- “Now [I] wake up to a nightmare in my mind.”
- “What the hell’s going on?”
- “Am I being framed for something?”
- What happened, what happened – nothing is making any sense to me.”
One could, without much thought, just decide that Bill is one Tate property Christmas light short of Sharon’s entire string of bulbs but I know that just is not a fair nor accurate assessment. Anyone in Bill’s shoes that bright and sunny Saturday morning would have reacted the exact same way. Bar none! The breaking in of the Guest House door by a gaggle of LAPD uniformed cops, the rough-housing physical treatment they gave to Bill upon his on-site cuffing, the smell of dried blood in the sweltering Los Angeles sun and the incessant buzzing of blue-bottle flies around the corpses of Gibby, Voytek and Steve…as far I am concerned, lesser men would have outright fainted at the sights and the smells, let us not forget that.
Bill, from what I have gathered over the years, is quite the laid-back individual with that very passive personality exterior most small-town/farm country Anglo-Saxon Easterners possess and that combination could be seen as odd to over-hyper Los Angelian city-slicker cops in terms of how one behaves and talks in the hours and days after surviving such an horrific event. Bill does not strike me as an aggressive nor over-talkative sort so a pounding of the fists on an interrogation table and a barrage of “I’m innocent, goddammit!” exclamations would not have exuded from Bill to those Parker Centre detectives, giving rise, of course, to the doubts and quizzical looks those cops began to have about Bill in those early hours and days.
This murder scene, within hours of its discovery, became a media circus and poor Bill was essentially Ground Zero in all the chaotic handling, to include a barrage of lawyers jockeying up to represent him, not because he was anybody special but because he was there, the only surviving person amid a quadrangle of Beautiful People mayhem. There would have been no way for this country boy to assess these lawyers’ motives or for that matter judge who would be the best to represent him. He was in a whirlwind and just basically hanging on for dear life, trying to breathe amid the shock and dismay, the utter confusion of the whole scene, hoping against hope to survive the Legal as he had done the Lethal.
These “ambulance chaser” lawyers would have said they were “friends of ours” or “sent by Rudy” even if they hadn’t been. Bill took and continues to take those introductions as some sort of conspiracy theory clue surrounding these murders, asking himself how could this be, who sent his eventual lawyer, Barry Tarlow, when no personal calls were ever made by him to anyone, including Rudy. Hey, this is Hollywood, Bill. Someone needed to tell Bill this is the Home of the Lie, how else does anyone get anywhere in Tinsel Town without playing the Using Game?
Bill’s main concern was, “I hope this news doesn’t go back to Ohio.” and who could blame him? He heads out West from his small town existence out East and the next thing his family and friends know is he is taking centre-stage in one of the biggest mass murders of the North American 20th century. How do you start THAT conversation>>> “Hi, Mom, yeah, I’m fine, weather is great out here, met some celebrities, never knew so much blood could come out of so many bodies, so how’s Ohio these days?” …*sigh*…
I simply cannot, even with my more than 3D Technicolor imagination, conceive of that initial conversation Bill had with his Mom nor how he would ever wrap his head around this event as it continued to unfold around him. I somehow imagine it’s like being on the
Full Throttle Roller Coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain,
there is no way to catch your breath until the ride finally comes to an end, your sheer terror either making you laugh uncontrollably, vomit or cry. I’ll bet Bill never really took a decent breath until he flew home with his Mom to Ohio a week later and we know by his own admission he did have nightmares for some time after the murders.
Bill claims that he remained in a “fog” for years - “Nothing got clear until, like, in the 90s and then by, um, well, actually when Rosie called and how she introduced herself and everything. Rosie put me back into hell basically….She did me a favour. This would have been locked away.”
That admission is very disturbing to me for a couple of reasons. First, 1969 to the 90s? Some two decades later? It seems to me that no one, no agency, no organization, no psychologist, no social worker, no lawyer, no cop, in effect no one came to Bill’s aid to help him digest and work through this trauma. After his testimony at the two trials is was “Bill Who?” and off he went by himself back East to try and cope through the rest of his life on his own. Don’t you just WUV the Good Ol’ Days when we would suffer through a shocking event and no one ever thought about the survivor? How he or she would fare, knowing damn well such a trauma would scar anyone’s psyche for life if left untreated?
Is it any wonder that when this Rosie came along, Bill was at least subconsciously desperate for some answers and possibly so desperate that the “answers” this Rosie was giving were good enough for Bill?
