Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Blade Icewood -- Wiped Out

Variously known by several rap names ("Ruler of tha Great Lakes," "Motor City's Finest," "Mayor of tha Mitten"), Icewood (real name Darnell Quincy Lyndsey) grew up in the 7 Mile-Greenfield area of Detroit.  Rap styles and the concomitant rivalries in the Motor City are generally divided between the East and West sides of the city and are believed to have played a significant role in the murders of two rappers, Wipeout and Blade Icewood, who quarreled over the origins and use of a name claimed by the musical groups of both men.  Icewood (from the West side of Detroit) joined a rap group called the Street Lordz that laid claim to the name Chedda Boyz.  Rival rapper Wipeout (real name Antonio Caddell, Jr.) was a member of the gangsta rap group The East Side Chedda Boyz.  Tensions mounted as both groups claimed the name on the streets and in dueling rap lyrics.  Ironically, in mid-2004 Icewood headlined a "Stop the Violence" rally in front of Platinum Records (the Street Lordz label) in which he urged those young people in attendance to create their own non-violent way out of the ghetto.  On September 18, 2004, Wipeout, 32, an and innocent bystander were shot to death outside the Candy Bar nightclub at Woodward Avenue and John R in downtown Detroit.  Two days later, Icewood was in his apartment in Oak Park when it was invaded by AK-47 wielding gunmen.  The rapper was shot seven times, and although surviving the attack was permanently paralyzed from the chest down.  True to the code of the streets, however, Icewood refused to cooperate with authorities who credited violence to ongoing tensions over the right to use the Chedda Boyz name.


In 2005, the 27-year-old rapper formed Icewood Entertainment and signed Candi Cane, Balee, and Cash Out to his roster.  On April 21, 2005, Icewood was in a wheelchair inside his parked Range Rover at West 7 Mile Road and Faust when another vehicle pulled alongside and a shooter pumped multiple shots into his body.  The rapper was killed instantly.  The fatal attack took place less than half a mile from the site where he had headlined the anti-violence rally seven months earlier,  The week before his murder, Icewood had released a song targeting his murdered rival, Wipeout.  The rapper's CDs include Still Spinnin, Stackmaster, and Blood, Sweat, Tears.  To date, no arrests have been made in the killings of Wipeout or Blade Icewood.



Monday, July 28, 2014

Kevin J. Kennedy -- Who are You?

Kennedy, a rock drummer who patterned his playing after The Who's Keith Moon, played with bands in Phoenix and Denver in the early eighties prior to moving to Omaha, Nebraska.  In 1984, the drummer was in the band Ticket to Mars.  Other local groups featuring Kennedy were On the Fritz, the Man's Band, the Doo-Rags, and T.D.K. Kennedy.  Fascinated by Moon (who died of a drug overdose in London in 1978), Kennedy sent Who founder and guitarist Pete Townshend a letter after the drummer's death requesting an audition.  Townshend reportedly responded with a kind letter saying, "Thanks, but no thanks."  A master's student in psychology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Kennedy was working on a thesis based on a case study of Moon's life and had begun contacting the drummer's family members to set up possible interviews.  Around 10:00 P.M. on January 20, 1998, the 43-year-old musician jumped to his death from the sixth floor of the Doubletree Guest Suites at 7260 Cedar Street in Omaha.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Gene R. Taylor -- Waiting on the Other Side

Educated at Oxford and known on radio for his courtly British vocal mannerisms,  Geneste ("Gene") Taylor, 56, hosted a nightly 8:00 to midnight "middle-class music" show on KIKI-Honolulu.  On September 24, 1957, the disc jockey, complaining of a cold, cut short his show and returned to his apartment at 2533-D Ala Wai Boulevard.  One day earlier, Taylor's 26-year-old wife had followed the advice of her attorney and checked into a luxury hotel on the island following a quarrel with her husband of less than five months.  Unable to reach him by phone, the woman returned to their apartment on September 25 to find Taylor dead from an overdose of sleeping pills slumped against the living room wall near a six foot rack containing hundreds of classical records.  Though police did not release the contents of the disc jockey's suicide note, Mrs. Taylor told The Honolulu Advertiser that it read:  "My own darling Jane:  You said you don't love me, so I'm going to set you free.  Please call my son.  I'll be waiting for you on the other side."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pat Kennedy -- He Wasn't Clowning

Pat Kennedy, featured vocalist
The Irish tenor got his first big break in the "Roaring Twenties" as a singer with Ben Bernie's band.  During that period, the Pittsburgh orphan credited in press notices as being the person "who lifted Ben Bernie to fame" worked with celebrities like Al Jolson, Will Rogers, and Eddie Cantor.  Kennedy stayed with the band until striking off on his own in the mid-thirties for a radio career in Chicago.  Listeners, however, tired of the tenor's style and by 1939, following an unsuccessful turn with a band in Minneapolis, he was back in Pittsburgh driving a truck for his father-in-law's business, and singing, and playing records in a bar in Crafton.  After years of trying to make a comeback, the 50-year-old singer had had enough.  On September 3, 1952, Kennedy took an overdose of sleeping pills in his room at the Fort Pitt Hotel.  He died shortly afterward in Allegheny General Hospital.

In a note found to his estranged wife found at the scene, Kennedy wrote:  "I am tired of living in a two-by-four room, so maybe you will understand.  You have been a wonderful mother and God bless you but I just couldn't take it any longer.  To all my would-be friends, always try to be at least on the level.  When you are lonely and there is no one to talk to, remember that a friend in need is a friend indeed.  Goodbye and God bless you all, Pat.  P.S.  You all thought I was clowning.  So now you can talk about me seriously."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Thurman and Beulah Varnadore -- A Penny for Their Thoughts

On the afternoon of July 20, 1927, occupants of a rooming house at 3832 West Pine Boulevard in St. Louis, Missouri, notified police after smelling gas seeping from a locked third floor apartment.  Kicking in the door, police discovered the emaciated, shabbily dressed bodies of Thurman Varnadore, 38, and his 37-year-old wife, Beulah, on the floor near a rubber hose attached to an open gas jet on the stove.  The keyhole, windows, and other openings in the sparsely furnished room had been stuffed with rags and paper.  The couple, in the final stages of drug addiction, each weighed less than 100 pounds and, according to their landlady, could not walk without supporting one another.  In the room, authorities found several hypodermic syringes, a quantity of morphine, and an undated Variety clipping announcing that Varnadore, known onstage as "Bud Varn," was presenting a new blackface vaudeville act.  The clipping further identified him as a doctor of divinity and an evangelist, a claim substantiated by Varnadore's landlady.

Shortly before the double suicide, Varnadore told the woman that his promising career as an ordained Baptist minister had been devastated when chronic asthma ruined his voice.  Turning to morphine to ease the pain, he quickly became addicted as had his wife.  Before becoming too weak to walk, Varnadore had tried to make a living selling books door-to-door.  At the morgue, a search of Varnadore's pockets uncovered a one cent piece and a wedding ring.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Jay G. Hull -- The Troubled Guitarist

Described as "intense," "confrontational," "mean," "eccentric," and "psychologically troubled" by acquaintances, Hull, 39, was an accomplished classical guitarist utterly devoted to his music and environmental-wildlife concerns in Lake County, California.  Over the years, Hull became well-known in the area's tight knit arts community performing at numerous local concerts, chamber of commerce functions, and political rallies.  However, he was equally well-known as a volatile, verbally abusive troublemaker not averse to threatening anyone he felt was thwarting his will.  Hull once threatened to sue the Lake County Parks Department over payment for a performance, and nearly dumped a bag of trash on the desk of the director of the county's Solid Waste Office to protest rising landfill rates.  Perhaps frustrated over the area's limited artistic opportunities, Hull immediately clashed with Patricia M. Wiley, executive director of the nonprofit Lake County Arts Council, when she assumed the post in 1990.  Over the next five years, the troubled guitarist maintained a nonstop professional dispute with the popular and respected Wiley who, by 1995, confessed to friends that she was terrified of the man.

On March 20, 1995, Hull showed up unannounced at the Arts Council office demanding an audiotape of an interview he had given for the group's publication.  Hull, though adamant that he wanted the tape and agitated when it could not be quickly located, was reportedly civil to Wiley's assistant.  Early the next morning, Hull phoned Wiley, 56, insisting that they meet at her office.  According to the musician, he secured a donation of $35,000 to the Arts Council from a retired guitar player who wanted to fund Hull's program to teach kids to play the instrument at the Lake County Juvenile Hall.  The donor wished to deliver the check to the director that morning before her Lakeport office opened at 10:00 A.M.  Wiley reluctantly agreed to meet with Hull and the anonymous donor then phoned several friends to express her trepidation over the meeting.  She asked a couple of friends to "check up" on her shortly after the 8:00 A.M. meeting was set to commence.  At least three people phoned and Wiley assured them that the meeting with Hull (the donor, if one ever existed, had yet to show) was cordial.  After repeated calls went unanswered, however, a friend entered Wiley's office around 10:00 A.M. to find the arts director slumped behind her desk dead from a single bullet wound in her right eye.  Meanwhile, around 7:50 A.M., Hull's wife had frantically phoned authorities to report her husband had just left their house packing a .380-caliber pistol and threatening suicide.  A sheriff's deputy posted outside their Upper Lake home on Witter Springs Road saw the guitarist rush into the residence after 9:00 A.M., then heard a single gunshot.  Ambulanced to a nearby hospital, Hull died hours later from a self-inflicted pistol wound to the head.  Commenting on Patricia Wiley's death, a co-worker said, "It's just so incredible to have someone snatched away like that, just taken, because someone couldn't cope with life....There are no words for that kind of pain."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Patricia Styles -- The Self-Improvement Suicide

On May 28, 1947, the pretty 23-year-old actress, radio singer, and daughter of West Coast radio producer-entertainer Hal Styles swallowed a handful of sleeping pills in Hollywood after Nate N. Sugarman, 44, terminated their stormy four year romance.  Styles survived and continued to see the wealthy investment broker, but was shattered when Sugarman announced at a party in early December 1948 that he planned to marry a San Francisco radio singer.  On December 13, 1948, Styles phoned Sugarman and asked him to drive her to a girlfriend's house in the San Fernando Valley.

