Some of these stories are well known and others need to be searched. Hollywood has had many bizarre deaths and some murders which still are unsolved. As time goes by some of these stories become forgotten and others are thought to belong in a time vault and left unmentioned.
Hollywood of the 1920s was obsessed with having a Latin lover in a costume adventure. Rudolph Valentino was the numbr one box office star of the early twenties at times and Douglas Fairbanks would sometimes be at the top of the heap. Ramon Novarro had Fairbanks manly appearance combined with Novarro's Latin lover style. Ramon quickly became a big star. He was the lead in the first, silent version of Ben Hur.
Ramon met another man whose life had included posing in front of a camera. Paul Ferguson was a guest at Ramon Novarro's Laurel Canyon home in the Hollywood Hills on the night before Halloween of 1968. Paul Ferguson had been a model for The Athletic Model Guild in Southern California. His physique photos revealed him to be an innocent looking cute young guy who was healthy and well endowed. Paul's brother, Tom, was with Paul when they arrived at Ramon's home. Paul was a youthful 22 and Tom was younger, 17. Novarro was 69.
Ramon Novarro had done well financially over the years. He had a nice house and many pictures of his glory years adorning his walls. He occasionally brought young street hustlers to his home and had sex with them and sometimes he would just chat with the guys and get drunk. He enjoyed the companionship of young sexy guys.
Most hustlers who knew him spoke kindly about Ramon. Somehow a rumor started that he had $5000 hidden inside his house. Paul Ferguson and his brother were determined to find it. After Paul had a sexual adventure in the bedroom with Ramon he began to ask for the $5000. Tom was on the phone talking with his girlfriend in Chicago. Later the girl would tell authorities she could hear someone screaming in the background during the 40 minute phone call.
Paul and Tom Ferguson were arrested after police discovered the telephone records for the evening of October 30th and found the names of Paul and Tom Ferguson from the girlfriend in Chicago.
The trial seemed to focus more on Ramon Novarro being "queer," which was a word used to describe Ramon Novarro at the trial, instead of the brutal beating and murder of Ramon Novarro. Paul and Tom Ferguson were each sentenced to life in prison. Both were out in less than ten years. Tom was killed in a fight and Paul was arrested for rape and is in prison again.
Phil Hartman had a brilliant successful career going for himself. He was famous for being a Saturday Night Live regular performer from 1986 until he left the show in 1994. He was a star of the very popular News Radio TV series sitcom which would soon begin its fifth season. Phil was married to his third wife, Brynn. They had two children. They had a nice home in Encino and all seemed well.
Brynn had wanted to be more successful with her own show business career and when that was coupled with her drug dependence, she became argumentive. Over the years the problem escalated.
On May 27, 1998, after an argument with Brynn, Phil Hartman went to bed. Later that night his wife shot him twice in the head and once in his side while he was sleeping. Phil was killed instantly. Brynn called a friend to confess what had happened. After the police were summoned and the children were removed from the house, Brynn Hartman locked herself in the bedroom with her husband's body and shot herself one time in the head. Another murder/suicide case for LAPD to add to its list.
I personally knew Ray Combs quite well. At least I thought I knew him very well. He seemed so well adjusted when I saw him each week when I worked as a cast member of a TV series called Dear John. Ray did what was known as the "warm up" for the show. Ray would talk to the live audience of about 300 people each week when we filmed the show. He was the emcee who would get the audience in a happy mood so they would be ready to laugh out loud when the cameras were rolling. Ray probably did the warm ups for about half of the shows we did. We made a total of 90 regular episodes of the show so I saw and talked with Ray about 45 times.
