Judy Garland: her death and afterlife

June 22nd, 2019

This is an encore post in memory of Judy Garland on the 50th anniversary of her death.

On the morning of June 23, 1969, the Los Angeles Times and New York Times both declared the same event with the same headline: “Judy Garland, 47, Found Dead.”

The actress died in her London apartment early on Sunday morning, June 22, 1969. Mickey Deans, her husband of three months, found her behind a locked bathroom door. When the police arrived, they viewed Garland’s body slumped on the toilet, with her head resting in her hands.

Judy Garland’s British death certificate (click on image to enlarge)

An autopsy revealed that the cause of her death was due to barbiturate poisoning, “an incautious self-overdosage of sleeping pills,” said Coroner Gavin Thurston. “This is quite clearly an accidental circumstance to a person who was accustomed to taking barbiturates over a very long time. She took more barbiturates than she could tolerate.”

Back in the States, Garland’s daughter, actress and singer Liza Minnelli, by her second husband Vincent Minnelli, was staying with friends in the Hamptons along with her husband, singer and songwriter, Peter Allen. Early that morning, Allen took a phone call from Liza’s secretary. When Allen woke Liza, she suspected bad news but thought there was something wrong with her father. Instead, he told her that her mother was dead.

Late Wednesday night, Garland’s body was returned to New York, with her husband, Mickey Deans, and the Rev. Peter Delany, who married the couple earlier that year, accompanying the body. In New York, when the plane arrived, Liza waited in a car in the parking lot of Kennedy Airport.

Minnelli released a statement: “I know my mother was a great star and a great talent, but I am not thinking about those things today. What I am thinking about is the woman, my mother, and what a lovely, vital, extraordinary woman she was. It is because of my memory of that woman that all my life I will be proud to say, ‘I am Judy Garland’s daughter.’”

The casket containing the body of Judy Garland is placed into a hearse at the airport after arriving from London.

A hearse took Garland’s body to Frank E. Campbell’s Funeral Church on East Eighty-First Street and Madison Avenue. The following day, she would repose for public viewing in a glass-covered coffin; a private funeral service would be held that Friday.

On Thursday, June 26, lines of Garland’s fans began forming by the thousand’s at one o’clock in the morning, ten hours before the doors opened to the public. Many were openly weeping, waiting to say their last good-bye to their idol. At the appointed time, each one passed by her bier at the rate of 1,200 an hour. Outside, recordings of Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and other of her songs were played by an admirer on a battery-powered record play. “She’s found the rainbow now,” sobbed one twenty-year-old fan. “I hope she has got some peace.” By noon, police estimated that there were 5,000 mourners waiting on the block between Madison and Fifth Avenues, that were closed to traffic.

In the flower-filled chapel—decorated with yellow and white daisies and chrysanthemums—fans moved past the glass-topped, baby-blue casket containing Garland’s body. The front of the casket, which was low to the floor, was wisely covered with flower arrangements so that those paying their respects could not get close to her. Her dark hair was short, and she wore red-orange lipstick and black fake eye lashes were placed on her closed eyes. She reportedly was wearing her wedding dress; an ankle length beige or light taupe gown with long sleeves, high neck, and a belt of gold and pearls. On her feet were silver satin shoes with silver bows. An Episcopal missal was in her gloved hands; she wore her wedding ring.

Huge floral sprays from such show business celebrities as Irving Berlin, Dirk Bogarde, several of the Hollywood studios, and from the Palace Theater, surrounded the bier. A huge, colorful “Over the Rainbow” flower tribute from Frank Sinatra was arched behind Garland’s casket.

Mickey Deans and Judy Garland.

Garland’s burial was left up to Mickey Deans (her children “had no say in the matter”) who announced earlier that morning that his wife’s body would be interred at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, a small town approximately twenty-five miles north of New York City. “I didn’t want to bury her in Hollywood, to have people walking over her grave and pointing,” he told reporters. “She has given enough. Anyway, they didn’t care in Hollywood. She was just a property and they used her as such.”

However, Sid Luft, Garland’s third husband would rather that his ex-wife be buried in Los Angeles, feeling it was where she became a star. But Deans felt that she would have preferred a cemetery on the East Coast since she reportedly was never fond of California.

Fans of Judy Garland stand in line to view the singer’s body.

The following day, the hot and humid weather did not deter the estimated 1,300 to 1,500 fans from maintaining a fervent vigil. Over the course of the previous day, an estimated 20,000 people had paused to peer into the glass-covered casket of their idol. It was the largest funeral that Campbell’s had seen since the death of silent film idol Rudolph Valentino in 1926.

In the crowd, pop icon Andy Warhol tape recorded many of the fans conversations, and photographer Diane Arbus took pictures.

Joey Luft, Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft enter Frank E. Campbell’s to attend their mother’s funeral.

Among Garland’s show business friends and colleagues attending were: Ray Bolger, Lauren Bacall, Alan King, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Johnny Mercer, Paulo Wayne, Fred Ebb, Freddie Bartholomew, Otto Preminger and Spyros Skouras, Harold Arlen, Mickey Rooney, Mayor and Mrs. Lindsay, and Patricia Kennedy Lawford.

The Rev. Peter Delaney of Marylebone Church, London, who officiated at Garland’s marriage to Deans, conducted the twenty-minute Episcopal service, portions of which were heard through a loudspeaker provided by Campbell’s in an upstairs room. Jack French, Garland’s musical accompanist, began the funeral with an organ rendition of one of Garland’s favorite songs, “Here’s to Us,” from the Broadway production Little Me.

The service included one of Garland’s favorite Bible passages, I Corinthians 13, which begins: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”

James Mason, Garland’s costar from A Star is Born, gave the eulogy. “Judy’s great gift,” Mason began, “was that she could wring tears out of hearts of rock. She gave so richly and so generously, that there was no currency in which to repay her.”

French ended the service playing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which the congregation sang. Then, Garland’s coffin, under a blanket of yellow roses, was placed in a waiting hearse that headed a cortege of three limousines and a flower car. On Madison Avenue, where the crowd had surged through the barricades, a few Garland fans still gathered. Said one: “I have nothing else to do right now.”

Later, at Ferncliff Cemetery, several hundred-people waited as Garland’s casket was placed in a temporary crypt where it would remain until the elaborate tomb that Deans planned to build was completed. The crowd lingered about the crypt until finally, a policeman told them: “The funeral of Judy Garland is over. We would appreciate your leaving.”

That evening, many of the still emotional mourners who attended that day’s funeral, were reportedly drowning their sorrows across town at the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village gay bar. Since the Stonewall had no liquor license, it was basically a bottle club (a meeting place where customers are served drinks from their own liquor bottles) so customers had to sign-in, however, many used pseudonyms and “Judy Garland” was one of the most popular that evening.

According to legend, because of Garlands death and the funeral that day, many were still expressive about the diva’s passing. Even more so, when the New York police raided the bar at 1:20 a.m. the following morning; the patrons were ready for a fight. According to Sylvia Rivera, a seventeen-year-old drag queen who would become a well-known gay rights activist, there was a feeling in the air that something would happen that night: “I guess Judy Garland’s death just really helped us really hit the fan.”

The Stonewall Riots

What followed was a riot that became the flashpoint of the modern day gay liberation movement. Time magazine wrote: “The uprising was inspirited by a potent cocktail of pent-up rage (raids of gay bars were brutal and routine), overwrought emotions (hours earlier, thousands had wept at the funeral of Judy Garland) and drugs.”

However, years later some historians have contradicted that Garland’s death influenced the burgeoning gay rights movement, stating it was untrue. Some contend that most of those involved in the riots “were not the type to moon over Judy Garland records or attend her concerts at Carnegie Hall. They were more preoccupied with where they were going to sleep and where their next meal would come from.”

Nevertheless, Judy Garland’s connection to the Stonewall riots has persevered throughout gay history. It even inspired a play, Judy at the Stonewall Inn, where the ghost of Garland appears at the fabled Christopher Street bar as a sort of spiritual cheerleader. Even Garland’s daughter, Lorna Luft, is proud of the connection, saying that her mother was a “huge, huge advocate of human rights” and that she would have found the rioting appropriate.

