Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Death of Alan Sues

Alan Sues 
 March 7, 1926 - December 1, 2011 

The trifecta of showbiz gays on late 1960s-early 70s American television were Paul Lynde, Charles Nelson-Reilly and Alan Sues. All these comic actors kept one foot in the closet but proudly showed flashes of unabandoned queerness that provided the only visibility of “that type” to the red-blooded American homosexual viewer desperate to see representation of themselves, yet keeping the conservative faction happy by being a target of unthreatening humor and mockery. 

“You could play gay if it was funny and not sexual, but you couldn’t BE gay.”

Sues (middle name Grigsby) was born March 7, 1926 in Ross CA to parents who were successful horse breeders. Sues’ biography Alan Sues - A Funny Man by Michael Gregg Michaud revealed the sadness of a childhood raised by uncaring alcoholics who never really connected with their son.  Once his mother said to him, "If I thought you were queer, I'd rather you were dead."  He grew up in affluence, but his parents were either emotionally distant or hyper-critical. This led to struggles with depression and his own alcoholism later in his life. His desire to be a stage actor propelled him forward to his own path.

He was drafted in the Army during WWII.  As Alan recalled  "I ran past a wall of wailing women in scarves, crying and blowing kisses to their departing sons.  Fathers were proudly shaking their kid's hands and slapping them on the back.  'Go to hell,' I screamed at my family."  

He used his veteran’s benefits to pay for acting lessons at the Pasadena Playhouse in the late 40s. Sues moved to New York in 1952 and made his Broadway debut as a boys’ school bully in Tea and Sympathy from 1953-55. Sues wrestled with his homosexuality and for about five years in the 1950s was married to his nightclub act’s female stage partner. They later divorced amicably - and his gay side won the wrestling match. Sues was introduced to the fabulous (then secretive) world of Manhattan gay bars by drag-performer/actor Charles Pierce. Sues said, “Charles led me astray…but he did it with style. And a sequined turban.”

In the 1960s, Sues appeared in the memorable Twilight Zone episode “The Masks” and did guest spots on Honey West and The Wild, Wild West. He appeared in a couple films, The Americanization of Emily and Move Over, Darling

TV Producer George Schlatter saw Alan Sues perform Off-Broadway in The Mad Show musical alongside JoAnne Worley and hired him to join his Laugh-In show which became a colossal ratings hit and made the cast of zanies and their catchphrases well-known to the entire country.

George Schlatter said about Sues, “ He was a delight; he was an upper. He walked on stage and everybody just felt happy. Alan was a free-spirit…a love child. He’d scold me if I ever got firm with the cast. Laugh-In was a series of accidents and Alan Sues was one of my favorite accidents.”

Sues portrayed a variety of characters during his time on Laugh-In (1968 -1971), including a flaming queen sportscaster “Big Al” who was more interested in uniform colors than analyzing the defense on the field. He’d campily show his approval by ringing a tiny hand bell which he called his “tinkle”. He also played the recurring character of alcoholic kiddie show host “Uncle Al” ( the kiddies’ pal) who would struggle with a hangover while performing/yelling at his studio audience of cheering children. 

Occasionally he would put on a wig, feather boa and false eyelashes and play his co-star JoAnne Worley.  She joked, “He looked better than me.” Sues was always good for a laugh - especially if playing a cowboy ordering a frozen daiquiri in an Old West saloon skit.

Sues left Laugh-In before its final season and though grateful for the exposure, he wasn’t happy with the direction the writing was heading.  It seemed that every skit he was in turned into a stereotypic portrayal of a mincing queen and it just wasn't funny anymore sooo... Sues bit the bullet and took the role as a flamboyant Peter Pan in a series of 1970s Peter Pan Peanut Butter commercials.  Sure.  Makes sense.

