Charles Manson’s #1 Recruiter

She trafficked on behalf of the cult leader

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Catherine Louise ‘Gypsy’ Share

Charles Manson was a former pimp, an ex-con and a self-proclaimed spiritual guru. Between 1967–1969, he amassed a following (sometimes known as the Manson Family) of at least four dozen young people — some of whom participated in murder at Manson’s request. This is the story of one of his followers.

Catherine Louise Share was born Catherine Louise Schwarz in Paris, France on December 10, 1942. Her Jewish parents were resistance fighters against the Nazis. Her mother was German, and her father was a Hungarian violinist.

After her mother was raped by a Nazi officer, she committed suicide. Catherine’s birth father also took his own life during the war.

We believe that during her early years, Catherine either lived with a grandparent or perhaps with friends of her parents. By the war’s end, she was in an orphanage. She was fortunate: an American woman came to Paris in 1949 looking to adopt a child. She found Catherine, and brought her home to America.

Catherine’s adoptive mother was Patricia Jeanne Johnson, born January 21, 1925. Patricia was married to Sidney Share, and both were psychologists. Sidney was “instrumental in fighting McCarthyism and assisted artists who were Blacklisted in his capacity as a psychotherapist” according to Sidney was blind, and he was not the adoptive father of Catherine — only Patricia legally adopted the child. But they raised her together in Hollywood, California and it appears that for the next decade, she had a happy childhood.

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Catherine’s adopted mother, Patricia Jeanne Johnson Share

That all changed when Patricia learned that she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. She took her own life on 21 Aug 1959 in Fresno. Catherine was just 16 years old.

Catherine then became responsible for the care of her blind stepfather, until he remarried. By all accounts, we understand that Catherine and her stepmother did not get along and her relationship with Sidney also deteriorated.

At the age of 18, Catherine married a man named Harold Kannenberg, five years her senior. We don’t know how the two met, but Harold was from Connecticut and for a short time, the couple lived together there. But it was not a long relationship, and by the mid-1960s Catherine was back in California, attempting to succeed as a folk singer.

She hooked up with Autumn Records, a San Francisco record label who could have made it big if they’d signed the Grateful Dead. They also boasted Sly Stone as their in-house producer. They released one single by Catherine (a Bob Dylan cover) under the name ‘Charity Shayne’ in 1965, before going belly-up the following year.

By 1968, Gypsy (as Share was then calling herself) had fallen on hard times, landing a role in Ramrodder. Ramrodder was an erotic western, about a cowboy who weds an Indian woman. The movie was being filmed at Spahn Ranch.

Catherine was an extra in the film, portraying a Native American woman. It was there that she met Robert ‘Bobby’ Beausoleil aka Cupid, another musician and actor.

Bobby was dating another woman, Gayle Massman, and he brought Gypsy into their relationship, now a threesome.

The movie was being filmed at the back lots of Spahn Ranch, so Gypsy did not interact with members of the Manson Family (who were living at the front of the property that summer) during filming of the movie but through Bobby, she soon met 33-year old Charles Milles Manson.

“He was in a beaten-down Chevy. He wore a cowboy hat and had a beard. He wanted us to go swimming… We drove to Pacific Palisades and pulled up to the gate of a huge glass-and-log home. It was Dennis Wilson’s house. The cowboy said, ‘This is your dream, isn’t it, girl?’ Then he turned around and looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Start living it.’ He punched in numbers, and we went onto grounds with peacocks and eucalyptus trees and a pool on a cliff where beautiful men and women were swimming, some in suits, some topless… I went into a bathroom to change, and this person walks up to me and he’s no longer a cowboy. He has freshly washed chestnut hair… wearing an open silk kimono and harem pants. He looked like a rock star, and he introduced himself like we’d never met: ‘Hello, I’m Charlie Manson.’ I went to Spahn Ranch that night… Charlie now wore a cream-colored robe, and his hair was down. He looked like Christ… He made me his woman right away. That’s how it happened with all the new girls.” — Catherine Share quoted in “Manson: An Oral History” by Steve Oney ©July 2009 Los Angeles magazine

Charles Manson

After wrapping Ramrodder, Bobby, Gayle and Gypsy went north. While in San Francisco, they visited a commune and met 18-year old Leslie Van Houten. Bobby quickly added the brunette to his harem.