In the meantime, at Ferncliff, Garland’s body was not yet at rest. The cemetery is the final resting place of many celebrities, including Jerome Kern, Basil Rathbone and Moss Hart. The wing that would contain Garland’s planned memorial was still being built, so until then, her body was placed in a temporary vault. Ferncliff’s manager had assured Mickey Deans that “Judy would be its greatest star.” However, to pay for the memorial, Deans needed to raise $37,500, hoping to get it from Garland’s family and friends. But by November 1970, he still had not raised the funds and Garland remained in a drawer with the nameplate: “Judy Garland DeVinko” (Mickey Deans real name).

Deans was desperate. The fact that Garland was still in a temporary crypt evidently bothered him. “It’s wrong. It’s very wrong,” he would say. He hoped to raise the money by writing a book about his time with Garland (the book’s advance would cover Garland’s burial and more), but unfortunately Deans was not a writer, so he approached author Anne Edwards, who was working on her first non-fiction book, a biography of Garland. Deans suggested that they collaborate; he was sure it would be a best-seller. Naturally, Edwards refused his request, believing that Deans had created these “appalling” circumstances that he was in, himself. “I did not hesitate in telling him that I would in no way consider collaborating with him on a book,” Edwards stated.

Meanwhile, Garland’s interment bill at Ferncliff was still outstanding—plus steep interest charges. At the time, Edwards was corresponding with crooner Frank Sinatra about his memories of Garland. In one letter, she mentioned the “state of affairs at Ferncliff” with Garland still reposing in storage.

Then, several weeks later, Ferncliff’s manager informed Edwards that Sinatra had paid Garland’s outstanding bill, and that “Mrs. DeVinko” would be given a proper burial. Within weeks, Garland was placed in a simple wall crypt on the second floor of the new wing of the mausoleum with the simple inscription: “Judy Garland 1922 – 1969.” At Sinatra’s request, Edwards did not disclose that information in her biography.

Judy Garland’s grave at Ferncliff Cemetery.

Over the years, more celebrities joined Garland at Ferncliff including television host, Ed Sullivan; diva, Joan Crawford (downstairs in the old wing of the same building as Garland), and composer Harold Arlen (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”), among others.

Fans visited, and floral tributes were left in front of her floor level, beige marble slab. Members of Garland’s three fan clubs made sure there were always flowers. One fan had mums and roses delivered to her crypt every month for more than two decades. In the mid-1990s, a Ferncliff employee said, “Judy is the most popular interment we have here. We used to keep track of how many people came to see Judy, but now that everyone knows were she is they head right to her by themselves. If they forget, they simply look for the crypt with all the flowers in front of it.”

Fast forward nearly forty-eight years to January 2017, when Garland’s family announced that the singer’s remains would be exhumed from Ferncliff and moved cross-country to a new crypt at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. The family, who were now living in Southern California, had deliberated for several years about moving her and “wished to have their mother resting near them.” In addition, when Mickey Deans died in 2003, it became the family’s “opportunity to do what they feel their mother would have wanted in the first place—to be united with her family in Hollywood.”

Entrance to the Judy Garland Pavilion.

Hollywood Forever set aside a recently built, special wing of the Abbey of the Psalms mausoleum and renamed it the “Judy Garland Pavilion.” There is room for Garland’s family, including her children Liza, Lorna and her son Joey. Additionally, there are crypts and niches available for sale to any Judy Garland fan that might wish to be interred near their idol.

Ironically, she is not far from many friends and costars that she knew in life. There’s her close friend, Mickey Rooney, and from The Wizard of Oz: director Victor Fleming, cinematographer Harold Rosson, and costume designer Adrian.

At Ferncliff Cemetery, the management wasn’t certain what would be done with Garland’s empty crypt: “We haven’t decided what to do yet, but we think because she’s been here so long, we will just leave it here and memorialize her.”

In Hollywood, a private memorial service was held by Garland’s family and friends at her new crypt on June 10, 2017, which would have been the actresses 95th birthday. In a statement released to The Associated Press, the family offered gratitude to their mother’s “millions of fans around the world for their constant love and support.”

On a personal note, throughout my childhood, there were three yearly events that I excitedly looked forward to: Christmas morning; the last day of school, and the annual broadcast of The Wizard of Oz.

Judy Garland has always been a favorite of mine. The first television showing of The Wizard of Oz on CBS was broadcast less than two months after I was born. Of course, I don’t remember it, but I do know that Oz was the first film that left an impression on me, and Judy Garland was the first “movie star” I recognized. And I never missed a yearly broadcast–much to the chagrin of my poor mother. She couldn’t understand why I had to watch it every year. “But you’ve seen it already, why do you want to see it again?” she would cry in frustration. She didn’t get it.

Yet, each year I could watch it–some years by myself, or some years with my parents. Especially when we got our first color television and Technicolor brought the Land of Oz to life. Even so, one of my favorite scenes was the twister. The special effects fascinated me then, and they still hold up today.

I was also very defensive of Dorothy/Judy and her Yellow Brick Road companions. One year, on the day following an Oz broadcast, I was riding the school bus home and a kid sitting across the aisle began talking shit about Dorothy/Judy–he called her fat, and laughed about it. I was so angry, I wanted to punch him in the nose, but I withheld my ire.

Dressing up as The Wizard of Oz characters. I am the Tin Man on the far right.

Judy followed me yearly into young adulthood when I moved to Pittsburgh to attend art school. There, I was drawn to a group who was of like mind about Oz and Judy Garland. For Halloween one year, we dressed up as Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and the Wicked Witch–I was the Tin Man, and since we were art students, we made our own costumes (except for the Lion who had to rent his). Also, if memory serves me, I believe that was the last year of the annual Oz showing. But fear not, it wasn’t long before videos and VCR’s entered the market so you could own a piece of Oz and watch it whenever you wanted.

Let me just state–even though it may sound like it–I’m not a rabid Judy Garland fan. I don’t collect Garland memorabilia, nor do I attend the many conventions that are held yearly. But she was my first exposure to entertainment, and to Hollywood; a love that has remained with me my entire life.

It was almost fifteen years ago that the first rumors circulated that Judy Garland might be moving to Hollywood Forever. I was thrilled. But evidently there was a breakdown in communication within the family, or there was some other reason that it didn’t happen. I don’t know. Then, last January, when it was announced that it was finally happening–Judy Garland was being reinterred at Hollywood Forever in a beautiful art deco-ish mausoleum that sort of reminded me of Oz; it made me think.

I already had a niche at Hollywood Forever, in the Cathedral Mausoleum not far from Rudolph Valentino that I had bought several years ago. So, after deep thought, and with many niche’s (and some crypts) available for purchase, I decided to move. My new final resting place is directly across from Judy Garland’s crypt. To me, it made sense since Judy was a part of my early life–now she will be a part of my eternity (hopefully not for a few decades, though).

Marguerite Favar, that dainty, dancy soubrette

March 17th, 2019

She’s now a forgotten name but in the early 1900’s, Marguerite Favar was widely known as a dancer, and for several years toured vaudeville circuits in the South and West.

She was born Adelaide Farvarth in 1887, and came to the United States from Australia with her mother Alice around the turn of the last century.

Marguerite first began appearing in music halls until 1905 when she created a sensation in Portland at the Lewis and Clark Exposition as the “Peacock Girl” at the Turkish village. She then toured the United States on several vaudeville circuits, making a name by her charm and daintiness.

In 1908, Marguerite and her mother moved to Los Angeles from St. Augustine, Florida. That same year she appeared at the old Empire Theatre and also had an act on the Pantages circuit called “Marguerite Favar and her Dolls.” In August, she costarred in the comedy Paris Upside Down, as a “soubrettish young person.” The following month, she was in Little Robinson Crusoe at Mishcer’s Theatre in Los Angeles. One reviewer said, “Miss Favar is a lively dancer and creates a demand for more of her work…”

Although beautiful in every feature, Marguerite’s attractiveness lay in her large brown eyes, which sparkled across the footlights and won the hearts of her admirers. A fellow chorus girl noted:

“All Miss Favar would have to do was to look at a man. Men seemed to be hypnotized by a glance of her eyes. Of course, on the stage she made good use of her crowning beauty – her wonderful brown eyes. After a performance the stage door used to be crowded with men just waiting for a chance to see Miss Favar off stage.”

