Sunday, September 6, 2009
Debra's Interview with Larry King
Here is the transcript from Larry King Live with Debra Tate:
KING: My entire program tonight has been devoted to that terrible night many years ago and the case of Manson and those horrific murders. We close the show tonight in these remaining moments with Debra Tate, the sister of actress Sharon Tate murdered that terrible night. You were you supposed to be at the house?
DEBRA TATE, SHARON TATE'S SISTER: Yes, I was.
KING: What happened?
TATE: Earlier that afternoon, the young man that was supposed to drive me up had been hurt his ankle injured in a Frisbee accident and showed up with two other guys to keep him from limping. And I gave Sharon a courtesy call. I didn't think that that was a proper thing to do; show up with two extra people that she didn't know.
And she agreed that she would rather not have to put on makeup or even clothes. It was such a hot, muggy afternoon. So I canceled.
KING: Where did you hear -- how did you hear about the tragedy?
TATE: My mother's home was -- we had just moved back in from Sausalito and we were home unpacking boxing.
KING: You and your mother.
TATE: Me and my mother, and my boyfriend of the time called my mother and said that he heard on the radio that Sharon had been killed in a fire in Benedict Canyon.
KING: When you found out what really happened, what went through you?
TATE: I didn't think that it could be possible. I got on the phone immediately and started calling fire stations. When that panned out to be untrue, I called police stations. Did everything to track down what had actually happened.
KING: Who finally told you?
TATE: The police department.
KING: It must have rocked you.
KING: It's one thing to die is tragedy enough, and to die that way when it's not accidental and horrific.
TATE: I had spent the entire summer at that house in Sharon's absence. I was basically the lady of the house. I had gotten to know everybody, Voytek and Abigail, extremely well. Jay was of course a dear, dear friend; he was like a big brother. I lost my entire support team that evening.
KING: And as I told you, I interviewed Sharon about a couple of weeks before this happened. The woman was not only gorgeous -- drop dead gorgeous -- a terrific person and bright.
TATE: Great individual in every way.
KING: Now since then, though, you have stayed dramatically involved in trying to prevent paroles of anybody?
KING: In a dramatic moment during the hearing in which Susan Atkins parole was eventually denied, her husband led her through a recitation of the 23rd Psalm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(SUSAN ATKINS RECITING THE 23RD PSALM)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: She is dying, is she not?
KING: So what's wrong with at this point letting her out?
TATE: I lost my mother to brain cancer. Nobody that I know that has brain cancer has managed to survive a year, let alone a year and four months past her last compassionate release plea, which deems that you need to be terminal within three months.
KING: She's not?
TATE: I have my doubts to tell you the truth. I don't know how it's possible that she can continue on this long after.
KING: You have no compassion for her.
TATE: I have all the compassion in the world for her, I wish her very well and always have.
In jail, I hope that they thrive and conserve and provide a useful life to other inmates. But I cannot let them out into society. I will never trust that these people are rehabilitated.
KING: Would you have preferred that they were executed?
TATE: Back in the beginning, I did not believe in the death penalty. Now I do.
KING: Atkins said she converted to Catholicism while in prison. Do you believe she's changed?
TATE: I've sat across from them as I am from you now.
KING: You appeared at parole hearing.
TATE: Absolutely. And we are this close and I never got one word of remorse. I have never gotten an apology, which is one of the basic factors in a 12-step program which is a requirement that they fulfill.
Larry: You say that she hasn't shown remorse, this is what he said in 1985 at a parole hearing. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ATKINS: I know the pain and the suffering that I caused Mrs. Tate. I look at myself today and I'm appalled that I could even have been involved with something like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Isn't that remorse?
TATE: Not in my opinion. There's no tears.
KING: What was it?
TATE: There's no tears; it's something that people have to do in order to gain the trust the parole board in letting them out.
KING: Were you there for that?
TATE: No I was not there for that.
KING: Do you hate these people. You should.
TATE: Not at all. I don't. I am not capable of hate. I feel bad that their lives have been wasted. But that was a choice that they made and the lifestyle that they lived. This wasn't an isolated killing, an act of passion, this was predatorial killing.
KING: Your sister wasn't target, was she? It could have been any house.
TATE: It could have been any house. It changed the way the world looked at everything that time. When you're not safe in your own home, it's a terrible thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TATE: Ms. Atkins very callously denied Sharon the opportunity of life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Debra Tate. When you heard about the LaBianca murders the next night, did you think?
TATE: Absolutely, I had my suspicions.
KING: It was too...
TATE: Too coincidental.
KING: Linda Kasabian has been with us earlier in this show and she witnessed the murders but didn't do anything to stop them but was according to Bugliosi, the key witness.
What are your feelings about her?
TATE: As far as I'm concerned Larry, she was an accessory to murder and therefore should hold the same penalty as everybody else.
KING: But the DA says he wasn't sure he could have had a solid iron case without her.
