Go Set, Go
Starting over. A lot of shampoo sets and haircuts went up in smoke, along with the tragic loss of all my children’s photographs.
Richard took us to the Malibu Inn Hotel for a few days. We needed fresh air. Billy was still living at Richard’s, but the phone was disconnected. We found Billy, booted him out, and Adam, Daisy, and I moved into the bachelor pad with nothing but new toothbrushes—that was it. My kids were confused.
“Mommy, what happened, how come our house burned down?” Adam asked.
I didn’t have an answer. I was depressed and devastated, with no time to stay that way. “This is our home for a while, sweetheart, we’re going to be fine.”
Richard’s place wasn’t fine, though, it had turned into a slum with Billy at the helm. He had let the electricity lapse, so dusty melted candles dripped off the mock fireplace and in every ledge and table in every room. Billy hadn’t noticed since he was always stoned, slept all day, and there were no lights at night to reveal the filth.
Mary Williams came over to help us and bring motherly love. We put new sheets on Richard’s bed and Mary said, “Sumpthin’ good always comes out o’ every tragedy.”
“Well, I can’t find it, Mary!”
“Honey chil’…now you’re in Richard’s home!”
I loved being in Richard’s home, but it was too small for all of us. Again I was saved by a client.
“My sister’s husband is Helmut Dantine,” my client Marty Stevens said. “He has a place for rent in Benedict Canyon.”
It was four acres and five hundred dollars a month, which was a huge financial stretch.
Rows of avocado trees flanked the steep driveway.
“Kids, be careful.” I said, as they jumped out of the car. “No running.”
There was a forty-foot drop off the embankment at the side of the garage and driveway. Richard held my hand and we looked inside the little two-story farmhouse. It was perfect. My children would have their own large space in a loftlike room above ours. We walked into the living room.
“A fireplace!” Richard said. “Let’s take it.”
I looked at the kitchen with its big window facing the huge backyard. The kids raced back and forth chasing each other, in one room and out the other. I was thrilled for them. In their short little lives they had been moving so fast alongside me. All I wanted was to be still and build a real life for my babies and myself with Richard.
“Hey,” I said, “we even have a guest room.”
There was an add-on room with sliding glass windows, overlooking a garden of roses with heads the size of cabbages. It was a real country home only minutes from the hustle and bustle of Beverly Hills.
Richard said. “We will be married here.”
“Wake up, wake up, Carrie,” Richard said. “What’s going on?”
It was the morning of August 6, 1969. I was in a sweat. It was just getting light and I had been tossing and turning from a horrifying nightmare. “It was so real,” I said, on the verge of tears. “I was coming out of the bathroom, walking down a long hall. I passed a den and overheard two men talking about murder: a small dark man was folded up on a couch in lotus position, giving orders. He was dark; dark hair, dark eyes, dark aura, and gave deliberate orders through his bearded mouth—‘You must kill everyone in the house.’ I sensed myself in the hall eavesdropping. I was naked. I know, weird.”
Richard held me and listened to my tale full of panic.
“The other guy taking the orders questioned, ‘Everyone? Do we have to kill everyone?’ ‘They must all die,’ the dark one answered. I ran to find you and said, ‘Richard, we have to get out of here, now.’ We ran out to the driveway, through big iron gates, and when I looked back at the house, bombs burst through the windows. I was screaming and crying. That’s when you woke me. We were at a party at Roman and Sharon’s house.”
“It was just a bad dream,” Richard said, and he got out of bed. “I’m going to make us some hobo coffee and eggs, we gotta get to the salon.”
“I can’t eat,” I said, realizing what I needed, the one thing that would comfort me. “But I’ll have a screwdriver.”
Later, Billy sauntered into my salon. “Hey, baby dahlin’.” He looked thin and so did his hair.
“Billy you need a trim,” I said, laughing. “You look like a crazy person.”
Richard and I were at the desk. Billy leaned in. “You need wake-up?”
“Oh yeah,” Richard said, and we all walked into the dispensary and pulled the curtain closed.
“Just a little sumpthin’ sumpthin’ in from Peru.” Billy said, “I call it the Inca Message.” We each had a big hit from Billy’s long-nailed pinky finger.
“Ummm,” I said, “I needed that.”
“Yeah,” Richard said. “How much of that message you got, my friend?”
“I can score whatever you need.”
“Let’s get some of our own,” I said. I really liked cocaine. It was better than the grinding effect of the diet pill. It gave me a creative brain spurt.
“Hey, I’m waiting on a big job, and it would be groovy if I could stay with you guys for a little bit.,” Billy said. “You know, just till my first paycheck. I’m hookin’ up with a new friend, Jimmy Ford, another big music deal, and—“
Richard stopped him. “We always got room for you.”
“And the kids love their uncle Billy around.”
Billy was fantastic with Adam and Daisy. He got them gluing things, decorating stuff, making pictures, or beading hippie necklaces. Billy was still nothing but fun.
“I gotta go,” I said. “I’m late.”
“Whar you off to?” Billy said.
“Beverly Wilshire Hotel…to cut Warren.”
“He still lives in that penthouse?” Billy turned to Richard. “And I thought you cut Warren’s hair”
“I gave him to Carrie.” Richard smiled. “I think he likes her better.”
Two days later I did Julie Christie’s hair for a Vogue layout. Warren was dating Julie and he popped in on the shoot. Knowing Warren made it easier to get close to Julie. I wanted to capture her as a client after the shoot.
I was thrilled to work for the great Richard Avedon. I also got to work with the great style editor Polly Mellen. She would hold up three garments, look at them, then throw two on the ground. “This is it,” Polly would exclaim, like she discovered gold. “This is the shot, don’t you agree, Richard?” Polly and Richard worked off of each other like two artists creating the same painting.
August 9, 1969
Saturday morning. Richard and I were driving the picturesque Benedict Canyon road to work. He pulled out a joint. I turned on the radio. “Sharon Tate and friends have been found in a bloody massacre at her Beverly Hills home.” I froze. “All have been murdered.”
Richard slowed down the car and looked at me, remembering my recent nightmare.
“…a massacre with the word Pig written in blood across the front door.”
I was in shock and started sobbing.
We got to the salon and clients rushed us at the door. My phones were ringing off the hook: was I the hairdresser that was killed with Sharon?
Slowly more news came in. It was my friend Jay Sebring. And my client Abigail Folger. I got sicker from every new phone call.
August 10, 1969
The next night, more people were massacred in the same way. It was baffling and horrifying. Our town changed forever. Overnight, gates were built’ alarms were installed in homes. No more opened or unlocked doors.
And definitely no more picking up hitchhikers.
Peace and Love had been betrayed.
Excerpted from Upper Cut: Highlights of My Hollywood Life by Carrie White. Published in hardcover by Atria Books, a division of Simon and Schuster; September 2011—Available in paperback June 2012.