Sues later acted in summer stock theater productions as well as co-starring in the never-to-be-sold Garry Marshall pilot for the US-version of the BBC Britcom: Are You Being Served? called Beanes of Boston. Sues played swishy (of course) department store clerk “Mr. Humphries” opposite Charlotte Rae as “Mrs. Slocombe”. YouTube had this unfunny curiosity in its collection - and there’s no surprise the series never happened.

When tv or stage work wasn't available, there was always a game show. He stepped into the legendary "center square" for Paul Lynde on the Hollywood Squares when Lynde temporarily left the show because of a contractural temper tantrum.  Sues once appeared at the right hand of Carol Wayne on Celebrity Sweepstakes. Debra Lee Scott was on his right. DY - ING.

Sues had a happy run as Professor Moriarty in a 1975 revival of William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes on Broadway. He said he cherished the villainous role and continued in the part for the National touring production.

His 1979 voiceover work in Rankin/Bass’ Rudolph & Frosty’s Christmas in July provided a paycheck, perennial reruns and some great anecdotes. Sues said that Mickey Rooney (Santa) and Shelley Winters (Crystal the snow wife) almost got into a fistfight while recording their scenes.

Later in life, Sues saw Mickey Rooney when they both participated in the Hollywood Christmas Parade.  Sues approached Rooney, "Hi, Mickey!  How are you?" "He didn't know who the hell I was.  'Who is it?' he croaked.  "I said, 'It's Alan Sues.'  'I don't know you,' he snapped.  I told him we worked together on Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas, and he asked me when.  I said about twenty years ago.  "Jesus Christ!' he yelled, 'Move on!! Get on with your life!  Jesus, get over it!"  Mickey's status as a total dick is almost unsurpassed.

For a while Alan took to designing hats and designing inflatable greeting cards.

In the 1980s, Sues turned up on The Brady Brides and Punky Brewster (hated her) and in the 90s performed his solo show, and played the diction coach in a tour of the musical Singing in the Rain.

In his later years, Sues appreciated hearing from a generation of younger fans who saluted his work on TV in the era when gays had no visibility in mainstream society. He lived for decades in his West Hollywood, California home on Dorrington Ave. and it’s where he would live until he died.

In 2007 he had a pacemaker installed.  He took a fall at Dick Martin's memorial in 2008, and another earned him a broken leg and a hospital rehab stay.  He ventured out less and less.

His last public appearance was for a Twilight Zone reunion and Alan signed autographs for eager fans.

"Getting old sucks shit."
The Recliner of Death

On December 1, 2011 Alan suffered a heart attack while sitting in his recliner watching TV with his beloved dachshund Doris on his lap.  Paramedics could not revive him.  He was taken to nearby Cedars Sinai Medical Center and pronounced dead at 10pm.   He was 85.

Alan specifically did not want a funeral. He was cremated and shipped to family in Connecticut.

In February of 2018 Alan's Suesical Estate was being severely changed/modified/fucked.

Trivia:  Alan's favorite restaurant was the El Coyote Mexican Restaurant, famous for being the "last supper" location of Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger and Voytech Frykowski, "Manson Murder" victims.

Alan's Biography is available below.

Story by Mark Langlois

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Death of Chyna

December 27, 1969  - April 20, 2016 

Joan Marie Laurer was born in Rochester NY and had two older siblings, Kathy and Sonny. Her parents divorced when she was 4, and a succession of stepparents followed. Joanie took up playing the violin and cello. She began working out as a teenager, and focused on health after a surgery to remove an ovarian tumor. She finished her last year of high school in Spain and chose Spanish literature as her college major. She was fluent in Spanish, French and German.

Joanie graduated University of Tampa in 1992, lived in Guatemala after joining the Peace Corps, and then returned to the States where she worked as a cocktail waitress, pager salesperson and belly dancer. By 1996, she was in Manhattan and entering fitness competitions. 

Under the tutelage of trainer Walter "Killer" Kowalski (at his wrestling school in Malden, MA) she would become a pro and win the Independent Wrestling Federation's women's title in 1996. Joanie made her WWF debut in 1997 as a "diva bodyguard" for  wrestler Triple H and would help her man win through nefarious methods (smacking his opponent's groin), which made the fans go wild. 

