The Entertainers and Inspirations We Lost in June
It's always sad when we lose the people we look up to, people who have inspired us and made us strive to be better. In the following article, I will list the entertainers, inspirations, and just downright interesting people who died in the month of June.
June 3, 2009 - David Carradine
David Carradine didn't have a very good childhood. His parents John and Ardenelle Carradine divorced and remarried repeatedly. David's father had planned to have a large family, but after his wife had gone through several miscarriages, he found out that she had had many illegal abortions that he knew nothing about. This had caused her to be unable to carry a child to full term. Through all of the fighting and divorcing and despair, it all put a toll on David. On top of all that, he found out his brother Bruce had a different father. He was so distraught that he attempted suicide at the age of 5. Think about that. A five year old kid wanted to die because of the massive familial discord.
In 1944, John and Ardanelle finally divorced for real. A long series of court battles followed, one of which got John some jail time. Eventually, David and John moved to New York City. David was bounced around from boarding school to foster home to reform school and back again. Once he was old enough, he returned to California and finished high school and studied drama and music theory at San Francisco State College. He got a few small jobs but mainly focused on writing music for SFS's drama department annual revues and acting on stage.
In 1960, David attempted to dodge the draft but was eventually inducted into the US Army. He got a job in the Army drawing pictures for training aids. That Christmas, he was married to his high school sweetheart Donna Lee Becht.
While stationed at Fort Eustis in Virginia, he helped establish a theater company. In 1962, Donna gave birth to their daughter Calista. He was honorably discharged after his two years of service in the Army.
After exiting the Army, David pursued his stage career, getting his big break in The Royal Hunt of the Sun and winning a Theatre World Award for Best Debut Performance in 1965. After the play's run had finished and his marriage had failed, he returned to California and starred in the TV series Shane. He took a step up into his film career when he co-starred in Martin Scorsese's Boxcar Bertha, which is where he met his domestic partner Barbara Hershey.
Martial Arts entered David's life when he was cast in the TV series Kung Fu, in which his character was a half-Chinese half-white Shaolin monk. After the series ended, he took on the role of race car driver 'Frankenstein' in Death Race 2000. He stated that he specifically took this role in order to shed his Kung Fu image and launch his film career. He had success but suffered a bit of a decline throughout the 80s and 90s. His career was revived in 2003 when Quentin Tarantino cast him in the role of Bill for his two Kill Bill films.
On June 3, 2009, David was found dead in his room at the Swissotel Nai Lert Park Hotel in Central Bangkok, Thailand. Police stated that Carradine was found naked, hanging by a rope in his closet. It was assumed to be a suicide but later evidence suggested that his death was accidental as a result of autoerotic asphyxiation. In other words, he was choking and pleasing himself at the same time. Two of his former wives confirmed his interest in autoeroticism which helped confirm his cause of death. He was placed in a bamboo casket and buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.
June 3, 2009 - Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali was originally born Cassius Clay Jr on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. He was a descendant of slaves from the south and was predominantly of African descent with traces of Irish and English as well. Cassius grew up around racial segregation. This affected him, which caused him to act out occasionally.
At age 12, Cassius was angry about someone stealing his bicycle and was threatening to beat up the thief. A local police officer who happened to be a boxing coach directed Cassius to the sport that would change his life forever. Cassius initially didn't want to do it but after seeing amateur boxers on television, he decided to try it out. Clay began training. Remember now, he was only 12 years old when he began training. Cassius made his boxing debut in 1954 and won by split-decision. He went on to win six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two National Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union national title, and the Light Heavyweight Gold Medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics. His amateur record was 100 wins to 5 losses.
Cassius moved into professional boxing in 1960. Over the next 3 years, he gained a pro record of 19 to 0, 15 of those wins being knockouts. In 1964, Cassius faced off with Sonny Liston for the Heavyweight title. Cassius won by TKO, becoming the youngest boxer to ever receive the title. It was not long after this fight that Cassius converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
In 1966, Ali refused to be inducted into the US Army which caused him to be denied a boxing license in every state and stripped of his passport. Opposition to the Vietnam War grew and Ali started receiving sympathy for his actions. In 1971, his conviction was overturned. Ali regained the Heavyweight title in 1974 when he fought against George Foreman.
In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's Syndrome, a result of the head trauma he had suffered throughout his years as a boxer. Ali's illness worsened as the years passed and by February of 2013, he could no longer speak. Doctors said he would be dead within days. Ali passed away three years later.
June 7, 1954 - Alan Turing
Alan Turing was nothing short of a remarkable genius. He was a skilled computer scientist, mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist. He's even widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. He made suggestions as far back as the late 40s, early 50s that eventually were used to create desktop computers and robotics.
