Sunday, October 31, 2010

Actor River Phoenix Collapsed on Viper Room Sidewalk

River Jude Phoenix (August 23, 1970 – October 31, 1993) was an American film actor. He was listed on John Willis's Screen World, Vol. 38 as one of twelve "promising new actors of 1986," and was hailed as highly talented by such critics as Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. He was also well known for his animal rights activism. He died of a drug overdose on Halloween morning 1993 at age 23.[1] He was the oldest sibling of actors and actresses Rain Phoenix, Joaquin Phoenix, Liberty Phoenix and Summer Phoenix.

Early life

Phoenix was born River Jude Bottom in a two-room log cabin in Metolius, Oregon,[2] on August 23, 1970, the oldest child of Arlyn Sharon Dunetz and John Lee Bottom. His parents named their first child after the river of life from novel Siddhartha.[2]

In an interview with People, River Phoenix described his parents as "hippieish".[2] His mother was born in The Bronx, New York, to Jewish parents from Hungary and Russia.[3][4][5][6] His father was a lapsed Catholic from Fontana, California.[3] In 1968, Phoenix's mother left her family in New York and moved to California, meeting Phoenix's father while hitchhiking. They married in June 1969 and joined the religious cult the Children of God, working as missionaries and fruit pickers in Venezuela.[2] Phoenix was the oldest of five and had four younger siblings: one brother, Joaquin, and three sisters, Rain, Summer, and Liberty. He also had an older half-sister from his father's previous relationship, Jodene (who later changed her name to Trust).

In an interview with Details magazine in November 1991, Phoenix stated that he lost his virginity at age four.[7][2] The magazine quotes him as saying "But I've blocked it out ... I was completely celibate from 10 to 14."[7] His representatives reportedly pressured him to later recant the comment, claiming it was "a joke."

In March 1994, Esquire magazine quoted River as speaking angrily of the Children of God cult: "They're disgusting ... they're ruining people's lives."[8] After the family left the cult and returned to the United States in 1977, they officially adopted the surname "Phoenix" on April 2, 1979, to reflect their rebirth to a new life, just like the mythical sacred firebird Phoenix arising from the ashes.

In 1977, the family returned to United States, and lived with Phoenix's maternal grandparents in Florida before moving to California and eventually settling back in Micanopy near Gainesville, Florida, in 1987.[2]

Phoenix often made different and conflicting accounts of his life to reporters. He told reporters "I have lied and changed stories and contradicted myself left and right, so at the end of the year you could read five different articles and say 'This guy is schizophrenic.'"[9]


Phoenix pursued a career in show business, encouraged by his parents. He had significant juvenile roles in Joe Dante's Explorers (1985); Rob Reiner's coming of age picture Stand By Me (1986) which first brought Phoenix to public prominence; Peter Weir's The Mosquito Coast (1986), where Phoenix played the son of Harrison Ford's character; A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon (1988); and Little Nikita (1988) with Sidney Poitier.

In 1989, at the age of 18, Phoenix was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (as well as for a Golden Globe) and received the Best Supporting Actor honor from the National Board of Review for his role in Sidney Lumet's Running on Empty (1988).

At the suggestion of Harrison Ford, Phoenix portrayed the teenage Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and was offered the role of the young Indiana Jones in the TV series, which he turned down. Phoenix met actor Keanu Reeves while Reeves was filming Parenthood with Phoenix's brother, Joaquin. River later went on to star opposite Reeves (along with Kevin Kline, Tracey Ullman and Joan Plowright) in 1990's I Love You to Death and again in Gus Van Sant's avant-garde film My Own Private Idaho. For his role in My Own Private Idaho, Phoenix won Best Actor honors at the Venice Film Festival, the National Society of Film Critics and the Independent Spirit Awards. The film and its success solidified Phoenix's image as an actor with edgy, leading man potential. At a press screening for My Own Private Idaho at the New York Film Festival Phoenix correctly predicted a large number of gay-themed films were "on the horizon."[10] (His friendship with Reeves and Van Sant continued until his death). Just prior to My Own Private Idaho, he filmed an acclaimed independent picture called Dogfight co-starring Lili Taylor and directed by Nancy Savoca, in which Phoenix portrayed a young U.S. Marine on the night prior to his being shipped off to Vietnam in November 1963.

After losing out on the Brad Pitt role in Robert Redford's film A River Runs Through It, Phoenix teamed up with Redford and again with Sidney Poitier for the conspiracy/espionage thriller Sneakers (1992). He then appeared in Peter Bogdanovich's country music-themed film, The Thing Called Love (1993); it was his last completed picture before his death. Phoenix and co-star in the film, Samantha Mathis, became an item in real life.

“It's not about career. It's about believing in something, it's about prosperity. And it's about caring and empathizing and wanting to create the best, the most true to life, the most real. ”

After his death in 1993, his last picture, Sam Shepard's art-house, ghost western Silent Tongue (1994), was released; it had been filmed prior to The Thing Called Love. Phoenix was still working on George Sluizer's post-apocalyptic Dark Blood which was three weeks from completion at the time of his death. 90% completed, the film was never released, as Phoenix's death made it impossible for the filmmakers to film several key scenes. Director George Sluizer now owns the material and has been reported to be considering releasing some footage material about Phoenix embedded in a documentary on River's life.

Phoenix was being considered for the role of Jim Carroll, the drug addicted teen in the 1995 drama The Basketball Diaries and Arthur Rimbaud in Total Eclipse. After his death, Leonardo DiCaprio was cast in both roles. Author Anne Rice had originally wanted Phoenix cast in the role of Lestat in the film version of Interview with the Vampire and Phoenix became attached to the project; however, when the producer wanted a more consistently bankable actor for the part, Tom Cruise was hired (against Rice's initial outrage). Phoenix remained with the picture and was to appear as the interviewer, Daniel Molloy, a role that ultimately ended up going to Christian Slater following Phoenix's death. The film was dedicated to him and Slater donated his salary from the film to Phoenix's favorite charities.

Generally regarded by critics at the time as the most promising young actor on the cusp of the '80s and '90s, River and younger brother Joaquin would later go on to become the first brothers in Hollywood history to be nominated for an Oscar in the acting categories.


“I've been wanting to go into music ever since I can remember. I mean even before I became an actor. I just thought it would be a tough field to break into, so I became an actor instead.”

Although Phoenix's movie career was generating most of the income for his family, it has been stated by close friends and relatives that his true passion was music. Phoenix was a singer, song writer and an accomplished guitarist. He had begun teaching himself guitar at the age of five and had stated in an interview for E! in 1988 that his family's move to Los Angeles when he was nine was made so that he and his sister "..could become recording artists. I fell into commercials for financial reasons and acting became an attractive concept..." Prior to securing an acting agent, Phoenix and his siblings had attempted to forge a career in music by playing cover songs on the streets of the Westwood district of LA; often being moved along by police because of the gathering crowds who obstructed the pavement.