During the drive through North Hollywood, they discussed Sugarman's upcoming wedding, and Styles told her former lover that she was engaged to marry a doctor.  At her request, Sugarman stopped the car in front of a house at 11816 Riverside Drive.  Styles produced a .32-caliber revolver, shot the businessman in the thigh and skimmed his head with a second shot.  In the struggle for the gun, the pair fell into the street where Sugarman disentangled himself, and fled as the scorned woman continue to fire at him.  According to one witness, the actress then placed the pistol in her mouth, pulled the trigger, and fell dead in the street next to the car.

A cryptic penciled note found by authorities in the dead woman's purse read:  "I'm going to lose any and all deep-rooted inhibitions and completely lose any self-consciousness that I might have....And that I'm going to become rightfully self-confident so that I fear nothing or no one so that competition doesn't phase [sic] me in the least."  Refusing to believe that his daughter committed suicide, Hal Styles demanded a "full investigation."  Despite conflicting eyewitness testimony, a coroner's jury ruled that Patricia Styles had taken her life after attempting to kill the man who had jilted her.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dolly Theobald -- Little Lady, Big Death

Dubbed the "smallest soubrette on the American Stage," the 36-year-old entertainer used a two-barreled derringer to shoot herself through the heart in her room at the Star Hotel in Columbus, Ohio, on December 18, 1906.  A player in McFadden's Flats, Theobald had quarreled earlier in the evening with her husband, Howard Powers, over his attentions to other women.  Powers' attempt to placate his wife with promises of a pony, a cart, and a diamond ring only made the tearful woman more despondent.  Prostrated by the suicide, Powers was kept overnight in a sanitarium and released to friends the next day.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cecil Gold -- The Show Doesn't Go On

On the afternoon of October 24, 1927, the management at the Brown Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, forced entry into the 19-year-old chorus girl's room after a maid reported she could not gain entrance.  Inside, they found Gold (real name Helen Smith) dressed in pajamas lying dead on the bathroom floor.  Her head rested on a pillow and an empty glass was still pressed tightly to her lips.  Two empty bottles that had contained chloroform were found in the room.  A note addressed "To Whom It May Concern" read in part:  "There is no one at fault.  I just grew tired of it all.  I am not a coward.  If you grew tired of a show, would you not leave it?  I am tired of life!  I am not afraid.  My conscience is clear."

A packet of love letters exchanged between Gold and Jack D. Mead, an actor in the Princess Stock Company, partially explained the young woman's actions.

A chorus girl in the Canadian Capers company, Gold had played at the Capitol Theatre in Des Moines two weeks before her death.  After the company disbanded following a brief run in Kansas City, Missouri, Gold returned to Iowa to be near Mead.  In a letter written to Mead while she was still in Kansas City, Gold expressed her own insecurity at being only a minor player in the company:  "I don't want you to think, 'Oh, I can't take her there because she just a chorus girl and won't know how to conduct herself.'  I can be nice and refined when I have to be."  According to Gold's father, who claimed the body, he felt his daughter's suicide was prompted by her unsuccessful attempt to climb the social ladder and to realize her ambition to be a Broadway star.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Chet R. Allen -- Meet Me at the Morgue

Allen was a 12-year-old soprano with the Columbus Boychoir when Gian Carlo Menotti chose him to sing the title role in the opera "Amahl and the Night Visitors" broadcast by NBC-TV in December 1951.  On the strength of that performance, Allen was signed by Universal-International to co-star with Dan Dailey in the 1952 Douglas Sirk-directed musical Meet Me at the Fair.  Unfortunately for Allen, when his voice changed to a baritone immediately after the film, it dealt a duel death blow to his singing and motion picture career.  Depressed, the former child star returned to Columbus, Ohio, and held a variety of jobs including a decade long stint as a stock boy at a Lazarus department store.  Through his own treatment for depression, Allen became involved with volunteer work at Town House, a "drop-in" center operated by a local community health center.  On June 7, 1984, Allen took five times the lethal dose of an anti-depressant medication he had been secretly hoarding.  The 44 year old died ten days later in Riverside Hospital.  A family member summed up Allen' life, "He had a better singing voice than most of the people you see on television, but he wouldn't sing....  He couldn't reconcile himself to the use of his talent."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A. P. Younger -- Thanks, Fido


In Hollywood since the mid-to-late teens, Younger either contributed the story, adapted, or wrote more than 50 films.  These included Fair and Warmer (1919), Desperate Youth (1921), The Torrent (1924, also directed), The Devil's Cargo (1925), In Old Kentucky (1927), and Five and Ten (1933).  At the height of his career as a scenarist-screenwriter for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Younger was earning $1,500 a week plus bonuses.  In the late evening of November 29, 1931 (according to Younger's stepson, Frank Deering), the 41-year-old screenwriter was awakened from sleep by a dog barking in the back yard of his luxurious home at 145 South Beachwood Avenue in Los Angeles.  Fearing a prowler, Younger found his .38-caliber automatic pistol and went into the bathroom to examine the weapon.  The gun accidentally discharged, fatally striking him in the right temple.  Younger died soon afterward at the Georgia Street Receiving Hospital.

Initial police reports differed from Deering's account.  According to the investigating officer's report:  "Younger stood in front of a mirror in the bathroom, held the gun in his right hand and shot himself in the right temple."  Forensics confirmed that the gun had been placed tightly against his head when fired.  An investigation conducted for the coroner's jury uncovered two possible motives that supported a ruling of suicide.  Although Younger had $30,000 in the bank, his lucrative contract with MGM had been terminated the week before his death.  That same week, Younger had been arrested during a police liquor raid at his home.  The screenwriter's death was officially ruled a suicide.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Brian O'Hara -- Ferry Cross the Styx

Born in the depressed Dingle area of Liverpool on March 12, 1941, O'Hara and school friend Billy Hatton taught themselves skiffle and rock 'n' roll songs in the mid-fifties.  After performing around Liverpool dance halls and coffee clubs as the Two Jays, they added rhythm guitarist/singer Mike Millward and drummer Brian Redman to become the Four Jays in the early sixties.  In 1962 they placed tenth in a poll of local groups in Mersey Beat.  Changing their name to Fourmost, the group (now with drummer Dave Lovelady) attracted the attention of Beatles manager Brian Epstein.  After refusing Epstein's repeated request to turn professional, Fourmost finally accepted in 1963 when they saw the success of The Beatles.

Fourmost

 Produced by Beatles super-producer George Martin, Fourmost scored several U.K. chart successes including the John Lennon-penned tune "Hello Little Girl" (No. 9), Lennon and McCartney's "I'm in Love" (No. 17), and "A Little Loving" (1964, No. 6).  In 1965 the group released their only album, First and Fourmost, a collection of country, comedy, and rock 'n' roll songs.  Fourmost were part of a long-running variety show at the London Palladium and appeared in two 1965 British films, Pop Gear and Ferry Cross the Mersey.  Ultimately giving up trying to make the charts, Fourmost settled into the well-paying world of cabaret.  The band fragmented in 1978 with several members forming Clouds.  O'Hara continued as Fourmost with three local musicians, but sold them the name after a few years when he left to set up a used car business.

On June 27, 1999, the 58-year-old former musician was found hanged at his home in Smithdown Road in the Wavetree area of Liverpool.  Terence O'Hara, the dead man's brother, told an inquest that he found the guitarist in his underpants and shirt hanging from a ligature in an attic stairwell.  In the absence of a suicide note, authorities estimated that O'Hara had been in that position for a number of days.  According to his brother, O'Hara had financial worries.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Steve Wolf -- Death of a Concert Promoter

Wolf was in his early twenties when he joined former disc jockey and television game show host Bob Eubanks in Concert Associates, a hugely successful concert promotion business based in Southern California.  Though best-known for hosting The Newlywed Game on ABC, Eubanks was a rock concert pioneer who promoted the Beatles show at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964.  When Eubanks left Concert Associates, Wolf and fellow 24-year-old Jim Rissmiller teamed to promote some of the most notable concerts in Los Angeles including the Diana Ross and the Supremes show that sold out the 18,700 seat Forum in Inglewood, California.  The pair later sold the company to Filmways and, reconstituted as Wolf & Rissmiller, became the biggest rock concert promotion firm in California, and one of the largest in the United States, promoting appearances of the Rolling Stones, Cream, and Aerosmith.  Most recently in November 1977, the duo promoted the Los Angeles Philharmonic's "Star Wars Suite" at the Hollywood Bowl.  Producing some 130 concerts a year, Wolf & Rissmiller grossed around $6 million annually.