Ok, that works.

It was not long before Chyna was a star attraction in the ring, becoming the Intercontinental Championship title winner billed as "The Ninth Wonder of the World" (Andre The Giant was the 8th wonder). Her strength and bouts against the men of WWF kicked down gender barriers and made her a trailblazer in sports-entertainment. Besides beating men for the prized belts, she was the first woman allowed to battle for King of The Ring at The Royal Rumble. Vince McMahon Jr., CEO of WWF, heavily promoted Chyna in his roster of talent, along with The Rock, 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels and Triple H (real name: Paul Levesque). The latter would become Chyna’s lover for about 5 years.

I'm just gonna go there right away.

Is it me?

"I had to be this aggressive athlete. I had to look tough and try and look pretty, and have hair & makeup and a little cleavage at the same time." 

Chyna posed nude for Playboy in November 2000, and appeared on late-night talk shows and released a NY-Times best-selling autobiography called If They Only Knew. In 2001, while Chyna was a household name and reigning champion, she was released from the WWF after a reported contract dispute. WWF became WWE the next year, and Chyna never wrestled for the organization again. 

No, they're real.

Chyna's version of the story was that she was forced out when the Boss's daughter, Stephanie McMahon, fell for her boyfriend, Paul (Triple H). Chyna told friends she found a love letter from Stephanie to Paul in his briefcase. Chyna saw that Paul was growing closer to Stephanie (the couple eventually married in 2003) and she was crushed. Chyna told Twitter followers, "I was near the end of my contract...so basically he (Vince McMahon) never re-signed me. He chose his daughter's happiness over his Talent and maybe he should have. But this was business." She wondered why she couldn't have been retained as a trainer for new talent or some job in the organization where she would never have to deal with Stephanie? 

Reportedly, the notice of her being dropped came unceremoniously by fax. The WWE later said the parting of ways was strictly financial with Chyna refusing to accept anything less than a starting base salary of $1million - after being offered $400,000. Some in her circle wondered if seeing her relationship fall apart (her sister said she didn't want kids, and he did) and then knowing the 'other woman' within the company made Chyna more aggressive in her negotiations?

Years later, her estranged sister Kathy would tell a publication that Joanie regretted her role in the breakdown with her employer. Kathy said, "The WWE was the only place where she was ever accepted. Once she lost that, she fell into a hole. And she never could climb out of it."

With wrestling's biggest female star jettisoned by her company, Joanie started trying to rebrand herself as 'China Doll' while legal matters of trademarked names were being sorted. She began regularly appearing on the Howard Stern radio show, with many appearances filmed for On DemandTV. She would get topless on occasion and ramble about her career. She told Stern once that she never took steroids because she wanted to keep a small waist line. She also told Stern she loved cocaine, but could live without it. 

Joanie posted for Playboy again in 2002 and tried her hand at Japan Pro Wrestling, eventually leaving to pursue acting. She appeared on TV in Hollywood SquaresSabrina the Teenage Witch and The Nick Cannon Show and acted in indie films like Alien Tracker ( 2003). 

In 2004, a sex tape called '1 Night in China' was released showing her and her former boyfriend Sean 'X Pac' Waltman together. Joanie said she was traumatized and felt victimized by it. In the early 2000s, several home-made porn tape 'victims' made lots of money and started careers this way, namely Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. 1 Night in China became the top-selling adult DVD of the year. Joanie claimed that she never received a penny in compensation from the DVD and it led to despair and a suicide attempt. Just as Joanie was considering moving to Key West to become a waitress, she decided to embrace a REAL porn career and starred in 2 professional adult films, namely her AVN- winning Backdoor to Chyna and She-Hulk XXX

With the amount of steroids she took, certain parts of her grew so much that there were rumors she was a hermaphrodite.  She was not a chick-with-a-dick, it just looked that way.  I suppose that was some sort of phobic.  Whatever.  But google it if you want to see.  She had a big one.

