To Live and Die in West Hollywood

Many celebrities have moved in and out of the area now known as West Hollywood for the last 100 years and some famous names ended their lives here. Below are five of those who met their ends in our city.

Sal Mineo

This talented actor sprang onto the scene in the 1950s, with a star-making role in “Rebel Without a Cause” and his teen idol looks made him a favorite in the fan magazines of the day. His star dimmed somewhat over the years but he kept busy with stage projects like “P.S. Your Cat is Dead,” which was in rehearsals in February of 1976. One evening, Mineo got out of his car in the carport behind his apartment at 8563 Holloway Dr. and was stabbed by an unknown attacker. Mineo died in the driveway at the age of 37. The perp was later arrested and did time for Mineo’s murder.

Dorothy Dandridge

If Dandridge had been born a few decades later, she would have been a superstar but the multi-talented beauty found her opportunities limited by her race. She starred opposite Harry Belafonte in “Carmen Jones,” a role that displayed her talent, beauty, and sex appeal but never was able to break the color line so her career declined over the years. Dandridge’s personal life was complicated, with an abusive first husband, a developmentally disabled daughter who required expensive custodial care, and another husband who cheated her out of most of her money. She had only $2 in her bank account on September 8, 1965, when the 42-year-old actress was found dead from a drug overdose in her apartment in the El Palacio at 8499 Fountain.

Karen Kupcinet

The daughter of Chicago columnist Irv Kupcinet came to Hollywood in hopes of becoming a famous actress but her dreams were cut short on Thanksgiving Day, 1963 when her body was found on the floor of her apartment at 1227 Sweetzer. The death of the 22-year-old starlet was investigated for months, with the people around Karen including her boyfriend Andrew Prine called in for questioning. Years later, Kupcinet’s death was still considered to be unsolved but a recent theory suggested that she was not actually murdered but had fallen down and hit her head on a coffee table. Crime or accident, the case is still a mystery.

River Phoenix

The oldest of an acting family that also included Joaquin Phoenix, River was already a major star at 23. Roles in “Stand By Me” and “My Private Idaho” showed his acting ability and promise but his young life ended suddenly on Halloween night of 1993. After a night of partying with pals at the Viper Room on the Sunset Strip, Phoenix collapsed on the sidewalk in front of the club. His death was ruled an overdose of cocaine and heroin, although other drugs were also found in his system. 

Jack Cassidy

Cassidy had a long and successful career marred by bad decisions, like turning down the role of the egotistical anchorman on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” He had a long list of credits in theater, films, and TV but watching his second wife Shirley Jones, and son David Cassidy surpass him in fame injured his ego and contributed to his heavy drinking. On December 12, 1976, the 49-year-old Cassidy was found burned to death in his apartment at 1227 Kings Road. The fire was believed to be started by a smoldering cigarette dropped by the actor after an evening of drinking with friends.

Obviously, more celebs have breathed their last in and around WeHo, including John Belushi who died just outside the city limits at the Chateau Marmont. Marilyn Monroe made one of her several suicide attempts in West Hollywood, but that’s another story.

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1 month ago

Don’t forget Diane Linkletter, who fell from her balcony at the Shoreham Towers, reportedly due to the influence of LSD

1 month ago

Thanks, Linda, for continuing to share our city’s history. Regarding Dorothy Dandridge – 1954 was the year she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for CARMEN JONES. She actually died in 1965.

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