Friday, March 27, 2015

Dennis Michael Crosby -- Der Bingle's Boy

The second son of megastar Bing Crosby and his first wife, jazz singer Dixie Lee, was born with twin brother Phillip in Los Angeles on July 13, 1934.  The most reserved of the Crosby sons, Dennis was never interested in a show biz career although initially he halfheartedly pursued one.  In the late fifties and early sixties he joined his brothers in a nightclub act billed as the Crosby Boys.  In films, he appeared with his brothers in the 1945 movie Out of This World, played himself in Duffy's Tavern (1945), and had a bit part as "Private Page" in Sergeants Three (1962) starring Frank Sinatra and his fellow "Rat Pack" cronies Peter Lawford, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, and Sammy Davis, Jr.

After leaving acting, Dennis worked in a production capacity for this father's company, Bing Crosby Productions.  Like brothers Gary and Lindsay, he suffered from manic depression and alcoholism although he periodically achieved stints of sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous.  Unlike his brothers, however, Dennis downplayed the allegations of physical and emotional abuse made against their father by Gary Crosby in his 1983 tell-all book Going My Own Way.  While admitting that older brother Gary was the prime target for their father's harsh discipline, Dennis added:  "I was happy to be who I was even if I had the hell kicked out of me."

Professional and personal problems continued unchecked throughout Dennis' life.  Shortly after his father's death in 1977, Dennis and his brothers learned that they would not immediately benefit from the crooner's demise.  Instead, Crosby had set up a blind trust that was untouchable until his sons reached the age of 65.  In December 1989, the brothers were informed by attorneys that the monthly four figure check each of them had received for years from a trust fund established by their late mother, Dixie Lee, was gone, wiped out by falling oil prices on the world market.

Eleven days after learning that there would be no more monthly checks, Dennis' favorite brother, Lindsay, fatally shot himself in the head on December 11, 1989.  On May 4, 1991, two weeks after officially ending his 27 year second marriage, the 56 year old followed suit.  Late that night, a roommate discovered Crosby's body lying on a couch in the living room of their modest home on Murphy Lane in the Black Point area of Novato, California.  Depressed over finances, Lindsay's death, recurrent bouts of alcoholism, the divorce, and a recent breakup with a girlfriend, Crosby had shot himself in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun.  The weapon was found lying at his feet beside the couch.  Dennis Crosby was cremated and his ashes spread in the Novato area.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lindsay Crosby -- Poof, it's Gone

The youngest of crooner Bing Crosby's four sons by his marriage to jazz singer Dixie Lee (real name Wilma Wyatt) was born in Los Angeles on January 5, 1938.  Lindsay first appeared on film with brothers Gary, Dennis, and Phillip as audience members in the 1945 movie Out of This World featuring his famous father.  In 1957, he made his television debut on The Edsel Show with his father and Frank Sinatra.  A nightclub act with his three brothers called the Crosby Boys ran until 1959.  Never steadily employed, Lindsay read scripts for his father while trying to carve out a place for himself in films.  However, he only managed to land bit parts in low-budget biker, exploitation, and horror films like The Girls from Thunder Strip (1966), The Glory Stompers (1967), Scream Free! a.k.a. Free Grass (1969), and Bigfoot (1970).  He also briefly appeared in two seventies films (The Mechanic; Live a Little, Steal a Lot,1972) before making his final film, Code Name:  Zebra in 1984.

Lindsay was 14 when his mother died in 1952.  A trust fund set up by Dixie Lee based on then booming oil investments yielded each of the boys a monthly four figure check.  Big Crosby married actress Kathryn Grant in 1957 and the 73 year old was happily raising a second family when he died of a heart attack on October 14, 1977, on a golf course in Madrid, Spain.  If Der Bingle's sons were expecting to immediately inherit chunks of their father's considerable fortune they were soon disappointed.  Perhaps he knew them too well.  Lindsay, like older brother Gary, was an alcoholic and manic depressive who had suffered a nervous breakdown in 1962.  In addition to several arrests for drunken driving and battery, Lindsay had also logged an arrest for indecent exposure in Durango, Colorado, in 1977 for running naked around a motel pool.  The boys were shocked when they learned their father had left them money in a blind trust that could not be touched until they reached age 65.

In 1983, Gary Crosby published a memoir, Going My Own Way, in which he described in excruciating detail their father's physical and psychological abuse.  Lindsay corroborated his brother's portrait of Bing Crosby as an emotionally distant father who wreaked emotional violence on his sons.  On December 1, 1989, attorneys managing Dixie Lee's trust fund informed the brothers that the recent glut in the world's oil markets had wiped out their investments.  Eleven days after learning that there would be no more monthly checks forthcoming, Lindsay Crosby took his life on December 11, 1989.

The 51 year old was staying in an apartment in Las Virgenes in the 26300 block of Bravo Lane while undergoing treatment for alcoholism at a center in nearby Calabasas, California.  Crosby was set to return home for the weekend to his second wife and family in Sherman Oaks when a friend found him on the floor of his den dead from a single gunshot wound to the head.  A small caliber rifle lay close by.  Marilyn Riess, spokeswoman for Lindsay's older brother, Gary, offered this explanation for the act:  "You're dealing with a 51-year-old man who finds himself with a wife and four kids living in a fairly expensive home.  He's under treatment for alcoholism, he's a manic depressive and then you throw a bomb at him.  The one thing he could depend on was his mother, even when she wasn't alive.  Then it (the inheritance) was gone....Poof, it's gone."  Older brother Dennis Crosby took his life in an eerily similar fashion on May 4, 1991.

Recommended Reading

Crosby, Gary, and Firestone, Ross.  Going My Own Way.  1st ed.  Garden City, N.Y.:  Doubleday, 1983.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Anna Daly -- Olive is Dead

Daly and friend and fellow-suicide Olive Thoma originally came together from hometowns in Pennsylvania to New York City via Pittsburgh in 1913 with the shared dream of taking Broadway by storm.  Both young women modeled, but only Thomas landed a job with the Ziegfeld Follies and achieved international fame before dying a suspected suicide in Paris in 1920.  Daly's theatrical aspirations never materialized and at the time of her death she was employed as a cloak model who occasionally posed for artists.  On September 16, 1920, Daly's roommate, Ziegfeld Follies girl Betty Martin, found a note from the woman in their apartment at the Hotel Monterey.  It read:  "He doesn't love me anymore.  I can't stand it any longer, and Olive is dead."  The investigating detective noted that the physical description of the missing woman supplied by Martin matched that of a young woman who earlier in the evening had checked into a room at the Hotel Seville at Thirty-first Street and Fourth Avenue under the name of "Mrs. Elizabeth Anderson."  The woman was found unconscious in the room after drinking a bottle of veronal and had died without regaining consciousness in Bellevue Hospital.  A relative confirmed that the dead woman was Anna Daly.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sadie Snyder -- The Good, Straight Girl

The daughter of Sarah Snyder, once known on the vaudeville stage as "Sara Sedalia," the 17-year-old vocalist assumed the name of "Sid Sedalia" when she began singing at Chicago's Delavan Cafe on North Clark Street in 1916.  Snyder, described by her mother as a "good, straight girl," was concerned that "people might say bad things" about her because she was a cabaret singer.  These feelings, amplified by a local newspaper expose of the "sins" of cabaret life, further preyed on the young woman's mind.  On the evening of February 16, 1916, Snyder locked herself in the bedroom of her home at 2125 North Clark Street, plugged the crack between two window sashes with a towel, then turned on the gas.  Snyder's mother, with the aid of a boarder, later forced the door and found her daughter's lifeless body on the bed.  Near at hand lay a newspaper folded to a story about the conduct of patrons in a Windy City cafe.  On the wall beside the bed Snyder had scribbled, "Mama, I love you."