At approximately 6:00 A.M. on November 21, 1977, the 34-year-old concert promoter was shot to death in the bedroom of his luxury home on Mulholland Drive above Stone Canyon Reservoir in Los Angeles.  Awakened by the sound of a break in, Wolf left his bed and apparently confronted the intruders, possibly as many as four, who had entered the residence through a side door.  Wolf's fiancee, 30-year-old public relations consultant Linda Grey, was also in the home, but did not witness the shooting.  Stolen were two valuable cameras, a wristwatch, and diamond jewelry.  Wolf died three hours later on the operating table at Riverside Hospital in North Hollywood.  That night, a concert by the popular band Chicago promoted by Wolf & Rissmiller played the Forum.  Two days after the murder, Jim Rissmiller offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the identity of the killer(s).  As detectives continued their investigation, Linda Grey filed a million dollar palimony suit in July 1978 claiming she and Wolf had lived as husband and wife during the eleven months they were together.  According to Grey, she gave up her career as an entertainment publicist on Wolf's promise he would support her for the rest of her life.  The disposition of the case is not known.

More than a year after the concert promoter's murder, authorities caught a break when a 17-year-old in jail on an unrelated burglary charge bragged to another inmate about the killing.  Police arrested the juvenile on December 27, 1978, but did not release his name to the public until after a judge ruled in 1979 that the suspect, Keith Cook, could be tried as an adult.  On April 24, 1979, Cook pleaded out to second-degree murder and was sentenced to seven years.  Cook admitted to being one of the four men who invaded Wolf's home, but denied being the triggerman.  To date, no one else has been arrested for Wolf's murder.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Joseph Massengale -- The Last Roundup

Massengale performed rodeo and cowboy stunts in the films The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973), The Frisco Kid (1979), Tom Horn (1979), and Stir Crazy (1980).  On television, the stuntman was seen in two made-for-television movies (The Gambler, 1980; The Gambler II, 1983), and on episodes of Little House on the Prairie, How the West was Won, and Father Murphy.  Massengale, 36, and his wife, actress Kathleen O'Haco, were estranged and living apart when he phoned her from his Burbank, California, apartment on the afternoon of December 17, 1983, to plead for a reconciliation.  During the course of the conversation, he threatened to kill himself if O'Haco would not return to him.  Having heard similar threats before, the actress did not take Massengale seriously until she heard a gunshot over the line.  Police found Massengale, still clutching the telephone in his left hand, dead from a bullet wound to his right temple inflicted by a 9mm automatic handgun.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lotus Moore -- Songbird with a Sore Throat

Long familiar to patrons of San Francisco's Tivoli Theatre as a musical comedy ingenue and previously as a leading member of the Jim Post beauty chorus, Moore was working in the "City by the Bay" as a cabaret entertainer at the Black Cat cafe at Eddy and Mason streets.  Shortly before 7:00 A.M. on February 21, 1913, the semi-conscious woman was found writhing in agony in the rooms she shared at 1149 Divisadero Street with her mother and a 4-year-old daughter from a failed marriage.  Clutched in Moore's hand was an empty bottle of cresoline that she used regularly as a throat balm.  Moore was dead on arrival at Emergency Hospital.  Accident or suicide?  Three weeks before the popular entertainer had been severely burned about the face when an antiphlogistine preparation she was heating for throat trouble exploded.  The suicide theory advanced by the coroner that explained Moore's self-destruction as a reaction to her failing voice and lost beauty was discounted by her most intimate friends, who noted that she had fully recovered from the accident and was in excellent spirits.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Leonard Morris -- The Jealous Electrician

Spurned by Edith Creighton (real name Edith Simmons), part of a vaudeville act with her three sisters, stage electrician and former film projectionist Leonard Morris, 37, shot her to death inside a store in Theatrical City, New Jersey, near New Brunswick on July 17, 1917, before taking his own life.  Creighton was in the store with her 6-year-old son when her rejected suitor entered, produced a pistol wrapped in a handkerchief from his pocket, then fired two shots as she fled from the rear of the store into a back yard.  Morris pursued and, following Creighton back into the store, fired a lethal shot into her head.  Declaring, "I am going to finish myself," the insanely jealous electrician fired once into his own head and fell beside Creighton's body.  Morris died half an hour later as a doctor tried to remove him by stretcher to St. Peter's Hospital.  Months prior to the murder-suicide Morris had become enamored with the performer after she moved into a rooming house where he resided.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

George W. Hill -- The Lone Wolf


George William Hill (born in Douglass, Kansas, on April 25, 1895) broke into pictures in 1908 as a prop boy for D.W. Griffith at the Fine Arts Studio.  Evincing an interest in photography, he graduated to the position of first cameraman and shot several films in the teens including The Sea Wolf (1913), Burning the Daylight (1914), Buckshot John (1915), Polly of the Circus (1917), and Turning the Tables (1919).  From the early twenties Hill turned to direction and made several well regarded films for MGM including Tell it to the Marines (1926), The Cossacks (1928), his 1930 masterpiece The Big House, and the classic comedy Min and Bill (1930) starring Wallace Beery and Marie Dressler.  In January 1930, the director married Frances Marion, his longtime scriptwriting collaborator, but the union ended in October 1933 amid charges of Hill's cruelty.  Despite their estrangement, the pair continued to be amicable and were working together on the script of the MGM vehicle The Good Earth, which Hill was set to direct.

While preparing for the film in June 1934, Hill was seriously injured in a car accident when he swerved to avoid a group of children running onto Venice Boulevard.  The director crashed into a telephone pole, crushing his chest and breaking several ribs.  In constant physical pain following the accident, the man known to his friends as "the lone wolf" became even more withdrawn, morose, and moody.  In the late afternoon of August 10, 1934, Hill returned to his spacious South Beach home at 5109 Ocean Front in Venice, California, after vacationing for several days at his cabin at Lake Arrowhead.  To his valet, the 39-year-old director entrusted a tin box containing a .45-caliber pistol (a memento from Hill's days as a captain in the photographic division of the Signal Corps during World War I) with the instruction to "put it away."  Hill then left and spent several hours with ex-wife Marion and studio officials on the MGM lot in a story conference concerning The Good Earth.

Shortly after 9:00 P.M., Hill returned home and phoned his valet to ask where he had placed the box containing the pistol.  At 7:35 A.M. the next morning, the valet arrived at Hill's home to find the pajama-clad body of his employer dead in the second floor master bedroom clutching a pistol in his right hand.  Sometime during the hours before, or, shortly after midnight, Hill had fired a practice shot into the ceiling, before laying in bed, placing the gun in his mouth, and pulling the trigger.  The bullet, passing through the director's skull, lodged in the headboard of the bed.  While Hill left no note, he had drawn up a will days before the suicide in which he directed that his body be cremated immediately after the death certificate had been signed.  By 4:00 P.M. the day he was found, Hill's body was cremated.  Authorities speculated that Hill had either taken his life because of the car accident or his divorce from Frances Marion, or both.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Katherine Donley -- In a Worse State

The wife of Robert Donley, former chief announcer at Pittsburgh radio station WCAE and currently with WINS in New York, was slowly driven mad by her husband's application for divorce in April 1945.  In court papers the announcer charged his 44-year-old wife with "cruel and barbarous treatment and with endangering his life with indignities."  On November 7, 1945, the distraught woman checked into a 12th floor room of the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh with her 8-year-old son, James Patrick.  Donley tossed the boy out of the bedroom window and then plunged after him.  Their shattered bodies were found 15 feet apart in a light well on the hotel's marquee three floors above street level.  In two notes addressed to the dead woman's brother found in the room, Donley accused the 24-year-old announcer of being more interested in his career than family.  One read:  "My nervous system is completely shattered and I can't see my way -- the financial insecurity and the worry and hurt over [son] Pat's predicament.  His father hasn't inquired about him since last spring and saw him only once in the fall though we were 20 minutes by subway from where he was.  Pat is bewildered, unsure, and afraid and I know I can't help him understand because I am in a worse state."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lillian Held -- Bury Me Next to Mom

Known outside show business as Lillian Bachman, the wife of a Manchester, New Hampshire, cigar manufacturer, the 41-year-old singer-actress was formerly married to actor Frederick Russell.  On the vaudeville circuit the duo were billed "Held and Russell."  On July 31, 1920, Held's body was found across the bed of her room at 358 West Fifty-eighth Street in New York City.  The windows were sealed and illuminating gas had flooded the room for hours.  Several weeks before, Held had rented the room in the company of a man, signing the register as "Mr. and Mrs. Von Holding."  The man, whose name was withheld, was later identified as a well-known musical director.  In a brief note written on the back of a photograph of her deceased first husband, Russell, Held blamed the musical director for her death and requested to be buried by the side of her mother and her former vaudeville partner.  In a separate note, Held identified the musical director by name and mentioned that he had threatened her life a few days before.

Monday, June 9, 2014

John Arcady -- They Don't Carry Much Money

"It was a senseless, horrible thing that happened.  They don't carry much money," said the owner of Cincinnati's Towne Taxi regarding the murder of driver John Arcady.  On September 27, 1999, the 49-year-old's body was found slumped over the wheel of his idling cab at 4802 Winneste Avenue in the Cincinnati suburb of Winton Terrace.  Killed instantly by a single gunshot wound to the back of the head, Arcady still had a toothpick in the corner of his mouth and a foot on the brake.  Arcady, a former touring drummer with the groups the Platters, Los Bravos, and the Hager Twins, often drove double shifts to support himself while drumming for the Queen City-based Mary Ann Kindel Band.