Whilst working on A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon in 1986 Phoenix had written and recorded a song, "Heart to Get," specifically for the end credits of the movie. 20th Century Fox cut it from the completed film, but director William Richert put it back into place for his director's cut some years later. It was during filming that Phoenix met Chris Blackwell of Island Records, this meeting would later secure Phoenix a 2 year development deal with the label. Phoenix disliked the idea of being a solo artist and relished collaboration and so focused on putting together a band. Aleka's Attic were formed in 1987 and the line up included his sister Rain. Phoenix was committed to gaining credibility by his own merit and so he maintained that the band would not use his name when securing performances that were not benefits for charitable organizations. Phoenix's first release was 'Across the Way,' co-written with bandmate Josh McKay, which was released in 1989 on a benefit album for PETA entitled "Tame Yourself." In 1991 River wrote and recorded a spoken word piece called "Curi Curi" for Milton Nascimento's album TXAI. Also in 1991 the Aleka's Attic track "Too Many Colors" was lent to the soundtrack of Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho a film which included Phoenix in a starring role.

Due to Phoenix having to take numerous breaks to fulfill movie obligations the two year deal was frozen repeatedly and, subsequently, it was over four years before the final demos were completed. With the refusal to compromise his music to gear it towards a more 'mainstream' audience the deal eventually fell through. Around this time, Phoenix's friend John Frusciante had left his band Red Hot Chili Peppers and, with Phoenix spending more and more time in LA, the two began collaborating frequently; recording material on 4 and 8-track recorders in Frusciante's home.

In 1992, Phoenix worked with producer and friend T-Bone Burnett on some songs for his final completed film The Thing Called Love. Phoenix performed all his character's songs himself and wrote the song "Lone Star State of Mine" especially for the movie. In 1996, a second Aleka's Attic track was released, "Note to a Friend" was included on a PETA compilation album In Defense of Animals Volume II. The track included friend Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass. Two tracks collaborated on with John Frusciante were intended for release on his first solo album Niandre Lades and usually just a t-shirt(1994) but were pulled by request of the Phoenix family. They were released instead on Frusciante's second solo record, Smile from the streets you hold (1997) under different titles, "Height Down" (originally titled 'Soul Removal') and "Well, I've Been" (originally titled 'bought her soul').

Phoenix, along with friend Dan Aykroyd and other musically inclined celebrities, was an investor in the original House of Blues in Cambridge, Massachusetts which opened its doors to the public after serving a group of homeless people on Thanksgiving Day 1992.[11] Phoenix was also close friends with Michael Stipe of the band R.E.M.. At the time of his death Phoenix had been working on an album with Aleka's Attic (then consisting of a different line-up). The album, although close to completion, was shelved after Phoenix's death due to two of the musicians declining to sign artistic releases.


“If I have some celebrity, I hope I can use it to make a difference. The true social reward is that I can speak my mind and share my thoughts about the environment and civilisation itself. There's so much shit happening with people who are exploiting their positions and creating a lot of negativity.”

Phoenix was a dedicated animal rights, environmental and political activist. He was a prominent spokesperson for PETA and won their Humanitarian award in 1990 for his fund-raising efforts.[12] Also in 1990, for Earth Day, Phoenix wrote an environmental awareness essay targeted at his young fanbase, which was printed in Seventeen magazine. He financially aided a slew of environmental and humanitarian organizations and bought 800 acres (3.2 km2) of endangered rainforest in Costa Rica.

As well as comparing and giving speeches at rallies for various groups, he and his band often played environmental benefits for well known charities and also that of local ones around Gainesville, Florida. Phoenix was renowned for using his power within the media to voice his beliefs and opinions on issues he felt important, with his fanclub newsletters excluding the typical teen idol fodder to include information about issues such as the arms race, nuclear testing and climate change.


“For a long time, I've said the opposite of what I really thought. In interviews, I've also played characters that I wasn't. I've lied and often contradicted myself to dumbfound people. It's all over now, because I have nothing left to hide. Eventually, I'm quite an ordinary person.”

Prior to his death, River Phoenix's image — one he bemoaned in interviews — had been squeaky-clean, due in part to the public discussion of his various social, political, humanitarian and dietary interests not always popular in the '80s; as a result, his death elicited a vast amount of coverage from the media at the time. To this day, most family and friends remain silent on the subject.

Shortly before his 1993 demise, Phoenix, whose drug habits were still unknown to the public, said in an interview, "...drugs aren't just done by bad guys and sleaze-bags; it's a universal disease."[13][14]

Phoenix once said in an interview, "I wish sometimes that I wasn't as conscious as I am."[15]

Viper Room Sunset SidewalkDeath

On October 31, 1993, Phoenix collapsed from a drug overdose of heroin and cocaine (known as a speedball) outside the Viper Room, a Hollywood night club partially owned, at the time, by actor Johnny Depp. Phoenix had returned to Los Angeles early that week from Utah to complete the three weeks of interior shots left on his last (and, uncompleted) project Dark Blood. His younger sister Rain and brother Joaquin had flown out from Florida to join him at his hotel. River's girlfriend Samantha Mathis had also come to meet him, and all would be present at the scene of River's death.

On the evening of October 30, River was to perform onstage with his close friend Michael "Flea" Balzary from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. At some point in the evening Phoenix went to the bathroom to take drugs with various friends and dealers.[16] It is reported that an acquaintance offered him some Persian Brown (a powerful form of methamphetamine mixed with opiates, which is then snorted) and soon after consuming the drug he became ill.[16]

Upon leaving The Viper Room, River Phoenix collapsed onto the sidewalk and began convulsing for eight minutes. Joaquin dialed 911; during the call Joaquin was unable to determine whether River was breathing. River had, in fact, already stopped breathing. Rain proceeded to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. During the episode, Johnny Depp and his band P (featuring Flea and Phoenix's friend Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers) were onstage. According to Haynes the band was in the middle of their song, "Michael Stipe" (which includes the line "but we didnt have a part, not a piece of our heart, not Michael, River Phoenix or Flea or me."), while Phoenix was outside the venue having seizures on the sidewalk.[17] When the news filtered through the club, Flea left the stage and rushed outside. Paramedics had arrived on the scene and found Phoenix in asystole (flatline), when they administered drugs in an attempt to restart his heart. He was rushed to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, accompanied by Flea, via an ambulance. Further attempts to resuscitate Phoenix (including the insertion of a pacemaker) were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead at 1:51 a.m. PST on the morning of October 31, 1993.[18] The following day the club became a make-shift shrine with fans and mourners leaving flowers, pictures and candles on the sidewalk and graffiti messages on the walls of the venue. A sign was placed in the window that read, "With much respect and love to River and his family, The Viper Room is temporarily closed. Our heartfelt condolences to all his family, friends and loved ones. He will be missed". The club remained closed for a week. Johnny Depp continued to close the club every year on October 31 until selling his share in 2004.

A local paparazzo chose not to photograph Phoenix dying on the street, however, the day before his cremation in Florida, a reporter broke into the funeral home and took a picture of Phoenix resting in his casket; this picture was later to be sold to the tabloids for $1,000,000. It has now been published by the National Enquirer three times since the initial publishing in 1993.

References in popular culture

River Phoenix first gained references in music with Brazilian singer Milton Nascimento writing the song "River Phoenix: Letter to a Young Actor" about him after having seen Phoenix in The Mosquito Coast (1986). The song appears on the 1989 release Miltons. Phoenix's friends, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, wrote a few lines for him in the song "Give It Away" from the 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex Magik: "There's a River born to be a giver, keep you warm won't let you shiver, his heart is never gonna wither..."

