DEAD CELEB OF THE WEEK: GENE RODDENBERRY (1921-1991)

Born: August 19, 1921
Died: October 24, 1991
sdfStar Trek creator Gene Roddenberry has gone where few men have gone before.
When he died, seven grams of his ashes were launched into space by Celestis, Inc., the pioneer and global leader in Memorial Spaceflights. Now that his wife, actress Majel Barrett Roddenberry (1932-2008) has died, Mr. and Mrs. will be reunited. Of sorts.
Says their son Gene II: We have planned a very compelling future memorial service for my mother and father. Fulfilling a pledge made to Majel in 1995, Celestis, Inc. will launch [14 grams of] my mother and my father together, side-by-side, on an infinite journey into deep space aboard their Voyager Memorial Spaceflight Service.
The spacecraft is currently planned for launch in 2012 and it will carry their spirits, their memories, and the message of their life’s work into the cosmos.”
The fee? A cool $37,500. The fee includes invitations to the launch and memorial services, a custom-made, professionally produced DVD of the launch and memorial activities, inscription of the participant’s name and message on a special plaque included in the spacecraft and complimentary scattering of the balance of remaining cremated remains at sea near the launch site.

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Morbid Curiosity, By Alan W. Petrucelli

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DEAD CELEB OF THE WEEK: GIG YOUNG (1913-1978)

Born: November 4, 1913
Died: October 19, 1978
a20579He starred in many films and TV shows, but October 19 was the final gig for Young.
Just three weeks after his fifth marriage to a 31-year-old Australian art gallery employee named Kim Schmidt, the couple starred in a murder/suicide. When police found them in Apartment 1BB of New York City’s ritzy Osborne Apartments, she had a bullet hole from a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson in her skull; he had shot her, then stuck the gun barrel in his own mouth.
The Youngs were found about five hours after the crime, when the groceries Kim had ordered were noticed still sitting in the lobby. Gig’s blood-soaked diary was open to September 27, 1978, the day of their marriage.
Hey, at least he remembered the date.

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Morbid Curiosity, By Alan W. Petrucelli

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DEAD CELEB OF THE WEEK: BING CROSBY (1903-1977)

Born: May 3, 1903
Died: October 14, 1977
june9_crosby2_299x363For a man who beat his kids, his last words were pretty benign: “That was a great game of golf, fellas. Let’s go get a Coke.”
    Crobsy sang, danced, acted, loved to kill animals and play golf. Shortly after 6 p.m. on October 14, Crosby collapsed just 20 yards from the clubhouse, dying suddenly from a massive heart attack. He had just completed a round of 18 holes near Madrid where he and his Spanish golfing partner had just defeated their two opponents. (He scored an 85.)
   He’s interred in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, next to his first wife. He was buried nine feet deep so that his second wife could be buried with him.
Fore!

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DEAD CELEB OF THE WEEK: RODNEY DANGERFIELD (1921-2004)

Born: November 22, 1921
Died: October 5, 2004
dangerfield2You gotta love a guy who, at 82, was still smoking pot.
The funny man was, indeed, a pothead since he was 21. During the Reagan years, he once got stoned at the White House; in 2002, after being wheeled into the intensive-care unit during a heart-attack scare, Dangerfield lit up a joint in the bathroom!
 At the end of his life, the comic was a “legal pothead,” having received doctor’s orders to smoke the stuff to control his high blood pressure.
Dangerfield died on October 5 from complications after heart-valve replacement surgery.
And he finally gets respect at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

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Morbid Curiosity, By Alan W. Petrucelli

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DEAD CELEB OF THE WEEK: JAMES DEAN (1931-1955)

Born: February 8, 1931
Died: September 30, 1955
deadncrashThe giant screen icon’s last words?  “That guy’s gotta stop. He’ll see us.”
Yeah right.
On September 30, Dean and his mechanic took off in the actor’s custom-made Porsche Spyder 550 headed for a car race at Salinas, California. At 3:30 p.m., Dean was ticketed in Kern County for doing 65 miles-per-hour in a 55 miles-per-hour zone. After stopping at Blackwell’s Corner in Lost Hills for fuel, Dean was driving west on U.S. Route 466 near Cholame, California, when a black-and-white 1950 Ford Custom Tudor coupe, driven from the opposite direction by 23-year-old Cal Poly student Donald Turnupseed, attempted to take the fork onto  State Route 41.
The late-afternoon sun blinded him, and he crossed into Dean’s lane without seeing him; the two cars hit almost head-on. A heavily-breathing Dean, almost decapitated in the crash, was placed into an ambulance and taken to Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 5:59 p.m. Turnupseed received a gashed forehead and bruised nose and was not cited by police for the accident. “I didn’t see them, I swear I didn’t,” he moaned again and again.
The day before Dean’s death, Hollywood writer James Bacon recalls seeing the actor doing 80 miles an hour on a Los Angeles street before screeching to a halt. As the actor got out of his Porsche Spyder, Bacon said, “Jimmy, that’s a good way to keep from growing old.”
Dean shot back: “Who wants to grow old?”
Perhaps even more ironic: During the filming of Giant, Dean filmed a short promotional interview with actor Gig Young about the dangers of speeding. “The lives you might save might be mine,” he ad-libbed. The footage, part of a Warner Bros. shorts series, never aired, but is one of the more popular YouTube destinations.

