Please Don’t Call Him a ‘Playboy’

The life and death of Manson Family victim Wojciech Frykowski

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Shortly after midnight on Saturday, August 9, 1969, four members of a ‘hippie commune’ and cult scaled the fence of a property in Benedict Canyon, a prestigious neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills. The home at 10050 Cielo Drive was being rented by Polish film director Roman Polanski and his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate.

Tate and four of her houseguests were brutally murdered that late night. This is the story of one of the victims.

Wojciech (VOY-tek) Frykowski was born December 22, 1936 in Lodz, Poland. He was one of three sons born to Jan Frykowski, a textile printer and Teofila Stefanowska.

The Nazis came to power in nearby Germany in 1933 under the dictatorial rule of Chancellor Adolph Hitler who was obsessed with German birthright over land and resources. That obsession led to his pursuit of reclaiming land formerly part of the Austro-German-Prussian landscape, and eradicating anyone (political enemies, Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled) that marred his vision of a perfect, utopian, Aryan Germany.

When Wojciech was three years old, the Nazis invaded Poland and soon war began across Europe. The Americans joined the fight against Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan (the Axis) after the December 1941 attack at Pearl Harbor.

During the war, Jan Frykowski struggled to maintain his business and fought with the local Nazi forces to maintain control over his business during the war. He continued that fight after the war, when authoritarian leadership in the guise of Communism swept over Poland.

Despite the grave and frightening circumstances that held Poland and Europe in its’ grip during the first years of young Wojciech’s life, he became a mirthful and optimistic young man.

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Wojciech Frykowski

He enrolled in the local university and graduated with a degree in chemistry. Wojciech was expected to join his father’s business, but instead he liked to spend his time hanging around with filmmakers. Post-World War II was a boon for cinematic expression, particularly in Europe, and many young people were looking to capture their hopes, dreams, fears and nightmares on film.

One of those young filmmakers was Roman Polanski (born Roman Liebling). Roman had not fared as well during the war as Wojciech — he was the only member of his family not captured by Nazis and his mother (who was pregnant at the time) perished at Auschwitz. Roman spent his childhood living on the streets as a virtual orphan, or hiding in the countryside where poor but kindly farmers would hide the boy.

Wojciech first met Roman at a school dance. Polanski was working the door and refused to let Frykowski in because he had a reputation for causing trouble. Wojciech threatened to punch Roman, but instead walked away. Just a few weeks later, the two spied each other at a bar. Wojciech bought the other man a drink and a friendship ensued.

“Frykowski, a national junior swimming champion in Poland, was a short, powerfully built man whose toughness was legendary among his friends. Once, when he emerged from a bar in Poland, two state policemen started giving him a hard time, a situation that would give most men pause, considering the regime. But, according to his companion, ‘Wojiciech {sic} took them both like that. It was over in ten seconds.’ In Communist Poland, Frykowski was that rarity, the son of a millionaire, whose money had reportedly come from black-market operations… he cut a stylish, almost Hemingway-esque figure in Warsaw’s literary and movie world. He had plenty of cash and he spent it freely — on sports cars, on the latest Western fashions and on his friends. Wherever he was and whatever his situation, there were two constants about Frykowski. Men liked him immensely and women were enchanted by him.” — “The Sharon Tate Murders” by Peter Maas ©April 1970 Ladies Home Journal magazine

Wojciech financed one of Roman’s earliest short films (Mammals) and also was the unofficial lifeguard on the set. Over time, Roman came to trust the hot-headed Frykowski.

“Beneath his tough exterior, Wojciech was good-natured, softhearted to the point of sentimentality, and utterly loyal.” — Roman Polanski

In 1958, 20-year old Wojciech married Polish model Ewa Maria Morelle. They had a son, Bartolomeij (nicknamed Bartek) that same year. The couple divorced and Frykowski then married songwriter Agnieszka Osiecka in 1963. They divorced as well after a couple years.

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Frykowski and his second wife

By 1967, Wojciech was living in Paris and enjoying the bachelor life. Soon, he came to the United States for a visit, and at a New York party hosted by his friend, Polish-American writer Jerzy Kosinki, was introduced to socialite Abigail Folger.

Abigail Anne Folger grew up in wealth and privilege, in San Francisco as the heiress to the Folgers Coffee fortune. Her parents instilled in Abigail (or ‘Gibbie’, as she was known to friends) with a sense of curiosity about history and culture, along with a moral responsibility to help those less fortunate… Abigail was shy but engaging. She attended private high school in Carmel and was a 1961 debutante on the San Francisco social register. She went on to attend Radcliff College in Cambridge and then Harvard, graduating with honors in Art History. She was also a very talented pianist.

Her first job after college was at the University of California art museum in Berkeley. Her former supervisor, UC professor Peter Selz, recalled, “She was very outgoing, very enthusiastic and did a beautiful job organizing the fine art museum council. She wasn’t a hippie type at all. She didn’t look, dress or act like a hippie.”

Abigail moved to New York after Berkeley, where she worked for a magazine publisher, and then for the Gotham Book Mart. — The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing ©2019 Swann Publications including quote from

Although neither spoke the other’s language, they found a common tongue in French. Wojciech moved into Abigail’s apartment.

In the spring of 1968, Gibbie and Wojciech drove cross-country to California. They rented a home at 2774 Woodstock Road in Laurel Canyon, across the street from Mama Cass. There, Frykowski reconnected with his old friend Roman Polanski, who had recently married Sharon Tate and was living in Benedict Canyon, in the Bel Air area. Wojciech wrote poetry and took odd jobs in construction and on film sets but mostly lived off the money Abigail received each month from her wealthy father.

This is partly the reason that biographers of the Manson Family victims continue to refer to Wojciech as a ‘playboy’ or worse, a grifter. He was neither, although his behavior in the last year of his life does warrant (perhaps) some criticism.