Phoenix has been the subject of numerous tributes in song and other media. The band R.E.M. dedicated their album Monster to Phoenix, and their song "E-Bow the Letter" from 1996's New Adventures in Hi-Fi is said to have been written from a letter Michael Stipe wrote to Phoenix but never sent because of the actor's death. Musician Sam Phillips has the dedication "For River" on her album Martinis and Bikinis. Again, Red Hot Chili Peppers, paid tribute with the song "Transcending" on 1995's One Hot Minute being written about him. Other songs inspired by Phoenix include Dana Lyons' "Song For River Phoenix (If I Had Known)," Grant Lee Buffalo's "Halloween," Natalie Merchant's "River" for her 1995 album Tigerlily, Ellis Paul's song "River," found on his 1994 release Stories,[19] Rufus Wainwright's "Matinee Idol", Nada Surf's "River Phoenix" and Stereophonics's "Chris Chambers." In her 1996 album Woman & A Man, Belinda Carlisle referenced River in the song "California". The song opens and closes with the line "I remember I was in a tanning salon, when I heard that River Phoenix was gone." In Jay-Z's album, Kingdom Come, the lyrics of "Hollywood" list him as one of the many fatalities of the pressures of Hollywood. New York band Japanther featured a song on their album Skuffed up my Huffy (2008) entitled "River Phoenix," which is about certain events in his life and delivers the chorus "River Phoenix didn't mean it". In the song "The Viper Room," Wesley Willis takes an abrupt turn from an otherwise glowing account of the club by noting Phoenix's death, stating that he "...collapsed and died like a Doberman." UK indie-singer/rapper TRIP (aka Alex Child) also recorded a song entitled River Phoenix in 2009, about the night that he died. The song "Jude' from ambient musician Hypnic Jerk's album "Martorell" is a tribute to Phoenix and contains sampled audio from Phoenix's performance in My Own Private Idaho. Hannah Marcus recorded a song titled "River Phoenix," with lyrics about his death, on her 1998 album Faith Burns.

Gus Van Sant, with whom Phoenix worked in the film My Own Private Idaho, dedicated his 1994 movie Even Cowgirls Get The Blues as well as his 1998 novel Pink to him. The film Phoenix was due to start shooting shortly after his death, Interview With The Vampire, features the dedication "In memory of River Phoenix, 1970-1993" at the end of the closing credits. Experimental Santa Cruz filmmaker Cam Archer also produced a documentary called Drowning River Phoenix as part of his USA Fame series.

During performances on November 13[20] and November 15, 1993[21] February 12, 1994,[22] and one of Nirvana's last USA shows in Seattle on January 7, 1994,[23] Kurt Cobain of Nirvana dedicated the song "Jesus Don't Want Me For a Sunbeam" to Phoenix (among other celebrities who died young), just a few months before Cobain's death. Tom Petty dedicated "Ballad of Easy Rider" to Phoenix when he played in his and Phoenix's hometown of Gainesville, Florida in November 1993.

The British band Manic Street Preachers mentions River in their song "Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart" (from the album The Holy Bible, 1994) in the following line:"...I'm thinking right now of Hollywood tragedy; big mac; smack; Phoenix.R; please smile y'all..."

Phoenix was the subject of a controversial song by Australian group TISM. Titled "(He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River" the single originally featured a mock-up of River Phoenix' tombstone as its cover art in 1995. The chorus features the line, "I'm on the drug that killed River Phoenix."

On the song "Love Me, Hate Me" by rapper Ja Rule, he numerates different ways he could die as a celebrity, and one of the lyrics says "I might OD in a club off drugs like River Phoenix."

In the 1997 musical, The Fix, Phoenix is alluded to in the song "Mistress of Deception" in the lines, "Hot young actor died last night at an L.A. club./ecstasy and booze/and too much nyquil./had the sweetest face,/warm and shy and innocent; sexy in that careless kinda way./the newsman said his heart just stopped like that...."

The scene of River Phoenix's death merits several mentions in William Gibson's book Spook Country.

A lesser known reference to River Phoenix was Final Fantasty VIII's main protagonist Squall Leonhart. Tetsuya Nomura, the lead character designer for the game, stated he modelled Squall on River's visage during development, and even gave Squall the same birthdate.[24]

The Family Guy episode Three Kings, which was parodying Rob Reiner's Stand By Me ended in a synopsis of what the actors who originally played the characters in the movie went on to do. When he gets to Quagmire, who was parodying the character who was originally played by Phoenix, the narrator states, "Quag grew up to become a famous Hollywood actor. Unfortunately, about a week ago, he took an overdose of designer drugs at the Viper Room. He died, on the curb outside. And now we are left with a harelipped reminder of what might have been." A picture of Joaquin Phoenix, River's brother, fills the screen, accompanied by a Benny Hill-style trumpet sound. After the commercial break, Peter's first line is, "Joaquin Phoenix, if you are still watching, you're a good sport, and a trooper. And you passed our test. And you can be our friend." On the controversial episode, "I Dream of Jesus," Jesus says he raised Phoenix from the dead, only to have him overdose again in front of the Viper Room.

In 2004 Phoenix was voted #64 greatest movie star of all time in a poll by channel 4 television in the UK. The poll was made up wholly of votes from prominent figures of the acting and directing communities.

Phoenix's life and death has been the subject of an E! True Hollywood Story, an A&E Biography and an episode of Final 24, which contains a dramatic reconstruction of his final hours and death.*


1.^ Remembering 1993 Gary Kirkland Gainesville Sun - December 26, 1993
2.^ River's Untimely Death from People (November 15, 1993)
4.^ Summer Phoenix: articles (part 1)
5.^ - 'Walk the Line' Star Won't Campaign for Oscar - Celebrity Gossip Entertainment News Arts And Entertainment
6.^ Ten American showbiz celebrities of Russian descent - Pravda.Ru
7.^ Details, November, 1991[1]
8.^ Esquire magazine, March, 1994
9.^ Gone Too Soon. People. 2007. 37.
10.^ Esquire magazine, March, 1994
11.^ [2]
13.^ People Magazine November 1993
14.^ Chatter:
15.^ Catherine Elsworth. "Ledger death recalls River Phoenix". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
16.^ "The Untimely Death of River Phoenix". Reel Reviews article. Retrieved 2007-04-24.
17.^ Aaron, Charles. "They Came from Hollywood", Spin, 30 July 2007.
18.^ Weinraub, Bernard (1993-11-02). "Death of River Phoenix Jolts the Movie Industry". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
19.^ Ellis Paul website. Lyrics and audio to "River" from the album Stories. Retrieved 3 September 2007.
20.^ LIVE NIRVANA TOUR HISTORY: 11/13/93 - Bender Arena, American University, Washington, DC, US
21.^ LIVE NIRVANA TOUR HISTORY: 11/15/93 - Roseland Ballroom, New York, NY, US
22.^ LIVE NIRVANA TOUR HISTORY: 02/12/94 - Zénith Omega, Toulon, FR
23.^ LIVE NIRVANA TOUR HISTORY: 01/07/94 - Seattle Center Arena, Seattle, WA, US
24.^ Staff (2000-09-21). "The Bouncer Team Talks About Its Mysterious Game". IGN. Retrieved 2009-06-24.

Further reading

Glatt, John. Lost in Hollywood: The Fast Times and Short Life of River Phoenix. ISBN 1-55611-440-0.
Furek, Maxim W.. The Death Proclamation of Generation X: A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy of Goth, Grunge and Heroin. ISBN 978-0-595-46319-0.
Lawrence, Barry C.. In Search of River Phoenix: the Truth Behind the Myth. ISBN 0-9672491-9-8.
Robb, Brian J.. River Phoenix: a short life. ISBN 0-06-095132-X.