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Morbid Curiosity, By Alan W. Petrucelli

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DEAD CELEB OF THE WEEK: BOB FOSSE (1927-1987)

Born: June 23, 1927
Died: September 23, 1987
053BobFosseOn September 23, the chain-smoking Tony and Oscar-winning dance legend, working on a revival of his 1969 hit musical Sweet Charity, was walking back to his Washington, D.C. hotel room. With him was former wife and original Charity star Gwen Verdon (they separated in the ’70s, but remained married); at about 7 p.m. when they reached the corner of 13thand Pennsylvania Avenue, Fosse fell to the ground, the victim of a massive heart attack.
Gwen cradled his head in his arms and tried to shoo away the crowds that had gathered. A doctor worked his way through, loosened Fosse’s shirt and began pounding his heart. It obviously hurt and Fosse, his eyes now half shut and his complexion green, said so. His last words? “Please stop. You’re hurting me. I’m alright. Don’t worry about me.”
Fosse was rushed to the hospital, but nothing could save him.
He died, at 60, as opening night audience members at the Kennedy Center were enjoying the intermission of Sweet Charity. Verdon later told the press Fosse suffered the fatal heart attack and died in his room at the Willard, wanting to preserve his dignity. Papers fell for it, even The New York Times.
Fosse’s ashes were scattered at sea . . . and all that jazz.

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DEAD CELEB OF THE WEEK: TUPAC SHAKUR (1971-1996)

Born: June 16, 1971
Died: September 13, 1996
a7c48280fa913e9a23f4f99223a26829Tupac Shakur, unlikely martyr of gangsta rap, may have died  from “respiratory failure and cardiopulmonary arrest in connection with multiple gunshot wounds,” but he was still smoking days after he was cremated—some of his ashes were later mixed with marijuana and smoked by members of his band.

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Morbid Curiosity, By Alan W. Petrucelli

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DEAD CELEB OF THE WEEK: HERVE VILLECHAIZE (1943-1993)

Born: April 23, 1943
Died: September 4, 1993
hervenote2Herve Villechaize gained fortune and instant recognition for his role as Tattoo (“De plane! De Plane!”) in the hit TV series Fantasy Island.
Then there was his juicy role as the evil Nick Nack in the 1974 James Bond flick The Man with the Golden Gun.
So what went wrong, leading him to a write an (almost indiscernible) suicide note on a sheet of loose-leaf paper? The salary demands that 3-foot, 10-inch midget (he insisted that he not be referred to as a dwarf) made, along with his constant sexual harassment of females on the set and quarrels with the producers, got him fired. Suffering from ulcers, a spastic colon and the effects of several strokes, the actor would sit in a darkened room, hurling obscenities at reruns of Fantasy Island.
During the early morning hours of September 4, he disabled every phone in the house then shot himself in the backyard, using two pillows to muffle the sound as not to disturb his girlfriend Kathy Self who accompanied him to a private screening of Harrison Ford’s The Fugitive earlier that evening.
He had a tape recorder with him; the tape (unlike the note) was clearer: “Kathy, I can’t live like this anymore. I’ve always been a proud man and always wanted to make you proud of me. You know you made me feel like a giant and that’’s how I want you to remember me.” After a bit more rambling he said “I’m doing what I have to do. I want everything to go to Kathy. I want everyone to know that I love them.”

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DEAD CELEB OF THE WEEK: PRINCESS DIANA (1961-1997)

Born: July 1, 1961
Died: August 31, 1997
crash2Di’s last words?
“My God! What’s happened?”
Frankly, Diana, we don’t know.
The People’s Princess, along with her lover Dodi Al-Fayed, were killed during a high speed car crash in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris. Henri Paul, the acting security manager of the Hotel Ritz Paris, whose blood analysis would later prove he was illegally intoxicated, was driving the black 1994 Mercedes-Benz S280 eluding the paparazzi. He was also killed. The car crashed into the thirteenth pillar of the tunnel. None of the occupants were wearing seatbelts.
Dodi’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was the lone survivor . . . and heard the last words.
Diana, who was in the backseat was violently thrown around the interior upon impact, “submarined” under the seat in front and suffering massive damage to her heart. The internal bleeding was a royal mess. And we’re sure her last meal—a mushroom and asparagus omelet, Dover sole and vegetable tempura eaten at L’Espadon, the Ritz’s restaurant—never had the chance to fully digest. After a short delay, an ambulance whisked her to a hospital, where she went into cardiac arrest twice.
Despite lengthy resuscitation attempts, including internal cardiac massage, she died at 4 a.m. She was buried dressed in a black long-sleeved dress designed by CatheinrWalker. Rosary beads she received from Mother Teresa (who would die the same week) were placed in her hands, and photographs of her beloved sons William and Harry and her father were tucked into her oak coffin. Her funeral, held on September 6, was watched by an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide and broadcast to 180 countries, the largest audience in TV history.
Her grave is on an island within the grounds of Althrorp Park, her  family home.

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DEAD CELEB OF THE WEEK: GOWER CHAMPION (1919-1980)

Born: June 22, 1919
Died: August 25, 1980
ddddddddGower Champion, the director of the Carol Channing blockbuster Hello, Dolly!, was a trouper to the end.
The very end.
Though he was gravely ill (and knew it), Tony-winning Champion championed on, relentlessly working as director and choreographer on the 1980 musical 42nd Street. A few days before the show opened on Broadway, Champion was admitted to Manhattan’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and diagnosed with a rare and terminal form of leukemia.
The play opened as scheduled; immediately after the 10 curtain calls that August 25, producer David Merrick walked out from the wings to make the stunning announcement: “Our beloved director Gower Champion has died.” Champion had died hours before the curtain went up, but Merrick managed to keep the tragedy a secret.
Champion’s life ran 59 years. 42nd Street ran 3,486 performances.

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