TATE: I think that he should have tried. He may not have been sure but I think that the point could be made without that. I don't think that it's absolutely necessary.
However, I'm not a lawyer and the laws of today are much different than they were in 1969. There could have been a much more severe point to try to make.
KING: Were you at the trial?
TATE: My father wouldn't allow me to go to the trial but I followed it everyday.
KING: Why wouldn't he allow you to go?
TATE: He was having difficulty himself. He was afraid that I would lose my temper. It was hard for him to control himself. I was basically the son my father never had and...
KING: You were the youngest sister.
TATE: No, I'm the middle sister. Sharon and I had an extremely close relationship...
KING: You have another sister.
TATE: There was another sister.
KING: She died?
TATE: She passed from breast cancer in 2000.
KING: You've had it.
TATE: Absolutely, I'm the last of my line.
KING: How close were you with Sharon?
TATE: Extremely close. As military children, you're moved all over the country or the world every three years. So the only consistent thing in each other's lives are your family.
KING: Did you like your brother-in-law?
TATE: I loved my brother-in-law and I still do.
KING: I see. Do you think he will ever come back to this country?
TATE: When I saw him in 2005, I tried to talk him into coming back to this country.
KING: Taking the shot.
TATE: Absolutely, I thought that he has a duty to try to clear up the record. However, the way LADA want to treat it, they would take him back, but they want it publicized. They want it on camera; turn it into a three-ring circus. He has no need to come back here.
KING: Certainly Polanski is one of the great directors.
KING: Were they very much in love?
TATE: Very much in love. Roman and Sharon admired each other. He worshipped the ground she walked on. They had a wonderful life together. They balanced each other completely.
KING: Yet why wasn't he there that night?
TATE: He was in London finishing up "Day of the Dolphin." She had just gotten back from Italy doing her last film, which was "13 Chairs."
KING: That was what I interviewed her about.
KING: What did you think of her career?
TATE: I was very, very proud of her. Sometimes I thought it was a little funny or contrived. I didn't understand all the dynamics. I rehearsed, ran parts with her very often. She said that she thought that I was the better actress in the family.
KING: Does it bother you that there are movies, documentaries, best-selling books all about this?
TATE: It does. I feel that many people have made a lot of money off of my family's pain and they continue to do so. So many of the things, documentaries or even statements that I myself have made are taken and chopped and taken out of context.
I would love to have the opportunity to tell the entire story in a cohesive manner that is complete and I haven't had the opportunity to do that.
KING: Why don't you write it?
TATE: I have thought about that, Larry. I have actually thought about writing it. There's so much. My mother's advocate work, my father actually to deal with his pain went out into the world, Hollywood world and did his own investigation. There are so many heroes in this family story that have not been explored.
KING: Did you like "Helter Skelter"?
TATE: I never read "Helter Skelter."
KING: Did you see it?
TATE: I did not see it. I will not contaminate my memories with somebody else's version.
KING: Even the DA's?
TATE: Even the DA's.
KING: Ok, in the '93 parole hearing of Susan Atkins, she said your sister asked her to let her baby live and Susan said she didn't have any mercy on her.
KING: How far along was...
TATE: The baby would have lived had somebody got there. Sharon was full term. She was going to be giving birth within the next week, week and a half at the most.
KING: What was it?
TATE: It was a boy.
KING: Did she know it was a boy?
KING: Or they didn't know that...
TATE: No, not back then they didn't know.
KING: What are your feelings about Manson?
TATE: I think that Charlie has a unique gift and that is to recognize and band together sociopaths. There were many members of the Manson family that weren't willing to go out on these rages and commit violent acts or crimes. He had the propensity to recognize them and band them together.
KING: Why do you think he wanted to do it though? What was his kick? He didn't kill anyone.
TATE: He did not kill anyone, actually, but -- that we know of in this particular case.
KING: Well, what do you think was his kick in sending other people out to kill people?
TATE: I think that it made him feel like a big man to be able to have that kind of influence on people. And I also think that he was very bitter at society. He had been in and out of the system most of his life. He was a dysfunctional individual.
KING: Did you ever talk to him?
TATE: I did talk to him -- well, I saw him. I did not speak to him. He did not speak to me, I had...
KING: Where did you see him?
TATE: In the county jail before he was convicted. I had myself taken in and we sat across from each other like this and neither one of us had anything to say.
KING: What went through you?
TATE: I wanted to look into his eyes and see what I saw. I wanted to see if I felt that he was guilty. And it was like looking into the eyes of a shark, dark, empty eyes.
KING: Would it take anything to have you say let someone out?
TATE: Yes. I am capable of saying let someone out if I see all the right signs.
KING: So far you haven't?
TATE: No, I have not.
KING: Thank you, Debra. And 40 years later, our condolences.
TATE: Thank you so much, Larry.
KING: She was a great girl.
TATE: Thank you.
KING: Debra Tate and the saga -- if it can be called that -- of the Mansons.