EXCLUSIVE: For movie buff Bill Cassara, working in law enforcement had plenty of perks.
For over 30 years, the retired sergeant worked in the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office in Calif., And throughout his decades-long career, he met and befriended several Hollywood legends, including Joan Fontaine, Phyllis Coates and Clint Eastwood, among others.
Cassara, who has written several books about films, recently released his own memoir titled “Hollywood in Monterey: Chronicles of a Cop,” which reveals some of his favorite encounters from over the years.
“It’s been 13 years now since I retired,” Cassara told Fox News. “I wanted to talk about the people that influenced my life and career. As someone who is passionate about films, I felt now was the right time to share these stories.”
“I was mostly assigned to the Monterey peninsula where my beats included Carmel, certainly Big Sur,” he shared. “It was a wonderful way to spend my career and I’ve met a lot of remarkable people along the way.”
One of the stars Cassara befriend was Doris Day. After retiring in 1973, she eventually moved to Carmel Valley, where she and her son Terry Melcher became part owners of Cypress Inn in the nearby beach town Carmel-by-the-Sea, the New York Times reported.
“When I first met her, she was outside a pet store,” Cassara recalled. “I pulled over because I had to do some business in the area. She had this little cheap wagon with four dogs in it. And they all started barking at me. She took notice and then started waving her finger at them saying ‘Shh, you’re disturbing the peace!’ I thought it was very cute. I just smiled and walked away. It wouldn’t be until many years later when I had an opportunity to work with her son Terry where I got to know her better.”
Cassara’s book shares that Melcher, a record producer who created hits with the Beach Boys and the Byrds, was a volunteer for the Sheriff’s Rescue Team. He was also one of the founding members of the Sheriff’s Advisory Council, which raised money to support the operations of the sheriff’s office.
“Terry and Doris were very, very close,” Cassara recalled. “She was a very private person. Not too many people knew where she lived exactly, which was just fine. But Terry was very protective of her.”
And there was a good reason why Melcher fiercely guarded his famous mother. In 2016, Beach Boys frontman Mike Love released a memoir titled “Good Vibrations,” in which he claimed bandmate Dennis Wilson developed a friendship with Charles Manson.
According to Love, Wilson introduced Manson, an aspiring musician, to Melcher, People magazine reported. However, Melcher was unimpressed by Manson’s singing abilities and turned down Manson’s request for a recording contract.
The outlet noted that seven months later, several of Manson’s followers murdered actress Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant with Roman Polanski’s child, along with four other victims at the home once rented by Melcher. There was speculation at the time that Melcher was the intended target, the New York Times reported. However, police later established that Manson knew Melcher had moved from the house before the killings.
“No one would ever talk about the Manson murders in front of Terry,” said Cassara. “Terry was a very paranoid person. He did not like to be around crowds. He certainly didn’t like being recognized. If there was an event for Doris, he always went through the proper channels to hire seven deputies and a sergeant to provide security. He would tell us, ‘I want you guys to be in every shot taken of Doris.’ I remember for one event, he asked me to escort her for a luncheon because public events just made him very uncomfortable.”
Eventually, Melcher did open up to Cassara about Manson.
“[After the murders], Terry told the LAPD he was referred to a possible music talent,” said Cassara. “But he said once he got to [Manson’s place], he just wanted to get the hell out of there. It was filthy and very obvious that there was no talent. He described hearing Manson’s girls singing while he played the guitar. He felt he had to get out. So he tried to make a graceful exit.”
“After the homicides, the police officers interviewing Terry told him, ‘How about those dancing girls? Did you hook up with any of them?’” Cassara continued. “Terry was just so upset when he heard that. ‘Those Manson dogs?’ He pulled out his wallet and all these photographs came out. He said, ‘These are my girlfriends!’ Let’s just say he had good taste.’ But you could tell it pained him to relive that. I just felt sorry for him.”
Love also felt Melcher’s move from the doomed Cielo Drive home was “no accident.”
“Terry, Doris’ only child, was extremely close to his mom,” wrote Love, as quoted by People. “He had told her about Manson – 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.”
In his book, Cassara described how he once received a frantic call from Melcher. A letter was sent to a shaken-up Day declaring she should be put in the gas chamber “like the rest of the Jews.”
“Would you believe the person who wrote that letter was kind enough to put his name and return address?” said Cassara. “It was somewhere in Northern California. And my contact told me the guy was a wheelchair-bound paraplegic. The deputy assured me they were going to this guy’s house and make sure it would never happen again. Doris and Terry were a bit relieved but it certainly brought up those fears. Those fears certainly never left Terry.”
Melcher passed away in 2004 at age 62.
For the rest of Day’s life, she lived on a seven-acre estate with many more dogs than the zoning laws allowed, the New York Times reported. She passed away in 2019 at age 97.
“When you got to know Terry, you could tell he had an interest in helping others and appreciated law enforcement,” said Cassara. “As for Doris, she was warm, gracious and just incredibly charming. I think they found peace here. The Carmel community was small enough that they could come and go as they pleased without being noticed.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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