Thursday, July 30, 2015

In Touch with Rudi Altobelli and Terrie Spahn

The July 1974 issue of In Touch magazine featured an article on great American tragedies of the late 60s and early 70s written by Barry Glassner.  The Manson murders were included in the article.  Glassner managed to depart from the usual recitation of the crimes by speaking with Rudi Altobelli and Terrie Spahn,  a granddaughter of George Spahn.

Altobelli comes off as if the murders were a personal affront to him depriving him of the full value of his home and he sure doesn't like Roman Polanski.  Included mid-article is an interview with Altobelli when he finally sold the home years later.  I guess he had to sit on that home for quite a while before realizing it's full financial potential.

Terrie Spahn, on the other hand, comes off as a reasonable, non-judgmental person, who attempts to see the brighter side of life.

Barry Glassner is the author of several books on social issues including of The Culture of Fear, a bestselling book that has recently been updated.
Bel-Air, a suburb of the supreme suburb of Beverly Hills, is where the elite hip pose for Newsweek while talking of grass, group therapy and gayness.  I drive up Benedict Canyon and Chevy Chase Roads, trying to find a house on a street called Cielo Drive.

The street number of "The Tate House," where Sharon Tate Polanski and four others were brutally murdered on August 8, 1969, does not appear even after a half-hours search.  I finally decide to interview neighbors about the effect of the murders on their lives.

The answer comes from the loud barking dogs in every hallway and the alarm-system warning signs on each front door.  Nobody answers doorbells, even at those houses where piano playing and walking noises can be heard as I approach.  At last, a woman agrees to come to her window and point out the way to The House.  I trudge up a private road hidden by a corner, but once there can't figure out how to inform the inhabitants of my arrival.  A tall electric barbed-wire fence separates me from the building; for several minutes only the birds and the trees know that I'm there.

Then I find a telephone on a post behind some trees, pick up the receiver, and hear a loud male voice say "Well..."

I explain.

"So you're doing a story on this house," he replies.  "Why do you want to drum up old memories?  I have a lot of money invested in this home.  I've lost a lot.  I used to rent it out, but now I can't."

Another phone rings in the background and he's asking me to hold on.  When he returns, he says that he will not let me in, even though I sound like a songwriter friend of his.

The man never gives his name, but he does say that he has taken no additional security precautions since the day Manson's minions allegedly preformed their acts on Sharon Tate and her companions.
"What you see is what we've always had.  If you hadn't picked up the phone, I'd never had known you were there.  We did buy a dog, though.  If he attacks you, run into the car."
He takes a sip of something, thanks someone by kissing him or her, and continues:
"Yeah, I've owned this place all along.  This is a fucking private home, see, and I don't want it to be a museum.  They call it 'the house on the hill' now, don't they?  That's because of asshole Roman Polanski, you can quote me on that."
I ask him what he means , but he doesn't explain.  I try a question about how the neighbors have taken it all.
"Listen I don't even know my neighbors.  Try talking to them," he says.  Our conversation is obviously ending, and again I ask to see the house.  This time I am refused with a somewhat intriguing signoff:
"I have to go.  Just say that this is a house of love... In fact, if you want to make love, jump the fence."
I demur.  Driving away, I notice that the fence is 20 to 25 feet high and extends all the way up the steep hill.

Sunset Strip- the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, Dick Clark Productions, dozens of poster shops.  I visit a real estate agency, where a stately lady at the front desk tells me that I probably spoke to a talent agent, who she says owns the house with a fellow agent.
Near an out-of-business hot-dog stand once called "The Watergate," I find a phone booth and set out to reach somebody connected with the Spahn Movie Ranch, where Manson and his clan had lived.  The ranch, located in nearby Chatsworth, had burned two years ago, but my first dime gets me Terrie Spahn, the 20-year old granddaughter of former ranch owner George Spahn. 
Terrie Spahn says that her grandfather is now 87, blind, and not thinking too clearly.  When the fire hit the ranch- and several nearby miles of Chatsworth- her grandfather disappeared to someplace in Oregon.  "He was almost dead because no one was feeding him there, and he had lost 12 of his best horses in that fire. 
"Some of the girls still call him here sometimes, trying to reach him.  You know, almost 30 people lived there at the time, and most of them weren't involved.  Mostly the girls would take care of grandpa, and he liked that because he couldn't take care of himself and he's a dirty old man.  Of course he couldn't see what was going on because he's blind.
"I used to go up there and give them clothes I didn't want any more.  They were always real nice to me."  Terrie herself was just married at the time of the murders, working as a hairdresser.  When her husband died a while ago, she started using her maiden name again.
I ask if she thinks Manson's people committed the murders.  "I guess they were the ones," she says.


