You May Be Cool, But You’ll Never Be Johnny Cash Cool

The Wit, Wisdom and Mistakes of the Legendary American Performer

In 1964, when his recording of “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” (about the tragic end suffered by a Native American hero of World War II) received an initially lukewarm reception at radio, Cash took out a full-page ad in Billboard demanding of programmers, “Where are your guts?”

San Antonio, TX

On January 13, 1968, Cash recorded his masterly live album At Folsom Prison, from which came a new #1 hit version of “Folsom Prison Blues.” This album and the follow-up 1969 live recording At San Quentin pushed his career to new heights. Taken from the San Quentin album, “A Boy Named Sue” (#1 country, #2 pop) became his biggest-selling single and the Country Music Association Single of the Year (1969). Cash was also voted the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year for 1969.

From 1969 through 1971, Cash hosted a prime time network television variety show that showcased his status as a national icon while featuring an eclectic mix of guest performers. A live cut from this show, “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (written by Kris Kristofferson), was a #1 country hit. Increasingly, Cash recorded and featured on his television show the work of new songwriters drawn to country from folk and rock music backgrounds.

Cash died in 2003. Two years later his life became the subject of a biographical film, Walk the Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter. Phoenix and Witherspoon both won Academy Awards for their performances. American V: A Hundred Highways (2006) and American VI: Ain’t No Grave (2010), further strengthened Cash’s reputation as a cultural hero.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

JOHNNY CASH MUSEUM

JOHNNY CASH MUSEUM

Warning: Not Politically Correct Information For Manly Men Only

When someone from Hollywood or CNN or The New York Times uses the term “toxic masculinity,” it does not always set too well with me. Maybe it’s because I’ve had enough of liberal and social engineering buzz words and phrases such as “phobic,” “racist,” “discrimination,” and “fascism.” It may be because it is obvious that not all masculinity is toxic.

🔹Originally coined by artificial mythology from the men’s movement of the 1980s and ’90s, it refers to a common male stereotype that promotes aggressive behavior, dominance over others, and stunted emotions.

🔹These buzz words have all been widely appropriated by cultural Marxists.

🔹For instance, in the classic sense, “discrimination” meant a sound judgment, based on the awareness of differences and determinations. In the midst of the twentieth century, the rising Socialist Left appropriated the word and turned it upside down.

🔹To millions of us, their Marxist tactics are nothing but a consummate hypocrisy at work here, as the Big Left constantly practices ideological and class discrimination.

🔹In the name of opposing “discriminations,” liberals actually discriminate through “affirmative action” and “diversity.” Their intent is to dispose whites by parceling out employment and positions to less able people on the basis of their purported victimhood—which itself implies an anti-white, anti-male charge.

🔹Cutting through the scrap, it is all but another tool for ideological bludgeoning…and indoctrination. Those who control the institutions will scream against “unfair criteria” of discernment while applying their own. The real victim and charged is always the same.

🔹The words “phobia” or “phobics” are used by real idiots to smear conservatives and normal people who showed reluctant to leftward pushes. 

🔹Identifying and rejecting the very thought structure of liberal bias will free us of being vulnerable to bludgeoning or ideological conditioning. 

🔹Another favorite of the media and other Libtards is the term “Far Right.” Actually many people in the middle of the true political spectrum are being labeled such. It gives liberals self permission to publically downgrade those who have superior integrity, intelligence and believe in God.

🔹The Left and their “peaceful protesters” goes so far as to equate good All-American law abiding citizens to “fascism,” Hitler, the Holocaust, and so on.

Something masculine to offend someone

Reason

You know what really irks me,
That nagging question that comes about,
Why is it so important to be aligned with the status quo,
When we really should learn to live without.

That mindless herd mentality,
Leading us towards what is planned,
For each and everyone of us,
Unless we learn to look away,
As I know we can.

And yet so predictable and obvious,
To one that stands well clear,
Of the influence that is most potent,
That of one of fear.

So that might be the first step,
When you see a big scare coming on,
Be more than slightly suspicious,
Or your reason will be gone.

And if it is when you’re thinking,
You haven’t got a clue,
Just look again for that reason,
To see just what’s been done to you.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Pringles Can Hacks (& Things You Don’t Know About the Snacks But We Are Telling You Anyway)

How many chips are in a container of Pringles?

The cans say there is “about” five servings of 16 chips, which means 80 Pringles. When we tested four cans of Original Pringles we counted two cans with 79 chips, one with 80, and the last one had 78.

However, a can of Sour Cream and Onion chips had 82 and can of Pizza-Flavored had 81.

Pringles has 25 different flavors in the U.S. and even more internationally, when combined you can make 318,000 unique flavor stacks. Of all the varieties, the top-selling flavors are Original, Cheddar Cheese, Barbeque and Sour Cream and Onion.

