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.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Rick James

 

"I had always been a free spirit, and always gotten what I wanted."

Rick James was born James Ambrose Johnson, Jr. in Buffalo, New York on February 1, 1948.  While still a teenager, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve.  Then in 1964, he moved to Toronto, where he formed his first band, The Mynah Birds.  The group signed a deal with Motown Records, which put Rick back on the Navy's radar.  He was convicted of desertion and spent several months in jail.

In the 1970s, Rick returned to Buffalo and formed the Stone City Band, which proved very popular in local circles.  As a result, he signed with Motown's Gordy Records and released his first album, Come Get It.  Other albums would follow, including his most successful, 1981's Street Songs.  It included the single for which he is most famously known, Superfreak.

By the early 1990s, Rick's career was on the decline, hampered by his ongoing drug addiction.  He also faced a series of legal problems including two separate instances of kidnapping (!) for which he served a three-year sentence at famed Folsom State Prison.  He was released in 1996 but would suffer a stroke just two years later.  He'd spend the next six years under the watchful eye of a caretaker.

On August 6, 2004, Rick was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment.  His official cause of death was natural causes, a combination of heart failure, diabetes, and a stroke.  An autopsy revealed that his system was swimming with drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamine, Xanax, and so many more.  However, the coroner stated that none of these drugs were at the level that could have resulted in fatality.  Trust the science!

Following a public viewing at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Rick was returned to Buffalo.  A public funeral was held at St. John's Baptist Church, where 6,000 fans came to say goodbye.  Following the service, Rick was cremated, and his ashes were buried at Forest Lawn in Buffalo.


Rest in peace.

Trivia

  • The inscription on Rick's headstone reads "I've had it all, I've done it all, I've seen it all, it's all about love....God is Love."  It's a quote from his hit single Taste.  Take a listen on YouTube.

  • If you want to learn more about Rick James, take a voyage over to Amazon.  It's all in books!

  • Rick appeared (and performed) as himself on a 1985 episode of The A-Team.  Curious?  Here's a clip.

  • Rick's uncle, Melvin Franklin, was a member of The Temptations.  Rick worked as a writer and producer on their 1982 Reunion album.

  • Did you ever think that MC Hammer's U Can't Touch This sounds a lot like Superfreak?  So did Rick, who sued Hammer in 1990.  The case was settled out of court, and today, Rick has received a songwriting credit for Hammer's hit single.  Rick proved that he could, in fact, touch it, when he was included on the Grammy award the song won for Best Rhythm and Blues in 1991.  Ironically, it was the only Grammy he ever won.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Bill Paxton

 

"I don't believe in heroes and villains, ultimately.  I believe people are capable of great villainy and great heroism - the same person."

William "Bill" Paxton
was born in Fort Worth, Texas on May 17, 1955.  He could trace his ancestry back to the Civil War, when his great-great grandfather served as a brigadier general in the Confederate army, ultimately perishing at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

After high school, Paxton studied at Richmond College in London.  He then relocated to Los Angeles, where he hoped to find work as a director.  In the meantime, he worked at several Hollywood prop and art departments while also serving as a parking valet at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  It was during this time that he decided to focus on acting instead.

His first role was as a mortuary assistant in the 1983 film Mortuary.  The following year, he'd have a more memorable role as a punk who runs afoul of Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator.  He'd have a much more substantial role alongside Schwarzenegger in 1985's Commando.  He is probably best remembered however, for his role of Morgan Earp in Tombstone (1993) and for Brock Lovett in Titanic. (1997).

Paxton also found work on the small screen as well.  For six seasons, he starred as polygamist William Orville Henrickson on the HBO series Big Love.  He also had a memorable role as Randall McCoy in the History Channel's presentation of The Hatfields and The McCoys (2012).

On February 14, 2017, Paxton underwent surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to repair an aortic heart valve, the result of his childhood bout with rheumatic fever.  The following day, he had emergency surgery to repair a damaged coronary artery, and his condition would only get worse.  He'd spend the next ten days in recovery, before ultimately passing from a stroke on February 25th.  He was just 61 years old.

Bill Paxton was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

Location: Court of Liberty, Map #H36, Lot #2104
Inscription: "You Are In Our Hearts Forever"

Rest in peace.

Trivia
  • Know before you go!  Forest Lawn staff members do not give out the locations of their famous residents.  If you want to find Bill's marker, simply follow the GPS coordinates found on his Find a Grave page. 

  • The marker's inscription is somewhat ironic, given that heart complications led to Paxton's untimely death.

  • One year after Paxton's death, his family field a wrongful death lawsuit against surgeon Ali Khoynezhad, claiming the doctor had not been present during key portions of Paxton's surgery. The family believed this contributed to the complications Paxton developed and which ultimately led to his death.  In 2022, the case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

  • When he was eight years old, Paxton went with his family to see a speech by then-President John F. Kennedy, who was visiting Texas at the time.  The date was November 22, 1963.  A photo of Paxton in the crowd that day is on display at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

  • Paxton was famous for playing characters who did not survive the film.  He died in The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), Next of Kin (1989), Navy Seals (1990), Predator 2 (1990), Tombstone (1993), U-571 (2000), Vertical Limit (2000), and Club Dread (2004).  Despite all this, his real death was no less shocking.