Unsolved History: Death of Marilyn 1962

DATELINE: Carted Away

carted away

So long, Norma Jean

The old Discovery series holds up as a marvel of scientific accuracy. Take, for instance, their 2003 look at the strange circumstances surrounding the death of legendary actress Marilyn Monroe.

As the third episode of the second season, it may be worth your streaming download to put to bed all those conspiracy theories that she was murdered for threatening the Kennedy brothers (President and Attorney General) that she would reveal secrets about UFOs.

The episode brings together a witness from the original autopsy, a pharmacologist, and a forensic psychiatrist. It also pulls together a brilliant re-enactment and actual photo evidence.

Since the location of her death, a modest cottage in Los Angeles is now a parking lot, they build the room in which she saw her last minutes of life.

Using old mimeographed photos, as the originals are gone, they decorated the room to a minute detail: it was a stark, non-glamorous location filled with clutter. It had no decorations or artwork to express personality. It was the ultimate banal chamber of a drug addict without concern for the world.

Marilyn eschewed her usual sleeping pills and took just about all of Nembutal that she had purchased the day before.

Her body could have been re-arranged, or moved, but the series proved she locked the door—and went about her grim task.

One researcher insists that she was given drugs through an enema to kill her—but the show proved that the drugs would dissolve in her system within 20 minutes, time enough to put her out before death descended within an hour or so.

Occasionally one must view one of these historically and scientifically accurate episodes to sweep away the hysteria and legend.

In under one hour, History Unsolved resolves plenty.

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Lucy Meets Bill Holden in TV Classic

DATELINE:  Down Memory Lane

holden William Holden

When a friend bet me that the funniest TV show ever was on Amazon Prime, we could not resist to ask what it might be: she told us it was the old Lucy show with William Holden as guest.

Of course, we remembered it instantly, so indelible was its memory. It had to be fifty years since last we saw it on some endless loop of reruns that the show enjoyed for decades.

And, there it was listed as a 1954 episode on the third season of I Love Lucy. Free on Amazon Prime.

For those youngsters who have missed the wacky moment of one of the biggest stars of the 1950s showing up on a half-hour sit-com, it was something special back then. Holden was big.

William Holden had worked with Lucille Ball several times over the years earlier in their careers—and were good friends off-screen too.

So, his appearance was anticipated as much as John Wayne or Richard Widmark, who also did guest appearances that season—but Bill Holden’s was distinctive and truly the epitome of the crazy red-head’s “Hollywood adventures” when she went with her husband Ricky Ricardo for three months that year into celebrity heaven.

Her encounter with Holden at the Brown Derby restaurant turned into a spaghetti fiasco, with Holden winning a staring contest with the adoring fan. Upon embarrassment, Lucy beat a hasty retreat out of the restaurant, but knocked a waiter with a tray of cream pastry into William Holden.

Later, Lucy’s husband (Desi Arnaz) brings home a surprise guest—none other than Holden. Lucy must don a disguise to avoid recognition. Her putty nose astounds as it twists one way and then another, ultimately aflame up when Holden tries to light her cigarette.

holden & lucy

Yes, we counted about a dozen goodly guffaws, even years after knowing what was about to happen.

We can envy anyone who is about to see this little laugh-fest for the first time. Other episodes have been celebrated, but this Lucy episode was the one we truly loved.

History Channel Loses It Again with Amelia Earhart

DATELINE:  Much Interesting Evidence Remains

boyish Earhart

The hue and cry has begun that the History Channel’s latest documentary is a fraud. Alas, Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence has much to recommend it—and one glaring issue.

A linchpin photo, said to be of Earhart and Fred Noonan, captured by the Japanese, may be of the two pilots in an earlier time, according to researchers. Not fake, but misleading.

History Channel is vacillating, of course.

They have produced another of those series in the Bob Baer mode, with Shawn Henry, a flak from the FBI who jumps to conclusions faster than you can say “Russian connection.”

Among the best features of the one-episode documentary are the collection of film clips of Earhart, charming and charismatic. Even 80 years after her death, you can see why she remains fascinating. And, we are spared an endless series of investigations over hours.