Reality shows and a battle with drugs and alcohol took center stage by the mid/late ‘00s (Surreal Life; Celebrity Boxing; Anna Nicole Show; Celebrity Rehab. In real life, Joanie sought rehab in both the USA and Japan.

By the 2010s, Chyna (using her old moniker again) found Twitter and YouTube to be a great place for her late-night and early-morning rants about her WWF betrayals and boyfriend problems. For three decades, Joanie remained estranged from her mother Jan. They rekindled their relationship in 2013 but Joanie struggled to stay connected. While Joanie was rehabbing in Nevada, her mother reportedly sent an email telling her to 'Get away from this Chyna persona - just be Joanie...don't go back to Los Angeles...with these same people again and go downhill.'

“Happy Sunday my lovelies! I hope you all enjoy your day with your family.”

A few days before she died, Chyna posted a 13-minute video on YouTube called  'Wake Up!' in which she makes a green drink smoothie, gulps vitamins and sings the lyrics to the novelty song: 'Fish Heads' ( Roly Poly Fishheads, Eat Them Up, Yum'. In the video, she also laments that her healthy food delivery business idea has hit a legal snag. Near the end, she shows viewers her ocean view from her balcony and asks 'How lucky am I?'

Chyna's building in Redondo Beach

Three days went by and her manager, Anthony Anzaldo, noticed she had no social media posts and wasn’t answering calls. Police were called to Chyna's home where she was found dead on her bed on Wednesday afternoon April 20 2016. Chyna was gone, at age 46. 

She was lying on her right side, and her head rested on a stack of pillows. A pool of blood and foam that came from her nose was on the pillow under her face. She was wearing a black tank top and multicolored patterned pants.

After her autopsy, LA Coroner ruled her death was caused by a lethal mixture of alcohol and prescription drugs (relaxants: valium, nordiazepam; painkillers: oxycodone & oxymorphone, and sleep aid: temazepam).

Her brain was donated to study the effects of CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy. 

When the news of her death reached the Internet, fans and colleagues came forward with their tweeted condolences about their kind, sensitive, loving friend. 

Dennis Hof, owner of the Bunny Ranch brothel, remembered her as "...more sensitive than anybody I ever knew. I've seen her crying over things people would say about her: that she was manly, that she was a transvestite...she would break down over that. She's not as tough on the inside as she was on the outside."

She really did seem like a pinball, bouncing from one thing to the next just to survive.  Girl had issues.

Stephanie McMahon Levesque, now the Chief Brand Officer of WWE, tweeted on 4/21/16: 
I just heard the tragic news that @ChynaJoanLaurer has passed. She was truly a pioneer in our industry, and she will be missed. #RIPChyna  

Joanie Chyna Laurer was cremated, placed in a rhinestone urn.   

A Celebration of Life memorial was held for Joanie on June 22 at Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center and featured cello music and videos of her happier times with friends. Coolio and her ex-boyfriend Sean 'X-Pac' Waltman attended and spoke of their friend. Greg Brady was there too.  Two-and-a-half hours.

Her cremains were scattered in the ocean not far from her Redondo Beach apartment. The scattering was filmed as part of a documentary being produced in her final months because of course.

After Chyna's death in 2016, her mother Jan began controlling her daughter’s social media accounts. She kept the Twitter account open for fans - but deleted all of Joanie's personal tweets. One post told followers bringing up old wounds that the family had made peace with Triple H and WWE. 

Chyna's door buzzer


I wish she lived long enough to sue that other Chyna creature for copyright infringement. 

Story by Mark Langlois, Chyna's home photographs by Steve Goldstein.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Findadeath Update - Florence Henderson

Florence Henderson

February 14, 1934 – November 24, 2016

“I can’t decide whether to commit suicide or go bowling.”

