[NOT] Film Noir Friday: The Trip [1967]

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is a departure from our usual film noir fare — it’s THE TRIP starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Susan Strasberg and Bruce Dern. It was written by Jack Nicholson and directed Roger Corman. I think this is the perfect follow-up to the post about Diane Linkletter.

IMDB says:

Paul Groves (Peter Fonda), a television commercial director, is in the midst of a personality crisis. His wife Sally (Susan Strasberg) has left him and he seeks the help of his friend John (Bruce Dern), a self-styled guru who’s an advocate of LSD. Paul asks John to be the guide on his first “trip”. John takes Paul to a “freak-out” at his friend Max’s (Dennis Hopper) pad. Splitting the scene, they score some acid from Max and return to John’s split-level pad with an indoor/outdoor pool. Paul experiences visions of sex, death, strobe lights, flowers, dancing girls, witches, hooded riders, a torture chamber, and a dwarf. He panics but John tells him to “go with it, man.” Would you trust John?

Learning to Fly, Conclusion

Emergency vehicles screeched up to the Shoreham Towers. Diane Linkletter was on the sidewalk, bleeding profusely from her head. She was still alive. A near neighbor, Jimmy George, witnessed Diane’s fall.  He ran outside to see if he could render aid. She looked up at him but could not speak. Jimmy didn’t know what to do. Even if he had been a trained paramedic he could not have altered the outcome.

Diane was placed in an ambulance and rushed to the University of Southern California Medical Center. She was dead on arrival. The pretty girl with the bright smile, and future to match, was two weeks away from her 21st birthday.

Everyone wanted to know what had happened to Diane.  Sheriff’s investigators began to piece together her last several hours to see if her death was a suicide, an accident, or a homicide.

The last person to see Diane was Edward Durston.  Durston said he saw Diane on the day before her death.  He said she was depressed and he was concerned about her. Following her date with Robert, she stopped in at Durston’s apartment. It was 3 a.m.  She asked him to come by her place because she was going to bake cookies.

Durston told investigators that Diane had dropped acid that night. He said they talked for hours and she told him she was depressed. She went into her bedroom and telephoned her brother and, according to Durston, Diane seemed calmer.

Her calm demeanor is what fooled him, he said. He thought everything was fine until she walked into the kitchen, climbed onto the drainboard and into the window.  Durston said he was frantic. He tried, but failed, to grab Diane’s belt.  He said she went out the window and there was nothing he could do to stop her.

Durston’s account of events changed several times. He changing story made investigators suspicious, so they dug into his background. What they found gave them cause for concern.

The Tate/LaBianca murders were fresh in everyone’s mind and Durston was an early suspect in the slayings. Detectives asked Durston if he was willing to take a polygraph regarding the circumstances of Diane’s death and he agreed.  The results were never made public.

Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski

At the same time Durston was grilled by Sheriff’s investigators, Diane’s father addressed reporters.

As you would expect, Art was devastated by Diane’s death. He told reporters he knew what killed her –  LSD.  It wasn’t until after the autopsy revealed that Diane had no drugs in her system that Art offered a revised version. He said that Diane experienced an acid flashback and that is what propelled her out of her kitchen window.

Building on a tale of dubious origin, the media added a few flourishes and the next thing anyone knew Diane Linkletter had gone out the window of her apartment, high on LSD, because she thought she could fly.

The story degenerated into a false, but often repeated, narrative of Diane’s life. According to various sources Diane was into heroin at 13 and her drug use continued at a mad and dangerous pace until her death.  None of it was true. Did Diane experiment with drugs? If she did, it wasn’t a big part of her life.

Sheriff’s homicide detective, Norm Hamilton, interviewed Diane’s ex-husband Grant Conroy.  Theirs was a whirlwind marriage and it seemed doubtful Grant could offer any substantive information, but he had to be asked.

Grant said Diane used LSD and speed while they were married. How he knew intimate details of her life is a mystery—Diane never lived with Grant. During their brief marriage she lived at home with her parents.

Detectives turned again to Durston.  He was the last person with Diane. Could he have pushed her? They never found any evidence to suggest foul play. However, Durston was present at another mysterious death in 1985.

Actress Carol Wayne appeared regularly on TV shows during the 1960s and into the 1970s.  Her biggest role was in sketches on the Johnny Carson Show. She always played a ditzy blonde. When Carson asked the network to reduce his show from 90 to 60s minutes, Carol’s role was over.

She began to abuse alcohol and cocaine and it is rumored that she became an escort for wealthy men. In January 1985 she accompanied Durston to a resort in Mexico. The couple reportedly had a disagreement and Carol went for a walk on the beach to cool off.  When she didn’t return for their flight back to Los Angeles, Durston left without her.  He left her bags at the airport with a note that she would come and pick them up.  She never arrived.

Carol’s fully clothed body was found floating in four feet of water off the beach near the hotel where she and Durston stayed. There were no signs of foul play. People who knew Carol found it strange that she drowned. She was terrified of water.

It is ironic that the person most responsible for trashing Diane’s reputation was her father. With no verifiable evidence that Diane abused drugs, Art embarked on a nationwide anti-drug campaign using Diane as a tragic example of how drugs can kill.