Yet, the investigation is quick to blame conspiracy, rather than negligence and incompetence of the United States forces. She sent the number 281 as a radio message, which the US search teams presumed meant miles, not latitudes.

Interviews with witnesses, including one 90-year old woman who clarifies the mistaken story of decades that she saw Earhart executed, set the record straight.

However in shows like this, one incorrect fact can doom the quality. And, strange details, like missing bones once thought to be hers, add to the mystery.

Shawn Henry, host and investigator, is quick to jump on the most sensational conclusion when the moderate one strengthens his case.

Should you skip it as another unreliable History Channel dubious documentary? Certainly not. We hung on its intriguing evidence.

Here We UFO Again!

 DATELINE: Tofu Turkey Award Winner

tofu turkey

UFO Conspiracy: the Hunt for the Truth is another History Channel extravaganza. If you thought they were finished with beating dead horses, hi-yo, Silver, again.

Round up the usual suspects.

Yes, all the people interviewed look familiar. That’s because they do a round-robin of UFO appearances on any and every show available. These are the experts. If you appear on TV often enough, lacking any credential, you will be billed as an expert.

It’s been a long, long time since we gave out our Tofu Turkey Award: but here it is!

If the re-enactments seem familiar, you have already seen them on UFO Files, Hanger 51, Ancient Aliens, or the sundry off-shoots, and some other series too. Why not pass the footage off as documentarian? If you see it often enough, it may start to look like newsreel film.

They show us the fake alien autopsy stuff for good measure. We can hear Trump calling this “fake news” and saying he saw it on CNN.

Yes, they cover Roswell with nothing new to say. They say Secretary of Defense James Forrestal was murdered for wanting to broadcast the truth, and those pesky men in black are robotic intimidators. Oh, have you been there too?

We have been more impressed with low-budget specials about the topic.

We aren’t sure if the History Channel is making history out of whole cloth or reporting its seamless weave.

This special is about two-hours in length—which passes for highly detailed in the age of attention deficit.

After watching well-produced episodes of Ancient Aliens, we feel like we are being fed the leftovers. It’s all glossy and sugary sweet, but the calories are killing our cholesterol.

This documentary’s not comprehensive, but mentions some familiar names like Hynek, Kecksburg, and Blue Book, and notes that military tries to intimidate witnesses with those notorious men in black, going after civilians and soldiers.

The preponderance of examples seems to come out of the 1960s in the second half of the show. By then, only the most novice UFO follower will be still with them.

Nova’s “Ancient Computer” Beats Ancient Aliens

DATELINE:  Ancient “Theories” 

 hair

After seeing dozens of documentaries on extraterrestrials, and all those gods from outer space shows, we wanted to find a traditional science program that looks at one of the biggest issues among the mysterious discoveries of modern times.

We found that Nova, the PBS series, had a program on an ancient computer, discovered off the coast of Greece in 1901. It’s reportedly 2000 years old. It took five decades before somebody discovered that it was a technological marvel.

We were eager to see how Nova would discuss this ancient computer without once mentioning extraterrestrials, visitors from another world, or some other manner that denigrates human intelligence.

We were not disappointed. The show attributes this device to Archimedes. He lived in Sicily over 2000 years ago and the Romans captured two devices he had built. Apparently this laptop computer-size device was among the items confiscated. It’s a computer that predicts the future.

Done with a series of cogs, the machine can foretell future eclipses by using prime numbers on each of the cogs with interlocking teeth.  This actually provides a 19-year calendar.

If you watch Nova, and not Ancient Aliens, you will come to believe this was a work from a genius and lost to history because almost everything was invented in isolation.

Modern day scientists are astounded that this item was invented at all. On the other hand, they are loathe to admit it might have come from as a toy from some little gray space man. The one-hour show is well worth your attention.

We still prefer the Ancient Aliens theory.

Twin Peaks (s3 Half-Way Point)

 DATELINE:  NO Spoilers Possibletwin peaks

There is no such thing as a spoiler in Twin Peaks. We are not even sure we are still in Twin Peaks after the face of Laura Palmer emerges from the mist in the opening credits.

We have now come to the half-way point of no-return for Season 3 on the bizarre David Lynch TV series, and we can explain everything that happened and you will have no idea what we are talking about.