(click image to enlarge)

It’s believed that Marguerite may have been married twice. Her first marriage was reportedly to a man known as Creatore, a famous bandleader of the day. However, after her death, Creatore’s manager declared that Favar was never the bandleader’s wife but that she may have been the wife of a musician who had recently been enjoined from giving performances under that same name.

In any event, Marguerite was married in August 1909, at the Episcopal church in Santa Ana to Captain Frank D. Tompkins, a retired army officer. Tompkins had enlisted in the Hospital Corps as a volunteer in the Philippines and was given an officer’s commission for distinguished bravery in action. He retired in 1908 and came to California. He stopped for a while in Oakland with his uncle, formerly a warden of San Quentin, and then came south to Los Angeles where he found a job as chief of the property division for the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

The original Bisson Company in 1910. The white arrow points to Marguerite Favar.

Soon after their marriage, Marguerite had a try at the new industry in town – motion pictures. It was a brief career with the original Bison company, however there are no records of her film appearances. She worked at one of the studios in Edendale because in early May 1910, she was thrown from a buggy while filming near Elysian Park which is nearby. She was severely injured and had to stay at home for two weeks.

On May 19, 1910, Marguerite kissed Frank good-bye and returned to her first day of filming since her accident. She noticed that Frank appeared sick but left the house with no foreboding. He seemed to be suffering from nothing more serious than an attack of the stomach flu. Several hours later, Marguerite’s mother arrived at the house and found Frank in convulsions and called for help. Marguerite was notified at the studio and raced home, but it was too late; Frank was dead at the age of 36. It was later determined that Frank committed suicide by taking poison,  however the reason for the act was never known.

Marguerite confided to a friend that she loved Tompkins sincerely and his death caused her great sorrow. “His death resulted practically in Miss Favar forming a barrier against marriage,” her friend stated. “She said she would never marry again. And I know she kept this vow.”

After Frank’s death, Marguerite returned to the stage; at first as a solo act, she was billed as ”Marguerite Favar, That Dainty Dancy Soubrette.” Soon she put together a dance company and called herself, “Miss Marguerite Favar and Her Dainty Dancing Dolls,” and began touring the country. During one performance, a moving picture of the breaking sea at Atlantic City played in the background as the “dainty dolls” pretended to plunge into the surf.

Marguerite’s mother died in November 1913, and was laid to rest at Hollywood Cemetery.

The following March she brought her act back to Los Angeles to the Republic Theater as “Marguerite Favar and her Dancing Darlings.” The Los Angeles Times reviewed her act and reported the following:

“Girls are the principal attraction at the Republic Theater this week, for Margaret (sic) Favar and her seven dainty dancing girls are presenting a veritable feminine vaudeville turn de luxe. Magnificent stage settings, elaborate costuming, comely maidens, new songs, novel dancing and catchy music make it one of the biggest and best girl acts seen here for a long time. Miss Favar is clever and pretty, and quick with her feet, and her support is none the less agile.” – (Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1914).

Marguerite was a success and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. Her alluring beauty caused men in every city she visited to become infatuated with her. In letters to a close friend she continually referred to her many suitors that she encountered. Many wealthy men promised her happiness if she would become their bride. In her letters she made light of these proposals. Her friend warned her that this would mean that she would get in trouble one day and that it would be better if she married and settled down. She laughed at his warning.

In early 1915, Marguerite and her act was touring the south when they arrived in Greenwood, Mississippi. While there, disagreements arose between the young women, and the act was disbanded. During her stay, Marguerite met James C. Crowell, millionaire manager of the Buckeye Cotton Oil Company, and the two began an affair.

Marguerite went to Memphis in August to direct a musical performance for the Elks, a fraternal organization, and stayed on in that city to conduct private dancing lessons. She lived at 889 Popular Street, where she registered under the name of Mrs. F. D. Tompkins, the name of her former husband.

Crowell, who had a wife and two children in Greenwood, joined her in Memphis where on September 21, 1915, she gave a dancing exhibition at the Women’s Club Building. After the performance, Crowell met Marguerite backstage and dismissed her chauffeur, Thomas Porter, saying he would drive the car himself. The couple left the theater at 11:55 pm with a friend, Carrie Benham. 

They went to Marguerite’s apartment and found the rear door to be unlocked. Marguerite, at the time, mentioned this saying that she was certain that she had locked it before she left. Benham left the couple a few minutes later, going to her apartment which was directly below Favar’s. At 4 o’clock that morning, Benham was awakened by sounds of a struggle in Favar’s apartment. She did not investigate.

Shortly after sunrise, firemen were summoned by a janitor who discovered smoke issuing from a window in Marguerite’s room. After putting out the blaze, firemen found Marguerite’s body on her bed, her skull crushed by two blows from a blunt instrument and her feet charred by the fire which had enveloped the bed. Crowell’s body was found in a hallway outside her room. His head had been struck eighteen times and his throat was cut. 

Bloody fingerprints were found and saved by the police. The hammer with which the death blows had been struck was found.

The room was in disorder, and the drawers to a dresser was ransacked, which the police believed confirmed a theory that burglars committed the crime. This, however, was partially discredited when jewelry valued at several thousand dollars was found.

Other residents of the apartment building reported that they heard a slight disturbance shortly before daylight, but the commotion ceased within a few minutes, and they knew nothing of the murders until they were aroused by the janitor when he discovered the fire.

The next day, Guy Palmer, the janitor who discovered the fire and Thomas Porter, Marguerite’s chauffeur, were arrested for the murders. According to police, it was Palmer’s duty to go into the building about 5 am each morning and light a hot water heater, but on the morning of the murder, he claimed to have overslept. With very little else to go on, no formal charges were lodged against them and they were eventually released. Over the next two months, four other men were questioned about the murders but were released for lack of evidence.

When news of Marguerite’s murder reached Los Angeles, friends hired detectives to find the slayer, but the evidence they provided was not considered sufficient to warrant the arrest of a suspect. They were convinced they knew who the guilty man was but could not supply enough evidence to place before a jury with a reasonable hope of obtaining a conviction. It was their belief that Marguerite, who aroused many storms of jealousy during her stage career, was, along with Crowell, the victim of a slighted lover who followed them from Greenwood to Memphis.

Memphis police were baffled by the murders. They began working on what they termed the “love trail,” which they hoped would lead them to the jealous mad lover who committed the murders. The primary motive for the crime, they stated, was not robbery.

Members of Marguerites former dance troupe were questioned and all agreed that the actress played with love. Lovis Heyman, one of Marguerite’s Dainty Dancers said:

“She would encourage one man just long enough to make him a jealous suitor. Then she would turn to the next. She seemed to be proud of her ability to lure men to her. She cared no more for one than the other. It was certainly love of a man for her that resulted in the tragedy.”

Crowell’s body was released and returned to Greenwood the day after the murder. Marguerite’s body had to remain in Memphis until all legal matters were settled. As the actress apparently left no will and had no living relatives, friends planned to have the body buried next to her mother at Hollywood Cemetery. It took time to arrange for this, as legal matters connected to her estate had to be settled. Finally, after lying in the Memphis morgue for six months, the body of Marguerite Favar was returned to Los Angeles for burial.

The service was held at 2 pm on March 23, 1916, at the cemetery where friends gathered in the open air beside the Favar plot. Rev. Dr. James A. Francis of the First Baptist Church officiated. Earle C. Houck, who sang at Marguerite’s mother’s funeral, sang a similar tribute at her funeral.

Marguerite Favar’s killer was never found.

Hollywood: Then & Now

February 25th, 2019


6633 Romaine Street, Hollywood

Audience members waiting outside the entrance to Desilu Playhouse (the rear of General Service Studios) to watch an episode of I Love Lucy, circa 1951-1953.
The same location today. Note the black arrows show where the entrance has been walled up. Most likely the same sidewalk. This is the rear of Sunset Las Palmas Studios.

Celebrity Deaths for 2018

December 29th, 2018

Following are celebrity deaths that occurred in 2018. Obviously, it is not an all-inclusive list and readers favorite celebrity may be missing. If so, please feel free to add their name in the comments sections.