When Fredric Baur, the inventor of Pringles potato chips died at age 89, per his wish, his cremated ashes were placed inside an original flavored Pringles can for burial.

Baur

In 1956, Baur, a trained chemist, used a geometric formula to create a saddle-shaped chip that would not break when individually stacked inside a cardboard cylinder in-a-can invention.

Besides a burial urn, here are other uses for Pringles cans:

Store other foods inside. Chips aren’t the only food that will travel safely inside a Pringles container. You can also safely pack a sleeve of crackers, some spaghetti or other noodles, dried beans, and more inside this handy can.

…and cookies.

Flour, sugar, and breadcrumbs are other products that can be transported via the Pringles container. The sturdy cardboard will protect the food, and you won’t have punctured bags or spilled products On your roadtrip, in the tent or inside a RV.

Make a cell phone speaker. Cut a slit near the bottom of the Pringles can. Make the slit large enough for your cell phone to sit inside. Remove the lid. The can will amplify your cell phone’s speaker.

  • Store plastic bags. Cut a small (one-inch diameter) hole in the Pringles lid. When you need a plastic bag, simply reach into the hole, and pull one out.

  • Office or hobby supplies. A Pringles can will also corral those office supplies like pens, scissors, paper clips, and glue sticks. Hobby supplies like beads, wire, artists’ paintbrushes and more will also fit inside.

  • Hair accessories holder. Use a Pringles can to keep hair ties and elastic bands together. Just put them around the outside of the can. Clips, ribbons, and bows can be stored inside the can, as well.
Dog cage?

  • Makeup organizer. You can cut down Pringles cans so that your makeup brushes, comb/brush, and other tools are easily at hand. Tape a series of cans together so they’ll stay securely upright.

  • Necklace holder. Put weights in the bottom of a Pringles can. Then wind a rubber band around the can, near the top. Hang necklaces and bracelets from the rubber band. Simple! And handy, too!
  • Bird feeder. Use a darning needle to poke and thread a string through the top of the Pringles can. Tie the ends of the string together. Then use a spatula or butter knife to smear peanut butter all over the exterior of the Pringles can. Then roll the prepared can in birdseed. Hang the bird feeder from a nearby tree or garden flag holder.

  • Keep paint rollers fresh. When painting, you can slip a Pringles container over the paint roller at the end of the day. The next day, the paint in the roller will be ready to go.

  • Travel Tools. We use a few select tools when traveling in our car or a RV–a tire gauge, a channel lock, screwdrivers, pliers, etc. An easy way to keep these few, but necessary, tools together and within reach is to store the tools inside a Pringles can.
Cousins?

  • Children Fun. Kids love doing this. Remove the bottom of the Pringles can. Use waterproof tape to securely fasten the lid onto the can. Gently place the lid end of the can into the water. Look through the bottom of the can to see what’s underneath the water’s surface. Here’s more ideas:

Holidays

Even More

Using chalkboard paint.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

The Horrific True Story of ‘The Dating Game Serial Killer’

“Not all serial killers are alike,” my father, Walter Dennis, a homicide detective on the San Antonio Police Department, told me. “There are many different types of serial killers, because behavior reflects personality, and not all serial killers kill the same, act the same, or are the same.”

Dad was good about teaching me such things and it helped immensely when years later I became a private investigator. Sometimes, if he was on duty, he would come check on me while I was performing surveillance for a case.

“Dad, what homicide cases bother you the most?” I asked one slow stormy night while we were listening to the police radio in his car.

“Besides children, I’d say serial killers bother me most,” he replied. “That Dating Game Killer was intriguing. Never could figure how they let him be on that show as a contestant.”

Dad was talking about Rodney Alcala, who was born as Rodrigo Jacques Alcala-Buquor in San Antonio on August 23, 1943. He moved to Mexico with his family when he was about 8 years old. His father abandoned them while they were in Mexico. Alcala, his siblings and mother later relocated to Los Angeles.

Here is a brief rundown of some of his known crimes and murders:

1968

In Hollywood, California Alcala was a 25-year-old UCLA student when he lured 8-year-old Tali Shapiro into his car. At first Shapiro responded with “I don’t talk to strangers.”

Alcala said that he knew her parents. Later, Shapiro said that “I really didn’t want to get into the car but I was raised to respect my elders,” and so she got into the car. Alcala drove her to his apartment and proceeded to rape and beat her with an iron bar.

Fortunately, a motorist had seen Alcala pick Shapiro up, and after following them, had called the police. When police arrived, they found Shapiro “in a large puddle of blood and not breathing.” They began to search for Alcala in the apartment, but when one of the officers realized that Shapiro was still alive and struggling to breathe, all their focus turned onto her, and Alcala managed to escape. He moved to the East Coast.