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Russell Fillmore -- Surf's Up

The former New York stage director of plays that featured ZaSu Pitts and Billie Burke was in Los Angeles to read Until December, a play written by Mae West's sister, when he suddenly disappeared.  According to West, she last saw Fillmore on August 11, 1950, when he seemed to be elated at the prospect of producing the show on Broadway.  Days later, his friends and associates filed a missing persons report after he failed to keep an important business appointment.  On August 18, 1950, the 55-year-old director's body was found floating beneath a pier in Ocean Park, California.  An autopsy revealed that Fillmore had slashed his wrists before hurling himself into the surf.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fernando Ramos da Silva -- Death of Pixote

 One of a family of ten children raised by his widowed mother in the slums of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Silva (born November 29, 1967) was 11 when director Hector Babenco selected him from more than 1,300 boys to play the title role in Pixote in a 1980 a film about Brazilian street children.  The motion picture was an international critical success and focused much needed attention on the plight of that country's downtrodden, and largely forgotten urban youth.  Overnight, Silva (who was paid less than $1,000 for the role) was made into an international star while in his home country he became the poster child for a class of disenfranchised slum children more likely to die at the hands of police than live to become adults.  The youngster appeared on Brazilian television promoting Christmas cards for the United Nations Children's Fund.  TV Globo, Brazil's major television network, gave Silva a one year contract to appear as a juvenile delinquent on a soap opera, but unable to read his lines, he quit showing up for work and was fired after six months.  Similarly, the mayor of Duque de Caxias, an impoverished suburb of Sao Paulo, awarded the young star a scholarship to acting school, but Silva quit after two days preferring instead to hang out at neighborhood theatres to watch Pixote.  After appearing briefly in the role of an errand boy in Gabriela, Cravo e Canela, a 1983 film by Bruno Barreto, Silva returned to the slums of Sao Paulo and logged a series of arrests for theft.

In May 1984, Silva, 16, was arrested for the fifth time since Pixote for what police inspector Joao Paulo de Quieroz called, "doing in real life what he was portrayed as doing in the film."  Arrested in Sao Paulo where he lived with his mother and nine brothers and sisters, the former child star admitted stealing a television set, stereo equipment, and clothes from the home of a luncheonette owner.  Silva escaped from jail three months later.  It all ended on August 25, 1987, in Diadema, an industrial suburb of Sao Paulo.  Silva, 19, and two others were shot to death while fleeing a botched robbery attempt.  Police maintained the one-time actor was armed with a .32-caliber Smith & Wesson and was gunned down resisting arrest.  Silva's family disputed the official version of his death maintaining he was murdered by a police force well-known throughout the world for its roaming death squads who kept peace by eliminating suspected petty criminals.  According to family reports, Silva had become more settled after the birth of his daughter two years earlier.  He even returned to acting having recently returned home from northeastern Brazil where he appeared as a hired assassin in a play called Atalipa My Love.  Silva, who felt trapped by his association with Pixote, was targeted and harassed by police who thought he was the role that he had played.  The family's contention was bolstered one day after the shooting when an unidentified woman appeared on TV Globo and gave a radically different account of Silva's last moments than the official police version.  She was in her home when Silva rushed in and tried to hide under a bed.  When confronted by police, Silva shouted, "Don't kill me, I have a family!"  "Pixote" was shot eight times even though the woman insisted he was unarmed.  A forensic report confirmed the man was prone on the floor and shot from above when he died.  In September 1987, three state troopers were arrested and dismissed from the force after they allegedly attempted to falsify reports and tamper with evidence in the case.

Friday, January 2, 2015

William Ogden -- His Man Godfrey

Fearful that he had failed an audition for Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts television program, the 36-year-old guitarist phoned his ex-wife on September 7, 1953, and drunkenly told her that he wanted to "kill himself."  Early the next morning, Ogden's body was found in his car at the rear of his rooming house at 85 E. First Avenue in Columbus, Ohio.  The guitarist had taped a length of garden hose to the car's exhaust, placed the other end through a rear window, and laid down in the front seat with the engine running.  Ironically, a spokesman for CBS-TV in New York reported that Ogden had not been rejected as a result of the audition and was eligible for an appearance on an upcoming Godfrey talent show.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Juliann Graham -- No Good Deed Unpunished

In early 1934, Graham, 22, left her job at the public library in Sisterville, West Virginia.  Armed with a "professional" resume consisting of parts in amateur theatricals and a position in the local church choir, she went to Hollywood to realize her dream of stardom.  Within days of her arrival Graham swallowed poison in a Hollywood hotel room on March 8, 1934, after failing to crash the gates at a major studio.  When she recovered, Earl Carroll (then producing Murder at the Vanities at Paramount) took pity on Graham and convinced the studio to engage her on a week-to-week basis as a "bit" player.  At the time, Graham warned other young girls to stay away from Tinsel Town until they were financially able to support themselves in town for at least six months.  Despite Carroll's intercession, Graham again tried unsuccessfully to kill herself in September 1934 by ingesting a sleeping potion.  On the morning of July 15, 1935, shortly after returning from a weekend spent on Santa Catalina Island with Ben F. Reynolds, a married motion picture cameraman, Graham went into the bedroom of his apartment at 2879 Sunset Place in Los Angeles while he slept in another room.  Seating herself in front of a mirror, Graham placed a handgun against her left temple and pulled the trigger.  Reynolds found her body slumped on the floor beneath the dressing table.  Her one screen credit (as "Julia Graham") was as a waitress in the 1935 Paramount comedy Love in Bloom starring George Burns and Gracie Allen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Neil Bondshu -- "It's Best this Way"

Claremont Hotel
On December 20, 1944, shortly before his dance band was to perform at San Francisco's famed St. Francis Hotel, the 28-year-old orchestra leader vanished.  Bondshu's manager described him as "nervous and worried," and fellow band members recalled that their leader had been recently depressed over the break-up of his marriage to his wife, Vicki, and separation from his 7-year-old child, Diane.  Three weeks earlier Bondshu had been arrested fro breaking into his wife's home while she was out, but she dropped the charges.  The focus of an all points bulletin, the missing band leader was found on December 22, 1944, across the Bay in Berkeley in a room in the Claremont Hotel he had reserved earlier for his mother.  Near death from an overdose of sleeping pills, Bondshu was curled up in bed clutching a picture of his estranged wife and daughter.  He died the next day in Berkeley General Hospital.  Two days after Bondshu's discovery, hotel official gave to police a suicide note found at the scene.  Shakily written on hotel stationery with a room key dipped in ink, the note read:  "Sorry, no pen.  Vicki and mother, I'm sorry, but it's best this way."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Charles "Kid" McCoy -- Down for the Count

McCoy ca. 1899
 McCoy, considered one of the greatest prizefighters in history and generally regarded as the inspiration for the term "the real McCoy," was born Norman Selby on a family farm in Moscow, Indiana, a small community 40 miles southeast of Indianapolis, on October 13, 1873.  While much of McCoy's life is bound up in self-created fiction, he did run away from home in his mid-teens to become a hobo.  He began his professional boxing career in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1890.  By 1891, the fighter had dropped the sissy sounding name of Selby in favor of McCoy, the stage name of a ham actor he had once seen perform.  According to legend, "the real McCoy" catch phrase was used both to distinguish him from other like-named pugilists and in recognition of his authentic boxing skills.  Though tall, skinny, and pale, McCoy was a scientific boxer who amassed an incredible 36-2 record from 1891-1895.  Nicknamed the "Corkscrew Kid" for a type of punch he twisted on impact, McCoy won his first world title on March 2, 1896, by knocking out welterweight Tommy Ryan in the 15th round.  On December 17, 1897, he outpunched Don Creedon for the world middleweight title.  McCoy retired in 1911 after 105 recorded bouts, posting a record of 81 wins, six losses, six draws, nine no-decisions, and three no-contests.