  1. Abroms, Edward (82). Film editor. February 13.
  2. Adonis, Frank (83). Actor; “Goodfellas.’” December 26.
  3. Akiyama, Denis (66). Actor; “Johnny Mnemonic.” June 28.
  4. Allen, Marty (95). Comedian. February 12.
  5. Allen, Paul (65). Microsoft co-founder. October 15.
  6. Anderson, Harry (65). Actor; “Night Court.” April 16.
  7. Anspach, Susan (75). Actress; “Five Easy Pieces.” April 2.
  8. Audran, Stephane (85). French actress; “Babette’s Feast.” March 27.
  9. Avruch, Frank (89). Boston Television personality; “Bozo the Clown.” March 20.
  10. Aznavour, Charles (94). French Armenian singer. October 1.
  11. Balin, Marty (76). Musician; Jefferson Airplane. September 27.
  12. Barber, Ricardo (81). Cuban actor. December 17.
  13. Barlow, John Perry (70). Grateful Dead lyricist. February 7.
  14. Beach, Gary (70). Actor; “The Producers.” July 17.
  15. Bell, Art (72). Radio Host; “Coast to Coast AM.” April 13.
  16. Berry, Ken (85). Actor; “F-Troop,” Mama’s Family.” December 1.
  17. Bertolucci, Bernardo (77). Director; “The Last Emperor.” November 26.
  18. Blank, Mandy (42). Actress; “Spin City.” October 29.
  19. Bluiett, Hamiet (78). Baritone saxophonist. October 4.
  20. Bochco, Steven (74). Producer; “Hill Street Blues.” April 1.
  21. Bomberry, Tina Louise (52). Canadian actress; “North of 60.” February 10.
  22. Bonner, James “L.B.” (30). “My 600 lb Life” star. August 2.
  23. Bonnot, Francoise (78). Film editor; “Z,” “Missing.” June 2.
  24. Bosco, Philip (88). Actor; “Working Girl.” December 3.
  25. Bourdain, Anthony (61). Writer and chef. June 8.
  26. Boyd, Neal (42). Opera singer; “America’s Got Talent.” June 10.
  27. Bregman, Martin (92). Producer; “Scarface,” “Dog Day Afternoon.” June 16.
  28. Brown, Dushon Monique (49). Actress; “Chicago Fire.” March 23.
  29. Brown, Susan (86). Actress; “General Hospital.” August 31.
  30. Bulger, James ‘Whitey’ (89). Organized crime boss. October 30.
  31. Burrous, Chris (43). KTLA news reporter. December 27.
  32. Bush, Barbara (92). First Lady. April 17.
  33. Bush, George (94). 41st President of the United States. November 30.
  34. Butterworth, Donna (62). Child actress. March 6.
  35. Buxton, Frank (87). Writer, director; “The Odd Couple.” January 2.
  36. Campanella, Joseph (93). Actor; “The Bold Ones,” “Mannix.” May 16.
  37. Cappotelli, Matt (38). Wrestler; WWE’s reality show “Tough Enough.” June 29.
  38. Carey, Michele (75). Actress; “El Dorado,” “Live a Little, Love a Little.” November 21.
  39. Carlisle, Mary (104). Actress; “Tip-Off Girls.” August 1.
  40. Carrington, Deborah (58). Actress, stuntwoman; “Men in Black.” March 23.
  41. Cathey, Reg E. (59). Actor; “House of Cards.” February 9.
  42. Chambers, Emma (53). British actress; “Notting Hill.” February 21.
  43. Chow, Raymond (91), Co-founder of Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest. November 2.
  44. Clark, Roy (85). Country & Western singer. November 15.
  45. Clarke, ‘Fast’ Eddie (67). Guitarist; “Motorhead.” January 10.
  46. Clearwater, Eddy (83). Chicago bluesman. June 1.
  47. Cole, Olivia (75). Actress; “Roots.” January 19.
  48. Cosby, Ensa (44). Bill Cosby’s daughter. February 23.
  49. Cullen, Ann (90). Wife of Bill Cullen. July 21.
  50. Daily, Bill (91). Actor; “I Dream of Jeannie.” September 4.
  51. Damone, Vic (89). Singer. February 11.
  52. Dane, Hugh (75). Actor; “The Office.” May 16.
  53. De Givenchy, Hubert (91). French fashion designer; “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” March 10.
  54. Dillman, Bradford (87). Actor; “Sudden Impact.” January 16.
  55. Dix, Robert (83). Actor; “Forbidden Planet.” August 7.
  56. DJ Avicii [Tim Bergling] (28). Swedish musician and DJ. April 20.
  57. Dodd, Sir Ken (90). British comedian. March 11.
  58. Donat, Peter (90). Actor; “The X-Files.” September 10.
  59. Dorough, Bob (94). Jazz musician; “Schoolhouse Rock.” April 23.
  60. Dowdell, Robert (85). Actor; “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.” January 23.
  61. Dummar, Melvin E. (74). Actor; “Melvin and Howard.” December 9.
  62. Edwards, Dennis (74). Singer; “Temptations.” February 1.
  63. Edwards, Nokie (82). Lead guitarist; The Ventures. March 12.
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  65. Emerick, Geoff (72), Recording engineer for The Beatles. October 2.
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  68. Falkholt, Jessica (29). Australian actress; “Home and Away.” January 17.
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  70. Fleming, Lisa (50). “My 600 lb. Life” star. August 23.
  71. Fontana, D.J. (87). Musician. June 13.
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  73. Foy, Eddie III (83). Casting director. November 3.
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  90. Gordon, Lorraine (95). Owner New York’s Village Vanguard jazz club. June 9.
  91. Gradon, Sophie (32). British reality show “Love Island.” June 20.
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Jeanette Loff, the Hollywood Christmas Parade’s first guest star

December 24th, 2018

The Hollywood Christmas Parade, which takes place on Sunday evening in Hollywood, is its 89th year (except for three years during World War II) with Grand Marshall Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. and other celebrities, marching bands and of course, Santa Claus.

The ‘Santa Claus Lane,’ formerly Hollywood Boulevard during the Christmas season of 1928 at Highland Avenue.

The first parade, held on December 5, 1928, was known as “Santa Claus Lane” and featured Santa and Jeanette Loff (a last-minute replacement for Lili Damita), a Hollywood starlet. That evening, crowds thronged Christmas-tree lined Hollywood Boulevard (rechristened Santa Claus Lane) from Vine Street to La Brea Avenue. With Jeanette Loff, Santa Claus drove his reindeer-drawn sleigh east on the brilliantly illuminated course to La Brea, and returned over the same route.

The “parade” continued every evening during the Christmas season with a different prominent film player (Lili Damita showed up the following evening) each night.

Jeanette Loff poses on Santa’s sleigh for the first “Santa Claus Lane” parade in 1928

However, Jeanette Loff, the first starlet of what is known today as the Hollywood Christmas Parade, is probably little known today. At the time of the first Santa Clause Lane, Loff had appeared in twelve films since 1926, working her way up to costarring parts in Hold ‘Em Yale (1928) with Rod La Rocque, Annapolis (1928) with Johnny Mack Brown and Love Over Night (1928), again with La Roque.

Jeanette Loff was born on October 9, 1905 (most records claim 1906), in Orofino, Idaho to Marius and Inga (Loseth) Loff. Studio publicity claimed that her father was a famous Danish violinist, but he was in fact a barber and later a farmer.

Photo from Lewiston High School, Idaho in 1922. Arrow points to Loff.

Attempts by Pathe to make Loff a star.

After living for a time in Wadena, Canada, the Luff’s relocated to Lewiston, Idaho. After her high school graduation, the family moved to Portland, Oregon, where Jeanette enrolled at the Ellison & White Conservatory of Music where she learned to play the pipe-organ. When a local theater needed a pipe-organ player, Jeanette got the position. She worked her way up to playing at bigger and better Portland theaters.

Loff’s nude photograph by Edwin Bower Hesser.

Loff’s discovery in Hollywood is open to several versions. Whatever her introduction to films, in 1926, with her extremely wholesome looks, she earned a bit part in Universal’s The Collegian series followed by another extra part in Young April (1926) a film for Cecil B. DeMille’s company at Pathé, where she was put under contract.