Denise Lipscomb
Lemar Goss
Andrea Goss

Police, acting on eyewitness accounts, searched for three blacks seen fleeing the scene.  A few days later, brother and sister Lemar Goss, 19, Andrea Goss, 18, and their relative Denise Lipscomb, 26, were arrested and charged with aggravated murder during the commission of a robbery.  Another suspect, Sion Graham, 21, was later arrested and charged with complicity in supplying the gun to Lipscomb, and in driving the getaway car.  On the night of the murder, Arcady picked up the trio and drove them to a spot near Lipscomb's apartment where the woman shot him in the head during a robbery attempt.  In exchange for their testimony against Lipscomb, the Goss siblings pleaded guilty to reduced charges of robbery and involuntary manslaughter, and were sentenced to terms of 23 years each.  In October 2000, Lipscomb was found guilty of aggravated murder, but avoided the death penalty when a jury recommended life in prison without the possibility of parole for at least 43 years.  Lipscomb will be 69 years old before her first parole hearing.  Sion Graham, Lipscomb's boyfriend, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and to using a gun to commit aggravated robbery, and received a 23 year prison sentence.  Lemar Goss (Inmate No. A401712) is currently incarcerated at the Belmont Correctional Institution in St. Clairsville, Ohio while his sister, Andrea (Inmate No. W045814), and Denise Lipscomb (Inmate No. W048598) are both serving their sentences at the Dayton Correctional Institution.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Thomas Stewart Lee -- Climb Every Mountain


Pellissier Building
The wealthy son of automobile and communications magnate Don Lee, "Tommy" Lee was a pioneer in bringing television to Southern California.  In 1931 he built the first transmitter in Los Angeles and later moved it in 1939 to the top of Mt. Lee in the Hollywood Hills.  Known today as station KTSL, for years it was known only by its call numbers, W6XAO.  In another first, Lee received the initial permit in the Southland for full commercialization of television programs starting July 1, 1941.  As a result of a vertebra injury sustained in an automobile accident, Lee was declared mentally incompetent in a medical hearing on August 27, 1948.  Ironically, the court-appointed guardian picked to oversee Lee's estimated $9,500,000 estate, Lewis Allen Weiss, a board member of the Don Lee Broadcasting System, would later commit suicide on June 15, 1953 via the gunshot route.  Less than a year after being declared incompetent, Lee's petition to terminate his guardianship was denied by a judge who personally interviewed him at a Pasadena sanitarium.  On January 13, 1950, Lee flew in his private plane from Palm Springs to Los Angeles for a dental appointment in the Pellissier Building on 3780 Wilshire Boulevard.  While his nurse and pilot parked the car, the 43 year old entered the building alone, made his way to the 12th floor, and after smoking part of a cigarette, jumped out of a fire escape window.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Kenneth Bruce Jones -- Three's a Crowd in Big D

Jones, 32, a member of the Dallas, Texas, branch of the Screen Actors Guild, appeared in television commercials and several local stage productions.  On September 20, 1977, ten days before the air date of the ABC made-for-television movie The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald in which he played a policeman, Jones phoned a friend at 2:00 A.M. to report, "I've done it.  I have killed Myra and her blond-headed lover.  Call the police because by the time they get here I'll be dead."  Dallas police rushed to the apartment at 6402 Melody Lane of Jones; ex-wife, Myra Emmanuelli, and kicking in the front door, found Jones lying dead a few feet inside in a hallway.  The gun he used to shoot himself in the mouth was still clasped in his left hand.  The nude bodies of Emmanuelli and her lover, 27-year-old local business executive Michael L. Crim, were found in a bedroom.  The woman sustained gunshots to the face and chest with Crim dead from a head wound.  The next day, the secretary Jones dated found a "farewell letter" from him in a satchel on her doorstep.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Angelo Torres -- Death of a Drummer

 

Bronx Zoo, a four man rock group co-founded in 1988 by drummer Angelo Torres in Belleville, Illinois, was just beginning to attract national attention.  The group recorded their debut album, Lustful Thinking, in New York City in June 1990, and had opened for Blue Oyster Cult, Head East, the Romantics, and Gary Richrath, lead guitarist for R.E.O. Speedwagon.  Following successful dates at L.A.'s Whisky A-Go-Go and City Lights in Dallas, the group's manager predicted Bronx Zoo was "on the very edge" of making it big.  If so, the 26-year-old drummer was not fated to make the trip.  Just before midnight on November 12, 1992, Torres argued with the owner of a well-known crack house in Centreville, Illinois.  The drummer walked to a nearby liquor store in East St. Louis and encountered Alphonso "Capone" Fuller, a 21-year-old two-time convicted felon currently on probation from Menard Correctional Center on a weapons charge, and three of his cronies.  A heated dispute between the men over a car the drummer allegedly swapped Fuller for drugs culminated in the men beating the drummer and forcing him into the trunk of a car.  Fuller and friends drove the car back to the crack house where "Capone" picked up a 9mm automatic pistol.  Cruising for a couple of hours, Fuller stopped the car around 3:30 A.M. in the 100 block of 80th Street in a residential section of Centreville.  According to Delando Bell, 19, one of the abductors in the car who later cut a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony, Fuller lifted Torres from the trunk and pointed the weapon at him.  When the gun jammed, Torres turned and ran making it about 150 feet before the pursuing Fuller brought him down with two rounds.  Fuller's gun jammed again, but he managed to finish the execution-style killing with a fatal chest shot delivered from less than two feet away.  Torres died two hours later in St. Mary's Hospital in East St. Louis.  Arrested days after the crime, Fuller was charged with first-degree murder while his three accomplices pleaded guilty to lesser charges ranging from unlawful restraint, concealing a homicide, and kidnapping, in exchange for their testimony against the triggerman.  Fuller was convicted of the Torres murder in a three-day trial in July 1993 and sentenced to 60 years in prison.  Inmate No. B20288 is, as of June 2014, incarcerated at the Pinckneyville Correctional Center in Pinckneyville, Illinois.  Alphonso "Capone" Fuller is eligible for parole in March 2023.


Friday, May 30, 2014

Paul Kelly -- Slide, Kelly, Slide (Part II)



On April 20, 1927, a grand jury indicted Paul Kelly for the first-degree murder of Ray Raymond.  In between fainting spells, Dorothy Mackaye testified she precipitated the fatal meeting between the two men by informing Kelly her husband had accused them of adultery.  Continuing to insist that their relationship was purely "platonic," Kelly had angrily phoned the man and stormed over to the house on Cheremoya Drive.  The next day, a coroner's inquest sought to fix responsibility for Raymond's death and, more importantly, determine whether Dr. Sullivan and Mackaye had made attempts to conceal the true facts of the case.  The doctor insisted that in the absence of information regarding the fight between the two men, he told the autopsy surgeon A.F. Wagner that the bruises on the dead man's body had been the result of a drunken fall from his bed.  Days later, Sullivan and Mackaye were indicted by a county grand jury on charges of "compounding a felony" and with being "accessories after the fact" in an alleged plot to cover-up the details surrounding the beating death of Ray Raymond.  The jury interpreted the doctor's "rather high" fee of $500 paid by the grieving widow as an attempt to conceal Raymond's condition and cause of death.  Both remained free on $5,000 cash bond each while the L.A. District Attorney's office built a murder case against Paul Kelly.

Jury selection began in Los Angeles on May 5, 1927, with eight women and four men seated to determine the young actor's fate.  When the court was not in session, the jury was "locked down" in a downtown motel to prevent possible intimidation.  Although Kelly maintained his innocence (insisting Raymond died of acute alcoholism, not the beating), he faced an uphill battle against a mountain of damning evidence.  Autopsy surgeon A.F. Wagner testified Raymond died of a subdural hemorrhage caused by nothing else than the result of a violent kick or blows, not the drunken fall suggested by the defense.  Charlotte Ethel Lee, the prosecution's star witness, was unshakeable in describing Kelly as the aggressor in his confrontation with the "almost helpless" song-and-dance man.  Further, during the time Raymond was on the road touring Mackaye spent many nights away from the house.  According to Lee, she often located her absent employer by phoning Kelly's apartment the next morning.  In riveting testimony, Dorothy Mackaye continued to assert her relationship with Kelly was chaste and platonic.  Though present at Kelly's apartment at the time he placed a phone call, Mackaye insisted she did not know it was to her husband, nor did she have any idea where the actor went when he angrily left his apartment.  The prosecution next produced its "trump" evidence -- love letters and telegrams from Kelly to Mackaye to establish a motive for the premeditated attack.  In the letters, Kelly often referred to Mackaye as "my wife" while others were written in a lover's code deciphered by the embarrassed actress for the jury.  In one letter dated March 20, 1927, Kelly wrote to Mackaye:  "Darling Mine:  Oh, I am so terribly in love with you -- so terribly -- I am miserable here without you -- I love you -- love you -- love you."  While Mackaye admitted to often speaking of marriage with Kelly while her husband was on the road, she did so only in a "kidding way."  The final nail in the defense's case came when Kelly's Japanese houseboy, Teno Yobu, was called by the prosecution to corroborate parts of Charlotte Ethel Lee's testimony.  Known as "Jungles," Yobu stated he served gin drinks on at least half a dozen occasions to Mackaye and Kelly in the actor's apartment,  Mackaye sometimes spent the night there and Jungles saw them together in Kelly's bedroom in the morning.  When the houseboy was present, the pair often resorted to a "love language" (perhaps Pig Latin) to disguise what they were saying.  According to Yobu, Kelly had at least two gin drinks prior to leaving the apartment to confront Raymond.  Kelly's appearance on the stand was almost anti-climactic.  The actor admitted to slapping Raymond twice for vilely insinuating that he had an improper relationship with Mackaye and was forced to defend himself when the smaller entertainer unexpectedly attacked him.

