DCS: madeleine sherwood

Reverend Mother Placido

A life member of the prestigious Actors Studio, Madeleine Sherwood was featured in over a dozen Broadway productions, including the Tennessee Williams’ dramas Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Sweet Bird of Youth. She reprised her roles in the film versions of both plays.

On television, she appeared on several soap operas, including two different stints on Guiding Light. She is best known, however, for her role as the stern Mother Superior of Convent San Tanco on the preposterous 60s sitcom The Flying Nun, starring a pre-Oscar Sally Field.

In her personal life, Madeleine was a fierce advocate for civil rights. She worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., in the late 1950s and 60s and left her native Canada to join Congress on Racial Equality (CORE). She was arrested during a Freedom Walk, jailed, and sentenced to six months hard labor, for “endangering the customs and mores of the people of Alabama.” In the 1970s, she joined activists Gloria Steinem and Betty Dodson at the First Women’s Sexual Conference in New York City. From there, she started a support and counseling group to raise awareness about incest.

Although she had been a long-time resident of the United States, Madeleine remained a Canadian citizen. In 2016, she passed away at her childhood home in Quebec at the age of 93.

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IF: wheels

the wheels on the bus go round and round

I’m driving right up to you, babe
I guess that you couldn’t see, yeah yeah
But you were under my wheels honey
Why don’t you let me be?

Only Alice Cooper could sing a love song about running over his girlfriend with his car.
That’s what makes Alice “Alice.”

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DCS: pete maravich

Kids in Bristol

Pete Maravich had a close relationship with his father. The elder Maravich introduced the fundamentals of basketball to seven-year old Pete. He spent long hours drilling Pete with rigorous passing, long shots and tricks. On his high school team, the accomplished Pete was averaging 33 points per game. His unorthodox style of shooting the ball from his side earned him the nickname “Pistol Pete.”

After high school, Pete took an offer to play for LSU. (His father was the basketball coach.) In his first game as a freshman, he put up 50 points. Later, on the varsity squad, he averaged 44 points per game. His NCAA record of  3,667 points still stands. This was in the days before the three-point line and the shot clock were introduced.

Pete played for three NBA teams and was a 5-time All Star and was respected by fans and fellow players. However, knee injuries forced him to retire after 10 seasons. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The Hall cited Pete as “perhaps the greatest creative offensive talent in history.”

After retirement, Pete had varied interests. He studied Hinduism and yoga. He adopted a vegetarian diet. He investigated UFO sightings. He embraced Evangelical Christianity, saying that he hoped to be remembered as a Christian, not a basketball player.

In 1988, Pete suffered a fatal heart attack during a pick-up game in a church gym. Just minutes before he died, he said “I feel great” — his last words.  It was later discovered that Pete had a congenital heart defect that should have taken his life years earlier.

Prophetically, Pete gave an interview after just four years in the NBA, saying, “I don’t want to play 10 years and then die of a heart attack at the age of 40.”

Pete Maravich passed away at 40 years old.

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IF: nostalgia

i'll be seeing you in all the old familiar places

I have fond memories of Frank Sinatra’s music and how it spanned several generations. My mom loved Frank Sinatra beginning in his early days as a big band singer with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, when he appealed to the bobbysoxers… and my mom was a bobbysoxer.

When I was a teenager in the 70s, Frank Sinatra was enjoying a career renaissance, culminating in the 1980 release of his ambitious triple album, Trilogy: Past, Present and Future. This album, featuring composition spanning pre-rock and rock eras, appealed to those in my parents’ age group, as well as my peers. My friends and I referred to Frank’s recording of “The Theme from ‘New York, New York'” as “Our National Anthem.” We would play it on the jukebox at The Tavern on the Mall, a favorite watering hole, and force the occupants of the place to stand, salute and sing along.

My mom passed away over twenty years ago. I still love Frank Sinatra’s music. Every time I hear him sing, I still think of my mom.

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DCS: ron hughes

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After three attempts, Ron Hughes finally passed the California Bar exam. He had never tried a case when he met with Charles Manson in December 1969, just after warrants had been issued and arrests had been made for the August 8 murders of five people at the home of actress Sharon Tate and the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca the next evening. Although Ron was contracted to represent Manson, he was replaced by defense attorney Irving Kanarek. Ron, however, went on to represent Manson “Family” member Leslie Van Houten.

Ron, who had earned the nickname “The Hippie Lawyer,” hoped to show that Van Houten’s actions were a result of complete mind control by Manson. This strategy infuriated Manson, as it contradicted his plan to have each “Family” member implicate themselves, thus clearing the cult leader of all involvement.

Twenty-two weeks into a trial that was regularly interrupted by bizarre outbursts, the prosecution rested. Surprisingly, the defense team that included Ron Hughes, rested as well. Leslie Van Houten, along with “Family” colleagues Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel, shouted out in the courtroom for a chance to testify. They wanted to admit to committing murder of their own free will. Ron Hughes objected in defiance of Manson’s plan. Judge Charles Older called for a ten-day recess so both sides could prepare final arguments. Ron was confident he had secured an acquittal for Van Houten.