DeMille cast her in two Westerns, followed by leading roles in the two films with Rod La Rocque. Over the next few years, she costarred in several good, but not outstanding films. At some point during her early career, she also posed for nude photographs.

Scene from The King of Jazz (1930).

Shortly after appearing as the first actress to ride in Hollywood’s premier Santa Claus Lane, Loff was brought to Universal to audition for The King of Jazz (1930), a possible million-dollar film they were producing. Executives were doubting their original choice for an important leading female role when producer Paul Bern arranged for her to audition. In the audition, she sang the number, “The Bridal Veil,” in a clear lyric soprano that impressed producers to give her the part.

In 1929, Loff’s parents had divorced, and her mother Inga and two sisters, Myrtle and Irene, moved to Los Angeles (her father, Marius, remained in Oregon until his death). That same year, Jeanette was also divorced from her first husband, traveling jewelry salesman Harry Roseboom whom she had secretly married in 1927. She reportedly had affairs with Gilbert Roland, Paul Bern–who tried unsuccessfully to cast her in a film–and lyricist Walter O’Keefe.

After making three more films over the next year, she grew tired of Hollywood and moved to New York, struggling to find stage roles, appearing only in the short-lived Broadway musical, Free for All, which closed after twelve days.

St. Louis Woman (1934), Jeanette Loff’s failed attempt at comeback.

In 1933, she returned to Hollywood when she heard that Universal was planning to re-release The King of Jazz. Thinking it would revive her career, she accepted the leading role in St. Louis Woman (1934) with Johnny Mack Brown (she also worked with Brown in Annapolis) for a poverty row studio. The film did poorly, but she made two shorts and three more films that same year, none of them money-makers. Her last film was Million Dollar Baby (1934) for Monogram Pictures.

From then on, she retired from films. In 1935, she married liquor salesman, Bertram “Bert” Friedlob. The following year, Friedlob produced Bert Wheeler’s Hollywood Stars in Person revue and included Loff in the cast.

Her marriage to Friedlob was rocky; he was a womanizer who had affairs with Lana Turner and many others.

702 North Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills where Jeanette Loff ingested ammonia. (PLEASE NOTE: This is a private home. DO NOT disturb the residents)

On August 1, 1942, Loff ingested ammonia at her Beverly Hills home at 702 North Crescent Drive; she was treated for mouth and throat burns at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital where she died three days later. Loff was only 35.

Jeanette Loff’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)


The coroner was unable to determine if her death was accidental or a suicide. Reportedly at the time, she was suffering from a stomach ailment and accidently took the wrong bottle of medication.

However, wouldn’t she have noticed the ammonia smell? In any event, her death certificate called her death a “probable suicide.” Surprising, some in her family maintained that she had been murdered, but never publicly offered proof.

Jeanette Loff’s niche at Forest Lawn’s Great Mausoleum. Her sister Myrtle is interred with her. (Find-a-Grave)


Jeanette Loff, the Hollywood Christmas Parade’s first hostess, was cremated and interred at Glendale’s Forest Lawn in the Great Mausoleum (Protection Columbarium).

Bert Friedlob later produced several films including The Star (1952) with Bette Davis and Tyrone Power’s Untamed (1955). Friedlob died in 1956.


History of the Hollywood Sign

December 8th, 2018


The Hollywood Sign, which was officially completed on December 8, 1923, celebrates its 95th anniversary today. It has had a remarkable and turbulent history and has endured its share of problems, including a suicide leap from the H, squabbles over who should maintain it, markings from mountain-climbing spray painters, hassles among community groups about its worth, battles with local residents to keep hikers from it, and threats over the years to tear it down.

The sign has been a part of the local scenery for 95 years, longer than many city landmarks such as Grauman’s Chinese, City Hall, the Shrine Auditorium and UCLA. It even predates Mulholland Drive and is decades older than any freeway.

As many know, the Hollywood sign is the remnant of an advertisement for a 640-acre real-estate development. When it was erected in 1923, the sign spelled HOLLYWOODLAND, the name of the housing development on the slope below it. The sign, however, was an afterthought.

As with many Hollywood origins, the sign’s beginnings have more than one version. The one chosen for this article goes as follows:

In the spring of 1923, John Roche, a 26-year-old advertising and promotional man, was working on a brochure for the Hollywoodland subdivision. He had drawn in proposed home sites, streets and equestrian trails. Behind them, on the side of Mt. Lee, he had penciled in HOLLYWOODLAND.

Harry Chandler, then publisher of the Los Angeles Times, was one of the project’s developers. When Roche arrived at his office with the drawing, Chandler liked the idea and wanted to know if a sign could be erected that could be seen all over Los Angeles.

For a good perspective, Roche drove to Wilshire Boulevard, then a little, partially asphalted road, to see if he could see the mountain from there. Roche took photographs and made drawings of the Hollywood hills. Roche calculated that each letter would have to be 50 feet high to be visible from that distance. When he reported to Chandler that such a sign would be seen, the project began.

“I made a sketch almost that big,” Roche explained in 1977. “I took it to Mr. Chandler’s office about 11 one night – he sat in his office until midnight every night and would talk to anybody – and he said, ‘Go ahead and do it.’ We didn’t have engineers or anything. We just put it up.”

As Roche had determined, each individual letter was built 50-feet high and 30-feet wide. They were assembled on metal panels, each three-by-nine-feet, and painted white. The next step was attaching the panels to a framework that consisted of wires, scaffolding and telephone poles, which were brought up the steep hillside by mules.

Fifty to one-hundred laborers dug the holes with pick axes and shovels. An access road was completed so the enormous sheet metal letters could be brought in. The sign was completed in about 60 days at a cost of $21,000. Years later, Roche said: “I think we built it faster than you could today (1984).” Roche recalled the sign being lighted, but insisted there were no lights on the original HOLLYWOODLAND. “That came sometime later,” he said.

At some point, the sign was illuminated at night by 4,000, 20-watt bulbs, evenly spaced around the outside edge of each letter. This required a caretaker (Albert Kothe, who lived in a cabin behind the first “L”), who maintained the sign and its lighting system. To replace burned out bulbs, Kothe would climb onto the framework behind each letter, the new light bulbs tucked in his shirt.

Since it was planned to promote real-estate, it was not designed to survive the sale of the last lot. Public sentiment, however, led to keeping the sign long after its commercial function was over.

During the sign’s heyday, many stars bought homes in Hollywoodland. The highest lot above the sign was sold to comedy producer Mack Sennett, but he never built there. Sennett did use the sign, though, to pose bathing beauties between the O’s for publicity stills.

There have been rumors of several suicides from the sign, especially during the Depression years, but the only acknowledged death occurred in 1932, when Peg Entwistle, a young actress who came to Hollywood from the Broadway stage, jumped to her death from the letter “H.”

In 1939, the lights were extinguished when the maintenance fund was discontinued by the realtors. It’s rumored that soon after, all 4,000 bulbs were stolen.

In 1945, the development company that owned it donated the sign and the land surrounding it to the city’s Recreation and Parks Commission as an adjunct parcel to Griffith Park. The sign, by this point, had been neglected and vandalized for several years.

In January 1949, the “H” blew down in a windstorm, and nearby residents complained that the sign was a hazard and an eyesore. On January 6, the Recreation and Parks Commission announced that the sign would be torn down. They denied a request of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to alter and repair the sign to read HOLLYWOOD.

Several days later, Councilman Lloyd G. Davies (who represented Hollywood) introduced a resolution before the City Council that the Chamber of Commerce would repair the sign, at an estimated cost of $5,000, furnish bond to guarantee its maintenance and provide the city with proper liability coverage, if the parks commission would consent. Davies said his district was sensitive about becoming known as “’OLLYWOOD.”

The parks commission later reversed its decision and allowed the first nine letters to be repaired, and removed the last four letters to read “HOLLYWOOD,” therefore transforming it from a commercial display into a community one.

By the early 1960s, weather again had taken a strong toll on the sign’s condition. At a cost of $4,500, it was restored by the Kiwanis. At irregular intervals, several civic groups had the metal facing repainted, but little structural maintenance was done.

In 1973, the city once again threatened to tear down the sign. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and local radio station KABC, began a “Save the Sign” campaign hoping to solicit $15,000 from the public to finance structural repairs, replace fallen facing panels, and give it a fresh coat of paint. That same year, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Board designated it a monument, thus giving it dignity but no money.