Viper Room Sunset Sidewalk

Friday, October 29, 2010

Jerry Rubin For Santa Monica City Council

I met Peace Activist Jerry Rubin (not the sixties guy who died jaywalking Wilshire Blvd) at a rally at the Federal Building earlier this year. Gave me a chance to thank him for all the work he's done to bring awareness to Los Angeles and Santa Monica these past decades.

Celebrity Grave: Actor Adolphe Menjou

Adolphe Jean Menjou (February 18, 1890 – October 29, 1963) was an American actor. His career spanned both silent films and talkies, appearing in such films as The Sheik, A Woman of Paris, Morocco, and A Star is Born. He was nominated for an Academy Award for The Front Page in 1931.

Early life

Menjou was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to a French father and an Irish mother from Galway. He was raised Catholic and attended the Culver Military Academy, graduating from Cornell University with a degree in engineering. Attracted to the vaudeville stage, he made his movie debut in 1916 in The Blue Envelope Mystery. During World War I, he served as a captain in the ambulance service.


Returning from the war, he became a star in such films as The Sheik and The Three Musketeers. When he starred in 1923's A Woman of Paris, he solidified the image of a well-dressed man-about-town. Menjou was famous for wearing fine clothing in many of his films. His career stalled with the coming of talkies, but in 1930, he starred in Morocco, with Marlene Dietrich. He was nominated for an Academy Award for The Front Page (1931).

McCarthy era

In 1947, Menjou cooperated with the House Committee on Un-American Activities in its hunt for Communists in Hollywood. Menjou was a leading member of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a group formed to oppose Communist influence in Hollywood. Other members included John Wayne, Barbara Stanwyck (with whom he co-starred in Forbidden in 1932 and Golden Boy in 1939) and her husband, actor Robert Taylor.

Because of his political sympathies, Menjou came into conflict with actress Katharine Hepburn. Menjou appeared with her in the films Stage Door and State of the Union, which also starred Spencer Tracy. Hepburn was strongly opposed to Americans co-operating with the McCarthy hearings. It was reported by William Mann in his biography of Hepburn, Kate, that during the filming of State of the Union, she and Menjou only spoke to each other when required to in the film script.

Later years

Menjou ended his film career with such roles as French General George Broulard in 1957's Paths of Glory, and as the town curmudgeon in Pollyanna in 1960.

He guest starred as Fitch, with Orson Bean and Sue Randall as John and Ellen Monroe, in an 1961 episode, "The Secret Life of James Thurber," based on the works of the American humorist James Thurber, of the CBS anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson.

In 1948, he published his autobiography, It Took Nine Tailors. He died on October 29, 1963 of hepatitis. He is interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Menjou has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6822 Hollywood Blvd.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Actor and Comedian Morey Amsterdam

Morey Amsterdam (December 14, 1908 – October 28, 1996) was an American television actor and comedian, best known for the role of Buddy Sorrell on The Dick Van Dyke Show in the early 1960s.

Amsterdam died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California on October 28, 1996 at age 87, and was survived by his wife Kay Patrick and their children, Gregory and Cathy. He was entombed at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Celebrity Cenotaph: Actress Hattie McDaniel

Hattie McDaniel (June 10, 1895 – October 25, 1952) was an American actress and the first African-American to win an Academy Award. She won the award for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939).

McDaniel was also a professional singer-songwriter, comedian, stage actress, radio performer, and television star. Hattie McDaniel was in fact the first black woman to sing on the radio in America. Over the course of her career, McDaniel appeared in over 300 films, although she received screen credits for only about 80. She gained the respect of the African American show business community with her generosity, elegance, and charm.

McDaniel has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood: one for her contributions to radio at 6933 Hollywood Boulevard, and one for motion pictures at 1719 Vine Street. In 1975, she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and in 2006 became the first black Oscar winner honored with a US postage stamp.

McDaniel died at age 57 from breast cancer, in the hospital on the grounds of the Motion Picture House in Woodland Hills, on October 26, 1952. She was survived by her brother, Sam McDaniel, a film actor. Thousands of mourners turned out to remember her life and accomplishments. It was her wish to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, along with her fellow movie stars, Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, and others. McDaniel wrote: "I desire a white casket and a white shroud; white gardenias in my hair and in my hands, together with a white gardenia blanket and a pillow of red roses" I also wish to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery." The owner, Jules Roth, refused to allow her to be interred there, because they did not take blacks. Her second choice was Rosedale Cemetery, where she lies today.

In 1999, Tyler Cassity, the new owner of the Hollywood Cemetery, who had renamed it Hollywood Forever Cemetery, wanted to right the wrong and have McDaniel interred in the cemetery. Her family did not want to disturb her remains after the passage of so much time, and declined the offer. Hollywood Forever Cemetery instead built a large cenotaph memorial on the lawn overlooking the lake in honor of McDaniel. It is one of the most popular sites for visitors.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Actor Forrest Tucker

Forrest Tucker (February 12, 1919 – October 25, 1986) was an American actor in both movies and television from the 1940s to the 1980s. Tucker, who stood 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) and weighed 200 pounds (91 kg), appeared in nearly 100 action films in the 1940s and 1950s.

His most famous role was starring as frontier capitalist Sgt. Morgan O'Rourke in F Troop (1965–1967). Though F Troop lasted only two seasons on ABC, the series has been in constant syndication since, reaching three generations of viewers. (Ironically, two of his Gunsmoke episodes feature Tucker in his cavalry uniform again, as the comic "Sergeant Holly," (1970) who in one scene "marries" and spends a hectic night with Miss Kitty.) He appeared in many television series, including ABC's Channing a drama about college life during the 1963-1964 season. In 1961, he appeared on NBC in Audie Murphy's short-lived western series Whispering Smith.

Following F Troop, Tucker returned to films in character parts (Barquero and Chisum, both 1970) and occasional leads (1975's The Wild McCullochs). On television, Tucker was a frequent guest star, including a total of six appearances on Gunsmoke and the recurring role of Jarvis Castleberry, Flo's estranged father on the 1976-1985 TV series, Alice and its spinoff, Flo. Tucker was a regular on three series after F Troop: Dusty's Trail (1973) with Bob Denver; The Ghost Busters (1975–76) which reunited him with F Troop co-star Larry Storch; and Filthy Rich playing the second Big Guy Beck. (1982–83). He continued to be active on stage as well, starring in the national productions of Plaza Suite, Show Boat, and That Championship Season.

Tucker suffered from severe alcoholism in his final years,Hbut returned to the big screen after an absence of several years, in the Cannon Films action film Thunder Run (1986), playing the hero, trucker Charlie Morrison. His final film appearance was Outtakes, a low-budget imitation of The Groove Tube.

His feature film comeback unfortunately was short-lived. He died from lung cancer and emphysema on October 25, 1986, five months after the film's theatrical release. He was interred in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Tucker married three times: to Sandra Jolley (1919–1986), divorced in 1950, daughter of the character actor I. Stanford Jolley (who also died of emphysema) and the sister of the Academy Award-winning art director Stan Jolley, to Marilyn Johnson on March 28, 1950, and after her death in 1960 to Marilyn Fisk on October 23, 1961. He had a daughter (Pamela "Brooke" Tucker) by his first marriage, and a daughter (Cindy Tucker) and son (Forrest Sean Tucker) by his third.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Actor Burt Lancaster

Burton Stephen "Burt" Lancaster (November 2, 1913 – October 20, 1994) was an American film actor, noted for his athletic physique, distinctive smile (which he called "The Grin") and, later, his willingness to play roles that went against his initial "tough guy" image. Initially dismissed as "Mr Muscles and Teeth", in the late 1950s Lancaster abandoned his "all-American" image and gradually came to be regarded as one of the best actors of his generation.

