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The Death Tour

January 1999 Edition

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You've waited all year...and now...here it is. Another brand new Death Tour to add to the archives. If you're a Death Tour veteran, go ahead and skip to the next paragraph. For everyone else, we create a new Death Tour every Christmas and actually go on the tour Christmas Eve. This new tour is then posted, with pictures from the actual tour, each January as that month's Death Tour. If you're new to the tour, click on the link below to find out what it's about.

What is the Death Tour?

Below you will find pictures taken during the Death Tour just completed on Christmas eve along with the new Death Tour. Come along with us as we explore this fascinating bit of Los Angeles history. When you're done, use the navigation bar to the left to return to the home page.


This year's tour again consisted of 5 stops. It was going to be 4 but another Hollywood veteran passed to the beyond just as we were compiling this year's tour so in honor of him, Norm Fell (AKA Mr. Roper), we included this well loved veteran character actor as the starting point of the tour.

This year's tour is a valley tour. We start off in the west end of the San Fernando Valley and end up in the northeastern end of the San Gabriel Valley. This tour is a grab bag. One tragic but natural death of the young NBA star, a veteran ending his life with a struggle to cancer, a murder/suicide, justifiable homicide, and a contract hit. Talk about covering all the bases.

Names that are linked will take you to that person's IMDB listing or biography. Be sure to check out the fun links at the end of each entry too.

NORMAN FELL

Fell was a veteran character actor who appeared in such movies as "Ocean's 11" with Frank Sinatra, "Pork Chop Hill", and "The Graduate" with Dustin Hoffman. Before that, Fell was a tail gunner in the Pacific Theater of World War II. But what most people remember him for was his role as Mr. Roper in the TV sitcom "Three's Company" with John Ritter.

Fell died of cancer on December 14, 1998 at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills. As a note, many stars of movies and TV have spent their last years here in this rest home dedicated to actors, actresses, and other industry personnel.

The Motion Picture and Television Hospital is located just off the 101 freeway in Woodland Hills. From downtown L.A., take the 101 (Hollywood) freeway north. Stay on the 101 as it turns into the Ventura Freeway. Get off at the Mullholland Drive exit in the west valley. The hospital is just south of the freeway at 23388 Mullholland Drive.

Map it!

Here is the main entrance of the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills. It was a very cold night and Woodland Hills was a lot farther than we remembered so we didn't get out to pose for many pictures this night (see us below). The hospital is part of the Motion Picture and Television fund, a charity that provides a range of services exclusively for the entertainment industry. Their retirement home is the final stop in the lives of many a Hollywood legend. You can visit their web site at www.mptvfund.org.


PHIL HARTMAN

One of the biggest Death Tour related stories of 1998. It really suprised me when Hartman died how many people were saying "who?" Well, now pretty much everybody knows who Phil is and remembers all the great and funny characters he created during his short career.

The comedian was known for his characters, voices, and smarmy condescending comedy. Hartman was one of the stars of "Newsradio", many movies, a veteran of Saturday Night Live, and the voices of such "Simpson's" characters as Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure.

Hartman was shot in the head by his wife, Brynn, in the bedroom of their Encino home. As police took their kids away, she shot herself dead. A coroner's autopsy revealed the presence of drugs and alchohol in Mrs. Hartman's blood.

From the above location, return to the 101 freeway and head east. Get off at the White Oak exit and turn right to Ventura Bl. Turn left on Ventura to Encino Ave and turn left again. The address is 5065 Encino Ave.

Map it!

It was very dark at Hartman's house on Christmas Eve. It doesn't look like any one is living in the home right now. The house is up for sale. It's over 4,000 sqaure feet of home on a 25,000 square foot lot with 4 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms. You can see the listing for the home here. At $1,295,000 you'll pay about $150,000 less than Phil did.


CARL SWITZER, AKA "ALFALFA"

This is one of the more bizarre episodes of Hollywood lore from those swinging 50's. Carl Switzer will always be known as the character he played on the Little Rascals...Alfalfa. In one of the original kid-actor-gone-bad stories, Switzer found he was no longer in demand when puberty set in.

Switzer went to the bottle and stayed at the outer fringes of Hollywood society. He found work as a bartender and hunting guide and kept ties with celebrities such as Roy Rogers and Henry Fonda through his guide work.

Switzer once borrowed a hunting dog from his friend Moses "Bud" Stiltz. The dog was lost on the trip infuriating Stiltz. Switzer had to pay $50 in rewards and drinks to get the dog back. For some reason, he thought Stiltz was obliged to reimburse him for this expense.