One woman sent the repair fund a large check with a note: “My little girl in 1925 learned to spell from the sign.” Another recalled a proposal of marriage made to her in 1944 near the sign; she “foolishly” rejected it, but wondered how many accepted proposals were made there. A third woman calculated that if “All the couples who parked up there sent in $1, there would be more than enough.” Fortunately, the campaign was successful and the sign received a facelift and a reprieve–but it wouldn’t last for long.

On January 1, 1976, several young men, to mark the change in the marijuana law in California, masked the OOs with EEs made from white sheets. It read HOLLYWEED for a day.

A year later, the “D” became wobbly because of recent rainstorms and there was concern about how long it would stay in place. Up close, the sign creaked and rattled, even in a light wind. Its timbers were rotting. Sheet metal, rusted and corroded, fell from its face and loose securing cables dangled from some of the 50-foot high letters.

It was estimated that a replacement sign would go as high as $120,000. To generate interest in preserving the sign, a press conference was held at the base of the sign with invitations sent out accompanied by a snake bite kit.

CLICK HERE to watch the opening credits (3 minutes) of Savage Intruder (1970), the last film of actress Miriam Hopkins. It has creepy, close-up, footage of the deteriorating Hollywood Sign before it’s restoration. 

The chamber hoped to use money that was raised in 1975 by KIIS radio station to do cosmetic work on the landmark. “But the sign is in such bad shape, it will do us no good to raise small amounts of money,” said Michael Sims, executive director of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. “We’re either going to lose it or take care of it. That’s going to be up to Hollywood. What we really need now is a guardian angel.”

A few months later, in April 1977, the sign was altered to read HOLYWOOD for Easter Sunrise service, viewable from the Hollywood Bowl.

The following winter, the final blow came as wind and heavy rainstorms once again took a toll on the sign. The top of the first O fell off, the Y buckled inward toward the hillside, and the last O collapsed completely.

A campaign was established once again to “Save the Sign.” Eventually, after several efforts to raise money was not sufficient, nine donors came forward; each chose a letter and contributed $27,777.

The donors who paid for each letter included: (H) newspaper publisher, Terrance Donnelly; (O) Italian movie producer, Giovanni Mazza; (L) Les Kelly (Kelly Blue Book); (L) Gene Autry; (Y) Hugh Heffner; (W) Andy Williams; (O) Warner Bros. Records; (O) Alice Cooper, in memory of Groucho Marx; (D) Dennis Lidtke.

The new letters, made of steel, were unveiled on Hollywood’s (so-called) 75th anniversary, November 14, 1978.

Over the following years, unauthorized alterations have been made to the sign. In July 1987, it was changed to OLLYWOOD, (Ollie North) during the Iran-Contra hearings. During the Gulf War it read OIL WAR and in 1993, 20 members of UCLA’s Theta-Chi fraternity changed it to GO UCLA. The students were charged with trespassing, prompting the installation of a security system featuring video surveillance and motion detection. However, it didn’t prevent another institution of learning to alter it to CALTECH ten years later.

In any event, here’s hoping the Hollywood Sign will continue to look out over the Hollywood community for 95 more years and more.

The Tragic Death of Gladys Brockwell: The Woman of a Thousand Expressions

November 11th, 2018

Though virtually unknown today, Brockwell was a popular actress in the teens and 1920s.

Born Gladys Lindeman in Brooklyn, New York, on September 26, 1894, the daughter of a struggling chorus girl (Lillian “Billie” Brockwell). Brockwell entered show business at the age of 3, with her screen debut for the Lubin Company in 1913.

Brockwell was one of the earliest stars at the Fox Studios. Some of her most important career roles included The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), Stella Maris (1925), Man, Woman and Sin (1927), Janet Gaynor’s evil sister in Seventh Heaven (1927), The Woman Disputed (1928),  and The Home Towners (1928). Her last film appearance was in Universal’s The Drake Case (1929), which she finished two weeks before her death.

During the experimental days of sound at Warner Brothers, Brockwell appeared in short subjects tests. She also had a lead role in the first feature-length, all-talking film, Lights of New York (1928). (Click HERE to see Brockwell in a dramatic scene from Lights of New York

On Thursday, June 27, 1929, Brockwell and a friend, Thomas Stanley Brennan, an advertising man, were driving to Ventura in his new roadster. As they neared a curve near Calabasas (about 25-miles northwest of Hollywood, and now the home of the Kardashian’s and many other celebrities), the car skidded to the edge of the road and plunged 75 feet down an embankment, turning over three times when hitting the bottom. Brockwell was pinned beneath the wreckage with one of the car’s doors resting on her face. The couple was unconscious when passing motorists removed them from the wreckage.

They eventually were taken to Osteopathic Hospital where doctors diagnosed that Brockwell had received fractures of both lower jaws; fracture of the left upper jaw; fracture of the left collar bone; fracture of a vertebra, a broken pelvis, and a rupture of the large intestine. In addition, the left side of her face was paralyzed, caused by a severed facial nerve. As for Brennan, both of his shoulder blades were broken as well as several ribs.

Because their condition was serious, police could not obtain a coherent report of the accident. However, it was determined that neither had been drinking. Once Brennan regained consciousness, he explained that the accident was probably caused as a result of a cinder that blew into his eye just as they reached the dangerous curve in the road.

Following a second blood transfusion, Brockwell appeared to improve until perotonis set in as a result of her internal injuries. After two more transfusions, Gladys Brockwell died at 7 p.m. on July 2, 1929 at Osteopathic Hospital. The following day, actor Dustin Farnum died in New York.

Brockwell’s cause of death was from peritonitis, due to the puncture of the large intestine. No negligence was placed on Brennan, who was still recovering in the hospital.

Brockwell’s body was taken to the Ivy H. Overholtzer Mortuary at 1719 South Flower Street. Funeral services were conducted at 2 p.m. on July 5 at the Hollywood Cemetery chapel. The service was in charge of the Christian Science Church in the presence of many prominent film actors, directors and producers. Brockwell was cremated and her ashes given to her mother, Billie Brockwell, who died on January 29, 1949 and was interred at Inglewood Cemetery.

Death Certificate of Gladys Brockwell (click on image to enlarge)

Thomas Stanley Brennan survived his injuries. Ironically, almost twenty years later, on February 11, 1949, Brennan was a passenger in a car driven by a friend.

Aliso Street Bridge

As they crossed the Aliso Street Bridge near downtown, the driver attempted to cut in front of another car when he lost control, swerved across the bridge, smashed through the concrete rail and plunged 35 feet to the Los Angeles River below. The driver survived, but Brennan was killed instantly. He was interred at Glendale’s Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Death Certificate of Thomas Stanley Brennan (click on image to enlarge)


Joseph Hazelton” “This Man Saw Lincoln Shot”

October 31st, 2018

On April 14, 1865, a schoolboy, with his school books strapped across his shoulder, romped down Tenth Street in Washington DC. As he approached Ford’s Theatre, there standing in front was a tall man with raven black hair and a drooping mustache.

John Wilkes Booth

That man was the actor, John Wilkes Booth; that night, he would change the nation’s destiny. The boy was Joseph Hazelton, a “program boy” and usher at Ford’s Theatre. Shortly before his death in 1936, Hazelton believed he was the only man still living who witnessed the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (actually, another man who claimed to also witness the assassination, Samuel James Seymore, lived until 1956 (age 96) and appeared on I’ve Got a Secret).

Hazelton was born at Wilmington, New York, on March 26, 1853 but his family later moved to Washington D.C. In the nation’s capital, he served as a Page in the U.S. Senate, and worked as a railroad clerk. He eventually became an actor on the stage, and later in films for over sixty-eight years, appearing in such silent films as Unrest (1914), Please Get Married (1919), and, most notably, in the role of Mr. Grimwig in Oliver Twist (1922) with Lon Chaney.