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Frykowski and Folger

He grew up with wealth and comfort, and certainly enjoyed somewhat of a cavalier life during his young adulthood (he was an absentee father to his son, dating and playing the field in between and after both of his divorces) and then he did rely upon his girlfriend’s wealth (and his friend Roman’s generosity) to support him, once the two were living in Los Angeles. But there is no evidence that Wojciech wanted to be supported by her — in fact, there is multiple sources that demonstrate how hard he wanted to work and the efforts he took to earn a living.

We know that he did construction work mostly on film sets (see above) and we believe that he gained this work through his connection to Polanski.

He was also writing (see above as well) although that may have been more of a recreational, creative pursuit.

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There is also evidence that he was attempting to launch himself as a dealer of MDMA (ecstasy or Molly). Friends of Cass Eliott had offered Frykowski an exclusive dealership of the drug in the Los Angeles area. Okay, drug dealing isn’t exactly a respectable profession, but it would have cut the purse strings to his girlfriend’s family. Maybe he wanted to ease the burden from her, and maybe he had other reasons to desire a drug-dealing lifestyle. We’ll never know.

Roman and Sharon moved to 10050 Cielo Drive in February 1969, and within a month both had left on overseas trips for different film projects. While they were gone, Polanski asked Wojciech to stay at their house and keep an eye on it. Frykowski and Folger went to Cielo Drive and subleased their rented Woodstock home to another friend.

But the couple remained at the property after Sharon returned from her Italian film shoot that summer. She was about six months pregnant and her husband didn’t want her to be alone. So he asked Wojciech and Abigail to stay a little while longer — just until mid-August, when Polanski would also be back home.

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Frykowski playfully poses with Sharon Tate just weeks before they were murdered

When the Manson Family killers entered the home at Cielo Drive, they first found Wojciech asleep on the couch. Killer Charles ‘Tex’ Watson woke the Pole with a kick to the head and the words, “I’m the Devil and I’m here to do the Devil’s business.”

Killer Susan Atkins went into the bedrooms with a knife, forcing Abigail Folger and Sharon Tate, along with her longtime friend Jay Sebring, to the living room. Jay was shot, kicked and stabbed in the living room. Folger and Frykowski both attempted to run and were chased by Atkins, Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel, another killer. Sharon was later killed in the living room by Watson.

But if you’ve ever thought of Wojciech Frykowski as a playboy, you won’t after you hear how he died.

After being tied with a towel to hold his wrists behind him, Susan Atkins attempted to stab Frykowski. Wojciech fought back, freeing himself from the towel that bound him and struggling with Atkins. The two literally rolled over each other in the living room, with Wojciech grabbing his attacker’s hair and pulling it out by the roots. She stabbed him over and over in the legs as the two fought. Eventually, she lost her knife and Frykowski broke free briefly. Then Watson jumped on top of him, beating him savagely on the head with the butt of a gun, breaking off pieces of the gun grip in the process. Susan later claimed she heard the crack of bone and thought the man must be dead. But instead, he jumped up and bolted out the door, screaming for help.

Watson still held hold of Frykowski though, and the two staggered out onto the porch and front lawn. Frykowski fell into the bushes and Tex jumped on top of him again, stabbing him several times while Wojciech screamed, “Help me. Oh God, help me!” Watson then shot him twice and he lay on the stone pavers near the porch.

Watson left Frykowski there and ran toward the swimming pool area, where Krenwinkel was chasing and stabbing Abigail Folger. Abigail moaned, “Stop, I’m already dead,” and Watson stabbed her until she was still. But then Tex discovered that Wojciech was still alive:

Frykowski had somehow managed to drag himself off the porch and was struggling across the lawn. I ran back to him, and once more the mechanical knife that was my arm drove down, again and again, until my wrist disappeared in the mess. — Will You Die For Me? by Charles Watson and Chaplain Ray ©1978 Fleming H. Revell

Watson went back into the house at that time where Sharon Tate was alone with Susan Atkins and he stabbed and killed her. Believing that everyone at the property was dead, the killers walked outside and toward the gate where lookout Linda Kasabian was waiting. As they walked past the body of Frykowski, Tex Watson kicked him in the head and Wojciech moved. He was still, shockingly, alive but not for long. He stabbed him again until he was certain that the man was dead.

**WARNING: the image below contains photographs from the crime scene. Although blurry, please skip past if you don’t wish to view.

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The crime scene outside of 10050 Cielo Drive

Wojiciech was almost superheroic in his efforts to stay alive. He endured the most gruesome and vicious assault — beatings, stabbings, shootings, kickings. In all, the Polish writer suffered thirty-five stab wounds and two gunshots plus twenty-three blunt force beatings, abrasions and defensive wounds.

When I called him ‘almost superheroic’ in my book, one reader commented in a social media post that a hero wouldn’t have let his girlfriend and another woman be murdered, that he would have done something.

But all five of the people seen that night by the Manson Family (a young man in his car, a guest of the caretaker, had been their first victim before they entered the home) were savagely and unmercifully killed. They had little warning before the killers were upon them with sharpened knives and their efforts to stall them were met with violence.

What could Wojciech have done? He was tied up, tried to fight back, endured an unimaginable amount of torture and pain and managed to live — briefly — through it. How could he have protected Abigail or Sharon while he was being stabbed, or shot?

You’ve heard the stories about the multiple ways that assassins attempted to kill Russian cleric Grigori Rasputin.

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Now tell me, should the word that you describe Wojciech Frykowski be ‘Playboy’ or ‘Warrior’? This man deserves much more credit for the way he fought for his life, and remembered as more than a grifter, a drug-dealer, or a victim.

Written by

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

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