Outside the ring, McCoy was a flamboyant character with an eye for the ladies.  He routinely carried up to $40,000 on his person and, though married ten times (including three times to Julia Woodruff Crosselmire), had no children.  Shortly after retiring, the former fighter was arrested in Britain in 1912 on suspicion of stealing jewels from an Austrian princess in Belgium.  Though the charges were eventually dropped, McCoy's reputation was permanently damaged.  His post-fight career was filled with various unsuccessful business ventures.  McCoy briefly opened a bar in New York City (where be befriended future film directors D. W. Griffith and Mack Sennett), entered the diamond business, ran a detective agency, and launched a car dealership.  In 1917, McCoy was cast as a detective investigating a jewelry robbery in The House of Glass, a silent film shot in New York by French film pioneer Emile Chautard.  In 1919, D. W. Griffith picked the retired pugilist for the role of a prizefighter in the director's masterpiece Broken Blossoms.  McCoy also appeared in The Fourteenth Man (1920) directed by Griffith assistant Joseph Henaberry, followed by The Great Diamond Mystery, released in 1924 shortly after McCoy had been arrested for murder.
McCoy at the LA Jail in 1924 (UCLA Library)
By May 1924, McCoy (using the alias "Shields") had lived for three months with Theresa Mors, the 39-year-old divorced wife of art and antiques dealer Albert Mors, at the Nottingham Apartments at 28819 Leeward Avenue in Los Angeles.  The divorced couple were locked in a bitter property settlement which, ironically for McCoy, centered around the disposition of some valuable jewels.  While the events of the evening of August 12, 1924, remain somewhat confused, an argument over the divorce settlement between McCoy and Theresa Mors in their apartment left the woman fatally shot in the head.  The next morning, a drunken and deranged McCoy appeared at the store of Albert Mors and wounded three people with a .32-caliber revolver before driving away from the scene.  Later that day he turned himself in to police without incident.  At his murder trial in December 1924, McCoy maintained that Theresa Mors shot herself in despair after he suggested that a property settlement could be reached if he were temporarily out of the picture.  Deliberations lasted 78 hours before the jury on their 24th ballot found McCoy guilty of manslmanslaughter and attempted murder.  The ex-fighter was sentenced to 48 years in prison.

Hotel Tuller (Burton Historical Collection)
McCoy, a model prisoner at San Quentin, was paroled after eight years due largely to the efforts of car manufacturer Henry Ford.  The multi-millionaire industrialist gave the 60 year old a job supervising 85 security guards charged with overseeing some 12,000 vegetable gardens established by Ford employees in Detroit during the Depression.  The outbreak of armed hostilities in Europe deeply affected the 66-year-old McCoy.  As the war news worsened, he became increasingly depressed, sleepless, and reliant on sleeping pills.  On April 17, 1940, days after Nazi troops invaded Denmark and Norway, McCoy told his tenth wife, Sue Cobb Cowley, that he had to go to Chicago on business.  Instead, late the next day McCoy checked himself into the Hotel Tuller in downtown Detroit and left a request for a 10:00 A.M. wakeup call for the next day.  When McCoy failed to respond to the call on April 19, hotel officials forced entry into the room.  They found him dead near an empty box of sleeping pills.  A suicide note written in pen near the body read:  "For the past eight years I have wanted to help humanity especially the youngsters who do not know Nature's Laws.  That is, the proper carage of the body, or the right way to eat, etc.  Everything in my possession I want to go to my dear wife Sue.  To all my dear friends I wish you the best of luck.  Sorry I could not endure this world's madness.  The best to you all.  Norman Selby.  P.S.  In my pockets you will find $17.78."  In 1957, "Kid" McCoy was elected to The Ring Boxing Hall of Fame.

Recommended Reading

Cantwell, Robert.  The Real McCoy:  The Life and Times of Norman Selby.  Princeton, N.J.:  Auerbach Publishers, 1971.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Isabella Grant -- The Daughter of Kentucky

Grant, known on the German opera stage as "Belle Applegate," reached the pinnacle of her fame in 1909 when she became the mezzo soprano of the Stadt Theatre in Cologne.  Once the toast of European opera houses, the diva's popularity waned throughout the war that claimed her husband.  Returning to her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, Grant continued to perform in "tribute concerts," but longed to return to the world of grand opera.  On September 1, 1928, Grant traveled to the Windy City to audition for a small role with the Chicago Civic Opera.  Becoming ill with high blood pressure in her room at the YWCA, the fiftyish singer was forced to enter the charity ward at St. Luke's Hospital, but pride prevented her from obtaining treatment.

On October 19, 1928, the former opera great was found near death in her room at the Evanston Hotel in that city from an overdose of poison.  She died at the Psychopathic Hospital.  Grant left seven notes.  In one, addressed to the manager of the YWCA, she wrote:  "The fates have played with me as if I were a wornout football and I can stand it no more.  I did so want to sing for Mr. Johnson of the Civic Opera, and I would not have been brought to this extremity if I could have waited until I had the audition, but what difference does it make anyhow?  Even the Lincolns and Bismarcks and Napoleons are forgotten....I can't help my deed -- I am at the end of my rope.  I long for peace -- peace -- you do not realize how I long for it.  A small voice is whispering to me to go ahead and take my sleep.  I am tired.  Bless you dear friends.  The end of an opera star.  My blood be upon America for her treatment of the daughter of Kentucky pathfinders."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thurston Theodore Lewis -- Rubeville

One day after slashing both wrists in the bathroom of his home at 310 South Massey Street in Watertown, New York, the 56-year-old cornetist died at Mercy Hospital on April 17, 1941.  A musical prodigy, Lewis became a member of B. A. Rolfe's orchestra and in 1916 joined the Barnum & Bailey circus as assistant leader of the tent show's band.  For 15 seasons, until 1931, Lewis served as musical director and manager of C. B. Maddock's musical acts on the B. F. Keith vaudeville circuit.  While on the circuit, the musician scored a hit in the musical act, "Rubeville," later recreating his role on film in a Pathe Studios short.  Returning to his hometown of Watertown, New York, in 1931, Lewis became the director of both the high and junior high school bands.  According to his surviving wife, Lewis had long been ill with a liver ailment.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Joseph La Franie -- "It is of No Use..."

