Deaths on August 31

1968: Dennis O’Keefe, Actor (Suspicion) dies of lung cancer at 60
1973: John Ford, American director (Stagecoach, The Searchers) dies at 78
diana1997: Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, age 36. Died in a car crash in Paris. Global attention and mourning was extensive and 2 billion people tuned in to her funeral on September 6. Diana Spencer is buried at Althorp, the Spencer-family estate in Northhampshire, England. Her final resting place is said to be on an island in the center of a lake called Round Oval. From the lake’s edge you can see an urn but not a headstone or a grave site. Once a year, between July and early September, visitors are allowed to visit the shrine near the island, but no visitors are allowed to set foot on the island itself.
1999: Marguerite Chapman, American actress (The Seven Year Itch, Spy Smasher, Flight to Mars) dies at 81
2002: Lionel Hampton, American Jazz vibraphone player and actor, dies at 94
2008: Jerry Reed, American country music singer and actor (b. 1937)
2013: David Frost, British broadcaster, dies from a heart attack at 74
2017: Richard Anderson, American actor (Oscar Goldman-the 6 Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman television series), dies at 91

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Charles Bronson (1921-2003)

August 30, 2003 – Charles Bronson (Buchinsky), 81

Born in Ehrenfeld, Penn., one of fifteen children, born to Lithuanian parents, in a Pennsylvania coal-mining town, Bronson knew what poverty was at a very young age. By the age of 15 he was working fourteen hour days in the coal mines, earning $1 for a ton of coal.

World War II gave him a chance to become a B-29 tailgunner while based in Guam. When the war was over he found himself in California as an out-of-work actor. He lined-up day-after-day with the rest of the hopefuls at Paramount Studios at the Bronson front gate. It was there that he got the idea to change his family name to Bronson and his career soared.

He was the quintessential tough guy with weather beaten features and was often cast in the role of police officer, gunfighter or vigilante in revenge-oriented plot lines. In 1967 he got a part in The Dirty Dozen (1967), directed by Robert Aldrich, starring Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine.

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Harmonica from Once Upon A Time in the West

My favorite Bronson part was “Harmonica” in Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), directed by Sergio Leone, a 2-1/2+ hour film with a haunting musical score by Ennio Morricone. He was 47 when he made that movie and looked 25.

Other movies he made “famous” included The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven and five Death Wish films. The franchise began in 1974 and ended twenty years later in 1994. He was 73 at the time. He would die nine years later of pneumonia.

He married Jill Ireland in 1968, after her 1967 divorce from David McCallum (McCallum introduced her to Bronson on the set of The Great Escape). They had two children, one born to them and one adopted. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984 and underwent surgery. She died on May 18, 1990. She was only 54.

Though some of his films had a more violet tone, and he was cast as an avenging angel eradicating crime, he surprised critics with his forceful work as murdered United Mine Workers leader Jock Yablonski in the TV movie Act of Vengeance and gave an interesting performance in The Indian Runner directed by Sean Penn.
His final roles in several crime/drama TV movies were well-received, but his bad health began to take its toll. He suffered from Alzheimers disease and finally passed away from pneumonia in August of 2003.
Critics not always loved his films, but he was a true fan favorite in the United States and abroad for over 50 years. There aren’t a lot of actors who can claim that.
Charles BronsonCharles Bronson was buried in Brownsville Cemetery, West Windsor, Vermont.

Casey Kasem April 27, 1932-June 15, 2014

Casey Kasem created the music radio program “American Top 40.” He was the voice of Shaggy on my favorite cartoon show, Scooby-Doo.

Jean and Casey Kasem. Chad Buchanan/Getty ImagesKasem never really cared for one type of music over another. But he knew his subject and he knew his audience and kept up with it like a top selling salesman. Hit singles in various genres came and went, but it was Kasem’s delivery and regular-guy appeal that brought listeners back to their radios time and time again.

“What really matters,” he said, “it what I say between the songs,” he said. Many likened his comfortable, on-air ways to that of soft slippers; his relentless upbeat outlook to life, the close of every show: “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars,” a little bit corny.