On May 25, 1927, the jury returned after two days of deliberation to find Kelly guilty of the lesser crime of manslaughter.  Sentenced to 1 to 10 years in prison, the actor initially vowed to appeal, but soon told his attorney he would "take his punishment like a man and then begin life anew when society's debt had been paid."  Transported to San Quentin on July 2, 1927, to serve his posted 5 year sentence, Inmate No. 43,814 became a trusty in the prison library and took voice culture lessons to prepare for a post-prison career in talking pictures.  His lover, Dorothy Mackaye, and Dr. Walter Sullivan still faced separate trials for covering up the facts of Raymond's death.  On June 29, 1927, a jury needed less than three hours to find the actress guilty.  Mackaye was sentenced to a year in San Quentin, her lover's new address.  Her appeal denied, Mackaye did her time operating a sewing machine.  She was released for "good behavior" on January 1, 1929, after serving only 8 months.  The actress drew on her time in prison to co-write with Carlton Miles the play Women in Prison.  The play served as the basis for the 1933 Warner Bros. film, Ladies They Talk About, starring Barbara Stanwyck.  The studio remade the film as Lady Gangster in 1942 with Faye Emerson in the title role.  And what of Dr. Sullivan?  He was the only "winner" in the ordeal.  On October 28, 1927, the case against the Hollywood physician was dismissed after the D.A.'s office determined the evidence against him was "too thin" to win a conviction.

 On the strength of his "excellent behavior," Paul Kelly won parole from San Quentin on August 2, 1929, after serving two years and one month of his manslaughter conviction.  "I'm going straight to New York," Kelly told reporters.  "I'm headed straight for the comeback trail.  I've got a job with the New Century Play Company in New York and I'm going to hit it hard."  The job, apparently, was as a clerk for the company.  On Broadway, however, Kelly earned the dubious distinction of being the lowest-salaried leading man ever to appear in a show on the Great White Way.  As a parolee, the actor was limited under California law to earn no more than $30 a week, the salary he was paid in February 1930 to work in the Nine Fifteen Revue.  On a happier note, Paul Kelly and Dorothy Mackaye married in February 1931 and remained together until she was killed in a car crash near their Northridge, California ranch in 1940.  The actor returned to an uncharacteristically forgiving Hollywood in 1932 and worked nonstop amassing credits in some 88 films often in supporting roles in "A" and "B" features as well as the occasional lead in programmers.  Kelly's post-conviction films include Broadway Thru a Keyhole (1933), The Song and Dance Man (1936), The Roaring Twenties (1939), Not a Ladies' Man (1942), The Glass Alibi (1946), Crossfire (1947), The Painted Hills (1951), The Square Jungle (1956), and his final film, Curfew Breakers (1957).  In a filmic act of self-expiation smacking of gimmick casting, Kelly appeared as Warden Clinton D. Duffy in the 1954 production of Duffy of San Quentin, a chronicle of the maximum security prison where the actor spent 25 months of his life in the late 1920s.  Kelly also found time to appear onstage (winning a Tony Award as Best Actor in 1948 for Command Decision) and in television series guest shots.  On November 6, 1956, the 57-year-old actor suffered a fatal heart attack in his Los Angeles home at 1148 Club View Drive shortly after returning from casting his vote at the polls.  The "actor Hollywood forgave" is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Photo by A.J. Marik

 Recommended Reading

"Kelly, Guilty, Asks New Trial."  Los Angeles Times, May 26, 1927, sec. A, p. 1.

"Kelly is Indicted for Raymond Death."  The New York Times, April 21, 1927, p. 29.

"Platonic Friendship Given Blame for Tragedy in Hollywood."  Los Angeles Times, April 20, 1927, sec. A, p. 2.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Paul Kelly -- Slide, Kelly, Slide (Part 1)

Hollywood, as witnessed by its treatment of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and others who have fallen from grace, is not usually the most forgiving of places.  Yet, even Tinseltown can occasionally be moved by a tragic love story.  Paul Michael Kelly (born August 9, 1899, in Brooklyn, New York) first appeared onstage in 1907 at the age of eight in A Grand Army Man and continued to perform in stock companies for many years.  Signed by the New York-based Vitagraph studio, Kelly appeared in juvenile roles in several silent shorts, before logging his first adult lead in the 1919 feature Anne of Green Gables directed by future murder victim William Desmond Taylor.  Kelly's other feature films of the period include Uncle Sam of Freedom Ridge (1920) and The Great Adventure (1921).  In 1917, Kelly met the Scottish-born actress Dorothy Mackaye while both were appearing in legitimate stage roles in New York City.  The friendship remained strong even after Mackaye married song-and-dance man Ray Raymond, then her castmate in the Big Apple production of Blue Eyes in 1921.  Ironically, prior to leaving the New York stage to try his hand in Hollywood, Kelly appeared in a stage production that strangely presaged the impending tragedy.  In August 1925, the actor portrayed "Charlie Watts" in The Sea Woman.  The character, a combination rum runner and lady killer, conspires with a woman to deceive another man.  In early 1926, Kelly arrived in Hollywood to appear in the feature film, The New Klondike.  The athletic actor next appeared in the 1927 baseball film Slide, Kelly, Slide, though not in the title role.  That "Kelly" was actor William Haines whose career would abruptly end in 1936 amid a homosexual scandal.  Another cast member, Karl Dane, would commit suicide on April 14, 1934.  For Paul Kelly, his role as a baseball player in the film would later serve only to underscore in the public mind his physical superiority over the man he would be tried for killing.
Dorothy Mackaye

 Raymond and wife Dorothy Mackaye were based in Los Angeles when Kelly arrived to break into motion pictures.  Raymond, often on the road in various musical productions, never had to worry that his wife was neglected.  Kelly and Mackaye were seemingly inseparable and were often seen at gin parties and taking long car rides together.  Weeks before the tragedy, Raymond drunkenly ordered Kelly out of his house and told his wife to end her relationship with the actor.  Mackaye insisted that nothing unseemly was happening between them and flatly refused to end the friendship.  When the song-and-dance man left on tour with the musical Castles in the Air, Mackaye and Kelly continued seeing one another.

On Saturday, April 16, 1927, an exhausted Ray Raymond arrived at his home at 2261 Cheremoya Drive in Hollywood following an all night train trip from San Francisco where several hours earlier he had concluded the final performance in Castles in the Air.  The 33-year-old performer immediately resumed arguing with Mackaye about her 26-year-old "friend" and she left the house on the pretext of shopping for Easter supplies.  Mackaye drove across town with a friend to Paul Kelly's apartment where she downed at least two gin fizzes.  Mackaye informed her ardent admirer that Raymond had baldly accused them of having an affair.  Paul Kelly, enraged and most likely inebriated, angrily phoned Raymond at 7:00 P.M. and told him he was coming over to discuss the matter.  Charlotte Ethel Lee, the Raymond's black maid and the only witness (besides the couple's 4 1/2-year-old daughter, Valerie) to the incident told police in her statement:

Ray Raymond
"I knew he was talking to Paul Kelly, and I heard Mr. Raymond say, "All right, come on over."  He told me Paul was coming.  Five minutes later Paul knocked at the door.  Paul spoke up right away, "I understand you have been saying things about me."  He was very angry.  Mr. Raymond told him to sit down with him on the davenport.  Mr. Raymond then said something to Paul and he struck Mr. Raymond on the jaw.  "Where is Mrs. Raymond?"  Mr. Paul asked.  "I don't know," Paul replied.  "Yes, you do," said Mr. Raymond.  Then Paul struck him again.  Mr. Raymond remonstrated.  He said:  "I haven't eaten.  I'm a wreck and I can't fight.  I'm thirty pounds underweight and have been drinking."  "That's your alibi," Paul cried.  Paul hit Mr. Raymond three or four times and knocked him down.  I went to the kitchen.  I begged Paul not to hit Mr. Raymond again.  Then Mr. Raymond called him.  "I'll beat you," Paul said.  He then hit him three or four times.  This was in the dining-room.  Mr. Raymond got up and Kelly grabbed him and put one hand behind his neck and beat him with the other, and then threw him on the couch.  He fell to the floor.  "I'm a man and can't take a blow, but I'll fight you," Mr. Raymond said.  Kelly keep knocking him down as he got to his feet.  His face was cut and bleeding.  Finally, with one crushing blow Paul knocked Raymond out."