During World War 2, Alan was recruited by Britain's government to work alongside the GCCS (Government Code & Cypher School) which was Britain's codebreaking center. He figured out several techniques for speeding up the breaking of German codes and invented what is known as the Enigma machine which intercepted and cracked German codes in time for Britain and America to intervene in planned attacks. Turing's work shortened the war by an estimated two years and saved over 14 million lives.
It was found out that Alan was in fact gay, and in 1952 was prosecuted for homosexual acts because homosexuality was still criminal in the United Kingdom at the time. Alan elected not to go to prison and instead chose chemical castration. Turing fell into a depression and committed suicide via cyanide poisoning in 1954. In 2009, the British Prime Minister made a public apology on behalf of the British government for the way Alan was treated. Queen Elizabeth II granted Alan a posthumous pardon in 2013.
June 16, 1959 - George Reeves
George Reeves was born George Brewer to Donald and Helen Brewer. The couple separated after George's birth and Helen took George to Illinois where she had grown up. George and his mother later moved to California where she met Frank Bessolo. Frank adopted George as his own son. Helen's marriage to Frank lasted 15 years. While George was away visiting relatives, Helen and Frank divorced. When George returned, Helen told him that Frank had committed suicide. George didn't find out until years later that Frank was still alive.
While a student at Pasadena Junior College, George began acting on stage. It was there that he met his future wife Ellanora Needles. They were married on September 22, 1940. They divorced 10 years later.
George's film career started when he was cast as Stuart Tarleton in Gone with the Wind. George got a contract with Warner Brothers after being cast. Warner Studios changed George's professional name to George Reeves. He filmed several films with Warner in a year's time, making Gone with the Wind his first official film role but his fifth film release. George had much success, starring alongside future president Ronald Reagan and James Cagney. George was released from his Warner contract and signed on with 20th Century Fox. He appeared in five Hopalong Cassidy westerns and a Charlie Chan film and a war film.
In 1943, George was drafted into the US Army and was assigned to the Air Force. He performed in the USAAF's Broadway show Winged Victory and afterwards was transferred to the Army Air Forces' First Motion Picture Unit where he made training films.
At war's end, he was discharged and he returned to Hollywood. He appeared in a handful of B-movies until 1951 when he was offered the role that would define him for generations to come. George Reeves was initially reluctant to take on the role of Superman because he considered television work to be unimportant and thought not many people really cared about TV shows. To his surprise, he became a national celebrity by the time it aired the following year.
On top of his salary on the show, George received earnings from making personal appearances as Superman at birthday parties and shopping centers. George had much affection for the young viewers of his show, which caused him to take his role model status seriously. By the time the second season rolled around, George had become so iconic that he couldn't obtain roles outside of Superman. After two seasons, he became dissatisfied with his low salary and his one-dimensional character and wished to quit. The producers raised his salary to $5,000 a week while the show was in production which he agreed to. The show eventually ended but George continued making appearances as Superman, one of the most famous was on the I Love Lucy show. George fell into financial problems, his only lifeline being a planned revival of the Superman tv show.
George Reeves died of a gunshot wound to the head in his bedroom at his home between 1:30am and 2:00 am. There had been a party going on downstairs and George went to bed early in a bad mood. Among those present was Leonore Lemmon, George's fiance. The police noted that there was a delay in the call to the police to which the guests claimed it to be because of shock, their intoxicated state, and the late hour. The press claimed his death was suicide due to his failed career and his inability to get fame outside of Superman. One newspaper reported that Lemmon stated "He's probably going to go shoot himself" when Reeves went upstairs that night. The fact that he actually did, and her nonchalant attitude, has spurred conspiracy theories that he was actually murdered but the killer made it look like a suicide. There were several controversial statements given to the police. One says Lemmon went upstairs with him and after the shot rang out Lemmon ran back downstairs saying "Tell them I was down here!". Others say everyone was downstairs aside from George. No fingerprints were pulled from the gun which was rather suspicious. George's fingerprints should have been on it had he committed suicide. There were also no muzzle discharge burns that are often associated with self-inflicted gunshot wounds. The final mystery was that the bullet that killed him was recovered from the ceiling and the casing was found under his body which, considering his sitting position, would be an impossibility. George's death was officially ruled a suicide because of the contradictory statements and the lack of evidence that someone was with him.