He attended New York University from 1968 to 1971, working as a security guard to pay for his tuition.

1969

Prior to his security guard work, Alcala found employment in the summer of 1969 as an arts counselor at a summer camp in Georges Mills, N.H. The director was so impressed with Alcala and how he “confidently demonstrated techniques of filmmaking and photography to the eager young campers,” that Alcala was invited to return the following year.

1970

Alcala worked at Georges Mills again in the summer of 1970.

1971

After graduating from NYU in June 1971, he returned for a third summer at Georges Mills after murdering 23-year-old Cornelia Michel Crilley. The case remained unsolved until 2011, when evidence linked Alcala to the murder.

In 1971 he was included on the FBI’s Most Wanted list when some girls at an arts camp recognized their counselor, who was using the name John Berger. They told the camp’s dean and Alcala was soon arrested, though he was able to plead to the lesser charge of child molestation and served just 34 months.

Note: It is often reported that Alcala studied film under Roman Polanski at NYU, but this highly unlikely since by 1968, Polanski had moved to Hollywood, Calif.

1975

After spending three years behind bars, he soon spent another two years in prison for assaulting a 13-year-old girl. But authorities had regrettably allowed Alcala to travel to New York to “visit relatives.” Investigators now believe that within seven days of his arrival there, he killed a college student named Elaine Hover who was the daughter of a popular Hollywood nightclub owner and goddaughter of both Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin.

Hover

1977

By now a legally registered sex offender, Alcala was hired to be a typesetter for The Los Angeles Times  in September 1977.

He brutally killed Ellen Hover from New York and Christine Thornton went missing during a road trip that year, her remains only discovered outside of Granger, Wyoming five years later by a rancher.

Thorton

1978

California police questioned Alcala in March 1978 as a potential suspect in the Hillside Strangler killings, another set of serial murders that occurred in California in the 1970s. Alcala was cleared of those crimes, and police did not realize they had actually spoken with a another serial killer.

Just four months later, on Wednesday, September 13, 1978, Jim Lange, the host of a popular television program, The Dating Game, introduced Alcala as “Bachelor Number One.” He was a contestant vying against two other men, all hidden behind a wall, for a date with bachelorette Cheryl Bradshaw.

Lange described Contestant #1 as “a successful photographer, who got his start when his father found him in the darkroom at the age of 13, fully developed.”

When asked by Cheryl Bradshaw to describe what kind of meal he’d be, Alcala replied, “I’m called ‘The Banana’ and I look really good… Peel me.”

Bradshaw selected the man who would be known as “The Dating Game Killer.”

After their segment was completed, the two went backstage until they were called out at the end of the program to blow a farewell kiss to the audience.

When Acala offered her a date playing tennis and visiting Magic Mountain that she’d “never forget”, Bradshaw felt creeped out.

“I started to feel ill,” she explained years later. “He was acting really creepy. I turned down his offer. I didn’t want to see him again.”

1979

On June 20, 1979, 12-year-old Robin Samsoe disappeared from Huntington Beach, California on her way to ballet class. Her friends said that a stranger approached them on the beach and asked if they’d want to do a photoshoot. They declined and Samsoe left, borrowing a friend’s bike to hurriedly get to ballet. At some point between the beach and class, Samsoe disappeared. Nearly 12 days later, a park ranger found her animal-ravaged bones in a forested area near the Pasadena foothills of the Sierra Madre.

Upon questioning Samsoe’s friends, a police sketch artist drew up a composite and Alcala’s former parole officer recognized the face. Between the sketch, Alcala’s criminal past, and the discovery of Samsoe’s earrings in Alcala’s Seattle storage locker, police felt confident he was the beast they were looking for.

Soon, after his arrest, investigators discovered hundreds of photographs in a Seattle storage locker that was rented by Alcala. Some of these pictures were eventually helpful with identifying victims.

2010

One of the killer’s means for luring victims was telling them he wanted to photograph them.

Huntington Police decided to release the photos they found at the Seattle rented storage unit in 1979 to the public. Hopefully this could help identify the people pictured in an effort to identify more victims. It worked in the case of Christine Thornton, whose sister, Kathy had never stopped looking for her. She identified her sister in one of the photographs Alcala had kept in Seattle storage.

Alcala was ultimately charged with the killing, but prosecutors declined to extradite him from death row in California to stand trial in Wyoming. 


It took several years, but Rodney Alcala was finally convicted of killing Samsoe and four other women women — 18-year-old Jill Barcomb and 27-year-old Georgia Wixted, both in 1977; 32-year-old Charlotte Lamb in 1978; and 21-year-old Jill Parenteau in 1979. He was sentenced to death row in 2010.

