Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Philip McKeon

 

Philip Anthony McKeon was born in Westbury, New York on November 11, 1964.  When he was four years old, his parents took him and his sister Nancy, age 2, to a modeling audition, the first step in what would become two very lucrative Hollywood careers.

He began working as a child model, appearing in magazines, newspapers, and television commercials.  This led him to the Broadway stage, where in 1974, he was spotted by actress Linda Lavin, who had recently filmed a television pilot based on the Martin Scorcese film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.  Although actor Alfred Lutter had reprised his theatrical role of Tommy Hyatt for the proposed new series, Lavin recommended McKeon to producers, and the role was recast.

When the series ended in 1985, McKeon continued working in Hollywood, mostly in a string of low-budget horror films, including Return to Horror High (1987), 976-EVIL 2 (1992) and Ghoulies IV (1994).

In the early 2000s, he began working in radio.  He began his new career working in the news department at 980 AM in Los Angeles.  He eventually relocated to Wimberley, Texas, where he hosted his own morning show called The Breakfast Taco on 94.3 FM.

Philip McKeon died on December 10, 2019, after a long, as-yet-unspecified illness.  He was just 55 years old.  He was laid to rest at Saint John Cemetery and Mausoleum in Queens, New York.

Rest in peace.

Trivia

  • McKeon was cremated, and his ashes were buried in the same plot as his father Donald, who had died a mere six weeks earlier.

  • McKeon was a frequent guest at the Chiller Theatre convention in Parsippany, New Jersey, where this blogger saw him shortly before his death.

  • Saint John Cemetery is also known as "The Mafia Cemetery," and was the subject of a recent blog post here at Six Feet Under Hollywood.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

The Vampire of Dusseldorf - GRAPHIC

 

Peter Kurten is not exactly a household name. By way of introduction, he was a serial killer who roamed the streets of Germany in the late 1920s.  His crimes included murder, rape, arson, and more.  He also had a tendency to drink the blood of his victims, earning him the nickname "The Vampire of Dusseldorf."  In 1931, he was convicted and sentenced to death by beheading. 

Ordinarily, a killer forgotten to history would not necessarily merit a blog post.  Indeed, it is in fact his final resting place that makes this story so unique.  You see, his mummified head is on permanent display at Ripley's Believe it or Not! 

For those unfamiliar, Ripley Entertainment runs a series of "odditoriums" throughout the United States.  They were originally founded by the late Robert Ripley back in the 1930s, but today they're a corporate entity, displaying artifacts he collected throughout his travels.  Ripley once famously quoted "I've been to 200 countries and the strangest thing I've seen is man."

Unlike most Ripleys, which are traditional walk through museums, the odditorium in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, is very unique.  Many of the traditional Ripleys artifacts are hidden throughout the building, and its something of a scavenger hunt to track them down, making this a much more interactive museum.  Kurten's mummified head is the crown jewel in their hidden collection.


Finding Kurten is no easy task.  You must first find an area called "Ripley's Grotto" and look for a 19th Century torture device known as the iron maiden.  While this is a common display at most Ripleys museums, here in Wisconsin, it serves as the entrance to a secret passageway.


Once inside, you'll see a host of Ripley's artifacts on display, including some native statues and more torture devices, as you make your way through a metal catacomb.  You'll also notice a series of numbers along the wall, each one baring a different color (1 is green, 2 is yellow, etc.).  You'll need to remember these colors and numbers later on.

At the end of this labyrinth, you'll find yourself in a room baring more artifacts and what looks to be a combination lock vault, baring the name "Ripley Vault Company."  A sign indicates that the vault can be opened by matching a set of colors to the numbers you saw earlier in the hallway.  This blogger figured out the combination on his first try.


Enter the code on the keypad, then hit the key in the middle.  If you've successfully entered the combination correctly, then the vault will open to reveal another secret chamber.

At first, it seems as if you've hit a dead end, because the only thing you'll see hanging on the wall is a portrait of a cat made from laundry machine lint.  Its hardly a grand prize worthy of the time and effort put into uncovering this hidden lair, but don't walk out just yet!  Look behind you and you'll see the first sign that you've stumbled on to something bigger - a portrait of Kurten himself.  

If you try to pull on the photo, it won't get you anywhere.  This is just a clue to let you know that you're on the right track.  At this point, you need to carefully re-examine that seemingly innocent cat lint portrait.

