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How Doris Day May Have Saved Her Son From Charles Manson and His Followers

According to one account, Day got her son to move out of an infamous home.

In the 1950s and '60s, Doris Day was at the height of her career, starring in movies such as Calamity Jane, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Pillow Talk. But, by the end of the '60s, Hollywood was a different place, which is something Day learned firsthand. Surprisingly, Day has a connection to Charles Manson and the Manson Family due to her son, Terry Melcher. According to one version of events, it was because of Day that her son was not murdered by Manson's followers. Read on to find out more.

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Melcher was Day's only child.

Terry Melcher and Doris Day photographed circa 1950
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Day welcomed Melcher with her first husband, Al Jorden, in 1942. Melcher was later adopted by Day's third husband, Martin Melcher, and took his last name.

Melcher was a musician and producer, who worked with the Byrds and the Beach Boys, amongst other musical acts. He died in 2004 at age 62, while Day outlived her son, passing away in 2019 at 97.

Melcher knew Manson.

Terry Melcher leaving the courtroom after testifying in the Charles Manson trial in 1970
Bettmann / Getty Images

According to Express, Melcher met Manson through his relationship with the Beach Boys, because Manson wanted to become a musician. The publication reports that their meetup, unsurprisingly, went poorly, with Manson beating someone up during it and a friend of Melcher's being drugged with LSD. But, after this, Manson was convinced that Melcher was going to produce his music. Melcher did not feel the same.

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Manson supposedly wanted Melcher dead.

Charles Manson being led from a courthouse in 1969
Sahm Doherty/Getty Images

Express reports that when Manson realized Melcher would not actually be supporting his musical aspirations, he wanted him to die. The producer had previously lived at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles. If this address sounds familiar, that's because it ended up being the home of actor Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski, where Tate and several others were killed by Manson Family members in August 1969.

According to Express, the murders were sent to kill the residents at that address. It's unclear if Manson thought Melcher was there, wanted to scare him, or something else entirely.

Day reportedly told Melcher to move.

Doris Day and Terry Melcher at the 1989 Golden Globe Awards
Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Day fits into the story, because, according to one Beach Boys member, she was the one who suggested that Melcher—and his then-girlfriend actor Candice Bergen—move out of the rental house. They left it behind in January 1969, several months before the murders.

"The move was no accident," Beach Boys member Mike Love wrote in his book Good Vibrations (via People). "Terry, Doris' only child, was extremely close to his mom. He had told her about Manson—and about some of his scary antics, his brandishing of knives, his zombie followers—and that Manson had been to the house on Cielo and she insisted he move out …  A mother's intuition, perhaps, and it may have saved his life."

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People close to Melcher have contradicted that story, however.

Candice Bergen and Terry Melcher photographed in 1968
Dove/Express/Getty Images

In 2013, musician Mark Lindsay, who had also lived in the home with Melcher and Bergen, said that Manson knew Melcher had moved out prior to the murders.

"Everybody speculated that Manson sent his minions up there to get rid of Terry because he was angry about not getting a record deal," Lindsay told the Midland Reporter-Telegram. "But Terry and I talked about it later and Terry said Manson knew, because Manson or someone from his organization left a note on Terry's porch in Malibu."

Furthermore, Bergen said on the podcast Awards Chatter in 2021 that Manson knew about Melcher's Malibu residence. The Murphy Brown star, who never met Manson herself, recalled, "We then went to Terry's mother's house in Malibu, and one morning the telescope was missing from the front terrace, and a message came to Terry saying, 'By the way I came by and took your telescope so I know where you live.'" She also confirmed that they moved "to run away from Manson."

Another account controversially claims that Melcher and Manson were still in touch.

Terry Melcher photographed in 1971
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

In another version of events presented in Tom O'Neill's 2019 book, CHAOS: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties, there was evidence that Melcher was in contact with Manson following the murders, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. This account is seemingly in conflict with Melcher's appearance at the Manson trial, during which he had to be medicated because he was so afraid of the cult leader.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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