Alcala repeatedly appealed his death sentences. During his third trial, he acted as his own defense attorney, he “laughed and talked throughout.” He began asking himself questions in a deep voice and referring to himself as ‘Mr. Alcala’ before answering in his natural tone.

Part of the case against him was a pair of gold earrings linked to Samsoe that had been found in his Seattle storage locker. Alcala played clips from The Dating Game that he said proved he was already wearing gold earrings in 1978.

During his sentencing, he decided to play “Alice’s Restaurant,” by Arlo Guthrie, for the courtroom, with the lyrics: “Eat dead, burnt bodies. I mean kill, kill, kill, kill!”

The jury found Alcala guilty of first-degree murder and he received the death penalty. However, the California Supreme court overturned this verdict due to the jury being prejudiced, they felt, by learning of Alcala’s past sex crimes. It took six years to put him back on trial.

2013

Alcala was convicted by New York courts of the brutal murders of two more women, Cornelia Crilley in 1971 and Ellen Jane Hover in 1977. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in 2013.

2019

Alcala’s execution in California had been postponed indefinitely due to a moratorium on the death penalty instituted by the state in 2019.

2021


Alcala, 77, died of natural causes at 1:43 a.m. Saturday July 23, 2021 at a hospital in the community near Corcoran State Prison, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement.

While Alcala was convicted of seven murders, he is believed to have killed anywhere from 50 to 140 women according to the Star Tribune and The East Bay Times. At least one more of those has been identified.

His “signatures” were beating, biting, raping, and strangling (often choking victims until the point of unconsciousness), then once they came to, he’d start the process over again.

When the Huntington Beach Police Department released the cache of photos taken by Alcala in 2010, there intent has been to identify the individuals in them to determine whether they may have been victimized by him.

Some people were alive and came forward. The photos aided in identifying Christine Thornton as one of Alcala’s victims.

If you have information about the identities of the people in the photographs, please contact the Huntington Beach Police Department at (714) 536-5947. Below are some of those photos. To see additional pictures of this cache, CLICK HERE.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Awesome Favorite Movie Lines We Can’t Forget

Some movies go down in history as such brilliant masterpieces that it seems as if they speak directly to you and turn the world as you know it upside down. The most powerful movies can accomplish this with just a couple of lines that you may never forget.

Here are some of ours. Which ones did we miss?

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Goettle HVAC and Plumbing services are located in Phoenix, Tucson, San Antonio, Austin, Las Vegas areas as well as regions in Southern California.

Kenny Rogers, His Best Lyrics Ever

Kenny Rogers, 81, died of natural causes on March 20, 2020.

Photo by Jack Dennis at the Majestic Theater in San Antonio, Texas.

One of the best-selling artists of all time, Kenny Rogers encompassed many music genres with over 120 hit singles. In the U.S., he charted country, pop, and contemporary charts more than 200 separate weeks. Worldwide, he sold more than 112 million records over a span of seven decades.

The recipient of numerous awards, Rogers was honored with Grammys, American Music Association, Association of Country Music, and Country Music Association accolades. He was voted the “Favorite All-Time Singer of 1986.” In 2013, Rogers was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Country Music Association.

Rogers evolved with the music of his times, beginning with a rockabilly group dubbed The Scholars, progressing through stints with The Bobby Doyle Three, The New Christy Minstrels, The First Edition, all before he became a solo artist with mega-hits like “Lucille,” “Lady,” “Love Lifted Me,” “Coward of the Country,” and “The Gambler.”

He teamed up with Dottie West and Dolly Parton for such hits as “Every Time Two Fools Collide,”  “Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight,” “What Are We Doin’ in Love,” “All I Ever Need Is You,” and “Islands in the Stream.”

Following are the top five all-time best lyrics from Kenny Rogers:

5. ‘DECORATED MY LIFE’

Like a rhyme with no reason in an unfinished song
There was no harmony life meant nothin’ to me, until you cam along
And you brought out the colors, what a gentle surprise
Now I’m able to see all the things life can be shinin’ soft in your eyes

And you decorated my life, created a world where dreams are a part
And you decorated my life by paintin’ your love all over my heart

4. ‘SHE BELIEVES IN ME’

And she believes in me, I’ll never know just what she sees in me
I told her someday if she was my girl, I could change the world
With my little songs, I was wrong
But she has faith in me, and so I go on trying faithfully
And who knows maybe on some special night, if my song is right
I will find a way, while she waits… while she waits for me!

3. ‘COWARD OF THE COUNTRY’

“I promised you, Dad, not to do the things you done.
I walk away from trouble when I can.
Now please don’t think I’m weak, I didn’t turn the other cheek,
and Papa, I sure hope you understand:
Sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man.”

