The Final Cut: Famous Deaths in Hollywood
By Roderic Perez
The dream of becoming famous is a calling that many who enter the entertainment industry follow. Some do it for fame, art and others do it for money. However, like most dreams, the reality of life can set in and create a nightmare. The darker side of Hollywood consists of drugs, stalkers and death. Presented here are people who infamously paid the price of fame and the locations their deaths occurred. Included, are the resting places of those who were cogs in the Hollywood machine whose deaths held mystery and continue to intrigue the public.
On June 18, 2016, Anton Yelchin, the actor who played 'Ensign Chekov' in the reboot of the "Star Trek" franchise, was killed when he had stepped out of his Jeep Grand Cherokee, leaving it in neutral, he walked behind the SUV and down his driveway. That was when his SUV rolled down crushing him between a brick column and iron gate at the bottom. He was only 27- years- old at the time of his death. His gravesite is visited by a gentleman whose remorse is palatable. Before he leaves the man stands behind the effigy of Anton Yelchin and places his hand on the back of the statue and bows his head. One can feel the pain of the loss.
On the night of Feb., 3, 2003, Lana Clarkson met famed record producer Phil Spector at her job at the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard and shared a limo ride to 1700 Grandview Drive named "Pyrenees Castle" in Alhambra, CA. Phil Spector was not only a world-renowned producer, he was the innovator of the "Wall of Sound" technique in the 1960’s. In his later years Spector became quite eccentric. However, in no way could Ms. Clarkson have realized how that eccentricity would cost her life. At 5 a.m., shots rang out and Spector’s chauffeur called the police. The chauffer would later state that when the police arrived Spector said, “I think I killed someone”. This statement would repeat during the court proceedings when Spector claimed that Clarkson committed suicide in his mansion. The jury sentenced Spector to 19 years-to-life in Corcoran State Prison.
Oct 31., 1993 23-year-old actor River Phoenix died of an overdose of heroin and cocaine, colloquially known as a “speedball” and followed it up with a valium. Phoenix collapsed outside of The Viper Room, a rock club located at 8852 Sunset Blvd ironically owned by another infamous Hollywood actor, Johnny Depp.
8221 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood: The Chateau Marmont hotel, Bungalow #2: where comedian/actor John Belushi died of an overdose of heroin and cocaine on March 5,1982, at the age of 33. Belushi had been a regular on TV's "Saturday Night Live," then went on to star in movies such as "Animal House" and "The Blues Brothers."
7047 Franklin Avenue, Hollywood - previously the Landmark Motor Hotel (now called the Highland Gardens Hotel), room 105: where Janis Joplin accidentally overdosed on heroin in October 4, 1970. If one wishes to stay in this room, it has been refurbished since. However, it has become a shrine to the late singer with fans paying their respects by writing on the walls of the closet. Management of the hotel has added a bronze plaque to commemorate the singer.
This quaint home in Beverly Hills is on 1579 Benedict Canyon Drive. It was on the second floor of this home where actor George Reeves, TV's "Superman," excused himself from a party in his home. Later that evening, Reeves died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on June 16, 1959. Although the coroner ruled Reeves death as a suicide, friends and relatives of the former Superman decried the findings to be false and said the death was a murder due to Reeves’s belief that his former show was to return after its cancellation. As with most Hollywood tragedies the true story became a mythical tale in which Reeves died from a drugged fueled belief that he could fly, which of course had no merit in fact.
810 Linden Drive, Beverly Hills: Mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was a founding father of the idea of the celebrity gangster in 1947. Notorious for his temper and penchant for violence, Siegel’s crew gave him the nickname “Bugsy”, which he despised. It was rumored that it was his spending on the Flamingo Casino that led to his ultimate downfall. The original estimate of 1.2 million dollars ballooned to 6 million, financed by the Eastern Crime Syndicate led by Siegel’s close friend, Charles “Lucky” Luciano. On the night of June 20, 1947, a hail of bullets cut through the home of Virginia Hill, Siegel’s girlfriend, killing him. It was reported that three minutes after the shooting, Luciano walked through the doors of the Flamingo and claimed the hotel as his own. However, since the investigation into murder of Siegel produced no suspects, rumors persist to this day on who the shooter(s) were. All that is known for a fact is that Siegel’s murder was as brutal and notorious as the man himself. The movie “Bugsy” retold Siegal’s life, starring Warren Beatty as the notorious gangster.
Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer, was one of the many stars of the “Our Gang” / “Little Rascals” series of short movies produced by Hal Roach studios in the 1930s and 1940s. The series was incredibly popular and made Switzer a star. On January 21, 1959, Switzer was shot and killed by Moses “Bud” Stiltz. A jury found Stiltz not guilty by reason of justifiable homicide.
On September 18, 1932, aspiring actress Peg Entwistle committed suicide by jumping to her death from giant letter "H" of the Hollywood sign. According to lore, Entwistle left a note that said “I am afraid I’m a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.” The city of dreams claimed another victim.
Virginia Rappe: Died on September 9, 1921 from a ruptured bladder by a bottle shoved inside her by Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle during an infamous sex party. Arbuckle was a popular film comic and second to Charlie Chaplin in popularity. Arbuckle career was destroyed although he was acquitted of all charges.
Anthony "Tony" Scott: Director: Anthony Scott (True Romance, Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Enemy of the State) and brother of Ridley Scott another famous film director. Committed suicide on August 19, 2012 by jumping off of the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro, CA. His epitaph lists the movies he directed and has an effigy of a climber trying to reach the top of his tombstone.
Judy Garland: Actress / Singer famous for roles in A Star is Born and The Wizard of Oz. After Ms. Garland fell out of favor with MGM in 1950, she continued her singing career but her addiction to drugs shadowed her life. Judy Garland died of an accidental overdose on June 22, 1969. Her legacy lived on through her daughters, Lorna Luft and Liza Minnelli.
Douglas Glenn Colvin aka Dee Dee Ramone a founding member of the punk rock band The Ramones. Unfortunate life choices after he left the band, drug use and incarceration, led Mr. Colvin down a destructive path that culminated with his death on June 5, 2002 of a heroin overdose. He was beloved by many as one can tell by the many lipstick kisses on his memorial.
Another tragic story in the history of Hollywood is the tale of Florence Lawrence considered the first movie star. Ms. Lawrence was given the moniker of “The Biography Girl” for her work with Biography Studios. Ms. Lawrence starred in over 250 silent films. However, her career took a downturn after an accident on set left her bedridden for months. Ms. Lawrence life ended as quietly as her films. On December 28, 1938, Ms. Lawrence ingested a cocktail of cough syrup and ant paste, leaving a simple note which read, “I am tired. Hope this works.” Ms. Lawrence rests at the Hollywood Forever cemetery in a small corner that does not reflect her stardom but is an example of the fleeting nature of fame.