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Jay Sebring was a celebrity hairstylist in 1960s Hollywood who had famous clients including Frank Sinatra and Paul Newman. He also allegedly hustled drugs to some of the stars at his salons, earning him the moniker “The Candyman.”
But he’s best known for being Sharon Tate’s ex-lover — and one the Manson Family’s murder victims.
When Sebring, along with Roman Polanski’s then-pregnant wife Sharon Tate, and two others were butchered by Charles Manson’s associates in Los Angeles in 1969, up-and-coming men’s hairstylist Jim Markham, Sebring’s business partner, took over his successful chain of salons.
In the half century since, Markham has mourned the loss of his close friend. But according to The Hollywood Reporter, Markham, now 75, also takes issue with the popular issue associated with Manson’s infamous killing spree: “Helter Skelter.”
Prosecutors alleged Manson ordered Tate’s murder in hopes it would trigger a race war, saying it was a prophecy foretold to him in secret messages contained on The Beatles' “White Album.” But Markham disagrees. Instead, he insists the murders were the result of a failed drug transaction, not Helter Skelter.
"I don't want to get into the drugs, but I never bought into the race war theory,” Markham told The Hollywood Reporter.
“I believe Manson had gone up to the house and Manson wanted to sell cocaine and marijuana,” he added. “He showed Jay [Sebring] and Wojciech [Frykowski] the product. They were going to buy some of it, but the two of them beat him up at the gate. The next night, Manson sent the Family up [to kill them]."
This alternate version of the Manson family murders is consistent with another theory that fell out of prominence once the Helter Skelter hypothesis gained traction, particularly given Sebring’s alleged drug ties.
"I've lived with that for 50 years. I still believe that," Markham said, although he declined to elaborate further given that he is still in touch with Sebring's nephew Anthony DiMaria, who is planning a movie about the murders.
Quentin Tarantino’s summer blockbuster “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” has reignited interest in Manson’s cult and offers a revisionist twist to the Family’s murders. The film stars Emile Hirsch as Sebring.
Markham was slightly disappointed by how his mentor Sebring was depicted.
"I thought Jay was marginalized, and that upset me," Markham, who named his son after Sebring, admitted. "They portrayed him as this sort of houseboy. This was a very powerful man at the time."
To learn more about the real-life story of the Manson Family tune into “Manson: The Women,” Saturday, Aug. 10 at 7 p.m. ET/PT only on Oxygen.
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