2. LUCILLE

You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille
With four hungry children and a crop in the field.
I’ve had some bad times,
I’ve lived through some sad times,
But this time the hurtin’ won’t heal.
You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille.

1 ‘THE GAMBLER’

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away, know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

The Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton hit, Islands in the Stream, was written by The BeeGees

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Las Vegas Comic-Magician Amazing Jonathan Dead at 63

The bizzare and original comic-magician Amazing Johnathan died at his home in Las Vegas on Tuesday, 2-22-22.

Johnathan (AJ) whose legal name was Johnathan Szeles, passed away about 11:30 p.m. with his wife, the sideshow stunt artist Anastasia Synn, by his side.

Although I enjoyed his performances four times over the years at the Golden Nugget and Sahara, it was after a show at the Koval Theater at Miracle Mile Shops in 2007, I was able to interview him and meet his then sidekick, the kooky Psychic Tanya, Penny Wiggins.

Jack Dennis with the Amazing Johnathan and Psychic Tanya, Las Vegas, 2007.

“These shows take the breath out of me,” AJ, obviously tired, wisecracked as he apologized for cutting my time short “Maybe I will need to renegotiate my contract to have more time off.”

Little did he know at the time a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy was in his future. First diagnosed in 2009, as his heart muscle weakened and became more degenerative, doctors told AJ that he only had a year to live. In November 2014, he told an audience at an ENTSpeaks event at Inspire Theater in downtown Las Vegas the sobering news.

He stunned the crowd by stating, “The greatest time of my life was spent here. I made millions of dollars, I have two beautiful houses, and everything came crashing … down. And I was told I have a year to live.”

A single laugh came from the crowd, and A.J. said, “It’s not a joke…So. Um … I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry, but, it’s very scary,” his voice quivered. “My heart is failing. My wife says it failed long ago. But it is actually failing, for real.”

“The last thing I said to him was, ‘I love you, honey, I’ll be with you when you get up from your nap,’ ” his wife Anastasia Synn said almost midnight Tuesday night. “We were feeding him oranges and strawberries. He was so peaceful. He said, ‘Yay!’ He had the most pure and sweetest look on his face.”

Johnathan did not wake up from that nap.

“For the next 36 hours, he was unresponsive,” Synn said. “We spent that time snuggling with him.”

The Las Vegas Journal-Review reported “Synn, Magic Castle official and longtime family friend Erika Larsen, and caregiver Stephanie Castellone of the BurlyCares nonprofit medical assistance organization, were with him at the end. Castellone is herself a performance artist, a contortionist, and was in A.J. and Synn’s wedding in June 2014.”

Anastasia and Johnathan

“I did my best to keep his medicine in his system, clean his foot wounds, do everything a nurse would do and I’m not a nurse. But I loved him so much,” Synn said. “He wanted to pass at home. For the past six months I was begging him to go the hospital, but he absolutely hated going there.”

Born in Detroit on Sept. 9, 1958, Johnathan act was in line with my wicked sense of humor. Before many of his shows a camera would focus on audience members projecting putdowns, bizzare accusations and sick captions. These were definitely adults only performances.

AJ was hands on, inviting unsuspecting members of the audience on stage for saucy humor. If an innocent onlooker was reluctant, he would often go into the audience for a one-on-one routine. I’ve seen him appear to magically swallow his eyeball, skewer his tongue with a spike and take a swig of Windex.

Since the mid-1980s, AJ appeared on “Late Night With David Letterman” and Fox’s “Comic Strip Live.” He was extremely popular on Comedy Central and hosted his own variety specials.

In January 2016, he reunited for a final time with Wiggins, who played Psychic Tanya for more than 15 years, to host a midnight variety performance at Baobab Stage at Town Square.

AJ with Wiggins

At the top of the show, Wiggins greeted A.J. with a line he’d actually written, “Weren’t you supposed to be dead two years ago?”

Wiggins, an outstanding comic actress in her own right, cried late Tuesday remembering Johnathan as “the nicest man and one of the funniest people I knew.”

Mac King, currently performing at Excalibur and currently the longest-running headliner on the Strip, posted, “So sad to lose my friend Johnathan, absolutely one of the funniest guys in the world. Thanksgiving will never be the same.” A.J. was a frequent guest at King’s holiday party.

Johnathan is survived by his sisters, Nancy Rogers and Gail McGuire, and his first wife, Sandra Bowing. A.J. had been saddened over the recent death of his mother, Doreen Szeles.

“He was so loved,” his wife said. “I want him to have the biggest celebration, with everyone who loved him tell the stories of the pranks he played on people. There was nobody else like him.”