The episode started with Kyle McLachlan’s Doppleganger Agent D.B. Cooper in a jail break with an accomplice who promptly shoots and kills him. Then, he is beset upon by demonic spirits that apparently bring him back to life.

At this point there is a flashback to a flashpoint in the plot. We find ourselves in Desert Sands, New Mexico, as the first atomic bomb is detonated. If you think of this as a hole in the plot, you may have fallen into the trap.

We are then thrust into a five-minute Stanley Kubrick-style hallucinogenic trip inside a radioactive cloud. When we emerged, we found ourselves in a 1950s black and white horror movie with zombies murdering people.

Oh, yes, somewhere in there we found ourselves in the waiting room of an imperious theater where Lurch the Butler of the Addams Family sends a golden plasma bubble with the face of Laura Palmer back to Earth.

Back on Earth, an alien lizard with wings hatches from an egg near the site of the nuclear explosion in 1956 and enters the mouth of sleeping adolescent girl. Now we feel the Illuminati are lurking somewhere in the storyline.

Is that clear? Are you spoiled yet? Have you any idea if David Lynch has lost his lunch?

Yes, we will watch again next week, not that it matters.

Return to O.J. Unnecessary

DATELINE:  Guilty Even If Found Not Guilty

Rick Investigator Rick Levasseur

Before there was Aaron Hernandez shooting up the serial killer sports figure, there was O.J. Simpson who slaughtered his way into fame after doing light comedy in movies and heavy sports in youth.

Now O.J. is back with several examinations of his alleged crimes. One is enough for us. The 6-part miniseries documentary/crime expose is called Is O.J. Innocent? The Missing Evidence.  Yes, some people think the jury was right.

During the course of an overwrought investigation, it became clear no one wanted to re-open this case. We were astounded that Nicole Simpson’s sister and Ron Goldman’s father stood for additional tormenting interviews. Were they paid for their time?

It was rumored way back at the time of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and waiter Ron Goldman that the real killer was O.J.’s son. Yes, the story was a kind of Mildred Pierce in which the parent is willing to take the blame for the crimes of their child.

As hard as it is to picture O.J. Simpson as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest mode, he seems tailor-made to save his troubled son, or more likely to throw him away. On the other hand, theorist William Dean was hell-bent on finding the “true” culprit whom he labeled Jason Simpson, O.J.’s son.

With glossy production values, the miniseries documentary features Martin Sheen as narrator. Chief honcho William Dean selects two matinee idol types, right out of central casting as forensic psychologist (Kris Mohandie) and former police sergeant (Rick Levasseur) as his leg men. They couldn’t be cuter if you cast real actors.

Bill Dean has been enterprising for years: he took possession of Jason Simpson’s diaries and hunting knife out of a storage locker. It sparked his manhunt attitude like something out of Hugo’s Les Miserables.  He is a dogged Javert.

Showing up to provide insights include Dr. Henry Lee and Detective Tom Lange from the original case. They give both sides of inept police work. No one from the prosecutor’s office would bother with this investigation.

The two boy-toy crime busters try to reach reclusive Jason Simpson, and he is stalked by private detectives hired for the series, showing only a rather sad, downtrodden, and unhappy man, but is he a murderer?

Ultimately Jason Simpson’s time-card from his job at the time of the murder would prove to be the investigation’s high-point. Yet, we ended up nearly as disgusted by the rehash as all the surviving original people.

Was any of this necessary?

 

Ancient Aliens Meets Curse of Oak Island

DATELINE: Cross-Pollination of History

We are always delighted when reality shows cross paths.

Take for instance Ancient Aliens and Curse of Oak Island. We were surprised to find the basic opening of Oak Island hijacked for the Ancient Alien episode about King Tut.

Apparently the curse of King Tut and the curse of Oak Island may be tied together by space aliens. This makes a grand opportunity to take the opening credits for Oak Island and weave them into the show on ancient alien theories.

This gives the Lagina Brothers of Oak Island a chance to do a guest starring role on another History channel show. Voilà, you have free publicity to transcend both series.

Mainly it appears that each curse, from Tut to Oak Island, has claimed seven lives. That’s the opening the Lagina reality show, which says a seventh person must die. Young King Tut has already gotten his seven.