Put your hand on the right side of the picture frame and gently pull it towards you.  Its actually on a hinge, as this seemingly ordinary cat portrait hides an ever bigger prize - the mummified head of serial killer Peter Kurten.  Look below if you dare!



Normally, I end these blogs by saying rest in peace, but this guy doesn't deserve it.  A fitting end for such a cruel human being.

Trivia
  • If you want to learn more about the life and crimes of Peter Kurten, take a voyage to Amazon.  It's all in books.

  • In 2009, Kurten's crimes were the subject of the German theatrical release Normal.  Check out the trailer on YouTube.

  • There are 17 Ripley's odditoriums in the United States, and this blogger has been to nine of them.  The one is Wisconsin Dells is by far the best.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Karen Carpenter

 

"People never think of entertainers as being human.  When you walk out on stage, the audience thinks nothing can go wrong with them.  We get sick and we have headaches just like they do.  When we are cut, we bleed."

Karen Anne Carpenter was born in New Haven, Connecticut on March 2, 1950.  In 1963, her family moved to Downey, California, where she continued her education, eventually enrolling at California State University at Long Beach.  It was here that she began her musical education, learning the drums and honing her voice.

Talent, it seems, was not limited to Karen, as her brother Richard had musical aspirations as well.  In 1969, they formed The Carpenters, signing on with A&M Records, achieving great commercial success throughout the 1970s. She sang most of the songs on the group's first album, known today as Ticket to Ride.  They'd follow it up one year later with their second album, Close to You.  It contained what would become two of their signature hits, (They Long to be) Close to You and We've Only Just Begun.  Over the course of their 14-year career, they'd release 11 albums, selling more than 4 million copies.

Fame was not without its price however, and by 1975, it was beginning to take its toll.  Carpenter began to exhibit symptoms of anorexia nervosa, a condition that would plague her throughout her remaining years.  She ultimately died of heart failure caused by the disease on February 4, 1983.  She was just one month shy of her 33rd birthday.

Karen Carpenter was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Cypress, California.  By 1996, both of her parents had passed as well, and they would each be buried next to their daughter.  In 2003 however, Carpenter's family opted to exhume all three and relocate them to Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Park in Westlake Village.  A 46,000-pound private mausoleum was constructed at an estimated fee of $600,000.  The interior is inscribed with the phrase "A Star on Earth - A Star in Heaven."


Rest in peace.

Trivia
  • If you want to learn more about Karen Carpenter, take a voyage to Amazon.  It's all in books.

  • Although Carpenter died a married woman, she had planned to divorce her husband, real estate mogul Thomas James Burris.  She was to sign the divorce papers the very day she died.

  • After finding success in the 1970s, Carpenter and her family bought two apartment complexes in Downey, California, dubbing them "Close to You" and "Only Just Begun."  They're still in operation today, and units can be rented via Apartments.com.

  • In 1980, Carpenter recorded a self-titled solo album, which A&M Records reportedly shelved.  It was finally released in 1996, 13 years after she passed.  Take a listen on YouTube.

  • After her death, the family started what is today called The Carpenter Family Foundation in her honor.  It raises money for research on eating disorders while providing funding for the arts and education.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Agnes Moorehead

"I've been in movies and played theater from coast to coast , so I was quite well known before Bewitched and I don't particularly want to be identified as a witch."

Agnes Robertson Moorehead was born in Clinton, Massachusetts on December 6, 1900.  She was the daughter of a Presbyterian clergyman and knew from an early age that she wanted to be an actress.  In later years, she would often state that her first public appearance was reading the Lord's prayer in her father's church when she was just three years old.

She attended Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, where she earned a bachelor's degree in biology before moving to New York.  There, in 1922, she met Orson Welles, beginning a friendship and acting collaboration that would continue for half a century.  Ultimately, her first acting role was in his 1941 classic Citizen Kane, in which she played his mother.  Here's a clip.

Radio and the stage would follow, but she'd truly make her mark on television.  In 1961, she appeared in an episode of The Twilight Zone entitled "The Invaders," a one-person play in which she has not a single line of dialogue.  It holds up today as a fan-favorite episode and is often cited as one of the series' best entries.  Check out a clip on YouTube.