The 26-year-old stage actor had been drafted and was awaiting a call to go to camp when he traveled to Brooklyn, New York, to visit his aunt.  On November 25, 1917, tormented by paranoid delusions, La Franie covered his head with towels and blankets in his second floor room and turned on the gas.  A letter addressed to his relatives read:  "I have been followed day after day by Secret Service men and police detectives, and I am in deadly fear of arrest as they think I am a German spy.  Yesterday and today were something terrible, and I can stand it no longer.  Good-bye and God bless you for all that you have done for me.  It is of no use while these fellow are after me."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Spencer D. Bettelheim -- Not Having a Wonderful Time

Lyceum Theatre
"Spence," as he was widely known among theatre folk, was the treasurer of Sam H. Harris Productions, the lessee of the Lyceum Theatre, and president of the Lyco Realty Corporation, whose offices were located on the second floor above the Lyceum at 149 W. Forty-fifth Street in New York City.  The Lyceum's production of Having a Wonderful Time had concluded on November 5, 1937, when Bettelheim's nephew found his uncle's body on the floor of the theatre man's office.  A .38-caliber revolver still clutched in his right hand, Bettelheim, 43, had evidently fired two practice rounds into the floor before firing a bullet into his right temple.  A decorated veteran of World War I, Bettelheim was gassed during the conflict and still suffered from a pulmonary infection.  Weeks prior to his death, he intimated to friends that the agonizing pains around his heart had become nearly unbearable.  In the absence of a suicide note, death was attributed to ill health combined with a heavy tax penalty levied against him by the IRS for accepting gratuities from ticket agencies.  Accorded a military funeral with full honors, the Bettelheim burial cortege was routed past the Lyceum Theatre out of respect for his memory.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Benita Breen -- Pills or Heart?

The 25-year-old vocalist (real name Mary Louise Breen) had been a featured singer with various "name" bands like Ted Weems, Henry King, and Bob Strong.  On November 13, 1945, Breen's body was found in bed by her mother in their home at 915 Margate Terrace in Chicago.  Police located an empty bottle of sleeping pills in the bathroom.  While a coroner's jury was unable to determine whether the death was accidental or suicide, Breen had been treated for a nervous disorder five month prior to her death.  Her father insisted that Breen had instead suffered from a heart condition.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Abraham M. Fabian -- The Artful Diversion

The son of Jacob Fabian, vice-president and principal stockholder of the Stanley-Fabian Amusement Corporation and First National Pictures, Fabian, 31, had been the assistant treasurer of his father's corporation and an executive board member of First National before resigning due to ill health.  Shortly after his marriage in September 1926, Fabian suffered a nervous breakdown on his honeymoon from which he never fully recovered.  Fabian's wife obtained an annulment (no grounds cited) one month prior to his death.  The elder Fabian purchased a country home on Norwood Avenue in Elberon, New Jersey, and there installed his son and a full-time nurse to look after him.  In the early morning of June 1, 1927, Fabian stopped up the bathroom toilet with paper and called his nurse to unclog it.  The 15 minutes she labored on the plumbing gave the deranged man more than enough time to enter the kitchen, lie on top of the stove, and asphyxiate himself with gas.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Yoshiaki Yasuda -- Big Hit in "Little Nippon"

Yasuda, president of the Japanese Theatre Association and owner of the Fuji Theatre in what the Los Angeles Times called the city's "Little Nippon" district, was gunned down in front of his palatial home at 241 North Dittman Street at 1:30 A.M. on June 9, 1930.  The theatre owner, accompanied by his wife and their two chauffeurs, had just returned to the residence when a pair of gunmen stepped from the shadows and pumped five shots into his chest and abdomen.  One assailant pitched his .38-caliber handgun in an alley about 150 feet from the site as he fled the scene.  Yasuda, also the head of the Japanese Wrestling Association, recently brought a troupe of Asian actors to the city to promote a series of bouts featuring Japanese wrestlers.  Police theorized the unsolved crime was the result of a long-standing feud between Yasuda and others in the L.A. Japanese community.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Herbert Heckler -- The Sour Note

Throughout their two year engagement, Pearl Palmer, a 23-year-old prima donna best known for her role in Victor Herbert's opera Princess Pat, had delayed marrying Heckler, a 27-year-old opera singer from Chicago, in order to pursue a career.  On September 26, 1915, Palmer was in her studio at the Conservatory Building at No. 240 West Seventy-second Street in New York City when a depressed Heckler arrived for a visit.  Palmer complained of being ill and dispatched her beau to a pharmacy for medication.  A friend who accompanied Heckler later told authorities that the singer had burst into tears when discussing his belief that Palmer no longer loved him.  Returning to her studio, Heckler entered the room alone.  Moments later, the sounds of a violent argument were heard followed by four gunshots in quick succession.  When police forced the door they discovered Palmer unconscious, a bullet lodged in her head and two in her body.  She died shortly afterward in the Polyclinic Hospital.  Heckler, the spurned suitor, lay dead in the center of the room, a gaping gunshot wound in his forehead.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Timothy Colwell -- Crime Watch Gone Wrong

A respected jazz saxophonist who played with the British musical institution Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen in the 1960s, the 65-year-old musician continued to receive regular BBC airplay with his group, Timothy Colwell's Jazzfriends.  On the evening of September 19, 2003, Colwell was at home in his ground-floor flat in Lymington, Hants when someone outside began shouting and banging on his windows.  The musician had been a target of verbal taunts, graffiti abuse, and violent threats for months since phoning police to report truants congregating in a park near his home.  His practice of sometimes photographing the neighborhood toughs led the youths to falsely brand him as a pedophile.  Two weeks earlier, someone (later identified as Richard Harris) crashed a tractor tire through his living room window.  When Colwell left his apartment on what proved to be the final night of his life and walked to the nearby playground to investigate the disturbance, Richard Harris, 20, and Daniel Newham, 17, knocked the elderly man to the ground, and repeatedly punched and kicked him.  Neighbors intervened, but Colwell collapsed as he walked back to his flat.  Shortly afterwards, he died in hospital without regaining consciousness.  While Colwell had a previous heart condition, it was ruled that the assault was so brutal that it could have caused a heart attack in a healthy 65-year-old while the kicks to his head were sufficient to have killed a 25-year-old.