Sometimes I wish I could be transported back to the day when The Brady Bunch house wasn't ransacked by burglars, dad Brady didn’t have HIV, Marcia didn't go to rehab, Greg didn’t insinuate he had an affair with his onscreen mother to sell a book (and doesn’t pay spousal support), Peter goes on Dr. Phil to discuss his marriage problems, Bobby didn’t have a DUI and Thindy wasn’t a politically judgmental bully and Alice wasn’t a lez.  NOT that there’s anything wrong with of that that.  Who ever would have thought that Jan would grow up to be the sane one? 

Interviewer:  Which was your favorite episode?
Eve Plumb – The last one.

 Florence was  successful on Broadway and on television.  She was the first female guest-host on The Tonight Show.   She had an amazing voice and you would know this if you ever endured that first The Brady Bunch Christmas episode when she had laryngitis but miraculously got her voice back to sing in church for Christmas.  Ugh.  

When Florence arrived to do her screen test at Paramount, she had her makeup done in the next-door to Desilu where they were shooting Star Trek.   She claimed she was "made-up" in a chair between Shatner and Nimoy.  They totally ignored her.

Playing Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch from 1969 - 1974 really cemented her in Americana.  Long before she was cemented in Westwood Cemetery.  Hrrr.

Flo-ho was an interesting individual.  I was shocked at how some people reacted to her.  I thought she was fine, but I had a boss that would FLY INTO A RAGE when you mentioned her.  My boss could not explain it, but it was fascinating to watch.  For fun I would just say “Florence Henderson”.  My boss’s head would whip around and with a wide-eyed expression would say, “I HAAATE HER”.

“People often ask me what happened to my first husband?  And I say, I killed him."

    Florence referred to herself as the "Mother of the Mullet" and that her hairstyles attracted an almost cultlike interest.

“I had four children.  And my youngest when we started [The Brady Bunch] was like, oh, gosh, 2 or a little less.  And sometimes my kids would say to me, you know, how come you don’t scream at those kids on television like you do us?”

In the late 1980’s, my friend Bun and I would go to anyplace where someone from 60’s television would show up.  We stood in line to see Adam West and Burt Ward be assholes.  We watched a train-wreck of Eddie Munster on the night before he was arrested for accosting a limo driver.  We took a  3-hour boat-ride tour on Lake Michigan with The Castaways from Gilligans Island… amazing times.

Now this was before there were a shitload of reunion shows and we got to know how douchey some people are.  I still had it for Greg Brady. So, as we got up on the stage and took our places, I was standing next to Greg.  I don’t call him Barry on purpose.  So, he’s standing there, I’m thinking… ‘wow, this is so cool.  I have to grab his butt.’  As you do.

Florence must have sensed it.  She came swooping in and slapped her talons on my chest to distance me from Graig.

Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, Florence did have her own family.  Daughters Barbara and Lizzie, sons Joe and Robert.  As her child, that had to be a bit of a mind-fuck.  Having an entire country of people assuming her on-screen kids were her real family.  But apparently Flo kept it in check and her kids are well adjusted.  Flo was a licensed hypnotherapist.

When the actor's on the thow tharted to pass away, someone created thith meme.

It's not really funny anymore.  But this is.

Florence lived for many years in a in a gated community in Marina Del Rey.  

Her house is about halfway down this street.  You see the people playing ball in the street?  One of those is Flo's kid and probably grandchild.  Or great grandchild.  Whatever.  They wouldn't move.  At. All. 

We walked by, said hello and kept walking.  We sat on the curb at the far end for about half an hour thinking that surely they would head in at some point and we could snap a couple of photographs of the house and mailbox, but no go.  I tried to get it in the background behind me.  No go.

After a while they started watching us.  We walked past past them going in the opposite direction and mumbled a hello.  Frankly if I were them I'd have called the cops.  We really did look suspicious.  Well, the gate was open.  We did look for a No Trespassing sign.

I think this is about the time they clocked us.

We took this photograph of the back anyway.

Eve Plumb said inside the house her memorabilia was "beautifully and tastefully displayed, the awards and letters and stuff."