According to Ancient Alien theorists, buried treasures have been cursed by aliens with technological incantations that send voice-activated electrocution bolts to interlopers. Whew. Who knew?

Ancient Astronaut theorists believe the Ark of the Covenant is hidden at Oak island. This ties into the stone tablets discovered in Tut’s tomb somehow.  How? Well, King Tut’s uncle, Thutmose was actually Moses, and he took the Ark out of Egypt. This theory came first from Sigmund Freud!!

The Ark contained an alien device of immense power. When it was discovered by the Knights Templar, they brought it to Oak Island.

Are you still there?

This explains the mystery stone discovered in the shaft of Oak Island as having properties of Ancient Egyptian curse tablets. This means the Ark with its extraterrestrial powers is buried on Oak Island.

We expect further pollination of shows when the tomb of Laura Palmer is discovered at Twin Peaks, proving she is a goddess of ancient Egypt.

Oh, you disbeliever. Curses, foiled again.

Twin Peaks Returns from the Dead

 DATELINE:  Will the Real Harry Truman Ever Show Up?

twin peaks

In the immortal words of James Cagney, “what have we got he-yah?”

Yes, Twin Peaks has returned after 25 years. For a story that hinged on a murder of a lead character who is dead from the first moment, we find the new show starting with long-dead Laura Palmer in flashback telling Agent D.B. Cooper that she will see him again in 25 years.

That marvelous opening music is back.

Well, he-yah we are.

It doesn’t take long for the Lunacy to set in.  Director David Lynch clearly is ready for his old series to begin afresh. Dead actors are as apparent has dead characters. All you can do is hold on for as long as possible, until vertigo sets in or a bad case of dyspepsia forces you to give up.

Lynch has made very few films over the past 10 years but now in one season, he’s going to do the equivalent of nine feature films. However, he clearly is enjoying himself.

You will see A glass box under observation by three cameras controlled by a mysterious billionaire not named Trump. You will find two dead bodies mismatched in a bed. You will find the magnificent Douglas firs of Twin Peaks echoing like the towers of New York City with wind between them. Lynch can do things like that.

The series Twin Peaks has now reached cult status in mythical terms. It was always a cult show from its opening moments 25 years ago. Now it is off the charts. For 18 hours.

If you’ve never seen the show, you will be as confused as anyone who has seen all of the early episodes from the original two-year run 25 years ago by the end of the first hour.

The best we can do is monitor the situation and present you with updates. You can’t spoil anything that’s based on rot setting in. Fear not.

Antidote to Perry Mason and Precursor of Law & Order

DATELINE:  The Defenders

son & father defenders

The precursor to Law & Order, and arguably the best legal show ever on television, The Defenders has finally come to DVD with its first complete season. Back in 1961, you had a choice of two shows going head to head: Perry Mason with Raymond Burr—and the more socially conscious, New York-filmed show with E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed as his son.

Back in those days Reed played Ken Preston, and was considered an up-and-coming dramatic star. You may wonder why he chose to move into sit-com after seeing him here. E.G. Marshall was an unusual lead character, a highly paid lawyer who often gave bad advice or even made a bad decision. Unlike Mason, Marshall’s Preston even lost cases often.

The show remains remarkable, topical, and intelligent, ready for discovery by a generation that likely never heard of it. However, they will know the guest stars. It reads like a litany of New York stage actors and movie stars in their early days.

In the first few episodes, the show tackled mercy killing, traumatic stress disorder, multiple personalities and legal insanity, and drug addiction. It shocked audiences of the early 1960s.

It also gave many actors a chance at a serious television drama in the wake of the Golden Age of anthology shows. You will see Gene Hackman and Jack Klugman in one drama, another with 1930s character actor Frank McHugh and Western star Clu Gulager. Also on tap is Frank Gorshin playing a nightclub imitator of movie stars with multiple personalities—one who has committed murder.  And, almost in premonition of his future as the father of the Brady Bunch, Robert Reed plays opposite 9-year old Richard Thomas in his pre-Waltons days.

A prison show featured an unbilled Godfrey Cambridge and a costar Ossie Davis with Gomer Pyle’s Frank Sutton as a psychotic rioting prisoner.