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Then and Now, Do You Remember?

From the 1960s through the 2000s these stars all made their mark on television, movies and/or on stage. Some were mere teenagers, and we enjoyed hours of their performances that give us wonderful and nostalgic memories now.

Do You Remember?

Then and Now!

Phoebe Cates
Tony Danza
Goldie Hawn
Sally Fields
Suzanne Somers
Kirk Cameron
Barbie Benton
Jonathon Taylor Young
Catherine Bach
Nancy McKeon
Amanda Bynes
Molly Ringwald

Who are your favorites?

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Top 10 Celebrities Whose Deaths Remain A Total Mystery


1. Princess Diana

As a “princess of the people,” Princess Diana was a globally-beloved woman. When she died in a car crash on August 31, 1997, the world was shocked. Paparazzi chased the car that she was in into Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, France. Her partner, Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the Mercedes-Benz W140 S-Class, Henri Paul, were pronounced dead at the scene. Their bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was seriously injured, but survived the crash. 

The condition of the drivers, the ruthlessness of the paparazzi, and potential motives from the royal family have all been called into question since her death.

2. Natalie Wood

The death of Natalie Wood is among the most famous cold cases of Hollywood. Wood fell off a boat near Santa Catalina Islsnd and drowned while onboard with her husband, Robert Wagner and actor Christopher Walken on November 29, 1981.

Her death was originally ruled an accident; however, the case was reopened after new testimony and mysterious bruises on her body were identified.

Nominated for three Academy Awards and starred in “West Side Story” and “Rebel Without a Cause,” Wood, with Wagner, Walken and the boat captain were celebrating Thanksgiving weekend. After a night of drinking, her body was found floating in the waters off Southern California’s Catalina Island. She was 43.

Years later, CBS News aired an interview with Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John Corina, who said he doesn’t believe Wagner has told the whole story about what happened.

In 2013, investigators said Wagner had not been interviewed since their probe was reopened. They had tried at least 10 times to interview him but he refused.

3. Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe died of an overdose on Saturday, August 4, 1962, at her 12305 Fifth Helena Drive home in Los Angeles, California. Her body was discovered before dawn on Sunday, August 5.

Immediately the media reported she died of barbiturates overdose, but over the years her death is believed by many to have been a murder. The most popular conspiracy theory is that she was killed by the government due to her rumored affairs with John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy.

4. George Reeves

Star of The Adventures of Superman George Reeves was found dead with a gunshot wound in his head. Though his death was ruled a suicide, a few suspects were identified including an ex-lover. Read more about his death here.

5. Bob Crane

Bob Crane, the TV star known to millions as the wise-cracking title character on the 1960s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, was found bludgeoned in his Scottsdale, AZ apartment at age 49 on June 29, 1978. The case has been cold since then.

All roads of the murder investigation led to John Henry Carpenter, a video-equipment salesperson from Sony—and a friend of Hogan’s Heroes cast member (and future Family Feud host) Richard Dawson. Carpenter helped Crane obtain gadgetry to watch and make erotic videos long before they were available to the public (Carpenter also sold similar equipment to President Lyndon B. Johnson and Elvis Presley).

“At the scene, there was blood everywhere,” former Scottsdale detective Vassall recalled. “There were some traces of blood on the back of the exit door, the front door, the doorknob. There was a red stain on the curtain. We found blood in [Carpenter’s] rental car and on the passenger door. It was Crane’s blood type. Nobody else who handled that car had the same blood type as Crane. It was type B blood, all of it.”

DNA testing wasn’t available in 1978, but other clues and evidence were presented to the local district attorney who rejected the case. Scottsdale detective Jim Raines uncovered a previously unseen crime-scene photo that showed a speck of brain tissue in Carpenter’s car. The actual tissue sample was long gone, but the image was ruled admissible by a judge, and Carpenter was eventually charged with Crane’s murder in 1992. Again the information was rejected by the county attorney’s office. He was acquitted in 1994 and died four years later.

6. Brian Jones

Rolling Stones founding member Brian Jones was found dead at the bottom of his pool on July 3, 1969, at the age of 27.

The coroner’s termed Jones death as a “misadventure” with traces of pep pills, sleeping pills, and alcohol in his system, as well as evidence of significant liver damage from drugs and alcohol.

At the time and over the years investigators speculated that he may have been the victim of a crime. Jones’s daughter, Barbara Marion, believed so as late as 2019.

7. Gianni Versace

Fashion icon Gianni Versace was returning home from his morning walk from the News Cafe in 1997 when Andrew Cunanan, 27, fatally shot him in the back of the head.

After shooting him on the steps of Versace’s home, eight days later, Cunanan, suspected of killing four other people in three states, killed himself on a houseboat in North Miami Beach.