However, it is her role on Bewitched for which she is most famously known, that of Endora, a witch more than 4,000 years old.  Endora was the mother of Samantha, played by series star Elizabeth Montgomery, and mother-in-law and constant irritant to Darrin, played by Dick York and later, Dick Sargent.  Here's a compilation of some of her series highlights.

The series ended in 1972 and Moorehead retired to Rochester, Minnesota.  Her health was in decline, having been diagnosed with uterine cancer.  She ultimately passed on April 30, 1974.  She was 73 years old. 

Agnes Moorehead was entombed in Memorial Abbey at Dayton Memorial Park Cemetery in Ohio.  Attendees at her service included her mother, who outlived Agnes by 16 years, eventually passing away in 1990 at the age of 106.


Rest in peace.

Trivia
  • If you want to learn more about Agnes Moorehead, take a voyage over to Amazon.  It's all in books.

  • Moorehead appeared in the 1956 film The Conquerors, which was filmed in what is today known as the Nevada Testing Grounds. Along with Moorehead, several of the film's cast and crew, including John Wayne, Susan Hayward and Director Dick Powell, have all died of cancer.  Although unproven, many today believe that they were all exposed to fallout material during production.

  • Moorehead initially turned down her most famous role, but reconsidered after being asked by series lead Elizabeth Montgomery.  She accepted the role believing that the series would not last more than one season. It ran for eight.

  • Moorehead's limousine is on permanent display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.  Take a look on Facebook.

  • The graves of two of Moorehead's co-stars, Dick York and Paul Lynde, have also been profiled by this blog.

  • If you're planning to visit Moorehead yourself, do not go on Saturday, when the Abbey is closed to the public.  It's open Sunday-Friday.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Blog #200: The Mafia Cemetery

 

Its our 200th blog here at Six Feet Under Hollywood, which demands something special.  This week, we take you to Queens, New York and St. John's Cemetery, also known as the Mafia Cemetery.  Here, you'll find the likes of notable gangsters, both real and fictional, as well as a host of other crooked characters, including politicians and actors. The cemetery boasts nearly sixty famous names, of which you'll see five that we found on a recent visit.  Enjoy!

Charles "Lucky" Luciano was born Salvatore Lucania in Italy on November 24, 1897.  As a young man, he came to America and carved his own version of the American dream, establishing what we know today as the American mafia. He died of a heart attack on January 26, 1962.  He was 64 years old. 



John Joseph Gotti, Jr. was born in the Bronx, New York on October 27, 1940.  He rose to serve as Boss of the Gambino Crime Family in New York City, earning the nickname "Dapper Don" for his expensive wardrobe and his rapport with the media.  Gotti died of throat cancer while in federal custody on June 10, 2002.  He was 61 years old.


Mario Matthew Cuomo
was born in New York City on June 15, 1932. A lawyer and politician, he first came into the national spotlight during the 1984 Democratic National Convention, later serving three terms as Governor of New York.  He ran for a fourth term in 1994 but was ultimately defeated by George Pataki.  He died of heart failure on January 1, 2015.  He was 82 years old.




Philip Anthony McKeon
was born in Westbury, New York on November 11, 1964.  Like his younger sister Nancy, McKeon was a child actor most famous for his role as Tommy Hyatt on the long-running CBS sitcom Alice.  When the series ended in 1985, he began a career as a DJ, working at radio stations in California and Texas, where he died on December 10, 2019, after a long, as-yet unidentified illness.  He was 55 years old.  He died just six weeks after his father, with whom he is buried.

Geraldine Anne Ferraro
was born in Newburgh, New York on August 26, 1935.  Another politician, she represented New York in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 to 1985.  As her headstone also states, she was the first woman to run for Vice President on a national party ticket in 1984, the same year Ronald Reagan won 49 states (even New York).  She spent her later years as a contributor for FOX News, before ultimately passing of multiple myeloma on March 26, 2011.  She was 75 years old.




Other notables buried at St. Johns include physical fitness guru Charles Atlas, Godfather actor Al Lettieri (the Turk), and New York Yankees great Joe Pepitone.  May they all rest in peace.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Blog #199: Joseph Cotten

 

"I didn't care about the movies really.  I was tall.  I could talk.  It was easy to do."