Switzer confronted Stiltz at his home for the money. Stiltz refused and Switzer struck him in the head with a clock, knocking him out. Switzer then proceeded to finish him off with a switchblade when Stiltz came to and shot Switzer. Carl Switzer died on the way to the hospital. He was 31 years old.

Is it just me or does the gown-up Switzer pictured above look like Seinfeld's Kramer?

From the above location, return to the 101 freeway and continue east to the 405 freeway. Take the 405 north to the Devonshire St. exit (just before the 118 freeway). Turn right on Devonshire to Columbus Ave. and turn left. Bud Stiltz' house is at 10400 Columbus Ave.

Map it!

Here's the house where Alfalfa died. It's a rather ordinary looking red ranch house of the type that would have been very typical in the 1950's. What was notable here were the orange trees in front of every house on the street marking this as a former orange grove. Below is a picture of this year's Death Tourists in the parking lot of the shopping center down the street from the house.


PETE MARAVICH

"Pistol" Pete Maravich...here's a story that should really be turned into one of those movie's of the week. It's a sad, yet uplifting story.

Maravich was a basketball player in the 1970's. At LSU he set a record average of 44.2 points per game-a record that remains unbroken. After his college years, Maravich went on to the pros playing for Atlanta, Utah, and the Celtics. Unfortunately, he was never to play on a championship team during his time in the NBA.

Maravich was known as a hot-dogger while in the pros, perfecting many of the moves players take for granted today. After 10 years in the NBA, Maravich had bad knees and his will to compete was gone. He retired in 1980 and devoted the rest of his life to his church.

In 1987, Maravich was playing with some other church members, including James Dobson of Focus on the Family, in a pickup game in the church gym. Taking a water break, Maravich said "I feel fine" and then collapsed. He died in Dobson's arms.

On October 29, 1996, the NBA selected Maravich as one of the 50 greatest players of all time. He was elected to the NBA Hall of Fame in the year that he died.

From the above location, return to the 405 and go north to highway 118. Go east on the 118 to interstate 5. Go south on the 5 to the 134 (Ventur Freeway) The 134 will eventually merge with the 210. Go east (towards Pasadena) on the 210 to Rosemead Bl. North/Michillinda Ave. Turn left to Michillinda and turn left again to Sierra Madre Bl. Turn left on Sierra Madre Bl. The church gym is located at the First Church of the Nazarene in Pasadena at 3700 East Sierra Madre Bl.

Map it!

This is the front of the Nazarene church where Maravich died. The gym is in the back and was not accessible on Christmas Eve. This is the largest Nazarene church in California...possibly in the world. Of course, they have a web page. It's at www.paznaz.org.


MICKEY THOMPSON

Thompson was the flamboyant racing promoter who brought off-road and motocross racing to stadiums such as the Coliseum and Anaheim Stadium. Thompson was also a successful racer before that. He was the first person to go over 400 miles per hour on land.

Very successful, Thompson still made some bitter enemies. So bitter that Thompson purchased bullet proof vests for him and his wife. One August day in 1988, Thompson and his wife Trudy were preparing to leave their upscale Bradbury home to go to the office. A pair of assailants waited for them in the nearby bushes. As the Thompsons stood in the driveway preparing to get into their car, they were ambushed in a hail of gunfire. Their killers escaped on bicycles. The bullet proof vests were found hanging in the garage.

Police suspect Thompson's former business partner of setting up the hit on Thompson and his wife but do not have enough evidence to support an arrest. The location of the home might have hurt the Thompsons also. It is the last house outside of the security gates of Bradbury Estates.

From the above location, return to the 210 freeway and go east to Mt. Olive Dr. in Duarte. Go north on Mt. Olive Drive to Woodlyn Lane. Turn left on Woodlyn. The Thompson house is on the right at 53 Woodlyn Lane.

Map it!


Be sure to join us again for another edition of the Classic Death Tour.


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WHAT IS THE DEATH TOUR?

The Death Tour is an odd annual Christmas tradition in our family. It got started years ago because we were looking for something different to do on Christmas Eve. We used to go driving around looking at the different displays of holiday lighting around L.A. but soon realized everyone else was doing the same thing, creating big traffic jams.

We tried the Death Tour one year (which was originally intended for Halloween) and everybody had so much fun it has become an annual tradition to load up everybody we can fit in a van & go out every Christmas Eve.

So what is it? What we do is go and see famous & infamous death sites. We tend to stick with places where famous people have died or infamous murders have been comitted. For example, one year we visited the sight where Bugsy Seigel was gunned down and where the Menendez brothers committed their crime (which, coincidentally, are right around the corner from each other).

We usually visit 5 or 6 sights each year and try to keep them as close together as possible.