Joseph Hazelton (far left) as Mr. Grimwig, and Jackie Coogan in Oliver Twist (1922) (click on image to enlarge)

Hazelton would spend his life recalling the memories of Lincoln’s assassination, appearing on radio and lecturing at numerous venues across the country. The following account by Hazelton is an excerpt taken from an article published in Good Housekeeping (February 1927) magazine. The multi-page article, written by Campbell MacCulloch, was entitled, “This Man Saw Lincoln Shot:”

“[In front of Ford’s Theatre, Booth] beckoned me over to him, lifted my cap from my head, ran his fingers through my hair and said: ‘Well, little man, are you going to be an actor some day?’ I replied: ‘I don’t know, Mr. Booth, perhaps.’ 

“Little did I dream at the time that I would spend fifty years of my life in the theatrical profession. Booth took from his pocket a little folder, which contained the coin of the day commonly known as ‘shin plasters’ of the denominations of five, ten, twenty-five and fifty cents. Handing me a ten cent plaster, he pulled my hat playfully over my eyes, patted me on the shoulders and bade me run buy myself something… 

“Well, I went around the Theatre that night, as was my custom…It was a gala night, the play was ‘Our American Cousin’ and Laura Keene was the star. Almost everyone knew that the President would be there… The house was packed, the gold lace of the Army and Navy predominating. The President and his party came late, the second act was on, and as Mr. Lincoln entered the audience rose en masse and cheered, Mr. Lincoln came down to the front of the box…bowed his acknowledgments and took his seat and the play went on. The third act was on and I was standing directly opposite the President’s box, looking up at him…to see how he was enjoying the play. 

“I happened to turn my head toward the main entrance and saw Wilkes-Booth enter. He stopped a moment to say a word to Mr. Buckingham, the door-keeper, then started upstairs to the Dress Circle. As he passed along the side aisle toward the President’s box, I noticed the change in his dress. When he spoke to me in the afternoon he was dressed in the height of fashion…now he was wearing heavy riding boots, spurs, a blue flannel shirt and an army slouch hat. I wondered…what he was doing there on such a gala night dressed in such a garb. 

“I did not have long to wait, there was a flash, a report and President Lincoln has been assassinated. There are not words in the English language to describe the awful hush which fell over the house…no one seemed to take the initiative, until Laura Keene, rushing down to the footlights, cried, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the President has been shot!’ then all was pandemonium. 

“When Booth fired the shot he dropped the weapon, a single barrelled (sic) affair, called a derringer, and drawing a Bowie knife ran to the edge of the box. Major Rathbone tried to stop him, and received an ugly wound on his arm. Booth leaped over the rail of the box to the stage, but his spur caught in the American flag which draped the box and he fell to the stage…to my dying day I shall never forget the look of anguish and despair on that man’s face, as he half dragged himself to the center. 

“Then brandishing the knife above his head and with a maniac stare, cried out, ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’. He managed to get to the stage door where his horse was being held, mounted and rode rapidly away… They carefully lifted the President and carried him across the street to the home of Mr. Peterson, one of our merchants. The building is now being used as the Olroyd Lincoln Museum….” 

At the end of the manuscript, Hazelton describes being under the window of the home where Lincoln’s body was taken, and hearing first-hand that the President had died. On the day that Hazelton told his story to MacCullough, Robert Todd Lincoln, the last surviving son of the martyred President, was laid to rest in a quiet New England community.

In addition, Hazelton would go on the radio every year on the anniversary of Lincoln’s death to tell his story. Click here to listen to Hazelton’s story in his own voice. 

Fascinatingly, Hazelton had some controversial opinions about John Wilkes Booth. He believed that Booth escaped from authorities the evening of the assassination, and fled to South America for a few years, returning to Enid, Oklahoma in 1903. Upon his deathbed, Booth called for a priest and asked for absolution, telling the priest that he was John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin. He submitted credentials to the sheriff which indicated that he was Booth.

To corroborate his story, the sheriff was referred to Hazelton, who was living in Hollywood. The sheriff wired Hazelton and asked him if he could come to Enid to identify Booth. As Hazelton was unable to make the trip, he asked the sheriff to wire a description of the man’s right thumb, which was reportedly mangled. Upon receipt of this information, Hazelton wired the sheriff that the man in questions was, indeed, John Wilkes Booth.

Death certificate of Joseph Hazelton (click on image to enlarge)

On Saturday, October 3, 1936, Hazelton was working at Warner Bros. Studio when he suddenly became ill and was rushed to St. Vincent’s Hospital. The following Friday, October 9, he died from pneumonia at age 83. Hazelton had no survivors and his funeral was handled by the Motion Picture Relief Fund through Pierce Brothers mortuary; Hazelton was interred at Hollywood Cemetery (now Hollywood Forever) in an unmarked grave.

The unmarked grave of Joseph Hazelton located in the Garden of Beginnings (Section 2), grave 441.

Hollywood’s “Jinx Mansion”

October 22nd, 2018


At this time of year our thoughts are on ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night. Bad luck and superstition has followed Hollywood and those who lived and worked there long before the film people arrived.

A house that had its share of bad luck and tragedy was built on the northeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Fuller Street more than 100 years ago. Gossip columnist, Louella Parsons, called the home that once stood at 7269 Hollywood Boulevard, “the jinx mansion.” Over the twenty-five years of its existence, it was home to a grocery store founder, a meat packing heir and a Hollywood film producer and his movie star wife. All experienced misfortune and heartbreak during their stay there.

The builder and first resident of the “jinx mansion” was George A. Ralphs, the founder of Ralph’s grocery store, the largest food retailer in Southern California. Every Angelino has shopped at a Ralphs at one time or another.

George Albert Ralphs was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1850. His family moved to California on a prairie schooner and a yoke of oxen when he was a boy. In Kansas, they joined a caravan and upon reaching Colorado, they were attacked by Indians. Half of the caravan became separated in the fight and no word was ever heard from them again. It was presumed that they were massacred.

The remaining caravan arrived in Los Angeles after eighteen months of travel. Once he was settled, George Ralphs was trained as an expert bricklayer. After losing an arm in an accident, he gave up bricklaying and found work as a clerk in a small grocery store. In 1873, he had saved enough money to purchase his own grocery at Sixth and Spring Streets. From then on, Ralphs prospered, operating three of the largest stores in Los Angeles.

In 1897, Ralphs married Wallula von Keith and together they had two children: Albert and Annabel. In May 1913, Ralphs began construction on a new house on a three-acre lot in Hollywood that he reportedly bought from George Dunlap, the town’s second mayor.

Located on the north side of Hollywood Boulevard at Fuller Street, architect Frank M. Tyler designed the Mission Revival house at a cost of $35,000. With a plastered exterior and a red clay tile roof, the house had sixteen rooms with three baths. The interior was richly furnished in oak and mahogany; onyx and tile mantels adorned the fireplaces. There was a tennis court on the property, and a swimming pool which was emptied often to water the citrus orchards.

The Ralphs mansion as it looked shortly after being constructed

On June 21, 1914, a few months after moving into the house, Ralphs took his family for a week-end outing to the San Bernardino Mountains near Lake Arrowhead. He had just gone up Waterman’s Canyon with his wife and children for an early morning stroll and, having walked a little faster than the others, sat on a boulder to wait for them to catch up.

As his wife approached, he moved over to allow her sit beside him when the boulder, weighing about three tons, gave way and rolled twenty feet down the canyon, carrying Ralphs with it. His leg was caught beneath the boulder and nearly torn from the socket. He was rushed to the Ramona Hospital (now Community Hospital of San Bernardino) where his leg was amputated. Ralphs came out of the anesthetic shortly after, and talked to his wife for a few minutes but he went into shock. George Ralphs died within the hour at 4:15 o’clock that afternoon.

Ralphs body was returned to his home in Hollywood where funeral services were held. The Ralphs grocery stores were closed that day in memory of their founder. After the service, Ralphs was buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

The grave of Ralph’s grocery store founder, George A. Ralphs at Evergreen Cemetery

Mrs. Ralphs remained in the Hollywood mansion for several years, sometimes living there, and at other times, renting it out to such well-known residents as Mira Hershey, owner of the Hollywood Hotel and to actor Douglas Fairbanks. On August 20, 1918, Mrs. Ralphs hosted a political garden party in honor of California Governor, William D. Stephens and as a fund raiser for the war effort.

However, the “jinx” continued.