Lancaster was nominated four times for Academy Awards and won once, for his work in Elmer Gantry in 1960. He also won a Golden Globe for that performance, and BAFTA Awards for The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) and Atlantic City (1980). His production company, Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, was the most successful and innovative star-driven independent production company in 1950s Hollywood, making movies such as Marty (1955), Trapeze (1956), and Sweet Smell of Success (1957).

Lancaster also ventured in directing, with two films: The Kentuckian (1955) and The Midnight Man (1974).

Marriages and relationships

Lancaster vigorously guarded his private life. He was married three times. His first two marriages ended in divorce — to June Ernst from 1935 to 1946 and to Norma Anderson from 1946 to 1969. His third marriage, to Susan Martin, was from September 1990 until his death in 1994. All five of his children were with Norma Anderson: Bill (who became a screenwriter), James, Susan, Joanna, and Sighle (pronounced Sheila). He was romantically involved with Deborah Kerr during the filming of From Here to Eternity in 1953. He also had an affair with Joan Blondell. In her 1980 autobiography, actress Shelley Winters claimed to have had a long affair with him.

Political views

Lancaster was a vocal supporter of liberal political causes, and frequently spoke out with support for racial minorities. He was also instrumental in the formation of many liberal groups, through financial support. At one point, he was rumored to be a member of the Communist Party, because of his involvement in many liberal causes. He was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War and political movements such as McCarthyism, and he helped pay for the successful defense of a soldier accused of fragging another soldier during the war. In 1968, Lancaster actively supported the presidential candidacy of antiwar Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, and frequently spoke on his behalf in the Democratic primaries. In 1985, Lancaster, a longtime supporter of gay rights, joined the fight against AIDS after his close friend, Rock Hudson, contracted the disease. He campaigned for Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election.

Health problems and death

As Lancaster grew older, heart trouble increasingly hindered him from working. He nearly died during a routine gall bladder operation in January 1980. Following two minor heart attacks he had to undergo an emergency quadruple heart bypass in 1983, after which he was in frail health. He suffered a severe stroke in November 1990, which left him partly paralyzed and with restricted speech. Lancaster died in his Century City apartment in Los Angeles from a third heart attack on October 20, 1994. He is buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Westwood Village in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Mr. Blackwell

Richard Blackwell (August 29, 1922 – October 19, 2008) was an American fashion critic, journalist, television and radio personality, artist, former child actor and former fashion designer, sometimes known just as Mr. Blackwell. He was the creator of the "Ten Worst Dressed Women List", an annual awards presentation he unveiled in January of each year. He published the "Fabulous Fashion Independents" list and an annual Academy Awards fashion review, both of which receive somewhat less media attention. His longtime companion, former Beverly Hills hairdresser, Robert Spencer, managed him. He wrote two books, Mr. Blackwell: 30 Years of Fashion Fiascos and an autobiography, From Rags to Bitches.

Blackwell lived in the Hancock Park enclave of Los Angeles with his partner of 60 years, Robert Spencer. In 1964, they rented their home to The Beatles for the English band’s first visit to the city. It was leaked to the media, however, and the group made other arrangements. He was also an artist known for his avant-garde and he published several editions of his work, including his "Mother America" series.

In 2001, Blackwell was diagnosed with Bell's palsy which causes limited to severe paralysis of facial muscles and can affect eyesight as well. Although treatable, Bell's palsy is incurable; however, it often clears up on its own. Blackwell was unable to unveil the 2000 list at a live news conference for the first time in its 40-year history and remained out of the public eye for six months. He came back for the 2001 “Worst Dressed” and returned to a full, normal social life.

Blackwell died in Los Angeles on October 19, 2008 of complications from an intestinal infection. He is buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Entertainer & Pianist Liberace

Wladziu Valentino Liberace (May 16, 1919 – February 4, 1987), better known by only his last name Liberace (pronounced /ˌlɪbəˈrɑːtʃiː/), was a famous American entertainer and pianist. During the 1950s–1970s he was the highest-paid entertainer in the world.

Liberace's final stage performance was at the Radio City Music Hall on November 2, 1986; the 18th show in 21 days, the series grossing $2.5 million. His final television appearance was on Christmas Day that same year on The Oprah Winfrey Show TV talk show, which was recorded a month earlier. He died at the age of 67 on February 4, 1987 at his winter home in Palm Springs, California, from cardiac arrest due to congestive heart failure brought on by subacute encephalopathy, said by Hank Greenspun of the Las Vegas Sun to be complications from AIDS. Liberace's obvious weight loss in the months prior to his death was attributed to a "watermelon diet" by his longtime manager Seymour Heller. He had been in ill health since 1985 with emphysema from his daily smoking off-stage, as well as heart and liver troubles; and author Darden Asbury Pyron wrote that Liberace had been "HIV-positive and symptomatic" from 1985. Liberace's body is entombed in Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Celebrity Grave: Actor & Director Cornel Wilde

Cornelius Louis Wilde (October 13, 1912 – October 16, 1989) was an American actor and film director.

Early life

Wilde was born in 1912[1][2] in Prievidza, Hungary (now Slovakia). His Hungarian Jewish parents, according to some sources, were Béla Weisz and Renée Vojtech.[3] Other sources give his parents' names as Louis Bela Wilde and Renée Mary Vid, and indicate Wilde was named for his grandfather, Cornel Louis Wilde.[4] A talented linguist and an astute mimic, he had an ear for languages which became apparent later in his acting career. Wilde attended the City College of New York as a pre-med student, completing the four-year course in three years and winning a scholarship to the Physicians and Surgeons College at Columbia University.[5] He qualified for the United States fencing team prior to the 1936 Summer Olympic Games, but quit the team just prior to the games in order to take a role in the theater.


Wilde was hired as a fencing teacher by Laurence Olivier for his 1940 Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet and was given the role of Tybalt in the production. His performance in this role netted him a Hollywood film contract.

He had several small film roles until he played the role of Frédéric Chopin in 1945's A Song to Remember, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor. In 1945 he also starred in A Thousand and One Nights with Evelyn Keyes.[6] He spent the rest of the decade appearing in romantic and swashbuckling films, but he also appeared in some significant films noir, opposite Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven (1945), Road House (1948) and Shockproof (1949), the latter film also starring his then wife Patricia Knight.

In the 1950s, Wilde created his own film production company and produced the film noir The Big Combo (1955). Wilde played the male lead alongside his second wife Jean Wallace. That same year, he appeared in an episode of I Love Lucy as himself. In 1957, he played the role of the 13th century Persian poet Omar Khayyam in the film Omar Khayyam.

He produced, directed, and starred in The Naked Prey (1966), in which he played a naked man being tracked by hunters from an African tribe affronted by the behavior of members of a safari party. The original script for The Naked Prey was largely based on a true historical incident about a trapper named John Colter being pursued by Blackfeet Indians in Wyoming. Lower shooting costs, tax breaks, and material and logistical assistance offered by Rhodesia convinced Wilde and the other producers to shoot the film there.