Am I the only person who wants to hit this “Rosie Tate-Polanski” with something hard and sharp?! Without a shred of doubt from me, this con-woman damaged forever Bill’s memory of that night. One wonders now with her exploitive influence if a true outline of the events would ever unfold from Bill even under hypnosis? She may have helped Bill in the revisiting of that trauma but I highly doubt muddying the waters with her personal get-rich-quick agenda helped Bill in separating fact from fiction.
She saw Bill coming or rather, she put his face on a dart board and there would be no way for him to escape becoming her bull’s eye, Bill’s more than suggestive nature ripe for the picking.
Even today, in this Star City Radio broadcast interview, having been many years since his involvement with this Rosie, Bill’s memory is still spattered with the fantastical ideas Rosie fed Bill and although you do get key-word phrases showing that even Bill doesn’t truly buy what he is saying, no longer can he easily separate the real events from the utterly made-up ones, his memory forever muddied by the likes of that woman.
One can only go by what was presented in the trials but in neither do any numbers on a piece of paper come into evidence. Bill is convinced that a) he had written down a license plate number from the van or car that gave him a ride back up to Cielo one night; and b) that the LAPD knew about this number and had found this note somewhere in the Guest House (possibly near the phone). This is a disturbing chain of events as it is never stated by the police nor the D.A. that such a license or any type of numbers were ever seen on any piece of paper nor retrieved from the Guest House.
Bill states that an unidentified detective investigating this case asked of Bill, while he was incarcerated in the first jail and before he had legal representation, “What’s these numbers?”
Bill replies, “What do you mean numbers?”
Detective – “Look like license plate numbers.”
Bill – “I just left it. I was being placed with morons. They’re charging me with murder and they want all the answers…and I don’t have any answers!”
Let me see if I get this right…
You are freaked out enough by whomever gave you a ride up to your house the very night before the murders or a night close to that date, that you jot down their license plate number, then you wake up one morning to find a slaughter house outside your front door and when the cops ask you about “numbers” you go, “What numbers?” Okayyy. I guesssss. But if I’m Bill, I am SO shouting out about that piece of paper even before they haul me out of the Guest House, I’m continuing to rant and rave about that license plate number in the cop car all the way down to the Beverly Hills station and I SO jump like a lion when, finally, a cop gets around to asking me about those numbers…that is IF a) I actually got a ride from someone before the murders who actually DID freak me out; and b) I actually decided TO write down that license plate number.
I don’t see Bill’s treatment by the police as a case of being handled by morons. I see it as a logical set of questions if such a piece of paper ever existed. And Bill should have realized that too IF such a piece of paper ever existed and IF such a weird hitch-hike event ever took place for Bill prior to the murders. And as for the LAPD wanting answers, Bill is the only surviving resident of 10050, who the heck else will they ask for answers? I imagine if you are breathing while all others around you are not, yeppers, you’re up for a Question Fest, then as now. In fact. I’d think it more odd if I were breathing and no one cared what I had to say.
Then Bill says the oddest thing;
“The more they played with me, the more things got locked up in my mind!….basically 30 years for it to come around.”
I’m no psychologist but all I can gather from this admission is that the more Bill talks, he thinks, the more fear he has that he will be blamed for this event. Bill must have believed the more he locked away the details, the more he repressed the trauma, the less he would be damaged by it in every respect. Usually, or at least it’s been my experience, the more one talks openly about a traumatic event, the less one is disturbed by it and the less one feels the need to repress and hide from that event, that “openness” inevitably viewed by law enforcement better as aligning with a truthful demeanour.
Not everything became “locked up” in Bill’s mind. When asked how many bodies he saw that day, Bill accurately responded with, “three”. The detective pushes, “You sure you didn’t see five?” and Bill replies, very clearly, with, “No, just three.”
When Bill knows the complete truth, he states it, very decisively and with no hesitation, no self-questioning with phrases like, “What the hell’s going on?”.
Naturally, then as now, Bill begins to try and surmise what may have happened that previous night;
“Here’s a woman, just ‘cause I’m having a baby and how could she kill all these people?” [referring to Sharon] “The car was missing – her Ferrari – is it Ferrari? Sharon’s Ferrari. And I’m thinking she’s killed these people and took off! And how could she do it?! Giving birth to a baby?! Stupid things that’s been planted in my mind”, basically admitting that things can be planted in his mind very easily, like the Rosie “stories” later on. Bill knows he is suggestible and this weakness is well known even to himself.