In 1920, Mrs. Ralphs leased the mansion to John “Jack” P. Cudahy, the son of the millionaire meat-packer, Michael Cudahy. The town of Cudahy, California which is east of Los Angeles, was named for the family.

In 1899, Jack Cudahy married Edna Cowin, daughter of General John Clay Cowin of Omaha. They had four children, Edna, Marie, Anne and Michael. For a time, Cudahy was general manager of his father’s packing plant in Kansas City. While there, he and his wife became estranged after Cudahy attacked Jere Lillis, the president of the Western Exchange Bank, who he suspected of having an affair with his wife. They were divorced, but reconciled two years later and were remarried, living in Pasadena, California.

Cudahy, however, had his problems. In 1914, he was sued for $30,000 in damages after throwing a doctor’s wife against a table. After a stint in the army, Cudahy was given a medical discharge following a nervous breakdown. In 1919, he was sued by the Hotel Maryland for failure to pay a two-year hotel bill amounting to almost $10,000.

Shortly after moving into the Ralphs mansion, Cudahy was under a doctor’s care for an extremely nervous condition and for insomnia. In early April 1921, he disappeared for ten days and it was later learned that he had been living at the Rosslyn Hotel under a fictitious name. Previous to that he had spent three months in a sanatorium.

At the time, Cudahy was reportedly having financial problems. On April 19, 1921, he received a letter from a trust company in Chicago stating that they would not carry a loan unless his sister Clara would vouch for him. Later that night, Clara sent her brother a telegram briefly stating, “Sorry, but find it impossible to do what you ask.”

John Cudahy’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)

The following morning, at about 10:30am, Cudahy went into his bathroom, retrieved his Winchester shotgun which he used for trap-shooting, and went to his bedroom. Edna claimed that he did not seem to be unusually despondent. At exactly 11:45am, Edna was in her dressing room when she heard a gun shot and rushed into her husband’s bedroom where she found him dead. He had committed suicide by blowing off the top of his head. John Cudahy was buried at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.


Edna and her children moved out of the house shortly after her husband’s suicide. Thirteen years later she was living in a mansion near Vine Street and Franklin Avenue in Hollywood. Actor Lou Tellegen, who had fallen on hard times, was living with her and committed suicide in his bathroom by stabbing himself in his heart seven times with a pair of scissors.

After Cudahy’s suicide, the mansion stood empty for about a year. In October 1922, Mrs. Ralphs sold the house and property to a local realty company for $150,000. They planned to demolish the house and build a 350 room apartment hotel at a cost of one million dollars. For unknown reasons, the hotel was never built and the mansion was spared.

Norma Talmadge and Joseph Schenck

Film producer, Joseph M. Schenck and his wife, actress Norma Talmadge, were the next owners of the “jinx mansion.” The Schenck’s, who were married in 1916, probably moved into the house in late 1922 or early 1923. For the first few years their lives were routine, at least for film people, with the exception of several break-ins in which Norma’s jewelry was stolen.

Gradually, the couple began to grow apart. They separated in 1927 and moved into separate residences; Norma to an elegant West Hollywood apartment building on Harper Avenue, and Schenck moved to a large house in Beverly Hills. They remained married, however, and kept ownership of the Hollywood Boulevard mansion.

In July 1930, Talmadge traveled to Europe for a rest amid rumors that they were getting divorced but the couple denied the rumors, each claiming they were still in love. The following year, Talmadge asked for a divorce and Schenck agreed but she never filed for it. In 1932, she asked again for a divorce and traveled to Europe, supposedly to get one, but once there, she denied the so-called rumors.

During 1932 alone, the Schenck divorce rumors were many and were announced and denied several times. In the meantime, she had an affair with comedian George Jessel until finally, in April 1934, Talmadge and Schenck were divorced in Juarez, Mexico. Three weeks later Norma married Jessel.

The Talmadge-Schenck home as it looked from Fuller Street in the 1920s

Above is the site from the same angle on Fuller Street as it looks today

During all of this, the Schenck’s kept the mansion, and may have rented it out but Schenck reportedly moved back after the divorce. In May 1936, Schenck redecorated the property, adding a two-story cabana and a 60-foot swimming pool that replaced the one installed by the Ralphs, which was filled in by the Cudahy’s.

Notice of Schenck auction (click on image to enlarge)

Bad luck continued to follow Schenck. In 1936, he agreed to pay a bribe to avoid strikes with the unions, but because he made the payoff with a personal check, it came to the attention of the IRS and he was eventually convicted of income tax evasion. In 1940, he finally sold the Hollywood Boulevard “jinx mansion” and all its furnishings in an auction, supposedly to help pay his legal fees. In 1946, Schenck spent time in prison before being granted a pardon by President Harry Truman.

After Schenck sold the mansion, it was razed to make way for Peyton Hall, the first apartment house to go up on Hollywood Boulevard west of La Brea. The colonial-style garden apartment complex included more than 70 apartments. A red carpet rolled all the way from the grand portico to Hollywood Boulevard. There were discreet private entrances and a loudspeaker on the grounds that summoned stars to the studios.

The architect and builders kept the 60-foot swimming pool that Joseph Schenck installed four years earlier and it was used by the residents, including Shelley Winters and Johnny Weissmuller, who once jumped from the roof into the deep end. Other celebrity residents at Peyton Hall included Susan Hayward, George Raft and Janet Gaynor. Cary Grant stayed there during World War II and Claudette Colbert actually owned the complex and sold it in 1946 for about $450,000 to the first of a succession of owners. In 1960, an investment group bought it for $790,000.

In 2013, Peter Chaconas, aka “MR PETE” (Best Host Emmy winner for KTLA, Channel 5 – 1990), who once lived in Peyton Hall, told Hollywoodland:

“I moved into Peyton Hall in 1976. Living there were Richard Guthrie (Days of our Lives), Dave Fleisher (brother of Max-both of Popeye cartoon fame), McLean Stevenson (M*A*S*H), Herman Hover (who had managed Ciro’s), Timothy Patrick Murphy (actor), and Bill Miller (the first Brad in the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Roxy on Sunset.

“We loved Peyton Hall. I lived in 3 units. A bachelor (just a room w/a bathroom), a studio apartment (with a full kitchen & great stainless steel counters), and a one bedroom-all at 7243 Hollywood Blvd.

“The long pool was amazing (next to the old maids quarters)… Four lanes with hand laid Italian tiles. There was a HUGE old carriage house that we used for parking. You entered from Fuller Street, and also some covered parking near the pool. The movie Eating Raoul was filmed in apartments there. 

“We went on a rent strike for 2 years, to try and save the building. We all deposited our rent into a bank account, and tried our best to lobby the city council to give Peyton Hall a landmark status. But, the land was bought by investors from Taiwan and we were all evicted. They gave us around $1,000 each, and three months to get out.

“We were all very proud to have lived there and really loved the fact that our building had SO much Hollywood history. I sat in my Mustang convertible on Hollywood Blvd and watched them tear down the apartments I had lived in. I should have taken pictures. Now an UGLY complex stands where once a beautiful garden apartment was a fantastic home to those who loved Hollywood. RIP Peyton Hall… We did love you.”

Beginning in 1978, preservationists waged a two-year battle to save the landmark complex –but to no avail. Peyton Hall was demolished in the early 1980s and the recently renamed, Vantage Apartments (formerly the Serravella) was built in 1988 and remains there today.

The Vantage Apartments above is the site of the
Ralphs-Cudahy-Schenck-Talmadge mansion and Peyton Hall

Whether you believe in the “jinx mansion” or not is up to the reader—but it makes an interesting story. If you happen be in the neighborhood of the 7200 block of Hollywood Boulevard on Halloween night, do so at your own risk.


Valentino’s “Son of the Sheik”

October 20th, 2018


Famous Players Orchestra Presents:

Rudolph Valentino’s

The Son of the Sheik

November 3, 2018 @ 7:00 p.m. in Burbank!!!


Famous Players Orchestra will present The Son of the Sheik (1926) starring Rudolph Valentino and Vilma Bánky.

Featuring a period score performed live by The Famous Players Orchestra under the direction of Scott Lasky.

Program introduced by film historian, Stan Taffel.

For tickets, click HERE

Christ Lutheran Church

2400 West Burbank Blvd.

Burbank, CA 91506

Showtime is 7:00 p.m.