Wilde's other notable directing efforts include Beach Red (1967) and No Blade of Grass (1970).

Personal life

He married the actress Patricia Knight in 1937. She appeared with him in Shockproof (1949). They had a daughter, Wendy (born February 22, 1943), and divorced in 1951.

He married the actress Jean Wallace in 1951. Wallace, formerly married to actor Franchot Tone, co-starred with Wilde in several films including The Big Combo (1955) , Sword of Lancelot (1963), and Beach Red(1967). Her two children from her marriage to Franchot Tone became Wilde's stepsons. They also had a son together, Cornel Wilde Jr. (born December 19, 1967). They divorced in 1981.


Wilde died of leukemia three days after his 77th birthday. He was survived by a daughter and a son (one from each marriage); two stepsons, Pascal Franchot Tone and Thomas Jefferson Tone; and three grandchildren. Wilde is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Cornel Wilde has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1635 Vine Street.


2.^ Wilde's first wife reported in interviews that the pair shaved three years off their ages in their official biographies.
5.^ Rhinelander Daily News, June 26, 1945, p. 4
6.^ "Cornel Wilde, Evelyn Keyes In New Technicolor Arabia". Christian Science Monitor: p. 4. 1945-07-13.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Entertainer Bing Crosby 1977

Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby (May 3, 1903 – October 14, 1977) was an American singer and actor. His career stretched more than half a century from 1926 until his death in 1977. Crosby's unique bass-baritone voice made him the best-selling recording artist until well into the rock era, with over half a billion records in circulation.

One of the first multimedia stars, from 1934 to 1954 Bing Crosby was very successful across record sales, radio ratings and motion picture grosses. Crosby and his musical acts influenced male singers of the era that followed him, including Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin. Yank magazine recognized Crosby as the person who had done the most for American G.I. morale during World War II and, during his peak years, around 1948, polls declared him the "most admired man alive," ahead of Jackie Robinson and Pope Pius XII. Also during 1948, the Music Digest estimated that Crosby recordings filled more than half of the 80,000 weekly hours allocated to recorded radio music.

Crosby exerted an important influence on the development of the postwar recording industry. In 1947, he invested $50,000 in the Ampex company, which developed North America's first commercial reel-to-reel tape recorder, and Crosby became the first performer to pre-record his radio shows and master his commercial recordings on magnetic tape. He gave one of the first Ampex Model 200 recorders to his friend, musician Les Paul, which led directly to Paul's invention of multitrack recording. Along with Frank Sinatra, he was one of the principal backers behind the famous United Western Recorders studio complex in Los Angeles.

Through the aegis of recording, Crosby developed the techniques of constructing his broadcast radio programs with the same directorial tools and craftsmanship (editing, retaking, rehearsal, time shifting) that occurred in a theatrical motion picture production. This feat directly led the way to applying the same techniques to creating all radio broadcast programming as well as later television programming. The quality of the recorded programs gave them commercial value for re-broadcast. This led the way to the syndicated market for all short feature media such as TV series episodes.

In 1962, Crosby was the first person to be recognized with the Grammy Global Achievement Award. He won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Father Chuck O'Malley in the 1944 motion picture Going My Way. Crosby is one of the few people to have three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


At the conclusion of work in England, Crosby flew alone to Spain to hunt and play golf. Shortly after 6 p.m. on October 14, Crosby died suddenly from a massive heart attack after a round of 18 holes of golf near Madrid where he and his Spanish golfing partner had just defeated their opponents. It is widely written that his last words were "That was a great game of golf, fellas." In Bob Hope's 1985 book Bob Hope's Confessions of A Hooker. My Lifelong Love affair With Golf, Hope recounts hearing Crosby had been advised by a physician in England to only play 9 holes of golf due to his heart condition.

Bing Crosby is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Los Angeles, California nor far from Bela Lugosi, Rita Hayworth, and Sharon Tate.

Celebrity Grave: Entertainer Edie Adams

Edie Adams (April 16, 1927 – October 15, 2008) was an American singer, Broadway, television and film actress and comedienne. Adams, a Tony Award winner, "both embodied and winked at the stereotypes of fetching chanteuse and sexpot blonde."


Adams was born as Edith Elizabeth Enke in Kingston, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey.

She earned a vocal degree from the Juilliard School of Music, and then graduated from Columbia School of Drama. In 1950, she won the "Miss U.S. Television" beauty contest, which led to an appearance with Milton Berle on his television show. Her earliest television work billed her as Edith Adams. One of Edie's early television appearances was on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. She was seen by the producer of the Kovacs show "Kovacs on the Corner" (then still in Philadelphia), who invited her to audition. Edie, who was well-trained in classical music, had very little experience with popular music and could perform only three songs. She said later, "I sang them all during the audition, and if they had asked to hear another, I never would have made it." She became part of the show in July 1951. In one of the last interviews of his life, husband Ernie looked back on the early days, saying, "I wish I could say I was the big shot that hired her, but it was my show in name only--the producer had all the say. Later on I did have something to say and I said it, 'Let's get married."

Adams began working regularly on television with comedian Ernie Kovacs and talk show pioneer Jack Paar. Kovacs was a noted cigar smoker, and Adams did a long-running series of TV commercials for Muriel Cigars. She remained the pitch-lady for Muriel well after Kovacs' death, intoning in a Mae West style and sexy outfit, "Why don't you pick one up and smoke it sometime?" Another commercial for Muriel cigars, which cost ten cents, showed Adams singing, "Hey, big spender, spend a little dime with me" (based on the song, "Hey Big Spender" from the musical Sweet Charity.)

The husband-wife team of Adams and Kovacs received Emmy nominations for best performances in a comedy series in 1957. In 1960, she and husband Ernie portrayed themselves as the guest stars in the final Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz "Lucy/Ricky Ricardo" coupling hour-long TV special on the Columbia Broadcasting System network. After Kovacs' death, his network, ABC, gave Adams a chance with her own show, Here's Edie, which received five Emmy nominations but nevertheless was on for only one season, 1963. In subsequent years, Adams made sporadic television appearances, including on Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, and Designing Women.

Adams starred on Broadway in Wonderful Town (1953) opposite Rosalind Russell (winning the Theatre World Award), and as Daisy Mae in Li'l Abner (1956), winning the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She played the Fairy Godmother in Rodgers and Hammerstein's original 1957 Cinderella broadcast.

Adams played supporting roles in several films in the 1960s, including the bitter secretary of two-timing Fred MacMurray in the Oscar-winning film The Apartment (1960) and the wife of presidential candidate Cliff Robertson in 1964's The Best Man. In 2003, as one of the surviving headliners from the all-star comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, she joined actors Marvin Kaplan and Sid Caesar at a 40th anniversary celebration of the movie. She was also a favorite nightclub headliner.

After a courtship that included mariachi bands and an unexpected diamond engagement ring, Adams and Ernie Kovacs eloped; they were married on September 12, 1954, in Mexico City. Initially, Edie wasn't certain about marrying Kovacs. She went on a six week European cruise, hoping to come to a decision. After just a few days away and many long distance phone calls, Adams returned home with an answer-it was "yes." It was Kovacs' second marriage, and a union that lasted until his death in a car accident on January 13, 1962, after which she won a "nasty custody battle" over her stepdaughters, Kip Raleigh "Kippie" Kovacs (1949–2001) (married Bill Lancaster, (1947–1997) son of Burt Lancaster) and Elizabeth ("Bette").