Harris, who boasted of liking to hurt animals and acting like a vigilante, was on parole for two earlier violent assaults at the time of his attack on Colwell.  Conversely, Newham had no previous convictions and apparently came from a decent, supportive family.  At trial in February 2005, both men were cleared of murder charges, but found guilty of manslaughter.  At a hearing in London in April 2005, Mrs. Justice Harlett sentenced Richard Harris to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of three years before being considered for parole.  "It is clear that, whether or not you are mentally disordered," the judge told Harris, "your personality is such that you are likely to remain a danger for many years to come, possibly forever."  Daniel Newham was sentenced to five years youth custody."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Charles H. Falke -- Heads Up

The 55-year-old burlesque manager-producer suffered a mental collapse after attending his mother's funeral four days earlier and, devastated by depression, walked off The Sporting Duchess, a burlesque show he was managing in Union City, New Jersey.  Falke traveled to New York City and checked into a third floor room at the Forrest Hotel at 224 West Forty-ninth Street.  On the afternoon of March 20, 1928, as a friend was knocking on his door to inquire about his health, the veteran burlesque manager leaped to his death.  Falke barely missed actresses Miriam Hopkins and Frances Goodrich as they approached the stage door of the Ritz Theatre where they were appearing in the John McGowan comedy Excess Baggage.  The hysterical women required medical attention.  Falke died later that day at Bellevue Hospital from a compound fracture of the skull and other injuries.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tom Forman -- The Wreck

 A World War I veteran who entered the military as a private and was discharged a lieutenant in the flying corps, Forman acted in several motion pictures prior to turning to direction in 1920 with a pair of films for the Famous Players-Lasky studio:  The Ladder of Lies and The Sins of Rosanne.  From 1921 through 1926, the director helmed some 25 films including a 1923 version of the classic Western The Virginian, staring Kenneth Harlan in the title role.  In early 1926, Forman suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by years of overwork.  Separated from his wife and child, the 34-year-old director was recuperating at his parents' home at 26 Avenue Thirty-one in Venice, California.  On November 7, 1926, one day before he was set to begin directing The Wreck for Columbia, Forman rose early and went into the bathroom to shave.  His mother and father, cooking breakfast together in the kitchen, did not hear the shot.  When Forman failed to answer their call, they found him lying full length on the bathroom floor with a .45-caliber revolver beside him.  According to authorities, Forman had pressed the gun so tightly against his heart that there had been no sound of a report.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Oliver Jay Bright -- None too Bright

The sales manager for 23 years of the Levy-Page Company, a music equipment house in Norfolk, Virginia, Bright abruptly quit just weeks prior to the last day of his life. , June 9, 1936.  At 3:40 P.M. that day, Bright, 55, visited the City Hall Rifle Range in Norfolk, calmly asked for a .22-caliber target pistol, and announced to bystanders, "I want to see if I can shoot a bullseye."  He fired two shots at the target then fired a third into his right temple.  Bright died four hours later at St. Vincent's Hospital.  In a note found afterward, the former sales manager explained that "business worries" had driven him to the act.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Samuel Martorana -- The Band Doesn't Play On

In addition to organizing and conducting the Reading (Pennsylvania) Royal Italian Band, the 31-year-old Martorana played in the Federal Band, the Ringgold Band, and the Reading Symphony Orchestra.  In the weeks prior to his suicide, colleagues noticed that Martorana was acting strangely.  Despite having a pregnant wife at home, the conductor worked ceaselessly over the scores of operas and the creation of band music.  At 6:30 A.M. on March 5, 1939, Martorana leaped head-long from the third floor window of his sister-in-law's West Reading home where his wife awaited the birth of their second child.  Shortly afterward, the conductor's body was found outside on the pavement by his mother-in-law.  The coroner issued a certificate of death by suicide, blaming mental derangement brought on by excessive work and worry over his wife's condition.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Jess Arnold -- He Died with His Boots Off

Arnold, a foreign correspondent during the Spanish Civil War who once operated a two-man news bureau with Walter Cronkite for the International News Service in El Paso, was a well-known and colorful figure in Texas.  A novel based on his war reportage, Reunion in Barcelona, was serialized in Cosmopolitan magazine, and his short story "A Mission to General Houston" served as the basis for the 1950 Paramount film The Eagle and the Hawk, which starred John Payne and Rhonda Fleming.  On January 3, 1964, Arnold's body was found at the Garza Ranch on Brodie Lane near Austin, Texas.  The 46-year-old writer had fully dressed and packed a suitcase before firing a fatal shot into his chest with a British made .38-caliber pistol that he had asked a friend to sight for him a few days earlier.  Several years before when he talked of living to be a hundred, Arnold wrote his own obituary, dated it March 11, 2016, and gave it to a friend for safekeeping.  It read:

"Jess Arnold, the centaur passed away today,  The rootingest, tootingest, non-fightingest, runningest Texan that ever lived died quietly....  The Mighty Arnold died as he lived -- with his boots off.  He never wore a hat.  The Mighty Arnold never wrote anything of note, but did keep on living.  He was always going to write a novel, but never got around to it....  'Hell,' he would say, 'that takes work.'"

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hugh (Bud) Ernst -- The Reporter's Friend

Ernst, a radio producer and husband of Betty Furness, the actress who was then doing the Westinghouse commercials on the CBS television program Studio One (1948-1958), called a newspaper reporter on the afternoon of April 10, 1950, and told him that if he went to his room at New York City's Westbury Hotel at 15 East Sixty-ninth Street he would get a good story.  The newspaper called Furness at her Park Avenue home and she went to the Westbury.  While Furness waited in the lobby, a bellboy entered Ernst's room to find that the 39 year old had apparently placed a 20-gauge shotgun between his knees, closed his mouth over the barrel, and pulled the trigger.  In a note addressed to Furness, Ernst claimed that he was "tired of everything."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Charlotte Livingston -- No Funeral Please

A self-described screenwriter who was being treated for a broken right arm at Harbor Sanitarium, a private hospital in New York City, Livingston jumped to her death from the ninth floor window of her room on May 1, 1934.  Earlier in the evening, Livingston, 35, had asked a nurse for a pencil and some paper.  A note found in her room addressed to "Gertrude and Pete" asked for forgiveness and added:  "No funeral please.  Turn my body over to the medical examiner at Bellevue."  Livingston was later identified as the former wife of Louis Livingston, a member of a prominent New York State family.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Adolph DeBerg -- Meet Judge Conscience

DeBerg, who claimed to be a film director and misrepresented himself as a field man for Universal Film Corporation, was in the lower California town of Calexico to supposedly begin shooting a Spanish talking picture titled Virgin Gold.  When the film fell through, he was subsequently wanted by police for passing two bad checks totaling $100.  On August 4, 1930, the body of the "director" was found beside a shock of hay in a small pasture in Calexico, the victim of a fatal dose of self-administered ant paste.  A note found on his body read:  "I've studied myself all over, and I'm nothing but an unmitigated scoundrel.  I've given myself a final trial and Judge Conscience, who is right always, has decreed the sentence of death.  I'm going to the movies again and then I'll end everything."  In an added postscript to the note, DeBerg concluded:  "The picture is over, and the lights are out for me."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Frank Holliday, Jr. -- Give Me a Break

Shortly after appearing on a radio program on August 3, 1948, the 35-year-old singer was arrested on suspicion of breaking into a service station on North La Brea Avenue and booked into the Hollywood Jail at 2:00 A.M. the next day.  Although Holliday had a police record dating back to 1935, he had stayed straight ever since serving a year in the County Jail for burglary in 1940.  According to the officers who apprehended the singer fleeing from the service station, Holliday said:  "I was walking around tonight, just looking around.  I was broke and didn't have any place to go.  I don't plan to burglarize the service station.  But I guess you fellows have caught me red-handed.  I would appreciate it if you would give me a break.  Would you be interested in $100 a piece to turn me loose and forget the whole thing?  This is the first time I have ever been in trouble and under arrest."  Less than an hour after being booked, Holliday's lifeless body was found in a holding cell hanging by his belt from a ceiling grille.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lewis Harris Morphy -- The Crack Shot

Apparently depressed over the death of his mother two years earlier and the recent failure of a resort he owned in Tennessee, show business sharpshooter and stuntman Morphy, 54, murdered his wife and mother-in-law in their Hollywood Hills home on November 7, 1958.  One of the couple's three children present in the house at 2211 Stanley Hills Drive later told police that prior to the incident she heard Morphy mutter, "I've had enough.  This is it."  Around midnight, Morphy shot his wife, a 37-year-old former speedboat racing champion, in the head with a .25-caliber pistol.  When her mother came to investigate the disturbance, the 70 year old was fatally wounded when she fractured her skull against a corner of a table during a struggle with Morphy.  After phoning a friend to report that "I've lost everything," Morphy shot and killed himself at the foot of his wife's bed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lee D. Croft -- One Wild Ride

Croft, a brother of the treasurer of West Coast Theatre, Inc., was assistant manager of the Criterion Theatre in Los Angeles when he became infatuated with Frances Turney, a pretty cashier who worked there.  Though married, the 30-year-old Croft continued to ply Turney even after he was transferred to the Long Beach Theatre as a manager in September 1925.