In 1988 his relationship with American Top 40 ended due to a contract dispute. The next year, he started Casey’s Top 40 on another network and brought a good portion of his old audience with him. Ten years later he had secured the rights to the name and again hosted American Top 40.

In 2004 he handed hosting duties over to Ryan Seacrest, but remained in the background, writing and producing. In 2009, Kasem quietly retired on the 39th anniversary of his first Top 40 program.

Kasem had been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia in 2007. Lewy body dementia is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system similar to Parkinson’s disease. In 2013, when his health had deteriorated to the point he was unable to care for himself, a bizarre feud erupted between his second wife (Jean) and the children of his first marriage. It began when Jean refused visitation to his children, to see their father.

Casey & KidsIn May of 2014, a court granted Casey’s daughter Kerri (42) conservatorship over her father, which included the right to make all medical decisions on his behalf. The  problem with that was that nobody knew where he was. Jean had moved him from a nursing home several days earlier and was hiding him. “He was no longer in the United States,” she told the court.

Several days later, however, he was found in Washington state, unresponsive. Kasem died two week later. Jean had the rights to Kasem’s body, and she collected his remains from a hospital in Tacoma, Wash. But a month after his death, he still remained unburied in a nearby funeral home. A few days after that, his body went missing from the funeral home.

A representative for the family became involved and stated that Jean “is hiding him from authorities and is hiding the body away from family and friends.” His daughter Kerri lobbied through the Kasem Cares Foundation for legislation in the California state senate that would grant visitation rights to adult children with an ailing parent.

The rep stated, “they just want their dad to be buried where he wanted to be buried – Forest Lawn [in Glendale, Calif.]. They’d like to be able to visit him.”

Jean had Kasem buried in an unmarked grave at Oslo Western Civil Cemetery in Norway, a country where Kasem had no relatives, ties, heritage and had never visited. He lies there alone, and where he will most likely spend eternity.

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (June 8, 1867-April 9, 1959)

Wright and Wife

Wright and Olgivanna

Married three times, divorced twice, no stranger to tragedy; Frank Lloyd Wright, without question, was the greatest American architect of all time. In his lifetime he designed more than one thousand structures and completed over 500 of them.

Living in Milwaukee, there are three duplexes not far from me that are Wright designed homes. They have those organic lines, low-pitched roof lines and deep overhangs. You can’t drive by them without doing a double-take.

Wright was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin on June 8, 1867 and after a few years of apprenticeship he started his own Chicago firm and immediately preached his philosophy of “organic architecture.” Its central principle demanded that a structure be developed out of its natural surrounding.

He was a bold revolutionary in industrial designs and introduced innovations such as steel-reinforced concrete, all-glass revolving doors, indirect lighting, air conditioning and metal furniture. New York City’s Guggenheim Museum is an example of a Frank Lloyd Wright work that mimics a design found in nature.

Taliesin SG

Taliesin in Spring Green today

Wright converted his Taliesin home in Wisconsin into a school and workshop, but in 1914 tragedy struck one night when Wright was away on business. An employee of the school set fire to Taliesin, burning it to the ground. Before setting the fire he nailed the exterior doors shut except for the lower half of a Dutch door. By the time the fire was put out, seven people lost their lives, including five who had been bludgeoned with an ax by the employee as they tried to escape through the bottom of the Dutch door. Wright’s wife and two stepchildren were among those who were dead.

Wright rebuilt Taliesin in Wisconsin and later remarried. In 1938 he built Taliesin West atop a central Arizona mesa, as a winter home and school. This 37,000-square-foot estate includes living quarters, offices and farm buildings that are subtly distinguished from the environment.

Taliesin West

Taliesin West today

Wright died at 91 in Arizona at Taliesin West from complications after surgery for an intestinal blockage. Per his wishes, he was buried at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisc. alongside the confessed love of his life, his mistress Mameh. She had been killed that night in 1914.

Wright’s second wife, Olgivanna, had her own idea about where he would spend eternity. Upon her death in 1985, her will stipulated that he be exhumed and cremated. His cremains mixed with her own and the combined remains kept in an urn at Taliesin West.

Her wishes were fulfilled and the urn holding the ashes is kept in Scottsdale. It is NOT available for public viewing and is currently tucked away “in storage.”