Monday, August 4, 2014

Sharon Tate's Sister Debra Wrote a Book About Her, But Doesn't Want to Talk About It

By Samantha Bonar
Mon, Aug 4, 2014 at 4:16 AM
Categories: Books, Celebrity, Fashion, History

Running Press
The exquisite Sharon Tate makes today's starlets look like the lukewarm leftovers of a half-hearted meal. Yet no matter how much we want to focus on the perfection of her beauty, the warmth of her personality or the effortlessness of her style, her horrible end, at just 26 years old and eight and a half months pregnant — 45 years ago this week — looms like a deadly, dark tsunami about to re-crash into our consciousness. It never goes away.

It never goes away for her younger sister Debra Tate, either, but in her gorgeous new photography book, Sharon Tate: Recollection (Running Press), she manages to hold that monster wave at bay for just a little while. Leafing through the pages of what is meant to be "a celebration of Sharon's life and career," you become so engrossed in Sharon Tate's brief life and stark physical perfection that, for an hour or so, you forget about that little brute named Charles Manson.

And yet, oddly, Debra Tate doesn't want to talk about Sharon Tate. She had originally agreed to an interview with the Weekly, but bailed at the last minute for unknown reasons.

Back when the interview was still a possibility, her publicist sent us "suggested interview questions," and instructed us not to ask about another book about Sharon Tate, Restless Souls (It Books, 2012) by Alisa Statman and Brie Tate, or to ask more than one question about Manson or Mad Men (which included some subtle Sharon Tate references this season). (While Recollection is more of a tribute to Tate's film and fashion career, Restless Souls describes what the publisher calls "the gruesome slayings," the hunt for the killers, the drama of their trials and the long-lasting effects on the Tate family.)

In questions submitted to Tate's publicist we did ask, however, about Sharon's widower Roman Polanski and his rape conviction, and about why Debra Tate cares what nominal starlets such as Kelly Osbourne think of her sister today (Osbourne is quoted in the book). We asked how she felt about Sharon Tate being reduced to some sort of t-shirt icon for the Millennial generation, and if she felt that cheapened her memory. We asked if her book was an attempt to counteract that. And, since we couldn't ask about the Statman book, we asked Debra what she thought of the biography by Greg King, Sharon Tate and the Manson Murders (Barricade Books, 2000). We wanted to ask how the murders had affected her family, but Debra's publicist asked us to delete that question. In the end, Debra did not answer the questions.

But as the publishing of her book shows, Sharon Tate is "in" again, an odd position for the victim of one of the grisliest murders of the 20th century. Models walk down the catwalks in looks inspired by her most famous film, Valley of the Dolls. Celebrities like Madonna, Drew Barrymore, Blake Lively, Jessica Pare, Lohan and Adele reference Sharon's style – forever frozen in the heyday of the ‘60s, yet anchored by a timeless beauty that could leapfrog backward or forward into any decade. (She was a Coppertone girl and the inspiration for Malibu Barbie.) She had "It": People called her the next Marilyn Monroe or Liz Taylor. Whether that was wishful thinking we will, of course, never know.

Debra Tate refers to Sharon's brutal murder in Los Angeles in August 1969 by followers of Manson only once in the book, calling it "an event that changed the country in ways that still resonate," and adding, "I always felt it was very unfair for her life to be remembered primarily for its final moments." Indeed, Sharon Tate has been the subject of nearly 400 books, most focusing on the sordid details of her murder.

Of the most recent of those, Restless Souls, subtitled The Sharon Tate Family's Account of Stardom, the Manson Murders, and a Crusade for Justice, Debra Tate wrote in 2012  "I reject this book. I regard it as an insult to the memory of my parents and my two beloved sisters, filled, as it is, with un-attributed conversations, imagined thoughts, and demonstrably false incidents. It represents merely the latest in a long string of efforts by Ms. Statman to insinuate herself into my family's life and history, present herself as an expert on the subject, realize her long dream to write about my family's tragedy, and diminish my continued role as guardian of our family's legacy. Soon I will make the full story of my family and our tragedy public in a definitive way."

