With humble beginnings in local theater, Helen Walker made her big-screen debut in Lucky Jordan in 1942, co-starring with Alan Ladd in his first “leading man” role. Helen became well-known and reliable as a foil in comedies. She appeared as the female lead in the original Brewster’s Millions with Dennis O’Keefe. She later starred in musical comedies with Jack Haley, Peter Lawford and Charles Boyer.
On New Year’s Eve 1946, Helen was driving director Bruce “Lucky” Humberstone’s car from Palm Springs to Hollywood as a favor. She stopped to pick up three young men who were hitch-hiking — a soldier named Robert Lee and two teen-age students, Philip Mercado, and Joseph Montaldo. Forty-five minutes into the trip, the car hit a highway divider and flipped over. Lee was killed instantly. Helen and the two other passengers were seriously injured. Mercado and Montaldo brought a civil suit against Helen. Lee’s family also filed a manslaughter charge against the actress. Just after the trial began, Mercado was arrested as an accomplice in an armed robbery. Montaldo admitted to an earlier narcotics charge, for which he was arrested. After Helen’s lawyer proved that Helen was not intoxicated while driving, the manslaughter charge was dismissed by the District Attorney’s office. But, Helen’s days in light-hearted comedies were over.
Her first role upon her return to Hollywood was the one for which she is best remembered. Helen garnered critical praise for her portrayal of “Lilith Ritter,” the deceitful psychoanalyst in the original “Nightmare Alley.” From that point forward, Helen was cast as darker characters. She made several film noir pictures, including The Big Combo with Richard Conte and Cornel Wilde, her last role before retiring from show business at 35.
Out of the spotlight for a few years, Helen’s house was destroyed by a fire in 1960. Her former acting colleagues staged a benefit to help her recover financially. Eight years later, Helen was diagnosed with cancer and passed away at the age of 47.
Ilhan New was born in Pyongyang, North Korea in 1895. He and his family of nine brothers and sisters emigrated to the United States when Ilhan was nine. A good student, Ilhan eventually attended the University of Michigan where he graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Commerce. He teamed with a friend, Detroit grocer Wally Smith, to package and sell mung beans. The pair founded La Choy in 1922, with soy sauce, kumquats, water chestnuts, brown sauce, bamboo shoots, and chow mein noodles soon following their initial bean product.
In 1930, Ilhan returned to his native Korea, leaving Smith to run the thriving company. La Choy expanded under Smith’s command, and he successfully ran the company until his untimely death from a lightning strike in 1937.
Meanwhile, Ilhan founded the Yuhan Corporation in Korea. The fledgling pharmaceutical company was traded on the Korean stock exchange, the first time for a company in that industry. Ilhan pioneered a profit-sharing program among employees, unheard of at the time.
When he passed away in 1971 at the age of 76, Ilhan donated his accumulated wealth to the Korean Society and Education Aid Trust Fund, a public foundation. Yuhan Corporation remains one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in South Korea.
Shannon Hoon had two passions — sports and music. In high school, he wrestled, played football and was a pole vaulter on the track and field squad. Influenced by The Beatles, The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan, Shannon began to front various bands on weekends.
At 18, Shannon left his native Indiana for the bright lights and promises of stardom in Los Angeles. At a party, he met several young musicians and soon a band was formed. Shannon named his band “Blind Melon,” a dismissive nicknamed his father used to refer to “stoners.” He hooked up with his sister’s boyfriend (and fellow Indiana transplant), also a musician in a band. The boyfriend — Axl Rose — asked Shannon to help out on some songs his band was recording for a scheduled album release. Shannon happily contributed backing vocals to songs on Use Your Illusion I and II, released in 1991.
Blind Melon released their debut in 1992. They toured with Ozzy Osbourne, Guns N’ Roses, and Soundgarden overt the next year, with their single “No Rain,” a Billboard Top 20 song, getting airplay all over the world. Blind Melon toured extensively over the next two years. On a stop in Vancouver, Shannon was arrested after exposing himself and urinating on an audience member. In 1994, Blind Melon performed at the notorious Woodstock ’94 festival. Shannon, high on LSD, did the show while wearing his girlfriend’s white dress.
During a break from touring, the band released Soup, their second album. Shannon, by now a heavy drug user, allowed a drug counsellor to accompany the band on tour. After a disappointing show in Houston, a distraught Shannon went on a drug binge as the band travelled to New Orleans for the next stop on the tour. In the afternoon of October 21, 1995, Blind Melon’s sound engineer went to the tour bus to wake Shannon for a sound check. He found the singer unresponsive. An ambulance was called and Shannon was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 28 years old.
For someone with such an interesting and unusual name, there is not a lot of information about Bo Peep Karlin.