I had worked in Hollywood as a movie extra for many years before I became an actor on Dear John. I had worked many live sitcom shows and I had watched many shows over the years in Hollywood as an audience member. Ray was easily the very best warm up comic I have ever seen. To be a warm up comic requires the ability to go with the moment. A person cannot just tell jokes or recite something he or she has rehearsed and get the audience to laugh at what is happening right this moment. Ray could look at the audience, then at the activity that was going on as sets were changed and work crews hustled about and he would comment about what was happening right at that moment. If two workers on the set were convesing Ray would say, "See those two guys... They're talking about how lousy the lunch was... That guy is saying, 'I'm gonna be sick...'" He would actually be able to make the down moments of the show, when sets were being redressed, as entertaining as the show itself. He was a master adlibber and a wonderful man to be around.
Ray became famous as the host of Family Feud. He continued to do the warm up for our show and several other shows. He was a very funny man.
In 1994 Ray's life took several turns for the worse. He lost his hosting job on Family Feud. He was badly injured in a car accident. His wife divorced him. He and his wife had six children. He was now alone and soon in debt.
Ray became increasingly more depressed and was hospitalized for mental observation several times after behaving in a reckless and insane manner. On June 2, 1996, Ray Combs committed suicide by hanging himself using his hospital sheets in a hospital closet.
No Hollywood murder was more grusome and no celebrity death was more sensationalized, understandably, than the horrible murder of Sharon Tate. Sharon and her unborn child and four other victims died on the night of August 8, 1969, at a house Sharon and her husband, Roman Polanski, were renting. The house was in Bel Air.
Charles Manson was eventually arrested for the crimes after he was named by Susan Atkins as the leader of the "family" of killers. Manson had not been at the scene but he had instructed that everyone in the house must be killed. Manson's reasoning was that he had been rejected by a music producer named Terry Melcher who once lived at that address. Two more victims were murdered on the following night.
Sharon Tate was stabbed 16 times. Five of the wounds were capable of having been fatal by themselves. She had asked to be spared for two weeks until her baby was born but the killers showed no mercy.
The Academy Award winning actor from "The Killing Fields" became a crime statistic in real life on February 25, 1996. He had been shot to death outside his home in a parking lot. He had lived in a modest two bedroom apartment in Chinatown.
Ngor had won the Best Supporting Oscar for 1984 for a politically charged film, The Killing Fields. At first some people thought Ngor had been killed as a retaliation by some group which had differing views. Ngor had been helping his fellow countrymen with aid of various kinds when he could afford to donate. He even visited Cambodia and brought medical supplies to help those in need.
On April 26, 1996 a trio of robbers who specialized in home invasions were arrested for Ngor's murder.
A fund was established in Ngor's name to further his life's quest to help refugees from his native country.
Buck Jones was a big star in Hollywood cowboy movies. He appeared in more than 160 films, starting his career as a stunt rider before he became a star. He and Tom Mix were the biggest Western heroes of their day and the two men were good friends. He made several movies with a very young Carole Lombard.
What is known for certain is that he died in 1942 in a fire in Boston at the famous Cocoanut Grove. Some reports have claimed he went back into the fire several times to save people and others say he became lost in the smokey fire. He was one of 492 victims of that fire.
The name of Albert Dekker is not well known today. He was not that famous even when he was a busy movie actor. He also was a member of the California State Assembly. He was an outspoken critic of Senator Joe McCarthy.
The Los Angeles Coronor's Office has often ruled a case to be accidental death or suicide when logic points to a different answer. Albert Dekker's demise was strange ebough to make me think it was murder. I was not there but some of the evidence seems questionable when we imagine an accidental death.
Dekker's body was found on May 5, 1968. He had probably died on May 4th, which was when his fiance was unable to reach him by telephone. The apartment manager used a master key to enter the apartment with Dekker's fiance the following day, Sunday, May 5th, 1968. Albert Dekker was dead in the bathtub, kneeling, with a hangman's noose around his neck. The noose was tied around the shower curtain rod.
There were some obscenities written on his chest and torso, including a word that starts with c and ends with sucker. Other phrases written on him included "Make me suck." A scarf was wrapped around his eyes. He had a bit in his mouth and was gagged. He had a hypodermic needle stuck in each arm. Each wrist was handcuffed.
Several thousand dollars in cash and some photo equipment were missing.
Nothing suspicious there.