AustinAnn74 said...

Altobelli seemed like a prick. Instead of hating Roman, he should of hated the pieces of shit that broke into his private property and murdered everyone in sight. Of course, if I owned the house, I surely wouldn't want people going up there all the time either. Is it really true that he sued the Tate family? Uh, now that is classless.

CarolMR said...

I think it's intriguing that he hated Roman so much. I wonder why? Did Rudy blame Roman for the murders and, if so, why?

Anonymous said...

"They call it 'the house on the hill' now, don't they? That's because of asshole Roman Polanski, you can quote me on that."


The Life Magazine article/photo shoot at the Cielo Drive house, right after the murders, was titled “A TRAGIC TRIP TO THE HOUSE ON THE HILL”. Polanski was paid $5,000 by Life magazine.

goomba said...

Here is the LIFE article courtesy of

AstroCreep said...

I love this article! Very interesting to see the people slightly touched by these events and how they reacted.

I don't blame Altobelli one bit. The Life mag article is disgusting and I think Roman Polanski is a complete dong for promoting his wife's death in such a distasteful way. If I saw my wife's death bloodstain on the carpet I think I would go crazy and rage to hunt down those responsible.

Everyone deals with death differently. For Altobelli it seemed all business and about the 86K he dumped into the property.

Does anyone know if pics of the crime scene or house (aside from news footage of the bodies being carted out) were released prior to the Life article? If they weren't, I definitely understand why Altobelli would be mad at Roman Polanski.

orwhut said...

I wonder if Charlie thought Altobelli would be at home on August 8.

Robert Hendrickson said...

That's interesting! It was my understanding that Melcher was walking out on his "lease" and got Polanski to take it over. That means Melcher had to give Rudy a good reason for leaving. Like, hey Rudy I've got to get the fuck out of here - cause this crazy ex-con named Charlie Manson is after my ass. Of course, then after the murders, Polanski would have a legal "cause of action" against Rudy for NOT disclosing that the "house" was a potential death trap.

Instead Polanski makes a mere $5000 off the tragedy, when HE could have "owned" the whole property. AND Rudy is upset - If it was me who LOST such loved ones, under the apparent circumstances, it would be Hasta LaVista Mister.

Something does NOT make sense here.

Mr. Humphrat said...

I don't recall-did Melcher move because of Manson?

Sun Dance said...

Charles Manson interview with Bill Murphy

BM: So Tex is down there (Cielo Drive) because it's familiar, he's been there before, did you ever go there?
CM: Yeah
BM: What took you there?
CM: The homosexual that lived in the back,
BM: Who was that? Garretson?
CM: A guy (Altobelli?) that used to deal grass and some other things.. pornography.
Uh, Polanski was in-, uh see here's the thing man I don't want to start pulling people's covers, but all them people that you thought were so wonderful and nice, they wasn't as wonderful as you thought there dolls might have been on the chauffeurs night off, you dig, in other words there's all kinds of things happening in the darkness of what was going on, like how does someone from Poland get to Hollywood and go all the way over the top, like Valley of the Dolls, when does one camera click-in and what film are we sending to Hong Kong for the other"

ColScott said...

Robert- you need to find a way to go back to making sense SOON
Sun- "The Homosexual in the back" - love that
Austin- Rudi was justifiably upset that not only were people fucking slaughtered in his house, Roman was doing fucking foto shoots there afterwards- for money!

Rudi was an old Queen, the type that just hates everything. Can't you just hear Paul Lynde's voice in that interview? That type.

Max Frost met the guy, why doesn't he fucking weigh in?

Robert Hendrickson said...

YES, BUT making sense doesn't make you money.

Sometime over a year ago, I found out the guy who bought and developed the old TATE house property was somewhat of a friend of mine from long ago.

His kid and one of mine were school chumbs. Had I followed his lead (buying and rehabing properties) I would have ended up developing property for Saudi Sheiks also.

HE apparently MADE more sense out of the TATE horror story than ANYONE to date. HE actually turned a REAL negative into a positive AND that's commendable.