She was born Lioba Karlin in 1910 in Green Creek, Illinois, located midway between St. Louis and Terre Haute, Indiana. An aspiring dancer, Bo Peep made her film debut in an uncredited role in the early talkie The Great Gabbo, starring Erich Von Stroheim as a possessed ventriloquist, and early entry in the the oft-used movie trope. Bo Peep went on to appear in eight more film roles, all but one uncredited. Her final role, the one for which she received screen credit, was in the 1963 musical Bye-Bye Birdie. She played “Ursula’s Mother.” The character didn’t even have an actual name. Bo Peep retired from acting at the conclusion of filming.
Bo Peep married actor turned studio executive Gaston Glass. Glass was a popular silent movie actor whose career plummeted when talking pictures came into prominence. He took the opportunity to work behind-the-scenes. Glass served as a production manager at 20th Century Fox, working on such films as All About Eve, State Fair and Three Coins in the Fountain. He later moved on to television, where he supervised the production of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space and Batman. He was briefly married to Renée Adorée before marrying Bo Peep Karlin.
Bo Peep and Gaston Glass had three children, including movie and television score composer Paul Glass. They remained married until Glass’s death in 1965. Bo Peep passed away four years later at the age of 58.
Dino Martin was encouraged to pursue a career in show business. After all, his father was Dean Martin, one of the most famous figures in entertainment. Just into his teens, Dino teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Billy Hinsche and drummer Desi Arnaz Jr., both of whom Dino knew as grammar school classmates. The trio auditioned for Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records and, before they knew it, they had a couple of hits on the Billboard charts.
Dino’s musical fame was short-lived, as he moved to the world of sports. He became a successful tennis player, even making an appearance in a junior competition at Wimbledon. He also took a shot at acting, landing a role in the 1979 film Players, as — ironically — a tennis player. Around the same time, he dropped his “Dino” nickname, opting for his given name of Dean Paul. Later, he was part of the ensemble cast of the sci-fi series Misfits of Science with a young Courteney Cox.
At 16, Dean Paul obtained a pilot’s license and, in 1980, he was made an officer in the California Air National Guard. On a routine training mission in 1987, Dean Paul crashed his F-4 Phantom II jet into a mountain where visibility was low due to a snowstorm. Dean Paul was 35 years old.
Al Adamson wasn’t about to set Hollywood on fire. He wasn’t making groundbreaking film. He wasn’t an innovator of directorial technique. He was churning out low budget schlock and he knew it. And he didn’t care.
Al’s films touched on many genres — westerns, horror, sexploitation, blaxploitation, soft-core porn, outlaw biker films, sex comedies, science-fiction, martial arts. You name it, Al made it — all on a budget equal to what most people carry in their wallet. Al’s films were lurid, over-the-top pictures with paper-thin plots of the grindhouse and drive-in variety. As bad as they were, Al’s cinematic output garnered a loyal cult following. In later years, distribution rights to several of Al’s movies were picked up by indie B-movie powerhouse Troma Pictures.
In 1969, Al and his crew shot a film called Psycho A-Go-Go. The film was later re-edited into a different film called Blood of Ghastly Horror with new scenes featuring veteran character actor John Carradine. Still not content, Al once again recut the film, rereleasing it as The Fiend with the Electronic Brain. Even later, it was syndicated to late-night movie packages as The Man with the Synthetic Brain.
Al was able to recruit some of Hollywood’s respected actors on the downslope of their careers, including a number of Western stars like Bob Livingston and “Red” Barry. He even signed on Russ Tamblyn, Yvonne DeCarlo and former Mouseketeer Tommy Kirk along the way. (Tommy Kirk noted that his role in Blood of Ghastly Horror was a low point in his career.) Al filmed a few of his movies at the notorious Spahn Ranch. His 1975 film Blazing Stewardesses was originally written as a vehicle for the remaining Three Stooges, but Moe Howard to too ill to work. Al’s last film, 1983’s Lost was also the final screen appearance for Sandra Dee.
By the end of the 70s, Al had given up on directing, focusing more on the more lucrative real estate business. Although successful in real estate, he continued to write scripts, including one in which the main character is murdered over a financial dispute and buried beneath his house.
In 1995, Al hired contractor Fred Fulford to make some repairs and improvements at his California home. Al had intentions of flipping the property once the work was completed. He gave Fulford a credit card to use for supplies, but Al later accused Fulford of overspending and abusing his privilege. Fulford became confrontational during a heated dispute over money. Fulford murdered Al and buried his body in a cement foundation that once formed the base of a hot tub. Family members reported Al missing. Investigators were led to a hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida where Fred Fulford was arrested on suspicion of murder. During a trial, details that were eerily reminiscent on an Al Adamson screenplay were revealed. Fulford was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Al Adamson was 65 years old.