.

He says the worst example of fabrication is a section where prosecutor Steven Kay has a confrontation with former Manson follower and convicted murderer Patricia Krenwinkel. The scene is the prison yard, following her unsuccessful parole hearing. She lets it drop that she knows where Kay lives, and he asks if she’s making a threat.

Davis says that on June 24, 2012, he had Steven Kay on the TLB Radio Program and he claims that conversation never took place.

Historical biographers are accused of inserting made-up passages in their books all the time. Their excuse is usually that adding a fictional voice here and there is necessary to keep the narrative going but that the heart of their work is true.

Doris Kearns Goodwin was accused of making stuff up in her book on Abraham Lincoln, Team of Rivals. Specifically, she was raked over the coals for having Lincoln say “What’s up?” Critics asked: Who talked like that in the 1800s? (As it turns out, the phrase what’s up appeared 34 times in print in the 1860s, according to the Corpus of Historical American History. Whether Lincoln would have used the phrase is another question.)

Edmund Morris, who authored an excellent trilogy on Theodore Roosevelt, caught hellfire when he used fictional elements to tell the story of Ronald Reagan in Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan.

I still think the Statman-Brie book is important, because it includes a lot of diary material from the Tate family that I believe is genuine. Are parts of it embellished with fiction? Probably. In that regard, I can understand Davis’ disappointment. And if Statman has ducked questions from him and others about the truthfulness of the book, that’s disappointing, too. Davis didn’t elaborate on whether the website in question received the publisher’s blessing to interview Statmen, but it’s more common than you might think for an interviewee to preview the interview questions.

If there are embellishments in the book, it can’t possibly be as bad as the fiction created by others attached to the Manson case. Take David Oman, who lives four houses down from the former Tate residence on Cielo Drive (I got a good look at the place during my November drive-by). Oman claims his home is haunted by the spirits of Tate and fellow victim Jay Sebring. The Ghost Hunters TV show even did an episode about it. I find it curious that he made these claims as he was making House at the End of the Drive, a horror film about a house being haunted by people killed in a house “at the end of the drive.” In my opinion, this is just another guy trying to make a buck off the case.

That’s the challenge when doing any research about the Manson case. Almost everyone involved seems to embellish here and there. What they offer may be a work that’s almost entirely true, but those embellishments throw everything else into question.

I don’t have a good answer to fix the problem. All I can do is stick to the truth in my own work and hope I don’t fall victim to that writer’s urge to embellish. Wish me luck.

Sharon Tate August 1969 Sharon Tate in August 1969, right before her murder

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff August 22, 2012 at 9:52 am

It is amazing to me that “Restless Souls” has caused so much controversy and discontent in the Manson internet community. It seems that each Manson website is either totally positive or totally negative about this book. I read it and enjoyed it, but there are certainly no new stunning revelations about the case. I found that the most interesting parts of the book were the sections about Sharon’s father, PJ, doing his own investigation into the murder of his daughter. Certainly, if the Kay/Krenwinkle encounter never happened, then the veracity of the rest of the book could be challenged. The other major complaint about the book is the author inventing dialog between the victims and the murderers. This practice is fairly common in the True Crime genre, including two of the greatest books of the genre, Capote’s “In Cold Blood” and Mailer’s “The Executioners Song”.

Overall, “Restless Souls” is an interesting sidenote in the Manson saga, but not an important book in the canon…. Certainly not worth all the fuss and infighting!

RhodeIslandRedhead September 8, 2012 at 5:35 pm

I agree with the comment made by Jeff. Its an important book and don’t know why Debra Tate, et.al are making such a big stink about it. Debra has lied constantly. Watch her on YOUTUBE. Everytime she speaks, the stories change and probably embellished. Debra Tate was disowned by both her mother and father and Patti Tate, so I take whatever she says with big grains of salt and she’s just a very nasty person from what I’ve seen of her. As for Brian Davis, I’m sure he’s good at what he does, but he doesn’t follow rules and there was a big bruhaha between him and Catscradle when they were collaborating on his radio show. Don’t know exactly what it was, but they did have a falling out and he speaks sacastically about her whenever he mentions her name, or so I heard on the one and only show I listened to of his, so I sort of take whatever he says with a grain of salt, too. He is informative, got to give it to him, but right now, I just don’t listen to him.

David February 15, 2014 at 12:03 am

There is another story about this case, but you would never be able to believe it since the narrative has been beaten into the minds of the world….it’s easy to fool the people, but very difficult to make the people believe that they have been fooled. I know what happened because it hit me like a ton of bricks….once I knew what I knew, the entire case made perfect sense.

Bill Brenner February 17, 2014 at 10:16 am

If you want to tell me more offline, I’m at bbrenner1970@gmail.com

Rasec May 27, 2016 at 12:12 pm

I wonder why the Tate-LaBianca murder website went down. It wasn’t the most welcoming site and I was never allowed to listen to an interview on the sites radio show that was done with Mona Jean Gallegos’ sister. I had privately communicated with Gallegos’ sister and wanted to listen to the interview but a site administrator, catscradle77, ignored all my inquiries about it.

Diana June 17, 2016 at 2:36 am

I wonder why Cat’s site is down too. I miss it,

John Q. Public July 5, 2016 at 8:16 am

I’m wondering how credible Brian Davis is. He’s faked hoax calls on his show. Plus, there’s that criminal history to consider.

Jesse August 7, 2016 at 8:21 pm

Did David ever clarify his “ton of bricks” insight to the case? I’m sure everyone would love to know. Or was it just statement without providing any facts so we’d all know just as John Publics on Brian Davis?

RLmusic April 13, 2017 at 6:13 am

I used to be on the Truth on Tate La Bianca website but was then accused of various heinous crimes by people who had MISINTERPRETED certain comments I had made and been offended by THEIR OWN misinterpretation, not what I had actually said or intended. The offended individuals, who had never met me and knew nothing about me, insisted that I MUST have views and intentions I did not have because they said so, without offering evidence to support this.

I was put in a position where everything I said and did would be monitored according to this viewpoint, and was equally likely to be deemed offensive, as there had been no basis for the original allegations and the viewpoint was a fantasy I could not control in any way. I therefore asked to leave, but Catscradle refused to let me. Only when I spoke to lawyers about the defamatory accusations made about me on the site and kept insisting did she allow me to exercise my civil right not to be a member of that website!

Does anyone sign up to a website to be treated in this way? Good riddance, and let this be a warning to others who have a genuine interest in the case, not abusing others or being abused by them!

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