Learning that the comely cashier was keeping company with another married man, wealthy Fullerton businessman T. K. Doyer, a drunken Croft confronted Turney at the Criterion on November 18, 1925.  The woman refused to accompany Croft in his inebriated condition and had theatre employees send him away.  Croft waited in his car as Doyer arrived at the theatre to drive Turney home.  The jealous manager followed the couple to Turney's residence at 1221 West Fifty-ninth Street and confronted the lovers as they sat in Doyer's car.  Croft forced Doyer out of the vehicle, fired two errant pistol shots at the man, then drove off in his rival's car with Turney on the front seat beside him sobbing hysterically.  As Croft drove recklessly through the streets of L.A. threatening to kill Turney, the young woman prayed and begged for mercy.

The wild auto ride ended at Seventy-ninth Street and Western Avenue when Croft punctured the front tires against a curb.  Croft ordered Turney out of the car and into a nearby vacant lot where a passing motorist tried to intervene, but was warned off by the crazed theatre manager.  According to Turney, Croft screamed, "Get down on your knees and make your peace with God!  I'm going to kill you!"  As the terrified woman knelt before him, Croft fired a shot that struck him in the foot.  Moments later, Croft turned away from Turney and shot himself in the head.  He died several hours later in the Receiving Hospital.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ivan R. Gates -- The Fly Boy

Gates, founder of the Gates Flying Circus, was once among the most famous barnstorming aviators in the country.  Learning to fly two years earlier, Gates toured the country alone in 1911 performing aerial acrobatics in his own pusher biplane.  With the addition of fellow aviator-daredevils, the act grew into a circus featuring stunt flying and wing-walkers.  Sensing that the rise of commercial air travel would lessen public interest in the attraction, Gates organized an aircraft company in 1928 that designed and built training biplanes for private fliers.  The veteran aviator quickly sold his interests in the company and, following a series of business reversals, opened a museum in New York City at Fifty-second Street and Broadway where "starving artists" exhibited their work.

In chronic pain from past injuries and depressed over a bleak future, the 42 year old was with his wife in their sixth floor apartment at 220 West Twenty-fourth Street on November 24, 1932, when he announced, "I think I'll jump out of the window."  To placate him, she suggested that he get something to eat and drink.   After drinking a glass of warm milk, Gates dashed it to the floor, threw open the window, and with his wife attempting to restrain him, jumped to his death.  Four days later, Gates' former flying comrades scattered his ashes over the Holmes Airport, Queens, where he had been the first pilot to land a plane.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Claire Del Mar -- Rudy's Dance Partner

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
On January 10, 1959, the mutilated body of 57-year-old Clara Eloise Mohr was found in the home she shared with her aged bed-ridden mother in Carmel, California.  According to the investigating sheriff, the woman was struck over the head outside the house then carried into the bedroom where she was sexually assaulted and butchered with a steak knife.  Scrapbooks and photographs on the wall identified Mohr as one-time silent screen actress Claire Del Mar who had appeared uncredited in the films The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921, dancing with star Rudolph Valentino), The Jazz Singer (1927), The Grain of Dust (1928), and The Wedding March (1928).  A marriage to Hollywood cameraman Hal Mohr in 1926 (with Erich von Stroheim as best man) ended in divorce in 1929.  As of 2014, the case remains open.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Vivivan LaGrange -- The Determined Poser

A poser in the vaudeville production Patterson's Bronze Artists, the attractive 25 year old had caused a minor sensation in Butte, Montana, when the showed played at the Family Theatre during the week of November 16, 1908.  After traveling with the show to Spokane, Seattle, and Vancouver, LaGrange returned alone to Butte and registered at the Northern Hotel on Front Street on February 15, 1909.  Seemingly depressed over a broken love affair, LaGrange swallowed morphine two days later.  She was discovered, and over her objections, nursed back to health.  Less than a week after being given a clean bill of health, the actress downed a large quantity of bichloride of mercury in her hotel room on February 21, 1909.  She lingered for six days before dying at Butte's General Hospital.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Kyle McKenna -- The Bottom

 In a career lasting from 1997 to 2000, the gay porn star (real name Russell Charles McCoy) worked for every major company in the adult film industry including Centaur Films, Hot House Entertainment, Studio 2000, and Hollywood Sales.  A fan favorite, McKenna was chosen as the "Best Bottom" in 1997, and the "Hottest Ass" in 1998.  McKenna's films include Invaders from Uranus, Das Butt, Ranger in the Wild, and Whatever You Say, Sir!  Quiet and reclusive on the set, the 31-year-old performer broke up with his boyfriend in late 1999, and was struggling with bouts of depression.  On February 16, 2000, McKenna packed up his belongings in a trash bag and left them outside the house he was sharing with friends in Salt Lake City, Utah.  After writing a suicide note he took a lethal dose of sleeping pills.  In accordance with his last wishes, McKenna's body was cremated and the ashes scattered in the desert.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Walter F. Eberhardt -- Here's Looking at You

A veteran exploitation publicist who worked for a number of film studios (Famous Players-Lasky, First National), Everhardt joined Electrical Research Products , Inc. (part of Western Electric) in 1929 as director of publicity and advertising.  In recent years, the executive had turned to mystery writing, producing the novels Dagger in the Dark (1932), The Jig-Saw Puzzle Murder (1933), as well as two film novelizations.  For years Eberhardt had worn a glass eye, but shortly before his death feared that he was losing sight in the other.  On October 26, 1935, the 44-year-old publicist took his life in the garage adjoining his home at 46 Walbrooke Road in Scarsdale, New York.  Eberhardt's body was found slumped down in the front seat of his car with a rubber tube attached to the exhaust running up through the floor boards of the vehicle into his mouth.  Three notes were located on the floor next to the body.  In one, believed to be for his aunt, Eberhardt wrote:  "I am sorry.  I wanted to call you, but it was already too late.  My abiding love.  Walter."