Statman, who was in a lesbian relationship with Debra's late sister Patti, appears to have tromped on hallowed territory. Debra Tate, who at one time worked as a Hollywood makeup artist, seems to have forged an identity for herself through her glamourous, tragic  sister, creating and maintaining the fan site Even her Twitter handle, @trustedsister, references herself only through connection to Sharon; in her profile photo she looks like some sort of bizarre high priestess, forever tending the flame of her immortal goddess sister.

Debra Tate's own book opens with a brief but touching forward by Polanski, who calls Sharon "the love of my life" and directs the reader to his favorite photo of her (on page 263). Following are original and retrospective quotes and recollection essays by such notables as David Niven (who starred with Sharon in Eye of the Devil and called her "a great discovery."), Jane Fonda, Mia Farrow, Orson Welles, Warren Beatty, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Kirk Douglas and George Harrison.

"Sharon had a fragile, incandescent quality that brought oxygen into the room," Yul Brynner said. "She was such an innocent, and unspoiled by her success," said George Harrison.

We also hear from Sharon herself, who tells us: "I'd like to be an American Catherine Deneuve. She plays beautiful, sensitive, deep parts with a little bit of intelligence behind them," and "I'm very sensitive to ugly situations. I'm quick to read people, and I pick up if someone's reacting to me as just a sexy blonde. At times like that, I freeze."

But mostly, there are photographs, from Sharon's beauty pageant-filled childhood in Texas, her discovery in Hollywood, her years at MGM and her brief, troubled marriage to Polanski. An entire chapter is devoted to the cult classic Valley of the Dolls, with never-before seen or published images.

The few interviews we found that Debra Tate has done for Sharon Tate: Recollection are puff pieces, such as one for InStyle magazine that consists of questions like, "What were Sharon's favorite things to wear?" (antique camisoles, big hoop earrings) and "What were Sharon's favorite beauty items?" (Vaseline). This is Debra Tate's book and this time, she is controlling the way her sister is portrayed — even if that means not talking about her at all rather than answering difficult questions.

In the short story "Venus Is Blue" by Mary Hood, Hood writes: "Imagine a photograph album, with a bullet fired pointblank through it, every page with its scar. Murder attacks the future; suicide aims at the past." Despite the ravishing beauty shown on every page of Sharon Tate: Recollection, in the bigger picture, you realize that, 45 years after Sharon's murder, this family is still very damaged. There is a phantom bullet hole piercing every photograph.

Original Article HERE


Patty is Dead said...

Muy interesante, no?

Suze said...

That Debra bashing Samantha Bonar! :)

Unknown said...

OMG – Last week, my friend and I were up at the bar at Soho House, and another friend that works there came up and asked me if we could go downstairs because there were 3 people there for Debra Tate's lecture and they were so embarrassed. So we went down and hid in the back corner to listen. It was a 93 page slide presentation that she barely got through, mostly with the photos from the book and lots of text she would either go to fast through the slides or be like "oh well anyway" and keep going. She kept saying Truman "Pacote" and then said that all her special guests canceled, and that Book Soup didn't show up with the books, so no one could buy them. It was so awkward, and she sounded more like a stalker than a doting sister.

Patty is Dead said...

Wow Cindy, you were there? Any photos?

Unknown said...

Yes, I was there, but not specifically for her lecture.

I was at the bar with a friend. An employee (who is another friend) came and asked us to go downstairs to the lecture because only 3 people had shown up for it. So, no, I didn't take pictures. I didn't want to draw attention to myself with so few people there.

ColScott said...

Cindy Lee

I saw the book in Larry Edmunds, tw copies, "signed"

One is just her chicken scratch, the other says "Thanks for watching VOD with Me."

I assume that means "Valley of Dolls" but does that mean she inscribed that to someone personally and they are selling their copy already?