The first season is now available, but future seasons were considered even higher quality by viewers. This is a treat that should not be missed by Law & Order fans—and those who appreciate solid drama. And, E.G. Marshall was always marvelous.

DNA in Unlikely Places, like Burial Shroud of Jesus

DATELINE:   Scoffers, Begone!

Jesus dna      Shroud of Turin image

Leave it to the History Channel to come up with a quest with two millennial kids who look like they have been given a banana split at the local ice cream parlor. Nonetheless, The Jesus Strand: A Search for DNA is fascinating.

In all fairness, the researchers are George Busby who is a geneticist from Oxford, and his partner is Pastor Joe Basile, with credentials in Bible Studies. They are young and exuberant.

Together they decide with the upgrade in DNA research to see if there is a strand that identifies Jesus of Nazareth and his bloodline. So, before you can hop and skip over 2000 years, they are finding the DNA results from the Shroud of Turin, and the Sudarium of Oviedo in Spain, both purported to be two cloths mentioned in the New Testament.

The jet-setting research is intriguing, and our boyish scientists only betray their preconceived notions when they reject testing bones from a Jewish ossuary that could be confirmation, or denial of a connection.

Some archeological research is new as well, like the bones found ten years ago that are 2000 years old, testing from the 1st century and called the bones of John the Baptist.

They even look at nails, less likely to maintain DNA and a dead end.

Their startling results show how much can still be learned. The blood, on the two cloths, is from the same man who died in crucifixion. With rare AB bloodtype, most prevalent in Middle Eastern people, the man thought to be Jesus shows a connection to the Druze religious sect that has kept its purity for a thousand years.

Someone in his family intermarried with Druze people, likely his mother’s side. The descendants come down from the unnamed sisters of Jesus in the gospels.

Non-believers may scoff, but still find the result not inconsistent with identifying the man of the shroud. Believers may be more inclined to reject the findings that go against their dogma.

All in all, it is a whirlwind of discovery that makes for what passes for revelations in our cynical age.

The Aliens Are Coming!

 DATELINE:  New Paul Revere Warning!

Ancient Aliens begins Season 12 with a couple of episodes that further the evolving notion that the ancient astronauts of lore were NOT benevolent. There has been a change in tone, and the early episodes now seem to be less happy that something is out there.

A new opening season comes up with the idea that Reagan’s Star Wars is a concept to protect the Earth. A base on the Moon, done perhaps with some helpful aliens, has been established to keep an eye to the sky for the bad guys’ return.

Indeed, there is a growing belief that the venerable series is now a pathway for the government to plant the idea that we ought to be ready for life on other planets. The 2017 episodes won’t say so, but hints that failed North Korean nuclear tests are the result of alien intervention.

The second episode of the new season turns out to be a classic of investigation and revelation: taking on a mysterious sphere located in Florida in 1974 (then mysteriously confiscated by the government). It featured atomic weight inside that made it extremely dangerous if drilled open.

Where did it come from? Perhaps it is explained by the discovery, revealed in depth, that King Tut’s knife has finally been analyzed—discovered to be forged out of alloys unknown in Ancient Egypt, perhaps from a meterorite.

And also in 2017, there is an uncovering of the Iron Wedge, located in Romania 40 years ago, and hidden. It was another alloy chunk of metal found with mammoth bones, dating back 40,000 years. What gives?

We are troubled when Erich Van Daniken and his wild haired protégé are shown an object, handled by the curator with gloves, and they pick it up with bare hands. It tells us all you want to know about self-importance and suspect science.

Ancient Aliens has plenty of theories, compelling us into the rest of the season of shows.

Golden State Origins

DATELINE:  Miners Balls

Miners ball

When you say, The Gold Rush, everyone thinks of Chaplin’s silent comedy, but in 2005 PBS put out one of its patented documentaries entitled The Gold Rush.

As with the American Experience TV series, you may have top-notch quality with the caster oil of political correctness. So, it is here. However, they avoid discussing the all-male miners’ balls and possible transgenderism.

What starts out as an exciting adventure in American history quickly devolves into genocide, misuse of women, exclusion of minorities, and lynch mobs.