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ihor Tanin -- The Ultimate Act of Control

Tanin, described as a fixture in the Milwaukee music scene, repaired equipment at his store, the Rock 'n Roll Hospital, for bands like the Violent Femmes and Streetlife.  Known as "E" (a nickname for the pronunciation of his first name), the 45-year-old electronics wizard began in the industry in the 1970s with Gary Tanin in the band Otto & the Elevators, and in the Skunks.  On November 15, 2003, in what friends of the dead woman called Tanin's "ultimate act of control" over her, the music equipment repairman repeatedly shot Kristy-Jo Szentes, 35, before turning the gun on himself in the townhouse the couple shared in the 1200 block of Balmoral Court in Brookfield, Wisconsin.  The bodies were found by Tanin's teenage daughter whom Szentes had raised as her own for several years.  Szentes, a 2003 graduate of Lakeland College with a degree in medical administration, worked at Zablocki Veterans Affair Medical Center.  The Szentes family had given Tanin his start in the music business 25 years earlier by letting him repair equipment in the back room of their store, Uncle Bob's Music Center, in West Allis.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Allen McPhail - Life is a Joke

"I have worked hard to make good for eight years, but I have failed.  Life is a joke," read the suicide note-cum-epitah penned by the 28-year-old musician on October 22, 1909.  A violinist at the Orpheum Theatre in Butte, Montana, McPhail played scores of theatres in the East prior to heading West to try to win a soloist position.  Failing, the frustrated musician cut the arteries of one wrist and hanged himself from the bedpost in his room at the Hotel Fair in Butte.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Dudley Ayres -- It was Done

Ayres (born in Iowa in 1890) acted in stock theatre and silent films (The Uphill Path, 1918), and was leading man at the Castle Square Theatre in Boston, the Majestic in Los Angeles, and for three years at the Alcazar Theatre in San Francisco.  In June 1930, he became the director of speaking broadcasting at radio station KYA in San Francisco.  Ayres, 40, specialized in delivering inspirational messages to the downtrodden, discouraged, and shut-in in daily 15 minute "chatalogues" in the morning and on Friday evenings in a segment of dramatic sketches titled "The Voice and the Harp."

On the morning of September 5, 1930, Ayres arrived at KYA to prepare his morning message prophetically titled "It Can Be Done."  After concluding his 15 minute show with a reading of Edgar A. Guest's inspirational poem "How do You Tackle Your Work," Ayres drove to the garage of his home at 655 Powell Street and shot himself in the head.  His Chinese houseboy, hearing the car's engine running and noticing exhaust fumes issuing from the closed garage, investigated and found his employer dead on the car's front seat.  Near the hand that still clasped a .38-caliber revolver was found a note to his third wife:  "Marjorie, my dear -- I'm afraid I's losing my mind -- and haven't the courage to go on.  And I don't want to spoil your life, so am taking the coward's way out.  Dudley."  Scores of persons who had been touched by Ayres' daily inspirational messages filed past his bier in a Market Street funeral chapel before the body was sent to Los Angeles for burial.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Florence Fay -- "Hurry Here"

On July 11, 1928, the domestic discord brewing between the 35-year-old former show girl (real name Vollbracht), her estranged husband, Robert Vollbracht, and her so-called lover, Frank McCoy, ended in tragedy in New York City.  Weeks earlier, Fay's husband had instituted a divorce action after finding her in a room with McCoy.  Although Fay insisted that their relationship was purely "companionate," Vollbracht moved out of their apartment at the Century Hotel at 111 W. Forty-sixth Street.  On July 11, Florence Fay phoned a close friend to inform him that "I am going to end my life.  Hurry here.  When you arrive I will be dead."  A hurried call to the hotel manager proved too late.  Upon entering the ex-showgirl's room decorated with autographed photos of movie stars, he found Fay dead on the bathroom floor near an empty three ounce vial of Lysol.  According to authorities, a newspaper clipping announcing a suit filed by her husband was found among her effects.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Winifred Greene -- Let's Not Meet Again

The 21-year-old soubrette of the Ginger Girls Company had just completed singing an encore of "The Skeleton Rag" at Kansas City's Gayety Theater on February 24, 1912, when she rushed offstage to her dressing room and downed a bottle of carbolic acid.  She died half an hour later at Emergency Hospital.  A note to her husband, electrician for the company, was brief, but to the point:  "Bert, if you go to heaven, I trust I may go to hell.--W.G."  Moments before fainting at the hospital, the hysterical husband screamed, "I scolded her this afternoon for sending money home, but I wasn't harsh with her.  I never would have thought she'd take it so to heart."  In a separate note to her mother posted the night before, Greene apologized for killing herself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

John Toye -- The Nice Guy

After ten years in the theatre, Toye joined Scottish Television (STV) in 1976 as anchor for the evening news program Scotland Today.  Ten years and some 3,000 programs later, the newscaster was removed when network executives decided to revamp the show in 1986.  Toye briefly remained with STV presenting What's Your Problem, a weekly consumer program.  As his career declined, Toye began to drink, once even admitting himself to a hospital for a month to control his addiction.  Fined for drunk driving and threatened with jail time should he be convicted again, Toye tried to rebuild his life in Scotland's West Country.  In 1990, he moved into a flat above a charity shop in the Devon village of South Molton and started to look for work.  In two years, the 56-year-old former anchorman landed only occasional work in news programs and a voice-over assignment for a television documentary.

On the afternoon of April 29, 1992, the rector of the church where Toye sang in the choir received a letter from him stating that he intended to kill himself.  The rector rushed to Toye's flat, which was already jammed with police who had been summoned there by a concerned friend of the former newscaster.  Breaking into the flat, authorities found Toye in a sitting position with a gunshot wound to his head and a double-barreled shotgun beside him.  Near the body was a glass and an empty bottle of wine.  Copies of a recently drafted will, a handwritten note, a sealed package for a friend, and a bundle of sheet music were also recovered.  Once asked how he would like to be remembered, Toye had responded:  "Just as a nice guy who tried to do a good job."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

George A. Davidson, Jr. -- Georgie, the Very Bad Boy

Davidson, a 28-year-old film test director for Fox studio, knew Constance Smith, a married mother of four children, for eight years before becoming hopelessly obsessed with her.  Separated from actress-wife Thelma Roberts and struggling to pay a court judgment for her support, Davidson lived alone in a modest apartment at 7279 Fountain Avenue in Hollywood.  On October 11, 1932, Davidson's repeated threats to kill Smith and then himself if she refused to marry him reached the flash point.  That morning, the film man phoned the 30-year-old woman at her home and threatened to come there and kill her if she refused his marriage demand.  Fearful for her children's safety and with her husband out of town, Smith agreed to meet Davidson later that night at his apartment.  When she arrived at 7:00 P.M., Davidson locked and nailed shut the front door, and for three hours brandished a .38-caliber revolver in her face all the while threatening to kill them both unless she relented.  According to Smith, she had convinced Davidson to let her go when he suddenly fired two shots into his head.

At the scene, police found a note written by the woman to the dead man that read, "Georgie Darling:  You are a very bad boy and I'm not going to love you anymore -- love you enough now.  How about a date tonight?"  Smith maintained that Davidson had forced her to write the incriminating document during the three-hour ordeal.  Davidson left two suicide notes.  In one addressed to his boss at Fox studio, he wrote:  "I have done this because it seems the odds are too much against me."  To his mother, Davidson explained:  "My mind has gone back on me.  Thelma's ... lawyer attached my salary and that, of course, broke me up, not having enough to take care of you....  I am perfectly sane and have planned this whole thing....  I love you and will always love you all.  George."