I hate Soho house and avoid like plague, since when do they do lectures?

Oh yeah, and Matt is a punk, he said it's not a story unless he runs it so I guess this is as important as Gaza today.

ColScott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Cindy Lee,

Love your story. No wonder Debra turns up to the California Parole Board Hearings - it's the only way she can get an audience!

From the book cover, yes Sharon was indeed very beautiful, but I think that particular photo makes it very clear that she had had a nose job. If you compare that picture with her photos from teenage/early twenties, there is a definite difference in her appearance that doesn't just happen from losing puppy fat. I'd say she possibly also had cheek implants and chin/jawline enhancement. It is very good work - better than a lot of the surgical enhancement that you see on celebs nowadays.

Matt said...

Col can't parallel park.

Col eats pizza with a fork.

Col puts ketchup on his hot dog.

Col likes The Godfather 3...

Anonymous said...


The Col will be crushed like a grape by those observations! He may never venture out in public again!

ColScott said...

I can parallel park, I eat pizza NY style by folding it, I don't eat hot dogs, Godfather 3 is aight, not as good as the first two, Matt remains a punk.

Matt said...

Punk? That is pure, unadulterated, 100% Doucherocity.

Col has the presence I want to, nay, demand to have.

People will smile at me and visibly weaken at my aura de la doucheness .

Oh yes. They will.

Vera Dreiser said...

Cindy Lee,
"Last week"? Her Book Soup appearance was June 17 -- SEVEN weeks ago tomw. So, yeah, I'm sure the rest of your observations are accurate.
And Debra had a sudden and tragic death in her family two weeks ago. That's why she didn't do the LA Weekly interview. That doesn't matter to the reporter, evidently. Blow off Samantha Bonar and deal with the consequences. Now go ahead and call me Robin Olson, Col, and then say something awful about a woman who has had so much tragedy in her life.

ColScott said...

Vera Dreiser (Robin Olson)- I understand you dumb shit that you are stupid and cannot read but SOHO House is not Book Soup. And you mean Book Soup where she showed up with her BFF, the registered child molester.

I am sorry her big sister was murdered that has gotta suck. That also happened 45 fucking years ago you psycho bitch. The fact that she never got the proper mental health support after four plus decades is entirely her fault, no one else's.

Tragedy in her life? Frolicking naked on the lawn of her sister's house with drug dealers, later suspects in her sister's murder is not tragic. Posing nude in Oui in a desperate look at me play is not tragic. The blown up mail box isn't tragic it is suspicious. The daughter who hates herself so much that she is a human pincushion is not tragic. Bitch is a homophobic, unbalanced mess, is what it is, for whom time stopped and never restarted. She probably dresses like Sharon in the evening and talks to the pictures in that book ala Tony Perkins.
If you aren't the hate filled idiot Robin you are someone who seems to know the minute details of Debra's calendar. What time did she go see Guardians of the Galaxy this weekend?

I will never understand why people come to these sites just to stir shit up.

Debra Tate knows less about Sharon than I do. Alisa Statman was closer at the end to Col Tate than Debra was. These are all facts.

You know what would be impressive? You encouraging Debra to allow her father to be buried next to his wife like he wanted to be. If she hasn't used all his ashes up in some ungodly ceremony, bury them. It would be the beginning of some healing for this unhinged loon.

Vera Dreiser said...

Uh, Col, there WAS NO READING/LECTURE AT SOHO HOUSE. You should know that, Mr. Hollywood, whether you hang there or not. They DON'T do lectures "downstairs" at the Soho House. That idiot Cindy Lee was clearly referring to the Book Soup appearance -- her ONLY Hollywood book event -- downstairs and down the block from the Soho House. Ask the bitch.
And I won't engage in your tired old arguments abt "frolicking naked...w/ drug dealers" who DIDN'T kill her sister, posing nude, etc. What the Hell is wrong with that? Old Vera would frolic or pose nude or do drugs w/ anyone who asked her AND NOT REGRET IT FOR A SECOND OR JUDGE OTHERS FOR DOING WHAT THE FUCK THEY WANT TO DO. As for Statman's lies, again, she disappeared when confronted with them on Cat's page. sO I'm not gonna even dignify your rubbish remarks w/ a response. Go make Transformers Tedium Part Whatever the Fuck. Vera needs help getting to sleep.