But Gypsy had already been given instructions from Charlie about how to attract more people to his growing Family.

“{Leslie} told me that she didn’t know… that Gypsy was scouting girls, pretty girls or girls who had cars or cash or their parents’ credit cards. ‘Gypsy called me in prison in the early nineties to apologize for recruiting me. That was the word she used. ‘Recruit’… I was stunned. I had no idea that it was that well planned.” — The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder by Nikki Meredith ©2018 Citadel Press

During Leslie’s first visit to the ranch, an argument broke out between her, Gypsy, Bobby and Gayle. Gypsy and Leslie decided to stay at Spahn, essentially defecting to Charlie.

“At first Manson was angry at Catherine for the two of us leaving Bobby because he wanted us to bring Bobby back to the ranch. And I don’t know what Catherine said, but he {Manson} agreed that we’d stay.” — Leslie Van Houten quoted in The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder by Nikki Meredith ©2018 Citadel Press

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Leslie Van Houten (forefront) pictured during the trials with Susan Atkins (center) and Linda Kasabian (far right)

Excerpted from The Manson Family: More to the Story

Gypsy, at 26, was the oldest woman in the Family. Strong-willed and opinionated, she wanted the younger girls to look up to her and Charlie to respect her as a peer. Gypsy was looking for a family as much as the younger teens were and had as much to lose without them as Manson.

Manson never forgot that Leslie was Bobby’s girl first. He was constantly testing Lulu, as she was known, seeing how far her loyalty to him would go.

Many of the women suffered eating disorders.

“I had a weight problem… maybe 20 pounds. But to them that was fat. Most of the girls were very anorexic or bulimic or both. Charlie wanted little, agile girls.” — Catherine Share quoted in “Manson: An Oral History” by Steve Oney ©July 2009 Los Angeles magazine

Gypsy also saw how Manson began to manipulate his followers, getting them to discard the morals and belief systems that their parents had taught them.

“He would show us how our parents hadn’t raised us right and had abused us, had tried to shut down the light we had within, the brightness we had within… He discussed the subliminal messages that society transmitted. Then he would give us his own subliminal messages. We knew he was doing it, and we let him. That’s how good he was.” — Catherine Share quoted in “Manson: An Oral History” by Steve Oney ©July 2009 Los Angeles magazine

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Catherine Share

But Charlie’s main priority until the summer of 1969 was getting his own record deal. He confided in Gypsy about his intentions, and she interceded on his behalf. She still had a few music connections, thanks to her previous deal with Autumn Records. Gypsy contacted Paul Rothschild, producer for the Doors, who agreed to listen to Manson’s demo tapes but then politely declined.

With his hopes of fame and success dwindling by the day, Charlie’s temper began to grow. He was also using large amounts of narcotics, primarily LSD. His ‘Helter Skelter’ vision (a global race war between black and white people) was the result of listening to the Beatles’ White Album on acid. As his own dependency on drugs increased, so too did his rage. When a couple of drug deals went badly for the Family, it resulted in violence. Charlie shot a black drug dealer on July 1st, and participated in the murder of Gary Hinman, a friend of the Family, four weeks later. Ten days after Hinman’s brutal slaying, Charlie ordered the Tate/LaBianca killings. Another murder followed, in late August.

Gypsy saw his escalating violence and paranoia.

“Charlie talked about Helter Skelter every night… The blacks… would start burning white neighborhoods. Then the whites, the police behind them, would start killing blacks, and that would spark total chaos… We’d live in the desert and come in on dune buggies and… We’d be the saviors.” — Catherine Share quoted in “Manson: An Oral History” by Steve Oney ©July 2009 Los Angeles magazine

And she believed that his vision was true.