Kovacs' ex-wife had previously kidnapped the girls during a visit; Adams and Kovacs worked tirelessly to locate his daughters and return them to their father's custody. The 1984 film, Ernie Kovacs: Between the Laughter, (in which Adams plays Mae West), deals with the real-life drama. She also worked for years to pay off Kovacs' massive back-taxes debt to the IRS. The couple's celebrity friends planned a TV special benefit for Edie and her family, but she declined, saying, "I can take care of my own children." Adams spent the next year working practically non-stop.

Adams had two later marriages, briefly to photographer Martin Mills and then to trumpeter Pete Candoli, with whom she appeared in a touring production of the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes. She gave birth to two children: a daughter, Mia Susan Kovacs, who was born in 1959 and killed in an automobile accident in 1982, and a son, Joshua Mills.


Edie Adams died in Los Angeles, California at age 81. According to her son, the causes were cancer and pneumonia. Edie is buried in Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery between her daughter, Mia, and her stepdaughter, Kippie.

Archving Kovacs' work

She is also known for her work in archiving her husband's television work. She later testified on the status of the archive of the short lived DuMont Television Network, where both she and husband Kovacs worked during the early 1950s. Adams claimed that so little value was given to the film archive that the entire collection was loaded into three trucks and dumped into Upper New York Bay. Upon discovering that her husband's work was disappearing through being discarded and re-use of the tapes, Edie Adams initially used the proceeds of his insurance policy to purchase the rights to as much footage as possible. She also used her own earnings for this purpose.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Celebrity Grave: Popeye Cartoonist Elzie C. Segar

Elzie Crisler Segar (December 8, 1894 – October 13, 1938) was an American cartoonist, best known as the creator of Popeye, a character who first appeared in 1929 in his comic strip Thimble Theatre. Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest it was "SEE-gar."[1] He commonly signed his work simply Segar or E. Segar above a drawing of a cigar.

Cartoons and comic strips

Segar was born and raised in Chester, Illinois, a small town near the Mississippi River. The son of a handyman, his earliest work experiences included assisting his father in house painting and paper hanging. Skilled at playing drums, he also provided musical accompaniment to films and vaudeville acts in the local theater, where he was eventually given the job of film projectionist. At age 18, he decided to become a cartoonist. He took a correspondence course in cartooning from W.L. Evans of Cleveland, Ohio.[2] He said that after work he "lit up the oil lamps about midnight and worked on the course until 3am."

Segar moved to Chicago where he met Richard F. Outcault, creator of The Yellow Kid and Buster Brown. Outcault encouraged him and introduced him at the Chicago Herald. On March 12, 1916, the Herald published Segar's first comic, Charlie Chaplin's Comedy Capers, which ran for a little over a year. In 1918, he moved on to William Randolph Hearst's Chicago Evening American where he created Looping the Loop. Segar married Myrtle Johnson that year; they had two children.


Evening American Managing editor William Curley thought Segar could succeed in New York, so he sent him to King Features Syndicate, where Segar worked for many years. He began by drawing Thimble Theatre for the New York Journal. The strip made its debut on December 19, 1919, featuring the characters Olive Oyl, Castor Oyl and Horace Hamgravy, whose name was quickly shortened in the strip to simply "Ham Gravy". They were the strip's leads for about a decade. In January 1929, when Castor Oyl needed a mariner to navigate his ship to Dice Island, Castor picked up an old salt down by the docks named Popeye. Popeye's first line in the strip, upon being asked if he was a sailor, was "'Ja think I'm a cowboy?" The character stole the show and became the permanent star. Some of the other notable characters Segar created include J. Wellington Wimpy and Eugene the Jeep.

The Five-Fifteen/Sappo

E. C. Segar's Sappo (1933)Segar also created The Five-Fifteen for King Features in 1920; it was retitled Sappo in 1926. Sappo ran as a topper to the Thimble Theatre Sunday pages.

Legacy and reprints

After prolonged illness, Segar died of leukemia and liver disease at the age of 43.[3] He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica, California.

Segar is widely regarded as one of the most influential and talented cartoonists of all time, among the first to combine humor with long-running adventures. A revival of interest in Segar's creations began with Woody Gelman's Nostalgia Press. Robert Altman's live-action film Popeye (1980) is adapted from E. C. Segar's Thimble Theatre comic strip. The screenplay by Jules Feiffer was based directly on Gelman's Thimble Theatre Starring Popeye the Sailor, a hardcover reprint collection of 1936-37 Segar strips published in 1971 by Nostalgia Press.[4] In 2006, Fantagraphics published the first of a planned six-volume book set reprinting all Thimble Theatre daily and Sunday strips from 1928–38, beginning with the adventure that introduced Popeye.

In 1971, the National Cartoonists Society created the Elzie Segar Award in his honor. According to the Society's website, the award was "presented to a person who has made a unique and outstanding contribution to the profession of cartooning." The NCS board of directors chose the first winners, while King Features selected recipients in later years. Honorees have included Charles Schulz, Bil Keane, Al Capp, Bill Gallo and Mort Walker. The award was discontinued in 1999.[5]

Popeye Picnic

In 1977, Segar's hometown of Chester, Illinois honored its native son with a park named in his honor. The park is home to a six-foot-tall bronze statue of Popeye, and since 1980 has been the site of the annual Popeye Picnic, a weekend-long event that celebrates the character with a parade, film festival and other activities.[6] In 2006, Chester launched the ambitious "Popeye and Friends Character Trail," which links a series of statues of Segar's characters located throughout town.[7] Each stands on a base inscribed with the names of donors who contributed to its cost and is unveiled and dedicated during the Popeye Picnic. The 2006 debut sculpture of hamburger-loving Wimpy stands in Gazebo Park. A statue of Olive Oyl, Swee'Pea and the Jeep, located downtown near the Randolph County Courthouse, followed in 2007. In 2008, a Bluto statue was dedicated at the corner of Swanwick and W. Holmes Streets, in front of Buena Vista Bank. The 2009 statue of Castor Oyl and Bernice the Whiffle Hen stands in front of Chester Memorial Hospital. An additional 11 statues will be unveiled at the rate of one per year until 2019, when a bust of Segar at his birthplace will mark the cartoonist's 125th birthday. To keep the slate on schedule, one year will feature two dedications, with the Sea Hag as the "wild card." According to the "Map to the Stars" promo piece released by the town, the schedule continues as follows:

A few Chester businesses are named for Popeye characters, including Rough-House Pizza and Sweet Pea's [sic] Restaurant (renamed under new management).[8]

On December 8, 2009, Google honored Segar's 115th birthday with a Google Doodle of Popeye. The doodle used Popeye's body as the 'g', had 'oogl' drawn to resemble Segar's drawing style, and a spinach can as the 'e'; and featured Popeye punching the 'oogl' to get the spinach to fly at him through the air.


1.^ Funk, Charles Earle. What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.
4.^ Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession, pp. 125-126, Dave Jamieson, 2010, Atlantic Monthly Press, imprint of Grove/Atlantic Inc., New York, NY, ISBN 978-0-8021-1939-1

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Georgette Elise Bauerdorf Strangled at the El Palacio Apartments 1944

Georgette Elise Bauerdorf (May 6, 1924 – October 12, 1944) was a twenty-year-old oil heiress who was strangled in her home at the El Palacio Apartments on 8493 Fountain Avenue, West Hollywood, California. She was educated in a convent on Long Island, New York.