You'll have to go with this photo from the real estate listing.

Florence was diagnosed with heart disease and an irregular heartbeat 10 years prior.  I understand that she had a heart valve repaired in 2008.

Three days before she died,  she attended a taping of Dancing With the Stars in which Maureen McCormick was competing.  

She was in UCLA Medical Nethercutt Emergency Center in Santa Monica when she was pronounced dead of a heart attack at 7:30pm on November 24th 2016.  Thanksgiving Day.

Another victim of 2016

Her children were at her side.

She is cremated and inurned in this lovely niche in Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, just a few doors down from Doris Roberts.

There was a memorial gathering for Florence.  Some of The Brady Bunch kids showed up, some of Florence's kids were there and Marion Ross.  Because, well, of course she was.

There was also a public memorial held in January 2017.  Judge Judy spoke and Carol Burnett attended.  They were close friends.  Respect level for Florence just went up a few notches.

In April of 2017 the Marina Del Rey home went on the market for 2.8 Mil.

Where Florence did stinkys.

Florence has a movie coming out in 2017.  It looks like posthumous fun!

Bad Grandmas

Trivia:  The Brady telephone number was 762-0799

More Trivia:  Robert Reed's telephone number was 441-1742.  Ask me how I know.
I'll tell you how I know.
I have Rock Hudson's rolodex and I looked it up.

Rest in Peace, Florence.


Back when they were filming the first BB Movie I was on the Paramount lot and got to snoop around a bit.  I peeked into a sound stage and found myself looking at The Brady Bunch living room in living color.  That's the story

I'm not implying that Florence was Richard Shoat, but she was no stranger to sexy time.  She dumped her first hubby because he wouldn't put out.  They had 4 kids and she made a joke that they only had sex 4 times.  She had an affair with NY Mayor John Lindsay and got the crabs.

"Guess I learned the hard way that crabs do not discriminate, but cross over
all socioeconomic strata."

Woah-oh Professor Feder!

Trivia:  When they did the first BB movie, Florence was offered 5k for a cameo.  She laughed in their faces.  Later, because of fan demand, they came back to her and she was paid very very well.

Before the internet and every single BB episode being at our fingertips, a group in Chicago called The Annoyance Theater started a program called The Real Live Brady Bunch.  They would perform the original TV scripts word for word thus accentuating the campiness of it.  It became a really hot ticket.  It was produced by the Soloway sisters.  Jill and Faith Soloway went on to create work on shows like Six Feet Under,  Transparent, I Love Dick and Courtney Cox's Asshole.  Yep.

Many years later I was going over my files and I found my program from the performance.  It was a fun surprise to see Jane Lynch as Carol.  This particular performance of the Johnny Bravo episode, Eve Plumb performed with the cast.

I'm glad she got over herself.  This appearance on Jenny Jones in 1995 suuuucked.  I would have made her pay her airfare back.  

Word about The Real Live Brady Bunch got back to Sherwood Schwartz who created the show (along with Gilligan's Island) and he flew in to see a performance.  I was fortunate enough to be there that night.  He and his wife Mildred were tops.

FF to a couple of years ago when I was filming a special for E! called Hollywood Death Trip, the AP said to me, "you have to meet Elliot, his family is a showbiz family."  So Elliot introduced himself as Elliot Schwartz and that his grandfather was Sherwood.  I flipped.  I took out my phone and within 15 seconds pulled up a picture I took at Sherwood's grave with the Gilligan character toys.  

Realizing I probably just crossed a huge line, I apologized, but Elliot loved it and shared it with his father.

OH!  We didn't get a photograph of the mailbox, but... wanna see her doorbell call box thingy?
 Hit 5 for FLO!  I always do.

I LOVE THE INTERNET!  Warning - a black hole.  And no, that's not what I meant.  

Don't forget, every January 2nd (JAN 2) is Fake Jan Day, in commemoration of Geri Reischl who took over the "Jan" role in a couple of different Brady incarnations after the series completed in 1975.