Sharon Tate esquire mao

1967– Sharon Tate for a spread in Esquire Magazine, 1967, in a t-shirt printed with the Vietnam Star. –Photo by William Helburn

So this is what the internets are recently abuzz about– The Mad Men costume designer channeling the essence of Sharon Tate, circa Esquire magazine 1969, by placing the same Vietnam Star T-shirt on Megan Draper. Which, mind you– was probably not for sale at your local Hot Topic, head shop, or back then, so kinda random and creepy. It’s a pretty good ploy to generate some buzz– made me look twice, and I haven’t watched the show in a few years now. Probably exactly what they were going for. I will say, for the record, that the original photography by William Helburn is amazing– downright titillating, even.

But if you find this kind of stuff remotely interesting, the real tingler is how Steve McQueen himself almost ended up a part of the Manson massacre, and could have shared in Sharon Tate and the other’s gruesome fate…

sharon tate pear

Sharon Tate for Esquire magazine, 1967 –Photo by William Helburn


Sharon Tate esquire magazine

Sharon Tate for Esquire magazine, 1967 –Photo by William Helburn


Saron tate esquire gun mao

Sharon Tate for Esquire magazine, 1967 –Photo by William Helburn

Sharon Tate esquire magazine mao 1967

1967– Sharon Tate for a spread in Esquire Magazine, 1967, in a t-shirt printed with the Vietnam Star. –Photo by William Helburn

From The Daily Mail, the alleged accounts of McQueen’s infidelities and loathsome ways that put him on the road to creeps-ville, and in the path of Manson’s murderous crew–

“For years, as his [a young Steve McQueen’s] career failed to ignite, he leeched off a successful dancer called Neile Adams — spending her earnings on new cars, drugs and other women.

Eventually marrying her in 1956, he landed a small role soon afterwards in the film of Harold Robbins’s trashy novel, Never Love A Stranger. Within days, he’d embarked on an intensely sexual affair with the film’s leading lady actress Lita Milan — and then proudly told his wife about it. According to Neile: ‘Lita would be the first in a long line of flings that would plague me throughout our married life. OK, I thought, I can handle it — I have to — as long as he doesn’t flaunt it.’

But, as McQueen’s career gathered pace, he never stopped flaunting his affairs — with co-stars including Jacqueline Bisset and Lee Remick, not to mention a host of starlets and fans. Perhaps as a test of his wife’s devotion, he made indiscreet phone calls within her hearing and left lipstick smudges on his shirts (and trousers) and love notes in his pockets.

By 1960, Neile had given up work and given birth to a son and daughter. Still struggling to be the kind of wife he wanted, she’d boil up the high-grade peyote he bought from Navajo Indians, and then disappear while McQueen got stoned with his friends.

He also started going for all-night benders at the Whisky a Go Go club on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, where he met one of his chief partners in crime: a womanising hairdresser called Jay Sebring. The two men, fuelled by alcohol and cocaine, shared the sexual favours of a Bambi-eyed starlet called Sharon Tate, often in the same bed at the same time. And their friendship continued even after she married the director Roman Polanski.

sharon tate esquire magazine mao

Sharon Tate for Esquire magazine, 1967 –Photo by William Helburn

On the afternoon of August 7, 1969, Sebring went to McQueen’s house to give him a trim and suggested they attend a party that evening at Sharon’s house. McQueen said he’d be there. Before setting out, however, he was called by a young and beautiful blonde he was seeing at the time. Come along to the party, he said — but she told him she had a better idea for just the two of them.

Thus, by a whisker, Steve McQueen avoided being massacred by the Manson ‘family’, the hippie followers of the manipulative psychopath Charles Manson, who butchered Tate and three guests — including Sebring, who was shot and stabbed. Ironically, McQueen’s adultery had saved his life.

Two months later, when the killers were arrested, police discovered McQueen’s name on a hit-list of people whom Manson had decided to kill. It turned out that someone at McQueen’s production company had once rejected a screenplay by Manson. From then on, the actor carried a loaded Magnum at all times.


Letter written to McQueen’s attorney, Edward “Eddie” Rubin on Le Mans / Solar Productions letterhead, by Steve McQueen, documenting his concerns about Charles Manson and his murdering crew of misfits. He, as wells as, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, and Tome Jones (good company…) were believed, through an investigation of the murders, to be targeted for assassination by Charles Manson’s crew.







  1. sure I’m not the first person to tell you this, but mad men is still very much worth watching. and I hate almost all television.

    • It’s more about not having the time or desire to watch TV in general, not so much about the show itself.

      • that’s exactly what I’m saying–TV in general, I don’t touch the stuff. it’s trite. refuge of the worst of screenwriters and all that. but that show is cut of very different cloth, I assure you.

  2. Great post as always. I completely forgot about Sebring the celeb hairdresser being murdered along with Tate and the Folger heiress, among a couple of others. And to think McQueen was supposed to be there is just wow.

  3. Phew ! That is one seriously creep story . And yeah thanks for the reminder about the T-shirt thing . I’d wondered where Mad Men had come up with that idea as I’d completely forgotten all about it . Seems to me the writers for the show are on a bit of a personal tear on more than one subject from what I’m assuming is part of their past ( Dan Draper’s comment on dealing with auto manufactures being very telling )

    But hey JP ! When are you going to do a write up/tribute to Ray Manzerak ( from The Doors )

  4. The 70’s was a ruthless. I highly recommend reading Season of the Witch by David Talbot. It talks about how SF was changing in the late 60’s early 70’s and references Manson and his cult followers in the early days.

  5. Thinking last night about the McQueen story .. the absolute irony of it all hit me . Because of an affair on his wife .. he almost brought about his own demise …. but because of an affair on his affair … he lived to see another day . In his case Two Wrongs did not Make a Right … but Two Wrongs sure as heck did Save his Life !

    I wonder in his lifetime if he ever recognized the purity of that irony 😉

  6. His womanizing didn’t save his life it almost ended it. Had he been faithful he never would have been as close as he was. Men, always wanting to make cheating ok. ha ha

  7. This shatters my admiration for Steve McQueen. He was indeed cool, but integrity and fidelity are qualities that can’t be overlooked.

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