Kelly left the scene, returned to his apartment, and related the events of the violent confrontation to Mackaye.  Raymond was at home nursing his blackened eye and other injuries when Perry Askom, a friend and fellow-cast member of Castles in the Air, accompanied by his wife dropped in on him moments after the beating.  Askom later related to police that Raymond told him, "Kelly came over and beat (me) up and that (I) never had a chance."  Charlotte Ethel Lee would concur in her police statement noting that the 5'6",  140 pound Raymond was little more than a "punching bag" for the younger, more athletic 6'0, 190 pound Kelly.  The Askoms left shortly after Mackaye returned home.  The next morning at 6:00 A.M., Raymond was found by housekeeper Lee lying flat on his back on the bedroom floor near the side of the bed unconscious, breathing unnaturally, and "frothing at the mouth."  Dr. Walter Sullivan was called, examined the song-and-dance man, and ordered him rushed to the Queen of Angels Hospital.  According to published reports, Mackaye continued to visit Kelly in his apartment up to the moment her husband died without regaining consciousness at 5:20 A.M. on April 19, 1927 -- two days after the altercation with the actor.  Dr. Sullivan, paid $500 by Mackaye for his two day treatment of Raymond, was poised to sign a death certificate stating the man had died of "natural causes" when the coroner, demanding an autopsy, hurriedly reclaimed the body from the mortuary.  The autopsy confirmed that Raymond had sustained a bad beating at the hands of the younger man.  Raymond suffered two fractured ribs, cuts on his forehead, a damaged left eye, bruises on his chest, shoulder, arms, and shins, and a serious head injury resulting in a hemorrhage covering the right portion of the brain.  The cause of death was officially listed as hypostatic pneumonia following an extensive subdural hemorrhage on the right side of the brain.  Dr. Sullivan's supposed ignorance of the fact that Raymond had been in a fight prior to his death opened the medical man up to allegations that the exorbitant $500 fee he received from Mackaye made him a co-conspirator in trying to cover up the facts of his patient's death.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Charles Jackson -- Memory Strikes Out

Since first attracting attention in 1889 in the role of the "Jockey" in the Neil Burgess comedy The County Fair, Jackson had been a mainstay of New York theatre.  Suddenly unemployed in 1907, the actor languished for eight months before landing the part of  "Lew Ellinger," the chief comedy role in The Witching Hour, in January 1908.  Although the managers of the show advanced Jackson money for living expenses, friends noticed that he was still depressed.  On the evening of January 10, 1908, a dejected looking Jackson was spotted by an acquaintance sitting alone in a corner of the smoking room of the Lamb's Club.  Asked what was wrong, the 45-year-old actor responded, "It's no use.  I can't remember the cues of the lines, and I'm done for.  If I fall down on this it means the end, and I guess the only thing for me to do is to shoot myself."  The next morning, a maid at the Hotel Gerard on West Forty-fourth Street discovered Jackson's body hanging by a trunk strap from a water pipe in the top of a closet in his room.  Pages filled with jumbled handwritten lines from the script Jackson had been unable to memorize were found littering the floor.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Jack Ronald Merker -- The Voice Stilled

Merker enjoyed a long and distinguished career in San Diego, California, radio as an executive producer at KNSD/Channel 39, program director at both KOGO/AM 600 and KSDO/AM 1130, and as an on-air broadcast news personality.  Colleagues credited him with making radio news in the area more lively and competitive as well as for launching the talk show career host of Michael Reagan, son of former President Ronald Reagan.  In 1996, the openly gay Merker produced a radio show about AIDS that was honored with the New York International Radio Award.  He served as the county's director of media and public relations until ill health in 1999 prompted him to retire to the desert community of Palm Springs, California.  The 63-year-old former radio executive was staying at the home of a friend in Palm Springs when he was last seen leaving a local bar on November 28 or 29, 2001, with a man later identified as Erick Lavonne Wright (reported in the press as "Erik Levaughan Wright"), a 22-year-old resident of nearby Rancho Mirage.  Days later on December 1, a real estate agent showing the home of Merker's friend to a prospective buyer discovered the radio man's body tossed into a laundry room.  Merker, bound and gagged, had died of "compression of the neck."  Prime suspect Erick Wright proved easy for Palm springs authorities to find.  The day prior to the shocking discovery of Merker's body, Wright had been arrested by local police for the recent robbing and repeated stabbing of a motorist who had given him a ride.  At trial, Wright admitted choking Merker, but only to disable him after the elderly man became violent during their sexual encounter.  The prosecution maintained Wright deliberately killed Merker to get money for drugs.  Found guilty of second-degree murder on January 6, 2004, he was subsequently sentenced to a prison term of 15 years to life.  As of May 2014, Erick Lavonne Wright, Inmate #V26049, is incarcerated at the Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe, California.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cavlar -- Fish and More, More, More


Leval (Cavlar) Lyde, a resident of the rough Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, honed his rap skills while serving time on an assault and weapons charge in the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island.  Released in the early 2000s, the aspiring rapper became associated with the independent label Earthquake Camp Records and the "Step Your Game Up" underground DVDs which featured interviews and videos with top hip-hop stars.  In 2004, he toured with Lil Jon and the Ying Yang Twins and was featured on WBLS' Wendy Williams Show.  Interestingly, Cavlar frequently appeared on homemade underground "beef" videos in which rappers engaged in a particularly noxious variation of the dozens in which threats are rapped to beat, rob, and kill one another.  Readily accessible on YouTube, one Cavlar video features the rapper and rival Uncle Murder in a heated exchange.  Whether such viral showdowns factored in the father of three's violent death on March 25, 2008, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, is pure speculation.  According to differing press reports, the 36-year-old Cavlar, a regular at Fish & Crustaceons Quality Seafood, left the restaurant around 5:00 P.M. eating a sandwich and was shot once in the chest as he walked to his parked car.  Another account had the rapper engaged in a confrontation on the street with a gunman and two of his friends who all fled after the shooting.  Cavlar died at Brooklyn Hospital Center.  One anonymous web poster to the "Save Brooklyn Now" blog wrote, "[Cavlar] ran across the same type of individual that he himself was and he got caught with a sandwich instead of a gun in his hand.  Don't get it twisted, it could easily have been the other three people who approached him that could've been left on the ground."  Tragically, Nancy Williams, a 27-year-old mother of three, was fatally shot on March 30, 2008, while handing out "In Remembrance of Cavlar" buttons at a makeshift memorial and Irish wake for the murdered rapper in an outside courtyard in his Bed-Stuy neighborhood.  The woman was struck when a lone gunman aimlessly fired 12 shots from an automatic weapon through the yards behind the Bedford Stuyvesant Garden Houses, a housing complex, into the public gathering.  To date, no arrests have been made in either case.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Gavin Blair McElroy -- The Vacant House

In 1918 McElroy, a former engineer on the Pennsylvania Railroad, formed a company with partner Kenneth S. Fitzpatrick.  Fitzpatrick-McElroy started out as a booking agency for chorus girls and singers in small theatres, eventually expanding into a 32 theatre operation in Illinois, northern Indiana, and Michigan.  Twelve years later, the 51-year-old Chicago-based theatre magnate was reputedly worth $6 million and (rebounding from a divorce) set to marry a 25 year old.

On January 10, 1930, while his business partner was out of town, McElroy instructed his chauffeur to drive him to the vacant house of a friend.  The driver stayed outside in the car, but left after a five-hour wait, figuring that his employer had fallen asleep.  Some time later, a 10-year-old boy shoveling snow discovered the front door of the house open and notified the janitor.  McElroy, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, was found in the living room partially lying under a phonograph.  A note addressed to the dead man's business partner "Fitz" found stuck inside McElroy's hatband read:  "Take insurance and pay Blue Lagoon and Tebbe.  They have been too good to us to pass them by.  Good-by."  Letters in McElroy's pockets revealed that he owed more than $91,000, although a coroner's jury later concluded that loneliness, not financial worries, prompted the seemingly wealthy businessman to kill himself.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Natel King -- "Blood Does Flow..." (Pt. II)


Nearly three weeks passed before King's badly decomposed body was found on March 23, 2004, dumped in a heavily wooded ravine near the Schuykill River in Whitemarsh County, a short drive from Frederick's basement studio.  Naked except for two white socks, the model bore extensive stab wound to her neck and face as well as defensive wounds to her hands.  More disturbing, King was gagged with a leather type dog-collar with a pink rubber ball in the center.  The model's body was wrapped in a bloodied drape (a type often used as a background in a photo studio) and the makeshift burial shroud had been secured with duct tape.  Other bondage paraphernalia located near the body seemed to match devices featured in the photos of King taken by Frederick and Mitkus.  Shortly after the grisly discovery, the 46-year-old photographer was arrested and charged with first-degree murder after DNA tests revealed large traces of King's blood in his studio.  Also found in the studio was a handwritten poem that read, "Cut with a knife, blood does flow/You may bleed out, death coming on slow...."  Mitkus was also arrested and preliminarily charged with lying to authorities and hindering apprehension.
 

In February 2005, Frederick cut a deal with the prosecution that allowed him to plead guilty to charges of third-degree murder (requires intent to kill with malice, but no specific or planned intent to kill), possession of an instrument of crime (the Colt hunting knife), unsworn falsification (lying to authorities), abuse of a corpse, and criminal conspiracy in exchange for the possibility of parole in the very remote future.  In his confession, Frederick admitted killing King because of a dispute over the $900.00 modeling fee.  According to the photographer, King became angry when he told the model that he did not have her entire fee.  King allegedly picked up the hunting knife used as a prop in the bondage shoot and began threatening him.  The pair wrestled, the photographer managed to disarm King, and stabbed her with such force that the blade passed through her neck.  While he was upstairs wiping the blood from his hands, Mitkus was downstairs cleaning up the crime scene with bleach.  According to Frederick's statement, Mitkus admitted to him that she had twice stabbed the woman's lifeless body while he was upstairs.  The couple rolled "Taylor Summer" into the backdrop screen, placed the bundle into the back of Frederick's car, and the photographer dumped the body alone.  Unexplained in Frederick's account was how King managed to argue with him while the bondage gag (bearing a telltale knife slit) was obviously in her mouth both pre and post-mortem.  In a statement designed to still criticism that the deal was far too favorable to the confessed killer, Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor said, "I don't believe the part about her grabbing the knife, but we have separated [Frederick] from the public and he will be spending a long time in prison."  In July 2005, Anthony Joseph Frederick was sentenced to a prison term of 51 years.  He will be 71 after serving the minimum 24 years of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole consideration.  Mitkus pleaded out to lying to detectives, tampering with evidence (cleaning up the crime scene), and the abuse of a corpse.  Sentenced to 23 months incarceration, she was eligible for release after serving just six months.  As of May 2014, Frederick (Inmate #GC8554) was serving his time at the State Correctional Institution - Mahanoy in Frackville, Pennsylvania.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Natel King -- "Blood Does Flow..." (Part I)