Volunteered at Hollywood Canteen

Bauerdorf's father, George, was an oilman from Elko, Nevada. He was in New York City with her stepmother and married sister at the time of the murder. Bauerdorf worked as a junior hostess at the Hollywood Canteen, where she danced with enlisted men. She had been living alone in the apartment for several weeks before her death.

The day before her death she cashed a $175 check and purchased an airline ticket to El Paso, Texas for $90. She told friends that she was going there to rendezvous with her soldier boyfriend. On October 11 Pvt. Jerome M. Brown, an antiaircraft artillery trainee from Chicago, Illinois was identified by Fort Bliss authorities as the man Bauerdorf was going to visit before she was slain. Brown told Army officials he met Bauerdorf at the Hollywood Canteen on the night of June 13. He left California a few days afterward and arrived in El Paso some days after their meeting.

They corresponded and the trainee said he received six letters from the heiress. Brown was formerly stationed at Camp Callan, California.

Newspaper reports indicate Bauerdorf may have gone directly home from the Hollywood Canteen. The time she left was around 11:15 p.m., Wednesday, October 12, 1944. Earlier in the day she had lunch with Mrs. Rose L. Gilbert, a secretary to her father. The two women went shopping. Gilbert told deputies that Bauerdorf was in good spirits.

Crime scene

A maid found Bauerdorf's body, face-down in a bathtub. It is believed that she was attacked by a man who was lying in wait for her. Los Angeles County sheriff's Inspector William Penprase said that an automatic night light over the outside entrance of the apartment had been unscrewed two turns so it wouldn't go on. The murderer was thought to have stood on a chair to reach the light bulb nearly eight feet from the floor. Fingerprints were found on the bulb.

The theory of someone lying in wait was reinforced by an empty string-bean can and some melon rinds, found by officers in the kitchen waste basket. Investigators think Bauerdorf may have eaten a snack before retiring upstairs to her bedroom. Examination of her stomach revealed that she had eaten string beans about an hour before her death.

Bauerdorf's jewelry and other valuables were not stolen, although almost $100 was taken from her purse. There was a large roll of $2 bills and thousands of dollars worth of sterling silver lying in an open trunk.

A Pontiac 1936 coupe, registered in the name of her sister, Connie Bauerdorf, was missing. When the car was located, there was a dent in one of the fenders. Mechanics said the damage was recent and may have been the result of a collision with another car. The Pontiac was discovered abandoned on East 25th St., just off San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, California, where it apparently ran out of gas.

Bauerdorf put up a great struggle. An examination by Los Angeles County Autopsy Surgeon Frank R. Webb found abundant bruises and scrapes. The knuckles on Bauerdorf's s right hand were smashed and bruised. There was a large bruise on the right side of her head and another on her abdomen, perhaps the result of blows from fists. She had been strangled with a piece of towel stuffed down her throat. Webb said her right thigh showed the bruised imprint of a hand "even to the fingernail marks piercing the skin."


A reconstruction of the murder gave investigators the idea that the murderer perhaps entered Bauerdorf's apartment by passkey and lay in wait downstairs until she got ready for bed. Another possibility is he rang the doorbell after she retired. Penprase believed it unlikely that Bauerdorf was accompanied home by a serviceman. She might have met someone at the canteen who drove her home and left her at the door. Later he returned to kill her after she prepared for bed.

A neighbor, who requested anonymity, told sheriff's Capt. Gordon Bowers he was awakened by screams around 2:30 a.m. He first heard a scream which made him sit upright in bed. This was followed by a female voice yelling "Stop, stop, you're killing me!" He said the screaming soon subsided. Thinking it might be a family argument, and being sleepy, he went back to bed.

A date book diary was found in the bedroom containing the names of servicemen. Army authorities joined with the Sheriff's Department in a search for clues. A sailor was questioned in Long Beach, California, but was determined not to have been her attacker. Authorities hoped that someone who saw the young woman leaving the canteen, accompanied by an escort, would come forward. Numerous letters received by Bauerdorf were scrutinized by investigators.

A particular soldier was thought to have been infatuated with Bauerdorf. He was described as "swarthy." He had cut in on Bauerdorf during nearly every dance on the night of her death. Investigators checked U.S.O. centers and other canteens to try to find and question him. The soldier eventually contacted police and was completely exonerated, according to news accounts, although he was never identified.

Bauerdorf was with June Ziegler at the canteen on the night prior to the murder. She told the sheriff's office that Bauerdorf dated a serviceman who was 6'4" less than a month before her murder. He was a buddy of another serviceman whose name was frequently mentioned in the diary. According to Ziegler, Bauerdorf remarked that the tall soldier was very much taken with her. However she did not return his interest and quit going out with him. The soldier was sought for questioning by officers.

Rose Gilbert said Bauerdorf never entertained friends alone. The secretary revealed that Bauerdorf occasionally asked men to stop in briefly. However she never asked them to remain. Her education in a convent and a girl's school in California gave her very stringent ideas of propriety, according to her father's assistant.

At a coroner's inquest October 20, a jury of nine men found that Bauerdorf's death was a homicide and proposed a thorough investigation to apprehend her killer. During the hearing, Fred Atwood, janitor of the apartment building provided new evidence for deputies. He said he heard woman's heels clicking back and forth on the floor, followed by a loud crash, like a tray dropping on the floor. He was awakened by this noise around midnight on October 11. He recognized the sounds as coming from Bauerdorf's apartment. He said there was no one with her.

Atwood also said he entered the apartment the next morning about 11:10 a.m., accompanied by his wife. They found Bauerdorf's body lying semi-nude in her bathtub. Two of the deputies confirmed the janitor's testimony that Bauerdorf was alone before her slayer evidently lured her to her darkened door. Atwood said he discovered the night light bulb being screwed around a couple of turns. He responded that he had never seen this happen before. Officers testified that the apartment showed no indication of a struggle. Yet the autopsy proved that Bauerdorf had given a mighty struggle to live. Sam Wolf, brother of Bauerdorf's s stepmother, denied that the victim suffered fainting spells.

The sole clue was a bit of elastic bandage wedged down her throat as a gag. Officials hoped that by tracing it they might solve the murder.


Bauerdorf's funeral was held in New York City. Pierce Brothers Mortuary placed Bauerdorf's s body on a train to New York after it was released by the coroner's office on October 15. The train was met by her father and she was buried in a Long Island cemetery plot the Bauerdorf family had maintained for generations.


Los Angeles Times, Oil Executive's Daughter Found Dead In Bathtub, October 13, 1944, Page 5.
Los Angeles Times, People And Place In Strange Death Of Oil Heiress, October 14, 1944, Page 3.
Los Angeles Times, Evidence Shows Heiress Waged Terrific Fight, October 15, 1944, Page 3.
Los Angeles Times, Private Identified as Girl's Friend, October 15, 1944, Page 3.
Los Angeles Times, Neighbor Tells Heiress' Screams on Death Night, October 16, 1944, Page 2.
Los Angeles Times, Janitor Gives Evidence In Murder of Oil Heiress, October 21, 1944, Page A3.
Wolfe, Donald H., The Black Dahlia Files:The Mob, The Mogul, and The Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles, New York, Regan Books, 2005.