The Children of the Stars

How Charles Manson courted Hollywood’s impressionable offspring

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Charles Manson, fame whore

In early 1968, Charles Manson was living in Topanga Canyon near Los Angeles with several young women. He’d been released from prison nearly a year earlier (March 1967) and initially received approval from his parole officer to live in San Francisco. But by late ’67, Charlie wanted to be closer to Hollywood, in order to find success as a musician.

When he met Deirdre Shaw, aka ‘Didi’, he grew hopeful that her connections would help him find success.

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Didi Shaw with her mother Angela Lansbury

Deirdre ‘Didi’ Shaw was born April of 1953 to famed actress Angela Lansbury and her second husband, Peter Shaw. Didi grew up in Malibu with two older brothers. The children were frequently left in the care of their father while their celebrated mother was traveling the world and by her mid-teens, Didi was dabbling in drugs. Her mother later lamented, “It started with cannabis but moved on to heroin. There were factions up in the hills above Malibu that were dedicated to deadly pursuits. It pains me to say it but, at one stage, Deidre was in with a crowd led by Charles Manson. She was one of many youngsters who knew him — and they were fascinated. He was an extraordinary character, charismatic in many ways, no question about it.” — Angela Lansbury quoted in “Angela Lansbury: How Drugs and Divorce Have Shaped My Life” ©May 2014 DailyMail.com

Manson was especially fond of Didi. She gave him hope that the children of other stars would flock to him, helping him get famous. Plus, she had mommy’s credit cards. Those cards were used to buy food and clothing for several months. Didi also introduced her friend Nancy Pitman to Manson.

“Nancy and Deirdre came from Malibu, bringing food from their parents’ cupboards,” Lynette Fromme wrote. “’They’ll never miss it,’ Didi assured us. ‘They don’t even know it’s there.’ The girls also presented us with high quality cannabis and LSD. They knew all the best dealers at the high school. Deirdre was of strong English-Irish stock, resilient, and good-natured. She wore jeans and soft blouses — too adventurous for dresses — and she looked like a child when she grinned. On a warm afternoon, she sat on our roof strumming a guitar and singing to herself, while below, Charlie and I listened, and he said tenderly, ‘Look at her. She’s ten times the actress her mother is without even trying’.” — Reflexion by Lynette Fromme ©2018 Peasenhall Press

Charlie also bragged that he used to go to Universal Studios, pick up male Hollywood stars, take them home and fuck them and their starlet wives.

Manson made his strongest and best connection with the music business when two of his women (Patricia Krenwinkel and Ella Jo Bailey) met Beach Boys’ drummer Dennis Wilson. In fact, the Manson Family lived with Wilson at his rented Pacific Palisades home for several months, and through Wilson Charlie was introduced to several influential people: talent agent Gregg Jakobson, musicians Neil Young and Frank Zappa, and Columbia Records producer Terry Melcher.

Melcher was the son of movie star Doris Day. In the summer of 1968, Terry was living with model Candace Bergen, renting a home in the prestigious Benedict Canyon area of Bel Air.

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“Manson had taken the notion that the music world was characterized by class fluidity, that… talent and charisma and commitment would be rewarded. But these Wilson brothers, these children of Doris Day and ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, were not so eager to see the gates opened to all freaky comers.” — Creepy Crawling: Charles Manson and the Many Lives of America’s Most Infamous Family by Jeffrey Melnick ©2018 Arcade Publishing

Charlie also met Deana Martin, daughter of the Rat Pack singer Dean Martin, at a party hosted by Dennis Wilson. Manson gave the pretty brunette a silver ring (taken off his own finger) and tried to get her to join his cult. Luckily, she declined. She later testified during the murder trials against members of Manson’s Family.

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Deana Martin prepares to testify during the Manson Family trials

Didi Shaw was never exactly a full-time member of the Family. She never lived with Charlie, although she certainly supported the Family. But in the summer of 1968, her parents discovered her drug use and cut off her credit cards.

Still, Didi continued to associate with her friends in the Manson Family. In April 1969, teenager Barbara Hoyt was picked up while hitchhiking by three young women in a VW bus — the driver was Didi Shaw and the women took Barbara to meet Manson at a house in Canoga Park.

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A photograph of Didi Lansbury Shaw with her mother (Courtesy Getty Images)

1968, in retrospect, shows an upward trajectory in Charles Manson’s potential career options including the connections with powerful film and music insiders. But by the end of the year, his opportunity of fame began to decline. 1969 was marked by a decidedly downward trajectory, one that seemed to incense Manson, diminish his chances of success, and ultimately ended up in the murder of several innocent people.

Five of those murders took place at the former home of Terry Melcher, who declined to produce Manson or help him secure a recording contract. And of course, two of the victims of the Manson Murders were famous (actress Sharon Tate and hairstylist Jay Sebring).

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Film and television star Sharon Tate

“Charles Manson is… a con­man. He will constantly try to get you to underestimate him. He will try to make you feel sorry for him. He will tell you how bad life has been to him, and how rough his upbringing was. That his mother didn’t want him. That his teachers were mean to him. That society withdrew from him… But this is just a learned con — it is not true. Charles Manson had everything. At one time he had almost thirty young girls taking care of him. He hob­nobbed with the Beach Boys and attended Hollywood parties with musicians and movie stars. He lived for free off the generosity of soft­hearted people who believed in him like Dennis Wilson… He never once had a job in the three years he was out of jail. Free drugs. Free sex. Famous people around him. He lived a dream life. He was offered everything America could offer a single man in the late 1960’s… Manson was finally rejected by society not, as he likes to tell it, because they were cruel and worldly establishment people who didn’t want to ‘get off his back.’ Charles Manson was finally rejected by society because he was a manipulative USER who abused the people who tried to be nice to him. Everyone who ever tried to help Charles Manson was ultimately made a fool for their troubles.”The Myth of Helter Skelter by Susan Atkins-Whitehouse ©2012 Menelorelin Dorenay

Charlie courted the children of the rich and famous because he intended to use them to claim his own success and wealth. When that failed to happen, he took revenge — on the establishment, on Hollywood, and even on his own Family.

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Didi Shaw and her husband photographed at their former restaurant, Enzo & Angela

After the murders, Angela Lansbury took her children away from Hollywood. In the shelter and privacy of Ireland, Didi was able to successfully get treated for a heroin addiction. She married and had one son, and she and her husband owned an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles for many years. Their restaurant closed in 2019.

Charles Manson found the fame he sought not through his musical talents, but with the notoriety of a maniacal puppetmaster who coerced the people who believed in him to commit murder. He died, the most famous prisoner in America, in 2017.

Learn more about the Manson Family and their crimes by visiting MansonFamily.net.

Written by

Author of the “More to the Story” true crime nonfiction series. https://www.mansonfamily.net/

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