The mansion was built in 1930, and Versace bought it in 1992. After his death, it was sold and became a hotel and event space. The day before the 24 year anniversary of Versace’s death, housekeeping staff at The Villa Casa Casuarina called police around 1:20 p.m. after discovering the bodies of two men, 30 and 31 years old, who were from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Police said it was a double suicide.

8. Brittany Murphy

Actress Brittany Murphy was found dead at age 32. Her official cause of death was a combination of pneumonia, iron deficiency, and drug overdose. As if her death wasn’t strange enough, her husband Simon Monjack died the same way five months later. Her father has called for investigations to see if his daughter and son-in-law were poisoned.

Director Cynthia Hill claimed Brittany was one of Simon’s “last victims.”

“He was a disturbed individual who was used to conning people and Brittany was one of his last victims,” Hill, who made a documentary for HBO, claimed. “There was a pattern of behavior that became very obvious the more research that we did.”

9. Brandon Lee

Bruce Lee with son Brandon

Brandon Lee, actor, and son of Bruce Lee died while filming The Crow. His gun was supposed to be filled with blanks, but the studio tried to make their own to save money. The homemade blank misfired and fatally wounded Brandon. This accident seemed to be a mistake, but conspirators are not so sure as his father also died mysteriously and there is said to be a curse of the family.

10. Tupac Shakur

In the midst of the East Coast vs. West Coast rap battle of the 1990s, Tupac Shakur was shot at a boxing event and died in the hospital a few days later. No suspects or even eyewitnesses have been identified

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He-Man Meat and Potatoes Casserole

This He-Man Meat and Potato Casserole is a recipe our family used to keep our friends, cousins and us fired up for sports and well fed. We named it after our first son’s favorite childhood hero to entice him to try it initially. It worked and became a favorite.

Whether it was baseball, volleyball, building snowmen or swimming, we found this to be enjoyed by children and adults.

Preparation is about 20 mins and it cooks about an hour. This recipe yields 6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 3 cups peeled and thinly sliced potatoes
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ¾ cup milk
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Step 2: In a medium skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef; drain fat.

Hamburger Potato Casserole

Step 3: In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream of mushroom soup, onion, milk, salt and pepper to taste.

Step 4: Alternately layer the potatoes, soup mixture and meat in a 11×7 inch (2 quart) baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until potatoes are tender. Top with Cheddar cheese, and continue baking until cheese is melted.

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Happy Birthday Tommy Smothers

In late 1960s, before cable television had been invented and there were only three networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS), Tommy and Dick Smothers challenged those who tried to tame their wildly popular show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Their show premiered on CBS in 1967 and was cancelled suddenly in 1969. Because the show reflected the counter culture and the anti-war movement, there were frequent battles with network censors.

🔹The Smothers Brothers had quite the following and by 1967, Tom was an occasional onstage presenter, at the Monterey International Pop Festival, scouting such breakthrough acts as the Who, Jefferson Airplane, and Ravi Shankar.

🔹In 1968, Tom was an early champion of the Broadway show Hair, and instrumental in bringing the show to the West Coast.

🔹In 1969, Tom could be found at the bedside of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, playing guitar and singing with Lennon as a group of friends recorded the classic anthem “Give Peace a Chance.”

Most families had just one television and they watched it together. Tom and Dick Smothers used their show as a platform to young writers, like Steve Martin and Rob Reiner, new bands like The Who and Jefferson Airplane, and performers who opposed the war in Vietnam, like Joan Baez and Pete Seeger.

They had Kate Smith and Simon and Garfunkel on the same show. They had Mickey Rooney and The Who on the same show and appealed to both, you know, generations. But they were known for giving network censors fits.

“And so they would put in things that really meant nothing and instruct the crew and the writers and everybody around to laugh, like, dirty, sniggering little laughs,” explained TV critic, David Bianculli, author of book about the Smothers Brothers, called Dangerously Funny. “And so the censors would say well, you can’t say ‘rowing to Galveston.’ And they’d say, well, why not? Well, you just can’t say it. So they would drive them crazy just for the fun of it, too.”

In 1964, the Beatles made history with their first American appearance on Ed Sullivan, CBS, Sunday night. It made the Beatles, the whole British Invasion and changed society.

Four years later, the Beatles have stopped touring. They’re still the biggest thing in the world, and they’ve made this new thing called videos – of “Hey Jude” and “Revolution,” – and so for the United States premiere, instead of giving them to Ed Sullivan, Sunday night at eight, they gave them to the Smothers Brothers, Sunday night at nine. Attitudinally, the Beatles wanted to side with their generation. They wanted to be where the Smothers Brothers were in society.