In November 1970, Ron Hughes decided to take a camping trip during the recess in the trial. He and two friends drove to a remote area of Ventura County, but their trip was marred by heavy rains and flooding. After unsuccessfully trying to convince Ron to abandon the idea of camping, Ron’s companions left, leaving Ron to brave the elements alone. When court reconvened on November 30, Ron did not show up. Ventura County authorities had to wait for two days until the rains subsided before a search could commence. In the meantime, a new attorney was appointed for Van Houten.

On March 29, 1971, the same day that a jury returned death penalty verdicts for Charles Manson, Leslie Van Houten, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel, two fishermen discovered Ron Hughes decomposed body wedged between two boulders in a gorge in Ventura County. He was identified by dental records. Due to the state of his remains, Ron’s cause of death was undetermined. He was 35 years old.

Manson “Family” members Sandra “Blue” Good and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme claimed that Ron’s death was one is a series of “retaliation murders” ordered by Manson. Ventura County Sheriff Charlie Rudd, however, stated that Ron’s death was accidental, a result of being trapped and knocked unconscious by the raging flood waters.

Leslie Van Houten was retried after it was determined that she was denied proper representation due to Ron Hughes’ disappearance. In 1977, that trial ended in a hung jury. A subsequent trial in 1978 yielded a verdict of guilty of first degree murder of Rosemary and Leno LaBianca. Van Houten was sentenced to life in prison and, after twenty denials, she was granted parole in April 2016. The final word on her release remains in the hands of the Governor of California.

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DCS: sheila ryan

my baby loves the western movies

A 1940 newspaper article called Sheila Ryan “an actress whose alluring curves alone might have disqualified them from screen careers not so long ago.” The petite, dark-haired beauty made 60 films during her thirty-year career.

She innocently auditioned for a small role in a locally-produced show for LA station KCBS. She got the role immediately. Sheila went on to roles in several Laurel and Hardy comedies, as well as parts in a few Charlie Chan and Michael Shayne mysteries. But, eventually, she only appeared in bit parts in Western B-movies, alongside Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. She was briefly married to Western actor Allan “Rocky” Lane, the future voice of TV talking horse Mr. Ed.

While working with Autry, she met actor Pat Buttram and married him in 1952. She retired from show business in 1968, three years into Buttram’s stint as the shifty “Mr. Haney” on the TV sitcom Green Acres.

Sheila entered the Motion Picture Hospital in 1975 suffering from chronic lung disease. She passed away in 1975 at the age of 54.

DCS: debbie stone

to all who come to this happy place - welcome

Debbie Stone’s celebrity status is of an unfortunate nature. The 18 year-old Santa Ana High School graduate holds the distinction of being the first Disneyland cast member killed while working in the theme park.

At the end of the summer of 1973, The Carousel of Progress, Disney’s innovative and entertaining chronology of technological advancement was packed up and shipped to Walt Disney World in Florida. The huge circular building at the rear of Tomorrowland remained quiet for nine months, while, inside, Imagineers readied a new attraction to take the place of the departed show.

On June 29, 1974, the jovial America Sings welcomed its first guests. The new presentation, an upbeat showcase of the history of American music, utilized the same staging mechanics that made The Carousel of Progress so unique. America Sings, hosted by Eagle Sam and Ollie Owl, a pair of Audio-Animatronic birds, took guests on a musical journey in a series of scenes that began in the nineteenth century South, traveled through the Old West and the turn of the twentieth century, right up to the birth of rock and roll. The scenes were bookended by our hosts serenading the audience with “Yankee Doodle.” The show — “performed” by a large cast of Audio-Animatronic animals — sat in the center of the building, with the individual stages assembled as wedges of a pie. While the stages remained stationary, the seating area would rotate — with audience members seated — until it lined up with the next appropriate scene. At the conclusion of each “act” (which were all the same duration), the theaters would once again rotate, bringing a roomful of guests to the next segment of their particular show. Essentially, six shows ran simultaneously. It was quite an undertaking, but totally “Disney” nonetheless.

Nine days after America Sings opened, newly-hired hostess Debbie Stone was assigned a shift at the attraction. Just before the excited teenager reported to her post, she phoned her parents to asked permission to get married. Debbie and her parents were exuberant. Debbie soon took her assigned place at America Sings.

At 10:30 pm, a guest in one of the theaters heard a hair-raising scream and saw what looked like a child between the walls that separated the theaters. It is unclear whether Debbie fell or stepped backwards or attempted to leap from one stage to another, but the result was she became caught — trapped — between the moving wall and the stationary wall and she was crushed to death.

America Sings closed for two days while workers installed safety lighting and breakaway walls. Debbie’s parents eventually brought a wrongful death lawsuit against Disney, which was settled within a few months of Debbie’s passing. Santa Ana High School placed a plaque at the school’s swimming pool in Debbie’s memory.

America Sings closed in 1988. The elaborate stage mechanisms were disassembled and removed. A number of its Audio-Animatronic cast were reassigned to Splash Mountain and Star Tours.  The building was gutted and eventually housed the faux-futuristic Innoventions and, later, a Marvel character meet and greet. Today, it is the home of Star Wars Launch Bay, a preview center for Disneyland’s expansive Star Wars Land project.

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