Well, in 1849 in a matter of months, California became an American territory, discovered gold ready for anyone to find along river banks, and was 90% men under age 30. You don’t have to have lived in a college dorm to know what this means.

Only, think of it on a grand scale. Debauchery unlimited, booze, and gambling among the hard work and hard luck days.

It is an experiment in America for sure: the 49ers were the first truly multi-cultural group with a shocking attitude that America was the place for get-rich-quick schemes and a democratic competition.

You could see it would end nearly as abruptly as it started, but for a few years before it went sour with anti-immigrant laws and unruly lynch mobs, you had a great American adventure.

The documentary does all the production just right: use of dramatic readings, use of original photos, news clips, interspersed with re-enactors in accurate costume and setting.

Some matters are deeply troubling, like the genocide of Native American Californians and the expulsion of South American prospectors.

De-Classifiying Déclassé Oswald

DATELINE: History Channel’s Latest Fake News

Not faked

Bob Baer, the purported former CIA agent who led Hunting Hitler for two seasons, has seemingly moved on to another project: finding out just how much culpability to give Lee Harvey Oswald for murdering President John Kennedy in the new History Channel miniseries call JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald.

Are we to presume then that the hunt for the Hitler story is over? If so, we were left hanging by Baer and History Channel.

Now it appears we are being handed an extremely limited search for the truth about Oswald. In the first two episodes we learn he was unstable and untrustworthy: now there’s a revelation.

In the meantime, Baer has dumped his eclectic and interesting team in the original series, including Tim Kennedy, to surround himself with a couple of ‘yes’ men. What this really means is that you are now deeply involved in the Bob Baer is everything show.

His stooges now merely seem there to be sounding boards with no reactions to what Baer contends. He is fond of claiming he is objective and a former CIA agent—and from the onset he wants you to know that Oswald acted alone, sort of.

Claims of newly released information really don’t pan out because most of what Baer reveals in the first two episodes was already known, except to “most people.”

The one-man band is now a traveling circus performer, going to Mexico City and Moscow in each episode to uncover people still alive, 55 years later, who met Oswald once or twice.

Whether this pans out into something earth shattering only future episodes will reveal, though Baer insists he will provide Oswald’s motive for his assassination of Kennedy.

We planned to check our skepticism at the door, but former Agent Baer keeps pushing it back in our faces. We will re-visit this series at the end of its run in a few weeks to see whether it passes the fake news test.

 

(For those interested, William Russo wrote a book in 2003 entitled Booth & Oswald that examined the formative education of each assassin. Available on Amazon in paperback and ebook formats.)

Bette & Joan: The Bitter End

DATELINE: Final Round

 coda  Great Eternal Stars

If you are waiting for the moment after Crawford died when Bette Davis spoke her insightful comment, “They don’t change just because they’re dead,” you won’t find it in Ryan Murphy’s miniseries.

We do hear Davis tell a reporter that her mother taught her to speak only good about the dead.  Bette then gives her quote for the obituary: “Joan Crawford is dead. Good.” And, she hangs up on the press.

The end for Joan features a soundtrack recording of The Doors’ song of that name while Joan filmed Trog, in ill health and with deplorable low-budget conditions. It’s either a depiction of poetic justice or cruel fate.

The attempt to wash her tainted Crawford image clean comes with a scene of Joan hallucinating a conversation with Hedda Hopper, Jack Warner, and Bette, the week before she died. How could anyone know about this or what Joan thought in her dying days?

Both women were about to suffer the cruelest cuts of all by their daughters’ memoirs that tried to sully their accomplishments in a world of art and pretense.

Victor Buono, their one-time costar, tries to encourage Bette to reach out to Crawford—but who knows if she made a phone call in the middle of the night to her nemesis?

Joan and Bette lived in a world where publicity machines were gospel. At the end, publicity machines became scandal dispensaries.

The series can only end as life ends: growing old with ill health marking the last days of great stars.

In old age Joan and Bette tried to maintain their dignity, live with clear regrets, and ended up going pathetically into the dark night of movie history.

The early series humor and boisterous, but ribald, energy of the women faded with each episode of the miniseries, leaving fans with the greatest regrets about how it inevitably turns out.