A native of Newfoundland, the statuesque, busty platinum-blonde saw the adult entertainment industry as a means by which to make a lot of money in a hurry.  King's life plan was to use her earnings to finance a psychology degree at Newfoundland's Memorial University, leave the business, then marry and have children all by the age of thirty. At 18, she was living in her parents' home in Mississauga, Ontario, when she originated a softcore internet webcast from her bedroom featuring herself in various naked poses.  Under the name "Taylor Summers" (some sources say "Sumers"), the "Sexy Canadian," began advertising herself as a nude model on the internet ultimately earning as much as $1,000 a day on photo and video shoots.  Her one rule -- no sex with men.  In July 2003, the 23-year-old model shot a movie in New York entitled Naughty College Couples 6 in which she was featured in a solo masturbation scene.  King, as "Sumers," also appeared in some bondage and foot fetish videos and did some magazine work.  Against the advice of both her "straight" friends and associates in the adult industry, she insisted on booking her own gigs rather than working through a modeling agency that could offer her a degree of safety by running background and reference checks on photographers.  King reasoned that during the time it took a talent agency to determine if a photographer or company was legit, she could be earning a grand a day without having to pay a commission.  Schedule permitting, Curtis Shear, King's roommate in Mississauga, often chaperoned his friend on photo shoots.  However, he was unavailable to do so in late February 2004 when King agreed to meet photographer Anthony Joseph Frederick, 46, in the Philadelphia suburb of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.



King and Frederick already had an uneasy history of sorts dating back to December 2003 when she answered a call for nude models posted on his website.  She traveled to Allentown, Pennsylvania, to meet with the photographer, but at the last minute Frederick called the hotel where she was staying to say the location for the shoot had been changed to a remote cabin outside the city limits.  Alarmed, King phoned a friend in the adult industry who strongly advised her not to meet with the photographer.  King returned to Canada, and escaped the fate reportedly suffered by another of Frederick's photo subjects.  Sometime earlier, a young model who willingly posed for him in a bondage scene chained to a heater was refused payment.  The woman complained, and a police search of Frederick's studio uncovered fake blood, handcuffs, and shackles.  The photographer was not charged with any crime.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Nassib Abdulla Shibley -- American Men Take Heed

For months, the Syrian born-attorney and manager of Hungarian gypsy violinist Janczy Rigo had become increasingly jealous of the influence that the performer's wife, Katherine Emerson Rigo, exercised over his own wife, Leonore.  Though husband and wife often argued over the intensely emotional relationship existing between the women, Leonore continued to see Mrs. Rigo.  On the night of November 3, 1908, some three weeks after Leonore had consulted an attorney regarding a divorce, Shibley fatally chloroformed his wife in the bedroom of their spacious apartment at 508 W. 122nd Street in New York City.  The young attorney placed her body in bed, and spent the next few hours writing letters.  Shibley waited until a servant fed their 2-year-old son and left the apartment to take the child for a walk before re-entering the bedroom.  There, he laid next to his dead wife, slit an artery in his left arm above the elbow with a razor blade, stabbed himself near the throat, and covered their bodies with a sheet.

A handwritten letter to Leonore's sister found on the dining room table read:  "Better this than her life as exampled by the past few months.  Take care of baby.  I could not take him.  You see what I took it all in and said nothing."  In another letter, unaddressed, Shibley issued a warning to American men:

"Maybe I am insane; maybe not.  I have loved my wife with a love that passeth human understanding.  Let the men of America get out of their lives the artificial life -- the restaurant life -- smoking, drinking, especially among women, and such things as this will never be.  Breed in your little girls the love of home so that they may see, and breed their children when women.  I am happy.  No temptation can now reach my loved wife.  No stage, no restaurant, no automobile that I cannot provide, but peace -- Goodbye, mother and brothers.  By death I wipe out the sins of life.  We prefer to be cremated or in one grave.  This is only a parting.  If men would only bring their wives to live within their means, and modestly, America would be a Paradise and each woman could not set another example.  Oh, my people -- I am, the first of you, a murderer and a suicide!  How the workd do burn!  Forgive me!"

In a statement to The New York American, Leonore's sister blamed Mrs. Rigo for the tragedy:  "I feel convinced that my sister's death must be laid at the door of Mrs. Rigo.  The violinist's wife seemed to exercise a strange fascination over my sister.  The luxurious manner in which Rigo's wife lived undoubtedly had an effect on Mrs. Shibley.  She had been perfectly happy at first in marrying a man who was devoted to her, but after she met Mrs. Rigo she at once began to show a distaste for domestic duties.  Mrs. Rigo initiated her into all the hollow enjoyments of suppers at midnight restaurants and automobile rides to out-of-town inns.  All that was out of keeping with her home environment.  While Mrs. Rigo denied that any "unusual relationship" existed between them, she did admit that she "seemed to exercise a fascination" over Leonore, adding, "But if she wished to admire me, why should I object?"  Mrs. Rigo also maintained that Nassib Shibley himself was "insanely infatuated" with her, but "met with no response."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bugz -- The Good Die Young




The MC Bugz (born Karnail Paul Pitts on January 5, 1978) was a highly regarded rapper in Detroit and an early member of the group D12 (Dirty Dozen) along with Proof  (shot to death on April 11, 2006).  Bugz, also known on stage as "Robert Beck," had just turned 21 and his future in the rap world looked bright.  D12 had recently signed with Eminem's label Shady Records and a debut EP was in the works.  On the evening of May 21, 1999, the group was set to perform in Grand Rapids, Michigan as part of the Eminem tour when the promising talent because just another victim in rap's bloody history.  That afternoon, Bugz, his cousin, and a female friend were picnicking on Detroit's Belle Island when a man sprayed the  woman with a high powered water gun.  She took offense, angry words were exchanged, and a fistfight broke out.  Bugz sought to intervene and a friend of the man with the water gun drew a rifle from a Ford Expedition and shot the rapper three times at close range, striking him in the neck and chest.  The assailants drove over Bugz as they fled the scene.  An ambulance was called, but due to heavy traffic on the bridge to Belle Island it took thirty minutes to reach the badly wounded MC.  Bugz died without regaining consciousness in a nearby hospital.  The deadly incident, captured on the park's security video and shown on local news, generated no leads and to date no one has been prosecuted for the murder.  Thanks to D12, material unreleased at the time of the young rapper's death was made available on These Streets EP.  The group's members and Eminem have "Bugz" tattooed on their wrists in remembrance of their fallen friend.  In the 2004 album, D12 World, the songs "Bugz 97" and "Good Die Young" honor his memory.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bert Harger -- A Lover's Spat

As one-half of the ballroom dance team of Harger and Maye, the 39-year-old dancer appeared with great success before the crowned heads of Europe.  Currently billed at New York City's Biltmore Hotel as "the dancing toast of the continent," the team previously performed at the St. Regis Room and the Cotillion Room of the Hotel Pierre.  Harger was last seen on August 19, 1945 by his lover, Walter H. Dahl, Jr., a 30-year-old Pennsylvania Railroad freight representative, at the apartment they shared at 43 West 46th Street.  Police suspected Dahl in the disappearance, but could make no headway in the case until a dismembered torso was found floating in the Hudson River off Rockaway Beach.  Dahl examined the body part in the morgue and declared it not to be Harger's because it lacked an identifying birth mark.  Immediately afterwards, he made a hasty trip to Philadelphia to post telegrams under Harger's name to himself and the man's dance partner, Charlotte Maye, informing both that he planned to leave the business.  In late August 1945, Dahl notified authorities that he was in receipt of a letter from Harger with a Chicago postmark in which the dancer wrote that he was going to visit his brother in California.  Police checked with Harger's brother who had heard nothing from the man.  After Dahl moved from the apartment on West 46th Street, detectives scoured the rooms and found minute blood splotches on the bathroom floor.  Taken into police custody on October 6, 1945, Dahl finally confessed to killing Harger with a hammer when the dancer attacked him with an ice pick during an argument.  Afterward, Dahl dismembered his lover's body with a razor and butcher knife in the bathtub then dropped the packaged arms and legs off the Weehawken Ferry and the bundled torso off the Staten Island Ferry.  On April 26, 1946, Dahl pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.  The lesser plea was accepted after the district attorney declared that it would be difficult to convict the killer on a charge of first-degree murder.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tom Neal -- Detour (Part II)

By 1965, the 51-year-old former actor had seemingly pieced his life back together.  Married since June 1961 to third wife Gail, a 29-year-old receptionist at the upscale Palm Springs Tennis Club, Neal operated a modest, but successful, landscaping business in the desert town.  Long forgotten by movie fans, Neal once again became press fodder by committing another violent act ... this time with fatal consequences.  At 6:30 A.M. on Friday, April 2, 1965, Palm Springs police received a phone call from Neal's Beverly Hills attorney, James P. Cantillon, requesting that they meet him and his client at an intersection one block from Neal's house.  Neal led the group to his home at 2481 Cardillo Road where authorities discovered Gail peacefully stretched out on the living room sofa, partially covered by a blanket, dead from a single .45-caliber bullet wound behind her right ear.  The bullet exited Gail's left temple and was recovered from a sofa pillow beneath her head.  A spent cartridge was found four feet from the woman's body.  The gun was never found.  Neal was cooperative with authorities, but under the advice of Cantillon refused to make a statement.  An autopsy fixed the time of Gail's death between 2:30 P.M. on April 1 and 2:30 A.M. on April 2.  As the former actor sat in the Riverside County Jail in Indio without bound, detectives worked to fix his movements during that time frame.  The outlook for Neal looked bleak after investigators questioned Robert L. Balzer, the Buddhist monk owner of the Tyrol Restaurant in Idyllwild, a mountain resort in the San Jacinto Mountains behind Palm Springs.  Balzer, a friend of the Neals, told police that the former actor showed up alone at the restaurant early in the evening of April 1.  Neal looked a "little disturbed," and in the course of their conversation told him Gail was his "whole life and he could not live without her."  Neal concluded the frank discussion with the admission that he had shot his wife "in the head" with a .45-caliber pistol.  He was subsequently charged with first-degree murder and remained in jail pending trial steadfastly maintaining his innocence.