Patty is Dead said...

Vera sucks ass!!!!!

Ajerseydevil said...
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Max Frost said...

I think Vera is funny.

John Seger said...

Vera, you are truly foul mouthed, rude, and lame

ColScott said...

Vera you ignorant slut--

Now stfu or I will mock you more.

Max Frost said...

I think the Col is funny too.

Unknown said...

Vera, Vera, Vera, sigh...For the love of God, will you PLEASE pull your head out of Debra Tate's ass, then wipe the shit from your eyes so that you can read my post carefully because I did not say it was a signing at Book Soup, I said it was at the Soho House. The date of this ridiculous event was July 30th at 7PM and painfully dragged on until roughly 8:15PM.

You and Debra call out everyone as a liar, but really, isn't that the pot calling the kettle black as you make excuses to give poor pitiful Debra an excuse for behaving badly by blowing LA Weekly off when she thought she was going to have big national interviews and thought LA Weekly beneath her. But oops, wait, no one cared but the smaller people so her publicist goes running back to LA Weekly making excuses for cancelling and then making unreasonable demands for interview guidlines like she's Hillary-fucking-Clinton. I have no idea what went on between the writer of the LA Weekly piece and Debra Tate, but it seems to me that while Debra was reeling over this tragic loss that she didn't have a problem with the other appearances she's made in this time of mourning.

Max Frost said...

Cindy Lee is kinda funny too...

Everyone is just so funny lately!

Vera Dreiser said...

Well, there ya have it. Proof positive I ain't Robin Olsen or I would have known that.
And...just wondering if Debra's unsettled presentation may have had something to do w/ what she'd just been through. You people (the ones who incessantly attack her) are so goddamed merciless. Wonder how you'd have fared, even 45 years later, if your family was torn apart like that. Look at those crime scene photos and just try to imagine one of those brutalized victims -- the pregnant one -- being your sister. How fucking dare you, is all I can say.
There but for the grace of God...

Matt said...

Debra bashing? Really, Vera? An article was reposted - without comment. ColScott & I were busy dissing one another when you so rudely interrupted.

You were called on the facts when you called Cindy Lee a liar.

Robert Hendrickson said...

Makes me think: How come only civilians can have "tragic" life/death experiences ? What about "soldiers" who lose their BEST buddies ?

Unknown said...

Actually, it does prove that you're Olson because she (you) are a condescending, know-it-all Beatch, who can't even bring herself to say, "Gee, Cindy, sorry for attacking you and calling you a liar."

Let's also talk about the spelling your name correctly over on the Col's blog, commenting on the spelling, and then "correcting" it here again.

You're pathetic preaching at all of us when you and Debra Tate have done so much worse to other people. As you make excuses for Debra Tate's bad behavior, I can't recall a single instance of her mother, father, or sister Patricia displaying negative behavior. Or were they not as emotionally devastated as Debra? Just cuz she's Sharon Tate's sister doesn't mean she gets a free pass in the land of douchebags.

Mr. Humphrat said...

Yes, for the sake of desency, can we all watch are spelling?

Suze said...

Mrs. Humphrat said...

Yes, for the sake of desency, can we all watch are spelling?


OMG, that was so funny I dropped my phone on my foot. I need to rethink open-toe shoes! LOL

Unknown said...

I doubt she would have gone on to be more than just a starlet, I've seen a few of her movies, and she was hardly a great actress. But from what I've read about her, she seemed a kind and loving person. How can you not like someone who feeds all the neighborhood stray cats? it's so sad, what happened.