In 1999, Los Angeles publicist Edward Lozzi claimed that he had interviewed Toni Mannix, wife of MGM vice president and mobster Eddie Mannix, before her death in 1983. He claimed that Toni had told him that she confessed to a Catholic priest that she was responsible for having Reeves killed. Jack Larson, a close friend of Toni's, disputed the story, stating that Toni was suffering from Alzheimer's and senile dementia. However, Lozzi swears that Toni's confession was made at a point in time when she was completely lucid. Lozzi also stated in his story that Toni would conduct prayer sessions on Tuesday nights, begging both God and George for forgiveness. Out of the three possibilities, we may never know what really happened to George.
June 25, 2009 - Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson was the eighth child in the Jackson family which would boast ten total. The Jacksons lived in a two bedroom house in Gary, Indiana. His mother was a devout Jehovah's Witness and worked part-time at Sears while his father, who was a former boxer, worked as a steelworker at US Steel.
Michael and his father Joe had a strained and troubled relationship. Joe admitted to regularly whipping Michael and it's been rumored that Joe also verbally abused him. Michael had stated that he was emotionally and physically abused during the never-ending rehearsals when Michael and four of his siblings were performing as the Jackson Five. Michael did go on to say later that Joe's strict discipline played a major role in his success.
In 1975, the Jackson Five signed with Epic Records and renamed themselves The Jacksons. They continued to rise in fame and in 1978, Michael decided to try out a film career. The film failed but the score arranger, Quincy Jones, agreed to produce Michael's next album. Jackson broke his nose during a complex dance number and had to have rhinoplasty. The surgery was not a success and it caused him to have breathing difficulties. He was referred to Dr. Hoefflin who would remain Michael's personal doctor and surgeon.
Michael established himself as a great solo performer, his album Off the Wall becoming the first solo album to generate four top ten hits in the US. Michael won three awards in 1980 at the American Music Awards.
In 1984, Michael was diagnosed with vitiligo, which results in white patches on the skin. Between 1986 and 1990, Michael's skin turned from black to white, causing the public to claim he was bleaching his skin. He eventually came forward with the truth.
Michael's career continued to soar, earning him the title "The King of Pop". Jackson died on June 25, 2009 due to medical issues.
Other Notable Deaths
- June 1, 1868 - President James Buchanan
- June 1, 1968 - Helen Keller
- June 1, 1985 - Richard Greene
- June 1, 1996 - Ray Combs
- June 2, 1927 - Lizzie Borden
- June 2, 1990 - Rex Harrison
- June 2, 1992 - Philip Dune
- June 2, 2012 - Richard Dawson
- June 3, 2011 - Jack Kevorkian
- June 3, 2011 - James Arness
- June 5, 1900 - Stephen Crane
- June 5, 1910 - O. Henry
- June 5, 1993 - Conway Twitty
- June 5, 2004 - President Ronald Reagan
- June 6, 1799 - Patrick Henry
- June 6, 1968 - Bobby Kennedy
- June 6, 1979 - Jack Haley
- June 7, 2015 - Christopher Lee
- June 8, 1845 - President Andrew Jackson
- June 8, 1924 - George Mallory
- June 9, 1870 - Charles Dickens
- June 9, 2017 - Adam West
- June 10, 323 BC - Alexander the Great
- June 10, 1967 - Spencer Tracy
- June 10, 1988 - Louis L'Amour
- June 10, 2004 - Ray Charles
- June 11, 1979 - John Wayne
- June 11, 2014 - Ruby Dee
- June 12, 1983 - Norma Shearer
- June 12, 2003 - Gregory Peck
- June 15, 1849 - President Polk
- June 15, 1996 - Ella Fitzgerald
- June 15, 2014 - Casey Kasem
- June 16, 2017 - Stephen Furst
- June 16, 2017 - John G. Avildsen
- June 19, 2013 - James Gandolfini
- June 19, 2016 - Anton Yelchin
- June 21, 2001 - John Lee Hooker
- June 21, 2001 - Carroll O'Connor
- June 22, 1969 - Judy Garland
- June 22, 1987 - Fred Astaire
- June 22, 2008 - George Carlin
- June 23, 1997 - Betty Shabazz
- June 23, 2006 - Aaron Spelling
- June 24, 1908 - President Cleveland
- June 25, 1876 - General Custer
- June 25, 2009 - Farrah Fawcett
- June 27, 2001 - Jack Lemmon
- June 27, 2017 - Michael Nyqvist
- June 28, 1836 - President Madison
- June 29, 1967 - Jayne Mansfield
- June 29, 1978 - Bob Crane
- June 29, 2003 - Katharine Hepburn
- June 30, 2014 - Bob Hastings
It's always heartbreaking when we lose someone we've looked up to, even if only for a few days or our whole lives. Entertainers are often inspirations, but inspirations are everywhere. Remember, you yourself are an inspiration to someone. You just don't realize it.
© 2017 Alec Zander