“They transported me from one police station to the bigger one, the detectives playing Good Cop, Bad Cop. These people were idiots. Then they said the polygraph test, ‘Would you be willing to take a polygraph test?”, Bill states he was already legally represented by then but they ask him directly and Bill says, “Sure.” His lawyer, Barry Tarlow says to Bill, “I wouldn’t advise that”, himself thinking Bill might be culpable; whereby, Bill responds, “It sounds like you don’t even believe me. This will clear me.”, Barry asks, “Are you sure?” and Bill says, “Yes!”
Another clear-cut, no self-questioned response from Mr. Garretson.
*When the complete Truth is known to Bill, he NEVER hesitates nor qualifies his answers. Ever. Remember that when deciding what is True and what has been suggested as True to Bill, vis-a-vis the Bill Garretson Story in the Tate Murders.*
Bill is rather traumatized by the next event which happens in the Break Room of the police station as he repeated this event to the Polygraph examiner and decades later continues to re-tell this story. I guess, to him, having police admit that he was the killer only hours after being arrested, the investigation hardly begun, sealed to Bill, his coming fate, that maybe he would spend the rest of his life in a California prison, convicted of multiple murders and all because he wanted to “see the world” before he was drafted into the Vietnam War, to then “legally” commit multiple murder against the Viet Cong. Dramatically ironic to Bill as he sat hand-cuffed in only a skimpy white undershirt and jeans, awaiting such a possible fate;
Bill- “Had me down at this Break Room where there is cops in there”
Unknown Policeman – “There’s that kid that killed all them people in Beverly Hills.”
Bill – That’s [the] kind of shit I had to put up with.”
In addition, as with the license plate “note”, Bill swears that the letters he was writing that night to friends back East were confiscated by the police as well, yet no such letters, like that license plate note, were ever entered into evidence at the trials, D.A. Bugliosi in his book “Helter Skelter” never refers to them and no one associated with this case at the law enforcement level, who has come forward and given interviews, has ever referred to them since. That is not to say such items didn’t exist for I do feel Bill was writing letters back home that night but like so many possible evidentiary pieces collected at murder scenes, after they were examined, held no evidentiary value.
This is where I’m sitting right now on this whole license plate “note” and the “letters” business: I do NOT believe in the existence of that license plate note but I DO believe in the existence of the letters. I do not believe, however, that the letters had in them ANYTHING to do with what Bill heard and felt that night as he wrote them. In essence, they were just normal letters written to friends back home and nothing more. I know, I know, I killed another possible “juicy” piece in this already over-the-top “juicy” story. Hey, I’m not out for a popularity award here, just assessing the evidence and letting it tell me where to go and how to think. Sorry if that bores and is anything but Shock & Awe but I can’t call something a firecracker if it doesn’t even light up.
Bill’s take on the Polygraph Test was one any lay person would have, having had no previous experience with how examiner’s assess the base truth level of a person before they are examined. He does not get into the details but you can tell from how he words this most recent Star City Radio re-telling that it was the questioning of the one-off homosexual act he had experienced at a party in the valley prior to coming to Cielo which outraged him the most during that Test;
Bill – “That polygraph test, some of the questions they…had on there, it was more or less murders committed and they’re wanting to know, ah, shit that doesn’t even pertain to the murders.”
Brian, Radio Host of Star City – “What you had for breakfast two weeks ago or something?”
Bill – “Basically more stupid shit than that, they know, and the thing was even with the letters that they confiscated at the House, at the Guest House, no attorney, no nothing, and what I wrote in the letters.”
Bill leaves that Test outrage in this interview, becoming easily side-tracked as he talks with Brian and Cats, and reverts back to the letters he wrote and again, he references the “Rosie Method” to either justify the importance he places on those letters or to continue to hype-up this radio interview;
Bill – “Now Rosie basically knows what [were] in the letters…some of the letters, ah, she knows and how she knows is because basically to the highest bidder anything can be sold…that’s why I believe who she is!”
Cats, Manson Forum Administrator and Brian’s Radio Sidekick for this Garretson Interview – “She has copies of the letters…”
A surprised Bill completely denies that option - that the reason Rosie “knows” what’s in his letters is because she illegally bought them or obtained copies of them - rather than wowing Bill with her “magical” knowledge of their content, as if she is some kind of miracle, other-worldly gifted, Tate-Polanski baby. Man, it is tough not to want to slap this woman. This Rosie has done such irreparable damage to Bill, emotionally and psychologically but then again, maybe it’s these fantastical accounts which allow Bill to function day-to-day, these extraordinary “excuses” sitting better for Bill as to why what happened in his life, happened. Maybe just the plain truth was too hard for Bill to swallow.