Following jury selection (three men, nine women), the Neal trial opened in Indio on October 19, 1965.  The prosecution's case against the former actor looked solid.  The motive -- Neal shot his wife while she slept because she was involved with other men and planned to divorce him.  Adding to Neal's "confession" to Balzer, a local real estate broker testified that on April 1 he had gone to the Neal house to deliver a letter of recommendation to Gail who intended to divorce her husband of four years and relocate to Los Angeles to seek employment.  The realtor was surprised to find Neal in the home since the couple was separated since January 1965 and the one-time actor had been living in Chicago.  Embarrassed, the real estate broker quickly left the home on Cardillo Road.  He was the last person except for Neal to see Gail alive.  Nine days after calling only eight witnesses, the D.A.'s office rested its case against Neal.  Seemingly outgunned by the prosecution, Neal was forced to take the stand in his own defense.  He told the packed courtroom the shooting was accidental.  As he argued with his wife about the other men in her life, Gail suddenly became angry, produced a .45-caliber automatic, and threatened to kill him.  The gun discharged accidentally as he attempted to disarm the hysterical woman.  As a rebuttal witness, the prosecution called Dr. Armand Dollinger, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on the dead woman.  According to Dollinger, Neal's account of the shooting was "unlikely" based upon the direction of the wound.  Three of Gail's co-workers at the Palm Springs Tennis Club testified that she planned to leave town after learning her husband was returning from Chicago.  Gail was terrified Neal would kill her when he learned that she had filed for divorce on March 11, 1965, citing physical cruelty as the grounds.  In the divorce papers, the 29-year-old receptionist accused Neal of threatening her with a .45-caliber automatic.  Present in the courtroom for at least one day was Neal's old flame, Barbara Payton.  The two exchanged glances, but did not speak.  Remarkably to most observers, jurors needed only ten hours after a six-week trial to find Neal guilty of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter on November 18, 1965.  While awaiting sentencing, the star of Detour remained free on $2,750 bail.  Describing Neal as a "cold, deliberate" killer, Superior Court Judge Hilton H. McCabe imposed the maximum prison sentence of one to 15 years on the angry ex-actor on December 10, 1965.  There would be no probation.  Neal decried the sentence as a "railroad job" as he was hustled off to begin serving his time.  He was paroled from the California Institution for Men at Chino on December 6, 1971, after serving seven years.  Neal's freedom, however, was short-lived.  On August 6, 1972, the 58-year-old complained of heartburn prior to retiring to bed in his North Hollywood home.  The next day, Neal's 15-year-old son, Patrick, discovered his father's body.  The man with the violent past was pronounced dead from "natural causes" (congestive heart failure) by a fire department ambulance crew summoned to the scene.

Recommended Reading

Gilmore, John.  L.A. Despair:  A Landscape of Crimes and Bad Times.  Los Angeles:  Amok, 2005.

Lyons, Arthur.  "Killer Career - Actor Tom Neal."  www.palmspringslife.com

Neal, Tom.  "Neal Relates His Version of Brawl."  Los Angeles Times, p. 2, September 17, 1951.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tom Neal -- Detour (Part I)


Neal with Ann Savage in Detour
Neal, a dependable actor in some 180 films from 1938 to 1953, is nevertheless fated to be remembered in Hollywood lore for two acts of violence committed 14 years apart.  Born in Evanston, Illinois, on January 28, 1914, Neal enjoyed a privileged life as the son of a banker.  Excelling at sports at Northwestern University, Neal became a Golden Gloves boxing champ...a skill he would later use to deleterious effect in Tinseltown.  Briefly flirting with a Broadway stage career in the early 1930s, he earned a law degree from Harvard University in 1938, but never practiced.  That same year, Neal arrived in Hollywood and appeared in his first screen role as a bit player in MGM's Out West with the Hardys.  The good-looking, muscular actor worked almost nonstop from the late 1940s until his final film, The Great Jesse James Raid, in 1953.  Often cast as the tough guy or suave leading man in grade B motion pictures, Neal's film credits include 6,000 Enemies (1939), Flying Tigers (1942), Behind the Rising Sun (1943), Thoroughbreds (1944), Crime, Inc. (1945), The Brute Man (1946), Call of the Klondike (1950), and Danger Zone (1951).  In 1946, Neal starred as the Fate-stricken character, "Al Roberts," in the Edgar G. Ulmer directed film Detour for Poverty Row production company PRC (Producers Releasing Corporation).  Shot in six days on the microscopic budget of $30,000, Detour has since become a darling of critics who laud it as a major example of film noir.  The movie was remade in 1992 starring Tom Neal, Jr., the actor's son.
    
Tone and Payton
Payton and Neal
No doubt Neal would have continued his undistinguished, but solid acting career in B movies if not for his disastrous involvement in an ill-fated love triangle.  Barbara Payton, a sexy blonde "star" of such forgettable early 1950s films as Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950) and Drums in the Deep South (1951), was better at garnering headlines than acting.  Though only 25, Payton was very publicly engaged to the 45-year-old actor, Franchot Tone, the patrician-looking ex-husband of Joan Crawford.  The press followed the couple's every movement and, shark-like, smelled blood in the water when the buxom star broke off her engagement with Tone in July 1951.  The reason?  Payton "knew in a minute" that she "loved" Tom Neal after spying the muscular 37-year-old actor in swim trunks poised on a diving board at a mutual friend's pool party in Hollywood.  The pair generated headlines of their own when the mercurial Payton decided to renew her friendship with Franchot Tone.  On September 14, 1951, two days before Payton was set to marry Neal, the young star and Tone spent the evening dining and dancing at Ciro's.  Neal was waiting for the couple at Payton's Hollywood home at 1802 Courtney Avenue when they arrived from their "date" around 1:30 A.M. the next morning.  The fickle bombshell ordered Neal to leave and, when he refused, instructed Tone to make him.  Tone, nine years older and twenty pounds lighter, invited the 5'10", 180-pound former Golden Gloves boxing champion (who, incidentally, spent his spare time lifting weights) out on the front patio to settle the dispute.  Not surprisingly, Neal beat Tone senseless, breaking the actor's nose and fracturing his cheek.  Tone woke up in California Hospital 18 hours later suffering from a cerebral concussion.  He later underwent two hours of facial surgery to save his distinguished good looks.  Tone never landed a punch.

As Tone slowly recovered, Payton informed the press that her engagement to Neal was off.  The star of Bride of the Gorilla (1951) now intended to wed Franchot Tone as soon as he was able to stagger down the aisle.  Neal, left to twist in the legal wind while awaiting Tone's decision whether or not to file felony assault charges against him, told his side of the "parlor man" versus the "athlete" story in a September 17, 1951 Los Angeles Times article bearing his by-line.  Maintaining his love for Payton, Neal said she instigated the confrontation with Tone over a period of months by playing the two men off against one another.  Of the altercation:

"Barbara came out and asked Franchot when he was going to get rid of me and then threw her arms around him and kissed him.  That's what touched it off.  Tone said, "Let's go."  He threw a right and I threw a right and mine got in faster.  I struck him several more times and it was all over.  I saw them carry him into the house....  It was one of those things, where I had to defend myself and where the sight of the girl I love kissing another man just made me see red.  I mean, when you're fighting for a girl -- well, you just lose your head a little, I guess.  I have nothing against Tone whatever.  I'm sorry he's in the hospital and I'm ready to do anything I can do to help him.  And I hope he and Barbara will be happy."

On September 27, 1951, Tone announced that would not file charges against Neal for their one-sided fistfight.  The next day, Payton and Tone married in the sexy star's hometown of Cloquet, Minnesota.  The couple separated after 53 days of marriage amid rumors Payton was still in love with Tom Neal.  Tone divorced the fickle actress on May 19, 1952, citing "extreme mental cruelty."  The court papers did not mention his former rival, but Payton had resumed a torrid relationship with the actor that eventually fizzled after they appeared together in Neal's final film, The Great Jesse James Raid, in 1953.  Rendered unemployable by the scandal, Neal was forced to leave Hollywood for Palm Springs where the broke former B-movie actor was reduced to working as a gardener.  Still, he fared better than Barbara Payton, who was also made persona non grata in the film capital by the scandal and her subsequent bizarre behavior.  After making her last movie in 1955, Murder Is My Beat, Payton descended into a nightmare world of alcoholism, check kiting, homelessness, and prostitution.  The sexy woman movie stars once fought over died on May 8, 1967, at the age of 39 from heart and liver failure in San Diego.