Monday, August 18, 2014

Geraldine Soles Espe -- Three's Company

One day after a loan company repossessed the furniture in Espe's home in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles, the 35-year-old secretary in the office of the Association of Motion Picture Producers loaded her toy fox terrier, "Junior Officer," and her ailing 60-year-old mother into her car and drove off.  The next day, October 22, 1940, a private patrolman in the exclusive Hidden Valley area on the outskirts of the city near the ranch of Will Hays, head of the national producers' group, found the dead trio in a small coupe on the side of the road.  A rubber hose connected to the exhaust pipe led into the car.  A note found in the glove box read, "Insurance policy at office; receipts in hat box in closet.  Will take care of burial."  In Espe's purse was a notice of judgment directing that the furniture be removed from their home.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

George E. Wagner -- The Un-Jolly Jenaro

"Clown Dons Mask of Death After Wife Divorces Him" was the Milwaukee Sentinel headline on August 26, 1934, the day after the popular clown-juggler was found hanged in his room in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Known in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus world as the "Jolly Jenaro," the 55 year old Wagner had been divorced by his wife four months earlier on grounds that the wealthy performer's frugality amounted to stinginess.  Ever the clown, Wagner told the judge, "I've tamed lions and managed unruly cats in a show, but I couldn't handle her."  A week prior to his death, Wagner threatened suicide during a visit with his sister.  When she failed to hear from him for several days, she went to the clown's room at 1212 W. Hadley Street.  Through a side window she saw her brother's body hanging by a bathrobe cord from a light fixture.  Wagner had been dead for 48 hours.  A handwritten will dividing about $15,000 in cash and government bonds among his family was found on a table.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Adrienne LaChamp Keim -- The Suicide Scribe

Keim, a 33-year-old Hungarian actress-singer-dancer, was one of the century's most prolific writer of suicide notes.  On December 12, 1933, she leaped from a 15 floor window of the Hotel Lincoln in New York City, narrowly missing several pedestrians walking below on Forty-fourth Street.  One of the two notes pinned to her dress read:  "Please notify my mother, Mrs. A LaChamp in Shanghai, China.  Please it is my wish to be buried untouched.  I am sorry for the poor English."  In the other, addressed to police, Keim wrote:  "Please keep this out of the papers.  This is just another funeral.  Don't experiment on me and don't try to keep me alive."  Six sealed notes, four addressed to the director of the St. James Theatre and the others to friends, were found in her rooms.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Aziz Ghazal -- The Not So Brave

Ghazal (born in Israel in 1955) emigrated to California where in 1983 he became the stock room chief at the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television.  While working there in 1990, Ghazal produced the low-budget alternative film The Natural History of Parking Lots, which won critical raves.  By 1993, the 38 year old was becoming noticed by industry power players hot to film a book property he had optioned, Gregory McDonald's The Brave, a novel about an unemployed father who agrees to let himself be killed for money in a "snuff" movie so that his family could reap the profits.  However, unknown to Jodie Foster's Egg Prods. and Touchstone Pictures, Ghazal had signed concurrent legally binding deal memos with both companies for the same property.  As the scheme unraveled, Ghazal was fired from USC in October 1993 following a dispute over a missing camera.  Almost simultaneously, Ghazal's wife of 16 years, Rebecca, sued him for divorce, citing years of family and spousal abuse.  In one documented incident, Ghazal arrived at 13-year-old daughter Khadijah's school and administered a brutal beating to her in front of dumbfounded classmates.

 Armed with a restraining order against her volatile husband, Rebecca Ghazal and her three children were living in the couple's get-away home in the small California mountain town of Pine Cove, near Idyllwild in central Riverside County.  On December 1, 1993, Ghazal arrived at the two-story cabin, bludgeoned his wife and daughter Khadijah to death and, after torching the cabin with Molotov cocktails, fled the scene.  His two sons were out of the house at the time of the slayings.  Authorities discovered Ghazal's blood-spattered car stuck in mud some 300 yards from the house, but the aspiring producer's decomposed body was not found until January 9, 1994, when two hikers in a secluded area south of Mt. San Jacinto stumbled across the scene.  A .380-caliber pistol was found near the body.  Forensics suggested that Ghazal had probably shot himself within hours of killing his estranged wife and teenage daughter.  In notes penned three days before the tragedy found in Ghazal's Los Angeles residence, the producer had written, "I can't subject my kids to anymore of this," and "Please forgive me for what I'm about to do."

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

William David Powell, Jr. -- A Better Place

Born in 1925, the son of actor William Powell and first wife, actress Eileen Wilson, was an associate producer for both Warner Bros. and Universal and, for three years, an executive of the National Broadcasting Company before turning to writing for television series.  Powell wrote scripts for Death Valley Days, Rawhide, 77 Sunset Strip, and Bonanza.  Despondent over a chronic kidney condition and hepatitis, Powell used a razor and a steak knife to slash his throat and wrists while in the shower of his garage apartment at 2542 Rinconia Drive in Hollywood.  Powell's landlord found the body on March 13, 1968, after the 43-year-old scriptwriter had not picked up his mail for a week.  The only part of a four page suicide note released to the press said, "Things aren't so good here.  I'm going where it's better."

Friday, August 1, 2014

Eva Mottley -- St. Valentine's Day Massacre

The Barbados-born beauty turned to acting after serving 15 months in a British jail for possession of LSD.  A former girlfriend of rock star David Bowie, Mottley's film credits included Scrubbers (1982) and a small role in Superman III (1983), although she was best known for her starring role as "Bella" in the British television series Widows. Upset over losing her job on the series in August 1984, the 31-year-old actress' allegations of sexual and racial prejudice among the show's production crew were lost amidst a swirl of alcohol and cocaine abuse that left her 25,000 quid in debt.  On February 14, 1985, St. Valentine's Day, Mottley was found slumped on her knees by the telephone in her flat in Shirland Road, Maida Vale, West London.  In her depression, Mottley had downed a deadly cocktail of barbiturates and alcohol.  Two notes, one addressed to her parents and tucked in her bedclothes, and the other on a writing pad begun normally in blue ink and ending illegibly in red, were found at the scene.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kanyva -- Wannabe Rapper, True Killer

Around March 2004, wannabe rapper Kanyva (real name Juston Michael Potts) entered into a loose business relationship with promoter Shani Renee Holloway.  The 31-year-old promoter was starting her own record label, All in 1 Promotions, and wanted the performer to record music designed to garner air play on local Pittsburg, California, radio stations.  Kanyva, however, demanded that his music not be presented in a way that would be considered mainstream.  On June 6, 2004, Holloway, her boyfriend, and the 18-year-old rapper discussed his career in a parked car in the 3300 block of Peppermill Circle in Pittsburg.  Incredulous that he would not want his music widely promoted on the radio, Holloway bluntly told the rapper that his prospects for stardom were not good.  Kanyva got out of the car and walked across the street to talk to the occupants of a parked black SUV.  He returned to Holloway's car, pulled out a handgun, and shot the woman twice in the head at point-blank range, afterwards fleeing the scene in the black SUV.  Holloway died five hours later.  Kanyva was arrested the next day and admitted quarreling with Holloway about his career.  Following a failed insanity defense, the rapper waived a trial by jury and was subsequently sentenced by a judge to a prison term of 50 years to life for first-degree murder.  An appeal in 2008 was denied.  Juston Michael Potts, Inmate #F57586, is currently incarcerated in the California Medical Facility at Vacaville.

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 on Ten Mile in the Detroit suburb of Southfield.  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.


 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.