I still wonder how Bill makes the connection, that psychically “knowing” what was in Bill’s letters is proof of Rosie being Sharon’s baby??? There is no logical step to this kind of reasoning. Bill is grasping at straws to defend Rosie, in defending his own now warped version of the “truth”. It makes me very sad for Bill and gets me very angry at people who exploit this disconnect in Bill, in interviews.
Exactly one week after the murders, Bill is by then freed from jail and allowed to head home with his Mother, back to Ohio. One can only imagine the exhaustion Bill felt on that plane trip home, and the utter confusion still being felt, of the Who and the Why five people were slaughtered to death mere footfalls away from him and he lives and breathes to not be able to tell much of a tale.
Cats – “And then you had to come back to testify…”
Bill – “In both trials, which was rehearsed…[D.A. Bugliosi supposedly saying to Bill], ‘Just say you can’t recall if you don’t know….’ I didn’t want to recall shit! I know I’m being accused of something I had nothing to do with.”
Bills hints that there was some ulterior motive behind Bugliosi going over the questions Bill would be asked in court, when truly that kind of rehearsal is always done by lawyers with their witnesses pre-trial, especially with witnesses who may have difficulty giving straight-forward answers on the stand. Bill, as we can see here, in this interview and in the other public accounts he has given, is apt to expound and give opinions well beyond the arena of the facts, so as I see it, if Vince had not rehearsed Bill, that would have been the injustice to his testimony, not the other way around.
Brian asks of Bill – “After the trials, did you disconnect or did you keep up with it [the media unfolding of the murders]?
Bill – “There was nothing to keep up with, as far as Bugliosi’s book, “Helter Skelter”, that’s his, you know, I mean I’m sure that allot of investigation that went through it in his book, that what he put together, same thing with the trial itself, which articles I read, complete circus. In life, you see, what it is, basically there were things there, things could have went different. I couldn’t figure out, like it was completely blotted out of my mind – the baby….That took over 28/29 years, it came out little by little, bits and pieces…The rest of it came out later and it wouldn’t have had it not been for Rosie.”
Bill is speaking the truth whether he realizes it or not.
He’s admitting in a round-about way that Vince’s book was and is the complete Final Word on these murders, the players and the outcome, as per the facts and evidence in the case and, of course, Bill would be right. Every book published since HS has been a sheer fictitious Tell-All, with some or another “shocking” new tidbit that is never corroborated nor proven, just some hyped-up morsel of fantasy offered to the always-hungry readers of these murders, to grab on to and gnaw away at, colouring an already over-the-top psychedelic history of events, all for the sake of a fast publishing buck. Bill knows in his heart of hearts that D.A. Bugliosi did do one heck of allot of pre-trial work and research, leaving no player nor evidentiary stone un-turned. What’s putting a kibosh on this awareness for Bill is this oh, so damaging influence Rosie had on him to create a disconnect between what he has always known about this case and what exploiters like Rosie and others want him to believe. Bill, being present at both trials, knew first-hand the “circus”-like atmosphere the Manson Family and the Media made of these trials, how the Hall of Justice became quite literally a 3-Ring Circus. I shudder at how all of those Family and Media antics would play out today, in our world-wide-web, have-it-all-Now social media existence. You’d have to wear scuba suits in your living room to survive the drooling the producers of CNN and Fox News would be doing, the 24 hour cycle being tailor-made for such a murderous display.
Bill, you can tell, is rather philosophical now about the whole experience, knowing that some good things and some bad things happened in reference to the part he played in this case. And quite noticeably, Bill is still confounded at the Rosie-baby scenario. Of course that “tidbit” was “blotted” out of his mind, fantasy never has any place in reality. I imagine every single day since his involvement with Rosie, he has tried to put those pieces together with what he directly experienced and all I can think is that it’s a crying shame he has been left like this, mired between what was real and what truly never was and no ability now to tell one from the other.
I still sit here today and continue to state: Hypnosis, even today, would be highly beneficial for Mr. Garretson, if only to possibly separate the wheat from the chaff so he could achieve some inner peace. It’s hard to say though if such treatment could be effective, knowing how infected his memory is now with these Rosie tales. We Followers of this case figuratively lost the last witness to what went on at Cielo Drive in those early morning hours of August 9, 1969 by the possible permanent damage done to Bill Garretson’s memory. But I’d like to think a complete memory retrieval is still possible. We, as children then having been so affected by this event, would be grateful for the Truth and Nothing But The Truth; and Bill, having obviously been severely traumatized by those hours, could do well with a similar Final Word as to his direct involvement.
Photos, in Order of Appearance: Star City Radio & YouTube; sixflags.com/full-throttle/