Joseph Cotten, Jr. was born in Petersburg, Virginia on May 15, 1905. He was son of the local postmaster and the oldest of three children.  From an early age, he showed great interest in acting and was often described as "an expert storyteller."

After high school, Cotten attended the Hickman School of Expression in Washington, DC.  He paid for his tuition by playing professional football on Sundays in a time before the NFL.  After graduation, he moved to Miami and became an advertising salesman with The Miami Herald.  He simultaneously began his acting career at the Miami Civic Theatre, later reviewing those shows for the Herald.

In 1932, Cotten moved to New York City and the Broadway stage.  It was here where he met Orson Welles, beginning a friendship that would last for the next fifty years.  Welles regarded Cotten as a brilliant actor, and ultimately cast him in the role for which he is most famously remembered, that of Jedediah Leland in Citizen Kane (1941).  It is widely regarded as Welles' best work.  For Cotten, it spawned a career that would last four decades. 

By the early 1980s, Cotten's health was in decline.  He suffered both a heart attack and a stroke, which impacted his ability to speak.  He eventually regained his voice after years of physical therapy.  By the 1990s however, he would be stricken with cancer, eventually losing his larynx to the disease.  He ultimately died of pneumonia on February 6, 1994.  He was 88 years old.  

Cotten was returned to his native Virginia.  He was buried in the family plot at Petersburg's Blandford Cemetery.






Rest in peace.

Trivia
  • In 2012, Cotten's wife, actress Patricia Medina, passed away in Los Angeles at the age of 92.  She was also brought to Virginia and buried next to her husband of 34 years.


  • In 1987, Cotten penned his autobiography Vanity Will Get You Somewhere.  You can pick up a copy from Amazon.

  • Like many people from his generation, Cotten served his country during World War II.  He enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned to the First Motion Picture Unit, which produced training films for new recruits.

  • Despite his impressive acting resume, Cotten was never nominated for an Oscar Award.

  • Hat tip to vlogger Jordan the Lion for sharing the location of Cotten's grave in a recent YouTube video.  Check it out.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Ron Goldman

 

Last month, this blog took readers for a tour of the final resting place of Nicole Brown Simpson, who was famously murdered in June 1994. Since then, the story has once again made headlines following the death of her husband and prime suspect, OJ Simpson.  In this blog, we will revisit that case and the grave of the crime's other victim.

Ronald Lyle Goldman was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 2, 1968. His parents divorced just six years later, and Ron was raised by his father Fred.  He briefly attended Illinois State University, intending to earn a degree in psychology.  Less than one year in however, he relocated to Los Angeles with his family and discontinued his studies.

After moving west, Goldman lived independently of Fred and supported himself through a number of jobs.  He worked as a waiter, a tennis instructor, and as an employment headhunter.  He told friends that he wanted to open a bar or restaurant in the Brentwood area and he began learning all facets of the business.

To that end, Goldman took work as a server at Mezzaluna Tratoria in Brentwood, a restaurant favored by Nicole Brown Simpson.  The two had become fast friends, with Goldman even borrowing her Ferrari on occasion.  

On Sunday June 12, 1994, Nicole took her mother Juditha to the restaurant for dinner.  Later that evening, Juditha realized she had left her glasses on the table.  Nicole called Ron, who promised to return them later that evening.

While the full details of what happened upon his arrival will never be clear, it is certain that Ron was murdered on her doorstep moments after she was.  With the acquittal and subsequent death of OJ Simpson, the case is considered closed.

Ron Goldman was laid to rest at Pierce Brothers Oaks Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

Location: Beth Olam Garden, Plot #63, Grave D


Rest in peace.

Trivia
  • The inscription on Goldman's marker reads: "Sometimes when we're alone and lost in thought and all the world seems far away, you come to us as if in a dream, gently taking our hands and filling our hearts with the warmth of your presence.  And we smile, knowing that although we cannot be together for now, you're always close in our thoughts.  Missing you now, loving you always."

  • In 1997, Goldman's family released a book about their son entitled His Name is Ron: Our Search for Justice.  You can pick up a copy at Amazon.

  • Shortly before his death, Goldman received certification to serve as an emergency medical technician.

  • Not surprisingly, Goldman had Hollywood ambitions.  He got his start as a contestant on the FOX dating show Studs, hosted by Mark DeCarlo.  You can check out Ron's episode on YouTube.