At the beginning of an episode, George Harrison walks on stage unbilled–a Beatle, just to show up on the Smothers Brothers.

Looking a bit startled, Tommy Smothers asks, “Do you have something important?”

“Something very important to say on American television,” Harrison replied.

“You know, we don’t, we – a lot of times, we don’t opportunity of saying anything important because it’s American television, and every time you say something…”

The surprised audience roared with laughter and applause.

“…and try to say something important, they…”

More laughter.

“Well, whether you can say it or not, keep trying to say it,” Harrison encouraged.

Thomas Bolyn Smothers III was born February 2, 1937 at Fort Jay Army Hospital on Governor’s Island in New York City. His brother Dick would be born over a year later.

They were the sons of Ruth (née Remick), a homemaker; and Major Thomas B. Smothers, an army officer who died a Prisoner of War in April 1945.

After moving to California, he graduated from Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, California. Tom was a competitive unicyclist, a state champion gymnast in the parallel bars and at San José State University, participated both in gymnastics and pole vault for the track team.

The Smothers Brothers initially set out to be folk musicians. Tom did not feel that he was good enough to be a professional musician, but he was funny enough to do comedy. The two began adding comedy bits to their act.

It was a series of performances when we started out as a duet in Aspen. I did all the introductions. I’d just make up stuff for every song. And Dickie said, “Why don’t you try repeating some of that stuff?” I said, “I don’t know.” I didn’t know that you could repeat the stuff. And I started repeating it and Dickie would say, “That’s wrong.” And pretty soon he’d say, “That’s wrong, you’re stupid.” It sort of became an argument.

Tom’s first foray into the medium of television was as a regular on The Steve Allen Show in 1961. He followed that role with a single episode of Burke’s Law.

The brothers next appeared on the CBS sitcom The Smothers Brothers Show from 1965 to 1966. Tom felt that the show did not play to the brothers’ strengths and gained creative control over their next venture: The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

“The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen,” said Tom.  

The brothers’ oppositional politics led to their show’s demise, with David Steinberg later observing that “The most innovative variety show on television shut down because of political pressure”. 

After television, “Yo-Yo Man” became part of their touring shows with Tom’s mostly non-speaking character performing of tricks using a yo-yo. The term “Yo-Yo Man” is registered in his name. In their 2008 tour, Yo-Yo Man was listed as the group’s opening act.

In 2008, during the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards, Tom was awarded a special Emmy. 

Tommy Smothers is now the owner of Remick Ridge Vineyards in Sonoma County, California, with his wife Marcy Carriker and two children, Bo (born 1991), and Riley Rose (born 1996). He also has a son, Thomas Bolyn Smothers IV (Tom Jr.), from his first marriage, and one grandson, Phoenix Parrish-Smothers.

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Notorious American Crime Chronicles: Visiting Scenes of the Crimes

This article #3 of CleverJourneys ongoing series exploring American history from a perspective that burrows deep into criminal profiles, the penal system, victim’s stories, crime prevention, forensic science, law enforcement and our justice system.

My father, Walter Dennis, was a police officer and homicide detective for the San Antonio Police Department from the late 1950s through the mid-1970s. Later, he was a U.S. Marshal and worked on the assassination of federal Judge John Woods.

Dad would often take me to the locations of some of his cases. He’d explain what happened, pointing me to the clues, structures and surroundings of the crime scenes. He taught me the science and art of profiling.

It’s no wonder I later became the youngest licensed private investigator in Texas in 1976, and worked on many crime cases.

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Some of the more notorious sites I’ve checked out include assassination locations such as Dealey Plaza, Ford Theater, and Ambassador Hotel (JFK, Lincoln and RFK).

Horror houses I’ve visited include Amityville, Sharon Tate (Manson murders), Nicole Brown Simpson (Bundy Drive), Erik and Lyle Melendez (parents murders), Phil Spector (murder of Lana Clarkson), Bugsy Siegel, Phil Hartman, and Dorothy Stratten.

Death locations include Vitello’s Italian Restaurant (Bonnie Lee Bakley, Robert Blake), Sam Cooke, Selena, Marvin Gaye, Sal Mineo, Rebecca Schaeffer, and William Frawley.

Historical locations like the OK Corral in Tombstone, Colorado’s Woodland Park RV Park (arrest site of “Texas 7” escapees), Killeen Luby’s (massacre site on October 16, 1991, by George Hennard) and ‘The Butcher of Elmendorf’ Joe Ball site (killed women, fed bodies to his alligators) are just some of a long list I’ve checked off.

More recently, Dodie and I visited the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas and the ambush site of Bonnie and Clyde in Louisiana.

From my Bonnie & Clyde archive.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.