Then, today I happen to read on Amazon that a couple of people think "Inside the MANSON Gang" isn't worth seeing because MY voice is BAD and the music is supposedly scary, but it doesn't lead to anything scary.

BUT just a few days ago a Simmon Wells emailed me to ask about "MANSON" and am I ever going to do a big DVD release with it.

So now I thinking what the fuck is going on ? I just finished the architectual plans for a "rehab" and the structural engineer is coming Monday to review the final changes.

I'm 70 years old, got one foot in wet cement and the other tip toeing on a possible opportunity.

Besides that: I invented a no need to plush "thing" to eliminate the need for using water in this horrible drought. I call it the "out-house."

You know Col, You scare the shit out of most folks, BUT you scare the sense into ME. And I truely appreciate that.

I still owe you a beer and in some cultures, that means we are connected for life, and that'a a good thing.

Do you SEE what a weird TRIP I'm on ?

Matt said...

Altobelli most definitely did hate Polanski. It's hard to say exactly why or if there's one particular reason. It could be because he knew something about Polanski that instigated the murders. It could be that Polanski refused to pay the back-rent due, it could be the Life magazine story - which obviously really pissed him off because in the lawsuit that article and Polanski and Time/Life are specifically mentioned and the cause of (I think) and additional $250,000 in the suit. Alisa Statman put the amount it in Restless Souls. Or it could be a combination of all of the above.

What is interesting is the fact that Altobelli, in the midst of an entire city scared outta their wits, with people suspecting everyone from their best friend to their spouse, feels completely safe moving back into the crime scene within weeks of the murders. Was it because he knew exactly who did it and why and therefore knew he and his house weren't at risk?

Robert Hendrickson said...

Matt probably doesn't even know just how close he may be. There is a special relationship between landLORDS and tenants. AND when a landlord needs for a tenent to be "removed" to make way for a "better" deal, anything can happen. Right now with California properties rapidly rising in value, there are actual "tenant removers," making a living in places where many properties have been rented until the values rise.

Max Frost said...

I'll weigh in when as soon as the stars are properly aligned for me to share my insane Rudi story...

ColScott said...

That means not happening

Matt said...


Max Frost said...

The secret homo lovers have spoken in stereo.

Have no fear, inconsistency is here...but I'm still full of surprises.

Stay tuned...

Max Frost said...


Holy shit!

I just realized my above comment could easily be misconstrued due to the primary subject of this thread...

Allow me to clarify:

I was referring to Matt and Col with the 'secret homo lovers' compliment.

I was in no way referring to Rudi or Bill.

Now that THAT is clear...

Shorty's pistols said...

The Altobelli $250,000 lawsuit was settled a few years later for $4,350. My suspicions are that Life paid the bulk of that small amount, but IDK for sure.

I like the letter the Colonel (Paul Tate, not "our" Colonel) sent to Altobelli after he was served with the lawsuit...

Quote on

I can't personally speak for the others, but we taught Sharon better manners than to leave a mess for someone else to clean up. I will duly reprimand her for such careless and inconsiderate bloodletting.

Paul Tate

Quote off

Most of this is from "Restless Souls", not to open the debate back up on that work.

TGuinsburg said...

Altobelli..a good guy? Your "creep" name does justice to your comment. Altobelli sued the TATE family via Sharon's estate, for an absurd amount of money, making all kinds of phoney claims which the jury thankfully didn't buy.

And wtf is is up with the "allegedly" as put by the author as it relates to Manson amd co's involvement?

James said...

House was runined by Michelle Morgan and her spouse bandleader Bill Marshall ( State Fair Movie - Tommy Thomas ) It was a country estate and after WWII they needed money and they sold off much land to developers and by the late 50s a upper middle class neighborhood surronded the house. To add insult to injury, the long road leading up to the house used to be the driveway. In the 50s they sold off land on their driveway to make room for houses. That is why the road leading up to the house is also called Cielo Dr. The golden rule of real estate is the cheapest house in the area rises to the value of the costlier ones and vice versa. Altobelli was renting it out because nobody in the market for that kind of house would buy in that neighboorhood, they would buy in Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills, Belair, etc. All it was good for by the time Altobelli bought it was as a temp rental. Altobelli had beach house in Malibu and had to give it up and live in Cielo because he could not rent or sell it and I am guessing had a lot money sunk in to it. He was bitter at Roman for not taking out the required renters insurance and leaving him stuck with the house. The real estate market in LA is non -stop insanity and has been since the end of WWII.