Why was Art so keen to tarnish Diane’s reputation by alleging she was a drug user? The simplest explanation is that Art was in denial about Diane’s death and experiencing the pain and guilt that can come with surviving a loved one’s suicide. It isn’t unusual for the survivors to cast around for a scapegoat . Art chose drugs.

 

NOTE: If you or a loved one is contemplating suicide, please reach out for help.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255  Available 24 hours everyday

 

 

 

Film Noir Friday: The Face Behind the Mask [1941]

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK. The film stars Peter Lorre and Evelyn Keyes.

Enjoy the movie!

IMDB says:

Janos Szaby is a kind, innocent immigrant to America. Just after he arrives though, he is caught in a fire and his face is horribly burned and disfigured. Although a skilled craftsman his hideous features make it impossible for him to get work, and driven by despair he is forced to turn to crime to live. He finds himself very proficient at that, and soon makes enough money to buy a very lifelike mask to hide his scars behind. He hates what he does, but is he in too deep to get out?

 

Learning to Fly, Part 1

 “If you remember the ’60s, you really weren’t there.”  Charlie Fleischer, comedian

The United States officially banned LSD in 1967.  The government, media and parents all over the country relied on fear-based tactics to keep kids off drugs. It didn’t work.

Attempts to terrify young people into abstinence is nothing new. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) held that there was no such thing as “moderate drinking”.  A small tipple always led to “an uncontrollable appetite” for more. They used the same approach regarding tobacco. Temperance Helps for Primary Teachers, offered a catchy verse meant to keep young men from smoking:

Say No! to tobacco, that poisonous weed.

Say no! to all evils, they can only lead

To shame and to sorrow, Oh, shun them, my boy,

For wisdom’s fair pathway of peace and of joy

(Preese 1901)

Does the “Just Say No” message sound familiar? If you grew up in the 1980s, you’ll recall First Lady Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign.

Well-intentioned doggerel was replaced by  film.  Watch how a cowboy’s experiment with marijuana turns him into a killer.

In the 1930s film, The Cocaine Fiends (a remake of The Pace That Kills) the ham-fisted anti-drug message is very clear.  Small-town girls, beware.  Big city men will get you hooked on coke and lead you down a bad road.

Thirty years didn’t change the sledgehammer approach to anti-drug messages for young people. The 1960s saw its share of propaganda.  Drug users found the propaganda laughable.

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) was criminalized in the U.S. by the government with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The act prohibits the manufacture, distribution, and possession of LSD without a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

If the possibility of a felony conviction didn’t deter people, maybe the stories circulated about LSD would scare them straight. A gruesome tale, the legend of the microwaved/baked baby made the rounds for a long time.  There are variations, but the gist of it is this:

The parents of a newborn leave their child with a sixteen-year-old hippie-chick babysitter. They go to a party. A few hours later the mother phones home to make sure all is well.  The girl reassures her that everything is great. She tells her “the turkey’s in the oven.”  The mom hangs up, looks at her husband and says, “The turkey is in the oven?  We didn’t have a turkey!”  They go home. Maybe there is something wrong with the sitter.

When the couple arrives home the babysitter, high on acid, is sitting in a chair freaking out.  The baby? The sitter, believing the baby was a turkey, popped the kid in the oven.

A film about LSD, produced and directed by the San Mateo Union High School District, came out in 1967. Ostensibly narrated by LSD himself, the film depicted screaming mental breakdowns and a variety of deadly accidents that could befall a person on acid.

The film carefully curates its message. Most of the horror stories associated with LSD use are apocryphal.  LSD doesn’t cause death from chemical toxicity, but deaths caused by behavioral toxicity are documented.

You’ve heard this one before—a young woman drops acid and, believing she can fly, jumps from a window to her death.

Here is the true story that launched the myth.

On Halloween, 1948, a fifth child, a girl, was born to radio personality Art Linkletter and his wife Lois.  The couple named the baby Diane. Her godfather was Walt Disney.

Art worked hard for everything he had. He was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada on July 17, 1912.   Abandoned as an infant, Art was adopted and raised by a preacher and his wife, Fulton and Mary Linkletter.

Art passed his adopted family’s teachings along to his own children and raised his family in a traditional environment.  The kids were healthy and happy.  For a peek into the Linkletter family dynamic, check out this commercial Art and his three daughters made for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes

Diane’s life was untroubled until her teenage years. Like most teens, she tested boundaries and struggled to find herself.  Diane’s path to adulthood was complicated when she eloped at age 17 with  Grant Conroy (seven years her senior). Diane thought she was pregnant, and Grant offered to “do the right thing.” When she discovered she was not pregnant, her parents had the marriage annulled.  Diane and Grant never even lived together.

Diane moved into Shoreham Towers, a luxury building in West Hollywood.  The building’s residents were older than Diane, so she made friends closer to her age in the neighborhood.  One of Diane’s new friends was Ed Durston who lived with a roommate in a building across from hers.

On Friday evening, October 3, 1969, Diane went out with a friend, Robert Reitman, to a show at the Griffith Observatory.  Robert dropped Diane off at her apartment about midnight and she joined a street party on her block.

On Saturday morning, Dick Shephard looked out his bay window and watched in horror as a woman fell from the window of a sixth-floor apartment at the Shoreham Towers. She screamed, then hit the sidewalk with a sickening thud.

NEXT TIME:  A life ends and a myth begins.