“I totally believed Charlie. I believed that the cities were going to burn. I believed my only safety was to stay with the Family.” — Catherine Share quoted in “Manson: An Oral History” by Steve Oney ©July 2009 Los Angeles magazine

On June 27th, while visiting a friend in Topanga Canyon, Gypsy met a 20-year old young woman from New Hampshire. Linda Kasabian was with her husband Bob and their 15-month old daughter, Tanya. They were living in a trailer on a beach.

Excerpted from The Manson Family: More to the Story —

Linda had already been married twice in her young life. She was the epitome of the seeker, the flower child. She was looking for transcendent experiences, willing to pursue any avenue to find it — sex, drugs, mysticism.

But Linda and Bob, who’d been married for two years, were having marital woes. They would split up, reconcile, split up, reconcile. Linda confided her troubles to Gypsy that afternoon. Then Gypsy told Linda about Spahn Ranch.

“I told Linda that we were a group of people that took care of each other and loved each other and we were all one.” — Catherine Share from the documentary “Manson” ©2009 The History Channel

Linda left with Gypsy that day. She brought her daughter Tanya with her.

On the day of the infamous moon landing, July 20, 1969, Gypsy witnessed Manson’s rage first-hand. He attacked her after she and Brenda (another Family member, true name Nancy Pitman) rolled a barrel of food down a hill and the lid broke off.

“Charlie was kicking me and I rolled over into a ball, trying to protect my body. I didn’t know why he beat me. He instilled terror toward the end there, in every single person around him. He had total control over them.” — Catherine Share from the documentary “Manson” ©2009 The History Channel

It took years for Catherine Share to divest herself of Manson’s control. She remained with the Family in the aftermath of the murders, and supported Manson during his trials. It was Gypsy who bullied Susan Atkins into recanting her grand jury testimony and resuming her loyalty to Charlie, which resulted in Atkins being sentenced to death for the Tate/LaBianca killings she otherwise had won immunity from.

“I was like everyone else — enslaved to the point I couldn’t put two sentences together. The thing you have to remember about Charlie is that he was a con. Kids don’t know about cons. They don’t know about people who’ve been in prison. People in prison live by their wits. Otherwise they don’t survive. Charlie came out of prison with that skill. He knew what you were thinking before you did.” — Catherine Share quoted in “Manson: An Oral History” by Steve Oney ©July 2009 Los Angeles magazine

Catherine testified on behalf of Manson during the trial, claiming that Linda Kasabian (the woman that she personally trafficked into the Family) was the real mastermind behind the Tate/LaBianca murders. And she remained in support of the Family in the aftermath of the verdicts, giving birth to a baby boy (given name Phoenix) fathered by Steve ‘Clem’ Grogan.

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Catherine Share with Steve Grogan in a film still from the 1973 documentary “Manson”

In the summer of 1970, Share was one of several Family affiliates who committed armed robbery (the Hawthorne Army-Surplus store shootout) in an effort to free Manson from prison. For her efforts, she was arrested, tried and convicted. She served several years in prison.

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Gypsy (right) with Susan Atkins (center) and Mary Brunner (left) while serving at California Institute for Women in Frontera

Today, Share lives in the American southwest. She renounced her loyalty to Charlie many decades ago, became a born-again Christian and has spoken out in numerous documentaries and news programs about Manson and his crimes. Her son, now 49 years old, served in the U.S. military and is a father. In the film Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood, Gypsy is portrayed by actor Lena Dunham.

Years after the murders, Catherine reached out to Leslie Van Houten to apologize for recruiting her into the murderous Manson Family, and to ask for forgiveness.

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Gypsy, today

She has said that she is writing a book about her experiences.

You can read more about the Manson Family women here:

And learn about another woman in the Family here:

Written by

Author of the “More to the Story” true crime nonfiction series.

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